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Mark Bruce
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Rationally Considering Autonomous Weapons and Ethics

This article from IEEE Spectrum presents one of the more rational discussions and counterpoints to the whole banning autonomous weapons theme in recent weeks. We Should Not Ban ‘Killer Robots’ and Here’s Why http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/artificial-intelligence/we-should-not-ban-killer-robots. The article builds on and extends my own thoughts and feelings on the topic that I first described here https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MarkBruce/posts/dvsWMFLV9Vi, agreeing that autonomous weapons are a bad thing but there is no way of stopping their development and likely deployment. It asks whether autonomous weapons on the battlefield are in fact more ethical than the alternatives given they may lead to significantly reduced casualties, both combat and most importantly civilian, particularly with the hypothetical ability of autonomous weapons to follow far stricter rules of engagement better than any human. 

A few quotes:

The barriers keeping people from developing this kind of system are just too low.

What we really need, then, is a way of making autonomous armed robots ethical, because we’re not going to be able to prevent them from existing.

If autonomous armed robots really do have at least the potential reduce casualties, aren’t we then ethically obligated to develop them?

Blaming technology for the decisions that we make involving it is at best counterproductive and at worst nonsensical. Any technology can be used for evil, and many technologies that were developed to kill people are now responsible for some of our greatest achievements, from harnessing nuclear power to riding a ballistic missile into space.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me regarding this issue and the open letter that sparked this larger awareness and debate is how polarising it has been, and how many people seem incapable of rationally discussing the issues, instead preferring to assume an air of moral superiority while shouting down all who dare to question otherwise. 

Philosophy and Ethics in Autonomous Vehicles

In a closely related area concerning the behaviour of autonomous vehicles on our roads I was recently involved in a discussion thread where I mentioned that philosophical “Trolley Problems” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem) would have to be tackled at some point with regard to the operation of these vehicles. The most basic example is when you flick a switch that results in one person being killed in order to save many people from being killed.

And, of course, we see this week that a great many people are already working on this problem with this summary article How to Help Self-Driving Cars Make Ethical Decisions http://www.technologyreview.com/news/539731/how-to-help-self-driving-cars-make-ethical-decisions/. Again, as a simplistic example, if a young child runs onto the road in front of an autonomous passenger vehicle before it can stop, should the vehicle swerve into on-coming traffic to avoid the child? 

A few quotes:

Given the number of fatal traffic accidents that involve human error today, it could be considered unethical to introduce self-driving technology too slowly.

If you look at airbags, for example, inherent in that technology is the assumption that you’re going to save a lot of lives, and only kill a few.

As one of the commenters notes, the system becomes even better when all vehicles on the road are autonomous and able to communicate with each other: for example if a car swerves into on-coming traffic to miss a child then the on-coming traffic will know this and can react instantly and swerve to make room for the vehicle. 

#autonomous   #weapons   #vehicles  
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+Karlheinz Agsteiner the open letter does indeed call for banning them altogether. But because the barriers to creating these things will be so low the attempt to ban their development and eventual existence seems like futile wishful thinking. 

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Aye +bek, it is indeed :-/

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I'm inclined to agree +James Field but ask what recourse do we have? Do we hope that a benevolent superpower attains a strategic advantage with autonomous weapons and then uses that strategic advantage to enforce ethical use there-of against those who do not? 

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I half-agree with you that it is a weak argument +Ninja On Rye. In one sense I'm predominantly focused on their development and eventual existence, which this ban seeks to prevent and which won't work for that reason. I think you're more referring to their use (not their development) but please correct me if I'm wrong, in which case they might be approached like chemical weapons and existing autonomous weapons like mines that have bans on their use (which have already been developed and in some small cases continue to be so any ban on their development didn't work).

But here's the thing: both mines and chemical weapons still get used in small parts of the world. Places like the middle east for example. Hell even Russia used chemical weapons on its own citizens (collateral) during that theater siege a couple of years ago. So in another instance they are still used anyway. You tend to see these things used by smaller states and in very niche areas. And it does make me wonder whether the reason they are not more widely used in modern warfare by modern military powers is because they simply aren't that effective in delivering strategic or tactical advantage for the sorts on conflicts that have been common for some time. E.g. what use for chemical weapons without large concentrations of many troops and what use for mines when you're sending in your own contractors to rebuild the place afterwards? Nuclear weapons are banned too; those stockpiles aren't really getting any smaller, ready to be used in dire scenarios, and new states (Iran) still desire them. 
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 30/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/07/brain-inspired-networking-scene.html 

Brain inspired networking, Scene description, Bacteria vs cancer, Deep learning genetics, Sophisticated DNA origami, Graphene on silicon, Viral immune aging, Stretchy conducting fibers, Biomimicking solar cells, Useful metal foams. 

