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Category Archives: Singularity

Devs Wants to Unsettle You with that Dj Vu Feeling – SF Weekly

Posted: March 31, 2020 at 6:28 am

Devs wants to be the TV series that reflects our 21st century disaffections back to us. The writer and director of the show, Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation), easily conjures up alienation as a mood. The camera cooly tracks the San Francisco skyline in the same way that it tracks the numbed-out expressions of the characters. But its the soundtrack that carries most of the emotional weight. Pounding forward, it suggests the presence of a juggernaut, one thats made of silicon and steel. Technology is the alienating force in Devs, a rampaging machine thats gone AWOL, distancing us from our neighbors as well as from ourselves.

But after five of eight episodes (the finale airs on Thursday, April 16), Garland deepens the preternatural chill at a glacial pace. As a storyteller, hes as meticulous as a clockmaker with the internal machinery of his fictional universe. Its the overdetermined plot thats leaving little room for the characters to develop. Theyre frozen in place by the fate he wrote out for them on his laptop. They lack warmth, wit and human singularity. Its hard to imagine anyone on screen doing laundry, spilling crumbs on the carpet or, for that matter, vacuuming them up.

Lily (Sonoya Mizuno) and her boyfriend Sergei (Karl Glusman) work at Amaya, a Silicon Valley tech company thats meant to resemble a Google or Facebook campus. Most of the scenes set there were shot at UC Santa Cruz. The cinematography accentuates the Lynchian strangeness of towering redwoods casting shadows against sleek glass and concrete buildings. Outwardly, the physical resemblance to a sprawling Silicon Valley company also suggests the buttoned-up psychic life of the place. If youre as smart, hard-working and talented at coding as Lily and Sergei, youll find yourself set up to work inside Californias version of paradise. Unfortunately for them and for the rest of us who are addicted to the regions apps and products they failed to notice that Forest (Nick Offerman), Amayas CEO, has veered far away from Googles now-abandoned ethos: Dont be evil.

Amaya was the name of Forests daughter. She died before Devs begins and, just past the halfway point, we have a glimpse at the CEOs personal history. Garland builds the doleful narrative around his loss. The camera often lingers on Forest mourning his daughter. To drive home how aggrieved he is, theres also a Sphinx-sized statue of the girl that stands in the center of the campus. Its an eerie figure that silently watches over everyone with the qualities of an omniscient god and a blank-eyed childs doll.

But I may be misinterpreting Forests motivation and mistaking the obvious for a red herring. The teaser for Episode 6 reads, Lily and Jamie visit Forest looking for answers, and Katie reveals to Lily the true nature of the Devs system. I suspect that Forest will reveal more details about his lifes work to Lily and her helpful ex-boyfriend Jamie (Jin Ha). For now, weve seen that the Devs system is a mystical portal that reveals a multiverse engineered by Amayas quantum physics geniuses. Lily and Sergeis troubles begin when hes promoted to this inner sanctum. To get there, he gives a winning presentation to Forest and his second in command Katie (a dour Alison Pill).

The Devs department is housed in a golden mausoleum with a floating elevator. Its such an enlightened space that the developers work endless shifts, not knowing how many days or nights are passing. They contribute their knowledge to this centrifuge of power and are rewarded with breathtaking salaries. What that looks like for a viewer is a group of actors getting paid to stare at and be entranced by computer screens. These scenes are meant to be hypnotic. And they are for the first hour. After that, a monochromatic haze stifles the pacing and the characters. When a U.S. Senator visits Forest to request a campaign donation and to suggest the possibility of Congressional oversight, we know that hes lying to her. From the top down, Amayas corporate culture demands that all employees master the art of reticence and dissimulation.

The exemplar of villainy in this world is Kenton, the head of security at Amaya. Garland has cast Zach Grenier to play the part. In his seven seasons on The Good Wife, Greniers character never evolved into anything more than a greedy and manipulative lawyer. Here, as the muscle in Devs, hes more self-contained than he was on that CBS melodrama. But hes not much more than a brute and a faithful servant of Amayas dark heart. Unlikely as it is, my hope is that, when the big reveal drops, Kenton turns out to be a really nice guy.

Garland also pays tribute to Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcocks fogged-in vision of San Francisco. Lily meets an associate of Sergeis at Fort Point, the Golden Gate Bridge rendez-vous where Jimmy Stewart dives into the bay to rescue Kim Novak. Like Stewarts character, Lilys playing detective but shes in over her head. The city scenery is mostly observed from above. And thats how close it feels to an accurate depiction of San Franciscos cultural life. The depiction of a homeless man who lives on Lily and Sergeis Dolores Park doorstep prompted a friend of mine to ask, Is it me, or is no one getting San Francisco right? I suggested that he may turn out to be a plant or another red herring.

Devs expands the depiction of techs cultural aggression and annexation that David Fincher established in The Social Network. Garland tells us that, though warned, were now all servile creatures, beholden to the great gods who rule over us, however remotely, from their Silicon Valley headquarters. But when compared with the HBO series The Leftovers (2014-2017), Devs suggests a mood whereas Damon Lindelofs series sustains a primal emotion.

When 2 percent of the population suddenly disappears in The Leftovers, the world seizes up and contracts a universal feeling of loss. Despite a shared sense of grief, the show demonstrates the need for connection within one specific family (theyre stand-ins for the rest of humanity). Devs tells us that we can correct that feeling of loss by digitally engineering a response, since we no longer have the capacity to do so in real life. Being deprived of human contact as we are today, I prefer the now idealized conclusion that The Leftovers eventually reaches.

At the end of Devs fourth episode, The Beacon Sound Choir sings, We are the fortunate ones who get to be born again. Perhaps thats the secret Katies about to reveal.

Devs airs on FX on Hulu Thursdays.

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Devs Wants to Unsettle You with that Dj Vu Feeling - SF Weekly

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To fight the coronavirus spread, give artificial intelligence a chance – Livemint

Posted: at 6:28 am

The classic hockey stick curveits what investors and entrepreneurs desire but what medics despise. In the past week, Italy has seen that kind of curve in its coronavirus case numbers, leaving people and systems overwhelmed. German chancellor Angela Merkel has described coronavirus as Germanys greatest challenge since World War II.

This pandemic is the biggest black swan" event we have witnessed in our lives so far. A black swan event is characterized by a very low probability but extremely high impact. The last one was 9/11 in the US, which some still saw coming. But Covid-19 has taken us all by surprise.

