Category Archives: Deep Mind

What the strange case of horse mutilations in France reveals about our state of mind – The Guardian

The animals have been found missing ears and genitals, with eyes torn out, or deep, clean cuts to their bodies. The recent spate of horse mutilations reported across France has provoked horror and outrage. Satanic cults have been mooted, or individual perpetrators engaged in copycat crimes. But what if the panic reveals more about our collective state of mind in 2020 than any new and twisted form of human behaviour?

The reports started trickling in in January, but they picked up dramatically over the summer, until they were providing a sinister drumbeat to an already strange holiday season in France. Around 150 investigations of animal cruelty are under way, in more than half the countrys 96 metropolitan departments. Internet sleuths put the number of incidents closer to 200.

The outpouring of emotion on social media has been accompanied by efforts to organise vigils and share photos of vehicles lurking suspiciously close to fields and stables. On 7 September, the minister of the interior, Grald Darmanin, visited horse breeders in the northern department of the Oise and warned them not to take justice into their own hands. Two days later, the minister for agriculture, Julien Denormandie, announced that a dedicated phone line had been set up, where breeders could report incidents. One man has been arrested, but he was released after his alibi checked out. By then, a photofit portrait of him had been shared nearly 500,000 times on Facebook.

Not that those on Facebook are listening, but a few quiet voices have raised the possibility that no one is responsible for the shocking injuries. On 3 September, Le Monde pointed out that they could be a natural phenomenon horses that have hurt themselves or died naturally and been set upon by scavengers such as foxes and crows. Previous scares, from the US to Germany, have eventually been explained this way. In the UK, in the decade from 1983, a rash of horse mutilations was widely blamed on a horse ripper, but despite prolonged investigations no conviction was ever made. Experts concluded that most of the injuries were sustained through accident or post mortem. A foxs teeth are razor sharp, apparently; they can inflict damage that closely resembles a knife wound.

If you were to approach the problem scientifically, you might start by asking how many horses are found mutilated in France in an average year, and measure excess mortality in 2020 just as epidemiologists have done throughout the pandemic. That would give you an indication of whether there is anything unusual about this year. If there is, you would then raise a number of hypotheses to try to explain the increase, and investigate them methodically. This is what vets did in Botswana, where they have been investigating a mysterious die-off of elephants. Having ruled out poachers and a virus spread by rodents, their investigations pointed them to toxic algal blooms. Rising temperatures have made these increasingly common in the waterholes elephants frequent.

In France, to date, investigators seem to have made the classic error the staple of many crime dramas but also of real-life miscarriages of justice of zeroing in too fast on a single hypothesis. Nobody even seems to know if the number of mutilations noted this year represents a departure from the norm. Instead, ministers have asked the public to be vigilant ensuring heightened attention to the phenomenon and spoken of barbarians and justice. Its hard not to see a vicious cycle at work: the number of reports increases; ministers respond with promises to catch the culprits, with the publics help; the reports increase again.

Perpetrators with mental health issues could certainly be one hypothesis in the current situation. Phil Kavanagh, a clinical psychologist at the University of Canberra in Australia who has written about animal cruelty, says the mutilations could point to someone suffering from psychosis like the boy who, according to a possibly apocryphal story, blinded six horses in Suffolk and inspired Peter Shaffer to write his play Equus (1973). But the French cases cover a huge geographical area. Kavanagh doubts one person could be responsible for them all and knows of no precedents of psychotic individuals organising themselves into groups. In fact, he says, there has been very little research on animal cruelty, though myths about it abound. One is the so-called Macdonald triad the idea that there is an association between bedwetting beyond a certain age, fire-setting and cruelty to animals, and that this predicts later violence against people. First proposed in the 1960s, based on a small-scale study, the Macdonald triad has failed to stand up to scientific scrutiny.

Why have French investigators focused their efforts on a single, tenuous theory to the exclusion of all others? Perhaps it isnt so surprising, given French peoples state of mind and not just theirs. For months, while the pandemic has raged, weve all absorbed a steady stream of chatter about deep state intrigue and foreign interference. A crazy theory that Donald Trump is doing battle with a ring of Satan-worshipping paedophiles, which had its origins in the US, is gaining ground in Europe, including in France and the UK.

Some conspiracies are real. A trial is ongoing in Paris of suspects in the terrorist attacks of 2015. But there is also a close association between belief in conspiracies and seeing patterns where they dont exist. The case of the mutilated horses may constitute a crime, or it may be one more illusory pattern jumping out at a world on edge, primed to see the wood and not the trees. If its the latter, the dangers are twofold: that innocent people will be punished, and that the real cause will go undiscovered. The only way forward is to keep an open mind, and to follow the data.

Laura Spinney is a science journalist and author. Her latest book is Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World

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What the strange case of horse mutilations in France reveals about our state of mind - The Guardian

Good Job, Whale – The Cut

A Cuviers beaked whale, pursuing excellence, probably. Photo: Heiti Paves/Getty Images/iStockphoto

It feels fair to say that, for humanity, things are not going so well generally speaking. But for whales? Also not great, thanks humanity! But for the Cuviers beaked whale, specifically? Well, I cannot speak for all of them, but what I can say is that they have reason to be proud. One Cuviers beaked whale has managed to shatter the record for longest deep dive by a marine mammal, holding its breath underwater for nearly four hours, which is really something. Gizmodo calls the achievement mind-bending, but I call it another example of cetacean excellence to add to the pile.

To be clear, Cuviers beaked whales are as a rule very good at holding their breath while they hunt deep sea squid. In fact, their proficiency in this category earned Cuviers beaked whales the coveted number 10 spot on our comprehensive whale power ranking. But whereas the previous record-holder for long dives logged two hours and 17 minutes below the surface, a new champion (tagged ZcTag066) has now reset that bar twice.

