Kiss The Future: Instant Learning


Scientists say they’re getting closer to Matrix-style instant learning
What price effortless learning? In a paper published in the latest issue of Science, neuroscientists say they’ve developed a novel method of learning, that can cause long-lasting improvement in tasks that demand a high level of visual performance.

And while the so-called neurofeedback method could one day be used to teach you kung fu, or to aid spinal-injury patients on the road to rehabilitation, evidence also suggests the technology could be used to target people without their knowledge, opening doors to numerous important ethical questions.
According to a press release from the National Science Foundation:

New research published today in the journal Science suggests it may be possible to use brain technology to learn to play a piano, reduce mental stress or hit a curve ball with little or no conscious effort. It’s the kind of thing seen in Hollywood’s “Matrix” franchise.

Experiments conducted at Boston University (BU) and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, recently demonstrated that through a person’s visual cortex, researchers could use decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to induce brain activity patterns to match a previously known target state and thereby improve performance on visual tasks.

Think of a person watching a computer screen and having his or her brain patterns modified to match those of a high-performing athlete or modified to recuperate from an accident or disease. Though preliminary, researchers say such possibilities may exist in the future.

But here’s the bit that’s really interesting (and also pretty creepy): the researchers found that this novel learning approach worked even when test subjects weren’t aware of what they were learning:

“The most surprising thing in this study is that mere inductions of neural activation patterns…led to visual performance improvement…without presenting the feature or subjects’ awareness of what was to be learned,” said lead researcher Takeo Watanabe. He continues:

We found that subjects were not aware of what was to be learned while behavioral data obtained before and after the neurofeedback training showed that subjects’ visual performance improved specifically for the target orientation, which was used in the neurofeedback training.

Is this research mind-blowing and exciting? Absolutely. I mean come on — automated learning? Yes. Sign me up. But according to research co-author Mitsuo Kawato, the neurofeedback mechanism could just as soon be used for purposes of hypnosis or covert mind control. And that… I’m not so keen on.

“We have to be careful,” he explains, “so that this method is not used in an unethical way.” [Science via NSF]

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Island Living: The New Utopia

Paypal co-founder and billionaire Peter Thiel, who is currently the Seasteading Institute’s “most generous funder has his mind on on expanding his empire. His initiative constitutes a bold move towards creating floating autonomous states. The initiative is inspired by the idea of creating cities that are free from political agendas and social construction. These “floating cities will allow the next generation of pioneers to peacefully test new ideas for government,” says the Seasteading Institute. “The most successful can then inspire change in governments around the world.” Utopian indeed.


Internet: Circa 1969 A brave new world.

How our imaginations must have been stretched at the thought of such sci-fi communication and convenience. We simply don’t realize what a strain normal life must have been like (kidding of course). Here is an excerpt from a flight-of-fancy documentary. It’s pretty accurate! Watching this video on our new fangled computers is all very back to the future…

5 Forecasts and 7 Predictions For 2010-2020 That Shape Innovation

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum Businessweek.com

What lies ahead, now that America’s Lost Decade and Asia’s Best Decade are behind us? I just returned from a month in Singapore, China and Korea and, for the first time in a dozen years, I’m not going to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. So you can tell what frame of mind I am in.

I believe 5 Big Trends will shape the future decade. The 5 trends are:

1- Rise and Fall of Nations (US and Europe falling, Asia rising).

2- Rise and Fall of Generations (Boomers falling, Gen Y rising).

3- Behavioral Modification of Organizations (social media-ization of businesse, health, education, politics).

4- Urbanization of world’s population.

5- Global warming (winners and losers in the restructuring of the global economy).

Within this context of 5 Big Trends, here are 7 specific forecasts.

1- Peak Globalization:

Just as the world globalized in the second half of the 19th century, only to return to nationalism in the first half of the 20th, so too will we see a strong backlash against globalization in the decade ahead. Over the past 10 years, the expansion of the middle class in China and India has been matched by the immisseration of the middle class in the US. Corporation profits have gone to CEOs, top managers, and the financial elite, not employees or workers. In the near future, they get angry and demand a greater share of the pie.

