This Week’s Awesome Stories From Around the Web (Through November 18)

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ROBOTS

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas Robot Does Backflips Now and It’s Full-Tilt Insane
Matt Simon | Wired 
“To be clear: Humanoids aren’t supposed to be able to do this. It’s extremely difficult to make a bipedal robot that can move effectively, much less kick off a tumbling routine.”

TRANSPORTATION

This Is the Tesla Semi Truck
Zac Estrada | The Verge
“What Tesla has done today is shown that it wants to invigorate a segment, rather than just make something to comply with more stringent emissions regulations… And in the process, it’s trying to do for heavy-duty commercial vehicles what it did for luxury cars—plough forward in its own lane.”

PRIVACY AND SECURITY

Should Facebook Notify Readers When They’ve Been Fed Disinformation?
Austin Carr | Fast Company
“It would be, Reed suggested, the social network equivalent of a newspaper correction—only one that, with the tech companies’ expansive data, could actually reach its intended audience, like, say, the 250,000-plus Facebook users who shared the debunked YourNewsWire.com story.”

BRAIN HEALTH

Brain Implant Boosts Memory for First Time Ever
Kristin Houser | NBC News
“Once implanted in the volunteers, Song’s device could collect data on their brain activity during tests designed to stimulate either short-term memory or working memory. The researchers then determined the pattern associated with optimal memory performance and used the device’s electrodes to stimulate the brain following that pattern during later tests.”

COMPUTING

Yale Professors Race Google and IBM to the First Quantum Computer
Cade Metz | New York Times
“Though Quantum Circuits is using the same quantum method as its bigger competitors, Mr. Schoelkopf argued that his company has an edge because it is tackling the problem differently. Rather than building one large quantum machine, it is constructing a series of tiny machines that can be networked together. He said this will make it easier to correct errors in quantum calculations—one of the main difficulties in building one of these complex machines.”

Image Credit: Tesla Motors

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Plausible Deniability: How we’ll be attacked, unable to retaliate

== Using a tantrum toddler to do your dirty work ==

Okay, bear with me, because there are a couple of vital matters of international security that may be ill-considered. Let’s start with the elephant in the room—the clear fact that is likely to lead to major war:

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How to open the blood-brain-barrier with precision for safer drug delivery

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Schematic representation of the feedback-controlled focused ultrasound drug delivery system. Serving as the acoustic indicator of drug-delivery dosage, the microbubble emission signal was sensed and compared with the expected value. The difference was used as feedback to the focused ultrasound transducer for controlling the level of the ultrasound transmission. (credit: Tao Sun/Brigham and Women’s Hospital; adapted by KurzweilAI)

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a safer way to use focused ultrasound to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier to allow for delivering vital drugs for treating glioma brain tumors — an alternative to invasive incision or radiation.*

Focused ultrasound drug delivery to the brain uses “cavitation” — creating microbubbles — to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier. The problem with this method has been that if these bubbles destabilize and collapse, they could damage the critical vasculature in the brain.

To create a finer degree of control over the microbubbles and improve safety, the researchers placed a sensor outside of the brain to listen to ultrasound echoes bouncing off the microbubbles, as an indication of how stable the bubbles were. That data was used to modify the ultrasound intensity, stabilizing the microbubbles to maintain safe ultrasound exposure.

The team tested the approach in both healthy rats and in an animal model of glioma brain cancer. Further research will be needed to adapt the technique for humans, but the approach could offer improved safety and efficacy control for human clinical trials, which are now underway in Canada.

The research, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was supported by the National Institutes of Health in Canada.

* The blood brain barrier is an impassable obstacle for 98% of drugs, which it treats as pathogens and blocks them from passing from patients’ bloodstream into the brain. Using focused ultrasound, drugs can administered using an intravenous injection of innocuous lipid-coated gas microbubbles.


Abstract of Closed-loop control of targeted ultrasound drug delivery across the blood–brain/tumor barriers in a rat glioma model

Cavitation-facilitated microbubble-mediated focused ultrasound therapy is a promising method of drug delivery across the blood–brain barrier (BBB) for treating many neurological disorders. Unlike ultrasound thermal therapies, during which magnetic resonance thermometry can serve as a reliable treatment control modality, real-time control of modulated BBB disruption with undetectable vascular damage remains a challenge. Here a closed-loop cavitation controlling paradigm that sustains stable cavitation while suppressing inertial cavitation behavior was designed and validated using a dual-transducer system operating at the clinically relevant ultrasound frequency of 274.3 kHz. Tests in the normal brain and in the F98 glioma model in vivo demonstrated that this controller enables reliable and damage-free delivery of a predetermined amount of the chemotherapeutic drug (liposomal doxorubicin) into the brain. The maximum concentration level of delivered doxorubicin exceeded levels previously shown (using uncontrolled sonication) to induce tumor regression and improve survival in rat glioma. These results confirmed the ability of the controller to modulate the drug delivery dosage within a therapeutically effective range, while improving safety control. It can be readily implemented clinically and potentially applied to other cavitation-enhanced ultrasound therapies.

