Issue #131

This week – AlphaZero masters chess in a couple of hours; Russia says it will ignore any UN ban of killer robots; Amazon’s self-destructive drones; DARPA funds gene drives research; AI makes black metal; and more!


More than a human

Aging Expert: The First Person to Live to 1,000 Has Already Been Born

That expert is Aubrey de Grey, SENS Research Foundation co-founder and a well-known figure in rejuvenation movement. Aubrey de Grey believes in a world in which we no longer age. At a London event, he explained that he believes the first person who will live to be 1,000 has already been born, and we’ll solve this “ageing problem” within 20 years.

 

Machines in minds to reverse engineer the machine that is mind: Randal A. Koene at TEDxTallinn

Randal A. Koene is Dutch neuroscientist and -engineer, co-founder of carboncopies.org network.
Randal’s research is centred on how to decode and simulate brain processes on computers and to find out, if and how could we possibly transfer mind to a non-biological substrate that is needed in patient-specific neuroprostheses. He is also working on the feasibility and roadmap to whole brain emulation.

 

Need A Hand? How About Two?

“Did you ever need a helping hand? How about two?”, said someone at Youbionic and then created a pair of 3D printed hands aimed to extend the user’s multi-tasking capacity. Strapped to the forearm and extending past the user’s natural hand, they are individually operated by flexing either the index or ring fingers. At present, the hands are limited in their use — they are fixed to the mounting plate and so are restricted to gripping tasks, but with a bit of practice could end up being quite handy.

 

Mark Katakowski: Increasing Human Life Expectancy through Stem Cell Rejuvenation

Here’s a talk by Dr. Mark Katakowski, President of the longevity company Forever Labs, where he makes the case that rejuvenation of the bone marrow niche is a practical approach to life-extension today.

 

Artificial Intelligence

AlphaZero AI beats champion chess program after teaching itself in four hours

AlphaZero, the game-playing AI created by Google sibling DeepMind, has beaten the world’s best chess-playing computer program, having taught itself how to play in under four hours. The repurposed AI, which has repeatedly beaten the world’s best Go players as AlphaGo, has been generalised so that it can now learn other games. It took just four hours to learn the rules to chess before beating the world champion chess program, Stockfish 8, in a 100-game match up.

 

The Possibility of a Deep Learning Intelligence Explosion

Last week, François Chollet published an article in which he argued that intelligence explosion is impossible. Here’s an article that argues otherwise. The main argument: “The flaw in Chollet’s article is that he believes the pace to be linear. There is little evidence that this is true. If anything, the pace of progress has been exponential.”

 

Using Artificial Intelligence to Augment Human Intelligence

This article goes very deep into interfaces. More specifically, the interface between humans and AI. It describes an interface in which AIs actually change humanity, helping us invent new cognitive technologies, which expand the range of human thought. Perhaps one day those cognitive technologies will, in turn, speed up the development of AI, in a virtuous feedback cycle.

 

This Heavy Metal Music Album Is Created By An AI

Because why not?

 

Artificially Intelligent Robot Predicts Its Own Future by Learning Like a Baby

Researchers from UC Berkeley have developed a robot that, like a child, learns on its own from scratch and experiments with objects to figure out how to best move them around. And by doing so, this robot is essentially able to see into its own future.

 

Robotics

Russia says it will ignore any UN ban of killer robots

Russian diplomats delivered a message for those who want to ban killer robots: Russia will build them no matter what. “According to the Russian Federation, the lack of working samples of such weapons systems remains the main problem in the discussion on LAWS,” the statement said.

 

Amazon’s New Drone Designed to Self-Destruct in Emergencies

Amazon has been granted a patent for drone technology that allows the craft to strategically self-destruct in the event of an emergency. The system uses the drone’s onboard computer to determine the safest course of action to strategically disassemble in the air during an emergency to mitigate any potential damage from an otherwise fully-formed delivery drone, or as the patent describes it, “direct fragmentation for unmanned airborne vehicles.”

 

CEO of automation company ABB says we shouldn’t fear automation

Ulrich Spiesshofer, CEO of one of the leading robotics company, believes that automation will have a positive impact. In his view, automation and robotics has allowed millions of people to move beyond the extreme poverty line and it’s the countries that embraced automation — including the likes of China and India — that are doing much better than some of their counterparts that have resisted automation. He also noted that a lifelong education ecosystem that enables intergenerational education will be needed and the companies need to embrace this and allow their employees to learn new skills.

 

Delivery robots will need permits to roam San Francisco

Delivery robots in San Francisco will need permits before they can roam city sidewalks under legislation approved by city supervisors.  The robots can’t go more than 3 miles per hour (4.8 kilometres per hour) and human operators must be nearby. The robots must yield to pedestrians. Chief executives for autonomous delivery companies Starship Technologies, Marble and Postmates submitted a letter saying they welcomed government regulations.

 

Biotechnology

US military agency invests $100m in genetic extinction technologies

DARPA is investing $100m in genetic extinction technologies that could wipe out malarial mosquitoes, invasive rodents or other species, thus becoming the world’s largest funder of “gene drive” research. And that made some people ask questions about the possible military use of synthetic biology. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is already debating whether to impose a moratorium on the gene research next year and several southern countries fear a possible military application.

 

Grow your own: the race to create body parts in the lab

From replacement skin to entire new organs, regenerative medicine is finally leaving its early scandals – and the controversial “earmouse” – behind. New techniques allow to grow skin, new oesophagus and soon might allow us to grow new livers, hearts or other organs to save human lives. The Guardian brings us closer to the researchers making this vision a reality.