Enjoy Your Robot-Fresh Meal 

Enjoy Your Robot-Fresh Meal

Robots are being built for the battlefield, to cook, and to hang out with senior citizens. Next, they’re changing farms. Deerfield Robotics, a Bosch startup, has created a robot the size of a small car that kills weeds. Machine learning will make the bot, named Bonirob, increasingly efficient over time, and using robots to deweed means eliminating potentially harmful herbicides. Add some harvesting botsand others to the mix and an entire farm could be run by a fleet of robots. That’s outside. Inside, the world’s first fully autonomous farming facility is scheduled to open outside of Kyoto, Japan, in 2017. Using hydroponic techniques, this can be an effective approach for urban farming, either underground or in vacant indoor space. Collectively, these two approaches could vastly change what people think of when they hear the phrase “farm fresh.”

via Enjoy Your Robot-Fresh Meal , NewCo.


“Identity politics for white people” is not the same thing as “racism”, nor are the people who advocate for it necessarily racist, though of course the categories overlap. In fact, white identity politics was at one point the underlying trend for the majoritarian American cultural mainstream. But since the late 1960s, it has been transitioning in fits and starts into something more insular and distinct. Now, half a century later, the Trump moment very much illuminates its function as one interest group among many, as opposed to the background context for everything the nation does. The white American with the high-school education who works at the duck-feed factory in northern Indiana has as much right to advance his interest as anyone else. But that interest is now being redefined in very narrow terms, in opposition to the interests of other ethnic groups, and in a marked departure from the expansive view of the freedoms of a common humanity advanced by the Founders and Abraham Lincoln.

Trump’s appeal to these narrow interests is understandable and smart, given the tenor of the times. Among members of the American right and disaffected independents, voices of outrage railing against the collapse of the rule of law have increased steadily throughout Obama’s second term. Their opinion of the Supreme Court has fallen steadily, and they no longer trust the agents of the IRS, EPA, or DOJ to do anything other than serve the wishes of the White House.

Trump’s brand of Jacksonian populism is perfectly tailored for this sentiment. He would throw the Constitution and the rule of law to the winds in pursuit of an aggressive promise of unilateral change – and they are fine with that. What we are hearing now from the Trump-supporting right is akin to the Roman people’s call for the dissolution of the Senate: the demand to install a strong horse, the outsider who will fix all things, the powerful man who promises he will, at long last, get things done for the people. As Alex Castellanos writes at CNN:

Trump is more than a legacy of Republican inaction. He is the inevitable result of decades of progressive failure. He is where frustrated nations turn when top-down, industrial age government fails to deliver what it promised and presents chaos instead. When a government that has pledged to do everything can’t do anything, otherwise sensible people turn to the strongman. This is how the autocrat, the popular dictator, gains power. We are seduced by his success and strength.
For those who believe Barack Obama has ruled like an Emperor, Trump offers them their own replacement who has the appeal of a traitor to his class, dispensing entirely with the politeness of the politically correct elites and telling it always and forever like it is. If the president is to be an autocrat, let him be our kind of autocrat, these supporters say. It’s our turn now, and we want a golden-headed billionaire with the restraint of the bar fly and the tastes of Caligula, gliding his helicopter down to the Iowa cornfields like a boss. He’ll show Putin what for.

via Are Republicans For Freedom or White Identity Politics? by Ben Domenech

This article does the best job I’ve seen of capturing the zeitgeist of Trumpism: the appeal of a ‘golden-headed billionaire with the restraint of the bar fly and the tastes of Caligula, gliding his helicopter down to the Iowa cornfields like a boss. He’ll show Putin what for.’

Beautiful, and deadly accurate.

Raffi Khatchadourian, The Doomsday Invention – The New Yorker

“Superintelligence” is not intended as a treatise of deep originality; Bostrom’s contribution is to impose the rigors of analytic philosophy on a messy corpus of ideas that emerged at the margins of academic thought. Perhaps because the field of A.I. has recently made striking advances—with everyday technology seeming, more and more, to exhibit something like intelligent reasoning—the book has struck a nerve. Bostrom’s supporters compare it to “Silent Spring.” In moral philosophy, Peter Singer and Derek Parfit have received it as a work of importance, and distinguished physicists such as Stephen Hawking have echoed its warning. Within the high caste of Silicon Valley, Bostrom has acquired the status of a sage. Elon Musk, the C.E.O. of Tesla, promoted the book on Twitter, noting, “We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.” Bill Gates recommended it, too. Suggesting that an A.I. could threaten humanity, he said, during a talk in China, “When people say it’s not a problem, then I really start to get to a point of disagreement. How can they not see what a huge challenge this is?”

The people who say that artificial intelligence is not a problem tend to work in artificial intelligence. Many prominent researchers regard Bostrom’s basic views as implausible, or as a distraction from the near-term benefits and moral dilemmas posed by the technology—not least because A.I. systems today can barely guide robots to open doors. Last summer, Oren Etzioni, the C.E.O. of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, in Seattle, referred to the fear of machine intelligence as a “Frankenstein complex.” Another leading researcher declared, “I don’t worry about that for the same reason I don’t worry about overpopulation on Mars.” Jaron Lanier, a Microsoft researcher and tech commentator, told me that even framing the differing views as a debate was a mistake. “This is not an honest conversation,” he said. “People think it is about technology, but it is really about religion, people turning to metaphysics to cope with the human condition. They have a way of dramatizing their beliefs with an end-of-days scenario—and one does not want to criticize other people’s religions.”

Because the argument has played out on blogs and in the popular press, beyond the ambit of peer-reviewed journals, the two sides have appeared in caricature, with headlines suggesting either doom (“WILL SUPER-INTELLIGENT MACHINES KILL US ALL?”) or a reprieve from doom (“ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE ‘WILL NOT END HUMAN RACE’ ”). Even the most grounded version of the debate occupies philosophical terrain where little is clear. But, Bostrom argues, if artificial intelligence can be achieved it would be an event of unparalleled consequence—perhaps even a rupture in the fabric of history. A bit of long-range forethought might be a moral obligation to our own species.

via The Doomsday Invention – The New Yorker

The likely outcome is in the middle of these two poles: AI will not become Skynet, but will accelerate the hollowing out of work for many because superintelligence is not necessary for AI to damage things: it’s enough for them to be slightly or significantly better at things we do badly.


Climate change has been blamed for many things over the years. Never, until now, has anyone thought it was possible to see it as a kind of contraceptive.

Hot weather leads to diminished “coital frequency,” according to a new working paper put out by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Three economists studied 80 years of U.S. fertility and temperature data and found that when it’s hotter than 80 degrees F, a large decline in births follows within 10 months. Would-be parents tend not to make up for lost time in subsequent, cooler months.

An extra “hot day” (the economists use quotation marks with the phrase) leads to a 0.4 percent drop in birth rates nine months later, or  1,165 fewer deliveries across the U.S. A rebound in subsequent months makes up just 32 percent of the gap.

Eric Roston, Climate Change Kills the Mood: Economists Warn of Less Sex on a Warmer Planet

Built-in population control?