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How to open the blood-brain-barrier with precision for safer drug delivery

http://ift.tt/2jCnhLT

Schematic representation of the feedback-controlled focused ultrasound drug delivery system. Serving as the acoustic indicator of drug-delivery dosage, the microbubble emission signal was sensed and compared with the expected value. The difference was used as feedback to the focused ultrasound transducer for controlling the level of the ultrasound transmission. (credit: Tao Sun/Brigham and Women’s Hospital; adapted by KurzweilAI)

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a safer way to use focused ultrasound to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier to allow for delivering vital drugs for treating glioma brain tumors — an alternative to invasive incision or radiation.*

Focused ultrasound drug delivery to the brain uses “cavitation” — creating microbubbles — to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier. The problem with this method has been that if these bubbles destabilize and collapse, they could damage the critical vasculature in the brain.

To create a finer degree of control over the microbubbles and improve safety, the researchers placed a sensor outside of the brain to listen to ultrasound echoes bouncing off the microbubbles, as an indication of how stable the bubbles were. That data was used to modify the ultrasound intensity, stabilizing the microbubbles to maintain safe ultrasound exposure.

The team tested the approach in both healthy rats and in an animal model of glioma brain cancer. Further research will be needed to adapt the technique for humans, but the approach could offer improved safety and efficacy control for human clinical trials, which are now underway in Canada.

The research, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was supported by the National Institutes of Health in Canada.

* The blood brain barrier is an impassable obstacle for 98% of drugs, which it treats as pathogens and blocks them from passing from patients’ bloodstream into the brain. Using focused ultrasound, drugs can administered using an intravenous injection of innocuous lipid-coated gas microbubbles.


Abstract of Closed-loop control of targeted ultrasound drug delivery across the blood–brain/tumor barriers in a rat glioma model

Cavitation-facilitated microbubble-mediated focused ultrasound therapy is a promising method of drug delivery across the blood–brain barrier (BBB) for treating many neurological disorders. Unlike ultrasound thermal therapies, during which magnetic resonance thermometry can serve as a reliable treatment control modality, real-time control of modulated BBB disruption with undetectable vascular damage remains a challenge. Here a closed-loop cavitation controlling paradigm that sustains stable cavitation while suppressing inertial cavitation behavior was designed and validated using a dual-transducer system operating at the clinically relevant ultrasound frequency of 274.3 kHz. Tests in the normal brain and in the F98 glioma model in vivo demonstrated that this controller enables reliable and damage-free delivery of a predetermined amount of the chemotherapeutic drug (liposomal doxorubicin) into the brain. The maximum concentration level of delivered doxorubicin exceeded levels previously shown (using uncontrolled sonication) to induce tumor regression and improve survival in rat glioma. These results confirmed the ability of the controller to modulate the drug delivery dosage within a therapeutically effective range, while improving safety control. It can be readily implemented clinically and potentially applied to other cavitation-enhanced ultrasound therapies.

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2017 Foresight Vision Weekend

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The Vision Weekend is a gathering dedicated to taking stock of the most compelling ideas of today, turn them into coherent visions for a better future, and get to work on them.

Saturday: Keynote panels @ Gray Area. Industry leaders deliver food for thought during panels, followed by private Q&A tables with your favorite speaker.

Sunday: Strategy sessions @ Laundry. What vision do you want to contribute to our future? Pick your topic, or apply to host a strategy session. Be bold – Sunday is off the record.

Panels include:

Long-term thinking: So Much To Do, So Little Time
Blockchains: Master Key to Unlock The Future?
Longevity: Reaching Escape Velocity for Life-Extension
Intelligence 2.0: The Brain As Next Frontier?

Speakers include:

Joon Yun, Founder of Palo Alto Longevity Prize
Sonia Arrison, Author of 100 Plus
Tom Kalil, Senior Advisor to the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Group
David Eagleman, Host & Producer of The Brain with David Eagleman
Aubrey De Grey, President of SENS Research Foundation
Max More, President of Alcor
Zooko Wilcox, Founder of ZCash
Mark S. Miller, Senior Fellow at Foresight Institute
Will Marshall, Co-Founder & CEO, Planet Labs
Kevin Perrott, Founder & CEO, Aging Research Network
Melanie Swan, Founder of Institute for Blockchain Studies
Matt Bell, Co-Founder of Matterport
Randal Koene, Founder of NeuraLink

Check out the event website for more speakers, program, or buy your ticket. Share the event with your friends on Facebook.

