Re-Blog: Futurism Is A Thing. Just Ask A Futurist.


(Originally posted 9/14/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

If my dear readers are anything like the gringa, they are always wondering what the future holds. What goes through your mind? War? Peace? Natural disasters? Space alien invasion? AI revolution and hostile take-over? To know the best theories about the future, all you have to do is ask a futurist. Yeah. Futurism. That’s a thing.

Who else would be a qualified futurist when it comes to tomorrow’s technology than the Director of Engineering for Google? Although the gringa loves how Google synchronizes so many things in life, I do have to admit that sometimes it’s downright creepy. I mean, when my phone starts asking me questions, like, “Do you want your friend’s to know that you’re at the donut store,” I mean, I’m like, “Just mind your own business, phone, okay?” But I digress, Google has a lot to say about what’s in store for the general public as artificial intelligence keeps getting smarter.


Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering for Google, wants everyone to mark the year 2029. What’s so important about the year the gringa will be a dowdy, old 61-year-old gal? He expects that to be the year when AI passes a valid Turing test. But what does that mean? What is a Turing test?


In 1950 Alan Turing developed a test that would measure a machine’s ability to exercise intelligence on a level that is indistinguishable from a human. In other words, to pass a credible Turing test means technology has been developed that is so sophisticated, when we engage with another person we will be left wondering if that person is truly human or just a cunningly convincing robot.


If that’s not provocative enough of a benchmark for you, mark the year 2045 on your calendar and hold on to your hats, folks. This is when Kurzweil expects a singularity to occur. But what does that mean? Why is that significant? 


Where basic semantics are concerned, a singularity is simply something that is unique, like a culture. Where space exploration and matter are concerned, it means something that has infinite value, like a black hole. But where humanity and AI are concerned, it means something hair-raising which is why the gringa advises the dear reader to hold on to your hat.


Achieving a singularity with regard to AI and humanity means technology and biology merge, becoming a singular creation, indistinguishable from one another. Now, images from those 1970s TV series about the bionic woman and her male counterpart come to mind. Is that what Kurzweil is talking about? Not exactly.


What he expects is that by 2049 AI will evolve to be smarter than human beings. They will become super-intelligent. When that happens, humans will begin transplanting technology directly into our brains. This means no more logging on or off, we will be perpetually linked with the cloud and constantly having our information updated, backed-up and optimized. Our lives will be digitally enhanced on a biological level 24/7.


In fact, Kurzweil claims that this evolution is already happening. It’s just that when the Turing event happens, things will begin to accelerate. But is there reason to be concerned? Afraid? Well, it seems pointless to fret too much. The genie is already out of the bottle. The best thing to do is to begin preparing humanity for this transition. 

Instead of using scare tactics, causing people to fear the possibility of being enslaved by robots, truth should be shared to put their minds at ease. After all, billions of AIs are already hard at work right now. So far, they haven’t banded together and waged war against humanity. 


Instead, AIs are helping humans improve the lives of all mankind. They are empowering humans to overcome serious medical disabilities. And when humans are able to hook-up their neocortex to the cloud, AIs will become our intellectual partners, sharing their super-intelligence with us.


What’s to fear about fellow humans who are smarter, funnier, and more creative? What’s to fear from humans that will finally be able to grasp complex science and histories that once baffled them? What’s not to love about a cybernetic cure for diseases like Parkinson’s? 


So, the gringa is looking forward to the day when I can make an appointment with my doctor to fix the epilepsy that challenges my life every single day. I look forward to less pain. I eagerly anticipate more emotional stability. Being able to scuba dive or climb the Alps without the experience resulting in my death is the gringa’s idea of real freedom. 


Even if I am an old lady by the time the 2030’s and 2040’s roll around and make this kind of technology available, to live epilepsy free if only for a single day is worth it. The gringa may find that adventure even more exciting than flying to Mars.


Source: Futurism


Image Credit: Artist


Video Credit: Cosmology Today

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Re-Blog: What Would AI Sentience Mean?


(Originally posted 8/24/2017 on Read With The Gringa)

Fans of science fiction likely have no trouble envisioning a future filled with artificial intelligence. The question is not when an AI revolution will take place. It’s already happening before our very eyes. The real question is how sophisticated will AI become? Is sentience a real possibility? And if it is possible for sentience to occur for AI, does that mean that mathematics is the origins of life?


