Spark

 
 

Spark

Spark brings you the latest in technology and culture. With an eye on the future, host Nora Young guides you through this dynamic era of technology-led change, and connects your life to the big ideas changing our world right now.

Updated: Fridays
Download episodes from this podcast for: 6 months
Visit Show Site: http://www.cbc.ca/spark

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The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Nine: New Perspectives

How to make your own computer: embroider it, of course! Irene Posch is an artist who uses textiles to explore electronics. She and Ebru Kurbak recently designed an embroidery 8 bit computer, using historic patterns of gold embroidery and beads. Taking birding to the streets Google's Street View has yielded a trove of information, from illicit activities to acts of great kindness. And it turns out the service is really good for an activity usually done offline: birding. Nick Lund, a writer for the National Audubon Society and creator of the website, The Birdist, explains his latest avian adventure: Google Street View Birding. Girls Scouts introduce 'cybersecurity' badge Step aside Baton-twirling Badge! Some branches of The Girl Scouts in the U.S. now have a new cybersecurity patch. Spark host Nora Young speaks with Girl Scouts Nation's Capital troop leader Hillary Tabor and her 11-year-old daughter Maya. She also speaks with Krysta Coyle, the Girl Guides of Canada's Guiding Ambassador, to hear what the organization is doing to engage Canadian girls in STEM. 'Gaming' the system to discuss climate change Fortnite, is the most popular streaming game in history. More people watch gamers play Fortnite on the Twitch streaming service than watch NFL football. That gave oceanographer Henri Drake an idea. He created "ClimateFortnite," in which he and other climate scientists play the game and also answer questions about climate change using the in-game chat. Could this trojan-horse style of education in a gaming environment be an effective way to teach and reach people? MIT qualitative sociologist T.L. Taylor, who has focused on internet and game studies for over two decades, explains the interrelations between culture and technology in online leisure environments.

Download The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Nine: New Perspectives
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The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Eight: Smart Cities

Confused by 'smart city' hype? This expert explains what it is and why we should care As cities around the world begin integrating technology more deeply into urban infrastructure, it's still not clear what people mean when they talk about "smart cities." Urban sustainability professor Andrew Karvonen talks about how to define smart cities, as well as some concerns critics have about the so-called cities of the future. Most Canadians skeptical about smart cities when it comes to their privacy Earlier this year, a survey found that 88 per cent of Canadians are concerned on some level about their privacy when it comes to smart cities. Researcher Sarah Bannerman says that governments need to step up when it comes to protecting people's data. No single company should have a monopoly on building smart cities, tech entrepreneur says If a smart city's infrastructure is built by a single corporation, it may end up being like like a technological walled garden, which could harm collaboration and innovation, says Kurtis McBride. To protect privacy, there need to be limits on smart cities' surveillance A panel at a security and privacy conference in Victoria, B.C., earlier this year, discusses how a smart city can be efficient, safe and open. Speakers include former Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian, David Izzard, the Architecture & Cyber Security Manager for the City of Surrey, BC, and Andrew Clement, a member of the Waterfront Toronto Digital Strategy Advisory Board. What living in a hyper-connected city means for human beings Canada Research Chair in the Internet of Things and OCAD University professor Alexis Morris says people need to be at the centre of smart cities with contextually aware public spaces.

Download The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Eight: Smart Cities
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The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Seven: Mixed Emotions

