1 Bitcoin = $952
$15.7 billion: New All-Time High Market Cap
Bitcoin surges past previous high of $13.8bill in December 2013. – Lee Banfield
World’s Best Performing Currency in 2016
Bitcoin up 118% in 2016 – blocklink.info
After breaking through a previous record high, Bitcoin tends to climb to Multiple-X its previous record high. – Bobby Lee
Large Funds Scrambling for Bitcoin
Last 24hrs couple of $10bln+ AUM Funds calling to buy 30k-50k bitcoins.
We were not selling then / not selling now. – George Kikvadze, Bitfury
Bitcoin is still in its early days. It’s easy to fool yourself into feeling late if you’re immersed in it day-to-day.
Most people don’t own any bitcoin… yet. I still often hear: “Oh, bitcoin? They got hacked right? Didn’t the company go bankrupt?” – Stephen Cole
LocalBitcoin Volumes Hit All-Time High
LocalBitcoins is doing record volumes. Congratulations boys! Its the simple business models addressing basic needs that will grow huge. – Beautyon
Exponential Growth at Venezuela’s Largest Bitcoin Exchange
The SurBitcoin exchange operates out of an office 2,100 miles from Caracas, in a converted shipping and manufacturing complex overlooking the Brooklyn waterfront.
There are about 1,200 daily transactions on SurBitcoin, and volume on the exchange has increased more than threefold in the last year. “It’s a lot of people trading small amounts,” Souza says. The average trade on SurBitcoin is the equivalent of about $35.
The leading exchange in Latin America measured by the amount of money that changes hands is Brazil’s Foxbit, but there’s more trade activity on SurBitcoin. The government hasn’t shut down the service, Souza says, in part because several public officials “have become our clients.”
For expats in particular, SurBitcoin is a godsend. Maria is a 32-year-old stock trader who left Venezuela three years ago for Brazil. To send money home to her family, she initially used a human courier: A friend routinely brought cash across the border and deposited it in her parents’ bank account. “It took several days and was very dangerous,” Maria says. Now she sends about $350 home each month through SurBitcoin without hassle.
From the U.S., it’s possible to remit funds through services like MoneyGram and Western Union, but my own recent calculation shows that a user of SurBitcoin would save close to 40 cents on the dollar over Western Union. Maria says that in Brazil, MoneyGram involves so much paperwork and has such low remittance limits, it wasn’t worth her time.
Rodrigo Souza, the operator of SurBitcoin’s exchange, is convinced that no matter what happens next in the country, bitcoin will continue to undermine state power.
His company works with a domestic bank to facilitate its transactions in bolivars, and the state could take measures to revoke its permissions at any time. If that were to happen, Souza says, his customers would simply start trading bitcoins through the popular listing site LocalBitcoins, where individuals connect online and arrange peer-to-peer trades.
It would be less convenient, but users would manage. Bitcoin in Venezuela is an inexorable force, Souza says. “How can you stop software running on the internet?” – Jim Epstein
London Banks Plan to Hoard Bitcoins to Pay Cyber Ransoms
- Some people have to adopt Bitcoin whether they like it or not. – Kyle Torpey
Several of London’s largest banks are looking to stockpile bitcoins in order to pay off cyber criminals who threaten to bring down their critical IT systems.
The virtual currency is being acquired by blue chip companies in order to pay ransoms, according to a leading IT expert.
Moores declined to identify the banks buying up bitcoins but it is understood senior police officers have been made aware of the practice. – Jamie Doward
Hash Rate More Than Triples in 2016
- Bitcoin’s hash rate has increased from 0.7 Exahash to 2.5 Exhash so far this year. – Lee Banfield
- Bitcoin is practically the only production system running at exa-<anything> scale. …the power of well-aligned incentives. – Dan McArdle
In China, Energy Companies are Becoming Bitcoin Miners
US Government Contractors
Local miner tells me that govt contractors have been asking questions about mining infrastructure… speculate away as to why that might be. – Jameson Lopp
Venezuelan Bitcoin Miner: “I Think the Officers Who Arrested Me Have Started Mining”
Joel Padrón—the first bitcoin miner arrested in Venezuela—was released on July 1 after agreeing to a plea deal.
But the law isn’t the only threat. Violent crime in Venezuela has skyrocketed as the economy has collapsed, and miners must be very careful to hide their wealth.
