Summary of “The complicated truth about a cat’s purr”

Part of the mystery around the purr is that we often only notice cats purring “When we tickle them in places that they like to be tickled”, says Debevere.
“All cats are different, some never purr and some will purr constantly,” she says.
This may persist with some adult cats who purr as they feed – or who purr beforehand as they try and convince a human it’s dinner time.
“The more science has delved into the purr, the more it seems to have uncovered.”Researchers have recorded ‘ordinary purrs’ and purrs that were soliciting food from their owners,” says Celia Haddon, an author and cat behavioural expert.
“Sam Watson, the scientific officer at the UK’s animal charity the RSPCA, says there is still little understanding of how cats purr amongst each other in the wild, though it’s apparent that they will purr as they groom each other.”There could be one for ‘I want that’, another for ‘Let’s share resources’.
Petting a cat has long been seen as a form of stress relief – cat ownership could cut the risk of stroke or heart disease by as much one-third.
“The physiological benefits aside, we’ve always responded to purring’s psychological effects. It calms us and pleases us, like watching waves against a beach. We respond to a cat’s purr as a calming stimulus and may have even genetically selected cats with more propensity to purr.”
Ultimately, the quest to define the meaning of a purr may benefit from getting to know cats’ body language better – from the periscope tail of a friendly cat in sociable mood to the wide eyes and bent-back whiskers of a cat in fight mode.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How tech’s richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse”

Taking their cue from Elon Musk colonizing Mars, Peter Thiel reversing the ageing process, or Sam Altman and Ray Kurzweil uploading their minds into supercomputers, they were preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether and insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion.
There’s nothing wrong with madly optimistic appraisals of how technology might benefit human society.
As technology philosophers have been pointing out for years, now, the transhumanist vision too easily reduces all of reality to data, concluding that “Humans are nothing but information-processing objects”.
The mining of rare earth metals and disposal of our highly digital technologies destroys human habitats, replacing them with toxic waste dumps, which are then picked over by peasant children and their families, who sell usable materials back to the manufacturers.
Just as the inefficiency of a local taxi market can be “Solved” with an app that bankrupts human drivers, the vexing inconsistencies of the human psyche can be corrected with a digital or genetic upgrade.
Ultimately, according to the technosolutionist orthodoxy, the human future climaxes by uploading our consciousness to a computer or, perhaps better, accepting that technology itself is our evolutionary successor.
Even Westworld – based on a science fiction novel in which robots run amok – ended its second season with the ultimate reveal: human beings are simpler and more predictable than the artificial intelligences we create.
The mental gymnastics required for such a profound role reversal between humans and machines all depend on the underlying assumption that humans suck.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Can Economists and Humanists Ever Be Friends?”

In my part of South London, a street that was once economically rather eclectic was becoming increasingly homogeneous, with new arrivals drawn entirely from finance and its ancillary professions.
Finance has ingenuity, expertise, and dazzling possibilities for earning and losing money, but none of these are quite the same thing as wisdom.
He regrets the chasm between finance and the rest of society, and he sets out to bridge it with a warmhearted and engaging set of stories in which he pairs fundamental principles of finance with parallel examples from the humanities.
“Viewing finance through the prism of the humanities will help us to restore humanity to finance,” he writes, making a claim very similar to that made in “Cents and Sensibility.”
Desai takes us on a journey through the fundamentals of finance, from asset pricing to risk and risk management, via options, mergers, debt, and bankruptcy.
Desai explores the intellectual crevasse between the money people and the rest of us in his final chapter, called, trenchantly, “Why Everyone Hates Finance.” One explanation is “The asshole theory of finance”: that finance isn’t inherently bad and neither are the people it attracts, but “Finance fuels ego and ambition in an unusually powerful way.” The underlying reason is that finance is full of “Attribution errors,” in which people view their successes as deserved and their failures as bad luck.
What’s more, he says, “The ‘discipline of the market’ shrouds all of finance in a meritocratic haze.” And so people who succeed in finance “Are susceptible to developing massively outsized egos and appetites.”
The gap between economics, finance, and the rest of society would be difficult to fix even if everyone wanted to do so, and it isn’t obvious that everyone does.

The orginal article.

