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Real tech is trying to catch up to fictional tech
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 2:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Memory manipulation is back in the news


Would it be ethical to implant false memories in therapy"

We can implant false memories with increasing ease – and it may well help you to live a healthier, happier life. But what are the ethics?

By Robert Nash

6 October 2016

Take a moment to remember an event that you experienced as a child. Pick something that’s important to you – an event that really shaped for the better the person you are today. Now ask yourself: are you sure this event truly happened?

Suppose, for example, that some well-intentioned person could have deliberately planted a vivid false memory of this fictional event in your consciousness, believing that the memory would change you in ways that would benefit your life. How would you feel to discover that this was the case? Perhaps you’d be touched that someone cared so much about your wellbeing that they would give you such a personal and life-changing ‘gift’? Or maybe outraged, that this person had brainwashed you without your consent?

The scenario sounds like a plot from a science fiction novel, but it’s not necessarily as implausible – at least in principle – as it might seem. For a start, memory researchers have known for decades that our recollections of the past are often inaccurate, and that sometimes we remember entire events that never happened at all. These false memories can occur spontaneously, but they are especially likely to occur when someone plants the seed of a false suggestion in our mind, a seed that grows into a more and more detailed recollection each time we think about it.

Importantly, just like memories of events that truly happened, we know that even false memories can influence how we behave. In one experiment that demonstrates this point, a group of research participants were told that their responses to numerous questionnaires had been fed into a clever computer algorithm, which could predict the likelihood of various childhood experiences. Apparently based on their results, the participants were falsely informed that during their childhoods they became sick from eating spoiled peach yoghurt. A second group of adults did not hear this false suggestion.

Two weeks later, both groups completed a taste test, sampling various foods as part of what seemed to be an unrelated study. The researchers found that both groups ate similar amounts of most of the foods, yet those people who had received the false suggestion ate about 25% less peach yoghurt than the others. The avoidance of peach yoghurt was most pronounced among those people who now said they could ‘remember’ the fictional sickly incident. In short, it isn’t too far-fetched in principle that somebody could deliberately give you a false memory, nor that the right kinds of false memory could have positive effects on your life. Inspired by several studies like the peach yoghurt experiment, some commentators have even imagined taking the idea one step further by inventing the “False Memory Diet.”

Could planting ‘beneficial’ false memories be the next big thing for tackling obesity, or myriad other health complaints from fear of the dentist to depression? Even if such an intervention is scientifically plausible, there still remains the fundamental question of whether it could ever be ethically justifiable.

Certainly, it would be naïve to say that nobody would ever try it. In fact, even looking back several decades, we can find documented cases in which therapists claimed to have tackled their clients’ psychological troubles by manipulating their memories. Asking ourselves whether this kind of intervention is justifiable, then, is important: not only because we can conceive of a future in which false-memory interventions are on the menu, but also because in at least some rare cases, practitioners have been ordering from that menu for years.

In new research funded by the Wellcome Trust, and published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, we described a fictional ‘false memory therapy’ to almost one thousand members of the public from the UK and the USA. These participants were asked to imagine the case of an obese client seeking professional support for weight loss. Without this client’s knowledge, the therapist would attempt to plant false childhood events in the client’s memory – events designed to change the client’s unhealthy relationship with fatty foods. The therapist, however, would only reveal their deception many months after the therapy was complete. Our question for participants was: Would this fictional therapy be acceptable?

Many people are quite open in principle to the idea of deliberately manipulating memories, if doing so could benefit the patient

Remarkably, there was very little consensus on the answer. In fact, whereas 41% of respondents said it would generally be unacceptable for a therapist to treat them in this way if they were obese, 48% said that it would be acceptable. And whereas just over a quarter of people said that the therapy would be completely unethical, these people would be horrified to know that one in ten believed it completely ethical. Many people, it appears, are quite open in principle to the idea of deliberately manipulating memories, if doing so could benefit the patient.

These are striking findings, but they mirror those from a 2011 study examining people’s attitudes to so-called “memory dampening” drugs. In that study, just over half of people said that if they were the victim of a major trauma, they would want the option of receiving a drug that would weaken their traumatic memory. And in a separate Pew poll published this July, 23% of American adults said it would be morally acceptable to surgically implant devices in healthy people’s brains to improve their cognitive abilities. Incidentally, rather more of the respondents, 34% in total, said they would want such a device in their own brains.

