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Why Elon Musk has been cryptically tweeting about digging tunnels

(TECH NEWS) Futurama, The Jetsons, and 1987 James Bond are all coming true, and tweets from Elon Musk that most ignored weren’t a joke – he’s got a big shovel, but why?

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Guess Elon wasn’t joking

For a few months, billionaire Elon Musk has been cryptically tweeting about digging a giant tunnel. Turns out he wasn’t kidding.

Musk is literally digging a way out of traffic. In December, Musk tweeted he was going to “build a tunnel boring machine and just start digging” since traffic was bothering him so much. Then during a student competition held at SpaceX, Musk tweeted “we start digging the tunnel tonight.”

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This is not an admission of guilt, but sometimes when I’m sitting in gridlock traffic on I-35, I look things up on my phone. Most frequently visited: “why is I-35 traffic so awful?” I once read there was a plan to scrap the street and go for a subterranean tunnel situation instead. I think about this often as I’m idling on the interstate.

Exciting and troubling news

So Musk’s announcement both troubles and excites me. Can any billionaire decide to dig an underground highway for themselves? Is it that easy? The SpaceX event that heralded Musk’s announcement was a hyperloop pod competition. This term may not sound familiar, so let me phrase it in a way you might have dreamed of in your scifi fantasies: crazy-fast underground travel via vacuum power, 007 style.

Musk’s ultimate game plan is a traffic-evading underground wonderland of vacuum-propelled vehicles. As chief executive of space transportation company SpaceX, Musk has long proposed the idea of the hyperloop. Two years ago, Musk encouraged entrepreneurs and engineering students to build hyperloop pods. Now, the most recent competition sparked Musk’s announcement about digging.

So can I start digging my own tunnels?

While it is unclear if Musk actually has the legal permits required to begin digging, he noted on his Twitter that digging will begin around February or later. He plans on starting the tunnel at the SpaceX campus. According to Business Insider, the California Department of Transportation has not been contacted by Musk about tunnel plans.

Hawthorne City Manager Arnie Shadbehr notes permits aren’t required yet since the current plans situate the tunnel on Musk’s property. However, if he expands under Interstate 105, a flurry of permits will be required as well as environmental tests. And it is notable that each city, each state has different regulations – you may not own the earth underneath your property or the air rights above it.

Regardless, Musk definitely acquired a large earth drilling machine and broke ground on his tunnel. So this is cool but kind of unsettling.Click To Tweet

I’ve been hoping for super fast travel since I first started watching Futurama, but I don’t know if I’m ready yet. Or at least, I don’t know if I’m ready for a lone ambitious billionaire to bring that future to me.

If Musk gets some serious infrastructure funding (which may actually be in the works), he can expand the project as an alternative transit route. For now, look forward to more tweets about the tunnel progress as you sit in traffic.

#MadGenius

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Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

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A deepfakes creator for text so realistic it can’t be made public yet

(TECHNOLOGY) You know about video deepfakes, but the technology exists for doing convincing deepfakes for text. It’s so good that they aren’t ready to release it to the public yet…

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Artificial intelligence is being used to complete more and more human tasks. But as of right now, news stories you read online – including all the articles here on American Genius – have been written by real human beings.

Until recently, even the most intelligent computers couldn’t be trained to recreate the complex rules and stylistic subtleties of language. AI-generated text would often wander off topic or mix up the syntax and lack context or analysis.

However, a non-profit called OpenAI says they have developed a text generator that can simulate human writing with remarkable accuracy.

The program is called GPT2. When fed any amount of text, from a few words to a page, it can complete the story, whether it be a news story or a fictional one.

You already know about video deepfakes, but these “deepfakes for text” stay on subject and match the style of the original text. For example, when fed the first line of George Orwell’s 1984, GPT2 created a science-fiction story set in a futuristic China.

This improved text generator is much better at simulating human writing because it has learned from a dataset that is “15 times bigger and broader” than its predecessor, according to OpenAI research director, Dario Amodei.

Usually researchers are eager to share their creations with the world – but in the case, the Elon Musk-backed organization has, at least of the time being, withheld GPT2 from the public out of fear of what criminals and other malicious users might do with it.

