Late last year the German Society for Applied Biostasis (DGAB) held a scientific symposium on cryonics. A number of researchers from the aging research community attended, as there is some overlap between people interested enough in radical life extension to have become members of the aging research community and people interested enough in cryonics to help advance that work. It is similar to another overlap with the field of artificial general intelligence research. If you move in these circles you'll keep bumping into some of the same people regardless of the topic of the present conference.
Why is this the case? Well, there was a coming together of many disparate futurists in the 1990s and a years-long blossoming in the exchange and synthesis of ideas relating to the rapid advance of computing, medicine, and materials science. This happened as a natural result of the accelerating growth in English-language internet usage at the time, and in particular due to a newly enhanced ability to easily organize ad-hoc communities with similar interests but whose members are widely separated geographically. If you trace the people who were present for those online discussions you'll find that a modest but significant number of them have since forged their careers from what they want to see for the future of humanity: radical life extension, cryonics, molecular nanotechnology, artificial general intelligence, and so forth. There was a period of comparative unity and consensus back then, when fewer people were online and it was all still fairly new, followed by a diaspora of ideas and efforts into diverse but conceptually linked fields of technological development, of making the future real.
This is why there are people who work on the molecular biology of aging found at cryonics conferences, why there are people who fund both general AI and aging research and consider both part of a greater whole, and it is also the explanation for many other similar connections in a still growing web of relationships that started with enthusiastic online discussions of futurist goals that took place a couple of decades ago. The futurism - the transhumanism - of the 1990s is the everyday scientific groundwork of today, and those young futurists are often one and the same individuals as the older team leaders now performing that work.
In any case, here is Aubrey de Grey of the SENS Research Foundation presenting on the topic of rejuvenation biotechnology to the DGAB, many of whom are supporters. If you are up for cryonics as an option, then you should certainly be in favor of extending healthy life through other engineering applications of medical science. If you are already familiar with SENS as a strategy for the development of therapies to reverse aging, then you might want to skip ahead to about 25 minutes in to get an update on ongoing research programs: what is being done, and where things stand at present.
If you have an interest in the science of cryonics and cryopreservation, then you'll find a range of other presentations from the symposium available online:
- Possible Mechanisms of the Cryoprotective Effect of Xenon
- Functional genomics of cryoprotectant toxicity
- History of cryonics
- Definitions of Death
- Age related degeneration
- Protocol for Vitrification of Bulky Biological Objects
- New cryonics technologies
- [1/2] How to sustain an organization for over a century
- [2/2] How to sustain an organization for over a century
Automatic Algorithm Invention with a GPU
Hell Yeah, it’s rocket science [and does presume knowledge of programming, image processing, genetic programming and some mathematics. It won’t hurt you to watch without these of course. — editor]
You write software. You test software. You know how to tell if the software is working. Automate your software testing sufficiently and you can let the computer do the writing for you!
“Genetic Programming”, especially “Cartesian Genetic Programming” (CGP), is a powerful tool for creating software and designing physical objects. See how to do CGP as we invent image filters for the Part Time Scientists’ 3D cameras.
Danger: Actual code will be shown!
h/t darkai blog
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Ray Kurzweil introduces this inventive presentation.
Raising the bar on fun, Jose brings a sense of humor to the topic incorporating props, hats, and yes, you asked for it, a rocket powered flying ostrich, into his presentation.
It’s not all fun and games though, there is some hard data and fascinating commentary through out. Have you heard about “mindfacturing”? Jose illuminates and entertains, ranging from NBIC technologies to life extension and beyond.
Well worth your time.
The post Jose Cordeiro – The Future of Technology and the Technology of the Future | Talks at Google appeared first on h+ Magazine.
Consider as an experiment the following. Construct a comprehensive list of ideas related to the future that already have names such as the “Internet of Things”, “computers”, “biotechnology”, “artificial intelligence”, “space exploration”, etc. Spend some time making your list as comprehensive as you possibly can (or use a computer program to construct the list) . Now try to imagine an idea not already on your list and create a novel word as a name for this idea.
It isn’t easy to come up with something that isn’t simply a concatenation of existing ideas and terms but truly novel. And yet it is very possibly one of these extremely novel possibilities that will drive our future world.
Sound fun? Submit your words and futuristic concepts to firstname.lastname@example.org for inclusion in an upcoming article.]
We are getting used to the idea of rapidly developing technologies changing what we can do and how we do things. What most people haven’t considered is how technologies affect our language and how these changes are affecting the way we speak and even the way we think.
One of the key ways we see this is when the name of a company becomes a way of doing something involving any product that is similar. Classic examples are “to hoover” which came from the early dominance of vaccuum cleaners from the Hoover Company.Googling becomes a verb
More significantly is the use of the term “to google” which first came to prominence in 2002 when the American Dialect Society declared it word of the year. Later, in 2009, they declared “google” to be the the word of the decade.
Google had become a generic word meaning “to search the Internet” with any search engine, not just Google itself. But googling has become much more than just the mere act of typing words into a text box and clicking a button. We now understand the subtext when someone declares “I have googled you” or even that they have googled themselves. The idea that this act can now exert a powerful effect on the opinion we form of others has even resulted in laws formulated by the European Union giving individuals rights over search engine companies to have information about them removed in order to be “forgotten”.
Google has now become our collective global memory and googling is the process by which we access those memories. This, in turn, is simply a process that we have always engaged with called “transactive memory” in which we turn to people around us, usually people we know, to help us recall facts and memories. The invention of the Gutenberg press allowed us to outsource people to books. The difference now though is that Google is now always with us, has a vast database of information that it is getting increasingly better at letting you access, with the vaguest of questions. This in turn has had a dramatic effect on what we are able to achieve, not only as individuals, but as a society.
The act of computer programming for example has become much easier through the ability to learn new computer languages and solve problems by “googling” the answers. It could be argued that the boom in mobile phone apps would not have been possible without Ggoogle providing a mechanism to access the “transactive memories” of the thousands of knowledgeable programmers with the answers to any developer’s questions.
Interestingly, it has been [Google] themselves who have resisted, even at times through legal threats, the spread of “google” being used beyond its reference to the company. This is because if it does enter the language as a common term, Google could lose the protection of the name as a trademark. If Google becomes a common term, to mean any generic search, it could become a “generic trademark” like Cellophane, Aspirin, Escalator and others.Industries become uberized
In a different example of a verb that has come from a proper noun but may have just as significant an impact on our social lives, we have “to uberize”. This comes from the company Uber whose business approach has disrupted an industry by using mobile apps backed with data analytics to provide cheaper taxi services to consumers. The concept of “uberization” has taken the general meaning of disrupting any industry through the use of technology to circumvent unnecessary bureaucracy and legislation. What is interesting about the use of the term uberization is that again, the subtext is not just about the actual process of transforming an industry into something more efficient or productive. Saying that an industry needs to be “uberized” is as much a commentary about its unwillingness to change, modernise and really meet consumers’ needs. This context is being built up with every new development in the ongoing battles and controversies that Uber is facing as it pushes through its disruption of the taxi industry.
