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Anti-robot protesters descend upon SXSW: ‘It’s about morality in computing’

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Protesters concerned about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) marched in the streets of Austin, home to the South by Southwest (SXSW) culture and tech festival, chanting  “I say robot, you say no-bot!” reports USA Today.

Estimated at over two dozen, many of them engineering students from nearby University of Texas and led by a computer engineer, the group cautioned against unrestrained reliance on technology in place of humanity.

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Holding signs reading “Stop the Robots” and “Humans are the future” the protesters surprised many bystanders at the popular festival known for good vibes, film, and music.

According to Adam Mason, 23, who organized the protest, they are serious about the implications of technologies that may outrun human control.

“This is is about morality in computing,” he explained, adding,”Planes can fly themselves, but the person who is ultimately responsible for landing a plane is a human.”

Mason and the other protesters are not alone in their fear of where AI may be taking the world, which has prompted a debate among scientists.

Physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking has repeatedly warned against the unintended consequences of AI, saying dismissing “the notion of highly intelligent machines as science fiction” could be “our worst mistake in history.”

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The “rise of the robots” has been a popular theme in science fiction books and films for years, from Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot,” to popular films like “Colossus: The Forbin Project,” “WarGames,” and the “Terminator” films.

Some attendees at the conference dismissed concerns, with one tech entrepreneur saying we have more to fear from humans.

“People worry about robots taking over the world, but I assure you there are much more dangerous things (income inequality and global warming) in front of the line,” Phil Libin, CEO of software firm Evernote. “Humans should be more worried about other humans.”

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Joe Biden takes on Trump’s rhetoric during racial justice crises: ‘The words of a president matter’

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Former Vice President Joe Biden talked about the importance of a president's words and accountability during times of crisis during a Friday appearance on MSNBC.

Biden was interviewed by Craig Melvin, who noted the protests tearing apart cities and asked where he would start if elected president.

"I start by talking about what we must be, making no excuses, talking about our obligation to be decent," Biden answered. "Our obligation to take responsibility, our obligation to stand up when we see injustice."

"Look, the words of a president matter -- no matter how good or bad that president is," he explained. "A president can, by their words alone no matter who they are, make it rise or fall, take us to war, bring us to peace. The words of a president matter."

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South Carolina Republicans gather for an ‘active rejection’ of social distancing measures: report

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On Friday, The New York Times reported on a gathering of Republicans in Conway, South Carolina that appeared to be an "active rejection" of social distancing measures and other public health guidelines.

"The outdoor gathering here on Thursday was a send-off event for Cleo Steele, a longtime Republican Party operative in Horry County, who is retiring to Ohio," wrote Astead Herndon. "Speakers shared the same microphone. Local and state political candidates greeted voters with handshakes and squeezed tight for pictures. Of all the people gathered outside the county Republican office — many of them senior citizens — fewer than a dozen wore masks."

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Paul Krugman: A stronger GDP won’t help Americans if they’re dead

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Liberal economist Paul Krugman, in his New York Times column, has been stressing that the better a job the United States does with social distancing policies now, the better off the U.S. economy will be in the long run. In his Thursday column, Krugman warns that a premature reopening could hurt the U.S. both economically and from a health standpoint.

“America is now engaged in a vast, dangerous experiment,” Krugman writes. “Although social distancing has limited the spread of the coronavirus, it is far from contained. Yet despite warnings from epidemiologists, much of the country is moving to open up for business as usual.”

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