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Optogenetic laser light stimulation of the thalamus (credit: Jia Liu et al./eLife)

By flashing high-frequency (40 to 100 pulses per second) optogenetic lasers at the brain’s thalamus, scientists were able to wake up sleeping rats and cause widespread brain activity. In contrast, flashing the laser at 10 pulses per second suppressed the activity of the brain’s sensory cortex and caused rats to enter a seizure-like state of unconsciousness.

“We hope to use this knowledge to develop better treatments for brain injuries and other neurological disorders,” said Jin Hyung Lee, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and bioengineering at Stanford University, and a senior author of the study, published in the open-access journal eLIFE.

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US army’s report visualises augmented soldiers & killer robots.

The US Army’s recent report “Visualizing the Tactical Ground Battlefield in the Year 2050” describes a number of future war scenarios that raise vexing ethical dilemmas. Among the many tactical developments envisioned by the authors, a group of experts brought together by the US Army Research laboratory, three stand out as both plausible and fraught with moral challenges: augmented humans, directed-energy weapons, and autonomous killer robots. The first two technologies affect humans directly, and therefore present both military and medical ethical challenges. The third development, robots, would replace humans, and thus poses hard questions about implementing the law of war without any attending sense of justice.

Augmented humans. Drugs, brain-machine interfaces, neural prostheses, and genetic engineering are all technologies that may be used in the next few decades to enhance the fighting capability of soldiers, keep them alert, help them survive longer on less food, alleviate pain, and sharpen and strengthen their cognitive and physical capabilities. All raise serious ethical and bioethical difficulties.

Drugs and prosthetics are medical interventions. Their purpose is to save lives, alleviate suffering, or improve quality of life. When used for enhancement, however, they are no longer therapeutic. Soldiers designated for enhancement would not be sick. Rather, commanders would seek to improve a soldier’s war-fighting capabilities while reducing risk to life and limb. This raises several related questions.

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Inhuman: The Next & Final Phase of Man is Here” is not fiction or a mockudrama but a new investigative documentary from Defender Films and Raiders News Productions.

Inhuman travels the globe to unveil for the first time how breakthrough advances in science, technology and philosophy—including cybernetics, bioengineering, nanotechnology, machine intelligence and synthetic biology are poised to create mind-boggling game changes to everything we have known until now about Homo sapiens.

As astonishing technological developments push the frontiers of humanity toward far-reaching morphological transformation (which promises in the very near future to redefine what it means to be human), an intellectual and fast-growing cultural movement known as transhumanism intends the use of these powerful new fields of science and technology as tools that will radically redesign our minds, our memories, our physiology, our offspring, and even perhaps—as Professor Joel Garreau, Lincoln Professor of Law, claims—our immortal souls.

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Each year, an estimated 70 million sharks are killed for their fins. The brutal shark finning process involves cutting off a live shark’s fins and returning the debilitated animal back into the water to die a slow death. Highly valued in traditional Asian medicine and cuisine, the fins can sell for as much as $300 a pound on the black market.

What if an artificial shark fin could remove sharks from the equation completely?

New Wave Foods, a San Francisco-based sustainable seafood company, is developing a bioengineered fin product that could pull the rug out from underneath the shark trade.

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In spite of the popular perception of the state of artificial intelligence, technology has yet to create a robot with the same instincts and adaptability as a human. While humans are born with some natural instincts that have evolved over millions of years, Neuroscientist and Artificial Intelligence Expert Dr. Danko Nikolic believes these same tendencies can be instilled in a robot.

“Our biological children are born with a set of knowledge. They know where to learn, they know where to pay attention. Robots simply can not do that,” Nikolic said. “The problem is you can not program it. There’s a trick we can use called AI Kindergarten. Then we can basically interact with this robot kind of like we do with children in kindergarten, but then make robots learn one level lower, at the level of something called machine genome.”

