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Does the digital era herald the end of history?

What would the world be like if we lost all our digital data?

Has the digital transformation of our society put the future of recorded history in jeopardy? Many internet observers fear so. But why, and what do they mean?

Since the 1980s our lives have grown increasingly digital, and with dizzying speed.

Most of our photos, videos, conversations, research and writings are now stored as strings of ones and noughts on local computers or in data centres distributed throughout the world.

Mr Horvitz has said about a quarter of his team's resources are focused on AI.

Data specialist EMC estimates that in 2013 the world contained about 4.4 zettabytes (4.4 trillion gigabytes) of data. By 2020, it expects this to have risen tenfold. Read more...

More General Interest links




Collapse of the world’s largest herbivores

Large wild herbivores are crucial to ecosystems and human societies. We highlight the 74 largest terrestrial herbivore species on Earth (body mass ≥100 kg), the threats they face, their important and often overlooked ecosystem effects, and the conservation efforts needed to save them and their predators from extinction. Large herbivores are generally facing dramatic population declines and range contractions, such that ~60% are threatened with extinction. Nearly all threatened species are in developing countries, where major threats include hunting, land-use change, and resource depression by livestock. Loss of large herbivores can have cascading effects on other species including large carnivores, scavengers, mesoherbivores, small mammals, and ecological processes involving vegetation, hydrology, nutrient cycling, and fire regimes. The rate of large herbivore decline suggests that ever-larger swaths of the world will soon lack many of the vital ecological services these animals provide, resulting in enormous ecological and social costs. Read more ...

More Professional Responsibility links




High-impact-factor Syndrome

By Carlton M. Caves

You are surprised to find that you have been tasked with evaluating minor-league pitchers eager to get into major-league baseball. You interview applicants, collect information, and observe their performance. But, being a physicist, you know next to nothing about evaluating pitching skill, so to make your life easier, you fix on a single figure of merit, the pitcher’s heat (fastball speed). Although you have access to each applicant’s fastball speed, you elect to rank the candidates in terms of the average speed of all the pitchers on an applicant’s current minor-league team. Using this as a proxy for individual pitching ability, you assemble a pitching staff. As the season wears on, your pitchers are drubbed in game after game. You see the general manager approaching with a frown on his face, and...the alarm goes off. Read more...

More links on Authorship and Peer Review




'A robot is my friend': Can machines care for elderly?

With the world's elderly population growing rapidly, scientists are suggesting that robots could take on some of the burden of providing care, support and - most surprisingly - companionship.

A boy born today in Britain is expected to live on average to the age of 91, a girl to 94.

Worldwide 1.5 billion people over the age of 65 are expected to be around in 2050. Read more...

More links on Human and Animal Experimentation