News from February 2019
Gloucester Daily Times | Living with artificial super-intelligence
in print | feature with: Ray Kurzweil
February 8, 2019
— introduction —
Many people are concerned about climate change and its impact on the planet over the next 80 years. However, another threat to humanity that is much more alarming, very real + very close — is the creation of artificial super-intelligence (the abbreviation is ASI). Today’s artificial intelligence will become ASI when it’s billions of times “smarter” than people. We’ll need to learn to live with ASI, or we might not be around much longer.
— technology execs say concerns are real —
Many high-level executives in the tech industry warn about the dangers of ASI — for example: Sundar Pichai, CEO at Google. Google is a leader in the development + application of computer software in the field of artificial intelligence. For example: the company Deep Mind — under the Alphabet co. umbrella that also owns Google — is developing software programs that learn to solve complex problems, without teaching them how. This is the true beginning of ASI: it will have characteristics of human intelligence but will astronomically exceed it.
Sundar Pichai gave an interview to the Washington Post — he said artificial intelligence holds great promise to benefit humanity. But some scientists worry about potential harmful applications of the tech. Pichai said their concerns are “very legitimate.” For example, he described autonomous AI weapons that can make “kill decisions” on their own. Think about the fictional SkyNet system from the Terminator series of films.
Other tech executives agree with Pichai about the serious possible threat from artificial intelligence. Elon Musk — inventor of electric cars by Tesla co. and rockets by Space X co. — spoke in the documentary film: Do You Trust This Computer? He said ASI can leave humanity behind, leading to the creation of an “immortal dictator” who’ll control the world.
Elon Musk said: “At least when there’s an evil (human) dictator, that person is going to die. But for an ASI (software) dictator, there’d be no death. It would live forever. And then we’d have an immortal dictator we can never escape. If ASI has a goal and humanity just happens to be in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course — without even thinking about it. No hard feelings. Like if we’re building a road, and an anthill happens to be in the way: we don’t hate ants. We’re building a road, and so goodbye anthill.”
— DeepMind by Alphabet co. develops powerful software —
Google’s company Deep Mind has achieved a turning point in creating human-like artificial intelligence. They have a computer software program called AlphaZero that shows human-like qualities of intuition + creativity. AlphaZero was made with the ability to learn + remember what it does.
For example, the developers set-up the program to learn to play chess. Unlike past computers that were programmed by the developers to play the game — AlphaZero knew nothing about chess, except the basic rules. To learn, it played 44 million matches with itself in 9 hours and learned from each one. Eventually it was able to beat chess grand-masters, but with approaches never before used by a chess computer. It was exhibiting human-like intuition and creativity.
The former world chess champion Garry Kasparov said: “Instead of processing human instructions and knowledge at tremendous speed — the way all other previous chess machines did — AlphaZero generates its own knowledge. It plays with a dynamic style, similar to mine. The implications go beyond the chess board.”
AlphaZero by DeepMind is a sign that we’re approaching a theoretical time in history known as the “technological singularity.” Experts say that’s the point when: “the invention of artificial super-intelligence will suddenly trigger run-away technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.” That’s is also the point when humans could lose control of society, with no chance of getting it back.
— Ray Kurzweil + Elon Musk say humans must merge with computers —
Ray Kurzweil is a famous inventor, futurist, best selling author, and entrepreneur. He’s currently a director of engineering at Google. He’s done a lot of thinking about the coming technological singularity. His track record making predictions about the future is about 86 percent correct. And, based on the exponential rate of progress in the AI industry, Kurzweil calculates the singularity will happen in year 2029. He anticipates by that time, ASI systems will be “billions of times smarter” than humans.
Elon Musk and Ray Kurzweil agree. Humans must somehow merge with computers — to stay relevant in the world of ASI. Musk has formed a company called Neuralink to achieve that goal. Neuralink is developing ultra-high bandwidth (the speed + capacity of the connection), implantable, brain-machine interfaces to connect humans with computers. Musk is hoping to demonstrate the tech by year 2019.