Programming that machine genome would require all of the innate human knowledge that’s evolved over thousands of years, Nikolic said. Lacking that ability, he said researchers are starting from scratch. While this form of artificial intelligence is still in its embryonic state, it does have some evolutionary advantages that humans didn’t have.

“By using AI Kindergarten, we don’t have to repeat the evolution exactly the way evolution has done it,” Nikolic said. “This experiment has been done already and the knowledge is already stored in our genes, so we can accelerate tremendously. We can skip millions of failed experiments where evolution has failed already.”

Rather than jumping into logic or facial recognition, researchers must still begin with simple things, like basic reflexes and build on top of that, Nikolic said. From there, we can only hope to come close to the intelligence of an insect or small bird.

“I think we can develop robots that would be very much biological, like robots, and they would behave as some kind of lower level intelligence animal, like a cockroach or lesser intelligent birds,” he said. “(The robots) would behave the way (animals) do and they would solve problems the way they do. It would have the flexibility and adaptability that they have and that’s much, much more than what we have today.”

As that machine genome continues to evolve, Nikolic compared the potential manipulation of that genome to the selective breeding that ultimately evolved ferocious wolves into friendly dogs. The results of robotic evolution will be equally benign, and he believes, any attempts to develop so-called “killer robots” won’t happen overnight. Just as it takes roughly 20 years for a child to fully develop into an adult, Nikolic sees an equally long process for artificial intelligence to evolve.

Nikolic cited similar attempts in the past where the manipulation of the genome of biological systems produced a very benign result. Further, he doesn’t foresee researchers creating something dangerous, and given his theory that AI could develops from a core genome, then it would be next to impossible to change the genome of a machine or of a biological system by just changing a few parts.

Going forward, Nikolic still sees a need for caution. Building some form of malevolent artificial intelligence is possible, he said, but the degree of difficulty still makes it unlikely.

“We can not change the genome of machine or human simply by changing a few parts and then having the thing work as we want. Making it mean is much more difficult than developing a nuclear weapon,” Nikolic said. “I think we have things to watch out for, and there should be regulation, but I don’t think this is a place for some major fear… there is no big risk. What we will end up with, I believe, will be a very friendly AI that will care for humans and serve humans and that’s all we will ever use.”

With modern innovations such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, wi-fi, tablet computing and more, it’s easy for man to look around and say that the human brain is a complex and well-evolved organ. But according to Author, Neuroscientist and Psychologist Gary Marcus, the human mind is actually constructed somewhat haphazardly, and there is still plenty of room for improvement.

“I called my book Kluge, which is an old engineer’s word for a clumsy solution. Think of MacGyver kind of duct tape and rubber bands,” Marcus said. “The thesis of that book is that the human mind is a kluge. I was thinking in terms of how this relates to evolutionary psychology and how our minds have been shaped by evolution.”

Marcus argued that evolution is not perfect, but instead it makes “local maxima,” which are good, but not necessarily the best possible solutions. As a parallel example, he cites the human spine, which allows us to stand upright; however, since it isn’t very well engineered, it also gives us back pain.

“You can imagine a better solution with three legs or branches that would distribute the load better, but we have this lousy solution where our spines are basically like a flag pole supporting 70 percent of our body weight,” Marcus said.

“The reason for that is we’re evolved from tetrapods, which have four limbs and distribute their weight horizontally like a picnic table. As we moved upright, we took what was closest in evolutionary space, which is what took the fewest number of genes in order to give us this new kind of system of standing upright. But it’s not what you would have if you designed it from scratch.”

While Marcus’ book talked about the typical notion in evolutionary psychology that we have evolved to the optimal, he also noted that the human mind works as a function of two pathways, both the optimal performance and our brains’ history. To that end, he sees evolution as a probabilistic process of genes that are nearby, which aren’t necessarily those that are best for a given solution.

“A lot of the book was actually about our memories. The argument I made was that, if you really want a system of brain that does the thing humans do, you would want a kind of memory system that we find in computers, which is called location addressable memory,” Marcus explained.

