Microsoft Invests $1 Billion In Elon Musk’s Plans To Mimic The Human Brain

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Image: Annunciation by artist Tom Estes

Microsoft has invested $1 billion in the Elon Musk-founded artificial intelligence venture that plans to mimic the human brain using computers.

The investment from Microsoft, signed early this month and announced on Monday, signals a new direction for Sam Altman’s research lab. He and his team of researchers hope to build artificial general intelligence, or A.G.I., a machine that can do anything the human brain can do.

“My goal in running OpenAI is to successfully create broadly beneficial A.G.I.,” Mr. Altman said in a recent interview. “And this partnership is the most important milestone so far on that path.”

Today’s AI systems are known as “narrow”, meaning they are capable of doing one task well. AGI, meanwhile, is seen as the holy grail of AI research, although many experts believe it will not be achieved for decades.

Mr. Altman’s 100-employee company recently built a system that could beat the world’s best players at a video game called Dota 2. Just a few years ago, this kind of thing did not seem possible.

Dota 2 is a game in which each player must navigate a complex, three-dimensional environment along with several other players, coordinating a careful balance between attack and defense. In other words, it requires old-fashioned teamwork, and that is a difficult skill for machines to master.

In recent years, a small but fervent community of artificial intelligence researchers have set their sights on A.G.I., and they are backed by some of the wealthiest companies in the world. DeepMind, a top lab owned by Google’s parent company, says it is chasing the same goal.

The US software company’s alliance with OpenAI, which is seen as one of the world’s leading AI labs, pits the two against Britain’s DeepMind, which is owned by Google.

Both labs are seeking to achieve artificial general intelligence (AGI), an AI similar to human consciousness that can adapt to different tasks.

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Google Confirms ‘Quantum Supremacy’

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Blitz, by artist Tom Estes

Google has officially announced that it’s achieved quantum supremacy in a new article published in the scientific journal Nature. The announcement comes exactly one month after it initially leaked, when Google’s paper was accidentally published early. Now, however, it’s official, meaning the full details of the research are public, and the broader scientific community can fully scrutinize what Google says it’s achieved

Google researchers state in the paper that their 54-qubit computer, known as Sycamore, is able to conduct a task in 200 seconds that would take around 10,000 years on a traditional system. That would mean the calculation, which involved generated random numbers, is essentially impossible on a traditional, non-quantum computer.

“This dramatic increase in speed compared to all known classical algorithms is an experimental realization of quantum supremacy for this specific computational task, heralding a much-anticipated computing paradigm,” the researchers write in the newly published paper.

“As a result of these developments, quantum computing is transitioning from a research topic to a technology that unlocks new computational capabilities,” the researchers conclude. “We are only one creative algorithm away from valuable near-term applications.”

The company now hopes to build a system that can conduct more broad operations, which could be used across a variety of different fields.

Despite IBM’s attempts to downplay Google’s achievement, many in the research community welcomed the news, with scientists quoted by The New York Times likening Google’s breakthrough to the Wright brothers’ first plane flight in 1903. We may still be years away from having quantum computers that are useful for practical tasks, but Google’s findings could finally have provided proof that such a future is possible in the first place.

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Could Aliens Be From Our Own Future?

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Image- Watchers by Tom Estes

In the face of all these false positives, mysteries, and straight-up hoaxes, it’s hard to keep faith in reports of extraterrestrials. It’s enough to make Fox Mulder hang up his badge and gun.

Project Blue Book was the official government organization tasked with investigating UFO sightings across the United States. Formally created in 1952, it handled roughly 12,000 sightings of potential UFOs and brought together a team of scientists and military personnel. The project was discontinued in 1969, and its records were later declassified.

Like MKULTRA or Project Y (the US Air Force’s experimental flying saucer, also called the Avrocar), Project Blue Book is one of those secret government projects that seem to confirm every conspiracy theorist’s suspicions: the government did have secret task forces investigating extraterrestrials, and its findings were kept secret from the public. What’s more, Blue Book was created at a time when UFO sightings had escalated to the point of mass hysteria-Kenneth’s Arnold’s famed encounter with a V-shaped formation of lights over Mount Rainier became the impetus for Project Blue Book’s inception.

