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🚀 SF police can use killer robots, AI can picture what you think, AI better than MBA student, videogame for dogs & more
AI writes rhyming poems, getting a phone at young age doesn't affect school grades, Elon's latest brain-computer interface announcements
Vous recevez la newsletter Parlons Futur : une fois par semaine au plus, une sélection de news résumées en bullet points sur des sujets tech 🤖, science 🔬, éco 💰, géopolitique 🌏 et défense ⚔️ pour mieux appréhender le futur 🔮.
Je m'appelle Thomas, plus d'infos sur moi en bas d'email.
Voici donc ma dernière sélection !
Orion flies far beyond the Moon, returns an instantly iconic photo (source)
Flight day 13: Orion reached its maximum distance from Earth during the Artemis I mission when it was 432,210km away from our home planet. Orion has now traveled farther than any other spacecraft built for humans.
World Cup balls getting charged
They contain Ultra-wideband sensors and Inertial measurement unit sensors to obtain the position of the ball and the granular movement in 3 dimensions 500 times per second
“Together with our partner Adidas, large-scale sample blind tests have been carried out where no differences could be observed by players between the connected ball and the regular ball,”
In addition, those measurements are linked up to a camera system that tracks the ball, and 29 different points on each player's body, at a lower but still impressive 50 times per second. This allows each tick of data to be easily placed with a real, recorded moment of action. FIFA has branded this as "semi-automated offside technology."
Wow: researchers were able to use brain recordings to reconstruct images that people are seeing (source)
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) uses MR imaging to measure non-invasively the tiny changes in blood flow that take place in an active part of the brain.
San Francisco police can now use robots to kill (Techcrunch)
A proposal allowing San Francisco police to use robots for killing “when risk of loss of life to members of the public or officers is imminent and outweighs any other force option available to SF Police Department.” passed the city’s board of supervisors with an 8-3 vote on Nov 29th.
SFPD has disclosed that it has 17 robots, though only 12 are operational. They include search-and-rescue robots designed for use after a natural disaster like an earthquake, but also models that can be equipped with a shotgun, explosives, or pepper spray emitter.
AI image makers are improving crazily fast, for instance for the prompt “otter (loutre) on a plane using wifi”:
MidJourney v3, one month ago:
MidJourney v4, now:
Talking about OpenAI, OpenAI Text-Davinci-003 has been released. OpenAI says that it produces higher-quality writing, more complex instruction and better long-form content
It can write rhyming poems now.
See below what it generated instantly for the prompt "Write a rhyming wedding toast where the bride is a flying elf warrior and the groom is a potato."
And now [image+text]-to-image prototype (source)
Contre-intuitif : Stanford study: Age that kids acquire mobile phones not linked to well-being, says Stanford Medicine study (source)
Stanford Medicine researchers did not find a connection between the age children acquired their first cell phone and their sleep patterns, depression symptoms or grades.
France's electric scooter market continues to explode (Le Monde)
The 42% increase in sales between 2020 and 2021 shows that this means of transport is no longer simply a passing fad, four years after the first models appeared in the city.
Only one manufacturer is crushing the competition, with about 60% of sales: Xiaomi, a Chinese giant specializing in phones, which has diversified into consumer electronics. Its devices are appreciated for their "unbeatable price-quality ratio," according to Mr. Loumeto.
France is now "the leading European market, ahead of Germany, Spain and Italy," said Mr. Godoy. This craze has its source in differences in regulations.
Startup unveils videogame for dogs, they claim that it supports their cognition (source)
a UK-based startup called Joipaw
It's a mental workout machine and a Fitbit all in one. The dogs play a cognitively-engaging game of whack-a-mole, by pressing their snouts (museaux) to an anti-saliva touchscreen, with the goal of working out their golf ball-sized brains. The games get harder over time, and a wearable tracker measures their progress.
Renewable energy in the US is expected by year-end to represent 22% of national energy supply, exceeding coal (20%) and nuclear (19%). Wind and solar are up 18% year over year and 58% since 2019. (source)
Une startup basée à Toulouse lève des capitaux auprès d'un fonds abondé par Bill Gates pour décarboner l'industrie minière (source)
Toulouse-based startup I-ROX has raised €12 million in funds for its R&D programme aimed at delivering electricity for mining from pulsed power energy sources, capable of matching a nuclear reactor's output "in a millionth of a second."
pulsed power technology would be used to crunch through rocks in mineral exploration, using plasma physics
“Over 4% of global energy consumption is used to crush and grind rocks and we believe I-ROX can significantly lower this energy requirement.”
