Adam Savage turned Spot the robodog into a creepy rickshaw driver

Boston Dynamics has long touted robotic dog Spot's ability to help out in disaster situations and to take on jobs too hazardous for humans, but what practical applications does it have for the average Joe? Beyond scuttling around your house like a Lo...

Kawhi Leonard wins first Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award – Fox News

Kawhi Leonard wins first Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award  Fox NewsView Full Coverage on Google News

UK to spend $1.6 billion on the world’s fastest weather supercomputer

The UK's weather service, the Met Office, will spend £1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) to acquire the world's most powerful climate supercomputer, the government has announced. That's over ten times more than its current Cray XC40 cost, but it will d...

UK to spend $1.6 billion on the world’s fastest weather supercomputer

The UK's weather service, the Met Office, will spend £1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) to acquire the world's most powerful climate supercomputer, the government has announced. That's over ten times more than its current Cray XC40 cost, but it will d...

These prosecutors want radical criminal justice change. Barr is fighting to stop them. – NBCNews.com

These prosecutors want radical criminal justice change. Barr is fighting to stop them.  NBCNews.com

Google ends its free Wi-Fi program Station

Google said on Monday that it is winding down its Station program, through which it rolled out free Wi-Fi in more than 400 railway stations in India and in several other public places around the globe.

Caesar Sengupta, VP of Payments and Next Billion Users at Google, said the program, launched in 2015, helped millions of users connect to the internet everyday — many for the first time. But as mobile data prices become affordable in many markets, Google Station was no longer as necessary.

Sengupta said it had also become difficult for Google to scale Station program in a sustainable fashion. Google worked with a number of players to enable free Wi-Fi to users in public places. In India, for instance, Google built the software stack while RailTel, a state-owned telecom infrastructure provider, delivers the free internet access.

A RailTel spokesperson told TechCrunch that it will continue to offer free Wi-Fi in all the 400 odd stations where it worked with Google, and another 5,200 stations in India.

“The challenge of varying technical requirements and infrastructure among our partners across countries has also made it difficult for Station to scale and be sustainable, especially for our partners. And when we evaluate where we can truly make an impact in the future, we see greater need and bigger opportunities in making building products and features tailored to work better for the next billion user markets,” Sengupta said.

The company will be winding down Station globally this year. “We are working with our partners to transition existing sites so they can remain useful resources for the community,” said Gupta.

More to follow…

Central bank boost sees Chinese stocks recover coronavirus losses – Yahoo Finance

  1. Central bank boost sees Chinese stocks recover coronavirus losses  Yahoo Finance
  2. China Vows More Fiscal Support as Virus Roils Economy  Bloomberg Markets and Finance
  3. Coronavirus latest: Chinese stocks rally 2% on new stimulus measures  Financial Times
  4. HSBC Hong Kong Staffer in Quarantine Tests Negative for Virus  Bloomberg
  5. European stocks advance as traders monitor coronavirus; Stoxx 600 touches record high  CNBC
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

‘Rainbow Six Siege’ will be ready for PS5 and Xbox Series X at launch

Rainbow Six Siege will be available to play on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles as soon as they launch, Ubisoft game director Leroy Athanassof told Windows Central. On top of that, cross-generation multiplay will be supported, meaning nex...

Dubai’s massive port operator DP World is delisting and returning to private ownership – CNBC

  1. Dubai's massive port operator DP World is delisting and returning to private ownership  CNBC
  2. DP World to Delist From Nasdaq Dubai, Return to Private Ownership  Bloomberg Markets and Finance
  3. Dubai’s port operator DP World to return to private hands  Financial Times
  4. DP World to delist from Nasdaq Dubai - News  Khaleej Times
  5. Port operator DP World to delist from Dubai stock exchange  Arab News
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

‘Now We Are Refugees’: A Family in Limbo Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak – The New York Times

  1. ‘Now We Are Refugees’: A Family in Limbo Amid the Coronavirus Outbreak  The New York Times
  2. Taiwan reports first death from coronavirus  The Guardian
  3. First coronavirus death reported in Taiwan | TheHill  The Hill
  4. Taiwan confirms first coronavirus death  New York Post
  5. View Full Coverage on Google News

Oyo’s revenue surged in FY19, but loss widened, too

Budget-lodging startup Oyo reported a loss of $335 million on $951 million revenue globally for the financial year ending March 31, 2019, and pledged to cut down on its spending as the India-headquartered firm grows cautious about its aggressive expansion.

