The brain implants that could change humanity / Humans + Tech - #44

+ Love Algorithms + Surveillance Capitalism + Algorithmic Bosses + Digitally Native Vertical Creators + Racism in Computer-Generated Humans + Health Sensors Drawn on Your Skin


I’ve not been feeling well the last few days, so I haven’t had the time to write down my personal thoughts on the articles linked here, as I usually do. I’ve just listed them with a short summary. They are all interesting, so be sure to click through the ones that pique your interest. 🎩 Hat tip to Akshay for sending in some of the links.

The brain implants that could change humanity [The New York Times]

Jack Gallant, a computational neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, along with his team have developed an AI that can translate signals from one human’s brain into visual images that are understandable by another human. While it would be a boon to people with diseases like Lou Gehrig’s disease, our thoughts could also theoretically be snatched from our heads without our knowledge. Other technologies in development can even write to the brain. The article goes into all the different approaches that teams from around the world are working on to read our brains and write to them. Read the full article.

In related news, Elon Musk revealed V2 of Neuralink’s brain-machine interface [Engadget]. He demonstrated the technology on pigs, with the device able to determine when the pig smelt something tasty and record those signals. They have also tested on mice and plan to start human trials soon. Their initial goal is to help amputees and people who are blind and deaf to regain their sense of sight and hearing. Neuralink’s ultimate goal is for humans to be able to communicate with machines at the speed of thought.

A rocket scientist’s love algorithm adds up during Covid-19 [WIRED]

Rashied Amini, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion lab had a long drawn out break up with his girlfriend, during which she suggested they carry out a cost-benefit analysis of their relationship. At first, he laughed at the idea, but then he eventually built a love prediction algorithm called Nanaya. Its questionnaires, personality tests and predictions tests are designed to aid you both in finding love and evaluating your current relationship. Read the full article.

Algorithms workers can’t see are increasingly pulling the management strings [Singularity Hub]

Self-learning AI systems are increasingly being introduced to assist companies in hiring, measuring productivity, evaluating performance, and even terminating employment. What makes them even more dangerous are that most of these algorithms are secret and the logic they use is hidden, putting workers at a significant disadvantage when they feel like they have been treated unfairly. In many cases, they are not even aware that decision-making is being done by an algorithm. Read the full article.

How to destroy surveillance capitalism [OneZero]

Cory Doctorow’s full book, How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism, is published here on OneZero. From digital rights activism to tech exceptionalism to Google to Facebook to Apple to monopoly to privacy, Cory discusses everything that contributes to surveillance capitalism and what is at stake for our civilization. Read the full article.

New media platforms are enabling a new creator type: Digitally Native Vertical Creators [Medium]

While Covid-19 means Hollywood only made $12 million this summer in the US, it’s giving a huge boost to Digitally Native Vertical Creators (DNVCs). A 29-minute movie called Unsubscribe, shot entirely on Zoom, brought in $25,000 and topped the charts on the week of June 10. Technology like Adobe Creative Cloud, along with various platforms like YouTube and Patreon is enabling DNVCs to build direct relationships with their customers and fans. Read the full article.

The racist legacy of computer-generated humans [Scientific American]

Theodore Kim talks about how moviemakers have perfected the art of rendering skin and hair digitally, but only for white people. Racism has even found its place in the digital world, reflecting our real world. Skin rendering technology on computer-generated humans has focussed on translucency, which is only a feature of white skin. But it’s not only skin. Even human hair rendering technology has focussed on perfecting straight hair, not kinky afro-textured hair. Read the full article.

New pen-and-ink method draws health sensors directly on skin [Scientific American]

Biomedical engineers at the University of Houston, led by Faheem Ershad, have developed conductive ink that is compatible with human skin. Using stencils, they can draw the required circuitry to measure skin hydration and the electrical activity of the heart and skeletal muscles. With more advances, people could soon use affordable kits of stencils and pens to monitor their own health. Read the full article.

Quote of the week

“Forget about the Covid crisis, what’s coming with this new tech can change humanity.”

“Certain groups will get this tech, and will enhance themselves. This is a really serious threat to humanity.”

“People have been trying to manipulate each other since the beginning of time. But there’s a line that you cross once the manipulation goes directly to the brain, because you will not be able to tell you are being manipulated.”

—Dr. Rafael Yuste, speaking to Moises Velasquez-Manoff about noninvasive brain-reading technology, The Brain Implants That Could Change Humanity [The New York Times]

I wish you a brilliant day ahead :)