Knowmads, Infocology of the future
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The advent of the global brain

The advent of the global brain | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Get ready for the global brain. That was the grand finale of a presentation on the next generation of the Internet I heard last week from Yuri Milner.
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Knowmads, Infocology of the future
Exploring the possible , the probable, the plausible
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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?

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Deep Space Industries plans first private asteroid landing as mining prelude

Deep Space Industries plans first private asteroid landing as mining prelude | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Deep Space Industries (DSI) today announced that it will conduct what it claims is the world's first commercial interplanetary mining mission. In conjunction with the government of Luxembourg, the Silicon Valley-based company is planning to launch an unmanned spacecraft called Prospector-1 to intercept, survey, and land on a near-Earth asteroid as a prelude to space mining operations.

According to DSI, Prospector-1 is meant to be a low-cost mission. Exactly how low cost won't be disclosed, but a company white paper (PDF) places it in the tens of millions of dollars. Weighing only 50 kg (110 lb) fully fueled, the spacecraft is designed to be launched as a secondary payload into low-earth orbit from where it will be sent into deep space by an integrated booster stage.

The purpose behind the mission is to demonstrate that private industry has the capability to mount an interplanetary mission with, in this case, the objective of rendezvousing with a near-Earth asteroid, mapping it, identifying commercially viable amounts of minerals with an emphasis on water and carbon dioxide, and effecting a landing to assess the asteroid's physical characteristics and "diggability." The results of these findings will be used to plan actual mining operations.
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The cities of the future could be built by microbes

The cities of the future could be built by microbes | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
You might be disappointed to hear that some intriguing underwater structures recently discovered off the Greek island of Zakynthos are not part of the lost city of Atlantis. But the structures, which resemble colonnades of cobble stones and bases of columns, have an equally fascinating origin. They were actually constructed by microbes gathering around natural vents of methane and forming a natural cement in the otherwise soft sediment.

To some degree, these formations are an accident, sculpted by the interaction of the microorganisms with their physical and chemical environments. But they still point to a complex ability not usually associated with simple single-celled organisms less than 0.0002cm in diameter. So if bacteria can grow their own “cities”, could we use them to grow ours as well?

Bacterial building is actually more common than you might think. If you rub your tongue across the back of your teeth and find a rough spot between the base of the tooth and your gum you should probably go and see a dental hygienist. But you might also contemplate the fact that you have a city growing on your teeth. The rough patch, known more commonly as plaque, is a biofilm, a complex structure built by bacteria living in your mouth.
Biofilms are, in effect, buildings for bacteria. They provide the bacteria with physical protection and (unfortunately for us) protection from antibiotics. They also enable a complex communications network between the bacteria that lets them work together, with different groups of cells performing different functions and even helping control the populations.
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Meatless burger uses bloody special ingredient to replicate the real thing

Meatless burger uses bloody special ingredient to replicate the real thing | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
While food scientists have been in pursuit of the perfect lab-made hamburger, most of the results have been poor imitations or prohibitively expensive. Impossible Foods is the latest alternative food company attempting to tickle the tastebuds with its meatless Impossible Burger, which is claimed to look, smell and taste like real meat. The secret ingredient? Heme, a component of the red pigment in blood.

Heme is a compound found abundantly in meat that makes blood red and delivers oxygen to muscles. It is also one of the things that gives meat its uniquely meaty flavor. But heme is also a basic building block of life and can be found in plants as well, such as clover, the roots of soybeans and yeast.

For the Impossible Burger, the company derives its heme from machine-purified yeast that comes out looking and tasting something like blood. The heme is carried by a protein (and listed ingredient) called leghemoglobin. Other ingredients include common meat substitutes that can be found in other veggie burgers, such as textured wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, soy protein isolate and gum gels.