The six-year-old startup’s growing revenue, up from $211 million in financial year ending March 31, 2018 (FY18), is in line with the company’s ambitions to be in a clear path to profitability this year, said Abhishek Gupta, Global CFO of OYO Hotels & Homes, in a statement.

But the startup’s loss has widened, too. Its consolidated loss increased from 25% in FY18 to 35% in FY19, it said. In India, where Oyo clocked $604 million in revenue in FY19 (), it was able to reduce its loss to 14% (from 24%) of revenue in FY19 to $83 million.

The startup, which today operates more than 43,000 hotels with over a million rooms in 800 cities in 80 nations, said its expansion to China and other international markets contributed to the loss.

“These markets constituted 36.5% of the global revenues. While consistently improving operating economics in mature markets like India where it’s already seeing an improvement in gross margins, the company is determined to bring in the same fiscal discipline in emerging markets in the coming financial year,” the startup said in a statement.

Oyo has come under scrutiny in recent months for its aggressive expansion in a manner that some analysts have said is not sustainable. The startup, which rebrands and renovates independent budget hotels, has also engaged in sketchy ways to sign up new hotels, as documented by the New York Times earlier this year.

In recent months, Oyo executives have acknowledged that the startup grew too fast and is confronting a number of “teething issues.” Oyo has laid off at least 3,000 employees, mostly in India, in last three months.

Local Indian laws require every local startup — and international businesses — to disclose their annual financials. Most of them filed their financials in early October.

More to follow shortly…

This NBA All-Star Game showed the power of basketball – ESPN

This NBA All-Star Game showed the power of basketball  ESPNView Full Coverage on Google News

NBA Top 10 Plays of the Night | February 16, 2020 – NBA

  1. NBA Top 10 Plays of the Night | February 16, 2020  NBA
  2. How much money the winners of the NBA All-Star game will earn  CNBC
  3. Team Giannis - Player Introductions - 2020 NBA All-Star Game  House of Highlights
  4. What could have been for Lakers on display in All-Star game  Los Angeles Times
  5. The Elam Ending led to an intense All-Star fourth quarter  ESPN
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Redbox debuts a free, ad-backed live TV service – Engadget

Redbox debuts a free, ad-backed live TV service  Engadget

Kawhi Leonard Wins First-Ever Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP Award, Dedicates It To Kobe – Bleacher Report

  1. Kawhi Leonard Wins First-Ever Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP Award, Dedicates It To Kobe  Bleacher Report
  2. How much money the winners of the NBA All-Star game will earn  CNBC
  3. 2020 NBA All-Star Game - Full Game Highlights - Team LeBron vs Team Giannis - February 16, 2020  House of Highlights
  4. Team LeBron vs Team Giannis 2020 NBA All-Star betting picks and predictions  Covers.com
  5. NBA All-Star Game 2020 - Relive the wild finish to Team LeBron's win  ESPN
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Chartered flights carrying quarantined passengers arrive in US; 14 Americans infected, isolated – Fox News

  1. Chartered flights carrying quarantined passengers arrive in US; 14 Americans infected, isolated  Fox News
  2. Coronavirus: Americans from quarantined cruise ship flown from Japan - BBC News  BBC News
  3. American doctor separated from coronavirus-infected wife aboard Japanese cruise ship  New York Post
  4. Americans under coronavirus quarantine headed to Travis Air Force Base  The Mercury News
  5. U.S. to evacuate passengers from coronavirus cruise  POLITICO
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Asian markets mixed as Japan’s economy skids, China cuts rates – MarketWatch

  1. Asian markets mixed as Japan’s economy skids, China cuts rates  MarketWatch
  2. Asian shares near three-week highs on Chinese support measures; Japan skids  Investing.com
  3. U.S. Futures Rise With China Stocks; Japan Slips: Markets Wrap  Yahoo Finance
  4. Global shares edge higher on Chinese support measures  Reuters
  5. Asian markets mixed: Japan skids; China helped by rate cut  Washington Post
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Redbox debuts a free, ad-backed live TV service

Redbox is still better known for its rental kiosks than anything else, but it's clearly keen to expand its streaming offerings. The company has launched a free, ad-supported live TV service (appropriately, Redbox Free Live TV) for some users. You d...

