Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for November 3, 2019

in rsslog •  7 months ago  (edited)

A TED talk on software for biological cells; IEEE Spectrum's weekly selection of awesome robot videos; An Op-Ed arguing that super-intelligent artificial intelligence (AI) isn't a credible threat for the foreseeable future; MIT & IBM say AI taking over some jobs, future jobs favor creativity and "soft skills"; and a Steem essay on the topic of oil formation

Fresh and Informative Content Daily: Welcome to my little corner of the blockchain

Straight from my RSS feed
Whatever gets my attention

Links and micro-summaries from my 1000+ daily headlines. I filter them so you don't have to.


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  1. The next software revolution: programming biological cells - This TED talk was posted in July and it came across the RSS feed from on November 1. In the talk, Sara-Jane Dunn argues that the 20th century was dominated by software development in silicon and that the 21st will be dominated by programming biological cells, because this capability will transform medicine, agriculture, and energy - sectors that all dwarf the IT dominated sectors. After laying that groundwork, she goes on to describe work with her colleagues who are trying to understand and harness biological computation. In particular, the research studies the transformation from stem cells into specialized cells. She notes that despite progress in many areas, we still lack a fundamental understanding of the process, so her team developed a tool that can apply software verification principles from computer science to better understand the natural biological programs in our cells. She adds that this is just one building block in the understanding that is needed, so the field needs to continue developing more tools to fully understand biological programming, and her latest project in that direction is to build a compiler for creation of biological software. Lastly, she calls for research in bio-ethics in order to guard against biological malware that might also be created.

  2. Video Friday: DJI's Mavic Mini Is a $400 Palm-Sized Foldable Drone - IEEE Spectrum's weekly selection of awesome robot videos includes: A palm-sized flying drone that can take pictures and videos and flies for about 30 minutes on a single charge; The Jackal unmanned ground vehicle (UVG) has been fitted with a robotic arm; A heavy-lifting cargo drone, Volocopter, that can carry weights up to 440 pounds for a distance up to 25 miles; More videos from the DARPA Subterranean Challenge; A NASA rover that will hunt for water on the moon; some Halloween robot videos; and more

    Here is my favorite

  • We Shouldn’t be Scared by ‘Superintelligent A.I.’ - An Op-Ed in the NY Times by Melanie Mitchell. Mitchell argues that generalized intelligence is still decades or even centuries away from reality, and also that intelligence is such a complex phenomenon that a "super intellignce" cannot develop in a vacuum. It must be guided by "common sense, values, and social judgement" which are necessary for complex intelligence, and which will be supplied to it by human society. The essay goes on to argue that a super-intelligence may never exist, because human so-called "shortcomings" have been crafted by evolution to serve a purpose, and they may also be necessary characteristic of complex machine intelligence. This concept is illustrated by a quote from Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, where Douglas Hofstadter asked, "Will a thinking computer be able to add fast?" The human brain has made tradeoffs in order to accommodate generalized thinking, and it may be necessary for intelligent machines to make the same tradeoffs. h/t Communications of the ACM

  • IBM: AI will change every job and increase demand for creative skills - This week, the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab released a report, The Future of Work: How New Technologies Are Transforming Tasks. In the report, they noted a small decline from 2010 to 2017 in the number of tasks that job postings are seeking employees to complete, and noted that the missing tasks are now being automated by AI systems. As those jobs disappear, the report also suggests that other jobs will gain ground. In particular, "jobs that require physical flexibility, common sense judgment, or spoke language skills will become more valuable and higher paid." The report says that middle-tier workers will be the most impacted, and that workers and businesses still have time to prepare for the coming shift by overhauling Human Resources, rethinking training, and refining job categories. h/t Communications of the ACM

  • STEEM Let's talk about petroleum // origin and formation - In this essay, petroleum engineer, @carlos84 discusses two competing theories for oil creation. The organic theory suggests that the oil found in the ground was created by decaying animal and vegetable materials. Necessary conditions for this to occur include the absence of air, high temperatures, and the existence of the source plant or animal material. Additionally, the process can be accelerated in the presence of certain microorganisms. The second theory is that oil is created through inorganic chemical processes. @carlos84 says that this theory is not widely believed, and @carlos84 thinks its unlikely because it is purely hypothetical. We have not been able to observe it under natural conditions or to duplicate it in the laboratory. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @carlos84.)

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    Thank you friends for including my publication about the origin and formation of petroleum in the summary of science and technology that you carry out

    You're welcome. And thank you for the interesting post, too. I have been curious about the possibility of abiotic oil for a while, so I especially appreciated reading your perspective on that topic.

    Biological malware is something long undertaken by various governments today. Ethics is probably not much of a factor considered by those producing it.


    The advent of CRISPR is the event of our age, the signal tech of the 21st Century. The actual developments that will ensue will result in a future beyond reckoning. The list of industries mentioned by Ms. Dunn is woefully short. There is no aspect of our lives CRISPR will not radically change shortly. Pharmaceuticals, health care, construction, species preservation/environmental activism, politics, security, war, finance, the list of ways I have considered CRISPR being used to disrupt industry is almost longer than I can recall off the top of my head.

    The key aspect of the science is that, like coding software for computers, it's something you can learn young, at home, and do cutting edge work while living in your mom's basement. It's not something that can be centrally controlled, or banned by government. It's in the wild now, and smart people are doing it today. In the 1980s we didn't have many problems with hackers. We didn't have Android or IOS phones either.

    CRISPR is gonna make a far larger splash in a decade or two, just as it took a decade or two for computer programmers to impact the masses, but programmers were limited by hardware that was being incrementally developed. Biohackers aren't. Billions of years of evolution has enabled their hardware to already possess illimitable capabilities, and all they have to do is learn how to use it.

    It's gonna be amazing.


    Edit: I just watched Dunn's talk, and I have to note that she is incredibly naive. She actually says you can't do this from a garden shed, when the documentary 'Unnatural selection' is basically about people doing exactly that today. Ivory tower intellectual? I dunno, but she's wrong about that, and probably a lot more.

    I haven't read a whole lot about CRISPR - just enough to be peripherally aware of it. I'll have to start paying more attention to it in my RSS feeed. Thanks for the feedback!

    It's basically a magic knife that allows you to insert DNA at any site in any genome. It's very simple to use. The only complex thing about it is knowing what to insert where to achieve a particular goal. The cost of the equipment is negligible, and is easy to get and deploy.

    For the cost of a weekend stay at a hotel you could take a course (that supplied all necessary hardware and research materials) that teaches you how to genetically engineer yourself. Not even joking. Thousands of people are doing this today. People are making custom yeasts for brewing beer. People are making dogs that glow in the dark, and curing AIDS (oddly, that guy 'died' during the filming of 'Unnatural Selection'. Plenty of suspects, none of whom seem to be the NIH, CDC, or WHO). These are topics covered in the documentary 'Unnatural Selection', but there are also people doing whatever they want to whatever they want to do it to, and if they don't tell us we won't know, because there's no way to find out what they're doing in their bathroom, or garden shed.

    One prediction I will make now: some people will grow antlers, just because they can.

    Interesting. I see that the documentary is available on Netflix. I hadn't heard of it before your comments. I'll have to check it out.

    Given what I have seen of human nature, I'm inclined to believe your prediction. And after that, maybe we'll have crowds of people on Steem who dedicate a month to sharing photos of their antlers. ; -)

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