Japan on brink of deflation; Worrying over a robot uprising; Pilot on a suicidal mission

1 Japan on brink of deflation (BBC) Annual core consumer inflation in Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, stopped rising for the first time in nearly two years in February. The core consumer price index (CPI) was flat from a year ago, stripping out the effect of last year’s sales tax increase in April. The last time the core CPI did not rise was in May 2013, when it was flat.

The latest figures are moving further away from the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) inflation target of 2%. Japan’s economy came out of a recession in the fourth quarter of last year, but its recovery remains fragile on sluggish household and business spending. Economists said the data put more pressure on the central bank to expand its monetary policy as falling oil prices keep inflation subdued.

The unemployment rate, however, fell to 3.5% in the same time period – close to what economists see as full employment. Jasper Koll, head of research at JP Morgan, viewed the data as “good deflation” saying that the good news was prices in Japan were coming down while wages were going up.

2 Worrying over a robot uprising (Marcus Gilmer in San Francisco Chronicle) As artificial intelligence continues to evolve, it’s no wonder that some of us are getting a little worried about just how advanced it’s getting: when will AI outstrip our own? Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk is now expressing similar concern.

In a radio program, Musk discussed the advancements in artificial intelligence over the years and expressed his own concern with its growing power. Musk warned that once robots reached the stage of “superintelligence,” they’ll simply overpower humans and keep them “like a pet labrador if we’re lucky.”
Musk’s concerns echo those that Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak made in a recent interview: Like people including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have predicted, I agree that the future is scary and very bad for people. If we build these devices to take care of everything for us, eventually they’ll think faster than us and they’ll get rid of the slow humans to run companies more efficiently.

Bill Gates expressed his concern earlier this year: I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.

Of course, the warnings require the usual grain of salt. While expressing all those concerns, Musk seems pretty comfortable pushing his own cars to the forefront of autonomous driving. And there are plenty of smart people who say the fears are overblown.


3 Pilot on a suicidal mission (Khaleej Times) If the testimony with reference to the Germanwings crash is to be believed, there couldn’t be a more disgusting episode in the history of aviation. The very belief that the co-pilot of the ill-fated flight wanted to deliberately destroy the aircraft, and went ahead with his intentions, has opened a Pandora’s Box over the scheme of things that would come under suspicion on each and every flight.

As per stated records and bona fides available with the German airline, Andreas Lubitz – the co-pilot, was no extremist and was a promising professional. The biggest question, however, that should be asked is that when the authorities kept on monitoring that there wasn’t any response from the cockpit for more than 10 minutes, they should take extraordinary measures, such as flying a sortie from the air force to ensure that nothing is terribly wrong.

The findings from the Black Box, which proves that the pilot was locked out and the co-pilot had his way till the aircraft carrying 144 passengers and crew was doomed over the French Alps, raises questions of security and safety in similar circumstances.

A crude question that could be posed is that if the cockpit is taken over by hijackers or terrorists, there should be a parallel ground contact system from the tail of the aircraft – and the crew and flight commandoes should be aware of it. This question can lead to many discoveries and a debate over its merits and demerits. But there is no harm in it. This tragedy could have been avoided had there been some critical thinking undertaken at the spot of time. Such deliberate-suicidal acts from the cabin personnel fall in the gambit of crimes against humanity.



About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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