Issue #223

This week - the tech to make people live forever; how to make robots not lost in underground tunnels; American truck drivers want to ban autonomous trucks; and more!


More than a human

The extreme tech that will help people live forever

Here is a list of some technologies scientists believe will make people live way longer than today, from cryonics and drugs to stem cells and special diets.

Brain-computer interface will make people telepathic, scientists say

Neural interfaces that link human brains to computers using artificial intelligence will allow people to read other people’s thoughts, according to leading scientists. A new report by the Royal Society outlines the benefits of such technology but warns that there could be severe risks if it falls into the wrong hands.

Wearable Robotic Suits Could Be Coming to a Store Near You

Exoskeletons quickly came from science fiction through military tech and now they are finding a place in factories and helping people with disabilities. There is a good chance that you will encounter one rather sooner than later.

Artificial Intelligence

Are we going from “Artificial Intelligence” to “Augmented Intelligence?”

While some people see AI as at least a problem and some see it as an existential threat to humanity, others see AI as an extension of human intelligence rather than a substitution for it.

► The biggest problem in AI? Machines have no common sense. | Gary Marcus (7:13)

Gary Marcus makes an argument that current AI is nothing more than a statistics algorithms run on a massive amount of data and that does not create intelligence. He proposes to teach AI common sense which is a much harder problem to solve.

Using stories to teach human values to artificial agents

Although the article is from 2016, the idea is still interesting. To teach AI ethical behaviour, a group of AI researchers proposed to make robots to read stories and through that learn acceptable sequences of events and understand successful ways to behave in human societies.

Robotics

How Robotics Teams Are Solving the Biggest Problem at DARPA’s Subterranean Challenge

One of the biggest challenges in DARPA’s Subterranean Challenge (where teams have to build autonomous robots that can navigate inside underground tunnels) is long-range communications. This article explains how each team solved this problem - from dragging a tether to deploying mesh networks.

North American companies boost spending on industrial robots: study

North American companies increased spending on industrial robots in the second quarter. Firms ordered 8,572 robots in the second quarter, a more than 19% increase over a year ago. Robot sales have grown through much of the economic expansion as the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in decades and factories continue adding workers —suggesting companies are using robots to augment hard-to-find labor.

Truckers gather at to push for new bill prohibiting driverless trucks

Fearing a loss of their jobs to driverless trucks, truck drivers gathered at the Capitol building in Jefferson City to push for a new bill that would prohibit driverless or autonomous trucks in Missouri.

A gentle grip on gelatinous creatures

How do you catch a jellyfish with a robot? You use a very gentle soft robotic arm, of course. Like this soft gripper developed at Harvard University.

Biotechnology

Forget single genes: CRISPR now cuts and splices whole chromosomes

Researchers report they've adapted CRISPR and combined it with other tools to cut and splice large genome fragments with ease. The technique will enable synthetic biologists to take on "grand challenges," such as "writing of information to DNA and storing it in a bacterial genome or creating new hybrid bacterial species that can carry out novel [metabolic reactions] for biochemistry or materials production."

Lab-Grown Minibrains Show Activity Similar to Babies’ Brains

A new research has shown that minibrains, a small bunch of neurons the size of a pea, develop highly synchronized neural oscillations as they mature. They’re not random activity waves either. Using machine learning, the team compared those activity patterns to those measured from preterm babies as young as 24 weeks. Even though the measurements were different—one directly from minibrains, the other through the scalp with EEG—the two were shockingly similar in how network electrical activity emerged over time.

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