Issue #129

This week – Atlas does backflips; a man injects himself an untested gene therapy; making AI explain themselves; fire alarm for AGI; an interview with George Church; banning the killer robots; and more!


More than a human

Why I injected myself with an untested gene therapy

Meet Tristan Roberts – a 28-year-old computer programmer who injected himself an untested gene therapy live on Facebook to cure HIV. Some people applauded him, others thought what he had done and how he did it is dangerous.

 

Exoskeletons won’t turn assembly line workers into Iron Man

Exoskeletons are here but they don’t look like Iron Man’s armour nor they give superhuman strength. Instead, real-life exoskeletons are designed to relieve stress on factory workers and make their job safer.

 

Scientists Call Out Ethical Concerns for the Future of Neurotechnology

For some die-hard tech evangelists, using neural interfaces to merge with AI is the inevitable next step in humankind’s evolution. But a group of 27 neuroscientists, ethicists, and machine learning experts have highlighted the myriad ethical pitfalls that could be waiting. “Such advances could revolutionize the treatment of many conditions… and transform human experience for the better,” they write. “But the technology could also exacerbate social inequalities and offer corporations, hackers, governments, or anyone else new ways to exploit and manipulate people. And it could profoundly alter some core human characteristics: private mental life, individual agency, and an understanding of individuals as entities bound by their bodies.”

 

Artificial Intelligence

Can AI Be Taught to Explain Itself?

As machine learning becomes more powerful, the field’s researchers increasingly find themselves unable to account for what their algorithms know — or how they know it. This problem is known as a Black Box Problem and basically boils down to figuring out what caused a machine learning to return a specific result. Solving this problem will make AIs more transparent, safer and will let us better understand how they work.

 

Artificial intelligence is attempting to write the next ‘Game of Thrones’ book

Someone did not want to wait for G.R.R. Martin to publish the next book or for HBO to release the next season of Game of Thrones and used an AI to generate next five chapters of the Song of Ice and Fire. We need to wait to check how close AI was.

 

Regulation Of AI: Not If But When And How

Another voice calling for regulating AI, this time from RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce). It says regulating AI is a way to ensure “fairness and human safety” but it also mentions “putting the brakes on technological progress”.

 

There’s No Fire Alarm for Artificial General Intelligence

Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote this article a year ago but I think it is worth to take another look at it. In this article, Yudkowsky ponders how humans are bad at estimating technological progress and predicting the future in the context of creating Artificial General Intelligence and that is very likely its arrival will take humanity by surprise.

 

Robotics

What have you been up to lately, Atlas?

“Oh, nothing special. Just jumping and doing backflips. You know, I’m a robot that does parkour now.”

 

Boston Dynamics CEO Believes Robotics Will Become “Bigger Than the Internet”

According to Boston Dynamics CEO and founder Marc Raibert, robots will shake things up for humanity more so than any previous technological innovation — even the internet. “The Internet lets every person reach out and touch all the information in the world. But robotics lets you reach out and touch and manipulate all the stuff in the world — and so it is not just restricted to information, it is everything”, he said.

 

The United Nations is Considering a Possible Ban on “Killer Robots”

Representatives from countries around the world met on Nov. 18 to discuss weapons systems at the United Nations’ Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW). One point of particular interest at the meeting was a call by 22 nations to place an outright ban on the development and utilization of automated weapons, also known as “killer robots.”

 

‘Robots are not taking over,’ says head of UN body on autonomous weapons

“Ladies and gentlemen, I have news for you: the robots are not taking over the world. Humans are still in charge,” said India’s disarmament ambassador, Amandeep Gill, who chaired the United Nations’ Convention on Conventional Weapons meeting. “I think we have to be careful in not emotionalising or dramatising this issue,” he told reporters in response to criticism about the speed of the conference’s work.

 

Chinese robot becomes world’s first machine to pass medical exam

A robot has passed the written test of China’s national medical licensing examination, an essential entrance exam for doctors, making it the first robot in the world to pass such an exam.

 

Biotechnology

George Church Will Make Virus-Resistant Organisms, Transplant Pig Organs to Humans, and Reverse Aging

Here’s a rather long interview with George Church, the pioneer of genetic engineering. Church talks about mapping human intelligence into a machine, CRISPR, precision medicine, citizen science and curing ageing.

New Zealand May Use Genetic Tech to Wipe Out “Undesirable” Species

New Zealand is considering gene drives as a tool to reduce the population of pests like rats, mice, stoats, and possums — if not eliminating them altogether. The move has generated global interest, sparking a debate about the use of gene drives.

 

CRISPR Can Now Edit Genes Using Nanoparticles Instead of Viruses

Usually, if you want to deliver CRISPR to edit genes in a cell, you’d use a virus to do the job. Recently, scientists found a way to use nanoparticles to deliver CRISPR. The benefit of using nanoparticles is that it is less likely to trigger body’s immune response and thus increasing the chances of a successful gene manipulation.

 

New Natural Selection: How Scientists Are Altering DNA To Genetically Engineer New Forms Of Life

This is an article that was on the cover of the US edition of Newsweek in July this year. Biotechnology and gene editing becomes as mainstream as AI is now.