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Are computers getting too smart? Giant snails take over and farewell to WLRN's Keys Reporter

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(AP Photo/Ismael Francisco, File)
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FILE - A rout of giant African snails gather on Aug. 28, 2019, in a corner in Havana, Cuba. Invasive giant African land snails that can eat building plaster and stucco, consume hundreds of varieties of plants and carry diseases that affect humans have been detected once again in Florida, where officials said Thursday, July 7, 2022, work has begun to eradicate the pests.

A UM professor working with artificial intelligence discusses the possibility of our computers growing conscious. Also, we look at the giant African land snail for Wildlife Thursday. And we say goodbye to one of our own — WLRN Keys reporter Nan Klingener is moving on to new adventures.

On this Thursday, July 14, edition of Sundial:

Are computers getting too smart? 

Last week, a Google engineer was put on leave after he claimed that the company’s artificial intelligence became sentient. Picture something along the lines of, HAL, from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Google denies this. In a statement officials at the company said, “systems imitated conversational exchanges and could riff on different topics, but did not have consciousness.”

Lokesh Ramamoorthi is a lecturer in software engineering and cybersecurity and an Academic Innovation Fellow at the College of Engineering at the University of Miami. He joined Sundial Thursday to explain just how much of these claims, and possibilities for the future, are real versus science fiction.

"Computers are getting smarter, I would say, every day. A lot of researchers and engineers are working to improve the capabilities of what computers can do," he said. "Every field has a lot of challenges and they rely on computers to perform advanced calculations, advanced learning to solve their problems, be it medicine or e-commerce or supply chain. Anything you expect."

Are computers getting TOO smart?
Artificial intelligence brain by particle form.

Giant snails take over Wildlife Thursday 

Here in Florida we are used to our wildlife making headlines. The most recent culprit is the giant African land snail.

Just the look of these slimy creatures will give you the chills. But it’s not just their size and slime. The invasive species can spread viral infections.

It was eradicated from South Florida last year. But just recently, it was found in Pasco County, which is north of Tampa. It sent the residents in the area into quarantine.

Dr. William Kern is an Associate Professor at the Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center of the University of Florida. He specializes in nuisance wildlife management and joined Sundial to discuss the pesky critters.

Giant snails take over Wildlife Thursday
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Goodbye to WLRN's Keys Reporter 

For many in South Florida, Nancy Klingener's voice is the Florida Keys.

She has been WLRN's Keys Reporter full-time since 2015, covering our region’s southernmost point.

Now we are here to say goodbye. She joined Sundial to go down memory lane through some of her pieces.

On one of her earliest pieces about the Key West holiday parade

“I just pitched them [WLRN] a sort of radio essay, a letter from Key West, and I didn't have any idea how to make radio. They mailed me down a little Edirol recorder and explained to me how to use it. And I went out to our annual holiday parade and got some sound… And that was my first one, and it's still one of my favorite stories just because I love that parade so much.”

On her work covering Hurricane Irma 

"I just felt like if this incredibly important and major thing was going to happen to my home and my beat, I should be there to witness it."

On the case of the (not so) missing flamingoes

"That story was really special to me because my dad, who died in 1995, would have loved it. He was a zoologist and curator of a zoology collection and a huge reader of history, and all of that stuff came into this story," she said. "History and collections and figuring out what was going on with these incredible animals. And it sort of just really made me wish that he could have heard it. But it also just made me really happy to tell a story that I knew he would have absolutely loved."

On coming down to The Keys to work for the Miami Herald 

"I came down in 1991. It was sort of a legendary bureau, and I expected to spend maybe two or three years here. But like so many people, including a lot of those who do come on vacation, I just fell in love with the place. And I just thought, you know, if you can live in a small town that's never boring that's my kind of place."

Goodbye to WLRN's Keys Reporter
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Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.
Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, produces WLRN's midday public affairs program, Sundial weekdays at 1 and 8 p.m. Prior to transitioning to production, Caitie covered news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News for four years.