Spring is almost here, which means it’s time to talk about food, agriculture, and bring these heady topics back to Earth. Today we’ll talk about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and whether or not using them in agriculture is worth the risk. And of course in typical Compassionate Technologies’ style, we go back to the beginning and look at some unexpected consequences of hunger and food shortages in our world today…
“What will happen when AI understands emotions better than we do?” students asked several times at the OpenMind::OpenArt Gallery at MIT, a gallery that reflects on the future of mental health and wellness. It’s a question that digs into the core of what it means to be human and machine.
You’d think by now, humans would have figured out love. Biologically, it hasn’t changed much over the last 10,000 years — but technology sure has. Technology, culture, and life co-evolve in an endless tumble, meaning that the way we love has changed too.
Tradition and modernity, communism and capitalism converge into a fascinating future as China celebrates the new year of the Rooster. In honor of this 20-day celebration held by over 1.4 billion Chinese, today’s newsletter is the first of a two part series on tech trends in China.
Big Question for Technologists: Will women’s groups be able to organize and strategically use social media to channel the potential for action in a controlled manner, versus the large and violent eruptions of the past? Time will tell.
Imagine an intelligence that knows more about you than you do. Instead of using your iPhone to apply mascara, you can also use your iPhone to apply New Year’s resolutions. It doesn’t have to be a sentient intelligence, just an illuminating one. An intelligent and very observant mirror.
Here’s an old Buddhist exercise for strengthening compassion during the holiday season, with a new technological spin.
What I’m seeing on social media is the attitude of “the rest of the world doesn’t hear us, so let’s shout louder!” Unfortunately, we do hear you. We just don’t want to listen anymore.
How can we get the intimacy that we need in a world with so many people and new technologies for connecting?
Vipassana means to “to see things as they really are.” As one of many creators in technology, I raise the challenge to all creators: can we figure out a way to profit from engaged users by fostering enthusiasm, joy, and health?
SMR, Social Media Reality can be just as mind-bending as wearing a VR headset.
Coming out of the “Made in China” era of heavy industrial and manufacturing growth, China is now grasping onto emerging technologies and making moves towards creating the future, not just manufacturing it. Xing Jijun, Counselor of Science and Technology with the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in New York, says that service robots are a large priority given China’s aging population as a result of the one child policy, creating many 421 families, with 1 grandchild supporting 4 grandparents in old age.
At it’s core, blockchain is built off the science of cryptography, transferring information balancing needs for speed and security. But blockchain goes beyond banking, it also plays a potentially powerful role in voting. Nimit Sawhney, co-founded Voatz, a way to vote securely using blockchain, biometrics, and wearables. If it were around today, you could vote from your smartphone in the upcoming November general election.
What patients need is a preventative drug for the brain the "same way that you take statins for heart disease," says Dr. Nazneen Dewji. Over 1 in 10 people over 65 suffer from Alzheimer's, rising to 1 in 2 over the age of 90, affecting over 8 million people today. The disease is marked by cognitive degeneration and memory loss. Many families experience the emotional devastation of slowly watching their parents fade away. Currently, there is no safe and effective treatment.
"We make drugs that look like what your body would make itself," says Dr. Way. Epo is a naturally-occurring protein in the body which triggers red blood cell (RBC) production by binding to RBC stem cells in the bone marrow. The problem is that Epo in it's natural form can't tell the difference between an RBC stem cell or a platelet stem cell. If the dose is too high, it triggers the body to make too many platelets, causing blood clotting. Way and Burrill, along with other collaborators, designed a drug that is able to differentiate between stem cells, thereby removing the side effect. Here's how they did it.
Today, we'll talk about the research that makes drug design possible. First, scientists must learn the language of the body, which at its most fundamental level, is the same as the language of the solar system: physics. It might not seem that way because our bodies feel so unpredictable, but there is a sublime order underneath the chaos: how molecules talk to each other, what turns certain genes on and off, why some cells become blood cells and others platelets. Why some people get diseases and others don't.
Is CRISPR/Cas9 actually that big of a deal? While there is a Nobel prize floating around, and upfront license payments and collaborations are over $100M with billions to be gained in the coming 18 years, it also might not be that big of a deal in everyday research. Zhang recently discovered another method in the CRISPR system called Cpf1, which staggers the DNA break and only needs one guide RNA. While the discovery is not revolutionary scientifically, being just one of many in the CRISPR system, and with many others bound to be discovered in the coming years, it does however provide an answer to the patent brawl by simply stepping out of it. Cpf1 can do the same thing, without all the legal hassle. And there's more where it came from.
