The idea that human history is approaching a “singularity” — that ordinary humans will someday be overtaken by artificially intelligent machines or cognitively enhanced biological intelligence, or both — has moved from the realm of science fiction to serious debate. Some singularity theorists predict that if the field of artificial intelligence (AI) continues to develop at its current dizzying rate, the singularity could come about in the middle of the present century. Murray Shanahan offers an introduction to the idea of the singularity and considers the ramifications of such a potentially seismic event.
Shanahan’s aim is not to make predictions but rather to investigate a range of scenarios. Whether we believe that singularity is near or far, likely or impossible, apocalypse or utopia, the very idea raises crucial philosophical and pragmatic questions, forcing us to think seriously about what we want as a species.
Shanahan describes technological advances in AI, both biologically inspired and engineered from scratch. Once human-level AI — theoretically possible, but difficult to accomplish — has been achieved, he explains, the transition to superintelligent AI could be very rapid. Shanahan considers what the existence of superintelligent machines could mean for such matters as personhood, responsibility, rights, and identity. Some superhuman AI agents might be created to benefit humankind; some might go rogue. (Is Siri the template, or HAL?) The singularity presents both an existential threat to humanity and an existential opportunity for humanity to transcend its limitations. Shanahan makes it clear that we need to imagine both possibilities if we want to bring about the better outcome.
One can’t help be positive about the future. Even obstacles have a bright side. For example - humans at some point will be limited by space and time; we can’t expect to go far in space exploration without the development of strong artificial intelligence and robots.
Experts say it takes light 100,000 years to travel from one end of the Milky Way galaxy to the other. Note that the speed of light is 3.0 x 10^8 m/s. This means that even if humans travel at the speed of light, which is 3.0 x 10^8 m/s, it will take us about 100000 years to traverse the milky way galaxy.
This limitation of humans can be eliminated once humans decide to merge with robots.
We can’t face the future with fear and trepidation; we must face it with caution and wisdom. The trade-offs between fear and improvement need to be considered if humans are to make meaningful progress in the next 80 years.
One meaningful reason that humans need to merge with machines is because the rate of improvement in our biology is linear, whereas, computing power doubles every two years. It follows an exponential curve.
The very basics of what to do when making educational videos for flipping a class. Many thanks to Jaclyn Pessel @chempessel, Meghan Klement @klemistry and Cara Johnson @AHSAnatomy for volunteering to be in this video!
Content Times: 0:12 Turn off your phone 0:36 Silence extraneous noises 1:00 Post a “Do Not Disturb” sign 1:26 Make sure you are actually recording 1:41 Look at the camera 2:08 Think about the video background 2:30 Remain stationary 2:52 Use big text 3:44 DON’T USE ALL CAPS! 3:55 Use drop shadow 4:20 Video length 4:53 Speak at a normal pace 5:22 Summary
Dr Hannah Critchlow strips down the brain. Using Radio, TV and Festival platforms she designs, produces and presents brainy interactive experiences for the public. She has featured on BBC, Sky and ITV channels and presented live events to over 30, 000 people across the globe. She is Neuroscience public engagement professor at Cambridge University.
In 2014 Hannah was named as a Top 100 UK scientist by the Science Council for her work in science communication.
At the Telegraph UK, Dr Hannah Critchlow said that if a computer could be built to recreate the 100 trillion connections in the brain their it would be possible to exist inside a programme.
Dr Critchlow, who spoke at the Hay Festival on ‘busting brain myths’ said that although the brain was enormously complex, it worked like a large circuit board and scientists were beginning to understand the function of each part.
Asked if it would be possible one day to download consciousness onto a machine, she said: “If you had a computer that could make those 100 trillion circuit connections then that circuit is what makes us us, and so, yes, it would be possible.
We can think of the history of physics as an attempt to unify the world around us: Gradually, over many centuries, we’ve come to see that seemingly unrelated phenomena are intimately connected. The physicist Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas, Austin, received his Nobel Prize in 1979 for a major breakthrough in that quest — showing how electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force are manifestations of the same underlying theory (he shared the prize with Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow). That work became a cornerstone of the Standard Model of particle physics, which describes how the fundamental building blocks of the universe come together to create the world we see.