Padrón’s bitcoin mining computers were confiscated by SEBIN officers when he was arrested in March and never returned. But he had an alert system set up: Whenever the machines are powered up and connected to the bitcoin-mining network, he receives an automatically generated email.
A month after his arrest, a message arrived in Padrón’s inbox. “I think the officers [who arrested me] have started mining bitcoins,” he says. – Jim Epstein
The Dangerous World of Venezuelan Bitcoin Mining
In a country where cash has lost much of its value, and food and other necessities are dangerously scarce, bitcoins are providing many Venezuelans with a lifeline. The same socialist economics that caused the country’s meltdown has made the energy-intensive process of bitcoin mining wildly profitable—but also dangerous.
The main factor driving Venezuelans to take up bitcoin mining is a price control put in place by the socialist government: Electricity is virtually free.
The government has turned bitcoin mining into something akin to owning a home mint. Price controls, of course, invariably lead to shortages, and the country’s frequent electricity outages create constant headaches for bitcoin miners. But they’ve also come up with workarounds, such as locating their operations in industrial zones, where electricity service is generally uninterrupted.
Bitcoin is helping to keep pantry shelves full and medicine cabinets stocked, making life tolerable—if not always easy—in the midst of a socialist hell.
The Only Hope to Survive
Like many bitcoin users, Alberto, imports food from the U.S. through Amazon’s Prime Pantry service. This would be impossible with bolivars because almost no one outside of Venezuela accepts them as payment, and the growing scarcity of U.S. currency has made purchasing foreign goods with dollars increasingly difficult. Though the Seattle-based retail giant doesn’t accept bitcoins itself, plenty of intermediary companies do. Alberto purchases Amazon gift cards through the cryptocurrency-friendly website eGifter, using software to mask the location of his computer, and then routes his orders through a Miami-based courier service.
Jesús, a 26-year-old living in the city of Barquisimeto, credits bitcoin with saving his business. He’s the proprietor of a small cellphone and computer repair shop located in a mall. When his suppliers ran out of inventory because of trade restrictions, his store was on the verge of going under. Then a friend introduced him to bitcoin. Now, he orders $400 in supplies from Amazon in a good month, and his business has recovered. “I have access to tools and inventory,” he says, “that are difficult to find or extremely expensive in Venezuela.”
Ricardo, a 30-year-old photography teacher, is earning about $500 in monthly revenue with a rack of five mining computers hidden in a soundproofed room of his family’s two-story house. His mother has chronic liver disease, and the medication she needs to stay alive is no longer sold in Venezuela. With bitcoins, he’s able to purchase the drug from foreign suppliers. “Bitcoin,” he says, “is our only hope nowadays to survive.
Bitcoin miners may have unique access to foreign goods, but they also live under constant threat. Many fear they’ll be discovered by the Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional (SEBIN), the country’s secret police force. SEBIN officers hunt for bitcoin miners and then extort them under the threat of arrest and criminal prosecution. – Jim Epstein
Bitcoin Dominance Index
Bitcoin Dominance Index rises to 88%, up from 76% in March – Lee Banfield
Bitcoin is once in a lifetime event. You are going to have a bad time trying to replicate its success. – Steve
Over the lifetime of Bitcoin, Gold appreciated from $800/oz to just $1100/oz and is heading down. – Oleg Andreev
Many gold bugs *still* shun btc. Gold–>BTC flow hasn’t even started yet. – Dan McArdle
118 Altcoins Plotted vs. Bitcoin
Can you see why it’s really hard to beat bitcoin now? That red line is bitcoin, by the way.
It seems that alt-coins are best left for trading due to their volatility, but very risky as holds. Out of 700+ coins in my database I would say less than 5 have a shot of doing something interesting. – Willy Woo
Bitcoin vs The Top 10 Ranked Altcoins
Bitcoin outperformed the alt-coin portfolio by 3.8x.
Surprisingly during the 2013 bubble, alts performed even higher, but lost more ground in the bear market thereafter.
This pattern of alts having an edge in bull markets happened twice. I make out the bottom of the market was mid-May 2015, since that time alts recovered with a 3.8x rally (from 0.308x to 1.17x), while Bitcoin recovered with a 2.7x rally (from 1.68x to 4.56x).