During its operation, Project Blue Book investigated a number of high-profile UFO cases, including the Lubbock Lights. The scientific consultant and astronomer for the Project, J. Allen Hynek, also codified the “Close Encounter” categories-the basis for the title of the sci-fi movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Under Captain Edward Ruppelt, the organization coined the term “Unidentified Flying Object” and attempted to create more rigorous reporting methods for UFO sightings. As the Project progressed, the majority of sightings were determined to have mundane explanations, but a small number were deemed genuinely unexplainable.

However, in the summer of 1952, Project Blue Book was brought before the Robertson Panel, which was meant to assess the Project and its findings. According to a memorandum, the members of the Panel were unimpressed with the Project’s results and mandated that its primary goal change to creating “an integrated program designed to reassure the public of the total lack of evidence of Inimical forces behind the phenomenon.” This meant the goal of Project Blue Book had essentially changed from seriously investigating extraterrestrials to convincing the public that UFO sightings were anything but extraterrestrial.

Like the majority of Project Blue Book’s cases, the supposed Blue Book alien interview on YouTube was quickly proven to be fake. It was revealed as a pet project of Aristomenis Tsirbas, the digital effects artist behind several Star Trekproductions. Isaac Koi, a UFO debunker, wrote up a thorough report on the video and pointed out that Tsirbas had created another UFO hoax video, titled UFO Over Santa Clarita, in 2012, along with a breakdown of how the video was created. You can read Isaac Koi’s full report here.

 

And yet, the Alien Interview prokes some interesting questions. Human evolution is the evolutionary process that led to the emergence of anatomically modern humans, beginning with the evolutionary history of primates—in particular genus Homo—and leading to the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species of the hominid family, the great apes. We learn about our ancestors in many ways- mostly by studying them. Bones tell us what they looked like. Teeth reveal their diet. Tools, pots, art and other artefacts hold stories about their culture. The theory that humans are descended from aliens has been around for quite some time, but what if we have it the wrong way around? What if aliens are descendents from humans? Perhaps they have mastered time travel and have come back in time to study us?

 

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Alien And Otherworldly Sci-fi Violin From The Future

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This weird-looking, fully playable violin may look like it was designed by H.R. Giger or the prop department of Star Trek Next Generation but it actually a 2-string Piezoelectric Violin.  And it’s not just for looks, this sci-fi violin can actually be played to create beautiful music, in the right talented hands, of course.

The traditional four strings have been reduced to just two, and the sweeping shape of the piezoelectric instrument’s body is a far cry from the curves of a traditional violin. But the differences aren’t just cosmetic. The structure serves to amplify its acoustics in new ways.

Monad Studio states on their website: “The surface of this complex topological environment is further activated and becomes interactive using computer-generated sounds created by composer/computer musician Jacob Sudol. These sounds are emitted directly through the 3D-printed mural by means of handheld transducers that activate the installation as if it were the cones of a speaker to fill the space with constantly changing fields of sonic activity.”

3D printed instruments are revolutionary. In fact, they’re a real game changer. Consider the amount of time that goes into handcrafting guitars and violins. Then, imagine printing them in a quarter of that time and putting unique touches on them.

And the 3D-printed violin is just one of a suite of instruments designed to provide a collaborative experience exploring our relationship with sound.  It’s just one of five redesigned, 3D-printed instruments created by Eric Goldemberg and Veronica Zalcberg of architecture studio Monad, with musician Scott F. Hall,  which first appear at the 3D Print Design Show in New York on April 16-17  back in 2015 as part of an installation the studio is calling Abyecto, a word meaning abject, heinous, hideous.

The instruments also include a cello, a didgeridoo, and a larger, valved horn instrument called a hornucopia. Rounding out the suite is a a single-stringed, baritone electric guitar — which sound artist Hall is calling a “Monobarisitar.”

What brings all these instruments together is the “rack” into which they integrate when not in use — the sixth instrument in the series, a sort of 3D-printed mural hung upon the wall.

“The surface of this complex topological environment is further activated and becomes interactive using computer-generated sounds created by composer/computer musician Jacob Sudol. These sounds are emitted directly through the 3D-printed mural by means of handheld transducers that activate the installation as if it were the cones of a speaker to fill the space with constantly changing fields of sonic activity,”

“Multiple performers explore the installation with sounding transducers around the work in a performance of a new work by Jacob Sudol titled ‘…spaces to listen to from within (ii).’ Participants can also engage with the installation by touching the sounding transducers against the sculpture to personally explore the work’s complex resonant structures.”

