Issue #209

This week - DeepMind has beaten humans in Quake III; Amazon reveals the new delivery drone; why we should play god; Robert Downey Jr. wants to clean the world with robots; and more!

More Than a Human

The Philosopher Who Says We Should Play God

Here is an interview with Julian Savulescu - bioethicist and moral philosopher at the University of Oxford, where he discusses a wide range of looming ethical issues, from new technology that will change how we’re born and how we die, to transhumanism, to how the world might end.

China unveils Brain-Computer Interface chip

China's state-owned news agency Xinhua reports the creation of Brain Talker - a "breakthrough" in brain-computer (BCI) chip research. The press release is quite generic and does not provide any details on how the chip works or how does it compare with other options.

Baby gene experiment 'foolish and dangerous'

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have published a paper suggesting that the genetically modified twins born last year may not truly benefit from the modification they received. The CCR5, which was modified to give the twins resilience to HIV virus, is also active in the brain and in fighting off other infections, particularly flu. The study showed those who had only the mutated version of CCR5 were 20% more likely to die before they turned 78.

Artificial Intelligence

DeepMind Deploys Self-taught Agents To Beat Humans at Quake III

DeepMind has added Quake III to the list of game where AI has proven to be a better player than humans.

Less Like Us: An Alternate Theory of Artificial General Intelligence

This article describes an alternative path towards artificial general intelligence (AGI). Proposed by Eric Drexler, Comprehensive AI Services (CAIS) proposes that instead of one master algorithm that can do everything, we will more likely end up with a number of highly specialised AIs and a central system that takes human command and decides which AI is the best for a given job. CAIS is an extrapolation of current trends in AI, where researchers focus on optimising a specific task rather than creating an AGI. Drexler also claims his approach is safer than a conscious god-like AGI.

New AI Generates Horrifyingly Plausible Fake News

To fight fake news generated by AI, AI researchers have created GROVER - an AI that can detect fake news but can also generate them. The algorithm can analyze more aspects of a news article than other tools, including not only the body of the article but also the headline, publication name, author name, and other details that could indicate foul play. But that attention to detail also means that someone could use GROVER to create fake news of their own. However, GROVER is the best fake news detector out there and unlike OpenAI with their fake news generator, researchers will release the tool to the public. The scientists concede that releasing GROVER to the world could be dangerous, but maintain that it’s still the best line of defense against algorithmic propaganda, even that created by GROVER itself.

► Few-Shot Adversarial Learning of Realistic Neural Talking Head Models (5:33)

In this video, a group of researchers describe their AI model that can generate a new talking head from just a few photos (it needs just one photo to generate something but more photos improve the end result) of the person and the video of the person speaking. The researchers hope their work will find a place in AR and VR apps but they also acknowledge that their work can be used to generate deepfakes.


A first look at Amazon’s new delivery drone

For the first time, Amazon showed off its newest fully electric delivery drone at its first re:Mars conference in Las Vegas. Chances are, it neither looks nor flies like what you’d expect from a drone. It’s an ingenious hexagonal hybrid design, though, that has very few moving parts and uses the shroud that protects its blades as its wings when it transitions from vertical, helicopter-like flight at takeoff to its airplane-like mode. These drones, Amazon says, will start making deliveries in the coming months, though it’s not yet clear where exactly that will happen.

Robert Downey Jr. Announces Footprint Coalition to Clean Up the World With Advanced Tech

Robert Downey Jr. aka Tony Stark announced the launch of a new organization that is committed to using advanced technologies for the good of the environment. The Footprint Coalition, as the group is called, is scheduled to officially launch by April of 2020.

Boston Dynamics’ first consumer product might be a battle bot

Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert hinted one of the possible applications of SpotMini - robotic dogfights. Speaking in Las Vegas at Amazon’s inaugural public Re:MARS conference, he shared a vision in which multiple players might fight Spots against each other, as a “network game with physical actors.”

► Mech Warfare with Airsoft Firing Robots (5:52)

Have you always wanted to pilot a mech robot fighting other mechs in a city? If the answer is yes, then Toni Lanett Harris has built something for you (but on a smaller scale).

How Zipline Became a $1.2 Billion Drone Company

With $190 million in a recent financing round, Ziplines value crossed the magical $1 billion. “Our contract with Rwanda doesn’t even mention drones,” Zipline founder said. “We’re couriers – drones were just the best way to solve the logistical problem of delivering supplies in that environment.”

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