Documenting the Coming Singularity

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Smartphones are Reshaping Our Brains

Wired - 12.24.14 by Katie Collins

What this means is that the repetitive movements made by our thumbs as they glide over touchscreens is reshaping the sensory processing from our hands, and this can been adjusted on demand when we are using our phones. The researchers believe this is evidence that "the contemporary brain is continuously shaped by the use of personal digital technology".
Extensive use of smartphone touchscreens is changing the sensory relationship between our brains and our thumbs, a study published in Current Biology has revealed.

The plasticity of the human brain and how it adapts to repetitive gestures has been tested in multiple contexts previously, including in musicians and gamers, but neuroscientists from the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich believe smartphones provide a unique opportunity to understand how everyday life can shape the human brain on a huge scale.

Smartphone growth has seen people using their fingers -- and in particular their thumbs -- in a completely new way multiple times a day, everyday. The very nature of the devices means there is usually a record kept of all the things we are doing with our thumbs on our phones, providing the neuroscientists extensive data to work with.

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Can U.S. Workers Keep Pace with the Robots?

NYT - 12.15.14 by Claire Cain Miller

Self-driving vehicles are an example of the crosscurrents. They could put truck and taxi drivers out of work — or they could enable drivers to be more productive during the time they used to spend driving, which could earn them more money. But for the happier outcome to happen, the drivers would need the skills to do new types of jobs.
A machine that administers sedatives recently began treating patients at a Seattle hospital. At a Silicon Valley hotel, a bellhop robot delivers items to people’s rooms. Last spring, a software algorithm wrote a breaking news article about an earthquake that The Los Angeles Times published.

Although fears that technology will displace jobs are at least as old as the Luddites, there are signs that this time may really be different. The technological breakthroughs of recent years — allowing machines to mimic the human mind — are enabling machines to do knowledge jobs and service jobs, in addition to factory and clerical work.

And over the same 15-year period that digital technology has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of life, the job market has fallen into a long malaise. Even with the economy’s recent improvement, the share of working-age adults who are working is substantially lower than a decade ago — and lower than any point in the 1990s.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Check out this huge, terrifying robot karate kid

MailOnline - 11.10.14 by Mark Prigg

The robo karate kid! Terrifying two legged giant robot being developed by Google learns to stand on one leg - and recreates scene from cult film
For fans of the cult film the Karate Kid, it is a familiar pose.

However, in the latest video from the US military team developing a two legged fighting robot, the buildup to 'crane kick' is seen in a new way.

The researchers taught the robot to stand on one leg - recreating a key scene from the film in the process.

The Atlas robot created by Google-owned firm Boston Dynamics is a formidable figure at 6ft 2in tall and weighing in at 330lb.

The robot boasts 28 hydraulically actuated joints and stereo vision, and is one of the most advanced robots ever created.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

New Estimate for Human-Level Artificial Intelligence - 25 Years!

The Grid - 11.10.14 by Tom Randall

Computers are improving at an exponential rate. In many areas -- chess, for example -- machine skill is already superhuman. In others -- reason, emotional intelligence -- there’s still a long way to go. Whether human-level general intelligence is reached in 15 years or 150, it’s likely to be a little-observed mile marker on the road toward superintelligence.
We’ve been wrong about these robots before.

Soon after modern computers evolved in the 1940s, futurists started predicting that in just a few decades machines would be as smart as humans. Every year, the prediction seems to get pushed back another year. The consensus now is that it’s going to happen in ... you guessed it, just a few more decades.

There’s more reason to believe the predictions today. After research that’s produced everything from self-driving cars to Jeopardy!-winning supercomputers, scientists have a much better understanding of what they’re up against. And, perhaps, what we’re up against.

Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, lays out the best predictions of the artificial intelligence (AI) research community in his new book, “Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies.” Here are the combined results of four surveys of AI researchers, including a poll of the most-cited scientists in the field, totalling 170 respondents.

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Sunday, November 02, 2014

Self-Replicating Machines - The Last Thing We'll Ever Build

CNN - 10.30.14 by Kieron Monks

We can develop material compositions that could self-optimize based on logic and sensing
From the single, centrally-positioned seat to the crash-proof frame, this Formula One-like car is an alluring piece of kit. It would make any driver stand out in a traffic jam, and it's completely road legal.

But the truly ground-breaking feature of BAC's ultra-sleek design is still under wraps. The company are developing an autonomous rear wing that self-transforms according to the conditions. In rainy weather it curves to increase downforce for a safer drive, and straightens out when the downpour clears. This process is powered by the rain itself.

The startling concept is the result of collaboration with MIT's pioneering Self-Assembly Lab, which seeks to programme materials to build themselves, and transform how we make things.

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