Issue #181

This week – Mark Hamill’s special message for kids with limb differences; one of the fathers of AI is worried about its future; designer babies, bioborgs and baselines; and more!

In last week’s issue, I asked the community if they would allow their employers to implant a chip under their skin. The vast majority (86.7%) said “no” and 13.3% said “yes”. Those who said “yes” would do that if the implant could replace their IDs or credit cards. However, they were against any kind of tracking.

The most clicked link in last week’s issue (17% of opens) was a video of Xinhua’s English AI anchor.


More than a human

Degrees of Freedom – How to Control a Machine with Your Brain

This is a story of Jan Scheuermann, who is paralyzed from the neck down. She had participated in a neuroscience experiment that allowed her to partially escape the confines of her paralyzed body. Scheuermann is one of a very few Americans to have experienced a direct brain-computer interface. It is a long article (there is an audio version 1 hour and 20 minutes long) that follows many people and organisations (like DARPA) and how their work leads to Jan Scheuermann receiving her robotic arm.

 

► Hacking the Brain: The Future of Prosthetics

SciShow looks how scientists are working on ways to hack the brain that will greatly benefit people with prosthetics, and maybe someday people with paralysis. It is a good introductory video into brain-computer interfaces and prosthetics that gives a big picture of the technology, with its promises and limitations.

 

With brain implants, scientists hope to translate paralyzed patients’ thoughts into speech

This article looks at one specific application of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) – translating human thoughts into speech. The technology is still far away from mind reading but some progress has been made to help paralysed patients communicate with the world again.

 

► Mark Hamill’s special message for kids with limb differences

Mark Hamill, the actor behind the iconic role of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, teamed up with Open Bionics to deliver a special message for kids with limb differences all around the world.

 

Artificial Intelligence

One of the fathers of AI is worried about its future

Here’s an interview with Yoshua Bengio, one of the fathers of deep learning, where he shares his concerns about the AI race and concentration of AI research into a small number of big companies and countries. He calls for more democratisation of AI and making the research more accessible for everyone. Other topics discusses in the interview are the application of AI in the military and what’s next for (or after) deep learning.

 

DARPA Spent $68 Million on Technology to Spot Deepfakes

If you think about how much disinformation deep fakes can do, it’s no wonder DARPA is taking detecting them seriously. The agency has spent $68 million on digital forensics technology to flag them but some experts think DARPA is on the losing side here, always trying to catch up with the new advancements in generating deep fakes.

 

Machine learning, meet quantum computing

Researchers from Italy have implemented a single artificial neuron on an actual quantum computer. This single neuron cannot do much at the moment but with better quantum computers we might see soon a more complex artificial neuron network running on a quantum computer.

 

Robotics

► These robots have mastered bottle-flipping

Humanity can go home now. In this year’s RoboCon in Japan, teams of high school students built a bunch of bottle-flipping robots that can nail the internet challenge better than most of us.

 

► What will the robotics ecosystem look like in future smart cities?

Here is a talk by Mirko Kovac who discusses how robots will fit into smart cities – from delivery robots to robots that collect data about the city to robots that maintain the infrastructure.

 

Next generation of robots crawl, run, fly into the real world

This article showcases many different robots that were developed or are under development at Harvard. The robots range from bipedal robots to soft robots to swarms robots and even to exoskeletons.

 

Biotechnology

Designer Babies, and Their Babies: How AI and Genomics Will Impact Reproduction

The most interesting part of this article is in the Designer Babies, and Their Babies section. It describes a sci-fi sounding technique named in-vitro gametogenesis (IVG). It works like this – take a sample of your cells (blood or skin cells should be fine). Induce them to become eggs or sperm and make an embryo out of them. Then go back to the step one with those embryos and rinse and repeat until you get the embryo you want. You can mix thousands of embryos that way.

 

► Can We Create Designer Babies? Eugenics, Bioborgs, And Baselines

This video goes in-depth into ethical questions around designer babies, grouped into five different arguments for banning them – consent, inheritance, property (can those people be “owned” by a company?), convergence and divergence.

 

These DNA Startups Want to Put All of You on the Blockchain

This article describes two startups which want to put your genome on the blockchain. Both are offering whole-genome sequencing for free, as a way to stock up for its real ploy: a blockchain-based genetic marketplace accessible by researchers. Both promise anonymity and security of your genetic data.