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Can evolution select for evolvability? | Machines Like Us

Can evolution select for evolvability? | Machines Like Us | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it

Evolution does not operate with a goal in mind; it does not have foresight. But organisms that have a greater capacity to evolve may fare better in rapidly changing environments. This raises the question: does evolution favor characteristics that increase a species' ability to evolve?

For several years, biologists have attempted to provide evidence that natural selection has acted on evolvability. Now a new paper by University of Pennsylvania researchers offers, for the first time, clear evidence that the answer is yes.

The senior author on the study, published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, is Dustin Brisson, an assistant professor in the School of Arts and Sciences' Department of Biology. His coauthors include Penn's Christopher J. Graves, Vera I. D. Ros and Paul D. Sniegowski, and the University of Kentucky's Brian Stevenson.

"It's not controversial that populations evolve and that some traits are more apt to evolve than others," Brisson said. "What we were asking is whether the ability of an organism to evolve is a trait that natural selection can pick."

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Teresa M. Nash's comment, November 28, 2013 4:41 AM
Great!
Embodied Zeitgeist
Exploration of The Zeitgeist as embodied in Humans
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Scientists Are Finally Set to Mass-Produce The Active Compound Found in Magic Mushrooms

Scientists Are Finally Set to Mass-Produce The Active Compound Found in Magic Mushrooms | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
For nearly 60 years scientists have known the chemical responsible for magic mushrooms' psychedelic reputation is a compound called psilocybin. What we haven't known is the biochemical pathway behind this famous hallucinogen.

Feel free to now tick that one off your chemistry bucket-list. German researchers have identified four key enzymes involved in making the chemical, potentially setting the stage for mass production of a promising pharmaceutical.

Psilocybin was first identified by the Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann way back in 1959, but has only recently re-entered the spotlight as a safe way to treat conditions related to anxiety, depression, and addiction.

As the evidence mounts, there could be a need for an efficient way to synthesise the compound for experimentation and mass production.

So a small team of researchers from Friedrich Schiller University Jena in Germany sequenced the genomes of the magic mushroom species Psilocybe cubensis and Psilocybe cyanescens to hunt for the biochemical components responsible for constructing this mind-bending molecule.

They had their suspicions, as early work on the molecule's biosynthesis using radioactive tags had already revealed the order of the steps required to turn a molecule of tryptophan - an essential amino acid - into a series of chemicals, ending up with psilocybin.

While the order is a little different than it first appeared, it turns out four enzymes are responsible for the entire process.

Knowing what these enzymes are as well as the genes that encode them is a boon for any future pharmacologist who might want to churn out buckets of the stuff, or tweak the secret recipe to suit their needs.


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Paralyzed Monkeys Able to Walk Again With Brain Implant. Human Trials Are Next

Paralyzed Monkeys Able to Walk Again With Brain Implant. Human Trials Are Next | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
Using a system of electrodes, transmitters, receivers, scientists were able to restore leg function in a primate, completely bypassing damaged nerves. While this remarkable feat may be decades away from human use, it is a promising development for the hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. with spinal cord injuries
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This is how Big Oil will die – NewCo Shift

This is how Big Oil will die – NewCo Shift | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
Self-driving cars will be electric because of cost. And the cost will be so low, oil will not survive.
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The World May Be Headed for a Fragmented ‘Splinternet’

The World May Be Headed for a Fragmented ‘Splinternet’ | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
The rulings on online speech are coming down all over the world. Most recently, on June 30, Germany passed a law that orders social media companies operating in the country to delete hate speech within 24 hours of it being posted, or face fines of up to $57 million per instance. That came two days after a Canada Supreme Court ruling that Google must scrub search results about pirated products. And in May a court in Austria ruled that Facebook must take down specific posts that were considered hateful toward the country’s Green party leader. Each of those rulings mandated that companies remove the content not just in the countries where it was posted, but globally. Currently, in France, the country’s privacy regulator is fighting Google in the courts to get the tech giant to apply Europe’s “right to be forgotten” laws worldwide. And, around the world, dozens of similar cases are pending.