A new opinion in the social media echo chamber could close it even tighter Disrupting our social media echo chambers with an opposing view may seem like the best way to reduce political polarization. But sociologist Christopher Bail from Duke University found it can actually entrench people's views and opinions even more. Be it resolved that your next debating opponent may be ... beyond human! Can AI be taught to mount a convincing argument ... with no time to prepare? IBM's Project Debate AI is focused on building a conversational artificial intelligence capable of engaging in continuous, stimulated debate. This week, it lost in a debate with Harish Natarajan, a World Universities Debating Championships Grand Finalist. Harish tells Spark host Nora Young what it was like to debate and defeat an artificial intelligence. It's okay to cry on Instagram On Instagram, it can often seem like people are displaying an art directed, perfectly lit, ideal version of their lives. But now some see it as a place to reveal their full selves -- tears, warts and all. Aimee Morrison, an associate professor of English and Literature at the University of Waterloo, talks about what she thinks is behind this trend. Reclaiming boredom in digital culture Boredom is, well, boring. But it plays an important role for us. Boredom can open us up to the question of meaning and other deeply philosophical perspectives. But today, we look for a way out of boredom by endlessly scrolling and swiping. In his new book, philosopher Mark Kingwell argues that we're in a political economy of 'neoliberal boredom' fueled by our digital devices.A new opinion in the social media echo chamber could close it even tighter Disrupting our social media echo chambers with an opposing view may seem like the best way to reduce political polarization. But sociologist Christopher Bail from Duke University found it can actually entrench people's views and opinions even more. Be it resolved that your next debating opponent may be ... beyond human! Can AI be taught to mount a convincing argument ... with no time to prepare? IBM's Project Debate AI is focused on building a conversational artificial intelligence capable of engaging in continuous, stimulated debate. This week, it lost in a debate with Harish Natarajan, a World Universities Debating Championships Grand Finalist. Harish tells Spark host Nora Young what it was like to debate and defeat an artificial intelligence. It's okay to cry on Instagram On Instagram, it can often seem like people are displaying an art directed, perfectly lit, ideal version of their lives. But now some see it as a place to reveal their full selves -- tears, warts and all. Aimee Morrison, an associate professor of English and Literature at the University of Waterloo, talks about what she thinks is behind this trend. Reclaiming boredom in digital culture Boredom is, well, boring. But it plays an important role for us. Boredom can open us up to the question of meaning and other deeply philosophical perspectives. But today, we look for a way out of boredom by endlessly scrolling and swiping. In his new book, philosopher Mark Kingwell argues that we're in a political economy of 'neoliberal boredom' fueled by our digital devices.

Download The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Seven: Mixed Emotions
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The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Six: Sound and Music

Conserve The Sound preserves the sound Daniel Chun and Jan Derksen run a film design and communication firm, based in Germany. But they're also interested in preserving vanishing and endangered sounds. They created Conserve the Sound, an online museum of vintage sounds. From rotary dial phones to a Polaroid cameras, the site documents sounds from the past before they completely disappear from our daily life. How an AI can help you play piano like Glenn Gould Piano Genie works using a neural network to create a predictive algorithm. Instead of predicting what word you're likely to type next, it predicts what note typically follows the notes that you have played already. It does this based on a database of classical music it has been trained on. How to find humpback whale songs using AI Oceanographic researchers collected hundreds-of-thousands of hours of underwater recordings to study humpback whales in the South Pacific. But sifting through it to isolate whale calls would take about 19 years. That's why Google comes teamed up with the N.O.A.A. to help out. Research Oceanographer Ann Allen, describes how machine learning is now helping researchers sift through this sea of audio data to help them track whale populations. Cheese that's been exposed to music tastes different One cheese wheel listened to "The Magic Flute". One to "Stairway to Heaven" and another got A Tribe Called Quest's "Jazz (We've Got)." Yet another cheese just hung out in silence. Swiss cheesemaker Beat Wampfler tells Spark host Nora Young why he played a 24-hour loop of music to wheels of cheese and whether it had an impact on the flavour. Is there a playlist in your DNA? Music streaming giants are removing the curator and replacing it with data — and not just any data — your DNA. Spotify and Ancestry are teaming up to provide consumers with playlists curated by a users DNA and ethnic lineage. Deezer researchers used AI to curate playlists based on mood. But critics, like Toronto-based music journalists Eric Zaworski and Sajae Elder, think it might be kind of creepy and an invasion of privacy.

Download The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Six: Sound and Music
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The Spark Guide to Life, Episode Five: Ethics

Why it's wrong to take pictures of strangers You see it all the time on social media. Someone sees another person doing something stupid or looking ridiculous. They take a discreet photo and post the stranger's image to their feed, usually to the amusement and occasional mockery of their followers. With the ubiquity of smartphone cameras, you can do this, but should you? Lauren Cagle argues "surveilling strangers" amounts to policing people's behaviour and limiting our own ability to explore our identity. Restaurants need to meet set standards, why not tech platforms? Following Facebook's most recent data breach, many have suggested that tech giants like social media platforms should be regulated as 'information fiduciaries' and act in the best interests of their users. Jonathan Zittrain, Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, discusses what that would look like for platforms like Facebook. Why Computer Science Students Need Mandatory Ethics Shannon Vallor teaches ethics and emerging technology at Santa Clara University. Her classes typically have lots of computer science and engineering students in them, and it may be the only real ethical training they get. These days, they are clamouring for more ethics education. Why Canadian universities need to teach computer science ethics By and large, computer science programs in Canada don't require students to take ethics courses. As we hurtle into an era of artificial intelligence, Catherine Stinson argues we need to make ethics mandatory in university. Neural networks that power AI systems largely came from Canada Canada has become a centre for AI research thanks work being done here on neural networks, which use some of the ideas from neuroscience to help computers learn. One of the researchers behind these systems is Universite de Montreal professor, Yoshua Bengio. In a sit down with Spark host Nora Young, Bengio explains how the research developed, where it is going, and some of the dangers AI could pose.