2020 NBA All-Star Game score: Anthony Davis drains winner as Team LeBron wins in wild finish under new format – CBSSports.com

2020 NBA All-Star Game score: Anthony Davis drains winner as Team LeBron wins in wild finish under new format  CBSSports.comView Full Coverage on Google News

Chance The Rapper 2020 NBA All-Star Haltime! – NBA

  1. Chance The Rapper 2020 NBA All-Star Haltime!  NBA
  2. Watch Chance the Rapper, Quavo, Lil Wayne and DJ Khaled Perform at NBA All-Star Game Halftime  Complex
  3. Jennifer Hudson Pays Tribute To Kobe and Gigi Before All Star Game  Bleacher Report
  4. Chance the Rapper, Jennifer Hudson Among Performers Set for NBA All-Star Game  NBC Chicago
  5. Chance, Quavo & DJ Khaled Performance - 2020 NBA All-Star Game  House of Highlights
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Japan’s economy shrinks at fastest rate since 2014 – BBC News

  1. Japan's economy shrinks at fastest rate since 2014  BBC News
  2. Coronavirus Outbreak: Japan's GDP falls by 6.3%, registers worst slump in last 5 yrs  WION
  3. Japan’s Economy Shrank Sharply. Now Comes the Coronavirus.  The New York Times
  4. Japanese economy slumps as coronavirus fears persist  FRANCE 24 English
  5. Japan suffers worst economic slump in five years  Arab News
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Drew Carey’s ex-fiancée Amie Harwick murdered, ex-boyfriend arrested, police say – Fox News

  1. Drew Carey's ex-fiancée Amie Harwick murdered, ex-boyfriend arrested, police say  Fox News
  2. LAPD: Family Therapist Amie Harwick Murdered In Hollywood Hills  CBS Los Angeles
  3. Drew Carey's Ex-Fiancee Amie Harwick Murdered in Hollywood Hills  TMZ
  4. Family therapist Amie Harwick murdered in Hollywood Hills, former boyfriend arrested  KABC-TV
  5. Amie Harwick, Famed Therapist Who Appeared In The Doc ‘Addicted To Sexting,’ Murdered In Hollywood Hills  Yahoo Entertainment
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Katie Waldman and Stephen Miller Wed at Trump Hotel – The New York Times

  1. Katie Waldman and Stephen Miller Wed at Trump Hotel  The New York Times
  2. Trump attends wedding of Stephen Miller  POLITICO
  3. Trump attends Stephen Miller wedding to Katie Waldman  The Washington TImes
  4. Trump attends wedding of Stephen Miller and Katie Waldman  Washington Examiner
  5. View Full Coverage on Google News

Common’s 27 NBA All-Star Game introduction rhymes, ranked – SB Nation

Common’s 27 NBA All-Star Game introduction rhymes, ranked  SB NationView Full Coverage on Google News

Rocket Lab will launch a NASA cubesat to the Moon

Rocket Lab will fulfill its dreams of launching payloads to the Moon. NASA has picked Rocket Lab to carry its CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) cubesat into the Moon's orbit in early 20...

General Motors is killing off the Holden brand and pulling out of Australia – CNN

  1. General Motors is killing off the Holden brand and pulling out of Australia  CNN
  2. General Motors is retreating from Australia, New Zealand and Thailand  CNBC
  3. Holden killed by 'highly fragmented right-hand-drive markets'  Sky News Australia
  4. GM scraps historic Holden car brand in Australia  BBC News
  5. GM to pull out of Australia, New Zealand and Thailand  MarketWatch
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Drew Carey’s Ex-Fiancee Amie Harwick Murdered in Hollywood Hills – TMZ

Drew Carey's Ex-Fiancee Amie Harwick Murdered in Hollywood Hills  TMZView Full Coverage on Google News

Japan’s economy shrinks at fastest rate since 2014 – BBC News

Japan's economy shrinks at fastest rate since 2014  BBC NewsView Full Coverage on Google News

Flooding prompts state of emergency in Mississippi – ABC News

Flooding prompts state of emergency in Mississippi  ABC NewsView Full Coverage on Google News

Second massive storm in two weeks hits North Atlantic and Western Europe – CBS News