In his new book To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science, Weinberg examines how modern science was born. By tracing the development of what we now call the “scientific method” — an approach, developed over centuries, that emphasizes experiments and observations rather than reasoning from first principles — he makes the argument that science, unlike other ways of interpreting the world around us, can offer true progress. Through science, our understanding of the world improves over time, building on what has come before. Mistakes can happen, but are eventually corrected. Weinberg spoke with Quanta Magazine about the past and future of physics, the role of philosophy within science, and the startling possibility that the universe we see around us is a tiny sliver of a much larger multiverse. An edited and condensed version of the interview follows.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has shown that the DNA of bacteria that live in the body can pass a trait to offspring in a way similar to the parents' own DNA. According to the authors, the discovery means scientists need to consider a significant new factor -- the DNA of microbes passed from mother to child -- in their efforts to understand how genes influence illness and health. The study appears online Feb. 16 in Nature.
Bacteria are most familiar through their roles in harmful infections. But scientists have realized that such bacteria are only a tiny fraction of the bacterial communities that live in and on our bodies. Most bacteria are commensal, which means they do not cause harm and often confer benefits.
Commensal bacteria influence traits such as weight and behavior. But until now, researchers thought the bacteria that exerted these effects were acquired during a person's life. The study is the first to show that bacterial DNA can pass from parent to offspring in a manner that affects specific traits such as immunity and inflammation.
The researchers linked commensal bacteria in mice to the animals' susceptibility to a gut injury. Mice with certain inherited bacteria are susceptible to the injury, which is caused by exposure to a chemical. Female mice pass the bacteria to their offspring, making them vulnerable to the injury. Others carrying different bacteria are less susceptible.
In several fields of research, scientists have been confronted intermittently with the sudden, unexplained appearance of new or altered traits in mice. The traits often spread from one mouse habitat to the next, suggesting a spreading microbial infection is responsible. But the traits also consistently pass from mother to offspring, suggesting a genetic cause.
Thaddeus Stappenbeck, MD, PhD, a professor of pathology and immunology, and co-senior author Virgin, the Edward Mallinckrodt Professor of Pathology and head of the Department of Pathology and Immunology, encountered this problem in their studies of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. They were surprised to find that roughly half their mice had low levels in the gut of IgA, an antibody linked to these disorders.
IgA helps defend the body against harmful invaders. It is commonly present in mucus made by the body in areas where the exterior world encounters the body's interior, such as the eyes, nose, throat and gut. When the scientists housed mice with low levels of the antibody with mice that had high levels of the antibody, all of the mice ended up with low antibody levels in a few weeks. When they bred the mice, the offspring whose mothers had low levels of the antibody also had low levels.
Eventually, the scientists learned that one of the culprits likely responsible for the spread of low antibody levels is a bacterium called Sutterella. This bacterium and others found in the low-IgA mice could explain both ways that decreased antibody levels were spreading: Mice that were housed together acquired low antibody levels through normal spread of the bacteria, and mouse mothers passed the same bacteria to their descendants.
"As teachers, allowing students to see failure as a negative experience is one of the worst things we can do.
Granted, this isn’t unique to education. The idea of risk-taking, failing, looking, leaping, try-try-again is ingrained in our cultural DNA. But in education, we certainly have made it dramatic. In fact, we don’t even need the whole word anymore. Failure erodes to fail, which itself erodes to simply F..."
On average, people pick up their smartphone 221 times a day to do things with it. It's no secret that we are getting more and more addicted to these handsets, but have you wondered what effect that is having on your mind and your body? Scientists are definitely curious and have a few ideas
Many studies show us that our brains prefer storytelling to facts.When we read facts, only the language parts of our brains work to understand the meaning. When we read a story, the language parts of our brains and any other part of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading, light up.This means that it’s easier for us to remember stories than facts. Our brains can't make major distinctions between a story we’re reading about and something we are actually doing....
