Issue #195

Featured in this week's issue - Boeing and Kalashnikov are showing military drones; the problem with China's CRISPR experiment; what the most valuable AI startups are working on; eight-letter DNA; and more!


More than a human

Designer Babies - The Problem With China's CRISPR Experiment

Here is a video from Real Engineering YouTube channel about the controversial experiment which resulted in first genetically modified humans to be born at the end of last year. This video does a good job explaining what CRISPR is and how it works before diving into details of the experiment, the reaction and critique (mostly technical) and what is the outcome of this experiment. 

Exoskeleton helps people with paralysis to walk

Wandercraft is a French company working on exoskeletons to help people recover and relearn how to walk. Algorithms and sensors read a person's movement in the suit, meaning that once they lean in a direction, the suit will move. As a result, it is hands-free and does not require any upper body support.

Artificial Intelligence

The World’s Most Valuable AI Companies, and What They’re Working On

According to CB Insights, there are 32 AI startups that reached the Unicorn status (valuation of $1B+). This article checks what they are doing - some are scanning our faces in the crowd, others want to be your doctor or your driver, help you in the office or protect you on the internet.

Who’s afraid of OpenAI’s big, bad text generator?

Here is an interesting analysis focused on reaction to recent research from OpenAI. The problem was not the research itself but how OpenAI handled the whole situation. Their goal of not releasing the full research was to help plot the path forward for ethical public disclosure of potentially harmful AI models. It did not work out as they intended. 

A philosopher argues that an AI can’t be an artist

Can a painting or music generated by a machine be considered as art? In this essay, Sean Dorrance Kelly, a philosophy professor at Harvard, argues that no, machines cannot produce art. "Human creative achievement, because of the way it is socially embedded, will not succumb to advances in artificial intelligence", he writes.

Sam Altman on AI: Jobs may go away, but massive abundance likely

Sam Altman from Y Combinator says that artificial intelligence will probably replace most of the jobs people do today, but should pave the way for more personalized jobs and a massive increase in "material abundance" that could boost the size of the global GDP by 50% a year within decades.

Robotics

The snow patrol drones saving skiers from an icy death

The Czech Mountain Rescue Service is testing a specialised drone to help localise people under the snow faster. The drone can listen for signals from avalanche transceivers and uses special cameras to quickly show the rescue teams where to look for people after the avalanche.

The US Army wants to turn tanks into AI-powered killing machines

US Army has called on potential vendors in industry and academia to submit ideas to help build its Advanced Targeting and Lethality Automated System (ATLAS), which a Defense Department solicitation says will use artificial intelligence and machine learning to give ground-combat vehicles autonomous targeting capabilities. This will allow weapons to “acquire, identify, and engage targets at least 3X faster than the current manual process,” according to the notice. This initiative is “another significant step towards lethal autonomous weapons,” warns a leading artificial-intelligence researcher who has called for a ban on “killer robots.”

Death From Above: Boeing Unveils Autonomous Fighter Jet

Boeing announced it is working on an autonomous fighter jet. According to Boeing's plan, the plane will take off for its first flight sometime in 2020.

The Kalashnikov assault rifle changed the world. Now there’s a Kalashnikov kamikaze drone

At a major defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi, Kalashnikov showed a drone that has the potential to be for military drone what AK-47 was for assault rifles. Named KUB-UAV, this suicide drone is promised to be cheap and easy to use, and just like AK-47 (Kalashnikov's other creation), it can become the weapon of choice for revolutionaries and insurgents around the world.

Biotechnology

We need to police gene editing. The World Health Organization agrees.

Shortly after the news about first genetically modified humans were born in China at the end of last year, UN announced that it would assemble experts to look at setting international guidelines for the use of CRISPR and other genetic engineering techniques. Last week, the UN organization announced the appointment of that committee, which consists of eighteen experts from around the globe and two chairs.

Scientists Just Added Four New Letters to the Genetic Code

Scientists have recently created hachi-moji DNA - a DNA molecule that uses 8 letters to code information instead of 4 letters all known life uses. Researchers have yet to demonstrate that the code can be replicated by cells but if they are successful in that, we can witness a vast variety of new proteins available which could enable everything from more powerful medicines and industrial catalysts to more outlandish ideas, like electrically-conducting proteins.

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