So why are so many of us repulsed by the thought of having beneficial false memories planted in our minds, while so many others are positively enthusiastic about the prospect? To delve deeper, we asked 200 of our participants to elaborate on their reactions to the fictional ‘false memory therapy.’ For those who found the therapy appealing, the lure of helping people to improve their health was far more important than any other qualms they might have. Some even wished they could receive such a treatment themselves, or provide it for their loved ones. For many of these people, the potential drawbacks of ‘false memory therapy’ seemed no worse than certain existing health interventions. One American man wrote:

I do not see it as a problem... After all, many medical treatments involve taking drugs or having surgical operations. These involve putting real things into the body. Sometimes they do not turn out beneficial and may even result in more harm than good. So, just putting false thoughts into someone's thoughts (sic) does not seem nearly as invasive or potentially harmful.

Some participants foresaw “mission creep”, with the intervention eventually being used for nefarious purposes.

In contrast, many people found the fictional therapy unappealing and sinister, to say the least. Their reasons were more varied. Some were principally troubled by the mechanics of the therapy, pointing out that the notion of health professionals lying to their patients is hugely unethical. Others foresaw “mission creep”, with the intervention eventually being used for nefarious purposes. As one British woman wrote:

Far too dangerous. The first application I can see would be to persuade gay people they "ought" to be heterosexual. How long before the ruling party used it to "cure" people who voted for the opposition? That may seem far-fetched now but it may not if they actually had the power.

But for many people, the most unsettling idea was that planting false memories would rob us of our free will and authenticity – our personalities would no longer be genuine, our life decisions no longer truly ours. That’s no doubt a perspective with which we all can empathise, one that exposes both the intimacy of our relationship with memory, and the great value we place upon being able to trust it. After all, even those of us who study other people’s memory errors can still find ourselves hopelessly addicted to the misbelief that our own memories can be trusted just fine.

Somehow, I can’t foresee us ever truly endorsing the planting of false memories for widespread therapeutic use, but who knows what the future may hold? If memory-modifying treatments are possible, and if a substantial chunk of the population find the idea of planting memories strongly appealing, then we may need to ask ourselves important questions about the kind of relationship we wish to have with our memories.

Even if the day never arrives when your family doctor can prescribe a course of false memories, reflecting on this ethical minefield may remind us that recollections are among our most precious assets. Maybe false memories can be just as precious.

People tend to look at you a little strangely when they know you stuff voodoo dolls full of Ex-Lax.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2016 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm reminded of Motokos bragging about her skin sensitivity. I can't find a link to an image of it in the manga to put in here though. This article suggests that in addition to the perverted uses of a more sensitive skin that there are actual technical advantages to to it too.

Usually, if your robot is warm to the touch, it’s symptomatic of some sort of horrific failure of its cooling system. Robots aren’t supposed to be warm— they’re supposed to be steely and cold. Or at least, steely and ambient temperature. Heat is almost always a byproduct that needs to be somehow accounted for and dealt with. Humans and many other non-reptiles expend a lot of energy keeping at a near-constant temperature, and as it turns out, being warmish all the time provides a lot of fringe benefits, including the ability to gather useful information about things that we touch. Now robots can have this ability, too.

Most of the touch sensors used by robots are force detectors. They can tell how hard a surface is, and sometimes what kind of texture it has. You can also add some temperature sensors into the mix to tell you whether the surface is warm or cold. However, most of the time, objects around you aren’t warm or cold, they’re ambient—whatever the temperature is around them is the temperature they are.
Georgia Tech’s tactile robot skin uses an array of “taxels,” which the researchers built by layering piezoresistive fabric, thermistors, and a heating strip. They say the combination of force and thermal sensing works significantly better than force sensing alone.

When we humans touch ambient temperature things, we often experience them as feeling slightly warmer or colder than they really are. There are two reasons for this: The first reason is that we’re toasty warm, so we’re feeling the difference in temperature between our skin and the thing. The second reason is that we’re also feeling how much the thing is sucking up our toasty warmness. In other words, we’re measuring how quickly the thing is absorbing our body heat, and in even more other words, we’re measuring its thermal conductivity. Try it: Something metal will feel cooler to you than something fabric or wood, even if they’re both the same temperature, because the metal is more thermally conductive and is sucking the heat out of you faster. The upshot of this is that we have the ability to gather additional data about materials that we touch because our fingers are warm.

Joshua Wade, Tapomayukh Bhattacharjee, and Professor Charlie Kemp from Georgia Tech presented a paper at an IROS workshop last month introducing a new kind of robotic skin that incorporates active heating. When combined with traditional force sensing, the active heating results in a multimodal touch sensor that helps to identify the composition of objects.
Sensing skin
Image: Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech's multimodal fabric-based tactile sensing skin prototype.

