Month: November 2017

29 Nov 2017

Bitcoin Just Passed $10,000. It’s Officially One of the World’s 30 Largest Currencies.

IN BRIEF

Bitcoin has reached a new all-time high — and a pretty historic one at that. It’s reached $10,000, exceeding economists’ predictions and putting it on track to hit $25,000 within the next 5 years.

While Bitcoin has had its ups and downs this year, its surges and upward trends over the last months have seen the cryptocurrency hitting several historic “all-time highs.” On November 20th for example, it surged past $8,200, then topped out at $9,000 on November 26. But the meteoric rise didn’t stop there.

Today, Nov. 28, Bitcoin’s value has officially hit $10,000. A year ago, Bitcoin had its sights set on reaching $1,000, still relatively new to success, and so this new milestone will leave many to reevaluate the future potential of the cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin’s continued reign within the cryptocurrency market has not been smooth sailing, and these highs were matched by some serious lows earlier this year. The “forking” of Bitcoin (into Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold) divided the market and added a hefty amount of confusion for consumers. Initial concerns that the fork would lead to Bitcoin’s downfall have yet to be realized, and currently, the ascension of the cryptocurrency’s value is more in line with those who were in favor of the split.

Those in favor of the fork had pointed out that Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin Gold would stand to speed up transaction times and make the cryptocurrency more accessible.

Bitcoin’s rise in value has already exceeded the predictions of several high profile economists, and if the trend continues, the cryptocurrency may be well on its way to reaching $25,000 within the next 5 years;  approximately five percent of the gold market.

Of course, Bitcoin isn’t the only cryptocurrency on the market. While it might be dominating the news cycle for the moment, there are other cryptocurrencies to watch — earlier this month, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin revealed his plans for the future and scalability of the blockchain.

Source: Futurism

27 Nov 2017

Magnetically-Controlled Organic Microbots Could Change Medicine in the Next Decade

IN BRIEF

Microbots designed to traverse the human body are one of the most potentially transformative technologies in the future of healthcare. Researchers have developed a microbot made from algae that solves some problems with the tech.

TINY DOCTORS

Google’s chief engineer and notable futurist Ray Kurzweil has said that nanobots or microbots will flow through our bodies by 2030. While the technology could be life-changing, the prospects for these nanobots are still limited by challenges in powering the micro devices and guiding them through the body.

A team of researchers led by Li Zhang, a materials scientist from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in Shatin, may have found a solution to both problems. In a study published in the journal Science Robotics, Zhang and his colleagues turned to a type of miniature alga called Spirulina platensis, commonly used as a dietary supplement.

 

The key is coating the Spirulina with iron oxide nanoparticles. The helical or spring-like shape of the magnetized alga provides maximum mobility when propelled by magnetic fields that harmlessly pass through the body. Best of all, these synthetic microbots are completely biocompatible. They degrade in days or hours, depending on how much magnetic coating they have, without harming cells — except for cancer cells. The magnetized alga destroyed about 90% of tumor cells exposed to it for 48 hours in a lab dish, an unexpected side-effect discovered by the researchers.

MICROBOTS — THE FUTURE OF TREATMENTS

Miniature technologies, like these synthetic algae microbots, show potential for delivering medical treatments to every corner of the the human body. The microbots could also provide more efficient treatment; they can be easily controlled and monitored by either observing their fluorescence or through a medical imaging tool called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) when the algae travels deeper into the body.

The ability of the algae microbots to carry cargo like drugs inside the body still needs to be tested, however. “It’s still not ready for a doctor to use,” Joseph Wang, a nanoengineer who’s developing a different type of medical microbots, told Science. He thinks the technology might be available in the next ten years, a timetable that nearly aligns with Kurzweil’s prediction.

Nanotechnology presents better chances of treating diseases in the future, although we do have to iron out more details than just mobility and control. Nevertheless, the technology is one of many advances in medical research — together with developments in the use of gene editing tools, stem cells, 3D-printed organs, and improved prostheses — that’s worth keeping an eye out for.

Source: Futurism

26 Nov 2017

A Cheap, Portable Skin Cancer Detector Has Won the Dyson Award

IN BRIEF

A team of engineering graduates has won the prestigious James Dyson Award for their cheap and portable device that can detect melanoma, a form of skin cancer. The device could potentially save thousands of lives, as skin cancer is the most common type worldwide.

