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The AI Bug That Can't Be Fixed: Humans Can’t Trust It

The inner workings of Artificial Intelligence are impenetrable, unexplainable and unpredictable. That build in some fundamental limits to its capacity and utility.

There are alien minds among us. Not the little green men of science fiction, but the alien minds that power the facial recognition in your smartphone, determine your creditworthiness and write poetry and computer code. These alien minds are artificial intelligence systems, the ghost in the machine that you encounter daily.

But AI systems have a significant limitation: Many of their inner workings are impenetrable, making them fundamentally unexplainable and unpredictable. Furthermore, constructing AI systems that behave in ways that people expect is a significant challenge.

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Is There Any Way To Rein In The Power Of Big Tech?

A new biography of the Tesla, X (formerly Twitter) and Space X boss reveals that Elon Musk prevented the Ukrainian army from attacking the Russian fleet in Crimea last year, by limiting the beam of his Starlink satellites. Unchecked power is a problem.

This article was updated Sept. 14, 2023 at 12:20 p.m


PARIS — Nothing Elon Musk does leaves us indifferent. The billionaire is often admired for his audacity, and regularly criticized for his attitude and some of his decisions.

A biography of the founder and CEO of Tesla and Space X, came out today in the United States — 688 pages published by Simon & Schuster and written by William Isaacson (the renowned biographer of Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein).

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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One revelation from this book is making headlines, and it's a big one. Elon Musk — brace yourselves — prevented the Ukrainian army from destroying the Russian Black Sea fleet last year.

A bit of context: Starlink, the communications and internet satellite constellation owned by Musk, initially enabled Ukraine to escape Russian blackout attempts.

But when the Ukrainian army decided to send naval drones to destroy Russian ships anchored in Crimea, it found that the signal was blocked. And Starlink refused to extend it to Crimea, because, according to Issacson, Musk feared it would trigger World War III.

It's dizzying, and raises serious questions.

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AI And Musicians: A New Instrument To Learn — Or The Job Formerly Known As The Artist?

Depicted by some artists as a threat to creativity, algorithms are used by others as a powerful new instrument, able to stimulate their imagination, expand their creative capabilities and open doors to so-far unexplored worlds.

PARIS — In the music world, there are those who, as Australian singer Nick Cave confided in the New Yorker, consider that ChatGPT should “go to hell and leave songwriting alone," and those who want to give it a try.

French-born mega DJ David Guetta tried his hand at a concert in February, playing, to a stunned crowd, a track composed using only online artificial intelligence services and rapped by a synthesized voice borrowed from Eminem. Two months later, a masked Internet user, Ghostwriter977, posted a fake AI-generated duet by Drake and The Weeknd, “Heart on My Sleeve," on TikTok, without the authorization of either musician.

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Prigozhin Presumed Dead, Six More BRICS, Brain-To-Speech Breakthrough

👋 Aloha!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is believed to have died in a plane crash north of Moscow, six new countries (including Iran) are invited to join the BRICS bloc, and a brain-to-speech breakthrough allows a paralyzed woman to speak for the first time in 18 years. Meanwhile, Worldcrunch’s very own Emma Albright reflects on the impacts of global warming that go beyond the natural disasters, including the added burden of working through the rising heat of summer.


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In The News
Michelle Courtois and Marine Béguin.

Deadly Russian Fire, Youth Climate Case Victory, Barbie’s Algeria Ban

👋 Здравейте*

Welcome to Tuesday, where a petrol station explosion in the Russian region of Dagestan kills at least 30, young climate activists in the U.S. state of Montana score a major court victory and Algeria bans the Barbie movie for “Western deviances.” For our special Summer Reads edition of Worldcrunch Today, we feature an article by Benoît Georges in French daily Les Echos — and three other stories from around the world on technology and AI.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet and Laure Gautherin

U.S. Diplomat In Niger, Portugal Battles Wildfires, No More Zoom Calls

👋 Azul!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where a U.S. diplomat meets with Niger’s coup leaders in an effort to find a “negotiated solution” to the conflict, two Russian missiles hit residential buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Pokrovsk killing at least eight people and it’s time for Zoom workers to go back to the office. For our special Summer Reads edition of Worldcrunch Today, we feature three stories from around the world on education.

