Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Science Behind the Song

Headline: Premature Ejaculation May Be A Genetic Disorder

FTA: In an earlier study, researchers in The Netherlands linked premature ejaculation to a gene for serotonin regulation in a group of two hundred men. The new data from Finland independently show a genetic link to premature ejaculation in a much larger group, and rule out environmental factors.

Cancer... the tide is turning.

FTA: During the 15-year period, the cancer death rate among men dropped by 19.2 percent, mainly due to decreases in lung, prostate, and colon cancer deaths. In women, the cancer death rate fell by 11.4 percent, largely due to a drop in breast and colorectal cancer deaths.

OK, sure, a cure is still a long way off, but we've got to stop thinking about the cure for cancer as being one thing - a magic bullet - and accept that it's much more likely that we'll reduce the death rate to near zero over the course of the next couple of decades....

... or maybe we will find a magic bullet...

FTA: Scientists at Oxford University have tamed a virus so that it attacks and destroys cancer cells but does not harm healthy cells. They determined how to produce replication-competent viruses with key toxicities removed, providing a new platform for development of improved cancer treatments and better vaccines for a broad range of viral diseases.

FTA: Researchers in London have demonstrated the ability of adult stem cells from bone marrow (mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs) to deliver a cancer-killing protein to tumors.

FTA: Therapeutic cancer vaccines received a potentially big boost this week when Seattle-based biotech company Dendreon announced that its Provenge vaccine prolonged the lives of prostate cancer patients. The success of this trial could pave the way for approval of the drug, which triggers the body's immune system to attack malignant prostate tumors.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Have we really gotten so lazy...

... that it's too much to just ask? Sure, I understand not wanting to get up and turn off the light yourself. And yeah, occasionally clapping can take a lot out of you, but have we really come to this?

FTA: Light switches, TV remote controls and even house keys could become a thing of the past thanks to brain-computer interface (BCI) technology being developed in Europe that lets users perform everyday tasks with thoughts alone.

Yes, thank you, Science, because these are the parts of my life that need to be simplified. Also, no one's going to wear that (I'd say the pictures worth the click... what's that? You have to operate your mouse with your hand?! Savage!)

Phew, close one! Wolfram Alpha stinks.

I can't begin to tell you how relieved I am that Wolfram Alpha stinks out loud. I tried what I thought would be incredibly simple questions and got nothing but confusion from the search engine that supposedly can understand natural language... but my relief was short lived...

FTA: A web browser that can understand technical terms in life sciences and automatically find additional resources and services has been developed by European researchers. It could lead to a new generation of intelligent search engines.

This demonstrates how much easier it is to develop narrow AI for HIGHER level disciplines than for common, every day syntax. AI will rapidly master things like anatomy vocab, but if you want your robot butler to pass you the ketchup it's holding, don't dare say, 'Give it here.'

It just goes to show you...

... even people who are full of shit are good for something.

Florida builds its first poop to power station. Read the article here.

This actually reminds me of something I read in A Fairewell to Alms, apparently in medieval Japan people sold their poop to farmers. Even the very poor where able to make enough money from this to keep themselves sheltered.

So, I guess there's one alternate theory for something we might be able to do for money when the robots take over.

Monday, May 25, 2009

the New York Times...

... ran an excellent primer for anyone not overly familiar with the singularity. Give it a read or just email it along to your friends so they know wtf nerds everywhere are talking about.

Now if we could only get some real economists talking about what I'm worried about- the inevitable layoffs as the result of decent AI and decent robotics...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Broadway and Technology

Autodesk Reveals the Secrets of the Shrek Magic Mirror

Water Sculpture Makes a Splash on Broadway

Technology and Theatre combine. It’s a beautiful thing, I think. There’s always the question of how are they going to make that book/comic/film/radio piece into a theatrical show? Technological advances and our ability to spread those advances beyond science or medicine help to answer that question. Ultimately, that’s a good thing, no? (You want a helicopter to land on stage? No Problem! You want it to rain on the queen? Sure! You want Spiderman to literally climb the walls and fly? We’ll see come 2010.) It’s certainly exciting and friggin’ cool. Will there ever come a point where there could be no difference between watching a film or a music concert or a performance piece due to all the technology blending together bringing out a new kind of experience to viewers/audiences?

Here's a video with clips of the Mirror.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I reject many of her points while accepting the larger ones.

Some very good points here. I frequently argue against the use of teleportation for exactly the reason she lays out- I would be continuous to everyone but me (and this includes the clone of me). I do not, however, agree with her about other upgrades. We might as well say that then education destroys the self. How Tao. How silly. As long as we are choosing our upgrades we are guiding our own development and there's a continuity.

It's like the ship that sailed around the world losing bits of itself in every storm and squall it encountered and replacing them little by little. By the time it returned to its original port not a single plank or piece of rigging remained unchanged. Is it the same ship? Yes it is. Continuity isn't magical. When a plank is replaced that plank becomes the newest part of the original ship, not the first part of a new ship. As the rigging and planks get battered about and slowly replaced that first plank may become the oldest piece of the ship. To think otherwise would be to suggest that each plank becomes the first piece of a unique ship, that these unique ships inhabit the same space should be problematic to that view point.

Are there ways we could 'lose' our personhood? Yes there are. My gaining a spell checker in my mind or your ability to download the skills of a helicopter pilot are not chief among them. The divide is likely to be in the vicinity of when you can't be distinguished from anyone else who has upgraded to the same extent, or is that enough? Personally, I'm starting to think that it isn't.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

13 mins in...

So just as I'm starting to feel really good about this talk.... boom. Offhand mention of robots. No job is safe, not even those of farmers.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

DNA Sequencing's going to get a whole lot cheaper...

Recently DNA sequencing was going for $68k on ebay (well below market price). Now a RI based company has just received there first major piece of funding towards reaching their goal of providing people with DNA sequencing for under $100 and in less than an hour.

FTA: “All of the stuff that we are doing here is with an eye toward having a clinically relevant tool,” Bready says. “In our minds, that means something with the speed and cost to be used routinely in clinical care, but most importantly the accuracy.”

This is one giant step towards personalized medicine. Personalized medicine has its own host of issues that comes with it, but for me the juice is worth the squeeze. We'll need some privacy laws but it's tough to argue against saving people's lives by the boat load.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Art Student makes her car disappear

This is so cool!