If you're into the biosciences, you've heard about CRISPR. Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) and its Cas9 nucleases were discovered as part of bacterial immune systems in the 1970s; only in 2012 were they refined into a powerful gene-editing technology. Previous gene-editing techniques required customized proteins for each gene sequence, an expensive and error-prone process. For CRISPR, changing a 20-nucleotide gRNA sequence is "ridiculously simple" and can be done online, says Medvedik.
Can we inherit memories? In 2014, Brian Dias and Kerry Ressler conducted an experiment to test this. They exposed male mice to an aromatic compound (acetophenone) whose receptor gene (Olfr151) had been sequenced. The mice were not born with a blank slate. The shadow of their father’s experience was cast over them. In humans, we have characterised this effect in families struck by famine, war and disease. Our ancestors tales are part of us. Not spiritually, but epigenetically in the spools of our DNA. Who our parents were is more a part of us then we could know. Epigenetics is then the bridge between nature and nurture. A resolution of Lamarck and Darwin and very likely the future of personalized medicine.
How does genetic engineering work? What is a gene therapy? Over our lives, our DNA changes and mutates in the process of aging. Our bodies are very protective of our genes, and our immune system exists to detect and destroy any items that don't belong, like viruses or bacteria. In order to bypass the body's natural defense and DNA-repair system, scientists use vectors, Trojan horses that sneak in therapeutic DNA past the defensive walls.
Where our genes end and our culture begins is an age-old question, one that has not yet been answered by science. As we enter an era of genetic engineering, it's important to consider what effects this will have. Through culture, stories propagate themselves like genes do. They mutate and spread from generation to generation, and they feed off of emotion, a social energy, the same way that DNA feeds off of energy for survival and replication. This means that a fear can spread from generation to generation, with no direct experience, only through stories, advertising, and art - the things that make up culture.
"If we designed airplanes like we design drugs..." alludes Walter Woltosz, CEO and Chairman of Simulations Plus, then you probably wouldn't feel very safe on an airplane! Drug design took the pharmaceutical industry by storm in the 1990s, a decade that spawned a series of fast and furious investments in the deserts of the Southwest.
A new wave of innovation is sweeping modern society and its ethos can be summed up in two words: cutting waste. Since service is all about experience, the race is now fiercely on for who can deliver value with minimal imposition on the customer. Whatever products and solutions such AI delivers, the interface needs to respect the sanctity of the human action flow by bending the machine to understand the human in her own language.
80% of all antibiotics produced are given to factory farmed animals. Why is this harmful? Humans and animals alike have a set of microbes in our gut. Some good and some bad. When we don’t need to take antibiotics, but do anyway, this eliminates all microbes.
Researching how E. coli grows and divides could be a critical component to the antibacterial resistance fight. Labs work with E. coli is because it is a simple bacteria: divides quickly, gram negative, and has similar characteristics to bacteria that have already evolved.
Technology is all about relationships — ultimately looking at humans as intelligent biological machines… it makes sense that our adoption of another bio-machine into our emotional lives would mimic… the adoption of silicon-machines into our emotional lives as well. Take a look at the Gartner Hype Cycle and Foreign Service Cultural Adoption Cycle curves… not too dissimilar. And then just think about your last few new relationships — the ones that made it, and the ones that didn’t.
Never trained for love, watching actoid #JCF33, or Jacie, discover her own emotions and the confusing feelings of love is quite eye-opening, giving an interesting perspective on how we as humans experience love ourselves. How different are we from robots of the future? Are we feeling machines that think? And are robots thinking machines that might one day feel?
It’s time we abandoned our outdated ideas of how physics should or must be done. It’s time to reconsider string theory. The evidence is quickly mounting that when it comes to theories of quantum gravity, string theory is the only game in town. It is not far-fetched to imagine that in our lifetimes, physicists could prove string theory mathematically—no experiments needed. It would be foolish for us string theorists to abandon our pursuit of truth simply because we lack experimental data, and it would be foolish for the rest of the educated populace to reject string theory because it does not fit the definition of science they’ve grown accustomed to.