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The Next Tech Talent Shortage: Quantum Computing Researchers

Christopher Savoie, founder and chief executive of a start-up called Zapata, offered jobs this year to three scientists who specialize in an increasingly important technology called quantum computing. They accepted.Several months later, the Cambridge, Mass., company was still waiting for the State Department to approve visas for the specialists. All three are foreigners, born in Europe and Asia.Whether the delays were the result of tougher immigration policy or just red tape, Mr. Savoie’s predicament was typical of a growing concern among American businesses and universities: Unless policies and priorities change, they will have trouble attracting the talent needed to build quantum technology, which could make today’s computers…

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How the Blockchain Could Break Big Tech’s Hold on A.I.

SAN FRANCISCO — Pairing artificial intelligence and the blockchain might be what you would expect from a scammer looking to make a quick buck in 2018.The two concepts, after all, are two of the most buzzed about and least understood ideas in the tech universe.And the blockchain, the database design introduced by Bitcoin, has lately been the most popular route for anyone looking to raise money for an idea that sounds too good to be true.Despite how easy the combination is to mock, the idea of applying the blockchain to artificial intelligence is attracting a growing roster of serious entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, many of them with…

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Weapons: Will There Be a Ban on Killer Robots?

LONDON — An autonomous missile under development by the Pentagon uses software to choose between targets. An artificially intelligent drone from the British military identifies firing points on its own. Russia showcases tanks that don’t need soldiers inside for combat.A.I. technology has for years led military leaders to ponder a future of warfare that needs little human involvement. But as capabilities have advanced, the idea of autonomous weapons reaching the battlefield is becoming less hypothetical.The possibility of software and algorithms making life-or-death decisions has added new urgency to efforts by a group called the Campaign To Stop Killer Robots that has pulled together arms control advocates, humans…

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The World of A.I.

Judging by the breathless coverage, it can seem as if the only countries developing A.I. are the United States and China. But while companies in those two countries are leading the way in cutting-edge research and products, it’s still early for the industry and other nations are working hard to become major A.I. players. Here are six that could challenge the two juggernauts.SingaporeImageAn autonomous electric bus being tested in May in Singapore.CreditNicky Loh/Bloomberg, via Getty ImagesSingapore was one of the first countries to announce a national strategy, called A.I. Singapore, in May 2017. The initiative brings the government, research institutions and companies together to collaborate on research…

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Computer Stories: A.I. Is Beginning to Assist Novelists

BERKELEY, Calif. — Robin Sloan has a collaborator on his new novel: a computer.The idea that a novelist is someone struggling alone in a room, equipped with nothing more than determination and inspiration, could soon be obsolete. Mr. Sloan is writing his book with the help of home-brewed software that finishes his sentences with the push of a tab key.It’s probably too early to add “novelist” to the long list of jobs that artificial intelligence will eliminate. But if you watch Mr. Sloan at work, it is quickly clear that programming is on the verge of redefining creativity.Mr. Sloan, who won acclaim for his debut, “Mr. Penumbra’s…

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Tech Fix: The Google Pixel 3 Review: Phone’s Smarts Shine Through Its A.I.-Driven Camera

Apple and Samsung typically show off glitzy hardware innovations — dual-lens cameras; bigger screens — to mesmerize millions into buying their new smartphones. Google has taken a different approach: It wants to sell people on better software.That was abundantly clear with the Pixel 3, the search giant’s latest smartphone, with software features powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. When you take a blurry photo, for example, the Pixel’s camera software can capture a series of alternate images and look for a clearer shot. When you get a call from an unknown number, you can use a screening tool to determine if it is a robocall. (I…

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M.I.T. Plans College for Artificial Intelligence, Backed by $1 Billion

Every major university is wrestling with how to adapt to the technology wave of artificial intelligence — how to prepare students not only to harness the powerful tools of A.I., but also to thoughtfully weigh its ethical and social implications. A.I. courses, conferences and joint majors have proliferated in the last few years.But the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is taking a particularly ambitious step, creating a new college backed by a planned investment of $1 billion. Two-thirds of the funds have already been raised, M.I.T. said, in announcing the initiative on Monday.The linchpin gift of $350 million came from Stephen A. Schwarzman, chief executive of the Blackstone…

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Jeff Hawkins Is Finally Ready to Explain His Brain Research

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — In the global race to build artificial intelligence, it was a missed opportunity.Jeff Hawkins, a Silicon Valley veteran who spent the last decade exploring the mysteries of the human brain, arranged a meeting with DeepMind, the world’s leading A.I. lab.Scientists at DeepMind, which is owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, want to build machines that can do anything the brain can do. Mr. Hawkins runs a little company with one goal: figure out how the brain works and then reverse engineer it.The meeting, set for April at DeepMind’s offices in London, never happened. DeepMind employs hundreds of A.I. researchers along with a team…

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Facebook’s New Gadget Is a Video-Chat Screen With a Camera That Follows You

SAN FRANCISCO — Since 2004, Facebook has said it wants to bring the world closer together. To accomplish that goal, the company has relied mostly on the web and smartphone apps.But software is no longer enough. On Monday, Facebook introduced a pair of video-calling devices — Portal and Portal Plus — to help expand its reach into people’s living rooms.Portal and Portal Plus, which have a 12-megapixel camera with high-definition video and artificial intelligence software, can be used to do video chats. The A.I.-powered camera follows users as they move, letting them converse without sitting stiffly. The devices also include Amazon’s Alexa, which people can command to…

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Tech Workers Now Want to Know: What Are We Building This For?

“What people are looking for — not just employees — they are looking for some clarity,” said Frank Shaw, a Microsoft spokesman. “Are there principles that get applied? Even if you don’t agree with the decision that gets made, if you understand the thinking behind it, it helps a lot.”Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.The lack of information about what tech employees are working on was recently evident at Clarifai, an artificial intelligence start-up in New York City.Last year, a small team of Clarifai engineers began working on a project inside a private room at its downtown New York office, said three people with…

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