General

“About 100 people right now, I think over time they might 10,000 or more people at Neuralink”

From Neuralink Progress Update, Summer 2020:

0:00 – Stream Start

0:30 – Intro Video

1:02 – Start of Presentation
1:07 – Welcome from Elon Musk
1:16 – Emphasis that this presentation is to encourage recruiting
1:44 – The purpose of Neuralink
3:40 – Current Medical Research and Available Tech
5:42 – Neuralink and Development
6:11 – The Link itself
8:26 – Charging The Link
8:47 – Getting a Link
10:05 – Surgical/Implantation Robot
10:46 – (Mildly Gruesome) Video of Electrode Insertion

11:42 – Tech Demo in Pigs
12:12 – Joyce (Pig with no Neural Implant)
12:58 – Dorothy (Pig that formerly had a Neural Implant, was later removed)
13:32 – Trouble getting Gertrude into the outside pen
15:34 – Gertrude (Pig with Neural Implant, beeps when Snout stimulated)
17:15 – Pigs with two Neural Implants

17:58 – Reading Brain Activity
18:20 – Reading Neurons to predict joint positions of a Pig on a Treadmill

19:10 – Neuron Stimulation with Implants (“Writing to the Brain”)
19:27 – Analysing Neuron Stimulation with Two-Photon Microscopy

20:41 – Specs of Initial Device
21:30 – Neuralink progress towards Clinical Studies
22:20 – Further emphasis that this presentation is to encourage recruiting

23:39 – Start of Live Q&A
24:53 – How is Spike Detection implemented and What is a Spike?
27:00 – What can be further done to simplify the device installation process?
27:41 – Anything specifically to do with the Robot?
28:25 – What are some of the lower Bandwidth activities to target first?
29:15 – Can you summon a Tesla telepathically?
29:45 – How do you see the device and API developing over time?
30:38 – Will the device ever be used for gaming?
31:03 – Is the device limited to surface layers of the Brain?
34:00 – What is the most challenging problem that must be solved to meet Neuralink’s goal?
36:44 – How thin are the Electrodes and possibility of Upgrades?
38:09 – What are the “Read/Write speeds” of the device?
40:34 – How big is the Neuralink Team and how do you expect it to grow?
41:32 – How does the system fair against outside signal disturbances?
42:44 – Audience Question: What are some other applications for the device?
44:55 – How is the device protected from the body?
46:42 – Will you be able to save and replay memories in the future?
47:32 – Animal care in Neuralink
49:19 – What programming language is being used in developing the device and Robot?
50:10 – But can it run Crysis?
50:59 – Can the device be used to eventually explain Consciousness?
52:33 – The Security of the device
54:11 – Any points the team find cool about the device?
54:51 – Positives of using Pigs as a model for development
56:50 – Availability and Cost of the device and implantation
58:02 – Architecture of the device
59:54 – How does the integrity of the device compare to Bone and the area of implantation?

1:01:55 – Closing questions and comments
1:02:00 – Flexibility and width of the Threads
1:02:27 – Length of the Threads
1:02:40 – Movements of the Threads and other improvements to biocompatibility
1:02:58 – (Down the line of staff) What is number one on your wishlist for the device?

1:12:10 – Closing statement from Elon Musk

Too many important things to quote. Just watch the whole presentation. Especially the Q&A.

A sewing machine-like robot that can implant ultrathin threads deep into the brain

From Elon Musk’s Neuralink Wants ‘Sewing Machine-Like’ Robots to Wire Brains to the Internet – The New York Times:

One of Neuralink’s distinguishing techniques is that it places flexible threads of electrodes in proximity to neurons, the tiny cells that are the basic building blocks of the brain.

The ability to capture information from a large number of cells and then send it wirelessly to a computer for later analysis is believed to be an important step to improving basic understanding of the brain.

The threads are placed using thin needles, and a so-called computer-vision system helps avoid blood vessels on the surface of the brain. The technique being used by Neuralink involves inserting a bundle of threads that are each about a quarter of the diameter of a human hair.

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The company is hoping to begin working with human subjects as soon as the second quarter of next year.

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The company says surgeons would have to drill holes through the skull to implant the threads. But in the future, they hope to use a laser beam to pierce the skull with a series of tiny holes.

The human body is not a plug and play device. It’s not easy to expand and upgrade. To open the doors to mass adoption, human enhancement technologies must find a way to make the augmentation as frictionless as possible.

Must-watch recording of the live announcement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-vbh3t7WVI

The US FDA is officially warning consumers that buying young blood infusions to improve their health is not a good idea

From FDA officially warns against buying young blood – The Verge:

The idea that infusions of young blood could slow aging has been around since the early 2000s, when studies in mice showed promising results. (Notably, the young and old mice weren’t just sharing blood; they were attached and actually shared organs, too.) The concept really gained traction a few years ago, thanks in part to a rumor that venture capitalist Peter Thiel was interested in the transfusions. As other sites, including Bloomberg have noted, despite the outlandish nature of the claim, jokes about vampirism, and a spoof on the show Silicon Valley, the idea has not gone away and young blood clinics do exist. Notably, a startup called Ambrosia Medical promised transfusions for $8,000 a liter. “It works,” Ambrosia founder Jesse Karmazin told a Mic reporter. “It reverses aging.”There is almost no evidence that this claim is true. Some of the researchers who did the original young blood studies have shown (again in mice) that old blood hurts more than young blood helps and suggest that it’d be a better idea to instead just study why old blood is harmful. In 2017, a rigorous clinical trial found that young blood given to 18 patients with Alzheimer’s did almost nothing to treat the disease. Not only is this ineffective, but even typical transfusions can be dangerous, leading to a few dozen deaths reported to the FDA each year.

Both Google (with Calico) and Jeff Bezos (with Unity Biotechnology) are researching this practice. I doubt that a rigorous study on just 18 patients for a very specific use case like Alzheimer would discourage them.

What if we could cure people of inherited diseases before they were born?

From Pioneering Stem Cell Trial Seeks to Cure Babies Before Birth

Elianna has a rare inherited blood disorder called alpha thalassemia major, which prevents her red blood cells from forming properly. The disease, which has no cure, is usually fatal for a developing fetus.

But while still in her mother’s womb, Elianna received a highly daring treatment. Doctors isolated healthy blood stem cells from her mother and injected them through a blood vessel that runs down the umbilical cord. Four months later, Elianna was born with a loud cry and a glistening head of hair, defying all medical odds.

Elianna is the first in a pioneering clinical trial that pushes the boundaries of stem cell transplants.

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The idea that you can treat a fetus while inside a mother’s womb is pretty radical. Doctors have long thought that fetuses are encased in an impermeable protected barrier, which helps protect the developing human from outside insults.

Early experiments with fetal stem cell transplants seemed to support the dogma. Most trials using the father’s stem cells failed, leading doctors to believe that the procedure couldn’t be done.

But subsequent research in animals discovered a crucial tidbit of information: the mother’s immune system, not the fetus, was rejecting the father’s stem cells.

There’s more: rather than being quarantined, fetuses continuously exchange cells with their mothers, so much so that fetal cells can actually be isolated from a mother’s bloodstream.

The reason for this is to quiet both parties’ immune systems. Because the fetus has part of the father’s DNA, it makes a portion of their cells foreign to the mother. This back-and-forth trafficking of cells “teaches” both the mom’s and the fetal immune system to calm down: even though the cells aren’t a complete genetic match, the fetuses’ cells will tolerate their mother’s cells, and vice-versa. In this way, during pregnancy the fetal immune system is on hold against the mother.

This harmonious truce changes once the baby is born. The child’s immune system grinds into action, attacking any cells that are foreign to its body. Once born, a bone marrow transplant requires drugs to kill off the infant’s own bone marrow cells and make room for healthy ones. It also requires high doses of immunosuppressant drugs to keep the infant’s immune system at bay while the new, healthy cells do their job.

There is an increasing ‘lifestyle use’ of cognitive-enhancing drugs by healthy people

From Use of ‘smart drugs’ on the rise

The use of drugs by people hoping to boost mental performance is rising worldwide, finds the largest ever study of the trend. In a survey of tens of thousands of people, 14% reported using stimulants at least once in the preceding 12 months in 2017, up from 5% in 2015.