1. Better Brain-Inspired Networking
New fundamental insights into how the growing brain develops neural networks through variable rates of synaptic pruning have led to the development of algorithms for building efficient computer networking architectures http://www.salk.edu/news/pressrelease_details.php?press_id=2096. Simulations of such networks suggest that they are more efficient than current computer networks, allowing more direct information flows, multiple paths to reach destinations, and reduced risk of network failure. 

2. Image Recognition and Scene Description
Here’s an interesting and accessible update article on Stanford’s NeuralTalk algorithm that can analyse images, recognise objects in them, and describe the scene in natural language with regards to the relation between different objects and their number http://www.theverge.com/2015/7/17/8985699/stanford-neural-networks-image-recognition-google-study. This work continues to be developed and there are now far more examples of its use; it isn’t perfect and doesn’t yet work in all situations reliably but the results are impressive nonetheless and realtime relevant applications such as for autonomous vehicle operation are also being explored. In related news object recognition for robots takes a step forward http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/object-recognition-robots-0724

3. Bacteria that Kill Cancer Cells
An interesting twist on modern cancer immunotherapies involves the use of engineered bacterial strains that attack tumour cells by entering them and subsequently thrive and replicate in the low-oxygen environments that are usually present http://www.newsweek.com/programming-bacteria-kill-cancer-cells-355474. This whole field began with the observation that surgical tumour-removal patients were more likely to recover if they developed post-surgical infection. Engineered bacterial strains are designed to retain efficiency while reducing overall human toxicity. It’s also interesting to think about this in the sense of a lethal form of endosymbiosis. 

4. Deep Learning: Genetics and Sketching
A couple of interesting deep learning advances this week. First, Deep Genomics launches to offer advanced personalised medicine and genome analysis services to better predict the consequences of certain mutations on a person’s health http://www.deepgenomics.com/news/2015/7/22/meet-deep-genomics-a-start-up-bringing-the-power-of-deep-learning-to-genomics. Second, the Sketch-a-Net system demonstrated that it can correctly identify the subject of a line-drawn sketch better than a human can http://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/news/items/se/159633.html. In related news deep learning can recognise faces from just thermal images http://www.technologyreview.com/view/539656/deep-neural-nets-can-now-recognize-your-face-in-thermal-images/

5. Increasing Sophistication of DNA Origami
Improvements in computer aided design of 3D DNA origami structures now make it easier than ever to create custom, atomically-precise, 3D DNA origami materials http://www.theverge.com/2015/7/22/9013851/dna-nanotechnology-origami-3d-printing-automation-bunny. The algorithms will take an arbitrary 3D shape, optimise the interlocking DNA scaffolding to realise the shape at the nanoscale and determine the best DNA sequences that need to be produced in order to form the structures; in the example demonstration these included bunny rabbits, nanotubes, toruses, humanoids, icosahedra and other things. In the same week another group also pushed the boundaries with their 2D and 3D DNA origami patterns http://phys.org/news/2015-07-rare-built-dna-emerge.html.

6. Graphene-on-Silicon Innovations
A new wafer-scale ion-implantation synthesis method has demonstrated a simple and scalable way to produce uniform graphene sheets on silicon, potentially enabling integrated circuits that can more readily dissipate heat http://phys.org/news/2015-07-easy-scalable-method-graphene-silicon.html. In other work graphene on silicon creates a near frictionless surface in which two surfaces can slide past each other smoothly when separated by nanodiamond clusters that encase themselves in graphene nanoscrolls http://phys.org/news/2015-07-simulations-near-frictionless-material.html

7. Why Tackle a Virus that Causes No Symptoms
Infection and its recurrence by cytomegalovirus (CMV), which is prevalent throughout most of the population, causes few if any symptoms and so might be innocuous. But chronic life-long infection by this virus activates the immune system on an on-going basis and this leads to aging of the immune system, the accumulation of damage, and contributes to the reduction of immune efficiency with age https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/07/immune-profiling-the-contribution-of-cytomegalovirus-to-aging.php. So there are good reasons for developing therapies and interventions towards such a seemingly harmless virus. 

8. Stretchy, Electrically-Conducting Fibers
A new fiber material has been developed that can reversibly stretch to over 14 times its length while electrical conductivity increases by 200 times when fully stretched http://www.utdallas.edu/news/2015/7/23-31627_Scientists-Stretch-Electrically-Conducting-Fibers-_story-wide.html?WT.mc_id=NewsHomePageCenterColumn. The base fibers consist of a rubber core wrapped in carbon nanotube fibers, and these are engineered with a deliberate buckled structure that helps provide the beneficial properties. The group hope to develop applications in artificial muscles and machine actuators. 

