Issue #360

This week - Philosophy Tube takes on transhumanism; actors launch a campaign against AI; Japanese VR-piloted robot; and more!


More Than A Human

The scientist who co-created CRISPR isn’t ruling out engineered babies someday

MIT Technology Reviews interviews Jennifer Doudna, who won the Nobel Prize for discovering CRISPR and talks about the recent patent issues around CRISPR, the commercialisation of the technology, the challenges or barriers for women in industry and academia and the possibility of using CRISPR to modify the human genome.

► Missing Parts Monday Episode 1 my next prosthetic hand (7:51)

In this video, Ian Davis shares the basic layout of his DIY mechanical prosthetic hand - the socket, fingers, and other mechanical components of his hand - and shares what works, what doesn't and he plans to improve the design.

► Transhumanism | Philosophy Tube (46:27)

Philosophy Tube takes on the topic of transhumanism and explains how our relationship with technology shapes us and why some people have a strong reaction to it recently.

Artificial Intelligence

Actors launch campaign against AI 'show stealers'

Actors' livelihoods are at risk from artificial intelligence (AI) unless the law changes, a union warns. Equity, the performing arts workers union, has launched a new campaign, "Stop AI Stealing the Show". AI can use samples of an actor's voice or face, to generate content including so-called "deep fakes". "From automated audiobooks to digital avatars, AI systems are now replacing skilled professional performers" the union says. It warns of "dystopian" consequences unless copyright law adapts.

When AI companions for lonely people seem a bit too human

Imagine a future in which lonely people can interact with social bots, based on AI, to get the conversations and connection they crave. While it sounds intriguing, a small preliminary study suggests people may not be comfortable with AI companions that look and talk too much like real humans.

Robotics

Japanese rail company rolls out VR-piloted Gundam robot worker

The West Japan Rail Company has released a video of its new humanoid heavy equipment robot. Mounted on the end of a crane, this Gundam-style robot torso mimics the arm and head motions of a human pilot, who sees through the robot's eyes via VR goggles. The key objectives here, according to the company, are "to improve productivity and safety," enabling workers to lift and naturally manipulate heavy equipment around the rail system without exposing them to the risk of electric shocks or falling.

As it brings its bipedal robots to market, Agility announces a $150M round

Agility Robotics, the creators of bipedal robots Cassie and Digit, have announced $150 million Series B funding round, with Amazon being one of the investors. “Unprecedented consumer and corporate demand have created an extraordinary need for robots to support people in the workplace,” says CEO Damion Shelton. “With this investment, Agility can ramp up the delivery of robots to fill roles where there’s an unmet need.”

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