"THE END OF RANDOMNESS IN HUMAN
EVOLUTION TRULY MARKS THE
BEGINNING OF MAN'S NEXT AVATAR."

AN ENTREPRENEUR, TECHNOLOGIST AND SCIENCE STORYTELLER ATUL JALAN IS A COMPULSIVE ENTREPRENEUR. AS A TECHNOLOGIST, HE IS A KEEN OBSERVER OF THE CHANGES SCIENCE IS FORGING IN US. AS A SCIENCE STORYTELLER, HE BRINGS US THESE OBSERVATIONS THROUGH HIS TALKS AND THROUGH HIS WRITING. KNOW MORE

EVENTS

INKtalks on Role of Technology during this crisis
WITFluence by Wequity
Elevate by Target Corporation
British Deputy High Commission
Global Entrepreneurship Summit, IIT
National Retail Federation
Techfest, IIT Bombay
INK 2019 Within & Beyond
IMA India CEO Forum

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and AI Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed an AI system to optimize for an AI-to-human handover. Essentially, the AI system would only defer to its human counterpart if the person could actually make a better decision.⠀

The AI system uses two separate machine-learning models; one makes the decision, and one that can predict whether AI or human is the better decision maker.⠀

By “learning” how to adapt to the expert’s behaviour and defer when appropriate, the two decision makers (AI and human) were shown to reach a combined level of accuracy higher than any previous hybrid human-AI approach.⠀

While these experiments are still in the early stages, scientists believe the approach could be applied to more complex decisions. ⠀

In healthcare, for example, a doctor/AI system would adapt and compensate to a doctor’s tendency to over or under-prescribe certain drugs like antibiotics.⠀

Will we soon reach a scenario where an AI system is better at diagnosing patients or recognising hate speech? Only time will tell. ⠀

#AI #ML #wherewillmantakeus #intelligence
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The Author⠀
Jose Saramago’s writing style (without regard for much capitalization and punctuation) takes some getting used to. Once you have read a few pages though, you will be whisked into his world which is irreverent, cynical, satirical and poignant, all at the same time. He wrote in Portuguese and had translators’ gift us his magic in English. He was a communist, won the #Nobel Prize in #Literature in 1998, and died in 2010. His best #book is Blindness, but The Elephant’s Journey continues to be a favourite.⠀

The Story⠀
The story is based on historical fact but the narrative is fictional. In 1551, King João III of Portugal gifted an elephant to his cousin, the Archduke of Austria. The elephant (Solomon) and his mahout (named Subhro) make the journey from Lisbon to Vienna via Valladolid (Spain), then to Genoa by ship, and then across the Alps from Venice to Innsbruck, and then by river to Vienna. In those times, the people of these parts had not seen an elephant, and as the story unfolds, we are introduced to characters who are both intimidated and awestruck by the #elephant. ⠀

We are introduced to villagers, priests, militiamen in different topographies including the mists and snows of the Alps. Solomon is made to participate in a fake miracle at Padua; and then actually performs a miracle by not trampling a baby in Vienna.⠀

Subhro (I see a Bengali reference here) the mahout, is resourceful, and aware of his importance in this mission. Even though he is dedicated to Solomon, he is an opportunist and makes money off simple-minded miracle-seekers. Subhro says that he is a Christian but he talks about #Ganesh and displays a fair knowledge of #Hinduism. These are digs at religion, especially Christianity, and both village folk and priests are shown in unexposed light.⠀

The Narrator⠀
Saramago himself is present as the ubiquitous narrator, with reflective statements and cynical observations. Even while being scornful, he maintains a light-heartedness which gives an extra dose of memorability.⠀

If you have not read #Saramago, or this 200-page literary gem, give it a shot: it will warm the cockles of your heart. #review #theelephantsjourney #fiction
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Nuclear energy, which is a renewable source, does not enjoy the status accorded to solar and wind energy. That’s because of two reasons: fear of radiation from an accident, and finding an effective means of waste disposal or reuse. ⠀

In 2006, Bill Gates founded TerraPower to engineer and deploy a solution. He had a deal with China National Nuclear Corporation to build an experimental traveling wave-reactor, outside Beijing. That got caught in the nets of the Trump administration’s trade restrictions with China.⠀

