Issue #227

This week - BBC talks about transhumanism; paralysed man walks using mind-controlled exoskeleton; tech startup that makes drone-killing drones; US bans Chinese AI companies; and more!


More than a human

► Transhumanism: How far would you go for a body upgrade? (4:40)

BBC made a short video that explains what transhumanism is. It focuses on people who put implants in their bodies and does not mention other branches of transhumanism, like life-extension, mind uploading or other ways people envision overcoming the limits of human biology. Nevertheless, the document shows that there are people who want ot be more than human and are actively working on that.

Futurist Tim O'Reilly sees a human-computer symbiosis bigger than AI

"I think in the long run, this transformation to machine autonomy, and to, basically, machines that are in a new kind of hybrid existence with humans — they talk about AI as separate from us, but all interesting machines are hybrids of human and machine — we have this machine that has been amplifying things we can do, and I think of the human-machine symbiosis as a trend that is probably bigger than the internet, and bigger than open source, and of which AI is one manifestation."

Rational Freedom and Six Mistakes of a Bioconservative

In this article, Julian Savulescu addresses an article calling to set a limit to human gene enhancement to avoid the problem of gene obsolescence. Savulescu points out six mistakes made in the target article - from bias to the harm of not enhancing to the questions of social determinism and rational freedom of each one of us to decide what we want.

Paralysed man walks using mind-controlled exoskeleton

A French man paralysed in a nightclub accident was able to walk again thanks to a brain-controlled exoskeleton. The patient trained for months, harnessing his brain signals to control a computer-simulated avatar to perform basic movements before using the robot device to walk. Doctors who conducted the trial said though the device was years away from being publicly available, it had the potential to improve patients’ quality of life and autonomy.


Also, a kind reminder

Artificial Intelligence

US blacklists 28 Chinese tech firms over repression of Uighur Muslims

The United States blacklisted 28 Chinese companies that develop facial recognition and other artificial intelligence technology, saying they were implicated in the repression of China’s Muslim minority. The blacklist effectively bars US firms from selling technology to the Chinese companies without government approval. Prominent Chinese AI firms such as Sense Time, Megvii and iFlytek are also on the list. Sense Time and Megvii are known for the development of computer vision technology that underpins facial recognition products, while iFlytek is known for its voice recognition and translation services.

An AI Pioneer Wants His Algorithms to Understand the 'Why'

Yoshua Bengio is hailed as one of the fathers of the ongoing deep learning revolution. Now, Bengio is thinking ahead and states that deep learning needs to be fixed. He believes it won’t realize its full potential, and won’t deliver a true AI revolution, until it can go beyond pattern recognition and learn more about cause and effect. In other words, he says, deep learning needs to start asking why things happen.

How an AI trained to read scientific papers could predict future discoveries

A paper recently published in Nature reports that an AI has now managed to predict future scientific discoveries by simply extracting meaningful data from research publications. Researchers trained AI to find connections in the language used in papers, group similar concepts together and then suggest a possible link between concepts. This result shows how AI can be used to sieve through huge amount of research papers and help speed up scientific progress.

Disney is using AI to correct gender bias in its movies

Disney has a tool named GD-IQ which reads scripts and checks if it contains any unconscious biases. The tool analyses how many characters are part of the LGBTQ+ community, how many characters are people of color, how many have disabilities, as well as characters that are part of other minority groups that aren’t frequently represented in film and television.

UK launched passport photo checker it knew would fail with dark skin

The UK government went ahead with a face-detection system for its passport photo checking service, despite knowing the technology failed to work well for people in some ethnic minorities. This is just yet another example of how biases in training data for AI can easily have a big impact on people using the system.

Robotics

Tech’s Most Controversial Startup Now Makes Drone-Killing Robots

Palmer Luckey's new company, Anduril, is venturing where most Silicon Valley companies (or at least their employees) don't want to go - the military. Anduril is working now on anti-drone drones that can on their own acquire target and ram into it mid-air.

Amazing Open Source Quadruped Capable Of Dynamic Motion

If you want to build your own four-legged robot but you aren't working with Boston Dynamics or don't know where to start, check out this project by Josh Pieper. mjbots quad A0 is a small open-source quadruped robot you can build yourself. More info about the project can be found here.

A RoboCop, a park and a fight: How expectations about robots are clashing with reality

When a fight broke out in a park, Cogo Guebara pressed a button on a robot to call the police. But she did not know the robot wasn't connected to the police dispatch centre and only after calling 911 the police arrived. This event is an example of how our expectations about robots often don't match with reality. 

Biotechnology

Eradicating Malaria with CRISPR: Mosquito Gene Editing Approach

This article explains how gene drives and genetically modified mosquitos can help eradicate malaria - the biggest killer in human history.

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