September 03, 2015

Smarter humans and smarter machines will work together

The potential for improved human intelligence is enormous. Cognitive ability is influenced by thousands of genetic loci, each of small effect. If all were simultaneously improved, it would be possible to achieve, very roughly, about 100 standard deviations of improvement, corresponding to an IQ of over 1,000. We can’t imagine what capabilities this level of intelligence represents, but we can be sure it is far beyond our own. Cognitive engineering, via direct edits to embryonic human DNA, will eventually produce individuals who are well beyond all historical figures in cognitive ability. By 2050, this process will likely have begun.

These two threads—smarter people and smarter machines—will inevitably intersect. Just as machines will be much smarter in 2050, we can expect that the humans who design, build, and program them will also be smarter. Naively, one would expect the rate of advance of machine intelligence to outstrip that of biological intelligence. Tinkering with a machine seems easier than modifying a living species, one generation at a time. But advances in genomics—both in our ability to relate complex traits to the underlying genetic codes, and the ability to make direct edits to genomes—will allow rapid advances in biologically-based cognition. Also, once machines reach human levels of intelligence, our ability to tinker starts to be limited by ethical considerations. Rebooting an operating system is one thing, but what about a sentient being with memories and a sense of free will?

It is easy to forget that the computer revolution was led by a handful of geniuses: individuals with truly unusual cognitive ability. Alan Turing and John von Neumann both contributed to the realization of computers whose program is stored in memory and can be modified during execution. This idea appeared originally in the form of the Turing Machine, and was given practical realization in the so-called von Neumann architecture of the first electronic computers, such as the EDVAC. While this computing design seems natural, even obvious, to us now, it was at the time a significant conceptual leap.

Turing and von Neumann were special, and far beyond peers of their era. Both played an essential role in the Allied victory in WWII. Turing famously broke the German Enigma codes, but not before conceptualizing the notion of “mechanized thought” in his Turing Machine, which was to become the main theoretical construct in modern computer science. Before the war, von Neumann placed the new quantum theory on a rigorous mathematical foundation.

AI research also pushes even very bright humans to their limits. The frontier machine intelligence architecture of the moment uses deep neural nets: multilayered networks of simulated neurons inspired by their biological counterparts. Silicon brains of this kind, running on huge clusters of GPUs (graphical processor units made cheap by research and development and economies of scale in the video game industry), have recently surpassed human performance on a number of narrowly defined tasks, such as image or character recognition. We are learning how to tune deep neural nets using large samples of training data, but the resulting structures are mysterious to us.

The detailed inner workings of a complex machine intelligence (or of a biological brain) may turn out to be incomprehensible to our human minds—or at least the human minds of today. While one can imagine a researcher “getting lucky” by stumbling on an architecture or design whose performance surpasses her own capability to understand it, it is hard to imagine systematic improvements without deeper comprehension.

Perhaps we will experience a positive feedback loop: Better human minds invent better machine learning methods, which in turn accelerate our ability to improve human DNA and create even better minds.

The feedback loop between algorithms and genomes will result in a rich and complex world, with myriad types of intelligences at play: the ordinary human (rapidly losing the ability to comprehend what is going on around them); the enhanced human (the driver of change over the next 100 years, but perhaps eventually surpassed); and all around them vast machine intellects, some alien (evolved completely in silico) and some strangely familiar (hybrids). Rather than the standard science-fiction scenario of relatively unchanged, familiar humans interacting with ever-improving computer minds, we will experience a future with a diversity of both human and machine intelligences.

NBF Comment
There will also be many kinds of quantum computers. Currently there are over dozen approaches to quantum computing.
There will be many kinds of neuromorphic machines.
There will be optical computers.
Many different approaches to computing will be useful for different kinds of problems.

There is no genomic dark matter or missing heritability, it is merely a matter of sample size

There is NO genomic "dark matter" or "missing heritability" -- it's merely a matter of sample size (statistical power) to identify the specific variants that account for the total expected heritability. The paper below (see also HaploSNPs and missing heritability) suggests that essentially all of the expected heritability can be accounted for once rare (MAF less than 0.01) and common SNPs are taken into account. Stephen Hsu suspects the small remaining gap in heritability is accounted for by nonlinear effects.

