Summary of “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humans”

December 10, 2018.Experts say the rise of artificial intelligence will make most people better off over the next decade, but many have concerns about how advances in AI will affect what it means to be human, to be productive and to exercise free will.
Digital life is augmenting human capacities and disrupting eons-old human activities.
The experts predicted networked artificial intelligence will amplify human effectiveness but also threaten human autonomy, agency and capabilities.
Bryan Johnson, founder and CEO of Kernel, a leading developer of advanced neural interfaces, and OS Fund, a venture capital firm, said, “I strongly believe the answer depends on whether we can shift our economic systems toward prioritizing radical human improvement and staunching the trend toward human irrelevance in the face of AI. I don’t mean just jobs; I mean true, existential irrelevance, which is the end result of not prioritizing human well-being and cognition.”
Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future, said, “Without significant changes in our political economy and data governance regimes [AI] is likely to create greater economic inequalities, more surveillance and more programmed and non-human-centric interactions. Every time we program our environments, we end up programming ourselves and our interactions. Humans have to become more standardized, removing serendipity and ambiguity from our interactions. And this ambiguity and complexity is what is the essence of being human.”
Michael M. Roberts, first president and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and Internet Hall of Fame member, wrote, “The range of opportunities for intelligent agents to augment human intelligence is still virtually unlimited. The major issue is that the more convenient an agent is, the more it needs to know about you – preferences, timing, capacities, etc. – which creates a tradeoff of more help requires more intrusion. This is not a black-and-white issue – the shades of gray and associated remedies will be argued endlessly. The record to date is that convenience overwhelms privacy. I suspect that will continue.”
Danah boyd, a principal researcher for Microsoft and founder and president of the Data & Society Research Institute, said, “AI is a tool that will be used by humans for all sorts of purposes, including in the pursuit of power. There will be abuses of power that involve AI, just as there will be advances in science and humanitarian efforts that also involve AI. Unfortunately, there are certain trend lines that are likely to create massive instability. Take, for example, climate change and climate migration. This will further destabilize Europe and the U.S., and I expect that, in panic, we will see AI be used in harmful ways in light of other geopolitical crises.”
Batya Friedman, a human-computer interaction professor at the University of Washington’s Information School, wrote, “Our scientific and technological capacities have and will continue to far surpass our moral ones – that is our ability to use wisely and humanely the knowledge and tools that we develop. Automated warfare – when autonomous weapons kill human beings without human engagement – can lead to a lack of responsibility for taking the enemy’s life or even knowledge that an enemy’s life has been taken. At stake is nothing less than what sort of society we want to live in and how we experience our humanity.”

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Summary of “America Is Losing Its Grip”

3 Grip strength was not only “Inversely associated with all-cause mortality”-every 5 kilogram decrement in grip strength was associated with a 17 percent risk increase-but as the team, led by McMaster University professor of medicine Darryl Leong, noted: “Grip strength was a stronger predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than systolic blood pressure.”
5 Low grip strength has been linked to longer hospital stays,6 and in a study of hospitalized cancer patients, it was linked to a “An approximate 3-fold decrease in probability of discharge alive.”7 In older subjects, lower grip strength has even been linked with declines in cognitive performance.
Grip strength, he suggests, is not necessarily an overall indicator of health, nor is it causative-if you start building your grip strength now it does not ensure you will live longer-“But it is related to important things.” What’s more, it’s non-invasive, and inexpensive to measure.
“It gives you an overall sense of their status, and high grip strength is better than low grip strength.”
My strength rang in at nearly 62 kgs which, according to a chart of normative grip strengths in the Jamar’s manual, was above the mean for males 45-49, but not hugely outside the standard deviation.
She found that a group of males aged 20-24-ages that had produced some of the peak mean grip strength scores in the 1980s tests-had a mean grip strength of just 44.7 kgs, well below my own and far below the same cohort in the 1980s, whose mean was in the low 50s. There were also significant declines in female grip strength.
If a measure like grip strength were truly so robust a health indicator, shouldn’t life spans be declining as grip strength was? Bohannon warns me, “I would not interpret small declines in grip strength as indicative of decreasing health.” As he notes, you have to get pretty low in the statistical profile-“In the lowest quartile or tertile or below the median of a tested population”-before you start to get into increased mortality risk territory.
As the anthropologist Michael Gurven reminded me, “Women have lower grip strength than men, yet live longer and have lower mortality than men at most ages.” He also advised me not to discount the motivational factor in grip strength testing: “Offering a prize to folks does increase their scores.” Perhaps I was so intent on proving that “I still had it” against my millennial counterparts that I simply tried harder.

