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Mar 3, 2015

Is DNA the Language of the Book of Life?

Posted by in categories: DNA, genetics

Posted By Regan Penaluna — Nautilus
GATTACA is here
When we talk about genes, we often use expressions inherited from a few influential geneticists and evolutionary biologists, including Francis Crick, James Watson, and Richard Dawkins. These expressions depict DNA as a kind of code telling bodies how to form. We speak about genes similarly to how we speak about language, as symbolic and imbued with meaning. There is “gene-editing,” and there are “translation tables” for decoding sequences of nucleic acid. When DNA replicates, it is said to “transcribe” itself. We speak about a message—such as, build a tiger! or construct a female!—being communicated between microscopic materials. But this view of DNA has come with a price, argue some thinkers. It is philosophically misguided, they say, and has even led to scientific blunders. Scratch the surface of this idea, and below you’ll find a key contradiction.

Since the earliest days of molecular biology, scientists describe genetic material to be unlike all other biological material, because it supposedly carries something that more workaday molecules don’t: information. In a 1958 paper, Crick presented his ideas on the importance of proteins for inheritance, and said that they were composed of energy, matter, and information. Watson called DNA the “repository” of information.
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Mar 2, 2015

The ethical blindness of algorithms

Posted by in categories: big data, software

Steve Jones, Global vice president of big data, Capgemini — Quartz

Can an algorithm be racist? It’s a question that should be of concern for all data-driven organizations.

From analytics that help law enforcement predict future crimes, to retailers assessing the likelihood of female customers being pregnant (in the case of Target, without their knowledge), the increasing scale of computer cognizance is raising difficult ethical questions for business.

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Mar 2, 2015

Google Glass, HoloLens, and the Real Future of Augmented Reality

Posted by in category: augmented reality

By Stephen Cass with Charles Q. Choi — Spectrum

It seemed like the nascent augmented-reality industry was on a roller coaster at the start of the year. Things looked bad when Google announced that it was terminating sales of its Glass headset in favor of developing some new version to be announced at some time in the future. (Possibly in a galaxy far, far away.) But then the future looked bright again when Microsoft unveiled its HoloLens AR headset at a razzle-dazzle press event in late January.

But the truth is that well before the debut of HoloLens, the AR ecosystem had been moving away from Google’s model of always-available wearable computing and toward the idea that AR headsets should be—at least for now—something you use only for specific tasks. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas just after New Year’s, most of the capabilities advertised a few weeks later by Microsoft for its HoloLens prototypes were already on display on the show floor (albeit spread among several exhibitors), and they were mostly doing industrial and enterprise work.
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Mar 1, 2015

Rise of the Fembots: Why Artificial Intelligence Is Often Female

Posted by in category: robotics/AI

by Tanya Lewis — Live Science

From Apple’s iPhone assistant Siri to the mechanized attendants at Japan’s first robot-staffed hotel, a seemingly disproportionate percentage of artificial intelligence systems have female personas. Why?

“I think there is a pattern here,” said Karl Fredric MacDorman, a computer scientist and expert in human-computer interaction at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. But “I don’t know that there’s one easy answer,” MacDorman told Live Science.

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Mar 1, 2015

Will Robots Be Able to Help Us Die?

Posted by in categories: ethics, robotics/AI

Graham Templeton — Motherboard

The robot stares down at the sickly old woman from its perch above her home care bed. She winces in pain and tries yet again to devise a string of commands that might trick the machine into handing her the small orange bottle just a few tantalizing feet away. But the robot is a specialized care machine on loan from the hospital. It regards her impartially from behind a friendly plastic face, assessing her needs while ignoring her wants.

If only she’d had a child, she thinks for the thousandth time, maybe then there’d be someone left to help her kill herself.

Hypothetical scenarios such as this inspired a small team of Canadian and Italian researchers to form the ​Open Roboethics Initiative (ORi). Based primarily out of the University of British Columbia (UBC), the organization is just over two years old. The idea is not that robotics experts know the correct path for a robot to take at every robo-ethical crossroad—but rather, that robotics experts do not.

“Ethics is an emergent property of a society,” said ORi board member and UBC professor Mike Van der Loos. “It needs to be studied to be understood.” Read more

Feb 28, 2015

Best tribute to Leonard Nimoy—from a real spaceship!

Posted by in category: space

This was one of the best tributes to Leonard Nimoy, from a real spaceship:

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Feb 28, 2015

How the Internet Is Remembering the Legendary Leonard Nimoy

Posted by in categories: entertainment, first contact

By — Wired

Leonard Nimoy, the legendary actor known to the world as Star Trek‘s Mr. Spock, died at his home in Los Angeles this morning. He was 83. Almost as soon as word of his passing hit the Internet, friends, former co-stars, and fans began expressing grief over the actor’s passing.

Nimoy was hospitalized earlier this week for chest pains, and his wife Susan Bay Nimoy has confirmed that he died from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He announced his sickness in February of last year, blaming it on his smoking habits of decades earlier.

“As you all know, my Grandpa passed away this morning at 8:40 from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Nimoy’s granddaughter, Dani, posted via the actor’s Twitter. “He was an extraordinary man, husband, grandfather, brother, actor, author-the list goes on- and friend. Thank you for the warm condolences. May you all LLAP.”
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Feb 28, 2015

A Telepresence Robot with a Gripping Arm? ORIGIBOT Is a Dream Come True

Posted by in category: robotics/AI

By — Singularity Hub

Telepresence robots are awesome, but the experience can be frustrating at times. The reason? They lack arms. Whether you want to examine an object yourself, open a door, or pretend to be the Terminator with a Nerf gun, the lack of even a rudimentary claw can leave you feeling like a half a person, a mind wandering atop a remote control toy.

Not anymore.

Continue reading “A Telepresence Robot with a Gripping Arm? ORIGIBOT Is a Dream Come True” »

Feb 27, 2015

Blockchains as a Granular Universal Transaction System

Posted by in categories: architecture, automation, big data, bitcoin, business, computing, cryptocurrencies, disruptive technology, economics, ethics

Quoted: “Blockchains are thus an intriguing model for coordinating the full transactional load of any large-scale system, whether the whole of different forms of human activity (social systems) or any other system too like a brain. In a brain there are quadrillions of transactions that could perhaps be handled in the universal transactional system architecture of a blockchain, like with Blockchain Thinking models.”

Read the IEET brief here > http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/swan20150217

Feb 27, 2015

World’s Data Could Fit on a Teaspoon-Sized DNA Hard Drive and Survive Thousands of Years

Posted by in categories: big data, DNA, information science

By — Singularity Hub
http://cdn.singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/dna-hard-drive-1000x400.jpg

The blueprint of every living thing on the planet is encoded in DNA. We know the stuff can hold a lot of information. But how much is a lot? We could theoretically encode the world’s data (from emails to albums, movies to novels) on just a few grams of DNA. DNA already preserves life itself—now it might also preserve life as we live it.

According to New Scientist, a gram of DNA could theoretically store 455 exabytes of data. And Quartz drives the point home. If the world has about 1.8 zettabytes of data, according to a 2011 estimate, all the world’s information would fit on a four-gram DNA hard drive the size of a teaspoon.

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