Bitcoin vs The 11th-20th Ranked Altcoins
To shake things up, here’s a portfolio with ten “small cap” alts ranked 11th through to 20th making up the index. The idea behind this one is to capture the coins that have more potential for growth and exiting once they graduate to the big leagues (or fade into oblivion).
These results were one of the more promising index allocations, the portfolio dropped less during the bear market and had impressive gains during bull markets, however bitcoin still won out with a 4.6x return vs 3.6x for the index which also exhibited more volatility.
Bitcoin vs. The Top 20 Altcoins
Over 3yrs, a monthly rebalanced top 20 altcoin basket returned 20% (with very high custodial risk).
Bitcoin is really hard to beat with altcoin index funds. Not only do they underperform Bitcoin by a significant amount, but as a combined basket their day to day volatility is higher.
There will be a bunch of altcoin funds hitting the crypto investment world in this coming year. Having seen the data, I would take the index based approaches to fund investment with a decent grain of salt. – Willy Woo
PRIVACY / SECURITY / INTERNET
Akamai State of the Internet Report
- Global average connection speed increased 21% increase year over year.
- Average internet speed doubled in Vietnam and Indonesia. Good news for digital nomads.
- 5G will bring gigabit data, starting in 2018 and scaling in 2019-2020. – WSJD
- This will be an interconnected world, it will be a world where humans are communicating with each other but also with machines, where machines are communicating with each other, and where people are not really aware of the connectivity anymore, they just are connected. – Philipp Metzger
- There is nothing I’m looking forward more to then 5G – Mark Brienza
NIST Seeking Ways to Protect Encrypted Data From Quantum Attacks
- Entanglement is the core interaction that weaves the universe itself together. If we ever control larger quantum interactions it will be like counting with an abacus vs. intel xeon. – cinnamon_carter
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is officially asking the public for help heading off a looming threat to information security: quantum computers, which could potentially break the encryption codes used to protect privacy in digital systems.
“We’re looking to replace three NIST cryptographic standards and guidelines that would be the most vulnerable to quantum computers,” Moody said, referring to FIPS 186-4, NIST SP 800-56A and NIST SP 800-56B. “They deal with encryption, key establishment and digital signatures, all of which use forms of public key cryptography.”
NIST is requesting methods and strategies from the world’s cryptographers, with the deadline less than a year away. The evaluation phase will follow, which will take an estimated three to five years. – NIST
China Launches World’s Longest Quantum Communication Line
It transmitted a secure video conference between Hefei and Shanghai in one of its first test communications.
The line, already three years in the making and yet to be finished, will ultimately connect Shanghai to China’s capital, Beijing, and run through another major city, Jinan, with a total of 32 relay points.
Quantum communication uses quantum entanglement of photons to ensure that nobody taps into the line, as doing so would inevitably corrupt the signal.
The Chinese network is valuable for both research on how the technology can be used, and practical purposes, such as delivering secure messages between the connected cities.
China has already launched a quantum communication satellite that will eventually be connected to the Shanghai-Beijing line via a station in Beijing. – Jose Miguel Gomez
The World Realizing Nvidia’s Potential
Nvidia stock now $112. Traded at $32 at the start of the year. – Lee Banfield
Moore’s Law is Now in NVIDIA’s Hands
- We’ll soon see the power of computing increase way more than any other period. There will be trillions of products with tiny neural networks inside. – Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of NVIDIA
Intel has long ago ceded leadership for Moore’s Law. And so, understandably, they have trumpeted the end of Moore’s Law for many years. To me, it sounds a lot like Larry Ellison’s OpEd declaring the end of innovation in enterprise software, just before cloud computing and SaaS took off. In both cases, the giants missed the organic innovation bubbling up all around them.
For the past seven years, it has not been Intel but NVIDIA that has pushed the frontier of Moore’s processor performance/price curve.
For a 2016 data point, consider the NVIDIA Titan GTX. It offers 10^13 FLOPS per $1K (11 trillion calculations per second for $1,200 list price), and is the workhorse for deep learning and scientific supercomputing today. And they are sampling much more powerful systems that should be shipping soon. The fine-grained parallel compute architecture of a GPU maps better to the needs of deep learning than a CPU.