MEET SKAN

Detecting skin cancer early isn’t easy. Currently, it’s done through visual inspections or biopsies, but some doctors may not pick up on the disease using the former, while some patients may not be able to afford the latter. As such, a team of graduates from McMaster University in Canada set out to develop an inexpensive skin cancer detector, and their innovative work has earned them the prestigious international James Dyson Award.

Cancer affects the metabolic rate of skin cells, with cancerous cells heating up faster than their healthy counterparts following a shock of cold temperature.

To make identifying these cells easier, the McMaster University team — Michael Takla, Rotimi Fadiya, Prateek Mathur, and Shivad Bhavsar — built a skin cancer detector with 16 thermistors that can track the rate of temperature increase following a cold shock from an ice pack.

The thermistors are simply placed on the potentially cancerous area of skin, and the device produces a heat map that can be used to determine the presence of melanoma

“By using widely available and inexpensive components, the sKan allows for melanoma skin cancer detection to be readily accessible to the many” award founder James Dyson said in a statement announcing the win. “It’s a very clever device with the potential to save lives around the world.”

In addition to winning the Dyson Award for their skin cancer detector, the team also received a cash prize of approximately $40,000 to advance their research. They received $10,000 at the the Forge’s Student Start-up Pitch competition in March.

DIAGNOSING SKIN CANCER

According to Mathur, the team was inspired to create sKan after realizing technology hadn’t had the same impact on skin cancer diagnosis as it had on other medical fields.

“We found research that used the thermal properties of cancerous skin tissue as a means of detecting melanoma. However, this was done using expensive lab equipment,” he said in a McMaster University news release. “We set out to apply the research and invent a way of performing the same assessment using a more cost-effective solution.”

Going forward, the sKan team hopes to create a more advanced prototype that will allow them to begin pre-clinical testing.

skin cancer detector
Image Credit: James Dyson Awards

As reported by The Guardian, nearly 39 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day in the U.K., and the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates 87,110 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. 2017, with 9,730 people dying from the condition. Early detection is key to cancer survival, so if sKan succeeds, it could significantly reduce that number.

“Our aspirations have become a reality,” said Mathur. “Skin cancers are the most common form of cancer worldwide, and the potential to positively impact the lives of those affected is both humbling and motivating.”

Source: Futurism

25 Nov 2017

A New Debit Card Is Poised to Make Spending Crypto a Breeze

IN BRIEF

To make it easier for people in the United Kingdom to spend their various cryptocurrencies, startup London Block Exchange is launching a new Visa debit card called the Dragoncard. It pays the retailer in pounds, then takes money from the consumer’s crypto wallet.

SPENDABLE CRYPTO

Cryptocurrencies such as ether and bitcoin are surging in popularity thanks to their many benefits over traditional currencies, but they still lag behind those currencies in one key way: they are not easy to spend in physical stores. People can spend USD and euros using a plethora of debit, credit, and gift cards, but their options are severely limited when it comes to spending bitcoin or ether using a cryptocurrency debit card.

That’s starting to change, though. The Centra Card can be used just like a debit card to spend bitcoin, ether, dash, and several other popular cryptocurrencies. Token Card is another cryptocurrency debit card, and soon, London startup London Block Exchange (LBX) will launch a prepaid Visa debit card that will act in the same fashion.

Dragoncard
The Dragoncard from LBX. Image Credit: London Block Exchange

The Dragoncard will allow people to convert their bitcoin, ether, ripple, litecoin, and monero to sterling (aka the British pound) at the time of purchase, thereby making it significantly easier for those currencies to be spent in stores throughout the United Kingdom, including ones that have yet to accept alternative forms of payment.

Business Insider reports the cryptocurrency debit card will be issued by pre-paid card provider Wavecrest, and it comes alongside an app people can use to buy and manage cryptocurrencies on LBX’s own exchange. When someone uses the Dragoncard, LBX will pay the retailer in pounds first, then take the equivalent amount from the shopper’s cryptocurrency wallet.

Before rushing off to get a Dragoncard when it debuts in December, though, interested crypto owners should know a few things. First, the card itself is £20 ($26.33). Second, they will be charged a 0.5 percent fee whenever they buy or sell cryptocurrencies on LBX’s platform. Lastly, provider Wavecrest charges a small fee for ATM withdrawals — it is a debit card, after all.

THE PATH TO ACCEPTANCE

Despite the fees, the Dragoncard and other cryptocurrency debit cards have the potential to help crypto become widely accepted and, more importantly, understood.