"This energy usage is a tremendous cost in both money and carbon emissions. "
New Ai-based app shows what you'd look like in different eras
A new app called AI Time Machine by DNA analysis company MyHeritage is taking the internet by storm, allowing anybody to generate pixel-perfect renditions of their faces in the style of different historical periods.
MyHeritage obtained a license to use technology based on Stable Diffusion, one of the most prominent players in the text-to-image AI generator space.
"Using AI Time Machine, you can see yourself as an Egyptian pharaoh, a medieval knight, a 19th-century lord or lady, an astronaut, and much more, in just a few clicks," the company writes on its website.
requires you to upload anywhere between 10 and 25 different photos of yourself, ranging from full-body to close up shots, takes anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes to process
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A presentation done for recruitment purposes mainly
Musk said that Neuralink has begun submitting paperwork for a human clinical trial to the Food and Drug Administration and hopes to implant a Neuralink device in a patient in six months.
The company showed footage of a monkey that he said was able to "type" on an on-screen keyboard by using a coin-sized chip embedded in its brain (see the 25-sec video)
No, the monkey wasn't able to decipher the meaning of the letters typed — it was simply moving the cursor to click on previously highlighted letters for a reward in the form of a fruit smoothie.
Showing images of a monkey implanted with the device, Musk noted that they had miniaturized it to the point that it matched the thickness of the piece of skull that had been removed to insert it.
“I could have a Neuralink device implanted right now and you wouldn't even know. Hypothetically,” Elon Musk said. “Maybe one of these demos—in fact, one of these demos, I will.”
While it may have looked like an impressive leap forward for the company, this kind of technology has been around for decades.
Researchers have been developing BCIs since the 1960s, but the devices are still considered experimental and none are commercially available.
For instance, to this day dozens of patients have already had a "Utah array" device implanted in their brains, allowing them to control robotic arms, type letters, translate thoughts into speech, feel sensation again, and move a wheelchair.
The Utah array is a hard silicon square with 100 tiny needles protruding out of the skulls. Each about a millimeter long, the needles have electrodes on their tips that capture brain signals. But these rigid devices can cause scarring to nearby tissue, which over time can interfere with their recording ability. And they require users to be physically hooked up to the computer.
What Neuralink is able to bring to the table, experts say:
a slicker wireless interface. Neuralink’s innovations are the flexible threads attached to its implant.
Neuralink's device transmits brain signals wirelessly, unlike most current BCIs, which rely on external cables that connect to a computer from the top of a person’s head.
The company’s current implant is the diameter of a 2-euro coin
Musk also made other extremely lofty promises about Neuralink at the event, claiming the device will be able to give sight to those born blind and allow people with paralysis to walk again, giving someone with a severed spinal cord “full-body functionality.”
Those claims build on previous promises he's made that the device could one day "solve" autism and schizophrenia, and even stream music directly to the brain.
Experts watching the show were left with mixed emotions.
"These are incremental advances," University of Pennsylvania neurosurgeon and BCI researcher Daniel Yoshor told The New York Times. "The hardware is impressive but does not represent a dramatic advance in restoring or enhancing brain function. I would be highly unsure of this kind of device in a patient with congenital blindness," he told the newspaper.
The company upgraded its first-generation chip, which featured 1,024 electrodes, to a next-generation model that features 16,000 electrodes. That kind of increase could allow somebody to see with a considerable amount of fidelity, according to Neuralink.
Musk said at the event that the device could allow "someone who has basically no other interface to the outside world" to "be able to control their phone better than someone who has working hands."
Stiff competition: rival BCI outfit Synchron has already moved forward with human studies. The New York-based company is testing a matchstick-sized neural implant that doesn’t require open brain surgery. The device is threaded through a small slit in the neck up through the jugular vein and pushed into the brain. The device is meant to allow people with paralysis to wirelessly control digital devices through thought.
In a small study in Australia, the Synchron implant allowed 4 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, to do online tasks such as banking, shopping, and emailing, according to preliminary data presented by the company in March. Last December, one patient used the device to compose the first tweet sent by BCI ("hello, world! Short tweet. Monumental progress.").
One of the big questions about these implants is how long they’ll last in the brain. In August, 36-year-old Nathan Copeland set the record for the longest time anyone’s ever had a brain-computer interface implanted: more than 7 years (not a Neuralink's device).