9. Biomimicry Improves Solar Cells
A new solar cell design utilises a surface that mimics the texture and structure of the compound eyes of moths, albeit at much smaller feature sizes of 20nm, in order to exploit anti-reflective properties http://phys.org/news/2015-07-artificial-moth-eyes-silicon-solar.html. The surfaces are self-assembled from block copolymers and effectively reduce light reflections to less than 1% across all visible and near-infrared wavelengths of light. The self-assembly process appears scalable; hopefully this can be applied to commercial grade solar cells and other materials. 

10. Useful Properties for Metal Foams
Lightweight composite metal foam materials are effective at both blocking a range of radiation sources (x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons) and also absorbing high-impact collision energy https://news.ncsu.edu/2015/07/rabiei-foam-rays-2015/. Initial tests were very promising but the group believe further optimisation and improvements are possible, mainly with their lead candidate comprising stainless steel with small amounts of tungsten. Applications include nuclear safety and transportation, space exploration, and medical devices - particularly those that utilise radiation. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/07/brain-inspired-networking-scene.html
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It's good to see that the idea of pruning for network construction is getting attention. Starting out with massively many more connections and less organization and pruning that down to valid and efficient functional organization through interaction with an environment is nature's way to build mature brains. More adaptability and less initial design. This is the path to hard AI.
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The First Autonomous Car Trial in the Southern Hemisphere Will Take Place in My Home City

This news took me completely by surprise today. I really had not expected an Australian trial of autonomous / self-driving vehicles so soon and I especially hadn't expected my home city of Adelaide in South Australia to be the first location in the southern hemisphere chosen for a trial of the future of transportation, to take place this November. Great news and very very happy to hear that it is taking place! 

Additional details and news article here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-21/driverless-car-trials-held-in-adelaide/6636334 

To top it off I saw on the news my state's Premier (head of local government) say some encouraging things about trying to position the state for attracting and building new technology firms in this space, other politicians saying how much safer these vehicles will be, the official announcement was made at a press conference outside of the building where I work, and the trial itself will take place on a stretch of road that is a 10 minute drive from where I live. Truly it is a wonder to see so many politicians so proactive with regards to the deployment of future-enabling technology! 

However, I couldn't help but note with some irony that South Australia (i) currently enjoys the highest unemployment rate of any state in Australia at 8.2% (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-16/sa-records-almost-2000-job-losses-from-regional-areas/6625458) and (ii) looks to be one of the first jurisdictions in the country to proactively legislate for autonomous vehicles and encourage their introduction, which will have (IMO) a predictable impact on that official unemployment rate. We have lots and lots of taxi, truck, and bus drivers like everywhere else. 

Is it too much to hope that these same politicians might consider more radical government policies to position the state to support growing technological unemployment? 

#adelaide   #autonomous   #vehicle  
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I'm guessing the UBI will be paid out strictly in electronic form, and will be one more thing moving us away from using physical currency.  Already we don't even need plastic cards for many of our purchases, and it is possible that one day infrared cameras will be used to read our unique heat signatures for identification.  When even paying via smartfone seems old-fashioned, the whole monetary system becomes just a bunch of numbers -- more than it already was -- and your account balance might as well be represented with a bar graph.

I'm no economist, but I wonder how long our market-based economy will survive after that, before being replaced with something else -- and/or how long we'll continue to use monetary systems.

After automation frees us from wage slavery, indeed we will have a lot more time on our hands.  More people will take an active role in decision-making processes, influencing government like never before...
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 29/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/07/gene-therapy-hearing-single-molecule.html 

Gene therapy hearing, Single molecule transistor, Better metamaterials, Crystal light traps, Optofluidic neural probe, Synthetic foods, New particle phenomena, New CRISPR tools, Memory tracking, Regenerating neuronal axons. 

1. Restoring Hearing with Gene Therapy
Deaf mice have had their hearing restored via a gene therapy that used a standard engineered adeno-associated virus to deliver a correct version of a single gene to sensory hair cells in the cochlea http://vector.childrenshospital.org/2015/07/gene-therapy-restores-hearing-in-deaf-mice/. The mechanistic insights into sound perception are equally nice to consider: the gene encodes a channel protein that sits on the microvilli of sensory hair cells whose deformation due to pressure waves causes the channels to open and allow calcium ions to enter the cell. There are a number of different genes that can cause deafness and this platform might be tailored to correct all of them as needed depending on the genetics of each patient. 