You can check out what Abyecto sounds like in the video below — including Hall playing his monobarisitar and others exploring the mural with transducers.

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Extinction Rebellion: When Activism Is Also Great Art

 

Environmental protesters, Extinction Rebellion, poured fake blood on the steps of the Trocadero, a Paris tourist landmark, in a stunt to highlight the accelerated loss of biodiversity on Earth. 

Artistic Activism is a practice aimed at generating measurable shifts in power. Activist art is about empowering individuals and communities and is generally situated in the public arena with artists working closely with a community to generate the art.

Extinction_SymbolOne example is Extinction Rebellion, a socio-political movement which uses nonviolent resistance. It was established in the United Kingdom with about one hundred academics signing a call to action in support in October 2018, and launched at the end of October. The campaign group (abbreviated as XR) has become one of the world’s fastest-growing environmental movements to protest against climate breakdownbiodiversity loss, and the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse. The aim of activist artists is to create art that is a form of political or social currency, actively addressing cultural power structures rather than representing them or simply describing them.

Art and activism do different work in the world. Activism, as the name implies, is the activity of challenging and changing power relations. There are many ways of doing activism and being an activist, but the common element is an activity targeted toward a discernible end. Simply put, the goal of activism is action to create an Effect. Art tends not to have such a clear target. It’s hard to say what art is for or against; its value often lies in providing us perspective and new ways to envision our world. Its effect is often subtle and hard to measure, and confusing or contradictory messages can be layered into the work. Good art always contains a surplus of meaning: something we can’t quite describe or put our finger on, but moves us nonetheless. Its goal, if we can even use that word, is to stimulate a feeling, move us emotionally, or alter our perception. Art, equally simply stated, is an expression that generates Affect.

Extinction_Rebellion

As sightseers and police looked on, members of the Extinction Rebellion campaign group emptied canisters containing around 300 litres of red liquid on the famous esplanade across from the Eiffel Tower. Brandishing banners with the slogan: “Stop the sixth mass extinction”, the protesters then observed a few minutes’ silence before cleaning the steps.

At first glance these aims seem at odds with one another. Activism moves the material world, while Art moves the heart, body and soul. In fact, however, they are complimentary. Social change doesn’t just happen, it happens because people decide to make change. As any seasoned activist can tell you, people just don’t decide to change their mind and act accordingly, they are personally moved to do so by emotionally powerful stimuli. We’re moved by affective experiences to do physical actions that result in concrete effects: Affect leads to Effect.

“The evidence is crystal clear: Nature is in trouble. Therefore we are in trouble,” said Sandra Díaz, one of the co-chairs of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. A 40-page “Summary for Policy Makers” of the forthcoming full report (expected to exceed 1,500 pages) released May 6 in Paris.

The United Nations report warned that a million of Earth’s estimated eight million species are at risk of extinction. The bonds that hold nature together may be at risk of unraveling from deforestation, overfishing, development, and other human activities, the landmark United Nations report warned. Thanks to human pressures, one million species may be pushed to extinction in the next few years, with serious consequences for human beings as well as the rest of life on Earth.

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Based on a review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources and compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries, the global report is the first comprehensive look in 15 years at the state of the planet’s biodiversity. This report includes, for the first time, indigenous and local knowledge as well as scientific studies. The authors say they found overwhelming evidence that human activities are behind nature’s decline. They ranked the major drivers of species decline as land conversion, including deforestationoverfishingbush meat hunting and poaching; climate change; pollution; and invasive alien species.

The tremendous variety of living species—at least 8.7 million, but possibly many more—that make up our “life-supporting safety net” provide our food, clean water, air, energy, and more, said Díaz, an ecologist at the National University of Cordoba in Argentina, in an interview. “Not only is our safety net shrinking, it’s becoming more threadbare and holes are appearing.”

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Citing inspiration from grassroots movements such as OccupyGandhi’s independence movement, the suffragettesMartin Luther King and others in the civil rights movement, Extinction Rebellion aims to rally support worldwide around the urgency to tackle climate breakdown. A large number of activists in the movement have pledged to be arrested, and even to go to prison, similar to the mass arrest tactics of the Committee of 100 in 1961.

