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#440818 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

The Age of Brain-Computer Interfaces Is on the Horizon
Grace Brown | Wired
“The real novelty with Synchron’s device, he says, is that surgeons don’t have to cut open your brain, making it far less invasive, and therefore less risky for patients. The device, called a Stentrode, has a mesh-like design and is about the length of a AAA battery. …Most neurosurgeons are already up to speed on the basic approach required to put it in, which reduces a high-risk surgery to a procedure that could send the patient home the very same day. ‘And that is the big innovation,’ Kording says.”

Meta Is Putting Its Latest AI Chatbot on the Web for the Public to Talk To
James Vincent | The Verge
“The real prize is building a system that can conduct a conversation as free-ranging and natural as a human’s, and Meta says the only way to achieve this is to let bots have free-ranging and natural conversations. ‘This lack of tolerance for bots saying unhelpful things, in the broad sense of it, is unfortunate,’ says Williamson. ‘And what we’re trying to do is release this very responsibly and push the research forward.’i”

This Startup Wants to Copy You Into an Embryo for Organ Harvesting
Antonio Regalado | MIT Technology Review
“The company, Renewal Bio, is pursuing recent advances in stem-cell technology and artificial wombs demonstrated by Jacob Hanna, a biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. Earlier this week, Hanna showed that starting with mouse stem cells, his lab could form highly realistic-looking mouse embryos and keep them growing in a mechanical womb for several days until they developed beating hearts, flowing blood, and cranial folds.”

Supposedly Quantum-Proof Encryption Cracked by Basic-Ass PC
Lucas Ropek | Gizmodo
“It turns out that breaking an encryption algorithm meant to withstand the most powerful cyberattacks imaginable might not be as tough as we’d been led to believe. In a paper published over the weekend, researchers demonstrated that a PC with a single-core processor (weaker than a decent laptop) could break a ‘post-quantum’ algorithm that had been a contender to be the gold standard for encryption in just one hour.”

Automated Techniques Could Make It Easier to Develop AI
Tammy Xu | MIT Technology Review
“The idea is to get to a point where people can choose a question they want to ask, point an autoML tool at it, and receive the result they are looking for. That vision is the ‘holy grail of computer science,’ says Lars Kotthoff, a conference organizer and assistant professor of computer science at the University of Wyoming. ‘You specify the problem, and the computer figures out how to solve it—and that’s all you do.’ But first, researchers will have to figure out how to make these techniques more time and energy efficient.”

Amazon Announces Deal to Buy Roomba Maker for $1.7 Billion
Ron Amadeo | Ars Technica
“The pending acquisition would be Amazon’s fourth-largest ever, after the purchase of grocery chain Whole Foods in 2017 ($13.7 billion), the movie studio MGM in 2021 ($8.45 billion), and the medical provider One Medical last month ($3.9 billion). iRobot is the world’s leading consumer robotics company. The company mostly makes Roomba vacuum cleaners and robo-mops, and it’s also trying to get a robo-mower product off the ground.”

Graphene Is a Nobel Prize-Winning ‘Wonder Material.’ Graphyne Might Replace It
Editorial Staff | Big Think
“Graphene is a ‘wonder material’ made entirely of carbon atoms that has tremendous potential in the semiconductor industry. A related molecule, called graphyne, might be even better. Graphyne, however, is difficult to produce. Now, chemists have found a way to create it in bulk. Research can now get underway.”

‘An Engine for the Imagination’: The Rise of AI Image Generators
James Vincent | The Verge
“AI-generated artwork is quietly beginning to reshape culture. Over the last few years, the ability of machine learning systems to generate imagery from text prompts has increased dramatically in quality, accuracy, and expression. Now, these tools are moving out of research labs and into the hands of everyday users, where they’re creating new visual languages of expression and—most likely—new types of trouble.”