The Dragoncard also arrives at a time when bitcoin is experiencing quite a growth spurt. With schools, companies, and even nations starting to embrace bitcoin, the currency is poised to continue increasing in value and popularity, and with the Dragoncard, LBX is hoping to help Londoners join that ever-growing segment of crypto supporters.

“Despite being the financial capital of the world, London is a difficult place for investors to enter and trade in the cryptocurrency market,” LBX founder and CEO Benjamin Dives reportedly said in a statement. “We’ll bring it into the mainstream by removing the barriers to access, and by helping people understand and have confidence in what we believe is the future of money.”

“We’re offering a grown up and robust experience for those who wish to safely and easily understand and invest in digital currencies,” said LBX’s executive chairman Adam Bryant. “We’re confident we’ll transform this market in the U.K. and will become the leading cryptocurrency and blockchain consultancy for institutional investors and consumers alike.”

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

Source: Futurism

22 Nov 2017

Measurements From CERN Suggest the Possibility of a New Physics

A New Quantum Physics?

During the mid- to late-twentieth century, quantum physicists picked apart the unified theory of physics that Einstein’s theory of relativity offered. The physics of the large was governed by gravity, but only quantum physics could describe observations of the small. Since then, a theoretical tug-o-war between gravity and the other three fundamental forces has continued as physicists try to extend gravity or quantum physics to subsume the other as more fundamental.

Recent measurements from the Large Hadron Collider show a discrepancy with Standard Model predictions that may hint at entirely new realms of the universe underlying what’s described by quantum physics. Although repeated tests are required to confirm these anomalies, a confirmation would signify a turning point in our most fundamental description of particle physics to date.

Quantum physicists found in a recent study that mesons don’t decay into kaon and muon particles often enough, according to the Standard Model predictions of frequency. The authors agree that enhancing the power of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will reveal a new kind of particle responsible for this discrepancy. Although errors in data or theory may have caused the discrepancy, instead of a new particle, an improved LHC would prove a boon for several projects on the cutting edge of physics.

The Standard Model

The Standard Model is a well-established fundamental theory of quantum physics that describes three of the four fundamental forces believed to govern our physical reality. Quantum particles occur in two basic types, quarks and leptons. Quarks bind together in different combinations to build particles like protons and neutrons. We’re familiar with protons, neutrons, and electrons because they’re the building blocks of atoms.

The “lepton family” features heavier versions of the electron — like the muon — and the quarks can coalesce into hundreds of other composite particles. Two of these, the Bottom and Kaon mesons, were culprits in this quantum mystery. The Bottom meson (B) decays to a Kaon meson (K) accompanied by a muon (mu-) and anti-muon (mu ) particle.

The Anomaly

They found a 2.5 sigma variance, or 1 in 80 probability, “which means that, in the absence of unexpected effects, i.e. new physics, a distribution more deviant than observed would be produced about 1.25 percent of the time,” Professor Spencer Klein, senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, told Futurism. Klein was not involved in the study.

This means the frequency of mesons decaying into strange quarks during the LHC proton-collision tests fell a little below the expected frequency. “The tension here is that, with a 2.5 sigma [or standard deviation from the normal decay rate], either the data is off by a little bit, the theory is off by a little bit, or it’s a hint of something beyond the standard model,” Klein said. “I would say, naïvely, one of the first two is correct.”

To Klein, this variance is inevitable considering the high volume of data run by computers for LHC operations. “With Petabyte-(1015 bytes)-sized datasets from the LHC, and with modern computers, we can make a very large number of measurements of different quantities,” Klein said. “The LHC has produced many hundreds of results. Statistically, some of them are expected to show 2.5 sigma fluctuations.” Klein noted that particle physicists usually wait for a 5-sigma fluctuation before crying wolf — corresponding to roughly a 1-in-3.5-million fluctuation in data.

 

Physics is studied here at CERN: CMS.

These latest anomalous observations do not exist in a vacuum. “The interesting aspect of the two taken in combination is how aligned they are with other anomalous measurements of processes involving B mesons that had been made in previous years,” Dr. Tevong You, co-author of the study and junior research fellow in theoretical physics at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, told Futurism. “These independent measurements were less clean but more significant. Altogether, the chance of measuring these different things and having them all deviate from the Standard Model in a consistent way is closer to 1 in 16000 probability, or 4 sigma,” Tevong said.