Download The Spark Guide to Life, Episode Five: Ethics
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The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Four: Groceries!

A fake grocery store helps us learn about the real thing At the University of Guelph, there a laboratory made to look like a grocery store. Cameras watch the shoppers as they move down the aisles and special headsets track the movements of their eyes. The Food Retail Lab is run by Mike Von Massow, a food economist and professor at the University of Guelph. He explains some of the tech being used in grocery stores, and how we can expect that tech to affect us. Why self checkout machines stick around, even if you hate them Self checkout machines are sometimes a last resort for shoppers, but stores keep pushing them. Researchers Madeleine Clare Elish and Alexandra Mateescu tell us about their report, AI in Context: The Labor of Integrating New Technologies, and how self checkout machines affect grocery workers. Why we don't get groceries delivered. And why we are starting to. Time was, you'd drive to a sprawling grocery store and fill up your car with food for a few weeks. But in dense urban centres with few cars, grocery delivery is becoming more popular. Retail marketing expert Patricia Vekich Waldron explains what's at stake (steak?) when it comes to getting foodstuffs to your doorstep. "Zero-waste" grocery stores are taking off From Brooklyn, Sicily, Malaysia, South Africa, Vancouver and Toronto-- a growing number of supermarkets are selling food without packaging in an effort to curb the toll of plastic on the environment. Journalist Emily Matchar sheds light on how a growing number of supermarkets are selling food without packaging in an effort to curb the toll of plastic on the environment.

Download The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Four: Groceries!
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The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Three: Health

With the growth in wearable technology, not to mention smartphone apps, it's easier than ever to count steps, monitor heart rate and more. But do all those scores really help us understand ourselves and our health? Holly Witteman is an associate professor in the department of family and emergency medicine at Laval University in Quebec City. She also has type 1 diabetes, and now uses a continuous glucose monitor. Bill Buxton, design thinker and Principal Researcher with Microsoft Research, argues that designers need to spend more time to help us learn to listen to our bodies, not just pump out stats. Researcher Sheng Xu and his team have designed a flexible electronic patch, about the size of a postage stamp, that can measure blood pressure. It can potentially be used to easily monitor patients at risk of a heart attack. It also points to a future of non-invasive tools for continuous health monitoring. Wearable sensors are for more than just tracking daily footsteps. They can help with monitoring early signs of medical conditions. Rosalind Picard, from MIT's Media Lab, works in affective computing: designing systems that can read human emotions. Nutrition advice is often one-size-fits-all. But nutrigenetics, or nutrigenomics promises a more customized nutrition plan. Dylan Mackay is a nutritional biochemist at the University of Manitoba. Ahmed El-Sohemy is professor in nutritional sciences at University of Toronto, and the founder of Nutrigenomix which offers genetic testing for personal nutrition. We want to dig in on their research and differing views on this topic to help you make up your own mind.

Download The Spark Guide To Life, Episode Three: Health
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The Spark Guide to Life, Episode Two: Work Productivity

The argument for Inbox Infinity Andre Spicer talks about the allure of abandoning the idea of "inbox zero" and just letting the messages stack up How to tidy up your personal tech, Marie Kondo-style Brian X. Chen shares his tips about tidying up your technology physically and digitally, Marie Kondo-style. An office cubicle that's just like you? We're all different so why can't our office cubicles reflect our personality? A Toronto design firm, has created a flexible, pop-up workspace that can be reconfigured according to a person's workplace personality. Architect and SDI Design Creative Director Noam Hazan discusses how it works. Productivity is Counterproductive The focus on workplace efficiency and systemized time management goes back to the turn of the last century, but in today's tech-driven world, it has become a badge of honour, an obsession that prioritizes individual mastery of activity over the actual meaning of work. In her new book, Counterproductive, Melissa Gregg argues it isolates us and takes the politics out of work. Procrastinating? You need a boss! Being self-employed can be great, but it can also be easy to procrastinate, especially if you work at home. The solution? Pay a fee for a boss to make sure you stick to deadlines! Manasvini Krishna is a software developer. She designed Boss as a Service to help people get more done in a day.

