Issue #121

This week – bionic Miss America contestant; Bill Gates, Garry Kasparov and Richard Dawkins on AI; on lab-grown meat; biohackers; and more!


More than a human

Former Miss America contestant tries out mind-controlled bionic arm

Meet Nicole Kelly, 2013 Miss Iowa and Miss America contestant, who was born without a left arm and now learns how to use mind-controlled bionic arm.

 

These body hackers have stepped straight out of sci-fi

Every transhuman has an origin story. Photographer David Vintiner and creative director Gem Fletcher collected these stories and told them in the ongoing Transhuman series. Since 2015, the pair have been capturing the biohackers, body modifiers, DIY scientists and academics enhancing human capability beyond our biological limits.

 

Nerve implant ‘restores consciousness’ to man in persistent vegetative state

Stimulation of the vagus nerve with a small implant allows patient who had been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years to track objects with his eyes and respond to simple requests. The doctor who led the therapy said that the patient “is still paralysed, he cannot talk, but he can respond. Now he is more aware.”.

 

Artificial Intelligence

Bill Gates: A.I. will make our lives ‘more productive and creative’

Bill Gates does not see AI as a threat. Instead, he sees AI as a tool that will make us more productive and creative.

 

Garry Kasparov: There’s No Shame in Losing to a Machine

Garry Kasparov, the most famous man to lose to a machine, is not afraid of AI. As he writes in this article, AI will “make us smarter, enabling us to better understand our world and ourselves”.

 

Intel introduces an experimental ‘self-learning’ chip to make robots smarter

Intel has announced that it is experimenting with a new “self-learning” chip that’s designed to learn like the human brain. The chip, called “Intel Loihi test chip”, could be used for an array of AI-intensive applications, but the company says it will be particularly impactful in industrial automation and personal robotics.

 

Richard Dawkins: A.I. Might Run the World Better Than Humans Do

Richard Dawkins discusses AI by starting with a thesis that our brains are not special and everything that we can do can be replicated in silicon, even consciousness and feelings like pain. He ends up with this interesting thought: “It could be said that the sum of not human happiness but the sum of sentient-being happiness might be improved, they might make a better job do a better job of running the world than we are, certainly that we are at present, and so perhaps it might not be a bad thing if we went extinct.”

 

Robotics

Life-Size Humanoid Robot Is Designed to Fall Over (and Over and Over)

“Why do we fall?”, said the robot. “So you can learn to pick yourselves up”, said a team of roboticists from Japan.

 

What intelligent machines can learn from a school of fish

Robotics engineer Radhika Nagpal studies the collective intelligence displayed by insects and fish schools and shows how that knowledge can be applied to the swarms of robots that work together to build flood barriers, pollinate crops, monitor coral reefs and form constellations of satellites.

 

The first autonomous drone delivery network will fly above Switzerland starting next month

Logistics company Matternet has announced a permanent autonomous drone network in Switzerland that will now see lab samples like blood tests and other diagnostics flown between hospital facilities, clinics, and labs. The first delivery network will be operational from next month, with several more to be introduced in the next year. Matternet says medical items can be delivered to hospitals within 30 minutes.

 

Will Robots Take Our Jobs?

In short, yes they will, continuing the trend of humans working less, say Derek Muller from Veritasium, as he explores the vision of the world run by the robots and how to survive in that world.

 

Robot security guard maker Knightscope shows off new multi-terrain model

Knightscope, the creators of K5 – that Dalek-like looking security robot, introduced new robots in the lineup – the K1 stationary bot and the K7 buggy. The immobilie K1 uses millimeter-wave technology to scan for concealed weapons and other metal items. The K7 is designed to patrol grass, gravel, sand, and other tricky terrain.

 

Biotechnology

DNA surgery on embryos removes disease

Chinese researchers did it again. They modified human embryos to remove the gene responsible for beta-thalassemia – a potentially life-threatening blood disorder.

 

Bioforming and Gene Tailoring

Isaac Arthur discusses the power of gene editing, and then goes wild with the ideas what we can do with it. It’s worth watching. Some of these ideas might change how you see genetic engineering and biotechnology.

 

Could lab-grown fish and meat feed the world – without killing a single animal?

The Guardian explores the startups that promise to produce meat without animals.