Uber’s less successful contribution to our language has been the concept of “surge pricing”. The concept embodies basic economic principles to ensure that there are taxis willing to pick up consumers at the busiest times. It turns out that this is too hard for most consumers (and reporters) to understand and they have interpreted it simply as unfair price gouging.
As a new term, it is an interesting example however of how a term that was supposed to have a specific meaning has been turned into something completely different through popular usage.How much has changed
There are many conversations that we could have today that would mean little to someone from 2005. Even though the definition of specific words could be given, it would need the entire context of how they have developed through the interplay of technology, individuals and society to have any real meaning. This is not the first time this has happened in history but certainly the increase in the pace of change has resulted in our language changing equally rapidly, and with it, our thoughts.
On a final historical note, you can wonder what George Bernard Shaw would have understood by the following statements? “My mother was hacked last night.” “What a great meal – I’ll upload it!” “If anyone’s out there, can you inbox me?’ “How many steps did you get today?” “Will you torrent me the next series?” “I’ve given up on windows.”
Associate Professor David Glance is the Director of the UWA Centre for Software Practice, a UWA research and development centre.
Originally a physiologist working in the area of vascular control mechanisms in pregnancy, Professor Glance subsequently worked in the software industry for over 20 years before spending the last 10 years at UWA. The UWA CSP has developed the eHealth platform MMEx which has been used to provide electronic patient management in WA and other parts of Australia. Professor Glance’s research interests are in health informatics, public health and software engineering.
This article originally appeared here, republished under creative commons license.
The post Technology is Changing Language and Therefore Also the Way We Think appeared first on h+ Magazine.
Salk researchers have developed an entirely new type of pill that tricks the body into thinking it has consumed calories, causing it to burn fat.
The compound effectively stopped weight gain, lowered cholesterol, controlled blood sugar, and minimized inflammation in mice, making it an excellent candidate for a rapid transition into human clinical trials.
Unlike most diet pills on the market, this new pill, called fexaramine, doesn’t dissolve into the blood like appetite suppressants or caffeine-based diet drugs, but remains in the intestines, causing fewer side effects.
“This pill is like an imaginary meal,” says Ronald Evans, director of Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory and senior author of the new paper, published today (January 5) in Nature Medicine. “It sends out the same signals that normally happen when you eat a lot of food, so the body starts clearing out space to store it. But there are no calories and no change in appetite.”
Evans’ laboratory has spent nearly two decades studying the farensoid X receptor (FXR), a protein that plays a role in how the body releases bile acids from the liver, digests food and stores fats and sugars. The human body turns on FXR at the beginning of a meal, Evans and others have shown, to prepare for an influx of food. FXR not only triggers the release of bile acids for digestion, but also changes blood sugar levels and causes the body to burn some fats in preparation for the incoming meal.
In the United States, more than a third of adults are obese and 29.1 million people have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both obesity and diabetes lead to an increase in health spending, a greater risk of health complications, and a shorter lifespan.
“When you eat, you have to quickly activate a series of responses all throughout the body,” says Evans. “And the reality is that the very first responder for all this is the intestine.”
Evans and his colleagues developed the fexaramine compound by departing from the drug scaffold that most pharmaceutical companies typically pursue when targeting FXR. Pharmaceutical companies aiming to treat obesity, diabetes, liver disease and other metabolic conditions have developed systemic drugs that activate FXR, turning on many pathways that FXR controls. But these drugs affect several organs and come with side effects. Evans wondered whether switching on FXR only in the intestines — rather than the intestines, liver, kidneys and adrenal glands all at once — might have a different outcome.
Fooling the body
“It turns out that when we administer this orally, it only acts in the gut,” explains Michael Downes, a senior staff scientist at Salk and co-corresponding author of the new work. Giving one such drug in a daily pill form that only reaches the intestines — without transporting into the bloodstream that would carry the drug throughout the body — not only curtailed side effects but also made the compound better at stopping weight gain.
When the group gave obese mice a daily pill of fexaramine for five weeks, the mice stopped gaining weight, lost fat and had lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels than untreated mice. In addition, the mice had a rise in body temperature — which signals metabolism ramping up — and some deposits of white fat in their bodies converted into a healthier, energy-burning beige form of the tissue. Even the collection of bacteria in the guts of mice shifted when they received the drug, although what those changes mean isn’t clear yet.
So, why does fexaramine in the intestines work even better than drugs that simultaneously activate FXR throughout the body? Evans thinks it has to do with the natural order in which the body’s molecular pathways normally responds to a meal.
“The body’s response to a meal is like a relay race, and if you tell all the runners to go at the same time, you’ll never pass the baton,” says Evans. “We’ve learned how to trigger the first runner so that the rest of the events happen in a natural order.”
Since fexaramine doesn’t reach the bloodstream, it is also likely safer in humans than other FXR-targeting drugs, the researchers hypothesize. They’re already working to set up human clinical trials to test the effectiveness of fexaramine to treat obesity and metabolic disease. Ideally, the drug, administered under a doctor’s guidance, would work in conjunction with diet and lifestyle changes, similar to weight-loss surgeries or other obesity or diabetes drugs.
he work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Ipsen Bioscience, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the Ellison Medical Foundation and the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia. Ronald Evans also receives funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Salk Institute | Fexaramine Tricks Mice Into Losing Weight
Abstract for Intestinal FXR agonism promotes adipose tissue browning and reduces obesity and insulin resistance
The systemic expression of the bile acid (BA) sensor farnesoid X receptor (FXR) has led to promising new therapies targeting cholesterol metabolism, triglyceride production, hepatic steatosis and biliary cholestasis. In contrast to systemic therapy, bile acid release during a meal selectively activates intestinal FXR. By mimicking this tissue-selective effect, the gut-restricted FXR agonist fexaramine (Fex) robustly induces enteric fibroblast growth factor 15 (FGF15), leading to alterations in BA composition, but does so without activating FXR target genes in the liver. However, unlike systemic agonism, we find that Fex reduces diet-induced weight gain, body-wide inflammation and hepatic glucose production, while enhancing thermogenesis and browning of white adipose tissue (WAT). These pronounced metabolic improvements suggest tissue-restricted FXR activation as a new approach in the treatment of obesity and metabolic syndrome.
Oregon State University researchers have developed a new way to selectively insert compounds into cancer cells — a system that will help surgeons identify malignant tissues and then, in combination with phototherapy, kill any remaining cancer cells after a tumor is removed.
The method should allow more accurate surgical removal of solid tumors at the same time it eradicates any remaining cancer cells. In laboratory tests, it completely prevented cancer recurrence after phototherapy.
