This week — a robotic finger with human skin; Saudi Arabia plans to invest $1B a year into anti-ageing research; how AI is causing a new scientific revolution; and more!
More Than A Human
The Saudi royal family has started a not-for-profit organization called the Hevolution Foundation that plans to spend up to $1 billion a year of its oil wealth supporting basic research on the biology of ageing and finding ways to extend the number of years people live in good health. This will make Saudi Arabia the biggest sponsor of anti-ageing research.
Ageing cured. Death conquered. Work ended. The human brain reverse-engineered by AI. Babies born outside of the womb. Virtual children, non-human partners. This is the vision Elise Bohan paints in this article while making an argument that transhumanism will either make or break the 21st century.
From cosmology and chemistry to semiconductor design and materials science, new AI-powered tools are transforming science. They can find patterns in data no human would notice, run complex simulations or automate some aspects of the process of scientific discovery. This article argues that the place of AI in science is not to replace scientists but to augment their processes and their intelligence.
When everyone is going crazy over DeepMind’s Gato or OpenAI’s DALL-E, Gary Marcus points out not only the issues with those AI but also the bigger issue of AI research moving from academia to software companies. That can result in attention-grabbing demonstrations which don’t lead to usable products. “What we really need right now is less posturing and more basic research”, he writes.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University asked a question “how small a bipedal robot can be” and then got to work. Right now, their legged robot is 15 cm tall and the aim is to create a walking robot as small as a LEGO Minifigure (1-centimeter leg) or smaller”.
In Japan, researchers have put a living human skin on a robotic finger. The method developed not only gave a robotic finger skin-like texture, but also water-repellent and self-healing functions. The skin can also heal itself with the help of a collagen bandage.
Meet Roswell Biotechnologies and their product — ME 1947. It looks like your typical chip that powers your computer but it is in fact a biosensor that can detect viruses, DNA, traces of drugs or vitamins in your system, pollutants in the air, and more. The company’s claim is based on a re-emerging technology known as molecular electronics that was the darling of the science world 20 years ago but never lived up to its promise. We will see if Roswell can succeed where others have failed.
From active support towers to orbital rings to interstellar black hole highways, Issac Arthur and Sarah Fowler Arthur list mega-engineering projects we see in science-fiction, and briefly explain how could they work in real life.
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Originally published at https://hplusweekly.com on June 10, 2022.