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Bits: The Week in Tech: A Break From Consumer Tech

Each week, technology reporters and columnists from The New York Times review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Sign up here.Hi. I’m Steve Lohr. I write about the technology industry, from the old titans like IBM to start-ups working on the future of artificial intelligence.In this week’s newsletter, we’re largely taking a break from the consumer internet giants, and the various controversies swirling around them. (Exception: Amazon’s surprise announcement on Thursday to abandon its plans to build a headquarters in New York. See below.)Instead, we’re going to…

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A.I. Shows Promise as a Physician Assistant

Each year, millions of Americans walk out of a doctor’s office with a misdiagnosis. Physicians try to be systematic when identifying illness and disease, but bias creeps in. Alternatives are overlooked.Now a group of researchers in the United States and China has tested a potential remedy for all-too-human frailties: artificial intelligence.In a paper published on Monday in Nature Medicine, the scientists reported that they had built a system that automatically diagnoses common childhood conditions — from influenza to meningitis — after processing the patient’s symptoms, history, lab results and other clinical data.The system was highly accurate, the researchers said, and one day may assist doctors in diagnosing…

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Trump Signs Executive Order Promoting Artificial Intelligence

President Trump signed an executive order Monday meant to spur the development and regulation of artificial intelligence, technology that many experts believe will define the future of everything from consumer products to health care to warfare.A.I. experts across industry, academia and government have long called on the Trump administration to make the development of artificial intelligence a major priority. Last spring, worried that the United States was not keeping pace with China and other countries, Jim Mattis, then the defense secretary, sent a memo to the White House imploring the president to create a national strategy on A.I.Now, Mr. Trump has taken that step, though this “American…

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Bits: The Week in Tech: Business Is Booming Despite Backlash

Each week, technology reporters and columnists from The New York Times review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Sign up here.Hello, friends. I’m Kate Conger, a tech reporter in The Times’s San Francisco bureau. It has been another earnings news week, which means we’re learning exactly how much money the local tech companies earned in 2018.The news might not surprise you: Everyone in Silicon Valley is still raking in cash. Apple is the country’s most valuable public company again, after briefly losing the title to Amazon. Facebook…

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Making New Drugs With a Dose of Artificial Intelligence

SAN FRANCISCO — You can think of it as a World Cup of biochemical research.Every two years, hundreds of scientists enter a global competition. Tackling a biological puzzle they call “the protein folding problem,” they try to predict the three-dimensional shape of proteins in the human body. No one knows how to solve the problem. Even the winners only chip away at it. But a solution could streamline the way scientists create new medicines and fight disease.Mohammed AlQuraishi, a biologist who has dedicated his career to this kind of research, flew in early December to Cancun, Mexico, where academics were gathering to discuss the results of the…

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The Rise of the Robot Reporter

As reporters and editors find themselves the victims of layoffs at digital publishers and traditional newspaper chains alike, journalism generated by machine is on the rise.Roughly a third of the content published by Bloomberg News uses some form of automated technology. The system used by the company, Cyborg, is able to assist reporters in churning out thousands of articles on company earnings reports each quarter.The program can dissect a financial report the moment it appears and spit out an immediate news story that includes the most pertinent facts and figures. And unlike business reporters, who find working on that kind of thing a snooze, it does so…

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Alphabet Is in a Tumultuous Time, but the Business Keeps Booming

SAN FRANCISCO — Google’s parent company, Alphabet, had a tumultuous 2018, with employee revolts, antitrust fines, tough privacy regulation in Europe and heightened political scrutiny in Washington.Through it all, the company managed to produce strong financial results with the numbing consistency of the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.On Monday, Alphabet said revenue rose 22 percent to $39.27 billion in its most recent quarter, while profits swung to $8.95 billion. Last year, Alphabet reported a loss after it took a $9.9 billion charge for the repatriation of foreign earnings after changes in the tax code.Alphabet’s financial consistency is easily explained. Google owns the internet’s ultimate beachfront…

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Releasing Earnings, Microsoft Stays in Stride, With Cloud Powering the Way

SEATTLE — If there are jitters in the economy, Microsoft isn’t feeling them.Microsoft’s quarterly earnings can give indications of whether companies and consumers around the world are cooling their spending, because the business taps into so many markets. Apple reported on Tuesday that its revenue was down in part because consumers are buying new phones less frequently, and the chipmakers NVIDIA and Intel both indicated weakening demand for the components they build for data centers.But on Wednesday, Microsoft showed solid performance across its commercial and consumer businesses, reporting revenue of almost $32.5 billion in the last quarter, and a profit of almost $8.6 billion, both increases of…

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The Shift: The Hidden Automation Agenda of the Davos Elite

DAVOS, Switzerland — They’ll never admit it in public, but many of your bosses want machines to replace you as soon as possible.I know this because, for the past week, I’ve been mingling with corporate executives at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos. And I’ve noticed that their answers to questions about automation depend very much on who is listening.In public, many executives wring their hands over the negative consequences that artificial intelligence and automation could have for workers. They take part in panel discussions about building “human-centered A.I.” for the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” — Davos-speak for the corporate adoption of machine learning and other…

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Amazon Is Pushing Facial Technology That a Study Says Could Be Biased

Over the last two years, Amazon has aggressively marketed its facial recognition technology to police departments and federal agencies as a service to help law enforcement identify suspects more quickly. It has done so as another tech giant, Microsoft, has called on Congress to regulate the technology, arguing that it is too risky for companies to oversee on their own.Now a new study from researchers at the M.I.T. Media Lab has found that Amazon’s system, Rekognition, had much more difficulty in telling the gender of female faces and of darker-skinned faces in photos than similar services from IBM and Microsoft. The results raise questions about potential bias…

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