Amazon's voice assistant Alexa is a failure, but…
By some estimates about half of UK and US homes had a voice assistant of some sort last year.
The number of skills — the things Alexa could do, often mostly provided by third parties like brands and media companies — grew 900% in two years between 2017 and 2019.
According to reports from Bloomberg last year, on many occasions “15% to 25% of new Alexa users were no longer active in their second week with the device”, and “most Alexa users in many years have used voice-powered devices only to play music, or set the timer while they cook, or turn on the lights.”
"most of the devices are sold at cost." One internal document described the business model by saying, "We want to make money when people use our devices, not when they buy our devices." That plan never really materialized
The Alexa team is on track to lose Amazon $10bn this year. And the business is likely to be stopped.
Interestingly it may have been too early, and may become relevant very soon, as Sam Altman, co-founder and CEO of OpenAI was saying in an itw:
"I think that a human level chatbot interface can actually work this time around, I think many of these trends that we all made fun of were just too early. The chatbot thing was good. It was just too early. Now it can work. And I think having new medical services that are done through that, where you get great advice or new education services, these are going to be very large companies."
ça va trop vite, alors que j'écris ces lignes, OpenAI vient de publier "ChatGPT: Optimizing Language Models for Dialogue"
"We’ve trained a model called ChatGPT which interacts in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests."
Un prof d'économie partage des exemples, puis son sentiment :
"I am *shocked* by how good OpenAI's new chat is. You can't give take-home essays/ assignments anymore.
"the OpenAI chat is frankly better than the average MBA at this point. It is frankly amazing."
Not enough raw materials to transition to 100% renewables? (source)
A lot of people worrying about whether there will be enough resources to fuel the clean tech boom assume stationary batteries use Nickel, Cobalt and Manganese while experts will tell you they will use the heavier but cheaper and longer lasting LFP (lihtiumphosphate) batteries that use zero nickel and cobalt. Or flow batteries. Or sodium batteries. (No lithium needed.)
Another choke point is copper...but copper can usually be replaced by aluminum if you can live with slightly thicker wires
Lithium is the most serious problem. There is more than enough of the stuff in total (and 5000x more in seawater if we want to go crazy) but we need to scale up mining 10x the coming decades.
Still: the amount of lithium we need is TINY compared to other metals.
Although we should certainly make mining cleaner and safer, please understand that the materials we need for the transition to sustainable energy are a drop in the bucket compared to building materials, agriculture, and fossil fuels.
We should get our priorities straight!
In total 0.1% of the Earth's surface is used for mining. Maybe 0.0001% for what everybody is talking about when they think of renewables.
The reduction in coal mining alone dwarfs the increase in the stuff we need for renewables.
When it comes to our destruction of our natural habitat, I can’t avoid talking about the elephant in the room: agriculture.
Agriculture uses 50% of land.
That’s 500x more than mining and ~500000x more than lithium, cobalt and nickel.
To put it differently: if we all eat 1% less meat (or if we make cultured meat cheaper and healthier), we save more species than if we abandon all mining that’s needed for the shift to renewables.
And I agree the land requirements of wind and solar are non trivial in densely populated countries!
But don’t be fooled into thinking they are a showstopper. Worldwide we need ~0.1% to 0.3% of land to power the world with solar and wind.
As for renewable minerals being the new oil…
1) Amounts (in kg and $$$) are TINY compared to fossil fuels and found everywhere.
2) When oil deliveries stop => everything stops. When lithium deliveries stop => less new electric cars.
3) You BURN fossil fuels. You can recycle minerals.
Still some problems though: Less meat, smaller vehicles (preferably electric or human powered), less long distance flying, recycling, circular economy... we must change radically to stay within planetary boundaries!
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Quelques mots sur le cuistot
J'ai écrit plus de 50 articles ces dernières années, à retrouver ici, dont une bonne partie publiés dans des médias comme le Journal du Net (mes chroniques ici), le Huffington Post, L'Express, Les Échos.
Retrouvez ici mon podcast Parlons Futur (ou taper "Parlons Futur" dans votre appli de podcast favorite), vous y trouverez entre autres des interviews et des résumés de livres (j’ai notamment pu mener un entretien avec Jacques Attali).
Je suis CEO et co-fondateur de l'agence digitale KRDS, nous avons des bureaux dans 6 pays entre la France et l'Asie. Je suis basé à Singapour (mon Linkedin, mon Twitter), également membre du think tank NXU.
Merci, et bon weekend !