Okay, so it’s not much to look at, but the combination of force and active thermal sensing works significantly better than force sensing alone. The fabric is made of an array of “taxels,” each of which consists of resistive fabric sandwiched between two layers of conductive fabric, two passive thermistors, and two active thermistors placed on top of a carbon fiber resistive heating strip. Using all three of these sensing modalities to validate each other, the researchers were able to identify wood and aluminum by touch up to 96 percent of the time while pressing on it, or 84 percent of the time with a sliding touch.

We should mention that this isn’t the first active thermal sensor—the BioTac sensor from SynTouch also incorporates a heater, although it’s only a fingertip, as opposed to the whole-arm fabric-based tactile skin that Georgia Tech is working on.

Tapo Bhattacharjee told us that there are plenty of different potential applications for a sensor like this. “A robot could use this skin for manipulation in cluttered or human environments. Knowing the haptic properties of the objects that a robot touches could help in devising intelligent manipulation strategies, [for example] a robot could push a soft object more than say a hard object. Or, if the robot knows it is touching a human, it can be more conservative in terms of applied forces.”
“Force and Thermal Sensing With a Fabric-Based Skin, by Joshua Wade, Tapomayukh Bhattacharjee, and Charles C. Kemp from Georgia Tech, was presented at the Workshop on Multimodal Sensor-Based Robot Control for HRI and Soft Manipulation at IROS 2016 in Seoul, South Korea.

People tend to look at you a little strangely when they know you stuff voodoo dolls full of Ex-Lax.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's some cool stuff. Beats the heck out of a pirates wooden leg. A similar wrap up of tech in ten years ought to be pretty cool. All these semi and fully autonomous robots have been practicing walking and that data ought to make it's way back into the prosthetic research groups by then.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 17, 2017 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Electric muscles are here. Video in the link

Robot Ray Swims Using High-Voltage Artificial Muscles
This transparent, soft robot fish propels itself by flapping fins made of dielectric elastomers
Setup Timeout Error: Setup took longer than 30 seconds to complete.
By Evan Ackerman and Celia Gorman
Posted 16 Apr 2017 | 14:00 GMT

This robotic ray, developed at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, is propelled by soft flapping wings made of dielectric elastomers, which bend when electricity is applied to them. Dielectric elastomers respond very quickly with relatively large motions, but they require very high voltages (on the order of 10 kilovolts) to get them to work. Traditionally, dielectric elastomers are covered in insulation, but for this aquatic application the researchers instead just submerged everything insulation free, relying on the water to act as both electrode and electric ground.

There are several other reasons why this design is notable. First, it’s almost entirely transparent, with the body, fins, tail, and elastomer muscles being completely see-through. The effect is slightly spoiled when you add the electronics and batteries required for untethered operation, but the fact that it can be self-contained at all is notable as well: A 450-mAh, 3.7-V battery will keep it swimming along at 1.1 centimeters per second for a solid 3 hours and 15 minutes, and it can even carry a tiny camera. Maximum untethered speed is 6.4 cm/s, and the robot fish will happily swim around in water temperatures ranging from slightly above freezing to nearly 75° C.

The overall efficiency of this robot is comparable to a rainbow trout, in the sense that a 25-cm long trout expends about 0.03 watt to move at 10 cm/s. A real trout can move much faster and more dynamically, of course, but for robots, hitting that biological level of efficiency is much more significant. The researchers aren’t yet ready to suggest any specific applications for the robot, so it’s probably better to simply look at it as proof that these technologies work, leaving a practical robot for the next generation.

I like the electric muscle thing. Might be good for artificial arms/legs one day. I'm a little perplexed by the high voltage claims though. They say it needs high voltage, then they give an example that is certainly high (10,000 volts) and then they describe the battery as being 3.7 volts and 450 mAh (wussy by present day cell phone standards). Assuming that both sets of info are correct I guess they've omitted a step up transformer from the description?
People tend to look at you a little strangely when they know you stuff voodoo dolls full of Ex-Lax.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2017 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Wow did they ever use an uncanny valley photo of Elon in that article. That's a creeper looking eyeroll if I ever saw one.

Elon Musk’s Neuralink could represent next stage of human evolution
Published time: 23 Apr, 2017 13:26
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Elon Musk’s Neuralink could represent next stage of human evolution
Elon Musk's Neuralink will merge the human brain with A.I © Rashid Umar Abbasi / Reuters
More details on Elon Musk’s futuristic Neuralink venture have been revealed in an illustrated blog post, including how the advanced technology could see us communicate wirelessly just by thinking within 10 years.

It's finally here: the full story on Neuralink. I knew the future would be nuts but this is a whole other level.
— Tim Urban (@waitbutwhy) April 20, 2017
<<<NOTE: original link was broken - I fixed when pasting article>>>

Wait But Why published the 36,400-word deep dive into Neuralink using stick figure illustrations to explain in simple terms what Musk has in mind for, well, our minds.

