Issue #140

This week – AI myths; artificial worm balancing a pole; who gets access to advanced reproductive technologies; one lucky guy gets an advanced mind-controlled robotic arm; biopunks; and more!

More than a human

The US government just gave someone a $120-million robotic arm to use for a year

To be clear, the $120-million is the cost of development of the robotic arm, not its price tag. The lucky patient, Johnny Matheny is the first person to live with an advanced mind-controlled robotic arm. There are a few things Matheny is not allowed to do with the arm, like getting it wet or drive while wearing it. But beyond that, the goal is to push the robotic prosthetic to its limits.


Biopunks are Pushing the Limits With Implants and DIY Drugs

Here’s a list of some biohackers, garage geneticists, chemists, and grinders (those who modify their own bodies) who are stretching the capabilities of DIY augmentation, from adding new senses to making medicine outside pharma industry to injecting muscle-growth gene.


Brain Stimulation Is All the Rage – but It May Not Stimulate the Brain

Transcranial electrical stimulation, also known as brain zapping, is a controversial method of augmenting brain power by electrocuting specific parts of the brain. Some papers claim they found benefits of such method, like enhancing memory, improving math skills, alleviating depression and even speeding recovery from stroke. Others are sceptical, like this paper described by Scientific American which proves you need to apply well above typical current levels to see any changes and that causes some unwanted side effects.


Artificial Intelligence

The Top Myths About Advanced AI

The Future of Life Institute made this infographic followed by an article describing common myths about artificial general intelligence and tackles them one by one.


AI: Racing Toward the Brink – A Conversation with Eliezer Yudkowsky

In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Eliezer Yudkowsky about the nature of intelligence, different types of AI, the “alignment problem,” IS vs OUGHT, the possibility that future AI might deceive us, the AI arms race, conscious AI, coordination problems, and other topics.


Worm uploaded to a computer and trained to balance a pole

Nematode C. elegans has become a new favourite pet for AI researchers. Since scientists mapped t connectome of the worm and thus gained the ability to simulate the worm’s brain, it has been used in many interesting projects, like putting it into a LEGO robot. This is the newest project using this humble worm’s brain – researchers from TU Wien trained the artificial worm to balance a pole at the tip of its tail. I wonder what’s going to be next.


AI Just Learned How to Boost the Brain’s Memory

In the latest issue of Nature Communications, researchers led by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Michael Kahana show that machine learning algorithms can be used to decode and then enhance human memory. How? By triggering the delivery of precisely timed pulses of electricity to the brain.



Why Ethical Robots Might Not Be Such a Good Idea After All

The risks that a robot’s ethics might be compromised by unscrupulous actors raise doubts over the wisdom of embedding ethical decision making in real-world safety critical robots, claims new paper. With two NAO robots, Dieter Vanderelst set up a demonstration of an ethical robot helping another robot acting as a proxy human, then showed that with a very simple alteration of the ethical robot’s logic it is transformed into a distinctly unethical robot—behaving either competitively or aggressively toward the proxy human.


Brave new world of robotic architecture dawning

Mahesh Daas argues that robotics can and soon will be even further integrated into the design processes at the heart of architecture. Daas is not afraid of robots. On the contrary, he said, robots will be necessary to do many of the things we wish to do in the 21st century. Daas believes robotics will affect every sphere of life: environmental, conceptual and cultural.


Ocado to wheel out C3PO-style robot to lend a hand at warehouses

Whoever wrote this article never saw C-3PO. But nevertheless, the robot interesting.


I Believe in Intelligent Design … for Robots

You and I are living on the verge of what you might call the Cambrian Explosion of robotics. Just in the last year, robots have been escaping en masse the factory and the lab to walk and roll and fly among us. Humanity has unleashed its own version of “life” on Earth, a sui generis genus that is evolving in ways that are fascinatingly similar to biological organisms.



Advanced Reproductive Technology is Here. But Who Decides Who Gets Access?

Experiments going on today, such as testing functional 3D-printed ovaries and incubating animal fetuses in artificial wombs, seem to suggest that future is well on its way, that fertility medicine has already entered the realm of what was once science fiction. Who will have access to these advances? Current trends seem to suggest that this will depend on the actions of regulators and insurance agencies, rather than the people who are affected the most. There are some obvious barriers, like cost preventing many people from using these technologies. But there are some less obvious barriers. For example, there is a company that does not offer its services for single or non-heterosexual women.


These Companies Want You to Sell Your DNA on the Internet

Would you sell your DNA? If the answer is “yes”, then there are companies out there which are happy to buy your DNA.


Biotechnology | Future of Everything With Jason Silva

The world has been transformed by information technology. Billion dollar businesses have formed out of nowhere. Now, biology is becoming an information technology, explains Jason Silva. That’s what biotechnology is, and as exponential technologies like gene sequencing accelerate, healthcare is about to be radically upended.