2. Single Molecule Transistor
A basic experimental transistor has been demonstrated that consists of a single phthalocyanine molecule surrounded by a hexagon of 12 indium atoms http://phys.org/news/2015-07-transistor-molecule-atoms.html. At this scale structures are hypersensitive to single electron hops and in this case fabricated with a scanning tunnelling microscope; it turns out that electron flow across the molecule is coupled to the orientation of the surface-bound molecule and is capable of generating large conductance gaps. 

3. Improvements in Metamaterial Designs
A few interesting new metamaterial designs this week. First, a new and incredibly thin carpet cloak has been designed to incorporate periodic teflon and ceramic dielectric structures that can effectively bend light to shield anything beneath the cloak to give the appearance of a flat surface http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/semiconductors/materials/a-slender-bright-invisbility-cloak. This is a two-dimensional metamaterial design and now they just need to make the thing to prove that it works. Second, a new metamaterial design is able to accurately preserve the phase of light while guiding it around sharp corners and abrupt bumps http://phys.org/news/2015-07-clever-cloaks-unique-metamaterials-phase.html. Third, progress towards lossless perfect lenses http://www.mtu.edu/news/stories/2015/july/bringing-back-magic-metamaterials.html

4. Trapping Light in Crystal Granules 
Tiny crystals of hexagonal boron nitride can effectively trap light within their structures http://phys.org/news/2015-07-orbits-intriguing-material.html. Incident light becomes trapped within the material in a form known as a phonon polariton, and at certain resonant frequencies the light adopts simple closed orbits and this produces hot spots of electric fields that form elaborate geometric patterns. The resonant frequencies depend on the physical shape of the crystal and this is an instance of storing light inside a tiny piece of material for extended periods. A nice, elegant new phenomena that we’ll have to wait to see applications for. 

5. Tiny Optofluidic Neural Probe
A tiny flexible neural probe has been developed, a tenth the diameter of a human hair, wirelessly controllable, and able to both deliver drugs to deep inside the brain and also turn on LED lights to switch on optogenetically activated neurons http://neurosciencenews.com/optogenetics-device-neurons-2253/. This new device causes far less damage and displacement compared to existing devices. In experiments it was able to effectively deliver multiple different drugs including gene delivery vectors to the brains of mice and was also able to influence and control behaviour via light activation. Seems to be a great new platform tool for pushing this space forward. 

6. Better “Synthetic” Foods
At some point we’re going to have to drop that “synthetic” label for these new food technologies. First this week was presentations about the ongoing development of 3D printing with foods and the economic and personalised sensation benefits that might accrue http://www.ift.org/newsroom/news-releases/2015/july/13/3d-printers-poised-to-have-major-implications-for-food-manufacturing.aspx. Second, the cost of cultured lab-grown burger meat continues to build on the advance announced in 2013 and is currently projected to decline from $300,000 down to $65 per kilogram http://phys.org/news/2015-07-scientist-texture-lab-produced-hamburger.html

7. Experimental Confirmation of Weyl Point Phenomena
In a nice reduction of theory to practice massless particles with a single point in their energy spectrum , called Weyl points, have been proven to exist experimentally with the aid of new photonic crystal designs http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/Weyl-points-detected-0716. This work was done with microwave light in order to simplify the crystal fabrication but there is no reason visible light couldn’t be used in future. Possible future applications include optical devices, high-power single-mode lasers, and bulk materials or lenses that only allow a certain angle and a certain frequency of light to pass through. 

8. CRISPR with Non-Homologous Insertions and Light Activation
A new CRISPR system can achieve targeted insertion of genetic sequences up to 5,000 base pairs long into mammalian cells via non-homologous end-joining, i.e. without the need to include lengthy homologous sequence arms on each side of the genetic sequence / gene of interest and DNA cut or insertion site http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/07/over-5000-base-pairs-were-inserted-into.html. Other benefits include simpler, cheaper plasmid vectors and while the efficiency of integration was not high there is scope to improve this if needed in future. Another newly engineered form of CRISPR now allows light-activation of the CRISPR machinery for applications such as regulating genes with light for example http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/43255/title/Optogenetics-Meets-CRISPR/

9. Measuring Memory, Improving Memory, and Altering Neuronal Firing
Electrodes implanted into rat brains and measuring activity from place cells in the hippocampus suggest that there are definite gaps in certain types of normal memory, far from the smooth flow that typically characterises memory http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/scientists_watch_rats_string_memories_together. A new type of transcranial direct current stimulation known as transcranial pulsed current stimulation appears to boost neuronal excitability and muscle skill acquisition while transcranial magnetic stimulation appears to show good results in dampening neuronal excitability and associated tinnitus symptoms http://www.kurzweilai.net/could-this-new-electrical-brain-zap-method-help-you-learn-muscle-skills-faster

