Chinese State-Run TV Debuts Artificial Intelligence News Anchor

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Chinese state-run news agency, Xinhua, broadcast its first A.I. news anchor modeled after one of its prime-time anchors, Zhang Zhao. The AI anchor was fashioned as the agency’s English-speaking host and promises it will report the news tirelessly, year-round, and without claiming overtime pay. Ha, ha, that’s a good one – apparently our future A.I. overlords have a sense of humor too.

The A.I. news anchor seems to employ similar technology to Apple’s Animoji, which mimics facial expressions, or it may be similar to a CGI character from your favorite superhero movie that looks uncannily realistic. According to one of its creators, Wang Xiaochuan, the technology could one day be used to have a digital mockup of anyone read the news to you, including your own parents.

But the concern with this technology for use in news media has stoked fears that it could be used to spread fake news and propaganda in a world rife with such issues. Videos implementing the technology to depict world leaders and celebrities giving completely fabricated speeches have circulated the internet recently, though it’s unclear whether these videos have been used to truly deceive anyone yet.

“Not only can I accompany you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I can be endlessly copied and present at different scenes to bring you the news,” the A.I. bot claims in the video.

In a world where traditional news media business models are failing due to new forms of consumption and widespread public distrust, this new technology promises to cut costs for publishers who no longer have to pay an actual human, while their bot can run non-stop as long as it has a script.

“The development of the media industry calls for continuous innovation and deep integration with the international advanced technologies … I look forward to bringing you brand new news experiences,” the bot said.

The pioneering of this technology by China is unsurprising as the autocratic country’s news reporting is entirely state-run. The country has taken other similarly Orwellian steps in its technological development, including a social credit score that rates its citizens’ daily behavior. The country has also installed a nearly universal surveillance apparatus that includes millions of CCTV cameras monitoring its citizens with machine-learning AI facial recognition technology.

The fears behind A.I. development stem from the idea that machine learning algorithms could one day lead to sentience and by the time this happens, A.I. will increase at an exponential rate, eventually realizing it doesn’t need humans or that it could enslave us due to a massive discrepancy in intellectual capacity. Others say this fear is absurd as we’ll always be able to unplug it – it’s just a computer after all. Right?

For more on the rise of artificial intelligence and the potential threats it poses, watch this episode of Deep Space :



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Earth's Magnetic Field is Shifting and Geologists Don't Know Why

Something strange is happening with the Earth’s magnetic field and scientists are unsure why, according to a recent paper published in the journal Nature. A consortium of geologists in charge of the World Magnetic Model is having trouble keeping track of the planet’s magnetic north pole as it rapidly shifts from Canada to Northern Siberia.

Scientists updated Earth’s magnetic model in 2015, which is used for some pretty important things, including shipping navigation and GPS on smartphones. Their model was intended to last for at least five years, but due to the recent unexpected swing, it became outdated at some point in early 2018 and is now in need of adjustment.

“The error is increasing all the time,” said Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

Scientists say this shift is being driven by liquid iron sloshing around in the planet’s core, a natural process, but one that can vary as the flow changes. Over the past 20 million years, Earth’s magnetic field has consistently experienced a complete pole reversal – usually every 200-300,000 years.

At the moment, we’re long overdue for one of these events, with the last reversal having occurred 781,000 years ago. No one is quite sure what the consequences will be on modern infrastructure when and if that reversal happens. Many take ease in the fact that pole reversals have occurred hundreds of times in the planet’s history without catastrophe, but again, the effect on modern technology remains unknown.

Some scientists have pointed to this shift as a potential culprit in a slew of recent dolphin and whale beachings as well as other unexpected animal die-offs. It’s believed the planet’s natural magnetic field is necessary to some of these animals’ navigation when traveling and communicating over great distances underwater. One NASA scientist is currently looking into this potential connection.

In 2016, a larger-than-usual magnetic pulse shot up from South America, which scientists believe played a role in furthering the recent shift. However, they’re still unsure whether it will continue on this course, or even what will happen at all.

Could we be on the precipice of a massive geomagnetic reversal, or is this just due to slightly-more-anomalous-than-usual activity in the Earth’s core? And what’s even more pressing – what kind of effects is this having on us?

 

For more on our brain’s relationship with Earth’s magnetic field, check out this Gaia Original short:

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