Summary of “First Human Embryos Edited in U.S.”

The first known attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon, MIT Technology Review has learned.
To date, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China.
Although none of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days-and there was never any intention of implanting them into a womb-the experiments are a milestone on what may prove to be an inevitable journey toward the birth of the first genetically modified humans.
In altering the DNA code of human embryos, the objective of scientists is to show that they can eradicate or correct genes that cause inherited disease, like the blood condition beta-thalassemia.
Other scientists confirmed the editing of embryos using CRISPR. “So far as I know this will be the first study reported in the U.S.,” says Jun Wu, a collaborator at the Salk Institute, in La Jolla, California, who played a role in the project.
A person familiar with the research says “Many tens” of human IVF embryos were created for the experiment using the donated sperm of men carrying inherited disease mutations.
In 2013, he created human embryos through cloning, as a way of creating patient-specific stem cells.
In the U.S., any effort to turn an edited IVF embryo into a baby has been blocked by Congress, which added language to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration funding bill forbidding it from approving clinical trials of the concept.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The revolutionary figure of the beautiful, self-improved soul”

The beautiful soul is an aesthetic concept focused on developing human capacities and advancing knowledge and culture.
The beautiful soul is a virtuous soul, one that possesses a sense of justice, pursues wisdom, and practises benevolence through an aestheticised proclivity for the ‘good’.
Sculpting the soul and creating what Goethe referred to as ‘a more beautiful humanity’ is achieved through the internalisation of the Platonic triad of beauty, truth and goodness.
As Goethe observed: ‘A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.
Although the philosophy was never realised in the way that its theorists envisioned, the beautiful soul is far more than a beautiful idea.
In working towards her own self-improvement and fearlessly venturing into society, the beautiful soul was a revolutionary figure, at the vanguard of Enlightenment progress.
The beautiful soul anticipated the problems of instrumental reason, overcoming the dangers of mere utility, disenchantment and social isolation by offering an aesthetic world view that facilitated positive human interactions and a multidimensional understanding of human experience.
If we still harbour hope in the human propensity for goodness, then we ought to contemplate anew the poetic, revolutionary figure of the beautiful soul that might once again provide a vision for deepening our intellectual, moral and emotional faculties in the service of a more just and progressive future for us all.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How Your Brain Is Like the Cosmic Web”

Christof Koch, a leading researcher on consciousness and the human brain, has famously called the brain “The most complex object in the known universe.” It’s not hard to see why this might be true.
The first results from our comparison are truly surprising: Not only are the complexities of the brain and cosmic web actually similar, but so are their structures.
If the cosmic web is at least as complex as any of its constituent parts, we might naively conclude that it must be at least as complex as the brain.
The eye immediately grasps some similarity between images of the cosmic web and the brain.
For the complex networks of the cosmic web and of the human brain, on the other hand, the observed behavior is not fractal, which can be interpreted as evidence of the emergence of scale-dependent, self-organized structures.
Estimating the complexity of the human brain is much more difficult, because global simulations of the brain remain an unmet challenge.
Based on the latest analysis of the connectivity of the brain network, independent studies have concluded that the total memory capacity of the adult human brain should be around 2.5 petabytes, not far from the 1-10 petabyte range estimated for the cosmic web!
It is truly a remarkable fact that the cosmic web is more similar to the human brain than it is to the interior of a galaxy; or that the neuronal network is more similar to the cosmic web than it is to the interior of a neuronal body.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why Are Dogs So Friendly? The Answer May Be in 2 Genes”

