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The Future of Humanity Happening Now

Like a frog in a warming pot, you may not notice the advances in technology that are happening all around you that will dictate the future of humanity. Once you start to pay attention, you will see them frequently. I'm collecting here some examples as I happen to notice them. Red entries are the most recent. Items denoted with * have also been posted on Twitter, @ast309.


Artificial Intelligence


David Streitfeld, If A. I. Can Do Your Job, Maybe It Can Also Replace Your C.E.O. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/28/technology/ai-chief-executives.html


An advance over Alpha-Fold that solved the protein folding problem, Alpha-Fold3 predicts of behavior of DNA gene information and RNA that transfers information to construct relevant proteins. Cade Metz, NYT 5/9/24.


Yoshua Bengio, a pioneer of A.I, discusses his reservations about it. https://www.worldsciencefestival.com/programs/why-a-forefather-of-ai-fears-the-future/?mc_cid=13601b8863&mc_eid=6d5b9a91b2


Can LLM AI translate animal languages? What about ultrasonics or infrasound? Electrical fields, rubbing body parts? Is it ethical to create artificial animal sounds like deepfake human voices? Is animal experience too different than human to translate? https://ig.ft.com/ai-animals/


The Responsible Artificial Intelligence Institute, a nonprofit focused on advancing responsible AI from principles to practice through community-driven, independent AI assessments and certifications, launched the first AI certification effort worldwide in partnership with the Standards Council of Canada. https://www.responsible.ai/news/raii-scc-pilot-press-release.


Race-detecting AI. Identifies White, Black, Asian, but operators don't know how. Suggests deep problem with bias. MIT News, Sept/Oct 2022. 


*Google has developed the natural language program PaLM, Pathways Language Model, based on a new "few shot" or meta-learning technique that is closer to the way humans learn by applying different pieces of knowledge from a range of topics to solve new problems. In principle, PaLM can address millions of different tasks although it requires a much smaller training set than standard deep learning techniques. PaLM can interpret jokes, one of the last redoubts of purely human activity. https://ai.googleblog.com/2022/04/pathways-language-model-palm-scaling-to.html


Google has developed the deep learning natural language program LaMDA, Language Model for Dialog Applications. That is the one that could provide such a sensitive interpretation of a zen koan that a Google engineer declared it effectively sentient.



Open AI has developed a machine learning system, DALL-E (a cross between WALL-E and Salvadore Dali) that will produce an artistic, if surreal, image when requested in typed natural language. Potential for art, but also for threatening deepfakes. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/06/technology/openai-images-dall-e.html?searchResultPosition=1


Hackers have used deepfake AI technology to produce a video of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky calling for Ukraine to surrender. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/05/us/politics/ukraine-russia-hackers.html?searchResultPosition=1


*Just as web pages evolved from having to write in html to simple clicking of buttons to purchase your latest impulse purchase on Amazon, artificial intelligence is evolving from complex code to "No Code" AI systems where the average person can drag and drop AI applications. Bringing AI to the masses is likely to foster yet another technological revolution. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/15/technology/ai-no-code.html




New robots can anticipate human reactions and smile appropriately. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/robot-predicts-smile-facial-expression


*MIT researchers work toward self-assembling robots. No discussion of ethics or unintended consequences.


*Robot that can grow like a vine. Cool, but also a little creepy (pun intended).



A robot made from magnetic fluid can be made smaller, thinner, or directed to break up with special magnets, which could be useful for delivering drugs into the body


Robo-fireflies. Electrodes squeeze elastomer, flap wings, emit light with little extra weight. MIT News, Sept/Oct 2022; https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/06/220621141810.htm.


*Austin robot company Apptronik seeks to scale manufacture and sales of humanoid robots.



*Living robot skin. Nerves, hair and sweat glands are next. Is that a little creepy, or what?



Robot rats could squeeze into small spaces for search and delivery.



*Touchy-feely robots.



*Robots composed of magnetic slime could deliver drugs or snag inadvertently swallowed objects.



Brain research


Implanting electrodes into squishy brain matter is harder than thought. Still, AI-mediated mental telepathy beckons.

