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Sheepdogs could lose their jobs to robots after scientists learned the secret of their herding ability.

Rounding up sheep successfully is a simple process involving just two basic mathematical rules, a study found.

One causes a sheepdog to close any gaps it sees between dispersing sheep. The other results in sheep being driven forward once the gaps have sufficiently closed.

A computer simulation showed that obeying these two rules alone allowed a single shepherd – or sheepdog – to control a flock of more than 100 animals.

The discovery has implications for human crowd control as well as the development of robots that can gather and herd livestock, the scientists said. […]

To conduct the study, the researchers fitted a flock of sheep and a sheepdog with backpacks containing highly accurate GPS satnavs.

Movement-tracking data from the devices was programmed into computer simulations to develop the mathematical shepherding model.

Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the researchers concluded: “Our approach should support efficient designs for herding autonomous, interacting agents in a variety of contexts.

"Obvious cases are robot-assisted herding of livestock, and keeping animals away from sensitive areas, but applications range from control of flocking robots, cleaning up of environments and human crowd control."

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"Shady companies go to great lengths to cover up any critical reviews online and I’ve been contacted many times over the last 15 years by companies looking to get any mentions of them removed from MetaFilter"
‘such as a submarine to explore the methane sea of Saturn’s moon Titan, a new technology to capture an asteroid, and a way to catch a ride on the back of a comet’ ››
"'Imagine being on Mars with the ability to replace any broken part, whether it's a part of your spacesuit, your habitat, or your own body. We propose a technique that would allow just that. By printing 3D arrays of cells engineered to secrete the necessary materials, the abundant in situ resources of atmosphere and regolith become organic, inorganic, or organic-inorganic composite materials. Such materials include novel, biologically derived materials not previously possible to fabricate'"
"We’ve seen some less-radical attempts to destroy technology in the real world in recent months, mainly in the form of attacks on people wearing Glass or flying drones, or the drone on its own (by hockey fans who reportedly and incorrectly thought it belonged to the LAPD). As in the movie, the destroyers haven’t been identified or punished, with one exception: Andrea Mears, 23, was charged with third degree assault for attacking a teen boy, Austin Haughwout, 17, flying a drone on a Connecticut beach. She got probation this week, as noted by comprehensive drone chronicler Greg McNeal. It’s easy to call these people Luddites, after the British workers who set about destroying machines — and in some cases killing the people who owned them — in the late 1700s and early 1800s in a futile attempt to turn back the tide of mechanization. It led Britain to pass a law making machine-wrecking punishable by death. But the new machine destroyers’ motivations are different. The original Luddites were worried machines would take their jobs; the Neo-Luddites fear machines will steal their privacy."
"So, what’s the trade-off here? In general, we are safer (automation makes airline flying safer, in general) except in the long-tail: pilots are losing both tacit knowledge of flying and some of its mechanics. But in general, we, as humans, have less and less understanding of our machines—we are compartmentalized, looking at a tiny corner of a very complex system beyond our individual comprehension. Increasing numbers of our systems—from finance to electricity to cybersecurity to medical systems, are going in this direction. We are losing control and understanding which seems fine—until it’s not. We will certainly, and unfortunately, find out what this really means because sooner or later, one of these systems will fail in a way we don’t understand."
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Many of us cannot help looking because of what Susan Sontag has called “the perennial seductiveness of war.” It is a kind of rubbernecking, staring at the bloody aftermath of something that is not an act of God but of man. The effect, as Ms. Sontag pointed out in an essay in The New Yorker in 2002, is anything but certain.

“Making suffering loom larger, by globalizing it, may spur people to feel they ought to ‘care’ more,” she wrote. “It also invites them to feel that the sufferings and misfortunes are too vast, too irrevocable, too epic to be much changed by any local, political intervention.”

So now that war comes to us in real time, do we feel helpless or empowered? Do we care more, or will the ubiquity of images and information desensitize us to the point where human suffering loses meaning when it is part of a scroll that includes a video of your niece twerking? Oh, we say as our index finger navigates to the next item, another one of those.

As war becomes a more remote, mechanized activity, posts and images from the target area have significant value. When a trigger gets pulled or bombs explode, real people are often on the wrong end of it. And bearing witness to the consequences gives meaning to what we see.

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Google is teaching its Now service to sift through big data—both personal contextual information and public data—to notify you about things ranging from sports scores to traffic conditions to people’s birthdays.

Here’s one powerful example: If you buy movie tickets on Fandango, that site will send you details to your Gmail account, if you have one. Google Now will “read” that Fandango email, check your location, check the time and location of the movie, monitor traffic between those locations, then interrupt you to suggest that you’d better get going if you want to make it on time.

It’s becoming a true, proactive virtual assistant.

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