Archive for the ‘Dr. Lutter’ Category

by Peter Mellgard

Back in the 80s there was a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who confessed to a professor that he hadn’t quite figured out “this sex thing,” and preferred to spend time on his computer rather than with girls. For “Anthony,” computers were safer and made more sense; romantic relationships, he said, usually led to him “getting burned in some way.”

Years later, Anthony’s story made a big impression on David Levy, an expert in artificial intelligence, who was amazed that someone as educated as Anthony was developing an emotional attachment to his computer so long ago. Levy decided he wanted to give guys like Anthony a social and sexual alternative to real girls. The answer, he thinks, is sexbots. And he’s not talking about some blow-up doll that doesn’t talk.

Levy predicts that a lot of us, mostly but not exclusively shy guys like Anthony, will be having sex with robots sometime around the 2040s. By then, he says, robots will be so hot, human-like and mind-blowing under the sheets that a lot of people will find them sexually enjoyable. What’s more, Levy believes they will be able to engage and communicate with people in a meaningful, emotional way, so that guys like Anthony won’t need to worry about real girls if they don’t want to.

To give a robot the ability to communicate and provide the kind of emotional satisfaction someone would normally get from a human partner, Levy is improving an award-winning chat program called Do-Much-More that he built a few years ago. His aim is for it to become “a girlfriend or boyfriend chatbot that will be able to conduct amorous conversations with a user,” he told The WorldPost. “I’m trying to simulate the kind of conversation that two lovers might have.”

Levy admits that “this won’t come about instantly.” Eventually he wants his advanced conversation software embedded in a sexbot so that it becomes more than just a sexual plaything — a companion, perhaps. But it won’t be for everyone. “I don’t believe that human-robot relationships are going to replace human-human relationships,” he said.

There will be people, however, Levy said, people like Anthony maybe, for whom a sexbot holds a strong appeal. “I’m hoping to help people,” he said, then elaborated:

People ask me the question, ‘Why is a relationship with a robot better than a relationship with a human?’ And I don’t think that’s the point at all. For millions of people in the world, they can’t make a good relationship with other humans. For them the question is not, ‘Why is a relationship with a robot better?’ For them the question is, would it be better to have a relationship with a robot or no relationship at all?

The future looks bright if you’re into relationships with robots and computers.

Neil McArthur, a professor of philosophy and ethics at the University of Manitoba in Canada, imagines that in 10 to 15 years, “we will have something for which there is great consumer demand and that people are willing to say is a very good and enjoyable sexbot.”

For now, the closest thing we have to a genuine sexbot is the RealDoll. A RealDoll is the most advanced sex doll in the world — a sculpted “work of art,” in the words of Matt McMullen, the founder of the company, Abyss Creations, that makes them. For a few thousand dollars a pop, customers can customize the doll’s hair color, skin tone, eyes, clothing and genitalia (removable, exchangeable, flaccid, hard) — and then wait patiently for a coffin-sized box to arrive in the mail. For some people, that box contains a sexual plaything and an emotional companion that is preferable to a human partner.

“The goal, the fantasy, is to bring her to life,” McMullen told Vanity Fair.

Others already prefer virtual “people” to living humans as emotional partners. Love Plus is a hugely popular game in Japan that is played on a smartphone or Nintendo. Players take imaginary girls on dates, “kiss” them, buy them birthday cakes.

“Well, you know, all I want is someone to say good morning to in the morning and someone to say goodnight to at night,” said one gamer who has been dating one of the imaginary girls for years, according to TIME Magazine.

And there’s Invisible Girlfriend and Invisible Boyfriend, apps that connects you with a real, paid human who will text you so that you can prove you have a girlfriend or boyfriend to nosy relatives or disbelieving buddies. At least one user, a culture critic for the Washington Post, confessed she might actually being in love with the person on the other side who, remember, is being paid to satisfy customers’ desires. They’d never even met.

McArthur and others suspect that there might be people for whom a sexbot is no mere toy but a way to access something — sex — that for one reason or another was previously unattainable.

When it comes to the disabled, McArthur explained, there are two barriers to sexual activity: an external — “they’re not seen as valuable sexual partners” — and an internal anxiety. “Sexbots can give them access to partners. And they are sort of a gateway as well: disabled people could use a sexbot to build confidence and to build a sense of sexuality.”

“When it comes to sex,” he concluded, “more is better.”

It’s a new and emerging technology, but let’s nip in the bud,” Kathleen Richardson, a senior research fellow in the ethics of robotics at De Montfort University in England, told the Washington Post. Richardson released a paper this month titled “The Asymmetrical ‘Relationship’: Parallels Between Prostitution and the Development of Sex Robots.”

“I propose that extending relations of prostitution into machines is neither ethical, nor is it safe,” the paper reads.

