Issue #244

This week - Elon Musk teases Neuralink's "awesome" advancement; William Gibson's thoughts about "future fatigue"; Spot Mini to replace human on a construction site; Japan builds a giant Gundam robot; and more!


Sci-fi author William Gibson: how ‘future fatigue’ is putting people off the 22nd century

In this newsletter, I focus on what is happening now that brings the sci-fi visions of the future closer to reality. Recently, I noticed that almost no one outside the futurist's circles is talking about the future. And if someone talks about it, it is almost always a bleak future. William Gibson, one of the greatest scifi writers, notices this trend too. “All through the 20th century, we constantly saw the 21st century invoked,” Gibson says in an interview with BBC. “How often do you hear anyone invoke the 22nd century? Even saying it is unfamiliar to us. We’ve come to not have a future”. I think we should start portraying more positive visions of the future. Instead of Black Mirror, we should have a White (or at least Grey) Mirror.

More than a human

Researchers Transplant Lab-Grown Heart Muscle Cells Into Patient

Researchers from Osaka University, Japan, have successfully transplanted lab-grown heart muscle cells into a patient. If the procedure has the desired effect, it could eventually eliminate the need for some entire heart transplants.

Neuralink: Elon Musk teases 'awesome' advancements may be detailed soon

Elon Musk teased on Twitter that Neuralink is making progress and that what they've got now vs what they showed last year is "awesome".

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence Will Do What We Ask. That’s a Problem.

By teaching machines to understand our true desires, one scientist hopes to avoid the potentially disastrous consequences of having them do what we command.

► StyleGAN2: Near-Perfect Human Face Synthesis...and More (4:30)

Two Minute Papers explains StyleGAN2 - the state of the art generative adversarial network (GAN) that generates insanely realistic human faces.

Artificial intelligence-created medicine to be used on humans for first time

For the first time ever, a drug designed by an AI will start human trials. The drug, designed to treat patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder, was designed in just 5 months by a team of British and Japanese researchers.

US Army plans to bring human-AI interaction to the battlefield

US Army is working on a system that takes input from a network of air and ground vehicles equipped with sensors to identify potential threats and autonomously notify soldiers. The information collected would then be analysed by an AI-enabled decision support agent that can recommend responses — such as which threats to prioritize.

Robotics

Robot dog to replace human at Montreal construction site

Boston Dynamics' Spot Mini is starting a six-month trial at a construction site in Montreal, Canada. The robot will be walking around the construction site and track the progress of the project and to see if it looks to be coming in under or over budget and if it is on schedule.

Self-driving company Waymo teams up with UPS for package delivery

Waymo will start delivering parcels for UPS using its self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans in Phoenix, Texas, as part of a broader partnership with the shipping and logistics company. The minivans will take packages from UPS store locations to a local UPS sorting facility for processing. The pilot won’t involve package delivery to consumers. While this is a pilot, both companies said the goal is to jointly develop a “long-term plan for how the companies can work together.”

Japan Is Building a Giant Gundam Robot That Can Walk

Gundam Factory Yokohama (it is a real thing) will build an 18 meters tall and 25 ton Gundam robot. The plan is for the robot to have a steel frame and carbon resin exterior and be powered by electric actuators, achieving “Gundam-like movement” with its 24 degrees of freedom, including the ability to walk. It also would be the largest humanoid robot ever built.

Robots unlikely to cause mass layoffs: Canadian federal documents say

Newly released documents show that top Canadian government officials believe there is no imminent threat that artificial intelligence and robots will displace large segments of the Canadian workforce. In work done last year, federal experts found the likelihood of a "doomsday" scenario where automation eliminates half of the Canadian jobs to be "overstated." But officials warned there were early indications of challenges in parts of the economy that the government should do something about, such as the way online streaming services are reshaping music, television and movie production.

Biotechnology

World First: Genetically Engineered Moth Is Released Into an Open Field

A new study published in Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology outlines the world's first open-field release of Oxitec's genetically engineered moth (or any genetically engineered moth for that matter) and suggests that this method is both effective and sustainable for pest regulation. The idea behind the genetically engineered moth is that when males of this strain are introduced into the environment, they find and mate with pest females. The self-limiting gene is passed onto the offspring, which then prevents the female caterpillars from surviving.

Engineering Bugs, Resurrecting Species: The Wild World of Synthetic Biology for Conservation

This article lists how synthetic biology could help protect biodiversity and conserve species, from introducing gene drives to growing leather in lab to bringing extinct species back.

► Why "biofabrication" is the next industrial revolution (12:20)

What if we could "grow" clothes from microbes, furniture from living organisms and buildings with exteriors like tree bark? Suzanne Lee shares exciting developments from the field of biofabrication and shows how it could help us replace major sources of waste, like plastic and cement, with sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives.

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