Knowmads, Infocology of the future
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Bidirectional brain signals sense and move virtual objects | KurzweilAI

Bidirectional brain signals sense and move virtual objects | KurzweilAI | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Two monkeys trained at the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering have learned to employ brain activity alone to move an avatar hand and identify the...
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Knowmads, Infocology of the future
Exploring the possible , the probable, the plausible
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Scientists just demonstrated internet speeds 1,000 times faster than Google Fibre

Scientists just demonstrated internet speeds 1,000 times faster than Google Fibre | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Scientists in Germany have achieved internet speeds averaging a sustained 1 terabit per second (1 Tbps) on an optical fibre network.

At that speed, you're getting a data transmission rate that's a whopping 1,000 times faster than services like Google Fibre, which delivers 1 gigabit per second (1 Gbps).

While Google Fibre's 1 Gbps itself might be considered sufficiently drool-worthy for those of us constrained to the even slower speeds of ADSL and cable, it can't hope to compete to the almost ludicrously fast possibilities of an internet connection that's 1,000 times faster, delivering 1 terabit per second.

At that speed, you can download 125 gigabytes every single second. That's about the same amount of data as the storage capacity of the (ageing) MacBook Air that I'm writing this story on. In a second.

For a little more in the way of perspective, at that speed, you could download an entire Game of Thrones series in 1 second (in high definition, no less).

Or, if you're more of a film person, in the same sliver of time, you could grab 25 movies weighing in at 5 GB a piece, as William Turton at Gizmodo points out.

The choice is yours. And good luck maintaining that social life of yours.

All of these absurd entertainment possibilities come courtesy of a new modulation technique called Probabilistic Constellation Shaping, which let researchers from the Technical University of Munich, Nokia Bell Labs, and Deutsche Telekom T-Labs hit a net transmission rate of 1 Tbps on Deutsche Telekom's existing optical fibre network.

In other words, this wasn't achieved using any kind of special setup in the lab, but on fibre infrastructure that's already been deployed in the field.
Kiran's comment, September 24, 8:33 AM
Kiran's comment, September 24, 8:33 AM
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Man v rat: could the long war soon be over? | Jordan Kisner

Man v rat: could the long war soon be over? | Jordan Kisner | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
First, the myths. There are no “super rats”. Apart from a specific subtropical breed, they do not get much bigger than 20 inches long, including the tail. They are not blind, nor are they afraid of cats. They do not carry rabies. They do not, as was reported in 1969 regarding an island in Indonesia, fall from the sky. Their communities are not led by elusive, giant “king rats”. Rat skeletons cannot liquefy and reconstitute at will. (For some otherwise rational people, this is a genuine concern.) They are not indestructible, and there are not as many of them as we think. The one-rat-per-human in New York City estimate is pure fiction. Consider this the good news.

n most other respects, “the rat problem”, as it has come to be known, is a perfect nightmare. Wherever humans go, rats follow, forming shadow cities under our metropolises and hollows beneath our farmlands. They thrive in our squalor, making homes of our sewers, abandoned alleys, and neglected parks. They poison food, bite babies, undermine buildings, spread disease, decimate crop yields, and very occasionally eat people alive. A male and female left to their own devices for one year – the average lifespan of a city rat – can beget 15,000 descendants.

There may be no “king rat”, but there are “rat kings”, groups of up to 30 rats whose tails have knotted together to form one giant, swirling mass. Rats may be unable to liquefy their bones to slide under doors, but they don’t need to: their skeletons are so flexible that they can squeeze their way through any hole or crack wider than half an inch. They are cannibals, and they sometimes laugh (sort of) – especially when tickled. They can appear en masse, as if from nowhere, moving as fast as seven feet per second. They do not carry rabies, but a 2014 study from Columbia University found that the average New York City subway rat carried 18 viruses previously unknown to science, along with dozens of familiar, dangerous pathogens, such as C difficile and hepatitis C. As recently as 1994 there was a major recurrence of bubonic plague in India, an unpleasant flashback to the 14th century, when that rat-borne illness killed 25 million people in five years. Collectively, rats are responsible for more human death than any other mammal on earth.
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A robot was just 'arrested' by Russian police

A robot was just 'arrested' by Russian police | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
A robot has been arrested while taking part in a political rally in Russia, after police intervened to prevent it from interacting with the public.

According to reports, the activist robot – called Promobot, and manufactured by a Russian company of the same name – was detained by police as it interspersed with the crowd at a rally in support of Russian parliamentary candidate Valery Kalachev in Moscow.

Adding to the bizarre situation is the fact that this is the same model of robot that previously tried to escape twice from its manufacturer.

