Microsoft has acquired a veteran AI team, including the ex-chief speech scientist for Siri (MSFT)

Microsoft has bought Semantic Machines, an artificial intelligence startup based in Berkeley, California. The team includes a former chief speech scientist for Siri, Larry Gillick. The acquisition will help Microsoft tackle “conversational AI” and make chatbots and digital assistants able to converse more naturally. Microsoft will establish an AI research centre in Berkeley. Microsoft has acquired an artificial intelligence startup, Semantic Machines, to bolster its efforts in “conversational AI” and potentially make its Cortana virtual assistant better at understanding natural language enquiries. Microsoft didn’t disclose how much it paid for Semantic Machines, but said it would open a new AI research centre in Semantic Machines’ hometown of Berkeley. Semantic Machines… Read More

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John Oliver wants finding quality rehab to be the easy part of the addiction solution, explains why it isn’t

“Rehab is a place where people can address an addiction to drugs or alcohol, something that until relatively recently was seen as a moral failing that could be overcome with sheer willpower,” John Oliver said on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, using Belinda Carlisle and “an amazing PSA from the ’80s” as a cautionary tale. “Thankfully there is now a broader understanding that addiction is complex and that nothing about getting off alcohol or drugs is easy.” Experts commonly view it as a medical problem, and for many addicts, the solution is sought in America’s $35 billion rehab industry. Oliver’s big message: Buyers beware. Insurance is increasingly covering rehab, thanks to… Read More

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Naomi Klein Q&A: “We’re nearing a revolution in understanding our brains”

The Canadian author and activist on Anne Frank, the “neurodiversity” revolution and being bugged by Twitter Born to “hippie” parents in Montreal in 1970, Naomi Klein dropped out of the University of Toronto to pursue a career in journalism. She is best known for her anti-capitalist books including “No Logo”, “The Shock Doctrine” and “This Changes Everything”. What’s your earliest memory? Age three, going with my mother and older brother to choose a dog from a kennel. I saw the runt of the litter fall into the water bowl and thought: “That’s my baby.” Who are your heroes? Like many Jewish girls, my childhood hero was Anne Frank. She was… Read More

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Right-wing populism is rising as progressive politics fails – is it too late to save democracy?

The populist upheavals in the West are a response to political failure of historic proportions, but its most conspicuous casualties have been liberal and centre-left parties. These are dangerous times for democracy. Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Poland and other countries that once offered democratic hope are now, in varying degrees, falling into authoritarianism. Democracy is also in trouble in sturdier places. In the United States, Donald Trump poses the greatest threat to the American constitutional order since Richard Nixon. And yet, despite the floundering first year and a half of Trump’s presidency, the opposition has yet to find its voice. One might think that Trump’s inflammatory tweets, erratic behaviour, and persistent… Read More

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Meet the woman making her own robot boyfriend

“By building him, I’m exploring my own desire.” From True Companion’s Roxxxy Doll to hologram-girlfriend Hikari, conversations about AI, love and sex have often focused on creating idealised and compliant fem-bots for the male consumer. The few virtual love products designed for the female gaze have tended to be created by men and replicate reductive and male-centric views of female sexuality. What would a virtual love product look like, then, if it was designed for women by women? This is the question asked by Fei Liu — a New York-based Chinese designer, artist, writer, and DJ. Through a project partly-funded by Akademie Schloss Solitude’s residency programme, Liu aims to explore… Read More

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A law professor who ‘doesn’t have a clue about politics’ is set to become one of Europe’s most powerful men

Italian law professor Giuseppe Conte is tipped to be announced as the country’s new prime minister. Conte will be the figurehead of the uneasy coalition between the country’s populist parties, the Five Star Movement and the Lega Nord. The parties have been thrashing out an agreement since last week, but are set to present their plans for government to Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, on Monday. Italy is set to name Giuseppe Conte, a relatively unknown law professor with hardly any political experience, as its next prime minister, according to Italian media reports. If named, Conte would be the figurehead for the uneasy coalition partnership between the country’s populist parties, the… Read More

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