Summary of “No single birthplace of mankind, say scientists”

About 300,000 years ago, the story went, a group of primitive humans there underwent a series of genetic and cultural shifts that set them on a unique evolutionary path that resulted in everyone alive today.
Instead, the international team argue, the distinctive features that make us human emerged mosaic-like across different populations spanning the entire African continent.
Only after tens or hundreds of thousands of years of interbreeding and cultural exchange between these semi-isolated groups, did the fully fledged modern human come into being.
Dr Eleanor Scerri, an archaeologist at Oxford University, who led the international research, said: “This single origin, single population view has stuck in people’s mind but the way we’ve been thinking about it is too simplistic.”
The telltale characteristics of a modern human – globular brain case, a chin, a more delicate brow and a small face – seem to first appear in different places at different times.
The latest analysis suggests that this patchwork emergence of human traits can be explained by the existence of multiple populations that were periodically separated for millennia by rivers, deserts, forests and mountains before coming into contact again due to shifts in the climate.
The analysis also paints a picture of humans as a far more diverse collection of species and sub-populations than exists today.
Between 200,000 and 400,000 years ago, our own ancestors lived alongside a primitive human species called Homo naledi, found in southern Africa, a larger brained species called Homo heidelbergensis in central Africa and perhaps myriad other humans yet to be discovered.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The rise of ‘pseudo-AI’: how tech firms quietly use humans to do bots’ work”

So hard that some startups have worked out it’s cheaper and easier to get humans to behave like robots than it is to get machines to behave like humans.
“It’s essentially prototyping the AI with human beings,” he said.
In 2008, Spinvox, a company that converted voicemails into text messages, was accused of using humans in overseas call centres rather than machines to do its work.
In 2016, Bloomberg highlighted the plight of the humans spending 12 hours a day pretending to be chatbots for calendar scheduling services such as X.ai and Clara.
In 2017, the business expense management app Expensify admitted that it had been using humans to transcribe at least some of the receipts it claimed to process using its “Smartscan technology”.
Even Facebook, which has invested heavily in AI, relied on humans for its virtual assistant for Messenger, M. In some cases, humans are used to train the AI system and improve its accuracy.
Hire a bunch of minimum wage humans to pretend to be AI pretending to be human.
After an initial backlash, Google said its AI would identify itself to the humans it spoke to.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Zero: the mind-bendy math behind it, explained”

What is zero, anyway? Our understanding of zero is profound when you consider this fact: We don’t often, or perhaps ever, encounter zero in nature.
Zero helps us understand that we can use math to think about things that have no counterpart in a physical lived experience; imaginary numbers don’t exist but are crucial to understanding electrical systems.
Why zero is so damn useful in math Zero’s influence on our mathematics today is twofold.
When zero is added to a number or subtracted from a number, the number remains unchanged; and a number multiplied by zero becomes zero.
Zero slowly spread across the Middle East before reaching Europe, and the mind of the mathematician Fibonacci in the 1200s, who popularized the “Arabic” numeral system we all use today.
Why is zero so profound as a human idea? We’re not born with an understanding of zero.
When Brannon’s pick-the-lowest-number-card experiment is repeated with adults, they take slightly longer when deciding between zero and one, than when comparing zero to a larger number.
The fourth step in thinking of zero – that is thinking of zero as a symbol – may be unique to humans.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Are humans really blind to the gorilla on the basketball court?”

In his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, the Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman highlights this experiment and argues that it reveals something fundamental about the human mind, namely, that humans are ‘blind to the obvious, and that we also are blind to our blindness’.
Missing any one of these things isn’t a basis for saying that humans are blind.
So if the gorilla experiment doesn’t illustrate that humans are blind to the obvious, then what exactly does it illustrate? What’s an alternative interpretation, and what does it tell us about perception, cognition and the human mind?
Given the problem of too much evidence – again, think of all the things that are evident in the gorilla clip – humans try to hone in on what might be relevant for answering particular questions.
Because humans are blind and biased, and can’t separate the noise from the signal, human decision-making should increasingly be left to computers and decision algorithms.
The argument that humans are blind to the obvious is admittedly far more memorable than an interpretation that simply says that humans respond to questions.
To illustrate just how far we’ve come in ridiculing human capacities, in 2017 Kahneman concluded his aforementioned presentation to academics by arguing that computers or robots are better than humans on three essential dimensions: they are better at statistical reasoning and less enamoured with stories; they have higher emotional intelligence; and they exhibit far more wisdom than humans.
Of course, if we compare humans and computers on their ability to compute, then there is no question that computers outperform humans.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Axolotl Genome Slowly Yields Secrets of Limb Regrowth”