Extending the Standard Model

Barring statistical or theoretical errors, Tevong suspects that the anomalies mask the presence of entirely new particles, called leptoquarks or Z prime particles. Inside bottom mesons, quantum excitations of new particles could be interfering with normal decay frequency. In the study, researchers conclude that an upgraded LHC could confirm the existence of new particles, making a major update to the Standard Model in the process.

“It would be revolutionary for our fundamental understanding of the universe,” said Tevong. “For particle physics […] it would mean that we are peeling back another layer of Nature and continuing on a journey of discovering the most elementary building blocks. This would have implications for cosmology, since it relies on our fundamental theories for understanding the early universe,” he added. “The interplay between cosmology and particle physics has been very fruitful in the past. As for dark matter, if it emerges from the same new physics sector in which the Zprime or leptoquark is embedded, then we may also find signs of it when we explore this new sector.”

The Power to Know

So far, scientists at the LHC have only observed ghosts and anomalies hinting at particles that exist at higher energy levels. To prove their existence, physicists “need to confirm the indirect signs […], and that means being patient while the LHCb experiment gathers more data on B decays to make a more precise measurement,” Tevong said. “We will also get an independent confirmation by another experiment, Belle II, that should be coming online in the next few years. After all that, if the measurement of B decays still disagrees with the predictions of the Standard Model, then we can be confident that something beyond the Standard Model must be responsible, and that would point towards leptoquarks or Zprime particles as the explanation,” he added.

To establish their existence, physicists would then aim to produce the particles in colliders the same way Bottom mesons or Higgs bosons are produced, and watch them decay. “We need to be able to see a leptoquark or Zprime pop out of LHC collisions,” Tevong said. “The fact that we haven’t seen any such exotic particles at the LHC (so far) means that they may be too heavy, and more energy will be required to produce them. That is what we estimated in our paper: the feasibility of directly discovering leptoquarks or Zprime particles at future colliders with higher energy.”

Quantum Leap for the LHC

Seeking out new particles in the LHC isn’t a waiting game. The likelihood of observing new phenomena is directly proportional to how many new particles pop up in collisions. “The more the particle appears the higher the chances of spotting it amongst many other background events taking place during those collisions,” Tevong explained. For the purposes of finding new particles, he likens it to searching for a needle in a haystack; it’s easier to find a needle if the haystack is filled with them, as opposed to one. “The rate of production depends on the particle’s mass and couplings: heavier particles require more energy to produce,” he said.

Electricity is studied at a physics research lab.

This is why Tevong and co-authors B.C. Allanach and Ben Gripaios recommend either extending the LHC loop’s length, thus reducing the amount of magnetic power needed to accelerate particles, or replacing the current magnets with stronger ones.

According to Tevong, the CERN laboratory is slated to keep running the LHC in present configuration until mid-2030s. Afterwards, they might upgrade the LHC’s magnets, roughly doubling its strength. In addition to souped-up magnets, the tunnel could see an enlargement from present 27 to 100 km (17 to 62 miles). “The combined effect […] would give about seven times more energy than the LHC,” Tevong said. “The timescale for completion would be at least in the 2040s, though it is still too early to make any meaningful projections.”

If the leptoquark or Z prime anomalies are confirmed, the Standard Model has to change, Tevong reiterates. “It is very likely that it has to change at energy scales directly accessible to the next generation of colliders, which would guarantee us answers,” he added. While noting that there’s no telling if dark matter has anything to do with the physics behind Zprimes or leptoquarks, the best we can do is seek “as many anomalous measurements as possible, whether at colliders, smaller particle physics experiments, dark matter searches, or cosmological and astrophysical observations,” he said. “Then the dream is that we may be able to form connections between various anomalies that can be linked by a single, elegant theory.”

Source: Futurism

21 Nov 2017
Manahel Thabet

Mindset Motivation: Why Embracing Your Challenges Will Intensify Your Mental Strength

Our mindset can be our greatest ally or a dangerous enemy. We spend so much time locked inside our heads that, if we don’t develop masterful mental skills, we risk falling into a downward spiral of destructive and deceptive thoughts.

The challenges we face can swiftly gather momentum, clouding the constellation of our mind and freezing us in fear. As anxiety and suspicion sweep our mind, we become so afraid to actually make decisions that every drop of power we hold to find a way forward gets diluted.

