Issue #285

This week - are we ready for true human diversity; China has caught up to US in AI; how to preserve the privacy of genomic data; FBI hires 140 robots for their new facility; and more!


More Than A Human

A Complete Guide to Transhumanism

Adam Sinicki (aka The Bioneer) explains what is transhumanism, the history of the movement, its different flavours and what technologies can make us more than a human. I also recommend checking his YouTube channel if you are interested in pushing the boundaries of what the human body is capable of.

True Human Diversity is Finally Imaginable. Are We Ready?

Right now, humanity is not that diverse. But it might change soon. As Juan Enriquez, who focuses here on the possibility of human speciation in space, notices, "historically, when we have encountered perceived human diversity, it has not usually ended well". Enriquez calls to consider the consequences and rules for emerging human variants. As a first step, he suggests rethinking how we treat existing species demonstrating different forms of intelligence, like apes, octopi, dolphins, and whales. This work can become a blueprint for the customs and laws we will develop as Homo sapiens begins to speciate.

Artificial Intelligence

Health Care AI Systems Are Biased

This article points out that we need more diverse datasets to train medical AI. "Whether by race, gender or geography, medical AI has a data diversity problem: researchers can’t easily obtain large, diverse medical data sets—and that can lead to biased algorithms", the authors write.

China Has Caught Up To U.S. In AI, Says AI Expert Kai-Fu Lee

Kai Fu-Lee, who runs an AI-focused venture capital firm called Sinovation, says in this interview that "thanks to data, AI, and the entrepreneur ecosystem, China rapidly evolved from a copycat into a true innovator" and gives an example how China’s natural advantages in AI made TikTok a massive success worldwide.

NVIDIA's New AI Products

NVIDIA released two new AI products for high-performance computing at this year's SC20 show - new A100 80GB GPU and DGX Station A100 - an AI workstation that you put on a desk.

Robotics

A New and Improved Burger Robot’s on the Market—and Everyone Wants One

Flippy, a burger-flipping robot made by Miso Robotics, is now available to buy with a price tag of $30,000. Equipped with sensors that feed its machine learning algorithms, Flippy can cook 19 different foods, including chicken wings, onion rings, french fries. And it does not have a body - Flippy is just an arm attached to a rail along the stove’s hood to massively reduce the space it takes.

UK Space Agency backs medical drone delivery project

A medical drone delivery service founded by trainee doctors that aims to transport coronavirus samples, test kits and protective equipment between hospitals has won the backing of Britain's Space Agency. The start-up project can help free up healthcare staff, avoid courier waiting times and minimize the risk of virus transmission.

FBI hires 140 robots to retrieve sensitive information

To help deal with retrieving physical records, FBI bought 140 robots that you would normally see in automated fulfilment centres sorting orders into bags, not sensitive documents.

Japan shop deploys robot to check people are wearing face masks

A shop in Japan has enlisted a robot to ensure customers are wearing masks, as the country prepares for a possible third wave of coronavirus infections. Robovie, developed by the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International in Kyoto, is able to pick out customers who aren’t wearing masks and politely ask them to cover up. It can also intervene when they fail to socially distance while queuing up to pay.

Maintenance Robot Walks on a Wind Turbine's Blade in a World First

In mid-October, a six-legged inspect-and-repair robot called BladeBUG repeatedly walked on the blades at UK's ORE Catapult’s 7MW Levenmouth Demonstration turbine off the coast of Fife. The event marked the first time ever that a robot scaled the blades of a wind turbine. Robots like BladeBUG could reduce the cost of blade inspection techniques by over 30%.

Biotechnology

Scientists Grow Bigger Monkey Brains Using Human Genes, Replicating Evolution

Do you want Planet of the Apes? Because this is how you get Planet of the Apes.

How to Preserve the Privacy of Your Genomic Data

Is there a way we can ensure full privacy of our genomic data without sacrificing what kind of computations we can do with it? According to this article - yes, we can. The technology we can use here is called fully homomorphic encryption. It allows performing computations on encrypted data without decrypting it in the first place. The article claims it will be perfect for encrypting DNA data and it is so secure, that even quantum computers won't be able to crack it.

We can modify genomes. Now what?

This article presents arguments for and against modifications of human germline DNA. On the pro side, we have curing genetic diseases or boosting our immune system to deal with new diseases. There is also a very vague argument that genetic engineering "could greatly increase our understanding of the role of genetics in human development, opening the doors to benefits beyond the realm of therapeutic and preventative applications". On the other side, arguments are biological and social - unintended off-shoot modifications, designer babies and creating new forms of inequality, discrimination, and social conflict.

Tangents

Spying with Your Robot Vacuum Cleaner: Eavesdropping via Lidar Sensors (PDF)

The creativity of security experts never ceases to impress me. A group of researchers have found a way to hack Lidar installed in a robot vacuum cleaner and use it as a laser-based microphone that can sense sounds from subtle vibrations induced on nearby objects. In this paper, they describe the technique (named LidarPhone) and report 91% and 90% average accuracies of digit and music classifications, respectively.

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