19th July 2019

Issue #216

This week - Microsoft invests $1 billion in OpenAI; should robots look like humans; why an AI race between US and China is a bad idea; and more!


More Than a Human

Brain-Computer Interfaces: Separating Fact From Fiction On Musk’s Brain Implant Claims

Now, that we know what's the plan for Neuralink, is time to weed out facts from hype. Like this article, which briefly explains how neurons work, what has been already done in the area of brain-computer interfaces and what challenges lay ahead for Neuralink and others working on similar technologies.

Billionaires Shouldn’t Live Forever

One of the arguments against life extension research is that initially, the price for such therapy will be so big that only the rich will afford it. Pro-life extension counter-argument is that eventually, the price tag will go low so that everyone will be able to afford one (a prime analogy used here are smartphones). This article, however, argues that the wealthy will probably won't like to share the immortality with others and instead create a cast of ultra-rich, forever young, extremely powerful people and that we should ban entirely the life-extension research to not make this happen.

► What Really Matters About Neuralink (18:56)

Elon Musk made headlines last week when he announced the first product from his startup company, Neuralink. It's a brain implant that will potentially allow quadriplegics to control phones, computers, and robotic arms. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

First-ever noninvasive mind-controlled robotic arm

A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon has made a breakthrough in the field of noninvasive robotic device control. Using a noninvasive brain-computer interface, they have developed the first-ever successful mind-controlled robotic arm exhibiting the ability to continuously track and follow a computer cursor.

Artificial Intelligence

Microsoft is investing $1 billion in OpenAI

Microsoft announced it is expanding its partnership with artificial intelligence research company OpenAI to build supercomputing AI technology for its cloud. That partnership is both technological and financial, with Microsoft investing $1 billion in OpenAI.

François Chollet on OpenAI

I just want to share this Twitter thread by François Chollet - creator of Keras (a widely used AI framework) and well respected AI researcher - on the recent shift in OpenAI and how people in AI community see that change.

Why an “AI Race” Between the U.S. and China Is a Terrible, Terrible Idea

There are more and more voices saying that "China is going to win AI race" and to prevent that, we need "more AI". This article calls to stop for a moment and think why the US, in this case, needs to be in and win the AI race? What is the end goal? What is the winning condition? Will this race create something we actually don't want, like even more surveillance states?

Robotics

Should robots ever look like us?

BBC explores the issue of human-like robots and how close they should be to a real human. It presents arguments for human-like robots ("break down suspicions and reservations people might have") and arguments against them and how uncanny valley makes those robots creepy and revolving.

► NASA Climbing Robot Scales Cliffs and Looks for Life (4:00)

Meet LEMUR-3 - a climbing robot designed by engineers from NASA that maybe one day will explore Moon or Mars. Watch how it climbs a rock wall in this video.

Biotechnology

DNA ancestry tests could be used to assassinate people in the future, expert warns

Ok, this is from The Daily Star, but here David Wood, co-founder of Transhumanist Party UK, paints a picture where some mad man creates a virus targeting only a specific group of people with deadly efficiency. “And we will need to think about that in advance and futurists and transhumanists, as well as pointing out the amazing and wonderful things technology can do, will also warn people about the terrible consequences of bad technology”, says Wood.

► Engineering Better Medicines from our Own Cells (17:03)

Krystyn Van Vliet explains how we can use our own cells to repair our bodies. The technology is in the early stages of discovery and challenges for making the cells that could cure cancer, speed healing after brain injury, and help our bodies repair our own aging body parts. But with the help of genetic and tissue engineering, your future doctor might prescribe a cell therapy to fix your body and make you live longer and healthier life.

Editing RNA Expands CRISPR’s Use Far Beyond Genetic Diseases

A team at MIT lead by Dr. Feng Zhang has created RESCUE - a tool that allows swapping two letters in RNA. It opens new possibilities in gene therapy and because RNA changes are not permanent, there is a possibility those therapies will reach patients sooner than therapies targeting DNA.

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