There is a poetic beauty to the computational similarity of a processor optimized for graphics processing and the computational needs of a sensory cortex, as commonly seen in neural networks today.
I was going to update the Kurzweil Curve (the meaningful version of Moore’s Law) to include the latest data points, and found that he was doing the same thing.
Here is the preliminary version. The 7 most recent data points are all NVIDIA, with CPU architectures dominating the prior 30 years:
It’s what gives us hope for the future and I think it’s the most important thing ever graphed.
Here is the prior version
Moore’s Law is now in NVIDIA’s hands. Consider the GTX Titan X for 2016. 11 TFLOPS for $1,200. That would be on the order of 10^13 for the far right side of the graph, perfectly on the line.
Marc Andreessen: If We Were a Hedge Fund We’d Put All Our Money Into Nvidia
Nvidia’s dominance of the GPU sector–it has more than a 70% share–and its expansion into new markets have sent its stock soaring. Its shares are up almost 200% in the past 12 months
There are an estimated 3,000 AI startups worldwide, and many of them are building on Nvidia’s platform. They’re using Nvidia’s GPUs to put AI into apps for trading stocks, shopping online and navigating drones.
“We’ve been investing in a lot of startups applying deep learning to many areas, and every single one effectively comes in building on Nvidia’s platform,” says Marc Andreessen of venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. “It’s like when people were all building on Windows in the ’90s or all building on the iPhone in the late 2000s.
“For fun,” adds Andreessen, “our firm has an internal game of what public companies we’d invest in if we were a hedge fund. We’d put all our money into Nvidia.” – Aaron Tilley
COMPANIES / PROJECTS / PRODUCTS
ProDrone: Dual Robot Arm Drone
Can’t stop watching this clip of a drone with arms. Can carry 10kg. – Anna Jackman
Full Self-Driving Hardware Becoming Available on All Tesla Cars
This is huge news. It was just a few years ago that the sensors/cameras used on the Google cars were over $100,000 to achieve level 3 autonomy.
To have the hardware component installed on all Tesla cars (including the $35k Model 3) moving forward happened years ahead of when I feel most of us that follow autonomous vehicle tech would have imagined. From a tech perspective, this is mind-blowing news. – Nathan Wright
Musk announced that all Tesla cars being produced as of today, including the Model 3, will have everything they need onboard to achieve full Level 5 self-driving in the future.
The biggest change might be the new onboard computer that provides over 40 times the processing power of the existing Tesla hardware, which actually runs the in-house neural net the car maker has developed in order to handle processing of data inbound from the vision, sonar and radar systems.
Musk said on call discussing the most recent update to the existing driver assistance Autopilot software that it basically stretched computing power to the limit, which is why the upgraded CPU is required for full Level 5 autonomy. The new GPU is the Nvidia Titan, Musk said on the call, though it was a “tight call” between Nvidia and AMD.
The validation required for full autonomy will still take some more time, but Musk said on a call that it’s actually already looking like it’ll be at least two times as safe as human driving based on existing testing. – Darrell Etherington
Huge Improvements as Google Translate Converts to AI Based System
- The A.I. system made overnight improvements roughly equal to the total gains the old one had accrued over its entire lifetime.
- The rollout includes translations between English and Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Turkish. The rest of Translate’s hundred-odd languages are to come, with the aim of eight per month.
- The Google Translate team had been steadily adding new languages and features to the old system, but gains in quality over the last four years had slowed considerably.
Late one Friday night in early November, Jun Rekimoto, a distinguished professor of human-computer interaction at the University of Tokyo, was online preparing for a lecture when he began to notice some peculiar posts rolling in on social media.
Apparently Google Translate, the company’s popular machine-translation service, had suddenly and almost immeasurably improved. Rekimoto visited Translate himself and began to experiment with it. He was astonished. He had to go to sleep, but Translate refused to relax its grip on his imagination.
Rekimoto promoted his discovery to his hundred thousand or so followers on Twitter, and over the next few hours thousands of people broadcast their own experiments with the machine-translation service.
As dawn broke over Tokyo, Google Translate was the No. 1 trend on Japanese Twitter, just above some cult anime series and the long-awaited new single from a girl-idol supergroup. Everybody wondered: How had Google Translate become so uncannily artful?
Google Translate’s side-by-side experiment to compare the new system with the old one.
