Time-off notice: no new posts for the time being

Experimenting a proxy to Earth before life – in a toaster

From Nautilus, by Johnny Bontemps, The Dawn of Life in a $5 Toaster Oven:

“… A vintage General Electric model… for cooking up the chemical precursors of life, he thought. He bought it for $5.

At home in his basement, with the help of his college-age son, he cut a rectangular hole in the oven’s backside, through which an automated sliding table (recycled from an old document scanner) could move a tray of experiments in and out. He then attached a syringe pump to some inkjet printer parts, and rigged the system to periodically drip water onto the tray … in Hud’s laboratory at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he directs the Center for Chemical Evolution, a multi-university consortium funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation. …

It simulates the cycles of cool and hot, and wet and dry, that Hud suspects jump-started this evolutionary process, millions of years before the first cellular life forms emerged…
Evolution requires two forces: variation and selection… Polymers can form, break down, and form again with new configurations. That’s variation. … They might fold into shapes that prevent them from breaking apart too quickly, for instance. That’s selection. …

The engine for life and evolution could then be, as Hud says, as simple as “a planet spinning in front of a star…” read full story

Bias dynamics in A.I.

The more algos we live by, the more “Computer Scientists Find Bias in Algorithms” as the story by Lauren J. Young tells us.

We may, of course, think that bias is unavoidable, so the best we can do is be aware and go on.  How much aware may find some psychological or commercial barriers, as in Jerry Kaplan’s “Would You Buy a Car That’s Programmed to Kill You? You Just Might.

Maybe we can only hope that something good may come from algos interacting and trying to learn what are their new preferred actions (from their adjusted biases) as Daniel Hennes and Michael Kaisers paper on “Evolutionary Dynamics of Multi-Agent Learning” indicates its possible.


‘Stop the whining!’ – said the robot

One doesn’t have to wait long until a new story comes up showing how humans are already obsolete.  Robots are taking our jobs and there’s no scape from it.

Recent examples can be found in Will Knight’s  two recent articles at MIT Tech review “New Boss on Construction Sites Is a Drone”  and “Robots Learn to Make Pancakes from WikiHow Articles“.

Less often we find stories such as “Technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed, says 140 years of data” and suddenly we feel lighter.  Technology will provide us new jobs.  Of course this is not played well for typists, lamplighter, ice cutters, etc, but at least there’s hope.

Richard Newton’s “Visions of a future beyond abundance and lolling” tries a calmer, optimistic if not skeptical approach.Continue reading

Ashley Madison hack, marriage and technology

Links via Azeem Azhar’s great Exponential View:

As people discuss Ashley Madison’s hack repercussions, this interview with the hackers is informative.

Moving to how people see traditional marriage going forward  survey of futurists overwhelmingly supported plural marriages.
And then we are back to old theme of repressing women and their insolent attempt to do what they think they want as the last two hundred years have been filled with moral panics about women using technologies for libertine ends.

Javascript, pop-ups and ad-blocking

The ethics of modern web ad-blocking” – by Marco Arment

“The ethics of modern web ad-blocking

(…) Pop-up-blocking software boomed, and within a few years, every modern web browser blocked almost all pop-ups by default.

(…) People often argue that running ad-blocking software is violating an implied contract between the reader and the publisher: the publisher offers the page content to the reader for free, in exchange for the reader seeing the publisher’s ads. And that’s a nice, simple theory, but it’s a blurry line in reality.Continue reading

The Next Wave – A Conversation With John Markoff

Interview with JOHN MARKOFF; a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who covers science and technology for The New York Times. His most recent book is the forthcoming Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots. 

human energy

New acciddent with Google’s self driving car. Again, stationary. Now with injuries

Chris Urmson, from Google’s self driving car project, posted a new ‘chapter’ about their experience in learning about self driving vehicles.

Far from celebrate the accidents, such events are critical to understanding how accidents really happen.  Even when you are stationary, or it’s not your fault.  As all drivers learn (or know intuitively one may argue) if a car comes the wrong way straight to your car you’ll be sorry for the outcome – no matter who to blame.

This video is part of the post as an output of information car’s system was dealing with.


Nuclear Fusion – in your garage