  1. Second massive storm in two weeks hits North Atlantic and Western Europe  CBS News
  2. U.K. Raises Alert Level as Storm Dennis Floods Claim 3 Lives  QuickTake by Bloomberg
  3. 'Dennis the Penis': Phallic-Shaped Weather Warning for UK Leaves Netizens in Stitches  Sputnik International
  4. How many more storms must Leeds weather before Government finally listens to our flooding battle? - Laura Collins, YEP Editor  Yorkshire Evening Post
  5. Storm Dennis, 2nd-strongest bomb cyclone on record in North Atlantic, causes severe flooding in U.K.  The Washington Post
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Blizzard’s cancelled ‘StarCraft: Ghost’ leaks in playable form

Blizzard's cancelled StarCraft: Ghost has been the stuff of gaming legend. It was supposed to mark Blizzard's big leap into 3D action games, but it never came to pass -- delays, changing developers and evolving game platforms led the studio to put t...

Donald Stratton, Pearl Harbor survivor who fought for recognition of hero sailor, dead at 97 – Fox News

  1. Donald Stratton, Pearl Harbor survivor who fought for recognition of hero sailor, dead at 97  Fox News
  2. Donald Stratton, a Pearl Harbor survivor and USS Arizona crew member, has died at 97  CNN
  3. Pearl Harbor Survivor and U.S.S. Arizona Crew Member Dies at 97  TIME
  4. View Full Coverage on Google News

Americans Evacuated From Quarantined Cruise Ship Off Japan | NBC Nightly News – NBC News

Americans Evacuated From Quarantined Cruise Ship Off Japan | NBC Nightly News  NBC News

Americans Evacuated From Quarantined Cruise Ship Off Japan | NBC Nightly News – NBC News

  1. Americans Evacuated From Quarantined Cruise Ship Off Japan | NBC Nightly News  NBC News
  2. Coronavirus cruise ship passengers head to California for quarantine  Los Angeles Times
  3. Americans under coronavirus quarantine headed to Travis Air Force Base  The Mercury News
  4. Fourteen Americans Flown Home From Coronavirus Cruise Ship Test Positive  The Wall Street Journal
  5. Americans who left cruise trade one quarantine for another  Washington Post
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

The Galaxy Z Flip’s glass screen isn’t very durable

When Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Z Flip, its display's extra-thin glass drew the attention of many people. It theoretically offered a better feel and more durability than the fragile plastic of the Galaxy Fold. You might not want to get your hopes...

Chinese scientists says COVID-19/coronavirus could have originated from government … – ARIRANG NEWS

  1. Chinese scientists says COVID-19/coronavirus could have originated from government ...  ARIRANG NEWS
  2. Can a face mask protect you from coronavirus? New Mexico Department of Health sheds light  Las Cruces Sun-News
  3. COVID-19: WHO office in Congo-Brazza ready to combat coronavirus  africanews
  4. 'Wuflu': is China being treated unfairly over the coronavirus outbreak?  Hong Kong Free Press
  5. Deadly COVID-19 spreading in China and beyond  ARIRANG NEWS
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Cubs’ Yu Darvish feels ‘weird’ that Astros still have 2017 World Series title – CBS Sports

  1. Cubs' Yu Darvish feels 'weird' that Astros still have 2017 World Series title  CBS Sports
  2. Dodgers: Yu Darvish Defends Bellinger, Says Astros Should Stop Talking Right Now  Dodgers Nation
  3. Yu Darvish Says Astros Should Lose World Series Trophy  Sports Illustrated
  4. Darvish thinks Houston should be stripped of World Series  NBCSports.com
  5. Darvish: Astros should be stripped of '17 World Series title  Yahoo Sports
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Bernie Sanders is in a very weird position – CNN

Bernie Sanders is in a very weird position  CNNView Full Coverage on Google News

Adam Scott (70) holds off Genesis field for first Tour win since 2016 – Golf Channel

  1. Adam Scott (70) holds off Genesis field for first Tour win since 2016  Golf Channel
  2. Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott blew up when the broadcast went off air. Here’s what happened  Golf.com
  3. Scott wins by two strokes at Riviera, and this time it is official  Yahoo Sports
  4. 2020 Genesis Invitational leaderboard, grades: Adam Scott takes Riviera with strong weekend effort  CBSSports.com
  5. Dustin Johnson shoots 1-over 72 in round four of the Genesis Invitational  pgatour.com
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Europe is watching the U.S. presidential campaign — and holding its breath about Trump and Sanders – The Washington Post