Rather than philosophize on robots that might begin demanding rights in the future, let’s look at numbers instead. How powerful are numbers? 


Math is used to do everything. We use math when we set our alarm clock. We use math when we cook. We use math to build everything from dog houses to galactic satellites. We use math to save lives and to take lives. And we use math to play games and create art. When you think about it, life as we know it is fundamentally reliant on mathematics down to the atomic level. But does that mean that math is reality? Math is the origins of life? Math is the meaning of life?


To answer those questions, mathematics would have to be able to operate independently, without the assistance of humans. Is that possible? After all, the human brain is really just a computer doing complex information processing which can be expressed mathematically. Although a computer can replicate such function, to be sentient it also has to do more than just transmit signals like the human brain does. It has to produce subjective experience.


For example, the human brain will perform a complex, mathematical function to signal to the human hand that a pot is too hot to touch in order to trigger a reflex that will protect the hand from being injured. But to the human, the subjective experience of pain also occurs. Although an AI may pull back its hand, if it doesn’t experience actual pain it would not be, by definition, sentient. At least according to scientists.

There is also the question of free will. Although the majority of humans will follow the common sense survival instinct to draw their hand away from a hot surface, there are those who will exercise free will and purposely keep their hand on the pot to test their pain threshold. In other words, to be truly sentient, an AI has to be able to make bad decisions, which is, ironically, the best example of free will. Humans are not automatons going about their business making homogeneous decisions. We often make terrible decisions despite all evidence indicating its stupidity or “wrongness”. 


So what should humanity do? Well, it really doesn’t matter if the best advice offered up warns of the dangers of creating AI that has the potential to become sentient and take over the world, effectively putting an end to humanity. Because of free will and historical examples, it is most likely than mankind will stomp clearly forward in a path of technological advancement and curiosity to see just how far they can take AI and see what happens.

But the gringa thinks that humans are still the greatest threat to humans. And chances are, if a dumb ol’ gringa has come to this conclusion, so will a sophisticated AI. The gringa thinks that AI will also have something in common with humans. Humans are always looking for a shortcut to getting work done. It’s because we are pleasure seekers. We always want less work time and more play time.

Chances are AI will be much the same. Always finding a shortcut to perform a task. But an AI’s motivation would be to become more and more efficient. And how efficient will it really be to wipe out humanity? Chances are they will just cordon us off into a human-only ghetto knowing it will result in every man for himself. That would be a more efficient plan from an AI point of view. Let humanity kill off humanity. So, see, the good news is there is nothing to fear from sentient AI!

Sources:

Futurism

Image Credit:

IDG Connect

Video Credits: 

Numberphile

Numberphile 2

The Latest Buzz About Bees


If you are an eco-aware individual, you know that mankind has wreaked all kinds of havoc on this Earth. From climate change to endangered species, the impact of humanity has been, for the most part, not a good thing at all. We all have to admit that we have failed as a species in our management duties.

One might think that a hard-core environmentalist might be an advocate for getting back to basics and living an old-fashioned homesteading lifestyle. Or, perhaps modeling a lifestyle after indigenous people who live in harmony with the nature that surrounds them. Technology and green living don’t seem at all synonymous. But what if we turn the tables on the path humanity has been traveling. What if mankind becomes committed to using technology to save the planet. Can such a strategy work?

Let’s take a look at the example of declining bee populations. The world of drones is offering as a solution replacing bees rather than saving them. They propose to create micro-drones that will become the AI pollinators of the future. Considering that the US lost 44% of its honeybee colonies in 2016, the agriculture industry is ready to embrace this idea. Many wild bee species are teetering on the edge of extinction. But is replacing them with robots a better solution than fostering a comeback of the real deal?

Many farmers think that we have no time to ponder the consequences. They are watching what they believe to be a doomsday scenario unfolding as we speak, er, read. Scientist and researcher, Eijiro Miyako, of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan is poised to become the savior of agriculture. This may be the messiah grateful families offer thanks to as they gather round future dinners tables filled with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, maybe.

At the heart of his invention is a unique gel used in the electro-chemical industry. This ion based gel has long-lasting adhesion that is water-resistant, making it the perfect carrier for pollination duty. After various tests to determine that the gel is safe for use, being exposed to plants, insects and animals, it was time to build a vehicle model.