10. Regenerating Neuronal Axons in Severed Spines
I missed this a couple of weeks ago but switching off or deleting one particular gene was sufficient to induce neuronal regeneration and axon growth in the spines of mice with severed spines http://neurosciencenews.com/corticospinal-axon-regeneration-paralysis-2189/. The neurons were able to bridge the site of injury regardless of whether gene inactivation happened immediately, four months post injury, or one year post injury and are able to form tentative synaptic connections. As a candidate treatment the gene inactivation might be targeted to certain neurons or the specific region of interest. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/07/gene-therapy-hearing-single-molecule.html
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I think if New Horizon turns up some basic science advance or knowledge from analysis of it's data then it would be nice, or the technology that got it there might also be interesting - but the pretty pictures are everywhere.
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Undoubtedly Well-Intentioned. Probably Ineffectual.

The Future of Life Institute has a very well-intentioned open letter out that is seeking a ban on autonomous offensive weapons, and is soliciting signatures from those active in the field of artificial intelligence and related fields: http://futureoflife.org/AI/open_letter_autonomous_weapons

I agree with all of the concerns, risks, and reasons that they list. That autonomous weapons will be possible in years, not decades and that they have the potential to transform warfare to an extent on par with or surpassing gun powder or nuclear weapons. That autonomous weapons will likely quickly filter through black markets and have significant destabilising potential. And that starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea. In addition, while Nick Bostrom hasn’t put his name to this letter I think he is correct in identifying a number of serious risks in developing advanced AIs, especially when combined with weapons technology. 

But I disagree that calling for a ban like this will in any way ameliorate or address those risks; +Kevin Kelly is right, autonomous weapons are inevitable and banning the inevitable sets you backwards https://plus.google.com/u/0/+KevinKelly/posts/ee2uPh2jTpP. I think banning the inevitable only makes things worse and seeking to ban, delay, or put the brakes on only results in giving up your equal footing with everyone else and ceding the advantage to other groups who will continue with it regardless. Banning drives it temporarily underground where you can’t see it and where it might take you by surprise. 

Technological prohibition only postpones the arrival of that technology. In a globally interconnected network of agents, ideas, information, and tools acting as the ecosystem on which the technium evolves, banning a technology in one part of the network will only serve to shift the fitness landscape; the local maxima representing that technology will still be there and it will still be climbed, still be sought out by other areas of the network selecting for it. 

This recent, relevant piece by Aaron Frank Can We Control Our Technological Destiny - Or Are We Just Along For the Ride? http://singularityhub.com/2015/07/12/can-we-control-our-technological-destiny-or-are-we-just-along-for-the-ride/ is also worth considering in this light. This piece reinforces the inherently evolutionary nature of technological development, references prominent thinkers in the field including Susan Blackmore and Kevin Kelly once again, and suggests we humans are not directors of - but merely vehicles for - the evolution and development of the technium via technological memes. If there is one thing evolution has shown time and again it is that it is smarter than we are. Better to co-opt and learn from it, rather than temporarily suppress it. 

Many countries tried to ban GMO crops; GMO crops are everywhere. The USA tried to ban embryonic stem cell research; ESC expertise developed elsewhere anyway before coming back to and being driven by the USA. Even look at simple psychoactive drug compounds, which are banned in most countries and yet available everywhere. And yet here we have a proposal seeking to ban an inherently digital technology, one that can be manipulated and transported much more easily than all of the above. It was John Gilmore who said The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. In a similar way we might say Evolution interprets an adaptive ceiling as pressure and flows around it. 

In addition to this the logic quickly follows cold war MAD-ness. Do we really expect China to trust that the USA military won’t work on developing autonomous weapons, and do we really expect the USA to trust that the Chinese military won’t do the same? It’s a silly question that begs whether a military arms race in autonomous weapons technology is already underway. Especially when, at some point in future, it will incur such trivial little effort to take state of the art AI technology and autonomous drone and robot technology, and recombine these with weapons technology. 

My main worry with such bans is that they risk leaving us worse off, more vulnerable, less protected, less able. I want to see the people on that list, many of whom I’ve heard of and respect, contribute to the evolution of this technology as best as they are able because I think we’re all better off by having those contributions than not. At the very least they would help develop a greater, more robust ecosystem of protective options, from autonomous anti-drone drones to kill switches and methods of evasion. Ultimately a ban seems to risk a very one-sided developmental process; like an animal birthed into a virgin ecosystem and finding itself with no natural predators and able to run ten times as fast as its prey. 

