Microsoft’s CEO sees AI’s down side for jobs

Satya Nadella

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talks about the “upscaling” effect of AI at the DLD tech conference in Munich. (DLD via YouTube)

Experts on employment trends have long raised concerns about how job markets are being disrupted so quickly by artificial intelligence and automation are disrupting the job market, and now it sounds as if Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella shares those concerns.

Nadella has made AI one of the pillars of Microsoft’s future growth. But during today’s fireside chat at the DLD tech conference in Munich, he acknowledged that the technology comes with moral imperatives attached. It’s not enough to create AI tools that make more money for Microsoft, he said.

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Airbus gets set to test flying car – in Oregon?

Airbus Group envisions Vahana as an electric-powered vehicle that carries individual passengers or cargo, and takes off and lands vertically. (MTSI Photo)

Airbus Group envisions Vahana as an electric-powered vehicle that carries individual passengers or cargo, and takes off and lands vertically. (MTSI Photo)

Airbus Group says it’s on track to test its prototype self-piloted flying car by the end of the year, and those tests may well take place in Oregon.

The European consortium’s CEO, Tom Enders, talked up the vision for Airbus’ Urban Air Mobility division today at the DLD tech conference in Munich. The plan would let passengers use smartphone apps to book rides in electric-powered, vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicles.

“One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground. Now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground,” Reuters quoted Enders as saying. “We are in an experimentation phase. We take this development very seriously.”

Airbus has been pursuing its flying-taxi initiative since last year.

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Last man on the moon leaves a dying wish

Gene Cernan

Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan wears a spacesuit smeared with lunar dirt in 1972. (NASA Photo)

Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan, the last human to leave footprints on the moon, passed away today – but his family says his dying wish remains to be fulfilled.

“Even at the age of 82, Gene was passionate about sharing his desire to see the continued human exploration of space, and encouraged our nation’s leaders and young people to not let him remain the last man to walk on the moon,” the family said in a statement released by NASA.

The family statement said Cernan had been suffering from ongoing health issues. He died at a Houston hospital, surrounded by relatives.

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SpaceX gets back to launching – and landing!

SpaceX Falcon 9 launch

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. (SpaceX Photo)

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off for the first time in five months to put 10 advanced Iridium Next telecommunication sateliites in orbit – and demonstrate that the company’s innovative launch-and-landing system was back in stride.

Cheers went up from a crowd of hundreds of SpaceX employees at the company’s headquarters as they watched the rocket ascend from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:54 a.m. PT. The cheers rose again minutes later when the Falcon 9’s first stage landed on a drone ship in the Pacific for the first time.

Today’s liftoff came after a spectacular launch pad explosion on Sept. 1 that destroyed a different Falcon 9 and its $200 million Amos-6 satellite payload.

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Moon Express’ moonshot is ‘go with funding’

Moon Express lander

An artist’s conception shows Moon Express’ lander extending its robotic arm to take a “selfie” of the spacecraft on the lunar surface with Earth in the background. (Credit: Moon Express)

An executive at Moon Express has been widely quoted as saying his company has reached its funding goal for this year’s planned commercial mission to the lunar surface, thanks to $20 million in new investment.

“We now have all the resources in place to shoot for the moon,” the Florida-based company’s CEO, Bob Richards, said in a statement. “Our goal is to expand Earth’s social and economic sphere to the moon, our largely unexplored eighth continent, and enable a new era of low-cost lunar exploration and development for students, scientists, space agencies and commercial interests.”

Space News quoted Richards as saying that the latest round of investment includes contributions from new and existing investors, including the company’s chairman and co-founder, Seattle-area tech entrepreneur Naveen Jain.

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No virtual Carrie Fisher in future Star Wars films

Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher portrays General Leia Organa in “The Force Awakens.” (Disney / Lucasfilm Photo)

Spoiler Alert: This item avoids discussing major plot twists in any of the Star Wars movies, but wait to read it if you want to stay totally in the dark about “Rogue One,” “The Force Awakens” or Episode VIII or IX.

Don’t expect Carrie Fisher to make a virtual appearance as General Leia Organa in the yet-to-be-filmed installments of the Star Wars saga.

That’s the word from Lucasfilm, which issued a statement today via its Star Wars website.

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Scientists find ways to pick a protein’s pockets

Folded protein

This graphic shows the structure of a computationally designed protein that incorporates sheet-like structures with pockets, known as beta sheets. The beta sheets are the wavy “noodles” in the diagram. The structure also incorporates curled-up molecular spirals. (UW Institute for Protein Design / AAAS)

Researchers at the University of Washington have cracked the code for producing molecular structures with tiny pockets – structures that are likely to expand the repertoire for custom-designed proteins.

The structures, technically known as beta sheets, are thought to have an effect on metabolic pathways and cell signaling. Knowing how to produce them synthetically in precise configurations could lead to new treatments for maladies such as AIDS, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

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