And the ethical questions extend beyond machine “prostitution.” RealDoll, the sex doll company, refuses to make child-like dolls or animals. But what if another company does?

“It’s really a legal, moral, societal debate that we need to have about these systems,” said Matthias Scheutz, the director of the human-robot interaction laboratory at Tufts University. “We as a society need to discuss these questions before these products are out there. Because right now, we aren’t.”

If, in the privacy of your own home, you want to have sex with a doll or robot that looks like a 10-year-old boy or virtual children in porn apps, is that wrong? In most though not all countries in the world, it’s illegal to possess child pornography, including when it portrays a virtual person that is “indistinguishable” from a real minor. But some artistic representations of naked children are legal even in the U.S. Is a sexbot art? Is what a person does to a sexbot, no matter what it looks like, a legal question?

Furthermore, the link between viewing child pornography and child abuse crimes is unclear. Studies have been done on people incarcerated for those crimes that found that child pornography fueled the desire to abuse a real child. But another study on self-identified “boy-attracted pedosexual males” found that viewing child pornography acted as a substitute for sexual molestation.

“I think the jury is out on that,” said McArthur. “It depends on an empirical question: Do you think that giving people access to satisfaction of that kind is going to stimulate them to move on to actual contact crimes, or do you think it will provide a release valve?”

Scheutz explained: “People will build all sorts of things. Some people have made arguments that for people who otherwise would be sex offenders, maybe a child-like robot would be a therapeutic thing. Or it could have exactly the opposite effect.”
McArthur is most worried about how sexbots will impact perceptions about gender, body image and human sexual behavior. Sexbots will “promote unattainable body ideals,” he said. Furthermore, “you just aren’t going to make a robot that has a complicated personality and isn’t always in the mood. That’s going to promote a sense that, well, women should be more like an idealized robot personality that is a pliant, sexualized being.”

As sexbots become more popular and better at what they’re built to do, these questions will become more and more important. We, as a society and a species, are opening a door to a new world of sex. Social taboos will be challenged; legal questions will be raised.

And there might be more people — maybe people like Anthony — who realize they don’t need to suffer through a relationship with a human if they don’t want to because a robot provides for their emotional and sexual needs without thinking, contradicting, saying no or asking for much in return.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/robot-sex_55f979f2e4b0b48f670164e9

Thanks to Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

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By weighing down the characters and distorting similar letters, this new typeface pins words firmly to the page.

Watching letters float and twist across a page, flipping and jumbling with gymnastic abandon, can be a daily frustration for readers with dyslexia. But the restless characters might soon be tamed thanks to a new font.

Developed by young Dutch designer Christian Boer, the Dyslexie typeface, currently on show at the Istanbul Design Biennial, has put all 26 letters of the alphabet through a finely-tuned process of adjustment to weigh them down and make it harder for similar letters to be confused.

“When they’re reading, people with dyslexia often unconsciously switch, rotate and mirror letters in their minds,” says Boer, who is dyslexic himself. “Traditional typefaces make this worse, because they base some letter designs on others, inadvertently creating ‘twin letters’ for people with dyslexia.”

To counteract this tendency, Boer has introduced a number of tweaks. First, the letters are weighted towards the bottom, as if the bulk of each character’s body has slumped downwards under accelerated gravitational pressure. This sets a heavy baseline, which makes it harder for the letters to be flipped upside down – and gives the font the look of a chubby-ankled cousin of Comic Sans.

This lowered centre of gravity is joined by specific alterations to differentiate similar letters. In many fonts, the d is the same as a b is the same as a p is the same as a q – a simple hoop on a stick, variously mirrored and rotated to form four different characters. Boer’s typeface distorts each letter, slanting the extenders and descenders and enlarging the openings to make them harder to confuse, in a process of careful anatomical refinement.

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2014/nov/12/dyslexie-new-font-that-makes-reading-easier-with-dyslexia

Thanks to Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

In a decision released Wednesday, the office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled that “these registrations must be canceled because they were disparaging to Native Americans.”

The Patent Office said it will continue to treat the patents as though they are valid while the team appeals the decision. The team has two months to do that, and the whole process could take years.

In the meantime, the Redskins can continue using the logos.

But the decision, if upheld, would make it harder for the team to claim ownership of its brand. If it wants to go to court against a counterfeiter making T-shirts with the team’s logo, for instance, it will be harder to show that the organization owns the brand. The team will have to illustrate that they have always used the logos, rather than relying official trademark registrations.

The decision came in response to a suit brought by five Native Americans.

“We are extraordinarily gratified to have prevailed in this case,” said Alfred W. Putnam, Jr., Chairman of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, which represented the five men and women.

The board also canceled the registrations in 1999, but a federal judge overturned that decision in 2003, saying there was no proof that the name was disparaging at the time of registration. Some of the patents date back to the 1960s.

