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The Internet Deserves Its Own Holiday | Wired Opinion |

The Internet Deserves Its Own Holiday | Wired Opinion | | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Every so often in human history, something new comes along that warrants a celebration, and that deserves its own holiday. That’s why I propose we celebrate “Internet Freedom Day” later this month.
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We need to celebrate. Because before the internet, we were in a different sort of dark age: We had to wait to hear news on TV at night or in print the next day. We had to go to record stores to find new music. Cocktail party debates couldn’t be settled on the spot. We had to wait years for encyclopedia entries to be updated. And even wizards like Hermione Granger could only find what they needed in a library full of dusty parchment books.

The internet swept through our lives and changed all of these things, and more. We hear about earthquakes before they even reach us. We can fix broken encyclopedia entries … ourselves. We can find reported news and sentiment instantly (even those of software millionaires on the run). We can share, comment, remix, create, even make – all with just a few clicks.

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Infant Brains Reveal How the Mind Gets Built | Quanta Magazine

Infant Brains Reveal How the Mind Gets Built |  Quanta Magazine | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
ebecca Saxe’s first son, Arthur, was just a month old when he first entered the bore of an MRI machine to have his brain scanned. Saxe, a cognitive scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, went headfirst with him: lying uncomfortably on her stomach, her face near his diaper, she stroked and soothed him as the three-tesla magnet whirred around them. Arthur, unfazed, promptly fell asleep.

All parents wonder what’s going on inside their baby’s mind; few have the means to find out. When Saxe got pregnant, she’d already been working with colleagues for years to devise a setup to image brain activity in babies. But her due date in September 2013 put an impetus on getting everything ready.

Over the past couple of decades, researchers like Saxe have used functional MRI to study brain activity in adults and children. But fMRI, like a 19th-century daguerreotype, requires subjects to lie perfectly still lest the image become hopelessly blurred. Babies are jittering bundles of motion when not asleep, and they can’t be cajoled or bribed into stillness. The few fMRI studies done on babies to date mostly focused on playing sounds to them while they slept.

But Saxe wanted to understand how babies see the world when they’re awake; she wanted to image Arthur’s brain as he looked at video clips, the kind of thing that adult research subjects do easily. It was a way of approaching an even bigger question: Do babies’ brains work like miniature versions of adult brains, or are they completely different? “I had this fundamental question about how brains develop, and I had a baby with a developing brain,” she said. “Two of the things that were most important to me in life temporarily had this very intense convergence inside an MRI machine.”
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Engineers Have Released Plans for a 5-Km-High Skyscraper That Eats Smog

Engineers Have Released Plans for a 5-Km-High Skyscraper That Eats Smog | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
2017 only just arrived, but one manufacturing company is already looking 45 years into the future.

Arconic, a materials science company, has envisioned a 3-mile-high (4.8-km) skyscraper built from materials that are either in-development or have already been brought to market, including smog-eating surfaces and retractable balconies.

The tower was concocted as part of the company’s larger campaign known as The Jetsons, an homage to the 1962 cartoon set in 2062. Arconic’s engineers worked alongside futurists to imagine the technologies that will be most useful several decades from now.

Sherri McCleary, one of Arconic’s chief materials scientists, says one of the most exciting and immediate projects is EcoClean, a special coating that helps buildings self-clean and purify the surrounding air.

It was first released in 2011 and offers a number of benefits over traditional pane glass windows, McCleary says.

"The functional coating provides aesthetics, it provides maintenance benefits, and it also provides a benefit to the surrounding environment by reducing the content of pollutants around it," she tells Business Insider.

EcoClean works with help from light and water vapour, which mix with the chemicals in the coating to produce atoms known as free radicals.

These free radicals pull in pollutants from the air and break them down to get sloughed off the side of the building along with dirt and grime - almost like dead skin.
prgnewshawaii's curator insight, January 16, 4:48 PM

I hope this ambitious project "gets off the ground."  Human-cause pollution will eventually kill us if we don't figure out a way to mitigate its damage.  This futuristic skyscraper is just one of many ideas advanced to control the waste that is devastating our planet.

Russ Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest


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We Might Finally Have Found Where Complex Life Came From

We Might Finally Have Found Where Complex Life Came From | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
It sounds like something out of Norse mythology, but new evidence suggests that all complex life on Earth, including humans, might have evolved from Asgard - a large group of microbes that were once found all over the world.

These microbes have been named Loki, Thor, Odin, and Heimdall, after the gods of Norse mythology, and a new study suggests that they could be part of the family tree from which we all evolved. These Asgard microbes might even be our oldest ancestors.

The debate over how complex life started on Earth has been raging for centuries. On our planet, there are three kingdoms of life: bacteria, archaea (which includes thermophiles and other extremophiles), and eukaryotes.

We belong to that third kingdom, the eukaryotes, along with all other multicellular life, including animals, fungi, and protists. Not only are eukaryotes more complex than the other two kingdoms, we're also a lot newer.

While bacteria and archaea both seem to have arisen around 3.7 billion years ago - not too long after the planet was formed - it was roughly another 1.5 billion years or so before eukaryotes appeared, and no one is quite sure where they came from.