Europe is watching the U.S. presidential campaign — and holding its breath about Trump and Sanders  The Washington PostView Full Coverage on Google News

‘Animals live for man’: China’s appetite for wildlife likely to survive virus – Reuters

  1. 'Animals live for man': China's appetite for wildlife likely to survive virus  Reuters
  2. Deadly Coronavirus Might Have Originated In A Chinese Government Laboratory  The Inquisitr News
  3. Virus renews safety concerns about slaughtering wild animals  Washington Post
  4. How epidemics like coronavirus can be caused by the illegal wildlife trade  The National
  5. New, detailed images of novel coronavirus released by US lab  New Atlas
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

New York AG won’t keep fighting T-Mobile merger with Sprint

Now that a federal judge has removed one of the few remaining obstacles to T-Mobile's merger with Sprint, resistance to the move appears to be fading. New York Attorney General Letitia James has signalled that the state won't appeal the ruling declar...

Tesla ordered to halt early work on its German Gigafactory – Engadget

  1. Tesla ordered to halt early work on its German Gigafactory  Engadget
  2. German court orders Tesla to stop felling trees for Gigafactory  The Guardian
  3. German High Administrative Court orders Tesla not to cut trees for 'new factory setup'  WION
  4. Tesla: German court halts work on new 'Gigafactory'  BBC News
  5. Tesla Berlin Factory Risks Months-Long Legal Delay Over Wildlife  Yahoo Finance
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Justin Bieber Shaves Off His Mustache, Teases Its Return – TMZ

  1. Justin Bieber Shaves Off His Mustache, Teases Its Return  TMZ
  2. Making Changes! Justin Bieber Shaves His Mustache — and His Wife Hailey Baldwin Happily Reacts  PEOPLE.com
  3. Justin Bieber Can't Stop Talking About His Sex Life & People Are Over It  Showbiz Cheat Sheet
  4. Goodbye to That Mustache  Jezebel
  5. Justin Bieber Has Finally Shaved And Rid His Face of 'Mustachio'  Billboard
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Clock’s ticking for Nissan boss Uchida to show he has a plan: sources – Reuters

Clock's ticking for Nissan boss Uchida to show he has a plan: sources  ReutersView Full Coverage on Google News

Tesla ordered to halt early work on its German Gigafactory

Tesla's Berlin area Gigafactory is running into trouble before the EV maker has even laid the foundations. The higher administrative court for Berlin-Brandenburg has ordered Tesla to halt forest clearing for the factory while waiting on a decision f...

Original Content podcast: ‘Mythic Quest’ is a likable comedy with a single standout episode

There’s plenty to like about “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet,” a new series on Apple TV+ — its sympathetic-but-critical portrayal of the video game industry, its goofy-but-likable characters and a couple of big surprises that come at the end of the season.

But what really stood out to us — as we discuss on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast — was a single episode, “A Dark Quiet Death.”

Without getting into spoilers, it’s probably safe to reveal that the episode mostly stands apart from the rest of the season, telling a self-contained story about two characters (played by Jake Johnson and Cristin Milioti) who, after they create a quirky horror video game that turns into a surprise hit, discover that success isn’t all its cracked up to be.

Where the rest of “Mythic Quest” is a broad comedy (with the aforementioned likable characters and surprising plot), “A Dark Quiet Death” is more of a drama that quietly — but agonizingly — portrays the tensions between commerce and art. And if we have a criticism, it’s that the episode’s achievement can make the rest of the show feel a little silly in comparison.

We also discuss Anthony’s interview with the creators of the show and how “Mythic Quest” might have been shaped by the involvement of video game company Ubisoft. And before we begin the review, we react to this year’s Oscars.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:

0:00 Intro
0:27 Oscars discussion
17:54 “Mythic Quest” review
50:31 “Mythic Quest” spoiler discussion

Original Content podcast: ‘Mythic Quest’ is a likable comedy with a single standout episode

There’s plenty to like about “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet,” a new series on Apple TV+ — its sympathetic-but-critical portrayal of the video game industry, its goofy-but-likable characters and a couple of big surprises that come at the end of the season.

