31st May 2019

Issue #208

This week - an open source four-legged robot; AGI has been delayed; self-driving delivery trucks and delivery robots; the race to build life from scratch; and more!


More than a human

Transhumanism Is Tempting—Until You Remember Inspector Gadget

This article checks what can transhumanists learn from 1983 cartoon Inspector Gadget. The main argument here is that not always more information and more technologically advanced tools are better if you get overwhelmed by the information you are facing or cannot use the technology properly.

Six Paths to the Nonsurgical Future of Brain-Machine Interfaces

DARPA awarded funding to six teams in Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3) program whose goals is to "develop high-resolution, bidirectional brain-machine interfaces (BCI) for use by able-bodied service members". Since DARPA is a US military agency, it envisions the first applications of BCI technology to be "control of active cyber defense systems and swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles, or teaming with computer systems to multitask during complex missions".

Neal Stephenson Explains His Vision of the Digital Afterlife

This interview with Neal Stephenson revolves around his new book, Fall, and topics like the impact of social media (Stephenson calls them "doomsday machine"), digital afterlife by digitizing human brains, quantum computing, virtual reality and the impact these technologies can have in the future.

The Singularity is Near: How Kurzweil's Predictions Are Faring

Someone took the time to go through Ray Kurzweil's book The Singularity Is Near and check which predictions from 2005 came true in 2017 and to what degree. The result - out of 25 predictions, 9 of them become a reality, giving Kurzweil 36% accuracy.

Artificial Intelligence

AGI Has Been Delayed

In this blog post, Rodney Brooks at the current state of self-driving cars and compares it to the optimistic predictions made a couple of years ago. Brooks, a pioneer in robotics, notices that making a fully autonomous car has proven to be more difficult than expected, leading some experts to reevaluate the timeframes. For example, a leader of Google’s self-driving car project and now CEO of a self-driving cars startup Aurora, Chris Urmson, says we can see fully autonomous cars in 30-50 years. Brooks also notes that this setback pushes away the predictions when the artificial general intelligence will arrive.

Robotics

Meet Doggo: Stanford’s cute open-source four-legged robot

If you would like to have one of those Boston Dynamics-like four-legged robots and you also happen to be a maker, then I have good news for you. Robotics researchers from Stanford have presented Doggo - an open source four-legged robot that you can build yourself. It promises to have more torque and jump better than similar robots. And it is cheaper, too. Similar robots from $12k. Doggo can be built for $3000. The source files are publicly available on GitHub.

Self-driving trucks begin mail delivery test for U.S. Postal Service

The U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday started a two-week test transporting mail across three Southwestern states using self-driving trucks. San Diego-based startup TuSimple said its self-driving trucks will begin hauling mail between USPS facilities in Phoenix and Dallas to see how the nascent technology might improve delivery times and costs. A safety driver will sit behind the wheel to intervene if necessary and an engineer will ride in the passenger seat.

Tank Robots Protected Marines in ‘First-Time’ British War Simulation

In a recent war simulation, British Royal Marines stormed a beach with support from autonomous robots on the sea and in the air.

Ford Self-Driving Vans Will Use Legged Robots to Make Deliveries

Imagine you open the door to receive a package and instead of a delivery man, there is a bipedal robot with your package. This is the vision Ford and Agility Robotics shared recently. The self-driving trucks will do the long distance delivery while the robot will take the package from the truck and deliver it to the doors.

MIT's new robot takes orders from your muscles

This new robot from MIT uses signals from muscles to better understand human intentions and help lift heavy objects.

Biotechnology

Scientists Created Bacteria With a Synthetic Genome

Researchers at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Britain reported that they had rewritten the DNA of the bacteria Escherichia coli, fashioning a synthetic genome four times larger and far more complex than any previously created. The bacteria are alive, though unusually shaped and reproducing slowly. But their cells operate according to a new set of biological rules, producing familiar proteins with a reconstructed genetic code.

Inside the Race to Build Life From Scratch

Building a living cell from scratch is like building artificial general intelligence in AI field - the holy grail achievement that will open unimaginable possibilities. This article checks how close are we to create life from nothing.

► Can we cure genetic diseases by rewriting DNA? (16:12)

n a story of scientific discovery, chemical biologist David R. Liu shares a breakthrough: his lab's development of base editors that can rewrite DNA. This crucial step in genome editing takes the promise of CRISPR to the next level: if CRISPR proteins are molecular scissors, programmed to cut specific DNA sequences, then base editors are pencils, capable of directly rewriting one DNA letter into another.

Astronauts Use CRISPR in Space for the First Time Ever

Astronauts Christina Koch and Nick Hague used CRISPR gene-editing technology to modify the yeast genome in a way that mimics radiation-caused damage to DNA. The experiment marked the first use of CRISPR in space

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