The leading hypothesis is that, at some point, an archaea host took up a bacterium, and the symbiotic relationship between the two ultimately led to eukaryotes.

That bacterium is suspected to belong to a class called alphaproteobacteria, which, over time, ended up becoming mitochondria - the 'powerhouse' of the cell.

But, until recently, no one had any idea about the archaea species that swallowed this bacteria.

And that's important, because the big, lingering, question is this: was it a primitive archaeon that took on the bacterium, or had the archaeon already become more complex? Was this symbiosis the cause of eukaryotism, or a consequence of it?

That's an important question, because the answer will ultimately tell us where we came from. And we might finally be getting closer to figuring it out.

The first clue came in 2015, when Thijs Ettema from Uppsala University in Sweden discovered a new type of archaean called Lokiarchaeota - or Loki for short - in sediment at the bottom of the ocean between Greenland and Norway.

They didn't actually find any of these microbe cells themselves, but they discovered traces of its DNA at depths of 2,300 metres (7,545 feet), and an analysis of their genome revealed that they were the closest living relatives of all eukaryotes, as Ed Yong reports for The Atlantic.

Then, last year, a team from the University of Texas in Austin found traces of DNA from a closely related archaeon, which they called Thorarchaeota (or Thor), in North Carolina.

Now, in a paper published this week in Nature, a collaboration between Ettema, the Texan team, and other researchers from around the world, has found the DNA of even more of Loki's relatives in some of the most remote corners of the world, including Yellowstone National Park, deep-sea vents near Japan, and a hot spring in New Zealand.
prgnewshawaii's curator insight, January 13, 10:17 PM

Fascinating study about our most distant relatives.  Apparently, we're all related to what is called the "Asgard" microbe group.  I wonder if Marvel Comic's chief Stan Lee has picked up on this.

Russ Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest

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Japanese insurance firm replaces 34 staff with AI - BBC News

Japanese insurance firm replaces 34 staff with AI - BBC News | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Science fiction has long imagined a future in which humans are ousted from their jobs by machines.

For 34 staff at a Japanese insurance firm, that vision just became a reality.

Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is laying off the employees and replacing them with an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can calculate insurance payouts.

The firm believes it will increase productivity by 30%.

It expects to save around 140m yen (£979,500 / $1.2m) a year in salaries after the 200m yen AI system is installed later this month.

Maintenance of the set-up is expected to cost about 15m yen annually.

Japan's Mainichi reports that the system is based on IBM Japan Ltd's Watson, which IBM calls a "cognitive technology that can think like a human".

IBM says it can "analyze and interpret all of your data, including unstructured text, images, audio and video".

Fukoku Mutual will use the AI to gather the information needed for policyholders' payouts - by reading medical certificates, and data on surgeries or hospital stays.

According to The Mainichi, three other Japanese insurance companies are considering adopting AI systems for work like finding the optimal cover plan for customers.
prgnewshawaii's curator insight, January 6, 10:00 PM

A scary sci-fi prediction for the future is coming true in Japan, as a major insurance company has replaced 34 employees with Artificial Intelligence.  If you want to stay employed, think seriously about increasing your skill set.  Manual, repetitive jobs will disappear in time, and your cubicle partner may be an AI-designed robot.

Russ Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest

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Tomorrow’s Problem of Good and Evil: The Challenges of Trans- and Post- Humanism

Tomorrow’s Problem of Good and Evil: The Challenges of Trans- and Post- Humanism | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
A conception of evil that carries over from the Abrahamic religions into secular modernity is that of the ‘disorganization of the soul’. The idea here is that evil isn’t something separate from good but something that arises from the malformation or malfunctioning of good parts. Thus, Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost is God’s best angel gone rogue, the template for the villains faced by comic book superheroes. Many if not most mental illnesses, from neurosis to autism, are defined as some sort of ‘disorder’. In a similar but grander vein, cybernetics founder Norbert Wiener regarded entropy – the ultimate expression of disorganization in physics – as the material equivalent of evil, the source of all suffering, decay and death.

As we shall see below, this conception of evil is about to take a new and more disorienting turn.

A common feature of the above versions of the ‘disorganized soul’ is the opening up of so many possible states of being in the world that none takes any sustained precedence in one’s thought and action. Thus, Milton’s Satan and Batman’s Joker thrive in a strife-riven world in which otherwise good souls are turned into implacable foes because they cannot see beyond their differences to a common path. Similarly, the ‘disordered’ character of mental illness comes from the subject’s failure to see that thoughts and actions that work well in one context don’t generalize over all contexts. Finally, the ‘evil’ of Wiener’s entropy appears in information theory, when communication is perverted by a degraded channel in which the signal can’t be reliably detected from the noise.