The trend of courts applying country-specific social media laws worldwide could radically change what is allowed to be on the internet, setting a troubling precedent. What happens to the global internet when countries with different cultures have sharply diverging definitions of what is acceptable online speech? What happens when one country's idea of acceptable speech clashes with another's idea of hate speech? Experts worry the biggest risk is that the whole internet will be forced to comport with the strictest legal limitations.

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prgnewshawaii's curator insight, July 10, 12:38 AM

With more countries putting more restrictions on what can be discussed on the internet, the concept of net neutrality and freedom of speech is in deep trouble. Country specific laws will radically change the internet.

Russell Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest

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A Theory of Reality as More Than the Sum of Its Parts

A Theory of Reality as More Than the Sum of Its Parts | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
New math shows how, contrary to conventional scientific wisdom, conscious beings and other macroscopic entities might have greater influence over the future
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FastTFriend's curator insight, June 9, 8:04 AM
Tononi argues that this special “integrated information” corresponds to the unified, integrated state that we experience as subjective awareness. Integrated information theory has gained prominence in the last few years, even as debates have ensued about whether it is an accurate and sufficient proxy for consciousness. But when Hoel first got to Madison in 2010, only the two of them were working on it there.
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Map: These are the cities that climate change will hit first

Map: These are the cities that climate change will hit first | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
New York and D.C. will hit the climate change tipping point in 2047 – just 34 years from now.
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Economia Festival. Consumerism, crabs, automation, and other insights by non-economists

Economia Festival. Consumerism, crabs, automation, and other insights by non-economists | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
The festival’s rallying cry was that time had come to discuss the economy without inviting the economists to the table. The videos of the keynotes are online and i’d like to highlight 2…
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The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked

The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
A shadowy operation involving big data, billionaire friends of Trump and the disparate forces of the Leave campaign heavily influenced the result of the EU referendum. Is our electoral process still fit for purpose?
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Four new human rights proposed to protect us from mind reading and brain hacking

Four new human rights proposed to protect us from mind reading and brain hacking | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
The human brain is an enigma wrapped in a skull, but the field of neuroscience is beginning to unravel its secrets. What we learn could be used for good – such as how to develop prosthetic limbs and wheelchairs that can be controlled directly by a patient's thoughts – or bad, like the possibility of mind-controlled weaponry. To help us navigate the potentially murky waters of probing and peering into the human mind, researchers from Switzerland have proposed four new human rights relating to limitations on how the brain should be read or manipulated.

Brainwaves can be tracked using electroencephalography (EEG), and that's helping us map out which parts of the brain are involved in which processes, diagnose concussions, guess which number someone's thinking of, help stroke victims regain their motor skills or let "locked-in" people communicate with the outside world. If that's the "out" signal, than transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is the "in": placing a magnetic coil on the back of the skull, the patient's brain can be directly stimulated to boost memory or learning, send messages, treat migraines or even play games.

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A Neuroscientist explains the origins of emotions

A Neuroscientist explains the origins of emotions | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
I am known for being hard to read, to the point that friends complain that they can never tell what I’m thinking by looking at my face. But, says neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, it’
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Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of hardware (full documentary)

Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of hardware (full documentary) | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
Future Cities, a full-length documentary strand from WIRED Video, takes us inside the bustling Chinese city of Shenzhen.
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Lab-grown chicken on the menu for the first time

Lab-grown chicken on the menu for the first time | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
If you find yourself torn between cravings and ethical concerns every time you tuck into a chicken nugget, there might soon be a way you can have your meat and eat it too. Memphis Meats has just served up chicken and duck meat cultivated in a lab from poultry cells, meaning no animals were harmed in the making of the meal.

Along with the ethical issues of animal cruelty that surround a carnivorous diet, feeding, breeding and keeping livestock for food has an enormous environmental impact. The animals burp more greenhouse gases into the air than all modes of human transport, and require large swathes of land to be cleared, not to mention all the food, water, and care they need. Studies show that growing meat in a lab setting could go a long way towards solving those problems.

