Mind control without implants, DNA test to detect rare diseases in children / Humans + Tech - Issue #10
+ Hackers are the weapon of choice for governments, DNA Computer, and Indian police are using facial recognition to identify protesters in Delhi
We’re in 2020 and I can see clearly now (It’s such a happy song - here’s the Jimmy Cliff version).
Let’s hope this is the year that our leaders see clearly too - particularly that climate change is real and needs urgent attention.
Here are the articles for this week—our 10th issue—finally in double digits! Next stop - triple digits.
🧠Mind control for the masses—no implant needed [Wired]
🧒'Revolutionary' DNA test can detect thousands of rare diseases in children [Sky News]
👨💻Hackers will be the weapon of choice for governments in 2020 [MIT Technology Review]
🖥A computer made from DNA can compute the square root of 900 [New Scientist]
🇮🇳Indian police are using facial recognition to identify protesters in Delhi [Fast Company]
I’ve added a new section at the bottom with links to other interesting articles I found.
1. Mind control for the masses—no implant needed
Arielle Pardes, writing for Wired:
That’s where Kouider comes in. His startup, NextMind, makes a noninvasive neural interface that sits on the back of one’s head and translates brain waves into data that can be used to control compatible software. Kouider’s vision begins with simple tasks (sending text messages with a thought; calling up a specific photo in your camera roll with passing thoughts) and ends somewhere close to science fiction (controlling every device in our world, like the sorcerer in Fantasia). “This is real,” he said onstage at Slush, “and the possibilities are endless.”
Going the nonsurgical route comes with some trade-offs, namely all that skin and bone between your soggy brain and any device that’s trying to read the neural signals it emits. On the other hand, it’s cheaper, it’s safer, and it’s much easier to iterate or push software updates when you don’t need to open someone’s head. And for all the promise of BCIs, people first need to see that this stuff can be useful at all. For that, devices like NextMind’s do the trick.
For now, some of the demos for this technology are playing video games, changing the colour of light bulbs, and authenticating by focussing on a pin number using thoughts alone. But as the technology matures, there are many more possibilities. I can see a future where doctors can perform remote surgeries using this technology, and it obviously has huge benefits for the disabled.
However, there are many other questions to consider.
Will it be possible to hack these devices and monitor people’s thoughts and read their memories?
When we think, we often consider what-if scenarios. How will these devices differentiate between those thoughts and the thoughts that we intend to act upon?
Will using these devices, in the long run, make us dependent on them?
How will these devices affect our motor functions, and will we feel handicapped when we don’t have them?
2. 'Revolutionary' DNA test can detect thousands of rare diseases in children
Dan Whitehead, writing for Sky News:
A new fast-track DNA test for babies and children which scans for thousands of rare diseases has been rolled out across the NHS in England.
The technique, called “whole exome sequencing”, can scan around 20,000 human genes in just 27 hours – a process which used to take 10 days.
That means quicker diagnoses of around 5,000 rare conditions.
Around 80 babies and children have been tested since it was introduced in October 2019 and the NHS hopes up to 700 patients will benefit each year.
This technique is resolving the uncertainty for parents by giving them a better idea of how their children’s lives will be and what to expect. They are also better prepared to deal with the diseases and to help their children get the best treatment possible.
3. Hackers will be the weapon of choice for governments in 2020
Patrick Howell O’Neill, writing for MIT Technology Review:
Indeed, as a new crop of books expertly explain, cyber capabilities are expanding and transforming the old game of statecraft. The Russians are playing right alongside the Americans, Chinese, Iranians, North Koreans, and others in using hackers to shape history and try to bend geopolitics to their will.
“Over two decades, the international arena of digital competition has become ever more aggressive,” writes Ben Buchanan, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, in his upcoming The Hacker and the State. “The United States and its allies can no longer dominate the field the way they once did. Devastating cyber attacks and data breaches animate the fierce struggle among states.”
With tensions between the USA and Iran escalating in the last few days, many experts are expecting Iran to respond with a cyber attack. Wired has also written an article on the possible attack vectors Iran may use.
Future wars will increasingly be fought in cyberspace rather than the traditional battlegrounds of land, air, and sea.
4. A computer made from DNA can compute the square root of 900
Donna Lu, writing for New Scientist:
A computer made from strands of DNA in a test tube can calculate the square root of numbers up to 900.
Chunlei Guo at the University of Rochester in New York state and colleagues developed a computer that uses 32 strands of DNA to store and process information. It can calculate the square root of square numbers 1, 4, 9, 16, 25 and so on up to 900.
The DNA computer uses a process known as hybridisation, which occurs when two strands of DNA attach together to form double-stranded DNA.
If mathematics is not in your blood, you may soon be able to convert your DNA into a computer.
5. Indian police are using facial recognition to identify protesters in Delhi
Kristin Toussaint, writing for Fast Company:
At Modi’s rally on December 22, Delhi police used Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) software—which officials there acquired in 2018 as a tool to find and identify missing children—to screen the crowd for faces that match a database of people who have attended other protests around the city, and who officials said could be disruptive.
According to the Indian Express, Delhi police have long filmed these protest events, and the department announced Monday that officials fed that footage through AFRS. Sources told the Indian news outlet that once “identifiable faces” are extracted from that footage, a dataset will point out and retain “habitual protesters” and “rowdy elements.” That dataset was put to use at Modi’s rally to keep away “miscreants who could raise slogans or banners.”
I recently posted a link to India’s facial recognition program and privacy concerns. The NIST also recently did a study on 189 facial recognition algorithms and found them to have a high racial bias. From privacy concerns to potential wrongful identification and persecution of people due to algorithm bias, facial recognition technology is clearly not ready for prime-time.
On a side note, using facial recognition to identify peaceful protesters is shameful for a country that is the largest democracy in the world.
It’s time for the fashion industry to bring masks into fashion.
Links to some more interesting articles
A decade of urban transformation, seen from above [The New York Times]
Delivery Robots With AI On the March [AI Trends]
This startup just raised $7 million, including Google, to authenticate people based on their typing style [TechCrunch]
New biomaterial designed to aid in the healing of bones [New Atlas]
Adobe CTO says AI will ‘democratize’ creative tools [TechCrunch]
Lawyers are trying to scare you with Facebook ads [The Conversation]
How to reduce digital distractions: advice from medieval monks [Aeon]
In 2020, let’s stop AI ethics-washing and actually do something [MIT Technology Review]
Google's AI bested doctors in detecting breast cancer in mammograms [Time]
How to opt out of the sites that sell your personal data [Wired]
Here’s a quote to think about as we begin the year:
Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.
Wishing you a 🌟Brilliant 2020 🌟,