Brains have their own microbiome despite the blood/brain barrier designed to prevent contaminants from entering the brain. How does that work?


Colorado Extends Privacy Rights to What Goes On in Our Brain. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/17/science/colorado-brain-data-privacy.html


A.I. is getting better at mind reading., Oliver Whang NYT, May 1, 2023, NYT, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/01/science/ai-speech-language.html


*Artificial intelligence developed by Meta was able to correctly guess what a person has heard 73% of the time by measuring a few seconds of brain activity



*Lab-grown brain cells respond to environment, play Pong. Sentient? Is World of Warcraft next? Star Wars?


*Scientists transformed human skin cells into stem cells and then coaxed them to become several types of brain cells, brain organoids, implanted in baby rats.


The U.S. National Science Foundation announces an investment of $30 million to support new interdisciplinary, fundamental research projects for the Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation, or EFRI, program. Awardees will work on projects that involve engineering brain-inspired systems and creating safe and sustainable engineered living systems. Seven research awards will advance a new science of engineered learning systems inspired by the brain, including neuromorphic devices, that emulate the flexibility, robustness and efficiency of biological intelligence and reduce the energy costs of information processing.


*On December 22, 2021, a paralyzed Australian man created the first tweet entirely by thinking it. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/12/magazine/brain-computer-interface.html?searchResultPosition=1


*Engineers use honey to make neuromorphic memristors that may function like neurons and synapses.



*"Totally locked" man learns to write sentences by thinking about his eye movement.





Elephants may have names for each other. Nature, 6/10/24, https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-024-00797-z


Crows count out loud up to four using repeated sounds, just like young children. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/crows-can-count-up-to-four-like-human-toddlers-study-suggests-180984420/

Chickadees recall hidden food using spatially-related neuron firing in the hippocampus similar to place cells in the human hippocampus. Jake Buehler, Science News, May 4 and May 18, 2024, 


European Jays can remember and plan. Phys Org May 15, 2024. https://phys.org/news/2024-05-scientists-eurasian-jays


Animal consciousness needs a rethink. Sentience is the capacity to have subjective experiences. Consciousness requires the capacity to think about one's experience. There are hints that chimpanzees, elephants, cleaner wrasse fish, crows, octopi, and fruit flies can do the latter. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-024-01144-y


Autonomous Vehicles


AV morals; https://techxplore.com/news/2023-12-autonomous-vehicles-moral-decisions-ditch.html


Driverless Lyft in Austin


Smart Weapons


Ukraine has been forced to develop autonomous weapons, rolling and flying weaponized drones, to bolster their asymmetric war with Russia. So far these are operating as "human in the loop," but they could easily be made fully autonomous. This is a nearly inevitable, but dangerous step in technology that will expand globally. Paul Mazur and Adam Satariono, NYT 7/5/24, "In Ukraine, Off-the-Shelf AI Opens Age of Killer Robots" https://www.nytimes.com/2024/07/02/technology/ukraine-war-ai-weapons.html


Rebels in Myanmar have adopted wide spread use of armed drones, guided by global internet "how to" connections with Ukranian soldiers and various rebel groups. Hannah Beech and Paul Mazur, NYT 5/5/24, Homemade Drones a Key Weapon of Myanmar Rebels. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/04/world/asia/myanmar-war-drones.html


Evolving drone warefare. Delicate issues of automated targeted killing. The war in Ukraine has been a test bed for drone warfare despite being innapropriate for much trench warfare. Google employees refused to work on Project Maven to do automatic targeting, but work went ahead in Palentir founded by Peter Thiel and is explored in Ukraine. Project Maven rejected by Google but embraced by Peter Thiel, Palintir. Eric Schmidt former CEO of Google refers to lethal voyeurism. David Sanger, NYT 4/24/24, Modern Warfare Gets Mired in Ukraine Trenches, https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/23/us/politics/ukraine-new-american-technology.html


No reports yet from the Ukraine war. Drones, but not autonomous drones, 2022.