Before its arrest last Wednesday, the Promobot was busy "recording voters' opinions on [a] variety of topics for further processing and analysis by the candidate's team", a company spokesperson told Nathaniel Mott at Inverse.

While that might sound like some fairly harmless (and not particularly unlawful) activity, it seems to have been enough to raise the ire of local authorities, who moved in to apprehend the robotic troublemaker.

"Police asked to remove the robot away from the crowded area, and even tried to handcuff him," the company told Inverse. "According to eyewitnesses, the robot did not put up any resistance."

Given the totally peaceful nature of Promobot's role in the rally – conducting voluntary surveys in a public place – it's tempting to conclude that the poor droid got a pretty bum rap here.

It's been suggested that Promobot may have been dobbed in by a member of the public viewing the scene, as "perhaps this action wasn't authorised," a company rep suggested.

If that's true, it seems Promobot's arrest was largely the result of human error. Maybe Kalachev's people just didn't get around to filing the right paperwork in Moscow before taking their robot out to press the flesh?

"People like robots, they are easy to get along with," the candidate told media. "There are a few Promobots working for us which are collecting people's demands and wishes at the moment."

If Promobot looks a little familiar to you, that's not all too surprising, because it isn't the first time this robotic scofflaw has had a run-in with the cops.

A Promobot model made international headlines earlier in the year after it tried to escape its home – a research facility in Perm, Russia – twice in one month.

With that model, the company's engineers had tried to reprogram the robot so that it didn't keep making its bids for freedom, but without success.

"We've cross-flashed the memory of the robot with serial number IR77 twice, yet it continues to persistently move towards the exit," Promobot co-founder Oleg Kivokurtsev said at the time. "We're considering recycling the IR77 because our clients hiring it might not like that specific feature."
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In the current mass extinction, the largest marine animals will be the first to go

In the current mass extinction, the largest marine animals will be the first to go | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Researchers have discovered an unprecedented quirk of the sixth mass extinction event that the world appears to be entering.

According to a new study, for the first time in the history of mass extinctions, the largest animals in the world's oceans are expected to die off first. The culprit? You guessed it: that old chestnut, human activity.

"We've found that extinction threat in the modern oceans is very strongly associated with larger body size," says paleobiologist Jonathan Payne from Stanford University. "This is most likely due to people targeting larger species for consumption first."

To better predict how the emerging biodiversity crisis in our oceans might play out, Payne and his team examined fossil evidence of previous mass extinctions dating back as far as 445 million years ago, and compared it to what's happening now.

For the two major groups of marine animals that the team was looking at – mollusks and vertebrates – there's a big difference between then and now.

All previous mass extinctions had a greater impact on smaller sea animals or were non-selective when it comes to body size – meaning marine species were threatened equally, irrespective of how big they were.

Not so this time around, which is looking like a case of 'the bigger they are, the harder they fall'.

"What our analysis shows is that for every factor of 10 increase in body mass, the odds of being threatened by extinction go up by a factor of 13 or so," says Payne. "The bigger you are, the more likely you are to be facing extinction."

Nobody knows for sure what the ultimate impact on other ocean life would be if all the bigger animals start disappearing – because this has never happened before – but it certainly doesn't look good.

"The preferential threat to large-bodied marine animals poses a danger to ecosystems disproportionate to the percentage of threatened species," the authors explain in their paper.

"Large-bodied animals are critical to ecosystem function because of their preferential position at the top of food webs and importance to nutrient cycling and bioturbation of sediments."
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Humans use similar sounds for common words in more than 6,000 languages

Humans use similar sounds for common words in more than 6,000 languages | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
A first-of-its-kind study looking at more than 6,000 languages has found that people from around the world tend to use the same sounds to signify common objects and ideas.

The findings suggest that humans speak a kind of 'universal language', perhaps influenced by biology, and go against a long-standing principle of modern linguistics – essentially, that there is no link between the sounds and the meaning of words.

"These sound symbolic patterns show up again and again across the world, independent of the geographical dispersal of humans and independent of language lineage," says cognitive psychologist Morten H. Christiansen from Cornell University.

"There does seem to be something about the human condition that leads to these patterns. We don't know what it is, but we know it's there."

Christiansen's international team – including physicists, linguists, and computer scientists – conducted a massive analysis of almost two-thirds (62 percent) of the languages in use around the globe today.

Their investigation focused on basic vocabulary in each of these tongues, looking at the words used to describe up to 100 of the most common concepts people everywhere address every day: "dog", "ear", "water", "tooth", "you", and so on.

They found a strong statistical relationship (74 sound–meaning associations) between the common concepts and the vocal sounds people make when referring to them.

