AI

Musk, Woz, Hawking, and Robotics/AI Experts Urge Ban On Autonomous Weapons 280 280

An anonymous reader writes: An open letter published by the Future of Life Institute urges governments to ban offensive autonomous weaponry. The letter is signed by high profile leaders in the science community and tech industry, such as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Noam Chomsky, and Frank Wilczek. It's also signed — more importantly — by literally hundreds of expert researchers in robotics and AI. They say, "The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting. If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce."
Democrats

Clinton Promises 500 Million New Solar Panels 553 553

An anonymous reader writes: Hillary Clinton, widely regarded as most likely to win the Democrat nomination for the 2016 U.S. presidential election, has unveiled her campaign climate plan. Speaking at Iowa State University, Clinton said she would set up tax incentives for renewable energy to drive further adoption. She also set a goal of installing half a billion new solar panels within her first term, if elected. Her plan would cost roughly $60 billion over 10 years, and she intends to pay for it by cutting tax breaks to the oil and gas industry. According to The Guardian, "Clinton has promised to make the issue of climate change a key pillar of her campaign platform."
Windows

Windows 10's Automatic Updates For NVidia Drivers Causing Trouble 315 315

Mark Wilson writes: One of the features that has been removed from Windows 10 — at least for home users — is the ability to pick and choose when updates are installed. Microsoft has taken Windows Update out of the hands of users so the process is, for the most part, completely automated. In theory, this sounds great — no more worrying about having the latest patches installed, no more concerns that a machine that hasn't been updated will cause problems for others — but an issue with NVidia drivers shows that there is potential for things to go wrong. Irate owners of NVidia graphics cards have taken to support forums to complain that automatically-installed drivers installed have broken their computers.
Data Storage

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Store a Half-Petabyte of Data? (And Back It Up?) 215 215

An anonymous reader writes: My workplace has recently had two internal groups step forward with a request for almost a half-petabyte of disk to store data. The first is a research project that will computationally analyze a quarter petabyte of data in 100-200MB blobs. The second is looking to archive an ever increasing amount of mixed media. Buying a SAN large enough for these tasks is easy, but how do you present it back to the clients? And how do you back it up? Both projects have expressed a preference for a single human-navigable directory tree. The solution should involve clustered servers providing the connectivity between storage and client so that there is no system downtime. Many SAN solutions have a maximum volume limit of only 16TB, which means some sort of volume concatenation or spanning would be required, but is that recommended? Is anyone out there managing gigantic storage needs like this? How did you do it? What worked, what failed, and what would you do differently?
Transportation

When Do Robocars Become Cheaper Than Standard Cars? 252 252

Hallie Siegel writes: With all the extra sensors and technology that have to go into autonomous cars, you might expect them to cost more. After all, autonomous features like park assist and auto lane changing are added-value components that you pay extra for on current vehicles. But autonomous car expert Brad Templeton thinks it could be that the overall cost of autonomous vehicles per mile driven will lower than traditional cars. Not only because features of traditional cars, like dashboards and steering columns, will not be necessary in robocars, but also because autonomous cars are more likely to be shared and constantly in use, rather than sitting in your driveway 90% of the time.
Government

France To Reduce Reliance On Nuclear Power 467 467

AmiMoJo writes: French lawmakers have approved a bill to reduce the country's reliance on nuclear power from 75% to 50% by 2025. The policy was one of President Francois Hollande's campaign pledges. The legislation also includes a target of reducing the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, compared to the level in 1990. The new law aims to eventually halve France's energy consumption by 2050 from the 2012 level. The ambitious goal came in the lead-up to the COP 21 climate change conference in Paris later this year. France will chair the meeting.
Portables

Experiment: Installing Windows 10 On a 7-Year-Old Acer Aspire One 405 405

jones_supa writes: Windows 10 will launch in less than a week and it is supposed to work flawlessly on devices already powered by Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, as Microsoft struggled to keep system requirements unchanged to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Device drivers all the way back to Windows Vista platform (WDDM 1.0) are supported. Softpedia performed a practical test to see how Windows 10 can run on a 7-year-old Acer Aspire One netbook powered by Intel Atom N450 processor clocked at 1.66 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, and a 320 GB mechanical hard disk. The result is surprising to say the least, as installation not only went impressively fast, but the operating system itself also works fast.
Robotics

Robots Appear To Raise Productivity Without Causing Total Work Hours To Decline 391 391

Hallie Siegel writes: We often read about the economic impact of robots on employment, usually accompanied with the assertion that "robots steal jobs". But to date there has precious little economic analysis of the actual effects that robots are already having on employment and productivity. Georg Graetz (Professor of Economics at Uppsala University) and Guy Michaels (Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics) undertook a study (abstract) of how robots impacted productivity and employment between 1993 and 2007, and found that "industrial robots increase labor productivity, total factor productivity and wages." And while there is some evidence that they reduced the employment of low skilled workers, and, to a lesser extent, middle skilled workers, industrial robots had no significant effect on total hours worked.