Dr. vonHoldt and her colleagues studied a stretch of DNA in dogs that includes about 29 genes.
“We struggle a lot with wanting to know genes that are linked to behavior,” Dr. vonHoldt said.
Adam Boyko, a biologist who studies dog genetics at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, called the work “Truly interesting and important” and said it “May be one of the first studies to ever identify the specific genetic variants that were important for turning wolves into dogs.”
The research was born out of a conversation Dr. vonHoldt had with Monique Udell, an experimental psychologist at Oregon State University who studies the behavior of wolves and dogs.
One of the genes found in this study of dogs is related to hypersociability in mice.
The assumption behind the research is that humans share so many genes with other animals that understanding a disease in animals may help treat it in humans.
People with Williams-Beuren syndrome face many health issues, but Dr. Udell was intrigued by several characteristic behaviors: excessively friendly behavior, sometimes treating strangers as friends, and even a lack of persistence on cognitive tests, which she has observed in experiments with dogs, compared with wolves.
She said the human disorder involves a developmental delay, and dog development is delayed compared with that of wolves: “The very things that make life challenging for a human may make dogs successful.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “How to Build the Perfect Dog”

Suppose you wanted to build the perfect dog from scratch.
How had fierce wild animals, intensely averse to human contact, become docile enough for our human ancestors to have started breeding them? How had our own formidable wild ancestors started on the transition to being human? An experiment in real-time, to breed the wild out of an animal by mating the tamest among them, might provide the answers.
How could he expect any significant results, even if the experiment ran for decades? And yet, here was a fox like Pushinka, who was so much like a dog that she came when her name was called and could be let out on the farm without a leash.
What if the tamest mothers treated their pups differently than the aggressive moms treated their pups? Maybe pups learned something about how to be tame or aggressive toward humans from the way their moms treated them?
A powerful testament to how far back in time the human-dog bond developed, and how strong it quickly became, is the wealth of ancient dog burials that have been discovered all over the world.
Many of our prehistoric ancestors buried their dogs in graves just like the ones in which they buried their human loved ones, and sometimes in the same grave with their human masters.
Genetic adaptations similar to those in the human genome that allowed our ancestors to begin eating starchy foods, like the wheat, barley, and rice they domesticated, also appear in the dog genome, and they allowed dogs to eat these foods as well, perhaps first having scavenged them from our ancestors’ fields or stockpiles, and later being fed them.
Recent work on the neurotransmitter oxytocin confirms what every dog owner already knows-that we and our dogs genuinely enjoy each other’s company.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Bots Beat Us. Now What?”

In his correspondence, he criticized computer programs for making “Gross blunders” and called one of them “a piece of junk.” After his triumph over the program, Fischer disappeared again, and wouldn’t play another documented game for 15 years.
For decades, the best humans were better than any machine at marquee, blue-chip intellectual games like chess in the West and Go in the East.
Since at least 1950, the games have also played host to programmers who have tried to master them, enticed by besting the genius widely thought to be required of a chess or Go master.
These twin pillars of intellectual competition – chess and Go – aren’t the only games that have appeared in the crosshairs of the engineers, of course.
Among them: an encyclopedia of cognitive science and a volume titled “Robots Unlimited.” A cartoon pinned above his desk showed a man playing chess against a toaster: “I remember when you could only lose a chess game to a supercomputer.”
“StarCraft is way, way bigger than chess or Go or any of these games,” Churchill said.
Every single computer scientist who works on games whom I’ve ever spoken to has uttered to me, often with a twinge of contrition, the phrase “Test bed.” It’s not about the game, man, it’s about what comes next.
Maybe Bobby Fischer, whose whole life was devoted to playing a board game – and who some would argue was driven mad by a board game – got it right in his letters 40 years ago.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Earth’s sixth mass extinction event under way, scientists warn”

