By Sarah Fecht

You’ve probably heard the news that our nation’s bees are in trouble. Pollinators have been disappearing for decades, and the population crash could threaten the global food supply. Now, a small city in Iowa has decided to do something about it.

This spring, Cedar Rapids (population: 130,000) will seed 188 acres with native prairie grasses and wildflowers. The city’s plan is to eventually create 1,000 acres of bee paradise by planting these pollinator-friendly foodstuffs.

Scientists think the pollinator crisis is caused by a variety of factors, including pesticides, pathogens, and climate change. Meanwhile, with farms, parking lots, mowed lawns, and other human developments replacing wildflower fields, bees have been losing habitat and their food supply. While many of the drivers behind bee population decline remain mysterious, the people of Cedar Rapids hope to at least give pollinators places to perch and plants to feed on.

The 1,000 Acre Pollinator Initiative (http://www.cedar-rapids.org/residents/parks_and_recreation/pollinator_and_natural_resources_initiatives.php#Acre) grew out of a partnership with the Monarch Research Project(MRP), whose goal is to restore monarch butterfly populations. It was Cedar Rapids Park Superintendent Daniel Gibbins who proposed converting 1,000 acres into pollinator habitat over five years. So far, the project has secured $180,000 in funding from the state and the MRP.

“With the agricultural boom around 100 years ago, about 99.9 percent of all the native habitat of Iowa has been lost,” says Gibbins, who is spearheading the project. “When you convert it back to what was originally native Iowa, you’re going to help a lot more than just native pollinators. You’re helping birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals—everything that’s native here relies on native vegetation.”

Prairie revival

Cedar Rapids has developed a special mix of grasses and wildflowers to help restore that native habitat. The seed mix includes 39 species of wildflowers, and 7 species of native prairie grasses. While bees and butterflies are mostly attracted to the flowers, the hardy prairie grasses will prevent weeds and invasive species from moving in and choking out the flowers.

Gibbins and his team have catalogued all the unused public land where they could potentially plant the flowers and grasses. The list includes not only the rarely frequented corners of parks, golf courses, and the local airport, but also sewage ditches, water retention basins, and roadway right-of-ways, totaling nearly 500 acres. Cedar Rapids is working with other cities within the county to reach its 1,000-acre target.

Before they can seed the land with the special pollinator plant mix, Gibbins’ crew has to “knock back the undesirable vegetation.” That means mowing down, burning off, or in some cases applying herbicide to get rid of grass, weeds, and invasive species. They’ll lay down the special seed mixture in the spring and fall.

“You can’t just seed them and walk away,” says Gibbins. Although the pollinator habitat will be lower maintenance than a green turf that needs to be mown every week, the prairie grasses will require some care, including mowing once a year or burning every few years.

Everyone can help

You don’t need to have 1,000 spare acres to help bees and butterflies. Even devoting a few square feet of your garden—or even a few small planters—to wildflowers native to your area could make a difference, says Gibbins.

“When creating pollinator gardens, the most important thing is to have a big diversity of wildflowers and heirloom crops that bloom in the spring, summer, and fall,” says Stephen Buchmann, a pollination ecologist at the University of Arizona and author of The Reason for Flowers. (Buchmann isn’t involved in the 1,000 Acre Initiative.)

Buchmann recommends against using herbicides or insecticides, or, if necessary, applying them at night when bees aren’t active. Providing nesting sites for certain bee species can help, too.

“People think they’ll just plant the wildflowers and the bees will come,” he says. “And that’s true in some cases, but the smaller the bee is, the less far it can fly. Some can only fly a few hundred meters.”

Some species nest in hard substrates, like the bare ground (bees hate mulch, says Buchmann), or in holes that you can drill in adobe or earthen bricks. Others nestle in sand pits or dead wood that’s been tunneled through by beetles. And it helps to have mud and water on the premises. The Xerces Society has a handy how-to guide on creating homes for bees.