Schuster wanted to run a for English-French, but Hughes advised him to try something else. “English-French,” he said, “is so good that the improvement won’t be obvious.”
It was a challenge Schuster couldn’t resist. The benchmark metric to evaluate machine translation is called a BLEU score, which compares a machine translation with an average of many reliable human translations.
At the time, the best BLEU scores for English-French were in the high 20s. An improvement of one point was considered very good; an improvement of two was considered outstanding.
The neural system, on the English-French language pair, showed an improvement over the old system of seven points. Hughes told Schuster’s team they hadn’t had even half as strong an improvement in their own system in the last four years.
To be sure this wasn’t some fluke in the metric, they also turned to their pool of human contractors to do a side-by-side comparison. The user-perception scores, in which sample sentences were graded from zero to six, showed an average improvement of 0.4 — roughly equivalent to the aggregate gains of the old system over its entire lifetime of development.
In mid-March, Hughes sent his team an email. All projects on the old system were to be suspended immediately.
KNOWLEDGE / LEARNING
- Ten thousand years ago, we would throw a stone as far as our arm allowed. Today, we throw a rover into the cosmos, as far as our knowledge allows.
- The reach of human knowledge is unlimited. We are completely central to any understanding of the universe. The Scientific Revolution was an event that changed the universe (or so we should hope).
- Base metals can be transmuted into gold by stars, and by intelligent beings who understand the processes that power stars, but by nothing else in the universe.
The Singapore Math Question: IQ as Inherent “Intelligence”
- Yes, it’s complicated, but it’s not complicated like the English language. The English language is unbelievably complex. Thousands of words, using them all in different ways, inflection, and we all do that effortlessly. – Joe Rogan
- Most teachers – and indeed our culture generally – explicitly endorse the bad idea of “intelligence”. The false and damaging idea that certain people have mental inherent capacities over and above others. Intelligence is a rather useless word. Whatever it is, it’s no more “innate” than speaking english is.
- All universal computers – including ourselves – are bounded only by memory and speed and can do *literally anything* that any other computer can do. This is what computational universality is. Because humans are universal computers we must be able to do whatever any other of us can.
- Don’t set arbitrary limits to human knowledge – Brett Hall
Here is the problem “for school children” that it is claimed has “stumped the world”.
Being able to do this, or not do this question – or this type of question is a measure of nothing more than how interested you are in doing this question – or questions like it.
Logic is actually a subject all its own. It is a learnable thing, taught at schools and universities. Like French. Or Chinese. Or the piano.
Don’t worry if you don’t get it – you would if you were really, genuinely interested. Which means – you would sit down for (literally) many minutes – probably hours – doing this problem and ones like it until it just became second nature. People do this! And weirdly lots of the people that do it say “I find logic puzzles so easy” and they do well at them. Because they have fun doing them. And so do well in tests with logic puzzles.
And they think, and other people think, it is somehow an inherent (i.e: not learned) capacity. That it is something about their brains. But it’s not. It’s just a skill of their minds. Like speaking Chinese. Or playing the piano. Or dancing. Or any one of a million other things human beings can do. It’s not a measure of intelligence. It’s just a certain kind of learned skill.
But it is a learned skill that is quickly, and highly, rewarded in schools because schools value this kind of thing and some students value getting gold stars or good marks or whatever. And so they do well and the cycle continues.
It’s like if you cannot read music and don’t really want to learn how. It probably won’t help if someone really articulate tries to explain it to you: you probably still won’t understand because you won’t really pay attention. But that doesn’t mean you lack some capability someone else has, or have a lower IQ – it means you are not interested.
Truly, some people are interested in, for fun, doing lots of logic type puzzles of the sort they ask in IQ tests. That doesn’t make these people smarter than someone who teaches themselves how to speak Mandarin or Russian – it just gives them different interests.
Would you think someone who learned how to speak Mandarin completely fluently was really smart? Well every child in mainland China (more or less) learns this to a very high level of proficiency.
If people were rewarded socially for doing IQ tests in the way they were for learning languages, we would all do really really well in IQ tests. We’d all be “fluent” in IQ testing questions and their answers. Instead, only some of us are ever interested in in doing lots of silly little mathematical and logical puzzles – because we find it fun and rewarding.