Nature Genetics - Genetic variance estimation with imputed variants finds negligible missing heritability for human height and body mass index

Researchers propose a method (GREML-LDMS) to estimate heritability for human complex traits in unrelated individuals using whole-genome sequencing data. We demonstrate using simulations based on whole-genome sequencing data that ~97% and ~68% of variation at common and rare variants, respectively, can be captured by imputation. Using the GREML-LDMS method, we estimate from 44,126 unrelated individuals that all ~17 million imputed variants explain 56% (standard error (s.e.) = 2.3%) of variance for height and 27% (s.e. = 2.5%) of variance for body mass index (BMI), and we find evidence that height- and BMI-associated variants have been under natural selection. Considering the imperfect tagging of imputation and potential overestimation of heritability from previous family-based studies, heritability is likely to be 60–70% for height and 30–40% for BMI. Therefore, the missing heritability is small for both traits. For further discovery of genes associated with complex traits, a study design with SNP arrays followed by imputation is more cost-effective than whole-genome sequencing at current prices.

Estimates of heritability using sequence variants under different simulation scenarios based on the UK10K-WGS data set.

Star Trek Axanar feature film on track to start filming October 2015 and for release in the first half of 2016

Axanar is the first fully-professional, independent Star Trek film. While some may call it a "fan film" as we are not licensed by CBS, Axanar has professionals working in front and behind the camera, with a fully-professional crew--many of whom have worked on Star Trek itself--who ensure Axanar will be the quality of Star Trek that all fans want to see.

Axanar is in pre-production now and will start filming in October 2015 with an anticipated release in the first half of 2016.

Alex Peters at Axanar Productions discussed the relationship that they have with CBS.

Alex Peters met with CBS while at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention. The meeting was with two of the top people in CBS and they were very frank about Axanar. The CBS people told them everyone at CBS and Paramount was aware of Axanar.

They told them that Axanar Productions was certainly doing more than any fan film before and that has some people concerned. CBS say what CAN or CANNOT be done for legal reasons. Axanar Productions is left to make assumptions and if we cross the line the lawyers will let them know.

Going into Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, the last thing CBS would want is any negative publicity related to Star Trek. As of August 30th, 1.5 million fans have watched Prelude to Axanar on Youtube, and other fan productions have large viewerships, as well. All of the fans watching these productions are Star Trek consumers. Alienating them by changing CBS’ relationship with fan films would not be good for business, particularly now, in the age of social media.

4K OLED TVs going into mass production and could become 20% of overall sales by 2020

Skyworth announced on Aug. 25 that its first mass-produced 4K OLED TVs will soon hit the market and that it is targeting sales of 30,000 units this year. Liu Tangzhi, CEO of Skyworth's TV division, said the company has been preparing for the product launch for two years and can now go ahead with its plans after LG Display began mass production of 4K OLED panels in June.

Liu said OLED TVs can be made even thinner than LCD panels because the former are not backlit, and OLED technology also achieves deeper black levels and better contrast than other screens.

Liu forecasts that the penetration of OLED TVs will reach 15%-20% of overall TV sales by unit and 30% of sales by value in 2020.

Liu Dan, president of Konka, which plans to begin selling 4k OLED TVs on Oct. 1, said OLED TV prices have dropped to only double the price of LCD units and now is the time to introduce such products to the market.

New General Relativity Area law theory suggests time runs backward inside a blackhole

Black holes are known to have many strange properties, such as that they allow nothing—not even light—to escape after falling in. A lesser known but equally bizarre property is that black holes appear to "know" what happens in the future in order to form in the first place. However, this strange property arises from the way in which black holes are defined, which has motivated some physicists to explore alternative definitions.

They reported a new area law in general relativity that is based on an interpretation of black holes as curved geometric objects called "holographic screens."

"The so-called teleology of the black hole event horizon is an artifact of the way in which physicists define an event horizon: the event horizon is defined with respect to infinite future elapsed time, so by definition it 'knows' about the entire fate of the universe," Engelhardt told "In general relativity, the black hole event horizon cannot be observed by any physical observer in finite time, and there isn't a sense in which the black hole as an entity knows about future infinity. It is simply a convenient way of describing black holes."

"Holographic screens are in a sense a local boundary to regions of strong gravitational fields," Engelhardt said. "Future holographic screens correspond to gravitational fields which pull matter together (e.g., black hole, big crunch), whereas past holographic screens correspond to regions which spread matter out (e.g., big bang, white hole)."

The new area law states that the area of a future holographic screen is always increasing in one direction, while the area of a past holographic screen is always increasing in a second (different) direction. This law has some intriguing interpretations when viewed from a thermodynamic perspective and using the idea that spacetime is a hologram. According to the holographic principle, the amount of information or entropy in a given area is related to the surface area. So by interpreting the area as a bound on the entropy, the area law can reveal the direction of thermodynamic time (which, as the scientists note, is not the same as mathematical time).

