Issue #274

This week - update on Neuralink's progress; how AI impacted Go community; OpenAI API preliminary pricing; DIY vaccines for COVID-19; and more!


Neuralink

► Neuralink Progress Update, Summer 2020 (1:13:30)

Here is the recording of Neuralink's progress update that Elon Musk gave on 28th August. The presentation includes the new design of the implant, the new surgical robot to put the implant in the head and the three pig demo. Elon claims the implant can now predict the position of pig's joints based on brain data alone, can be easily removed and fits entirely under the skull (no behind-the-ear piece is needed). The next steps are human clinical trials which should happen soon. The presentation took about 20 minutes followed by a Q&A session with Neuralink engineers.

► The Future of Neuralink (33:24)

Lex Fridman shares his thoughts on 8 possible long-term futures of Neuralink. These include short-term possibilities like alleviating human suffering to augmenting body and mind, gaming and VR to merging with AI.

► Elon Musk’s Neuralink – Ex-Employees Reveal Company Struggles (12:15)

In this video, ColdFusion focuses on what is happening behind-the-scenes at Neuralink. It exposes the internal struggle in the company between those who want it to be like a fast-paced tech company and those who see it as a scientific research company. The company lost 5 out of 8 founding scientists and it's putting a neck-breaking pace of research. Despite all of this, the ex-employees praised the company and its ambitious goals.

Elon Musk’s Pig-Brain Implant Is Still a Long Way from ‘Solving Paralysis’

This article from Scientific American points out that Nerualink is not the only company working on brain-computer interfaces and it's not the first one to implant one in pigs. It also points out that Neuralink is better funded than any other group and that can help commercialise the technology faster.

Take a closer look at Elon Musk’s Neuralink surgical robot

Here are some photos of the Neuralink surgical robot. This sleek, sci-fi machine was designed by Neuralink's engineers, but its white body was designed by San Francisco-based industrial design firm Woke Studio, which also designed the look of the behind-the-ear piece.

Artificial Intelligence

Impact of Go AI on the professional Go world

This article, written by a former aspiring pro Go player, showcases the impact the historic match between Lee Sedol and AlphaGo had on Go community. The impact was both good and bad - some players learnt from how AI plays the game and rise up in ranks while for others, it was time to reevaluate their lifepath as a pro Go player. The article concludes with an observation that "Go can be seen more as a mind sport than a life pursuit", and AlphaGo has changed this community for better or for worse.

Google Offers to Help Others With the Tricky Ethics of AI

Google’s cloud division will soon invite customers to outsource something less tangible than CPUs and disk drives—the rights and wrongs of using artificial intelligence. The company plans to launch new AI ethics services before the end of the year. Initially, Google will offer others advice on tasks such as spotting racial bias in computer vision systems, or developing ethical guidelines that govern AI projects. Longer term, the company may offer to audit customers’ AI systems for ethical integrity, and charge for ethics advice. If successful, the new initiative could spawn a new buzzword: EaaS, for ethics as a service, modeled after cloud industry coinages such as SaaS, for software as a service.

Deepfake detection tool unveiled by Microsoft

Microsoft has released a tool to detect deepfakes in video. The software analyses photos and videos to give a confidence score about whether the material is likely to have been artificially created. The firm says it hopes the tech will help "combat disinformation".

OpenAI API: preliminary beta pricing announced

To see the actual pricing for OpenAI API you need to have access to their beta program. One AI researcher shared preliminary pricing for API usage. There is a free trial plan but after that you have a $100/month and $400/month tier. If you need more, you will need to contact OpenAI sales which will probably put the price closer and sometimes even more than $1000/month.

Robotics

Electronic skin that ‘feels’ pain could lead to smarter prosthetics and robots

The artificial skin was developed by scientists from RMIT University in Australia, who claim it reacts to painful sensations as quickly as it takes nerve signals to reach the brain. This new electronic skin that reacts to pain like humans could provide the foundations for better prosthetics, smarter robots, and non-invasive alternatives to skin grafts, according to the device’s inventors.

Biotechnology

Do-It-Yourself Vaccines for COVID-19

There is a group of scientists and their friends or colleagues called Rapid Deployment Vaccine Collaborative (or RaDVaC) which goal is to “to reduce risk of harm from SARS-CoV-2, minimally until there is at least one effective commercial vaccine widely available.” And they do a lot of self-experimentation. This article looks at the self-experimentation, the ethics of this approach and is it actually worth the time of those scientists.

Tangents

Solar Foods Closes Series A Financing For Its First Commercial Factory

Solar Foods is an interesting company because they make food out of thin air. They created a process that uses CO2 from the air which then gets zapped with electricity to produce nutrient-rich protein. The company has closed series A funding round to build a commercial facility that will produce this new food in late 2022 if everything goes according to their plans.

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