The non-medical use of substances—often dubbed smart drugs—to increase memory or concentration is known as pharmacological cognitive enhancement (PCE), and it rose in all 15 nations included in the survey. The study looked at prescription medications such as Adderall and Ritalin—prescribed medically to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—as well as the sleep-disorder medication modafinil and illegal stimulants such as cocaine.

US respondents reported the highest rate of use: in 2017, nearly 30% said they had used drugs for PCE at least once in the preceding 12 months, up from 20% in 2015.

But the largest increases were in Europe: use in France rose from 3% in 2015 to 16% in 2017; and from 5% to 23% in the United Kingdom

The ethical concerns mentioned (and linked) in the article were discussed in 2008. Ten years later, the consumption of smart drugs is exploding.

Clearly, people are way more concerned about information processing than ethical issues or side effects.

Someday, maybe, we could regrow limbs

From Axolotl Genome Slowly Yields Secrets of Limb Regrowth | Quanta Magazine

Salamanders are champions at regenerating lost body parts. A flatworm called a planarian can grow back its entire body from a speck of tissue, but it is a very small, simple creature. Zebra fish can regrow their tails throughout their lives. Humans, along with other mammals, can regenerate lost limb buds as embryos. As young children, we can regrow our fingertips; mice can still do this as adults. But salamanders stand out as the only vertebrates that can replace complex body parts that are lost at any age, which is why researchers seeking answers about regeneration have so often turned to them.

While researchers studying animals like mice and flies progressed into the genomic age, however, those working on axolotls were left behind. One obstacle was that axolotls live longer and mature more slowly than most lab animals, which makes them cumbersome subjects for genetics experiments. Worse, the axolotl’s enormous and repetitive genome stubbornly resisted sequencing.

Then a European research team overcame the hurdles and finally published a full genetic sequence for the laboratory axolotl earlier this year. That accomplishment could change everything.

“The genome was a huge problem that had been lingering over the heads of everyone working in axolotl,” said Jessica Whited, the assistant professor and researcher who supervises this laboratory at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Now that she and other researchers have the whole axolotl genome, they’re hoping to unlock secrets of regeneration and perhaps even to learn how humans could harness this power for ourselves

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After an amputation, a salamander bleeds very little and seals off the wound within hours. Cells then migrate to the wound site and form a blob called a blastema. Most of these recruits seem to be cells from nearby that have turned back their own internal clocks to an unspecialized or “dedifferentiated” state more like that seen in embryos. But it’s unclear whether and to what extent the animal also calls on reserves of stem cells, the class of undifferentiated cells that organisms maintain to help with healing. Whatever their origin, the blastema cells redifferentiate into new bone, muscle and other tissues. A perfect new limb forms in miniature, then enlarges to the exact right size for its owner.

Scientists don’t know whether axolotls use the same mechanisms to regenerate their internal organs as their limbs. They also don’t know why an axolotl can grow back an arm many times in a row but not indefinitely — after being amputated five times, most axolotl limbs stop coming back. Another mystery is how a limb knows to stop growing when it reaches the right size.

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Monaghan is studying axolotl retinas to try to improve the outcomes of prospective stem cell therapies in aging human eyes. He also thinks finding out how axolotls rapidly regrow their lungs could help us learn to heal human lungs, which naturally have some regenerative power.

McCusker has studied how the tissue environment of a salamander’s regenerating limb controls the behavior of cells. Someday, we might be able to regulate the environment around a cancer cell and force it to behave normally.

National AI Strategies Around the World

From An Overview of National AI Strategies – Politics + AI – Medium

In the past fifteen months, Canada, Japan, Singapore, China, the UAE, Finland, Denmark, France, the UK, the EU Commission, South Korea, and India have all released strategies to promote the use and development of AI. No two strategies are alike, with each focusing on different aspects of AI policy: scientific research, talent development, skills and education, public and private sector adoption, ethics and inclusion, standards and regulations, and data and digital infrastructure.

This article summarizes the key policies and goals of each national strategy. It also highlights relevant policies and initiatives that the countries have announced since the release of their initial strategies.

These strategies are the foundation for future policies about human enhancement technology adoption. Once a nation sees the benefits of artificial intelligence, it will be hard to limit its adoption to just things.

It is the end of the poker face

From Poppy Crum: Technology that knows what you’re feeling | TED Talk

Your pupil doesn’t lie. Your eye gives away your poker face. When your brain’s having to work harder, your autonomic nervous system drives your pupil to dilate. When it’s not, it contracts. When I take away one of the voices, the cognitive effort to understand the talkers gets a lot easier. I could have put the two voices in different spatial locations, I could have made one louder. You would have seen the same thing. We might think we have more agency over the reveal of our internal state than that spider, but maybe we don’t.

Must-watch.

The moment a company brings to market a mainstream AR wearable, like smart contact lenses, that can act as an application platform, like iOS, and supports the installation of third-party applications through a marketplace, like the App Store, there will be a rush to develop AI apps that can read people’s behaviour in real time, in a way that most human brains cannot.

It doesn’t matter if the intentions are good. Such applications would expose vulnerabilities we are not prepared to defend against.

Our results are nearly indistinguishable from the real video

From Forget DeepFakes, Deep Video Portraits are way better (and worse) | TechCrunch

Deep Video Portraits is the title of a paper submitted for consideration this August at SIGGRAPH; it describes an improved technique for reproducing the motions, facial expressions, and speech movements of one person using the face of another.

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There’s no way to make a person do something or make an expression that’s too far from what they do on camera, though. For instance, the system can’t synthesize a big grin if the person is looking sour the whole time (though it might try and fail hilariously). And naturally there are all kinds of little bugs and artifacts. So for now the hijinks are limited.

Astounding results. You must watch the video.

Now, what happens if this video editing happens in real time to alter the reality perceived through AR glasses? For example, the ones a soldier might use.

Instead of replacing one damaged cornea with one healthy one, you could grow enough cells from one donated cornea to print 50 artificial ones

From Scientists have 3D printed the most advanced artificial cornea ever using human cells – The Verge

It was tricky to find the right recipe for an ink that’s thin enough to squirt through a 3D printer’s nozzle, says Che Connon, a tissue engineer at Newcastle University who was one of the creators of the artificial cornea. This bio-ink didn’t just have to be thin — it also had to be stiff enough that it could hold its shape as a 3D structure. To get the right consistency, the researchers added a jelly-like goo called alginate and stem cells extracted from donor corneas, along with some ropy proteins called collagen.

But there’s still a long way to go before these artificial corneas will even get close to a human eyeball: Connon wants to fine tune the printing process first, he says, and the artificial cornea will also need to go through safety studies in animals. But this study is proof that you can 3D print something that looks like a cornea, and contains mostly the same ingredients. It’s also the first time researchers have recreated the cornea’s distinctive, curved shape.

If and when this technique is perfected, tech-augmented corneas in place of smart contact lenses is not an unthinkable scenario.

US Department of Defense has 592 projects powered by Artificial Intelligence

From Pentagon developing artificial intelligence center

Speaking at the House Armed Services Committee April 12, Mattis said “we’re looking at a joint office where we would concentrate all of DoD’s efforts, since we have a number of AI efforts underway right now. We’re looking at pulling them all together.”

He added that the department counts 592 projects as having some form of AI in them, but noted that not all of those make sense to tie into an AI center. And Griffin wants to make sure smaller projects that are close to completion get done and out into prototyping, rather than tied up in the broader AI project.

And then, of course, there are those AI projects so secret that they won’t even be listed among those 592. It would be interesting to see how many of these relate to the super-soldier use case.