The new area law states that the area of a future holographic screen (the solid blue line in [a]) is always increasing in one direction, while the area of a past holographic screen (the solid blue line in [b.]) is always increasing in a different direction. Credit: Bousso and Engelhardt. ©2015 American Physical Society

As classical future and past holographic screens obey an area law, researchers expect that quantum holographic screens obey a Generalized Second Law. In particular, researchers expect the quantum extension of their results to yield a rigorous formulation of the Generalized Second Law in cosmology

Physical Review Letters - New Area Law in General Relativity

Researchers report a new area law in general relativity. A future holographic screen is a hypersurface foliated by marginally trapped surfaces. They show that their area increases monotonically along the foliation. Future holographic screens can easily be found in collapsing stars and near a big crunch. Past holographic screens exist in any expanding universe and obey a similar theorem, yielding the first rigorous area law in big bang cosmology. Unlike event horizons, these objects can be identified at finite time and without reference to an asymptotic boundary. The Bousso bound is not used, but it naturally suggests a thermodynamic interpretation of our result.

Arxiv - A New Area Law in General Relativity (5 pages)

Kratos gets $20 million railgun contract likely for more railgun fire control work

Kratos Defense and Security Solutions a leading National Security Solutions provider, announced today that it has recently received a $20 million electromagnetic railgun program contract award with an approximate two-year period of performance for a United States government customer. DRSS is a leading provider of hardware, products, solutions and support services for technology leading and disruptive National Security programs and initiatives, including electromagnetic railgun, directed and high energy systems, hypersonics and ballistic missile defense.

In 2014, Kratos received a $9 million contract award to support the prototype development of the railgun fire control system and hypervelocity guided projectile. Under the new contract award, KDRSS will design, engineer, manufacture, and deliver prototype projectiles and a fire control system to support at-sea and land demonstrations that are currently scheduled to begin in 2016. Due to customer related and other considerations, no additional information will be provided related to this contract award.

Robert Weaver, Kratos' Railgun Program Manager, said, " We are pleased to continue our support of the Railgun Program and look forward to working with the Fire Control and Hypervelocity Projectile Integrated Product Teams to develop and field a railgun weapon system."

Phagraphene, a 'relative' of graphene, discovered

A group of scientists from Russia, the USA and China, led by Artyom Oganov from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), using computer generated simulation have predicted the existence of a new two-dimensional carbon material, a "patchwork" analogue of graphene called phagraphene. The results of their investigation were recently published in the journal Nano Letters.

"Unlike graphene, a hexagonal honeycomb structure with atoms of carbon at its junctions, phagraphene consists of penta-, hexa- and heptagonal carbon rings. Its name comes from a contraction of Penta-Hexa-heptA-graphene," says Oganov, head of the MIPT Laboratory of Computer Design.

Nanoletters - Phagraphene: A Low-Energy Graphene Allotrope Composed of 5–6–7 Carbon Rings with Distorted Dirac Cones

UAE starts construction of fourth APR-1400 Korean nuclear reactor with commercial operation targeted by 2020

The first safety concrete has been poured for the basemat of the containment building of the fourth reactor at the United Arab Emirates' Barakah nuclear power plant.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) received regulatory approval for the construction of Barakah units 3 and 4 last September. The company said preparatory work at unit 4 has been carried out over the past seven months which included excavation work, lining the foundation pit and installing reinforcing steel bars.

Construction of the reactor containment building for unit 4 will be completed over the next three years, Enec said. It added that unit 4 is on track to enter commercial operation by 2020.

In a $20 billion deal announced in December 2009, Enec selected a consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corporation to build four APR-1400 reactors. First concrete for Barakah 1 was poured in July 2012, while that for unit 2 was poured in May 2013 with unit 3 following in September 2014. Enec said that unit 1 is now 75% complete, while overall construction of the four-unit plant is more than 50% complete. All four units are scheduled to enter service by 2020.

$100 in supplies can now make tens of thousands CRISPR gene editing units

University of California, Berkeley, researchers have discovered a much cheaper and easier way to target a hot new gene editing tool, CRISPR-Cas9, to cut or label DNA.

The CRISPR-Cas9 technique, invented three years ago at UC Berkeley, has taken genomics by storm, with its ability to latch on to a very specific sequence of DNA and cut it, inactivating genes with ease. This has great promise for targeted gene therapy to cure genetic diseases, and for discovering the causes of disease.

The technology can also be tweaked to latch on without cutting, labeling DNA with a fluorescent probe that allows researchers to locate and track a gene among thousands in the nucleus of a living, dividing cell.

The newly developed technique now makes it easier to create the RNA guides that allow CRISPR-Cas9 to target DNA so precisely. In fact, for less than $100 in supplies, anyone can make tens of thousands of such precisely guided probes covering an organism’s entire genome.

The process, which they refer to as CRISPR-EATING – for “Everything Available Turned Into New Guides” – is reported in a paper to appear in the August 10 issue of the journal Developmental Cell.