You may apply the code “KURZWEIL” for a 50% discount when purchasing your Vision Weekend ticket. (This is a Foresight member-only event, so if you’re not a member already, join when registering.)

What past participants say:
“It was an exhilarating experience to be with a large group of people who have sophisticated, enlightened, and thoughtful ideas about the future” – Ray Kurzweil
“A milestone in our journey to better understand our future” – Robin Hanson
“Had a great time and was exposed to fascinating ideas, and, more importantly, fascinating sources of ideas” – Vernor Vinge

—Event Producer

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The Surprising Ways Social Media Is Making Us Healthier

When you go to the doctor or the hospital and get your vitals checked, it’s safe to assume they’re recorded and processed as data. The same goes for your weight, imaging procedures like X-rays or MRIs, and any other routine or non-routine tests you undergo—it’s all part of the bigger picture of your health, and how to maintain or improve it.

But what if all that information only makes up a small piece of the puzzle? According to John Brownstein, professor of biomedical informatics at Harvard Medical School and chief innovation officer of Boston Children’s Hospital, there are reams of health data out there that aren’t being used—namely from social media.

In a talk at Singularity University’s Exponential Medicine last week, Brownstein told the audience about how the various layers of data that have become an integral part of our lives can be leveraged for healthcare purposes.

“There’s a huge amount of data that’s being generated, but all the information is incredibly siloed, and it’s not really connected in any way,” he said.

Brownstein contrasted health data with the data layers used to build navigation apps like Google Maps. Land use, transportation, and infrastructure all have one common unit of analysis, which is a location’s latitude and longitude. These identifiers allow us to get characteristics of any location across the various types of data. The unit of analysis for healthcare data is the patient—but we have a ways to go before it’s as hassle-free to get information about our health as it is to get information about a city block.

Moreover, some of the most relevant data about our health is getting left out altogether.

“Only a small proportion of risks and outcomes are related to someone’s biology and genetics,” Brownstein said. “Their circumstances, location, behavior—those are what really drive most outcomes. But that data isn’t captured in the course of care.”

When someone gets sick, he explained, there are many steps that exist before they get to the hospital or doctor, and many steps after they leave as well. To start tapping into the data on these steps, Brownstein’s team came up with a concept called the digital phenotype. He described it as “the idea that all the data we generate with our interactions with technology, our wearables, what we’re tweeting about, our searches on Google—all that information can have incredible insight into our health behaviors and outcomes.”

Here are a few examples of surprising ways our tweets, likes, and searches illuminate details about our health.

HealthMap: Brownstein described HealthMap as a “weather map for disease.” The tool is a real-time map of disease events around the world, and it can provide information to government agencies. It works by mining social media—if hundreds of people all start tweeting, searching, or sharing information about the same condition in a given area, that obviously means something’s up.

The app identified H1N1 (also called swine flu) in Mexico days before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did. “Not only that,” Brownstein added, “this data can provide a global view of the movement of a virus in real time. This is something no public health agency with standard data collection mechanisms can do.”

StreetRx: A site that tracks the black market value of prescription drugs via voluntary crowdsourced information. Besides monitoring social media posts about people buying and selling illegal drugs (which, Brownstein said, are more common than you’d expect), people can anonymously report how much they paid for a drug and compare its price across different geographic areas.

The tool is used by government agencies to understand the real-world impact of new products. When Oxycontin’s formulation was changed to make it harder to get high off crushing and snorting it, StreetRx was used to confirm that the strategy was working—Oxycontin dropped in price.

MedWatcher Social: This tool aggregates tweets about drug side effects, and has created an extensive database that’s considered to be more complete even than the FDA’s. Only a small fraction of drug mentions on Twitter are about negative side effects, so a lot of data filtering is required. When a tweet is confirmed to be an adverse effects report, MedWatcher tweets back at the user asking them to fill out a more complete report.

These tools, as Brownstein sees it, are just the beginning. The data we’re inundated with on a daily basis has great potential to positively impact our health. “The reality is that we don’t have an infrastructure to take all our know-how, all our applications and tools, and extend them,” he said. “We want to create that abstract layer in healthcare.”

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

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China Is an Entrepreneurial Hotbed That Cannot Be Ignored

Last week, Eric Schmidt, chairman of Alphabet, predicted that China will rapidly overtake the US in artificial intelligence…in as little as five years.

Last month, China announced plans to open a $10 billion quantum computing research center in 2020.

Bottom line, China is aggressively investing in exponential technologies, pursuing a bold goal of becoming the global AI superpower by 2030.

Based on what I’ve observed from China’s entrepreneurial scene, I believe they have a real shot of hitting that goal.

As I described in a previous tech blog, I recently traveled to China with a group of my Abundance 360 members, where I was hosted by my friend Kai-Fu Lee, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Sinovation Ventures.

