This week - a new method to understand AIs; a couple of robots that learned new tricks; the first human-pig hybrid has been created; US Navy would like to have more autonomous warships; and more!
More Than A Human
Here is an article from Buzzfeed about Josiah Zayner - probably the most well-known biohacker who build his name around experiments he performed on himself. In this article, he shares his experiments and the big vision. “I want to live in a world where people get drunk and instead of giving themselves tattoos, they’re like, ‘I’m drunk, I’m going to CRISPR myself.’”, Zayner told Buzzfeed.
E. Paul Zehr in his article for Scientific American does not say we should stop researching genetic engineering or stop researching how to enhance ourselves. However, he calls for a general discussion in which direction we, as a society and as a species, want to go. "All of us citizens, scientists, engineers and future users of human enhancement methodologies must proceed with conviction but also caution, with purpose but also extreme care", he writes.
This about 20 minutes long video discusses the usage of nanomachines to cure aging. It starts with explaining what nanotechnology is, goes through different nanodevices and shows a possible future where those small machines replace our cells with artificial cells one by one until nothing is left from the "biological you".
Open Bionics, which builds affordable 3D printed prosthetic arms, announced they raised $5.9M in Series A.
An interview with Been Kim, a researcher at Google Brain, in which she describes Testing with Concept Activation Vectors (TCAV) - a method for "asking" why a neural network gave such and such answer. Her research tries to solve the "black box" problem of AI - a situation where we don't know what made a neural network to return a particular result. TCAV might help make AI easier to understand and tweak, and also make it safer to use.
IBM unveiled during CES Project Debater – Speech by Crowd, which is an AI system that can create lengthy, persuasive arguments during a debate. At the show, Project Debater was debating the pros and cons of making gambling illegal. It was also presenting the arguments for and against autonomous cars. The system itself does not have an opinion - it just compiles what people said on a given topic and presents it in a debate.
The main point in this article is to highlight that machine learning does not mean machine understanding. It also drives the point that despite advancements in AI in recent years, we are still nowhere near artificial general intelligence we see in science fiction.
Here is a voice from the "AI will not kill us all" camp. The arguments against AI-pocalypse here are: current AI is just statistics on steroids and they are "narrow", specialised AIs, not general AIs. It also points out that AI is just a tool. "They [AIs] can be used in a right or a wrong way, like everything else. It is the way that they are used that should concerns us, not the methods themselves. Human greed and human unintelligence scare me far more than artificial intelligence"
Being a four-legged robot in a robotics research lab is not fun. Everyone kicks you. That's why ANYmal from Switzerland learnt to move away from nasty humans and thanks to new learning algorithms developed at ETH Zurich, the robot was able to learn that and other tricks much faster than before.
The rise of technologies such as machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing, and gesture controls is changing the way personal robots are used in homes and hospitals. "The lack of doctors, caregivers, and primary and secondary teachers is making a strong case for the use of personal robots in the healthcare and education sectors," said Vijay Narayanan, Visionary Innovation Senior Research Analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
US Navy is planning to build autonomous warships to accompany other vessels that are controlled by a human crew. The move may come in response to China and Russia’s heavy investment in similar technologies that could put US aircraft carriers at risk. US Navy, in cooperation with DARPA, has already one autonomous submarine-hunting warship - Sea Hunter - that can cruise on its own for 60-90 days.
Here is a showcase of three interesting robots. The first one learnt when to use a pincer gripper or a suction cup grip to grab objects. The second one is the ANYmal four-legged robot learning new tricks (more on that in an article above). The third one can understand simple abstract diagrams to sort objects - a small step toward robots that can assemble an Ikea furniture on their own.
For the first time, researchers have successfully grown human cells inside early-stage pig embryos in the lab, creating pig-human hybrids, which the researchers describe as interspecies chimeras. In the experiment, researchers in the US injected human stem cells into early-stage pig embryos. These hybrid embryos were then transferred into surrogate sows and allowed to develop until the first trimester. More than 150 of the embryos developed into chimeras, which meant that they had developed the precursors of organs including the heart and liver, but they contained a small amount of human cells - around one in 10,000 of the hybrids' cells were human.
Researchers have found a way to grow in lab intervertebral discs. So far they were able to do it for rats and goats. Humans need to wait.