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Technology

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In his new novel Origin, Dan Brown (most famous for The Da Vinci Code), describes his protagonist Robert Langdon's approach to the conundrum of students' devotion to personal tech devices in the classroom.

Langdon is, Brown writes, "one of several Harvard professors who now used portable cell-jamming technology to render their lecture halls 'dead zones' and keep students off their devices during class."

A year after a computer beat a human world champion in the ancient strategy game of Go, researchers say they have constructed an even stronger version of the program — one that can teach itself without the benefit of human knowledge.

The program, known as AlphaGo Zero, became a Go master in just three days by playing 4.9 million games against itself in quick succession.

For people with diabetes, keeping blood sugar levels in a normal range – not too high or too low – is a lifelong challenge. New technologies to ease the burden are emerging rapidly, but insurance reimbursement challenges, supply shortages, and shifting competition make it tough for patients to access them quickly.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a wall in Greg LeRoy's office is a frame with a custom-engraved wrench and a photo of workers in front of the Diamond Tool and Horseshoe factory in Duluth, Minn. It's from his days helping unions fight plant closings — when he first started digging into the convoluted financial relationship of corporations and local governments.

These days, LeRoy is the guy to call if you want to know about corporate subsidies. Lately, his phone has been ringing about one company in particular: Amazon.

Two years ago an American robotics company challenged a Japanese robotics company to a duel.

Their weapons of choice? Giant robots.

This long-awaited match between the monstrous robots — built by MegaBots Inc. of the U.S. and by Suidobashi Heavy Industry of Japan — will be broadcast on Tuesday via the online steaming site, Twitch. It's billed as the "first ever giant robot fight."

Sixteen years ago, a Seattle-based company said it planned to move its headquarters to the city that would make it the best deal.

The company was Boeing and it ultimately chose Chicago over finalists Dallas and Denver.

Now, another Seattle company, Amazon, wants to open a second headquarters elsewhere in North America. This time, Denver's leaders are determined to avoid a repeat of the experience with Boeing.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This archipelago in the Gulf of Alaska is home to one of the busiest commercial fishing ports in the country. Inside the Ocean Beauty seafood plant in Kodiak, where a maze of conveyer belts carry gutted salmon past workers in hairnets and gloves, manager James Turner ticks off everything that contributes to his monthly electricity bill: canning machines, pressure cookers, freezers lights.

"We use a lot of power here," he says.

This week in the Russia investigations: Facebook hits Washington with a P.R. blitz, the imbroglio sucks in more tech giants and the White House weighs how nicely — or rudely — to treat Robert Mueller.

Sandberg leans in to damage control mode

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is a billionaire titan of Big Tech who looks down on the world from the peak of empire — but she tried to sound as contrite as she could this week in Washington.

Part 4 of the TED Radio Hour episode Manipulation.

About Steve Ramirez's TED Talk

Neuroscientist Steve Ramirez used lasers to enter the brains of mice and edit their memories. He imagines a future where this technology might be possible in humans as well.

About Steve Ramirez

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Manipulation.

About Ali Velshi's TED Talk

Journalist Ali Velshi began his career to "speak truth to power." Now he worries that fake news has subverted the meaning of truth.

About Ali Velshi

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Manipulation.

About Tristan Harris's TED Talk

When Tristan Harris worked in Silicon Valley, his job was to direct users online to a particular website or service. Now, he speaks out against tech companies who manipulate their users' attention.

About Tristan Harris

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The embattled company Equifax is having even more trouble with hackers. Now the company has had to take down one of its web pages after it was reported to be prompting people to download malicious software. NPR's Chris Arnold has more.

Visitors to the Equifax website might have encountered something a little odd Thursday afternoon. For some consumers seeking a credit report from the agency, the page that loaded was likely to disappoint them.

When Hahna Alexander set out to create a shoe that could charge a battery, she had no idea what challenges lay ahead of her.

The inventing part went smoothly enough. Like many first-time inventors, she had a good idea and a passion for her work. She successfully invented a shoe that harnesses energy from each step the wearer takes. That energy can be used to charge a battery.

In director Wes Anderson's film "The Grand Budapest Hotel," the ever-fussy, high-class hotel concierge Gustave H. takes viewers on a rollicking journey around the world. To real-life concierge Jack Nargil of the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C., the film was important for rekindling interest in an old-timey profession that is increasingly under threat by automation and apps. Many millennial hotel guests, he says, still need reminders about what exactly a concierge does, and the film served as a romantic representation of what they can provide.

Shortly before Election Day last year, some helpful-looking posts began popping up on Twitter: No need to stand in line or even leave home, they said — just vote by text!

The messages, some of which appeared to come from Hillary Clinton's campaign, had versions in Spanish, with gay pride flags and other permutations. They were also 100 percent false.

Where did they come from?

A Washington, D.C., judge has significantly narrowed the Justice Department's warrant related to a website used to plan anti-Trump protests during the Inauguration.

Apple is about to close a deal with director Steven Spielberg to revive his Emmy award-winning series Amazing Stories for Apple TV. With it, Apple is entering a world in which Netflix has been a leader. But now, new competitors to Netflix are emerging at a surprising speed.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In this week's All Tech Considered, we look at technology in cars.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Many leading AI researchers think that in a matter of decades, artificial intelligence will be able to do not merely some of our jobs, but all of our jobs, forever transforming life on Earth.

The reason that many dismiss this as science fiction is that we've traditionally thought of intelligence as something mysterious that can only exist in biological organisms, especially humans. But such carbon chauvinism is unscientific.

This week in the Russia investigations: A progress report — sort of — from the Senate Intelligence Committee; Robert Mueller meets the author of the dossier; and Donald Trump Jr. may have a date on Capitol Hill.

In a few months, AOL Instant Messenger will go the way of such tech touchstones as AltaVista and Netscape. It was 20 years ago that "AIM" went online. It quickly exploded in popularity, peaked and then slowly succumbed to competitors.

For many of us, AIM conjures up memories of dial-up modems, the sound of a "handshake" and the phrase "You've Got Mail."

Every day, we are inching closer to some kind of artificial intelligence.

At this point, it isn't so important whether we're talking about truly self-conscious machines or not. Advances in big data, machine learning and robotics are all poised to give us a world in which computers are effectively intelligent in terms of how we deal with them.

Should you be scared by this proposition? Based on a lecture I just attended, my answer is: "absolutely, but not in the usual 'robot overlords' kind of way."

Austin Rogers is not your typical Jeopardy! champion.

Sure, he's got brains — answering rapid-fire trivia in the form of a question to the tune of $278,000 in winnings.

Russian hackers stole top secret cybertools from a National Security Agency contractor in yet another embarrassing compromise for U.S. spy agencies, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The NSA contractor is believed to have taken highly sensitive official software home to a personal computer in 2015. His machine was running a Russian security program made by Kaspersky Labs, which can be exploited by Russia's intelligence agencies, the Journal reported.

Artificial intelligence is the subject of great hopes, dire warnings, and now — a congressional caucus.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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