Cases and deaths have had a geometric rise, which defeats understanding, because our minds tend to think in terms of linear progression. Were not programmed to fathom something that multiplies. India hasnt yet seen the ugly tipping point, and I hope we dont. This piece is not about hope against hope, but an earnest call for widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) to counter such unpredictable events.

The initial, and by far most successful, application of AI is on the warfront. Thanks to the deployment of drones, unmanned craft, intelligent machines, humanoid robots and the like, the US has managed to drastically cut its casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq compared to the Vietnam and the Gulf wars. AI has not only lowered collateral damage but also radically increased the accuracy of assault.

But AIs applications can be far greater and more useful in humanitarian and disaster relief, conservation, disease control and waste management, among others. Machines have been shown to outperform humans in terms of labour, memory, intelligence and, in some cases even creativity.

At a time when citizens have been advised to practise social distancing, and we are fearfully confined to our homes, who will run the essentials? Someone will have to weather the storm, or perhaps something? We already have so much power offered by the brute force of machines that its up to us to tame it in meaningful ways, and Covid-19 could offer a precise opportunity.

At the time of writing this piece, Summit, the worlds most powerful supercomputer, housed at the US Department of Energys Oak Ridge National Laboratory, had identified 77 drug compounds that might stop coronavirus from infecting cells, a significant step in vaccine development. We are getting to know more about the spread of disease, hotspots and mortality rates on an almost real-time basis, thanks to affordable computing and communication networks. Can we up the ante further by relinquishing more control to machines?

Winston Churchill famously said, Never let a good crisis go to waste", and I think we have a great opportunity at hand. We can make machines take on the more hazardous tasks, while we watch and survive from the sidelines. This is the time for tech startups to leverage the power of general purpose technologies and conceive radical new solutions to address pandemics.

Private Kit: Safe Paths is an app developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard. With help from Facebook and Uber, it lets you know if you have crossed paths with someone who is infected while protecting privacy. Its a first step, and like most technologies, it will improve with adoption. OneBreath, a Palo Alto-based medtech startup, has been working on an affordable, reliable ventilator for over a decade now, and should be ready to meet Covid-19.

As geography becomes history, we have become one large family. Our more robust, fast-learning cousins, the machines, must be deployed on the frontlines faster. We are truly at the inflection point towards singularity, and its a choice between speed and accuracy. A useful ethos for the times could be from Mark Twain who reminded us, Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection."

Pavan Soni is the founder of Inflexion Point, an innovation and strategy consultancy.

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To fight the coronavirus spread, give artificial intelligence a chance - Livemint

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‘Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045’: Release date, plot, cast, music, trailer and all you need to know about anime – MEAWW

Posted: at 6:28 am

'Ghost in the Shell' and 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex' are both fan-favorite properties with massive followings and now a new installment to the saga is on the way. Netflix is all set to debut 'Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045', a 3-D CGI animated original net anime sequel to 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex'.

The title is believed to be a reference to Ray Kurzweil's 'The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology', which predicts that human and machine intelligence would merge into a Singularity by the year 2045.

Heres everything you need to know about the project:

'Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045' will be dropping on Netflix on April 23.

Picking up fifteen years after the beginning of 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex', the new series looks at a world where Artificial Intelligence is beginning to threaten humanity's continuation as a species. However, the public at large hasn't realized this threat yet. But when mysterious beings called "post-humans" begin to appear, the former members of Public Security Section 9, the protagonists of 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex', are called back into action to protect humanity from its impending doom.

Here's the official synopsis for the new ONA series: "In 2045, the world has been thrown into a state of systematic 'sustainable war', but the threat of human extinction at the hands of AI hasn't yet pervaded the public consciousness. Former members of Public Security Section 9, including full-body cyborg Major Motoko Kusanagi, are working as hired mercenaries when mysterious beings known as 'post-humans' begin to emerge. The worlds superpowers are trying to come to grips with the threat, and so Section 9 is reorganized."

Atsuko Tanaka

Atsuko Tanaka has been the voice of Major Motoko Kusanagi in all anime adaptations of the 'Ghost in the Shell' manga except 'Ghost in the Shell: Arise'. The voice actor will be reprising her role as Major for the upcoming Netflix anime alongside other returning cast members Akio Ohtsuka as Batou, Kichi Yamadera as Togusa, Yutaka Nakano as Ishikawa, Toru Ohkawa as Saito, Takashi Onozuka as Paz, Tar Yamaguchi as Borma, and Sakiko Tamagawa as Tachikoma. Osamu Saka will also be returning from the 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex' anime as Daisuke Aramaki.

The music for the series is being composed by Nobuko Toda ('Sweetness & Lightning') and Kazuma Jinnouchi ('Busou Shinki: Moon Angel). Toda was also the composer for the 'Metal Gear Solid' series alongside Harry Gregson-Williams. The duo has previously collaborated on the 'Ultraman' anime, as well as the soundtracks for the 'Halo 4' and 'Halo 5' games.

The show's opening song is titled 'Fly With Me' and it is performed by Millennium Parade, a creative team led by King Gnu member Daiki Tsuneta. According to Anime News Network, other vocalists on the track include ermhoi, HIMI, Cota Mori, and Kento Nagatsuka (WONK)

Shinji Aramaki and Kenji Kamiyama

The project is being directed by Shinji Aramaki and Kenji Kamiyama for Sola Digital Arts and Production I.G. Kenji Kamiyama has previously worked on all the 'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex' projects.

'Ghost in the Shell' is based on the highly successful manga series by Masamune Shirow. The character designs for 'Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045' were completed by Russian illustrator Ilya Kuvshinov. According to Production I.G. USA president Maki Terashima-Furuta, the first 12-episode season will be directed by Kamiyama and the second by Aramaki.

The first teaser for the new series was released on October 22, 2019. The short clip showcases the photorealistic artwork of the show and introduces Major's new look as a mercenary.

The first proper trailer for the series was released on January 27 and it features the rest of Major's team. The clip also gives us our first look at a post-human, a being with massive physical and technological abilities which threatens humanity as a whole.

The series' final trailer was dropped on March 20 and it builds on the previous trailer by revealing that post-humans are a direct result of the "Sustainable Wars" that countries have been fighting with each other in the aftermath of the fall of global capitalism. The clip also reveals that the purpose of post-humans is to overthrow the existing social structure and bring about the age of post-humanity.

'Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex'

'Code Geass'

'Mobile Suit Gundam SEED'

'Cowboy Bebop'

'Neon Genesis Evangelion'

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'Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045': Release date, plot, cast, music, trailer and all you need to know about anime - MEAWW

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News Watch Jon Hopkins perform to no one at The Sydney Opera House – Stoney Roads

Posted: at 6:28 am

Most Jon Hopkins fans already know what an incredibly talented producer he is and that reflects in a lifelong career and an impressive discography of emotive and substantive electronica.

His last album Singularity, released in 2018 was one of his best in many peoples eyes and earned a solid year-plus of touring that led him around the world and coincidently, to the stage of The Sydney Opera House.

From all reports, it was a spectacular not be missed with towering visuals coupled with Hopkins consistent blows and breaks of electronica that shook the place and included unreleased music that looks to be paving the way for a new album.

While the public was treated to that, he also recorded a special, intimate performance for a tiny audience of videographers which captured a piano rendition of one of his latest singles Scene Suspended.

The performance was filmed on the 28th March, which for those not in the know was global Piano Day and who better to flex it than talented player Jon Hopkins himself?

Bask in the exclusive video below, hint; Nils Frahm makes a cameo as well.

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News Watch Jon Hopkins perform to no one at The Sydney Opera House - Stoney Roads

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Crime thrillers and cannabis cooking competition among April streaming picks – CityNews

Posted: at 6:28 am

With Canadians spending most of their time indoors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, its fortunate that streaming services were already rampingup a busy month of programming for April.

Netflix is set to feed reality-series buffsanother conversation starter on April 17 withToo Hot to Handle, whichgathers a group of beautiful people at a resort before revealing they could win a pot of$100,000 by holding off on sex for the duration of their stay. Spoiler: things get complicated very quickly.

And on Disney Plus, two wildlife docs debut on April 3: Elephant, narrated by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and Dolphin Reef with Natalie Portman.

Meanwhile, newcomer streaming service Quibi gets off the ground on April 6 with a selection of 50 short-form programsthat can only be watched on mobile devices. Among the highlights are a refresh onprank series Punkd with Chance the Rapper, home renovationshow Murder House Flip andReese Witherspoons animal doc series Fierce Queens. The platform offersa 90-day free trial for viewers who sign up before the launch date.

Heres a roundup of whats worth streamingin April:

Defending Jacob

An assistant district attorney, played by Chris Evans,confronts the ultimate moral and ethical dilemma when his son is accused of murdering one of his schoolmates and leaving his body in a forest. First assigned to investigate the case, hes pulled offitwhen details emerge of his sons potential involvement. But that onlypushes his resolve to prove his sons innocence. Based on the 2012 novel,this eight-episode limited seriesgives Evans the sort of meaty role that could land him in contention at the Emmy Awards. Hes backed up by a stellar supporting cast that includes Michelle Dockery as his shell-shocked wife. (Apple TV Plus, April 24)

Run

Scene-stealing Merritt Wever, who played Scarlett Johanssons kooky sister in last years Oscar-nominated Marriage Story,has thespotlightin thiseight-episode dramedy on HBO. Wever plays Ruby, a suburban mother who drops her comfortable life the instant she gets a text from her old college flame that simply reads: Run. She meets up with Billy (played by Domhnall Gleeson from Ex Machina) at Grand Central Stationand together they embark on a cross-country train ride that spirals fast. Co-created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag)and Vicky Jones (Killing Eve), theseries takes a few episodes to really find its footing, but once it does, the twists are delicious. (Crave/HBO, April 12, weekly episodes)

Cooked with Cannabis

R&B singer Kelis brought all the boys to the yard with her hit Milkshake, but these days shes doubling as a professional chef serving up cannabis dishes. This new competition series pairs her withPortland chef Leather Storrs as they oversee experienced culinary artists who are racing against the clockto make the best tasting cannabis-infused dishes. A rotating lineup ofcelebrity judges stop by, including Ricki Lake, Elle King and NBA player John Salley. But what makes Cooked with Cannabis stand out from other cannabis cooking shows is its spirited effort to explain theintricacies of cooking with marijuana to newcomers.(Netflix, April 17)

Outer Banks

After a hurricane sweeps through their town, agroup of mischievous teenagers discover a sunken ship filled with a boatload of secrets one of whichcould answerwhat happened to the ringleaders missing father.Set against the backdrop of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, this modern pulp mystery is packed with chiselled bodies and steamy locales, and should finda strong following withfans of Riverdale who like their drama with a side of youthful angst.(Netflix, April 15)

Bad Education

High school can be so dramatic, and especially so within the upper ranks of the Roslyn School District where Long Island superintendent Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) is doubling as mentor and embezzler alongside his colleague Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney). But when he encourages a young student reporter to start looking deeper into a story, he winds up sending her on a path that winds all the way back to his own shady dealings. Acquired by HBO at last years Toronto International Film Festival, this sharp-witted comedy is based ona real scandal that rocked aNew York school district.(Crave/HBO, April 25)

In Case You Missed It (titles already streaming):

The Other Two

When their little brother rockets to fame as a teenage pop star on social media, two adult siblings ride his coattails in hopes of reigniting their own failedshowbiz aspirations. Thats the starting point for this sometimes cringeworthy but often hilarious take on the power struggle of a family hypnotized by celebrity culture. Molly Shannon plays the single mom whos turned her sons popularity into her own road to success, one shes dubbed her Year of Yes. Created by Saturday Night Live writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider, this underappreciated episodic seriessets a fire underneath the YouTube era. (Crave)

Scoresby Quincy Jones

Unmistakable in his singularity, 28-time Grammy winner Quincy Jones is often described as a purveyor of popular music production but hesan influential film composer in his own right, too. Criterion Channel has brought together many of his best works in this collection that pays tribute to his unique cinematic sound, a blend of blues, funk, bossa nova and pop. Start with a Sidney Poitier double bill of In the Heat of the Night and They Call Me Mister Tibbs! before moving along to Truman CapotesIn Cold Blood, and then round it out with the decidedly lighter psychedelic flair of Cactus Flower and 1970 comedy-adventure The Out-of-Towners. (Criterion Channel)

Unorthodox

A young Brooklyn woman flees the world shes known in a strict Hasidic community to start anew in Berlin, splitting from an arranged marriage with the help of a friend. But her disappearance doesnt go unnoticed, with her husband trailing closely behind her as she attempts to escape a past of limitations and find her own identity. Inspired by Deborah Feldmans memoir of the same name, this four-part series could position Israeli actress Shira Haas as one to watch for her nuanced turn as the lead character. (Netflix)

Follow @dfriend on Twitter.