“With this approach, cancerous cells and tumors will literally glow and fluoresce when exposed to near-infrared light, giving the surgeon a precise guide about what to remove,” Taratula said. “That same light will activate compounds in the cancer cells that will kill any malignant cells that remain. It’s an exciting new approach to help surgery succeed.”
How it works
The researchers used a compound called naphthalocyanine, which has some unusual properties when exposed to near-infrared light: It can make a cell glow as a guide to surgeons; heat the cell to kill it; and produce reactive oxygen species (chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide) that can also kill a cell if the other methods don’t work. By adjusting the intensity of the light, the action of the compound can be controlled and optimized to kill just the tumor and cancer cells. This research was done with ovarian cancer cells.
Normally, naphthalocyanine isn’t water soluble and also tends to clump up, or aggregate, inside the body, in the process losing its ability to makes cells glow and generate reactive oxygen species. This also makes it difficult or impossible to find its way through the circulatory system and take up residence only in cancer cells.
OSU experts overcame these problems by use of a special water-soluble polymer, called a dendrimer, which allows the napthalocyanine drug to hide within a molecule that will attach specifically to cancer cells, and not healthy tissue. The dendrimer, an extremely tiny nanoparticle, takes advantage of certain physical characteristics that blood vessels leading to cancer cells have, but healthy ones do not. It will slip easily into a tumor but largely spare any healthy tissue.
Once in place, and exposed to near-infrared light, the cancer cells will glow, creating a biological road map for a surgeon to follow in identifying what tissues to remove and what to leave. The light exposure also activates the naphthalocyanine to kill any remaining cells.
This one-two punch of surgery and a nontoxic, combinatorial phototherapy holds significant promise, Taratula said. It’s quite different from existing chemotherapies and radiotherapies. “For many cancers, surgery is a first choice of treatment,” Taratula said. “In coming years we may have a tool to make that surgery more precise, effective and thorough than it’s been before.”
Before attempting human clinical tests, OSU researchers hope to perfect the process and then collaborate with Shay Bracha, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, to test it on live dogs that have malignant tumors. The technique has already been shown successful in laboratory mice. Worth noting, the researchers said, is that even as phototherapy was destroying their malignant tumors, the mice showed no apparent side effects and the animals lost no weight.
Systems with technology similar to this are also being tested by other researchers, but some of them require several imaging and therapeutic agents, repeated irradiation and two lasers. This increases cost, may lessen effectiveness, and increases risk of side effects, OSU researchers noted in their report in the journal Nanoscale.
Abstract of Dendrimer-encapsulated naphthalocyanine as a single agent-based theranostic nanoplatform for near-infrared fluorescence imaging and combinatorial anticancer phototherapy
Multifunctional theranostic platforms capable of concurrent near-infrared (NIR) fluorescence imaging and phototherapies are strongly desired for cancer diagnosis and treatment. However, the integration of separate imaging and therapeutic components into nanocarriers results in complex theranostic systems with limited translational potential. A single agent-based theranostic nanoplatform, therefore, was developed for concurrent NIR fluorescence imaging and combinatorial phototherapy with dual photodynamic (PDT) and photothermal (PTT) therapeutic mechanisms. The transformation of a substituted silicon naphthalocyanine (SiNc) into a biocompatible nanoplatform (SiNc-NP) was achieved by SiNc encapsulation into the hydrophobic interior of a generation 5 polypropylenimine dendrimer following surface modification with polyethylene glycol. Encapsulation provides aqueous solubility to SiNc and preserves its NIR fluorescence, PDT and PTT properties. Moreover, an impressive photostability in the dendrimer-encapsulated SiNc has been detected. Under NIR irradiation (785 nm, 1.3 W cm−2), SiNc-NP manifested robust heat generation capability (ΔT = 40 °C) and efficiently produced reactive oxygen species essential for PTT and PDT, respectively, without releasing SiNc from the nanopaltform. By varying the laser power density from 0.3 W cm−2 to 1.3 W cm−2 the therapeutic mechanism of SiNc-NP could be switched from PDT to combinatorial PDT–PTT treatment. In vitro and in vivo studies confirmed that phototherapy mediated by SiNc can efficiently destroy chemotherapy resistant ovarian cancer cells. Remarkably, solid tumors treated with a single dose of SiNc-NP combined with NIR irradiation were completely eradicated without cancer recurrence. Finally, the efficiency of SiNc-NP as an NIR imaging agent was confirmed by recording the strong fluorescence signal in the tumor, which was not photobleached during the phototherapeutic procedure.
The Gonzo Futurist’s Manifesto by was originally published in 2012 and is still relevant today. It seemed like a good way to kick off 2015 despite being a few years old.The complete article is reproduced here with a few spelling corrections and added images.]
1. INTRODUCTION: VERY VUCA
2011 was a rum year. Though there there are those who would paint it as outlier or aberration, I see no reason to think things will quietly return to normal. Without substantive, structural change, the genuflections of austerity and ‘expansionary fiscal contraction’ can be nothing short of cargo cult behaviour — a political echo of the Vanuatuan tribe who, when confronted with a world that exceeded their cultural scaffolding, ended up worshipping Prince Philip.
We are all Vanuatuans, now. Subjected to uncertainty or sudden disruption, our grasp of causality collapses like an undercooked sponge cake. With brains wired for pattern recognition, in the absence of signal, we’ll (metaphorically) run over hot coals to derive meaning from noise. To Pavlovian dogs, clouds-with-faces, and the succubi of sleep paralysis, we can now add austerity economics. The rhetoric of ‘expansionary contraction’ is today’s sympathic magic. Keep Calm and Carry On. Keep your head down. You’re not important, so make yourself small, docile, unobtrusive. Go and out and shop, and everything will go back to normal.
Trust the financial authorities to feed another scalp to the markets, if you must, but treating markets as people (or, worse, secular gods) is like expecting a wicker man full of kidnapped townsfolk to make polite conversation at your next dinner party. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to acknowledge that we’re not going back to the high-gloss plastic hedonism of the 1990s. There’s no time machine for us; no recanting that particular djinn.
Instead, we have the dubious honour of living in post-normal times. Hooray for us.
As used here, the concept of the ‘post-normal’ originates with British philosopher Jerry Ravetz and Argentinian mathematician Silvio Funtowicz. In their work on science policy and
risk, the term ‘post-normal’ is used to describe situations where ‘facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent’ (Ravetz, 1999). Does that sound familiar? Scholar and commentator Ziauddin Sardar suggests it should, for ours is an age:
More than anything else, this is the background hum of the 2010s. For a second opinion, we need look no further than the feeder schools and colleges of the American military-industrial establishment, where the talismanic acronym ‘VUCA’ has come to identify operational contexts of notable ‘volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity’. VUCA situations change quickly and in unexpected ways, with participants befuddled by information overload and the fogs of war, and the risk of second-order blowback more deadly than any enemy. Whether on or off the battlefield, 2011 was very VUCA.