From 3D Printing to Bioprinting and Precision Medicine

From How 3D printing is revolutionizing healthcare as we know it | TechCrunch

3D printing is performed by telling a computer to apply layer upon layer of a specific material (quite often plastic or metal powders), molding them one layer at a time until the final product — be it a toy, a pair of sunglasses or a scoliosis brace — is built. Medical technology is now harnessing this technology and building tiny organs, or “organoids,” using the same techniques, but with stem cells as the production material. These organoids, once built, will in the future be able to grow inside the body of a sick patient and take over when an organic organ, such as a kidney or liver, fails.

researchers in Spain have now taken the mechanics of 3D printing — that same careful layer-upon-layer approach in which we can make just about anything — and revealed a 3D bioprinter prototype that can produce human skin. The researchers, working with a biological ink that contains both human plasma as well as material extracts taken from skin biopsies, were able to print about 100 square centimeters of human skin in the span of about half an hour.

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A 3D-printed pill, unlike a traditionally manufactured capsule, can house multiple drugs at once, each with different release times. This so-called “polypill” concept has already been tested for patients with diabetes and is showing great promise.

Eye Tracking For AR Devices?

From Eye Tracking Is Coming to Virtual Reality Sooner Than You Think. What Now? | WIRED

That button had activated the eye-tracking technology of of Tobii, the Swedish company where Karlén is a director of product management for VR. Two cameras inside the headset had begun watching my eyes, illuminating them with near-IR light, and making sure that my avatar’s eyes did exactly what mine did.

Tobii isn’t the only eye-tracking company around, but with 900 employees, it may be the largest. And while the Swedish company has been around since 2006, Qualcomm’s prototype headset—and the latest version of its Snapdragon mobile-VR platform, which it unveiled at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week—marks the first time that eye-tracking is being included in a mass-produced consumer VR device.

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Eye-tracking unlocks “foveated rendering,” a technique in which graphical fidelity is only prioritized for the tiny portion of the display your pupils are focused on. For Tobii’s version, that’s anywhere from one-tenth to one-sixteenth of the display; everything outside that area can be dialed down as much as 40 or 50 percent without you noticing, which means less load on the graphics processor. VR creators can leverage that luxury in order to coax current-gen performance out of a last-gen GPU, or achieve a higher frame rate than they might otherwise be able to.

That’s just the ones and zeros stuff. There are compelling interface benefits as well. Generally, input in VR is a three-step process: look at something, point at it to select it, then click to input the selection. When your eyes become the selection tool, those first two steps become one. It’s almost like a smartphone, where pointing collapses the selection and click into a single step. And because you’re using your eyes and not your head, that means less head motion, less fatigue, less chance for discomfort.

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There’s also that whole cameras-watching-your-eyes thing. Watching not just what your eyes are doing, but where they look and for how long—in other words, tracking your attention. That’s the kind of information advertisers and marketers would do just about anything to get their hands on. One study has even shown that gaze-tracking can be (mis)used to influence people’s biases and decision-making.

“We take a very hard, open stance,” he says. “Pictures of your eyes never go to developers—only gaze direction. We do not allow applications to store or transfer eye-tracking data or aggregate over multiple users. It’s not storable, and it doesn’t leave the device.”

Tobii does allow for analytic collection, Werner allows; the company has a business unit focused on working with research facilities and universities. He points to eye-tracking’s potential as a diagnostic tool for autism spectrum disorders, to its applications for phobia research. But anyone using that analytical license, he says, must inform users and make eye-tracking data collection an opt-in process.

There is no reason why eye tracking couldn’t do the same things (and pose the same risks) in AR devices.

Why Augmented-Reality Glasses Are Ugly

From Why Do Augmented-Reality Glasses Look So Bad? | WIRED

“The battle is between immersive functionality and non-dorky, even cool-looking design. The holy grail is something that not only resembles a normal pair of, say, Gucci glasses, but has functionality that augments your life in a meaningful way.”Right now, that demands a trade-off. The best AR displays require bulky optical hardware to optimize resolution and provide a wide field-of-view. That makes it possible to do all kinds of cool things in augmented reality. But early versions, like the Meta 2 AR headset, look more like an Oculus Rift than a pair of Warby Parkers. Slimmer AR displays, like the used in Google Glass, feel more natural to wear, but they sit above or next to the normal field of vision, so they’re are less immersive and less functional. Adding other features to the glasses—a microphone, a decent camera, various sensors—also increases bulk and makes it harder to create something comfortable or stylish.This tension has split the field of AR glasses into two extremes. On one end, you get hulking glasses packed with features to show off the unbridled potential of augmented reality. On the other end, you sacrifice features to make a wearable that looks and feels more like normal eyewear.

What It’s Like Having to Charge Your Arm

From Never Mind Charging Your Phone: Cyborg Angel Giuffria Explains What It’s Like Having to Charge Your Arm – Core77

At SXSW Angel Giuffria, one of America’s better-known cyborgs, encountered a lot of people that wanted her to demo her robotic arm. As a de facto spokeswoman for the prosthetic community, she gamely agreed, with the result being that her batteries wore down faster than normal.

Be sure to read the whole Q&A session that spontaneously developed over Twitter.

China accounted for 48 % of the world’s total AI startup funding in 2017, surpassing the US

From China overtakes US in AI startup funding with a focus on facial recognition and chips – The Verge

The competition between China and the US in AI development is tricky to quantify. While we do have some hard numbers, even they are open to interpretation. The latest comes from technology analysts CB Insights, which reports that China has overtaken the US in the funding of AI startups. The country accounted for 48 percent of the world’s total AI startup funding in 2017, compared to 38 percent for the US.

It’s not a straightforward victory for China, however. In terms of the volume of individual deals, the country only accounts for 9 percent of the total, while the US leads in both the total number of AI startups and total funding overall. The bottom line is that China is ahead when it comes to the dollar value of AI startup funding, which CB Insights says shows the country is “aggressively executing a thoroughly-designed vision for AI.”

I know the guys at CB Insights. Pretty reliable research firm.

CRISPR pioneers now use it to detect infections like HPV, dengue, and Zika

From New CRISPR tools can detect infections like HPV, dengue, and Zika – The Verge

The new tools, developed by the labs of CRISPR pioneers Jennifer Doudna and Feng Zhang, are showcased in two studies published today in the journal Science. In one paper, Doudna’s team describes a system called DETECTR, which can accurately identify different types of the HPV virus in human samples. In the second paper, Zhang’s team shows an upgraded version of SHERLOCK — which was shown last year to detect viruses like Zika and dengue, as well as other harmful bacteria — in human samples.

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The CRISPR used in the first Science study is called CRISPR-Cas12a. Doudna’s team discovered that when this type of CRISPR snips double-stranded DNA, it does something interesting: it starts shredding single-stranded DNA as well

the CRISPR system is programmed to detect the HPV DNA inside a person’s cells. When CRISPR detects it, it also cuts a “reporter molecule” with single-stranded DNA that releases a fluorescent signal. So if the cells are infected with HPV, scientists are able to see the signal and quickly diagnose a patient. For now, DETECTR was tested in a tube containing DNA from infected human cells, showing it could detect HPV16 with 100 percent accuracy, and HPV18 with 92 percent accuracy.

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Called SHERLOCK, this system uses a variety of CRISPR enzymes, including Cas12a. Last year, Zhang’s team showed that SHERLOCK uses CRISPR-Cas13a to find the genetic sequence of Zika, dengue, and several other bacteria, as well as the sequences associated with a cancer mutation in a variety of human samples, such as saliva. Now, the team has improved the tool to be 100 times more sensitive and detect multiple viruses — such as Zika and dengue — in one sample simultaneously. It does this by combining different types of CRISPR enzymes, which are unleashed together to target distinct bits of DNA and RNA, another of the major biological molecules found in all forms of life. Some enzymes also work together to make the tool more sensitive.

If you read Doudna’s book, featured in the H+ “Key Books” section, you realise the enormous progress we made in the last 10 years in terms of DNA manipulation thanks to CRISPR, and yet you have a clear understanding that we are just scratching the surface of what is possible.

Police in China have begun using sunglasses equipped with facial recognition technology

From Chinese police spot suspects with surveillance sunglasses – BBC News

The glasses are connected to an internal database of suspects, meaning officers can quickly scan crowds while looking for fugitives.

The sunglasses have already helped police capture seven suspects, according to Chinese state media.

The seven people who were apprehended are accused of crimes ranging from hit-and-runs to human trafficking.