#evolution   #technium   #autonomous   #weapons  
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Let's put it that way : accurately programmed intelligent autonomous weapons should have post-mortem processing, annotated records of mistakes, and mission to never kill humans, or at least, never to kill humans inadvertently. No collateral damage! This already translates to distinguishing feature of legal vs illegal development of IAW. Any LIAW is first of all valued for low mistake rates on the matter of humans being absent from targets.
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Parking this for secret future use. Need the post URL for now. 
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Really nice little walk today.
10 minute drive from home. 
12⁰C - chilly but sunny and invigorating. 
Coffee and hummingbird cake afterwards at a nice little French cafe. 
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Cow!
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Such a tiny, simple, geometric little piece of matter. 
Such a deleterious effect on energy levels and cognitive acuity :(
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+Mark Bruce thanks for this #awesome   image! I liked it so much it is now my phone #wallpaper  !!!
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Alexander Bard: The Power of Creativity in an Ultra Connected World

For some reason the eccentric philosopher +Alexander Bard popped into my head recently and I decided to go binge-watch a playlist of some of his more recent talks. Ever engaging, ever challenging, and always out on the edge of current trends and social phenomena Alexander makes for intellectually stimulating entertainment whether you agree with him or not. 

The Power of Creativity in an Ultra Connected World is the talk that most stuck in my mind and the one that prompted this post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bZhJFBNvDw and a summary of choice excerpts and quotes follows:

The French revolution was really not a revolution, it was just people being able to read and write and spread information between themselves for the first time. People being able to read and write was historically new, something never seen before, and an extremely powerful force. 

Napoleon created the first army hierarchy powered by cannon fodder who could read and write. And this hierarchy was so successful that it was replicated to produce all modern institutions including nation states, bureaucracies, police forces, factories, corporations, schools, hospitals. 

All of our modern institutions are in crisis due to the Internet, which makes hierarchies irrelevant. 

Rene Descartes created the concept of the individual. Bettering yourself is the idea of being an individual. But individuality does not work online; it is the end of individualism. So the revolution began by Descartes and Napoleon over 200 years ago is going to happen all over again. 

The Internet is the revenge of the cannon fodder. The Internet is finally the chance of the cannon fodder to stand up to Napoleon and say “Screw you, we’re taking over.”

Kids today are not individuals; they have multiple online personas and identities . . . a human being is now essentially a smartphone with fat and muscle tissue wrapped around it. 

Creativity from now on is no longer something that a single male patriarch preaches to people. Creativity is the most wonderful fluid thing that occurs between very many people who decide and realise they are being creative together.

I first shared one of Alexander's talks about two and a half years ago here https://plus.google.com/u/0/+MarkBruce/posts/KmseE3VAhVx for the talk titled The Internet Revolution which was along similar themes and also very good. 

My binge also included What if the internet is God? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXA7TewF53w and What if a free and open Internet is the only way to save the planet? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLPAdYcqoK4. Both of these are also good in their own way but I found myself more disagreeable at first before I forced myself to relax, broaden my definitions of certain words and concepts, and just go with the flow to see what nice recombination of ideas might eventuate from Alexander's storytelling. To get the most out of these two talks I'd suggest doing the same. 

#philosophy   #internet   #society  
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Thanks +Ted Holmes - I hope you find Alexander stimulating and entertaining!
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Technology Ratchets and Technology Bans

A nice confluence of two pieces of media I was exposed to in the last 24 hours. 

First, a short thoughtful post The Technology Ratchet by the ever-thoughtful Seth Godin http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/07/the-technology-ratchet.html, with pithy insights on technological adoption, technological demand cycles, the shrinking gap between media consumption and production, and parallels to civil rights ratchets. 

Second, this YouTube video, You Can Ban Drugs, But You Can't Ban Chemistry by journalist Mike Power https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJBCSUIpjcw. Mike discusses Drugs 2.0 and how easy it was to complete his challenge to cheaply outsource the design, manufacture, transport, and sales - anonymously - of a new legal drug not covered by any prohibition laws and mimicking the psychoactive effects of the stimulant drug phenmetrazine https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenmetrazine. It's a wide-ranging talk presented in a story-teller style and covering a variety of areas around drug use, cultivation, production and the ineffectual insanity of prohibition in the face of basic human drives and chemistry technology. 

#technology   #technium   #ratchet  
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Given the ease with which he's demonstrated drug modifications can be made and acquired, it will be interesting to see whether any actual change results.  As Mike remarks, although people previously stated it was easy, there wasn't really anyone doing it until his test.  At what point will people start doing this in serious numbers?  Especially if his scenario of a 6-12 month window of legality potentially generating a large amount of profit?
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 28/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/07/graphene-ultrasound-deepstereo-image.html

Graphene ultrasound, DeepStereo image synthesis, Collaborative smartphone photography, Quantum dot AFM, Gut bacteria computers, Aging repair signals, Multi-brain networking, Mitochondrial gene therapy, Implantable microfluidics, Wireless device charging. 