Top corporations and financial institutions of Europe and America have also de-coupled from their nation-states to become global, putting personal and shareholder interests above national interests. As China, India, Korea, India, Japan and other countries pursue strictly national strategies, Western governments and publics increasingly counter with theirs.

Finally, the Boeing 787 fiasco highlights the problems with extreme outsourcing of complex systems. As Boeing has moved to insource and control the 787, so too other US and European companies follow.

2- Radical Remodeling:

The social media form of organization found in Facebook and Twitter spread to business, healthcare, education and, politics. This is Gen Y’s technology platform and the 16-27 year-old demographic cohort take social media with it as it takes power and moves through it’s life cycle.

Design Thinking, behavioral economics, social media, social business, and new military strategy flow into a new paradigm of organization, process and action. A culture-centric, behavior-focussed model replaces the current rationalistic, math-basaed, theoretical economic model. Bye-bye to the Chicago school of economics. Hello Harvard.

The valuation of “friendships” and relationships in general begins to replace the value of transactions in the economy. Personal networks will increasingly determine wealth.

New consultancies spread the word in business culture and healthcare.

The Ford Foundation sponsors a complete overhaul of the MBA curriculum to reskill business school graduates, with a special focus on ethnography, sociology and design thinking.

3- US-sclerosis:

America becomes increasingly ungovernable and incompetent. Ideological polarization, political corruption (legal lobbying but pay-to-play), growing inequality, globalization of corporate and financial elites, and large-scale social system failures (education, healthcare, intelligence, industry), cut America’s economic, political and military power. The shift to a green economy is slow. The dollar sinks and inflation rises to ease paying for huge government debt.

The US decline reverses by end of the decade, as innovation heralds a renewed economy and Gen Y takes political power, ending the ideological and political stalemate in the country.

4- Return to Big Power Conflict:

The rise and fall of nations generates new Big Power conflict. China challenges the US militarily in Taiwan and nearly succeeds in blinding US naval computer systems.

China and India fight a small-scale border war that is really about controlling water. Pakistan and India engage in conflict.

5- China stalls out:

A huge aging population, soaring inequality and anger at the rich, over-investment in infrastructure, industrial capacity and failure to shift from a producer/exporter to a consumer/importer economy combine to produce a financial crisis in China that ends its 30-year, double-digit growth streak. The decline of the US consumer-of-last-resort is not matched by the rise of Chinese consumption. China becomes “Japanized.” Stuck as the world’s second largest economy, growing but not leading.

Beijing uses nationalism and external conflict to remain in power.

6- India Becomes Global Growth Engine:

A large, young Gen Y population, a vast middle class consumer base, an innovative corporate elite, a large, educated, English-speaking IT industry, a stable government and an ever-closer military alliance with the US push India’s growth rate to double digits, making it the biggest importer of investment and goods from the US and Europe by the end of the decade. Problems remain—corruption, Maoist rebels, inequality.

7- Europe Fades Further:

Benefits from a successful shift to a green economy by many countries are countered by the burdens of paying for a huge aging population. .

Turkey is invited to join the EU by the end of the decade—and turns it down. Working population continues to shrink.

Continued nationalism stops the rise of a strong European government—until the end of the decade when one is actually formed.

That’s it. There will be terrorist events, Middle East changes and scientific/technological breakthroughs that impact our lives. I don’t know that much about thess. I’ve kept the trends and forecasts here to things I do know about—economics, innovation, design, politics, demographics, policy, global.

So here’s to a new decade. It’s going to be exciting—and rough.

FUTURIST, RAY KURZEIL, PREDICTS OUR TECHNOLOGICAL LIFESTYLES BY 2020

As we approach the end of the first decade of the new millennium, let’s consider what life will be like a decade hence. Changes in our lives from technology are moving faster and faster. The telephone took 50 years to reach a quarter of the U.S. population. Search engines, social networks and blogs have done that in just a few years time. Consider that Facebook started as a way for Harvard students to meet each other just six years ago; it now has 350 million users and counting. 