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The technology allows police officers to take a photograph of a suspicious individual and then compare it to pictures stored in an internal database. If there is a match, information such as the person’s name and address will then be sent to the officer.

An estimated 170 million CCTV cameras are already in place and some 400 million new ones are expected be installed in the next three years.

Many of the cameras use artificial intelligence, including facial recognition technology.

In December 2017, I published Our Machines Can Very Easily Recognise You Among At Least 2 Billion People in a Matter of Seconds. It didn’t take long to go from press claims to real-world implementation.

Human augmentation 2.0 is already here, just not evenly distributed.

Undetectable mass social influence powered by artificial intelligence is an existential threat to humanity

Julian Assange on Twitter

The future of humanity is the struggle between humans that control machines and machines that control humans.
While the internet has brought about a revolution in our ability to educate each other, the consequent democratic explosion has shaken existing establishments to their core. Burgeoning digital super states such as Google, Facebook and their Chinese equivalents, who are integrated with the existing order, have moved to re-establish discourse control. This is not simply a corrective action. Undetectable mass social influence powered by artificial intelligence is an existential threat to humanity.
While still in its infancy, the geometric nature of this trend is clear. The phenomenon differs from traditional attempts to shape culture and politics by operating at a scale, speed, and increasingly at a subtlety, that appears highly likely to eclipse human counter-measures.
Nuclear war, climate change or global pandemics are existential threats that we can work through with discussion and thought. Discourse is humanity’s immune system for existential threats. Diseases that infect the immune system are usually fatal. In this case, at a planetary scale.

CRISPR might be employed to destroy entire species

From A Crack in Creation:

Ironically, CRISPR might also enable the opposite: forcible extinction of unwanted animals or pathogens. Yes, someday soon, CRISPR might be employed to destroy entire species—an application I never could have imagined when my lab first entered the fledgling field of bacterial adaptive immune systems just ten years ago. Some of the efforts in these and other areas of the natural world have tremendous potential for improving human health and well-being. Others are frivolous, whimsical, or even downright dangerous. And I have become increasingly aware of the need to understand the risks of gene editing, especially in light of its accelerating use. CRISPR gives us the power to radically and irreversibly alter the biosphere that we inhabit by providing a way to rewrite the very molecules of life any way we wish. At the moment, I don’t think there is nearly enough discussion of the possibilities it presents—for good, but also for ill.

We have a responsibility to consider the ramifications in advance and to engage in a global, public, and inclusive conversation about how to best harness gene editing in the natural world, before it’s too late.

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If the first of these gene drives (for pigmentation) seems benign and the second (for malaria resistance) seems beneficial, consider a third example. Working independently of the California scientists, a British team of researchers—among them Austin Bud, the biologist who pioneered the gene drive concept—created highly transmissive CRISPR gene drives that spread genes for female sterility. Since the sterility trait was recessive, the genes would rapidly spread through the population, increasing in frequency until enough females acquired two copies, at which point the population would suddenly crash. Instead of eradicating malaria by genetically altering mosquitoes to prevent them from carrying the disease, this strategy presented a blunter instrument—one that would cull entire populations by hindering reproduction. If sustained in wild-mosquito populations, it could eventually lead to outright extermination of an entire mosquito species.

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It’s been estimated that, had a fruit fly escaped the San Diego lab during the first gene drive experiments, it would have spread genes encoding CRISPR, along with yellow-body trait, to between 20 and 50 percent of all fruit flies worldwide.

The author of this book, Jennifer Doudna, is one of the first scientists that discovered the groundbreaking gene editing technique CRISPR-Cas9. The book is a fascinating narration of how CRISPR came to be, and it’s listed in the Key Books section of H+.

The book was finished in September 2016 (and published in June 2017), so the warning is quite recent.

You may also want to watch Doudna’s TED Talk about the bioethics of CRISPR: How CRISPR lets us edit our DNA.

A growing number of artificial intelligence researchers focus on algorithmic bias

Kate Crawford, Distinguished Research Professor at New York University, a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research New York, and a Visiting Professor at the MIT Media Lab, presented The Trouble with Bias at the NIPS 2017, the most influential and attended (over 8,000 people) conference on artificial intelligence.

Prof. Crawford is not the only one looking into algorithmic bias. As she shows in her presentation, a growing number of research papers focus on it, and even government agencies have started questioning how AI decisions are made.

Why do I talk about algorithmic bias so frequently on H+? Because in a future were AI augments human brain capabilities, through neural interfaces or other means, the algorithmic bias would manipulate people’s worldview in ways that mass media and politics can’t even dream about.

Before we merge human biology with technology we need to ask really difficult questions about how technology operates outside the body.

A task force to review New York City agencies’ use of algorithms and their bias

From New York City Takes on Algorithmic Discrimination | American Civil Liberties Union

The New York City Council yesterday passed legislation that we are hopeful will move us toward addressing these problems. New York City already uses algorithms to help with a broad range of tasks: deciding who stays in and who gets out of jail, teacher evaluations, firefighting, identifying serious pregnancy complications, and much more. The NYPD also previously used an algorithm-fueled software program developed by Palantir Technologies that takes arrest records, license-plate scans, and other data, and then graphs that data to supposedly help reveal connections between people and even crimes. The department since developed its own software to perform a similar task.

The bill, which is expected to be signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, will provide a greater understanding of how the city’s agencies use algorithms to deliver services while increasing transparency around them. This bill is the first in the nation to acknowledge the need for transparency when governments use algorithms and to consider how to assess whether their use results in biased outcomes and how negative impacts can be remedied.

The legislation will create a task force to review New York City agencies’ use of algorithms and the policy issues they implicate. The task force will be made up of experts on transparency, fairness, and staff from non-profits that work with people most likely to be harmed by flawed algorithms. It will develop a set of recommendations addressing when and how algorithms should be made public, how to assess whether they are biased, and the impact of such bias.

Timely, as more and more AI researchers look into algorithmic bias.

In Vivo Target Gene Activation via CRISPR/Cas9-Mediated Trans-epigenetic Modulation

From In Vivo Target Gene Activation via CRISPR/Cas9-Mediated Trans-epigenetic Modulation: Cell

Current genome-editing systems generally rely on inducing DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs). This may limit their utility in clinical therapies, as unwanted mutations caused by DSBs can have deleterious effects. CRISPR/Cas9 system has recently been repurposed to enable target gene activation, allowing regulation of endogenous gene expression without creating DSBs. However, in vivo implementation of this gain-of-function system has proven difficult. Here, we report a robust system for in vivo activation of endogenous target genes through trans-epigenetic remodeling. The system relies on recruitment of Cas9 and transcriptional activation complexes to target loci by modified single guide RNAs. As proof-of-concept, we used this technology to treat mouse models of diabetes, muscular dystrophy, and acute kidney disease. Results demonstrate that CRISPR/Cas9-mediated target gene activation can be achieved in vivo, leading to measurable phenotypes and amelioration of disease symptoms. This establishes new avenues for developing targeted epigenetic therapies against human diseases.

CRISPR can be repurposed to enable target gene activation

From Adapted Crispr gene editing tool could treat incurable diseases, say scientists | The Guardian

The technique is an adapted version of the powerful gene editing tool called Crispr. While the original version of Crispr snips DNA in precise locations to delete faulty genes or over-write flaws in the genetic code, the modified form “turns up the volume” on selected genes.

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In the new version a Crispr-style guide is still used, but instead of cutting the genome at the site of interest, the Cas9 enzyme latches onto it. The new package also includes a third element: a molecule that homes in on the Cas9 and switches on whatever gene it is attached to.

and

The team showed that mice, with a version of muscular dystophy, a fatal muscle wasting disorder, recovered muscle growth and strength. The illness is caused by a mutation in the gene that produces dystrophin, a protein found in muscle fibres. However, rather than trying to replace this gene with a healthy version, the team boosted the activity of a second gene that produces a protein called utrophin that is very similar to dystrophin and can compensate for its absence.

Of course, once you can activate genes at will, you can also boost a perfectly healthy human in areas where he/she is weak or inept.

Genetic engineering for skill enablement, that is.