1. Wideband Ultrasound with Graphene
Tiny ultrasonic wideband microphones have been made with graphene  http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/materials/graphenebased-microphone-provides-rangefinding-capabilities-of-bats. The device represents the first good, scalble, economical, wideband ultrasound transmitter / receiver and was used to create an ultrasonic radio that can be used for wireless communications. Sensitivity is significant, from 20 Hz to 500 kHz (double what a bat can hear) and helped the group accurately record the sounds of bats. Expect applications in imaging, medical, communications, surveillance, remote sensing, drones and robotics. 

2. Google’s DeepStereo Deep Learning Image Synthesis
Google’s latest deep learning advance is an algorithm called DeepStereo that take two images of a scene and synthesise a third image from a different point of view http://www.technologyreview.com/view/539051/googles-deep-learning-machine-learns-to-synthesize-real-world-images/. The system was originally tested for Google Streetview, and worked to synthesise new images in between existing Streetview images in order to create additional frames so that a 25 fps video of Streetview images would run at an acceptable rate and not ridiculously quick; virtually any sequence of images can be turned into smooth running video and it produces images that are difficult to distinguish from originals. Very interesting for producing more complete virtual maps and environments. 

3. Collaborative Photography via Ad Hoc Collections of Smartphones
Possessing a lot of overlap with the DeepStereo item above but worthy of its own entry is the new CamSwarm and PanoSwarm collaborative computational photography software applications for smartphones http://www.technologyreview.com/view/539191/collaborative-photography-app-allows-smartphones-to-record-bullet-time/. This allows one smartphone to easily coordinate an array of other smartphones and their users as a collaborative array of cameras to synchronously capture images and video, for example to generate Matrix-style “bullet-time” videos on the fly. Tools like DeepStereo might help fill in gaps in these ad hoc arrays.

4. Quantum Dot Tips Boost AFM Sensitivity
Scanning Quantum Dot Microscopy is a new imaging technique enabled by attaching a single molecule quantum dot to the tip of an Atomic Force Microscope and allowing ultra-high-resolution sub-nanometer imaging of the electric fields around atoms and molecules http://www.fz-juelich.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/UK/EN/2015/15-07-07prl-sqdm.html. The molecule itself, positioned at the tip, and comprising just 38 atoms, functions like another sensitive balance or cantilever whose tiny movements can be measured as it responds to the tiniest changes in electric field strength of the substrate below. 

5. Engineering Computing Elements into Bacterial Gut Populations
Bacteria have previously been engineered with genetic sensors, memory elements, and circuits but now these tools have been extended to include common gut bacterial species that are present at abundant levels in most people’s intestinal flora, and these have been tested in mice http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/basic-computing-for-bacteria-0709. The bacteria were engineered with an expanded toolkit able to respond to different signals to switch certain genes on and off and to alter specific regions of DNA to record triggered events; in mice the bacteria could be examined to determine what the mice ate. The group will expand to other species of bacteria to account for an even greater proportion of the gut population, aim for establishment of permanent engineered populations in the gut, and help build disease diagnostics and other tools.

6. Signalling Aging and Repair
While introducing new cells is an exciting prospect for repair and rejuvenation therapies, remotely signalling existing cells to do the same preferable in some cases. Examples this week of the latter include (i) isolating vesicles or exosomes secreted by stem cells and introducing these into mice with damaged hearts to significantly boost repair of the heart http://www.templehealth.org/content/newsroom.htm?page_id=11&minor=1&inCtx5pg=0&inCtx5news_id=1375, and (ii) strong evidence that a particular microglobulin molecule plays a major role in cognitive decline and that moving it from circulation in the body would boost neurogenesis and significantly improve cognitive function https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/07/more-on-beta-2-microglobulin-blood-levels-and-aging-resulting-from-parabiosis-research.php

7. Collaborative Networking of Brains
Three monkey brains were networked together as part of a demonstration for multiple brains able to cooperate and solve problems together http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27869-animal-brains-connected-up-to-make-mindmelded-computer.html. The three monkeys, with electrodes implanted into their brains, were able to accurately control a robotic arm by synchronising their thoughts, even when each monkey was restricted to controlling a single linear dimension of the arm’s movement; the work was also replicated in a more complex fashion in rats. In related news a live neurofeedback art experiment has collected real-time EEG data from more than 500 adult humans all wearng BCI headbands https://www.baycrest.org/research-news/crowdsourcing-brain-data-overnight-experiment-creates-social-brain-lab-yields-new-insights-about-speed-of-learning-changes-in-the-brain/