OpenAI Releases Universe, an Open Source Platform for Training AI
- If Universe works, computers will use video games to learn how to function in the physical world. – Wired
- Universe is the most intricate and intriguing tech I’ve worked on. – Greg Brockman
OpenAI, the billion-dollar San Francisco artificial intelligence lab backed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, just unveiled a new virtual world.
This isn’t a digital playground for humans. It’s a school for artificial intelligence. It’s a place where AI can learn to do just about anything.
Other AI labs have built similar worlds where AI agents can learn on their own. Researchers at the University of Alberta offer the Atari Learning Environment, where agents can learn to play old Atari games like Breakout and Space Invaders.
Microsoft offers Malmo, based on the game Minecraft. And earlier this month, Google’s DeepMind released an environment called DeepMind Lab.
But Universe is bigger than any of these. It’s an AI training ground that spans any software running on any machine, from games to web browsers to protein folders.
“The domain we chose is everything that a human can do with a computer,” says Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s chief technology officer.
In theory, AI researchers can plug any application into Universe, which then provides a common way for AI “agents” to interact with these applications. That means researchers can build bots that learn to navigate one application and then another and then another. – Cade Metz
Integrating Artificial Intelligence
We can enhance our brains to multiply our intelligence and creativity.
We’ve been improving our memory capacity and our speed of computation for thousands of years already with the invention of things like writing, writing implements – just language itself which enables more than one person to work on the same problem and to coordinate their understanding of it with each other. That also allows an increase in speed compared with what an unaided human would be able to do.
Currently we use computers and in the future we can use computer implants and so on. In principle it’s easy – it doesn’t violate any law of physics. – David Deutsch
With A ‘Neural Lace’ Brain Implant, We Can Stay As Smart As AI
- Can we just inject electronic circuits through a needle into the brain, or other tissue, and then connect it, and then monitor? Yes, we can, and that’s where we are today. – Charles Lieber
This summer at Code Conference 2016, Elon Musk stated publicly that given the current rate of A.I. advancement, humans could ultimately expect to be left behind—cognitively, intellectually—“by a lot.”
His solution to this unappealing fate is a novel brain-computer interface similar to the implantable “neural lace” described by the Scottish novelist Iain M. Banks in Look to Windward, part of his “Culture series” books. Along with serving as a rite of passage, it upgrades the human brain to be more competitive against A.I.’s with human-level or higher intelligence.
Smarter artificial intelligence is certainly being developed, but how far along are we on producing a neural lace?
At the conference, Musk said he didn’t know of any company that was working on one. But last year, a team of researchers led by Charles Lieber, the Mark Hyman Professor of Chemistry at Harvard University, described in Nature Nanotechnology a lace-like electronic mesh that “you could literally inject” into three-dimensional synthetic and biological structures like the brain. That was a major step.
His team’s paper, published on August 29th in Nature Methods, expands on that earlier work, to show that mesh-brain implants readily integrate into a mouse brain and enable neuronal recordings for at least eight months. “
In science, I’ve been disappointed at times, and this is a case where we’ve been more than pleasantly surprised,” Lieber says.
What does this development really mean for those of us who hope to acquire a neural lace? – Kiki Sanford
The Neural Lace Maker
At the outset no one, and a lot of reviewers of that first paper, believed we could even inject electronics through a needle and then not destroy the electronics. A lot of it was actually not related to anything biological. It was really about the materials science, and also showing that you could literally inject this into other kinds of structures.
Also, other implanted electronics in the brain always cause some type of immune response and damage, probably due to the combination of putting something really rigid into this soft tissue: Whenever you move around and your brain moves, it moves different than this thing. It can destroy cells; but also, because it’s much bigger, it’s apparently easier for the cells or the biological system to recognize it as something foreign and try to attack it.
But our philosophy, it seems, is going to be really rewarding because it solves the immune-response problem, and then allows us now to do measurements and modulate neural circuits.
It’s turned out to work much, much better than we originally thought, and some of the reasons are outlined in our original paper a year ago, and then much more so in this paper: That this mesh-like structure, which can be injected because it has size, scale, and mechanical properties very similar to the neural network, or neural tissue, turns out to have no immune response, which is unheard of. – Charles Lieber
The first thing we did was to create the first three-dimensional transistor: Three dimensional in a sense that the nanoscale device was completely removed from the substrate, and could then be placed inside of a cell.