But what really stood out to us — as we discuss on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast — was a single episode, “A Dark Quiet Death.”

Without getting into spoilers, it’s probably safe to reveal that the episode mostly stands apart from the rest of the season, telling a self-contained story about two characters (played by Jake Johnson and Cristin Milioti) who, after they create a quirky horror video game that turns into a surprise hit, discover that success isn’t all its cracked up to be.

Where the rest of “Mythic Quest” is a broad comedy (with the aforementioned likable characters and surprising plot), “A Dark Quiet Death” is more of a drama that quietly — but agonizingly — portrays the tensions between commerce and art. And if we have a criticism, it’s that the episode’s achievement can make the rest of the show feel a little silly in comparison.

We also discuss Anthony’s interview with the creators of the show and how “Mythic Quest” might have been shaped by the involvement of video game company Ubisoft. And before we begin the review, we react to this year’s Oscars.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you’d like to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:

0:00 Intro
0:27 Oscars discussion
17:54 “Mythic Quest” review
50:31 “Mythic Quest” spoiler discussion

Jamie Lynn Spears’ Daughter Injured in Recess Accident – Taste of Country

Jamie Lynn Spears' Daughter Injured in Recess Accident  Taste of Country

‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ breaks record for a video game movie debut

The Sonic the Hedgehog movie has come a long, long way from that horrifying initial trailer. Paramount's adaptation just broke the record for a video game movie's three-day opening in the US, pulling in $57 million compared to Detective Pikachu's $5...

New York Won’t Appeal T-Mobile Merger Verdict – The Wall Street Journal

New York Won’t Appeal T-Mobile Merger Verdict  The Wall Street JournalView Full Coverage on Google News

Nevada Looks to Stake Its Claim on the 2020 Race as Democrats Clash – The New York Times

  1. Nevada Looks to Stake Its Claim on the 2020 Race as Democrats Clash  The New York Times
  2. ‘A complete disaster’: Fears grow over potential Nevada caucus malfunction  POLITICO
  3. Democrats gear up for Nevada and South Carolina contests  CBS News
  4. Why there aren’t more polls about the Nevada caucuses  Vox.com
  5. This one precinct in Las Vegas shows people waiting 3.5 hours for early voting  CNN
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Nevada Looks to Stake Its Claim on the 2020 Race as Democrats Clash – The New York Times

  1. Nevada Looks to Stake Its Claim on the 2020 Race as Democrats Clash  The New York Times
  2. ‘A complete disaster’: Fears grow over potential Nevada caucus malfunction  POLITICO
  3. This one precinct in Las Vegas shows people waiting 3.5 hours for early voting  CNN
  4. Why there aren’t more polls about the Nevada caucuses  Vox.com
  5. Democrats gear up for Nevada and South Carolina contests  CBS News
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Jennifer Lopez stuns in revealing bikini pic – Fox News

  1. Jennifer Lopez stuns in revealing bikini pic  Fox News
  2. JLo And A-Rod, The Biebers And More Style Secrets Of Hollywood's Best-Dressed Couples  Access
  3. Jennifer Lopez Is 'Relaxed and Recharged' With New Bikini Selfie in Wake of Super Bowl, Awards Season  PopCulture.com
  4. View Full Coverage on Google News

Two people are dead after getting trapped under an avalanche they accidentally triggered – CNN

  1. Two people are dead after getting trapped under an avalanche they accidentally triggered  CNN
  2. Searchers recover bodies of 2 killed in avalanche north of Vail  Denver7 – The Denver Channel
  3. Avalanche in Colorado leaves 2 presumed dead north of Vail, lone survivor managed to 'free himself'  Fox News
  4. 2 men missing after avalanche near Vail  KRDO
  5. Searchers look for two men presumed dead in avalanche outside of Vail  NBC Montana
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

Adele Shows Off Her 100-Pound Weight Loss At Her Pal’s Wedding In London — See Pics – HollywoodLife

  1. Adele Shows Off Her 100-Pound Weight Loss At Her Pal’s Wedding In London — See Pics  HollywoodLife
  2. Adele Gives Rare Performance at Her Best Friend's Wedding  E! NEWS
  3. Laura Dockrill Photos, News, and Videos  Just Jared
  4. Adele Had the Best Time Officiating and Performing 'Rolling in the Deep' at Best Friend's Wedding  PEOPLE.com
  5. Adele Officiated Her Friend's Wedding in London and Provided the Entertainment, Too  ELLE.com
  6. View Full Coverage on Google News

With the development of generalized AI, what’s the meaning of a person?

