Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for January 3, 2020

in rsslog •  7 months ago 

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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  1. 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?'".

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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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It would be difficult to point to an empire more dedicated to centralization and authoritarian rule than China, today, or ever. As a result I have zero expectation of decentralized permissionless DLTs to be developed there, or to be tolerated at all.

"...perceived blockchain abuse."

In China's view, any security from institutional control is abuse. Blockchain can be used for good or ill, like any tool, and if freedom is good, China intends only ill.

As a child I learned to trap in Alaska. When I checked my traps, I eagerly anticipated the loving hugs and kisses the fur bearers I caught would shower me with when I freed them from their iron bonds.

Well, no I didn't. The savage predators I caught were utterly brutal at the best of times, and trapped and injured, multiplied their viciousness incalculably. I would sooner expect hugs and kisses from Martens in leg traps than permissionless blockchains from China.

This leads directly to the discussion of dystopia. My researches of late have revealed the fact that brain size of modern H. sapiens is dramatically reduced since the LGM. When we were faced with the conditions during the ice age, our individual merit was far more crucial to the survival of our progeny, and our evolutionary pressures today penalize that very merit that was once crucial to our success.

We have been domesticated, and like the rest of our domesticates, have suffered reduced competence that necessitates our dependence on our husbands. Absent dramatic changes in the evolutionary pressures we are under, this trend will continue. Notably, H. sapiens is being forcibly rendered infertile, and already today 'civilized' men have >60% less testosterone than their fathers did. In Switzerland, a country which avoided the economic degradation of both WWI and WWII, enabling it to relatively prosper, men today average penises ~1/2" shorter than previous generations.

Chemical castration of humanity largely is complete, and dramatically reforms our sexual inheritance mechanisms, which has practically unimaginable consequences socially and personally. As much as men have been disposable throughout history, it is about to become exponentially worse.

Surveillance is a two edged sword, and if the men that have been targeted for castration are apprised of this prospect, I expect the consequences of that information to preclude the imposition of institutional mechanisms able to support Minority Report like society.

At least, that is my intention.


It's a shame about China's authoritarianism. I had hope for them to liberalize during the '90s. Not so much, any more. I had similar skeptical thoughts to yours on the idea of them embracing decentralized blockchain.

Good point about domestication of humans. That's an interesting and useful model for it. You see the same sort of loss of capability when you look at historical literature or materials from grammar-school classrooms in the early 20th century. I don't know if it has to do with brain size or dependence on digital devices or both, but it really seems to me that people today are, on average, less knowledgeable than people 100-150 years ago.


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