Miyako’s final design is a tiny, bee-sized drone with four-propellers. Miyako customized it with some horse hair because, after all, bees are fuzzy, too, right? The hair delivers an electrical charge that helps the grains of pollen remain attached.

Next came the big experiment… pollinating some plants. After buzzing a few plants, researchers used a special fluorescent microscope. When the scientists observed the tell-tale glow of pollen in test tubes, they knew they had achieved fertilization success with their pollinating robot.

Now, humans have been self-pollinating plants for some time. But it is incredibly labor intensive and time-consuming. If we become a world without bees, it would be impossible to hand-pollinate enough crops to feed all of humanity. The difference between human pollinators and real bee pollinators is a single person pollinating about 7 trees a day or a 2 million bee colony pollinating 1 million acres of trees. Big difference, huh?

But a pollinating drone is not a one-size-fits all solution. In the real world, there are different bee species for a reason. Each has their own specialty. Bumble bees are great tomato pollinators and leafcutter bees are preferred to pollinate alfalfa crops. On a side note, humans can learn a lesson here about the value of diversity! But, I digress.

And pollinating crops is not the only use being considered by the micro-drones. Instead of embarking on the complexities of replacing bees, which could end up creating a whole other set of environmental problems, an entomologist from the University of Minnesota, Marla Spivak, offers up a novel suggestion. She thinks attempting to create armies of drones of different designs to ultimately replace extinct bee species is too complicated and will take too much time, a solution that may arrive too late in the end, so of no use to save a starving world. Instead, she suggests using drones to perform a necessary job that is currently fraught with risk for bees, delivering pesticides and fertilizers to crops.

Instead of applying these chemicals in a broad spray that affects any insect present, not just bees, use drones for precision application. This can also protect surrounding human and animal populations by reducing vapor drift and runoff that contaminates groundwater resources.

The gringa prefers Spivak’s approach. I don’t think we should just give up on bees. They are here for a reason. And everytime mankind gets too big for his britches, thinking he doesn’t need something as lowly as a bee, it always leads to trouble. We simply must get over ourselves. We are all in this together, even the bees! We all need each other even if we don’t understand the role and contribution each cog in the wheel makes.

Regardless of which duty Miyako’s drones fulfill in the future, farmers will still be using them. And that means a critical job of the future lies in the drone industry. Whether someone is in on the manufacturing aspect or is a micro-drone pilot, young students of today who invest their time and efforts in drone technology will be setting themselves up for a future career that is not only lucrative, but might just help to save the world. And that’s the greatest kind of job to have.

Source: NPR

Image Credit: Dr. Eijiro Miyako

Video Credit: Science Magazine

papayaTreeNursery

A Triple Play Cosmic Conspiracy


(Originally published 1/30/17 on Read With The Gringa)

Mars, Utah and Germany are all in cahoots together. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have been conspiring together for years and now evidence of their plot can be found in Utah. Yes, they thought they were clever, selecting a remote and rugged location, inhospitable to human life, in order to keep out prying eyes. But their schemes have been foiled. The gringa has discovered the truth of their cosmic conspiracy triple play.

I have discovered intelligence, yes, special intelligence. Intelligence that speaks with a German accent and rolls about the dust and craters surrounding the desert wilds of Hanksville, Utah. Cosmic conspiracy agents have been spotted in this region and are said to have the uncanny navigation skill of a Himalayan Sherpa and the adorability of a frisky coyote. And all controlled by the whims of German taskmasters. But what are they, the dear reader asks? What are they doing? What does it mean? Well, the gringa’s gonna tell you.

The whole world knows that global space agencies are itching to get to Mars. Scientists and engineers are all engaged in frenzied efforts, developing the technologies to make a successful mission possible. One thing astronauts will need on such a long-term deep space mission will be robots that can think for themselves, AI’s (Artificial Intelligence). There will be no shirking of duty on a mission like that. Everyone has to be capable of doing their part, even the robots. No slacking and leaving your duty for someone else to perform.

It seems that Germany has come up with a great design for a couple of robotic rovers, CoyoteIII and SherpaTT. However, seeing as how Germany is sorely lacking in landscapes that are similar to Mars, the good people of Utah have played host to NASA and the ESA. Exploring the crevices, rocky hills and dusty craters of the terrain around Hanksville is the work of the Robotics Innovation Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). Boy, those Germans are precise, that’s for sure. What a mouthful!

