. . . Allen has charged the Institute with tackling some of the most fundamental and complex questions in brain science today. The answers to these questions are essential for achieving a complete understanding of how the brain works, what goes wrong in brain-related diseases and disorders, and how best to treat them.
This huge outlay only covers the first four years of an ambitious 10-year plan of neuroscience research, allowing for a doubling of the Institute’s staff and launching three new and complementary scientific initiatives addressing critical questions central to understanding how the brain works:
How does the brain store, encode and process information?
What are the cellular building blocks that underlie all brain function, and are often targets of disease?
How do those cells develop, and then create the circuits that drive behavior, thought and brain dysfunction?
While this knowledge will certainly help understanding “brain-related diseases and disorders” it provides for other applications as well, including direct neural interfaces and uploading–two subjects at the core of transhumanist singularity scenarios.
While Mr. Allen is undoubtable rich enough to afford even such a princely sum, one has to wonder if his motives are related more to the latter than the former. After all, what good is being a billionaire if you can’t use it to live forever?
Wired has an interesting interview with Vernor Vinge, purportedly on the subject of of civilization collapse but actually spending a lot of space covering Vinge’s view of the Singularity. Much of it is nothing new for those of us familiar with Vinge’s ideas, but it does serve as a good entry-point for those unfamiliar with concept of a Technological Singularity or who think it originated in the fertile brain of Ray Kurzweil.
There is also a shout-out from Vinge to Charlie Stross for his novel Accelerando and to Nassim Taleb for The Black Swan. Not to mention a discussion of Kurzweil’s ideas about life extension and the possible outcomes from living 100,000 years or more.
Other subjects in the interview include WMDs in space, his recent novels, and (yes) civilizational collapse. Definitely a must-read!
Vinge concludes the interview with a comment about upcoming projects that includes this nugget of pure Vingism:
Every time I turn around now, you know, it’s 2012! We are going into the middle of things, and maybe it’s my imagination, but I think there are all sorts of things that are visible now that were not so visible before, and I think that there’s all sorts of really cool science fiction that folks could write, and I hope to be one of those folks.
A bunch of gamers have untangled the structure of a key protein in the virus that causes AIDS, a mystery that has left scientists stumped for decades.
It took just three weeks for players of online game Foldit to predict an accurate model for the protein – a type of enzyme called a retroviral protease that has a critical role in how the HI virus grows and spreads.
The game Foldit was specially designed to help work out the structure of proteins. It combines computer intelligence with human spatial abilities by asking players to tweak and tug 3D models, a task that computers find hard to do.
A Canadian teenager has scooped a CAN$5,000 prize and deserved glory after successfully wielding the power of a scientific supercomputing network to develop a mix of drugs which could be used to fight cystic fibrosis.
Marshall Zhang, a Grade 11 student at Bayview Secondary School in Richmond Hill near Toronto, used Canada’s collaborative SCINET super-net to model the effects of different compounds on the mutant proteins responsible for cystic fibrosis. The debilitating disease causes the natural protective mucus lining sufferers’ lungs to become thick and sticky, forming an inviting environment for potentially fatal infections.
"Marshall’s findings show that computational methods can drive the discovery of compounds that may offer effective treatment for cystic fibrosis," comments Dr Christine Bear of Canada’s Hospital for Sick Children. Zhang carried out his groundbreaking work in Bear’s lab.
Apparently the young scientist suspected that combining two drugs could work more effectively than using one alone. He first modelled the effects of his plan in silico, then proved it using living cells in culture.
"The cells treated with the two drugs were functioning as if they were the cells of healthy individuals," says Zhang. "The thrill of knowing that I was on the forefront of current knowledge was absolutely the best thing about my experience … getting a taste of real research has definitely driven me towards pursuing science in the future."
In Pay the Printer, Philip K Dick imagined a species called “Printers” who could organically create perfect copies of complex objects. In this world, the increasingly-popular 3D printer can’t create a car, but its ability to produce simple 3D objects is being used to create blood vessels.
The researchers, led by Fraunhofer’s Dr Günter Tovar, have combined 3D printing with multiphoton polymerization to create an artificial blood vessel, which they will be demonstrating at the Hannover Biotechnica Fair in October.
A 3D printer can’t build things on a small enough scale to create a structure as small as a blood vessel, so instead, it is used to lay down a substrate that the blood vessel will be created in.
In multiphoton polymerization, the creation of polymers in the target material is triggered by a focused laser. This allows the formation of polymer chains to be controlled at the nano scale.
By combining the two, the researchers have found that they can create the target material very quickly, using the laser to create the artificial blood vessel.
A TED type presentation given by Dr. Kim Solez at the Singularity University reunion on August 28, 2011 in Mountain View, California. Includes comments by Singularity University president Neil Jacobstein at the end. Dr. Solez argues that we are not passive victims of the future, but can help to shape the future in positive ways, but new courses and new disciplines are needed within the university sector to accomplish this. Government leaders understand the importance of the Singularity but the idea has yet to reach the mainstream teaching of universities. A new course on “Technology and the Future of Medicine” that is being taught this year at the University of Alberta is a first step that Dr. Solez hopes will be replicated at many other institutions around the world.
Click here for more information on technology and the future of medicine.
Instead of requiring the type of programming that computers have needed for the past half-century, the experimental chip will let a new generation of computers, called “cognitive computers,” learn through their experiences and form their own theories about what those experiences mean…
Don’t miss this LIVE event! Read carefully. Yes, I did say LIVE event which can be seen in over 500 movie theaters nationwide. Personally I will be attending the event in Syracuse, New York.
This will be a conversation about our future featuring many well known experts.
Click here to learn the details, who the live panel experts are and to purchase tickets to the event at one of the over 500 movie theaters nationwide. Yes, this event should be coming to a theater near you.
Click here to learn more about the Transcendent Man movie.
Consider checking out the Transcendent Man movie Facebook page.
Conference of scientists and business innovators to convene this October in New York to discuss artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and other emerging technologies playing a central role in humanity’s future…
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Blogging the Singularity Bloggers:
Chris Williamson: Filmmaker, science enthusiast, and futurist concerned with the accelerating nature of technological growth and where it's headed. He is currently studying for his MFA in Film Production.
Frank Whittemore: As an IT professional since 1961, the accelerating change of technology is not news to him but the wonder will never cease! Be sure check out Frank's blog about Life Extension!