When cooked, the meatless patty caramelizes on the outside, while the texture and color inside changes throughout, transforming from a raw product to something claimed to be much like a cooked burger. An Impossible Burger cooked rare is even said to leave "blood" residue on the plate, which probably won't appeal to a lot of vegetarians.
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3D food printer designed to cook up culinary creations

3D food printer designed to cook up culinary creations | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Hod Lipson and his team at Columbia University (CU) have been developing a prototype 3D printer designed to find a place on the kitchen counter alongside the toaster and coffee maker. The device will be able to print edible creations using a variety of pastes, gels, powders and liquid ingredients, meticulously crafted through computer software and eventually, cooked within the printer itself.

"We've been cooking forever," says Lipson, a Mechanical Engineering professor at Columbia University (CU), wants to help reinvigorate the area,. "But if you think about it, while technology and software have wormed their way into almost every aspect of our lives, cooking is still very, very primitive – we still cook over an open flame, like our ancestors millennia ago. So this is one area where software has not yet permeated. And when software touches something, it takes off."

Following in the footsteps of Foodini, ChefJet and other food-focused 3D printers, The CU team's device is designed to open up the possibilities of what we eat, as well as make it easier to prepare meals and manage dietary requirements. But it doesn't mean conventional cooking's goose is cooked.

"Food printers are not meant to replace conventional cooking – they won't solve all of our nutritional needs, nor cook everything we should eat," says Lipson. "But they will produce an infinite variety of customized fresh, nutritional foods on demand, transforming digital recipes and basic ingredients supplied in frozen cartridges into healthy dishes that can supplement our daily intake."

These frozen cartridges form one of the main challenges the team is still working on: how to cook the food inside the printer. Many existing 3D printers either opt for food that doesn't need to be cooked, like candy and chocolate, or have users cook the meal post-print, like NASA's astronaut pizza printer. The CU team is working on building an infrared heating element into the robotic arm of the device, and ideally, giving it the ability to cook the different ingredients at different temperatures and for varying amounts of time, as the meal is prepared.
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The neuroscience of “cool”

In the early 2000s, a major shift happened in the way people dress. Flared and baggy jeans began to give way to a skinny, low-slung version, and by the end of the decade, it seemed everyone—including men—were squeezing into jeans so tight that doctors began issuing health warnings. Now skinny is the status quo, and fashion’s early adopters are searching for a new look.

These sorts of back-and-forth trends may seem frustratingly arbitrary, but there’s a tremendous force involved in the shrinking and growing of jeans. It’s called “cool.” It’s an incredibly powerful marketing tool—one that has driven the astronomical profits of companies from Nike to Apple to Kanye West’s Yeezy—and nowhere is its influence as obvious as in our clothes. Cool doesn’t just explain why people will pay $1,000 for the right sweatshirt. It’s also arguably a factor in why the right logo makes us view some people as more suitable for a job, or worthy of receiving money for charity.

What it is, exactly, is a little hard to define, but there are hints in its history, in trends, even in neuroscience. Cool is a target that’s constantly shifting. It’s an attitude, a term of approval, and today, as much as any of these things, it’s a game of superficially rebellious status-chasing, centered on consumerism.
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Pokémon Go is a blueprint for the rise of robots

Pokémon Go is a blueprint for the rise of robots | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Pokémon Go has gone straight to the top of the gaming charts in the US and Australia, where it was first released at the start of July. The smartphone-based game has already been downloaded by nearly 6% of US Android users. What makes this latest installment of the 20-year-old Pokémon franchise so appealing is its extensive use of augmented reality (AR): players use their smartphones to reveal fantastic creatures in the real world and then try to catch them.

It is the first time an augmented reality video game has achieved such global success, and its initial impact on our society is quickly becoming apparent. We have an invaluable opportunity to observe how new ways of interacting with technology affect our lives and how they can be regulated.

Pokémon was already the world’s second best-selling video game franchise, with more than 200m units sold worldwide since it became globally popular in the 1990s. But the phenomenon involves a wide spectrum of elements, from toys and merchandise to animated TV shows and movies.

