Future of AI at SciFoo 2015


Every year approximately 200 people meet at Google in Mountain View, California for an event called SciFoo, probably one of the most famous unconferences. Innovators from various disciplines are given access to Google’s cafeterias, to rooms with funky names such as neuralyzer, flux and capacitor and are left to organize sessions where they discuss freely, present bold ideas, give demos of gadgets etc. No topic is considered too crazy or taboo, and half-baked thoughts and ideas are encouraged rather than rebuked. The outcome is a glorious mess of ideas and inspiration that one needs weeks to digest afterward.

One of the sessions at SciFoo this year, organized by Nick Bostrom, Gary Marcus, Jaan Tallin, Max Tegmark, and Murray Shanahan, discussed the future of artificial intelligence. Each of the organizers presented a 5-minute thought piece after which the floor was open for discussion. SciFoo operates under a “frieNDA” policy where people’s comments can only be reported with their permission – I’m grateful to the five speakers for consenting.

Murray Shanahan began by delineating the distinction between on one hand specialist AI (being developed with certainty in the short term, on a time frame of 5-10 years), and general AI (with a long time horizon, the full development of which for now pertains to the domain of science fiction visions). Then Shanahan raised three question-ideas:

1. Do we want to build properly autonomous machines or do we want to ensure that they are just tools?
2. If we could create a powerful AI that could give us anything we wanted, what would we get it to do?
3. Should we create our own evolutionary successors?

While Murray Shanahan opened with philosophical idea-questions, taking as a given the development of general, strong AI, Gary Marcus adopted the position of the skeptic —> Read More

Ode to Oliver Sacks

You have been a “sentient being”;
The eye of a hurricane looking at yourself.
In the mirror of other eddies:
People you loved and have loved you on the planet earth.
“When they leave, they leave a hole that cannot be filled.”
Dear Oliver remember,
Forms change but substance endures (until it doesn’t!)
Surfs dissolve into the ocean.
Oliver dissipates into Time/Space, soaked in love.
I am also 82, so will join you soon.
We will do the free style dance of random encounter,
and sparkle and laugh through the glow of a shooting star.
Life forms again, on a distant star, where we will be actors on a new stage, in unimaginable forms, spewing love, the glue of the universe.
We hug tightly: Dark Matter!

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—> Read More

Multiple Sclerosis vs. California’s Stem Cell Agency: Disease-a-Week Challenge No.15


“He was born with the gift of laughter, and the sense that the world was mad.” — Rafael Sabatini

That opening line (from the novel Scaramouche) would seem to have been written for the comedic genius Richard Pryor. His life was almost unutterably tragic, with every form of cruelty and sadness inflicted on him: raised in a brothel, sexually and physically abused as a child, expelled from school, imprisoned, emotionally terrified of even standing on a stage and performing.

And yet, he made the world laugh. Google some

How long will it be before people with MS get well? No way to know.

But there is funding for the research. Because California voters said YES to Proposition 71, the Stem Cells for Research and Cures Act, we have a chance to defeat Multiple Sclerosis.

When that day comes — and may it be soon — let us toast the memory of Richard Pryor and Annette Funicello, who made the world smile.

Don C. Reed is the author of the forthcoming book, “STEM CELL BATTLES: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease”, from World Scientific Publishing, Inc., available by pre-order from Amazon.com.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

—> Read More

New approach to modeling Amazon seasonal cycles developed

Engineers have developed a new approach, opposite to climate models, to correct inaccuracies using a high-resolution atmospheric model that more precisely resolves clouds and convection and parameterizes the feedback between convection and atmospheric circulation. The new simulation strategy paves the way for better understanding of the water and carbon cycles in the Amazon, enabling researchers to learn more about the role of deforestation and climate change on the forest, authors say. —> Read More

Do Dogs Feel ‘Guilty’ Like We Do? Here’s What The Science Says

Plenty of dog owners have seen their pets make a “guilty face” after doing something wrong. You know the look — the lowered ears, the ducked head, the droopy eyes. But can dogs actually feel shame?

Probably not, according to an article that appeared last week in the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph. Researchers told the paper that when a dog appears to be acting contrite, it may just be responding to the angry or dominant body language of its owner.

“I had a client who had three dogs and whenever something happened like a shoe was chewed, it was always one of them that had the guilty look,” Dr. Ljerka Ostojic, a comparative psychologist at Cambridge University in England, told The Telegraph. “Yet often she was not the dog who had done it. She was just the most timid dog, and got frightened more quickly by her owner’s reaction.”

Ostojic is the lead author of a study published in February in the journal Behavioural Processes, in which researchers found no support for the idea that dogs display the “guilty look” when they’re not actually being scolded.

“We cannot know for sure because we cannot ask them,” Dr. Bonnie Beaver, a professor of veterinary medicine at Texas A&M University, told The Huffington Post in an email.

But, she said, “the body language we are really looking at… is simply a submissive response to the body language the higher ranking person is using. We are towering over them, showing direct eye contact, using an accusatory tone of voice.”

A 2009 study showed that domestic dogs tended to look the most “guilty” when they were being scolded by their owners — even if they hadn’t done anything wrong.

While it’s not —> Read More

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