A “Biological annihilation” of wildlife in recent decades means a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history is under way and is more severe than previously feared, according to research.
Scientists analysed both common and rare species and found billions of regional or local populations have been lost.
The new work instead takes a broader view, assessing many common species which are losing populations all over the world as their ranges shrink, but remain present elsewhere.
The scientists found that a third of the thousands of species losing populations are not currently considered endangered and that up to 50% of all individual animals have been lost in recent decades.
The scientists found billions of populations of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have been lost all over the planet, leading them to say a sixth mass extinction has already progressed further than was thought.
The ultimate cause of all of these factors is “Human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption, especially by the rich”, say the scientists, who include Prof Paul Ehrlich, at Stanford University in the US, whose 1968 book The Population Bomb is a seminal, if controversial, work.
Prof Stuart Pimm, at Duke University in the US and not involved in the new work, said the overall conclusion is correct, but he disagrees that a sixth mass extinction is already under way: “It is something that hasn’t happened yet – we are on the edge of it.”
A messy prolonged climate change event, again hitting life in shallow seas very hard, killing 70% of species including almost all corals.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How economics became a religion”

We follow an even more powerful religion, around which we have oriented our lives: economics.
At the end of the 20th century, amid an economic boom that saw the western economies become richer than humanity had ever known, economics seemed to have conquered the globe.
The hubris in economics came not from a moral failing among economists, but from a false conviction: the belief that theirs was a science.
The American Economic Association, to which Robert Lucas gave his address, was created in 1885, just when economics was starting to define itself as a distinct discipline.
Such responses served to remind practitioners of the taboos of economics: a gentle nudge to a young academic that such shibboleths might not sound so good before a tenure committee.
If you think describing economics as a religion debunks it, you’re wrong.
Paradoxically as economics becomes more truly scientific, it will become less of a science.
This is an edited extract from Twilight of the Money Gods: Economics as a Religion and How it all Went Wrong by John Rapley, published by Simon & Schuster on 13 July at £20.

The orginal article.

Summary of “It Takes a Theory to Beat a Theory: The Adaptive Markets Hypothesis”

The key to these laws is adaptive behavior in shifting environments.
Economic behavior is but one aspect of human behavior, and human behavior is the product of biological evolution across eons of different environments.
On many days since the financial crisis began, the collective behavior of financial markets might be better described as the madness of mobs.
Neuroscience and evolutionary biology confirm that rational expectations and the Efficient Markets Hypothesis capture only a portion of the full range of human behavior.
Although the work of Damasio and his collaborators have given us a much deeper understanding of what we mean by rational behavior, economists believe they already have an excellent theory of economic rationality: expected utility theory.
Like Herbert Simon’s theory of bounded rationality, the Adaptive Markets Hypothesis can easily explain economic behavior that’s only approximately rational, or that misses rationality narrowly.
The Adaptive Markets Hypothesis goes farther and can also explain economic behavior that looks completely irrational.
The Adaptive Markets Hypothesis refuses to label such behaviors “irrational.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Google is funding the creation of software that writes local news stories”

Google’s Digital News Initiative has committed £622,000 to fund an automated news writing initiative for U.K.-based news agency, The Press Association.
The money will help pay for the creation of Radar, snappily named software designed to generate upwards of 30,000 local news stories a month.
The Press Association has enlisted U.K.-based news startup Urbs Media for the task of creating a piece of software that turns news data into palatable content.
It’s similar to a model The Associated Press has employed for a while now here in the States, mostly tackling financial and niche sports stories.
A quick Google News search of the tell-tale tagline “This story was generated by Automated Insights.” reveals hits from news outlets across the U.S. In a news release heralding the financial commitment, Press Association Editor-in-Chief Peter Clifton called the move a “Genuine game-changer,” stressing that the partnership will focus on stories that might not otherwise be written up as local newspapers continue to die off in this massive fourth-estate extinction.
“Skilled human journalists will still be vital in the process,” he explained, “But Radar allows us to harness artificial intelligence to scale up to a volume of local stories that would be impossible to provide manually.” People will be involved in the curation and editing of the stories and, hopefully, help limit the possibility of accidentally publishing incorrect information in an era when “Fake news” is an equally barbed insult on all sides of the political spectrum.
Human news writers regularly point out that AIs tend to lack nuance and a flair for language in the stories they churn out.
That’s probably a fare criticism, but it’s easy to see how the rise of robotic news could be a justification – if not a direct cause – for further job loss in the industry.

The orginal article.