Posts Tagged ‘quote’

iPhone Notebook export for Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind

May 8, 2021

Quotes from the book.
Your Notebook exported from Metazoa: Animal Life and the Birth of the Mind is at

The next big thing in retail comes with Chinese characteristics | The Economist

May 4, 2021

The first pillar of this new retail architecture is “social commerce”. This relies on three related technologies: live-streaming, short-form video and social-networking. The biggest live-streamer is Alibaba’s Taobao Live. In just 30 minutes of presales for Singles Day, China’s answer to Black Friday, it notched up $7.5bn-worth of sales, about as much as Amazon is thought to have sold in its “Prime Day” in October (which actually lasted 48 hours). In June Douyin set up its own shopping division, having earlier hosted many of its live-streams where the likes of Taobao teamed up with celebrity influencers to sell products. The video-app’s 600m daily users confer a valuable resource—their attention. In the autumn it made its proprietary debut on Singles Day."}}

Yuval Noah Harari on Why Technology Favors Tyranny – The Atlantic

April 29, 2021


For starters, we need to place a much higher priority on understanding how the human mind works—particularly how our own wisdom and compassion can be cultivated. If we invest too much in AI and too little in developing the human mind, the very sophisticated artificial intelligence of computers might serve only to empower the natural stupidity of humans, and to nurture our worst (but also, perhaps, most powerful) impulses, among them greed and hatred. To avoid such an outcome, for every dollar and every minute we invest in improving AI, we would be wise to invest a dollar and a minute in exploring and developing human consciousness.

More practically, and more immediately, if we want to prevent the concentration of all wealth and power in the hands of a small elite, we must regulate the ownership of data. In ancient times, land was the most important asset, so politics was a struggle to control land. In the modern era, machines and factories became more important than land, so political struggles focused on controlling these vital means of production. In the 21st century, data will eclipse both land and machinery as the most important asset, so politics will be a struggle to control data’s flow.

Unfortunately, we don’t have much experience in regulating the ownership of data, which is inherently a far more difficult task than regulating land or machines. Data are everywhere and nowhere at the same time, they can move at the speed of light, and you can create as many copies of them as you want. Do the data collected about my DNA, my brain, and my life belong to me, or to the government, or to a corporation, or to the human collective?

Only a tenth of the human genome is studied | The Economist

April 28, 2021

There are roughly 20,000 genes in the human genome. Understanding genes and the proteins they encode can help to unravel the causes of diseases, and inspire new drugs to treat them. But most research focuses on only about ten percent of genes. Thomas Stoeger, Luis Amaral and their colleagues at Northwestern University in Illinois used machine learning to investigate why that might be.

First the team assembled a database of 430 biochemical features of both the genes themselves (such as the levels at which they are expressed in different cells) and the proteins for which they code (for example, their solubility). When they fed these data to their algorithm, they were able to explain about 40% of the difference in the attention paid to each gene (measured by the number of papers published) using just 15 features. Essentially, there were more papers on abundantly expressed genes that encode stable proteins. That suggests researchers—perhaps not unreasonably—focus on genes that are easier to study. Oddly, though, the pattern of publication has not changed much since 2000, despite the completion of the human genome project in 2003 and huge advances in DNA-sequencing technology. “}}

CRISPR and the Splice to Survive | The New Yorker

April 28, 2021

A few feet away from the detoxed toads, Spot and Blondie were sitting in their own tank, an even more elaborate affair, with a picture of a tropical scene propped in front for their enjoyment. They were almost a year old and fully grown, with thick rolls of flesh around their midsections, like sumo wrestlers. Spot was mostly brown, with one yellowish hind leg; Blondie was more richly variegated, with whitish hind legs and light patches on his forelimbs and chest. Cooper reached a gloved hand into the tank and pulled out Blondie, whom she’d described to me as “beautiful.” He immediately peed on her. He appeared to be smiling malevolently. He had, it seemed to me, a face only a genetic engineer could love.