2. BETWEEN COLLAPSE AND TRANSCENDENCE
In 2012, then, things reach a head. The world spins faster, accruing whole orders of complexity as the American Empire crumbles into a decidedly more interesting new world order. After twenty, fifty, or five-hundred years of globalisation (depending), we stumble across the threshold of (dis)integration, watch the Mayans emerge from their hole in the sky, and find out what we’ve won: transcendence or oblivion.
Well, that’s the scheduled broadcast. The looming reality is a lot less binary. In postnormal times, the world has both centrifugal and centripetal tendencies: transcendence and collapse; integration and fragmentation. History didn’t end with Fukuyama. Collapse contains the fractal seeds of transcendence. Things come together as they fall apart. Ours is not the flat world of Thomas Friedman, but the ‘unevenly-distributed’ future of William Gibson. It has contours.
With the mists of VUCA obscuring the theatre of action, it can, at times, be tricky to work out the precise configuration of these contours. For everything beyond our immediate experience, we rely on media — and while the social media ‘revolution’ has democratised access to these tools, it’s also made it easier to spread rumour and misinformation. As we enter 2012, be sure to check your bullshit detector is present and switched on.
For Mark Lind, the collision of transcendence and collapse manifests as ‘turboparalysis’; a ‘combination of vigorous and dramatic motion with the absence of steady movement in any particular direction.’ (Lind, 2011) In this reading, a sudden spike in VUCA dynamics causes big actors — big business, nation-states, organisations — to flail wildly, muddying the waters with u-turns and knee-jerk cargo cult behaviour as the old certainties are swept away. For cyberpunk arch-deacon Bruce Sterling, this is the Transition-to-Nowhere: ‘There’s neither progress nor conservatism, because there’s nothing left to conserve and no direction in which to progress.’ (Bruce Sterling, Reboot 11)
From the US Republican Party to Occupy Wall Street, from Benghazi to Wukan, ‘wheels are spinning furiously and engines are being gunned, to no effect.’ (Lind, 2011) Well, seemingly to no effect. Though my evidence is shaky, I’m tempted to interpret this as apparent retrograde motion. All is not yet lost!
So, though we may yet lose 2012 to the churn and flailing of turboparalysis, it isn’t going to spell the end of the world — and certainly not in a way that sticks the programme of our
Mesoamerican-quoting brethren. Worryingly, it doesn’t need to. The meme has escaped the laboratory. As I write, it’s already affecting people’s behaviour, lending a nervous edge to pop culture and public discourse. For archeoastronomer Anthony Aveni, the rhetorical impact of the 2012 phenomenon hints at a deeper cultural malaise. Deprived of the certainties of Progress-with-a-capital-P:
Were we to scrub 2011’s torrent of world-historical events from history, this desperation would have been enough to ensure 2012 was weirder than the baseline. Is it enough to meet the challenges of the postnormal with half-hearted nods to a cosmology based on human sacrifice and the cultivation of maize? Of course not. If we’re looking to invisible Mayans for the answers to our world-historical crisis, then something, somewhere, has gone very wrong. Against a background of peak oil, protein, attention, and confidence, perhaps we’ve reached peak future, with 2012 as ‘the mythical wall where the imagination of the West comes to an abrupt end.’ (Montuori, 2011: 224)
Montuori’s argument is persuasive. In terms of future visions, what do we have left to work with? Microsoft concept videos, Hollywood apocalypse, and the jet pack dreams of greying Baby Boomers. Meanwhile, trapped between economic apocalypse and transformations, we’re besieged by a world we barely understand. Bruce nails the mood:
Things are just falling apart, you can’t believe the possibilities, it’s like anything is possible, but you never realized you’re going to have to dread it so much. It’s like a leap into the unknown. You’re falling toward earth at nine hundred kilometres an hour and then you realize there’s no earth there.’ (Bruce Sterling, Reboot 11) Preprogrammed to avoid unnecessary risk, our mammalian brain tells us to dig in; to fortify; to consolidate our position. Drawing the curtains, we play dead, for fear of what we might lose.
And it works, for a time: the monsters don’t eat you. But when you open your eyes, they’re still there — a pair of bloodshot eyes, glowing in the darkness. Despite the monsters, this is not the time for retrenchment. Far from it! Instead, post-normal times call for post-normal measures; they urge you to up your game. In the immortal words of Hunter S. Thompson, ‘when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.’
In 2012, the going gets that much weirder.
3. ACTION AND DECISION-MAKING FOR THE PROFESSIONAL WEIRDO
In 1991, Bruce Sterling gave a speech in San Jose. Extolling the strengths and virtues of the power weirdo, he urged the audience to avoid the spring-loaded bear-trap of mediocrity:You don’t get there by acculturating. Don’t become a well-rounded person. Well rounded people are smooth and dull. Become a thoroughly spiky person. Grow spikes from every angle. Stick in their throats like a puffer fish. (Sterling, 1991)
With an idiosyncratic outlook and skill set, the power weirdo — and its subset, the gonzo futurist — is particularly well-placed to deal with a turbulent decade. With an eye on the road ahead, she can meet or dodge situations as they arise, charting a clear course through the VUCA battlefields of a turboparalytic world. One thing we can say: in 5-10 years time, ours will be a world of ubiquitous computing (in some form). When sensors are everyone, and the ‘big data’ of the post-normal threatens to bury us all in a torrent of noise, finely tuned sense-making capabilities may prove to be your greatest asset. For futurist Scott Smith, ‘warehousing massive amounts of data is simply an exercise in hoarding if we can’t see, contextualize, and use the patterns in the noise.’ (Smith, 2011) The pattern analyst is less likely to find her job outsourced or automated, but, to effectively lever the patterns in the noise, we have to be able distinguish between real patterns and the faces in the clouds.
We need pattern recognition. Pattern Recognition. The protagonist of William Gibson’s 2003 novel of the same name, Cayce Pollard, though something of a ‘self-facilitating media node’, provides a model for the gonzo futurist. For Cayce, the lived experience of 9/11 flipped a switch somewhere, hyper-sensitising her to the aesthetics of corporate branding. By the time the story begins, she’s found a niche as a coolhunter and creative consultant, exploiting her body’s physical, pre-cognitive reaction to logos (the bad ones induce nausea and panic).
