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.

Digital Dogs

Whoopi says: Dogs have been working alongside humans for tens of thousands of years – all the time adapting to new contexts. We’ve helped in hunting, finding people, herding farm animals, guarding our owners, searching for things, assistance and therapy guides, to name just a few ways and now, we’re going digital!

Obviously we’re better at finding things through scent than people, but watch this video to find out how we can detect tiny digital devices and how this will help police work!

Read more about the program in the UK

What can robots learn to do – or not?

Anne says: Last week I reviewed the definitions of what a robot is. It’s clearly a contentious issue, but there was some general consensus for this position:

A robot is a machine that senses and acts on its world.

This week’s article, Robots have been taking our jobs for 50 years, so why are we worried? (published by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with The Conversation), reviews how automation has already been used without significant impact to jobs. It then highlights the advances and a new wave of smarter machines that can adapt to multiple tasks. Enter Industry 4.0, where these smarter robots will be flexible, collaborative and operate more independently, potentially removing the need for a skilled workforce.

The argument appears to focus on machines getting smarter through processes like deep learning – but with the caveat that the artificial intelligence remains relatively narrow.

If you think the machines/robots are going to learn to kill us – then perhaps watch this TED Talk by Noriko Arai of the University of Tokyo: Can a robot pass a university entrance exam?

Perhaps we are overly concerned about the capabilities, or maybe it’s justified? I’ll leave you to ponder if the robot fear-mongering in much of the mainstream media is justified or not. Until next week’s instalment, that is!


Researchers Have Linked a Human Brain to the Internet for the First Time Ever

Nat says: As humans, we naturally have a hand-in-glove relationship with technology; digital and otherwise. Everything we do in life constitutes the natural world, for this is how we harvest materials to build our technological world. This relationship has always gifted us with knowledge about ourselves, as suggested by the philosopher Marshall Mcluhan who claimed that the most human thing about us is our technology. Our cities can be viewed as extensions of our physical body, our electronic networks such as telephones, radio and television as extensions of our nervous system, and the computer can be seen as an extension of our cognitive functioning. With big data, the internet, and cloud computing, we are now in the age of consciousness being the latest symbolic gesture for how we use technology as an avenue for collective human self-inquiry.

The progression of digital technology has, essentially, seen it become more integrated into our physical body. The news this past week is that we have, for the first time ever, connected a human brain to the internet – the start of the transhumanism movement, perhaps. Neuroscientists and biomedical engineers from Wits University in Johannesburg have created the “brainternet” in which brainwave EEG signals can be connected with a computer in real-time. It’s essentially a technical opportunity to explore the neural activity of someone’s brain, and allows the people of the internet to live stream and view the activity.

Brainternet is a new frontier in brain-computer interface systems. There is a lack of easily understood data about how a human brain works and processes information. Brainternet seeks to simplify a person’s understanding of their own brain and the brains of others. It does this through continuous monitoring of brain activity as well as enabling some interactivity.

The future is already here. Watch this space!


Humans With Amplified Intelligence Could Be More Powerful Than AI

Jakkii says: Intelligence Amplification (IA) is, as the article points out, not an entirely new concept to humans. We’ve sought to enhance our intelligence through myriad ways over the many millennia of our existence. However the IA today seeks to go far beyond anything we’ve been capable of before:

The real objective of IA is to create super-Einsteins, persons qualitatively smarter than any human being that has ever lived. There will be a number of steps on the way there.

The first step will be to create a direct neural link to information. Think of it as a “telepathic Google.”

My piece this week then follows rather perfectly from that which Nat shared above: the first step toward IA has begun, with the so-called “brainternet” in Johannesburg – even if that’s not exactly what they’ve set out to do.

According to futurist Michael Assinimov, once this step is fully realised (and we would seem to be a long way from it yet), the next step will be development of brain-computer interfaces (BCI) that “augment the visual cortex,” followed by what he describes as the ‘holy grail of IA’: “the genuine augmentation of pre-frontal cortex, enhancing the way we combine perceptual data to form concepts.”

