The projections for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are alarming, but not all the news is bad. The second installment in this series from UCLA assesses the progress researchers have made in understanding the disease and highlights some promising clinical trials and diagnosis techniques that could slow its progression, possibly the first step towards prevention and cure. Series: “Alzheimer’s Disease Programs”
My brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons, each connecting to other nerve cells through synapses. These interactions process signals entering the nervous system, and then produce output responses that stimulate my bodily functions, everything from thinking to walking to kissing.
Laparoscopic surgery uses minimally invasive incisions—which means less pain and shorter recovery times for patients. But Steven Schwaitzberg has run into two problems teaching these techniques to surgeons around the world—language and distance. He shares how a new technology, which combines video conferencing and a real-time universal translator, could help. (Filmed at TEDxBeaconStreet.)
In a number of developing countries, the relationship between increased resource allocation to the education sector and improved education outcomes is fairly weak. A major finding is that “traditional” education inputs fail to yield the expected positive influence.
There has been a debate on morality brewing of late over at LessWrong. As readers of this blog know, I am not particularly sympathetic to that outlet (despite the fact that two of my collaborators here are either fans or even involved in major ways with them — see how open minded I am?). Largely, this is because I think of the Singularity and related ideas as borderline pseudoscience, and have a hard time taking too seriously a number of other positions and claims made at LW. Still, in this case by friend Michael DeDora, who also writes here [Rationally Speaking], pointed me to two pieces by Eliezer Yudkowsky and one of the other LW authors that I’d like to comment on.
Five years since the great recession engulfed the world, the impact is clear. Millions of middle-class jobs have vanished. Experts now fear those jobs are lost for good - killed by sophisticated technology and smarter software. (Jan. 23) - AP
One iconic image expresses our existential condition: the pale blue dot. That photograph of Earth the Voyager 1 spacecraft took in 1990 from 6 billion kilometers away told us how small we are. What worries me is that dot may be all we ever have, all we can command, for the indefinite future. Humanity could become like rats stuck on the skin of our spherical world, which would look more and more like a trap.
Earlier this month, a report funded by the Greenwall Foundation examined the legal and ethical implications of using biologically enhanced humans on the battlefield. Given the Pentagon's open acknowledgement that it's working to create super-soldiers, this is quickly becoming a pertinent issue. We wanted to learn more, so we contacted one of the study's authors. He told us that the use of cyber-soldiers could very well be interpreted as a violation of international law. Here's why.
Australian transhumanist Adam Ford interviewed IEET Executive Director James J. Hughes at the December 1-2, 2012 Humanity+ meetings in San Francisco, at which Dr. Hughes and many other IEET fellows spoke.
“Occupy Wall Street and Reverend Billy put on one of the largest, most elaborate pieces of street art I’ve ever seen: a mass wedding between humans and corporations on Wall Street, to mark the third anniversary of Citizens United.”
“What to think of the enhancement of man? Researching the fading boundaries between humans and technology. With our technological skills we are busy improving man. Brain implants, prosthetics, gene-technology, designing the human seems within reach. At the University of Twente, philosophers study the fading boundaries between humans and technology, and the best way to deal with this.” - Fast Facts
The idea of artificial slaves - and questions about their tractability - is present not only in the literature of modern times but also extends all the way back to ancient Greek sources; and it is present in the literature and oral history of the early modern period as well. Aristotle is the first to discuss the uses and advantages of the artificial slave in his Politics.
What can transform the lives of millions of children around the world? Education is crucial to develop the world’s most valuable resource: youth. In a world where 61 million children are not in primary school and 25,000 girls are forced into marriage and taken out of the education system each day, it is incumbent upon the international community to close the education gap.
Every child and young adult should have access to learning, so they can acquire the right skillset to succeed in their lives. To achieve this, urgent action is needed. Addressing the problem involves financing schemes, training programmes, teacher development and resource sharing. Most importantly, leadership needs to drive these efforts forward. 2015 remains the goal.
This past December I was at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Society for Risk Analysis. Several sessions focused on emerging technologies governance. Each presentation nominally focused on one technology, mainly synthetic biology and nanotechnology. But most of the ideas discussed applied equally well to any emerging technology.
Yet for all the efficiencies these do engines may provide, they may also carry a significant risk. Evan Selinger, a fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, argues that less friction in our lives may “render us more vulnerable to being automatic,” and eliminate crucial opportunities for moral deliberation. “The digital servant becomes the digital overlord, and we don’t even recognize it.”