Francisco Goya’s famous etching, ‘The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters’, which depicts the awakening of demons in dream state, epitomizes the disorganized soul. Here dreaming produces a sense of reality comparable to the wakened state, as novel combinations of elements from the dreamer’s waking life generate new experiences in the unconscious. In this context, the potential for evil arises in one of two ways: Either the vividness of the dream state becomes confused with that of the wakened state or, perhaps more perniciously (at least according to that great enemy of utopian politics, Sigmund Freud), novel combinations that appear attractive in the dream state become the basis for action in the wakened state.
prgnewshawaii's curator insight, December 31, 2016 6:50 PM

A new look at the age-old conflict between good and evil. The trouble with us humans is that we can be drawn equally well to the "Dark Side" and to the more generous, kinder aspects of our personalities.  We are truly bi-polar at some time during our lives. We have the often opposing gifts of good and bad, and that creates a never-ending ethical crisis for many of us.

Russ Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest

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OBQ: Should we bioengineer animals to live in our damaged world?

OBQ: Should we bioengineer animals to live in our damaged world? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
In October, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released its biennial Living Planet Report, detailing the state of the planet and its implications for humans and wildlife. The report warned that two-thirds of global wildlife populations could be gone by 2020 if we don't change our environmentally damaging practices.

At the Singularity University New Zealand (SUNZ) Summit we met up with Dr Amy Fletcher, Senior Lecturer in Political Science at the University of Canterbury, who spoke on the topic of public policy and exponential technology at the Summit. As part of our regular "One Big Question" series we asked her whether we should consider bioengineering animals that could live in the world we're creating, rather than die in the one we're destroying?

That sort of relates to the whole de-extinction debate, and again, I would pay money to see a woolly mammoth. But I do take the point that the world of the woolly mammoth is gone, whether we like it or not, same with the moa – I mean this comes up a lot in criticisms of the bring back the moa project. You've got to have huge swathes of undeveloped space - maybe we still have that, but we don't have as much as we did in the 16th century.

I guess it comes back to not making the perfect the enemy of the good. Working in conservation, extinction issues like I do, I meet a lot of people who are deeply opposed, actively opposed, say to zoos. I think in an imperfect world, I'd rather have animals in a well run and ethical zoo than not have them at all. But I do have colleagues in the animal rights movement who say, if we don't value them enough to let them live in their natural environment, then we should pay the price of having them go. It's sort of that same thing, I mean, if the alternative to living in a world of simply humans, rats, cockroaches and pigeons is bioengineering animals, I would have to say, alright yeah, we're going to have to do that.
prgnewshawaii's curator insight, December 24, 2016 4:55 PM

Fascinating discussion over bioengineering animals to survive in the world we humans have damaged. The question of bringing back endangered or extinct animals with cloning or DNA manipulation raises many ethical and moral issues.  There's no easy answer to this issue.

Russ Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest


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Why bees could be the secret to superhuman intelligence

Why bees could be the secret to superhuman intelligence | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Louis Rosenberg thinks he has found a way to make us all a lot smarter. The secret to this superhuman intelligence? Bees.

Rosenberg runs a Silicon Valley startup called Unanimous AI, which has built a tool to support human decision-making by crowdsourcing opinions online. It lets hundreds of participants respond to a question all at once, pooling their collective insight, biases and varying expertise into a single answer.

Since launching in June, Unanimous AI has registered around 50,000 users and answered 230,000 questions. Rosenberg thinks this hybrid human-computer decision-making machine – once dubbed an ‘artificial’ artificial intelligence – could help us tackle some of the world’s toughest questions. What’s more, with advances in AI coming thick and fast, he sees it as a way to put humans back into the loop.

“We can’t stop the development of smarter and smarter artificial intelligences,” he says. “So our alternative is to make ourselves smarter so that we always stay one step ahead.”
Which is where the bees come in. “If you look at social species like bees they work together to make better decisions,” he says. “That’s also why birds flock and fish school — it allows them to react in optimal ways by combining the information that they have. The question for us was, can people do that?”It turns out that they can. Rosenberg’s hiveminds have had remarkable success at predicting a string of events: the winners of the 2015 Oscars; the winners of the 2016 National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup; and — at 542 to one odds — the first four winning horses in order of the 2016 Kentucky Derby, converting a $20 bet into $11,800 (£9,300).Most recently, they predicted not only the winning team in World Series Baseball, the Chicago Cubs — who took the prize for the first time since 1908 — but also the Cub’s opponent in the final game, the Cleveland Indians, as well as all eight of the teams to make the playoffs. These correct predictions were published four months in advance in the Boston Globe.
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How Digital Nomads Are Leading the Seismic Shift in Where We Work

How Digital Nomads Are Leading the Seismic Shift in Where We Work | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Have laptop, will travel.

That’s become the slogan of an increasing number of the global white-collar workforce. People are unleashing themselves from corporations and companies to plug wirelessly into the wider world. The tribe of this digital diaspora is described and named in various ways—among them, location independent—but I prefer digital nomad.

Full disclosure: I number myself among this constituency, breaking the tether to corporate ties last year. I’m writing to you from a somewhat disclosed corner of southwestern Turkey where sugar-cubed-shaped homes tumble down rugged hills toward the Aegean Sea. I can literally see Greece—at least a few of her islands—from my window.

