Credit: This Person Does Not Exist

When it comes to the pictures on This Person Does Not Exist, you won't believe your eyes—and you shouldn't.

Though the people pictured in the photos look authentic, none of them actually exist. Each time a user refreshes the page, a new computer-generated face appears.

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Last week, the Australian edition of The Guardian posted an article with no byline. The data-driven report was the first of its kind for the publication for one intriguing reason: It was written by a robot.

The article stated at the end:

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Autonomous AI and weapons may have a future. Just not together.

As of August 2018, more than 2400 high-impact players in science and technology — from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to late astrophysicist Stephen Hawking — have signed a Lethal Autonomous Weapons Pledge declaring their intentions to halt an autonomous AI arms race before it begins. The historic motion urges governments to consider instituting regulations that preemptively ban, deter, and monitor militarized nations from amassing Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS): a growing classification of automated weaponry, including unmanned drones, fighter jets, and any lethal AI endowed with decisive power over human life.

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Credit: Pixabay

Artificial intelligence technology has made great strides of late, showing it can perform not just credit worthiness and shopping-behavior algorithms, but interpret what animals are saying, create nude art and even write the next installment of Game of Thrones.

However, it turns out machine learning is missing a critical component of human thought: the ability to not be sexist and racist.

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In television and movies, there's been no shortage of stories depicting a dystopian future controlled by artificial intelligence. It’s a popular entertainment trope—artificially intelligent robots turn evil and chaos ensues. The recurring plot device is seen in movies and television shows everywhere, ranging from the Terminator to Blade Runner.

Now, in a eerily similar plot twist, researchers have encouraged an actual A.I. algorithm to embrace evil. The scientists are training the A.I., called Norman, to become a legitimate, verifiable psychopath with the help of Reddit. Norman is named after Anthony Perkins’ character in Psycho.

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Many animals can learn to understand human language, and some even learn to speak it. Studies involving primates, dolphins, and domesticated animals confirm what any dog owner already knows: No matter what language we speak, the animals we interact with know the meaning of some of our words.

The average dog knows 165 human words, and smart ones can more than 250 words — about the same as a two-year-old human. An elephant named Koshik learned to imitate six words of human speech — in Korean — and use them to communicate with his trainers. Seals and sea lions in captivity learn to understand several human words, and some learn to speak it, including a harbor seal named Hoover who was raised in a Maine household and learned to say, “Hello there!” and “Hey! Hey! Come over here!” in a New England accent.

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Batard dog and tabby cat, Felis catus, resting together indoors. (Auscape/UIG via Getty Images)

Humans have long held themselves as a species apart. It’s a cross-cultural theory of exceptionalism, held as tightly in Chengdu, China as Chicago, United States. As the canniest, most productive and most dominant species on the planet, we allow ourselves dominion over all other creatures, great and small. We spray great swaths of land with insecticides to kill mosquitoes that threaten our health. We live-capture juvenile whales to be trained for our entertainment. After all, human welfare is paramount, and those other creatures aren’t believed capable of feeling depressed, isolated or endangered.

This point was driven home with a strangely retrograde vote in the UK’s House of Commons last November. In the course of Brexit negotiations, Members of Parliament were tasked with choosing which EU policies they will adhere to as the UK withdraws from the EU. They elected to bow out of a law recognizing animal sentience. MPs later called this claim a mischaracterization, because public outrage was dramatic — denying sentience denies that animals can feel pain, form thoughts, or experience any emotion.

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