This week — connecting our brains to machines; the aftermath of the gaydar AI; a burger-flipping robot; and more!
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More than a human
I’m re-reading Neuromancer right now. When it was written, the idea of connecting your mind to the machine sounded like science fiction. But in 2017, the idea of brain-computer interfaces (BCI) is not a science fiction anymore. Meet Thomas Reardon, founder of CTRL-Labs, who, amongst many others, works on the dream of controlling the machines by using only thoughts.
A team of researchers at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, have devised a way of connecting the human brain to the internet in real time. It’s been dubbed the “Brainternet” project, and it essentially turns the brain “…into an Internet of Things (IoT) node on the World Wide Web.”
“It remains the case, though, that the majority of the money invested in making transhumanism a reality comes from rich, white men. As the descendants of a species with a tendency to exploit the downtrodden, any posthumans must guard against replicating those same biases in a new society. For some, potentially in the near future, death might become optional. For others, death will remain inevitable.”
Twenty years ago, Harvard surgeons Joseph and his brother Charles Vacanti, along with MIT engineer Bob Langer, implanted the shape of a human ear in the back of a mouse as part of research to better understand how they could help grow body parts for humans. On the 20th anniversary of this noteworthy development, Newsweek spoke with Joseph Vacanti to hear what he has to say about the mouse, looking back two decades later.
“What we should really worry about is not malice but competence, where we have machines that are smarter than us whose goals just aren’t aligned with ours”, says Max Tegmark and explains how to create a friendly AI by teaching it our goals and values, just like we do with our children.
Geoffrey Hinton, one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, said he is now “deeply suspicious” of back-propagation, a method used by neural networks to learn from mistakes, and calls to “throw it all away and start again”. So far algorithms based on back-propagation work quite well, but maybe someone will come up with a new method and push the entire field of AI in a new direction.
You might have heard about this AI that could tell if you are gay or not just by looking at your picture. It raised a heated discussion about privacy and ethics in AI research. Some people started to ask who allowed such research to happen and then they discover that the ethical guides are slightly outdated.
This article goes in deep into that AI gaydar, analyses the paper and explains step by step what the results mean and where the research felt short.
“I’m definitely not worried about the AI apocalypse”, said Google’s John Giannandrea, taking his place in this big AI-Will-KIll-Us-All debate.
Here’s an advice for everyone who wants to build a robotics company — focus on the service, not on the robot. It might sound obvious, but many robot startup founders focus more on the robot rather than on the problem it needs to solve.
Your next takeaway might be delivered by a drone, but your weed will not, says California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control.
Soft robotics: self-contained soft actuator three times stronger than natural muscle, without the need of externals
Researchers at Columbia Engineering have developed a 3D-printable synthetic soft muscle, a one-of-a-kind artificial active tissue with intrinsic expansion ability that does not require an external compressor or high voltage equipment as previous muscles required. The new material has a strain density (expansion per gram) that is 15 times larger than natural muscle, and can lift 1000 times its own weight.
Flippy, a burger-fillping robotic kitchen assistant made by Miso Robotics, got his first job in a real-life kitchen.
By carefully channelling cells and zipping them with electricity, Kytopen promises to speed up the process of injecting DNA into a cell 10 000 times, allowing researchers trying to create new drugs, fuels, or food to work much more quickly.
Researchers from Francis Crick Institute have successfully injected a modified DNA into a human embryo for the first time in the UK.
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