Dorotea removes an eleven-inch square of art board from the envelope. Holding it at the upper corners, between the tips of perfectly manicured forefingers, she displays it to Cayce. (…) There is a drawing there, a sort of scribble in thick black Japanese brush, a medium she knows to be the in-house hallmark of Herr Heinzi himself. To Cayce, it most resembles a syncopated sperm, as rendered by the American underground cartoonist Rick Griffin, circa1967. She knows almost immediately that it does not, by the opaque standards of her inner radar, work. She has no way of knowing how she knows.’ (Gibson, 2003: 12)
Though Cayce’s ‘base’ of domain-specific knowledge is both wide and deep — note the reference to Rick Griffin — she has no way of knowing how she knows. She’s aware of an ‘inner radar,’ but, as something separate from her conscious mind, has no idea how it works. Though Cayce leverages her capacities as a source of income, her role of sensitive-slash coolhunter is more bodily disposition than career. Unpicking the details and implications of Gibson’s novel, literary theorist Lauren Berlant describes how Cayce’s disposition allows her ‘to ride the wave of the moment, to make her situation what it is, a thing to live through, be embedded in, and feel out’ (Berlant, 2008: 11). Sounds a bit gonzo, doesn’t it?
Lacking Cayce’s near-supernatural capabilities, our gonzo futurist needs a prosthetic substitute; some kind of cognitive aikido. This would be a general framework that would allow her to easily grok the dynamics of the post-normal world, and identify the key sites and tipping points for action. To my knowledge, the closest currently existing equivalent is the OODA loop. Originally devised by US military strategist John Boyd, the OODA loop is a rolling heuristic cycle, a structure for those who need to make quick decisions under pressure.
OODA. Observe, orient, decide, act.
The gonzo futurist is a super-empowered hopeful individual. She may have been a ‘graduate with no future’ (Mason, 2011), or the victim of public sector cuts, but has since grieved and moved on. She plays, tests, and play tests; making the best of the tools and technologies at her disposal. Comfortable calling on (and being called on by) her friends, peers, and tribe, her sense-making skills are social and connected. Her thinking may, occasionally, ‘be located inside the brains of other people.’ (Wheeler, 2011)
The gonzo futurist is a ‘deep generalist’ (Cascio, 2011) and ‘analytical polyglot’ (Smith, 2011). She has an ‘almost supernatural awareness of impacts and implications … [is] ready to adapt when necessary, building long-lasting systems when possible.’ (Cascio, 2011) Like Cayce Pollard, she is a ‘woman of affect, not of feeling (…) [an] empress of the amygdala.’ (Berlant, 2008: 11) The gonzo futurist is resilient. She works smart, not hard. She has one eye on the ‘adjacent possible’ (Johnson, 2011), switches codes, and contributes to the commons. She may be privileged, but has no time for competition, alpha male dick-waving, or beggar-thy-neighbour.
Her success does not come at your expense.
Bombarded by stimuli, the gonzo futurist is an OODA cyborg. Observe, orient, decide, act.
Let’s break that down.3A. OBSERVE AND ORIENT
For the gonzo futurist, the observation stage of this operational loop looks like some vernacular, ad-hoc ethnography. This kind of observation is shorthand for all kinds of evidence-gathering, so read widely, take photos, and ask questions. Probe. Keep records. If something seems incongruous, it’s probably important.
When it comes to observation, your nemesis is the filter bubble — an echo chamber forged by Google and Facebook; a ‘unique universe of information for each of us…which fundamentally alters the way we encounter ideas and information’ (Pariser, 2011: 9) It may be comfortable in the bubble, but ‘there’s less room for the chance encounters that bring insight and learning.’ (Ibid.: 15) The future is a crime scene, and all the clues are out there. Get out into the field. Wherever possible, maximise your exposure to randomness — lever the tools of the ‘media cyborg’ (Sloan, 2010), and go to more parties.
The observations you make are the stars by which you navigate. The orientation stage of the OODA loop builds on these, as you begin to construct a map of the situation in which you find yourself. At this stage, you need to trust your gut, the pre-conscious, and the unknown unknowns — things that you don’t know that you know. Blending new information with previous experience, you should look for links. Pursue unexpected synergies. Cultivate a cultural and aesthetic sensitivity to weak signals.
Screw objectivity. When true objectivity is impossible, the pursuit of such leaves you open to exploitation. Berlant described Gibson’s protagonist, Cayce Pollard, as ‘empress of the amygdala’ (Berlant, 2008: 11). Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler describe this portion of the brain’s temporal lobe as ‘our early-warning system, an organ on high alert, constantly scanning our environment for anything that could threaten survival.’ (Diamandis and Kotler, 2012) Gonzo futurism wants you to listen to your amygdala: elevate the subjective, the emotional, and the memetic. Future shock is social and psychological, so keep asking: how do these observations make you feel?
Read (and hang out with) other people who get it. My list includes John Robb, Paul Mason, Carlota Perez, Bruce Sterling, Noah Raford, Marina Gorbis, Jamais Cascio, and Venkatesh Rao. Your list should include enough people to cover any weaknesses on the part of a given individual.
In the words of Bob Johansen, it’s best to enter this stage of the loop with a comprehensive set of ‘strong opinions, weakly held.’ Be prepared to abandon beliefs as new information surfaces. Intransigence is the enemy. Don’t dig in. The war on cargo cults urges you to question received wisdoms, challenge groupthink, and uproot legacy futures wherever you find them. Avoid hubris. You don’t have all the answers, but you can bring better questions. Turn your own evolutionary biases to your advantage. Don’t just be a slave to your amygdala, but put it to work. In Inside Jokes, Hurley, Dennett and Adams suggest that the positive buzz of ‘humour’ exists to mitigate the risks of quick-and-easy heuristic processes that the brain relies on ‘to permit real-time conclusion-leaping’ (Hurley, Dennett & Adams, 2011: 4). To weed out false assumptions and magical thinking:
there has to be a policy of double-checking these candidate beliefs and surmisings, and by the discovery and resolution of these at breakneck speed is maintained by a powerful reward system — the feeling of humor; mirth — that must support this activity in competition with all the other things you could be thinking about’ (Hurley, Dennett & Adams, 2011: 13) For Stuart Candy, ‘design is primarily a search for killer apps, while the futurist hunts killer imps (Candy, 2010, 188).
To cultivate a cultural-aesthetic sensitivity to weak signals, you need to hitch the chemical releases a stimulated amygdala, and — latterly — the mirth response, to these ‘killer imps’, something which entails a certain level of brain training. We’re not talking sudoku, here. Instead, maximise your exposure to cognitive dissonance and big weird shit. In 2010-11, Sterling and Gibson began talking about the ‘fubar’ as a metric unit of contemporary weirdness. The gonzo futurist lives on an information diet of news reports forged from raw futurity, situations fucked-up-beyond-all-recognition, and fleeting manifestations of the technological sublime. They focus on things that exceed their frame of reference, deliberating seeking out that which provokes, in the words of Joseph Addison, ‘an agreeable kind of horror.’
Some of this effect derives from a lack of limits and boundaries, the sudden revelation of previously-obscured levels of situational complexity, and the juxtaposition of disparate elements. As Sardar notes, ‘since everything is interconnected, complex and chaotic, and changing rapidly, nothing can actually be described with any certainty.’ (Sardar, 2010) The best we can hope for is a partial mapping; a ‘you are here’ marker in a fuzzy, partial birds-eye view.