• dCas9-Neon is programmed to label repetitive chromosomal loci in egg extracts
• Enzymatic processing of any DNA source can generate a guide RNA library
• A library generated from PCR products labels a single 3.4 megabase locus
• A complex guide RNA library targets the E. coli genome at high frequency


CRISPR-based technologies have emerged as powerful tools to alter genomes and mark chromosomal loci, but an inexpensive method for generating large numbers of RNA guides for whole genome screening and labeling is lacking. Using a method that permits library construction from any source of DNA, we generated guide libraries that label repetitive loci or a single chromosomal locus in Xenopus egg extracts and show that a complex library can target the E. coli genome at high frequency.

Some DNA sequences appear multiple times in the genome. Here, an RNA guide probe labels repetitive regions in the nucleus of a sperm cell from the frog Xenopus laevis.

Development Cell - Enzymatically Generated CRISPR Libraries for Genome Labeling and Screening

Getting the functions and benefits of Star Trek Like Technology without the incorrect Star Trek Approaches

Phil Plait had a recent review of what Star Trek technology was possible but he categorized many technologies as not being possible without considering the functions commonly seen on Star trek shows and how those benefits could be delivered. Phil placed too much emphasis on the literal technobabble.

Turbolifts - going up, down and sideways

ThyssenKrupp places linear motors in elevator cabins, transforming conventional elevator transportation in vertical metro systems. MULTI elevator technology increases transport capacities and efficiency while reducing the elevator footprint and peak loads from the power supply in buildings. Several cabins in the same shaft moving vertically and horizontally will permit buildings to adopt different heights, shapes, and purposes. The first MULTI unit will be in tests by 2016.

MULTI will transform how people move inside buildings, just as the recently introduced ThyssenKrupp’s ACCEL, which also applies the same linear motor technology, is set to transform mobility between short distances in cities and airports.

In a manner similar to a metro system operation, the MULTI design can incorporate various self-propelled elevator cabins per shaft running in a loop, increasing the shaft transport capacity by up to 50% making it possible to reduce the elevator footprint in buildings by as much as 50%.

Using no cables at all, a multi-level brake system, and inductive power transfers from shaft to cabin, MULTI requires smaller shafts than conventional elevators, and can increase a building’s usable area by up to 25%, considering that, depending on the size of the building, current elevator-escalator footprints can occupy up to 40% of the building’s floor space. The overall increase in efficiency also translates into a lower requirement for escalators and additional elevator shafts, resulting in significant construction cost savings as well as a multiplication of rent revenues from increased usable space.

ThyssenKrupp’s MULTI consists of various cabs per shaft and enables vertical and horizontal movement.

Taiwan military intelligence confirms China building two new aircraft carriers

China is building two aircraft carriers that will be the same size as its sole carrier, a 60,000-tonne refurbished Soviet-era ship, according to a new Taiwanese Defence Ministry report on the capabilities of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

Little is known about China's aircraft carrier program, which is a state secret, although Chinese state media have hinted new vessels are being built. The Pentagon, in a report earlier this year, said Beijing could build multiple aircraft carriers over the next 15 years.

One of the new vessels is being built in Shanghai and the other in the northeastern city of Dalian, said the Taiwanese report.

Previous reports on China's Aircraft carrier construction

June, 2015 photographs, show the beginnings of the hull of what has been called the Type 001A carrier taking form in the Dalian shipyard.

The shipyard appears to be employing a pyramid method of hull construction. Most civilian ships adopt a block method of hull construction for speed. As shipbuilding standards have improved, large military destroyers have also adopted this method of construction. The pyramid method of construction suggested by the photographs likely means that the project entails a greater level of difficulty than other civilian or military ships. The US still uses the pyramid method to build its carriers.

According to Western media reports, the Type 001A carrier incorporates an additional double rectangle structure, which, analysts say, is to allow for the installation of China's new X band active electronically scanned array radar system. The radar system, which will likely be installed on the second deck of the ship, will give the ship 360 degree coverage, making it more advanced than the Liaoning, the country's first aircraft carrier refitted from the hulk of a Soviet-era carrier purchased from Ukraine.

In 6 months Tesla will start taking pre-orders for $35K model 3 with deliveries starting about 2017

The Tesla model 3 cost of $35,000 was reconfirmed by Tesla Motors.

Tesla is well known for unveiling its cars well before they are available to buy. However the lower cost Tesla model 3 will not be available until 2017 at the very earliest.

Telsa will start taking pre-orders for model 3 starting March, 2016.

The batteries that would power the Model 3 currently cost about as much as the car is slated to. Tesla is building an enormous lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Nevada to make its own batteries for far less money — the "Gigafactory" mentioned in Musk's tweet.

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