25th January 2019

Issue #190

This week – DeepMind's AI beats top pro StarCraft II players; Amazon rolls out delivery robots; Newark Airport was shut down due to a drone seen around the airport; and more!


More Than A Human

The Myth of Genetic Superbabies

"The reality is that genetic risks and advantages are not as straightforward as computer circuits", writes Jim Kozubek for Scientific American and argues that genetically engineering a perfectly healthy human embryo can introduce unforseen consequences later in the life of that person and its children.

► Why 'upgrading' humanity is a transhumanist myth (5:12)

Douglas Rushkoff doubts that we can move human consciousness to silicon. His argument is that we know very little about the brain and the mind. Too little to try to build brains and minds in computers.

► Are Cosmetically Engineered Babies Changing The Course Of Evolution? (4:09)

BBC Earth Lab visits dr Jeff Steinberg in his lab to discuss how his lab screens human embryos for genetic disorders but also can check if the embryo will become a girl or boy, or what eye or hair colour it will have.

CRISPR-baby scientist fired by university

He Jiankui, the scientist who announced last year that he had produced the world’s first gene-edited babies has been fired by his university. A probe by the Guangdong health ministry found that He broke national regulations against using gene-editing for reproductive purposes, Chinese state media agency Xinhua reported on 21 January.

Artificial Intelligence

AlphaStar: Mastering the Real-Time Strategy Game StarCraft II

DeepMind announced recent developments in building an AI that can master the game of StarCraft II. Named AlphaStar, it has already decisively beat Team Liquid’s Grzegorz "MaNa" Komincz, one of the world’s strongest professional StarCraft players, 5-0, following a successful benchmark match against his team-mate Dario “TLO” Wünsch. In this post, DeepMind explains how AlphaStar works.

Robotics

Amazon rolls out 'Scout' delivery robots

Amazon has unleashed six-wheeled cooler-sized robots to deliver packages somewhere near Seattle. Electric-powered, wheeled delivery vehicles named "Scout" were created by Amazon and guide themselves along sidewalks at a walking pace.

Newark Airport Traffic Is Briefly Halted After Drone Is Spotted

After the shutdown of Gatwick and Heathrow airports in the UK, Newark airport joins the list of airports shut down by a drone. All flights bound for Newark Liberty International Airport were halted on Tuesday evening after two pilots reported seeing a drone flying nearby.

China’s JD.com tests drone delivery in Indonesia in first overseas pilot

JD.com, an e-commerce giant from China, has chosen Indonesia for first delivery drone trials outside China. Instead of orders for customers, the drone delivered books and backpacks over 250km to students at a school in a village near Bandung, the country’s fourth-largest city.

Amazon Built Vests to Protect Warehouse Workers From Its Robots

To avoid accidents between robots and humans in highly automated Amazon's warehouses, Amazon designed a vest that notifies nearby robots about the presence of its owner, so the robots can slow down in order to avoid collisions.

Delivery Drones Use Bird-Inspired Legs to Jump Into the Air

Passerine is an interesting drone. It looks like a combination of a jet aeroplane and a bird. It has bird-inspired legs which it uses to jump into the air and then fly like an aeroplane.

Robots Will Take Jobs From Men, the Young, and Minorities

We've heard a lot about robots taking the jobs, but researchers from Brookings Institution wanted to know how automation will impact different groups of people in the US. According to the report, jobs in production, food service and transportation are highly susceptible to automation. When it comes to the demographics, young men from minorities should prepare to be replaced by robots. The full report (108 pages) can be found here.

Autonomous subs spend a year cruising under Antarctic ice

Did you know there are autonomous robotic submarines cruising under the Antarctic ice right now? And over the past year, the subs have ventured 18 times under the ice shelf, repeatedly reaching more than 40 kilometers (25 miles) into the cavity, among the farthest trips yet into this treacherous environment.

Biotechnology

The Top Biotech and Medicine Advances to Expect in 2019

According to Singularity Hub, in 2019 we should see some interesting advancements in biotech. Their predictions - gene drives will be used in the wild, we'll see a universal flu vaccine, more in-body gene editing and we should see some advancements with Neuralink and other brain-computer interfaces.

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