David Friend, The Canadian Press

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Crime thrillers and cannabis cooking competition among April streaming picks - CityNews

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The Greatest Gamble of All Time – Thrive Global

Posted: at 6:28 am

Unbeknown to most of us, the rate of extinction today is 500-1,000 times faster than previously experienced. It is safe to say that extinctions are happening significantly faster than ever before. An estimated 200 unique species go extinct everyday. A species lost, on average, every 7 minutes, day and night. A rhino is shot for its horns every 6 hours. An elephant for its tusks every 15 minutes. Apangolin, the worlds most traded wild mammal, is killed every 2 minutes for its scales and flesh. The doomsday clock is ticking. Wildlife is dying in wet markets and starving to death in degraded habitat. This COVID-19 pandemic came from our wasteful and destructive interaction with wildlife and ecosystems across the globe.

There is no doubt.Our world is in crisis.Our planet is burning and polluted. As shared oceans acidify and choke on plastics every year sets a new heat record. We are experiencingcatastrophic and irreversible losses every day. Extinction is forever, and whatever was going to happen with that unique species during millions of years of evolution and natural selection will never be realised. Is this the shared doom of our iteration of complex life. Life on Earth will go on, but, like the dinosaurs and their peers, all large-bodied animals die off. The next iteration of complex life is in the works right now. Maybe in a deep ocean trench, the edge of a volcanoe, or on top of Mount Everest? During mass extinctions like the one we are definitey experiencing right now, the species in our position does not survive. T-Rex did not make it out of the Cretaceous, neither did any other dinosaurs.

Before 1950, there were estimated to have been 1 million lions roaming the African continent. Today, there are less than 20,000 wild lions remaining in Africa. This, however, is still more than double the fewer than 7,000 wild cheetah, our fastest land animal, remaining on the planet. Alarmingly, there are estimated to be about half as many great white sharks (made famous by the film Jaws) remaining in our oceans with an estimated 3,500 still swimming. We all know that pandas are anEndangeredspecies, but a wild population of around 1,700 is terrifyingly close to extinction. Ring-fenced by people and agriculture, and threatened by disease and climate change, just 1,000 mountain gorillas survive in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. As an example, there are just 75 Sumatran rhino remaining in the wild. Grand species of folklore and legend are being lost under our watch.

To put this into perspective, there are twice as many Van Goghartworks known to be in circulation, over 2100, than there are living mountain gorillas. Just a few years ago, the Portrait of Joseph Roulin sold for $115 million. Joseph worked for a railway company in the south of France and was a friend to Van Gogh. A masterful portrait now considered to be of great value. A single similar investment in mountain gorillas, as a species, would go a long way towards securing their future in the wild. An endowment of this size could give them the equivalent of human rights.

Imagine being able to make an investment in a species, and then sit on the board that represents their interests to the world, buying up land, advocating for their rights, working with local human communities, and protecting them from disaster. Just imagine that for a second. There are obviously more questions than there are answers, but it has become clear that we need to rethink what we consider to be valuable. Is one living mountain gorilla more valuable than a Van Gogh painting? Are all of Van Goghs paintings together more valuable than all of the remaining mountain gorillas? We need to decide these answers.

By 2050, machines and androids will most likely be able to do everything better, more efficiently, and more reliably than us. Theserobots will not need the biological world of plants and animals to survive, and would probably prefer it if insects didnt nest in their air vents, and it never rained. As technology advances beyond current imagination, just being in nature could become one of the only thing human beings are the best at. We are resilient, naturally waterproof, dont rust or require insulation, and we can be fuelled with just water and raw vegetables.

When robots or just sequences of code become our lawyers, accountants, administrators, artists, musicians, managers, mechanics, machinists, architects, designers, authors, reporters, politicians, and doctors, which is inevitable, we will be left as the stewards and custodians of the natural world that we evolved in. That will be our most important job in the future. So, dont tell your children to be lawyers or doctors, rather tell them to become organic farmers, explorers, divers, foresters, or conservationists. To me, the alternate future in which we surrender to being entirely dependent on machines to sustain life on Earth seems more sinister.Our freedom and security on this planet is rooted in our relationship with the natural world.

In the United States, the 1964 Wilderness Act defined wilderness as an area wherethe earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man. Land that retains its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvement or human habitation.Wilderness has been described as an unsettled, uncultivated region, a barren or desolate area, a wasteland, a state of neglect, powerlessness, or disfavour, and something characterized by bewildering vastness, perilousness, or unchecked profusion. In these definitions we seem to intentionally exclude ourselves and make wilderness seem more barren and dangerous than spiritual and fulfilling.

These very exclusive definitions for wilderness demonstrate our gradual disassociation, our unconscious divorce, from nature, and our own innate wildness. When in the wild, modernised people often say things like, You know, nature is so cruel! when a predator kills its prey, before looking back down at their iPad. My guests on safari say things like, Nature is just amazing when a zebra walks past, or Nature will always find a way when an animal, or plant, survives a catastrophe against all odds. We say these things unconsciously as if we are somehow alien and not part of the natural world.We are not aliens from another planet. We are certainly not gods. We are, however, arrogant and vengeful. We love, yet we also hate. We judge each other to isolate ourselves. We divorced from nature to justify and ignore the atrocities we commit against nature.

Are we really man the killer that walked out of the wilderness into the city? Are we great because we left the wild or because we came from it? Why are we burning down the house we live in? Is it our destiny to destroy this interaction of complex life on Earth to make way for something new?Since 1990, we have continued our systematic destruction of the biosphere, wiping out another 10% of our remaining wilderness. Over 30% of the Amazon Basin gone in 25 years. A total area twice the size of Alaska no longer considered to be ecologically-intact no longer wild. Over3.3 million square kilometres that could have been saved, but is now lost, forever.

Natural disasters are becoming more intense, and more frequent. Mass human migration, incredible violence and conflict, terror and extremism, nuclear threat, water shortages and famine, viral pandemics, and xenophobic attacks across the developed world, are all very bad signs. We are living in unprecedented times.Ecosystems are ceasing to function properly everyday as they reach their own tipping points. We know how to fix this. We know how to save ourselves and this planet. It starts with conserving what we have left and living better where we are already.

As a scientist, conservationist, forester, explorer and mammal, I know that we cannot compute or even fully-understand the actual functioning of the complex, connected ecosystems that support life as we know it.We depend on them, yet we do not fully understand their functioning. These losses are happening on an unimaginable scale oceans and rivers, not bays and streams. EO Wilson agrees that there is no existing definition that clearly defines what an ecosystem really is. Where does an ecosystem begin, and, more importantly, where does it end? We have most likely developed the computational power, but still do not have the baseline data to even start mapping out the millions of connections and co-dependences between ecosystems, species, cycles, processes, niches, and even isolated dead ends of creativity. Hopefully one day the mystery of what we really will be revealed.

