AI increases productivity…at expense of human workers
From BBC News:
Science fiction has long imagined a future in which humans are ousted from their jobs by machines. For 34 staff at a Japanese insurance firm, that vision just became a reality.
Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is laying off the employees and replacing them with an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can calculate insurance payouts. The firm believes it will increase productivity by 30%. It expects to save around 140m yen (£979,500 / $1.2m) a year in salaries after the 200m yen AI system is installed later this month. Maintenance of the set-up is expected to cost about 15m yen annually.
Japan’s Mainichi reports that the system is based on IBM Japan Ltd’s Watson, which IBM calls a “cognitive technology that can think like a human”.
This anti-mine drone may save countless lives
From Popular Science:
Brothers Massoud and Mahmud Hassani grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, knowing that one wrong step could end their lives. “When we walked to school, we had a special path to follow—otherwise we would end up in a minefield,” Massoud says. Mines are cheap to manufacture and deploy, but slow and expensive to remove. An estimated 110 million land mines litter the globe, killing 15,000 to 20,000 people a year. Living among them “becomes like a mental disorder,” Massoud says. “The fear is on your mind all the time.”
After the Hassani family relocated to the Netherlands, the brothers created an anti-mine device based on a wind-powered tumbleweed toy they’d built as children. The Mine Kafon (kafon means “explode” in Dari) could roll through a minefield, detonating any mines it crossed and thus marking out a safe path. Though more conceptual than practical, it became a hit; New York’s Museum of Modern Art even bought one in 2012.
Autonomous boats patrol waters
From Wired: Featuring U.S. Navy self-driving boats.
Autonomous vehicles have infiltrated much of the military, from airborne surveillance to all manner of ground-based operations. But the Navy remains a mostly human-controlled operation—with the demand for robotic tech focused on conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, it simply hasn’t trickled down to aquatic operations yet.
But the Office of Naval Research thinks autonomous boats can have a major impact on the military’s ocean-going efficiency and effectiveness. And it’s starting with swarms of autonomous boats.
In a demonstration conducted this fall in the lower Chesapeake Bay, a fleet of small, human-free boats collectively patrolled a harbor, detected intruders, and even chased them away from the area they were protecting. The Navy first demonstrated the swarm in 2014, when the vessels were tasked with protecting a single ship.
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