[*Tarifit, Northern Morocco]

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Bethany Brookshire

Animals And AI: How Researchers Are Trying To Prevent The Next Pandemic

To head-off a new spillover, scientists are combining a menagerie of animals, AI-driven models, and open communication.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, while most Americans were still going out to dinner and living normal lives, a Chinese scientist sent an urgent request to the higher-ups at Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. The researcher was in lockdown due to the spread of the new pneumonia-like disease, and he wanted to know if the U.S. facility — a hub for mouse breeding and research — had a lab mouse that could contract the illness.

For decades, scientists have studied non-human animals to better understand infectious diseases. These species have been used to test vaccines and treatments, and more recently, scientists have been studying these creatures for clues about whether any of their viruses could infect humans — a process known as a spillover. And it turned out that Jackson Lab did have the ability to spin up a line of genetically modified mice that could replicate some of the aspects of a Covid-19 infection in humans.

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Benoît Georges

Boston Dynamics: Lord Of The Robots Has A New Target To Conquer

On two or four legs, the robots from this MIT spin-off are among the most advanced in the world. And while their videos have conquered YouTube, their new playground is less spectacular, but just as strategic: logistics warehouses.

WALTHAM — The latest viral Boston Dynamics YouTube video, posted in mid-January, already boasts over 6 million views. In a setting reminiscent of a construction site, the humanoid robot Atlas places a plank of wood on a scaffold, grabs a bag filled with tools, climbs four steps, runs up the plank, throws the bag to a human, jumps to its feet and then completes its journey with a spectacular somersault.

The scene is worthy of a science-fiction film — but it was produced without any special effects, by the Boston Dynamics robotics company.

Founded in 1992 by MIT professor Marc Raibert, the company, based in the Boston suburb of Waltham, has been developing cutting-edge bipedal and quadrupedal robots for three decades. They are often under contract to DARPA, the U.S. military's advanced project research agency. Internet users were introduced to Boston Dynamics in 2008, with a video showcasing BigDog, an imposing quadruped robot designed to carry American infantry soldiers' equipment on all kinds of terrain — forest, snow, ice or rubble.

Boston Dynamics then became part of Google, at a time when the search engine's founders were looking to invent the robots of the future, and then part of Masayoshi Son's Japanese group SoftBank, which was pursuing the same dream. Since 2021, its majority shareholder has been the Korean Hyundai group, and while videos of its robots still set YouTube alight, its new mission is far less spectacular: to automate logistics warehouses.

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Magdalena Keler

Will This New AI-Driven Technology Revolutionize Breast Cancer Detection?

Developed in Krakow, Poland, the new AILIS detection machine relies on artificial intelligence to detect breast cancer in Stage I, well before it is visible with mammograms or ultrasounds. It is set to undergo clinical trials.

KRAKOW — I’m a huge fan of sci-fi films. I envy their protagonists for two things: their journeys outside of our galaxy, and the ease with which they could monitor their health. I always wanted to see the day where every medical cure, every tedious exam, would fit into a single capsule. One pill and pow! — the technology scans my body and quickly heals me. I don’t think I am the only one who has dreamed of a day where this is true.

When I first saw the AILIS machine, I felt as though this dream had finally come true. It was as if I had stepped onto a movie set. But the AILIS is very much real, and it has the ability to save women's lives. From the outside, the machine looks like a capsule, a safe – yet futuristic – cocoon. Its speakers play electronic music, a blue-green light flashes from underneath its dome, imitating the northern lights.