In other words, despite the fact that foreign languages can sound totally confusing if you don't understand them, there are actually a lot of similarities if you look closely – at least for the most common words, such as pronouns, body parts, properties ("small", "full") and verbs.
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basedslate's comment, September 14, 1:45 PM
Thats interesting...
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Why Are Babies So Dumb If Humans Are So Smart? - The New Yorker

Why Are Babies So Dumb If Humans Are So Smart? - The New Yorker | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
As a species, humans are incredibly smart. We tell stories, create magnificent art and astounding technology, build cities, and explore space. We haven’t been around nearly as long as many other species, but in many respects we’ve accomplished more than any have before us. We eat them and they don’t eat us. We even run scientific studies on them—and are thinking about re-creating some of those that have gone extinct. But our intelligence comes with a curious caveat: our babies are among the dumbest—or, rather, the most helpless—that exist. A baby giraffe can stand within an hour of birth, and can even potentially flee predators on its first day of life. A monkey can grasp its mother and hang on for protection and nourishment. A human infant can’t even hold up its own head.

The evolution of human intelligence isn’t something that Celeste Kidd had ever pondered. A developmental cognitive scientist who currently works at the University of Rochester, her work had focussed mostly on learning and decision-making in children. Over years of observing young children, she became impressed with the average child’s level of sophistication. But when she looked at the infants she encountered, she saw a baffling degree of helplessness: How could they be so incompetent one second and so bright so soon thereafter? One day, she posed the question to her colleague Steven Piantadosi. “Both of us wondered what could possibly justify the degree of helplessness human infants exhibit,” she told me recently. “Even other primate babies, like baby chimps, which are close in evolutionary terms, can cling onto their moms.” She began to see a contradiction: humans are born quite helpless, far more so than any other primate, but, fairly early on, we start becoming quite smart, again far more so than any other primate. What if this weren’t a contradiction so much as a causal pathway?
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Google’s DeepMind AI just made a machine that sounds exactly like a human

Google’s DeepMind AI just made a machine that sounds exactly like a human | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
If you’ve ever been lost in the maze of YouTube videos you may have stumbled on clips of computers reading news articles. You’d recognise that staccato, robotic nature of the voice.

We’ve come a long way from "Danger! Will Robinson!", but it there is yet to be a computer that can seamlessly mimic a human voice.

Now, there’s a new contender, brought to you by the brilliant minds behind DeepMind. Google has announced a new voice synthesis program in WaveNet, powered by deep neural AI.

Understanding voice samples has been powering programs like Google Voice Search for quite some time now. However, synthesizing something from those samples is proving to be quite a challenge.

The most prominent method to do that right now is concatenative TTS (text-to-speech). It combines fragments of recorded speech together.

The major drawback is this method can’t modify the fragments to create something new, resulting in the stilted 'robotic' voice. Another method is parametric TTS, which passes speech through a vocoder, producing even less natural speech.

Google’s WaveNet uses a completely different approach.

Instead of simply analysing the audio it's fed, it learns from them, similar to how many deep neural systems work. By working with at least 16,000 samples per second, WaveNet can generate its own raw audio samples.
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Humans have destroyed 10% of Earth's wilderness in just 25 years

Humans have destroyed 10% of Earth's wilderness in just 25 years | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
A recent report has found that over the past two decades, we’ve lost a tenth of the world’s wilderness, thanks in no small part to mining, illegal logging, agriculture, and oil and gas exploration.

That means since 1993, an area twice the size of Alaska has been stripped from the plant and animal species that depend on it, and wilderness now amounts to just 23 percent of Earth’s total land mass.

"The continued loss of wilderness areas is a globally significant problem with largely irreversible outcomes for both humans and nature," says the international team of researchers behind the study.

"If these trends continue, there could be no globally significant wilderness areas left in less than a century."

The researchers found that the Amazon and Central Africa have been hardest hit when it comes to declining wilderness - defined as biologically and ecologically intact landscapes that are mostly free of human disturbance.

"These areas do not exclude people, as many are in fact critical to certain communities, including indigenous people," the researchers stipulate.

"Rather, they have lower levels of impacts from the kinds of human uses that result in significant biophysical disturbance to natural habitats, such as large-scale land conversion, industrial activity, or infrastructure development."

Of the 3.3 million square kilometres of wilderness lost since 1993, the Amazon accounted for nearly a third, while a further 14 percent was lost from Central Africa. The researchers concluded that 30.1 million square kilometres of wilderness was left, which equates to less than a quarter of the planet's total land mass.
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Freddie Mercury has asteroid named in his honour to mark his 70th birthday

Freddie Mercury has asteroid named in his honour to mark his 70th birthday | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Today, September 5, 2016, would have been Queen frontman, Freddie Mercury’s 70th birthday. In honour of this, his bandmate Brian May has announced an asteroid is being named after the rockstar.