Download The Spark Guide to Life, Episode Two: Work Productivity
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The Spark Guide to Life, Episode One: Transportation

How Uber makes traffic worse Last summer, New York City capped the number of Uber and Lyft drivers allowed on city streets, and London, UK is considering doing the same. It's an attempt to manage congestion. But wasn't ride-sharing supposed to reduce congestion? Transportation planning expert Bruce Schaller explains how it has actually made things worse. The evolution of airport design They might bright and modernist, or dark and brutalist. But one problem all airport designers have to deal with is the sheer distance people have to get through between the check-in counter and the departure gate. Janet Bednarek is an aviation and design historian—and she explains the challenges that still exist in designing the modern airport. Are we driving cars or are cars driving us? With everything from car subscriptions to scooter sharing, we're still stuck in traffic. Gabe Klein is the former Transportation Commissioner for Chicago & Washington D.C. believes our relationship with the car has to change — and that technology may be the driving force to change it.

Download The Spark Guide to Life, Episode One: Transportation
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Spark 444: Autonomous boats. AI-designed fashion. Cracking the creativity code.

Autonomous cars are still a ways off⁠—but autonomous boats are in Amerstdam's canals. In his new book, The Creativity Code, Marcus du Sautoy looks at the state of the art in AI creativity. Introducing GLITCH, the world's first AI fashion brand.

Download Spark 444: Autonomous boats. AI-designed fashion. Cracking the creativity code.
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Spark 443: Smart home security, profiling and privacy. Empowering trans people in tech. Messaging app overload. The ever-evolving synthesizer.

How smart home security could have real impacts on privacy, racial profiling. Empowering trans people with technical and digital skills. The evolution of the syntheszier. The cognitive cost of communications bloat.

Download Spark 443: Smart home security, profiling and privacy. Empowering trans people in tech. Messaging app overload. The ever-evolving synthesizer.
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Spark 442: AI and comedy, pairing beauty tutorials with cybersecurity, and North Face turns Wikipedia images into ads

Teaching AI about human comedy. Pairing online security tips with beauty tutorials. Photo swapping marketing stunt crosses Wikipedia line.

Download Spark 442: AI and comedy, pairing beauty tutorials with cybersecurity, and North Face turns Wikipedia images into ads
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Spark 441: Drone organ delivery, AI investor liability, 5G networks and weather forecasting, does Yelp help?

A surgeon develops a drone to deliver organs for transplant. If an AI trader makes a mistake, who is responsible? How 5G networks could mess up meteorology. Is Yelp creating a surveillance state for restaurant workers?

Download Spark 441: Drone organ delivery, AI investor liability, 5G networks and weather forecasting, does Yelp help?
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Spark 440: Designing better bikes, YouTube's carbon footprint, life in a gamer house, and the culture of coders.

A 200-year-old bicycle inspires design for climate change. A simple fix for the huge carbon footprint of YouTube videos. Video games and ramen noodles: A look inside an esports team house. The surprising ways coders shape our lives.

Download Spark 440: Designing better bikes, YouTube's carbon footprint, life in a gamer house, and the culture of coders.
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Spark 439: Innovation award restored after accusations of sexism, safety and privacy in smart prisons, Windows Solitaire, and Ian McEwan's new book about an AI love triangle

Booker-prize-winning author Ian McEwan talks about AI and his latest book, Machines Like Me. CES restores its 'Innovation Award' to women's pleasure product, The Osé. And are 'smart' prisons necessary for safety, or an invasion of privacy?

Download Spark 439: Innovation award restored after accusations of sexism, safety and privacy in smart prisons, Windows Solitaire, and Ian McEwan's new book about an AI love triangle
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Spark 438 : Robo umpires, the first AI-designed sport, spy plane archeology, and the internet gets a health check-up

MLB umpires need tech help at the plate, says researcher. Introducing Speedgate: the world's first AI-designed sport. Cold War spy plane images illustrate human development-and destruction. The health of the internet in 2019: Deepfakes, biased AI and addiction by design.

Download Spark 438 : Robo umpires, the first AI-designed sport, spy plane archeology, and the internet gets a health check-up
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Spark 437: Mental-health stigma in tech, therapy games in Nunavut, here comes WiFi6, and reclaiming boredom from our devices

Ryerson's DMZ breaks the stigma around mental health in startup culture. Kids in Nunavut use role-playing computer games to manage depression. What we can expect from "Wifi 6." And philosopher Mark Kingwell reclaims boredom in his new book, "Wish I Was Here."