The blog post comes one month after Musk announced Neuralink, his latest plan to merge the human brain with AI using brain implants.

Long Neuralink piece coming out on @waitbutwhy in about a week. Difficult to dedicate the time, but existential risk is too high not to.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 28, 2017

The post, however, was written by blogger and cartoonist Tim Urban after studying Neuralink for six weeks, a process which involved meeting with Musk. Urban was secretly working on his Neuralink breakdown weeks before the billionaire inventor made the official announcement.

Eager fans have been waiting to hear more about the venture ever since Musk promised a long piece on the subject the day of the announcement.

@waitbutwhy@hstaudmyer I have probably checked your website about 100 times to see if the neuralink post has been complete!
— Tolga Kana (@tolgakana) April 19, 2017

@waitbutwhy@hstaudmyer Is it done? Is it done? Is it done?
— Shankar Narayanan (@archi_alchemist) April 17, 2017

Urban said he’s “convinced that Neuralink somehow manages to eclipse Tesla and SpaceX in both the boldness of its engineering undertaking and the grandeur of its mission.”

Urban has written other detailed breakdowns on Musk’s projects for Wait But Why, including Tesla and SpaceX.

READ MORE: New Elon Musk venture aims to connect human brain with AI

Neuralink’s “whole brain interface” will use tiny brain electrodes that will eventually allow us to communicate wirelessly with the world, and to share our exact thoughts and visions without having to use spoken or written language. The brain could also learn faster and have access to all the world’s knowledge.

“I think we are about eight to ten years away from this being usable by people with no disability,” Musk said in an interview with Urban.

Transcendence 🎥 in reality. Created by @ElonMusk Called @Neuralink_Corp Explained on @waitbutwhy
— βyrοη (@Soulopoulos) April 22, 2017

According to Musk, who has taken on the role as Neuralink’s CEO, today’s existing technology already makes us “digitally superhuman.”

“The thing that would change is the interface,” Musk explained. “Having a high-bandwidth interface to your digital enhancements.”

Musk’s plan is to first create cutting-edge brain machine interfaces (BMIs) to be used to help people with brain injuries, building on existing technology used in medicine.

regram @waitbutwhy That's your brain in a few decades and that's the wizard hat it'll be wearing. Quick 38,000-word explanation for what that means on the site. #waitbutwhy #finally

A post shared by Robert Pieczarko (@rpieczarko) on Apr 20, 2017 at 2:10pm PDT

“We are aiming to bring something to market that helps with certain severe brain injuries (stroke, cancer lesion, congenital) in about four years,” Musk told Urban.

This will help fund the company to make additional breakthroughs in implantation and increasing the bandwidth needed for the technology, which will in turn create industry-wide innovation.

It will eventually lead to mass adoption of the “whole brain interface,” which will allow us to communicate wirelessly with the world in a way that feels as natural as thinking does, Urban explains.

The future seems smart nuts, if you go with Elon Musk's #Neuralink by @waitbutwhy - amplifying the human brain with an #AI gateway;
— Marcus Frei (@MarcusFrei_) April 22, 2017

Musk met with over 1,000 people to find the right cross-disciplinary team of experts who each bring their own unique knowledge and expertise to create a group that can think as a single “mega-expert.”

The SpaceX CEO describes the whole-brain interface as a “digital tertiary layer,” for our brains, and says his vision isn’t so far from where we are now.

“We already have a digital tertiary layer in a sense,” Musk said, “In that you have your computer or your phone or your applications.”

“You can ask a question via Google and get an answer instantly. You can access any book or any music. With a spreadsheet, you can do incredible calculations.”

“You’re already a different creature than you would have been twenty years ago, or even ten years ago,” he said, adding people are already “kind of merged with their phone and their laptop and their applications and everything,” he added.

A post shared by Cole Wilkins (@cashmoneycole) on Apr 20, 2017 at 3:53pm PDT

Musk’s plan faces a number of challenges before it can become widespread, including having enough ‘bandwidth’ to process the advanced technology and finding non-invasive and biocompatible methods to implant BMIs so they do not feel like a foreign object in our bodies.

The ten-year timeline also depends on a number of factors. “It is important to note that this depends heavily on regulatory approval timing and how well our devices work on people with disabilities.” Musk said.

Urban highlighted a number of risks associated with mass adoption of the whole brain interface, including computer-like bugs and brain hacking.

As for fears that having such technology will allow people to see your thoughts, Musk explained, “People won’t be able to read your thoughts—you would have to will it. If you don’t will it, it doesn’t happen.”

People tend to look at you a little strangely when they know you stuff voodoo dolls full of Ex-Lax.
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