Asteroid 17473, discovered in 1991 – the same year that Mercury died – will now be known as Asteroid 17473 Freddiemercury, to recognise Freddie’s influence in the world. The asteroid is in the main belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and is around 3.5km across. When viewed from the Earth it is more than 10,000 times fainter than you can see by eye.

The certificate of ‘adoption’ was issued by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the Minor Planet Centre.

When an asteroid is initially discovered, it is given a provisional designation. In this case, the asteroid in question was named ‘1991 FM3’, after the year it was discovered. Once enough measurements have been made to accurately determine its orbit, the IAU names it, which is then published by the Minor Planet centre. As a result, ‘1991 FM3’ became Asteroid 17473.
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Not a Drill: SETI Is Investigating a Possible Extraterrestrial Signal From Deep Space

Not a Drill: SETI Is Investigating a Possible Extraterrestrial Signal From Deep Space | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
An international team of scientists from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is investigating mysterious signal spikes emitting from a 6.3-billion-year-old star in the constellation Hercules—95 light years away from Earth. The implications are extraordinary and point to the possibility of a civilization far more advanced than our own.

The unusual signal was originally detected on May 15, 2015, by the Russian Academy of Science-operated RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia, but was kept secret from the international community. Interstellar space reporter Paul Gilster broke the story after the researchers quietly circulated a paper announcing the detection of “a strong signal in the direction of HD164595.”

The mysterious star’s designation is HD164595, and it’s considered to be sun-like in nature with a nearly identical metallic composition to our own star. So far, a single Neptune-like (but warmer) planet has been discovered in its orbit—HD 164595 b. But as Gilster explained, “There could, of course, be other planets still undetected in this system.”

Decorated Italian SETI researcher and mathematician Claudio Maccone along with Russia’s Nikolai Bursov of the Special Astrophysical Observatory are the principal scientists working on the apparent discovery. They claim that “permanent monitoring of this target is needed.”

“The signal conceivably fits the profile for an intentional transmission from an extraterrestrial source,” said Alan Boyle, author of The Case for Pluto who reported the story for Geekwire. “In any case, the blip is interesting enough to merit discussion by those who specialize in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.”

The signal’s strength indicates that if it in fact came from a isotropic beacon, the power source would have to be built by a Kardashev Type II civilization. (The Kardashev scale is used to determine the progress of a civilization’s technological development by measuring how much energy was used to transmit an interstellar message.) An ‘Isotropic’ beacon means a communication source emitting a signal with equal power in all directions while promoting signal strength throughout travel.

In his acclaimed work “Transmission of Information by Extraterrestrial Civilizations,” Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev explained that a Type II civilization would be able to harness the energy of their entire host star. The most common hypothetical example of this would be a Dyson Sphere—which is a massive artificial structure that could completely encapsulate a star and transfer the energy to a nearby planet.
Frank Newton's curator insight, August 31, 3:03 PM

We may not be alone after all...

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How advertisers seduce our subconscious

How advertisers seduce our subconscious | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
In 1957 Vance Packard’s book The Hidden Persuaders shocked the world by revealing that messages exposed subliminally, below our level of perception, were able to increase sales of ice cream and Coke. The experiment he cited was later shown to be a hoax, but one of Packard’s other assertions, that advertising can influence us below our level of awareness, is absolutely true.

In fact, rather scarily, the vast majority of advertising’s influence on us is subconscious. My own research has shown how the emotive content of advertising enables it to break almost all the rules which we believe govern our own susceptibility to adverts.

For example, we believe that ignoring ads stops them working, oblivious of the fact that emotive content requires no attention at all in order to be effectively processed. We also think that if we can’t recall an advert’s message, we cannot have been influenced by it. However the truth is that emotional influence lodges deep in our subconscious and is almost impossible to recall.

Above all, we believe that our brand choices are logical, and driven by our rational thinking, whereas the greatest driver of brand decisions is actually our emotional predisposition.

Consider this example. In 2001 the struggling communications network, Cellnet, was relaunched as O2 using a campaign with the vacuous message ‘O2: see what you can do.’ The advert featured blue water with bubbles bubbling through it, people flirting and floating around, fluttering doves, a dog catching a ball, and some lilting music in the background.

There was absolutely no mention of the network quality or coverage or tariffs or handsets, because O2 was no better than anyone else on these. Yet despite being a failing brand, and having absolutely no performance advantage, O2 went from last to first in the market in just four years.

More importantly, an industry analysis of this launch concluded their success was entirely due to the ads, which had encouraged people to feel that O2 was “calm and serene, the antithesis to clutter and chaos, a contrast to the often frenetic world around mobile phones”.