When tough times are at hand we think that life is out to break and burden us, but life only seeks to empower us. We hold the mandate for our existence.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

– Martin Luther King, Jr

Defeat will often appear as a giant to invade our thoughts, yet when we shut down the delusional nature of that giant, we can use its might to find a way through. Mental strength means that we use every strike against us as a reason to push ahead, every stumble as a position to rise from, and every closed door as a redirection to another entry point. We can elevate ourselves from hardship and adversity once we undertake the mental maturity to overcome it.

Mental strength is not born from privilege, superiority or easy living. It is constructed and projected by the minds of those that have seen the darkest days and survived the toughest nights, yet nevertheless focused on the merit of their inner power and virtue.

The muscle of our mind

Mental strength is not a gift awarded to us at birth; as children, we are dominated by feelings. They act as our powerhouse for expression and a means to get what we want; temper tantrum city arises because we are innately connected to emotions rather than thoughts.

Now, as adults, mental strength is something that we strive to enhance through the shadows of adversity and the profoundness of our pain. We gain strength with every obstacle we overcome that stretches our psyche to find solutions or to adapt to circumstances.

Our life lessons will resound on repeat until we can establish a level of cognizance and maturity with how we frame our mindset. Rather than look upon our times of hardship as debility, attack or limitation, we can use them as a credit in our mind bank of strength. Modifying our perception of the problem can lead us to intuitive disclosures and responses when we engage the full measure of our mind to reconcile, attune, and think outside of the box.

A messy mind creates an even bigger monster that stands over us devouring our mental resiliency. When we consciously acclimatize how we translate our thoughts, we begin to approach life and its clusters of challenges from the inside out, rather than outside in.

Clarity inspires emancipation from external influence. A path towards a solution is easier to find when we channel our thoughts and matching emotions toward it instead of blocking it from our periphery. The answers that we seek often come out of the blue, yet they reside within us from the wise river of our soul – just itching to be heard and observed.

The power of our mental intention

What we place at the forefront of our mindset is what we have the potential to create. If we continue to align our thoughts in accordance with our struggles, our fears, then we inevitably dissipate the mental strength we need to bravely rise above them.

Our mind is the conduit to our greater goals and dreams. Our desired outcome is found through the lucid window of our mental awareness and ability to absorb what hits us as an instrument for transformation and amplified intelligence.

We can broaden our mental dexterity through laser-like focus, embracing each challenge, and by believing in our own intrinsic strength. Our power lies in how we intuitively respond to our difficulties and how well we can unbind ourselves from our own self-induced mental barriers – the actual circumstance itself takes second place. Through a single thought that we perpetuate and internalize we can either accomplish our biggest fear or achieve our highest hope – the choice is always ours.

Flow through a stronger mindset

Rigidity in our thinking serves to constrict our supreme embodiment of flow and flexibility. Thoughts and feelings will come and go. We can choose the thoughts that we stick with and the ones we wish to lovingly scrape away. Mental strength is boosted by the capacity to diligently apply ourselves to what is thrown at us.

What we craft from our struggles constitutes a pyramid of strength that grows larger in volume and shape – the more we get through, the more confident and courageous we become.

Source: Goalcast

20 Nov 2017
Manahel Thabet

In First-Ever Demonstration, Researchers Show Ultrafast Light Pulses Can Trigger Neurons to Fire

IN BRIEF

In a first-ever demonstration, researchers showed how ultrafast and short pulses of light can directly affect the firing of neurons. They hope that this might lead to advanced light therapies for mental health disorders.

LIGHT THERAPY

A host of mental health issues have been tied to light: from trouble related to our circadian rhythms to  seasonally-related mood disorders, light can have a profound impact on our health. In a new study, researchers have put this long-held theory to the test using specially crafted ultrafast light pulses that can trigger neurons to fire, as well as altering the patterns in which they fire.

The study, published in the journal Nature Physics, was completed in mice by a team of researchers at the University of Illinois, led by Dr. Stephen Boppart. It’s the first demonstration of coherent control, a practice using light beams to control functionality within a living cell. The success of this demonstration could allow researchers to develop new methods for treating mental health disorders in the future by using light to direct neural activity.

Dr. Boppart and his team used optogenetic mouse neurons, cells with added genes to make them responsive to light. While the team modified these cells, the researchers assert that the same results should be possible in cells that are naturally sensitive to light, like those found in the retina.

Dr. Boppart stated that “The saying, ‘The eye is the window to the soul’ has some merit, because our bodies respond to light. Photoreceptors in our retinas connect to different parts in the brain that control mood, metabolic rhythms and circadian rhythms.”