The orginal article.

Summary of “We Asked 105 Experts What Gives Them Hope About the Future”

Carole Joffe, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health and professor emerita of sociology at the University of California, Davis.
Irwin Redlener, president emeritus and co-founder of Children’s Health Fund, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at The Earth Institute-Columbia University, and professor at Columbia University Medical Center.
Athena Aktipis, assistant professor of psychology and Lincoln Professor of Ethics at Arizona State University, director of the Cooperation and Conflict Lab, co-director of the Human Generosity Project, and chair of the Zombie Apocalypse Medicine Alliance.
Roberto Cazzolla Gatti, PhD, associate professor at Tomsk State University’s Biological Institute and research associate at Purdue University’s department of forestry and natural resources.
Cynthia Selin, associate professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the School of Sustainability, Arizona State University.
Amy Webb, quantitative futurist, professor of strategic foresight at New York University Stern School of Business, and founder of the Future Today Institute.
Katherine Freese, George Eugene Uhlenbeck Collegiate Professor of Physics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and guest professor of physics at Stockholm University, Sweden.
Haley Gomez, astrophysicist and head of public engagement in the school of physics and astronomy at Cardiff University, UK. The faces and voices and bodies that are leading with imagination and hope and a grounded consciousness, often from the periphery.

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Summary of “The Hippies Were Right: It’s All about Vibrations, Man!”

Over the past decade, we have developed a “Resonance theory of consciousness” that suggests that resonance-another word for synchronized vibrations-is at the heart of not only human consciousness but of physical reality more generally.
So how were the hippies right? Well, we agree that vibrations, resonance, are the key mechanism behind human consciousness, as well as animal consciousness more generally.
Large-scale neuron firing can occur in human brains at specific frequencies, with mammalian consciousness thought to be commonly associated with various kinds of neuronal synchrony.
Pascal Fries, a German neurophysiologist with the Ernst Strüngmann Institute, has explored in his highly cited work over the last two decades the ways in which various electrical patterns, specifically, gamma, theta and beta waves, work together in the brain to produce the various types of human consciousness.
Our resonance theory of consciousness builds upon the work of Fries and many others, in a broader approach that can help to explain not only human and mammalian consciousness, but also consciousness more broadly.
These faster information flows allow for more macro-scale levels of consciousness than would occur in similar-scale structures like boulders or a pile of sand, simply because there is significantly greater connectivity and thus more “Going on” in biological structures than in a boulder or a pile of sand.
Accordingly, the type of communication between resonating structures is key for consciousness to expand beyond the rudimentary type of consciousness that we expect to occur in more basic physical structures.
Our resonance theory of consciousness attempts to provide a unified framework that includes neuroscience and the study of human consciousness, but also more fundamental questions of neurobiology and biophysics.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why Publish a Dire Federal Climate Report on Black Friday?”

It may seem like a funny report to dump on the public on Black Friday, when most Americans care more about recovering from Thanksgiving dinner than they do about adapting to the grave conclusions of climate science.
The report is blunt: Climate change is happening now, and humans are causing it.
“Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities,” declares its first sentence.
“The assumption that current and future climate conditions will resemble the recent past is no longer valid.”
The report tells this story, laying simple fact on simple fact so as to build a terrible edifice.
This trend “Can only be explained by the effects that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, have had on the climate,” the report says.
“It shows us that climate change is not a distant issue. It’s not about plants, or animals, or a future generation. It’s about us, living now,” says Katharine Hayhoe, an author of the report and an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University.
The report visits each region of the country, describing the local upheavals wrought by a global transformation.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Diet Culture Exists to Fight Off the Fear of Death”

Human self-awareness means that, from a relatively early age, we are also aware of death.
Even for people in extreme poverty, for whom survival is a more immediate concern, the cultural meanings of food remain critical.
It is not a coincidence that the survival function of food is buried beneath all of this-who wants to think about staving off death each time they tuck into a bowl of cereal? Forgetting about death is the entire point of food culture.
Diet culture and its variations, such as clean eating, are cultural structures we have built to attempt to transcend our animality.
We seek variety and novelty, and at the same time, we carry an innate fear of food.
The omnivore’s paradox was originally defined by psychological researcher Paul Rozin as the anxiety that arises from our desire to try new foods paired with our inherited fear of unknown foods that could turn out to be toxic.
If it weren’t for the small chance of death lurking behind every food choice and every dietary ideology, choosing what to eat from a crowded marketplace wouldn’t be considered a dilemma.
Everyone would be just a little bit calmer about food.