Jack Clark, OpenAI’s head of policy, says that the organization needs more time to experiment with GPT2’s capabilities so that they can anticipate malicious uses. “If you can’t anticipate all the abilities of a model, you have to prod it to see what it can do,” he says. “There are many more people than us who are better at thinking what it can do maliciously.”

Some potential malicious uses of GPT2 could include generating fake positive reviews for products (or fake negative reviews of competitors’ products); generating SPAM messages; writing fake news stories that would be indistinguishable from real news stories; and spreading conspiracy theories.

Furthermore, because GPT2 learns from the internet, it wouldn’t be hard to program GPT2 to produce hate speech and other offensive messages.

As a writer, I can’t think of very many good reasons to use an AI story generator that doesn’t put me out of job. So I appreciate that the researchers at OpenAI are taking time to fully think through the implications before making this Pandora’s box of technology available to the general public.

Says Clark, “We are trying to develop more rigorous thinking here. We’re trying to build the road as we travel across it.”

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This AI program wants to be your graphic designer

(TECH NEWS) If you’re a small business looking for branding or to re-brand but don’t have the time nor budget, this tool can help you get it done!

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AI is growing, now it can even be your own personal graphic designer.

The new company Brandmark uses AI to create custom brand identities in minutes. All you need to do is describe your business and leave the designing up to them.

Brandmark describes their system as “more than just a logo,” as they aid people in developing an entire brand identity. This includes a complete style guide, color scheme and even a WordPress compatible website template.

It is the perfect tool for small businesses and entrepreneurs who may not have the budget to hire an in-house designer to join their team.

The creators of Brandmark have attempted to give the platform personal elements as well, so that you can understand the design decisions and even have the chance to make it your own.

The process is as simple as it can get. All that Brandmark requires is for you to type in a few keywords that best describe your business. For example, a coffee shop might type in “coffee, hot, lounge, mocha, books, relaxation.” These keywords are anything that can be associated with your brand so it is important to include adjectives as well. Consider how you want customers to feel when they see your product or walk into your shop for the first time.

All of these details will help Brandmark create a unique and personal identity for you.

The creators of the tool wanted it to feel like a true designer. That is why they have developed a system that understands design principles. After creating a look, Brandmark will explain the design choice and how it relates to your brand. In addition, you have access to features that allow you to customize the design.

Just like any professional service, Brandmark provides a style guide that can be used to apply your brand - including logo, color scheme and font - to various type of products. Click To Tweet

For instance, the same coffee shop would know how to apply their logo to coffee cups, bags, mugs and menus by following the guide. In addition, website layouts are offered to get your online business started. It’s an all-in-one package to get your business up and running with a professional look.

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This eye tracking tech could be what saves VR

(TECHNOLOGY) VR has struggled with adoption rates, but this new technology could finally make it more useful in daily life.

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VR could be saved

The new HTC Vive Pro Eye VR headset made its debut at CES 2019. An updated version of the HTC Vive Pro, its features are expected to have a variety of uses over the long-term.

The Vive Pro Eye features new eye tracking technology developed in partnership with Tobii Eye Tracking. Inside the headset are sensors around the eyes to help the A.I. target what your eye is seeing. This is integrated into the UI design, allowing users to select menu options just by looking at their choice. In theory, users can choose how to interact with different A.I. characters or in VR chat spaces.

The eye tracking features Dynamic Foveated Rendering which will allow the computer to render VR objects the user is looking at to a high resolution. Likewise, images on the user’s periphery or outside the field of view will appear at a lower resolution or won’t be rendered at all. This way headset will require less performance power from its graphics card, and can still generate high-quality images in the places that matter.

Another feature is the A.I. assist where the computer can register intended targets in the VR environment based upon where your eyes are looking. This could be helpful for newcomers to VR instead of adjusting to the hand-eye coordination with the remote.

In a new industry like VR, the turnover rate for technology is fairly high, but the fovated rendering is likely to stay. Since its practicality not only enhances user experience, but also provides support from a hardware standpoint, its not outlandish to think developers will piggy-back off this new feature.

Sounds like fun? Well, currently the Vive Pro Eye is meant for business ventures rather than for consumers. But we’ll likely see this technology eventually find its way into more affordable VR products. There is no release date or price range yet available.

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