News

Will we set foot on Mars?

  This week's Question: NASA recently unveiled its new "Space Launch System," which will be designed to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment, and science experiments to Earth's orbit and destinations beyond. "Tomorrow's explorers will now dream of one day walking on Mars," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. NASA's rovers, too, continue to learn more about the makeup of the planet. What do you think? Will we set foot on Mars?  

Posted in: Question of the Week

Read More >>

Will robot writers play a valuable role in newsrooms?

Code created by a start-up company called Narrative Science takes data, including sports statistics, company financial reports, and housing sales, and turns it into readable news articles. Supporters of this type of software note an increasing sophistication in the technology's ability to make inferences, understand language, and generate proper sentences. It could be used, they say, as a low-cost tool for publications to expand coverage when editorial budgets are tight. The combination of advances in its writing engine and data mining can also take computer journalism to another level by finding unexpected correlations. What do you think? Will robot writers play a valuable role in newsrooms? Yes or no?

Posted in: Question of the Week

Read More >>

Do the benefits of a "cloud-first" strategy outweigh the risks and drawbacks?

This week's Question: While companies debate the merits of cloud computing, the U.S. government has been weighing its own options. By gradually shifting to maintenance-free services that are based on the Internet and run by private companies, Vivek Kundra, the White House's former chief information officer, said that this kind of "Cloud First" strategy would consolidate data centers and save the government more than $3 billion a year. Others, however, note that the cloud has its own expenses, data protection concerns, and speed considerations. What do you think? Do the benefits of a "cloud-first" strategy outweigh the risks and drawbacks?  

Posted in: Question of the Week

Read More >>

Are "thinking" or "learning" computers simply a next logical step in computer evolution?

  This week's guest Question comes from INSIDER reader Kenneth Polcak: IBM has recently developed prototypes of energy-efficient computer chips that emulate the synapses, neurons, and learning functions of the human brain. IBM's Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics (SyNAPSE) project seeks to mimic the functions of the brain on a new type of highly efficient processing chip. It uses advanced algorithms and silicon circuitry to create computers that could function without set programming and could "learn through experiences, find correlations, create hypotheses, and remember - and learn from - the outcomes." Such a system could, for example, monitor the world's waters via a network of sensors monitoring temperature, water pressure, or wave heights, and use that information to predict or detect tsunamis. Many believe this development is the next logical step in the technological progression of computer evolution, while others view this as a dangerous step with unknown or unintended consequences.   What do you think? Are "thinking" or "learning" computers simply a next logical step in computer evolution? Yes or no?    

Posted in: Question of the Week

Read More >>

Will the PC be replaced by tablets and mobile devices?

  This week's Question: Last year, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said users are moving toward a "post-PC world," and computer sales have indeed slowed. Perhaps demonstrating Jobs' "post-PC" concept, the information technology giant HP recently announced that it would stop producing tablet computers and mobile phones, and that it is considering the sale of its PC division. Smartphone and tablet sales have increased, but many users still consider their Windows machines and Macs to be their central computing devices, and that new mobile technologies are complementing desktops and laptops rather than replacing them.   What do you think? Will the PC be replaced by tablets and mobile devices?  

Posted in: Question of the Week

Read More >>

Is a GPS-based meter a promising model for cars?

This week's Question: Countries like the Netherlands have recently undergone trials of an automobile GPS system that uses a mileage-based formula to  calculate charges based on individual car trips. In particular tests, a  tabulation takes into account a car's fuel efficiency, the time of day,  and whether a route is a busy or less-traveled one. At the end of each  month, the vehicle's owner would receive a charge much like that of a cell phone bill, detailing times and costs of usage. Supporters of  these types of meters contend that the charges are fairer than current taxes like automobile purchase and registration fees; they derive from  actual use rather than mere ownership. If imposed, they could also  replace gas and vehicle taxes as well as tolls, or offer greater charges for vehicles with poor fuel efficiency. Opponents, however, dislike the  introduction of a new type of tax, and some critics have privacy concerns about the monitoring of drivers' locations.   What do you think? Is a GPS-based meter a promising model for cars?  

Posted in: Question of the Week

Read More >>

Are airborne iPads a risk?

This week's Question: A growing number of airlines, including Alaska Airlines, are giving pilots the option of using iPads in the cockpit. In a flight scenario, the iPad would take the place of the hefty manuals and training documents that the Federation Aviation Administration requires pilots to have on hand. Some pilots embrace the idea of the touchscreen tablet use because they no longer have to struggle with thousands of manual pages (or changes to those pages), and they can manage and zoom in on information quickly, including aeronautical charts. Skeptics, however, say that the electronic gadget is geared toward consumers and therefore won't meet the usual stringent aircraft standards. The device, unlike paper, relies on batteries and could also be another distraction as pilots view multiple screens.   What do you think? Are airborne iPads a risk?    

Posted in: Question of the Week

Read More >>