Issue #172

This week – Dalai Lama meets bionic girl; the case for radically enhancing humanity; do we really need BCIs?; building safe AI; how China aims to dominate robotics; and more!


More than a human

Dalai Lama meets bionic girl

During a discussion on ‘Robotics and Telepresence’ at De Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, Dalai Lama met Tilly Lockey, a girl rocking in OpenBionics prosthetic arms. Dalai Lama really appreciated the work done by OpenBionics.

 

Only one in five UK adults would choose to live forever if they could

A group of UK adults were asked a question “if you were offered the chance to live forever, how likely are you to take it?”. 21% said they would be very likely to accept an offer of immortality. A further 30% said they would be somewhat likely to take up such an offer, but around half of the people appear to be reconciled to their own demise.

 

The Case for Radically Enhancing Humanity

Some philosophers argue that the 21st century will be the most important in human history. We have access to technology that can destroy our civilization and we will only get more of them. Some of them are calling to use the technology to make better humans. Humans with not only higher intelligence but with higher empathy and morals. Humans who can put aside the small differences to work on greater goals. “Genetically engineering a smarter population to fend off existential catastrophe isn’t the worst idea, but it has some caveats”, as Phil Torres explains in this article.​

 

Military Pilots Can Control Three Jets at Once via a Neural Implant

DARPA unveiled a project that it had been working on since 2015: technology that grants one person the ability to pilot multiple planes and drones with their mind. Back in 2016, a volunteer equipped with a brain-computer interface was able to pilot an aircraft in a flight simulator while keeping two other planes in formation. In 2017, they added a third plane and haptic feedback. But there’s a catch. because this BCI makes use of electrodes implanted in and on the brain’s sensory and motor cortices, experimentation has been limited to volunteers with varying degrees of paralysis.

 

A Twitter thread on brain-computer interfaces

Here’s a thread on brain-computer interfaces written by François Chollet, author of Keras and AI engineer at Google. He starts with saying he’s “deeply skeptical of brain-computer interfaces for consumer use cases” and then argues that the current interfaces are not the bottlenecks to our use of technology but our minds and how fast we can understand the information we are getting.

 

Artificial Intelligence

OpenAI: Building Safe AGI – Ilya Sutskever keynote talk

At NTECH 2018, NVIDIA’s annual internal engineering conference, Ilya Sutskever, co-founder and research director at OpenAI, spoke on efforts in AI to surpass human performance at complex games like Dota 2. The talk starts around 1:20.

 

The 4 Waves of AI: Who Will Own the Future of Technology?

In this post, Peter Diamandis from Singularity Universe describes 4 waves of AI – the Internet AI, Business AI, Perception AI and Autonomous AI.

 

Robotics

How China aims to dominate the world of robotics

The plan is simple – build more robots. This interactive article also gives a short lesson of robotics, describes current market and let’s you program a robot.

 

World Economy Forum: Machines will do more tasks than humans by 2025

Robots will handle 52% of current work tasks by 2025 (today it is 29%) a World Economic Forum study said Monday. The sharp increase could also see a net gain in “new roles” for humans, who will have to revamp skills to keep pace with the “seismic shift” in how we work with machines and computer programmes, the forum estimated.

James Bruton Is Making A Dog: Opendog Project

If you cannot wait for your own robodog from Boston Dynamics, then maybe build one yourself? James Bruton decided to do exactly that and he shared the entire build process on his YouTube channel. The project is open source and available on GitHub if you’d like to follow James’ example.

London Fashion Week 2018: Robots take over the runway

During London Fashion Week, a robot shared the catwalk with humans. Later, the audience was asked what they are thinking about the robot and the opinions ranged from acceptance to surprise and confusion.

Attack of the Drones

In this video, Isaac Arthur takes a closer look at drones and their usage in military conflicts on Earth and in space. As usual, Isaac does a good analysis of the topic, starting with the viability of drones in warfare and then diving into such details as how big or smart should a drone be, how would they be used and how nations could react to someone having a drone army.

 

Biotechnology

Why DNA Is the Most Exciting Programming Language Today

This article is just a teaser for full interview to be released next month but it shows something important. The people who built the internet as we know it and made billions in the process are turning their eyes to biology. The recent advances in genetic engineering allow us to start seriously thinking about rewriting life. Those people see an opportunity there.