Genomics, CRISPR


Large Langueage Model A.I. helps researchers guide CRISPR to edit genes, Cade Metz, NYT 4/23/24, https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/22/technology/generative-ai-gene-editing-crispr.html


Biologists use A.I. to understand how the different cells in our bodies use genes to do the many things we need to stay alive. Carl Zimmer, NYT, Tuesday Science, 3/12/24, AI and Being Alive. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/10/science/ai-learning-biology.html


2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology for Neanderthal DNA.


2022 Breakthrough Prize in Physics for Quantum Computing and in Life Sciences for AlphaFold.


Neanderthal brains and genes

*Biologists created fully synthetic mouse embryos from stem cells in a transparent bioreactor without eggs, sperm or a uterus, but only about 50 of 10,000 cellular clumps developed into embryos, according to a study in Cell, marking an achievement that may prove to be a step toward overcoming the technical and bioethical issues associated with embryonic research. https://www.statnews.com/2022/08/01/synthetic-mouse-embryos-created-from-stem-cells-without-sperm-eggs-uterus/


Craving umame? New techniques are getting closer to completely removing animals from the production of lab-grown meat.



*CRISPR makes it possible to conceive "de-extincting" species like rats and mammoths, but may not yet be capable of addressing the complexity and hence unintended consequences of the interaction of genes among themselves, with proteins, and with epigenetic switches in the environment. https://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/scientists-think-de-extinct-christmas-island-rat-rcna19218


Climate Change


Sui-Lee Wee, NYT, 4/19/24, Muslims Heed a Sacred Duty to the Sun and Soil. Green Oslam. Grand Imam, head of the Istiqlal Mosque of Jakarta Indonesian, Nasaruddin Umar, "Our fatal shortcomings as human beings have been that we treat the earth as just an object. The greedier we are toward nature, the sooner doomsday will arrive." Fard al-Ayn, obligation, waqf, a religious donation. Muhammad, Muslims should care about Nature.


Amos Zeeberg, NYT, Tuesday Science, 3/19/24, Putting Power Aside for Later. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/18/science/renewable-energy-storage-climate.html


Hot rocks geothermal, borrowing techniques from oil drilling, fracking. Brad Plumer, NYT, 8/31/23.



Who knew? The thermonuclear fusion program has actually been progressing toward net energy production at a rate comparable to Moore's law. The Department of Energy launched a "milestone-based" program to accelerate the development of the U.S. fusion energy industry using a model NASA employed to develop commercial resupply and crew transportation services for the International Space Station. https://physics.aps.org/articles/v15/67?utm_campaign=weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_source=emailalert.


Carbon capture, new efficient system.


Hydrogen powered aircraft.


New EV airplane test flight. 21,500 small Tesla-style battery cells.


"Forever chemicals" destroyed by simple method


Climate change: Six tipping points 'likely' to be crossed


The Department of Energy released an "Industrial Decarbonization Roadmap" last week that lays out strategies for reducing carbon emissions from the manufacturing sector. It focuses on five key industries that together account for roughly 15% of total U.S. emissions: chemical manufacturing, petroleum refining, iron and steel manufacturing, cement production, and the food and beverage industry. The roadmap also identifies improving energy efficiency, electrifying industrial processes, transitioning to low-carbon fuels and feedstocks, and deploying carbon capture technologies as "technological pillars" for reducing emissions across these sectors.


The Department of Energy announced last week it is launching an "Enhanced Geothermal Shot" as part of its series of Energy Earthshots, which set ambitious price and capability goals for clean energy technologies. The new initiative aims to reduce the cost of geothermal energy by 90% to $45 per megawatt-hour by 2035, building on DOE efforts such as the FORGE test site in Utah.


Sugar Rush. Little fuel cell that makes electricity from glucose. Could power implants. MIT News, Sept/Oct 2022.


*We may hit 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels already by 2026.



Climate change threatens bugs. We can't feed 7.5 billion people without insects to pollinate.



*With every new prediction, the threat of climate change gets more dire than the last prediction. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be breached by the end of this decade without drastic steps now.



Eastern Antarctic ice shelf collapses irrevocably.