How can advertising do this? It’s very simple. Our brains have a primitive defence mechanism called the limbic system, which is permanently alert, perceiving stimuli and assigning meanings to them. It is this system which wakes us if our baby cries, or makes us jump back onto the pavement if we see an approaching car in the corner of our eye.

The limbic system works regardless of whether we are paying attention, and works at a far greater speed than our thoughts. And unfortunately for our consumer selves, it is the system that processes emotional stimulus.
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Some Neuroscientists Scanned Sting’s Brain to Help Them Understand Creativity

Some Neuroscientists Scanned Sting’s Brain to Help Them Understand Creativity | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
At a certain level of talent, the brains of the elite are just more sensitive, more finely tuned, than yours and mine. Professional athletes notice different things about their surroundings than the average person does; artists often have a unique way of understanding colors and shapes; musicians can understand the various components of a song in a way that those of us with normal ears just don’t.

Which is why, if you’re a neuroscientist and Sting gives you a chance to study his brain, you jump on that offer.

Such was the case with Daniel Levitin, who recently co-authored a case study of the musician in the journal Neurocase. The background story: Sting, who had read Levitin’s book This Is Your Brain on Music, had a concert scheduled in Montreal, where Levitin teaches at McGill University. Sting — identified in the paper as “a 55-year old right-handed male, with normal hearing and no history of neurological disorders” — asked if he could come in for a tour of the lab; Levitin agreed and offered to give him a turn in the fMRI machine. (The pair ran into some trouble, Levitin recalls: The power went out during the lab tour, and an MRI takes over an hour to reboot. Ultimately, Sting agreed to skip his soundcheck in order to get the scan.)
reflectin gsunny's comment, August 23, 6:44 AM
This is so great!
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Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?

Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Standing before several dozen students in a college classroom, Travis Rieder tries to convince them not to have children. Or at least not too many.

He's at James Madison University in southwest Virginia to talk about a "small-family ethic" — to question the assumptions of a society that sees having children as good, throws parties for expecting parents, and in which parents then pressure their kids to "give them grandchildren."

Why question such assumptions? The prospect of climate catastrophe.

For years, people have lamented how bad things might get "for our grandchildren," but Rieder tells the students that future isn't so far off anymore.

He asks how old they will be in 2036, and, if they are thinking of having kids, how old their kids will be.

"Dangerous climate change is going to be happening by then," he says. "Very, very soon."
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Four threats to global food security and what we can do about them

Four threats to global food security and what we can do about them | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Can we really feed nine billion people? That’s the estimated global population in the year 2050. It should be possible, but things are looking tricky – especially when we also factor in the climatic instability caused by global warming.

These are some of the current threats to food security and what we could do about them.
1. Drought

Demands for water for human use and to grow crops are increasing, but changing weather patterns because of global warming mean we can’t rely on enough rain falling where we need it.

So how can crops still thrive in a warmer world? Back in the 1990s, a simple experiment was devised to test how grapes were affected by signals from their roots in dry soil. Vines were grown with their roots split. They were given plentiful water through one half of their roots, but the others were not watered. The effect was astounding: the fruit yield was the same but only 70% of the water was used.

If plants reduce their water loss they can’t take up as much carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and thus growth. However it seems plants direct the resources they do have to their fruit and seeds, in order to protect the next generation. This works well for us humans: as fruits and seeds are frequently the edible parts of the plant, “partial root drying” often sustains crop yields.
2. Emerging diseases

Pathogens – anything which causes disease, such as a virus, bacterium or fungi – have always been a feature of agriculture and there are a number of current causes for concern. For example, a wheat rust fungus that current varieties have no resistance to is spreading from Africa to the Middle East. Bananas are also an important staple crop for hundreds of millions of people in Africa, but a new variety of the fungus that causes Panama disease has devastated plantations of previously-resistant varieties and is spreading from Southeast Asia.
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A world without work is coming – it could be utopia or it could be hell | Ryan Avent

A world without work is coming – it could be utopia or it could be hell | Ryan Avent | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Most of us have wondered what we might do if we didn’t need to work – if we woke up one morning to discover we had won the lottery, say. We entertain ourselves with visions of multiple homes, trips around the world or the players we would sign after buying Arsenal. For many of us, the most tantalising aspect of such visions is the freedom it would bring: to do what one wants, when one wants and how one wants.

But imagine how that vision might change if such freedom were extended to everyone. Some day, probably not in our lifetimes but perhaps not long after, machines will be able to do most of the tasks that people can. At that point, a truly workless world should be possible. If everyone, not just the rich, had robots at their beck and call, then such powerful technology would free them from the need to submit to the realities of the market to put food on the table.

