• MIT Technology Review : We reveal our 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2021

    For the last 20 years, MIT Technology Review has compiled an annual selection of the year’s most important technologies. Today, we unveil this year’s list. Some, such as mRNA vaccines, are already changing our lives, while others are still a few years off. As always, three things are true of our list. It is eclectic; some of the innovations on it are clearly making an impact now, while some have yet to do so; and many of them have the potential to do harm as well as good. Whether or not they come to represent progress 20 years from now depends on how they’re used—and, of course, on how we’re defining progress by then. Taken together, we believe this list represents a glimpse into our collective future.

    Here are our 10 breakthrough technologies of 2021:

    Messenger RNA vaccines. The two most effective vaccines against the coronavirus are based on messenger RNA, a technology that has been in the works for 20 years and could transform medicine, leading to vaccines against various infectious diseases, including malaria.

    GPT-3. Large natural-language computer models that learn to write and speak are a big step toward AI that can better understand and interact with the world. GPT-3 is by far the largest—and most literate—to date.

    TikTok recommendation algorithms. These algorithms have changed the way people become famous online. The ability of new creators to get a lot of views very quickly—and the ease with which users can discover so many kinds of content—have contributed to the app’s stunning growth.

    Lithium-metal batteries. Electric vehicles are expensive, and you can only drive them a few hundred miles before they need to recharge. Lithium-metal batteries, as opposed to the existing lithium-ion, could boost the range of an EV by 80%.

    Data trusts. A data trust is a legal entity that collects and manages people’s personal data on their behalf. They could offer a potential solution to long-standing problems in privacy and security.

    Green hydrogen. Hydrogen has always been an intriguing possible replacement for fossil fuels, but up to now it’s been made from natural gas; the process is dirty and energy intensive. The rapidly dropping cost of solar and wind power means green hydrogen is now cheap enough to be practical.

    Digital contact tracing. Although it hasn’t lived up to the hype in this pandemic, especially in the US, digital contact tracing could not only help us prepare for the next pandemic but also carry over to other areas of healthcare.

    Hyper-accurate positioning. While GPS is accurate to within 5 to 10 meters, new hyper-accurate positioning technologies have accuracies within a few millimeters. That could be transformative for delivery robots and self-driving cars.

    Remote everything. The pandemic forced the world to go remote. The knock-on effects for work, play, healthcare and much else besides are huge.

    Multi-skilled AI. AI currently lacks the ability, found even in young children, to learn how the world works and apply that general knowledge to new situations. That’s changing.

    Read more about each of these technologies, and read the latest issue of MIT Technology Review, all about progress. Not a subscriber? Now’s your chance! Prices range from just $50 to $100 a year for you to get access to fantastic, award-winning journalism about what’s now and what’s next in technology.

    #Technologies

  • This is how we lost control of our faces | MIT Technology Review
    https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/02/05/1017388/ai-deep-learning-facial-recognition-data-history

    The largest ever study of facial-recognition data shows how much the rise of deep learning has fueled a loss of privacy.
    by

    Karen Hao
    February 5, 2021

    In 1964, mathematician and computer scientist Woodrow Bledsoe first attempted the task of matching suspects’ faces to mugshots. He measured out the distances between different facial features in printed photographs and fed them into a computer program. His rudimentary successes would set off decades of research into teaching machines to recognize human faces.

    Now a new study shows just how much this enterprise has eroded our privacy. It hasn’t just fueled an increasingly powerful tool of surveillance. The latest generation of deep-learning-based facial recognition has completely disrupted our norms of consent.

    People were extremely cautious about collecting, documenting, and verifying face data in the early days, says Raji. “Now we don’t care anymore. All of that has been abandoned,” she says. “You just can’t keep track of a million faces. After a certain point, you can’t even pretend that you have control.”

    A history of facial-recognition data

    The researchers identified four major eras of facial recognition, each driven by an increasing desire to improve the technology. The first phase, which ran until the 1990s, was largely characterized by manually intensive and computationally slow methods.

    But then, spurred by the realization that facial recognition could track and identify individuals more effectively than fingerprints, the US Department of Defense pumped $6.5 million into creating the first large-scale face data set. Over 15 photography sessions in three years, the project captured 14,126 images of 1,199 individuals. The Face Recognition Technology (FERET) database was released in 1996.

    The following decade saw an uptick in academic and commercial facial-recognition research, and many more data sets were created. The vast majority were sourced through photo shoots like FERET’s and had full participant consent. Many also included meticulous metadata, Raji says, such as the age and ethnicity of subjects, or illumination information. But these early systems struggled in real-world settings, which drove researchers to seek larger and more diverse data sets.

    In 2007, the release of the Labeled Faces in the Wild (LFW) data set opened the floodgates to data collection through web search. Researchers began downloading images directly from Google, Flickr, and Yahoo without concern for consent. LFW also relaxed standards around the inclusion of minors, using photos found with search terms like “baby,” “juvenile,” and “teen” to increase diversity. This process made it possible to create significantly larger data sets in a short time, but facial recognition still faced many of the same challenges as before. This pushed researchers to seek yet more methods and data to overcome the technology’s poor performance.

    Then, in 2014, Facebook used its user photos to train a deep-learning model called DeepFace. While the company never released the data set, the system’s superhuman performance elevated deep learning to the de facto method for analyzing faces. This is when manual verification and labeling became nearly impossible as data sets grew to tens of millions of photos, says Raji. It’s also when really strange phenomena start appearing, like auto-generated labels that include offensive terminology.

    Image-generation algorithms are regurgitating the same sexist, racist ideas that exist on the internet.