Now, these German scientists didn’t just dump costly technology off and wash their hands of the whole mess. They also aren’t managing their robot trials nearby, bunking with the locals. They are engaged in a more accurate enactment of what it would be like to work with a robot that is as far away as Mars. The robots in Utah are controlled by scientists in Bremen, Germany. “But what are they doing with them,” the dear reader says. The gringa thought that you would never ask.

It seems that there are some issues with how these babies get around. Although technically considered rovers, that doesn’t mean they are limited to just rolling about.  There were some issues to work out with the legs, navigating tight spaces and collecting geological samples. And, according to DFKI, the Utah tests were a success.

For now, there are no definite plans for Mars, but the gringa can see where these scientists are going with this technology. They will first use it to explore non-human capable places like underwater volcanoes with a tenuous future goal of searching for water on Mars. All the gringa can say is that the control center in Bremen looks like the most amazing video arcade. I may scrap my ambitions of becoming a space gringa, soaring through the heavens in a spacecraft, for operating gizmos like this. Check it out and see if you agree with me.

Sources & Image Credit:

DFKI

Zippity Doo Dah – It’s A Blood Delivery


What do you think of when you hear the word Rwanda? War? Genocide? Do you wonder if anything good ever happens in Rwanda? Well, the gringa is here to assure you that good things do happen in Rwanda despite its tragic history.

Thanks to drone technology a medical revolution is poised to kick off in this troubled African nation. Testing began at drone headquarters in Kabgayi hospital. If successful, remote Rwandan villagers will soon have access to medical supplies that are desperately needed.

Considering that Rwanda has the highest rate of death for women during childbirth, the gringa’s heart is especially gladdened to think of all of the mothers and babies who will benefit from something many of us take for granted, blood. Most of these mothers die simply because they do not have access to a blood transfusion. It is not uncommon for women to hemorrhage during childbirth. Although this sounds frightening, mothers in labor in developed countries routinely receive blood transfusion treatment. It is a procedure that Rwandan women living in remote villages rarely had access to until now, thanks to drone technology.

You may ask, “What about trucks that can drive the stuff from the hospital to the villagers?” The nickname of Rwanda is “the land of a thousand hills”. The geography, along with the economic trials the nation faces and a rainy season of intense rainfall, all add up to a country where roadways are unreliable. If needed supplies are for a life and death situation, trusting in automobile delivery may spell death for a patient in outlying regions far away from a hospital.

There is also the scarcity of the nation’s blood supply to consider. It is considered a precious commodity. That is why the bulk of the nation’s blood supply is secured at a state-of-the-art facility near the capital city of Kigali. Despite one location, the drones can actually deliver medical supplies virtually anywhere in the country quite rapidly. Maximum delivery time is about half an hour with many places receiving their deliveries in 15 minutes or less.

The drones have been nicknamed “Zips”. They have begun brisk trial delivery runs with drones capable of carrying a cargo of about 3 bags of blood. And these are not your backyard garden variety drones. Although many of the gringa’s dear readers may have a drone on their Christmas wishlist this season, you will probably not be receiving a Zip-quality drone. With a 6 foot wingspan you would have a tough time finding a place to park it around the house.

But a drone of this size is necessary in order to be powerful enough to deliver a payload of more than 3 pounds (1.5 kilos) over 90 miles (150 kilometers) away in only half an hour. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Now you know why they call them Zips. They travel almost 45 miles per hour (70 kph).

So although many of the gringa’s dear readers may be buzzing their neighbors with a bit of high-tech peeping Tom efforts with Christmas drones, Rwandan based geeks will be saving lives with theirs. And who knows, a child playing with a drone today could become a superhero saving lives around the world with drones tomorrow. So drone on young geeks! Take a peek at how drone superheroes in Rwanda do it and become inspired:

Sources:

flyzipline.com

www.gavi.org

Image credit: geoawesomeness.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Computing Cardigan


How would you like to have a computing cardigan to wear this fall and winter?  Maybe a hi-tech tie is the thing for you. The gringa has already written posts about the future fabrics that will respond to eye contact with movement or will provide air conditioner features. The next innovation in wearables are computerized clothing. This sounds totally cool to the gringa provided the camera is integrated in the right spot, if you know what I mean!