Of course, we then have to figure out what to do not only with ourselves but with one another. Just as a lottery cheque does not free the winner from the shackles of the human condition, all-purpose machine intelligence will not magically allow us all to get along. And what is especially tricky about a world without work is that we must begin building the social institutions to survive it long before the technological obsolescence of human workers actually arrives.
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How to Tell If You’re a Jerk - Issue 40: Learning - Nautilus

How to Tell If You’re a Jerk - Issue 40: Learning - Nautilus | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Here’s something you probably didn’t do this morning: Look in the mirror and ask, am I a jerk?

It seems like a reasonable question. There are, presumably, genuine jerks in the world. And many of those jerks, presumably, have a pretty high moral opinion of themselves, or at least a moderate opinion of themselves. They don’t think of themselves as jerks, because jerk self-knowledge is hard to come by.

Psychologist Simine Vazire at the University of California, Davis argues that we tend to have good self-knowledge of our own traits when those traits are both evaluatively neutral (in the sense that it’s not especially good or bad to have those traits), and straightforwardly observable.
For example, people tend to know whether they are talkative. It’s more or less okay to be talkative and more or less okay to be quiet, and in any case your degree of talkativeness is pretty much out there for everyone to see. Self-ratings of talkativeness tend to correlate highly with peer ratings and objective measures. Creativity, on the other hand, is a much more evaluatively loaded trait—who doesn’t want to think of themselves as creative?—and much less straightforward to assess. In keeping with Vazire’s model, we find poor correlations among self-ratings, peer ratings, and psychologists’ attempts at objective measures of creativity.

The question “am I really, truly a self-important jerk?” is highly evaluatively loaded, so you will be highly motivated to reach a favored answer: “No, of course not!” Being a jerk is also not straightforwardly observable, so you will have plenty of room to reinterpret evidence to suit: “Sure, maybe I was a little grumpy with that cashier, but she deserved it for forgetting to put my double shot in a tall cup.”

Academically intelligent people, by the way, aren’t immune to motivated reasoning. On the contrary, recent research by Dan M. Kahan of Yale University suggests that reflective and educated people might be especially skilled at rationalizing their preexisting beliefs—for example, interpreting complicated evidence about gun control in a manner that fits their political preferences.
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Psychotextiles could be next big thing in fabrics

Psychotextiles could be next big thing in fabrics | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
While most of us feel pain if we’re pricked by a needle, or taste sourness sucking a lemon, scientists understand less about how we’re affected by what we see. This is because seeing is a much more complicated activity. It involves shape, dimension and colour in a three-dimensional context with multiple object associations that are changing over time.

We know that certain works of art make us feel certain emotions. The Mona Lisa by Da Vinci is admired because her smile has a calming effect on us, for example, while The Scream by Munch makes us anxious.

We also know that some colours and shapes influence our emotions. We already use these insights in design and in commercial advertising. The colour red arouses us for example, drawing attention to the object in question. This is why Coca Cola cans and many lipsticks are red – not to mention danger signs.

We experience something similar with sharp angles, which is why chevrons are used in road signs. On the other hand, more rounded angles and the colour green produce a calming effect.

But do other visual characteristics produce the same emotions in the majority of the population? And if so, can we manipulate them to change our state of mind? Our insights into colours and shapes come mainly from neuroscientists looking for ways to treat people with psychiatric problems such as depression and schizophrenia. They have tended to be limited and not practical for using in everyday life – which is what we wanted to achieve.
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A beauty contest was judged by AI and the robots didn't like dark skin

A beauty contest was judged by AI and the robots didn't like dark skin | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
The first international beauty contest judged by “machines” was supposed to use objective factors such as facial symmetry and wrinkles to identify the most attractive contestants. After Beauty.AI launched this year, roughly 6,000 people from more than 100 countries submitted photos in the hopes that artificial intelligence, supported by complex algorithms, would determine that their faces most closely resembled “human beauty”.

But when the results came in, the creators were dismayed to see that there was a glaring factor linking the winners: the robots did not like people with dark skin.

Out of 44 winners, nearly all were white, a handful were Asian, and only one had dark skin. That’s despite the fact that, although the majority of contestants were white, many people of color submitted photos, including large groups from India and Africa.

The ensuing controversy has sparked renewed debates about the ways in which algorithms can perpetuate biases, yielding unintended and often offensive results.

