https://www.forbes.com/sites/tonybradley/2017/07/31/facebook-ai-creates-its-own-language-in-creepy-preview-of-our-potential-future/#5d0126d292c0

Facebook AI Creates Its Own Language In Creepy Preview Of Our Potential Future

British scientist Stephen Hawking warned about the potential tragic consequences of artificial intelligence in 2014. / AFP / NIKLAS HALLE’N (Photo credit should read NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP/Getty Images)

Facebook shut down an artificial intelligence engine after developers discovered that the AI had created its own unique language that humans can’t understand. Researchers at the Facebook AI Research Lab (FAIR) found that the chatbots had deviated from the script and were communicating in a new language developed without human input. It is as concerning as it is amazing – simultaneously a glimpse of both the awesome and horrifying potential of AI.

Artificial Intelligence is not sentient—at least not yet. It may be someday, though – or it may approach something close enough to be dangerous. Ray Kurzweil warned years ago about the technological singularity. The Oxford dictionary defines “the singularity” as, “A hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence and other technologies have become so advanced that humanity undergoes a dramatic and irreversible change.”

To be clear, we aren’t really talking about whether or not Alexa is eavesdropping on your conversations, or whether Siri knows too much about your calendar and location data. There is a massive difference between a voice-enabled digital assistant and an artificial intelligence. These digital assistant platforms are just glorified web search and basic voice interaction tools. The level of “intelligence” is minimal compared to a true machine learning artificial intelligence. Siri and Alexa can’t hold a candle to IBM’s Watson.

Scientists and tech luminaries, including Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Steve Wozniak have warned that AI could lead to tragic unforeseen consequences. Infamous physicist Stephen Hawking cautioned in 2014 that AI could mean the end of the human race. “It would take off on its own and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”

Why is this scary? Think SKYNET from Terminator, or WOPR from War Games. Our entire world is wired and connected. An artificial intelligence will eventually figure that out – and figure out how to collaborate and cooperate with other AI systems. Maybe the AI will determine that mankind is a threat, or that mankind is an inefficient waste of resources – conclusions that seems plausible from a purely logical perspective.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence have phenomenal potential to simplify, accelerate, and improve many aspects of our lives. Computers can ingest and process massive quantities of data and extract patterns and useful information at a rate exponentially faster than humans, and that potential is being explored and developed around the world.

I am not saying the sky is falling. I am not saying we need to pull the plug on all machine learning and artificial intelligence and return to a simpler, more Luddite existence. We do need to proceed with caution, though. We need to closely monitor and understand the self-perpetuating evolution of an artificial intelligence, and always maintain some means of disabling it or shutting it down. If the AI is communicating using a language that only the AI knows, we may not even be able to determine why or how it does what it does, and that might not work out well for mankind.

Read more of my writing at TechSpective.net, and follow me on social media (links at TechSpective). You can contact me directly at tony@techspective.net.

http://fortune.com/2017/07/31/apple-homepod-firmware/

There Are Secrets Hiding Inside Apple’s HomePod Speaker

Apple Just Announced the Rival to Amazon’s Echo
Apple introduced the HomePod, its rival to Amazon’s Echo, at the 2017 WWDC.
Play

Apple’s HomePod smart speaker has some hidden features, according to a developer.

Last week, Apple made the HomePod’s software code publicly available, allowing anyone with some knowledge of applications the opportunity to unpack it and see what features the device might offer. Steve Troughton-Smith did just that, and discovered that the device is running a full version of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system. That suggests that the HomePod could technically come with all of the features offered in an iPhone or iPad.

Digging a bit deeper, Troughton-Smith, whose discoveries were earlier reportedon by Apple-tracking site 9to5Mac, found that the HomePod will not support third-party apps. The feature could be supported in the future by turning on support through the software, but according to the developer, Apple is currently only limiting the HomePod’s features to those it’s developed.

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Apple unveiled the HomePod at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) last month. The HomePod is a speaker featuring a cylindrical design that also comes with a microphone. It’s powered by Apple’s virtual personal assistant Siri, which can be used to turn on music and control certain smart home devices, like a Wi-Fi-connected thermostat. It’s slated to launch in December for $349.

After WWDC last month, Apple (AAPL, -0.62%) let journalists touch and take pictures of the HomePod. And while the device’s functionality is generally straightforward, there’s an LED light at the top that Apple hasn’t said much about. In its unveiling, Apple only suggested that the LED light is there to tell users Siri is activated. It can also be used to adjust audio volume.

In the firmware code, Troughton-Smith found that the area at the top is made up of several LED lights, suggesting it could act as a quasi-screen, giving users more information than simple volume controls.

