Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Scientists developed ‘living robots’ that reproduce

Jakkii says: I’ve got a few things to share this week, so I’ll keep my commentary relatively brief (for a change!) so you can focus on getting into the content of the articles instead.

This is the type of content I would have loved to share with Nat, though she would undoubtedly have seen it first and be sharing it with me instead. And it would have come, of course, with a well-considered and highly philosophical opinion about the whys and wherefores and the impact on identity – human or otherwise.

The world’s first “living robots” are now capable of something that’s essential to the survival of any species: reproduction.

Known as Xenobots, the organisms use an entirely novel form of biological self-replication, according to new research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Initially, it was found that, while they could replicate, they’d die soon after, so the scientists enlisted AI to help them “see their kids grow up”. Aside from the whole idea of a ‘living robot’, let alone one that can reproduce, one thing I found really interesting was the assessment of what the AI came up with as being “non-intuitive” and “not something a human engineer would design”. Now, what that really says about humans vs AI is very much up for discussion, for example, is it really that a human engineer wouldn’t design it, or that the person or people who might either aren’t in engineering or aren’t working on xenobots? But one thing that is fair to say is that it does demonstrate the possibilities of how AI can fill the gap – maybe we don’t need to wait for the person who has a happy accident of observation or happens to see a problem in a unique way, enabling them to find a unique solution. Maybe AI can do that for us – at least in some cases.

Read: https://thenextweb.com/news/living-robots-can-now-reproduce-xenobots-self-replicate

Star Trek creator’s signature will live long and prosper in new NFT

Jakkii says: Honestly, I’m at a bit of a loss for words on this one.

The NFT’s creators implanted the signature, signed in 1965, into a living bacteria cell in the form of DNA code. As the cell duplicates, it creates new copies of the NFT — over a billion in one night.

From a purely scientific perspective it’s pretty fascinating, and a great reminder of the incredible things we can do these days. But outside that, it just begs the question why? Why do this at all, let alone create it as an NFT? Just because we can? I’m not so sure that means we should. Between this and the reproducing xenobots, where’s Dr Malcolm when we need him??

Read: https://www.theverge.com/2021/11/30/22810121/star-trek-nft-gene-roddenberry

Revenue NSW’s automated system took fines from people’s bank accounts

Jakkii says: This is quite an interesting case of the use of automation. The important points here, for me, are in finding it unlawful, saying:

“The mechanism was deemed unlawful because no authorised person engaged in a mental process of reasoning before an order was issued”

and in the call for greater transparency about the use of technology in decision-making, which ought to include the use of algorithms, AI, machine learning and automation. This is particularly relevant, in my view, when it comes to technology employed by the government, generally, but most especially when it relates to issues directly affecting citizens lives, such as in social security, debt collection and enforcement policies and actions. We have a particular responsibility to ensure we consider and protect vulnerable people from the impact of poor policy design and poor technology implementation.

Relatedly, I also found it interesting overall to see this statistic:

“The number of garnishee orders issued by Revenue NSW has leapt from 6905 in the financial year ending 2011, to more than 1.6 million in the year ending 2019.“

That is a phenomenal increase. The article doesn’t make clear what factors are considered to have contributed to this, but it certainly implies (or at least, I have inferred) that employing technology has been a significant contributing factor.

Read: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/revenue-nsw-s-automated-system-took-fines-from-people-s-bank-accounts-20211129-p59d2m.html

At home

Jakkii says: it’s December! We’re well and truly on the countdown to the holidays and the end of the year now. While you’re counting down the days, juggling holiday festivities and celebration prep, here are a few things you can read, watch and do from home this week.

Friday Fives

Hybrid workplace and the future of work

Remote work and the digital workplace

Communication, collaboration, engagement, and culture

Community management, moderation and misinformation

Accessibility

Privacy and data

Big Tech, tech and regulation

Social media

Bonus: ‘Digitally literate’ Gen Z and Millennials’ pandemic experience shaped by social media

Extras

This is interesting: The Saudi women’s rights activist who found freedom and horror on the internet

Things that make you go hmmm: We can’t ignore the role mental health plays in conspiracy theory beliefs

Space: Incredible timelapse video of one month of the Sun

Podcast: Why the highest paying jobs so rarely go to women

Friday playlist: Songs to sing in the car


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