Issue #133

This week – a closer look at AlphaZero; how to write “programs” in bacterias; the gene patent question; and more!


More than a human

Dancing with running blades prosthetic

Here’s a video of Pollyanna dancing. She’s missing her right foot which was replaced with one of those blades prosthetic used by Paralympic athletes.

 

The Next Anti-Aging Treatment? Artificial Ovaries

Researchers have demonstrated that lab-grown artificial ovaries could provide a better way of providing hormone replacement therapy for women. In a study published in Nature Communications, engineered ovaries were found to perform better than hormone therapy drugs in terms of improving bone and uterine health, as well as body composition.

 

Artificial Intelligence

DeepMind’s year in review

DeepMind looks back at 2017 and reviews the year. “We are proud of all of our progress in 2017, but know there is still a long way to go”, writes Demis Hassabis and his team. DeepMind produces some outstanding results in 2017, culminating with the release of AlphaZero, which mastered the game of chess in just 4 hours without knowing anything about the game. DeepMind also started to focus on ethical aspects of AI and the technology they help to develop.

 

Is AlphaZero really a scientific breakthrough in AI?

Here’s a more critical view on AlphaZero. Jose Camacho Collados points out flaws in DeepMind’s paper describing AlphaZero, like availability and reproducibility of the results. The main point of this article can be summed in this quote: “It is actually responsibility of researchers in this area to accurately describe and advertise our achievements, and try not to contribute to the growing (often self-interested) misinformation and mystification of the field”.

 

Alpha Zero’s “Alien” Chess Shows the Power, and the Peculiarity, of AI

Some people are saying that the first alien intelligence we encounter will not come from outer space but from our computers as an AI. When you look what choices an AI makes, you might understand this point. Demis Hassabis, the CEO and founder of DeepMind, said this about AlphaZero at NIPS conference: “It doesn’t play like a human, and it doesn’t play like a program. It plays in a third, almost alien, way.”

 

Embodied Learning is Essential to Artificial Intelligence

“The classic Deep Learning training procedure is one of the crudest teaching methods that one can possibly imagine”, writes Carlos E. Perez. In this article, Perez brings closer an idea of Embodied Learning. Embodied Learning argues that intelligence emerges from interacting with the physical environment. The proponents of this approach to AI argue that there is no better way to learn a new subject than to allow the AI a way to interact with the subject and to discover its responses.

 

Tacotron 2: Generating Human-like Speech from Text

In this blog post, engineers from Google present Tacotron 2 – an AI system that generates human-like speech from text. It also has a cool name.

 

Carnegie Mellon’s ‘Superhuman AI’ bests leading Texas Hold’em poker pros

Another game where AI become better than humans.

 

What Can AI Experts Learn from Buddhism?

When people discuss AI ethical question, many of them look at the problem from the Western philosophy point of view. But that’s not the only philosophy we have here on Earth. Other philosophies, like Buddism, can shed a new light on AI ethical concerns and help us better understand AI’s role in the world and how it should interact with humans.

 

Robotics

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

Researchers from Cornell University experiment with putting neuromorphic chips into a tiny, insect-like robots to give them some intelligence. Because these robots are tiny (only 3 centimetre wingspan and weigh only 80 milligrams), they cannot use traditional computers. Here’s where they see neuromorphic chip coming in. Those chips mimic how neurons work. They are smaller and more efficient than normal chips and one day, the researchers hope, they will be the brain of small, insect-like robots.

 

The Robot That’s Roaming San Francisco’s Streets to Deliver Food

If you live in San Francisco’s Mission district, you can get your food delivered by a robot named Marble.

 

How we’re using drones to deliver blood and save lives

Keller Rinaudo wants everyone on earth to have access to basic health care, no matter how hard it is to reach them. With his start-up Zipline, he has created the world’s first drone delivery system to operate at national scale, transporting blood and plasma to remote clinics in East Africa with a fleet of electric autonomous aircraft.

 

Biotechnology

The Gene Patent Question

Genetic engineering is already full of ethical questions. Adding patents into the mix makes everything even more complicated. You’d probably don’t mind to see a patent for a genetically modified apple or rice but what about a patent for human genes? Or a patent for an entire human being? Wendover Productions (a very good Youtube channel btw) explores this problem in their latest video.

 

The Quiet Revolution of CRISPR

“It’s not the big explosion that’s going to transform your world overnight,” Nathaniel Comfort, a historian of science, said. Instead, “it’s the incremental increases of knowledge and in technology that’s going to really change the way we lead our lives.”

 

The Most Life-Changing Breakthroughs in Genetics of 2017

Gizmodo lists the most noteworthy breakthroughs in genetics in 2017. The list includes FDA approving first “living” therapies, restoring a seven-year-old boy’s skin, editing DNA within the human body, editing human embryo and more.

 

Synthetic Biology: Programming Living Bacteria – Christopher Voigt

Did you ever wonder how to write a “program” for a living bacteria? In this video, Christopher Voigt explains in details how he and his team developed a library of gates that can be interconnected to build genetic circuits composed of a series of said gates that respond to a specific input with a specific output.

 

3 Biosecurity Lessons I Learned from iGEM

In this article, Tessa Alexanian shares the biosecurity lesson she learned while participating in iGEM, an international competition for students dedicated to the advancement of synthetic biology.

 

Lab-Grown Meat Is on the Way

The lab-grown meat is coming. It’s good for the planet, and surveys show that significant numbers of people would be willing to give it a try.