On one of our first nights, Kai-Fu invited us to a special dinner at Da Dong Roast, which specializes in Peking duck, where we shared an 18-course meal.

The meal was amazing, and Kai-Fu’s dinner conversation provided us priceless insights on Chinese entrepreneurs.

Three topics opened my eyes. Here’s the wisdom I’d like to share with you.

1. The Entrepreneurial Culture in China

Chinese entrepreneurship has exploded onto the scene and changed significantly over the past 10 years.

In my opinion, one significant way that Chinese entrepreneurs vary from their American counterparts is in work ethic. The mantra I found in the startups I visited in Beijing and Shanghai was “9-9-6”—meaning the employees only needed to work from 9 am to 9 pm, 6 days a week.

Another concept Kai-Fu shared over dinner was the almost ‘dictatorial’ leadership of the founder/CEO. In China, it’s not uncommon for the Founder/CEO to own the majority of the company, or at least 30–40 percent. It’s also the case that what the CEO says is gospel. Period, no debate. There is no minority or dissenting opinion. When the CEO says “march,” the company asks, “which way?”

When Kai-Fu started Sinovation (his $1 billion+ venture fund), there were few active angel investors. Today, China has a rich ecosystem of angel, venture capital, and government-funded innovation parks.

As venture capital in China has evolved, so too has the mindset of the entrepreneur.

Kai -Fu recalled an early investment he made in which, after an unfortunate streak, the entrepreneur came to him, almost in tears, apologizing for losing his money and promising he would earn it back for him in another way. Kai-Fu comforted the entrepreneur and said there was no such need.

Only a few years later, the situation was vastly different. An entrepreneur who was going through a similar unfortunate streak came to Kai Fu and told him he only had $2 million left of his initial $12 million investment. He informed him he saw no value in returning the money and instead was going to take the last $2 million and use it as a final push to see if the company could succeed. He then promised Kai-Fu if he failed, he would remember what Kai-Fu did for him and, as such, possibly give Sinovation an opportunity to invest in him with his next company.

2. Chinese Companies Are No Longer Just ‘Copycats’

During dinner, Kai-Fu lamented that 10 years ago, it would be fair to call Chinese companies copycats of American companies. Five years ago, the claim would be controversial. Today, however, Kai-Fu is clear that claim is entirely false.

While smart Chinese startups will still look at what American companies are doing and build on trends, today it’s becoming a wise business practice for American tech giants to analyze Chinese companies. If you look at many new features of Facebook’s Messenger, it seems to very closely mirror TenCent’s WeChat.

Interestingly, tight government controls in China have actually spurred innovation. Take TV, for example, a highly regulated industry. Because of this regulation, most entertainment in China is consumed on the internet or by phone. Game shows, reality shows, and more will be entirely centered online.

Kai-Fu told us about one of his investments in a company that helps create Chinese singing sensations. They take girls in from a young age, school them, and regardless of talent, help build their presence and brand as singers. Once ready, these singers are pushed across all the available platforms, and superstars are born. The company recognizes its role in this superstar status, though, which is why it takes a 50 percent cut of all earnings.

This company is just one example of how Chinese entrepreneurs take advantage of China’s unique position, market, and culture.

3. China’s Artificial Intelligence Play

Kai-Fu wrapped up his talk with a brief introduction into the expansive AI industry in China. I previously discussed Face++, a Sinovation investment, which is creating radically efficient facial recognition technology. Face++ is light years ahead of anyone else globally at recognition in live videos. However, Face++ is just one of the incredible advances in AI coming out of China.

Baidu, one of China’s most valuable tech companies, started out as just a search company. However, they now run one of the country’s leading self-driving car programs.

Baidu’s goal is to create a software suite atop existing hardware that will control all self-driving aspects of a vehicle but also be able to provide additional services such as HD mapping and more.

Another interesting application came from another of Sinovation’s investments, Smart Finance Group (SFG). Given most payments are mobile (through WeChat or Alipay), only ~20 percent of the population in China have a credit history. This makes it very difficult for individuals in China to acquire a loan.

SFG’s mobile application takes in user data (as much as the user allows) and, based on the information provided, uses an AI agent to create a financial profile with the power to offer an instant loan. This loan can be deposited directly into their WeChat or Alipay account and is typically approved in minutes. Unlike American loan companies, they avoid default and long-term debt by only providing a one-month loan with 10% interest. Borrow $200, and you pay back $220 by the following month.

Artificial intelligence is exploding in China, and Kai-Fu believes it will touch every single industry.

The only constant is change, and the rate of change is constantly increasing.

In the next 10 years, we’ll see tremendous changes on the geopolitical front and the global entrepreneurial scene caused by technological empowerment.

China is an entrepreneurial hotbed that cannot be ignored. I’m monitoring it closely. Are you?

Image Credit: anekoho / Shutterstock.com

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