In 2013, the public got a taste of beef that had never actually been a cow, but as impressive as that achievement was, it was reportedly pretty bland and cost as much as a house. Companies like Impossible Burger are working on improving the look and taste, and in February 2016, Memphis Meats unveiled what it called a "clean" meatball.

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prgnewshawaii's curator insight, March 17, 1:33 AM

The future diet is on your plate now.  Lab-grown meat from Memphis Meats involves no real animals, just their cells cultivated in a lab environment.

Russell Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest

globephysicist's comment, March 18, 2:19 AM
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Aleisha Daley's curator insight, March 22, 9:04 AM
In this article it talks about lab-grown chicken and duck. Lab-grown or Memphis meats are made by taking muscle tissue from the animals, this causes them no harm. The tissue is then grown in a vats. This is part of the “Clean Meat Movement”, the movement is aware of what farming animals for their meat is doing to our environment, and that it is causing, and will continue to, cause environmental problems. If all goes to plan the company has a target of getting the products out to consumers by 2021. I personally don't think I would want to eat meat that has been grown in a lab. I think that the reasons that they are making lab-grown meats is reasonable, but I think that you could never get the same qualities as real meat.
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'It Has To Have A Soul': How Chatbots Get Their Personalities

'It Has To Have A Soul': How Chatbots Get Their Personalities | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
In the year 2000, logging onto the Internet usually meant sitting down at a monitor connected to a dial-up modem, a bunch of beeps and clicks, and a "You've got mail!" notification. In those days, AOL Instant Messenger was the Internet's favorite pastime, and the king of AIM was SmarterChild, a chatbot that lived in your buddy list.

A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate human conversation, and SmarterChild was one of the first chatbots the public ever saw. The idea was that you would ask SmarterChild a question — "Who won the Mets game last night?" or "Where did the Dow close today?" — then the program would scour the Internet and, within seconds, respond with the answer. The company that built SmarterChild, a startup called ActiveBuddy, thought it could make money by building custom bots for big companies and made SmarterChild as a test case.

And people did use SmarterChild — a lot. At its height, SmarterChild chatted with 250,000 people a day.

Responding like a human

But most of those people weren't asking SmarterChild about sports or stocks. They were just chitchatting with it, about nothing in particular — like how you'd chat with a friend. "Our goal was to make a bot people would actually use, and to do that we had to make the best friend on the Internet," says Robert Hoffer, one of its creators.

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Microbes have their own version of the internet

Microbes have their own version of the internet | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
Creating a huge global network connecting billions of individuals might be one of humanity’s greatest achievements to date, but microbes beat us to it by more than three billion years. These tiny single-celled organisms aren’t just responsible for all life on Earth. They also have their own versions of the World Wide Web and the Internet of Things. Here’s how they work.

Much like our own cells, microbes treat pieces of DNA as coded messages. These messages contain information for assembling proteins into molecular machines that can solve specific problems, such as repairing the cell. But microbes don’t just get these messages from their own DNA. They also swallow pieces of DNA from their dead relatives or exchange them with living mates.

These DNA pieces are then incorporated into their genomes, which are like computers overseeing the work of the entire protein machinery. In this way, the tiny microbe is a flexible learning machine that intelligently searches for resources in its environment. If one protein machine doesn’t work, the microbe tries another one. Trial and error solve all the problems.

But microbes are too small to act on their own. Instead, they form societies. Microbes have been living as giant colonies, containing trillions of members, from the dawn of life. These colonies have even left behind mineral structures known as stromatolites. These are microbial metropolises, frozen in time like Pompeii, that provide evidence of life from billions of years ago.

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What If (Almost) Every Gene Affects (Almost) Everything?

