Are we in an AI summer or AI winter?

Neither. We are entering an AI autumn.

Credit: Jesse Chan via Unsplash
  • The history of AI shows boom periods (AI summers) followed by busts (AI winters).
  • The cyclical nature of AI funding is due to hype and promises not fulfilling expectations.
  • This time, we might enter something resembling an AI autumn rather than an AI winter, but fundamental questions remain if true AI is even possible.
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How cell phone data can help redesign cities

With the rise of Big Data, methods used to study the movement of stars or atoms can now reveal the movement of people. This could have important implications for cities.

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  • A treasure trove of mobility data from devices like smartphones has allowed the field of "city science" to blossom.
  • I recently was part of team that compared mobility patterns in Brazilian and American cities.
  • We found that, in many cities, low-income and high-income residents rarely travel to the same geographic locations. Such segregation has major implications for urban design.
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A big lesson from the ‘Oumuamua alienware controversy

Scientists should be cautious when expressing an opinion based on little more than speculation.

Artist's impression of ʻOumuamua

Credit: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser
  • In October 2017, a strange celestial object was detected, soon to be declared our first recognized interstellar visitor.
  • The press exploded when a leading Harvard astronomer suggested the object to have been engineered by an alien civilization.
  • This is an extraordinary conclusion that was based on a faulty line of scientific reasoning. Ruling out competing hypotheses doesn't make your hypothesis right.
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Reductionism vs. emergence: Are you “nothing but” your atoms?

Reductionism offers a narrow view of the universe that fails to explain reality.

Credit: NSF / LIGO / Sonoma State University / A. Simonnet
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  • Reductionism is the view that everything true about the world can be explained by atoms and their interactions.
  • Emergence claims that reductionism is wrong, and the world can evolve new stuff and new laws that are not predictable from "nothing but" atoms.
  • Which perspective on science is correct has huge implications, not only for ourselves but for everything from philosophy to economics to politics.
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From the bowels of the earth to the sky: Rethinking civilization growth

A revolution of the mind must occur in order for humanity to succeed on a finite planet.

Credit: Paul Fleet via Adobe Stock / 6993648
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  • President Biden's energy summit is emblematic of an emerging mindset that is set to redefine our relation to the planet.
  • 150 years of unchecked industrial and economic growth have changed humanity in profound ways but at a high and untenable environmental cost.
  • We must move from the plundering mindset that sucked our prosperity from the bowels of the Earth to one that collects the energy that the skies serve us.
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Does science tell the truth?

It is impossible for science to arrive at ultimate truths, but functional truths are good enough.

Credit: Sergey Nivens via Adobe Stock / 202871840
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  • What is truth? This is a very tricky question, trickier than many would like to admit.
  • Science does arrive at what we can call functional truth, that is, when it focuses on what something does as opposed to what something is. We know how gravity operates, but not what gravity is, a notion that has changed over time and will probably change again.
  • The conclusion is that there are not absolute final truths, only functional truths that are agreed upon by consensus. The essential difference is that scientific truths are agreed upon by factual evidence, while most other truths are based on belief.
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