Google's driverless cars are already legal in three US states, California, Florida and Nevada. The assumption is that at some point these vehicles will drive better and more safely than we can, but as Marcus says what we really need are machines that can make value judgements as well as technical ones. For instance, if your self-driving car faces a sudden choice between hitting an errant schoolbus carrying 40 children or plunging over a ravine and potentially killing only you, what should it do?
If asked to name a career that would guarantee an A-list celebrity lifestyle, chances are that teaching wouldn’t feature highly (if at all) on your list. In Hong Kong, it’s a different matter, though. Tutors in sophisticated hair-dos and designer clothes are treated like idols by young fans who flock to their classes. The phenomenon is a result of the huge growth in out-of-school tutoring in Asia, but their success isn’t just down to teachers’ brainpower. “If you want to be a top tutor, it definitely helps if you are young and attractive," says one so-called “tutor queen”.
Like Benjamin Button, a species of Turritopsis does something unusual – it appears to age in reverse, growing younger and younger until it reached its earliest stage of development, at which point it begins its life cycle again. The idea that the secret to human immortality lies within this jellyfish is somewhat overstated, its cells may be immortal, but not necessarily the organism itself. But it’s an entertaining read nonetheless, Rich is clearly taken with the story’s protagonist, who by day is an eccentric and engaging Japanese scientist called Shin Kubota, said to be the only scientist in the world who cultivates the creature, but who by night is a karaoke singer and minor celebrity called Mr Immortal Jellyfish Man.
A fascinating and thought-provoking profile of 27-year-old hacker and internet troll Andrew Auernheimer, perhaps better known as "Weev". "I hack, I ruin lives, I make piles of money," says Auernheimer, so-called "iPad hacker", and the man behind the infamous Goatse internet prank (we don’t recommend that you Google this). It’s hard to sympathise with Auernheimer, he’s an abrasive and provocative character. But the case he is being tried of poses a significant dilemma. By discovering that AT&T had accidentally made the email addresses of subscribers to its iPad 3G wireless service publicly accessible, and sending 100,000 of those addresses to the press, is what Auernheimer did criminal hacking or simply exposing a security failure?
On a gentle slope above a trail junction in Sequoia National Park, around 7,000 feet above sea level in the Sierra Nevada, lies a very big tree. It’s a giant sequoia, called the President, and it’s the second largest tree on Earth. Quammen follows a team of scientists, who have learned surprising new facts about giant sequoias by climbing and measuring them inch by inch. The photograph of the scientists hanging from the President is simply breathtaking, as is Quammen’s description of the elderly monster standing regally in the snow.