Issue #153

This week – Google AI makes phone calls for you; is the future transhuman; Boston Dynamics robot gets some fresh air; extending lifespan of dogs before humans; and more!


More than a human

No death and an enhanced life: Is the future transhuman?

This article from The Guardian brings closer the ideas of transhumanism to a wider audience. “Ultimately, by merging man and machine, science will produce humans who have vastly increased intelligence, strength, and lifespans; a near embodiment of gods.”, the author writes.

 

Towards An Open Source Bionic Body— Meet Samantha Payne, cofounder of Open Bionics

A story of Open Bionics and its COO, Samantha Payne, from the beginning to the first prototype to building a community around 3D printed prosthetic arms to releasing a medical approved prosthetic arm and beyond.

 

What do you do with two extra pairs of functional hands?

Become Dr. Octopus, that’s what you do.

 

Who is Scared of the Teeny Tiny Chip?

Having a chip implanted in a body is a terrifying thought for some people. The concerns about privacy and exploiting the data gathered by such devices tops the list. This article goes through them one by one and explains that it is not that terrifying as people might think.

 

Artificial Intelligence

Google Duplex: An AI System for Accomplishing Real-World Tasks Over the Phone

At the recent Google I/O conference, Google AI team presented Duplex – an AI assistant that can make phone calls for you. In this blog post, they explain how the system works and show examples where an AI made a call to a restaurant and booked a table by talking to a real human.

 

AI creates new levels for Doom and Super Mario games

Researchers have created a neural network that can generate completely new levels for Doom and Super Mario. The networks they have created can find use in game design in generating initial levels for human designers to adjust.

 

Robotics

Uber’s Self-Driving Car May Have “Decided” Not to Swerve To Prevent The Fatal Crash

Apparently, Uber’s self-driving car that was involved in a fatal accident on March 18th this year “decided” to ignore the woman in front of it leading up to the crash. That is, it “saw” the woman, and made the decision “it didn’t need to react right away.” To remedy an overpowering number of “false positives” — hindrances in the road that pose no real threat, like a piece of cardboard — the threshold of Uber’s software was “tuned” so low, that even a grown woman with a bicycle did not trigger an immediate response.

 

Getting some air, Atlas?

It’s spring and Boston Dynamics released Atlas the humanoid robot to roam in the sun and get some fresh air.

 

Pentagon moves closer to ‘swarming drones’ capability with new systems test

Flying aircraft carriers that launch and recover fleets of small, inexpensive drones could soon be part of the U.S. military arsenal, as the Pentagon works with private technology partners to engineer that vision into reality. The program, code-named “Gremlins,” calls for the two companies to demonstrate the safe and reliable aerial launch and recovery of multiple unmanned aircraft.

 

Banning autonomous weapons is not the answer

This article comes from World Economic Forum website. It concludes with a statement that “a prohibition on the development and use of lethal autonomous weapons systems is not the simple solution it appears to be. ”

 

Japan Is Replacing Its Aging Construction Workers With Robots

Japan’s quickly ageing workforce forces companies to look for robots to jump into spots left by retired human workers.

 

Biotechnology

A stealthy Harvard startup wants to reverse aging in dogs, and humans could be next

George Church, the world’s most influential synthetic biologist is behind a new company that plans to rejuvenate dogs using gene therapy. Rejuvenate Bio plans first to solve the problem of ageing in dogs and then move to humans. The company, which has carried out preliminary tests on beagles, claims it will make animals “younger” by adding new DNA instructions to their bodies

 

Taking CRISPR from clipping scissors to word processor

Researchers have created a new CRISPR platform named MAGESTIC or “multiplexed accurate genome editing with short, trackable, integrated cellular barcodes”. It makes CRISPR less like a blunt cutting tool and more like a word processor by enabling an efficient “search and replace” function for genetic material. Announced in a Nature Biotechnology paper, MAGESTIC also produced a sevenfold increase in cell survival during the editing process.

 

Scientists build ‘synthetic embryos’

Dutch scientists have built “synthetic” embryos in their laboratory using mouse cells other than sperm and eggs. The stem cell breakthrough, described in Nature journal, is not for cloning people or animals, but about understanding why many pregnancies fail at an early stage – implantation. The embryos, made in a dish, attached to the womb lining of live female mice and grew for a few days.