In nuclear fission, after enriched U-235 isotopes are exhausted, what remains is called depleted uranium (U-238 isotope). The advantage of the new technology is that it uses ‘depleted uranium’ as fuel. “TerraPower ‘eliminates the need for reprocessing,’ which in turn reduces proliferation concerns, lowers the overall cost of the nuclear fuel cycle, and helps to protect the environment by making use of a waste byproduct.” ⠀

Now, TerraPower, with its new partner GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, plans to build a series of small traveling wave reactor plants called Natrium across the US. Each plant will cost a cool billion; and operate only when there is a shortfall in a grid from wind or solar energy. ⠀

#energy #power #nuclear #clean #fission #terrapower #gates
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Humans instinctively understand that all animals age differently and have tried to find ways to map them to the human equivalent. None more so than of the domesticated dog. This rule of paw: one dog year is equal 7 human years is an easy compute, but is it accurate? ⠀

According to a study done with 104 Labrador retriever puppies, the calculation is a bit more complicated as indicated by methylation marks on the DNA.⠀

Study author, Trey Ideker, says, “What's surprising is exactly how old that one-year-old dog is – it's like a 30-year old human.” The fact that a 9 month-old dog can have puppies shows how much more physiologically mature they are at that age. However, the ageing process slows down as they age. So for each additional dog year, the corresponding increase in human years get smaller.⠀

For those of you who must know the new formula for age calculation, get ready to pull out your scientific calculators: human age = 16 ln(dog age) + 31 [ln being the natural log].⠀

Here’s a compassionate observation from Ideker: “I like to take my dogs on runs, and so I'm a little bit more sympathetic to the 6-year-old now.” This is because, according to the new formula, his dog at 6 years is pushing 60!⠀

#dog #dogs #years #age #calculation #formula #ageing #DNA #human #labradors #puppies #doglovers #pets
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Silence

The Movie⠀
Martin’s Scorsese’s Silence is an intensely powerful film which forces us to look deep within ourselves: faith, purpose, morality and the choices we make. The film is a sensorial experience that needs to be relished with a dose of reflection and contemplation. ⠀

Director⠀
We all known #Scorsese as a master-director who has rarely made a bad film. He studied to be a priest, but luckily for us unleashed his talents upon the world of movie-making. Unlike his other films about crime, mafia, showbiz and glitz, this film seems intensely personal.⠀

What It’s About⠀
The film is based on the novel by Shûsaku Endô. In 17th century Japan, where Christianity was forbidden, intrepid Jesuits priests sought to spread their faith. The film poses questions surrounding faith, religious conversion, and the (lack of) omnipresence of god. It is almost Buddhist in spirit: the soul of a seeker looking for an answer.⠀

Main Characters⠀
Two padres from Portugal (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) look for their mentor (Liam Neeson) who is supposed to have committed apostasy by stepping on the image of Christ, under duress from Japanese officials. Issei Ogata plays an official in charge of eradicating #Christianity from #Japan and he torments the priests with extreme torture and humiliation.⠀

Garfield excels in bearing all the punishment and pondering over the meaning and mercy of god. Is god indifferent to suffering? Can man renounce god and still find a way to salvation? There are references to Christ suffering on the cross. There are many questions, including some from the Japanese point of view: why should I stop believing in my #god? I am happy with him.⠀

Impressions⠀
The movie is a prayer to silence. Instead of music it uses sea-waves, wind in the grass, crackling firewood, burning flesh and other nuances to establish the setting for deep reflection. The movie is a visual beauty which contrasts the sufferings depicted in the film. No wonder that it was an Oscar nominee for Best Achievement in Cinematography.⠀

If you enjoy reflective, soul-searching sagas that question the purpose of life on earth, you will not be disappointed. #films #movies #reviews
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The EU has been at the forefront of data privacy legislation through the GDPR. The EU’s stringent antitrust laws and ‘codified protections on personal data’ have been the primary bulwark against commercial exploitation. ⠀

The latest data governance strategy brings a twist: the EU wants to ‘become an active player in facilitating the use and monetization of its citizens’ personal data’. Through a mechanism called ‘data trust’, it seeks to become a promoter of data sharing as a civic duty for its denizens. It will have stewardship with only fiduciary duties toward its clients.⠀

