March 17, 2016
Rubin has a theory that humanity is on the cusp of a new computing age. Just as MS-DOS gave way to Macintosh and Windows, which gave way to the web, which gave way to smartphones, he thinks the forces are in place to begin a decades-long transition to the next great platform: artificial intelligence. ... Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have collectively spent billions to fund the development of neural networks that can understand human speech or recognize faces in photos. And over the next decade AI is bound to grow more powerful, capable of tasks we can’t imagine today. Soon, Rubin figures, it will be available as a cloud service, powering thousands of gadgets and machines. Just as practically every device today contains software of some kind, it could soon be nearly impossible to buy a device without some kind of AI inside. It’s hard to imagine precisely what that future will look like, but for a rough idea, think about the difference between your car and a self-driving car; now apply that difference to every object you own. ... Rubin wants Playground to become the factory that creates the standard building blocks—the basic quartermaster’s inventory of components—for the AI-infused future. And he wants to open up this platform of hardware and software tools so that anyone, not just the companies he works with directly, can create an intelligent device. If he’s successful, Playground stands to have the same kind of impact on smart machines that Android had on smartphones, providing the technological infrastructure for thousands of products and giving a generation of entrepreneurs the ability to build a smart drone. ... The fundamental idea, Rubin says, is to create what he calls an idea amplifier—a system that quickly turns concepts into products with maximum impact. ... For AI to reach its true potential, Rubin argues, we need to bring it into the physical world. And the way to do that is to create thousands of devices that pull information from their environment
- Also: Nautilus - Your Next New Best Friend Might Be a Robot < 5min
- Also: The Verge - DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis on how AI will shape the future 5-15min
- Also: Bloomberg - The Future of Computers Is the Mind of a Toddler 5-15min
- Also: MIT Technology Review - Can This Man Make AI More Human? 5-15min
Igor Pasternak started thinking about airships when he was twelve. Back then, in the nineteen-seventies, he loved rockets. One night, he was curled up in the soft green chair that doubled as his bed, in the two-room apartment where he lived with his parents, his little sister, and his grandmother, in the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine. He was reading a magazine aimed at young inventors, and he came across an article about blimps. He saw old photographs of imposing wartime zeppelins and read about another kind of airship, which had never made it off the drawing board: an airship that carried not passengers but cargo. It would be able to haul hundreds of tons of mining equipment to remote regions in Siberia in one go, the article said—no roads, runways, or infrastructure needed. Just lift, soar, and drop. ... A blimp is just one type of airship, usually a small one, and always nonrigid, meaning that it has no structural hull; its shape is maintained by the pressure of the lifting gas within. It’s basically a balloon with a rudder and a means of propulsion. The first one was built in 1852, by the French engineer Jules Henri Giffard; it was a hundred and forty-four feet long, with a propeller and a three-horsepower steam engine. In 1900, in Germany, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin built something much larger and stronger, adding a rigid aluminum framework—long internal girders, attached to flexible rings, that formed a kind of rib cage. A number of discrete cells, each filled with hydrogen, fit inside the rib cage, and the entire ship was covered with fabric. The first of these, the LZ 1, was four hundred and twenty feet long, and Zeppelin kept making them bigger. He started the world’s first airline company, DELAG (Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft), and by 1914 the service had made more than fifteen hundred flights, transporting upward of ten thousand people. Before long, Italy, Great Britain, the United States, and other countries began building airships.
Somewhere in the haze of the last generation, funky Old Austin disappeared and was replaced by something sleek, fast, and unbelievably popular. Suddenly everyone wants to be in Austin, from tech twentysomethings to middle-aged corporate hot shots. Austin is the fastest-growing big city in the country, at the top of lists for things that can be measured (real estate and jobs) and things that can’t (cool and kicks). It has become the City of the Eternal Festival, from South by Southwest and the Austin City Limits Music Festival to Pachanga, Reggae, and Formula 1. Where else can you eat the best barbecue in the world, watch more than a million hungry bats ascend into the gloaming above the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, hear amazing music every night of the week, and behold Lady Gaga covered in vomit as part of a SXSW show? Two months ago Forbes called Austin the next boomtown, apparently forgetting that Bloomberg ranked us the country’s number one boomtown back in 2013. As of October, the greater metropolitan area had grown to an astonishing 2 million people, which is 1.4 million more than we had in 1980, when I was slacking my life away.
How could every NBA arena be suddenly half filled with colors the home team doesn’t even sell? How could a league whose standard used to be a cyborg called the Spurs now be fronted by a bunch of happy snipers from the Bay Area who get more touches in a single possession than a $20 bill at a street craps game? And how could these guys be called the Warriors anyway? They’re about as warlike as fudge. ... How? Because fun is the whole strategy. Fun is the Plan A to take over the world.