Population and the "aging problem"


Byron Walsh Vox. Are 8 billion people too many — or too few? Welcome to the population paradox of the 21st century.



Voluntary Human Extinction movement


*The world #population hit 8 billion on 11/15/2022. No country on the planet currently uses resources at less than the rate at which supplies can be replaced. #climatechange. Was #Malthus right after all? #futureofhumanity #future


*Potential to restore some aspects of youth by rejuvenating skin cells. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-60991675




Jennifer Szalai, NYT 6/11/24, Shrink the Economy, Save the World, summary of recent books on degrowth, Kohei Saito, https://www.nytimes.com/2024/06/08/books/review/shrink-the-economy-save-the-world.html


Cities Adopting Cost Payments to Curb Poverty, Kurtis Lee, NYT 9/11/22.

The Personal Data Revolution. It's time to capture, control, and profit from your own personal data.Gener8 lets you store your data and then release some of it at your option for a payment. https://gener8ads.com/


Big Tech may be slowing innovation by disrupting creative destruction. https://www.technologyreview.com/2022/02/17/1044711/technology-slowing-innovation-disruption/


Insightful essay on crypto by Kevin Roose of the New York Times, A Latecomers Guide to Crypto.





Zvi Moshowicz, How A.I. Chatbots Become Political, NYT, Sunday, March 31, 2024, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/03/28/opinion/ai-political-bias.html


*TikTok may be the ideal vehicle for constructing, encouraging and spreading election deepfakes.


*Election misinformation thrives on TikTok ahead of 2022 midterms. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/14/business/media/on-tiktok-election-misinformation.html?searchResultPosition=1


*Re: the prospects of the new @Fwd_Party. @AndrewYang thinks exponentially in a linearly-thinking world. A question is which is the most pertinent for our current situation?




U.S is increasing its ability to fight threats in space. Nukes, lasers in space and on the ground, hunter-killer satellites. China, Russia, France. https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/17/us/politics/pentagon-space-military-russia-china.html


Tim Fornholz, NYT, Sunday, Feb 18, 2024, Envisioning a Market That's Out of This World, Kam Ghaffarian's Moonshots, Intuitive Machines, https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/18/business/kam-ghaffarians-moonshots.html?searchResultPosition=1


Hyperspace. Ten quantum-entangled ytterbium atoms pulsed by lasers in a Fibonacci sequence decohere more slowly, behave like new matter - not solid, liquid, gaseous, or plasma - and behave as if they have two time domains in a virtual hyperspace. https://www.livescience.com/fibonacci-material-with-two-dimensions-of-time?utm_campaign=0CFA9D5B-9285-47DF-A018-5ED9E96C0C0B


2022 Nobel Prize in Physics for quantum entanglement.


Astronaut gene mutations


South Korea launches a Moon mission. https://www.space.com/spacex-launches-south-korea-moon-mission-danuri?utm_campaign=0CFA9D5B-9285-47DF-A018-5ED9E96C0C0B


*Russia proposes to withdraw from the ISS by 2024. This can't be good news for the peaceful, cooperative exploration of space. https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/26/world/russia-quit-iss-scn/index.html


*A House panel is hot on the trail of unidentified aerial phenomena, AKA UFOs. Unidentified is not equivalent to extraterrestrial.



Another way to re-use boosters, save cost of putting things in orbit.



*All the bases in RNA and DNA have now been found in space. Panspermia?



Could MeV gravitons comprise dark matter? https://www.livescience.com/dark-matter-particles-from-extra-dimensions


On April 8, 2022, the first all-civilian crew was delivered to the International Space Station by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and  Dragon crew capsule. https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/08/tech/spacex-iss-launch-friday-scn/index.html




The bankruptcy and collapse of cryptocurrency exchange FTX and its founder Sam Bankman-Fried have shaken longtermerism and effective altruism, of which SBF, mentored by William MacAskillm, was a strong supporter. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/13/business/ftx-effective-altruism.html


*What do we owe the Future? An incisive yet expansive case for longtermerism.  https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/05/opinion/the-case-for-longtermism.html