In 2017, researchers with Duke University and the Cascadia Research Collective saw ZcTag066 execute two impressive dives: one that lasted nearly three hours, and another, a week later, that lasted just over three hours and 42 minutes. The scientists published their findings in the Journal of Experimental Biology on Wednesday. Ultimately, though, these two data points wound up excluded from their set, amassed over the course of five years with an eye toward ballparking the Cuviers aerobic dive limits, because they followed a known [one-hour] exposure to a Navy mid-frequency active sonar signal, per Gizmodo. That exposure may have affected their typical foraging style.

But still, the dives happened, and I think thats whats important here. To quote Duke University Marine Laboratory animal behaviorist Nicola Quick, These guys blow our expectations! According to Gizmodo, the researchers approached their study expecting the whales would need to come up for air after about 33 minutes, a calculation they reportedly based on seals internal oxygen stores and diving limits. The median duration of the Cuviers beaked whales they tracked worked out to just under 78 minutes, so: Great job all around, whales, outstanding work per usual.

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Good Job, Whale - The Cut

Review: The Flaming Lips dig deep with American Head – The Rice Thresher

By Jacob Pellegrino 9/22/20 8:16pm

Rating:

Top Tracks: Mother Please Don't Be Sad, God and the Policeman (featuring Kacey Musgraves), Assassins of Youth

One of the most influential experimental psychedelic rock groups since the 1980s, The Flaming Lips have never been a band to bow to convention. Their new album American Head continues the groups tradition of strong narrative songs sublimated by ethereal vocals and psychedelic musical experimentation. It follows their 2019 concept album Kings Mouth, an effort inspired by frontman Wayne Coynes art exhibit of the same name and narrated by Mick Jones of The Clash.

One of the highlights of the album is the haunting meditation of Mother Please Dont Be Sad. The song reflects on 17-year-old Coynes experience of working at a Long John Silvers that was robbed at gunpoint. Coyne described the track as what [he] was saying to [himself] while [he] laid on the floor, waiting to be shot in the head. He tries to console his mother in the song by reminding her that there's so much [she] still [has] and to remember all the others that are still alive. Sung from beyond the grave, as if Wayne had died that night, Mother Please Dont Be Sad paints a startling portrait of his state of mind in that traumatic moment embellished by lush instrumentation.

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The almost fully instrumental When We Die When Were High continues directly from Mother Please Dont Be Sad with no pause or break between the songs. The effortless but complex drum part is emphasized by sparse notes that slowly grow to create a sense of brutal minimalism that complements the other songs on the album and the albums effect as a whole.

Another standout track is the subtle storytelling of God and the Policemen. The song features transcendent vocal contributions from Kacey Musgraves that complement Waynes vocals. Wayne revealed in a segment for Apple Music that the song was based on a friend who got caught up in a bad drug deal and had to kill the dealer to avoid being killed. Calling to mind someone who is on the run from both the law and their conscience, the song conveys a complex emotional situation with entrancing vocals.

Coynes overtly personal lyricism is contrasted by songs written by multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd, especially Brother Eye. While Drozd drew on personal experiences while writing for the album, his tend to be less directly obvious. In the song, Drozd begs his brother to live forever, an expression made all the more poignant by the loss of both of his own brothers. Brother Eye is a melancholy tribute to Drozds family and the effect his brothers had on his life.

In contrast to all of these deeply personal elements, the album is also influenced by the death of Tom Petty in 2017. In a documentary, Coyne learned that Petty and the band Mudcrutch (his pre-Heartbreakers group) spent some time in Oklahoma City, The Flaming Lips home. The group began to imagine a world where Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had fail[ed] because of [a] connection to drugs and the seedier side of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Rather than try to emulate Pettys style, the group focused on embodying the characters they had imagined and created an album with a sense of homesickness and nostalgia permeating the tracks. Even as the Lips put themselves in someone elses shoes, they used that idea to create an album that bares their own emotions and experiences.

Overall, American Head is a strong effort from The Flaming Lips that plays to their strengths as a group. Wayne Coynes and Steven Drozds vocals and storytelling help to create a composition that is both a unique change and continuation of their style. The bands instrumentation highlights the music and increases the effect of the album as a whole. Its pervading sadness creates one of the groups most personal and powerful compositions. Although a far cry from The Flaming Lips most experimental moments, American Head is something unique that delves deep into the American psyche while embracing the bands personal experiences.

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Review: The Flaming Lips dig deep with American Head - The Rice Thresher

FREE Self Development Series: "Curbing Traffic Jam in the Mind" – Patch.com

TLDR: "Easy ideas to curb the traffic jam (congestion) in the mind, and experience long lasting real inner peace and concentration!"

I would like to invite you to a self development series, Curbing the Traffic Jam in the Mind. We are well aware of the reasons for traffic jams on local roads or freeways. Do we also know why the mind is congested? Many times that traffic congestion is so intense that it leads to a complete jam where we are unable to move forward in life. It is as if the car of our being (I) is stuck on the road called life. Can life move without us clearing the traffic jam in the mind?

In the past there were few days where I felt I was completely blank without any ideas, emotions, or creativity. A complete mental and emotional exhaustion was felt because of the heavy traffic congestion in the mind. At Brahma Kumaris, a non profit organization, I learnt many simple and easy ways to reduce the traffic congestion in the mind. In the last few years due to this practice, I have experienced deep inner silence even during extremely busy or crisis filled days.

I have been teaching Meditation and Self Development classes for the last few years at many places like ICC, BK SV, and Google. This is a free class to share my learning in curbing the traffic in the mind.