Before the full genome of the axolotl was published, researchers who wanted insights into the animal’s molecular biology were mostly stuck looking at the protein and RNA products of axolotl genes.
Monaghan wants to know what changes in gene packaging and regulation turn a hand cell into a shoulder cell – that is, turn a regular axolotl into one with spaghetti arms.
Monaghan said his group is already using the new genome sequence as a reference to make genetically engineered salamanders with CRISPR, the revolutionary genome-editing technology that became available only a few years ago.
“No genome is ever complete. Even the human genome,” she said.
They’ll discuss how to use the genome sequences and other resources and will strategize about bringing new people into the field of axolotl research.
Monaghan is studying axolotl retinas to try to improve the outcomes of prospective stem cell therapies in aging human eyes.
Whited is studying whether the same proteins that are important in salamander limb regeneration could also be indicators of a good healing response after amputation in mice.
McCusker has studied how the tissue environment of a salamander’s regenerating limb controls the behavior of cells.

The orginal article.

Summary of “At any point in life, people spend their time in 25 places”

At any given time, people regularly return to a maximum of 25 places.
“We first analysed the traces of about 1000 university students. The dataset showed that the students returned to a limited number of places, even though the places changed over time. I expected to see a difference in the behavior of students and a wide section of the population. But that was not the case. The result was the same when we scaled up the project to 40,000 people of different habits and gender from all over the world. It was not expected in advance. It came as a surprise,” says Dr. Alessandretti.
The study showed that people are constantly exploring new places.
The number of regularly visited places is constantly 25 in a given period.
If a new place is added to the list, one of the places disappears.
“People are constantly balancing their curiosity and laziness. We want to explore new places but also want to exploit old ones that we like. Think of a restaurant or a gym. In doing so we adopt and abandon places all the time. We found that this dynamic yields an unexpected result: We visit a constant, fixed number of places-and it’s not due to lack of time. We found evidence that this may be connected to other limits to our life, such as the number of active social interactions we can maintain in our life, but more research is in order to clarify this point,” says Dr. Baronchelli.
The work of Dr. Baronchelli and colleagues shows that those who have a tendency to visit many places are also likely to have many friends.
Explore further: Many people feel lonely in the city, but perhaps ‘third places’ can help with that.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Google Duplex really works and testing begins this summer”

In the demo, we saw what it would be like for a restaurant to receive a phone call – and in fact each of us in turn took a call from Duplex as it tried to book a reservation.
The briefings were in service of the news that Google is about to begin limited testing “In the coming weeks.” If you’re hoping that means you’ll be able to try it yourself, sorry: Google is starting with “a set of trusted tester users,” according to Nick Fox, VP of product and design for the Google Assistant.
There were several variations on the robot disclosure – Google seems to be testing to see which is most effective at making people feel comfortable sticking with the call.
If you take a Duplex call and want to take that initial “Um” as an opportunity to say “Yeah no, I don’t want to be recorded,” Duplex can recognize that and end the call with something like “‘OK I’ll call back on an unrecorded line’ and then we have an operator just call back,” Fox says.
There are a few states where Duplex won’t work – Fox says Google doesn’t yet have the permitting for Texas, for example – but it should start making calls in the vast majority of the US soon.
Google will ensure that businesses won’t receive too many calls from Duplex – say, for example, from people who might use it to prank restaurants with fake reservations.
Valerie Nygaard, product manager for Duplex, emphasized that “This is a system with a human fallback.” Those operators serve two purposes: they handle calls that Duplex can’t complete and they also mark up the call transcripts for Google’s AI algorithms to learn from.
Google got quite a bit of blowback after its Google IO demo, both from people who were wondering about disclosure and from those who thought it might have not been a real call.

The orginal article.