Monday, 1 January 2018

Articles to Read -- 2018-01-01

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How blockchain technology has medieval roots
Blockchain is an emergent technology that may be as transformative as the internet, according to many predictions. But this innovative new technology has a surprising link to the days of medieval treasuries. Blockchain is a distributed ledger that uses cryptography — mathematical code — to chain together records of transactions in a tamper-resistant and transparent manner. It is being used as an alternative or replacement for national currencies, contracts,internet device authentication and more. This form of record-keeping, though technologically novel in the digital era, is not so new after all. Historian M.T. Clanchy tells us that it existed in the medieval era, during the transition from oral to written forms of memorialization. At that time, symbolic objects played a crucial role in providing evidence of transactions, rights and entitlements.

Tech gifts for unsavvy seniors may put your loved ones at risk

Engineers, philosophers and sociologists release ethical design guidelines for future technology
If kids spend hours a day speaking to digital personal assistant Alexa, how will this affect the way they connect to real people? When a self-driving car runs over a pedestrian, who do you take to court? Is it okay to manipulate people’s emotions if it’s making them happier? Together with an international team of researchers in fields as diverse as philosophy, engineering and anthropology, we set out to tackle these questions. The result is a new set of guidelines focused on the ethical and social implications of autonomous and intelligent systems. That includes everything from big data and social media algorithms to autonomous weapons.

2017 -- India's year in science
Science in India is on a great momentum in the last few decades, thanks to the talent and the infrastructure. Our achievements in fields ranging from astronomy, to biology, to chemistry and agriculture, there are so many to be proud about! But how different was 2017? What were some of the significant research highlights from the Indian scientific community? Below are ten breakthroughs we have picked, in no particular  order. 
Timeline of IISc, IITs and IISERs
For over a century, India has nurtured a host of science and technology based institutions. This post captures the timeline of these institutions as they were established.

Will global warming affect Wind Energy Generation?
Wind energy contributes to 12% of installed power in India. At present, most of this comes from the wind farms located on land.However, the country has ambitious plans of expanding wind energy generation by building wind farms on the sea in the next 5 years. How feasible is that at a time when our oceans are warming and the sea levels are rising? In a study, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay have developed a mechanism to study how climate change could impact wind energy harnessed from wind farms in the sea.

Technologically enhanced humans: a look behind the myth
What exactly do we mean by an “enhanced” human? When this possibility is brought up, what is generally being referred to is the addition of human and machine-based performances (expanding on the figure of the cyborg popularised by science fiction). But enhanced in relation to what? According to which reference values and criteria? How, for example, can happiness be measured? A good life? Sensations, like smells or touch which connect us to the world? How happy we feel when we are working? All these dimensions that make life worth living. We must be careful here not to give in to the magic of figures. A plus can hide a minus; something gained may conceal something lost. What is gained or lost, however, is difficult to identify as it is neither quantifiable nor measurable. 

Could intelligent machines of the future own the rights to their own creations?
Intellectual property may be the legal term for creations, including literary or artistic, but there is something inherently human about it as well. It has long been taken that only human beings are capable of being intelligent in its fullest form, and the concept of intellectual property strives to protect the product of such human intelligence. This is reflected in a number of intellectual property laws. The US Copyright Office, for instance, talks about the “fruits of intellectual labour” and registers original works of authorship “provided that the work was created by a human being”. But what if a piece of art, music, literature, photography or other product were not
created by a human mind at all, but by a machine embedded with artificial intelligence (AI)?

10 ideas for the Budget 2018
Will the Budget bring down taxes? This is probably the most-asked question in the weeks before the Finance Bill is tabled in Parliament.This year, the expectations of a taxpayer-friendly budget are very high, given that five states have assembly elections in 2018 and another three in 2019. We asked experts from the financial services
industry to suggest measures they would like to see in the Finance Bill, 2018. Some of these measures will have an impact on revenue collections. But most other steps will only make life easier for taxpayers, investors and consumers without denting the exchequer.

Medical insurance challenges
There is a raging debate over health insurance and its impact and coverage. These insurance plans cover a finite list of diseases, which are tapered to the convenience of the insurance companies, given the limitations.

 ‘US bill targets Indian IT companies … even US Chamber of Commerce has voiced concerns against dangerous precedents’
Fresh visa restrictions proposed by the Trump administration are set to compound the difficulties of Indian IT companies. Rentala Chandrashekhar, president of Nasscom, tellsSidhartha that Indian companies seem to be the sole target of such legislative action in the US and that the recent tax changes there could also make off-shoring less attractive:

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