Our machines can very easily recognise you among at least 2 billion people in a matter of seconds

From Doctor, border guard, policeman – artificial intelligence in China and its mind-boggling potential to do right, or wrong | South China Morning Post

Yitu’s Dragonfly Eye generic portrait platform already has 1.8 billion photographs to work with: those logged in the national database and you, if you have visited China recently. Yitu will not say whether Hong Kong identity card holders have been logged in the government’s database, for which the company provides navigation software and algor­ithms, but 320 million of the photos have come from China’s borders, including ports and airports, where pictures are taken of everyone who enters and leaves the country.

According to Yitu, its platform is also in service with more than 20 provincial public security departments, and is used as part of more than 150 municipal public security systems across the country, and Dragonfly Eye has already proved its worth. On its very first day of operation on the Shanghai Metro, in January, the system identified a wanted man when he entered a station. After matching his face against the database, Dragonfly Eye sent his photo to a policeman, who made an arrest. In the following three months, 567 suspected lawbreakers were caught on the city’s underground network.

Imagine this performed by a human eye augmented by AR lenses or glasses.

If you think that humans will confine this sort of applications to a computer at your desk or inside your pocket, you are delusional.

% Chinese researchers contribution to best 100 AI journals/conferences

The Eurasia Group and Sinovation Ventures released a report titled China embraces AI: A Close Look and A Long View with some interesting data.

The first bit is a chart that shows how the percentage of Chinese researchers contribution to best 100 AI journals/conferences raised from 23% / 25% (authoring/citations) in 2006 to almost 43% / 56% (authoring/citations) in 2015.

The second bit is a list of Chinese AI startups, divided into research/enabling technology/commercial application categories, which also highlights domestic and foreign investors.

With the massive commitment of the Chinese government, these numbers are bound to grow significantly.

We are entering a cycle where humans and algorithms are adapting to each other

From Exploring Cooperation with Social Machines:

Humans are filling in the gaps where algorithms cannot easily function, and algorithms are calculating and processing complex information at a speed that for most humans is not possible. Together, humans and computers are sorting out which is going to do what type of task. It is a slow and tedious process that emulates a kind of sociability between entities in order to form cooperative outcomes.

Either one or both parties must yield a bit for cooperation to work, and if a program is developed in a rigid way, the yielding is usually done by the human to varying degrees of frustration as agency (our ability to make choices from a range of options) becomes constrained by the process of automation.

Indeed, sociability and social relationships depend on the assumption of agency on the part of the other, human or machine. Humans often attribute agency to machines in their assumptions underlying how the machine will satisfy their present need, or indeed inhibit them from satisfying a need.

You should also read Implementing Algorithms In The Form Of Scripts Has Been An Early Step In Training Humans To Be More Like Machines

Implementing algorithms in the form of scripts has been an early step in training humans to be more like machines

From Cooperating with Algorithms in the Workplace:

Thus, concerning algorithms at work, people are either replaced by them, required to help them, or have become them. Workplace algorithms have been evolving for some time in the form of scripts and processes that employers have put in place for efficiency, “quality control,” brand consistency, product consistency, experience consistency and most particularly, cost savings. As a result phone calls to services such as hotels, shops and restaurants, may now have a script read out loud or memorized by the employee to the customer to ensure consistent experiences and task compliance.

Consistency of experience is increasingly a goal within organizations, and implementing algorithms in the form of scripts and processes has been an early step in training humans to be more like machines. Unfortunately, these algorithms can result in an inability to cooperate in contexts not addressed by the algorithm. These scripts and corresponding processes purposely greatly restrict human agency by failing to define clear boundaries for the domain of the algorithm and recognizing the need for adaptation outside these boundaries.

Thus, often if a worker is asked a specialized or specific query, they lack the ability to respond to it and will either turn away the customer, or accelerate the query up (and down) a supervisory management chain, with each link bound by its own scripts, processes and rules, which may result in a non-answer or non-resolution for the customer.

Not only the paper is mighty interesting, but the whole body of research it belongs too is worth serious investigation.

Also, this TED Talk by David Lee touches the topic in quite an interesting way: Why jobs of the future won’t feel like work

An implant to control the movements of a bionic hand and to communicate with his wife

From When man meets metal: rise of the transhumans | Technology | The Guardian

One of the inspirations for Vintiner’s journey into this culture was Professor Kevin Warwick, deputy vice-chancellor at Coventry University, who back in 1998 was the first person to put a silicon chip transponder under his skin (that enabled him to open doors and switch on lights automatically as he moved about his department) and to declare himself “cyborg”. Four years later Warwick pioneered a “Braingate” implant, which involved hundreds of electrodes tapping into his nervous system and transferring signals across the internet, first to control the movements of a bionic hand, and then to connect directly and “communicate” with his wife, who had a Braingate of her own.

In some ways Warwick’s work seemed to set the parameters of the bodyhacking experience: full of ambition, somewhat risky, mostly outlawed. The Braingate system is now being explored in America to help some patients suffering paralysis, but Warwick’s DIY work has not been widely taken up by either mainstream medicine, academia or commercial tech companies. He and his wife remain the only couple to have communicated “nervous system to nervous system” through pulses that it took six weeks for their brains to “hear”.

While this segment is the most interesting, the whole article is a long and fascinating journey into the biohacking counter-culture.

Gene therapy is “underrated” as a way to conquer old age

From One Man’s Quest to Hack His Own Genes – MIT Technology Review

The gene Hanley added to his muscle cells would make his body produce more of a potent hormone—potentially increasing his strength, stamina, and life span.

and

Hanley opted instead for a simpler method called electroporation. In this procedure, circular rings of DNA, called plasmids, are passed into cells using an electrical current. Once inside, they don’t become a permanent part of person’s chromosomes. Instead, they float inside the nucleus. And if a gene is coded into the plasmid, it will start to manufacture proteins. The effect of plasmids is temporary, lasting weeks to a few months.

and

Hanley says he designed a plasmid containing the human GHRH [growth-hormone-releasing hormone] gene on his computer, with the idea of developing it as a treatment for AIDS patients. But no investors wanted to back the plan. He concluded that the way forward was to nominate himself as lab rat. Soon he located a scientific supply company that manufactured the DNA rings for him at a cost of about $10,000. He showed me two vials of the stuff he’d brought along in a thermos, each containing a few drops of water thickened by a half-milligram of DNA.

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Hanley skipped some steps that most companies developing a drug would consider essential. In addition to proceeding without FDA approval, he never tested his plasmid in any animals. He did win clearance for the study from the Institute of Regenerative and Cellular Medicine in Santa Monica, California, a private “institutional review board,” or IRB, that furnishes ethics oversight of human experiments.

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Hanley had opted to take six milligrams of the tranquilizer Xanax and got local anesthetic in his thighs. The doctor can be seen placing a plexiglass jig built by Hanley onto the biologist’s thigh. The doctor leans in with a hypodermic needle to inject the sticky solution of GHRH plasmids into the designated spot. He also uses the jig to guide the two electrodes, stiff sharp needles the size of fork tines, into the flesh. The electrodes—one positive, one negative—create a circuit, a little like jump-starting your car.

Highly controversial, and borderline legal, as you’d expect in any hacking activity, especially hacking the human body.

Hanley published his version of the story on the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, calling the above article a “gross misrepresentation”.

We no longer know if we’re seeing the same information or what anybody else is seeing

From Zeynep Tufekci: We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads | TED.com

As a public and as citizens, we no longer know if we’re seeing the same information or what anybody else is seeing, and without a common basis of information, little by little, public debate is becoming impossible, and we’re just at the beginning stages of this.

and

What if the system that we do not understand was picking up that it’s easier to sell Vegas tickets to people who are bipolar and about to enter the manic phase. Such people tend to become overspenders, compulsive gamblers. They could do this, and you’d have no clue that’s what they were picking up on. I gave this example to a bunch of computer scientists once and afterwards, one of them came up to me. He was troubled and he said, “That’s why I couldn’t publish it.” I was like, “Couldn’t publish what?” He had tried to see whether you can indeed figure out the onset of mania from social media posts before clinical symptoms, and it had worked, and it had worked very well, and he had no idea how it worked or what it was picking up on.