Download Spark 437: Mental-health stigma in tech, therapy games in Nunavut, here comes WiFi6, and reclaiming boredom from our devices
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Spark 436: Smart cities

From Stockholm to Sidewalk Labs, smart-city technology is rapidly expanding. Sensors embedded in roads, video surveillance, and connected devices everywhere. Will this make urban life a utopian dream, or privacy nightmare? In a special edition of Spark, Nora Young speaks to urban design experts, community leaders and academics to see what the city of the future might look like.

Download Spark 436: Smart cities
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Spark 435: Playing music to cheese, the power of emoji, the value of our free services, and Canadian stars of AI research.

Cheese wheels bombarded by music taste different. New doc looks at the evolution of emoji. Study suggests cash values for 'free' digital services. From neuroscience to neural nets, Canadian researchers are on the vanguard of AI.

Download Spark 435: Playing music to cheese, the power of emoji, the value of our free services, and Canadian stars of AI research.
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Spark 434: Taking things apart, selling our own data, tricking AI to do the wrong thing, and a gender-inclusive stock photo library that goes beyond clichés

Why we shouldn't be afraid to take our tech apart. AI can be easily fooled and this could have serious implications. Sell your own data instead of giving it away to big tech. New stock photo collection features trans and non-binary models.

Download Spark 434: Taking things apart, selling our own data, tricking AI to do the wrong thing, and a gender-inclusive stock photo library that goes beyond clichés
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Spark 433: Smart homes getting smarter. Cybersecurity's reliance on AI. The art market embraces AI creators. How Wikidata aims to catalogue everything.

How the smart home might imprison us, AI and the war on cybersecurity, whether an AI can be an artistic collaborator, and Wikidata's catalogue of the universe.

Download Spark 433: Smart homes getting smarter. Cybersecurity's reliance on AI. The art market embraces AI creators. How Wikidata aims to catalogue everything.
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FIXED Spark 433: Smart homes getting smarter. Cybersecurity's reliance on AI. The art market embraces AI creators. How Wikidata aims to catalogue everything.

How the smart home might imprison us, AI and the war on cybersecurity, whether an AI can be an artistic collaborator, and Wikidata's catalogue of the universe.

Download FIXED Spark 433: Smart homes getting smarter. Cybersecurity's reliance on AI. The art market embraces AI creators. How Wikidata aims to catalogue everything.
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Spark 432: Grocery store technology

Tech at the Food Retail Lab, the impact of self checkout, grocery delivery services, and reducing food waste.

Download Spark 432: Grocery store technology
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Spark 431: The quest for immortality, designing for seniors, Google gets into the gaming game, your genome and privacy

The quest for immortality through extreme fasting and radical life extension. Designing tech for the older crowd. Google's new streaming service aims to be Netflix for gaming. Your genome could be a privacy nightmare.

Download Spark 431: The quest for immortality, designing for seniors, Google gets into the gaming game, your genome and privacy
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Spark 430: Surveilling strangers, social media data can set insurance rates, Girl Guides and Scouts now earn STEM badges, online habits of people in the developing world

The ethics of posting photos of strangers online. How social media data could be used to set your insurance rates. The Girl Scouts introduce a 'cybersecurity' badge. New research shows online habits of people in the developing world aren't that different from ours.

Download Spark 430: Surveilling strangers, social media data can set insurance rates, Girl Guides and Scouts now earn STEM badges, online habits of people in the developing world
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Spark 429: Designing a safer YouTube, self-harm on social media, an embroidered computer and how to embrace your 'inner elder' at work

From the so-called Momo Challenge to secret, illegal content exchanged in comments, YouTube is facing huge challenges in moderating its content. If we could redesign it, how could it be safer? Earlier this year, Facebook and Instagram announced they would remove or censor images of self-injury or self-harm. But some say that could harm those recovering and wanting to share their experiences. Artist Irene Posch has designed an embroidery 8 bit computer using historic patterns of gold embroidery and beads. In Silicon Valley years, you're considered old once you hit middle age. A luxury retreat centre in Mexico is a place for middle-aged participants to share their experiences dealing with ageism in the workplace.

Download Spark 429: Designing a safer YouTube, self-harm on social media, an embroidered computer and how to embrace your 'inner elder' at work
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Spark 428: A special look at some surprising, and scary, uses for Artificial Intelligence.

Algorithms that set the price of things online are becoming more common. But what happens if those price-setting algorithms get together? Collusion. Beer-makers around the world are now using machine learning to optimise beer recipes. New approaches to AI mean computers are getting much better at creating things that can trick us. Thanks to open source software anyone can create video and images of people that Do. Not. Exist. How do they do it, and what does this mean for our ability to tell what's real anymore?

Download Spark 428: A special look at some surprising, and scary, uses for Artificial Intelligence.
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