Pokémon are fictional creatures that can be trained to battle each other for sport. Yet, arguably, part of the games' success is that they encompass different genres, including role-play, puzzle and digital pet.

The latest game, Pokémon Go, is a free smartphone app developed by Nintendo and Niantic Labs. Its novelty is that it exploits augmented reality. Images of the real world captured with the phone’s camera are layered with gameplay so that players can find Pokémon when they move around with their smartphone. Some real-world locations are also used as the game’s shops or gyms, where players physically go to virtually train their Pokémon or to collect items.

Although augmented reality technology has been around for many years, Pokémon Go remarkably is one of the first significant attempts to extend the video game experience with AR. Before that, only the strategy game Ingress – also from Niantic Labs – scratched the surface of this technology with very good results but a limited number of followers, especially when compared with Pokémon.
affreightmentmolt's comment, August 4, 2:27 AM
Its splendid :)
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Pattern-changing shirts react to pollution and radiation

Pattern-changing shirts react to pollution and radiation | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
As air pollution becomes a bigger concern in communities around the globe, creative ways to detect it are beginning to proliferate. We've seen smartphone sensors proposed, as well as portable personal pollution monitors and even backpack-wearing, pollution-monitoring pigeons. Now, a designer out of New York City has released a line of shirts that change to solid black when they are contaminated by pollutants. But they're not cheap.

The shirts, called Aerochromics, have been created by Nikolas Bentel, who refers to himself as an "artist/designer/performance artist." Bentel worked with the Autodesk Applied Research Lab – the R&D outpost of 3D software maker Autodesk – to develop three different shirts: one that changes in the presence of carbon monoxide, one that changes when particle pollution (like excessive dust) is present, and one that reacts in the presence of radioactivity.

Bentel told Gizmag that each shirt works in a slightly different way.
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Ray Kurzweil: To Merge With Technology Is to Enhance Our Humanity

Ray Kurzweil: To Merge With Technology Is to Enhance Our Humanity | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Technological shifts outpace our awareness of them. While we're busy with our day-to-day lives—getting a new smartphone or downloading the next updates—we often don't notice how these incremental changes shape our relationship with technology. According to Ray Kurzweil, this trend will continue as we become more closely integrated with the tech around us.

“At some point, we’ll be literally a hybrid of biological and nonbiological thinking, but it's a gradual transition,” Kurzweil says.

Instead of happening overnight, he predicts we’ll steadily enhance ourselves using technology, not by replacing the parts that make us human but by building on them over time.

One of the biggest concerns people express about this idea is the fear of losing one’s body or mind in the process—that we’ll become less and less human in the future.

“I don’t want to give that up. I’m not talking about giving things up,” Kurzweil says. “I’m talking about enhancing our experience and our bodies and our brains.”

He likens this process to what happens as we grow and change through life. At what point do we cease to be our "old selves" and become our "new selves"? There isn’t a clear line. We change and grow incrementally. And day to day, those incremental changes aren’t obvious.

“You’re not the same person you were when you were four years old—where is that four-year-old girl? Is she gone, should we mourn her? Well, no, she’s contained in you. You’ve enhanced yourself to become who you are today,” Kurzweil argues.

One thing is clear: Most of us rarely go a day without technology. What do you think will happen in the coming years? Will we become even more closely tied to our tools? Should we?
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Is Your Nervous System a Democracy or a Dictatorship?

Is Your Nervous System a Democracy or a Dictatorship? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
How does the architecture of our brain and neurons allow each of us to make individual behavioral choices? Scientists have long used the metaphor of government to explain how they think nervous systems are organized for decision-making. Are we at root a democracy, like the U.K. citizenry voting for Brexit? A dictatorship, like the North Korean leader ordering a missile launch? A set of factions competing for control, like those within the Turkish military? Or something else?The Conversation

In 1890, psychologist William James argued that in each of us “[t]here is… one central or pontifical [nerve cell] to which our consciousness is attached.” But in 1941, physiologist and Nobel laureate Sir Charles Sherrington argued against the idea of a single pontifical cell in charge, suggesting rather that the nervous system is “a million-fold democracy whose each unit is a cell.”