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Now, don’t get me wrong, we use digital platforms because they provide us with great value. I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family around the world. I’ve written about how crucial social media is for social movements. I have studied how these technologies can be used to circumvent censorship around the world. But it’s not that the people who run, you know, Facebook or Google are maliciously and deliberately trying to make the country or the world more polarized and encourage extremism. I read the many well-intentioned statements that these people put out. But it’s not the intent or the statements people in technology make that matter, it’s the structures and business models they’re building. And that’s the core of the problem. Either Facebook is a giant con of half a trillion dollars and ads don’t work on the site, it doesn’t work as a persuasion architecture, or its power of influence is of great concern. It’s either one or the other. It’s similar for Google, too.

Longer than usual (23 min) TED talk, but worth it.

I, too, believe that there’s no malicious intent behind the increasingly capable AI we see these days. Quite the opposite, I believe that most people working at Google or Facebook are there to make a positive impact, to change the world for the better. The problem is, on top of the business model, the fact that a lot of people, even the most brilliant ones, don’t take the time to ponder the long-term consequences of the things they are building in the way they are building them today.

There’s no scientific proof that today’s drugs can boost intelligence

From The Neuroscience of Intelligence:

The Internet has countless entries for IQ-boosting drugs, and there are many peer-reviewed studies of cognitive enhancing effects on learning, memory, and attention for drugs like nicotine (Heishman et al., 2010). Psychostimulant drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other clinical disorders of the brain are particularly favorite candidates for use by students in high school, college, and university and by adults without clinical conditions who desire cognitive enhancement for academic or vocational achievement. Many surveys show that drugs already are widely used to enhance aspects of cognition and a number of surrounding ethical issues have been discussed.

Overall, well-designed research studies do not strongly support such use (Bagot & Kaminer, 2014; Farah et al., 2014; Husain & Mehta, 2011; Ilieva & Farah, 2013; Smith & Farah, 2011). Even fewer studies are designed specifically to investigate drug effects directly on intelligence test scores in samples of people who do not have clinical problems. I could find no relevant meta-analysis that might support such use. In short, there is no compelling scientific evidence yet for an IQ pill.

As we learn more about brain mechanisms and intelligence, however, there is every reason to believe that it will be possible to enhance the relevant brain mechanisms with drugs, perhaps existing ones or new ones. Research on treating Alzheimer’s disease, for example, may reveal specific brain mechanisms related to learning and memory that can be enhanced with new drugs significantly better than existing drugs. This prospect fuels intense research at many multinational pharmaceutical companies. If such drugs become available to enhance learning and memory in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, surely the effect of those drugs will be studied in non-patients to boost cognition.

Biohacking is a broad term. Among the others, it can be associated with technologies and methods to boost intelligence.

Haier is one of the most prominent scientists studying intelligence and his book is a phenomenal history lesson on what has been researched in the last 40 years. There are innovative techniques being tried these days, including magnetic fields, electric shocks, and cold lasers to influence the cognitive processes. Some of them may work. Today’s drugs to boost intelligence don’t. There’s no scientific evidence of it.

The fashion industry will have to embrace smart clothing end to end

As I observe the emergence of smart clothing in multiple categories (from smart socks to smart jackets), I am trying to imagine the implications for the buyer as more and more pieces of his/her wardrobe blend with technology.

Today smart clothing is mainly perceived as a nice-to-have by tech enthusiasts (both men and women), and as a gimmick by the larger mainstream audience. In the future, as the technology matures and starts providing significant benefits, smart clothing might become preferred rather than optional. What happens at that point?

Will the buyer continue to mix and match smart clothing pieces from different fashion brands as he/she does today with traditional clothing? Will he /she accept to deal with each app that comes with each garment? Socks, jackets, bras, gloves, pants, etc. Or there will be a company that centralizes the ecosystem around its technology hub, in the same way Apple is centralizing the smart home ecosystem around its HomeKit? Just one app to monitor all garments and understand our health status, mood, performance.

Apple’s Angela Ahrendts comes from Burberry. At the time, the consensus was that she was hired to drive the sales of upper scale products like the premium Apple Watch Edition. Maybe there’s a longer-term reason?

What if technology becomes a primary driver for fashion purchasing decisions and such centralizing company doesn’t emerge to save customers?
What if the buyer really cares about the technology benefits of smart clothing but doesn’t like the style or the colour of the few brands that offer the specific garment he/she wants?

I think that eventually some fashion brands will have to embrace smart clothing end to end, offering an entire collection of smart clothes. Not just to differentiate. But to retain the customer loyalty, in the same way most collections today include all the trendiest pieces. And at that point, controlling a whole collection of smart clothes will be an opportunity to innovate, to make customers feel better about their inner self, not just their external appearance.

In the IT industry, today we say that every company is becoming a tech company. Tomorrow it might well be that every fashion brand becomes a tech brand.

The dangerous rush to build AI expertise

From Lyft’s biggest AI challenge is getting engineers up to speed | VentureBeat

Machine learning and deep learning AI have gone from the niche realm of PhDs to tools that will be used throughout all types of companies. That equates to a big skills gap, says Gil Arditi, product lead for Lyft’s Machine Learning Platform.

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Today, of course, any engineer with a modicum of experience can spin up databases on user-friendly cloud services. That’s the path that AI processes have to travel, he says. Luckily, machine learning is making AI more accessible to newbies without a PhD in statistics, mathematics, or computer science.

“Part of the promise of machine learning in general but deep learning in particular … is that there actually is not a lot of statistical modeling,” said Arditi. “Instead of giving to the machines exact formulas that will address the problem, you just give it the tools and treat it like a black box.”

From LinkedIn plans to teach all its engineers the basics of using AI | VentureBeat

Today, of course, any engineer with a modicum of experience can spin up databases on user-friendly cloud services. That’s the path that AI processes have to travel, he says. Luckily, machine learning is making AI more accessible to newbies without a PhD in statistics, mathematics, or computer science.

“Part of the promise of machine learning in general but deep learning in particular … is that there actually is not a lot of statistical modeling,” said Arditi. “Instead of giving to the machines exact formulas that will address the problem, you just give it the tools and treat it like a black box.”

and

The academy isn’t designed to give engineers an academic grounding in machine learning as a discipline. It’s designed instead to prepare them for using AI in much the same way that they’d use a system like QuickSort, an algorithm for sorting data that’s fed into it. Users don’t have to understand how the underlying system works, they just need to know the right way to implement it.

That’s the goal for LinkedIn, Agarwal said. Thus far, six engineers have made it through the AI academy and are deploying machine learning models in production as a result of what they learned. The educational program still has a ways to go (Agarwal said he’d grade it about a “C+ at the moment) but it has the potential to drastically affect LinkedIn’s business.

From Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries for Scarce A.I. Talent – The New York Times

Typical A.I. specialists, including both Ph.D.s fresh out of school and people with less education and just a few years of experience, can be paid from $300,000 to $500,000 a year or more in salary and company stock, according to nine people who work for major tech companies or have entertained job offers from them. All of them requested anonymity because they did not want to damage their professional prospects.

Well-known names in the A.I. field have received compensation in salary and shares in a company’s stock that total single- or double-digit millions over a four- or five-year period. And at some point they renew or negotiate a new contract, much like a professional athlete

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Most of all, there is a shortage of talent, and the big companies are trying to land as much of it as they can. Solving tough A.I. problems is not like building the flavor-of-the-month smartphone app. In the entire world, fewer than 10,000 people have the skills necessary to tackle serious artificial intelligence research, according to Element AI, an independent lab in Montreal.

Two thoughts:

  • This is unprecedented in the last two decades. Not even the raise of virtualization or cloud computing triggered such a massive call to action.
  • Do you really think that all these education programs and all these rushed experts will spend any significant time on the ethical aspects of AI and long-term implications of algorithmic bias?

NATO calls for a specialists meeting about artificial intelligence in mid 2018

From NATO urged to rapidly absorb AI into its command and control | Jane’s 360

NATO advisers and industry are urging the allies to rapidly absorb artificial intelligence software into their militaries’ observe, orient, decide, act (OODA) loop or risk seeing the latter collapse in the face of adversaries’ increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled attacks.