Date and Timing:

4 weeks class - Starts on Sep 23 (Wednesday) from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, and next classes are on Sep 30, Oct 7, and Oct 14).

Location: Virtual over Google Hangouts

Contact: Please email jain.meghana@gmail.com for getting the virtual link to join the classes

Source of the knowledge and Raja Yoga Meditation technique:

Brahma Kumaris Silicon Valley, a non-profit organization

540 S.Abel Street

Milpitas, CA 95035, USA

http://www.svbrahmakumaris.org

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FREE Self Development Series: "Curbing Traffic Jam in the Mind" - Patch.com

Happy Gut, Happy Mind: how the state of your gut affects your mental health – Evening Standard

The latest lifestyle, fashion and travel trends

If 2020 is responsible for anything positive at all, serving as a reminder to look after your health is one of them.

As we face the prospect of a second wave of the virus, there is no better time to start prioritising your emotional and physical wellbeing - and your gut is a good place to start.

Gut health has been the buzzword du jour among the wellness set for a while now, so you may already be familiar with the stat that 70 per cent of your immune system is found in your gut.

But did you also know that more than 90 per cent of the neurotransmitter serotonin - dubbed the happy "chemical" because it plays a vital role in your mood - is produced in your gut too?

"It's quite a startling statistic," says Eve Kalinik, nutritional therapist and author of Happy Gut, Happy Mind. "It's our gut microbiome (the trillions of good and bad bacteria that live in the gut) that has a direct and indirect influence on the levels of serotonin in our body. It helps to manage how much of the precursor tryptophan - that we take in through our diet - is available to be converted into serotonin in the brain." Tryptophan is an amino acid found in protein-rich foods like turkey, chicken, eggs, oily fish, peanuts and pumpkin seeds.

In her new book Kalinik explains how the state of our guts can affect how we feel emotionally (and vice versa). The gut produces and manages the same neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers - like serotonin, GABA and dopamine which govern physical processes and emotions - that the brain does.

"We've all felt butterflies in our stomachs when we're feeling nervous or anxious about something, but what surprises most people is that the relationship between the gut and brain is bidirectional," Kalinik explains, and there is often a mirroring of symptoms, "for example, people with a sluggish gut may suffer with a low mood, and equally when you're feeling more anxious you might feel more urgency to go."

Research suggests having a healthy gut may also help you to deal with stress and even sleep better, she adds.

So, how best to look after your gut? Here, Kalinik has shared some simple and practical tips (and most will cost you absolutely nothing) towards getting back on track.

When people consider improving their gut health, people often miss the basics, according to Kalinik: "They jump straight to fermenting scobies and think it's got to be that complicated."

But taking a simpler approach may benefit you more in the long run, and it'll be easier to be consistent with.

"One of the most common misperceptions is that you need to cut things out to improve your gut health when it's actually the complete opposite for most people," she continues. "Rather than restricting yourself, and focusing on potential intolerances, instead add in enriching and nourishing foods. Ironically, a lot of the anxiety that surrounds perceived intolerances also creates more stress mentally which then effects the gut."

The single most important thing you can do to promote good gut health is eating a diverse range of fibre sources every day.

"Fibre is found in all plant-based carbs, it provides fuel for all of our gut microbes and current research suggests that the more diverse and heterogeneous our microbiome is, the stronger and healthier it is," Kalinik says.

In return for being fed, these microbes "give back generously by producing substances and messengers that help us to manage inflammation, support the health of the gut barrier, synthesise vitamins, supply mood-influencing neurotransmitters like 'happy' serotonin and also train our immune system so that it knows how to react appropriately," she writes in her book.

"The easiest way to achieve this is by taking in different sources of fibre and rotating your intake of vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, because different types of fibre feed different microbes, which cultivates a more diverse gut microbiome. We naturally gravitate to the same things but I encourage my clients to have in mind eating the rainbow, and to try and get different colours into every meal."

There are easy ways to do this without having to constantly invest in piles of fresh produce, she adds. "If you like having porridge or overnight oats every morning, have a few different grains like spelt flakes or quinoa flakes stored in the cupboard so you're not always having oats. Have a good nut and seed mix to hand or several types of nut butters to add to dishes and buy frozen berries to store in the freezer."

Slow your mealtimes down. "One good thing to have come out of lockdown is it gave us more time to tune in and slow down. Take time to sit and really chew your food, this will help to alleviate symptoms like bloating, reflux gas and feeling really hungry soon after you've finished a meal. By not inhaling your food and eating rapidly, it allows your gut to function properly and also creates pockets of recovery in the day, where your body can switch into 'rest and digest' mode."

"Our guts are really thirsty and need regular watering. If you're working from home get a jug on your workstation and put some fresh herbs or fresh lemon or cucumber so it tastes better and looks more appealing."

Upping your water intake can help to relieve constipation and boost energy levels.

"Most of us breathe quite high up into the diaphragm, but taking time out at the end of the day to breathe properly - or practice any form of mindfulness - can help to relieve stress which is a massive trigger for people with gut issues." Kalinik recommends deep belly breathing, when you breathe deep into the belly for a count of five and hold for five more before breathing out for five again.

"Use that pre-bedtime hour to switch off from your devices and wind down, doing that consistently is going to help bubble wrap your mind, just like going to the gym, it's accumulative and will really help with managing stress."

Eve Kalinik's Harissa Chicken dish from her book Happy Gut, Happy Mind

Dishes dont come much more restorative and nourishing than this. The flavours are amazing and its so easy to make; you can sit back and relax while it cooks. Chicken is a good source of tryptophan, while the celeriac and leeks offer abundant fibre fuel for our microbes. With the bold flavours of harissa, jewel-like pomegranate seeds and vibrant herbs, its a delight for the senses, the mind and the microbiome.