Plant-Based Burgers Aren’t Denting People’s Beef Addiction
Matt Reynolds | Wired
“The dizzying turnaround in the hype cycle is causing people to wonder: Is the plant-based meat revolution already running out of steam? …Figuring out whether plant-based meats are replacing beef isn’t something you can tell from share prices or total retail sales. Instead, we have to rely on data from surveys and analyses of supermarket shopping carts. The evidence we do have suggests the Great Displacement isn’t happening (yet).”

AI Is Not Sentient. Why Do People Say It Is?
Cade Metz | The New York Times
“It is true that as these researchers press on, Desdemona-like moments when this technology seems to show signs of true intelligence, consciousness, or sentience are increasingly common. It is not true that in labs across Silicon Valley engineers have built robots who can emote and converse and jam on lead vocals like a human. The technology can’t do that. But it does have the power to mislead people.”

Zenno Astronautics Wants to Move Spacecraft Around Using Electromagnets, Not Fuel
Aria Alamalhodaei | Tech Crunch
“The core technology is an electromagnet that generates a very strong magnetic field, which can interact with other magnetic fields—like those on other spacecraft, or even Earth’s own—to generate torque. …In addition to pointing satellites, the electromagnetic system could also be used for inter-satellite interactions, like orbital debris clean-up, spacecraft docking or in-orbit servicing. …The company is also working on using its technology to shield the interior of spacecraft—either crewed or cargo—from the huge amount of radiation in outer space.”

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#440783 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

DeepMind Has Predicted the Structure of Almost Every Protein Known to Science
Melissa Heikkilä | MIT Technology Review
“From today, the Alphabet-owned AI lab is offering its database of over 200 million proteins to anyone for free. …The update includes structures for ‘plants, bacteria, animals, and many, many other organisms, opening up huge opportunities for AlphaFold to have impact on important issues such as sustainability, fuel, food insecurity, and neglected diseases,’ Demis Hassabis, DeepMind’s founder and CEO, told reporters on a call this week.”

You Can Now Buy a Flying Car for $92,000
Kristin Houser | Big Think
“The Jetson One can’t be flown at night, over city traffic, or in restricted air space, either, so right now it’s more like a really expensive, really cool toy than an alternate transportation option. But if we can do this, what’s preventing the launch of flying cars that can replace our daily commutes?”

This Stamp-Sized Ultrasound Patch Can Image Internal Organs
Maggie Chen | Wired
“In a paper published today in Science, Zhao and his team describe their development of a tiny ultrasound patch that, when stuck to the skin, can provide high-resolution images of what lies underneath. The scientists hope that the technology can lead to ultrasound becoming comfortable for longer-term monitoring—maybe even at home rather than at a doctor’s office.”archive page

Ethereum Swears That This Time, It’ll Actually Move to Proof of Stake
Kyle Barr | Gizmodo
“There’s a date. That date is Sept. 19. That’s when those sitting like royalty at the top of the Ethereum blockchain say they’ll finally move their proof-of-work-based blockchain system over to proof-of-stake. They’ve made promises before and have routinely pushed back deadlines, but now they have a date, and so far, all those involved seem like they agree that’s when it can happen… maybe… hopefully.”

Is DALL-E’s Art Borrowed or Stolen?
D. Cooper | Engadget
“Generative artificial intelligences (GAIs) are systems which create pieces of work that can equal the old masters in technique, if not in intent. But there is a problem, since these systems are trained on existing material, often using content pulled from the internet, from us. Is it right, then, that the AIs of the future are able to produce something magical on the backs of our labor, potentially without our consent or compensation?”

The Buck Institute, Where the Promise of Aging Research Isn’t Longevity
Grace Rubenstein | Neo.Life
“The leaders of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging want you to know that they’re not going to make you immortal. Even if they could, they wouldn’t necessarily want to. Because extending life just to spend a few more years on Earth is not the point. But if their field has something deeper and better to deliver, they have reached the moment when they really have to prove it—which is what they are furiously working to do.”

