Your WIRED daily briefing. Today, the US hearing into Russian electoral meddling has revealed adverts designed to dupe voters, Tesla is months behind schedule on the production of its Model 3 electric car, a clinical trial has investigated the effect of young blood transfusions on Alzheimer’ patients and more.
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The US Senate hearing on Russian-made propaganda’s influence on the 2016 election has continued with some remarkable statistics and examples of false adverts intended to sow dissent and confusion among the electorate (TechCrunch). Examples include ads designed to dupe voters into staying home and to encourage Texan Muslims and Islamophobes to attend events at the time and place. Despite the ongoing furore, Facebook made over $10 billion in ad revenues in the last three quarters, effectively demonstrating the power, scale and profitability of its platform.
Tesla has reported its biggest ever quarterly loss of $619m (£468m), which is largely attributed to delays in production of its $35,000 Model 3 electric car (BBC News). The company made just 260 of the new cars during its third quarter, far short of its 1,500 vehicle target, but says it continues “to make significant progress each week in fixing Model 3 bottlenecks”. In an unusually dramatic and troubled investor call, Tesla CEO Elon Musk berated journalists for reporting on the company’s mass staff firings and attempts to break up union organising efforts.
A small trial involving 16 patients with mild or moderate Alzheimer’s disease has found no objective cognitive benefits in a treatment that involves transfusions of blood plasma from healthy young people (Science). However, the company behind the trial, a California startup called Alkahest, says it is “encouraged” to carry out further trials by caregiver survey results indicating that the patients who received the treatment, rather than a placebo, coped a little better with day-to-day tasks. Although there’s little evidence for the effectiveness of the treatment, private clinics in the USA are already offering young plasma infusions, priced at $8,000 for a two-day course, to anyone who can pay for it.
As Facebook, Google and Twitter face off against US politicians over their role in disseminating Russian propaganda, authorities in the UK are conducting a similar investigation around Brexit and the 2017 general election (WIRED). The question is the same: how much influence did Russian-linked trolls have over major political decisions in the West? While social media companies have yet published data of Russian ad activity around Brexit or this year’s election, there is evidence that social networks were gamed to alter discourse around the referendum.
The BBC’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor and the University of Oxford have carried out a small study demonstrating the serious impact that cutting back on sleep can have over even just a few nights. Four volunteers were restricted to just four hours sleep a night and monitored for psychological changes. The results were dramatic. Doctoral student Sarah Reeve said: “There were increases in anxiety, depression and stress, also increases in paranoia and feelings of mistrust about other people.”
In October 2012, University of Toronto professor Geoff Hinton demonstrated that artificial neural networks could radically improve machines’ ability to understand images (WIRED). Now on Google’s payroll, he’s released two new research papers that might transform how computers see, and reshape AI in the process. “I think the way we’re doing computer vision is just wrong,” he says. “It works better than anything else at present but that doesn’t mean it’s right.”
Gaming laptop and peripheral company Razer has unveiled its first smartphone, following its takeover of phone maker Nextbit (TechCrunch). The new Android phone is oriented towards mobile gaming, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 8GB RAM and a 5.72in display with a 1440×2560 resolution and a unique 120Hz refresh rate for smooth graphics in 3D games. It comes out on November 17 for £699 and is available to pre-order now.
After an 11-year hiatus, Sony’s Aibo robot dog is back, and this time it requires a mandatory software-as-a-service subscription (Ars Technica). Only available in Japan, the little robot does the best it can at being a dog, with a quad-core CPU, 22 axes of motion and a range of tricks and traits ranging from playing ball to scratching itself. It costs 179,000 yen (£1,183), plus a three-year service plan including a subscription for Sony’s LTE update communication service and cloud infrastructure, costing around £20 a month.
Kotaku has compiled a fantastic collection of concept art developed for Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049, including work by Emmanuel Shiu, Madhav Kumar and Victor Martinez. The illustrations range from vehicles and cyberpunk cityscapes to tender character portraits and teardowns of the film’s future tech.
As Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘s December 15 release date approaches, Lucasfilm has released a new trailer for the film (The Verge). The trailer features Luke Skywalker’s return to the Millennium Falcon, plenty of space combat and the promise that “this is not going to go the way you think”.
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