The Digital Mind | How Science is Redefining Humanity | Arlindo Oliveira

Following the release in the US,  The Digital Mind, published by MIT Press,  is now available in Europe, at an Amazon store near you (and possibly in other bookstores). The book covers the evolution of technology, leading towards the expected emergence of digital minds.

Here is a short rundown of the book, kindly provided by yours truly, the author.

New technologies have been introduced in human lives at an ever increasing rate, since the first significant advances took place with the cognitive revolution, some 70.000 years ago. Although electronic computers are recent and have been around for only a few decades, they represent just the latest way to process information and create order out of chaos. Before computers, the job of processing information was done by living organisms, which are nothing more than complex information processing devices, created by billions of years of evolution.

Computers execute algorithms, sequences of small steps that, in the end, perform some desired computation, be it simple or complex. Algorithms are everywhere, and they became an integral part of our lives. Evolution is, in itself, a complex and long- running algorithm that created all species on Earth. The most advanced of these species, Homo sapiens, was endowed with a brain that is the most complex information processing device ever devised. Brains enable humans to process information in a way unparalleled by any other species, living or extinct, or by any machine. They provide humans with intelligence, consciousness and, some believe, even with a soul, a characteristic that makes humans different from all other animals and from any machine in existence.

But brains also enabled humans to develop science and technology to a point where it is possible to design computers with a power comparable to that of the human brain. Artificial intelligence will one day make it possible to create intelligent machines and computational biology will one day enable us to model, simulate and understand biological systems and even complete brains with unprecedented levels of detail. From these efforts, new minds will eventually emerge, minds that will emanate from the execution of programs running in powerful computers. These digital minds may one day rival our own, become our partners and replace humans in many tasks. They may usher in a technological singularity, a revolution in human society unlike any other that happened before. They may make humans obsolete and even a threatened species or they make us super-humans or demi-gods.

How will we create these digital minds? How will they change our daily lives? Will we recognize them as equals or will they forever be our slaves? Will we ever be able to simulate truly human-like minds in computers? Will humans transcend the frontiers of biology and become immortal? Will humans remain, forever, the only known intelligence in the universe?

Arlindo L. Oliveira | Presidente do Instituto Superior Técnico

La fin de l’ivoire | Marigona Uka – Avaaz

Nous sommes sur le point d’éradiquer les éléphants de la surface de la Terre. Leur situation est si grave que certains naissent désormais sans défenses, en un ultime coup de poker au grand jeu de l’évolution pour survivre à la cruauté humaine.

Pour la première fois, la Chine, le plus grand importateur d’ivoire au monde, a annoncé une interdiction de l’ivoire. Aujourd’hui, si nous sommes assez nombreux, nous pouvons amener l’Europe, le premier exportateur mondial, à suivre son exemple!
Continuar a ler

FUNDEC | INTRODUÇÃO À REABILITAÇÃO DE EDIFÍCIOS DE BETÃO ARMADO

A FUNDEC – Associação para a Formação e o Desenvolvimento em Engenharia Civil e Arquitectura, tem o prazer de anunciar a V. Exa(s). o curso “INTRODUÇÃO À REABILITAÇÃO DE EDIFÍCIOS DE BETÃO ARMADO”, agendado para os dias 20 e 21 de Março, no Instituto Superior Técnico, em Lisboa, com coordenação do Prof. Fernando Branco, do Prof. João Gomes Ferreira e do Prof. João Ramôa Correia.

Em anexo envia-se o Programa, que detalha os destinatários, objectivos e conteúdos, e a Ficha de inscrição.

Coordenação: Prof. Fernando Branco (IST), Prof. João Gomes Ferreira (IST) e Prof. João Ramôa Correia (IST)

Data: 20 e 21 de Março de 2017

Horário: 9h00 às 18h00

Local de realização: IST – DECivil, Av. Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisboa

Custo: 500€ + IVA 23% (615€)

Informações adicionais poderão ser solicitadas.