Apple hasn’t commented further on the HomePod and its features and likely will not until it gets closer to the device’s release later this year.

http://www.kurzweilai.net/a-living-programmable-biocomputing-device-based-on-rna

A living programmable biocomputing device based on RNA

Can sense and analyze multiple complex signals in living cells for future synthetic diagnostics and therapeutics
July 28, 2017
[+]

“Ribocomputing devices” ( yellow) developed by a team at the Wyss Institute can now be used by synthetic biologists to sense and interpret multiple signals in cells and logically instruct their ribosomes (blue and green) to produce different proteins. (credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University)

Synthetic biologists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and associates have developed a living programmable “ribocomputing” device based on networks of precisely designed, self-assembling synthetic RNAs(ribonucleic acid). The RNAs can sense multiple biosignals and make logical decisions to control protein production with high precision.

As reported in Nature, the synthetic biological circuits could be used to produce drugs, fine chemicals, and biofuels or detect disease-causing agents and release therapeutic molecules inside the body. The low-cost diagnostic technologies may even lead to nanomachines capable of hunting down cancer cells or switching off aberrant genes.

Biological logic gates

Similar to a digital circuit, these synthetic biological circuits can process information and make logic-guided decisions, using basic logic operations — AND, OR, and NOT. But instead of detecting voltages, the decisions are based on specific chemicals or proteins, such as toxins in the environment, metabolite levels, or inflammatory signals. The specific ribocomputing parts can be readily designed on a computer.

E. coli bacteria engineered to be ribocomputing devices output a green-glowing protein when they detect a specific set of programmed RNA molecules as input signals (credit: Harvard University)

The research was performed with E. coli bacteria, which regulate the expression of a fluorescent (glowing) reporter protein when the bacteria encounter a specific complex set of intra-cellular stimuli. But the researchers believe ribocomputing devices can work with other host organisms or in extracellular settings.

Previous synthetic biological circuits have only been able to sense a handful of signals, giving them an incomplete picture of conditions in the host cell. They are also built out of different types of molecules, such as DNAs, RNAs, and proteins, that must find, bind, and work together to sense and process signals. Identifying molecules that cooperate well with one another is difficult and makes development of new biological circuits a time-consuming and often unpredictable process.

Brain-like neural networks next

Ribocomputing devices could also be freeze-dried on paper, leading to paper-based biological circuits, including diagnostics that can sense and integrate several disease-relevant signals in a clinical sample, the researchers say.

The next stage of research will focus on the use of RNA “toehold” technology* to produce neural networks within living cells — circuits capable of analyzing a range of excitatory and inhibitory inputs, averaging them, and producing an output once a particular threshold of activity is reached. (Similar to how a neuron averages incoming signals from other neurons.)

Ultimately, researchers hope to induce cells to communicate with one another via programmable molecular signals, forming a truly interactive, brain-like network, according to lead author Alex Green, an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute.

Wyss Institute Core Faculty member Peng Yin, Ph.D., who led the study, is also Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School.

The study was funded by the Wyss Institute’s Molecular Robotics Initiative, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Living Foundries grant, and grants from the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA).

* The team’s approach evolved from its previous development of “toehold switches” in 2014 — programmable hairpin-like nano-structures made of RNA. In principle, RNA toehold wwitches can control the production of a specific protein: when a desired complementary “trigger” RNA, which can be part of the cell’s natural RNA repertoire, is present and binds to the toehold switch, the hairpin structure breaks open. Only then will the cell’s ribosomes get access to the RNA and produce the desired protein.


Wyss Institute | Mechanism of the Toehold Switch


Abstract of Complex cellular logic computation using ribocomputing devices

Synthetic biology aims to develop engineering-driven approaches to the programming of cellular functions that could yield transformative technologies. Synthetic gene circuits that combine DNA, protein, and RNA components have demonstrated a range of functions such as bistability, oscillation, feedback, and logic capabilities. However, it remains challenging to scale up these circuits owing to the limited number of designable, orthogonal, high-performance parts, the empirical and often tedious composition rules, and the requirements for substantial resources for encoding and operation. Here, we report a strategy for constructing RNA-only nanodevices to evaluate complex logic in living cells. Our ‘ribocomputing’ systems are composed of de-novo-designed parts and operate through predictable and designable base-pairing rules, allowing the effective in silico design of computing devices with prescribed configurations and functions in complex cellular environments. These devices operate at the post-transcriptional level and use an extended RNA transcript to co-localize all circuit sensing, computation, signal transduction, and output elements in the same self-assembled molecular complex, which reduces diffusion-mediated signal losses, lowers metabolic cost, and improves circuit reliability. We demonstrate that ribocomputing devices in Escherichia coli can evaluate two-input logic with a dynamic range up to 900-fold and scale them to four-input AND, six-input OR, and a complex 12-input expression (A1 AND A2 AND NOT A1*) OR (B1 AND B2 AND NOT B2*) OR (C1 AND C2) OR (D1 AND D2) OR (E1 AND E2). Successful operation of ribocomputing devices based on programmable RNA interactions suggests that systems employing the same design principles could be implemented in other host organisms or in extracellular settings.

https://news.ubc.ca/2017/07/31/heres-how-you-can-buy-a-little-happiness/

Here’s how you can buy a little happiness

Forbes featured research by Ashley Whillans, now with Harvard Business School, and senior author and UBC psychology professor Elizabeth Dunn.

