David Brin here, coming back for one of my infrequent guest blogs. Amid the election, I’ll alternate political posts (also to be found at http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/) with others about science, fiction and the future. And so, for relief, let’s have a miscellany of cool techie stuff!
The Fermi Paradox is the question of why we seem to be alone in our neck of the universe. Why don’t we observe any blatant signs of intelligent life in the cosmos, including the great works that our own descendants may begin to build, if we give them a good start in the right direction?
I want to share with you an excerpt from a conversation I recently had with a woman I very much respect. Lenore Ealy is one of America’s premier theoreticians on the nature and prospects for enlightened philanthropy.
Konza Technology City is a project planned to create an African Silicon Valley in Nairobi,Kenya. Dubbed the Silicon Savannah the vision for the city includes a strong emphasis on Information Technology and Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES); and a wide range of commercial and support activities.
Over the last decade, six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies were in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, there are troubling indicators that this exponential growth has not resulted in robust growth of “good” jobs.
One of the things that’s so remarkable about Lana’s address—in addition to its artlessness, the result of her first major stint as a public speaker—is the way it addresses the inadequacy of everything from the gender binary, to our media culture, to the language we use to describe ourselves. She’s supporting HRC’s work even as she’s calling out the limitations of the current conversation about and tools for advancing equality. When she first uses the term “transition” to describe her physical transformation, she notes that “this is a very complicated word for me because of its complicity in a binary gender dynamic that I am not particularly comfortable with.” Lana explains that she has a horror of talk show culture because she can’t stand the idea of dealing with a host “whose sympathy underscores the inherent tragedy of my life as a transgendered person.” Recounting an incident in which her mother rescued her from the abuse of a nun at her Catholic school, Lana says that when her mother asked for an explanation of what happened, Lana explains “I have no real language to describe it…I am unable to understand why she can’t see me” And given the flights of imagination in her movies, Lana explains how difficult it was, as a child, to feel like “I was stupid and a liar because I myself was unable to imagine a world where I would ever fit in.” The world, in so many ways, is not enough. And the tools we have to improve it can only take us so far.
Lana’s explanation of her own approach to her coming-out process is also novel in an era when coming-out stories have become a highly valuable commodity with an established roll-out process. She’s approaching it from an extremely different angle, from the perspective of someone who has carefully guarded all aspects of her life to the extent of doing almost no publicity for her movies with her brother. “I couldn’t find anyone like me in the world and it seemed that my dreams were foreclosed simply because my gender was less typical than others,” she says of her childhood. “If I can be that person for someone else, then the sacrifice of my private civic life may have value.” Alyssa Rosenberg
A team of scientists at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and the Oregon Health & Science University are reporting a remarkable advance in the treatment of inherited genetic disease in the journal Nature.
An aggregation of irrelevant data is far from irrelevant; some forms of privacy don’t depend on it being illegal to know certain things, but on it being illegal to correlate — that is, to think orderly about — them.
The new advancement in lightweight body armor is the result of research that Army and University of Delaware scientists began more than a decade ago. ARL Inside explores the development and testing of shear thickening fluid, a nanotechnology invention that, when applied to fabric like Kevlar, for example, prevents pointed weapons like spikes or ice picks from penetrating between its yarns, and generally helps to hold yarns and fibers in place during attacks from pointed weapons or projectiles. Someday, researchers say, this liquid could be used to treat Soldier uniforms, particularly sleeves and pants, which are not protected by ballistic vests, and have to stay flexible.
Considering the sheer number of times I get told I’m insane by people who refuse to believe the possibilities I discuss for the various technologies I write about, it’s hard to resist the occasional “I told you so.”
What happens when you mix Sartre’s Existentialism with Existential Risks? Human responsibility and being true to oneself (not lying to oneself) becomes a center point for experts, “leaders”, intellectuals, and all of rational humanity.
The CHARLI series humanoid robot is developed as a research platform to study bipedal walking and autonomous behaviors for humanoid robots. It is designed to be ultra light weight (under 15 kgs) for safety and low cost. As the next generation of the CHARLI series humanoid robots, CHARLI-2 improves stability and speed in walking, intelligence and autonomy, and soccer playing skills. CHARLI-L2 is also designed to participate in the autonomous robot soccer competition, RoboCup, in the Adult size league. CHARLI-2 implements an impressive active stabilization strategy based on sensory feedback (filtered IMU angles, gyro rate readings and proprioception information based on joint encoders.) Stabilizing torques at the ankle joints are applied based on this information, and successful ly rejects external disturbances. CHARLI-2 is honored “2011 Best Invention of the Year” by Time magazine, won the Louis Vuitton Best Humanoid Award (a.k.a. Louis Vuitton Cup) at RoboCup 2011, and won First Place in AdultSize league for autonomous soccer at both RoboCup 2011 and RoboCup 2012 among many awards. And now… CHARLI does Gangnam Style…
The factual and fictional literature of the Renaissance contains references to the creation of artificial humanoids-somewhat remarkable for an era that predates not only the era of cloning and robotics, but also the era of industry. These figures range from images in fictional literature of talking brass heads to discussions of the homunculus by Renaissance natural philosophers and to Jewish legends of the golem.
Imagine living in a world where people use their computers, drive their cars, and communicate with one another simply by thinking. In this stunning and inspiring work, Duke University neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis shares his revolutionary insights into how the brain creates thought and the human sense of self—and how this might be augmented by machines, so that the entire universe will be within our reach.
Beyond Boundaries draws on Nicolelis’s ground-breaking research with monkeys that he taught to control the movements of a robot located halfway around the globe by using brain signals alone. Nicolelis’s work with primates has uncovered a new method for capturing brain function—by recording rich neuronal symphonies rather than the activity of single neurons. His lab is now paving the way for a new treatment for Parkinson’s, silk-thin exoskeletons to grant mobility to the paralyzed, and breathtaking leaps in space exploration, global communication, manufacturing, and more.
Beyond Boundaries promises to reshape our concept of the technological future, to a world filled with promise and hope.
- The evolution of altruism
- Fundamental problems with evolutionary psychology
- John argues with hipster scientist Robert Trivers
- Is the brain like an iPhone or a pocketknife?
- Deceit and misconduct in academia
- George’s upcoming book, “The Cancer Chronicles”
Dr. Ray Hsu is the co-founder of Art Song Lab, a multidisciplinary composition workshop. As an educator, and artist, Dr. Hsu has had a varied and colourful career path. He has written and published two award-winning books, written in over 50 international publications, taught a prison music workshop, and is the editor of Ricepaper Magazine. Ray has appeared on a variety of media, and contributes to several arts boards in the city and across the world.
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