So, Pres. Biden and the U.N. and every futurist NGO are all setting up AI Advisory Councils and such, while the functional branch of Congress - the Senate (barely functional, a little) - holds hearings... and sage conferences feature hand-wringing jeremiads by many of the very same geniuses who seem so surprised that their cyber-invented entities are behaving so cantankerously! I posted about many aspects of this 'crisis' in my previous posting here. Let me now add a writeup on my 2017 speech that accurately (to the month) predicted (almost to the very month) when we'd face our "First AI Empathy Crisis." And many other aspects of the AI worry-fest that now surges all over.
And yet, despite cyber advances, it is way premature to write off the bio-organic world! Especially as it manifests in human brains... and minds. So let's dive into another bioscience roundup!
Starting with those vaunted neural networks made of squishy wet stuff.
== Brain & neuroscience ==
Can we begin with one more prediction cred? Even back in Earth (1991) I said that neurons alone could not be doing all the processing in the brain. First off, glial and astrocyte cells had to be doing more than just ‘support.”
Now comes news… “Previously, glial cells, especially astrocytes, were believed to merely support neuron functions. However, recent research highlights the ability of these cells to release neurotransmitters and directly influence neural circuits.” And probably much more!
An amazingly cool article about brain loci of memory and imagination! Where does imagination live in your brain?
Oxford researchers are developing a 3D printing method that could engineer cerebral cortex tissue to repair brain injuries.
And here's fascinating article about the brain-roots of both memory and imagination. Starting with the hippocampus and rats, we arrive at: “It’s amazing that we’re not all psychotic all the time, that we’re not all delusional, because our brains are clearly making stuff up a lot of the time about things that could be.” Clearly this researcher needs to get out and see the level of delusion in politics
Researchers have identified about 200 patients with hidden autoimmune diseases that had profound psychological effects, some institutionalized for years, A woman who has been comatose for two decades was awakened when her Lupus was discovered and treated. Fascinating tale and yes, a strong parallel with Oliver Sacks and Awakenings.
== Biotech updates ==
The completed human genome lacked one piece, the Y chromosome. That’s finally done, with some surprises. For one, Y chromosomes were vastly different sizes, ranging from 45.2 million to 84.9 million base pairs in length. A year or two ago we also improved knowledge of past “Y bottlenecks,’ when apparently only small numbers of males got to reproduce. (That event becomes even more striking, the closer we look! It apparently happened across a very wide area, and during a particular era of transition to intense agriculture, but before large towns. And this has many implications that we might discuss in comments.)
Want more? Well, some of the genes that enable the naked mole rat to get exceptional longevity (for a rodent) have been transferred to mice with positive results on lifespan "and there are hopes to apply these results to humans." Yeah, well don’t get excited. Longevity results in mice hardly ever translate into human span-extensions, for a simple reason that I describe here.
A Chinese team’s extreme animal gene experiment may lead to super soldiers who survive nuclear fallout, they assert. Modified human embryonic stem cells showed high resistance against radiation, according to paper by the Beijing Academy of Military Sciences.
Unlike many other species, gorillas seem to be remarkably resilient to early-life adversity or even trauma. Researchers examined whether each animal experienced any of six types of early-life adversity before age six, including losing their mom or dad, living through group instability or witnessing the infanticide of a fellow young animal. If the gorilla lived past six, its life prospects were no worse than any other.
== Tech & physics updates ==
Brian Keating's latest "Into the Impossible" episode offers terrific perspectives on J Robert Oppenheimer, in light of the recent film. My own comments on the flick were posted here, a week or so ago.
Albert Einstein in his General theory of Relativity more than a hundred years ago, said that antimatter should behave just like matter in a gravitational field, and fall downwards. Researchers at Cern have now confirmed that Einstein was right; by carefully constructing thousands of atoms of anti-hydrogen and then letting them fall. Cool stuff? Well…
DARPA is funding another look at MHD propulsion for submarines - as in The Hunt For Red October.
Wind Wings sails are made from the same materials as windmill blades, but operate as rigid sails on a few freighters. They are designed to cut fuel consumption and therefore shipping's carbon footprint. I was an investor in an earlier (now alas defunct) avatar of this company. I hope this version does good for the world.
For those of you near retirement or looking for a side bennie-gig, there is of course the Peace Corps and similar entities. Take "Engineers Without Borders" modeled on the more famous Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières. One member of this community worked from them years ago, and designed a sewer line for a village in Rwanda, from the comfort of his home.
And yes, I'll soon be nagging you about "proxy activism" or how you can live up to your beliefs and wishes for the world, at minimal cost and discomfort, by joining NGOs who will save the world for you!
Proxy Activism, the power of joining! It's getting to that time of year. I hope when I issue the annual nag, many of you will go to comments and chime in: "Already done, David! Here are MY five proxy groups using my dues to help make things better!"