The Cyborg Olympics, Programming Living Cells, and Names that Break Computers: Lux Recommends #26

By Sam Arbesman, PhD

Welcome to Lux Recommends #26, the newest edition of what we at Lux are reading and thinking about (and want to receive this by email? Sign up here).


Human-Complete Problems: A very idiosyncratic but interesting take on artificial intelligence. — Sam

Sam Hinkie’s Resignation Letter: The man, and friend of Lux, who was infamously labelled aloof for broad stretches of his tenure as 76ers GM, resigns in a 13 page letter covering philosophy, knowledge about knowledge, disruption, and … basketball. — Zavain

These unlucky people have names that break computers: The story of Jennifer Null, and others. — Sam

In the Future, We Will Photograph Everything and Look at Nothing: Where in the world are we going with photography and making moments? — Adam G

Crossing Over: How Science Is Redefining Life and Death: “Can death be reversible? And what are we learning about the gray zone between here and the other side?” — Zack

A programming language for living cells: “MIT biological engineers have created a programming language that allows them to rapidly design complex, DNA-encoded circuits that give new functions to living cells.” And related: Inside the garage labs of DIY gene hackers, whose hobby may terrify you. — Sam

The 360-degree darshan: VR finds a new use case around the Ujjain Kumbh: This is a fascinating use case for VR. Visiting shrines, conducting pilgrimages to holy sites, and immersing yourself in experiences not accessible to all devotees of world religions. — Bilal

Mental health: There’s an app for that: Smartphone apps claim to help conditions from addiction to schizophrenia, but few have been thoroughly tested. — Shahin

Touching robots can arouse humans, study finds: In bizzaro news…it turns out pretty much anything could arouse humans. It’s our mind that’s the real culprit. — Bilal


Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization, by Stephen Cave:

An incredible book that explores the various paths that we, as humans, have chased humanity:

  • Elixirs: “I won’t die” (fountains of youth, hormones, drugs, CRISPR).
  • Resurrection:I may die but I’ll be back” (Belief in reincarnation; cryogenic freezing).
  • Soul:I am more than my body, my soul, some ethereal spirit lives on” (belief in a soul; uploading yourself into technology).
  • Legacy:I will exist through what I leave behind” (biologically through your children who carry your genes/traits; symbolically through your fame, named buildings, works).

Essentially, in the face of the ultimate failure of each path to immortality, Cave argues in favor of the themes of wisdom literature and stoicism as the paths to find meaning. A fantastic book. — Josh/Sam

Science Photo of the Week

World’s First Underwater Photo (by Louis Boutan in France, 1893)” — Adam K


First Cyborg Olympics Will Take Place in October: “The upcoming cyborg Olympics competition encourages its participants to use technological and motorized enhancements to compete.”— Adam G

The Fallen of World War II: “An animated data-driven documentary about war and peace, The Fallen of World War II looks at the human cost of the second World War and sizes up the numbers to other wars in history, including trends in recent conflicts.” — Jeff W

Watch Bruce Springsteen Sing ‘Thunder Road’ Over 41 Years: A mastery of editing, songwriting, musicianship and perseverance. This is perhaps the best version ever of Springsteen’s best song. — Adam K

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