The end result would be cognitive super-McGyvers, people who perform apparently impossible intellectual feats. For instance, mind controlling other people, beating the stock market, or designing inventions that change the world almost overnight. This seems impossible to us now in the same way that all our modern scientific achievements would have seemed impossible to a stone age human — but the possibility is real.

The complexity of realising this holy grail of IA should not be understated. Indeed, the article points out that most useful research into IA is illegal, requiring human experimentation, deep neurological surgery and experimental brain implants.

While one can easily imagine that IA could open up incredible opportunities, that it also opens the door to dangerous abuse and misuse is also immediately clear. When we consider our history – in the near and in the longer term – what more destruction might we have wrought had we been equipped with amplified intelligence? What else might we inflict upon one another through corruption, through greed, even in the name of ‘progress’ if we are armed with some form of superintelligence? Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics might be an ethical framework theoretically (if fictionally) able to be enforced through programming, but humanity operates under no such burden. Who, or what, will contain us?

With this race between IA and AI already underway, we are left to ponder: who should we trust more – artificially intelligent agents, or ourselves?


This AI program can make 3D face models from a selfie

“An AI that can turn pictures into faces is the tip of the iceberg here.”

Emilio says: At the heart of Apple’s unveiling of its latest creation, the iPhoneX, is the game changing technology of facial recognition. It’s made possible with a sophisticated camera that scans tens of thousands of dots to create a perfect image of one’s face – now the new password for the phone.

But this commentary isn’t about the iPhone X or its latest mobile technology. It’s really about the machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) on which facial mapping systems, such as the iPhoneX’s face ID, are based.

Embarking on computer vision research, developers at The University of Nottingham and Kingston University used machine learning to create 3D faces from flat-face photos. They trained neural-networks by feeding them tons of data on people’s faces which were then used to recreate the 3D depictions. The result was something cool and unreal – to think that mere one-dimensional images can now be recreated to look more life-like and real.

We humans have always had the distinct ability of recognising faces of people we know or people we have seen somewhere – but the fact that computers and machines are now learning this skill and producing perfect accuracy is quite fascinating.

While some quarters are critical of the security risks and the possibility of mistaken identity and identity theft with this technology, facial recognition may well be the future, and we’re seeing the beginning of this now.

Want to see a 3D image of yourself using your close-up photo? Check out the researchers’ demo website.


Australian Scientists Are Behind The World’s First 3D Printed Shin Bone Implant

Joel says: Since finding out years ago that 3D printers were a thing i’ve always been intrigued at their capabilities. I had heard some time back that there were trials underway using them in the medical industry to print replacement heart valves among other things. Now it seems some Aussie scientists have completed a world first surgery using 3D printing technology.

Queensland University of Technology research and technology is behind the first ever 3D-printed shin bone implant. The procedure was performed on a Gold Coast man who lost bone lost through an infection.

“Additive Biomanufacturing is an emerging sector within Advanced Manufacturing and the technology allows us to 3D print scaffolds, customised to the patient, which are then slowly resorbed by the body and guide the new bone formation,” Professor Hutmacher said.

Professor Hutmacher and Dr Wagels have started an innovative PhD training program which is partially funded by the PA Research Foundation in which young surgeons are trained and perform cutting-edge research in 3D printing in medicine to meet Australia’s need to build capacity in key areas of economic importance.

It seems the capabilities of 3D printing truly are endless with the right amount of research anything may be possible in the near future.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like

a half-closed laptop sits on a desk with a mouse next to it and an empty chair

6 months ago

Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week

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

Read more
series of yellow characters on top of yellow rods, focusing on a smiling character

7 months ago

Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week

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

Read more

9 months ago

Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week

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

Read more

10 months ago

Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week

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

Read more