The 1,000 Acre Pollinator Initiative is still looking into funding for the next four years, and they don’t expect to see huge jumps in the number of pollinators immediately. But Cedar Rapids is confident it will help, and they hope the project will serve as a model for the rest of the country.

And if enough local businesses and private landowners get involved, there’s no reason to stop at 1,000 acres, says Gibbins. “There’s a big push to extend this initiative up to maybe 10,000 acres in Linn County.”

http://www.popsci.com/Cedar-Rapids-Iowa-save-bee-pollinator#page-4

By Vanessa Bates Ramirez

In recent years, technology has been producing more and more novel ways to diagnose and treat illness.

Urine tests will soon be able to detect cancer: https://singularityhub.com/2016/10/14/detecting-cancer-early-with-nanosensors-and-a-urine-test/

Smartphone apps can diagnose STDs:https://singularityhub.com/2016/12/25/your-smartphones-next-big-trick-to-make-you-healthier-than-ever/

Chatbots can provide quality mental healthcare: https://singularityhub.com/2016/10/10/bridging-the-mental-healthcare-gap-with-artificial-intelligence/

Joining this list is a minimally-invasive technique that’s been getting increasing buzz across various sectors of healthcare: disease detection by voice analysis.

It’s basically what it sounds like: you talk, and a computer analyzes your voice and screens for illness. Most of the indicators that machine learning algorithms can pick up aren’t detectable to the human ear.

When we do hear irregularities in our own voices or those of others, the fact we’re noticing them at all means they’re extreme; elongating syllables, slurring, trembling, or using a tone that’s unusually flat or nasal could all be indicators of different health conditions. Even if we can hear them, though, unless someone says, “I’m having chest pain” or “I’m depressed,” we don’t know how to analyze or interpret these biomarkers.

Computers soon will, though.

Researchers from various medical centers, universities, and healthcare companies have collected voice recordings from hundreds of patients and fed them to machine learning software that compares the voices to those of healthy people, with the aim of establishing patterns clear enough to pinpoint vocal disease indicators.

In one particularly encouraging study, doctors from the Mayo Clinic worked with Israeli company Beyond Verbal to analyze voice recordings from 120 people who were scheduled for a coronary angiography. Participants used an app on their phones to record 30-second intervals of themselves reading a piece of text, describing a positive experience, then describing a negative experience. Doctors also took recordings from a control group of 25 patients who were either healthy or getting non-heart-related tests.

The doctors found 13 different voice characteristics associated with coronary artery disease. Most notably, the biggest differences between heart patients and non-heart patients’ voices occurred when they talked about a negative experience.

Heart disease isn’t the only illness that shows promise for voice diagnosis. Researchers are also making headway in the conditions below.

ADHD: German company Audioprofiling is using voice analysis to diagnose ADHD in children, achieving greater than 90 percent accuracy in identifying previously diagnosed kids based on their speech alone. The company’s founder gave speech rhythm as an example indicator for ADHD, saying children with the condition speak in syllables less equal in length.
PTSD: With the goal of decreasing the suicide rate among military service members, Boston-based Cogito partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs to use a voice analysis app to monitor service members’ moods. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital are also using the app as part of a two-year study to track the health of 1,000 patients with bipolar disorder and depression.
Brain injury: In June 2016, the US Army partnered with MIT’s Lincoln Lab to develop an algorithm that uses voice to diagnose mild traumatic brain injury. Brain injury biomarkers may include elongated syllables and vowel sounds or difficulty pronouncing phrases that require complex facial muscle movements.
Parkinson’s: Parkinson’s disease has no biomarkers and can only be diagnosed via a costly in-clinic analysis with a neurologist. The Parkinson’s Voice Initiative is changing that by analyzing 30-second voice recordings with machine learning software, achieving 98.6 percent accuracy in detecting whether or not a participant suffers from the disease.
Challenges remain before vocal disease diagnosis becomes truly viable and widespread. For starters, there are privacy concerns over the personal health data identifiable in voice samples. It’s also not yet clear how well algorithms developed for English-speakers will perform with other languages.