I’m certainly not alone, and the community seems to be growing exponentially, reaching what appears to be a tipping point that is ready to push the 9-to-5 workweek into the dustbin of history, along with pet rocks and pensions.

“[Digital nomads] don’t subscribe to the standards of previous generations for what defines happiness, what defines productivity, what defines success. I think they’re freeing themselves from the shackles of previous generations,” says Brian Solis, a self-described digital anthropologist and principal analyst at technology research firm Altimeter Group, which is part of the marketing firm Prophet Company. He is also the author of X: The Experience When Business Meets Design.

No one has done a complete anthropologic makeup of digital nomadism, but I like the brief history that fellow nomad and now documentary filmmaker Christine Gilbert developed a few years ago, as one way to tell the story. It all started, according to Gilbert, around 1983, with a freelance writer named Steven Roberts.
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If Animals Have Rights, Should Robots?

If Animals Have Rights, Should Robots? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Harambe, a gorilla, was described as “smart,” “curious,” “courageous,” “magnificent.” But it wasn’t until last spring that Harambe became famous, too. On May 28th, a human boy, also curious and courageous, slipped through a fence at the Cincinnati Zoo and landed in the moat along the habitat that Harambe shared with two other gorillas. People at the fence above made whoops and cries and other noises of alarm. Harambe stood over the boy, as if to shield him from the hubbub, and then, grabbing one of his ankles, dragged him through the water like a doll across a playroom floor. For a moment, he took the child delicately by the waist and propped him on his legs, in a correct human stance. Then, as the whooping continued, he knocked the boy forward again, and dragged him halfway through the moat.

Harambe was a seventeen-year-old silverback, an animal of terrific strength. When zookeepers failed to lure him from the boy, a member of their Dangerous Animal Response Team shot the gorilla dead. The child was hospitalized briefly and released, declared to have no severe injuries.

Harambe, in Swahili, means “pulling together.” Yet the days following the death seemed to pull people apart. “We did not take shooting Harambe lightly, but that child’s life was in danger,” the zoo’s director, Thane Maynard, explained. Primatologists largely agreed, but some spectators were distraught. A Facebook group called Honoring Harambe appeared, featuring fan portraits, exchanges with the hashtag #JusticeforHarambe, and a meditation, “May We Always Remember Harambe’s Sacrifice. . . . R.I.P. Hero.” The post was backed with music.

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Kazuo Ishiguro: 'We’re coming close to the point where we can create people who are superior to others'

Kazuo Ishiguro: 'We’re coming close to the point where we can create people who are superior to others' | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Imagine a two-tiered society with elite citizens, genetically engineered to be smarter, healthier and to live longer, and an underclass of biologically run-of-the-mill humans. It sounds like the plot of a dystopian novel, but the world could be sleepwalking towards this scenario, according to one of Britain’s most celebrated writers.

Kazuo Ishiguro argues that the social changes unleashed by gene editing technologies, such as Crispr, could undermine core human values.

“We’re going into a territory where a lot of the ways in which we have organised our societies will suddenly look a bit redundant,” he said. “In liberal democracies, we have this idea that human beings are basically equal in some very fundamental way. We’re coming close to the point where we can, objectively in some sense, create people who are superior to others.”

Ishiguro spoke to the Guardian ahead of the opening of a new permanent mathematics gallery at the Science Museum in London, which features a machine to predict coastal storm surges built by his oceanographer father, Shizuo Ishiguro.

The author hopes that the £5 million exhibition, and others like it, will encourage people to engage with the process of science and its future trajectory, rather than simply tuning in for the headline results of research and only then worrying about the implications.

“Despite the atom bomb and things like this, we’re still in the habit of compartmentalising scientific endeavour,” he said. “It’s important that we, as a society, get much more interested in science and maths, that we don’t silo it off in our minds ... until there’s some breakthrough product that turns up.”

Ishiguro cites three areas - gene editing, robotics and Artificial Intelligence - that he believes could transform the way we live and interact with each other over the next 30 years.

“We are on the brink of all kinds of discoveries that will completely alter the way we run our lives,” said the author, whose 2005 book, Never Let Me Go, imagines a dark future in which humans clones are raised to be organ donors.
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Scientists Seek to Update Evolution | Quanta Magazine

Scientists Seek to Update Evolution |  Quanta Magazine | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
evin Laland looked out across the meeting room at a couple hundred people gathered for a conference on the future of evolutionary biology. A colleague sidled up next to him and asked how he thought things were going.

“I think it’s going quite well,” Laland said. “It hasn’t gone to fisticuffs yet.”

Laland is an evolutionary biologist who works at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. On a chilly gray November day, he came down to London to co-host a meeting at the Royal Society called “New Trends in Evolutionary Biology.” A motley crew of biologists, anthropologists, doctors, computer scientists, and self-appointed visionaries packed the room. The Royal Society is housed in a stately building overlooking St. James’s Park. Today the only thing for Laland to see out of the tall meeting-room windows was scaffolding and gauzy tarps set up for renovation work. Inside, Laland hoped, another kind of renovation would be taking place.

