Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for February 8, 2020

in rsslog •  2 months ago  (edited)

Maxthon browswer announces features for integration with Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BSV); launches $200,000 prize for EOSIO smart contracts that enable processing in a virtual Ethereum-like environment; Facebook AI training method speeds reinforcement learning; New research into mammalian brains' forgetting mechanism; and a Steem essay discusses the benefits and risks of technology advances

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First posted on my Steem blog: SteemIt, SteemPeak*, StemGeeks.


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  1. Maxthon CEO Jeff Chen reveals BSV features of Maxthon 6 - As I posted in Maxthon browser: Mining cryptocurrency by browsing the web?, I have been using the Maxthon broswer, on and off, since the time that it launched in 2005, and even before that in its previous incarnations as MyIE2. If I recall correctly, MyIE2 was the first place that I ever encountered "tabbed browsing", and it has always been an innovative browser. Features that I like in recent incarnations include the ability to split the browser into two side-by-side displays, token mining (like Brave) while browsing the Internet, cloud-based bookmarks, and a cloud-based notepad for sharing notes between devices (like OneNote). My main dissatisfaction in recent years has been that it felt somewhat slow and bloated. As a result, I recently uninstalled it when I realized that my usage had shifted almost entirely to Brave. Now it looks like I'll have to download it again when they release Maxthon 6 with this Bitcoin Satoshi Vision (BSV) tie-in. According to Chen, the new release will include, "a new protocol which will provide an all-in-one solution to fetch and display data saved on blockchain,, and "have a set of APIs, which will allow more developers to develop blockchain applications." Chen also says that alpha-testing will begin in late February and beta-testing will begin in March. It's not clear to me what this means for the "lives tokens" from the MX5 version of the browser, but last time I looked they were basically worthless, anyway.

  2. Puts $200,000 Up for Grabs in Puzzle Smart Contract Challenge - is offering $200,000 as a prize in a contest for an EOSIO smart contract that can "store and invoke EVM (Solidity) Smart Contracts in a virtual Ethereum-like environment". The contest specifies certain technical requirements for the smart contracts, and judges will evaluate entries every 90 days. Ironically, I was just thinking yesterday that Steem communities might be a useful way to bring collective efforts to bear on solving problems like this. Yesterday, I was thinking about it in the context of solving the Kryptos sculpture in the CIA court-yard, which I read about on Bruce Schneier's Blog. I was thinking that it might be fun to get a bunch of cryptographers together in a community and let them reward each other in the form of Steem upvotes for insights that bring the group closer to the solution. Today, it also occurs to me that an SMT or Steem-Engine token could be added to the mix as a share in whatever prize might eventually be received. Perhaps Steem communities could even incentivize the crowd-sourced solution to something like P vs. NP.

  3. Facebook speeds up AI training by culling the weak - As previously covered in Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for January 23, 2020, by using reinforcement learning, Facebook has made recent advances in the ability of its artificial intelligence (AI) systems to navigate without a map. Today's article focuses on the training technique, for which the company is using photorealistic models as training simulators. Because of computational limits for 3D photorealistic models, the company can only run a handful of simulations at a time, and a disproportionate amount of time was being spent waiting for the late-finishing agents to complete their task. The team's insight was that they could speed the training time by terminating the "slowpokes" instead of letting them run to completion. By doing this, they eliminated a great deal of wasted time that was being spent waiting for agents that were doing very little learning, and they sped the training process by an order of magnitude or more, while also achieving a 99% accuracy rate at navigation in their virtual world, called "Habitat". The effort was led by Georgia Tech's Professor Dhruv Batra and PhD student, Erik Wijmans. -h/t Communications of the ACM: Artificial Intelligence

  4. How Does a Mammalian Brain Forget? - In a recent study with mice, Yan Gu, Lang Wang and colleagues have demonstrated that the microglia in the brain seem to play a role in the act of forgetting. Microglia are part of the brain's immune system, and until recently, it was believed that their only task was to eliminate pathogens and dead or dying neurons. More recently, though, researchers are learning that they also accomplish other purposes. During development, it turns out that they shape the brain by trimming excess synapses - connections between neurons. They also seem to play a role in diseases like autism and Alzheimer's. Building on the observations that microglia perform synapse pruning during development and that synapses are important for coding and storage of memories, Gu postulated that the microglia may play a role in forgetting. To test this, the team used drugs to deplete microglia in one group of mice and compared their behavior to a normal group for signs of remembering a mild electric shock. As anticipated, the microglia-depleted mice demonstrated higher memory of the shock. The researchers were also able to use brain scans to find that the regions of the brain that were involved in memory loss seemed to involve the "gobbling up" of synapses by microglia in the hippocampus. Additional work by the team is now directed towards describing the forgetting mechanism in more detail.

  5. STEEM Industrial, scientific and technological developments (pro and con) - This post, by @josevas217 discusses benefits and drawbacks of scientific and technological progress. In particular, the author points out that the industrial revolution, with its improvements in transportation and communications brought great benefits for humanity, but it also brought pollution and modern-day worries over greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, the author points out that social media platforms like Steemit benefit society, but sedentary lifestyles have led to the widespread emergence of Type-2 diabetes among children. The author expresses concern, then, that future advances may bring changes for the better and the worse. The essay is summarized in this excerpt:
    Everything has its pros and cons, the logical thing would be to look for the balance point so that it advances without causing any harm.
    (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @josevas217.)

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On a general note, I have been struck this morning by the realization that more than 5% of global population is presently under quarantine in China today. The impact this will have on research and innovation, that has been one of China's greatest successes of modernization, is profound.

Our technology is dependent not so much on physical devices and tooling, but on the knowledge our people possess. Close to ten percent of human technology just effectively vanished from our world, presently locked behind doors welded shut, apartment buildings with their doors blocked by piles of debris deliberately, and seized by police state thugs and forcibly detained in quarantine centers until they die of Kung Flu.

It's not just our supply chains being severed that will impact us economically in the immediate future. Our wealth of scientists, scholars, and researchers has been slashed by ~10%, and this will have ineffable impact on our ability to respond to and recover from this plague.


Thanks for the comment!

I wasn't aware that so many people were under quarantine. The most recent number I had seen was around 50 million several weeks ago. Still a huge number, but I was not aware that it was anywhere near 5% of global population.

In the medium term, I think that most global companies these days are aware of the need for geographic redundancy, so hopefully the majority will be able to adjust their supply lines in reasonable time frame to respond to the interruption, but I agree that there will be some challenges and disruptions.

I fully agree with your concern regarding the loss of scientists and researchers who are concentrated in the area. I know the mortality rate from the disease is being reported at around 2%, but I'm not sure I believe that number, since it comes through the Great Firewall of China. If the death rate is significantly higher, that could represent a huge loss of intellectual resources.

I worded my comment poorly, implying none recover, which I regret. I am not excused by the fact I was rushed and headed off to work, particularly not on this subject. I meant that these folks aren't able to work now, when we need them most, not that they would be permanently out of the workforce. We don't know what the mortality rate is, but it's worse than we want it to be, and that's surely a terrible tragedy no matter what it is.

The last I heard there were 400 million under quarantine today, including the Bay Area where lies Shenzen. This is basically all of China's first tier cities, where most of the science and manufacturing for export is done.

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Upvote and resteem.

You have brought some very interesting topics here for discussion, no doubt of a global nature, and of transcendence. It is difficult to be aware of everything that is happening, especially if we talk about technology, which is undoubtedly one of the areas of greatest progress at present.

Nice Post :)

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