Between now and 2020, the trend will continue, spreading cutting-edge technologies to every corner of the country and beginning to make innovations once consigned to the realm of science fiction real for millions of Americans. Specifically what can we expect? Solar power on steroids, longer lives, the chance to get rid of obesity once and for all, and portable computing devices that start becoming part of your body rather than being held in your hand. 

What will drive all this accelerating change is precisely what has driven it this past half-century: the exponential growth in the power of information technology, which approximately doubles for the same cost every year. When I was an MIT undergraduate in 1965, we all shared a computer that took up half a building and cost tens of millions of dollars. The computer in my pocket today is a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful. That’s a billion-fold increase in the amount of computation per dollar since I was a student. 

That incredible force — information technology that moves faster, then faster, then faster still — will power changes in every imaginable realm over the next decade.

Start with the basics. You’ve no doubt noticed that electronic gadgets are getting smaller and smaller; the iPod Shuffle holds 1,000 songs and weighs 0.38 ounces. Your phone is smaller than it was a few years ago and can do much more. By 2020, memory devices will be integrated into our clothing. And the very idea of a “smart phone” will begin to change. Rather than looking at a tiny screen, our glasses will beam images directly to our retinas, creating a high resolution virtual display that hovers in air.

That virtual display will be able to take over our entire visual field of view, putting us in a three-dimensional full immersion virtual reality environment. We’ll watch movies virtually and read virtual books. A lot of our personal and business meetings will take place in these 3D virtual worlds. The design of new virtual environments will be an art form. We’ll even have ways to touch one another virtually.

There are already beginning to be apps available for your iPhone or Android phone that allow you to look at a building and have the display superimpose what stores are inside it; Google Goggles, released last week, is the first free, widely-available version of such software. By 2020 we’ll routinely have pop ups in our visual field of view that give us background about the people and places that we’re looking at.

In other words, your memory will be constantly, instantaneously aided by the information available on the Internet. The two will begin to become indistinguishable.

How about energy? That doesn’t sound like an information technology. Fossil fuels, after all, are an early first industrial revolution, 19th century technology. But we are now applying nanotechnology — the science of essentially reprogramming matter at the level of molecules to create new materials and devices—to the design of renewable energy technologies such as solar energy. As a result, the cost per watt of solar energy is coming down rapidly and the total amount of solar energy is growing exponentially. It has in fact been doubling every two years for the past  20 years and is now only eight doublings away from meeting all of the world’s energy needs.

When I shared this fact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few weeks ago, he asked, “but is there enough sunlight to double solar energy eight more times?” I responded that we have 10,000 times more sunlight than we need to do this. The prime minister announced an Israeli energy initiative the next day at the Israeli Presidential Conference based on our conversation, setting a 10-year goal to create the technologies to completely replace fossil fuels.

It’s not just the gadgets we carry around and the power we use to fuel our lives that are subject to what I call “the law of accelerating returns.” Health and medicine, which used to be a hit or miss process, has now become an information technology.

We now have the software of life (our genes) and the means of upgrading that software. How long do you go without updating the software on your cell phone? Not long: it does it itself every few days or weeks. Yet we are walking around with obsolete software in our bodies that evolved thousands of years ago. Within 10 years, that will change. 

Already today, there are over a thousand projects to change our genes away from disease and toward health, not just in newborns but in mature individuals. The Human Genome Project, which has catalogued our genetic material, was itself a very good example of the law of accelerating returns; the amount of genetic data that is sequenced has doubled every year and the cost has come down by half every year. We can now design health interventions on computers and test them out on biological simulators. These technologies are doubling in power every year and will be a thousand times more powerful in a decade.

By 2020, we will have the means to program our biology away from disease and aging, and toward significant advances in our ability to treat major diseases such as heart disease and cancer — an approach that will be fully mature by 2030. 

We won’t just be able to lengthen our lives; we’ll be able to improve our lifestyles. By 2020, we will be testing drugs that will turn off the fat insulin receptor gene that tells our fat cells to hold on to every calorie. Holding on to every calorie was a good idea thousands of years ago when our genes evolved in the first place. Today it underlies an epidemic of obesity. By 2030, we will have made major strides in our ability to remain alive and healthy – and young – for very long periods of time. At that time, we’ll be adding more than a year every year to our remaining life expectancy, so the sands of time will start running in instead of running out.

