Robots Proctor Online Exams

For background on this subject, see How to beat online exam proctoring. It is easy for clever students to beat existing security systems for online exams. Enterprising students could even set up “cheating rooms” that make it easy for test takers to cheat. Judging by the amount of traffic this old post gets, cheating on …

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Low Earth Orbit from your backyard? (startup Vector Space Systems)

It’s great to see innovation and competition in space launch technology. These small launchers from startup Vector Space Systems can put 50-100kg payloads (e.g., micro satellites) into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for $2-3 million. There are obvious military applications for the rapid placement (or replacement) of satellites. For example, see A2AD Fait Accompli? Commercial applications are …

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Mapping the Future of Virtual Reality

This is a good discussion of VR technology, on the Andreesen Horowitz podcast. I recently bumped into a tech founder who swears the transition to full immersion is real and right around the corner technologically. a16z Podcast: Mapping the Future of Virtual Reality Virtual reality is coming fast, and everyone seems to assume that it …

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Moore’s Law and AI

By now you’ve probably heard that Moore’s Law is really dead. So dead that the semiconductor industry roadmap for keeping it on track has more or less been abandoned: see, e.g., here, here or here. (Reported on this blog 2 years ago!) What I have not yet seen discussed is how a significantly reduced rate …

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DeepMind and Demis Hassabis

Recent profile in the Guardian; 15 facts about Hassabis. The mastery of Atari games through reinforcement learning deep neural nets is described here (Nature). See also Deep Neural Nets and Go: AlphaGo beats European champion. Guardian: … “We’re really lucky,” says Hassabis, who compares his company to the Apollo programme and Manhattan Project for both …

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Who owns the future?

NewStatesman: Who owns the future? How the prophets of Silicon Valley took control In an era when politics is bereft of grand visions, bioengineers and Silicon Valley tech geeks are claiming the mantle of leadership and prophecy. But what do they want and where are they leading us? … The 20th century was shaped by …

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In vivo gene editing with CRISPR

Safe and Effective soon for humans? In vivo genome editing improves muscle function in a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophyin vi Science DOI: 10.1126/science.aad5143 Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a devastating disease affecting about 1 out of 5000 male births and caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene. Genome editing has the potential to restore …

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Nativity 2050

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. Mary was born in the twenties, when the tests were new and still primitive. Her mother had frozen a dozen eggs, from which came Mary and her sister Elizabeth. Mary had …

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Feynman’s War

Radar and nuclear weapons could not have been developed without the big brains. Feynman’s War: Modelling Weapons, Modelling Nature Peter Galison* What do I mean by understanding? Nothing deep or accurate—just to be able to see some of the qualitative consequences of the equations by some method other than solving them in detail. — Feynman …

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Fear Not!

For relentless technological advance, powered by high g researchers, venture capitalists, capital markets, and government investment in basic research, continues to deliver a cornucopia of benefits to the average joe. (Note, however, that Moore’s Law itself has stalled out recently …) Tweet

Drone Art

I saw this video at one of the Scifoo sessions on drones. Beautiful stuff! I find this much more pleasing than fireworks. The amount of waste and debris generated by a big fireworks display is horrendous. Tweet

New kids on the blockchain

WSJ reports on institutional interest in blockchain technologies. WSJ: Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. is testing a new use of the technology that underpins the digital currency bitcoin, in a bid to transform the trading of shares in private companies. The experiment joins a slew of financial-industry forays into bitcoin-related technology. If the effort is deemed …

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Crypto-currencies, Bitcoin and Blockchain

Photos from two meetings I attended last week. Some general comments on crypto-currencies: 1. Bitcoin doesn’t really solve any payment problems, unless of course you are a paranoid libertarian who hates “fiat” currencies. But why should you trust the Bitcoin Foundation any more than you trust a central bank? (See Bitcoin dynamics.) 2. Most potential users …

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Venture capital in the 1980s

Via Dominic Cummings (@odysseanproject), this long discussion of the history of venture capital, which emphasizes the now largely forgotten 1980s. VC in most parts of the developed world, even large parts of the US, resembles the distant past of the above chart. There is a big gap between Silicon Valley and the rest. Heat Death: …

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Quantum GDP

  “It’s been only half jokingly said that today a third of GDP is attributable to quantum mechanics,” — former Lockheed CEO Norm Augustine. I’ve heard the one third or 30% of GDP figure from time to time, but have never seen a detailed analysis. A list of modern technologies that arose from quantum mechanics …

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CRISPR patent fight

Earlier CRISPR posts. MSU symposium with video (Patrick Hsu, one of the speakers (no relation), is from the Zhang lab). Technology Review: Discovery of the Century? There’s a bitter fight over the patents for CRISPR, a breakthrough new form of DNA editing. … In April of this year, Zhang and the Broad won the first of several sweeping patents that cover …

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The Hollow Men

I highly recommend The Hollow Men II: Some reflections on Westminster and Whitehall dysfunction by Dominic Cummings. It is full of insights into the failings of bureaucracies, government by crisis and news cycle, and hollow leadership. The essay is long, but the excerpts below give some of the flavor. … Most of our politics is …

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Soylent is for people

New Yorker: … I was relieved when factory-made Soylent arrived in the mail. It was basically Rhinehart’s formula, which I’d tasted in L.A.: a thick, tan liquid that is yeasty, grainy, and faintly sweet. Compared with the taste of my chocolate version, regular Soylent was pleasant. (Office taste-test results: “Naked protein shakes that are made …

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Creation, Myths and Twitter

Great article by Nick Bilton on the creation myth (and true story) behind Twitter. To see that luck plays an unimaginably huge role in life you just need to look carefully at the story behind any successful company or entrepreneur. NYTimes: … Soon, the question of a name came up. Williams jokingly suggested calling the …

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Bezos quotes

These quotes appear in an excerpt from a new biography by Brad Stone. Stone uncovers some new ground — tracking down Bezos’ long-lost biological father, who was unaware(!) that his son had become a billionaire e-commerce titan. I had always heard that Bezos has a vulcan or hyper-rational management style. It’s good to know he occasionally loses …

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