Digital & Technology

The Outlook

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Our weekly roundup of what’s new and noteworthy in the world of digital, life, design


Solar geoengineering could be “remarkably inexpensive”

Spreading particles in stratosphere to fight climate change may cost $2bn a year

Is injecting sun-blocking particles into the stratosphere a solution for climate change? While geoengineering remains highly controversial, Harvard researchers studied the potential cost of such an attempt to cool down the Earth’s climate.

More at The Guardian

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Are pop lyrics getting more repetitive?

Measuring repetition in song lyrics over time using a compression algorithm

You heard that right: lyrics in many pop songs really are getting more repetitive, as this data visualization project shows.

More at The Pudding

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With a new type of memory, AI mastered tricky video games

An algorithm that remembers previous explorations in Montezuma’s Revenge and Pitfall! could make computers and robots better at learning how to succeed in the real world.

AI researchers at Uber have made their system significantly smarter by following a new approach, the MIT Technology Review reports: “The team’s new family of reinforcement-learning algorithms, dubbed Go-Explore, remember where they have been before, and will return to a particular area or task later on to see if it might help provide better overall results.”

More at MIT Technology Review

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Steffi’s pick

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Living the stream…

Many teenagers in Asia dream of becoming famous by turning their lives into a live show on the Internet. “What was once a niche subculture has evolved into a $5bn business in China”, the Economist reports. A new documentary, People’s Republic of Desire by director Hao Wu, follows two popular livestreamers and illustrates the cultural phenomenon which is likely to spread to other parts of the world as well.

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Ericsson Mobility Report

Mobile subscriptions are stagnating but traffic continues to grow fast, especially on smartphones

All the numbers you need to know about the world of smartphones, IoT and connectivity. This one’s for the geeks…

See key figures or download the full report (PDF, free)

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An atlas for the brain

Researchers in Switzerland have mapped out every cell in mice brains

It’s like “going from hand-drawn maps to Google Earth”, raves a member of the research team about this breakthrough in science and neurology. The Blue Brain Cell Atlas allows anyone to visualize every region in the mouse brain, cell-by-cell.

Read the research paper

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Listen up!

Our podcast of the week comes from Intelligence Squared and asks whether Silicon Valley has lost its soul. This episode features Noam Cohen, journalist & author, The Know-It-Alls; Dipayan Ghosh, Pozen Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School; Leslie Berlin, historian, Silicon Valley Archives & Author, Troublemakers; and Joshua McKenty, Vice President of Pivotal. You can also watch a video recording of their pro & con debate.