Neurons have been shown to fire in different patterns in reaction to light pulses. Image Credit: Stephen Boppart, University of Illinois
Neurons have been shown to fire in different patterns in reaction to light pulses. Image Credit: Stephen Boppart, University of Illinois

CIRCADIAN SCIENCE

In nature, biological systems that use and are affected by light do so with the light from the Sun. But within this controlled experiment, the research team used fast pulses of light less than 100 femtoseconds long. This has a different effect than naturally-derived light sources, as it’s a large quantity of energy in a short period of time. The team changed both the length of the pulses and their wavelengths to truly explore the different responses that were possible.

While this first true demonstration of this ability is more of the first step than a complete conclusion, the team is confident that their methods could have clinical applications one day. Dr. Boppart remarked that “Ultimately, this could be a gene-free, drug-free way of regulating cell and tissue function. We think there could be ‘opto-ceuticals,’ methods of treating patients with light.”

Source: Futurism

18 Nov 2017

A Global Collaboration to Create “Artificial Organisms” Just Went Live

The Brain Code

Mindfire, a new foundation with the goal of “decoding the mind” to help develop true artificial intelligence (AI) is launching November 17th in Zurich, Switzerland. Futurism spoke with the founder of Starmind and president of the foundation, Pascal Kaufmann to learn more about its goals and the path to reach them.

“We cannot achieve True AI until we understand actual intelligence. Intelligence has evolved as a means of nature to successfully guide us through an ever-changing environment. This gave rise to behavior, emotions, and consciousness. These critical factors must be taken into account in how we develop AI. This is the purpose of the Mindfire Foundation,” he explains.

Kaufmann then exemplified a key difference between man and machine by plotting current AI systems and human intelligence on axes of performance (completing a specific task) and competence (having a conceptual understanding of elements outside of a specific task) — where most humans occupy a space of both performance and competence.

He used shoes as an example: while current AI can recognize a shoe and its primary function, it does not hold a competence for such an object outside of that function. Conversely, a human can understand a shoe outside of its context as solely an article of footwear. Mindfire hopes to develop synthetic intelligence with this capability.

Image credit: Mindfire
Image credit: Mindfire

The Mindfire Approach

Kaufmann says that Mindfire is a collective to bring together some of the greatest minds in the world to “build a machine with human-level intelligence that is conscious and able to do everything that humans are capable of.” He believes that the key to this achievement is cracking what he calls “the brain code.”

“There are scientists, like those behind Mindfire, who think that you actually can decode the brain and understand that it operates under a certain set of rules. These rules would be what we call the brain code, and the ability to understand them could lead to a breakthrough” he explains. Kaufmann rejects the notion suggested by some AI researchers that the brain is similar to a deep neural network, saying that it is more likely akin to an ant colony where brain cells work together governed by what he refers to as the brain code.

“You should have the renegades, the out of the box thinkers, the weird people who will ask the questions that no one has asked before.” 

Mindfire considers ‘”artificial intelligence’ an obsolete term and thus have coined a new phrase — “artificial organism” — to more fully encompass the totality of what they are hoping to achieve. Kaufmann explains that the term refers to the synthetic intelligence’s carrier system. “Intelligence is not only located in the brain; it’s actually the interaction between the body and the brain that we are building. That’s why we refer to an artificial organism.” This concept, then, unifies the physical, intellectual, and emotional facets of intelligence.

Mindfire is accepting applications from a broad spectrum of scientific fields of neuroscience, AI, biology, computing, and mathematics. “You should have people from all kinds of sciences,” Kaufmann says, adding that Mindfire seeks to cultivate the greatest independent thinkers in the sciences. “You should have the renegades, the out of the box thinkers, the weird people who will ask the questions that no one has asked before.”

Independent Intelligence

Many experts agree that the development of artificial intelligence will be a significant paradigm shift for humanity. Author James Barrat calls AI “our final invention.” Dr. Ben Goertzel, a robotics scientist and Chairman of SingularityNET, a private AI software company, echoes this sentiment, saying that the advent of AI will cause all human invention to become obsolete.

Kaufmann likens true AI with the myth of Prometheus giving fire to humanity: the technology, he believes, will start a new chapter for human-kind. Even more, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that the country that leads in AI development “will be the ruler of the world.”