To guard against a Vonnegutian catastrophe, various fail-safe schemes have been proposed, with names like killer rescue, multi-locus assortment, and daisy chain. All of them share a basic, hopeful premise: it should be possible to engineer a gene drive that’s effective but not too effective. Such a drive might be engineered so as to exhaust itself after a few generations, or it might be yoked to a gene variant that’s limited to a single population on a single island. It has also been suggested that if a gene drive did somehow manage to go rogue it might be possible to send out into the world another gene drive, featuring a “Cas9-triggered chain ablation”—or catcha—sequence, to chase it down. What could possibly go wrong? “}}

Quotes from the book Missing Each Other

April 27, 2021

Quotes I liked below from
Missing Each Other: How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections
Book by Ashley Pallathra and Edward Brodkin


Attunement is the ability to be aware of your own state of mind and body while also tuning in and connecting to another person. It is the fundamental social skill and the foundation of human relation- ships, without which we are isolated from others and cut off from our own inner life. Attunement relies not only on spoken language, but also on the communication of feeling states through unspoken signals that we exchange, such as facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language. Reciprocal communication is a dance between attention and gesture that flows most effectively when people are in tune with one another.6 The nonverbal components of commu- nication start to develop almost as soon as we are born, and they are nurtured in our interactions with our parents or caregivers. We continue to develop them over the course of a lifetime. In relation- ships and interactions of any depth, attunement plays an important role.

An important characteristic of attunement is that it has both inner and outer aspects. In other words, attunement involves pay- ing attention inwardly to our own emotional state, thoughts, and feelings, as well as paying attention outwardly to the cues from the person we’re interacting with

it may seem paradoxical, when we’re in conflict with someone, we’re actually much more effective in navigating that conflictual

The first component of attunement is relaxed awareness, which is the ability to be aware of yourself—your own body, feelings, and thoughts—as well as the ability to be aware of what is going

Relaxed awareness is the foundation for the second component of attunement, listening. When you are able to stay relaxed while being aware, you’re in a much better position to “listen,” in the broadest sense of that term

In addition to the raw sensory information about the other
person and yourself that you attend to while listening, attunement requires an ability to understand or interpret this information, to decipher the other person’s cues and put them in perspective

Finally, in addition to relaxed awareness, listening, and under‑ standing, attunement involves an active interchange, a back-and- forth mutual responsiveness, which includes an ability to maintain the connection during the twists and turns of a conversation, and to keep pace with the timing of the interaction. You can think about this as the quality of a conversation that makes it feel “natural.”

Artificial attunement has its roots in the computer science of the 1940s and ’50s, when the field of artificial intelligence (AI) was first emerging, with the aim of developing computers that could simulate aspects of human intelligence. In 1950, Alan Turing, a British mathematician and computer scientist, developed a test to assess a computer’s ability to generate humanlike responses using language.2 If a human could not distinguish the text responses of a computer from that of a human, then the machine passed what became known as the Turing test. In 1990, an American inventor, Hugh Loebner, established the Loebner Prize, an annual compe- tition to determine which computer programs can best simulate humans in a Turing test

The Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories plan to market these geminoids to individuals who are living alone or are socially isolated for use as conversational robot companions.30 Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong is also developing a robot, called Sophia, which is extraor- dinarily humanlike in its appearance. Sophia can use AI protocols called Loving AI that enable the robot to interact with humans in fluid dialogs “that are emotionally sensitive and relationally con- nective,” according to the Loving AI website. Hanson Robotics founder, David Hanson, is known for creating “the world’s most humanlike, empathetic robots, endowed with remarkable expres- siveness and interactivity.”31

The key technological development that could provide such
access to brain activity is brain-machine interfaces. With the goal of pursuing better treatments for neurological and psychiatric dis- orders, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) BRAIN initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) was launched in 2013 to develop more powerful technologies—
including brain-machine interfaces—to measure and manipulate the activity of cells and neural circuits in the human brain


Robo-writers: the rise and risks of language-generating AI

April 17, 2021


A neural network’s size — and therefore its power — is roughly measured by how many parameters it has. These numbers define the strengths of the connections between neurons. More neurons and more connections means more parameters; GPT-3 has 175 billion. The next-largest language model of its kind has 17 billion (see ‘Larger language models’). (In January, Google released a model with 1.6 trillion parameters, but it’s a ‘sparse’ model, meaning each parameter does less work. In terms of performance, this is equivalent to a ‘dense’ model that has between 10 billion and 100 billion parameters, says William Fedus, a researcher at the University of Montreal, Canada, and Google.)

