Issue #317

This week - US military is going to test anti-ageing pill next year; voice actors are concerned about AI; biohackers working on cheap insulin; Pepper the robot is in trouble; and more!


More Than A Human

SOCOM To Test Anti-Aging Pill Next Year

US Special Operations Command expects to move into clinical trials next year of a pill that may inhibit or reduce some of the degenerative affects of aging and injury — part of a broader Pentagon push for “improved human performance.” “These efforts are not about creating physical traits that don't already exist naturally. This is about enhancing the mission readiness of our forces by improving performance characteristics that typically decline with age," Cmdr. Tim Hawkins, SOCOM spokesperson, said.

A New Brain Implant Automatically Detects and Kills Pain in Real Time

Researchers from New York University School of Medicine have created an interesting brain implant. It consists of two parts. The first part listens to the region in the brain responsible for detecting pain. When it detects pain, it sends a signal to the second part which dampens the pain response. For now, the device has only been tested in rats. But it’s a “blueprint” for tuning the brain to ease pain in the future, the authors wrote.

► At Any Cost A Guide To The Transhumanist Wager By Chris Armstrong (1:06:08)

In this interview, Chris Armstrong explains the ideas in his book, At any Cost A guide To the Transhumanist Wager, Zoltan Istvan's The Transhumanist Wager and the basic ideas of transhumanism.

Artificial Intelligence

Voice AI is scary good now. Video game actors hate it.

A new unofficial mod to Witcher 3 would most likely be unnoticed if it wasn't for one thing - its author used an AI-based voice generator to create new lines for Geralt using original actor's voice as a base. This stirred some controversy in the game dev and voice actors communities and raised questions about how far game developers should go with voice generating AIs. Understandably, voice actors see this technology as a threat to their craft. But some companies, like Obsidian and Sonantic, have shown how voice generators can be used in tandem with voice actors.

Robotics

SoftBank stops making Pepper robot but says it isn't dead

SoftBank announced that the company is stopping production of their Pepper robots due to weak demand. "We plan to resume production if demand recovers," a SoftBank Robotics Group official said, denying that the plug has been pulled on Pepper. We will see what the future holds for Pepper and if I have to add a new story to the Dead Robots series.

Why Robots Can’t Be Counted On to Find Survivors in the Florida Building Collapse

After any major disaster, like the recent building collapse in Florida, there is someone asking "why don't we send a robot to look for survivors?". IEEE Spectrum speaks with Robin Murphy, an expert in applying robotic technology to disasters, about that and what are the major obstacles for robots here - from connectivity, size of the robots to the unpredictability of the environment to the fact these events are rare and robots designed for disaster relief are not the highest priority in robotics research.

The slow rise of robots in the data center

This article describes the efforts in automating yet another space - data centres. Data centres are not that automated as one might think and companies, both big and small, are looking at how they can introduce robots to automate the maintenance of their servers or even one day build a data centre without humans.

Biotechnology

Biohackers Take Aim at Big Pharma’s Stranglehold on Insulin

Open Insulin Foundation is a non-profit organisation with a big goal - to create the world's first open-source insulin production model. If they are successful, their insulin will be 98% cheaper than currently available options. Everyone with the right equipment and knowledge would be able to make it anywhere in the world and that can shake the entire pharma industry.

He Inherited A Devastating Disease. A CRISPR Gene-Editing Breakthrough Stopped It

Patrick Doherty became the first person to be treated with a CRISPR-Cas9-based therapy injected directly into the bloodstream. The results showed the experimental treatment worked, causing levels of the destructive protein to plummet in Doherty's body and the bodies of five other patients treated with the approach. This therapy opens the doors for more therapies based on CRISPR to treat other rare diseases as well as heart diseases, Alzheimer's or muscular dystrophy. 

Harvard Scientists Pinpoint ‘Ground Zero’ of Aging in Mouse Embryo Study

Recent studies have shown that the germline cells - sperm and eggs - are not ageless and scientists were suspecting that there is some kind of rejuvenation mechanism there causing the offspring cells to start from zero. Now a team from Harvard has shown that the age of mouse embryo cells resets about a week into development, representing the “ground zero” of aging. The finding not only provides insight into the fundamental dynamics of aging, but also suggests we might mimic the process in adult cells to rejuvenate aging tissues.

KAIST develops general-purpose influenza nano-vaccine

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) announced that its research team has developed a self-assembling protein-based, nano-structured vaccine to prevent infectious diseases, including influenza. The vaccine has been proven to work in animals and the team has begun a follow-up study to develop new candidate vaccines for Covid-19.

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