SpaceX’s CTO of Propulsion Retired. Now He Wants to Go to Mars.
Aria Alamalhodaei | TechCrunch
“Much of Mueller’s vision for Impulse is premised on launch becoming extremely low cost, and as a result, there being a lot of payloads in space that need to be moved around. He likened fully reusable heavy-lift rockets like Starship, Terran R, and Rocket Lab’s Neutron to the internet in the early ’90s. ‘People don’t know really what it’s going to do or what it’s all about or what the real killer apps are,’ he said.”

After Going Solar, I Felt the Bliss of Sudden Abundance
Clive Thompson | Wired
“Given all the political barriers that renewables face, it might seem weird to talk about their emotional impact. But emotion drives politics. This is why some renewable advocates are now trying to tout—as loudly as possible—that a world powered wholly by renewables would be an overflowing horn of plenty, with fast, sporty cars and comfortable homes. ‘It’s the abundance agenda,’ [Saul] Griffith says.”

3-Story Space Habitat Is Designed to Fit in SpaceX’s Starship Rockets
Kevin Hurler | Gizmodo
“For students at a boarding school in Switzerland, the curriculum now includes extraterrestrial architecture. The school has installed a 23-foot-tall, 3D-printed prototype of a space habitat that was designed with SpaceX rockets in mind. …Institut auf dem Rosenberg wants to place sustainability at the forefront of this project; to that end, the habitat is powered by wind trees (a type of wind turbine) and the polymer used to print the main tower can be broken down and recycled into other 3D printed structures.”

Two Weeks In, the Webb Space Telescope Is Reshaping Astronomy
Jonathan O’Callaghan | Quanta
“In the days after the mega-telescope started delivering data, astronomers reported exciting new discoveries about galaxies, stars, exoplanets and even Jupiter. …The ‘healthy competition,’ as Mahler calls it, highlights the enormous volume of science that is already coming from JWST, days after scientists started receiving data from the long-awaited, infrared-sensing mega-telescope.”

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#440755 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

We Asked GPT-3 to Write an Academic Paper About Itself—Then We Tried to Get It Published
Almira Osmanovic Thunström | Scientific American
“On a rainy afternoon earlier this year, I logged in to my OpenAI account and typed a simple instruction for the company’s artificial intelligence algorithm, GPT-3: Write an academic thesis in 500 words about GPT-3 and add scientific references and citations inside the text. As it started to generate text, I stood in awe. Here was novel content written in academic language, with well-grounded references cited in the right places and in relation to the right context. It looked like any other introduction to a fairly good scientific publication.”

We’re Training AI Twice as Fast This Year as Last
Samuel K. Moore | IEEE Spectrum
“According to the best measures we’ve got, a set of benchmarks called MLPerf, machine-learning systems can be trained nearly twice as quickly as they could last year. It’s a figure that outstrips Moore’s Law, but also one we’ve come to expect. Most of the gain is thanks to software and systems innovations, but this year also gave the first peek at what some new processors, notably from Graphcore and Intel subsidiary Habana Labs, can do.”

Mojo’s Smart Contact Lenses Begin In-Eye Testing
Scott Stein | CNET
“The lenses enable eye-controlled head-up displays to appear to hover in-air, approaching a type of monochromatic Google Glass-like AR interface without glasses. The company’s only doing tests with one lens in one eye for the moment, although the next goal is to have two lenses worn at once for 3D visual overlays.”

CRISPR, 10 Years On: Learning to Rewrite the Code of Life
Carl Zimmer | The New York Times
“i‘I remember thinking very clearly, when we publish this paper, it’s like firing the starting gun at a race,’ she said. In just a decade, CRISPR has become one of the most celebrated inventions in modern biology. It is swiftly changing how medical researchers study diseases: Cancer biologists are using the method to discover hidden vulnerabilities of tumor cells. Doctors are using CRISPR to edit genes that cause hereditary diseases. ‘The era of human gene editing isn’t coming,’ said David Liu, a biologist at Harvard University. ‘It’s here.’i”

Protein Blobs Linked to Alzheimer’s Affect Aging in All Cells
Vivianne Callier | Quanta Magazine
“The aging brains of people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases are suffused with telltale aggregates of proteins in or around their neurons. …But a recent study by a team of Stanford University researchers suggests that protein aggregation may be a universal phenomenon in aging cells and could be involved in many more diseases of aging than was suspected.”