So who was right?

For ethical reasons, we’re rarely justified in monitoring single cells in healthy people’s brains. But it is feasible to reveal the brain’s cellular mechanisms in many nonhuman animals. As I recount in my book “Governing Behavior,” experiments have revealed a range of decision-making architectures in nervous systems – from dictatorship, to oligarchy, to democracy.
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Martian Colonists Could Be Genetically Engineered for Democracy - Facts So Romantic - Nautilus

Martian Colonists Could Be Genetically Engineered for Democracy - Facts So Romantic - Nautilus | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
It sounds like science fiction: A citizenry genetically engineered to be democratic. It’s not implausible. Last month, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report touting the promise of a biological engineering technique called gene drive—particularly for dealing with public health problems such as the Zika virus, malaria, and dengue fever. Last year, Anthony James, a biologist at the University of California, Irvine, led a team that used the gene drive to genetically fashion mosquitos with an immune system that inhibits the spread of the malaria-causing parasite. “Quite a few people,” he told STAT, “are trying to develop a gene drive for population-suppression of Aedes”—Aedes aegypti, the mosquito carrying the Zika virus. But officials at the National Academy Sciences say it’s best to be cautious with a technique likely too immature for field use.

It seems like only a matter of time, though, before gene drive becomes a mature technique. After all, it’s just a way to encourage—or block—the inheritance of select genes in a given population. Once it has, what’s to stop gene drive from being used for all sorts of other applications, including ones that enhance the fitness of organisms rather than weakening them? The underlying technology for it, CRISPR Cas9—a gene-editing tool adapted from the prokaryote immune system—can precisely, easily, and cheaply snip strands of DNA, allowing for customizable genomes. With such an accessible technology, it seems likely humans will start to not just take away bad things—like illnesses transmitted by mosquitos—but also add good things.
Consider the ideal Mars colonist. Elon Musk’s SpaceX was founded to colonize the Red Planet, and he recently said that colonists on Mars should engage in direct democracy because “the potential for corruption is substantially diminished in a direct, versus a representative, democracy.” Makes sense. Now all Mars needs are women and men who are up for the task. Turns out, political engagement might be in the genes.
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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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Robot companions are coming into our homes – so how human should they be?

Robot companions are coming into our homes – so how human should they be? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
What would your ideal robot be like? One that can change nappies and tell bedtime stories to your child? Perhaps you’d prefer a butler that can polish silver and mix the perfect cocktail? Or maybe you’d prefer a companion that just happened to be a robot? Certainly, some see robots as a hypothetical future replacement for human carers. But a question roboticists are asking is: how human should these future robot companions be?

A companion robot is one that is capable of providing useful assistance in a socially acceptable manner. This means that a robot companion’s first goal is to assist humans. Robot companions are mainly developed to help people with special needs such as older people, autistic children or the disabled. They usually aim to help in a specific environment: a house, a care home or a hospital.

At the beginning of the 20th century, one of the first pieces of technology designed to help in a household environment was the vacuum cleaner. Since then, technology has transformed the home. Nowadays, we even have a robot that can cook. The chef robot was developed by Moley Robotics, a start-up company that won the 2015 Asia Consumer Electronics Show. The robot is said to be able to cook 2,000 different meals.
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Despite what you might think, humans actually evolved to be kind

Despite what you might think, humans actually evolved to be kind | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Maybe there's hope for humanity yet. As a species, studies have shown humans to be more willing to help strangers than other types of primates, and we exhibit less conflict within our groups compared with other animals too.

That's hard to believe if you switch on the news today, but new research suggests that we actually evolved the drive to be 'kind' in order to get access to more resources - and hints that it's not impossible for humans to become more welcoming to people of different backgrounds.

To figure this out, researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the Max Planck Institute in Germany surveyed 150 farmers living in Bolivia – a particularly suitable sample for this study, seeing as they regularly need to work with others to protect their land.