The orginal article.

Summary of “We still live in the long shadow cast by the idea of Man-the-Hunter”

What would this Martian naturalist think of the behaviour of humans on Earth? Lorenz insisted that his imagined observer ‘would never gain the impression that human behaviour was dictated by intelligence, still less by responsible morality’.
The postwar reconstruction of the behaviour of human ancestors required drawing broadly from the human sciences.
As humans migrated, variations in the climate of their new habitats led to an efflorescence of human cultures around the globe.
In The Human Zoo, Morris turned his attention to the plight of increasingly urban human populations.
The view of humans as specialised animals carried implications for who among the scientists could truly judge what it meant to be human.
Was Man innately aggressive? Was the hunt a sufficient metaphor for conceptualising what it meant to be human? The linguistic ambiguity of ‘man’ meant it could refer either to the human species as a whole or simply to its male members.
In The Selfish Gene, the biologist Richard Dawkins espoused the idea that human nature in the 20th century had been dictated by the success of our ancestors’ genes in replicating themselves into the present.
We are still wrestling with these questions, even as the shifting politics of human nature have themselves solidified into arguments about nature or nurture, biology or culture.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why Elon Musk fears artificial intelligence”

Elon Musk is usually far from a technological pessimist.
“As AI gets probably much smarter than humans, the relative intelligence ratio is probably similar to that between a person and a cat, maybe bigger,” Musk told Swisher.
To many people – even many machine learning researchers – an AI that surpasses humans by as much as we surpass cats sounds like a distant dream.
AI scientists at Oxford and at UC Berkeley, luminaries like Stephen Hawking, and many of the researchers publishing groundbreaking results agree with Musk that AI could be very dangerous.
Musk wants the US government to spend a year or two understanding the problem before they consider how to solve it.
From Musk’s perspective, here’s what is going on: Researchers – especially at Alphabet’s Google Deep Mind, the AI research organization that developed AlphaGo and AlphaZero – are eagerly working toward complex and powerful AI systems.
Bostrom makes the case in Superintelligence that AI systems could rapidly develop unexpected capabilities – for example, an AI system that is as good as a human at inventing new machine-learning algorithms and automating the process of machine-learning work could quickly become much better than a human.
In a conversation with Musk and Dowd for Vanity Fair, Y Combinator’s Sam Altman said, “In the next few decades we are either going to head toward self-destruction or toward human descendants eventually colonizing the universe.”

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Summary of “Business Does Not Need the Humanities”

As the girl told it to Osnos, “During the game in which I was playing the program, everyone around us was taking sides: Team Human and Team Machine.”
Many a tech titan, critics contend, would have been helped by an extra humanities class, say, or social science course: those staples of liberal arts education meant to prepare future leaders to wrestle with the dilemmas and complexities of human lives and societies.
We are all, it seems, splitting into “Team human” and “Team machine.”
A seasoning of humanities won’t turn unprepared overachievers into wise stewards of human affairs.
The truth is, whether it’s Mark Zuckerberg using technology to get an edge at Scrabble, or John Henry fighting to the death against a steam-powered drill, there is no “Team Machine.” The contest is always between humans.
Some humans have machines, and like the fabled horse that helped the Greeks win the War of Troy, those machines are not always a gift.
Plenty of intellectuals who wear the Team Human jersey, when you look closely, play for Team Machine.
They must remain well-matched antagonists to make business better, and make us better humans.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Humanity has wiped out 60% of animals since 1970, major report finds”

Humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens civilisation.
The new estimate of the massacre of wildlife is made in a major report produced by WWF and involving 59 scientists from across the globe.
“We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF. “If there was a 60% decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.”
The Living Planet Index, produced for WWF by the Zoological Society of London, uses data on 16,704 populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, representing more than 4,000 species, to track the decline of wildlife.
Between 1970 and 2014, the latest data available, populations fell by an average of 60%. Four years ago, the decline was 52%. The “Shocking truth”, said Barrett, is that the wildlife crash is continuing unabated.
African elephants: With 55 being poached for ivory every day, more are being poached than are being born, meaning populations are plunging.
The UK itself has lost much of its wildlife, ranking 189th for biodiversity loss out of 218 nations in 2016.
The habitats suffering the greatest damage are rivers and lakes, where wildlife populations have fallen 83%, due to the enormous thirst of agriculture and the large number of dams.

The orginal article.