Microsoft researchers make progress towards longer lasting, less expensive storage technology; China becoming more welcoming for private and public blockchain; An argument that actual dystopia may look more like Minority Report than The Terminator.; Artificial intelligence on the job to identify the subjects of Civil War photographs; and a Steem essay reporting on new research about intermittent fasting
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- Microsoft researchers used a laser to encode Warner Bros. 'Superman' on a piece of glass, and the results are striking - In an effort to enable storage of information for longer times and lower costs, Microsoft has encoded the entire 1978 movie, Superman, onto a piece of glass that is 7.5 cm in length (presumably square), and 2 mm in thickness. The medium is designed to withstand being baked in an oven, scratched with steel wool, microwaved, demagnetized, or exposed to other environmental threats. The device was encoded through the use of extremely short laser pulses that are produced by a femtosecond laser. This allows for an extraordinarily high level of detail. One goal, according to the researchers, is to eliminate the cycle of copying data forward as storage media formats change. Another system can decode the data using a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and optical technologies. Microsoft's Mark Russinovich said, "I'm not saying all of the questions have been fully answered, but it looks like we're now in a phase where we're working on refinement and experimentation, rather asking the question 'can we do it?'".
- China Is Opening Doors to Blockchain — Private and Public - China launched its first blockchain industrial park in 2016 and several more since then. In the last few years, the country has also notched the most blockchain related patents, with a total exceeding 6,000. Additionally, the country has - what may be - the largest secondary market for blockchain in the world, which attracts projects from around the globe. However, the country also has a history of cracking down aggressively on perceived blockchain abuse. On top of China's present strengths in the blockchain sector, signs also point to a positive future. Colleges and tech schools are already offering courses in blockchain, and China's President Xi made positive comments about the technology in October. Most of the current blockchain projects in China are permissioned, but the article suggests that China is also becoming more welcoming for permissionless blockchains due to the perceived importance of decentralization.
- Dystopia Is Arriving in Stages - The article points out that a critical component of emotional quotient (EQ) is the ability to leave some thoughts unstated and argues that everyone has some thoughts that would even shock the people with whom we are closest. Because of that, it says that developing mind-reading technologies is dangerous in the absence of a framework for control. However, the article argues that this danger is already emerging. Stage I, it says, comes from social media and its ability to manipulate people's thoughts, beliefs, and even behaviors. Stage II arises in the announcements from several companies that are implementing brain-computer interfaces. Those sorts of devices are well-intentioned and hold great promise for some people, particularly those suffering from mobility impairments, but they also have potential for abuse from unscrupulous advertisers, employers, or government officials. In short, the article argues that the dystopian future of technology looks more like, Minority Report than The Terminator. The author suggests that there is always an arms race between technology and its abusive uses, and foresees a time when society will be confronted with a need to respond to abuses of mind-reading technologies. h/t RealClear Science
- How Artificial Intelligence Is Helping Identify Thousands of Unknown Civil War Soldiers - The Civil War was the first war American war that was widely photographed, but a collectible market for Civil War photos is a somewhat recent development. Photos began migrating from families of descendants to collectors around 1961. During the migration, many of the links between the photos and the identifying information got lost. As a result, Kurt Luther launched the Civil War Photo Sleuth site to help collectors (and families) identify the subjects of the photos. The site uses a 27 point face-matching scheme and along with information that's entered by the user in order to try to match a photo with known images. Luther and his team estimate that the accuracy rate is between 75 and 80%. The site launched in August of 2018. In its time of operation, 30,000 photos have been uploaded and 3,300 identifications have been made. Beyond reclaiming lost historical knowledge, this capability is also useful for collectors because photos that are matched with an individual's name gain about 50% in value.
- STEEM New Research Reaffirms Potential Benefits of Intermittent Fasting - In this post, @doitvoluntarily reports on new research adding to the body of evidence that intermittent fasting (IMF) can increase longevity. The work was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on December 26. The authors are Rafael de Cabo and Mark P. Mattson. Mattson has been researching IMF for more than 20 years and also engages in the practice in his own life. According to Mattson, IMF is usually practiced in one of two ways, by avoiding food for all but 6-8 hours per day, or by reducing food intake to a single, moderate sized meal on 2 of 7 days each week. In addition to longevity, other possible benefits include reductions in inflammation and improvements in blood sugar regulation. Although it may be hard for people to adopt a new diet, @doitvoluntarily suggests that the benefits are real, and this is a case where science and religion intersect - as religions have been practicing fasting as a ritual for many centuries. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @doitvoluntarily.)
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