Sign of the Times: Can hugging machines solve the touch crisis?

As the American loneliness epidemic reaches alarming new heights, one artist theorizes on what connection might look like in the future.

Photography: Scottie Cameron
  • The Compression Carpet is a machine created by Los Angeles-based artist Lucy McRae that simulates a hug to a person craving intimacy.
  • Research indicates that nearly half of Americans lack daily meaningful interpersonal interactions with a friend or family member. This loneliness epidemic is accompanied by a touch crisis.
  • McRae's art and neuroscience suggest is that it is affectionate touch that we are deprived of in our increasingly touch-phobic society. New sensory technology seeks to solve this problem.
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Conscious machines: How will we test artificial intelligence for feeling?

A review of the multifaceted questions we'll ask to determine whether robots have a felt quality of experience — an "inner feel."

  • The reason we entertain thought experiments such as reincarnation and an afterlife is because we're sentient beings. These concepts are innate to our experiences as conscious human beings.
  • The ACT test probes A.I. to examines whether it can grasp these questions — i.e., the mind existing separately from the body, or the system without the computer. If so, then there's reason to believe it's a conscious being.
  • For machines to develop consciousness, they will need to have the right architectural features. For instance, for humans we possess a working memory, attention, and brain stems — all of which serve as the neural basis of our conscious experience. If there is a machine analog to these things, then it may suggest that the machines are conscious as well.
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Is Rwanda in line to become one of Africa's major tech hubs?

Recent years have seen countries across the African continent investing deep into the tech industry. Rwanda is angling to get ahead of the pack.

Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • The recent announcement of the Mara phone, a smartphone manufactured entirely in Africa, has highlighted African countries' recent forays into the high-tech industry.
  • The continent boasts more than 450 tech hubs, and while some countries have a larger market, Rwanda — where Mara phones are manufactured — is angling to become a major tech hotspot in East Africa.
  • There's a lot of competition; what is Rwanda doing to try to beat it?
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The great hack: A famous fraudster explains the Equifax data breach

Hackers look for open doors. If your personal data isn't protected, it's that much easier to compromise your identity.

  • Legendary con-man-turned-FBI-consultant Frank W. Abagnale breaks down the 2017 Equifax data breach.
  • Hackers were able to access the personal data of millions of Americans through faulty software — and they might wait years before using the stolen social security numbers and dates of birth.
  • Abagnale blames Equifax for this oversight. If a company is entrusted with an individual's personal data they need to do a better job of protecting it. "Hackers don't cause breaches, people do," he says.
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Are solar-powered airships the future of cargo delivery?

New technology offers us a look at the green future of aviation and cargo shipping.

The French company Flying Whales aims to deliver cargo to remote areas via airships by 2023.
Photo courtesy of Flying Whales.
  • A solar-powered airship built by a U.K.-based company could be a groundbreaking way to freight cargo internationally with lower emissions, and a big step towards a 100 percent renewable world.
  • Varialift's airship will use helium gas to lift off, which is a great deal safer than the hydrogen that airships of the past used.
  • It's been estimated that the cost of the Varialift aircraft would be comparable to a jumbo jet.
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