In the mid-1900s, biologists updated Darwin’s theory of evolution with new insights from genetics and other fields. The result is often called the Modern Synthesis, and it has guided evolutionary biology for over 50 years. But in that time, scientists have learned a tremendous amount about how life works. They can sequence entire genomes. They can watch genes turn on and off in developing embryos. They can observe how animals and plants respond to changes in the environment.

As a result, Laland and a like-minded group of biologists argue that the Modern Synthesis needs an overhaul. It has to be recast as a new vision of evolution, which they’ve dubbed the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis. Other biologists have pushed back hard, saying there is little evidence that such a paradigm shift is warranted.
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Humanity Only Has Around 1,000 Years Left on Earth, Stephen Hawking Predicts

Humanity Only Has Around 1,000 Years Left on Earth, Stephen Hawking Predicts | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Physicist Stephen Hawking has warned humanity that we probably only have about 1,000 years left on Earth, and the only thing that could save us from certain extinction is setting up colonies elsewhere in the Solar System.

"[W]e must ... continue to go into space for the future of humanity," Hawking said in a lecture at the University of Cambridge this week. "I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet."

The fate of humanity appears to have been weighing heavily on Hawking of late - he’s also recently cautioned that artificial intelligence (AI) will be "either the best, or the worst, thing ever to happen to humanity".

Given that humans are prone to making the same mistakes over and over again - even though we’re obsessed with our own history and should know better - Hawking suspects that "powerful autonomous weapons” could have serious consequences for humanity.

As Heather Saul from The Independent reports, Hawking has estimated that self-sustaining human colonies on Mars are not going to be a viable option for another 100 years or so, which means we need to be "very careful" in the coming decades.

Without even taking into account the potentially devastating effects of climate change, global pandemics brought on by antibiotic resistance, and nuclear capabilities of warring nations, we could soon be sparring with the kinds of enemies we’re not even close to knowing how to deal with.

Late last year, Hawking added his name to a coalition of more than 20,000 researchers and experts, including Elon Musk, Steve Wozniak, and Noam Chomsky, calling for a ban on anyone developing autonomous weapons that can fire on targets without human intervention.

As the founders of OpenAI, Musk’s new research initiative dedicated to the ethics of artificial intelligence, said last year, our robots are perfectly submissive now, but what happens when we remove one too many restrictions?

What happens when you make them so perfect, they’re just like humans, but better, just like we've always wanted?
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Harvard Scientists Think They've Pinpointed the Physical Source of Consciousness

Harvard Scientists Think They've Pinpointed the Physical Source of Consciousness | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Scientists have struggled for millennia to understand human consciousness - the awareness of one's existence. Despite advances in neuroscience, we still don't really know where it comes from, and how it arises.

But researchers think they might have finally figured out its physical origins, after pinpointing a network of three specific regions in the brain that appear to be crucial to consciousness.

It's a pretty huge deal for our understanding of what it means to be human, and it could also help researchers find new treatments for patients in vegetative states.

"For the first time, we have found a connection between the brainstem region involved in arousal and regions involved in awareness, two prerequisites for consciousness," said lead researcher Michael Fox from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre at Harvard Medical School.

"A lot of pieces of evidence all came together to point to this network playing a role in human consciousness."

Consciousness is generally thought of as being comprised of two critical components - arousal and awareness.

Researchers had already shown that arousal is likely regulated by the brainstem - the portion of the brain that links up with the spinal cord - seeing as it regulates when we sleep and wake, and our heart rate and breathing.

Awareness has been more elusive. Researchers have long thought that it resides somewhere in the cortex - the outer layer of the brain - but no one has been able to pinpoint where.

Now the Harvard team has identified not only the specific brainstem region linked to arousal, but also two cortex regions, that all appear to work together to form consciousness.
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EU to debate robot legal rights, mandatory "kill switches"

EU to debate robot legal rights, mandatory "kill switches" | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
A draft report submitted to the European Parliament's legal affairs committee has recommended that robots be equipped with a "kill switch" in order to manage the potential dangers in the evolving field of self-learning autonomous robotics.

The broad-ranging report, recently approved by the legal affairs committee, contains a variety of proposals designed to address possible legal and ethical issues that could arise through the development of autonomous artificial intelligences. These include the establishment of a European Agency for robotics and AI, plus a call for discussing the implementation of a universal basic income as a strategy to address the possible mass unemployment that could result from robotics replacing large portions of the workforce.

In a supreme case of life imitating art, the report opens by referencing Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and later suggests Issac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics as a general principle that designers and producers of robotics should abide by.

Issues of identifying legal liability in regards to the potential harmful actions of robots are prominently discussed in the report. As robots develop cognitive abilities that give them the ability to learn from experience and make independent decisions, the question of legal responsibility becomes an urgent one to address. The report asks how a robot could be held responsible for its actions, and at what point that responsibility falls on either the manufacturer, owner or user.