I sit on a comfortable chair and feel as though I have traveled a few decades into the future. The chair shifts my body into a horizontal position, feeling so relaxed that I almost forget what the AILIS is testing me for.

Lowering a hoop from above, the machine begins its work, without having to make any contact with my body. There is no painful compression or not-so-safe ionizing radiation. And the lights, melody, and gusts of air allow for patients to relax their muscles and their bodies.

The machine also offers nearly total privacy while the exam takes place, as it only requires one trained operator. If there were no legal restrictions, the machine could be operated remotely by any specialist from around the world, with the help of an app.

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Work In Progress
Yannick Osselin-Champion and Bertrand Hauger

Work → In Progress: AI, The Pros And Cons Of Your New Sort-Of Colleague

Will it help you, control you ... or replace you?

It seems like Artificial Intelligence is all we read about these days, with some newspapers even suggesting its rapid expansion poses “existential threats to humanity.” But even if we do have a lot of questions about AI, it also opens up opportunities to help human activity for the better – in particular in the world of work.

We’re hearing more about “future-proof careers,” which will survive the advent of AI. A recent report from consulting firm Challenger, Grey and Christmas found that AI was behind nearly 4,000 layoffs in the U.S. last month. That’s almost four times the impact of outsourcing – although cost-cutting still accounted for double the job losses.

Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023 brings positive news about jobs created by AI and technological advances in the next five years. There’s some nuance around this new tool – which, like any revolutionary invention, will have a lasting impact on many industries.

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Pierre Haski

Where Altman Meets Macron: The Quest For AI Alignment, Between Private And Public

The inventor of ChatGPT is in Europe to try to force leaders on the Continent to face hard questions about what artificial intelligence is bringing to our world, whether they like it or not.


PARIS — Six months ago, Sam Altman’s name was only known to a small circle of technophiles. Earlier this week, when he came to France, he was received by President Emmanuel Macron and the Minister of Economy, and he is back in Paris on Friday to make other connections. On his Twitter account, he described his trip as a "World Tour," like a pop star.

Altman is the CEO of OpenAI, the U.S. company that created ChatGPT, the natural language artificial intelligence tool that has literally shaken the world. With 200 million users worldwide in just six months, ChatGPT has broken all sorts of records for the speed of technology adoption.

The world of Tech is prone to trends, and not all of them last. However, to quote Gilles Babinet, co-president of the National Digital Council in France, who has recently published an essay on the history of the internet titled Comment les hippies, Dieu et la science ont inventé Internet("How the Internet Was Invented by Hippies, God and Science"), we are currently facing an "anthropological break."

In other words, a qualitative leap that will impact all human activities, and even the political organization of our societies — with both positive and negative results.

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Dankwart Guratzsch

The "Ruin Of Art" — How Goethe Predicted Our Current AI Nightmare 220 Years Ago

Goethe was eerily prescient in his predictions about the “unstoppable force” of mechanization. But he didn’t call for a pause in technological advances. More than 200 years ago, he predicted with surprising accuracy how technological and industrial developments would change our world.

BERLIN — What did Johann Wolfgang von Goethe know about computers, algorithms and artificial intelligence? Nothing, of course. But the legendary German writer (1749-1832) possessed the kind of observational gifts that enabled him to foresee where the early days of industrial development would lead – and the changes he predicted are now coming to fruition.

Among Goethe's most currently palpable predictions was the idea of an “art factory,” which would cheaply, quickly and accurately recreate “any painting using entirely mechanical means," by a process that “any child” could be taught to follow. Mass-produced art created by machines – that was the great writer’s nightmarish vision in the early days of the Industrial Revolution.

Goethe wrote his essay in 1797, but never published it. The steam engine was invented in 1765 and the mechanical loom in 1784, just 13 years before Goethe wrote his essay. These inventions accelerated a process that had already begun, as the world of work was undergoing a wave of mechanization. The 48-year-old Goethe predicted that the “unstoppable force” of this revolution would fundamentally change the status of art and artists.

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