An Open Letter Asks AI Researchers To Reconsider Responsibilities
In recent months, it’s been hard to escape hearing about artificial intelligence platforms such as ChatGPT, the AI-enabled version of Bing, and Google’s Bard—large language models skilled at manipulating words and constructing text. The programs can conduct a believable conversation and answer questions fluently, but have a tenuous grasp on what’s real, and what’s not.
Last week, the Future of Life Institute released an open letter that read “We call on all AI labs to immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.” They asked researchers to jointly develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols governing the use of AI. That letter was signed by a collection of technologists and computer researchers, including big names like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Tesla’s Elon Musk. However, some observers called the letter just another round of hype over the AI field.
Dr. Stuart Russell, a professor of computer science at Berkeley, director of the Kavli Center for Ethics, Science, and the Public, and co-author of one of the leading AI textbooks was a signatory to that open letter calling for a pause in AI development. He joins Ira Flatow to explain his concerns about AI systems that are ‘black boxes’—difficult for humans to understand or control.
NASA Announces Artemis II Crew For Next Moon Mission
This week, NASA announced the four person crew of the Artemis II mission to the moon: Commander Reid Weisman, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialists Christina Koch and Jeremy Hansen.
The crew has three firsts for a moon mission, the first woman, first person of color and first Canadian.
While these Artemis II astronauts will not actually step foot on the moon, it’s an important milestone for NASA’s first moon mission since Apollo.
Ira talks with Swapna Krishna, host of the PBS digital series, Far Out about this week’s announcement and the future of the Artemis mission.
Will Rising Temperatures Help Batters Swing for the Bleachers?
As the planet warms, melting ice and shifting seasons aren’t the only things changing—the traditions of baseball may be affected as well. A report published this week in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society finds that warmer air temperatures are connected to a slight increase in the number of home runs hit in major league baseball. The effect, the researchers say, is due to a decrease in air density at warmer temperatures, which allows a hit ball to fly slightly further than it would in cooler air.
So far, the effect is small. After correcting for other factors, the researchers say they can attribute about 500 additional MLB home runs since 2010 to warmer temperatures. Most of the observed increase in home run hitting isn’t attributable to the climate. However, they say, each additional one degree Celsius increase in temperature may lead to a two percent increase in home runs. And while ballparks with an insulating dome won’t see big shifts from increased temperatures, open-air parks with a lot of daytime games, such as Wrigley Field, will see more significant effects.
Christopher Callahan, a Ph.D. candidate in geography at Dartmouth and lead author of the report, joins Ira to talk baseball and climate.
This Video Game Prioritizes Restoring An Ecosystem Over Profits
If you’ve played Rollercoaster Tycoon, Cities: Skylines, the Civilization series—even Animal Crossing—you’re probably familiar with this gameplay pattern: extract some kind of resource from the land, industrialize it into a theme park or a city, and (step three) profit, ad infinitum.
But Terra Nil, a new game from the studio Free Lives, fundamentally challenges this oft-used game loop. Instead of maximizing profit at the expense of the local ecosystem, the player’s focus is to make a healthier, natural one instead. You start with a barren wasteland (one that you assume has been completely desolated by human activity, perhaps the aftermath from one of the previously mentioned games), and with the help of advanced eco-tech—like wind turbines, soil purifiers, irrigators, and more—restore it to a thriving, diverse ecosystem. The player’s ultimate goal is to take all the tech they used to restore the land, recycle it into an airship, and fly away, leaving no human presence behind.
SciFri producer D Peterschmidt speaks with Sam Alfred, the lead designer and programmer of Terra Nil, about how Free Lives designed this “reverse city-builder,” how the studio took inspiration from the flora of their local Cape Town, and how he hopes the game challenges players how they think about traditional gameplay systems and their effect on our world.
Workout Worms May Reveal New Parkinson’s Treatments
Scientists built an exercise pool for tiny worms. Why?
A team of researchers at University of Colorado Boulder are looking into ways to help treat people with Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. They’re turning to tiny collaborators, C. elegans, worms which measure just one millimeter in length.
These scientists wanted to see how exercise affects brain health by putting a bunch of these worms in an exercise class—in a tiny pool.
Ira talks with the co-author of this fascinating new research, Dr. Joyita Bhadra, post-doctoral researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder.
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