    The way the data sets were used began to change around this time, too. Instead of trying to match individuals, new models began focusing more on classification. “Instead of saying, ‘Is this a photo of Karen? Yes or no,’ it turned into ‘Let’s predict Karen’s internal personality, or her ethnicity,’ and boxing people into these categories,” Raji says.

    Amba Kak, the global policy director at AI Now, who did not participate in the research, says the paper offers a stark picture of how the biometrics industry has evolved. Deep learning may have rescued the technology from some of its struggles, but “that technological advance also has come at a cost,” she says. “It’s thrown up all these issues that we now are quite familiar with: consent, extraction, IP issues, privacy.”

    Raji says her investigation into the data has made her gravely concerned about deep-learning-based facial recognition.

    “It’s so much more dangerous,” she says. “The data requirement forces you to collect incredibly sensitive information about, at minimum, tens of thousands of people. It forces you to violate their privacy. That in itself is a basis of harm. And then we’re hoarding all this information that you can’t control to build something that likely will function in ways you can’t even predict. That’s really the nature of where we’re at.”

    #Reconnaissance_faciale #éthique #Histoire_numérique #Surveillance

  • The space tourism we were promised is finally here—sort of | MIT Technology Review
    https://www.technologyreview.com/2021/02/03/1017255/space-tourism-finally-here-sort-of-spacex-inspiration4/?truid=a497ecb44646822921c70e7e051f7f1a

    SpaceX weathered through the onset of the covid-19 pandemic last year to become the first private company to launch astronauts into space using a commercial spacecraft.

    It’s poised to build on that success with another huge milestone before 2021 is over. On Monday, the company announced plans to launch the first “all-civilian” mission into orbit by the end of the year. Called Inspiration4, the mission will take billionaire Jared Isaacman, a trained pilot and the CEO of digital payments company Shift4Payments, plus three others into low Earth orbit via a Crew Dragon vehicle for two to four days, possibly longer.

    Inspiration4 includes a charity element: Isaacman (the sole buyer of the mission and its “commander”) has donated $100 million to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, in Memphis, and is attempting to raise at least $100 million more from public donors. One seat is going to a “St. Jude ambassador” that’s already been chosen. But the two others are still up for grabs: one will be raffled off to someone who donates at least $10 to St. Jude, while the other will be a business entrepreneur chosen through a competition held by Shift4Payments.
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    “This is an important milestone towards enabling access to space for everyone,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told reporters on Monday. “It is only through missions like this that we’re able to bring the cost down over time and make space accessible to all."

    Inspiration4 marks SpaceX’s fourth scheduled private mission in the next few years. The other three include a collaboration with Axiom Space to use Crew Dragon to take four people for an eight-day stay aboard the International Space Station (now scheduled for no earlier than January 2022); another Crew Dragon mission into orbit later that year for four private citizens through tourism company Space Adventures; and Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa’s #dearMoon mission around the moon in 2023 for himself plus seven to 10 others aboard the Starship spacecraft.

    SpaceX has never really billed itself as a space tourism company as aggressively as Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic have. While Crew Dragon goes all the way into low-Earth orbit, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin’s New Shepard vehicles just go into suborbital space, offering a taste of microgravity and a view of the Earth from high above for just a few minutes—but for way less money. And yet, in building a business that goes even farther, with higher launch costs and the need for more powerful rockets, SpaceX already has four more private missions on the books than any other company does.

    When Crew Dragon first took NASA astronauts into space last year, one of the biggest questions to come up was whether customers outside NASA would actually be interested in going.

    “A lot of people believe there is a market for space tourism,” says Howard McCurdy, a space policy expert at American University in Washington, DC. “But right now it’s at the very high end. As transportation capabilities improve, the hope is that the costs will come down. That begs the question of whether or not you can sustain a new space company on space tourism alone. I think that’s questionable.”

    So why has SpaceX’s expansion into the private mission scene gone so well so far? Part of it must be that it’s such an attractive brand to partner with at the moment. But even if a market does not materialize soon to make private missions a profitable venture, SpaceX doesn’t need to be concerned. It has plenty of other ways to make money.

    “I’m not sure Elon Musk cares much if he makes money through this business,” says McCurdy. “But he’s very good at leveraging and financing his operations.” SpaceX launches satellites for government and commercial customers around the world; it’s got contracts with NASA for taking cargo and astronauts alike to the space station; it’s ramping up progress with building out the Starlink constellation and should start offering internet services to customers some time this year.

    “It really reduces your risk when you can have multiple sources of revenue and business for an undertaking that’s based upon the single leap of rockets and space technologies,” says McCurdy. “The market for space tourism is not large enough to sustain a commercial space company. When combined with government contracts, private investments, and foreign sales it starts to become sustainable.”

    Space tourism, especially to low-Earth orbit, will still remain incredibly expensive for the foreseeable future. And that underscores the issue of equity. “If we’re going into space, who’s the ‘we’?” asks McCurdy. “Is it just the top 1% of the top 1%?”

    The lottery concept addresses this to some extent and offers opportunities to ordinary people, but it won’t be enough on its own. Space tourism, and the rest of the space industry, still needs a sustainable model that can invite more people to participate.

    For now, SpaceX appears to be leading the drive to popularize space tourism. And competitors don’t necessarily need to emulate SpaceX’s business model precisely in order to catch up. Robert Goehlich, a German-based space tourism expert at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, notes that space tourism itself is already multifaceted, encompassing suborbital flights, orbital flights, space station flights, space hotel flights, and moon flights. The market for one, such as cheaper suborbital flights, is not necessarily faced with the same constraints as the others.

    Still, there is no question this could be the year private missions become a reality. “We’ve waited a long time for space tourism,” says McCurdy. “We’re going to get a chance this year to see if it works as expected.”

    #Espace #Commercialisation #Tourisme #Enclosures