The surviving wildlife in our cities is being shocked, caught, shot at, run over, and poisoned. Raccoons, squirrels, pigeons, possums, polar bears and tigers have no space to live. Insects, most importantly bees, are disappearing in a fog of poison and pollution, as the bacterial communities that populate our bodies shift and change due to self-imposed isolation using deadly chemicals and antibiotics. Apart from us, and in conflict with us, nature is adapting, shifting and adjusting with outbreaks of Ebola, the plague, and novel coronaviruses becoming more severe and more common. HIV/AIDS continues to spread through communities around the globe. These are all very bad signs for us. We may be the last to go extinct, but we will go extinct if we continue this toxic interaction with the biodiversity surrounding us and inside us.

Elon Musk famously said that he wanted to die on Mars, but not on impact. My hope is that he will be looking back, from the safety of his leafy habitat, at a shining, biodiverse, self-sustaining blue-green planet with 10 billionHomo sapiensliving longer and better, readying themselves, some of them, for space travel. I hope that, by the time Musk goes to live on Mars, having intact wildernesses is more important than having libraries, museums and national archives. Having wild places preserves our ability to leverage the option value of the infinite power of the natural world, billions of years of iteration towards perfect balance. This is a very important time to be alive.

There is no doubt. We are approaching a moment of significant change before 2050. A radically-different future that few of us have taken the time to imagine. Over the next decade, we all need to be present, woke and proactive during one of the most important times in human history.Gen X, Xennials, Millenials, Boomers The human beings alive today face the greatest gamble of all time. It is simple. Either we protect half of the Earths landscapes and seascapes to accommodate the millions of species driving the vast ecosystems that create the air we breathe and clean the water we drink, or we can choose to depend solely on new technologies to do this for us.

Most people worry about and care for their cars, their motor vehicles, working hard to keep them fuelled, well maintained, clean and safe. In return, they give us freedom, a sense of power, and make our modern lives easier and more efficient. Now, imagine how you, or anyone else, would feel about your vehicle if you could speak to it and you depended on it for clean air, atmosphere, food, and water.It would be very interesting to unpack how astronauts on long stays in the International Space Station feel that about their daily maintenance routines. Is the space station working for them or are they working for it? How will we react when AI in our devices starts talking to us in text and voice? Where are we going in this relationship with our machines?A new religion based on bits, qubits, and the day of the singularity? Are there ghosts in the machine? Only time can answer these questions.

We need to think very carefully before gambling on new technologies manipulating the natural world to support life on Earth.Can technology maintain our atmosphere, feed us, clean our water, or protect us from unnatural disaster? Will blockchain manifest the shared ownership, accountability and connectivity achieved already by nature? Can we replicate billions of years of natural selection and evolution using CRISPR? Will the first application of artificial intelligence and advanced robotics be in environmental stewardship, farming, or in the military? We need to decide these answers.

We are one experiment away from AI. Self-powered, self-aware and self-replicating code, drones and machines are an inevitability, the same as universal translators, light sabres, private space travel, augmented human cyborgs, digestible knowledge, settlement on the Moon, and our great grandchildren being raised and augmented by robots. Inevitable? We really do not know what is going to happen. What is science fiction or future fact? Are we going to see anewHomospecies evolve out of technology? Will the first trillionaire be anasteroid miner? Is it inevitable that we settle on Mars and go to Alpha Centauri?Our exploration must continue into space, but all human beings exploring space must come from Earth.Any investment in space travel must be matched by investments in the protection and restoration of our natural world, our home. This is imperative.

Blood, soil and water, our connection to the Earth, will forever be our superpower. Billions of years of natural selection and creative iteration, from trilobites to us, built a vast global ecosystem of animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and viruses, which, if undisturbed by a cataclysm like an asteroid (or us), will remain self-sustaining, adapting and evolving for millions of years, in balance.The technological singularity is the hypothesis that beyond a certain point AI or artificial superintelligence (ASI) coupled with new technologies, like quantum computing, will manifest an exponential technological expansion, making discovery and invention instantaneous. It is hard to believe that this human engineered event could replicate the level of complexity and interconnectedness through time, space and dimension achieved by nature already.

Before it is too late, we will value nature more than anything else.Decades exploring Africas wildest, remotest wildernesses have shown me that the human experience in the wilderness, represented in our innate wildness,is the formative power that created all of us. These last wild places and our shared human experience in them explainthe origin of religion, of science, and of the laws that govern our modern society. Observing the inter-web of life connects us to self-realization, balance and a sense of purpose working for our children and the planet. This connection also helps us celebrate our ancestors like we used to, and preserve valuable traditional knowledge systems and indigenous languages.

We are part of the awesome, unstoppable power of the ocean, the almighty ebb and flow of life, the life tide pulling and pushing our life force. This connects us to our fates, fears, failures and fortunes. There are laws of connection and attraction that we do not yet understand, described and explained as gravity, luck, superstition, religious belief, love, the Secret, greed, and fate. We have spent millennia trying to understand the basic metaphysical laws of the universe through prayer, meditation, hallucination, chanting, dance, substance abuse, and study. The unifying life force will never die, but does periodically flicker and collapse due to cataclysm, only to be reborn as a new age and visualisation of the original spark of life at the Big Bang.

The humanoids portrayed in Star Trek and Star Wars represent the different versions of us evolved during hundreds of years of space exploration. They were human beings that adapted, evolved and engineered themselves to live on other planets in other solar systems. Human beings from this Planet Earth cannot become multi-planetary as Elon Musk suggests we should. Human beings living sustainably on Mars will cease to beHomo sapiens. They will become a new species living on a new planet, adapting and augmenting themselves to survive off Earth. Rapid adaption and even evolution will occur and they will very quickly cease to be us, if they are to survive sustainably. They will, of course, consider themselves different, perhaps consider themselves to be Martians.

There is no doubt our world is in crisis with two-thirds of all wildlife and almost 80% of all seabirds estimated to have disappeared around the world since 1975. From this point forward, we really cannot afford to making any mistakes. We tend to appease or ignore the things we fear most until they are upon us. Now is the time for large-scale coordinated action. Hope is not gone. There is still so much to secure, protect and restore this decade. When it comes down to it there is a lot left to save. We are still a living, breathing, spinning blue-green planet orbiting the sun where it was possible to film the astonishing new Netflix series,Our Planet, narrated by Sir David Attenborough. We need to act to save these places now.