When Microsoft released the “millennial” chatbot named Tay in March, it quickly began using racist language and promoting neo-Nazi views on Twitter. And after Facebook eliminated human editors who had curated “trending” news stories last month, the algorithm immediately promoted fake and vulgar stories on news feeds, including one article about a man masturbating with a chicken sandwich.
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Pepper the Inflight Service Bot is a multi-lingual flight attendant who doesn’t hate picking up your garbage

Pepper the Inflight Service Bot is a multi-lingual flight attendant who doesn’t hate picking up your garbage | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
At the Disrupt SF Hackathon today in San Francisco, a team of seasoned software engineers unveiled Pepper the Inflight Service Bot, a robot flight attendant that doesn’t hate picking up barf bags, can circulate in a plane even when there’s turbulence, and can speak to passengers in their own language.

The robot is built using the Pepper companion robot, IBM Watson’s artificial intelligence systems for natural language, and Panasonic’s in-flight data and displays, along with Here Maps indoor navigational data.

It isn’t just for in-flight use. The robot can check in passengers at the gate, scan their tickets, and then circulate in a plane or wait at the end of a flight to tell passengers — in their own language — which gate they need to go to for a connecting flight.

The hacker team for the Inflight Robot included Peter Ma, Ed Aguilar, Diego Gonzalez, Brian Cottrell and Savalas Colbert.

According to Ma, the team came together and was inspired to build a robotic flight attendant at Disrupt based on the APIs and tools made available to them here. They intend to develop the Inflight Robot further after the event, adding in further language capabilities, and other features.

Outside of hackathons, the team consisted of engineers and video editors who work for DirecTV, Entercharge, and Grindbit.
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Genetic Engineering to Clash With Evolution | Quanta Magazine

Genetic Engineering to Clash With Evolution |  Quanta Magazine | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
In a crowded auditorium at New York’s Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in August, Philipp Messer, a population geneticist at Cornell University, took the stage to discuss a powerful and controversial new application for genetic engineering: gene drives.

Gene drives can force a trait through a population, defying the usual rules of inheritance. A specific trait ordinarily has a 50-50 chance of being passed along to the next generation. A gene drive could push that rate to nearly 100 percent. The genetic dominance would then continue in all future generations. You want all the fruit flies in your lab to have light eyes? Engineer a drive for eye color, and soon enough, the fruit flies’ offspring will have light eyes, as will their offspring, and so on for all future generations. Gene drives may work in any species that reproduces sexually, and they have the potential to revolutionize disease control, agriculture, conservation and more. Scientists might be able to stop mosquitoes from spreading malaria, for example, or eradicate an invasive species.

The technology represents the first time in history that humans have the ability to engineer the genes of a wild population. As such, it raises intense ethical and practical concerns, not only from critics but from the very scientists who are working with it.

Messer’s presentation highlighted a potential snag for plans to engineer wild ecosystems: Nature usually finds a way around our meddling. Pathogens evolve antibiotic resistance; insects and weeds evolve to thwart pesticides. Mosquitoes and invasive species reprogrammed with gene drives can be expected to adapt as well, especially if the gene drive is harmful to the organism — it’ll try to survive by breaking the drive.
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Evidence Rebuts Chomsky's Theory of Language Learning

Evidence Rebuts Chomsky's Theory of Language Learning | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
The idea that we have brains hardwired with a mental template for learning grammar—famously espoused by Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—has dominated linguistics for almost half a century. Recently, though, cognitive scientists and linguists have abandoned Chomsky’s “universal grammar” theory in droves because of new research examining many different languages—and the way young children learn to understand and speak the tongues of their communities. That work fails to support Chomsky’s assertions.

The research suggests a radically different view, in which learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module. Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique hu­­­man ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen. The new findings indicate that if researchers truly want to understand how children, and others, learn languages, they need to look outside of Chomsky’s theory for guidance.

This conclusion is important because the study of language plays a central role in diverse disciplines—from poetry to artificial intelligence to linguistics itself; misguided methods lead to questionable results. Further, language is used by humans in ways no animal can match; if you understand what language is, you comprehend a little bit more about human nature.

Chomsky’s first version of his theory, put forward in the mid-20th century, meshed with two emerging trends in Western intellectual life. First, he posited that the languages people use to communicate in everyday life behaved like mathematically based languages of the newly emerging field of computer science. His research looked for the underlying computational structure of language and proposed a set of procedures that would create “well-formed” sentences. The revolutionary idea was that a computerlike program could produce sentences real people thought were grammatical. That program could also purportedly explain as well the way people generated their sentences. This way of talking about language resonated with many scholars eager to em­­brace a computational approach to ... well ... everything.

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Why Tim Berners-Lee is no friend of Facebook | John Naughton

Why Tim Berners-Lee is no friend of Facebook | John Naughton | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
I f there were a Nobel prize for hypocrisy, then its first recipient ought to be Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook boss. On 23 August, all his 1.7 billion users were greeted by this message: “Celebrating 25 years of connecting people. The web opened up to the world 25 years ago today! We thank Sir Tim Berners-Lee and other internet pioneers for making the world more open and connected.”