8. Mitochondrial Gene Therapy
The company Gensight has developed a powerful mitochondrial gene therapy platform for delivering correct genes to defective mitochondria and looks set to pull in significant amounts of funding via an public listing https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/07/gensight-developing-a-mitochondrial-repair-therapy.php. This platform delivers correct genes to the cell nucleus but incorporates a specific tag sequence that causes the cell to transport the mRNA transcript to mitochondria (much like most other mitochondrial genes) for translation to functional protein. In addition to treating mitochondrial diseases this is a great platform for treating one of the seven key causes of aging. Regarding aged immune systems, restoring youthful immune function with the use of implanted engineered thymus organoids is showing promise https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2015/07/thymus-organoids-restore-immune-function-in-mice.php

9. Implantable Microfluidics for Drug Delivery
In conjunction with Teva Pharmaceuticals, Microchips Biotech has developed and will commercialise an implantable microfluidic wireless microchip device able to store and release drugs into the body over extended periods of time https://newsoffice.mit.edu/2015/implantable-drug-delivery-microchip-device-0629. The chip represents years of complex testing and development and can be programmed to deliver drugs or else activated by an external wireless device, improving patient compliance and convenience over time. I think the main promise is as a platform that others can develop and use, and I’d like to see it incorporate microfluidics able to sense items from blood and synthesise required drugs / compounds from simple feedstocks present in blood. 

10. Advances in Wireless Charging
A new wireless battery charging system can recharge devices up to half a meter away with an energy efficiency of up to 34% and regardless of the orientation of the device itself http://www.gizmag.com/new-wireless-power-tech-can-charge-multiple-devices-at-once-at-a-distance/38361/. The key innovation here is the agnostic orientation for the charged device. Applications aren’t limited to desks that easily charge phones and laptops, but rather this technology would be very useful for remote drones, robots, sensors, and even charging the implanted devices described above. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/07/graphene-ultrasound-deepstereo-image.html
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Thanks for that YouTube link +Nate Gaylinn - It's a great video that I'd missed! It's not perfect but pretty damn amazing and I wonder how it'll look in a year or two. 

+James Field thanks for the BBC Stargazing Live note - that is brilliant and I had no idea they were doing that either. Very relevant to the computational photography work. 
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Collections Update

I've noticed a few little things concerning follower counts with the new Collections feature and thought I'd share based on +Gideon Rosenblatt's related post a week or so ago. Quick breakdown as follows. 

Science | Nature
Same number of followers. Not surprising considering I don't post to here much. 

Transhumanism | Futurism | Technium
-3 followers. I post here semi-regularly mainly about technological paradigms and the topics in the title. Seems 3 people don't like these topics or at least don't like my transhumanist bent perhaps. Still, this is a pretty broad collection that encompasses a great many things that interest me. 

Society | Culture
-4 followers. I post here every now and then, but not since Collections were introduced I think. In any case 4 people seem to dislike the content and opinions I have here; possibly related to my recent drugs and prohibition post? 

Books | Games
+2000 or so followers. This Collection seems to have been included by Google somewhere for new sign-ups I suspect. I get regular adds here and have had about half a dozen plus-f**ks so far by people going though the list of posts and the odd comment on necro-posts. 

Tech | Projects | Phones
+2700 or so followers. Again this Collection seems to have been included by Goolge somewhere for new sign-ups I suspect. Maybe 10 or so plus-f**ks so far by people going through the list. This is a pretty broad Collection for my personal usage of technology and personal projects I undertake. 

Consciousness | Mind | Philosophy
-1 follower. I post here every now and then. Seems one person dislikes my views and philosophy regarding these topics and doesn't want me polluting their filter-bubble. 

Personal
-17 followers. This is great and is exactly what Collections are for. I post personal stuff here, personal adventures and travels, and other personal items for my day-to-day life. I completely understand how this would be irrelevant and boring to many people who just want tech and science stuff from me. 

Physics | Universe
Same number of followers. Not surprising considering I only occasionally post here. 

SciTech Digest
+2 followers. A couple of people just want to see my weekly summaries, which is cool. 
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Lovely!!!
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A transhumanist and technophile residing in Australia, loving life and avidly looking forward to the future.
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Hi, I’m Mark. I am a unique selfplex of knowledgeable, technophilic, and insatiably-curious memes currently residing on organic wetware with a personable and engaging predisposition, which is acutely aware of being a small but furiously spinning cog in the great meme-machine built by the human civilisation. 
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