Issue #146

This week – self-driving Uber car kills a pedestrian; Pentagon asks Silicon Valley giants for help; robot-bees patent by Walmart; and more!


More than a human

Aubrey de Grey: Treating ageing as a curable disease

Aubrey de Grey is chief science officer at the SENS Research Foundation, which is trying to develop therapies that will repair the damage that the body does to itself throughout life. He believes that ageing can be treated as a disease that can be cured. BBC Click finds out more.

 

Superprostheses and reality

Who wouldn’t like to see prosthetics giving superhuman powers like in sci-fi stories? They might become a thing but that’s not the main goal of companies and groups developing these technologies. Their goal, as it is described in this article, is to solve real problems and break down the barriers between healthy and disabled people.

 

Are You Dying To Upload Your Brain?

Nectome, a Y Combinator backed startup, promises immortality via mind uploading. The catch is that you need to die first. And you will not be digitized immediately. The startup promises to keep your brain intact until someone else figures out how to bring you back to life.

 

Palmreaders? Japan team builds second skin message display

Researchers from Japan have created an ultra-thin elastic display equipped with LEDs and sensors that can be stuck directly to the body. The band-aid-like device is just one millimetre thick and can monitor important health data as well as send and receive messages, including emojis. Takao Someya, the University of Tokyo professor who developed the device, envisions it as a boon for medical professionals with bed-ridden or far-flung patients, as well as family living far from their relatives.

 

Artificial Intelligence

Deciphering China’s AI Dream

This report from Future of Humanity Institute dives deep into China’s ambition into becoming a global AI powerhouse. It provides context for China’s AI strategy with respect to past science and technology plans, and it also connects the consistent and new features of China’s AI approach to the drivers of AI development (e.g. hardware, data, and talented scientists).

 

Pentagon Wants Silicon Valley’s Help on A.I.

Pentagon sees the power of AI in future conflicts and wants Silicon Valley tech giants to help US military get an edge in AI arms race. Defense Department had been already working with Google in developing A.I. technology that can analyze aerial footage captured by flying drones. Some Google employees were not happy to learn how their work is being used.

 

Robotics

Self-Driving Uber Car Kills Pedestrian in Arizona

An autonomous car operated by Uber — and with an emergency backup driver behind the wheel — struck and killed a woman on a street in Tempe, Arizona. It was believed to be the first pedestrian death associated with self-driving technology. The company quickly suspended testing in Tempe as well as in Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto.

 

EEVblog #1066 – Uber Autonomous Car Accident – LIDAR Failed?

If you want a more technical dive into the recent fatal accident involving Uber’s self-driving car in Arizona, I’d recommend this video from EEVblog.

 

Let the robots have the damn jobs — all of them!

In the “the robots are taking our jobs!” discussion most prominent are the voices warning against full automation. This article is the voice from the other side of the fence. It argues that full automation will make the cost of living go to zero and basically create a world closest to utopia where everyone has access to everything. But it also points out that the transition period between our world and this vision might be painful.

 

$10 million XPRIZE Aims for Robot Avatars That Let You See, Hear, and Feel by 2021

A new XPRIZE challenge has been announced recently. The goal is to build avatars that can be controlled from at least 100 kilometres away. The robots need to let users see, hear, feel, and interact with the robot’s environment as well as the people in it.

 

Watch a Robot ‘Hen’ Adopt a Flock of Chicks

Researchers made chicks believe that a cylindrical robot is their mom.

 

Autonomous Robot Bees Are Being Patented by… Walmart?

A surprising company, Walmart, has filed a patent for autonomous, robot bees which would act as pollinators in agriculture. The robot bees would operate using sensors and cameras to help them navigate to crops. Flying around autonomously, these drones could potentially pollinate as effectively as the real thing.

 

Biotechnology

How Editing RNA—Not DNA—Could Cure Disease in the Future

You probably heard a lot about DNA editing and how it can be used to cure diseases. Recently, scientists looked closer at another molecule, RNA (the messenger used by cells to turn DNA instructions into proteins) as a target for editing and their results are quite promising.