Despite these hurdles, our voices appear to be on their way to becoming key players in our health.

https://singularityhub.com/2017/02/13/talking-to-a-computer-may-soon-be-enough-to-diagnose-illness/?utm_source=Singularity+Hub+Newsletter&utm_campaign=14105f9a16-Hub_Daily_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f0cf60cdae-14105f9a16-58158129

Physicist Steven Desch has come up with a novel solution to the problems that now beset the Arctic. He and a team of colleagues from Arizona State University want to replenish the region’s shrinking sea ice – by building 10 million wind-powered pumps over the Arctic ice cap. In winter, these would be used to pump water to the surface of the ice where it would freeze, thickening the cap.

The pumps could add an extra metre of sea ice to the Arctic’s current layer, Desch argues. The current cap rarely exceeds 2-3 metres in thickness and is being eroded constantly as the planet succumbs to climate change.

“Thicker ice would mean longer-lasting ice. In turn, that would mean the danger of all sea ice disappearing from the Arctic in summer would be reduced significantly,” Desch told the Observer.

Desch and his team have put forward the scheme in a paper that has just been published in Earth’s Future, the journal of the American Geophysical Union, and have worked out a price tag for the project: $500bn (£400bn).

It is an astonishing sum. However, it is the kind of outlay that may become necessary if we want to halt the calamity that faces the Arctic, says Desch, who, like many other scientists, has become alarmed at temperature change in the region. They say that it is now warming twice as fast as their climate models predicted only a few years ago and argue that the 2015 Paris agreement to limit global warming will be insufficient to prevent the region’s sea ice disappearing completely in summer, possibly by 2030.

“Our only strategy at present seems to be to tell people to stop burning fossil fuels,” says Desch. “It’s a good idea but it is going to need a lot more than that to stop the Arctic’s sea ice from disappearing.”

The loss of the Arctic’s summer sea ice cover would disrupt life in the region, endanger many of its species, from Arctic cod to polar bears, and destroy a pristine habitat. It would also trigger further warming of the planet by removing ice that reflects solar radiation back into space, disrupt weather patterns across the northern hemisphere and melt permafrost, releasing more carbon gases into the atmosphere.

Hence Desch’s scheme to use wind pumps to bring water that is insulated from the bitter Arctic cold to its icy surface, where it will freeze and thicken the ice cap. Nor is the physicist alone in his Arctic scheming: other projects to halt sea-ice loss include one to artificially whiten the Arctic by scattering light-coloured aerosol particles over it to reflect solar radiation back into space, and another to spray sea water into the atmosphere above the region to create clouds that would also reflect sunlight away from the surface.

All the projects are highly imaginative – and extremely costly. The fact that they are even being considered reveals just how desperately worried researchers have become about the Arctic. “The situation is causing grave concern,” says Professor Julienne Stroeve, of University College London. “It is now much more dire than even our worst case scenarios originally suggested.’

Last November, when sea ice should have begun thickening and spreading over the Arctic as winter set in, the region warmed up. Temperatures should have plummeted to -25C but reached several degrees above freezing instead. “It’s been about 20C warmer than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean. This is unprecedented,” research professor Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University told the Guardian in November. “These temperatures are literally off the charts for where they should be at this time of year. It is pretty shocking. The Arctic has been breaking records all year. It is exciting but also scary.”

Nor have things got better in the intervening months. Figures issued by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), in Boulder, Colorado, last week revealed that in January the Arctic’s sea ice covered 13.38 million sq km, the lowest January extent in the 38 years since satellites began surveying the region. That figure is 260,000 sq km below the level for January last year, which was the previous lowest extent for that month, and a worrying 1.26 million sq km below the long-term average for January.

