terminator-salvationStephen Hawking, Elon Musk and over 1,000 AI and robotics researchers have signed a letter suggesting a ban on AI warfare, warning of the potential for rampant destruction at the hands of “autonomous weaponry.”

The letter, which was presented Monday at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, specifically advised against militaries engaging in an AI arms race.

The letter warned:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has reached a point where the deployment of such systems is — practically if not legally — feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.

Researchers were not arguing for an idealistic end to all high-tech warfare, but were specifically focused on being sure that the trigger always remained in the hands of a human controller. Their requests focused on automated weaponry, which could be used to seek and destroy targets meeting a certain pre-defined criteria, rather than “cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions.”

The onus, according to the letter, lies with major world military powers not to pursue the development of autonomous weaponry.

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.

Hawking and Musk have already expressed heightened caution regarding AI technologies. Musk has recently referred to artificial intelligence as humanity’s “biggest existential threat,” while Hawking has said that the technology “could spell the end of the human race.”

In addition to being signed by professor Stephen Hawking and Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, signatories of the letter also included Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, professor Noam Chomsky and Google Director of Research Peter Norvig.

In closing, the letter stated, “We believe that AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways, and that the goal of the field should be to do so. Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.”

If you have any questions regarding professor Hawking’s thoughts on AI warfare, you should go submit a question to his AMA on Reddit, which will be live on the site all week long.

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34806_iPhone_Lifehack_FP_WideApple’s iPhone Grows More Monolithic

First the good.  In today’s digital world the top three most coveted publicly traded companies on the S&P index, as measured by market cap are the tech industry’s big three.  There’s Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) — master of the traditional personal computer market and enterprise market — with a value north of $380B USD.  Next up there’s Google Inc. (GOOG) — the internet’s top services firm and king of the budget mobile market.  Its worth has eclipsed $460B USD.

And on top of the pile is Appleking of the premium smartphone and digital media markets — with a market cap well over $750B USD.  And as they the old adage goes “heavy is the head that wears the crown.”  So it is with Apple who can post enviable financials, yet still send shareholders into a panic in after hours trading.

On Tuesday night that’s precisely what happened after Apple reported its fiscal third quarter results.  While at first blush Apple’s quarter might look like a blowout, it didn’t take long for shareholders to voice concern on at least two core fronts.

Financials aren’t one of them.  Apple’s profit, cashflow, and supply chain remains strong.  It squeezes the entire chain from the supplier to the customer tighter than any other OEM in the business today and it gets way with it.  In the April-June window, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company made a net income of $10.7B USD on a revenue of $49.6B USD.  Compared to the same quarter last year, that’s roughly a third more revenue (up from $37.4B USD in Q3 2014) and nearly two-fifths more profit (up from $7.7B USD).

Apple’s Tim Cook is keeping the ship stead, but has struggled to answer the big questions facing Apple. [Image Source: Bloomberg]

CEO Tim Cook spoke in glowing terms of his company’s gains:

We had an amazing quarter, with iPhone revenue up 59 percent over last year, strong sales of Mac, all-time record revenue from services, driven by the App Store, and a great start for Apple Watch.  The excitement for Apple Music has been incredible, and we’re looking forward to releasing iOS 9, OS X El Capitan and watchOS 2 to customers in the fall.

But if you read between the lines you might spot the first major concern in what Apple didn’t mention.  Apple boasts in its earnings release:

The growth was fueled by record third quarter sales of iPhone® and Mac®, all-time record revenue from services and the successful launch of Apple Watch™.

Notice the lack of mention of the iPad?  Well, if you dig into its 10-Q filing [PDF], you’ll see why.  In Q3 2014 Apple sold 13.276m iPads.  In Q3 2015 Apple sold only 10.931m.  So as Apple boosted profits by two-fifths, iPad unit sales declined by a fifth.  And the problem is this isn’t the first quarter to see this decline.  Indeed the iPad sales have been falling for some time now.  The iPad is looking a lot like the iPod — a dwindling business for Apple.

In Q3 2015, most of its profit was leveraged on a single product — the iPhone.  iPhone unit sales soared from 35.203m in the quarter a year prior to 47.534m in Q3 2015.  That’s an increase of more than 12m — more than third increase in unit sales.

And yet while Apple is inarguably iPhone dependent, it is a bit unfair to call Apple a one-trick pony.  Bear in mind: the iPhone is an entire ecosystem for Apple.  But on the flip side, it is a somewhat singular package.  As the iPhone goes so too does Apple’s content and services earnings.  So the iPhone’s bullish 59 percent growth was invariably a key factor in making Apple’s newly launched Spotify-challenger a hit.

Driven by the legions of iPhone owners, the “Apple Music” premium streaming service is Apple’s biggest new success story of the past two years.  But it’s painfully obvious that Apple Music is dependent on the iPhone, not the other way around.

Yes, the Mac business celebrated “record” sales for the second calendar quarter of the year.  But Apple’s glowing language overstates the Macs’ value.  In Q3 2015 Apple sold 4.796m Mac computers — a rise of just 8.7% percent over the 4.413m Macs it moved a year prior.  Macs did leapfrog the iPad in revenue.

But combined the iPad and Mac business account for only roughly $10.5M USD in revenue — about a third of what the iPhone business commands.  And in services (which the iPhone drives) and the “other” product category (the garbage heap for Apple’s less succesful/more niche offerings — and you will come to the rude realization that the iPhone hardware revenue alone is driving nearly two-thirds of Apple’s revenue. – See more at: http://www.dailytech.com/As+iPad+Sales+Wane+and+Watch+Flops+iPhone+Saves+Apples+Profit+With+Its+Heroics/article37447.htm#sthash.HYpmvA2Q.dpuf

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googleIt’s an all-too-familiar experience on the mobile web: Click on a site and an ad overtakes your screen to ask you if you wouldn’t rather stop reading and download the site’s app instead.

Does anyone ever want to do that?

Obviously not, as common sense tells us, but Google needed proof. It found it: seven out of ten people in a just-released Google internal survey said the extra step to get to the site is cause enough to abandon the webpage altogether.

“This [ad] has been described as the ‘door slam’,” said Jennifer Gove, who works in ads research at Google, at last year’s Google IO developers conference. “It annoyed all but the most loyal and familiar customers.”

That’s why the Internet’s biggest advertiser has decided to scrub this interstitial ad format, and it’s calling on the rest of the mobile web to do the same.

Of course, the study, which was conducted in July of last year, looked only at data on prompts to download the Google+ app, the search giant’s stab at a social network that failed to take off. It’s hard to imagine the app is exactly high in demand among most users.

Even so, about 9% of people went on to clicked on the link, which is not too shabby by online advertising standards. But that also includes those who never followed through with the download and those who already have the app.

The study pitted the full-page in-your-face ad against a more subtle banner ad and reported a 17% boost in app traffic with the latter.

Not everyone was happy with the search giant’s conclusion. Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, for one, accused the company of pushing others off the ads to cement its own search monopoly. Last month, the business reviews website, a particularly bitter rival of Google, co-wrote a paper with Columbia law professor Tim Wu accusing the company of anti-competitive practices.

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