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Bloomberg Businessweek

Bloomberg Businessweek 5/21/2018

Each issue of Businessweek features in-depth perspectives on the financial markets, industries, trends, technology and people guiding the economy. Get the digital magazine subscription today and draw upon Businessweek's timely incisive analysis to help you make better decisions about your career, your business, and your personal investments.

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United States
Bloomberg Finance LP
50 Issues

in this issue

4 min
● robo-ethics

As the lead statistician at the nonprofit Human Rights Data Analysis Group, Kristian Lum, 33, is trying to make sure the algorithms increasingly controlling our lives are as fair as possible. She’s especially focused on the controversial use of predictive policing and sentencing programs in the criminal justice system. When it comes to bias, Lum isn’t concerned only with algorithms. In a widely read December blog post, she described harassment she’d experienced at academic conferences when she was a doctoral student at Duke University and an assistant research professor at Virginia Tech. No longer in academia, she uses statistics to examine pressing human-rights problems. What’s the relationship between statistics and AI and machine learning? AI seems to be a sort of catchall for predictive modeling and computer modeling. There was this great…

4 min
● later than you thought

● Useful Blockchain Digital ledgers may yet end up being the solution for everything, but so far they’ve solved almost nothing. On its busiest day, the nine-year-old Bitcoin economy registered about 400,000 transactions. On an average day, Visa Inc. racks up 150 million. Most other blockchain applications are in even earlier stages—for now, many are just white papers. And it’s unclear whether the principle behind blockchain, which holds that distributed computing systems are inherently more trustworthy than those controlled by a central entity, even makes sense for most applications. The decentralized ledger is going to be far less helpful than Visa’s consumer support line when someone runs up a bunch of fraudulent charges on your account. ● 100 Percent Renewable Energy Although solar and wind power are coming on strong, don’t expect the…

2 min
malaysia’s moment

Quite unexpectedly, Malaysians just voted out their ruling party for the first time since independence in 1957. They voted for change, and that’s what their new leaders need to deliver. You’d think so stunning an upset would make a bold departure inevitable. Not so. Malaysia’s fractious opposition won only after joining forces with 92-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad—a stalwart of the long-ruling United Malays National Organization and hardly a change agent. In his first stint in power, Mahathir laid the foundations of Malaysia’s most illiberal policies. He defanged the courts and the press and jailed rivals, including Anwar Ibrahim, his former deputy. (Mahathir says he plans to pardon Anwar.) Mahathir expanded the Malay-first affirmative-action programs that fueled cronyism and drove bright, young Chinese and Indians to flee the country. Even now…

3 min
the social network employers love to raid

Piazza Technologies Inc. is a stealth company—largely unknown by the general public but familiar to almost anyone who’s studied computer science in the past few years. Some 2.5 million students use its free website to ask and answer questions about computers, engineering, math, and science, all under the supervision of their professors. Seven years in, Piazza says 98 percent of computer science students at the top 50 universities access its site; students report using it on average for at least three hours per day (or, more likely, per night). Piazza fans abound in Silicon Valley: “I have used Piazza extensively throughout my education,” Vickram Gidwani, a Stanford grad student in electrical engineering, wrote in an email. “It provides a great forum for any topic in the course.” Now the Palo Alto…

16 min
● how we got here

Over the past five years, artificial intelligence has gone from perennial vaporware to one of the technology industry’s brightest hopes. Computers have learned to recognize faces and objects, understand the spoken word, and translate scores of languages. The world’s biggest companies—Alphabet, Amazon.com , Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft—have bet their futures largely on AI, racing to see who’s fastest at building smarter machines. That’s fueled the perception that AI has come out of nowhere, what with Tesla’s self-driving cars and Alexa chatting up your child. But this was no overnight hit, nor was it the brainchild of a single Silicon Valley entrepreneur. The ideas behind modern AI—neural networks and machine learning—have roots you can trace to the last stages of World War II. Back then, academics were beginning to build computing systems…

1 min
● sooner than you think

Less than a year after he got his high school diploma and left Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., for Silicon Valley, Robbie Barrat began teaching computers to paint. He fed a few thousand examples of paintings into his artificial intelligence software until it learned how to create landscapes like the one on this issue’s cover. By computer standards, these works of art took a long time to produce: a little more than two weeks. “AI is going to be one of the larger art movements of this century,” says Barrat, a Stanford researcher who goes by @DrBeef_ on Twitter. “It just has really great untapped potential. This is the world AI is making. In this year’s Sooner Than You Think issue, we focus on the field’s dreamers, die-hards, and driving forces, from its…