The awe and wonder of the natural world is not gone, but it is dying. In the words of David Attenborough: The Garden of Eden is no more. The call-to-action is clear and the time for change is now. We will never get to experience the world our grandparents took for granted, but maybe our grandchildren could? We need a sparkling vision of a planet in balance that we must all subscribe to. An Earth with a stable population of 10 billion people living longer, happier and better in a world filled with the abundance of life, with elephants, rhinos, lions, jaguars, polar bears and pandas, all enriched, not controlled, by technology. As explorers, this leafy paradise will be our home as we launch out the atmosphere to explore the galaxy always wanting to return.

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Marching Toward the Singularity – kcstudio.org

Posted: March 15, 2020 at 5:41 pm

Art and Technology Exhibitions Present an Unsettling Take on Contemporary Reality

Artists have engaged technology to aid and enhance their creations at least since the Renaissance and possibly as early as prehistoric times. Consider, for example, David Hockneys book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters or Penn & Tellers documentary Tims Vermeer. Both make a compelling case that the camera obscura, a comparatively simple optical device, was a revolutionary technological breakthrough for artists capacity to render images with great accuracy and linear perspective.

Now that we are marching with reckless abandon toward the high-tech crisis point known as The Singularity, contemporary artists appear to comfortably employ all manner of technology as both artistic tool and subject of contemplation. A cross section of current exhibitions in our region shows an inventive array of art-meets-tech explorations laced with unsettling consequences.

The Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art in Manhattan, Kansas, hosts Charles Lindsay: Field Station 4, a spaced-out immersive installation that repurposes government surplus equipment into five funky multi-media sculptures.

Lindsay, a formerexploration geologist and photojournalist who lived for a while with a shaman in Tibet and did research at NASA Ames, brings a broad range of experience and knowledge to his Field Station, including his current work at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute in Mountainview, California.

One can hear the eerie soundtrack gurgling from the Field Station as it draws the visitor into a cluttered, darkened space. Enclosed by dozens of white stacked equipment cases marked with unsettling stencils like ALL FLUID DRAINED, and thick bundles of colored cables snaking through the space, it feels like entering an abandoned space station in which the scientific research has taken on a strange sentient twist.

One of the cases is splayed open to reveal a small bronze sculpture of a fierce Buddhistic deity wired up to a circuit board with an emergency off button. A small video screen shows two metallic balloons anchored to a large rock in a mountainous landscape. Is this science fiction or just weird science? Both would apply, and the visitor, as the only human presence in the space, is left to ponder just what scientific paradigm has been discovered here.

Lindsay provides a clue in two adjacent works that feature the ancient and medically important horseshoe crab, one of the oldest species to continuously inhabit our planet.

In a case resembling a fish tank, several gilded crabs with their distinctive helmet shapes are illuminated from below with erratic flashes of bluish light suggesting a communicative capacity. An underwater soundtrack clicks and pops like a pod of intelligent cetaceans from a small speaker. Buddhist iconography appears again in the form of a painted wooden panel inside the case. Can marine organisms be Buddhist too?

Clad in aluminum tape, the horseshoe crabs become slithering cyborgs in another large storage case in which they are halved to reveal their hybrid technological undercarriage. They are tethered to an emergency shut off button and a whizzing 12-digit LED countdown clock with a mysterious ravioli-like form bursting its carbonaceous guts.

At the back of the installation, one discovers the source of the sci-fi sound effects. A transparent canister, connected by hoses rising to the rafters, holds chunks of fluorescent minerals that sound like theyve come from deep Earth or deep space. Towers of stacked equipment cases add to the claustrophobic atmosphere and the mystery of the seemingly abandoned Field Station.

Outside the main exhibition space, another bizarre object defuses the tension with a bit of levity. Early Tibetan Computer, a clunky old desktop computer outfitted with yak horns, provides another clue to the artists interdisciplinary intent. Charles Lindsays Field Station 4 points to an expanded consciousness where science and shamanism, inquiry and imagination, intersect in the fluid boundaries of contemporary art.

A Tech Trio at the Ulrich

A trio of solo exhibitions at the Ulrich Museum of Art in Wichita, Kansas, addresses parallel artistic responses to the increasingly insidious relationship between humans and our technological creations.

New York based Scottish artist/filmmaker Zoe Beloffs carnivalesque installation Emotions Go to Work disarms the visitor with large cartoon cutouts linking early 20th-century anthropomorphic animation to the current proliferation of smart devices endowed with artificial intelligence, surveillance and data harvesting capabilities that effectively quantify and commodify our very existence.

Things that seemed outlandish almost a century ago, such as Betty Boops wacky, lifelike machines, have now come to pass in the form of Internet-connected doorbells, drones and dolls. Beloffs related film, The Cognitive Era, mimics a slick corporate animation and lays bare the frightening economic motive behind the so-called Internet of Things: nothing short of complete domination of the biological sphere from cradle to grave. Surely thats a fair price to pay for consumer convenience. Right, Alexa?

On a somewhat lighter note, Beloff plays with the now ubiquitous emojis that standardize our emotional responses into reductive digital icons. In a triptych of large panels, she presents uniform grids of expressive facial drawings. One panel calls to mind Charles Darwins pioneering scientific investigations into human and animal emotions as registered by minute variations in facial musculature. In another, she plays with the origins of several familiar emojis by exaggerating the features and restoring the nuances inherent in the human face.

Beloff extends this study in the projected video Future Emoji with real human faces masked into the circular format of the emoji with their corresponding color tints. Her rehumanization of the form reminds us that much emotional experience is lost in translation to digital platforms. However, the larger implication in the work is that through our voluntary interaction with the AI behemoth, we are teaching it how to emotionally manipulate us into predictable behavior monetized for life and beyond.

Curated from the Ulrichs permanent collection, Lee Adler: A Mad Man Amid the Machines brings to light a little known painter and printmaker active in the 1960s and 70s. Lee Adler (1926-2003), a native of Brooklyn, worked on Madison Avenue in the advertising industry before honing his skills as a graphic artist preoccupied with a society in technological ascent. His flat, hard-edged machine forms, rendered in the bright color schemes of Pop art, coincided with the development of cybernetics and systems art. Adlers work retains a surprising conceptual relevance 50 years later the convergent evolution of technological humans a.k.a. cyborgs interacting with ever more humanistic robots. How long before we can no longer recognize the difference?