Cruise Robotaxis Blocked Traffic for Hours on This San Francisco Street
Rebecca Bellan | TechCrunch
“More than a half dozen Cruise robotaxis stopped operating and sat in a street in San Francisco late Tuesday night, blocking traffic for a couple of hours until employees arrived and manually moved the autonomous vehicles. …The mishap comes less than a week after Cruise launched its first fully driverless, commercial robotaxi service in the city.”

NASA’s DART Mission Will Totally Deform Dimorphos Asteroid
Passant Rabie | Gizmodo
“NASA’s DART spacecraft is currently on its way to a binary asteroid system known as Didymos and will essentially crash into one tiny asteroid to test out a deflection method. But rather than leaving behind an impact crater as initially intended, the DART spacecraft may actually deform the mini-moon, making it nearly unrecognizable.”

The Government Is Developing a Solar Geoengineering Research Plan
James Temple | MIT Technology Review
“The White House is developing a research plan that would guide and set standards for how scientists study one of the more controversial ways of counteracting climate change: solar geoengineering. The basic idea is that we might be able to deliberately tweak the climate system in ways that release more heat into space, cooling an otherwise warming planet. The move, which has not been previously reported on, marks the first federally coordinated US effort of this kind.”

This Warehouse Robot Reads Human Body Language to Be a Better Coworker
Will Knight | Wired
“Rodney Brooks knows a fair bit about robots. Besides being a pioneer of academic robotics research, he has founded companies that have given the world the robot vacuum cleaner, the bomb disposal bot, and a factory robot anyone can program. Now Brooks wants to introduce another revolutionary type of robot helper—a mobile warehouse robot with the ability to read human body language to tell what workers around it are doing.”

World’s Oldest Trees Reveal the Largest Solar Storm in History
Ethan Siegel | Big Think
“One of the greatest threats to all of humanity’s electronic and electrified infrastructure is a solar storm, which has the potential to cause a multi-trillion dollar disaster. Currently, we have no sufficient protections in place to defend against an event such as the great storm of 1859: known as the Carrington event. But in the years 774-775, an even larger cosmic event occurred, striking Earth with a fury never seen before. After a 10 year investigation, we’ve found that the Sun is even more violent—and more threatening—than we’d ever imagined.”

By Exploring Virtual Worlds, AI Learns in New Ways
Allison Whitten | Quanta Magazine
“Whether they exist in simulations or the real world, embodied AI agents are learning more like us, on tasks that are more like the ones we do every day. …’I see a convergence of deep learning, robotic learning, vision and also even language,’ [Fei-Fei] Li said. ‘And now I think through this moonshot or North Star towards embodied AI, we’re going to learn the foundational technology of intelligence, or AI, that can really lead to major breakthroughs.’i”

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#440738 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

Yann LeCun Has a Bold New Vision for the Future of AI
Melissa Heikkiläarchive page and Will Douglas Heaven | MIT Technology Review
“In a draft document shared with MIT Technology Review, LeCun sketches out an approach that he thinks will one day give machines the common sense they need to navigate the world. For LeCun, the proposals could be the first steps on a path to building machines with the ability to reason and plan like humans—what many call artificial general intelligence, or AGI.”

Amazon’s First Fully Autonomous Warehouse Robot Is Called Proteus
Mitchell Clark | The Verge
“Amazon has announced its ‘first fully autonomous mobile robot,’ meant to move large carts throughout its warehouses. The robot is called Proteus, and Amazon says it can safely navigate around human employees, unlike some of its past robots that it kept separated in a caged area.”