Kurzweil has a similar vision to resolve the threat posed by ASI. He foresees a computer-mind connection, but a different type than Musk’s concept. He calls it a neo-cortex connection, made using nano-bots — molecule sized devices injected into the bloodstream to accomplish pre-programmed tasks. Kurzweil’s idea is to use the nano-bots to connect your brain directly to the web, upgrading your intelligence and memory capacity by orders of magnitude. Thus, as the machines become smarter, so do humans.
— humans merging with machines —
But how far along is the development of nano-sized robotic systems that can enter the human body? The first actual use of a miniature drug delivery system was tested by researchers at Arizona State University. They created cell-sized bots — made of sheets of biological molecules (not machines) — and injected them into the bloodstream of mice with cancer. The bots went directly to the cancer’s tumor cells and injected them with blood clotting drugs to cut off their blood supply and stop the tumor’s growth. It functioned, shrinking the tumors. Over the next 10 years, nano-bot tech could grow at a fast rate — getting closer to Kurzweil’s vision of connecting the human neo-cortex to the cloud.
So instead of humans becoming obsolete, we could be working with the machines. But it’s important that humanity perfect the human-machine connection tech before the singularity — the point where AI becomes ASI. If we cross that horizon and we’re not working symbiotically with our machines, we may not be given the chance later.
on the web | reading
Financial Times | lab experiment: nano-bots kill off cancerous tumors as fiction becomes reality
deck: Researchers inject tiny devices into the bloodstream to deliver drugs with precision.
the Washington Post | interview: Google CEO Sundar Pichai
deck: Fears about artificial intelligence are very legitimate, he says in interview.
on the web | pages
— notes —
* AI = artificial intelligence
* ASI = artificial super-intelligence
* Ray Kurzweil is Raymond Clyde Kurzweil
* Google is under the umbrella of Alphabet co.
* DeepMind is under the umbrella of Alphabet co.
- Published in
Fasting ramps up human metabolism, study shows
January 31, 2019
Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University
Research uncovers previously unknown effects of fasting, including notably increased metabolic activity and possible anti-aging effects.
A study by the G0 Cell Unit and Kyoto University researchers suggests that fasting, which puts the body in 'starvation mode,' leads to fuel substitution, antioxidation, increased mitochondrial activation and altered signal transduction.
Fasting may help people lose weight, but new research suggests going without food may also boost human metabolic activity, generate antioxidants, and help reverse some effects of aging. Scientists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) and Kyoto University identified 30 previously-unreported substances whose quantity increases during fasting and indicate a variety of health benefits.
"We have been researching aging and metabolism for many years and decided to search for unknown health effects in human fasting," said Dr. Takayuki Teruya, first author of the paper and a technician in the OIST G0 Cell Unit, led by Prof. Mitsuhiro Yanagida. "Contrary to the original expectation, it turned out that fasting induced metabolic activation rather actively."
The study, published January 29, 2019 in Scientific Reports, presents an analysis of whole human blood, plasma, and red blood cells drawn from four fasting individuals. The researchers monitored changing levels of metabolites -- substances formed during the chemical processes that grant organisms energy and allow them to grow. The results revealed 44 metabolites, including 30 that were previously unrecognized, that increased universally among subjects between 1.5- to 60-fold within just 58 hours of fasting.
In previous research, the G0 Cell Unit identified various metabolites whose quantities decline with age, including three known as leucine, isoleucine, and ophthalmic acid. In fasting individuals, these metabolites increase in level, suggesting a mechanism by which fasting could help increase longevity.
"These are very important metabolites for maintenance of muscle and antioxidant activity, respectively," said Teruya. "This result suggests the possibility of a rejuvenating effect by fasting, which was not known until now."
Metabolites Give Clues to Mechanism and Health Effects
The human body tends to utilize carbohydrates for quick energy -- when they're available. When starved of carbs, the body begins looting its alternate energy stores. The act of "energy substitution" leaves a trail of evidence, namely metabolites known as butyrates, carnitines, and branched-chain amino acids. These well-known markers of energy substitution have been shown to accumulate during fasting.