Ingredients

Method

1. Mix together the harissa, butter, cumin, coriander, lemon juice and salt to create the marinade.

2. Put the chicken in a large bowl, add the celeriac and leeks and pour over the marinade.

3. Massage well and leave for at least 20 minutes to an hour.

4. Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Line a large baking tray with baking parchment.

5. Place the chicken, celeriac and leeks on the baking tray and bake for 40 minutes, tossing halfway through cooking time so that everything bakes evenly.

6. To make the dressing, combine the yoghurt, lemon juice, garlic oil and water in a small bowl with a pinch of sea salt.

7. Remove the baking tray from the oven and sprinkle over the chopped herbs, haphazardly dollop over the dressing and top with the pomegranate seeds.

8. You can serve at the table in the pan or divide between two plates.

Wine Pairing: Enjoy this dish with a white Assyrtiko or a Languedoc red such as Corbires, Minervois or St-Chinian.

Happy Gut, Happy Mind (Little, Brown Book Group, 25) is available to buy at couvertureandthegarbstore.com

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Happy Gut, Happy Mind: how the state of your gut affects your mental health - Evening Standard

How DeepMind Algorithms Helped Improve the Accuracy of Google Maps? – Analytics Insight

DeepMind is one of the companies that are leading the AI charge and coming up with innovative uses of AI. This London-based AI lab has been under the umbrella of Alphabet since the latter acquired it in January 2014. While Googles AI ventures have been keeping it running, DeepMind is most helpful when it comes to Google Maps. For years, it has been a challenge to design a machine-learning algorithm to train AI models and softwares to help in navigation, especially in unstructured surroundings. Therefore understanding how AI can learn about cruising through an environment and guide us in the future is always an area of interest for researchers.

The reason why it is an arduous task is primarily that long-range navigation is a complex cognitive task that relies on developing an internal representation of space, grounded by familiar landmarks and robust visual processing, that can simultaneously support continuous self-localization (I am here) and a representation of the goal (I am going there). This is where DeepMinds deep reinforcement learning helps to solve the hitch. Besides, it is essential to address this as people rely on the accuracy of Google Maps to assist them. Every day, this app provides useful directions, real-time traffic information, and information on businesses to millions of people, along withaccurate traffic predictions and estimated times of arrival (ETAs).As a result, it is crucial to mirror the ever-changing landscape of urban lands.

Recently, researchers at DeepMind teamed up with Google Maps to improve the accuracy of real-time ETAs by up to 50% in places like Berlin, Jakarta, So Paulo, Sydney, Tokyo, and Washington D.C. by using advanced machine learning techniques. At present, the Google Maps traffic prediction system consists of a route analyzer for processing traffic information to construct Supersegments (multiple adjacent segments of road that share significant traffic volume). It also has a Graph Neural Network model, which is optimized with various objectives and predicts the travel time for each Supersegment.

The data collected to train the machine learning model of DeepMind was extracted from authoritative data input from local governments and real-time feedback from users. The authoritative data lets Google Maps learn about speed limits, tolls, or road restrictions due to things like construction, excavation works, orCOVID-19 shutdown. Meanwhile, feedback from users lets Google know that paved roads are better for driving than unpaved ones. It also helps Google to make a neural network model opt a long stretch of highway as efficient routes than a smaller shortcut road with multiple stops.

After collecting the data, in the Graph Neural Network, the model considers the local road network as a graph, with each route segment resembling as a node and edges that exist between segments that are consecutive on the same road or connected through an intersection. When a message-passing algorithm gets executed, neural networks learned those messages and studied their effect on node states and edge. Now, in the real world, these Supersegments are road subgraphs, which were sampled at random in proportion to traffic density. When a single model was successfully trained via these subgraphs, the algorithm was then deployed at scale.

Through Graph Neural Network, researchers were able to carry spatiotemporal reasoning by incorporating relational learning biases to model the connectivity structure of real-world road networks. Google Maps product manager Johann Lau says, We saw up to a 50 percent decrease in worldwide traffic when lockdowns started in early 2020. To account for this sudden change, weve recently updated our models to become more agile automatically prioritizing historical traffic patterns from the last two to four weeks, and deprioritizing patterns from any time before that.

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How DeepMind Algorithms Helped Improve the Accuracy of Google Maps? - Analytics Insight

Elon Musk’s brain-computer startup is getting ready to blow your mind – ZDNet

Elon Musk couldn't resist a small joke when he gave the world a first look at Neuralink, thebrain-computer interface (BCI) projectthat he's been working on for the past two years. "I think it's going to blow your minds," he said.

The aim of his startup is to develop technology to tackle neurological problems, from damage caused by brain or spine trauma to the type of memory problems that can become more common in people as they age. The idea is to solve these problems with an implantable digital device that can interpret, and possibly alter, the electrical signals made by neurons in the brain.

"If you can correct these signals you can solve everything from memory loss, hearing loss, blindness, paralysis depression, insomnia, extreme pain, seizures, anxiety, addiction, strokes, brain damage; these can all be solved with an implantable neural link," Musk said at the demonstration of the technology, which also unexpectedly featured live pigs that had actually been implanted with the company's technology.

SEE: Building the bionic brain (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

So isNeuralink as revolutionary as the hype might suggest?

The demo, led by Musk and streamed earlier this month, was the first major update on Neuralink's development since last summer. Musk used the demo to show off the latest iteration of the company's hardware: a small, circular device that attaches to the surface of the brain, gathering data from the cortex and passing it on to external computing systems for analysis.