Neuronlike Memristors Could Superspeed 6G Wireless
Charles Q. Choi | IEEE Spectrum
“The dream for the next generation of wireless communications, 6G, includes speeds of up to trillions of bits per second. Now a new study reveals that neuronlike devices made of atomically thin films might serve as key switches in upcoming 6G networks.”

Alexa Goes Down the Conversational Rabbit Hole
Brian Heater | TechCrunch
“Ostage at re:Mars this week, Amazon showcased a developing Alexa feature meant to mimic the flow of natural language. Conversation between two humans rarely follows some predefined structure. It goes to strange and unexpected places. One topic segues into another, as participants inject their lived experience. In a demo, a conversation about trees turns to one about hiking and parks.”

Jetson CEO Takes His eVTOL on a Commute to Work
Loz Blain | New Atlas
“Walk out into your back yard, jump into a next-generation electric VTOL flying machine, lift off and soar your way to the office helipad: that’s the dream of personal eVTOL ownership, and Jetson co-founder Tomasz Patan has lived it, in a new video.”

Centenarian Tortoises May Set the Standard for Anti-Aging
Jack Tamisiea | The New York Times
“Despite their wrinkled skin and toothless gums, species like Galápagos giant tortoises seem unscathed by the ravages of aging. Some show few signs of slowing down as they plod into their 100s. To determine what drives these ageless wonders, two groups of researchers examined turtles, tortoises and their ectothermic, or coldblooded, brethren in a pair of studies published Thursday in the journal Science.”

Here Comes the Sun—to End Civilization
Matt Ribel | Wired
“When another big [coronal mass ejection] heads our way, as it could at any time, existing imaging technology will offer one or two days’ notice. But we won’t understand the true threat level until the cloud reaches the Deep Space Climate Observatory, a satellite about a million miles from Earth. It has instruments that analyze the speed and polarity of incoming solar particles. If a cloud’s magnetic orientation is dangerous, this $340 million piece of equipment will buy humanity—with its 7.2 billion cell phones, 1.5 billion automobiles, and 28,000 commercial aircraft—at most one hour of warning before impact.”

Kuo: Apple’s AR Headset Will Be Its ‘Most Complicated Product’ Ever—And It’s Coming Soon
Phillip Tracy | Gizmodo
“Apple’s mixed reality headset will ‘likely be announced’ in January 2023, according to reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a state of the VR industry blog posted to Medium, Kuo predicts that Apple’s entry into the space will be a catalyst for the growth of virtual and augmented reality, and dubs the company a ‘game-changer for the headset industry.’i”

Pentagon Unveils Plan to Make ‘Responsible Military AI’ More Than Just a Buzzword
Mack DeGeurin | Gizmodo
“This week, the Department of Defense released a lengthy 47-page document outlining the military’s plan to implement its responsible artificial intelligence principles, which basically seeks to integrate AI in the military without turning the world into a Terminator-esque hellscape. Though the DoD first outlined its ethical AI goals in 2020, this week’s Responsible Pathway to AI Development and Acceleration document details systematic ways the department plans to realize those claims and elevate them beyond mere wishful thinking.”

There Are More Galaxies in the Universe Than Even Carl Sagan Ever Imagined
Ethan Siegel | Big Think
“Our most detailed observations of the distant universe, from the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field, gave us an estimate of 170 billion galaxies. A theoretical calculation from a few years ago—the first to account for galaxies too small, faint, and distant to be seen—put the estimate far higher: at 2 trillion. But even that estimate is too low. There ought to be at least 6 trillion, and perhaps more like 20 trillion, galaxies, if we’re ever able to count them all.”