3B. DECIDE AND ACT
Having (semi-)successfully oriented yourself in a volatile and uncertain environment, the next challenge is to move from mapping the world to acting in it. The characteristics of this new operational environment striate the space within which you can act, with the complexity and ambiguity of the 2010s presenting a unique set of challenges for those seeking to leave a lasting dent in the world. As Sardar argues, the conditions of VUCA teach us an vital lesson: ‘ the notions of control and certainty are becoming obsolete … [today,] there is no single model of behaviour, mode of thought, or method that can provide an answer to all our interconnected, complex ills.’ (Sardar, 2010)
With no way of preventing blowback, or unexpected, potentially even counter-productive, second-order effects, today’s social actants have to be prepared to relinquish control. This is a war on timidity. The actant of 2012 has to be prepared to make decisions with incomplete information, optimising their plans within the constraints of the visible and the known. She understands the intrinsic value of prototyping, beta testing, simulation, and roleplay. These are, in Cascio’s words, tools and strategies which deploy ‘iteration in service of complexity, diversity as a means of dynamic integration into a changing environment.’ (Cascio, 2011)
Equally, the gonzo futurist knows when not to act. She recognises the difference between playing dead and saying no. She keeps a small footprint, and has a bug-out bag locked and loaded by the door.
The gonzo futurist hails the social possibilities of acting-in-concert-with-others. Though careful to avoid reinscribing the dynamics of groupthink, she recognises the importance of the time-limited, stand-alone project. Hers, after all, is a post-auteur world. Though super-empowerment promises to arm the individual with tools of unprecedented potency, from garage biotechnology through 3D printing and autonomous drones, ‘there is no necessity or inevitable rule that such individual empowerment will be inclusive, extensive and equitably distributed or dedicated to collective benefit.’ (Sardar, 2010: 4) The most effective way to forestall the more dystopian scenarios is to identify a tribe-of-affinity; your personal community-of-interest. As Montuori says, ‘in postnormal times, creativity will have a few surprises in store for us … [and] may paradoxically become normal in the sense that it will not be the province of lone tortured geniuses any longer (which it was not anyway), but an everyone, everyday, everywhere, process’ (Montuori, 2011: 221-222)
When you act, act with courage, free from the fear of consequences beyond your control.
Try not to sweat the small stuff.4. CONCLUSIONS
Returning to the world of 2012, Sardar echoes Aveni in arguing that ‘our current impasse represents a failure of imagination … [and the] subservience of imagination to orthodoxy.’ (Sardar, 2010) As we come up against the limits of our frames of reference, ‘what we have taken as normal, conventional and orthodox just does not work any more.’ (ibid.) In this context, our best weapons are imagination, creativity, and a recognition of the sheer contingency of the times in which we find ourselves. Here, there’s a single panel from an XKCD comic that — by now — must form a load-bearing part of my cognitive architecture: ‘You’re curious and smart and bored, and all you see is the choice between working hard and slacking off. There are so many adventures that you miss because you’re waiting to think of a plan. To find them, look for tiny interesting choices. And remember that you are always making up the future as you go.’ (Munroe, ‘Choices: Part 4’)
This, perhaps more than anything else, is the gonzo futurist’s creed. Good luck out there.REFERENCES AND RECOMMENDED READINGS
Anthony Aveni, 2009. The End of Time: The Maya Mystery of 2012 (Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado)
Lauren Berlant, 2008. ‘Intuitionists: History and the Affective Event’, in American Literary History, Vol. 20 (4), pp. 845-860
Stuart Candy, 2010. ‘The Futures of Everyday Life: Politics and the Design of Experiential Scenarios’, PhD thesis, <http://www.scribd.com/doc/68901075/Candy-2010-The-Futuresof-Everyday-Life>
Jamais Cascio, 2011. Quoted in R.U. Sirius, 2011. ‘Will Joel Garreau & Jamais Cascio Prevail — Along With The Rest Of Us?’, Acceler8or, 26/12/2011, <http://www.acceler8or.com/2011/12/will-joel-garreau-jamais-cascio-prevail-along-with-the-rest-of-us/>
Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, 2012. Abundance: Why the Future Will Be Much Better Than You Think (Free Press), excerpted on Forbes, 26/1/2012, <http://www.forbes.
William Gibson, 2003. Pattern Recognition (London: Penguin Books)
Matthew Hurley, Daniel Dennett and Reginald Adams, 2011. Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press)
Bob Johansen, 2009. Leaders Make the Future (San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.)
Michael Lind, 2011. ‘The Age of Turboparalysis,’ Salon, 27/12/2011, <http://www.salon.com/2011/12/27/the_age_of_turboparalysis/singleton/>
Paul Mason, 2011. ‘Twenty Reasons Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere’, Newsnight, 5/2/2011,<http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/paulmason/2011/02/twenty_reasons_why_its_
Alfonso Montuori, 2011. ‘Beyond postnormal times: The future of creativity and the creativity of the future’, in Futures, Vol. 43, pp. 221-227 Eli Pariser, 2011.
The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From you (London: Viking)
Venkatesh Rao, 2011. Tempo: Timing, Tactics and Strategy in Narrative-Driven Decision Making, <http://www.tempobook.com/>
Jerome Ravetz, 1999. ‘What is post-normal science?’, in Futures, Vol. 31, pp. 647-653
Scott Smith, 2011. ‘Third Economy’, 2/12/2011, <http://www.changeist.com/changeism/2011/12/2/third-economy.html>
Bruce Sterling, 1991. ‘The Wonderful Power of Storytelling’, March 1991, speech to the Computer Games Developer Conference, San Jose, CA
Bruce Sterling, 2009. ‘Transcript of Reboot 11 speech by Bruce Sterling, 25-6-2009’, <http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/2011/02/transcript-of-reboot-11-speech-by-brucesterling-25-6-2009/>
Michael Wheeler, 2011. ‘Thinking Beyond the Brain: Educating and Building, From the Standpoint of Extended Cognition’, in Computational Culture, No. 1., <http://
Justin Pickard is a researcher, writer, and technographer in-training. Currently based at the STEPS Centre, he is working towards a PhD on water, technology, and uncertainty in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), where he will be conducting field research from late 2014.
Justin’s work focuses on technology in-use, infrastructure, grassroots innovation, and international development. He has spoken at events including FutureEverything, Lift, and Improving Reality, and has written for Arc, Emirati literary journal The State, and The Guardian’s science policy blog. He holds an MSc in Science and Technology Policy from the University of Sussex, and an MA in Digital Media from the University of London.
For low-latency updates and spooky co-presence, consider following Justin on Twitter.
The manifesto originally appeared here.
…Kemmer, Jason Dunn, Mike Chen, and Michael Snyder of the company Made In Space. They developed a 3D printer that s capable of working in zero-gravity.