Double-Trouble Dominoes

April 6, 2021

Thought this was a great video of geometric growth in action by @uoftphysics Prof. Stephen Morris Starting with a ~5mm domino you get to a one ~1 m in size in 13 domino topples. Overall, this chain reaction represents a 2 billion-fold amplification!

Dominoes are little toy rectangle tiles with dots on them. People like to stand them up on end in a long row, so when the first domino falls over, it knocks over the next domino, which knocks over the
next…pretty soon you have a rippling wave of falling dominoes. In this simple but amazing video, Stephen Morris shows that a little domino can knock over another one that’s 1 1/2 times as big in each direction. Then that one can tip over one that ‘s 1 1/2 times as big again. In this domino chain, the first one is only 1/4 inch tall, but the 13th domino weighs more than 100 pounds! If he kept going, the 29th domino would be as tall as the Empire State Building (1,454 feet). We’d all better get out of the way!

Creator behind viral Tom Cruise deepfakes says they’re a warning

March 29, 2021 Quote: “Think about the implications for national security… about the implications if I create a video of Jeff Bezos saying that $AMZN stock profits are down 20% — how much can I move the markets?”

The Plague Year | The New Yorker

February 14, 2021

Nice discussion on the mistakes on aerosols + a vaccine development chronology

During the study’s initial stages, in February and March, the researchers were discomfited by the implications of their data. “The rapidity and degree of spread suggested it wasn’t a series of one-to-one-to-one transmissions,” Dr. Jacob Lemieux, a lead author, told me. Rather, it was “one-to-many transmission events.” That raised the question of airborne transmission. “At the time, the idea was heretical,” Lemieux said. “We were afraid to consider it, because it implied a whole different approach to infection control”—one in which masks played a central role, especially indoors. But the W.H.O. had repeatedly proclaimed that large respiratory droplets—as from a sneeze or a cough—drove the spread. This wasn’t based on data about the new virus, Lemieux said: “It was received wisdom based on how previous respiratory viruses had behaved. The global public-health
infrastructure has egg on its face. There’s a component of human nature that, until you get burned, you don’t know how hot the fire is.”

Until recently, one of the main imaging tools used by vaccinologists, the cryogenic electron microscope, wasn’t powerful enough to visualize viral proteins, which are incredibly tiny. “The whole field was referred to as blobology,” McLellan said. As a work-around, he developed expertise in X-ray crystallography. …McLellan showed me an “atomistic interpretation” of the F protein on the RSV virus—the visualization looked like a pile of Cheetos. It required a leap of imagination, but inside that murky world Graham and McLellan and their team manipulated the F protein, essentially by cloning it and inserting mutations that kept it strapped down. McLellan said, “There’s a lot of art to it.”

In 2013, Graham and McLellan published “Structure-Based Design of a Fusion Glycoprotein Vaccine for Respiratory Syncytial Virus,” in Science, demonstrating how they had stabilized the F protein in order to use it as an antigen—the part of a vaccine that sparks an immune response. Antibodies could now attack the F protein, vanquishing the virus. Graham and McLellan calculated that their vaccine could be given to a pregnant woman and provide enough antibodies to her baby to last for its first six months—the critical period. The paper opened a new front in the war against infectious disease. In a subsequent paper in Science, the team declared that it had established “clinical proof of concept for structure-based vaccine design,” portending “an era of precision vaccinology.”

Within a day after Graham and McLellan downloaded the sequence for sars-CoV-2, they had designed the modified proteins. The key accelerating factor was that they already knew how to alter the spike proteins of other coronaviruses. On January 13th, they turned their scheme over to Moderna, for manufacturing. Six weeks later, Moderna began shipping vials of vaccine for clinical trials. The development process was “an all-time record,” Graham told me. Typically, it takes years, if not decades, to go from formulating a vaccine to making a product ready to be tested: the process privileges safety and cost over speed.

After the vaccine was tested in animals, it became clear that Graham’s design choices had been sound. The first human trial began on March 16th. A week later, Moderna began scaling up production to a million doses per month.