Interestingly, a proportionate scale of responsibility is proposed that takes into account the capacity of a robot's self-learning abilities. The report states,

"the greater a robot's learning capability or autonomy is, the lower other parties' responsibility should be, and the longer a robot's 'education' has lasted, the greater the responsibility of its 'teacher' should be."
nukem777's curator insight, January 16, 1:51 PM
Bound to happen
prgnewshawaii's curator insight, January 16, 4:43 PM

The union of science fiction and science fact is upon us.  The wonders and cautions described by Isaac Asimov in a series of novels ("I,Robot" among them) are soon to become a part of our daily lives.  The potential dangers and opportunities afforded by self-learning autonomous robots are now so serious that the European Union is debating robot legal rights and the use of mandatory "kill switches" to stop robots from displacing humans. Be careful what you wish for.  The singularity is sitting next to us.

Are we prepared for how our lives will forever change?  I don't think so.

Russ Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest

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Aging and Death Are the Evolutionary Price of Complexity

Aging and Death Are the Evolutionary Price of Complexity | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Life’s ever-repeating cycles of birth and death are among the most fundamental principles of nature. An organism starts out as a single cell that grows and divides, develops into an embryo, matures and reaches adulthood, but then ages, deteriorates, and eventually succumbs to death.

But why does life have to be cyclic, and why does it have to end in senescence and death?

After all, animals like corals and marine sponges live for thousands of years and are capable of virtually infinite regeneration and cell repair. Even in more complex animals, offspring do not inherit their parents’ age: every new generation starts with cells in a pristine state, with no trace of aging. If senescence is somehow suppressed in reproductive cells, why do the rest of the organism’s tissues end up deteriorating and dying?
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How a computer sees history after "reading" 35 million news stories

How a computer sees history after "reading" 35 million news stories | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
So far, humans have relied on the written word to record what we know as history. When artificial intelligence researchers ran billions of those words from decades of news coverage through an automated analysis, however, even more patterns and insights were revealed.

A team from the University of Bristol ran 35 million articles from 100 local British newspapers spanning 150 years through both a simple content analysis and more sophisticated machine learning processes. By having machines "read" the nearly 30 billion words, the simple analysis allowed researchers to easily and accurately identify big events like wars and epidemics.

Similar systems have allowed computers to learn visually about art and even argue a topic.

Perhaps most interesting, the techniques also allowed the researchers to see the rise and fall of different trends during the study range from the years 1800 - 1950. For example, they could track the decline of steam and corresponding rise of electricity – the opposing trajectories crossed each other in 1898. Similarly, they saw when trains overtook horses in popularity in 1902.
prgnewshawaii's curator insight, January 13, 12:23 AM

A most interesting application of artificial intelligence. AI can be a helpful research tool for historians and social scientists.

Russ Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest

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Finland Has Just Launched a World-First Universal Basic Income Experiment

Finland Has Just Launched a World-First Universal Basic Income Experiment | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
It looks like 2,000 citizens in Finland will welcome the new year with outstretched arms.

These Finns are the lucky recipients of a guaranteed income beginning this year, as the country’s government finally rolls out its universal basic income (UBI) trial run.

UBI is a potential source of income that could one day be available to all adult citizens, regardless of income, wealth, or employment status.

This pioneering UBI program was launched by the federal social security institution, Kela. It will give out €560 (US$587) a month, tax free, to 2,000 Finns that were randomly selected.

The only requirement was that they had to be already receiving unemployment benefits or an income subsidy.

The program allows unemployed Finns to not lose their benefits, even when they try out odd jobs.

"Incidental earnings do not reduce the basic income, so working and … self-employment are worthwhile no matter what," says Marjukka Turunen, legal unit head at Kela.

If successful, the program could be extended to include all adult Finns.

"Its purpose is to reduce the work involved in applying for subsidies, as well as free up time and resources for other activities, such as making or applying for work," according to a press release by Kela.

Furthermore, the Finnish government, as well as UBI advocates, may see how this program can end up saving more money for Finland in the long run - as it is less costly than maintaining social welfare services for the unemployed.
prgnewshawaii's curator insight, January 5, 12:48 AM

Interesting concept from Finland. The basic argument says a basic income stipend will allow the unemployed to search for work full-time and will be less costly than subsidizing a country wide welfare program.  

Russ Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest

Charley Bang's comment, January 5, 8:29 AM
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World’s largest hedge fund to replace managers with artificial intelligence

World’s largest hedge fund to replace managers with artificial intelligence | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
The world’s largest hedge fund is building a piece of software to automate the day-to-day management of the firm, including hiring, firing and other strategic decision-making.

Bridgewater Associates has a team of software engineers working on the project at the request of billionaire founder Ray Dalio, who wants to ensure the company can run according to his vision even when he’s not there, the Wall Street Journal reported.
“The role of many remaining humans at the firm wouldn’t be to make individual choices but to design the criteria by which the system makes decisions, intervening when something isn’t working,” wrote the Journal, which spoke to five former and current employees.The firm, which manages $160bn, created the team of programmers specializing in analytics and artificial intelligence, dubbed the Systematized Intelligence Lab, in early 2015. The unit is headed up by David Ferrucci, who previously led IBM’s development of Watson, the supercomputer that beat humans at Jeopardy! in 2011.
prgnewshawaii's curator insight, December 25, 2016 12:41 PM

A worrisome picture of future business management.  AI is rapidly replacing humans in the economic arena.  Is your job safe?  Don't count on it.