"From maintaining access to territory, clean water and other natural resources – collaboration across group boundaries is crucial for many indigenous populations today," said anthropologist Michael Gurven from UCSB.

The goal of the study was to understand more about what might be driving this collaboration, and how we might be able to encourage other humans, who don't have farmland to protect, to be kinder to one another in future.

In total, 150 volunteers, taken from three different population sets of farmers, were asked to play a game where they could donate money to both 'in-group' strangers (from the same religious or ethnic background) or 'out-group' strangers (from different religious or ethnic backgrounds).

Importantly, the participants could see pictures of the people they were giving money to, and the recipients were given the names of the donors – even though this was just a game, that transparency helped reinforce the idea that these transactions could have a mutual benefit for both giver and taker.

The results showed that those who gave the most to out-group strangers were those who felt they were worst off, and who had the most to gain from new friendships.
Lon Woodbury's curator insight, August 7, 5:46 PM

Interesting survey.  Seems "kindness" is the default of virtually all children, but could the all too frequent lack of it reflect unfeeling and self-centered actions by parents, peers, authorities, governments, etc.? -Lon

topcracker's comment, August 9, 10:54 PM
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Is an algorithm any less racist than a human?

Is an algorithm any less racist than a human? | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
We would all like to fancy ourselves as eminently capable of impartiality, able to make decisions without prejudices – especially at work. Unfortunately, the reality is that human bias, both conscious and unconscious, can’t help but come into play when it comes to who gets jobs and how much money candidates get offered.

Managers often gravitate to people most like themselves, make gender-based assumptions about skills or salaries, or reject candidates who have non-white names – to name just a few examples – even if they don’t mean to.

There’s an increasingly popular solution to this problem: why not let an intelligent algorithm make hiring decisions for you? Surely, the thinking goes, a computer is more able to be impartial than a person, and can simply look at the relevant data vectors to select the most qualified people from a heap of applications, removing human bias and making the process more efficient to boot.

A wealth of startups and associated technology tools have sprung up in recent years to address the appetite for more diverse workforces. The Gapjumpers platform promises “blind audition” technology where “gender, education and background don’t matter” to the quest to find top talent. Entelo’s recruitment software has been billed as able to “get more women hired”, while Doxa helps you “find tech companies where female employees thrive. From HireVue and Gild to Textio, Jobaline and Korn Ferry, there are no shortage of headhunting and recruitment firms turning to the “magic” of algorithms to make attracting and hiring the right people more efficient and more effective – all while theoretically casting a wider net to draw candidates who might get left out by traditional “gut instinct” methods.
Jessi Goodman's curator insight, August 3, 11:18 AM

These are the types of questions were going to have to seriously ask ourselves moving into the future.

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Future farming pavilion reboots the veggie patch

Future farming pavilion reboots the veggie patch | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Having imagined a future of drinks mixing with its Makr Shakr robotic bartenders, design studio Carlo Ratti Associati has now developed a future food experience, too. Visitors to Area del Futuro (Area of the Future) will be able to plant seeds for hydroponic cultivation and track their growth remotely via an app.
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Japan's latest humanoid robot makes its own moves

Japan's latest humanoid robot makes its own moves | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |

Japan's National Science Museum is no stranger to eerily human androids: It employs two in its exhibition hall already. But for a week, they're getting a new colleague. Called "Alter," it has a very human face like Professor Ishiguro's Geminoids, but goes one step further with an embedded neural network that allows it to move itself. The technology powering this involves 42 pneumatic actuators and, most importantly, a "central pattern generator."


That CPG has a neutral network that replicates neurons, allowing the robot to create movement patterns of its own, influenced by sensors that detect proximity, temperature and, for some reason, humidity. The setup doesn't make for human-like movement, but it gives the viewer the very strange sensation that this particular robot is somehow alive. And that's precisely the point.

Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Graphene-based sheets make dirty water drinkable simply and cheaply

Graphene-based sheets make dirty water drinkable simply and cheaply | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Engineers at the Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) have developed graphene-based biofoam sheets that can be laid on dirty or salty dams and ponds to produce clean drinking water, using the power of the sun. This new technique could be a cheap and simple way to help provide fresh water in countries where large areas of water are contaminated with suspended particles of dirt and other floating matter.

The biofilm is created as a two-layered structure consisting of two nanocellulose layers produced by bacteria. The lower layer contains pristine cellulose, while the top layer also contains graphene oxide, which absorbs sunlight and produces heat. The system works by drawing up water from underneath like a sponge where it then evaporates in the topmost layer, leaving behind any suspended particulates or salts. Fresh water then condenses on the top, where it can be drawn off and used.

"The process is extremely simple," said Srikanth Singamaneni, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials at WUSTL. "The beauty is that the nanoscale cellulose fiber network produced by bacteria has excellent ability to move the water from the bulk to the evaporative surface while minimizing the heat coming down, and the entire thing is produced in one shot."
Zazuk Maulana's comment, August 1, 3:41 PM
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New movie screen technology lets you see 3D without glasses

New movie screen technology lets you see 3D without glasses | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) has created movie screen technology that lets you watch 3D movies without the stupid glasses.

Co-developed with the Weizmann Institute for Science in Israel, the technology actually makes the picture more crisp. Dubbed Cinema 3D, the technology also makes the on-screen image viewable from any seat in the theater.
“Existing approaches to glasses-free 3-D require screens whose resolution requirements are so enormous that they are completely impractical,” says MIT professor Wojciech Matusik. “This is the first technical approach that allows for glasses-free 3-D on a large scale.”
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Deep learning algorithm paints smooth-moving works of art

Deep learning algorithm paints smooth-moving works of art | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Last year, Google unleashed its Deep Dream Generator on the world, and a wave of images filled with bright lines, eyeballs and creepy dog heads flooded the internet. Now a team at the University of Freiburg in Germany has given neural networks a better sense of style by developing a method for taking an existing art style and smoothly applying it to a video. Artists, including New York-based Danil Krivoruchko, have already put the system to work with some beautiful results.

The researchers build on previous studies, particularly a paper outlining a neural algorithm where the style of an image could be overlaid onto another still image, with adjustable parameters that could find a balance between the artistic style and the content of the image. This approach can be applied to videos by processing each frame as an individual image before stitching them back together, but it's not ideal. The wider context of each frame within the video isn't accounted for, resulting in a jarring, flashy mess.

To smooth things out, the team introduced a few rules into how the images are rebuilt in the desired style. A temporal constraint encourages the system to change as little of the image as possible from the previous frame, and a multi-pass algorithm clears up artifacts that form around the edges of the shot. When a character runs across a scene, for example, things that pass behind them are tracked so that when they reappear, the system doesn't rebuild them from scratch but remembers how they looked before they were blocked from view.
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Americans Are Wary about Body-Enhancement Technologies

Americans Are Wary about Body-Enhancement Technologies | Knowmads, Infocology of the future |
Emerging technologies that draw from biomedical technology, nanotechnology, information technology and other fields are developing at a rapid pace and may lead to any number of ways people might be able to “upgrade” themselves. Such technologies, in the pipeline now to address medical and therapeutic needs, could produce new ways for humans to push the boundaries of their abilities, making their minds sharper and their bodies stronger and healthier than ever before.

But a new Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults shows that majorities greet the possibility of these breakthroughs with more wariness and worry than enthusiasm and hope.

The Center’s study focuses on the U.S. public’s reactions to three emerging technologies that could fundamentally improve people’s health, cognitive abilities or physical capacities. The specific examples were: gene editing to give a healthy baby a much reduced risk of serious diseases and conditions over their lifetime; implanting a computer chip in the brain to give a healthy person a much improved ability to concentrate and process information; and a transfusion with synthetic blood to give healthy people much improved speed, strength and stamina.
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