One of the many consequences of the Digital Revolution has been the irreversible transformation of the photographic medium from a chemical process of image making to an electronic one. In the process, our relationship to the photographic image has destabilized from one of reliable representation to unprecedented manipulation. Photoshop and Instagram filters are commonplace, but now we face deepfake videos and de-aging movie actors that point to a breakdown of trust in the image itself.

That crisis in the medium becomes an opening for artists like A.P. Vague who exploit the tools of manipulation to discover the layered potentials of digital image making. Vagues exhibition of Digital Palimpsests comprises gicle prints and moving image works that range from painterly to geometric abstraction with ghostly traces of representation. Sometimes referred to as glitch art, Vagues work celebrates the open-ended process of liberating images from their original matrix.

Charles Lindsay: Field Station 4 continues through Oct. 17 at Kansas State Universitys Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art in Manhattan, Kansas. For more information, 785.532.7718 or http://www.beach.k-state.edu.

Zoe Beloff: Emotions Go to Work, Lee Adler: A Mad Man Amid the Machines, and A.P. Vague: Digital Palimpsests continue through March 29 at Wichita State Universitys Ulrich Museum of Art in Wichita, Kansas. For more information, 316.978.3456 or http://www.wichita.edu/museums/ulrich.

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Coronavirus: Seven Ways Collective Intelligence Is Tackling the Pandemic – Singularity Hub

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Tackling the emergence of a new global pandemic is a complex task. But collective intelligence is now being used around the world by communities and governments to respond.

At its simplest, collective intelligence is the enhanced capacity created when distributed groups of people work together, often with the help of technology, to mobilize more information, ideas, and insights to solve a problem.

Advances in digital technologies have transformed what can be achieved through collective intelligence in recent yearsconnecting more of us, augmenting human intelligence with machine intelligence, and helping us to generate new insights from novel sources of data. It is particularly suited to addressing fast-evolving, complex global problems such as disease outbreaks.

Here are seven ways it is tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

On December 31, 2019, health monitoring platform Blue Dot alerted its clients to the outbreak of a flu-like virus in Wuhan, Chinanine days before the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement about it. It then correctly predicted that the virus would jump from Wuhan to Bangkok, Seoul, Taipei, and Tokyo.

Blue Dot combines existing data sets to create new insights. Natural language processing, the AI methods that understand and translate human-generated text, and machine learning techniques that learn from large volumes of data, sift through reports of disease outbreaks in animals, news reports in 65 languages, and airline passenger information. It supplements the machine-generated model with human intelligence, drawing on diverse expertise from epidemiologists to veterinarians and ecologists to ensure that its conclusions are valid.

The BBC carried out a citizen science project in 2018, which involved members of the public in generating new scientific data about how infections spread. People downloaded an app that monitored their GPS position every hour and asked them to report who they had encountered or had contact with that day.

This collective intelligence initiative created a huge wealth of data that helped researchers understand who the super-spreaders are, as well the impact of control measures on slowing an outbreak. Although the full data set is still being analyzed, researchers have released data to help with modeling the UKs response to Covid-19.

Created by a coding academy based on official government data, Covid-19 SG allows Singapore residents to see every known infection case, the street where the person lives and works, which hospital they got admitted to, the average recovery time and the network connections between infections. Despite concerns about potential privacy infringements, the Singapore government has taken the approach that openness about infections is the best way to help people make decisions and manage anxiety about what is happening.

For dashboard enthusiasts, MIT Technology Review has a good round-up of the many coronavirus-related dashboards tracking the pandemic.

In early February, Wired reported how researchers at Harvards medical school were using citizen-generated data to monitor the progress of the disease. To do this, they mined social media posts and used natural language processing to look for mentions of respiratory problems and fever in locations where doctors had reported potential cases.

This builds on evidence published in a January article in the journal Epidemiology that found that hot spots of tweets could be good indicators of how a disease spreads. It remains to be seen how effective these initiatives are or whether they will succumb to the problems that beset Google Flu Trends.

The reality of peoples experience of the virus is largely absent from media reporting so far, but the importance of social sciences in pandemic preparedness and response is becoming increasingly recognized. We should therefore all tip our hats to the citizens of Wuhan who have been archiving and translating social media data from inside China, creating chronicles of testimonies of those affected before they get censored by the government.

To speed up the development of drugs to combat coronavirus, researchers at the University of Washington are calling on scientists and the public to play an online game.

The challenge is to build a protein that could block the virus from infiltrating human cells. The game is on Foldit, a 12-year-old website which has crowdsourced contributions to important protein research from more than 200,000 registered players worldwide.

Responding to concerns about lack of access to testing for Covid-19, Nesta Collective Intelligence grantee Just One Giant Lab is behind an effort to develop a cheap, quick coronavirus test that can be used anywhere in the world. The initiative is crowdsourcing ideas from do-it-yourself biology communities, with the ambition to open source and share designs so that certified labs can easily produce test kits for their communities.

In a global crisis, sharing collective intelligence about the virus will be a significant factor in our ability to respond and find new treatments. NextStrain pulls in all the data from labs around the world that are sequencing SARS-CoV-2s genome and centralizes it in one place for people to see in a genomic tree. This open repository, which is built on GitHub, is helping scientists studying coronavirus genomic evolution and enabling tracking of how the virus is passed between people.

Researchers have also been sharing new findings about the virus genomic profile through open source publications and preprint sites such as BioRxiv and Chinaxiv. Paywalls are being temporarily lifted on content related to coronavirus in scientific publications such as BMJ, and the public is demanding that major news outlets follow suit.

Activists on Reddit have gone one step further and bypassed paywalls to create an open archive of 5,312 research articles mentioning coronaviruses, citing a moral imperative for the research to be openly accessible. Newspeak House is crowdsourcing a handbook of tools, tech, and data for technologists building things to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is also compiling all published research into a global databaseand making learning resources about managing Covid-19 for health professionals, and decision makers have been made available on the WHO online learning platform. But they have also been criticized for not replying to comments left on their channels, leaving a vacuum instead of a response to rumors and falsehoods.

At Nestas Centre for Collective Intelligence Design, well keep tracking how collective intelligence is being used during the current crisis and updating our public online noticeboard of collective intelligence projects as often as we can. Please share any examples you come across in the comments.

