Issue #187

This week – a cafe in Tokyo staffed with robot-waiters controlled by paralyzed people; Prince Charles doesn’t like the idea of people becoming ‘part human, part machine’; more on ethics around genetic engineering; and more news and articles about artificial intelligence, robotics, biotech and technologies that make us more than a human.


More Than A Human

Prince Charles says he utterly objects to the idea of people becoming ‘part human, part machine’

Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, said he’s deeply dismayed by the way artificial intelligence is beginning to change the way people interact with machines. “The thing I find hardest now is to cope with this extraordinary trend that somehow we must become part human, part machine, which I totally and utterly object to,” the Prince of Wales told the magazine. “It is crazy to go that far because I think, ironically, the more AI and robotics they want to introduce, the more people will rediscover the importance of the traditional crafts, the directly human things that are crafted by humans and not by machines” , he said.

Is it ethical to engineer HIV-proof babies?

Here is an interview with medical ethicist Jonathan Moreno. The topic – bioethics of modifying living organisms. Although the ethics of editing human genome gets the spotlight, Moreno highlights the ethical issues of creating modified animals and releasing them into the wild.

Brains of 3 People Have Been Successfully Connected, Enabling Them to Share Thoughts

Neuroscientists have successfully hooked up a three-way brain connection to allow three people to share their thoughts – and in this case, play a Tetris- style game. It works through a combination of electroencephalograms (EEGs), for recording the electrical impulses that indicate brain activity, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), where neurons are stimulated using magnetic fields.

Industrial Workers Will Soon Don Exoskeletons and Achieve Super Strength

The exoskeletons are here! Sarcos Robotics’ full-body suits will let factory workers lift 90 kilograms without breaking a sweat and will be commercially available in 2019.

Artificial Intelligence

AI Will Create Millions More Jobs Than It Will Destroy. Here’s How

There is a lot of voices telling that AI will take the jobs away. This article is a voice from the opposite side. It admits that AI will destroy jobs but at the same time it will create more. The main argument used here is that AI will lower the cost of some jobs or even eliminate them but will open new positions or even increase the demand for the ones on higher levels of expertise.

► Humans take psychedelics. Should robots?

Ben Goertzel wonders what will happen if you give an AI psychedelics. In his view, the drugs human take are crude. However, for AIs, the engineered brains, we could create “drugs” targeting a specific area and be more precise. Anyway, it is an interesting idea to think about.

Robotics

Cafe opens in Tokyo staffed by robots controlled by paralyzed people

There is a restaurant in Japan staffed entirely with robot waiters. But those robots are different. They are remotely controlled by a paralysed people. Developed by Ory, a startup that specializes in robotics for disabled people, the OriHime-D is a 120 cm (4-foot) tall robot that can be operated remotely from a paralyzed person’s home. Even if the operator only has control of their eyes, they can command OriHime-D to move, look around, speak with people, and handle objects.

Foldable Drone Changes Its Shape in Mid-Air

Here’s an interesting drone. Developed by roboticists from University of Zurich and EPFL, the Folding Drone can change its shape mid-air. Included in the article is a short interview with one of the researchers behind the drone.

Drones Used to Find Toylike “Butterfly” Land Mines

Due to them being made from plastic, the PFM-1 “butterfly” landmines are harder to find using traditional mine detectors. But a team of researchers were able to exploit the fact that plastic heats up and cools down differently than the surrounding soil and other parts of the environment. Then they mounted a thermal camera on a drone to detect landmines. The method is not perfect yet but it can help narrow down the locations and general layout of PFM-1 minefields.

Biotechnology

Gene Drives Survived a Proposed UN Ban in 2018—What’s Next?

After years of discussions around the ethics of using gene drives, the Conference on Biodiversity delivered a balanced verdict. Stopping short of an outright ban, they instead asked governments only to consider the use of gene drives under a limited range of circumstances. Scientists should carry out a full and thorough risk assessment of their actions, and attempt to minimize unintended consequences as far as possible—and they should seek to obtain prior and informed consent of the local communities that might be affected. They also stressed that further research into unintended consequences is needed.

Chinese scientist who allegedly created the first genetically engineered babies is being detained

He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who shocked the world with claims of creating the first genetically engineered babies is being detained in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, according to a report in The New York Times. It appears that the government has also put He and his family under a form of house arrest. He is apparently under the supervision of armed guards and is staying at a housing facility typically reserved for visiting professors on the campus of the university where he performed his research.

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