In fact, sea ice growth stalled during the second week of January – in the heart of the Arctic winter – while the ice cap actually retreated within the Kara and Barents seas, and within the Sea of Okhotsk. Similarly, the Svalbard archipelago, normally shrouded in ice, has remained relatively free because of the inflow of warm Atlantic water along the western part of the island chain. Although there has been some recovery, sea ice remains well below all previous record lows.

This paucity of sea ice bodes ill for the Arctic’s summer months when cover traditionally drops to its lower annual level, and could plunge to a record minimum this year. Most scientists expect that, at current emission rates, the Arctic will be reliably free of sea ice in summer by 2030.

By “free” they mean there will be less than 1m sq km of sea ice left in the Arctic, most of it packed into remote bays and channels, while the central Arctic Ocean over the north pole will be completely open. And by “reliably”, scientists mean there will have been five consecutive years with less than 1m sq km of ice by the year 2050. The first single ice-free year will come much earlier than this, however.

And when that happens, the consequences are likely to be severe for the human and animal inhabitants of the region. An ice-free Arctic will be wide open to commercial exploitation, for example. Already, mining, oil and tourism companies have revealed plans to begin operations – schemes that could put severe strain on indigenous communities’ way of life in the region.

Equally worrying is the likely impact on wildlife, says Stroeve. “Juvenile Arctic cod like to hang out under the sea ice. Polar bears hunt on sea ice, and seals give birth on it. We have no idea what will happen when that lot disappears. In addition, there is the problem of increasing numbers of warm spells during which rain falls instead of snow. That rain then freezes on the ground and forms a hard coating that prevents reindeer and caribou from finding food under the snow.”

Nor would the rest of the world be isolated. With less ice to reflect solar radiation back into space, the dark ocean waters of the high latitudes will warm and the Arctic will heat up even further.

“If you warm the Arctic you decrease the temperature difference between the poles and the mid-latitudes, and that affects the polar vortex, the winds that blow between the mid latitudes and the high latitudes,” says Henry Burgess, head of the Arctic office of the UK Natural Environment Research Council.

“Normally this process tends to keep the cold in the high north and milder air in mid-latitudes but there is an increasing risk this will be disrupted as the temperature differential gets weaker. We may get more and more long, cold spells spilling down from the Arctic, longer and slower periods of Atlantic storms and equally warmer periods in the Arctic. What happens up there touches us all. It is hard to believe you can take away several million sq km of ice a few thousand kilometres to the north and not expect there will be an impact on weather patterns here in the UK.”

For her part, Stroeve puts it more bleakly: “We are carrying out a blind experiment on our planet whose outcome is almost impossible to guess.”

This point is backed by Desch. “Sea ice is disappearing from the Arctic – rapidly. The sorts of options we are proposing need to be researched and discussed now. If we are provocative and get people to think about this, that is good.

“The question is: do I think our project would work? Yes. I am confident it would. But we do need to put a realistic cost on these things. We cannot keep on just telling people, ‘Stop driving your car or it’s the end of the world’. We have to give them alternative options, though equally we need to price them.”

THE BIG SHRINK
The Arctic ice cap reaches its maximum extent every March and then, over the next six months, dwindles. The trough is reached around mid-September at the end of the melting season. The ice growth cycle then restarts. However, the extent of regrowth began slackening towards the end of the last century. According to meteorologists, the Arctic’s ice cover at its minimum is now decreasing by 13% every decade – a direct consequence of heating triggered by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Climate change deniers claim this loss is matched by gains in sea ice around the Antarctic. It is not. Antarctic ice fluctuations are slight compared with the Arctic’s plummeting coverage and if you combine the changes at both poles, you find more than a million sq km of ice has been lost globally in 30 years.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/12/plan-to-refreeze-arctic-before-ice-goes-for-good-climate-change

Go to any airport and you’ll see wearied travelers huddled around outlets leeching out precious electricity to feed their devices. They aren’t alone in their need for power. With more than 3 billion smartphones alone in circulation in 2016, more people are experiencing the frustration of a phone dying when you’re using maps in an unfamiliar area or just watching the latest viral video.