What If (Almost) Every Gene Affects (Almost) Everything? | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
Three Stanford scientists have proposed a provocative new way of thinking about genetic variants, and how they affect people’s bodies and health.
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Algorithms decode complex thoughts from brain scans - Futurity

Algorithms decode complex thoughts from brain scans - Futurity | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
Scientists are using machine-learning algorithms and brain-imaging technology to identify sentences in people's minds.
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The Surprising Speed with Which We Become Polarized Online

The Surprising Speed with Which We Become Polarized Online | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
Learn more about how social media echo chambers and filter bubbles cause polarization in online communities, based on faculty research at the Kellogg School.
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Experts Think This Is How Long We Have Before AI Takes All of Our Jobs

Experts Think This Is How Long We Have Before AI Takes All of Our Jobs | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
According to a survey of artificial intelligence experts, AI will probably be good enough to take on pretty much most of our jobs within half a century.

While there's plenty of room for debate on the details, the predicted applications of AI could serve as an alarm bell for us to consider how our economy and job market will adapt to ever smarter technology.

A team of researchers from the University of Oxford and Yale University received 352 responses to a survey they'd sent out to over 1,600 academics who had presented at conferences on machine learning and neural information processing in 2015.

The survey asked the experts to assign probabilities to dates in the future that AI might be capable of performing specific tasks, from folding laundry to translating languages.

They also asked for predictions on when machines would be superior to humans in fulfilling certain occupations, such as surgery or truck-driving; when they thought AI would be better than us at all tasks; and what they thought the social impacts could be.

The researchers then combined the results to determine a range of time stretching from a low 25 percent confidence to 75 percent certain, calculating a median point when most experts were hedging their bets.

You can check out the results in the table below.

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prgnewshawaii's curator insight, June 3, 3:56 PM

Current surveys suggest that artificial intelligence will absorb most of our jobs within 50 years. Upgrade your skills now before you're replaced by a machine. Those entering college should consider carefully their life's work and plan accordingly.

Russell Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest

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Why Bad Moods Are Good For You: The Surprising Benefits of Sadness

Why Bad Moods Are Good For You: The Surprising Benefits of Sadness | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
Homo sapiens is a very moody species. Even though sadness and bad moods have always been part of the human experience, we now live in an age that ignores or devalues these feelings.

In our culture, normal human emotions like temporary sadness are often treated as disorders. Manipulative advertising, marketing and self-help industries claim happiness should be ours for the asking. Yet bad moods remain an essential part of the normal range of moods we regularly experience.

Despite the near-universal cult of happiness and unprecedented material wealth, happiness and life satisfaction in Western societies has not improved for decades.

It's time to re-assess the role of bad moods in our lives. We should recognise they are a normal, and even a useful and adaptive part of being human, helping us cope with many everyday situations and challenges.

A short history of sadness

In earlier historical times, short spells of feeling sad or moody (known as mild dysphoria) have always been accepted as a normal part of everyday life. In fact, many of the greatest achievements of the human spirit deal with evoking, rehearsing and even cultivating negative feelings.

Greek tragedies exposed and trained audiences to accept and deal with inevitable misfortune as a normal part of human life. Shakespeare's tragedies are classics because they echo this theme. And the works of many great artists such as Beethoven and Chopin in music, or Chekhov and Ibsen in literature explore the landscape of sadness, a theme long recognised as instructive and valuable.

Ancient philosophers have also believed accepting bad moods is essential to living a full life. Even hedonist philosophers like Epicurus recognised living well involves exercising wise judgement, restraint, self-control and accepting inevitable adversity.

Other philosophers like the stoics also highlighted the importance of learning to anticipate and accept misfortunes, such as loss, sorrow or injustice.

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Look to Zuck’s F8, Not Trump’s 100 Days, to See the Shape of the Future

Look to Zuck’s F8, Not Trump’s 100 Days, to See the Shape of the Future | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
While the fate of the Trump administration matters, it may shape the world much less decisively than the changes rapidly altering the digital landscape.

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Brain scans highlight a hidden, "higher" state of consciousness

Brain scans highlight a hidden, "higher" state of consciousness | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
Reaching a higher state of consciousness is a concept you're more likely to hear a spiritualist spout than a scientist, but now neuroscientists at the University of Sussex claim to have found the first evidence of just such a state. From wakefulness down to a deep coma, consciousness is on a sliding scale measured by the diversity of brain signals, and the researchers found that when under the influence of psychedelic drugs, that diversity jumps to new heights above the everyday baseline.