This is important because it seems to contradict many of the pessimistic assertions that are presently being made about the impact of robots on jobs. What I am especially curious about is post-2007 data, however, because it's just in the past few years that we have seen a major shift in industrial robotics to incorporate collaborative robots, or co-robots. (Robots specifically designed to work alongside humans, as tools for augmenting human performance.) One might reasonably suspect that some of the negative impact of industrial robotics on low and middle skilled workers pre 2007 could be offset by the more recent and increasing use of co-bots, which are not designed to replace humans, but instead to make them more efficient.
United Kingdom

Man Arrested After Charging iPhone On London Overground Train 674 674

An anonymous reader writes: 45-year-old Robin Lee was arrested after he used a socket on a London Overground train to charge up his iPhone. He was handcuffed and arrested for "abstracting electricity". Robin was then charged with "unacceptable behaviour" after "becoming aggressive" when objecting to his first arrest. The Guardian reports: "Speaking to the Evening Standard, Lee said he had been confronted by a police community support officer on the overground train from Hackney Wick to Camden Road on 10 July. The Overground is part of Transport For London’s wider network that also includes London Underground and the buses. 'She said I’m abstracting electricity. She kept saying it’s a crime. We were just coming into the station and there happened to be about four police officers on the platform. She called to them and said: ‘This guy’s been abstracting electricity, he needs to be arrested’.”
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Most Unusual Hardware Hack? 210 210

An anonymous reader writes: Another Slashdotter recently asked what kind of things someone can power with an external USB battery. I have a followup along those lines: what kind of modifications have you made to your gadgets to do things that they were never meant to do? Consider old routers, cell phones, monitors, etc. that have absolutely no use or value anymore in their intended form. What can you do with them? Have you ever done something stupid and damaged your electronics?
Robotics

Volkswagen Factory Worker Killed By a Robot 342 342

m.alessandrini writes: A worker at a Volkswagen factory in Germany has died, after a robot grabbed him and crushed him against a metal plate. This is perhaps the first severe accident of this kind in a western factory, and is sparking debate about who is responsible for the accident, the man who was servicing the robot beyond its protection cage, or the robot's hardware/software developers who didn't put enough safety checks. Will this distinction be more and more important in the future, when robots will be more widespread?
Power

Bill Gates Investing $2 Billion In Renewables 292 292

An anonymous reader writes: Bill Gates has dumped a billion dollars into renewables, and now he's ready to double down. Gates announced he will increase his investment in renewable energy technologies to $2 billion in an attempt to "bend the curve" on limiting climate change. He is focusing on risky investments that favor "breakthrough" technologies because he thinks incremental improvements to existing tech won't be enough to meet energy needs while avoiding a climate catastrophe. He says, "There's no battery technology that's even close to allowing us to take all of our energy from renewables and be able to use battery storage in order to deal not only with the 24-hour cycle but also with long periods of time where it's cloudy and you don't have sun or you don't have wind. Power is about reliability. We need to get something that works reliably." At the same time, Gates rejected calls to divest himself and his charitable foundation of investments in fossil fuel companies.
Power

New Manufacturing Technique Halves Cost of Lithium-Ion Batteries 214 214

An anonymous reader writes: Experts in materials science at MIT have developed a new process for creating lithium-ion batteries that will drop the associated production costs by half. The researchers say fundamental battery construction techniques have been refined over the past two decades, but not re-thought. "The new battery design is a hybrid between flow batteries and conventional solid ones: In this version, while the electrode material does not flow, it is composed of a similar semisolid, colloidal suspension of particles. Chiang and Carter refer to this as a 'semisolid battery.' This approach greatly simplifies manufacturing, and also makes batteries that are flexible and resistant to damage, says Chiang. ... Instead of the standard method of applying liquid coatings to a roll of backing material, and then having to wait for that material to dry before it can move to the next manufacturing step, the new process keeps the electrode material in a liquid state and requires no drying stage at all. Using fewer, thicker electrodes, the system reduces the conventional battery architecture's number of distinct layers, as well as the amount of nonfunctional material in the structure, by 80 percent."
Power

The Presidential Candidate With a Plan To Run the US On 100% Clean Energy 308 308

merbs writes: Thus far, no other candidate has said they're going to make climate change their top priority. Martin O'Malley has not only done that, but he has outlined a plan that would enact emissions reductions in line with what scientists say is necessary to slow global climate change—worldwide emissions reductions of 40-70 percent by 2050. He's the only candidate to do that, too. His plan would phase out fossil-fueled power plants altogether, by midcentury.
Data Storage

When Will Your Hard Drive Fail? 297 297

jfruh writes: Tech writer Andy Patrizio suffered his most catastrophic hard drive failure in 25 years of computing recently, which prompted him to delve into the questions of which hard drives fail and when. One intriguing theory behind some failure rates involve a crisis in the industry that arose from the massive 2011 floods in Thailand, home to the global hard drive industry.