Disrupting death: Could we really live forever in digital form?

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Virtual reality, robots, chatbots and holograms could allow us to exist perpetually. Whether we should choose the option is a different story.

In 2016, Jang Ji-sung’s young daughter Nayeon passed away from a blood-related disease. But in February, the South Korean mother was reunited with her daughter in virtual reality. Experts constructed a version of her child using motion capture technology for a documentary. Wearing a VR headset and haptic gloves, Jang was able to walk, talk and play with this digital version of her daughter.

“Maybe it’s a real paradise,” Jang said of the moment the two met in VR. “I met Nayeon, who called me with a smile, for a very short time, but it’s a very happy time. I think I’ve had the dream I’ve always wanted.”

Once largely the concern of science fiction, more people are now interested in immortality — whether that’s keeping your body or mind alive forever (as explored in the new Amazon Prime comedy Upload), or in creating some kind of living memorial, like an AI-based robot or chatbot version of yourself, or of your loved one. The question is — should we do that? And if we do, what should it look like?

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Researchers unveil electronics that mimic the human brain in efficient learning

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Researchers unveil electronics that mimic the human brain in efficient learning

A graphic depiction of protein nanowires (green) harvested from microbe Geobacter (orange) facilitate the electronic memristor device (silver) to function with biological voltages, emulating the neuronal components (blue junctions) in a brain. Credit: UMass Amherst/Yao lab

Only 10 years ago, scientists working on what they hoped would open a new frontier of neuromorphic computing could only dream of a device using miniature tools called memristors that would function/operate like real brain synapses.

But now a team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has discovered, while on their way to better understanding protein nanowires, how to use these biological, electricity conducting filaments to make a neuromorphic memristor, or “memory transistor,” device. It runs extremely efficiently on very low power, as brains do, to carry signals between neurons. Details are in Nature Communications.

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Scientists develop AI that can turn brain activity into text

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Researchers in US tracked the neural data from people while they were speaking

Reading minds has just come a step closer to reality: scientists have developed artificial intelligence that can turn brain activity into text.

While the system currently works on neural patterns detected while someone is speaking aloud, experts say it could eventually aid communication for patients who are unable to speak or type, such as those with locked in syndrome.

“We are not there yet but we think this could be the basis of a speech prosthesis,” said Dr Joseph Makin, co-author of the research from the University of California, San Francisco.

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If we can make animals smarter, should we?

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In science fiction stories, research can accidentally create superintelligent animal species. As the ability to alter animals’ brains grows, some say we should be wary of fiction becoming reality.

This article appears in VICE Magazine’s Stupid Issue, which is dedicated to the entertaining, goofy, and just plain dumb. It features stories celebrating ridiculous ideas, trends, and products; pieces arguing that unabashed stupidity can be a great part of life; and articles calling out the bad side of stupidity.

In the 2011 movie Rise of the Planet of the Apes, James Franco plays a scientist developing a treatment for Alzheimer’s. The drug, ALZ-112, is designed to restore a human’s brain function, and when tested on a healthy chimpanzee, it causes the monkey’s intelligence to increase dramatically. She passes the intelligence on to her baby, Caesar, who goes on to lead a pack of super-intelligent apes and releases a version of the drug that’s fatal to humans.

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US Army to study gamers’ brains to build AI military robots

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A group of experts wants to study the brain waves and eye movements of people playing a video game in order to build an advanced AI that could coordinate the actions of military robots.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, awarded a team from the University of Buffalo’s Artificial Intelligence Institute a $316,000 grant for the study.

Although swarm robotics is inspired by many things, including ant colonies, researchers believe that humans have a lot of potential to improve AI learning systems. The study of 25 video game players will include real-time strategy games such as StarCraft, Stellaris and Company of Heroes.

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Move over, pot: Psychedelic companies are about to go public

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The first companies developing medical treatments from psychedelic drugs like LSD, ketamine and the active ingredient in magic mushrooms are gearing up to list on Canadian stock exchanges.

Mind Medicine Inc., which is undertaking clinical trials of psychedelic-based drugs, intends to list on Toronto’s NEO Exchange by the first week of March, said JR Rahn, the company’s co-founder and co-chief executive officer. A NEO spokesman confirmed the listing, which is pending final approvals.

The company plans to list via a reverse takeover under the ticker MMED. It’s not yet generating revenue and is targeting a valuation of approximately $50 million, Rahn said. MindMed counts former Canopy Growth Corp. co-CEO Bruce Linton as a director and Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary as an investor.