For the next installment of the informal TechCrunch book club, we are reading the fourth story in Ted Chiang’s Exhalation. The goal of this book club is to expand our minds to new worlds, ideas, and vistas, and The Lifecycle of Software Objects doesn’t disappoint. Centered in a future world where virtual worlds and generalized AI have become commonplace, it’s a fantastic example of speculative fiction that forces us to confront all kinds of fundamental questions.

If you’ve missed the earlier parts in this book club series, be sure to check out:

Some questions for the fifth story in the collection, Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny, are included below.

And as always, some more notes:

  • Want to join the conversation? Feel free to email me your thoughts at danny+bookclub@techcrunch.com or join some of the discussions on Reddit or Twitter.
  • Follow these informal book club articles here: https://techcrunch.com/book-review/. That page also has a built-in RSS feed for posts exclusively in the Book Review category, which is very low volume.
  • Feel free to add your comments in our TechCrunch comments section below this post.

Thinking about The Lifecycle of Software Objects

This is a much more sprawling story than the earlier short stories in Exhalation, with much more of a linear plot than the fractal koans we experienced before. That wider canvas offers us an enormous buffet of topics to discuss, from empathy, the meaning of humanity, and the values we vouch for to artificial entities, the economics of the digital future, and onwards to the futures of romance, sex, children, and death. I have pages of notes from this story, but we can’t cover it all, so I want to zoom in on just two threads that I found particularly deep and rewarding.

One core objective of this story is to really interrogate the meaning of a “person.” Chiang sets up our main character Ana as a mother of a digital entity (a “digient”) who was a zookeeper in a past life. That career history gives us a nice framing: it allows us via Ana to compare humans to animals, and therefore to contextualize the personhood debate around the digients throughout the story.

On one hand, humans uniquely value themselves as a species, and even the most dedicated digient owner eventually moves on. As one particularly illuminating passage discusses when a digient’s owner announces that his wife is pregnant:

“Obviously you’re going to have your hands full,” says Ana, “but what do you think about adopting Lolly?” It would be fascinating to see Lolly’s reaction to a pregnancy.

“No,” says Robyn, shaking her head. “I’m past digients now.”

“You’re past them?”

“I’m ready for the real thing, you know what I mean?”

Carefully, Ana says, “I’m not sure that I do.”

“…Cats, dogs, digients, they’re all just substitutes for what we’re supposed to be caring for.”

This owner has made a clear distinction: there is only one form of entity worth caring for, only one thing that a human can consider a person, and that is another human.

Indeed, throughout this short story, Chiang constantly notes how the tastes, values, norms, rules, and laws of human society are designed almost exclusively with humans in mind. Yet, the story never takes a definitive stance, and even Ana is not at all convinced of any one point of view, even right up to the end of the story. However, the narrative does offer us one model to think through that I thought was valuable, and that’s around experience.

What separates humans from other animals is that we base decisions on our own prior experiences. We collect these experiences, and use them to guide our actions and drive us toward the right outcomes that we — also from experience — desire. We might want to make money (because experience tells us that money is good), and so we decide to go to college to get the right kind of learning in order to compete effectively in the job market. Essential to that whole decision is lived experience.

Chiang makes a very clear point here when it comes to a company called Exponential, which is interested in finding “superhuman AI” that comes without the work that Ana and the other owners of digients have put in to raise their entities. Ana eventually realizes that they can never find what they are looking for:

They want something that responds like a person, but isn’t owed the same obligations as a person, and that’s something that she can’t give them.

No one can give it to them, because it’s an impossibility. The years she spent raising Jax didn’t just make him fun to talk to, didn’t just provide him with hobbies and a sense of humor. They were what gave him all the attributes Exponential is looking for: fluency at navigating the real world, creativity at solving new problems, judgment you could entrust with an important decision. Every quality that made a person more valuable than a database was a product of experience.

She wants to tell them that Blue Gamma was more right than it knew: experience isn’t merely the best teacher; it’s the only teacher … experience is algorithmically incompressible.

