Five Reads: DeepMind Medicine
Here’s our roundup of five compelling stories from around the internet in the last few days. Look for this column every week in this space.
Making Drugs — and News — With a Dose of AI
Surprise move! An international scientific competition on protein-folding, called “the World Cup of biochemical research” was won by DeepMind, the AI squad owned by Google that produced the world-strength chess and go programs. The success of AI in this field is hardly a checkmate, but it does hold significant promise for drug research. Mohammed AlQuraishi, a researcher for Harvard Medical School, worries about the ramifications. “The smartest and most ambitious researchers wanting to work on protein structure will look to DeepMind for opportunities instead of Merck or Novartis,” he wrote. “This fact should send chills down the spines of pharma executives, but it won’t, because they’re clueless, rudderless, and asleep at the helm.” On the other hand, the New York Times also spoke to drug discovery researcher Derek Lowe who said, “It is not that machines are going to replace chemists. It’s that the chemists who use machines will replace those that don’t.” Meanwhile, Bloomberg News is making use of Cyborg, an AI system that turns corporate financial reports into news stories in the blink of an eye.
An advisor to DeepMind, Vikash Mansinghka, will speak at SXSW 2019 on “Bias In, Bias Out: Building Better AI,” one of more than a dozen panels on AI, including AI and Healthcare, AI and Journalism, AI and Music, and AI and Civilization.
“Password” for $190 Million
It was bad news for the Canadian cryptocurrency exchange company QuadrigaCX when they announced the the founder, Gerald Cotten, had died suddenly in December. But now holdings totaling roughly $143 million are unavailable to 115,000 account holders, because — according to his widow’s affidavit — no one has the password to his encrypted laptop. But other observers question whether the funds have simply gone missing and even if Cotten is really dead after all.
How to Protect Children
Instagram announced it will impose “sensitivity screens” to blur images of self-harm in the wake of the suicide of a British teenager who was exposed to graphic images of self-harm and suicide on Instagram and Pinterest. Instagram’s Adam Mosseri said the changes would make it more difficult for people to see those images and that the company is also investing in “engineers and trained content reviewers” to help block these images and reach out to people who are looking for them. Matt Hancock, the British health secretary, warned Facebook (which owns Instagram) to step up its efforts to protect children from disturbing content.
SXSW 2019 will feature an interactive keynote with Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in conversation with Josh Constine of TechCrunch.
Exploring the Sinking Ship
The 2017 collision between the US Navy destroyer Fitzgerald and the gargantuan cargo ship ACS Crystal made headlines around the world. But the true dimensions of the tragedy are only now coming into focus. This stunning piece by ProPublica uses interactive graphics to help readers visualize the accident and is studded by powerful reporting and unforgettable details — including the fact that the ship’s primary navigation system was run by 17-year-old software. To keep the screen updated, a sailor had to punch a button a thousand times an hour.
SXSW 2019 will feature several journalists from ProPublica, including senior reporter Ginger Thompson, deputy editor Terry Parris Jr., editor-in-chief Stephen Engelberg and special correspondent Renee Montagne.
Looking for a Real Dog?
Developers in Lithuania have created an app to match stray dogs with people looking to adopt a pet. GetPet is similar to dating apps in that it is based on profiles that include pictures and short descriptions. “It is like Tinder, but with dogs,” said Vaidas Gecevicius, one of the app’s creators. “You can arrange a meeting with the dog — a date.” Best of all, no beast can “swipe left” on you.
Discover more fresh and innovative ideas in technology at SXSW Pitch.
Five Reads Archive
Feb. 1: Ready, Set AOC
January 25: CompSci Gets Way Cool
January 18: Spying on Crime
January 10: Taming Toxic Trolls
January 4: Big Tech = Big Trouble
December 28: Austin is Weird and Wired
December 22: The End of Traffic
December 15: Guarding the Truth
December 5: Becoming an Obama
November 30: The Trouble for Juul
November 21: Life Is Good
November 16: Whither Facebook
November 9: Why Does the US Love Guns?
November 2: Esther Perel Knows Love
Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.