In response, consumers are increasingly calling for bigger, longer-lasting batteries so that they spend less time looking for anywhere to plug in.

But those days may be coming to an end, thanks to new technology from Disney Research. The company has developed a method for wireless power transmission where the only thing you have to do to charge your phone is be in a specially-designed room.

This means airport outlet mobbing may soon be nothing but an unpleasant memory.

The new method, called quasistatic cavity resonance (QSCR, works by inducing electrical currents inside a room where the walls, floor and ceiling have been metalized. The electrical currents permeate the room with magnetic fields, enabling power to be transmitted to a device’s receiving coils operating at the same resonant frequency.

In the demonstration of QSCR detailed in their paper, researchers built a 16-by-16-foot room with aluminum walls, ceiling and floor bolted to an aluminum frame. The metal floor was covered with insulating carpet, and a capacitor-filled copper pole was placed in the center of the room. A spiral drive coil was used to stimulate the room.

They were able to safely transmit 1.9 kilowatts of power to a receiver at 90 percent efficiency—that’s equivalent to charging 320 phones at once.

As much as wireless charging sounds appealing, concerns about the health risks of electromagnetic fields abound. During their simulations, researchers tracked Specific Absorption Rate, which measures how much power is absorbed by biological tissue, and ensured the value stayed at or below an established threshold.

Though the research is still in early stages, researchers predict they’ll eventually be able to reduce the need for fully-metalized rooms, perhaps by retrofitting existing structures with modular panels or conductive paint. Larger spaces could be accommodated by using multiple copper poles.

“This new innovative method will make it possible for electrical power to become as ubiquitous as WiFi,” said Alanson Sample, associate lab director & principal research scientist at Disney Research.

Besides making our day-to-day lives easier, QSCR could accelerate the progress of electronic devices by reducing our dependence on batteries.

Many of us probably don’t realize that the devices we are carrying around in our purses and pockets are basically big batteries with a chip and a screen attached to them. For an iPhone 7, for example, the battery alone takes up two-thirds of the length, over half the width, and a fifth of the total weight. Our phones are essentially designed around the battery, thus power is a major limiting factor for smartphone technology as a whole.

But what if our devices didn’t need big batteries? How would that change their weight, their design, and their capabilities? Rather than being designed for the battery’s sake, they could be designed for the engagement we want.

https://singularityhub.com/2017/02/17/just-stand-inside-this-room-and-it-will-wirelessly-charge-your-phone/?utm_source=Singularity+Hub+Newsletter&utm_campaign=5eb4c32626-Hub_Daily_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f0cf60cdae-5eb4c32626-58158129

by Fran Golden

On her left upper arm, Allison Holmes has a tattoo of an octopus with pointy Vulcan ears wrapping its tentacles around a spaceship that resembles an elongated VW camper. The “Spocktopus” is a tribute to Leonard Nimoy, who played the half-Vulcan, half-human Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek television series. “It was inspired by old science fiction posters,” says Holmes, 33, of San Antonio. Holmes is a self-described Trekkie, though that probably goes without saying if you’re showing off Spock-inspired body art. Especially if you’re showing it off in a hot tub aboard the Norwegian Pearl as it sails through the Western Caribbean on the first-ever Star Trek: The Cruise.

Joining Holmes in January were Trekkies from as far away as Australia and New Zealand, their suitcases full of costumes and body paint. Shorts and bathing suits were the favored daywear, but at night fans emerged from their cabins dressed as Vulcans, fierce-looking Klingons, antennaed blue Andorians, and green Orions. There were also several reptilian Gorn and Yeoman Rand look-alikes with beehive hairdos. Didn’t get any of these references? Then this cruise was definitely not for you.