“In what he calls the “developmental singularity hypothesis”, Smart proposes that STEM compression, as a driver of accelerating change, must lead cosmic intelligence to a future of highly-miniaturized, accelerated, and local “transcension” to extra-universal domains, rather than to space-faring expansion within our existing universe. The transcension scenario (vs. expansion scenario) proposes that once civilizations saturate their local region of space with their intelligence, they need to leave our visible, macroscopic universe in order to continue exponential growth of complexity and intelligence, and thus disappear from this universe, thus explaining the Fermi Paradox. Developments in astrobiology make this a testable hypothesis. A related proposal may be found in the selfish biocosm hypothesis of complexity theorist James N. Gardner.” - Adam Ford
Oh my, I thought I was done for a while chastising skeptics like SamHarris on the relationship between philosophy, science and morality, and I just found out that my friend Michael Shermer has incurred a similar (though not quite as egregious as Harris’) bit of questionable thinking. As I explained in my review of Harris’ book for Skeptic, one learns precisely nothing about morality by reading The Moral Landscape. Indeed, one’s time on that topic is much better spent by leafing through Michael Sandel’s On Justice, for example.
In 2012, superstorm Sandy pummeled the East Coast to the tune of $50 to $60 billion in damage. A record-breaking drought wiped out almost a third of the nation’s corn crop,resulting in roughly $18 billion in losses. The Arctic ice cap shrank to a record minimum, decades ahead of the projections made by climate scientists as recently as 2007. In short, 2012 was the year that climate change made its impact, more than any other year in modern history. Worse, it’s just the beginning — a small taste of what’s to come.
“WheeMe by DreamBots is a palm size robot that gently massages and caresses as it moves slowly across your body. Embodying unique sensor technology, WheeMe automatically steers itself over your body without falling off or losing its grip in most cases. As it moves, WheeMe’s four small wheels and the rotor finger gently press and caress providing a delightful sense of bodily pleasure.” - wheeme.com
As we head into a new year, the guardians of traditional religion are ramping up efforts to keep their flocks—or, in crass economic terms, to retain market share. Some Christians have turned to soul searching while others have turned to marketing. Last fall, the LDS church spent millions on billboards, bus banners, and Facebook ads touting “I’m a Mormon.” In Canada, the Catholic Church has launched a “Come Home” marketing campaign. The Southern Baptists Convention voted to rebrand themselves. A hipster mega-church in Seattle combines smart advertising with sales force training for members and a strategy the Catholics have emphasized for centuries: competitive breeding.
New Google hire and renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil sums up how technologies might play out over the next two decades with this claim: “If you remain in good health for 20 more years, you may never die.”
Kim Souzzi, a young woman diagnosed with brain cancer while studying neuroscience at college, passed away early in the morning of January 17th, at the age of 23. She was successfully cryo-preserved at Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Alcor CEO Max More said that there will be a summary of her stand by and preservation posted in the coming days on the Alcor blog: http://www.alcor.org/blog/
Josh Trank and Matt Landis’ 2012 film Chronicle provides an audience with what is ostensibly newly broken ground in the superhero genre. But even slightly scrape this outer facade and what one begins to see is a detailed - yet unvocalised - discussion on the ethical and moral standpoints occupied by trans-human characters within a definitively human social structure.
Albert Einstein famously asserted that “we will not solve present problems with the same thinking that created them”, so pointing out that the problems we now face—problems like climate change, rising income inequality, financial crises, resource depletion, and so on—are the product of old ways of thinking. The problems remain unsolved, in other words, only because our thinking hasn’t yet caught up. So it’s our thinking that needs to change.
“UC Riverside Assistant Professor David Kisailus is researching a marine snail called chiton to to create less costly and more efficient nanoscale materials to improve solar cells and lithium-ion batteries” - UC Riverside
“Joscha Bach, Ph.D. is an AI researcher who worked and published about cognitive architectures, mental representation, emotion, social modeling, and multi-agent systems. He earned his Ph.D. in cognitive science from the University of Osnabrück, Germany, and has built computational models of motivated decision making, perception, categorization, and concept-formation. He is especially interested in the philosophy of AI and in the augmentation of the human mind.
Joscha has taught computer science, AI, and cognitive science at the Humboldt-University of Berlin and the Institute for Cognitive Science at Osnabrück. His book “Principles of Synthetic Intelligence” (Oxford University Press) is available on amazon now: http://www.amazon.com/Principles-Synthetic-Intelligence-PSI-Architectures/dp/...” - Adam Ford