Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Living with the Exponential - I

Before the middle of this century, the growth rates of our technology— which will be indistinguishable from ourselves— will be so steep as to appear essentially vertical. From a strictly mathematical perspective, the growth rates will still be finite but so extreme that the changes they bring about will appear to rupture the fabric of human history. That, at least, will be the perspective of unenhanced biological humanity.
Kurzweil, Ray. The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, September 26, 2006  

Massive debt is sealing the fate of governments and central banks.   As the cards collapse, radical developments in diverse areas of technology, combined with free market entrepreneurship, will destroy and rebuild the existing social order.
Smith, George Ford. The Fall of Tyranny, the Rise of LibertyJanuary 21, 2017 

My purpose in "Living with the Exponential" series is to get our thinking oriented to the supercharged future that awaits us.  One sample of this future has already arrived when it was reported a month ago that AlphaGo Zero defeated AlphaGo in the game of Go, 100 games to none.  A few months earlier AlphaGo had topped the best human player.  Unlike AlphaGo, AlphaGo Zero taught itself to play Go.

In 2011, IBM's Watson computer defeated the two best Jeopardy! players.  Watson has since gone to medical school to assist doctors in their diagnoses.

Chess programs that run on desktop computers or even smartphones routinely beat human grandmasters.

The tech industry has spawned billionaires by selling to the masses.  Tech titans aim to eliminate disease itself, including aging

But the radical future isn't limited to digits, as we're seeing with Brexit and Catalonia.  

The world is changing fast, and it will change much faster in the years ahead.  Let's try to stay on top of it.


Gene Editing

“We cut your DNA, open it up, insert a gene, stitch it back up. Invisible mending,” said Dr. Sandy Macrae, president of Sangamo Therapeutics, the California company testing this for two metabolic diseases and hemophilia. “It becomes part of your DNA and is there for the rest of your life.”

It’s like sending a mini surgeon along to place the new gene in exactly the right location.

The experiment was done Monday in California on 44-year-old Brian Madeux. Through an IV, he received billions of copies of a corrective gene and a genetic tool to cut his DNA in a precise spot.

Signs of whether it’s working may come in a month; tests will show for sure in three months.

See AP Exclusive: US scientists try 1st gene editing in the body  (11-15-2017)

Surgical Training using Virtual Reality (VR)

We wiil need to double the number of surgeons by 2030 to meet the needs of the developing world.

Dr. Shafi Ahmed wants to train them simultaneously using VR.

"Ahmed made a splash back in 2014 when he reached 14,000 surgeons across 100 different countries by using Google Glass to stream a surgical training session. In 2016, Ahmed took this a step further by live-streaming a cancer surgery in virtual reality that was shot in 360-degree video while he removed a colon tumor from a patient."

He also streamed Twitter's first live operation.

Ahmed: “Forget one-to-one. My idea is one to many. I want to share knowledge with the masses.”

See Virtual Reality Is Reshaping Medical Training and Treatment (11-12-2017)

Treating babies born with jaundice

About 60 percent of babies are born with jaundice—a yellow tint to the skin and whites of the eyes.

The color is a sign that the baby’s blood has too much bilirubin—a byproduct of the body replacing old red blood cells.

The liver normally flushes bilirubin out of the body, but a newborns’ organ often can’t get the job done efficiently.

Newborns being treated for jaundice must often lie naked under therapeutic blue light for hours at a time.

New light-emitting pajamas could give parents a more comfortable, portable option for their babies. 

See Light-Up Pajamas to Treat Babies With Jaundice  (11-8-2017)

Reversing Aging

A team led by Dr. Dongsheng Cai from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine pinpointed a critical source of aging to a small group of stem cells within the hypothalamus.

Like fountains of youth, these stem cells release tiny fatty bubbles filled with mixtures of small biological molecules called microRNAs. With age, these cells die out, and the animal’s muscle, skin and brain function declines.

However, when the team transplanted these stem cells from young animals into a middle-aged one, they slowed aging. 

In a groundbreaking paper published in 2013, Cai found that a molecule called NF-kappaB increased in the hypothalamus as an animal grew older. Zap out NF-kappaB activity in mice, and they showed much fewer age-related symptoms as they grew older.

The animals also better preserved their muscle strength, skin thickness, bone and tendon integrity.

See Breakthrough Stem Cell Study Offers New Clues to Reversing Aging  (8-6-2017)

Artificial Intelligence

Ray Kurzweil: 

[When] a girl in Africa buys a smartphone for $75, it counts as $75 of economic activity, despite the fact that it's literally a trillion dollars of computation circa 1960, a billion dollars circa 1980. It's got millions of dollars in free information apps, just one of which is an encyclopedia far better than the one I saved up for years as a teenager to buy. All that counts for zero in economic activity because it's free. So we really don't count the value of these products.

Technology is always going to be a double-edged sword. Fire kept us warm, cooked our food, and burned down our houses. . .   It's only continued progress particularly in AI that's going to enable us to continue overcoming poverty and disease and environmental degradation while we attend to the peril.

I'm a believer that the Turing Test is a valid test of the full range of human intelligence. . .  I've been consistent in saying 2029 [will be the year an AI passes the Turing Test].

See Ray Kurzweil on Turning Tests, Brain Extenders, and AI Ethics  (11-13-2017)

Integrated Circuits

Most wearable electronic devices that are currently available rely on rigid electronic components mounted on plastic, rubber or textiles. These have limited compatibility with the skin, are damaged when washed, and are uncomfortable to wear because they are not breathable.

University of Cambridge researchers have developed a process that is scalable and according to the researchers, there are no fundamental obstacles to the technological development of wearable electronic devices — both in terms of their complexity and performance.

The printed components are flexible, washable, and require low power — essential requirements for applications in wearable electronics.

The technology is being commercialized by Cambridge Enterprise, the University’s commercialization arm.

See Integrated circuits printed directly onto fabric for the first time  (11-10-2017)


The United States was founded upon the concept of secession. Not once, but twice. First, in 1783, when colonies seceded from the British Empire. Second, in 1788, when states seceded from the United States. 

Within eight years of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the first secession movement arose.

It flared up, again, in 1800 when Jefferson was elected the third President of the United States.

And, again, in 1803 when President Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon.

New England States would seek secession from the United States again in 1811 over the admission of the State of Louisiana into the Union, and again in 1814-1815 over “Mr. Madison’s War.”

In the 1850s, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland, called “the middle states”, represented 40 percent of the U.S. economy. A powerful secessionist movement arose in these states calling for them to form a separate country.

When the seven “Deep South” states seceded in 1860-61, many Northern newspapers upheld their legal right to secede and advocated a peaceful separation.

Secessionist movements continue in the United States to this day.

See Secession is as American as apple pie  (11-6-2017)

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