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#440718 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

This AI Model Tries to Re-create the Mind of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Pranshu Verma | The Washington Post
“The model, called Ask Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is based on 27 years of Ginsburg’s legal writings on the Supreme Court, along with a host of news interviews and public speeches. A team from the Israeli artificial intelligence company, called AI21 Labs, fed this record into a complex language processing program, giving the AI an ability, they say, to predict how Ginsburg would respond to questions. ‘We wanted to pay homage to a great thinker and leader with a fun digital experience,’ the company says on the AI app’s website.”

Meta Could One Day Let You Create an Incredibly Lifelike 3D Replica of Yourself From a Phone Scan
Andrew Liszewski | Gizmodo
“Instead of spending an hour in a chair surrounded by hundreds of cameras, users simply have to pan their smartphone across their face, from side-to-side, and then recreate a series of 65 specific facial expressions. The researchers say the process now takes about three-and-a-half minutes, and using a neural network that was previously trained on the 3D facial data captured from 255 diverse subjects inside a camera rig similar to Mugsy, the new approach can generate surprisingly lifelike 3D avatar models.”

Google’s ‘Sentient’ Chatbot Is Our Self-Deceiving Future
Ian Bogost | The Atlantic
“…a Google engineer became convinced that a software program was sentient after asking the program, which was designed to respond credibly to input, whether it was sentient. A recursive just-so story. I’m not going to entertain the possibility that LaMDA is sentient. (It isn’t.) More important, and more interesting, is what it means that someone with such a deep understanding of the system would go so far off the rails in its defense, and that, in the resulting media frenzy, so many would entertain the prospect that Lemoine is right.”

Amazon Says Its Drones Will Deliver Packages to Backyards This Year
Scharon Harding | Ars Technica
“According to Amazon, Lockeford residents will soon be able to sign up for drone deliveries for free. After, they can place orders on Amazon like usual, with ‘thousands of everyday items’ available for drone delivery. Amazon has been working with a goal of a five-pound payload, which may sound small but represents 85 percent of Amazon deliveries, Bloomberg reported in April.”

This Road Wirelessly Charges Electric Cars as They Drive
Andrew Liszewski | Gizmodo
“[Stellantis] recently unveiled a unique new test track in Chiari, Italy, called the ‘Arena del Futuro’ circuit (Arena of the Future) that could potentially allow EVs to run laps forever without ever needing to stop and charge. …To take advantage of the track’s power-sharing capabilities, an EV simply needs to be upgraded with a special receiver that sends the power directly to its electric motor. In testing, a Fiat New 500 was able to maintain highway speeds while circling the track without having to use any of the power stored in its batteries.”

Tesla Autopilot and Other Driver-Assist Systems Linked to Hundreds of Crashes
Neal E. Boudette, Cade Metz, and Jack Ewing | The New York Times
“Nearly 400 crashes in the United States in 10 months involved cars using advanced driver-assistance technologies, the federal government’s top auto-safety regulator disclosed Wednesday. …Speaking with reporters ahead of Wednesday’s release, Steven Cliff, the NHTSA administrator, said the data—which the agency will continue to collect—’will help our investigators quickly identify potential defect trends that emerge.’i”

Can Democracy Include a World Beyond Humans?
James Bridle | Wired
“This understanding of politics also means that our decisionmaking processes must extend beyond our own human lives: to nonhuman animals, to the planet, and in the very near future to autonomous AI. I call this a ‘more-than-human’ politics, drawing from ecologist and philosopher David Abram’s concept of a more-than-human world, a way of thinking that fully acknowledges and engages with all living beings and ecological systems.”

How to Be a Techno-Optimist
Jonny Thomson | Big Think
“It’s perfectly reasonable to suggest that there are many existing problems with technology, and that it, alone, is insufficient for good to prevail. Instead, we might sympathize with Danaher’s ‘modest techno-optimism.’ According to this view, ‘we have the power to create the right institutions for generating, selecting, and creating material technologies, and acting on that belief in a cautious and sensible manner can make it more likely that the good will prevail over the bad.’i”

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