You might not think of wannabe Klingons as people who leave their parents’ basements much, let alone as sun-and-fun types. But superfans such as Holmes make up one of the newest and most enthusiastic groups hitting the high seas. Music themes have dominated the industry for years, but cruises are increasingly embracing other forms of pop culture. In addition to the Star Trek trip, fans are filling ships for shows including The Walking Dead and Property Brothers, where the Scott brothers held Q&A sessions about design, signed autographs, and sang karaoke. Oprah is going to attend an O, The Oprah Magazine cruise to Alaska in July, and the publication, with partner Holland America line, is running four additional theme cruises this fall and next year. “There is a tremendous sense of camaraderie” on these cruises, says Howard Moses, a travel agent who also runs the website Theme Cruise Finder. “It’s nice to know that people you meet at dinner share your passion.”

It’s also nice for the cruise lines, which see themed events as a way to draw new clientele. Third-party production companies book entire ships, usually during what would otherwise be cruising’s fallow season; fans care more about the what of the experience than the when or where. And they’re willing to spend. The average fare paid by the 2,300 passengers on the six-day Star Trek cruise was $2,400 per person, more than double Norwegian Cruise Line’s typical January rate.

Since the first theme cruises set sail about 30 years ago, they’ve become a bigger and bigger part of the industry. Moses’ site recorded 150 in 2012. Today there are 600-plus listings. Included are small group gatherings and shipwide takeovers. Music and superfan charters have become such an attractive business that in 2012 Norwegian bought Sixthman, a production company in Atlanta that began staging Festivals at Sea each year; the 2017 lineup includes cruises featuring Pitbull, Kid Rock, Kiss, acts from the Warped Tour, outlaw country musicians, and the funny men of the TruTV show Impractical Jokers. “The purpose of a theme cruise is orange juice concentrate,” says Michael Lazaroff, executive director of Entertainment Cruise Productions and the mastermind behind the Star Trek voyage. “We are providing fans with a chance to experience their passion in the most intense possible way.”

Lazaroff and his team started talking with CBS, owner of the Star Trek franchise, in the summer of 2015. As it happened, CBS had been looking for ways to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Gene Roddenberry’s creation, which went on the air in 1966. “We considered developing a Star Trek cruise for fans for some time, and the 50th anniversary seemed ideal,” says Veronica Hart, senior vice president for CBS’s consumer-products division. She adds that the “stars aligned” when William Shatner, 85, Captain James T. Kirk in the original series, signed on to host. “He wasn’t cheap,” Lazaroff says.

That September, Lazaroff and his staff headed to the annual Las Vegas Star Trek convention to test fan reaction. “The website we had wasn’t ready to take reservations,” he says. Interest was overwhelming, and his team cobbled together an online sign-up. “We just threw it up, and next thing we knew—boom!—we were done.” The cruise sold out in three weeks, although many who booked had never attended a Star Trek convention, according to a precruise survey. Hart says the experiences aren’t mutually exclusive: “The cruise is a completely unique, immersive experience.”

The Pearl was tricked out with references to the shows—the original series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and Discovery, which is set to premiere this May—and films. Special signage transformed elevators into turbolifts. The ship’s specialty restaurants incorporated the names of characters into dishes such as Vic Fontaine’s chateaubriand, which was named for Deep Space Nine’s holographic lounge singer.

Programming included the Q&As and the autograph and photo sessions you’d find at a convention; autographs cost $25 to $35, depending on the actor, and photos were $40. Klingon foreheads ran $45. Shatner, whose contract mandated that he pose for one photo per cabin, joked to the crowd about how cute Chris Pine’s portrayal of Captain Kirk is in the latest Star Trek movies, talked physics and global warming, and attempted to answer fans’ requests for details about his experiences on set.