Thanks to Pete Cuomo and Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://money.cnn.com/2014/06/18/news/companies/patent-office-redskins/index.html

Recently the mainstream has come to embrace the fact that the job market for Ph.D. biomedical researchers is overcrowded. According to a new report from a working group of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), the job market looks very different for physician-scientists. In fact, “[t]here may not be enough [physician-scientists] to replace those preparing to retire,” Jocelyn Kaiser reports in a ScienceInsider.

The working group analyzed data on “M.D.-Ph.D.s, M.D.s, nurses, and other researchers with clinical training” collected from an American Medical Association (AMA) survey, finding—in stark contrast to trends in the number of biomedical Ph.D. graduates—that “[t]he number of physicians conducting research has declined 5.5% since 2003 to about 13,700 in 2012.” The working group also analyzed data from NIH and AMA and found that many NIH-funded principal investigators (PIs) are in their 60s and 70s, and that the number of PIs under 60 is declining.

The data have fueled concern for the future of the physician-scientist population. The need for younger physician-scientists is getting more attention because “we’re worried that they’re [physician-scientists are] going to dry up and this is going to be a serious problem,” said working group co-chair David Ginsburg of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in a call with reporters, as quoted by Kaiser.

Kaiser notes that some of the working group’s recommendations for fixing these problems echo those of the 2012 Biomedical Workforce Working Group of the ACD, led by Princeton University molecular biologist Shirley Tilghman: Enrich training programs, and give more weight to proposals from young researchers. “It also recommends creating a category for physician-scientists within the so-called kangaroo, or K99/R00, awards—two-stage awards that include a training grant and research support,” Kaiser writes.

Thanks to Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/2014_06_10/caredit.a1400145

by Matt Ferner

The Drug Enforcement Administration has been impeding and ignoring the science on marijuana and other drugs for more than four decades, according to a report released this week by the Drug Policy Alliance, a drug policy reform group, and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a marijuana research organization.

“The DEA is a police and propaganda agency,” Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said Wednesday. “It makes no sense for it to be in charge of federal decisions involving scientific research and medical practice.”

The report alleges that the DEA has repeatedly failed to act in a timely fashion when faced with petitions to reschedule marijuana. The drug is currently classified as Schedule I, which the DEA reserves for the “most dangerous” drugs with “no currently accepted medical use.” Schedule I drugs, which include substances like heroin and LSD, cannot receive federal funding for research. On three separate occasions — in 1973, 1995 and again in 2002 — the DEA took years to make a final decision about a rescheduling petition, and in two of the cases the DEA was sued multiple times to force a decision.

The report criticizes the DEA for overruling its own officials charged with determining how illicit substances should be scheduled. It also criticizes the agency for creating a “regulatory Catch-22” by arguing there is not enough scientific evidence to support rescheduling marijuana while simultaneously impeding the research that would produce such evidence.

A spokesperson at the DEA declined to comment on the report.

The feds have long been accused of only funding marijuana research that focuses on the potential negative effects of the substance, but that trend appears to be changing.

According to The Hill, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has conducted about 30 studies to date on the potential benefits of marijuana. NIDA oversees the cultivation, production and distribution of marijuana grown for research purposes at the University of Mississippi in the only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S.– a process through which the only federally sanctioned marijuana studies are approved.

The joint report comes less than two weeks after the House approved three amendments taking aim at the DEA and its ability to enforce federal marijuana and hemp laws in states which have legal marijuana operations and industrial hemp programs. The medical marijuana amendment was sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.).

“Nobody should be afraid of the truth,” Rohrabacher said Wednesday. “There’s a lot of other drugs that have harmful side effects. Is the downside of marijuana a harmful side effect? Or is there a positive side that actually does help? That needs to be proven.”

The federal government’s interest in marijuana certainly appears to be growing. Since 2003, it has approved more than 500 grants for marijuana-related studies, with a marked upswing in recent years, according to McClatchy. In 2003, 22 grants totaling $6 million were approved for cannabis research. In 2012, that number had risen to 69 approved grants totaling more than $30 million.

“The DEA has obstructed research into the medical use of marijuana for over 40 years and in the process has caused immeasurably suffering that would otherwise have been treated by low-cost, low-risk generic marijuana,” Rick Doblin, executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, said in a statement. “The DEA’s obstruction of the FDA approval process for marijuana has — to the DEA’s dismay — unintentionally catalyzed state-level medical marijuana reforms.”

Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Eight other states — Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin — have legalized CBD oils, made from a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana frequently used to treat epilepsy, for limited medical use or for research purposes.

A number of recent studies have shown the medical potential of cannabis. Purified forms may attack some forms of aggressive cancer. Marijuana use also has been tied to better blood sugar control and may help slow the spread of HIV. One study found that legalization of the plant for medical purposes may even lead to lower suicide rates.

