The Daily Dose: Worrying trends in South America continue; AI improvements really don’t improve much

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South America has steadily become the new COVID-19 epicenter (for now) and Brazil is leading the way thanks to feckless and incompetent leadership. As per the New York Times, “The death toll in Brazil, Latin America’s largest country, passed 30,000 on Tuesday, when officials reported 1,262 deaths, which was the nation’s highest one-day total. President Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly minimized the threat of the virus, said, “We are sorry for all the dead, but that’s everyone’s destiny.” Brazil now has more than half a million known cases, second only to the United States.” The country is by no means the only South American country suffering from significant COVID-19 infections, but it is the largest. This does not bode well for surrounding regions or the world, for that matter. https://nyti.ms/3dxc6vf

Prisons and immigrant detainee facilities are being ravaged by the coronavirus and very little is being done about it. The conditions are human rights violations that need to be rectified, not just for the internal populations but also for surrounding communities. According to the New York Times, “Across the United States, when the virus has hit carceral facilities, it has spread ferociously. In one Ohio prison, a staff member tested positive for Covid-19 on March 29; a month later, around 2,000 inmates at the facility had tested positive; as of May 28, 14 people had died. For months in ICE’s detention centers, nobody really knew how many immigrant detainees had Covid-19, because the agency was scarcely testing, even as public-health experts warned of a pending crisis.” One way officials seem to be trying address the problem? Speed up deportations. We’ve got no words for this. https://nyti.ms/305beKk

If it seems like Artificial Intelligence is improving by leaps and bounds, it’s probably just an illusion. A team of researchers investigated just how much AI is growing. Turns out, not by much. As per Science, “The researchers evaluated 81 pruning algorithms, programs that make neural networks more efficient by trimming unneeded connections. All claimed superiority in slightly different ways. But they were rarely compared properly—and when the researchers tried to evaluate them side by side, there was no clear evidence of performance improvements over a 10-year period.” Just some anecdotal evidence: SIRI seems to be forgetting everything it’s learned during the past few years. https://bit.ly/2BuWEBv

The countdown to the newest NASA mission to Mars is approaching the launch date. This trip is the most ambitious to date and a lot is riding on the newest rover, Perseverance, being able not just collect Martian ground samples, but also make sure they get back to earth. An opinion piece in space.com goes over the mission’s objectives. “The mission of this new rover is several-fold. Its primary and unique purpose is to collect samples that a future spacecraft can return to Earth. Every time a rover goes to Mars, it just stays there, with no way to fly back home. So we have never brought rock or soil samples back from Mars. This mission proposes to change that. According to the current concept, the process will actually take three different spacecraft: Perseverance starts by collecting the samples over a period of several years, a second mission is to land on Mars with a rocket to launch those samples into orbit around Mars, and a third would get the samples out of low Mars orbit, back into interplanetary space, and back home to Earth.” https://bit.ly/2zRjq6o

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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