This week – drone swarm attack in Syria; robot-strippers; how to enhance the brain; robotic hands; putting a worm’s brain into a robot; and more!
The new year is usually the time when we look back and check what has happened in the last 12 months. I have to say, a lot happened. AlphaZero, discussion about ethics in AI, robots doing backflips, genetic engineered human embryos, to name the few. You can read more in the letter I have published on Medium.
More than a human
In his TEDx Talk from 2012, Anders Sandberg talks about enhancing the human brain. He goes through different techniques of making us smarter – starting with some simple ones like sleeping well and education before he ventures into brain stimulations (via zapping or taking drugs) and genetic engineering.
Aubrey de Grey, Chief Science Officer, presents the SENS Research Foundation’s current research into therapies that may add decades of healthy life for people who are adults today, as well as work that the Foundation has already spun out into successful startups. Dr. de Grey also explains how SRF’s work fits within the context of the global anti-aging research effort and why it has gained broad expert support.
A story of a woman who was given new hands for Christmas.
The researchers at Georgia Tech have created a prosthetic arm that, unlike other prosthetics, actually has individual finger control. This is achieved through the use of an ultrasound probe, which is used to detect muscle movements elsewhere on his body, with enough detail to allow the control of individual fingers. The neural network then analyses the ultrasound data to determine which finger the user is trying to move.
Good job, Open Bionics! Keep it going!
Here’s an article written by Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of DeepMind. He sees AI as a technology that will help us overcome problems we face today. But he also calls to look at the ethical side of AI. “Getting things right requires serious research into the social consequences of AI and the creation of partnerships to ensure it works for the public good”, writes Suleyman.
The one who wins the AI race will be the ruler of the world, said Vladimir Putin last year. Winning the marathon, however, would be a Pyrrhic victory for China and the ruling Communist Party, which does not tolerate dissent of any kind. Consider why Chinese censors routinely ban supernatural stories from television and movies – because they convey the idea of powerful forces that cannot be controlled by the party. Last year, an AI-powered chatbot was pulled from a Chinese web platform after it gave inappropriate answers. Question: What is the Chinese dream? Answer: To live in America. Still, knowing that the Americans – not to mention Russians, Israelis and Canadians – are in the same race for super intelligence, Beijing must compete to win even at the risk of unleashing a power it cannot control.
Yann LeCun, one of the big names in AI research and Director of AI Research at Facebook, is not a fan of Sophia the robot (the one that recently got Saudi Arabia citizenship). In his tweet, he described the robot to be “to AI as prestidigitation is to real magic” and then call it a “complete bullsh*t”.
As far as I know, that’s not the first time DIY drones were used as a weapon. Ten drones rigged with explosive devices descended over Russia’s Hmeimim air base while a further three targeted the Russian Naval CSS point in the nearby city of Tartus, according to the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation.
At the close of the Global Fortune Forum in Guangzhou on Dec. 7, the event’s hosts set a world record for the largest drone swarm ever deployed. For 9 minutes, 1,180 drones danced and blinked out an aerial show.
Another job was taken by robots. The whole thing also made some people ask questions about sexism in technology, of which you can read more in this article.
With over a quarter of population older than 65, Japan is looking for robots to do most of the jobs. Including nursery and caring for older people.
Caenorhabditis elegans has a tiny brain (just 302 neurons) and it is the only organism whose whole brain (or connectome) has been completely mapped. Someone then took the data about its connectome and put it into a robot build with Arduino – a cheap electronic board for hobbyists. The project is open source so if you want you can too build this robot. Isn’t this cool?
Natsai Audrey Chieza is a designer on a mission – to reduce pollution in the fashion industry while creating amazing new things to wear. In her lab, she noticed that the bacteria Streptomyces coelicolor makes a striking red-purple pigment, and now she’s using it to develop bold, color-fast fabric dye that cuts down on water waste and chemical runoff, compared with traditional dyes. And she isn’t alone in using synthetic biology to redefine our material future; think — “leather” made from mushrooms and superstrong yarn made from spider-silk protein. We’re not going to build the future with fossil fuels, Chieza says. We’re going to build it with biology.