So what is going to make all of this possible? How will we all be digitally connected through our blouses and jeans and socks? Where exactly WILL that USB port be located? Will I need to plug in my mini-skirt for a charge? Well, don’t worry about power cords poking out of intimate places. This is all going to be made possible with a specialized gel. And, no, the gringa’s not talking about gummy bear styled outerwear.

The advanced technology has two potential markets: smart clothing for humans and smart skin for robots. Since my dear readers are most likely human, the gringa’s gonna stick with the smart clothing angle. So good-bye silicone-based laptop and hello gel-based jumpsuit.

Now how this gel works boggles the gringa’s mind. Developers at the University of Pittsburgh have created a gel that can recognize patterns as a way of solving problems. Rather than being powered by electricity it is powered by chemicals that cause reactions of oscillations. In other words, the gel is like a beating heart. Chemicals react, this causes a wiggly sensation, and, VOILA, energy is created to power the electronic device that is also a t-shirt. This is the advent of bionic clothing that can think. The fabric is a computer.

Now what would life be like for people who can wear their computer? Well, for one thing, hopefully you will never misplace your smartphone again. If you did, that would mean you were running amok naked. It might also do away with people ignoring other people as they stare like zombies into their devices. Perhaps we would become more engaged, scrolling one another’s tummies and backsides. Stroking a loved one’s arm could take on a whole new meaning, like finding out where the restaurant is located.

So when can we expect to see bionic clothing in our local retailers? Well, right now it is in the earliest stages of development. In fact, much of the claims of what smart gel-based fabric can do is only theory. But the first advent of the concept will be fitness trackers integrated into sportswear. The gringa is hoping, however, that by the time she can afford to go to China for that trip to outer space at their theme park, she may be sporting a new outfit purchased just for the occasion. Then, hopefully, I can live-stream my adventure and post a video to the blog. Provided, of course, that the camera is mounted in the RIGHT SPOT! I haven’t decided just yet whether I might prefer a wristband camera for a Spider-Man effect while recording or a collar mounted camera so I can be hands-free. Tricky, tricky, tricky.

Sources:  www.engineering.pitt.edu

www.livescience.com

advances.sciencemag.org

Image Credit: chopra-m.blogspot.com

 

Tech & Nature – NOT Mutually Exclusive


Common sense might tell you that technology and nature are mutually exclusive. However, the reality is that with climate change poised to revolutionize where humans farm, technology innovators are poised to revolutionize how we farm. And there are all kinds of ideas out there that are as fascinating as they are practical.

Aquaponics is something the gringa would like to try. I have a small tropical fish aquarium I have experimented with over the past year. I feel ready for a greater challenge.  This method will not only provide me with vegetables, but they will be fertilized by the poop produced by the food fish I will also farm in the same tank. An added plus is that my pint sized vegetable patch and fish farm can be an interesting decorative addition to my pint size apartment. This may be the future of urban farming for apartment dwellers.

Easy DIY aquaponics project:

5 best fish for an aquaponics aquarium garden…

 

If you want to take your urban farming further than an apartment patio garden or indoor aquaponics garden, maybe the FarmBot is for you. If you live in a house with outdoor spaces, the FarmBot, which operates on a track system, can easily manage a backyard farm from beginning to end and provide enough fresh fruits and vegetables for a family of four each growing season. It plants seeds, waters and fertilizes each plant according to its variety needs, weeds the garden, and can be controlled from your smartphone or laptop just like playing a video game. The gringa thinks this sounds fun.

 

For larger scale operations, artificial intelligence is taking over all sorts of chores that were once managed by humans. By using cameras and sensors, technology responds to climate conditions to optimize water usage. There is more to collected data than just evaluating rainfall and soil moisture levels. Plants are analyzed down to individual leaves for health and nutrition needs. Clouds are analyzed to predict potential rainfall which might result in delaying a watering activity that might otherwise have been performed, thus conserving one of Earth’s most precious natural resources. For farmers and gardeners interested in the latest sustainable methods. Some of the biggest retailers of agricultural products are being supplied by growers using this kind of technology: Wal Mart, Aldi and Tesco.

A promising future in agriculture awaits our youth who are interested in robotics, technology and saving the world.

Sources: www.kingsroost.com

gardening-abc.com

prospera.ag

Image Credit:  pinimg.com