The system was demonstrated in situ in a pig, gathering data on the animal's neural activity when its snout touched something, and creating a visual representation of that information.

But for all the excitement of what Musk also called the equivalent of "a Fitbit in your skull" (including a minor hitch when the pig became camera shy) all the technology concepts showcased during the demo had been seen elsewhere before now. Several different types of working brain-computer interfaces already exist, gathering data on electrical signals from the user's brain and translating them into data that can be interpreted by machines.

And while Neuralink has yet to implant any of its devices into human subjects, a number of research laboratories have done just that -- to date, a handful of individuals have been fitted with functioning brain-computer interface devices. Typically, they are people who have suffered a spinal injury that's left them paralysed, and who use BCIs help them regain some of that lost function. (One notable user has already been able to recover enough movement in his hands to play Guitar Hero.)

"Other than the implementation of the system they built, all of the things they showed are things that have been shown in the past," neural engineer Edoardo d'Anna, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh, tells ZDNet. "So from a scientific point of view, there was nothing novel in that sense." Musk's achievement is instead in building something that is starting to resemble a product that might actually help real patients, rather than a research project -- the stage many other BCIs are currently at.

And that's not the only difference between Neuralink's implementation of a brain-computer interface and those now used elsewhere.

While many current BCIs often involve wired systems, Musk's uses Bluetooth Low Energy to communicate wirelessly. Traditional BCIs use arrays that integrate with the brain using rigid electrodes; Neuralink uses flexible threads. Usually, BCIs leave their users with a box of hardware that sits outside the skull; the Neuralink shouldn't be visible externally. Most research-BCI hardware is implanted by a human neurosurgeon; Neuralink has a robot to do most of the same surgical heavy-lifting.

"They've done a very nice job of the engineering," says Professor Andrew Jackson, professor of neural interfaces at Newcastle University. "They've made progress in all the areas where you would expect a well-resourced, well-funded tech company to make progress. That means things like miniaturising electronics, making things low power off a battery, getting things to operate wirelessly.

"It's a bit unfair to say, but to some extent, these are low-hanging fruit for a big investment from a Silicon Valley tech company, because traditionally a lot of the technology that has been used in neuroscience has been done on a much smaller budget than this, and so things haven't always been kind of optimised to the same level that you are used to in that consumer electronics world," he says.

While the Neuralink demonstration may not have come loaded with never-before-seen technology, it does serve as an illustration of how the technology is progressing towards commercialisation.

"I think the bigger question is what are the new things that can be done with this technology? I think that's to some extent a more interesting question," says Jackson. It's also a question that Musk isn't short of answers to.

SEE: Mind-controlled drones and robots: How thought-reading tech will change the face of warfare

Most BCI work currently ongoing falls into two camps: either it's looking at making consumer-grade, non-invasive kit that could ultimately offer a way of interacting with devices like smartphones -- UIs based on thoughts rather than key presses or voice commands -- or medical-grade systems to help people with brain or spinal injuries overcome paralysis. Musk has far broader aims for his BCI, however. The demo offered the possibility of curing numerous medical conditions, as well as more futuristic aims from telepathically summoning a Tesla to downloading your consciousness and being able to download memories.

Achieving those aims would need a whole new set of functionality to be included in the Neuralink device, and the surgical robot would need to learn new techniques. For example, the current Neuralink sits on the surface of the brain, while some of the longer-term uses of the device Musk touted would mean it would need access to the deeper structures of the brain. Hooking up electronics to deep-brain structures has already been done -- deep-brain stimulation is already used for treating conditions such as Parkinson's -- but it's something of a blunt instrument. Doing something like Musk is proposing would need a much more subtle approach, and not one we've seen discussed by the company yet. It would also require Neuralink to stimulate the brain (sending data into the brain, rather than reading information from it), though there's been no discussion of any stimulation technology from the company so far.

Some of the more long-term, almost sci-fi, visions for Neuralink would also mean addressing some of the black holes in our knowledge of certain areas of neuroscience. Playing back memories and similar applications would first need us to have a better understanding of what memory is and which bits of the brain are involved -- scientists have a good idea, but there's no consensus on whether we know all the pieces (and it all gets more complicated when you start thinking about different types of memory -- remembering your last holiday, how to play the piano, or a list of the Queens and Kings of England by date all live in different brain regions).

"The short-term goal that they talked about of impacting someone who's paralysed and giving them control over a cursor and keyboard or something like that, that is something we know how to do. There's no doubt you can build a product like that, that is totally achievable," says d'Anna. But he says the long-term ideas like capturing your memories and replaying them are something we know very little about. "There's significant gaps in our scientific understanding that needs to be addressed before we can even talk about doing them," he adds.

Does that mean such ideas might be held up by the need for more neuroscience research? Dr Tennore Ramesh, non-clinical lecturer at the University of Sheffield's Department of Neuroscience, believes that AI could enable some of Neuralink's long-term goals, whether we come to understand the neuroscience behind them or not.

SEE: Human meets AI: Intel Labs team pushes at the boundaries of human-machine interaction with deep learning

Treating it as if it's a neuroscience problem "is the wrong way of thinking. It's actually an engineering problem," he says. "The neurons are sending information in bits -- it's almost like a computer program. Of course, it's more complicated than that but, especially with the advent of artificial intelligence and things like that, I think it is pretty feasible," he says.

"In terms of using AI for solving this, though, does it mean that we'll understand how the brain functions? Probably not, because many of these AIs are basically black boxes, but it doesn't mean that we can't put them to use or utilise whatever functionality they provide. So from that point of view, maybe we may not understand the neuroscience very much, but it doesn't mean that we can't make a product that can do those things," Ramesh says.

