Issue #134

This week – biohackers genetically modifying themselves; response to Slaughterbots; first CRISPR clinical trial could begin in 2018; transhumanism and religions; sweating robots doing pushups and situps; and more!


More than a human

Transhumanism: Searching for the Spirit in the Machine

Martha Minow moderates a conversation with Joi Ito, Father Eric Salobir, the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi, and Max Tegmark on the role of belief systems at the onset of AI: How do cultural and religious traditions reverberate with the ethical decision-making processes of our time? Do different belief systems offer different pathways towards a transhumanist future? If so, how do we reconcile the diverse Gods of our cultures?

 

‘I want to help humans genetically modify themselves’

Former Nasa biochemist Josiah Zayner became an online sensation by conducting DIY gene therapy on himself. In this interview with The Guardian, he explains his motivations, goals and recent experiments he conducted on himself.

 

Wake up people, it’s time to aim high! – Long interview with Dr Aubrey de Grey

The title says everything. Aubrey de Grey, one of the pioneers of anti ageing research, talks about his work, his book and how he plans to cure ageing and make humans live much longer than today.

 

Biohackers Disregard FDA Warning on DIY Gene Therapy

Despite a warning from the federal government about do-it-yourself gene therapy, two companies say they’ll continue offering DNA-altering materials to the public. The companies, The Odin and Ascendance Biomedical, both recently posted videos online of people self-administering DNA molecules their labs had produced.

 

Hive Minds by Isaac Arthur

Isaac Arthur explores the idea and Networked Intelligence in general, to see how realistic it is, and what benefits or concerns might arise from it. The concept of linking many minds together to act in concert, or even fuse into a new singular entity, has been popular in science fiction for decades.

 

Artificial Intelligence

How to unmask AI

Here’s another voice calling for AI community to think about the transparency of the system they create. Even though opening the “AI black box” is a tough challenge, there are things AI community can do right now to increase transparency, like not pretending the bot is a human or being aware of biases in AI system and minimising them.

 

How Machines Learn

CGP Grey explains how AI systems learn in a way everyone can understand it.

 

How smart is today’s artificial intelligence?

Current AI systems are impressive, but how smart are they? A reporter from Vox tries to answer this question and comes to the conclusion that we are surrounded by a swarm of highly specialised system outperforming humans in some domains. But the mistake is to assume that these systems add up to make a true AI and we shouldn’t take pattern recognition as a sign of intelligence.

 

Robotics

Why You Shouldn’t Fear ‘Slaughterbots’

Slaughterbots was a short video released a couple of weeks ago showing a world in which small autonomous killer drones are a thing and they fall into wrong hands, causing numerous casualties and massive chaos. This article is a response and analysis of the video and the future it depicts from someone who was helping US government to chose what technologies the United States military should invest in. He focuses on four assumptions the video has made, which in his words, “range from questionable, at best, to completely fanciful”.

 

Robots do chin-ups, pushups and situps for the sake of science

A team of Japanese engineers has designed robots that can perform pushups, do crunches, stretch and even sweat while doing so. Unlike other humanoid robots, which are built from rigid parts, these robots are designed to mimic human musculoskeletal system.

 

The Minotaur

Here’s Minotaur – a four-legged robot created by Ghost Robotics which can walk on every terrain, climb fences and open doors.

 

This Autonomous Quadrotor Swarm Doesn’t Need GPS

Researchers have managed to teach a swarm of a dozen 250g quadrotors to fly in close formation, even though each one is using just one small camera and a simple IMU. This is probably the largest swarm of quadrotors which don’t rely on motion capture or GPS.

 

Biotechnology

The First CRISPR Clinical Trial Could Begin in 2018

CRISPR Therapeutics has applied to run the first CRISPR clinical trial. Officially submitted to European regulatory authorities, the application outlines a test of CTX001, a CRISPR treatment designed for patients with sickle cell disease and β-thalassemia.

 

MIT Engineers Develop Glowing Plants Using Nanoparticles

Can you imagine a plant that’s also a desk lamp? Researchers from MIT think it is possible.