Passengers could also attend a no-fee yoga class hosted by Terry Farrell, aka Jadzia Dax, Deep Space Nine’s Starfleet science officer; play blackjack with Marina Sirtis, aka the half-human, half-Betazoid Deanna Troi on Next Generation; and attend a happy hour with Denise Crosby, aka Tasha Yar, briefly the USS Enterprise’s chief of security on Next Generation. Special actor-led shore excursions to Cozumel and the Bahamas, which cost $75, up from the normal $50, sold out before the ship set sail. A lecture by theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, author of The Physics of Star Trek (1995), drew a standing-room-only crowd. Former Saturday Night Live cast member Joe Piscopo, who guest-starred as a comic on an episode of Next Generation, got multiple standing ovations for a nighttime set.

If the Pearl wasn’t quite a floating Enterprise—the crew didn’t wear Starfleet uniforms—there were constant references to “boldly going” and “warp speed.” The mood was friendly and accepting. “It’s nice to be among your people,” says Holmes of the Spocktopus. “You see a lot of cool costumes and a lot of people really, really geeking out.” Her parents were also on board, and she and her husband, Allen, 33, have already booked a penthouse for the first of two more Star Trek cruises that will take place next year, both hosted by George Takei, who played Sulu, the helmsman on Kirk’s Enterprise.

The cruisers knew their stuff. At a trivia contest with Max Grodénchik, who played Rom, a large-eared Ferengi on Deep Space Nine, passengers rushed to call out answers to questions such as “In the ‘Enterprise Incident’ episode, the Romulan commander offers Spock what?” (Answer: “The Right of Statement.”) During a $40 pub crawl with Robert O’Reilly, Gowron from Deep Space Nine, passengers showed off their Klingon language skills. One man pounded his feet as he sang the words to several Klingon battle songs. O’Reilly was impressed.

In one session, Rabbi ElizaBeth Beyer, 57, and her husband Tom, 63, of Reno, Nev., renewed their wedding vows at a ceremony officiated by Deep Space Nine’s Farrell. Married 35 years and wearing Starfleet uniforms, they repeated vows written by Jordan Hoffman, host of Engage: The Official Star Trek Podcast. They referenced phasers and Tribbles and holodecks and, near the end, said, “You are the bridge to my Enterprise, you are the captain to my starship.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-02-15/maniac-killers-of-the-bangalore-it-department

by Arjun Kharpal

Billionaire Elon Musk is known for his futuristic ideas and his latest suggestion might just save us from being irrelevant as artificial intelligence (AI) grows more prominent.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO said on Monday that humans need to merge with machines to become a sort of cyborg.

“Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence,” Musk told an audience at the World Government Summit in Dubai, where he also launched Tesla in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“It’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output.”

Musk explained what he meant by saying that computers can communicate at “a trillion bits per second”, while humans, whose main communication method is typing with their fingers via a mobile device, can do about 10 bits per second.

In an age when AI threatens to become widespread, humans would be useless, so there’s a need to merge with machines, according to Musk.

“Some high bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence and maybe solves the control problem and the usefulness problem,” Musk explained.

The technologists proposal would see a new layer of a brain able to access information quickly and tap into artificial intelligence. It’s not the first time Musk has spoken about the need for humans to evolve, but it’s a constant theme of his talks on how society can deal with the disruptive threat of AI.

‘Very quick’ disruption

During his talk, Musk touched upon his fear of “deep AI” which goes beyond driverless cars to what he called “artificial general intelligence”. This he described as AI that is “smarter than the smartest human on earth” and called it a “dangerous situation”.

While this might be some way off, the Tesla boss said the more immediate threat is how AI, particularly autonomous cars, which his own firm is developing, will displace jobs. He said the disruption to people whose job it is to drive will take place over the next 20 years, after which 12 to 15 percent of the global workforce will be unemployed.

“The most near term impact from a technology standpoint is autonomous cars … That is going to happen much faster than people realize and it’s going to be a great convenience,” Musk said.

“But there are many people whose jobs are to drive. In fact I think it might be the single largest employer of people … Driving in various forms. So we need to figure out new roles for what do those people do, but it will be very disruptive and very quick.”

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/13/elon-musk-humans-merge-machines-cyborg-artificial-intelligence-robots.html