Nadelmann said the DEA has “demonstrated a regular pattern of abusing its discretionary powers.”

“We believe this authority would be better handled by another government agency in the health realm, or even better still, by an organization that is truly independent, perhaps something that involves the National Academy of Sciences,” he said. “We will be working to encourage greater congressional oversight and also to call for reforms of federal law.”

Thanks to Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/11/dea-blocks-marijuana-science_n_5482367.html

war_on_drugs_thumb

The decades-long global war on drugs has failed and it’s time to shift the focus from mass incarceration to public health and human rights, according to a new report endorsed by five Nobel Prize-winning economists.

The report, titled “Ending the Drug Wars” and put together by the London School of Economics’ IDEAS center, looks at the high costs and unintended consequences of drug prohibitions on public health and safety, national security and law enforcement.

“The pursuit of a militarized and enforcement-led global ‘war on drugs’ strategy has produced enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage,” says the 82-page report. “These include mass incarceration in the US, highly repressive policies in Asia, vast corruption and political destabilization in Afghanistan and West Africa, immense violence in Latin America, an HIV epidemic in Russia, an acute global shortage of pain medication and the propagation of systematic human rights abuses around the world.”

The report urges the world’s governments to reframe their drug policies around treatment and harm reduction rather than prosecution and prison.

It is also aimed at the United Nations General Assembly, which is preparing to convene a special session on drug policy in 2016. The hope is to push the U.N. to encourage countries to develop their own policies, because the report declares the current one-size-fits-all approach has not proved to be effective.

“The UN must recognize its role is to assist states as they pursue best-practice policies based on scientific evidence, not undermine or counteract them,” said Danny Quah, a professor of economics at LSE and a contributor to the report. “If this alignment occurs, a new and effective international regime can emerge that effectively tackles the global drug problem.”

In addition to contributions from Quah and a dozen other foreign and drug policy experts, the report has been endorsed by five past winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics: Kenneth Arrow (1972), Sir Christopher Pissarides (2010), Thomas Schelling (2005), Vernon Smith (2002) and Oliver Williamson (2009). Also signing on to the report’s foreword are a number of current and former international leaders, including George Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan; Nick Clegg, British deputy prime minister; and Javier Solana, the former EU high representative for common foreign and security policy.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, who has announced that his government may present a plan to legalize production of marijuana and opium poppies by the end of 2014, has also publicly backed the report. Molina plans to discuss the report at the U.N.

A recent Pew survey suggests that Americans may be ready to refocus the U.S. end of the drug war, with 67 percent favoring policies that would provide drug treatment.

“The drug war’s failure has been recognized by public health professionals, security experts, human rights authorities and now some of the world’s most respected economists,” said John Collins, the International Drug Policy Project coordinator at LSE IDEAS. “Leaders need to recognize that toeing the line on current drug control strategies comes with extraordinary human and financial costs to their citizens and economies.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/06/end-drug-war_n_5275078.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

Thanks to Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

By Dante D’Orazio

A Satanist statue cast in bronze is just months away from completion, and activists hope that it will find a home on the lawn of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Ultimately, the statue — which features the seven-foot tall, horned figure of Baphomet fawned upon by two exultant children — is intended to stand directly next to a highly controversial monument of the ten commandments that was donated by a state legislator in 2012 and subsequently placed on the grounds of the Capitol.

The Baphomet figure, complete with a goat head, angel wings, and a beard, comes from a recently-formed New York group identifying as The Satanic Temple, which raised over $28,000 on Indiegogo earlier this year to commission a sculptor and create the piece. Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucian Greaves tells ABC News that the statue is a symbol to “celebrate our progress as a pluralistic nation founded on secular law.”

We’re just now getting our first look at the what the statue will look like, thanks to images of the mold released by The Satanic Temple this week. Unfortunately for the group’s activist aims, there hasn’t been much progress on securing a spot for the statue at the Capitol in Oklahoma, one of the most Christian states in the US. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is currently challenging the ten commandments statue in court on grounds that it violates the Constitution’s “establishment clause” against a national religion, and Oklahoma has prohibited applications for additional statues pending the completion of that case.

Greaves has made it clear that the group would no longer petition to have the statue installed should the ten commandments monument be removed, but he isn’t concerned about finding somewhere else to place the statue should they fail to get permission in Oklahoma. “There are no shortage of public locations across the US where religious monuments await a contrasting voice,” he tells Vice, which first published photos of the statue. And they’re prepared should demonstrators destroy the statue: they’re holding onto the cast and plan to take out an insurance policy on the statue.

http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/3/5678782/satanic-group-reveals-crowdfunded-monument-for-oklahoma-state-capitol

Thanks to Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.