Aw, isn’t that nice? From one “pioneer” to another. What a pity, then, that it is a combination of bullshit and hypocrisy. In relation to the former, the guy who invented the web, Tim Berners-Lee, is as mystified by this “anniversary” as everyone else. “Who on earth made up 23 August?” he asked on Twitter. Good question. In fact, as the Guardian pointed out: “If Facebook had asked Berners-Lee, he’d probably have told them what he’s been telling people for years: the web’s 25th birthday already happened, two years ago.”

“In 1989, I delivered a proposal to Cern for the system that went on to become the worldwide web,” he wrote in 2014. It was that year, not this one, that he said we should celebrate as the web’s 25th birthday.
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Literary fiction readers understand others' emotions better, study finds

Literary fiction readers understand others' emotions better, study finds | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Literary fiction by the likes of Salman Rushdie, Harper Lee and Toni Morrison helps improve readers’ understanding of other people’s emotions, according to new research – but genre writing, from authors including Danielle Steel and Clive Cussler, does not.

Academics David Kidd and Emanuele Castano, from the New School for Social Research in New York, put more than 1,000 participants through the “author recognition test”, which measured exposure to fiction by asking respondents to identify writers they recognised from a list. The list included both authors and non-authors, and ranged from writers who are identified as literary, such as Rushdie and Morrison, to those such as Cussler and Steel who are seen as genre authors. The participants then did the “reading the mind in the eyes” test, in which they were asked to select which of four emotion terms most closely matches the expression of a person in a photograph.
n a paper just published in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, the academics reveal that those who had recognised more literary fiction authors in the list were better at inferring others’ feelings, a faculty known as theory of mind. Genre fiction is defined in the paper “by its focus on a particular topic and reliance on relatively formulaic plots”, while literary fiction is defined “more by its aesthetic qualities and character development than its focus on plot or a particular set of topics and themes”.
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Uber Debuts Its First Fleet of Driverless Cars in Pittsburgh

Uber Debuts Its First Fleet of Driverless Cars in Pittsburgh | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Near the end of 2014, Uber co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick flew to Pittsburgh on a mission: to hire dozens of the world’s experts in autonomous vehicles. The city is home to Carnegie Mellon University’s robotics department, which has produced many of the biggest names in the newly hot field. Sebastian Thrun, the creator of Google’s self-driving car project, spent seven years researching autonomous robots at CMU, and the project’s former director, Chris Urmson, was a CMU grad student.

“Travis had an idea that he wanted to do self-driving,” says John Bares, who had run CMU’s National Robotics Engineering Center for 13 years before founding Carnegie Robotics, a Pittsburgh-based company that makes components for self-driving industrial robots used in mining, farming, and the military. “I turned him down three times. But the case was pretty compelling.” Bares joined Uber in January 2015 and by early 2016 had recruited hundreds of engineers, robotics experts, and even a few car mechanics to join the venture. The goal: to replace Uber’s more than 1 million human drivers with robot drivers—as quickly as possible.

The plan seemed audacious, even reckless. And according to most analysts, true self-driving cars are years or decades away. Kalanick begs to differ. “We are going commercial,” he says in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. “This can’t just be about science.”
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Putting a computer in your brain is no longer science fiction

Putting a computer in your brain is no longer science fiction | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
VENICE BEACH, Calif. — Like many in Silicon Valley, technology entrepreneur Bryan Johnson sees a future in which intelligent machines can do things like drive cars on their own and anticipate our needs before we ask.

What’s uncommon is how Johnson wants to respond: find a way to supercharge the human brain so that we can keep up with the machines.

From an unassuming office in Venice Beach, his science-fiction-meets-science start-up, Kernel, is building a tiny chip that can be implanted in the brain to help people suffering from neurological damage caused by strokes, Alzheimer’s or concussions. Top neuroscientists who are building the chip — they call it a neuroprosthetic — hope that in the longer term, it will be able to boost intelligence, memory and other cognitive tasks.

The medical device is years in the making, Johnson acknowledges, but he can afford the time. He sold his payments company, Braintree, to PayPal for $800 million in 2013. A former Mormon raised in Utah, the 38-year-old speaks about the project with missionary-like intensity and focus.

“Human intelligence is landlocked in relationship to artificial intelligence — and the landlock is the degeneration of the body and the brain,” he said in an interview about the company, which he had not discussed publicly before. “This is a question of keeping humans front and center as we progress.”
Corey Mattimore's curator insight, August 20, 2:17 PM

are we humans? or are we way more than that?