Will Machines Eliminate Us?

29. January 2016

Date: 29-01-2016
Source: Technology Review

People who worry that we’re on course to invent dangerously intelligent machines are misunderstanding the state of computer science.

Yoshua Bengio leads one of the world’s preëminent research groups developing a powerful AI technique known as deep learning. The startling capabilities that deep learning has given computers in recent years, from human-level voice recognition and image classification to basic conversational skills, have prompted warnings about the progress AI is making toward matching, or perhaps surpassing, human intelligence.

Prominent figures such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have even cautioned that artificial intelligence could pose an existential threat to humanity. Musk and others are investing millions of dollars in researching the potential dangers of AI, as well as possible solutions. But the direst statements sound overblown to many of the people who are actually developing the technology. Bengio, a professor of computer science at the University of Montreal, put things in perspective in an interview with MIT Technology Review’s senior editor for AI and robotics, Will Knight. Read the rest of this entry »


Brain Exercise Benefits At Any Age

18. July 2013

Date: 18-07-2013
Source: Scientific American

Elderly adults who worked their mental muscles, both early and late in life, remained more intellectually limber than those who didn’t.

A book a day may keep dementia away. Even if you read it as a kid. Because a study finds that exercising the brain, at any age, may preserve memory. The work appears online in the journal Neurology. [Robert S. Wilson et al, Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive aging]

Previous studies have shown that engaging in brain-building activities is associated with a delay in late-life cognitive decline. But why? Does flexing the old gray matter somehow buffer against age-related intellectual impairment? Or is cognitive loss simply a consequence of the aging brain’s physical decline? Read the rest of this entry »

How Science Can Build a Better You

4. November 2012

Date: 04-11-2012
Source: The New York Times

IF a brain implant were safe and available and allowed you to operate your iPad or car using only thought, would you want one? What about an embedded device that gently bathed your brain in electrons and boosted memory and attention? Would you order one for your children?

In a future presidential election, would you vote for a candidate who had neural implants that helped optimize his or her alertness and functionality during a crisis, or in a candidates’ debate? Would you vote for a commander in chief who wasn’t equipped with such a device?

If these seem like tinfoil-on-the-head questions, consider the case of Cathy Hutchinson. Paralyzed by a stroke, she recently drank a canister of coffee by using a prosthetic arm controlled by thought. She was helped by a device called Braingate, a tiny bed of electrons surgically implanted on her motor cortex and connected by a wire to a computer.

Working with a team of neuroscientists at Brown University, Ms. Hutchinson, then 58, was asked to imagine that she was moving her own arm. As her neurons fired, Braingate interpreted the mental commands and moved the artificial arm and humanlike hand to deliver the first coffee Ms. Hutchinson had raised to her own lips in 15 years. Read the rest of this entry »