Sarcopenia alters muscle structure and function in many different ways. First and foremost with sarcopenia comes muscle atrophy. Muscle atrophy is the shrinking of individual muscle cells, called muscle fibers. So while you do not lose a substantial number of muscle fibers, the smaller diameter muscle fibers result in reduced strength and mass. Interestingly, not all muscle undergoes atrophy equally. Muscle fibers can be separated based on size, contraction properties, and metabolic abilities, into different "fiber types". With sarcopenia, the larger more powerful muscle fibers preferentially undergo atrophy and contribute to the loss in overall strength. However, the loss of muscle size is not the only factor that contributes to a loss in muscle strength. A change in muscle quality also occurs with sarcopenia. Healthy muscle is just that, muscle. However, with sarcopenia, muscle becomes increasingly infiltrated with alternative cells types such as fibroblasts (cells that contribute to tissue structure) or adipocytes (fat cells).
How and whether these two physiological processes, loss in muscle size and loss in muscle quality, interact is not entirely known. One theory involves the muscle satellite cells or muscle stem cells. Normally, when muscle fibers are damaged muscle precursor cells that hang out next to the muscle fibers and wait to be called into action replace them. With aging however these muscle stem cells can become dysfunctional and instead of muscle replacing muscle, pesky fibroblast or adipocytes either show up or may be produced by the muscle stem cells (the jury is still out). A number of labs (Campisi Lab, Rando Lab, Blau lab, Conboy lab) in the Bay Area are studying how muscle stem cells function normally and in disease.
A combination of advances in medicine and a decline in smoking are reducing the mortality rates due to cancer. The effect of smoking is large because so many people do it and it is an effective road to the development of lung cancer. It is worth noting that the decrease in cancer mortality rates is in a time when the demographic profile of the population is shifting to include a larger number of older people with a greater risk of suffering cancer, as well as a concurrent rise in the number of overweight and obese individuals, a condition that is also associated with increased risk of suffering many cancers:The American Cancer Society's annual cancer statistics report finds that a 22% drop in cancer mortality over two decades led to the avoidance of more than 1.5 million cancer deaths that would have occurred if peak rates had persisted. Largely driven by rapid increases in lung cancer deaths among men as a consequence of the tobacco epidemic, the overall cancer death rate rose during most of the 20th century, peaking in 1991. The subsequent, steady decline in the cancer death rate is the result of fewer Americans smoking, as well as advances in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment.
During the most recent five years for which data are available (2007-2011), the average annual decline in cancer death rates was slightly larger among men (1.8%) than women (1.4%). These declines are driven by continued decreases in death rates for the four major cancer sites: lung, breast, prostate, and colon. Lung cancer death rates declined 36% between 1990 and 2011 among males and 11% between 2002 and 2011 among females due to reduced tobacco use. Death rates for breast cancer (among women) are down more than one-third (35%) from peak rates, while prostate and colorectal cancer death rates are each down by nearly half (47%).
The most common causes of cancer death are lung, prostate, and colorectal cancer in men and lung, breast, and colorectal cancer in women. These four cancers account for almost one-half of all cancer deaths, with more than one-quarter (27%) of all cancer deaths due to lung cancer.
…us into solving one of our Grand Challenges and ensuring public safety, energy security and a robust economic future. Singularity University
…APS. During the first world summit to be held at the initiative of the Organ Preservation Alliance (OPA), “we intend to set the first conditions…
An international team of astronomers has developed a simulation of the universe in which realistic galaxies are created — their mass, size, and age are similar to those of observed galaxies.
Previous computer simulations had limited success because their simulations were too old, too spherical, and either too massive or too small.
In the new study, by astronomers based at Durham University and Leiden University in the Netherlands, the galaxies formed in the EAGLE-simulation (Evolution and Assembly of GaLaxies and their Environments) are a much closer facsimile of real galaxies, thanks to modeling strong galactic winds.
Powered by stars, supernova explosions, and supermassive black holes, the winds blow away the gas supply needed for the formation of stars. As a result, EAGLE’s galaxies are also lighter and younger because fewer stars form and they form later. The sizes and shapes of the thousands of galaxies that form in the EAGLE simulation are also similar to those of galaxies that astronomers actually observe in the Universe.
Astronomers can now use the results to study the evolution of individual galaxies in detail, from almost 14 billion years ago until now.
“The universe generated by the computer is just like the real thing,” says co-author Richard Bower from Durham University. “There are galaxies everywhere, with all the shapes, sizes and colors I’ve seen with the world’s largest telescopes. It is incredible. In the EAGLE universe I can even press a button to make time run backwards,”
The results were published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on January 1, 2015.
Abstract of The EAGLE project: simulating the evolution and assembly of galaxies and their environments
We introduce the Virgo Consortium’s Evolution and Assembly of GaLaxies and their Environments (EAGLE) project, a suite of hydrodynamical simulations that follow the formation of galaxies and supermassive black holes in cosmologically representative volumes of a standard Λ cold dark matter universe. We discuss the limitations of such simulations in light of their finite resolution and poorly constrained subgrid physics, and how these affect their predictive power. One major improvement is our treatment of feedback from massive stars and active galactic nuclei (AGN) in which thermal energy is injected into the gas without the need to turn off cooling or decouple hydrodynamical forces, allowing winds to develop without predetermined speed or mass loading factors. Because the feedback efficiencies cannot be predicted from first principles, we calibrate them to the present-day galaxy stellar mass function and the amplitude of the galaxy-central black hole mass relation, also taking galaxy sizes into account. The observed galaxy stellar mass function is reproduced to ≲ 0.2 dex over the full resolved mass range, 108 < M*/M⊙ ≲ 1011, a level of agreement close to that attained by semi-analytic models, and unprecedented for hydrodynamical simulations. We compare our results to a representative set of low-redshift observables not considered in the calibration, and find good agreement with the observed galaxy specific star formation rates, passive fractions, Tully–Fisher relation, total stellar luminosities of galaxy clusters, and column density distributions of intergalactic C IV and O VI. While the mass–metallicity relations for gas and stars are consistent with observations for M* ≳ 109 M⊙ (M* ≳ 1010 M⊙ at intermediate resolution), they are insufficiently steep at lower masses. For the reference model, the gas fractions and temperatures are too high for clusters of galaxies, but for galaxy groups these discrepancies can be resolved by adopting a higher heating temperature in the subgrid prescription for AGN feedback. The EAGLE simulation suite, which also includes physics variations and higher resolution zoomed-in volumes described elsewhere, constitutes a valuable new resource for studies of galaxy formation.
…to let customers create creatures Austen Heinz, CEO of Cambrian Genomics, grows genetically engineered plants at a San Franciscco greenhouse.