Russ Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest

Charley Bang's comment, December 28, 2016 10:10 AM
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The Bold Plan for a Moon Base Is Coming Together

The Bold Plan for a Moon Base Is Coming Together | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Imagine an international research station on the moon, where astronauts and cosmonauts and taikonauts and any other-nauts from around the world conduct science experiments, gather resources, build infrastructure, study our home planet from afar, and erect a new radio telescope to probe the mysteries of the ancient cosmos. This is the vision of Jan Woerner, the German civil engineer who serves as the Director General of the European Space Agency. He calls it "Moon Village."
The Vision

Moon Village isn't so much a literal village as it is a vision of worldwide cooperation in space. It is part of Woerner's larger concept of "Space 4.0."

Woerner, you see, breaks down the history of space exploration into four periods. All of ancient and classical astronomy is lumped into Space 1.0, the space race from Sputnik to Apollo is Space 2.0, and the establishment of the International Space Station defines the period of Space 3.0. As the largest space station—which holds the record for longest continuous human habitation, 16 years and counting—the ISS soars as a shining example of successful, longterm, peacetime international cooperation like no other program in the history of humankind.
Charley Bang's comment, January 3, 10:26 AM
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How Humans Evolved Supersize Brains | Quanta Magazine

How Humans Evolved Supersize Brains |  Quanta Magazine | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
There it was, sitting on the mantelpiece, staring at her with hollow eyes and a naked grin. She could not stop staring back. It looked distinctly like the fossilized skull of an extinct baboon. That was the sort of thing Josephine Salmons was likely to know. At the time — 1924 — she was one of the only female students of anatomy attending the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. On this particular day she was visiting her friend Pat Izod, whose father managed a quarry company that had been excavating limestone near the town of Taung. Workers had unearthed numerous fossils during the excavation, and the Izods had kept this one as a memento. Salmons brought news of the skull to her professor, Raymond Dart, an anthropologist with a particular interest in the brain. He was incredulous. Very few primate fossils had been uncovered this far south in Africa. If the Taung site really housed such fossils, it would be an invaluable treasure trove. The next morning Salmons brought Dart the skull, and he could see that she was right: The skull was undeniably simian.Dart promptly arranged to have other primate fossils from the Taung quarry sent to him. Later that year, as he was preparing to attend a close friend’s wedding, he received a large crate. One of the specimens it contained was so mesmerizing that he nearly missed the ceremony. It came in two pieces: a natural endocast — the fossilized mold of the inner cranium, preserving the brain’s topography — and its matching skeletal face, with eye sockets, nose, jaw and teeth all intact. Dart noticed right away that this was the fossil of an extinct ape, not a monkey. The teeth suggested that the individual had died at age 6 or so. The point where the spinal cord had joined the skull was too far forward for a knuckle walker, indicating bipedalism. And the endocast, which was a little too large for a nonhuman ape of that age, had surface features characteristic of a human brain. After further study, Dart reached a bold conclusion: this was the fossil of a previously unknown ancestor of modern humans — Australopithecus africanus, the “Man-Ape of South Africa.”
prgnewshawaii's curator insight, December 17, 2016 11:47 PM

An interesting perspective on how we humans developed "supersized brains." Fascinating topic for those tracing back our most distant roots.

Russ Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest

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Little treats aren't a vice. They get us to our goals - Futurity

Little treats aren't a vice. They get us to our goals - Futurity | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
A new study links simple pleasures with making better progress toward personal goals. Enough simple pleasures can even counter the negative effects of a bad day.

The results have implications for workplace productivity and stress management, says lead author Nicole Mead, associate professor at the University of Melbourne. There are even implications for advertising, which often markets pleasures as temptations or indulgences rather than as something constructive.

“Promoting the benefits of simple pleasures could be a workplace intervention to help people towards achieving work goals,” says Mead, who started the research with colleagues when she was at the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University in the Netherlands. “By acting as buffer against small annoyances, simple pleasures could also help people to fortify themselves psychologically to deal with stress and take on challenges.”
graph of simple pleasures
This graph shows the range of simple pleasures and small annoyances recorded by participants, and the percentage of each in relation to all simple pleasures or small annoyances. (Credit: Mead et al., art by Sarah Fisher)

“People intuitively think pleasure gets in the way of achieving goals like meeting a deadline, so people tend to brag about how hard they are working and how little sleep they are getting to reassure themselves that they are working hard. But we all know that if you work too hard you can risk burning out,” says Mead, a member of the management and marketing department at the Faculty of Business and Economics.
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The Total Mass of Earth's 'Technosphere' Is 30 Trillion Tonnes

The Total Mass of Earth's 'Technosphere' Is 30 Trillion Tonnes | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
For the first time, scientists have calculated an estimate of the combined mass of the 'technosphere' – a concept that defines all the human-made things on the planet. All your stuff, basically, and everybody else's too.

The technosphere therefore includes all human structures such as buildings, roads, and bridges, but also smaller items, such as technology, clothing, and books.