Dunn explained that if people use money to buy themselves free time, they will experience a significant boost in happiness.

Similar stories appeared on MSNEntrepreneur, and Refinery 29.

https://news.ubc.ca/2017/07/31/breakthrough-software-teaches-computer-characters-to-walk-run-even-play-soccer/

Breakthrough software teaches computer characters to walk, run, even play soccer

Computer characters and eventually robots could learn complex motor skills like walking and running through trial and error, thanks to a milestone algorithm developed by a University of British Columbia researcher.

“We’re creating physically-simulated humans that learn to move with skill and agility through their surroundings,” said Michiel van de Panne, a UBC computer science professor who is presenting this research today at SIGGRAPH 2017, the world’s largest computer graphics and interactive techniques conference. “We’re teaching computer characters to learn to respond to their environment without having to hand-code the required strategies, such as how to maintain balance or plan a path through moving obstacles. Instead, these behaviors can be learned.”

The work, called DeepLoco, offers an alternative way to animate human movement in games and film instead of the current method which makes use of actors and motion capture cameras or animators. DeepLoco allows characters to automatically move in ways that are both realistic and attentive to their surroundings and goals. In the future, two or four-legged robots could learn to navigate through their environment without needing to hand-code the appropriate rules.

Using his algorithm, simulated characters have learned to walk along a narrow path without falling off, to avoid running into people or other moving obstacles, and even to dribble a soccer ball towards a goal.

The method makes advanced use of deep reinforcement learning, a type of machine learning algorithm in which experience is gained through trial and error and is informed by rewards. Over time, the system progressively identifies better actions to take in given situations.

“It’s like learning a new sport,” said van de Panne. “Until you try it, you don’t know what you need to pay attention to. If you’re learning to snowboard, you may not know that you need to distribute your weight in a particular way between your toes and heels. These are strategies that are best learned, as they are very difficult to code or design in any other way.”

The motion of humans and animals is governed not just by physics but also control. While humans learn motor control through trial and error, van de Panne says it’s hard to tell how much the algorithm mimics the human learning process. After all, the computer program still learns much more slowly than a human. He began working on this type of motor learning problem when he had children; they are now 17 and 20.

“I distinctly remember wondering who will learn agile walking and running skills first: my son, daughter or the algorithm?” he said. “My son and daughter beat me by a long shot.”

For more information on DeepLoco, click here.

http://www.businessinsider.com/inside-amazon-warehouse-prime-now-2017-7

Amazon has an oddly efficient way of storing stuff in its warehouses

If you live in one the 27 cities where Amazon offers its Prime Now service, you can have tens of thousands of items delivered to your door in an hour. On a visit to Amazon’s Manhattan Prime Now location, we got a peek at how it stocks its shelves, and it looks like a total mess. But there’s a perfect reason it looks that way, and it’s part of the reason you can get your order in an hour.

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/lifestyle/health-and-wellbeing/300717/lack-of-sleep-can-cause-waistline-to-expand-by-3-centimetres-study.html

Lack of sleep can cause waistline to expand by 3 centimetres: study

The findings showed that people, who were sleeping an average of six hours a night, had a waist measurement that was three cm greater.
Shorter sleep was also linked to reduced levels of HDL cholesterol (Photo: AFP)

 Shorter sleep was also linked to reduced levels of HDL cholesterol (Photo: AFP)

Washington: For a healthy body, you may have to sleep for seven to nine hours daily, as Briton researchers have warned that people who sleep for just six hours a night have a waist measurement that is three cm greater than individuals who get nine hours of sleep.

According to researchers from the University of Leeds in West Yorkshire, England, adults who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic healthsuch as diabetes-major health challenges facing the NHS.

The findings showed that people, who were sleeping an average of six hours a night, had a waist measurement that was three cm greater than individuals who were getting nine hours of sleep a night.

Lead study author Dr Laura Hardie said that not only the team looked at the links between sleep duration, diet and weight, but also other indicators of overall metabolic health such as blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood sugar and thyroid function.

They analysed 1,615 adults who reported how long they slept and kept records of food intake.

The participants had blood samples taken and their weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure recorded.
Another researcher Greg Potter said that obesity contributes to the development of many diseases, most notably Type-2 diabetes.

Shorter sleep was also linked to reduced levels of HDL cholesterol in the participants’ blood-another factor that can cause health problems.

HDL cholesterol is ‘good’ cholesterol that helps remove ‘bad’ fat from the circulation. In doing so, high HDL cholesterol levels protect against conditions such as heart disease.

Senior study author Dr Laura Hardie said that because they found that adults who reported sleeping less than their peers were more likely to be overweight or obese, their findings highlight the importance of getting enough sleep.

“How much sleep we need differs between people, but the current consensus is that seven to nine hours is best for most adults,” Hardie added.

The results appear in the journal PLOS ONE.