“Our ambition is to be one of the first publicly listed neuro-pharmaceutical companies developing psychedelic medicines,” Rahn said in a phone interview.

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Mark Zuckerberg says brain-reading wearables are coming, but certain functions may require implanted devices

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes his keynote speech during Facebook Inc’s annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., April 30, 2019.

 Zuckerberg said on Thursday said that he’s thinking more about brain-controlling wearable and implantable technology.

“The goal is to eventually make it so that you can think something and control something in virtual or augmented reality,” he said.

Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday that he wants to work on brain-controlling wearable and implantable technology, and Facebook’s recent acquisition of CTRL-labs was a step in that direction.

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A map of the brain could help to guess what you’re reading

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A 3D map of how the brain responds to words could unlock new ways to understand and treat dyslexia and speech disorders.

Map-making: Researchers at UC Berkeley used functional MRI to measure nine volunteers’ brain activity (using blood flow as a proxy) as they listened to, and then read, stories from “The Moth Radio Hour,” a storytelling podcast which airs on 500 radio stations around the world. The researchers collected volunteers’ brain activity data for reading (one word at a time, to help separate the data) and listening to recordings of the same text, then matched both sets of data against time-stamped transcriptions of the stories.

Language links: The results were then fed into a computer program, which mapped out thousands of words according to their relationship to each other, using natural-language processing. For example, the “social” category includes words like “husband,” “father,” and “sister.” Different categories sparked activity in different parts of the brain: these “social” words were found on the right side, behind the ear. This area also responded most strongly to words that describe people or dramatic events, as well as words that describe time.

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Neuroscientists decode brain speech signals into written text

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Study funded by Facebook aims to improve communication with paralysed patients

The study recording brain signals sent to trigger organ movement is considered a breakthrough.

When Stephen Hawking wanted to speak, he chose letters and words from a synthesiser screen controlled by twitches of a muscle in his cheek.

But the painstaking process the cosmologist used might soon be bound for the dustbin. With a radical new approach, doctors have found a way to extract a person’s speech directly from their brain.

The breakthrough is the first to demonstrate how a person’s intention to say specific words can be gleaned from brain signals and turned into text fast enough to keep pace with natural conversation.

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Facebook is funding brain experiments to create a device that reads your mind

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Big tech firms are trying to read people’s thoughts, and no one’s ready for the consequences.

In 2017, Facebook announced that it wanted to create a headband that would let people type at a speed of 100 words per minute, just by thinking.

Now, a little over two years later, the social-media giant is revealing that it has been financing extensive university research on human volunteers.

Today, some of that research was described in a scientific paper from the University of California, San Francisco, where researchers have been developing “speech decoders” able to determine what people are trying to say by analyzing their brain signals.

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The future of brain-computer interfaces and the human machine

 

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The melding of humanity with the technology we have created has begun…

We are well on our way as Homo sapiens to becoming a species that fully merges technology with our organic bodies. In some ways, we’ve been getting at this for centuries already, beginning with the first use of eyeglasses, at the end of the thirteenth century in Italy, to improve vision by making it easy for someone to wear two magnifying lenses on the bridge of their nose.

But ever since the invention of the computer and the first human-machine interfaces were born (HMIs), a dream of many technologists has been to create direct connections between computers and the human brain. These brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) — also known as Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMIs) — would eliminate the lag inherent in the translation between thought → physical action → computer response. BCIs also allow people who cannot perform physical actions required for HMIs to bypass that real-world step and directly control powerful computer tools with the electrical impulses in their brains.

One of the dreams is that BCIs will eventually place the entire canon of human knowledge within the realm of immediate recall: No more searching the internet via typing or voice commands needed. In a near future, we will be able to think about what we need and pull whatever relevant information is available directly from a cloud and into the forefront of our minds.

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New mind-controlled robot arm first to work without brain implant

 

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Just strap on the EEG cap and start thinking.

If you want to control a robot with your mind — and really, who doesn’t? — you currently have two options.

You can get a brain implant, in which case your control over the robot will be smooth and continuous. Or you can skip the risky, expensive surgery in favor of a device that senses your brainwaves from outside your skull — but your control over the bot will be jerky and not nearly as precise.

Now, a team from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is narrowing the gap between those two options, creating the first noninvasive mind-controlled robot arm that exhibits the kind of smooth, continuous motion previously reserved only for systems involving brain implants — putting us one step closer to a future in which we can all use our minds to control the tech around us.

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