The idea was to get things away from the substrate and into three-dimensional free space so that they could be integrated throughout tissue. This showed that we could actually put a fundamental building block of the computer industry inside of, and communicate with, the cell for the first time.
The brain grows literally throughout the neural lace. When it’s injected, this two-dimensional mesh ends up being like a cylinder that’s still a mesh, and it gets filled with the tissue.
In some process, we don’t understand all the details, there’s obviously some regrowth, and some remodeling of the tissue refills this space where the needle initially moved all the tissue out of the way. Then you’re left with something where it’s interpenetrating between this roughly cylindrical structure of the mesh.
You could envision co-injecting this network, the mesh or lace, with stem cells and literally regrowing damaged tissue. Using some stimulation and stuff, you could help to rewire this in the way you want—somewhat science fiction, but also not totally crazy. It’s certainly in the realm of what’s physically possible.
Our interest is to do things for the benefit of humankind, and maybe I sound like an idealist. I think our goal is to do something, and I think it’s possible to, number one, correct deficiencies. And I wouldn’t mind adding a terabyte of memory. – Charles Lieber
Keeping up With AI by Putting a Computer in Your Brain
- Kernel is a human intelligence company developing the world’s first neuroprosthesis to mimic, repair and improve cognition.
Like many in Silicon Valley, technology entrepreneur Bryan Johnson sees a future in which intelligent machines can do things like drive cars on their own and anticipate our needs before we ask.
What’s uncommon is how Johnson wants to respond: find a way to supercharge the human brain so that we can keep up with the machines.
From an unassuming office in Venice Beach, his science-fiction-meets-science start-up, Kernel, is building a tiny chip that can be implanted in the brain to help people suffering from neurological damage caused by strokes, Alzheimer’s or concussions.
Top neuroscientists who are building the chip — they call it a neuroprosthetic — hope that in the longer term, it will be able to boost intelligence, memory and other cognitive tasks.
The medical device is years in the making, Johnson acknowledges, but he can afford the time. He sold his payments company, Braintree, to PayPal for $800 million in 2013.
Kernel is cognitive enhancement of the not-gimmicky variety. The concept is based on the work of Theodore Berger, a pioneering biomedical engineer who directs the Center for Neural Engineering at the University of Southern California, and is the start-up’s chief science officer.
For over two decades, Berger has been working on building a neuroprosthetic to help people with dementia, strokes, concussions, brain injuries and Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicts 1 in 9 adults over 65.
In separate studies funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency over the last several years, Berger’s chips were shown to improve recall functions in both rats and monkeys.
A year ago, Berger felt he had reached a ceiling in his research. He wanted to begin testing his devices with humans and was thinking about commercial opportunities when he got a cold call from Johnson in October 2015. For Johnson, the meeting was a culmination of a longtime obsession with intelligence and the brain.
Ten months later, the team is starting to sketch out prototypes of the device and is conducting tests with epilepsy patients in hospitals. They hope to start a clinical trial, but first they have to figure out how to make the device portable. (Right now, patients who use it are hooked up to a computer.)
Johnson recognizes that the notion of people walking around with chips implanted in their heads to make them smarter seems far-fetched, to put it mildly. He says the goal is to build a product that is widely affordable. – Elizabeth Dwoskin
Ray Kurzweil’s Prediction
- In the early 2030s, we are going to send nanorobots into the brain (via capillaries) that will provide full immersion virtual reality from within the nervous system and will connect our neocortex to the cloud. Just like how we can wirelessly expand the power of our smartphones 10,000-fold in the cloud today, we’ll be able to expand our neocortex in the cloud. – Ray Kurzweil
The brain tech to merge humans and AI is already being developed.
In a recent Abundance 360 webinar, I interviewed Bryan Johnson, the founder of a new company called Kernel which he seeded with $100 million.
To quote Bryan, “It’s not about AI vs. humans. Rather, it’s about creating HI, or ‘Human Intelligence’: the merger of humans and AI.”
A few weeks ago, I asked Bryan about Ray’s prediction about whether we’d be able to begin having our neocortex in the cloud by the 2030s.
His response, “Oh, I think it will happen before that.”
Follow me on Twitter @leebanfield1