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A constant stream of SingularityHub's high-quality articles, read to you via an AI system.

A constant stream of SingularityHub's high-quality articles, read to you via an AI system.


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A constant stream of SingularityHub's high-quality articles, read to you via an AI system.




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Can We Wipe Out All Coronaviruses for Good? Here's What a Group of 200 Scientists Think

One vaccine to rule them all. That was the blue sky goal for a new global collaboration with hopes to beat coronaviruses. I’m not just talking about SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for our current pandemic. I’m talking about all coronaviruses—past, present, and future—even those that haven’t yet made the leap into humans. Published in Science, the unique collaboration tapped nearly 200 scientists crossing academic and industry borders, and asked: do coronaviruses have a shared pressure...


How Giving Robots a Hybrid, Human-Like 'Brain' Can Make Them Smarter

Squeezing a lot of computing power into robots without using up too much space or energy is a constant battle for their designers. But a new approach that mimics the structure of the human brain could provide a workaround. The capabilities of most of today’s mobile robots are fairly rudimentary, but giving them the smarts to do their jobs is still a serious challenge. Controlling a body in a dynamic environment takes a surprising amount of processing power, which requires both real estate...


Impossible Foods Wants to Make Milk That's Creamy, Tasty, and Totally Cow-Free

Animal-free foods seem to be steadily growing in popularity. Whether for health reasons or as part of a commitment to the environment, more people are opting to go vegetarian or at least to be mindful about where the meat they eat comes from. Companies are jumping on board, with the list of animal-free food products in development ever expanding: it started with beef, and has since grown to include steak, pork, and fish, among others (I should note that these products, while “animal-free” in...


OpenAI's GPT-3 Wrote This Short Film, and It's Strange and Fascinating

OpenAI’s text generating AI has gotten a lot of buzz since its release in June. It’s been used to post comments on Reddit, write a poem roasting Elon Musk, and even write an entire article in The Guardian (which editors admitted they worked on and tweaked just as they would a human-written op ed). When the system learned to autocomplete images without having been specifically trained to do so (as well as write code, translate between languages, and do math) it even got people speculating...


A New Method Can Train AI Using Almost No Data

AI is continuously taking on new challenges, from detecting deepfakes (which, incidentally, are also made using AI) to winning at poker to giving synthetic biology experiments a boost. These impressive feats result partly from the huge datasets the systems are trained on. That training is costly and time-consuming, and it yields AIs that can really only do one thing well. For example, to train an AI to differentiate between a picture of a dog and one of a cat, it’s fed thousands—if not...


Hey Google ... What Movie Should I Watch Today? How AI Can Affect Our Decisions

Have you ever used Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, or Amazon Alexa to make decisions for you? Perhaps you asked it what new movies have good reviews, or to recommend a cool restaurant in your neighborhood. Artificial intelligence and virtual assistants are constantly being refined, and may soon be making appointments for you, offering medical advice, or trying to sell you a bottle of wine. Although AI technology has miles to go to develop social skills on par with ours, some AI has shown...


Can We Trust AI Doctors? Google Health and Academics Battle It Out

Machine learning is taking medical diagnosis by storm. From eye disease, breast and other cancers, to more amorphous neurological disorders, AI is routinely matching physician performance, if not beating them outright. Yet how much can we take those results at face value? When it comes to life and death decisions, when can we put our full trust in enigmatic algorithms—“black boxes” that even their creators cannot fully explain or understand? The problem gets more complex as medical AI...


Scientists Just Achieved Room Temperature Superconductivity for the First Time

Superconductivity could be the key to groundbreaking new technologies in energy, computing, and transportation, but so far it only occurs in materials chilled close to absolute zero. Now researchers have created the first ever room–temperature superconductor. As a current passes through a conductor it experiences resistance, which saps away useful energy into waste heat and limits the efficiency of all of the modern world’s electronics. But in 1911, Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes...


When Did We Become Fully Human? What Fossils and DNA Tell Us About the Evolution of Modern Intelligence

When did something like us first appear on the planet? It turns out there’s remarkably little agreement on this question. Fossils and DNA suggest people looking like us, anatomically modern Homo sapiens, evolved around 300,000 years ago. Surprisingly, archaeology—tools, artifacts, cave art—suggest that complex technology and cultures, “behavioral modernity,” evolved more recently: 50,000 to 65,000 years ago. Some scientists interpret this as suggesting the earliest Homo sapiens weren’t...


NASA's About to Try Grabbing a Chunk of Asteroid to Bring to Earth—and You Can Watch

If you’ve seen the movie The Martian, you no doubt remember the rescue scene, in which (spoiler alert!) Matt Damon launches himself off Mars in a stripped-down rocket in hopes of his carefully-calculated trajectory taking him just close enough to his crew for them to pluck him from the void of outer space and bring him safely home to Earth. There’s a multitude of complex physics involved, and who knows how true-to-science the scene is, but getting the details right to successfully grab...


