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Practical Techie: The push for smart thinking machines

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It’s not easy to foresee things but the Practical Techie likes to peer out into the near future now and then to speculate about what technological advances will come our way. First, a few facts about the present.

As it is well known, artificial Intelligence is the strongest development now in terms of high-tech research and development. But this hasn’t been an easy ride.

Scientists needed half a century of haphazard research to gain viable insight into how the human brain works. Next came another ton of trial-and-error design to replicate the wondrous circuitry into a machine.

STRIDES — Academies and government labs in the Far East are making the bigger strides today in machine learning. China took that lead in 2017. 

No other country is publishing so many scientific papers about headway in this branch of technology. And that thrust does not include China’s secretive, military projects. In the United States, since most research is done within corporations, there’s less proliferation of what’s happening with any new AI advancements, at least until it happens and is marketable.

This document by the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence is amazingly interesting about what is happening at present in smart machine progressions.

BREAKTHROUGHS — Now machines can effectively handle commands from the human brain. One example is the use of AI-controlled exoskeletons on the physically impaired. Smart prosthesis, on command by the user, can perform difficult tasks such as climbing stairs. Bionic sensors for the blind can avoid obstacles based on a system’s analysis of a user’s current movements and the upcoming terrain. Autonomous vehicles already do so.

Robots are also now capable of acquiring practical human speech thanks to the deep learning boom in AI.

DEEP CPU — Timelapse is Google Earth’s jump ahead in high tech. By using two million hours of mainframe computing processing time, two petabytes of data, and combining more than 24 million satellite photos, the search platform created a 4.4-terapixel interactive view showing how the Earth has changed from 1984 to 2020.

Google uses artificial intelligence to push forward a computer’s ability to process natural language. This lays the foundation for future advances in translation, image, and speech recognition on that platform. Its research is also geared towards the design of quantum computing: creating an error-correcting quantum machine capable of deep artificial intelligence.

Meanwhile, other innovations in high tech include in-orbit servicing of space vehicles to end the clutter of ever more and more satellites. Hopefully, the repurposing of spaceships is fast moving into outer space.

GENE TECH — On purpose, new technologies have introduced genetic “mistakes” to the human gene pool. Again, China has experimented with genetically modified babies, the first in the history of humankind. After 3.7 billion years of continuous, undisturbed evolution by natural selection, human biology has been now scientifically modified in a medical lab. As a first outcome, the bizarre manipulation of genes resulted in twin baby girls becoming immune to HIV. “Designer” babies are illegal in most countries.

Already the Francis Crick Institute in London advised against editing the genetics of human embryos. It can lead to unintended consequences such as accidental mutations. So, where is all this going? Is it ethical? How long will the gene modifications last? How will this affect the future of humanity? To know, it will suffice intrepid or perhaps illegally intrusive experimentation on at least two new generations of babies.

It seems all promising, but also quite scary.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.
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