Sentient AI’s, animal architecture, and more: THE WEEKLY RECAP (2022#24)

Back after a wonderful (but short) break. The RHCP delivered (it was my favourite concert from them so far), and food was as amazing as usual. Paris is basically on fire right now (35 ºC while I am writing this, and seems like tomorrow we might reach 40 ºC), so I have just the amount of energy required to post a few links. Let’s start:

The search for solutions

Happy to see that, even though many people are still denying the footprint that the human race is imprinting on the planet, there are a lot of scientists trying to make things better. I want to share a collection of three interesting articles on the environmental cause.

First, one way to tackle emissions in the production of energy by using solar power installed on the surfaces of different water masses. Seems like a good idea, but there are a lot of possible ways to negatively impact the environment if implemented wrong, so there is a big debate on the possible pros/cons of the approach. Second, another article on the fact that we have already polluted the whole planet with our habit of using non-recyclable plastics. This amazes me because we do not really know how bad the problem will be for ourselves and the whole ecosystem, but still we are doing basically nothing to solve it. Last, a nice read on the different efforts to make man-made regions (roads, highways, etc.) more habitable to the different animals that live around.

Inside the experimental world of animal infrastructure, on the MIT technology review

You spin me right ‘round, baby, right ‘round

With a small delay, the recap of scientific images from Nature for the past month. Alien doors, spinning black holes, and much more. Go take a look.

Giant stingray and alien doorway — May’s best science images, on Nature

The insensible AI

I have to admit it, this was super fun to read. Apparently, the people managing the hiring process at Google stopped caring long time ago. The memes make a better summary that I could ever manage to write, but let’s try:

Basically, some engineer at Google started chatting with LaMDA, an advanced chatbot that uses machine learning models to interact with people in a very realistic manner. The fun thing starts when you start projecting your own ideas in the inputs you provide, which makes the thing answer exactly what you want to read. Then you write a paper editing your questions «for clarity» (i.e., to hid how far from reality you are) and share internally. Of course, your bosses realise you need to take holidays and try to stop you, but you go full tinfoil hat and filter on the internet that «LaMDA is sentient». Then the whole world has a really good time reading about it and making memes.

Reading the conversation was super fun, and just a few questions make it quite clear to me that neither LaMDA is sentient, nor Google is anywhere close to build something sentient. And actually, I think that’s a good thing.

The Google engineer who thinks the company’s AI has come to life, on The Washington Post
Has Google’s LaMDA artificial intelligence really achieved sentience?, on New Scientist
One Weird Trick To Make Humans Think An AI Is “Sentient”, on Clive Thompson‘s Medium

SETI things

Always nice to see the SETI project discovering stuff, even if most of the time it ends up being their own signals. The thing is, someday they will really find alien signals, and that will be the biggest discovery in the history of mankind. Let’s hope we did not kill each other first…

Did a giant radio telescope in China just discover aliens? Not so FAST…, on The Conversation

And that’s it for the week. Stay safe!

Featured image: Svalbard Satellite Station

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