A soothing neck massage. A splash of cold water. A kiss from someone you love. Each action influences peripheral nerves in your head and face, signaling brain regions to change the way you feel. Thync works using the same pathways by delivering low-level electrical pulses to these nerves.
Every day, your body balances the activity between your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic system is associated with a "fight or flight" response to help regulate your reaction to stress. The parasympathetic system counteracts stress to help you enter a relaxed "rest and digest" mode.
Thync uses neurosignaling to activate specific cranial and peripheral nerves to influence this balance and shift you to a state of calm or give you a boost of energy in minutes.
(Phys.org)—A team of four scientists has published a Perspectives piece in the journal Science outlining their arguments for reaching back further in time than others have suggested for the beginning of the Anthropocene—a geologic epoch defined by the impact of homo sapiens on planet Earth. William Ruddiman, Erle Ellis, Jed Kaplan and Dorian Fuller suggest that current arguments that point to modern exploits overlook the huge impact of forest clearing and farming many thousands of years ago.
Humans have had a major impact on planet Earth, there is no debating that. But have our efforts resulted in an un-reversible geologic impact? And if so, when exactly did it happen? That is what climatologists, geologists and other scientists have been debating for the past several years. Back in 2000 Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer published a paper igniting the debate by coining the word Anthropocene to describe what they felt was the current epoch—where humans are the driving force, instead of nature. They suggested its start was the 1700's because that was when the industrial revolution got going.
Over the past fifteen years, many others have published papers offering their ideas on when the Anthropocene got its start, with some debating whether it ever really did. In this new paper, the authors suggest that if a start date is to be identified it should take into account the massive changes wrought by cutting down forests and the start of agriculture, which they say pushes the date back 11,000 years, or perhaps to the time when humans began wiping out other large animals such as the woolly mammoth, around 50,000 years ago.
The thing that is making it difficult to settle the matter is the absence of a clearly identifiable marker, known as a golden spike, e.g., the comet that killed off the dinosaurs. Some have suggested that scientists finding traces of radiation worldwide from nuclear tests is such a marker, while others point to the finding of carbon ash (due to burning coal) in soils.
A new brain-scanning technique could change the way scientists think about human focus.
Human attention isn’t stable, ever, and it costs us: lives lost when drivers space out, billions of dollars wasted on inefficient work, and mental disorders that hijack focus. Much of the time, people don’t realize they’ve stopped paying attention until it’s too late. This “flight of the mind,” as Virginia Woolf called it, is often beyond conscious control.
So researchers at Princeton set out to build a tool that could show people what their brains are doing in real time, and signal the moments when their minds begin to wander. And they've largely succeeded, a paper published today in the journal Nature Neuroscience reports. The scientists who invented this attention machine, led by professor Nick Turk-Browne, are calling it a “mind booster.” It could, they say, change the way we think about paying attention—and even introduce new ways of treating illnesses like depression.
Here’s how the brain decoder works: You lie down in an a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI)—similar to the MRI machines used to diagnose diseases—which lets scientists track brain activity. Once you're in the scanner, you watch a series of pictures and press a button when you see certain targets. The task is like a video game—the dullest video game in the world, really, which is the point. You see a face, overlaid atop an image of a landscape. Your job is to press a button if the face is female, as it is 90 percent of the time, but not if it’s male. And ignore the landscape. (There’s also a reverse task, in which you’re asked to judge whether the scene is outside or inside, and ignore the faces.)
"Big idea: Teaching kids to ask smart questions on their own
A four-year-old asks on average about 400 questions per day, and an adult hardly asks any. Our school system is structured around rewards for regurgitating the right answer, and not asking smart questions – in fact, it discourages asking questions. With the result that as we grow older, we stop asking questions. Yet asking good questions is essential to find and develop solutions, and an important skill in innovation, strategy, and leadership. So why do we stop asking questions – and more importantly, why don’t we train each other, and our future leaders, to ask the right questions starting from early on?"
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