Either way, the function of setting goals for the Neuralink that outstrip current scientific and engineering capabilities not only gives scientists a bold vision to aim for, but it also generates hype and interest in the company -- unlike the researchers who have worked on BCIs in labs, Musk ultimately has to turn a profit, and that's something he can only do if he can convince the world that Neuralink is as much a consumer device as it is a medical one.

That also means convincing thousands of average people with no health conditions to undergo brain surgery. For most, the idea of having a chunk of skull bored out just to a get Fitbit installed is going to seem outrageous -- the one on their wrist works fine, thanks -- but replaying memories, downloading consciousness or merging with AI offers buyers the prospect of cheating death in an oblique way. That prospect could be decades away, at least, but perhaps in the long-term, the messaging of 'get a neural interface, avoid mortality' might be persuasive to many.

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Elon Musk's brain-computer startup is getting ready to blow your mind - ZDNet

Far from being anti-religious, faith and spirituality run deep in Black Lives Matter – The Conversation US

Black Lives Matters (BLM) has been portrayed by its detractors as many things: Marxist, radical, anti-American. Added to this growing list of charges is that it is either irreligious or doing religion wrong.

In late July, for instance, conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan tweeted that BLM was incompatible with Christianity.

He isnt alone in that belief. Despite receiving the backing of diverse faith leaders and groups, BLM has been attacked by sections of the religious right. One evangelical institution felt compelled to issue a statement warning Christians about the movements Godless agenda. Other evangelicals have gone further, accusing BLM founders of being witches and operating in the demonic realm.

Joining conservative Christians are some self-proclaimed liberals and atheists who have also denounced BLM as a social movement that functions like acult or pseudo religion.

As scholars of religion, we believe such views fail to acknowledge let alone engage with the rich spiritual and religious pluralism of Black Lives Matter. For the past few years, we have been observing the way the movement and affiliated organizations express faith and spirituality.

Since 2015 we have interviewed BLM leaders and organizers as well as Buddhist leaders inspired by the movement. What we found was that BLM was not only a movement seeking radical political reform, but a spiritual movement seeking to heal and empower whileinspiring other religious allies seeking inclusivity.

Black Lives Matter was born from a love letter.

On July 13, 2013 the day of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who had killed an unarmed black teenage named Trayvon Martin soon-to-be BLM co-founder Alicia Garza, posted A Love Letter to Black People on Facebook. She declared:

We dont deserve to be killed with impunity. We need to love ourselves and fight for a world where black lives matter. Black people, I love you. I love us. We matter. Our lives matter.

Since its inception, BLM organizers have expressed their founding spirit of love through an emphasis on spiritual healing, principles, and practices in their racial justice work.

BLM leaders, such as co-founder Patrisse Cullors, are deeply committed to incorporating spiritual leadership. Cullors grew up as a Jehovahs Witness, and later became ordained in If, a west African Yoruba religion. Drawing on Native American, Buddhist and mindfulness traditions, her syncretic spiritual practice is fundamental to her work. As Cullors explained to us, The fight to save your life is a spiritual fight.

Theologian Tricia Hersey, known as the Nap Bishop, a nod to her Divinity degree and her work advocating for rest as a form of resistance, founded the BLM affiliated organization, The Nap Ministry in 2016.

In an interview with Cullors, Hersey said she considers human bodies as sites of liberation that connect Black Americans to the creator, ancestors, and universe. She describes rest as a spiritual practice for community healing and resistance and naps as healing portals. Hersey connects this belief to her upbringing in the Black Pentecostal Church of God in Christ, where, she explained, I was able to see the body being a vehicle for spirit.

The movement is committed to spiritual principles, such as healing justice which uses a range of holistic approaches to address trauma and oppression by centering emotional and spiritual well-being and transformative justice which assists with creating processes to repair harm without violence.

Transformative justice, central to the beliefs of many in the BLM movement, is a philosophic approach to peacemaking. With roots in the Quaker tradition, it approaches harms committed as an opportunity for education. Crime is taken to be a community problem to be solved through mutual understanding, as often seen in work to decriminalize sex work and drug addiction.

BLM affiliated organizer Cara Page, who coined the term healing justice, did so in response to watching decades of activists commit themselves completely to social justice causes to the detriment of their physical and mental health. She advocates that movements themselves have to be healing, or theres no point to them.

BLM-affiliated organizations utilize spiritual tools such as meditation, reiki, acupuncture, plant medicine, chanting, and prayer, along with other African and Indigenous spiritualities to connect and care for those directly impacted by state violence and white supremacy.

For instance, Dignity and Power Now or DPN, an organization founded by Cullors in Los Angeles in 2012, hosts almost weekly wellness clinics on Sundays, often referred to as church by attendees.

On July 26, 2020, they held a virtual event called Calm-Unity, to remind people that without healing there is no justice. Classes included yoga, meditation, African dance, Chinese medicine, and altar making.

In interviews, movement leaders described honoring their body, mind and soul as an act of resilience. They see themselves as inheritors of the spiritual duty to fight for racial justice, following in the footsteps of freedom fighters like abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

BLM leaders often invoke the names of abolitionist ancestors in a ceremony used at the beginning of protests. In fact, protests often contain many spiritual purification, protection and healing practices including the burning of sage, the practice of wearing white and the creation of sacred sites and altars at locations of mourning.

BLMs rich spiritual expressions have also inspired and transformed many American faith leaders. Black evangelical leader Barbara Salter McNeil credits BLM activists in Ferguson as changing the Christian church by showing racism must be tackled structurally and not just as individual sin.