By working together and sharing knowledge, we have a better chance of beating the pandemic.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image Credit: Pete Linforth /Pixabay

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This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From Around the Web (Through March 14) – Singularity Hub

Posted: at 5:41 pm

MEDICINE

Flattening the Coronavirus CurveSiobhan Roberts | The New York TimesThe ideal goal in fighting an epidemic or pandemic is to completely halt the spread. But merely slowing itmitigationis critical. This reduces the number of cases that are active at any given time, which in turn gives doctors, hospitals, police, schools and vaccine-manufacturers time to prepare and respond, without becoming overwhelmed.

Autonomous Robots Are Helping Kill Coronavirus in HospitalsEvan Ackerman | IEEE SpectrumTo prevent the spread of coronavirus (and everything else) through hospitals, keeping surfaces disinfected is incredibly important, but its also dirty, dull, and (considering what you can get infected with) dangerous. And thats why its an ideal task for autonomous robots.

Quarantined Italians Are Singing Their Hearts Out. Its Beautiful.Emily Todd VanDerWerff | VoxTheCovid-19 coronavirusand the associatedsocial distancing that nearly everyone on the planet is being encouraged to practicewill presumably hinder people from making and listening to music together, but tweets from all over Italy (which is under heavy lockdown) reveal a country where citizens are taking to their balconies and windows to enjoy music together.

These Industrial Robots Get More Adept With Every TaskTom Simonite | Wired Were paying people trillions of dollars a year to do stuff that robots have been physically capable of doing for the last 30 or 40 years, Phoenix says. Anyone who can make industrial robots more adeptand Vicarious is not the only one tryingcould transform the economy by shifting the balance of labor between people and machines.

How Wikipedias Volunteers Became the Webs Best Weapon Against MisinformationAlex Pasternack | Fast Companywhile places like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter struggle to fend off a barrage of false content, with their scattershot mix of policies, fact-checkers, and algorithms, one of the webs most robust weapons against misinformation is an archaic-looking website written by anyone with an internet connection, and moderated by a largely anonymous crew of volunteers.

Cosmos: Possible Worlds Review Gorgeous Scientific Escapism Advocates for Rebels and OptimismSteve Greene| IndieWireThe most valuable part of Cosmos: Possible Worlds is its merging of boundless optimism and the necessity of urgency. Not merely content with being restricted to doomsaying or cheerleading, theres a healthy blend of both that sticks to a central thesis: Were capable of understanding what mystifies us now, but only if were willing to display some humility and cooperation in the process.

Dont Go Down a Coronavirus Anxiety SpiralLouise Matsakis | WiredThe stock market had its biggest decline in decades, Sarah Palin rapped to Baby Got Back dressed in a bear suitit feels like the world is unraveling. There is so much going on, and so much uncertainty, it is all too easy to get trapped watching cable news or scrolling through Twitter all day. If all this news is making you feel stressed, youre far from alone.

Image Credit:Ari He /Unsplash

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Huge $161 Million Investment Means Meat Without the Animal Is Here – Singularity Hub

Posted: at 5:41 pm

In 1931, Winston Churchill made a bold prediction: We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium. It must have sounded like pure science fiction back thenbut not anymore.

Today, thanks to scientific innovations in tissue engineering for human medicine, were very close to fulfilling Churchills vision for food.Researchers and the media have variously called this new kind of food cell-based, cultured, or lab-grown meat, but I prefer the more palatable cultivated meat. Unlike plant-based alternatives, cultivated meat islike its conventional counterpartmade up of animal muscle and fat cells. But because these cells can be cultivated at the cellular level, we dont have to grow a whole animal to make meat from only some of its cells.

Since early cultivated meat company Memphis Meats launched in 2015, more and more startups have focused on producing animal meat without the animal. By removing the animal, these companies aim to produce meat with a fraction of the environmental footprint, needing as little as 45 percent less energy, 96 percent less water, and 99 percent less land than conventional meat.

As we race to find sustainable ways to feed the worlds insatiable appetite for meat, the field of cultivated meat has exceeded annual exponential growthmore than doubling every year in terms of the number of startup companies and investment dollars. In late 2015, one startup raised a few hundred thousand dollars. In 2020, there are dozens of cultivated meat companies around the world pursuing everything from shrimp and bluefin tuna to steak and kangaroo.

This year, the sector took another significant step forward when cultivated meat first-mover Memphis Meats closed a $161 million Series B funding round from lead investors Softbank, Norwest, and Temasek. This amount is greater than all other publicly disclosed investments in cultivated meat companies combined and brings total investment in the startup to $181 million.

What does an investment like this mean for cultivated meat companies and the field as a whole? Having tracked the sector since its inception, I think there are three key takeaways.

Funding at this level enables a cultivated meat company to move beyond the proof-of-concept phase. It allows them to dive into the juicy engineering challenges associated with scale-up and enables the construction of a pilot facility representative of true commercial-scale production.

This funding milestone serves to validate the technological soundness of the concept of cultivated meat and Memphis Meats approach to it. With a Series B funding round, scrupulous investors evaluate not just a research plan and a teams credentials but also actual progress toward technical and business milestones. They see a path toward commercial viability and profitability tooall within the time horizon of a typical venture capital fund.

The fact that Memphis Meats has been able to secure follow-on investments from their previous funders and also bring in noteworthy new investors shows theyve made impressive progress to date de-risking their technology.

While this is a win for Memphis Meats, the investment is also a validation for the entire field and the concept of cultivated meat as a solution to some of the problems inherent in conventional meat production.

But theres no time for a victory lap.

Momentum for meat alternatives is building. Plant-based meats from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat made a splash in fast food restaurants like Burger King and KFC last year. And Beyond Meats initial public offering had a historic post-IPO pop (though its since retreated).

Cultivated meats may capture a further slice of the market if they can offer something even closer to a true replacement for conventional meat. But it will take more investment. And cultivated meat companies still need to pass regulatory scrutiny and convince the public that their products are not only healthy and safe, but also desirable and delicious.

Financial support will come from the private sectoras the Memphis Meats Series B seems to showbut the public sector can help keep things moving too.

Governments, which are heavily invested in renewable energy, should become heavily invested in renewable meat as well. The sector is still nascent. Continued resources are needed to address challenges, drive innovation, and enhance efficiencies to rapidly scale animal-free meat production. Given the vast promise of better meat production, governments are overdue for writing some of the critical checks to broaden the foundation of fundamental research.

As the climate crisis unfolds, we need to invest in the science that can save us, including methods that can produce truly sustainable meat. If the US is to maintain its lead in feeding the world safely and sustainably, we need public support for better forms of meat production.

Image Credit: Wolfgang Hasselmann /Unsplash

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