The Trusts Project, with a starting budget of €7 million, wants to become ‘a one-stop shop’ for anyone looking to access both personal and non-personal information of the citizens. The citizens will be paid data dividends, though the terms are yet unclear. EU, with 500 million citizens, will become the world’s largest data market. ⠀

Though the intentions may be commendable, the profit motive weakens the position of the European governments, and also deprives the rights of the citizens to do as they wish. There are also questions surrounding transparency, political manipulation, and governance issues.⠀

Read #WhereWillManTakeUs for more on #data #privacy and personal data #ownership. (link in bio)⠀

#nonfiction #bestseller #GDPR #EU #antitrust
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The way higher education is dispensed, the 4 years required to complete a degree and the concomitant high costs, has been under criticism for long. The category is ripe for a major disruption, albeit in certain disciplines only, and the tech industry is going to lead that assault.⠀

Google is ‘launching a selection of professional courses that teach candidates how to perform in-demand jobs’ that will impact higher education and work. ⠀

Google Career Certificates will target foundational skills for easier employability, and will take about 6 months. The COVID-19 crisis not only hastened the immediacy; it demonstrated the mass acceptance of online methods of knowledge dissemination. ⠀

Kent Walker, SVP, Google says: “College degrees are out of reach for many Americans, and you shouldn't need a college diploma to have economic security. We need new, accessible job-training solutions----from enhanced vocational programs to online education----to help America recover and rebuild.”⠀

This will obviously raise some questions: Is education merely the handmaiden of a vocation? Can young people who avoid a degree course evolve a well-rounded perspective, or get time to understand their true calling? Perhaps a hybrid model will be best: especially for the humanities and scientific research-based subjects. ⠀

#college #degrees #education #jobs #learning #online #professional #technology
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When space tourism to Mars becomes a reality, possibly in the 2030s, a world filled with natural wonders beckons us. What we see will depend on which area becomes the landing zone of convenience, and the prevailing seasonal climactic conditions in various places. ⠀

Here’s a sampling of the destinations:⠀

Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in our solar system, is 3 times taller than Mount Everest, and is 374 miles wide which makes for easy ascension due to the gentler degree of slopes.⠀

Valles Marineris, a sprawling canyon system, is four times deeper and five times longer than Grand Canyon. The gorges go down to a depth of 4.3 miles!⠀

The Kasei Valles, the largest outflow system of chasms on Mars, was possibly sculpted by water a couple of billion years ago when Mars was warmer. ⠀

The Bacquerel Crater, filled with rocks composed of sulphates, is indicative of a massive lake 160 kms wide.⠀

The Iani Chaos, a jumble of rugged cliffs and mesas, extends for about 200 kms. It’s neighbour, Hydraotes Chaos, is 350 kms.⠀

The Neukum Crater, determined as one of the oldest regions, formed 3.9 billion years ago, possibly from an asteroid impact.⠀

#mars #tourism #wonders #natural #space #exploration
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Children can learn a new language with relative ease, compared to their parents. Learning a new language is difficult, though many accomplish this with varying degrees of success because they do possess the skills to acquire ‘non-native speech categories in adulthood’.⠀

According to a recent study (Journal: Science of Learning), “the adult brain no longer has the same plasticity — or ability to reshape its synaptic networks to accommodate new information — that it once did in childhood.” ⠀

The researchers hypothesized that stimulation to the nervous system could improve plasticity and #memory recall. They devised a test to stimulate the transcutaneous vagus nerve (tVNS), non-invasively, through painless electric pulses and participants were made to ‘listen to and attempt to identify four different Mandarin tones — a task that can be especially hard for English speakers who are not used to speaking or hearing a tonal language.’ The outcome: 13 percent improvement in easier pairs of Mandarin tones and negligible for difficult ones.⠀

This sort of improvement would not only encourage language enthusiasts to continue learning languages but has ramifications for ‘improving cognitive performance across a wide range of domains’, including rehabilitation for stroke victims, and treating patients with brain damage. #language #speech #learning #science #technology #wherewillmantakeus
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