No, it’s not going to be an entirely brave new world. Some things will look pretty similar in 2020. We’ll still drive cars — although they will have the intelligence to avoid many accidents and self-driving cars will at least be experimented with. All-electric cars will be popular. And in cities, don’t expect subways or buses to go away.

But in more and more ways big and small, hang in there and we’ll all get to see the remarkable century ahead.

Kurzweil is former recipient of the MIT-Lemelson prize, the world’s largest for innovation, and in 1999 was awarded the National Medal of Technology. He is the author of the books “The Singularity is Near” and “The Age of Spiritual Machines.”

HAND GESTURAL INTERFACE SCREEN

By Jeff Salton.
The gestural interface used by Tom Cruise in the movie Minority Report was based on work by MIT Media Lab’s Hiroshi Ishii, who has already commercialized similar large-scale gestural interface systems. However, such systems comprise many expensive cameras or require the user to wear tracking devices on their fingers. To develop a similar yet cost effective gestural interface system that is within reach of many more people other researchers at MIT have instead been working to develop screens with embedded optical sensors to track the movement of the user’s fingers that could quickly make touch screens seem outdated.

“The goal with this is to be able to incorporate the gestural display into a thin LCD device” – like a mobile phone – “and to be able to do it without wearing gloves or anything like that,” says researcher Matthew Hirsch, a PhD candidate at the Media Lab says.

Hirsch, along with MIT Media Lab professors Ramesh Raskar and Henry Holtzman and visiting researcher Douglas Lanman, have instead been working on a project that uses embedded sensors to turn displays into giant lensless cameras that can recognize hand gestures.  MIT news reports that Paul Debevec, director of the Graphics Laboratory at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, whose doctoral thesis led to the innovative visual effects in the movie The Matrix says: “I like this one [gestural interface] because it’s really integrated into the display. Everyone needs to have a display anyway. And it is much better than just figuring out just where the fingertips are or a kind of motion-capture situation. It’s really a full three-dimensional image of the person’s hand that’s in front of the display.

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A laboratory mockup of a thin-screen LCD display with built-in optical sensors (Photo: Mat...

Esquire Mag in 3-D

By Paul Ridden:

December’s edition of Esquire magazine is a special “augmented reality” edition where readers use custom-designed software and a webcam to interact with the pages being viewed and get access to 3D animated video content.

The term augmented reality was first used by Tom Caudell in the early 1990s. Then, as now, it means adding audio, animation or graphic layers to live video and was used back then by Boeing workers to help them sort factory parts. It’s since been used in everything from adverts to gaming. With the December edition of men’s magazine Esquire, augmented reality has reached the printed page.

After experimenting with things like origami (May edition) and e-ink (October 2008 edition), Esquire began considering the possibility of making a whole interactive magazine edition in the Spring of this year when The Barbarian Group were called in to help.

After toying with lots of ideas, Esquire settled on creating a 3D cover, a weather-changing fashion portfolio, a time-sensitive funny joke from a beautiful woman, plus a song, a photo slideshow, and an ad from Lexus. The challenge was to bring them all together for one edition.

Robert Downey Jr. was asked to perform a routine in front of a green screen for animation studio Psyop. Then two more sequences were shot using Jeremy Renner and Gillian Jacobs before Psyop added the animation, frame-by-frame.

To use the magazine, readers need to download a C++ application from a page on Esquire’s website. The software recognizes a black and white patterned marker on the printed page picked up via webcam and translates it into a video sequence enhanced by 3D animation on the computer screen.

Tilting the page towards and away from the webcam yields different situations. For instance, the cover shows Downey Jr. sitting on the box marker. Pointing the box straight at the webcam sees the Iron Man star jump off the box. Tilting and turning the magazine results in different scenarios being produced on-screen (see below), all controlled by the reader.