NATO Information Systems Technology (IST) Panel Office already arranged a 150 people meeting in Bordeaux for end of May 2018:

In order to avoid an abstract scientific discussion, the national STB representatives will engage operational experts to participate and work with the scientists towards a common road map for future research activities in NATO that meet operational needs.

Within the OODA loop the first step ‘Observe’ is about harvesting data. Intelligent integration of heterogeneous devices, architectures of acquisition systems and sensors, decentralized management of data, and autonomous collection platforms and sensors give a huge field for improvement with Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence technologies for acquiring and processing Big Data. The next step ‘Orient’ is about reasoning. Analysis of social media, information fusion, anomaly detection, and behavior modeling are domains with huge potential for Machine Learning algorithms. The same is applicable for the ‘Decide’ step where predictive analytics, augmented and virtual reality and many more technologies support the operational decision-making process. A complex battlefield and high speed operations require independently acting devices to ‘Act’ with a certain degree of Autonomy. In all steps, the application of AI technologies for automated analysis, early warnings, guaranteeing trust in the Internet of Things (IoT), and distinguishing relevant from Fake Data is mandatory.

This is the escalation Nick Bostrom first (in its book Superintelligence) and Elon Musk later were talking about.

We want the UAE to become the world’s most prepared country for artificial intelligence 

From Mohammad Bin Rashid reveals reshuffled UAE Cabinet | Gulfnews.com

The new government – the 13th in the UAE’s history – sees the appointment of Omar Bin Sultan Al Olama (right), 27, as the State Minister for Artificial Intelligence.

“We want the UAE to become the world’s most prepared country for artificial intelligence,” Shaikh Mohammad said.

Shaikh Mohammad added the new phase focuses on “future skills, future sciences and future technology, as we prepare for the centenary to ensure a better future for our generations”.

After Russia and China, the United Arab Emirates wants to make clear, too, that AI is a strategic advantage and a top priority.

The Market for Bionic Prosthetics

From Medical Bionic Implants And Exoskeletons Market Projected CAGR of 7.5% During the period 2017-2027 – The Edition Truth

The global medical bionic implants and exoskeletons market stood at U$ 454.5 Mn in 2016. It is expected to expand at a CAGR of 7.5% during the period 2017-2027 to reach U$ 1,001.4 Mn. Factors such as rising amputation rates, diabetes, arthritis, trauma cases and expanding ageing demographics have led to a higher number of bionic implants and exoskeletons procedures. According to National Center for Health Statistics, 185,000 new amputations are consistently being performed in the U.S every year. Advancement in new robotics technology (mind-controlled bionic limbs & exoskeletons) coupled with 3D printing is also positively impacting the growth of the market.

This is just the market for addressing a disability or impairment (aka “fixing”). There will be a market for intentional augmentation (aka “improving”).

Chinese state plan to dominate AI by 2030

From China’s Plan to ‘Lead’ in AI: Purpose, Prospects, and Problems

The plan prescribes a high level of government investment in theoretical and applied AI breakthroughs (see Part III below for more), while also acknowledging that, in China as around the world, private companies are currently leading the charge on commercial applications of AI.

The plan acknowledges, meanwhile, that China remains far behind world leaders in development of key hardware enablers of AI, such as microchips suited for machine learning use (e.g., GPUs or re-configurable processors). The plan’s ambition is underlined by its recognition of the hard road ahead.

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China is embarking upon an agenda of “intelligentization” (智能化), seeking to take advantage of the transformative potential of AI throughout society, the economy, government, and the military. Through this new plan, China intends to pursue “indigenous innovation” in the “strategic frontier” technology of AI in furtherance of a national strategy for innovation-driven development.

the Chinese government is encouraging its own AI enterprises to pursue an approach of “going out,” including through overseas mergers and acquisitions, equity investments, and venture capital, as well as the establishment of research and development centers abroad.

China plans to develop resources and ecosystems conducive to the goal of becoming a “premier innovation center” in AI science and technology by 2030. In support of this goal, the plan calls for an “open source and open” approach that takes advantage of synergies among industry, academia, research, and applications, including through creating AI “innovation clusters.”

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the Chinese leadership wants to ensure that advances in AI can be leveraged for national defense, through a national strategy for military-civil fusion (军民融合). According to the plan, resources and advances will be shared and transferred between civilian and military contexts. This will involve the establishment and normalizing of mechanisms for communication and coordination among scientific research institutes, universities, enterprises, and military industry.

Full translation of China’s State Council Notice on the Issuance of the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan – Both the original document and the commentary on NewAmerica are critical reads.

A brain-computer interface for under £20

From ici·bici: here’s a low cost, open source brain-computer interface

In summer 2016, we met to build a low-cost brain-computer interface that you could plug into your phone. We want everyone interested in BCI technology to be able to try it out.

Two months later, we premiered the world’s first £20 BCI at EMF camp as ‘smartphone-BCI’.

As of summer 2017, we have:

  • a simple, two electrode EEG kit that amplifies neural signals, and modulates them for input to an audio jack;
  • a basic Android diagnostic app;
  • an SSVEP Unity text entry app.

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The v0.1 circuit reads a bipolar EEG signal and sends the signal out along an audio cable, for use in a smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.

EEG signals are difficult to work with as they are very faint, and easily interfered with by other signals, including muscle movements and mains electricity – both of which are much more powerful. Also, the interesting frequencies range between 4Hz to 32Hz (depending on the intended use), but a smartphone sound card will filter out all signals below 20Hz.

Thus, the v0.1 circuit:

  • amplifies the signals that comes from the electrodes, boosting them from the microvolt to the millivolt range;
  • uses amplitude modulation to add a 1kHz carrier tone, allowing the signal to bypass the 20Hz high-pass filter behind the phone’s audio jack.

Levandowski founds a religion

From The Self Driving Car Whiz Who Fell from Grace | WIRED

Anthony Levandowski will be firmly on the side of the machines. In September 2015, the multi-millionaire engineer at the heart of the patent and trade secrets lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, Google’s self-driving car company, founded a religious organization called Way of the Future. Its purpose, according to previously unreported state filings, is nothing less than to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence.”

documents filed with California show that Levandowski is Way of the Future’s CEO and President, and that it aims “through understanding and worship of the Godhead, [to] contribute to the betterment of society.”

There are grave allegations pending Levandowski’s head, and this profile by Wired is all but positive. It would be unfortunate for transhumanism, as an intellectual movement, if those claims end up substantiated.

Right now, the press is giving too much religious emphasis to transhumanism without merit. But I eventually expect some speculators to try and turn it into an actual religion for pure speculation.

The electromagnetic spectrum is now the new high ground on the battlefield

From Artificial Intelligence Could Help Neutralize Enemy Bombs

Capt. Scott Kraft, commanding officer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head technology division in Maryland, said artificial intelligence and big data analytics could potentially help technicians more quickly recognize exactly what type of bomb they are dealing with and choose the best option for neutralizing it. The vast amount of data collected during the past 16 years of war could be exploited to make faster decisions in combat situations, he said.

and

AI could also help EOD forces defeat electronic warfare threats by detecting sources of transmission and interference, officials said.

“The electromagnetic spectrum is now the new high ground on the battlefield,” Young said. U.S. troops “have to have situational awareness of it, what’s happening and why, and if we don’t we’re going to be at a disadvantage.”

Signals interference can impede the operations of robots and other EOD tools.

“If you’ve been to theater lately … you’ve heard about a lot of the counter-UAS systems along with all the jammers, along with all the electronic warfare systems,” Young said.

“It becomes very complex. So we want to try to simplify that” for operators that aren’t EW experts, Young said.

The whole article is about artificial intelligence and drone technologies applied to explosive ordnance disposal. However, reading it, it’s easy to see how AI is considered a strategic weapon and could be used for many applications, not just improvised explosive device (IED) discovery and disposal. And some military organizations have very large data sets to train AI.

The possible applications go all the way to the supersoldier scenarios, as I heard from at least one startup.

No surprise Putin said that whoever leads in AI will rule the world.