Which is exactly what Mindfire is hoping to prevent. “Mindfire is not owned by a company, it’s not owned or triggered by a government, it is organized by the people and for the people.” Kaufmann says the foundation’s work will be open source and all of the intellectual property developed will belong to the “talent that actually brought it in.”

In order to secure this information, Mindfire is utilizing blockchain technology. “We have five blockchain-based formats that will allow us to track who says what and these ideas can be traced back and credit given to the talent.” Mindfire hopes this work will prevent a government or company from turning the cracking of the brain code into intellectual property.

After the Launch

The next steps for Mindfire will be to prepare for its “Mission-1,” which is slated for May of 2018 in Davos, Switzerland. “During this time attending scientists will work together across disciplines to decode the brain and apply that knowledge to the development of Artificial Organisms (AO),” a press release explained.

Kaufmann compared Mindfire’s path to the Apollo space program that put humans on the Moon. “Mission-1 will be dedicated to laying the foundation, the platform on which you can build the algorithms.”

Mindfire has undoubtedly set a lofty goal for itself. Should the initiative succeed, we will end up welcoming a new era in human development. The potential for synthetic intelligence with the capabilities the foundation envisions would change how our species operates in unprecedented ways. Mindfire’s plans represent just one approach to accomplishing such paradigm-shifting innovation. The development of AI is ongoing, and we are witnessing the making of an unimaginable future.

Source: Futurism

16 Nov 2017

Big Brother 2.0? FDA Approves World’s First Electronic “Smart Pill”

IN BRIEF

The FDA has approved a digital pill that has the ability to track when it’s been ingested, along with many other health metrics. The pill raises privacy concerns and could erode some patients’ rights if used unethically.

SPIES ON THE INSIDE

In a historic move by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the first ever digital pill has been approved for use. The pill is designed to track if patients are taking their medication. At first techno-blush, concerns about Big Brother tapping one’s body fall to the wayside; patients can voluntarily give access to the information gathered by the sensor to their doctor and designated family members or caretakers.

The pill, called Abilify MyCite, adds a tiny sensor, no larger than a grain of sand, made of silicon, copper, and magnesium inside a tablet of Abilify, a drug used to treat mental disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and is used in conjunction with antidepressants to treat depression. The sensor is activated when it comes in contact with stomach acid and begins transmitting a signal which is picked up by a patch the patient wears on their left rib cage. The patch connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth where people with access can read the information gathered by the sensor. The sensor is able to track when the pill was taken, the dosage, and a plethora of other metrics similar to the information a fitness tracker might gather, such as activity levels, sleep patterns, and heart rate.

Photo credit: Proteus Digital Health

As expected with such an intrusive development, experts are gravely concerned with what this pill might mean for privacy. There is plenty of potential for such technology to be abused or used as a means to allow for punitive action against a patient who is not taking their medication properly.

DRUG TECH ABUSE: BIG BROTHER 2.0

There is certainly a concern for nonadherence to medication. A report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics estimates that the cost of patients not taking their medication correctly is about $100 billion each year. Dr. William Shrank, chief medical officer of the health plan division at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center told the New York Times, “When patients don’t adhere to lifestyle or medications that are prescribed for them, there are really substantive consequences that are bad for the patient and very costly.”

Dr. Shrank sees the potential in the new sensor technology to improve public health but also cautioned that improper usage “…could foster more mistrust instead of trust.”

Psychiatrist Dr. Peter Kramer worries that the pill could be used as a “coercive tool.”

Other ingestible sensors are also waiting for approval or in development, such as a sensor being developed by MIT to monitor vital signs from inside the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Such tech could help medical professionals diagnose illness earlier and more easily.The technology is very young so there are few guidelines as to the proper usage of these monitoring pills. Privacy advocates are concerned that insurance companies or government authorities mandating their use could erode a patient’s ability to make their own medical decisions. Widespread use of such technology could also make patients’ sensitive medical information more prone to dissemination via hackers.

Monitoring health from the inside of a patient’s body could open new phenomenal doors for medical treatment. However, it could also open up new avenues for misuse and abuse by nefarious actors, whether via a governmental Big Brother, or via small stochastic factions. It is imperative that security technology stays on par with these potentially game-changing innovations.

Source: Futurism

15 Nov 2017

How to Use Neuro-Associations to Skyrocket Your Productivity

Optimized productivity is a kind of ‘Holy Grail’ for many people.