IMPLANTABLE LED LIT TATTOOS

A clear silk film, about one centimeter squared, with six silicon transistors on its surfa...

By Darren Quick

Via Technology review22:52 November 11, 2009 PST

Tattooing dates back to at least Neolithic times and has experienced a resurgence in popularity in many parts of the world in recent years. Advancements in tattoo pigments and the refinement of tattooing equipment has seen an improvement in the quality of tattoos being produced. Today it’s possible to get ink that glows under UV light, but a new technology could see tattoos that emit their own light. Researchers have been able to build thin, flexible silicon electronics on silk substrates that almost completely dissolve inside the body, paving the way for embedded LED tattoos that offer much more than just aesthetic appeal.

The devices are made of a thin film of silk on which silicon transistors about one millimeter long and 250 nanometers thick are placed. The silk holds the electronics in place and conforms to the biological tissue when implanted inside the body and wetted with saline. Unlike current electronic devices that need to be isolated from the body and are on rigid silicon, the silk substrates are completely broken down by the body into harmless by-products. And because they are just nanometers thick, the thin silicon circuits left behind don’t cause irritation.

Although the prospect of LED tattoos brings to mind science-fiction scenarios of gangs sporting futuristic illuminated designs that can be animated to move across a person’s body, the technology is being developed for medical applications such as photonic tattoos to show blood-sugar readings.

The technology also offers the prospect of arrays of conformable electrodes that could interface with the nervous system to allow improved control of prostheses. Also, arrays of silk electrodes conforming to the brain’s crevices thereby reaching regions inaccessible with current technology could be used to control Parkinson’s symptoms.

Silk is already approved for medical implants by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the researchers are able to control the rate at which it degrades, which can range from immediately after implantation up to years. Silicon has not conclusively been proven to be biocompatible, but all studies so far have shown it to be safe. The devices also contain gold and titanium, which are required for the electrical connections. Because they are biocompatible but not biodegradable the researchers are working on biodegradable contacts so that all that would remain inside the body is silicon.

The silk-silicon technology is being developed by researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Tufts University in Medford, MA, and the University of Pennsylvania. They managed to implant silk-silicon devices in animals with no adverse effects and no impact on the performance of the transistors on the silk. Their findings appear in a Paper published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

THE RICH MAY EVOLVE INTO A SEPARATE SPECIES

By Amy Willis Telegraph.co.uk
Published: 9:19PM GMT 25 Oct 2009

https://i2.wp.com/1.bp.blogspot.com/_QYd_pItgxVM/SqraO9KxycI/AAAAAAAAELs/oBUnWmgNOp4/s400/Mutant+Animals+10.jpgAs medicine becomes super advanced, and super expensive, the super rich may evolve into a completely different species from everyone else, according to American futurologist Paul Saffo. He thinks medical technology such as replacement organs, specially tailored drugs, and genetic research tools to alert the moneybags of any possible hereditary health dangers, could all lead to a new class of rich, elite, and longer-living humans.

Mr Saffo, from San Francisco, says in the future people will be able to grow their own replacement organs, take specially tailored drugs, and use genetic research tools to alert them from any possible hereditary health dangers.

He adds that tomorrow’s world will be a fusion of biology and technology, where robots do the chores, cars drive themselves and artificial limbs are better than real ones.

Mr Saffo’s comments reflect claims by American scientist Ray Kurzweil who only a few months ago said immortality was only 20 years away due to the speed of advancements in nanotechnology.

But Mr Saffo says these improvements would only be affordable to the super-rich. And because of this, he says, advancements may lead to a divide between the classes and eventually could lead to the super-rich evolving into a different species entirely, leaving his not-so-rich counterpart behind.

“In the 1980s it was the personal computer – came out of the garage, changed the world. In the 1990s it was the web. The next big device to wander into our lives is robots,” he told the Sunday Times.

“We may find we are absolutely dependent upon these electronic insects and that we don’t even know we are dependent upon them until something breaks.

“I sometimes wonder if the very rich can live, on average, 20 years longer than the poor. That’s 20 more years of earning and saving. Think about wealth and power and the advantages that you pass on to your children.”