Not to mention landfill – all of our human-made garbage and debris is part of it, as are the things in the natural environment that we've altered to keep ourselves alive, like farms for food, or mines for energy.

So what's the combined mass of all that? According to a team of more than 20 scientists led by the University of Leicester in the UK, we're talking about something in the order of 30 trillion tonnes.

Yes, that's a lot, but nobody ever thought the "summed material output of the contemporary human enterprise" was going to be lightweight, did they?

The researchers based their estimates on figures from numerous studies analysing the physical environment, including topological, subterranean, and marine data.

While they acknowledge that their 30 trillion tonnes estimate is a highly preliminary approximation, of perhaps greater importance than the exact figure is what the ramifications of such a pervasive technosphere could mean for the planet.

Case in point: if 30 trillion tonnes is accurate, that means the technosphere's divided mass across Earth's surface amounts to more than 50 kilograms (110 pounds) for every square metre – another approximation, but one which helps us to picture how huge this overall phenomenon could be.

"There is more to the technosphere than just its mass," says one of the researchers, Colin Waters.

"It has enabled the production of an enormous array of material objects, from simple tools and coins, to ballpoint pens, books and CDs, to the most sophisticated computers and smartphones," he adds.
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All you need to know about nature deficit disorder - BBC News

All you need to know about nature deficit disorder - BBC News | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
It's tough to connect with nature at this time of year.

Your days are spent under artificial lights in an office, while the last of autumn's blooms are hidden beneath piles of decaying leaves.

NDD, or nature deficit disorder, has become a buzzword of late.

Although it's not a recognised medical condition, concerns about its effects on wellbeing are attracting widespread attention.

"I guess it's a symptom of current lifestyle," says Dr Ross Cameron of the department of landscape at Sheffield University.

"We're so clued into modern technology and things that we're less observant about the world around us and we're more likely to learn about wildlife ironically from a David Attenborough programme than maybe from a walk in the woods."

Richard Louv coined the phrase Nature Deficit Disorder in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods.

He argues that all of us, especially children, are spending more time indoors, which makes us feel alienated from nature and perhaps more vulnerable to negative moods or reduced attention span.

Dr Cameron gave his views on the subject in a lecture at the Royal Horticultural Society this month.

"[The phrase NDD] has been used as a bit of a coverall to describe the thing of where we used to have natural processes, natural experiences in our life, and that seems to be becoming less common," he told the BBC.
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Google's AI just created its own universal 'language'

Google has previously taught its artificial intelligence to play games, and it's even capable of creating its own encryption. Now, its language translation tool has used machine learning to create a 'language' all of its own.

In September, the search giant turned on its Google Neural Machine Translation (GNMT) system to help it automatically improve how it translates languages. The machine learning system analyses and makes sense of languages by looking at entire sentences – rather than individual phrases or words.

Following several months of testing, the researchers behind the AI have seen it be able to blindly translate languages even if it's never studied one of the languages involved in the translation. "An example of this would be translations between Korean and Japanese where Korean⇄Japanese examples were not shown to the system," the Mike Schuster, from Google Brain wrote in a blogpost.

The team said the system was able to make "reasonable" translations of the languages it had not been taught to translate. In one instance, a research paper published alongside the blog, says the AI was taught Portuguese→English and English→Spanish. It was then able to make translations between Portuguese→Spanish.

"To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of true multilingual zero-shot translation," the paper explains. To make the system more accurate, the computer scientists then added additional data to the system about the languages.
However, the most remarkable feat of the research paper isn't that an AI can learn to translate languages without being shown examples of them first; it was the fact it used this skill to create its own 'language'. "Visual interpretation of the results shows that these models learn a form of interlingua representation for the multilingual model between all involved language pairs," the researchers wrote in the paper.
bumminluna's comment, November 25, 2016 9:54 PM
Thats stunning...
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Researchers Repair Brain Damage in Mice With Stem Cell Transplants

Researchers Repair Brain Damage in Mice With Stem Cell Transplants | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
The human brain is a biological wonder with considerable skills. Regeneration, unfortunately, isn’t one of them.

Save for one tiny V-shaped region within the hippocampus, the human brain’s ability to rebuild itself is nearly nonexistent. When neurons die, there’s no backup reserve of cells to replace them. Brain trauma — a blow to the head, a stroke, or neurodegeneration — can be brutally final. You’re not getting lost neurons back.

An obvious solution is to supply a broken brain with additional neurons, like swapping a broken stick of RAM with a new one. But a single neuron forms thousands of intricate connections to others near and far, and often these connections are established early in development.

Can a foreign transplant really assimilate into mature neuronal networks after injury and automatically repair broken circuitry? According to a new study recently published in Nature, the answer is a promising yes.

In mice with brain lesions, a German team showed that within two months of transplantation, foreign embryonic neurons matured and fully incorporated into an existing network within the hosts’ visual brain region.

Amazingly, the adoptee neurons were nearly indistinguishable from the brain’s native ones — they carried the right information, established functional input and output circuitries, and performed the functions of the damaged neurons.
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