The Extinction Rebellion protest in Paris on Sunday. © AFP / Francois Guillot

 

 

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T-1000 Researchers Have Created A Programmable Shape-Shifting Liquid Metal

 

One of the most intelligent, imaginative and riveting sci-fi, action flicks to hit the screens ever, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is a classic without equal. What’s even more surprising is that “T2” is a sequel of an already great film. Arguably one of the greatest sequels ever made, Terminator 2 builds itself upon a few key ideas that upend the audience’s expectations and work like gangbusters with industry-altering technological execution. Even though the Terminator 2 movie was made nearly 30 years ago, almost nothing about it feels dated. And now researchers at the University of Sussex and Swansea University have recently announced that they have applied electrical charges to manipulate liquid metal into 2D shapes. Though still in the early stages of development, the technology is reminiscent of the main antagonist of Terminator 2: Judgment Day- a T-1000 shapeshifting android. Chinese scientists say they have also developed a type of robot powered by liquid metal inspired by T-1000, the self-repairing, shape-shifting killer android from one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator films.

The T-1000 is described in Terminator 2 as being composed of liquid metal, or a mimetic polyalloy (nanorobotics) that it can manipulate to assume various forms. Aside from being able to camouflage itself by assuming the appearance of a nondescript object or take on the likeness of other humans that it terminates in pursuit of its goals, the T-1000’s shapeshifting abilities enable it to form its hands into stabbing blades, slip through physical openings by oozing its liquid form, and instantly reform itself from any physical damage. The T-1000 was created by the Terminator franchise’s main antagonist, Skynet, a machine artificial intelligence that directs its robotic creations against the Human Resistance in an all-out war.

 

 

Once again real world science is starting to catch up to Science Fiction. Researchers at the University of Sussex and Swansea University have applied electrical charges to manipulate liquid metal into 2D shapes such as letters and a heart. The team says the findings represent an “extremely promising” new class of materials that can be programmed to seamlessly change shape. This open up new possibilities in ‘soft robotics’ and shape-changing displays.

While the invention might bring to mind the film Terminator 2, in which the villain morphs out of a pool of liquid metal, the creation of 3D shapes is still some way off. More immediate applications could include reprogrammable circuit boards and conductive ink.

Yutaka Tokuda, the Research Associate working on this project at the University of Sussex, has said:

“This is a new class of programmable materials in a liquid state which can dynamically transform from a simple droplet shape to many other complex geometry in a controllable manner. While this work is in its early stages, the compelling evidence of detailed 2D control of liquid metals excites us to explore more potential applications in computer graphics, smart electronics, soft robotics and flexible displays.”

The electric fields used to shape the liquid are created by a computer, meaning that the position and shape of the liquid metal can be programmed and controlled dynamically.

 

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Sacred Geometry Taught in a Donald Duck Cartoon

Donald Duck gets taught about Pythagoras, sacred geometry, and the fibonacci sequence! Who would have thought that something like this Disney cartoon from 1959 even existed?

For centuries a belief in the geometric underpinnings of the cosmos persisted among artists, musicians and scientists. The belief that a god created the universe according to a geometric plan has ancient origins. Plutarch attributed the belief to Plato, writing that “Plato said god geometrizes continually” (Convivialium disputationum, liber 8,2). In modern times, the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss adapted this quote, saying “God arithmetizes”.

Donald in Mathmagic Land is a 27-minute educational film featuring the one and only Donald Duck. Released on June 26, 1959, it soon became the most popular educational film ever released by Disney. Walt Disney himself said, “The cartoon is a good medium to stimulate interest. We have recently explained mathematics in a film and in that way excited public interest in this very important subject.”

The video features a group described as a secret club of “Eggheads,” their symbolic emblem a pentagram. The Masonic implications here seem clear, but of course, there’s no way to know for sure. Many people have theorized that Disney was an avid member of the Free Masons, even being among the few to reach the highest level, the 33rd degree, which is believed to use ancient teachings of the occult.

These include sacred geometry and devil worshipping. Considering the many subliminal messages hidden in Disney movies and cartoons in general, this aspect of the video is sure to raise more questions than it answers.Perhaps the most obvious and perplexing subliminal message hidden in a Disney cartoon, featured in Ducktales, are the words, “Ask about Illuminati” written on the wall in the background of the scene. What can we make of this? Was Disney himself trying to tell us something, or was this the work of a sneaky cartoonist? We may never learn the answer.

 

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