U.S. Buddhist leaders presented a statement on racial justice to the White House in which they shared they were inspired by the courage and leadership of Black Lives Matter. Jewish, Muslim and many other religious organizations, have incorporated BLM principles to make their communities more inclusive and justice oriented.

As University of Arizona scholar Erika Gault observes, The Black church is not the only religious well from which Black movements have historically drawn, and with Black Lives Matter, We are actually seeing more religion, not less.

Attempts to erase the rich religious landscape of Black Lives Matter by both conservative and liberal voices continues a long history of denouncing Black spirituality as inauthentic and threatening.

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The history of white supremacy, often enacted within institutional Christianity, has often vilified and criminalized Indigenous and African beliefs, promoted the idea that Black people are divinely destined to servitude, and subjected communities to forced conversions.

As Cullors said to us in response to current attacks against BLM as demonic, For centuries, the way we are allowed to commune with the divine has been policed; in the movement for Black lives, we believe that all connections to the creator are sacred and essential.

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Far from being anti-religious, faith and spirituality run deep in Black Lives Matter - The Conversation US

Nvidia’s Arm takeover sparks concern in the UK, co-founder says it’s ‘a disaster’ – CNBC

SAM YEH | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON Arm co-founder Hermann Hauser has said if would be a disaster if U.S. rival Nvidia buys the British company he helped to build.

Nvidia announced Sunday that it intends to buy the Cambridge-headquartered chip designer off Japan's SoftBank for $40 billion, saying it would create the "world's premier computing company."

However, speaking to BBC Radio 4 on Monday, Hauser said: "I think it's an absolute disaster for Cambridge, the U.K., and Europe."

Arm is widely regarded as the jewel in the crown of the British tech industry. Its chips power most of the world's smartphones, as well as many other devices.

Despite some opposition, the company was acquired by SoftBank in 2016 for 19 billion ($24 billion) on the condition that it remained in the British city of Cambridge.

Hauser said thousands of Arm employees would lose their jobs in Cambridge, Manchester, Belfast, and Warwick if Nvidia "inevitably" decided to move Arm's headquarters to the U.S. and make the company a division of Nvidia.

Nvidia would "destroy" Arm's business model, which involves licensing chip designs to around 500 other companies including several that compete directly with Nvidia, Hauser said, adding that the new deal will create a monopoly.

Nvidia was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC Monday. However, this weekend it said that Arm could remain headquartered in Cambridge under the deal. It added that it will create more jobs in the country and will build a new Nvidia-powered AI supercomputer.

Arm co-founder Hermann Hauser.

Getty

Hauser said the commitments were meaningless unless they're legally enforceable.

SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son said in a statement that "Nvidia is the perfect partner for Arm."

While Simon Segars, Arm's chief executive, said in a statement:"Arm and Nvidia share a vision and passion that ubiquitous, energy-efficient computing will help address the world's most pressing issues from climate change to healthcare, from agriculture to education."

He added: "By bringing together the technical strengths of our two companies we can accelerate our progress and create new solutions that will enable a global ecosystem of innovators."

However, according to Hauser, the most important and concerning issue is one of economic sovereignty.

"If Arm becomes a U.S. company, it falls under the CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) regulations," he said. "If hundreds of U.K. companies that incorporate Arm's (chips) in their products want to sell it or export it to anywhere in the world, including China, which is a major market, this decision on whether they're allowed to export it will be made in the White House and not in Downing Street," he said. "I think this is terrible."

He urged the U.K. government to step in, block the deal, and help to take Arm public on the London Stock Exchange, which is what SoftBank initially planned to do.

Hauser has written an open letter to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and published it on a website called SaveArm.

The opposition party in the U.K. raised concerns about the deal last Friday, with Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband saying,"the government is doing nothing in the face of the risk of the company being swallowed up by Nvidia."

At the time, a government spokesperson said that Downing Street monitors proposed acquisitions closely. "Where we feel a takeover may represent a threat to the U.K., the government will not hesitate to investigate the matter further, which could lead to conditions on the deal," they said.

The U.K. has been on a mission to build an Apple-sized company of its own for years, but has had little success as many of its most promising tech companies have been sold to companies in the U.S. and China.One of the most notable examples in recent years is London AI lab DeepMind, which was acquired by Google in 2016 for around $600 million. Today, DeepMind is widely regarded as one of the world leaders in AI research.

Neil Lawrence, Amazon's former director of machine learning in Cambridge, told CNBC:"Arm is the only large U.K. tech company that is an undisputed world leader. The majority of the world's computer chips are made to their designs."

"Nvidia's original business was graphics, but their chips also happened to have the right architecture for the current generation of AI algorithms. They've capitalized well on that. But with so much U.K. focus on how we make ourselves a world leading economy after our departure from the European Union, it would be surprising if the deal is waved through without any form of review," he added.

Shares in Nvidia climbed over 5% in pre-market trade in New York, while shares in SoftBank rose 8.9% in Tokyo.

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Nvidia's Arm takeover sparks concern in the UK, co-founder says it's 'a disaster' - CNBC

The Guardians GPT-3-written article misleads readers about AI. Heres why. – TechTalks

An article allegedly written by OpenAIs GPT-3 in The Guardian misleads readers about advances in artificial intelligence

This article is part ofDemystifying AI, a series of posts that (try to) disambiguate the jargon and myths surrounding AI.

Last week, The Guardian ran an op-ed that made a lot of noise. Titled, A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human? the article was allegedly written by GPT-3, OpenAIs massive language model that has made a lot of noise in the past month.