“With location addressable memory, I’m going to store something in location seven or location eight or nine, and then you’re guaranteed to be able to go back to that thing you want when you want it, which is why computer memory is reliable. Our memory is not even remotely reliable. I can forget what I was going to say or forget where I parked my car. Our memories are nothing even close to the theoretical optimum that a computer shows us.”

Enhancing our minds, and our memories, won’t happen overnight, Marcus said. One might have a “brain like a computer” in theory, but he believes a more evolved, computer-like human brain is thousands of years away.

“There is what I call ‘evolutionary inertia’ that says once something is in place, it’s very hard for evolution to change it. If you change one or two genes, you might have an organism that survives. If you change several hundred, most likely, things are gonna’ break.”

In other words, evolution is the ultimate resourceful engine. Most evolutionary changes are small, since the brain tends to tweak the existing parts rather than start from scratch, which would be a more costly and rather inefficient solution in a survival-of-the-fittest-type world.

Given that genetic science hasn’t worked through a way to rewire the human brain, Marcus poses that better solution toward cognitive enhancement might be found in implants. Rather than generations from now, he believes that advancement could happen in our lifetimes.

“There are now actual cognitive enhancements, if you count motor control substitutes. Neural prostheses are here in limited ways. We know roughly how to make them. There’s a lot of fine detail that needs to be sorted,” Marcus said. “We certainly know how to write computer programs that can translate between interfaces. The big limiting step in improving our memory or enhancing our memory is, we just don’t really understand how information is stored in the brain. I think (a solution for that) is a 50-year project. It’s certainly not a 50,000 year project.”

Gooooood, good.

Big data will help crack the code on aging.

Two of the leading scientists at the edge of the medical revolution believe that our life expectancy could start creeping up toward the triple digits.

David Agus, a professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California, said at the Fortune Global Forum on Monday that he believes that with our current technology humans have the potential to regularly live into their ninth or tenth decade.

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Substantially smaller and longer-lasting batteries for everything from portable electronic devices to electric cars could be come a reality thanks to an innovative technology developed by University of Waterloo researchers.

Zhongwei Chen, a chemical engineering professor at Waterloo, and a team of graduate students have created a low-cost battery using silicon that boosts the performance and life of lithium-ion batteries. Their findings are published in the latest issue of Nature Communications.

Waterloo’s silicon battery technology promises a 40 to 60 per cent increase in energy density, which is important for consumers with smartphones, smart homes and smart wearables.

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Genre: docudrama
Type: documentary
Year: 2011
Director: Misha Kostrov
Creative director: Eugene Sannikov
Producer: Victor Mirsky, Sergey Sozanovsky
Creative producer: Oksana Maidanskaya
Director of photography: Vladimir Kratinov
Scriptwriter: Nataliya Doilnitsyna
Аwards: Platinum Remi Award, WorldFest Houston 2013

The film tacks together two tales: a historical account of Tesla’s eventful life and his pioneering research into physics and bold experiments with electricity.

Suffering from a fatal malady as a child the future great physicist promised his parents that he would recover under the sole condition…if they allowed him to become an engineer. And he kept his promise. Never ending yearning for knowledge, research practice, creative endeavor, discoveries that have unfixed all established notions — that’s what was the characteristic of the great physicist. Nikola Tesla would always remain a scientist whose life was a sort of mystification rather than pure reality.

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Austin’s (Texas) leading paper features features transhumanism, biohacking, and longevity near the bottom:

Yesterday began with a 7:30 a.m. call from Dr. Ben Carson for what I thought was a pretty good half hour interview about his new book, A More Perfect Union, his primer on the Constitution, which I read over the weekend.

I was pleased.

According to the most recent Fox News poll, Carson is one percentage point behind Trump. According to the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll, he is three points behind Trump. All within the margin of error.

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