Category Archives: News

Driverless taxis are coming to Singapore

Delphi Automotive Plc, the vehicle-electronics supplier that last year conducted the first coast-to-coast U.S. demonstration of a self-driving car, will begin testing autonomous autos in Singapore this year that may lead to robot taxis by the end of the decade.

So we do live in a world where driverless cars will drive us — mere mortals (i.e not Silicon Valley people) — around. Cool!

Read more over at Bloomberg.

Science’s irreproducibility crisis is about the need for recognition

There is a problem with modern scientific findings and it is that researchers can’t replicate most discoveries. 

From Nautilus:

A group of researchers at Amgen, an American pharmaceutical company, attempted to replicate 53 landmark cancer discoveries in close collaboration with the authors. Many of these papers were published in high-impact journals and came from prestigious academic institutions. To the surprise of everyone involved, they were able to replicate only six of those papers—approximately 11 percent.

Why do I say modern? The quantity of scientific papers keeps increasing. And scientists, who crave recognition, want to differentiate and shine by themselves. 

Says Robert Merton, a well-known sociologist: 

The well-recognized sociologist Robert Merton has pointed out that scientists’ need for recognition may stem from their need to be assured that what they know is worth knowing, and that they are capable of original thought. In this view, recognition is necessary for intellectual confidence.

Unfortunately, recognition is not derived from the quality of the work: 

The inconvenient truth is that scientists can achieve fame and advance their careers through accomplishments that do not prioritize the quality of their work. If recognition is not based on quality, then scientists will not modify their behaviors to select for it. In the culture of modern science, it is better to be wrong than to be second.

This does not mean that quality is completely neglected. The Nobel Prize—the most coveted form of recognition—is associated with scientific discoveries of the highest caliber. But for the tens of thousands of scientists fighting over shrinking research budgets, winning less visible awards becomes an obsession, needed for promotions and grants.

Woops. What will the impact of this trend be in 10 years? 

Unlikely seeds of democracy in Syria

Robin Yassin-Kassab, reporting for The National

Daraya, a suburb west of Damascus now suffering its fourth year under starvation siege, is run by a council. Its 120 members select executives by vote every six months. The council head is chosen by public election. The council runs schools, a hospital,and a public kitchen, and manages urban agricultural production. Its office supervises the Free Syrian Army militias defending the town. Amid constant bombardment, Daraya’s citizen journalists produce a newspaper, Enab Baladi, which promotes non-violent resistance. In a country once known as a ‘kingdom of silence’, there are more than 60 independent newspapers and many free radio stations.”

And: 

Towns could legislate locally according to their demographic and cultural composition and mood. The alternative to enhanced local control is new borders, new ethnic cleanings, new wars. At the very least, the councils deserve political recognition by the United States and others. Council members should be a key presence on the opposition’s negotiating team at any talks.

Localism as an answer to the many woes brought upon by globalisation is not such a far-fetched idea. Mix this with Yaneer Bar-Yam’s idea on teamwork and we have something interesting. 

Facebook’s new hardware lab

 Over the next 10 years, we’re building everything from Oculus headsets to solar-powered planes. We’ve always had labs for each team, but our new lab will be a hub where engineers can work together to make even faster progress towards connecting the world (emphasis mine).

Mark is hungry!