There are many podcasts, blogs and so many other things out there solely dedicated to productivity. And then there are a million different systems, tools, apps and products available as well. All focused on, in simple terms, getting more done in less time.

But I don’t want to focus on those. Yes, it’s great to get organized, have a system that works for you and to utilize apps and new technologies.

There’s a ‘brain element’, however, that tends to get left out when it comes to productivity. And that is the power of neuro-association.

What are ‘Neuro-Associations’?

Neuro-associations are sort of self-explanatory in a way. They are the deep-rooted associations that our brains form between two things.

So our brain learns to take certain things, objects, thoughts, emotions, signs and anything else and associate these with other thoughts, emotions, feelings and things. Effectively, the brain learns through our past experiences to draw links between two things.

A very basic example of this is how we label colors. When you’re born, we don’t have any idea of what ‘red’ or ‘yellow’ is. The colors are still there, but we learn to associate something of a certain color with the word ‘red’ or ‘yellow’. At some point along the line we then have this rooted to a point where it’s just automatic and we don’t have to think about it.

And it’s the same with how we associate meanings from different colors too. Red means ‘danger’ or ‘stop’ at a traffic light. Green means ‘go’ or ‘safe’.

As we go through life and experience more and more, we do this on a continuous basis. Always looking for how we can build associations and links in order to make meaning and form beliefs about the world around us.

Why is This Useful?

If you’ve never heard anything about neuro-associations before, you may be thinking it’s kind of interesting (or not). But how does it all apply to something like being more productive?

It all comes down to how we read our environment and the links or associations we form from it to certain thoughts and feelings. If we change or improve the way we think or feel, then our output and performance will change or improve accordingly.

So if we are in an environment that we associate with thinking, feeling or doing a certain thing, then we are much more likely to be aligned with performing at our best.

For example, a boxer associates the ringing of the bell with being switched on for fighting. A footballer associates the crossing of the white line onto the field with immediately being ‘in the zone’. And we can take this principle and apply it to being productive and getting more out of our brain when working on a business, doing homework or even doing housework or getting better sleep.

Applying Neuro-Association to Productivity

Let’s take the classic example of someone who works at the kitchen table. This, of course, is where you could have spent much of your life with family and friends relaxing over a meal.

So it’s these relaxed and ‘family time’ feelings and thoughts that are subconsciously evoked when your brain comes into contact with this familiar environment. That’s what your brain associates with ‘the kitchen table’ and not work or productivity.

Of course, this could also work in the opposite direction. Maybe you work so much and so hard at the kitchen table that you end up ruining family dinner time because your brain has started to associate this place with work and focus.

It’s the same when it comes to other environments too. Attempting to work in the bedroom, for example, can result in low productivity because you’re in a place you associate with sleep. Or, again, it could work against you in the opposite direction by ruining your sleep quality because you’ve began to associate that place with where you need to be alert and working.

Analyzing Your Workspace

These are very obvious and explicit examples I’ve used here to illustrate my point. There is, of course, a lot more that can be done than simply going to a different room or having a dedicated workspace.

So going a little deeper and analyzing the environment that you’re trying to be productive and perform well in – whether that be work, sleep, sport, working out or anything – is a hugely powerful weapon.

Let’s just stay focused on ‘work productivity’ for now. Take a look at your typical work area and just take stock of whether that could be in a ‘conflicting environment’ as I mentioned earlier, such as the kitchen or bedroom. If it is, consider where you might be able to set up a more productive ‘dedicated workspace’.

The ideal situation would obviously be a separate room for an office. But I understand that’s not possible for everyone. So set up a dedicated area of a particular room, or even a dedicated area of the kitchen table, which has a sole purpose of being the place where you get your ‘work’ done and nothing else.

But we can take this even further and set up associations with all kinds of things. Having a separate work computer, for example, means you don’t have conflicting associations between whether you’re opening your laptop for work or watching Netflix. If you can’t get two separate computers, why not create separate login profiles with different desktop backgrounds, etc.?

I highly recommend investing some time going through the process of analyzing your current environment and picking out the potential negative neuro-associations. Where are the conflictions? What items are around, even if they’re seemingly small and insignificant, that make you think or feel in a way you don’t want to within that environment?

Once you’ve identified and removed these, it’s simple to start building an environment for yourself that is solely and directly dedicated to creating the thoughts and feelings you do want to have. And as a result, your performance, productivity, and output can increase dramatically in all areas of life.

Source: GoalCast