But fasting appears to elicit effects far beyond energy substitution. In their comprehensive analysis of human blood, the researchers noted both established fasting markers and many more. For example, they found a global increase in substances produced by the citric acid cycle, a process by which organisms release energy stored in the chemical bonds of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids. The marked increase suggests that, during fasting, the tiny powerhouses running every cell are thrown into overdrive.
Fasting also appeared to enhance the metabolism of purine and pyrimidine, chemical substances which play key roles in gene expression and protein synthesis. The finding suggests fasting may reprogram which proteins cells build at what time, thus altering their function. The change may promote homeostasis in cells, or serve to edit their gene expression in response to environmental influences.
When metabolized, purine and pyrimidine also boost the body's production of antioxidants. Several antioxidants, such as ergothioneine and carnosine, were found to increase significantly over the 58-hour study period. Antioxidants serve to protect cells from free radicals produced during metabolism. Products of a metabolic pathway called the "pentose phosphate pathway" also stay the harmful effects of oxidation, and were similarly seen to increase during fasting, but only in plasma.
Newfound Health Benefits of Fasting?
The authors suggest that these antioxidative effects may stand as the body's principal response to fasting, as starvation can foster a dangerously oxidative internal environment. Their exploratory study provides the first evidence of antioxidants as a fasting marker. In addition, the study introduces the novel notion that fasting might boost production of several age-related metabolites, abundant in young people, but depleted in old.
"Recent aging studies have shown that caloric restriction and fasting have a prolonging effect on lifespan in model animals...but the detailed mechanism has remained a mystery," said Teruya. "It might be possible to verify the anti-aging effect from various viewpoints by developing exercise programs or drugs capable of causing the metabolic reaction similar to fasting."
The findings expand on established ideas of what fasting could do for human health. The next step would be to replicate these results in a larger study, or investigate how the metabolic changes might be triggered by other means.
"People are interested in whether human beings can enjoy the effects of prevention of metabolic diseases and prolonging life span by fasting or caloric restriction, as with model animals," said Teruya. "Understanding the metabolic changes caused by fasting is expected to give us wisdom for maintaining health."
Materials provided by Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
- Takayuki Teruya, Romanas Chaleckis, Junko Takada, Mitsuhiro Yanagida, Hiroshi Kondoh. Diverse metabolic reactions activated during 58-hr fasting are revealed by non-targeted metabolomic analysis of human blood. Scientific Reports, 2019; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-36674-9
Cite This Page:
Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University. "Fasting ramps up human metabolism, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 January 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190131113934.htm>.
- Published in
Frozen cat covered in ice revived after being found in snowbank
By Caitlin O'Kane
Updated on: February 8, 2019 / 12:07 AM / CBS News
A nearly-unresponsive cat who was covered in snow and "essentially frozen," was revived by vets at a Montana animal clinic. The cat, named Fluffy, was brought in by its owners after being buried in snow, the Animal Clinic of Kalispell wrote on Facebook. The clinic shared three photos of the cat, one of which shows the feline almost entirely covered in snowballs.
According to The Associated Press, at first Fluffy's body temperature didn't even register on the clinic's thermometers. The staff there used towels, cage warmers and intravenous fluids in Fluffy's recovery.
Veterinarian Dr. China Corum cared for the cat until she started to bounce back after a few hours of treatment, CBS Missoula affiliate KPAX-TV reports.
"Her temperature was very low but after many hours she recovered and is now completely normal," the clinic wrote on Facebook. "Fluffy is amazing!"
The animal clinic, owned by Dr. Jevon Clark, recounted to The AP how the owners found Fluffy in the snow.
"She's crouched down looking like she's hunting something or something's in the snow bank," Clark said. "And then they realized, oh my gosh, she's not moving."
"These crabby cats are survivors," Clark said. He said Fluffy is 3 years old and has always lived outdoors. He suspects something happened to Fluffy to cause her to curl up outside the way she did.
"I suspect that something traumatic happened," Clark said. "Either something fell on her or she fell or something chased her and she got injured. ... She couldn't get back to her normal little hiding spots that she goes to."
Clark told WPEC-TV that Fluffy is back home recovering.
First published on February 7, 2019
© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
- Published in