Selected Articles

The Machines That Will Read Your Mind

April 5, 2019

Ever more sophisticated brain scans are combining with artificial intelligence to produce tools that can track thoughts, test truthfulness and someday, perhaps, download our very selves

When magnetic resonance imaging came into common use in the 1980s, it made the human brain visible in ways it had never been before…


Why your AI might be racist

Dec. 17, 2018

President Trump has worried — along with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other prominent opinion leaders — that Google exhibits intentional bias against conservatives. How do I know? I googled it, of course. Google, needless to say, denies that its “products or actions” are biased.

The problem is, both sides are wrong. Google has no incentive to favor one perspective over another…


Roads That Work for Self-Driving Cars

July 8, 2016

In May, a Tesla “autopilot” enthusiast in Florida became the first known fatality in a self-driving car. But this was no ordinary accident. The car performed exactly as designed, and the (non)driver’s failure to take any corrective action could reasonably have been foreseen by the manufacturer. This unwelcome yet widely anticipated milestone may set back progress on what promises to be one of the most valuable technologies of the 21st century…


The Age of the Robot Worker Will Be Worse for Men

August 4, 2015

Many economists and technologists believe the world is on the brink of a new industrial revolution, in which advances in the field of artificial intelligence will obsolete human labor at an unforgiving pace. Two Oxford researchers recently analyzed the skills required for more…


Robot Weapons: What’s the Harm?

LAST month over a thousand scientists and tech-world luminaries, including Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Steve Wozniak, released an open letter calling for a global ban on offensive “autonomous” weapons like drones, which can identify and attack targets without having to rely on a human to make a decision.

The letter, which warned that such…


Can We Create an Ethical Robot?

August 6, 2015

As you try to imagine yourself cruising along in the self-driving car of the future, you may think first of the technical challenges: how an automated vehicle could deal with construction, bad weather or a deer in the headlights. But the more difficult challenges may have to do with ethics. Should your car swerve to save the life of the child who just chased his ball into the street at the risk of killing the elderly couple driving the other way? Should this calculus be different…


Officer, Arrest that Robot!

August 6, 2015

Robotic helpers have the potential to usher in a new age of leisure, but as Jerry Kaplan warns in his new book, Humans Need Not Apply, the transition won’t always be smooth. In the excerpt below, he navigates the uncharted legal waters of making the punishment fit the criminal.

Consider the following scenario. Imagine that you purchase a personal home robot that is capable of taking the elevator down from


Robots are Coming for Your Job

September 15, 2015

Global warming in and of itself isn’t a problem. After all, life on earth has survived numerous cycles of cooling and heating. The real problem with global warming is how quickly it happens. If there isn’t enough time for living things (including us) to adapt, rapid changes in climate, not to mention more volatile weather patterns, can sow havoc. The consequences of catastrophic climate…

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The Hidden Dangers of our Robotic Rivals

July 30, 2015

For a glimpse of the future, consider what happened the lazy afternoon of May 6, 2010. By that time, the percentage of securities trades initiated by computer programs had ballooned to an astonishing 60 percent…


The Future of Work: A Proposal for the Age of Automation — Turn Workers Into Investors

Sep 16, 2015

For a glimpse of the future, consider what happened the lazy afternoon of May 6, 2010. By that time, the percentage of securities trades initiated by computer programs had ballooned to an astonishing 60 percent. For all practical purposes, machines, not people, populated markets. Your innocent E*Trade order for 100…


Who Put the Robot in Charge?

Sep 22, 2015

his morning I tried to read an urgent email message from my wife, but my computer insisted that I finish installing some updates first. Yesterday, my printer refused to print my boarding pass until I fed it a new ink cartridge, even though I’m confident that the old one still had a few good pages left in it and I had no replacement available. (Indeed, my impudent attempt to fool the printer by reinstalling the old cartridge was met…