Real-time people and object recognition for check-out at a retail shop

From Autonomous Checkout, Real Time System v0.21 – YouTube

This is a real time demonstration of our autonomous checkout system, running at 30 FPS. This system includes our models for person detection, entity tracking, item detection, item classification, ownership resolution, action analysis, and shopper inventory analysis, all working together to visualize which person has what item in real time.

A few days ago, I shared a TED Talk about real-time face recognition. It was impressive. What I am sharing right now is even more impressive: real-time people and object recognition during online shopping.

Online shopping is just one (very lucrative) application. The technology shown in this video has been developed by a company called Standard Cognition, but it’s very likely similar to the one that Amazon is testing in their first retail shop.

Of course, there are many other applications, like surveillance for law enforcement, or information gathering for “smart communication”. Imagine this technology used in augmented reality.

Once smart contact lenses will be a reality, this will be inevitable.

I think that the algorithms can be biased, harmful, and even deadly

From Pioneering computer scientist calls for National Algorithm Safety Board | Techworld

Renowned computer scientist Ben Shneiderman has a plan on how to ensure algorithmic accountability. The University of Maryland professor and founder of its Human-Computer Interaction Lab outlined his strategy at the 2017 Turing Lecture on Tuesday.”What I’m proposing is a National Algorithm Safety Board,” Shneiderman told the audience in London’s British Library.The board would provide three forms of independent oversight: planning, continuous monitoring, and retrospective analysis. Combined they provide a basis to ensure the correct system is selected then supervised and lessons can be learnt to make better algorithms in future.

The story of Ferguson wasn’t algorithm-friendly. It’s not “likable.”

From Zeynep Tufekci: Machine intelligence makes human morals more important | TED Talk

Machine intelligence is here, and we’re already using it to make subjective decisions. But the complex way AI grows and improves makes it hard to understand and even harder to control. In this cautionary talk, techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci explains how intelligent machines can fail in ways that don’t fit human error patterns — and in ways we won’t expect or be prepared for. “We cannot outsource our responsibilities to machines,” she says. “We must hold on ever tighter to human values and human ethics.”

Another exceptional TED Talk.

Modern AIs do not read, do not understand. They only disguise as if they do.

From Noriko Arai: Can a robot pass a university entrance exam? | TED Talk

Meet Todai Robot, an AI project that performed in the top 20 percent of students on the entrance exam for the University of Tokyo — without actually understanding a thing. While it’s not matriculating anytime soon, Todai Robot’s success raises alarming questions for the future of human education. How can we help kids excel at the things that humans will always do better than AI?

The key idea of this beautiful talk:

we humans can understand the meaning. That is something which is very, very lacking in AI. But most of the students just pack the knowledge without understanding the meaning of the knowledge, so that is not knowledge, that is just memorizing, and AI can do the same thing. So we have to think about a new type of education.

Molecular machines open cell membranes

From Molecular machines open cell membranes : Nature

Beyond the more common chemical delivery strategies, several physical techniques are used to open the lipid bilayers of cellular membranes. These include using electric and magnetic fields, temperature, ultrasound or light to introduce compounds into cells, to release molecular species from cells or to selectively induce programmed cell death (apoptosis) or uncontrolled cell death (necrosis).

More recently, molecular motors and switches that can change their conformation in a controlled manner in response to external stimuli have been used to produce mechanical actions on tissue for biomedical applications. Here we show that molecular machines can drill through cellular bilayers using their molecular-scale actuation, specifically nanomechanical action.

Upon physical adsorption of the molecular motors onto lipid bilayers and subsequent activation of the motors using ultraviolet light, holes are drilled in the cell membranes. We designed molecular motors and complementary experimental protocols that use nanomechanical action to induce the diffusion of chemical species out of synthetic vesicles, to enhance the diffusion of traceable molecular machines into and within live cells, to induce necrosis and to introduce chemical species into live cells.

We also show that, by using molecular machines that bear short peptide addends, nanomechanical action can selectively target specific cell-surface recognition sites. Beyond the in vitro applications demonstrated here, we expect that molecular machines could also be used in vivo, especially as their design progresses to allow two-photon, near-infrared and radio-frequency activation.

Scientists have developed nanomachines that can drill into cancer cells and kill them within minutes

From These tiny, light-activated nanomachines can kill cancer cells within minutes – The Verge

The machines are so tiny that 50,000 of them together is still about the width of a single strand of human hair. Each machine is engineered to be sensitive to a protein located on a specific type of cell, which helped them find their target. Once you add light, they spin up to 3 million times per second, and this spinning provides the power needed to break into a cell. Without light, the nanomachines can still find the molecule, but just remain on the surface.

When scientists let these nanomachines loose in a dish full of human kidney cells, the nanomachines made holes in the cells and killed them within minutes. The same thing happened when the nanomachines were unleashed on cancerous prostate cells.

What does it mean to be a human?

From Why You Will One Day Have a Brain Computer Interface | WIRED

Bryan Johnson, an entrepreneur who in 2013 made a bundle by selling his company, Braintree, to Paypal for $800 million. Last year, he used $100 million of that to start Kernel, a company that is exploring how to build and implant chips into the skulls of those with some form of neurological disease and dysfunction, to reprogram their neural networks to restore some of their lost abilities.

When asked why humans have to manipulate their brains, Jonhnson replies:

Humans currently reign supreme on planet Earth, because we are the most powerful form of intelligence. So therefore, we decide who we eat, who we have as pets, who we allow to go extinct, who is saved, who is neutered, who can reproduce. We are currently developing a new form of intelligence in the form of AI that is increasingly capable, whether it’s conscious or not. For humans to be relevant in a matter of decades there is no choice other than to unlock our brains and intervene in our cognitive evolution. If you try to imagine a world where we are happy 30, 40, 50 years from now, there is no version of that future where we have not been able to figure out how to read and write our neural code.

I met one of the neuroscientists behind Kernel at the TED Global 2017 conference. Quite interesting conversation.

Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare

From Killer robots: World’s top AI and robotics companies urge United Nations to ban lethal autonomous weapons – Future of Life Institute

An open letter signed by 116 founders of robotics and artificial intelligence companies from 26 countries urges the United Nations to urgently address the challenge of lethal autonomous weapons (often called ‘killer robots’) and ban their use internationally.

In December 2016, 123 member nations of the UN’s Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons unanimously agreed to begin formal discussions on autonomous weapons. Of these, 19 have already called for an outright ban.

and

Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend.

Fernand Léger and the Rise of the Man-Machine

From Fernand Léger and the Rise of the Man-Machine

Early in life, Léger embraced a transcendent, quasi-Futurist love of technological energy along with the Cubist notion of putting the squeeze on: fracturing objects into sharp geometric shapes. But soon, his brand of Cubism evolved into an automaton-esque figurative style distinguished by his focus on cylindrical forms. These cylindrical android figures express a synchronization between human and machine that is most relevant today given the coming artificial intelligence workplace. When we look at Léger with new eyes, we see that he sought to express the noise, dynamism, and speed of the new technology machinery in which he and we find ourselves immersed.

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The military theme in Léger’s oeuvre remains prominent in post-WWI paintings like “La partie de cartes” (“The Card Game,” 1917), where three decorated soldiers tumble out of themselves and ripple across the picture plane, merging into an ecstatic ménage à trois through the interlacing repetitions of their machine forms. This post-flesh, man-machine unanimity could be seen as a precedent, suggestive of our current post-human condition.

The resplendent mélange of seated tin men — all evocative of that famous one from Oz — displays a frantic, cybernetic logic in terms of the painting’s visual tactility, with once lumpen and deadlocked male forms set flowing in jerks and spasms across the surface. The artist has systematically imposed on them a vibrating restlessness through labyrinthine extensions and doublings, making their flesh undergo steps of annihilation into transubstantiation. The composition’s flickering, staccato repetitions create the impression of a rolling bacchanalia where human forms transcend their fleshiness and extend themselves through motorized re-embodiment. Léger seems to suggest that the truth of life is found not through chance, as one might glean from the card game, but through the technological apparatus of bodies tumbling into a field of circuits.