…and even design new creatures on a computer. Then his startup, Cambrian Genomics, prints that DNA quickly, accurately and cheaply. Anyone in…
The functions of many important tissues in the body depend on physical properties such as elasticity or ability to bear load. These properties derive from the particular structure of the extracellular matrix formed by a tissue, an arrangement of proteins constructed as a mesh to surround and support the cells it holds. The structural properties of the extracellular matrix are increasingly degraded over the course of aging, however, such as by the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) that can link together proteins of the extracellular matrix in ways that alter the physical properties of the tissue. In the case of blood vessels, rising levels of these cross-links lead to a progressive loss of elasticity, and that in turn causes a whole range of issues in the cardiovascular system that start at hypertension and culminate in catastrophic structural failure of the heart or important blood vessels.
Biochemistry is as a rule always more complicated than we'd like it to be, and so there are many areas of open investigation when it comes to the chemistry of stiffening blood vessels. Metabolic waste products come in many varieties, and it isn't always the case that any given class is actually doing what it is thought to do. Small consensus positions are quietly overturned on a daily basis at the edges of the field, given the falling costs of performing the necessary work, and the foundations of tomorrow are being built beneath the notice of even most researchers.
One of the more important lines of research at the moment, for all that is has little funding and is paid little attention, is to create the means for more research groups to work on glucosepane in human tissues. This appears to be the most prevalent type of AGE forming cross-links in our species - and here it is worth noting that a part of the complexity of this issue is that the chemistry of extracellular matrix cross-linking is very different in various different mammalian species. Lessons learned in mice are only relevant in a very general sense. You'll see few papers on glucosepane despite its importance in our biochemistry, as good tools for working with the class of compounds that glucosepane belongs to in the context of cells and tissues really don't exist yet. For a variety of not-so-good reasons no major research establishment has yet turned its eyes to building them, and so it has fallen on forward-thinking philanthropy to bridge the gap.
As I said, however, there are a lot of different waste products: it is a large space to explore. Those researchers not working on glucosepane are putting in time on other chemicals thought to be relevant to the issue of blood vessel stiffening, but they often draw a blank or find that presence of waste in cells doesn't necessarily correspond to a significant impact on the function of the extracellular matrix, as is the case here. That may not always be the case, of course, and there are certainly good reasons to think that stiffening isn't just AGEs. Science is as much a process of opening doors to empty rooms as it is of finding the one that hides the goal.collagen, elastin, fibrillin, glycoproteins and proteoglycans) produced by smooth muscle cells (SMC) ensure the stability, resilience, and compliance of arteries. Collagen and elastin, two major scaffolding ECM proteins provide structural integrity and elasticity to the vessels, allowing them to stretch while retaining their ability to return to their original shape when the pressure is over. Vascular aging is most of the time associated with structural and functional modifications of the arteries, even in healthy elderly, and particularly by an increase in arterial wall thickening in the intima and the media, mainly resulting from the accumulation and structural modification of ECM components and a disorganization of SMC.
Arterial stiffness is characterized by structural and functional alterations of the intrinsic elastic properties of the arteries and an increased resistance to vessel deformation, resulting from a decrease in artery elasticity (compliance) and an increase in pulse wave velocity (pwv), generating an increased systolic pressure, with deleterious consequences on the heart, generating cardiac hypertrophy and increased ventricular oxygen consumption. Arterial stiffening is a hallmark of vascular aging, and a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular diseases, that can be exacerbated by diabetes, hypertension or atherosclerosis. It is a direct cause of ventricular hypertrophy, renal dysfunction and stroke, independently of the other causes of vascular aging. It is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, which may predispose to atherosclerosis, and vice-versa.
Among the factors known to accumulate with aging, advanced lipid peroxidation end products (ALEs) are a hallmark of oxidative stress-associated diseases such as atherosclerosis. Aldehydes generated from the peroxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) form adducts on cellular proteins, leading to a progressive protein dysfunction with consequences in the pathophysiology of vascular aging.
The contribution of these aldehydes to ECM modification is not known. This study was carried out to investigate whether aldehyde-adducts are detected in the intima and media in human aorta, whether their level is increased in vascular aging, and whether elastin fibers are a target of aldehyde-adduct formation. Immunohistological and confocal immunofluorescence studies indicate that [these] adducts accumulate in an age-related manner in the intima, media and adventitia layers of human aortas, and are mainly expressed in smooth muscle cells. In contrast, even if the structure of elastin fiber is strongly altered in the aged vessels, our results show that elastin is not or very poorly modified by [these adducts].
Imagine a self-learning robot that can enrich its knowledge about fine-grained manipulation actions (such as preparing food) simply by “watching” demo videos. That’s the idea behind a new robot-training system based on recent developments of “deep neural networks” in computer vision, developed by researchers at the University of Maryland and NICTA in Australia.
The objective of the system is to improve performance, improving on previous automated robot-training systems such as Robobrain, discussed on KurzweilAI last August. Robobrain, which has been downloading and processing about 1 billion images, 120,000 YouTube videos, and 100 million how-to documents and appliance manuals, is designed to deduce where and how to grasp grasp an object from its appearance.
The problem with Robobrain (and other automated robot-training systems): there’s a large variation in exactly where (which frames) the action appears in the videos, and without 3D information, its hard for the robot to infer what part of the image to model and how to associate a specific action such as a hand movement (cracking on egg on a dish, for example) with a specific object (“hmm, did the human just crack the egg on the dish, or did it break open magically from an arm movement, or do spheroid objects spontaneously implode?”).
The researchers took a crack, if you will, at this problem by developing a deep-learning system that uses object recognition (it’s an egg) and grasping-type recognition (it’s using a “precision large diameter” grasping type) and can also learn what tool to use and how to grasp it.
Their system handles all of that with recognition modules based on a “convolutional neural network” (CNN), which also predicts the most likely action to take using language derived by mining a large database. The robot also needs to understand the hierarchical and recursive structure of an action. For that, the researchers used a parsing module based on a manipulation action grammar.
The system will be presented Jan. 29 at the AAAI conference in Austin (open-access paper is available online).
Hat tip: “Spikosauropod”
Abstract of Robot Learning Manipulation Action Plans by “Watching” Unconstrained Videos
from the World Wide Web
In order to advance action generation and creation in robots beyond simple learned schemas we need computational tools that allow us to automatically interpret and represent human actions. This paper presents a system that learns manipulation action plans by processing unconstrained videos from the World Wide Web. Its goal is to robustly generate the sequence of atomic actions of seen longer actions in video in order to acquire knowledge for robots. The lower level of the system consists of two convolutional neural network (CNN) based recognition modules, one for classifying the hand grasp type and the other for object recognition. The higher level is a probabilistic manipulation action grammar based parsing module that aims at generating visual sentences for robot manipulation. Experiments conducted on a publicly available unconstrained video dataset show that the system is able to learn manipulation actions by “watching” unconstrained videos with high accuracy.