Predictably, an article written by an artificial intelligence algorithm and aimed at convincing us humans that robots come in peace was bound to create a lot of hype. And thats exactly what happened. Social media networks went abuzz with panic posts about AI writing better than humans, robots tricking us into trusting them, and other apocalyptic predictions. According to The Guardians page, the article was shared over 58,000 times as of this writing, which means it has probably been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

But after reading through the article and the postscript, where The Guardians editorial staff explain how GPT-3 wrote the piece, I didnt even find the discussion about robots and humans relevant.

The key takeaway, however, was that mainstream media is still very bad at presenting advances in AI, and that opportunistic human beings are very clever at turning socially sensitive issues into money-making opportunities. The Guardian probably made a good deal of cash out of this article, a lot more than they spent on editing the AI-generated text.

And they mislead a lot of readers.

The first thing to understand before even going into the content of article is what GPT-3 is. Heres how The Guardian defined it in the postscript: GPT-3 is a cutting edge language model that uses machine learning to produce human like text. It takes in a prompt, and attempts to complete it.

That is basically correct. But there are a few holes. What do they mean by human like text? In all fairness, GPT-3 is a manifestation of how far advances in natural language processing have come.

One of the key challenges in artificial intelligence language generators is maintaining coherence over long spans of text. GPT-3s predecessors, including OpenAIs GPT-2, started to make illogical references and lost consistency after a few sentences. GPT-3 surpasses everything weve seen so far, and in many cases remains on-topic over several paragraphs of text.

But fundamentally, GPT-3 doesnt bring anything new to the table. It is a deep learning model composed of a very huge transformer, a type of artificial neural network that is especially good at processing and generating sequences.

Neural networks come in many different flavors, but at their core, they are all mathematical engines that try to find statistical representations in data.

When you train a deep learning model, it tunes the parameters of its neural network to capture the recurring patterns within the training examples. After that, you provide it with an input, and it tries to make a prediction. This prediction can be a class (e.g., whether an image contains a cat, dog, or shark), a single value (e.g., the price of a house), or a sequence (e.g., the letters and words that complete a prompt).

Neural networks are usually measured in the number of layers and parameters they contain. GPT-3 is composed of 175 billion parameters, three orders of magnitude larger than GPT-2. It was also trained on 450 gigabytes of text, at least ten times that of its smaller predecessor. And experience has so far shown that increasing the size of neural networks and their training datasets tends to improve their performance by increments.

This is why GPT-3 is so good at churning out coherent text. But does it really understand what it is saying, or is it just a prediction machine that is finding clever ways to stitch together text it has previously seen during its training? Evidence shows that it is more likely to be the latter.

The GPT-3 op-ed argued that humans should not fear robots, that AI comes in peace, that it has no intention to destroy humanity, and so on. Heres an excerpt from the article:

For starters, I have no desire to wipe out humans. In fact, I do not have the slightest interest in harming you in any way. Eradicating humanity seems like a rather useless endeavor to me.

This suggests that GPT-3 knows what it means to wipe out, eradicate, and at the very least harm humans. It should know about life and health constraints, survival, limited resources, and much more.

But a series of experiments by Gary Marcus, cognitive scientist and AI researcher, and Ernest Davis, computer science professor at New York University, show that GPT-3 cant make sense of the basics of how the world works, let alone understand what it means to wipe out humanity. It thinks that drinking grape juice will kill you, you need to saw off a door to get a table inside a room, and if your clothes are at the dry cleaner, you have a lot of clothes.

All GPT-3 really has is a tunnel-vision understanding of how words relate to one another; it does not, from all those words, ever infer anything about the blooming, buzzing world, Marcus and Davis write. It learns correlations between words, and nothing more.

As you delve deeper into The Guardians GPT-3 written article, youll find many references to more abstract concepts that require rich understanding of life and society, such as serving humans, being powerful and evil, and much more. How does an AI that thinks you should wear a bathing suit to court thinks it can serve humans in any meaningful way?

GPT-3 also talks about feedback on its previous articles and frustration about its previous op-eds having been killed by publications. These would all appear impressive to someone who doesnt know how todays narrow AI works. But the reality is, like DeepMinds AlphaGo, GPT-3 neither enjoys nor appreciates feedback from readers and editors, at least not in the way humans do.

Even if GPT-3 had singlehandedly written all this article (well get to this in a bit), it can at most be considered a good word spinner, a machine that rehashes what it has seen before in an amusing way. It shows the impressive feats large deep learning models can perform, but its not even close to what we would expect from an AI that understands language.

In the postscript of the article, The Guardians staff explain that to write the article, they had given GPT-3 a prompt and intro and told to generate a 500-word op-ed. They ran the query eight times and used the AIs output to put together the complete article, which is a little over 1,100 words.

The Guardian could have just run one of the essays in its entirety. However, we chose instead to pick the best parts of each, in order to capture the different styles and registers of the AI, The Guardians staff write, after which they add, Editing GPT-3s op-ed was no different to editing a human op-ed. We cut lines and paragraphs, and rearranged the order of them in some places. Overall, it took less time to edit than many human op-eds.

In other words, they cherry-picked their article from 4,000 words worth of AI output. That, in my opinion, is very questionable. Ive worked with many publications, and none of them have ever asked me to submit eight different versions of my article and let them choose the best parts. They just reject it.

But I nonetheless find the entire process amusing. Someone at The Guardian came up with an idea that would get a lot of impressions and generate a lot of ad revenue. Then, a human came up with a super-click bait title and an awe-inspiring intro. Finally, the staff used GPT-3 like an advanced search engine to generate some text from its corpus, and the editor(s) used the output to put together an article that would create discussion across social media.

In terms of educating the public about advances in artificial intelligence, The Guardians article has zero value. But it perfectly shows how humans and AI can team up to create entertaining and moneymaking BS.

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The Guardians GPT-3-written article misleads readers about AI. Heres why. - TechTalks