Scientists Found a New Way to Control the Brain With Light—No Surgery Required

If I had to place money on a neurotech that will win the Nobel Prize, it’s optogenetics. The technology uses light of different frequencies to control the brain. It’s a brilliant mind-meld of basic neurobiology and engineering that hijacks the mechanism behind how neurons naturally activate—or are silenced—in the brain. Thanks to optogenetics, in just ten years we’ve been able to artificially incept memories in mice, decipher brain signals that lead to pain, untangle the neural code for...


The US Is Trying to Hijack Space Mining, and There Could Be Disastrous Consequences

Exploiting the resources of outer space might be key to the future expansion of the human species. But researchers argue that the US is trying to skew the game in its favor, with potentially disastrous consequences. The enormous cost of lifting material into space means that any serious effort to colonize the solar system will require us to rely on resources beyond our atmosphere. Water will be the new gold thanks to its crucial role in sustaining life, as well as the fact it can be split...


Watch a Jet Suit Pilot Glide Up a Mountain in a Test for Wilderness Paramedics

A few years ago, I saw a guy in a jet suit take off in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The roar was deafening, the smell of fuel overwhelming. Over the span of a few minutes, he hovered above the ground and moved about a bit. The jet suit’s inventor, Richard Browning, had left a career in the energy industry and a stint in the Royal Marines, to go after a childhood dream. Amazingly, he’d succeeded. But the jet suit seemed a bespoke, one-off kind of thing. It didn’t appear poised to...


A New Factory in France Will Mass-Produce Bugs as Food

Though the world’s population is no longer predicted to grow as much as we thought by the end of this century, there are still going to be a lot more people on Earth in 30, 50, and 80 years than there are now. And those people are going to need healthy food that comes from a sustainable source. Technologies like cultured meat and fish, vertical farming, and genetic engineering of crops are all working to feed more people while leaving a smaller environmental footprint. A new facility in...


2020 Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for Work on Black Holes—an Astrophysicist Explains the Trailblazing Discoveries

Black holes are perhaps the most mysterious objects in nature. They warp space and time in extreme ways and contain a mathematical impossibility, a singularity—an infinitely hot and dense object within. But if black holes exist and are truly black, how exactly would we ever be able to make an observation? Robert Penrose is a theoretical physicist who works on black holes, and his work has influenced not just me but my entire generation through his series of popular books that are loaded with...


How Machine Learning Made Hops-Free Hoppy Beer (and Other SynBio Wonders) Possible

Synthetic biology is like a reality-altering version of Minecraft. Rather than digital blocks, synthetic biology rejiggers the basic building blocks of life—DNA, proteins, biochemical circuits—to rewire living organisms or even build entirely new ones. In theory, the sky’s the limit on rewriting life: lab-grown meat that tastes like the real thing with far less impact on our environment. Yeast cells that pump out life-saving drugs. Recyclable biofuel. But there’s a catch: to get there, we...


New Reactor Design Could Produce First Ever Energy-Positive Fusion Reaction

Nuclear fusion has gone from a scientists’ pipe dream to a technology attracting serious investment. Now one of the startups chasing this holy grail of energy production has published a series of peer-reviewed scientific papers that validate the underlying physics of their approach. For decades, the leading hope for achieving fusion power has been the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) being built in France. News earlier this year that construction is now underway has...


The Far Side of the Moon Is an Ideal Place to Listen For Alien Civilizations

Are we alone in the universe? It’s a question whose answer—whether it’s yes or no—would philosophically and scientifically rock our world to the core. To find out, scientists have long been turning powerful radio telescopes to the cosmos. The theory is that, like us, other intelligent species are perhaps broadcasting radio signals with the distinctly “unnatural” signature of a technological civilization. But despite decades of intent listening, we’ve yet to pick anything up. Even in a recent...


These Robotic Virtual Reality Boots Make It Feel Like You're Walking While You Stay in Place

Last year I did a VR experience meant to simulate what it’s like to be at the US-Mexico border wall. The tall, foreboding wall towered above me, and as I turned from side to side there were fields of grass with some wildlife and a deceivingly harmless-looking border patrol station. I wanted to explore more, so I took a few steps toward the wall, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Mexico side through its tall metal slats. “Oops!” a voice called out. A hand landed lightly on my arm. “Look out,...


This Tiny Electric Car Is Selling Like Hot Cakes in China

Though far too many sectors of the economy have suffered enormous losses during the coronavirus pandemic, a few are doing alright. One of those is car sales. It’s sort of counter-intuitive—because with everything closed, where can we even go in our cars?—but digging a bit deeper, there are some logical reasons why lots of folks might be dropping cash on a new set of wheels. With everyone cooped up at home, people have been saving more disposable income than probably ever before, so the...