The research builds on data gathered about a year ago by a team at Imperial College London, which dosed up volunteers with psychedelics, including LSD, psilocybin and ketamine, then scanned their brains with magnetoencephalographic (MEG) techniques to examine the effects. This new study set out to determine how a psychedelic state would compare to other levels of wakefulness and unconsciousness, according to a scale of brain signal diversity measured by monitoring the magnetic fields produced by the brain.

When a person is asleep, their brain signals are far less diverse than when they're awake and aware, and past research has noted that it varies by what stage of the sleep cycle they're in. Being put under different types of anaesthesia induce even lower scores, and it bottoms out for those in a vegetative state. But this is the first time signal diversity has been seen to be higher than the normal readings of an alert, conscious mind.
"This finding shows that the brain-on-psychedelics behaves very differently from normal," says Anil Seth, corresponding author of the study. "During the psychedelic state, the electrical activity of the brain is less predictable and less 'integrated' than during normal conscious wakefulness – as measured by 'global signal diversity.' Since this measure has already shown its value as a measure of 'conscious level', we can say that the psychedelic state appears as a higher 'level' of consciousness than normal – but only with respect to this specific mathematical measure."

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prgnewshawaii's curator insight, April 21, 11:25 AM

Perhaps gurus and ancient mystics knew something about the mind that we did not. New research shows we have hidden states of consciousness that were unknown before brain scans.

Russell Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest

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Artificial evolution aims to create life out of non-living matter

Artificial evolution aims to create life out of non-living matter | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
Evolution is the generally-accepted answer to how life arose, but how did non-living matter transition into living organisms? A team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is trying to recreate the cradle of life, by gently rocking a combination of key minerals and organic molecules to see if certain chemical reactions give birth to life. If life emerges "easily" from these conditions, it could change our understanding of how common life might be across the universe.

Synthetic life has been created in a lab before. Back in 2010, scientists successfully created a brand-new bacteria by injecting a computer-designed genome into an existing cell, which was then able to replicate itself. A few years later, another team built artificial, self-assembling cell membranes, which could act like the "hardware" to house an artificial genome. More recently, researchers developed a semi-synthetic organism with extra genetic information in its DNA.

But if those scientists were essentially "playing God" by directly creating new life, the UW-Madison project is "playing Mother Nature" by trying to recreate the overall process of evolution itself.

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jokesbyron's comment, April 10, 4:52 AM
nice
citrilbit's comment, April 10, 10:58 PM
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Connor's curator insight, April 24, 12:30 AM
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is trying to get life to emerge from non-living matter. They are trying to create possible circumstances that might allow living molecules to emerge from non-living ones. This is different from what scientists accomplished back in 2010 when they introduced a computer-designed genome into an existing cell, creating a new bacteria. The team has gone through 30 generations of chemicals, each one changing a material in the solution. They are using iron pyrite as a catalyst for a reaction.

While creating an entirely new bacteria is an astounding feat, creating life from purely non-living materials is something entirely new. It is also something extremely hard. To see the beginning stages of life develop, to watch the origins of where we come from take root, an unbelievable feat. Seceding in such an endeavor has innumerable implications on the scientific field and on the future.
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Scientists Think They Have Another Reason Humans Became Smarter Than Our Ancestors - Blood

Scientists Think They Have Another Reason Humans Became Smarter Than Our Ancestors - Blood | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it
It's all in the brain.
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The inventor of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, outlines its three biggest threats

The inventor of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, outlines its three biggest threats | Embodied Zeitgeist | Scoop.it

The World Wide Web turned 28 today. But rather than celebrate, its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, used the occasion to lay out what he sees as its greatest challenges. Specifically, Berners-Lee points to three threats: the loss of control of personal data, the spread of misinformation, and lack of transparency in political advertising.


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THE *OFFICIAL ANDREASCY*'s curator insight, March 12, 3:25 PM

"Watching everyone, all the time, is simply going too far."