Indeed, as the owners start to think about when they might offer their digients independence to make their own decisions, experience becomes the key watchword. Their ability to make their own decisions in the context of past experiences is what defines their personhood.

And so when we think about generalized artificial intelligence and the hope of creating a sentient artificial life, I think this litmus test starts to get at the real challenge what this technology can even be. Can we train an AI purely through algorithms, or will we have to guide these AIs with their open but empty minds every step of the way? Chiang discusses this a bit earlier in the story:

They’re blind to a simple truth: complex minds can’t develop on their own. If they could, feral children would be like any others. And minds don’t grow the way weeds do, flourishing under indifferent attention; otherwise all children in orphanages would thrive. For a mind to even approach its full potential, it needs cultivation by other minds.

Indeed, Ana and the other main character Derek are forced to keep pushing their digients along, assigning them homework and guiding them to new activities to continue propelling them to get the kind of experience they need to succeed in the world. Why should we assume a generalized AI wouldn’t be any less lazy than a child today? Why would we expect that it can teach itself when humans can’t teach themselves?

Speaking about children, I want to head over to the other thread in this story I found particularly trenchant. Clearly, there is a whole parallel to real-life human childrearing that is sort of intrinsic to the whole story. I think that’s obvious, and while interesting, a lot of the conclusions and meanings from that concept are obvious.

What’s more interesting is what affection and bonding signifies in a world where entities don’t have to be “real.” Ana is a zookeeper who had deep affection for the animals under her care (“Her eyes still tear up when she thinks about the last time she saw her apes, wishing that she could explain to them why they wouldn’t see her again, hoping that they could adapt to their new homes.”) She vigorously defends her relationship with those animals, as she does with the digients throughout the story.

But why are some entities loved more than others if they are all just code running in the cloud? The main digients featured in the book were literally designed to be attractive to humans. As Blue Gamma scans through the thousands of algorithmically-generated digients, it carefully selects the ones that will attract owners. “It’s partly been a search for intelligence, but just as much it’s been a search for temperament, the personality that won’t frustrate customers.”

The reason of course is obvious: these creatures need attention to thrive, but they won’t get it if they are not adorable and desirable. Derek spends his time animating the avatars of the digients to make them more attractive, generating spontaneous and serendipitous facial expressions to create a bond between their human owners and them.

Yet, the story pushes so much harder on this theme in layers that connect with each other. Derek is attracted to Ana throughout the story, even as Ana stays focused on developing her own digient and keeping her relationship with her boyfriend Kyle going. Derek eventually realizes that his own obsession with Ana has become untenable, which is a subtle parallel to Ana’s own obsession with her digients:

He no longer has a wife who might complain about this, and Ana’s boyfriend, Kyle, doesn’t seem to mind, so he can call her up without recrimination. It’s a painful sort of pleasure to spend this much time with her; it might be healthier for him if they interacted less, but he doesn’t want to stop.

Indeed, the book’s strongest thesis may be that this sort of love just isn’t reproducible. Ana wants to join a company called Polytope in order to raise funding to port her digient to a new digital platform. As part of the employer agreement, she is expected to wear a “smart transdermal” called InstantRapport that uses chemical alterations in the brain to rewire a human’s reward centers to love a specific individual automatically. Ana’s love for her digient pushes her to consider rewiring her own brain to get the resources she needs.

And yet, the digients eventually develop similar thought processes. Marco and Polo, two digients owned by Derek, eventually agree to be copied as sex toys, in order to provide funding for the port. Their clones will have their “reward maps” rewired to make them love the customer that purchases them.

The story gives us a haunting reminder that we are ultimately a bunch of neurons that respond to stimuli. Some of that stimuli is under control, but much of it is not, instead programmed by our experiences without our conscious intervention. And there we see how these two threads come entwined together — it is only through experience that we can create affection, and it is precisely affection and therefore experience that creates a person in the first place.

Some questions for Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny

  • Can machines play a meaningful role in childrearing?
  • Did the scientific method work in this instance?
  • Connecting this story to the Lifecycle of Software Objects, what is Chiang trying to say about childrearing? Are there similarities or differences between these two stories’ conceptions of children and parents?
  • Should we be concerned if a child only wants to talk to a machine? Do we care what entities a human feels comfortable socializing with?

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