Arrival of the Fittest: why are biological systems so robust? | Arlindo L. Oliveira | in Digital Minds

arrivalIn his 2014 book, Arrival of the Fittest, Andreas Wagner addresses important open questions in evolution: how are useful innovations created in biological systems, enabling natural selection to perform its magic of creating ever more complex organisms? Why is it that changes in these complex systems do not lead only to non-working systems? What is the origin of variation upon which natural selection acts?

Wagner’s main point is that “Natural selection can preserve innovations, but it cannot create them. Nature’s many innovations—some uncannily perfect—call for natural principles that accelerate life’s ability to innovate, its innovability.”

In fact, natural selection can apply selective pressure, selecting organisms that have useful phenotypic variations, caused by the underlying genetic variations. However, for this to happen, genetic mutations and variations have to occur and, with high enough frequency, they have to lead to viable and more fit organisms.

In most man-made systems, almost all changes in the original design lead to systems that do not work, or that perform much worse than the original. Performing almost any change in a plane, in a computer or in a program leads to a system that either performs worst than the original, or else, that fails catastrophically. Biological systems seem much more resilient, though. In this book, Wagner explores several types of (conceptual) biological networks: metabolic networks, protein interaction networks and gene regulatory networks.

Each node in these networks corresponds to one specific biological function: in the first case, a metabolic network, where chemical entities interact; in the second case, a protein interaction network, where proteins interact to create complex functions; and in the third case, a gene regulatory network, where genes regulate the expression of other genes. Two nodes in such networks are neighbors if they differ in only one DNA position, in the genotype that encodes the network.

He concludes that these networks are robust to mutations and, therefore, to innovations. In particular, he shows that you can traverse these networks, from node to neighboring node, while keeping the biological function unchanged, only slightly degraded, or even improved. Unlike man-made systems, biological systems are robust to change, and nature can experiment tweaking them, in the process creating innovation and increasingly complex systems. This how the amazingly complex richness of life has been created in a mere four billion years.

In Digital Minds 

https://digitalminds2016.wordpress.com/2017/03/04/arrival-of-the-fittest-why-are-biological-systems-so-robust/

Uma revolução na educação | Arlindo L. Oliveira, Presidente do Instituto Superior Técnico | in Jornal “Público”

arlindo oliveiraDe acordo com uma estimativa muito divulgada, 2/3 dos alunos que agora iniciam a sua formação escolar irão trabalhar em profissões que ainda não existem.

O desenvolvimento da tecnologia, com a primeira e segunda revoluções industriais, criou necessidades de educação que não existiam até então. O rápido crescimento dos sistemas de ensino que acompanhou estas revoluções levou à criação de gerações cada vez mais qualificadas, o que, por seu lado, criou condições para a redistribuição de riqueza que, de outra forma, não existiriam.

Durante os séculos XIX e XX, a educação foi vista como algo que se adquire enquanto se é jovem, sendo o paradigma mais comum a obtenção de um grau, médio ou superior, através da frequência escolar durante um período contínuo e prolongado, antes da entrada no mercado de trabalho. A terceira revolução industrial, com a introdução das tecnologias de comunicação e informação, e o rápido desenvolvimento destas tecnologias, veio colocar em causa este paradigma.

Continuar a ler

Ignacio Morgado Bernal | Razões científicas para ler mais do que lemos

leituraA leitura, além de melhorar a empatia e o entendimento dos demais, é um dos melhores exercícios possíveis para manter em forma o cérebro e as capacidades mentais

O Brasil tem mais leitores a cada ano. Em 2011, eram 50% da população. Em 2015, eram 56%, segundo a pesquisa Retratos da Leitura no Brasil. Contudo, isso também significa que 44% da população não lê. Ainda pior: 30% nunca comprou um livro. Alguns argumentos científicos, em especial da neurociência, podem ajudar a melhorar esses índices.

Continuar a ler

European Parliament to analyze proposal to give robots legal status and responsibilities | Arlindo L. Oliveira in “Digital Minds”

arlindo oliveiraThe committee on legal affairs of the European Parliament has drafted and approved a report that addresses many of the legal, social and financial consequences of the development of robots and artificial intelligence (AI).

The draft report addresses a large number of issues related with the advances of robotics, AI and related technologies, and proposes a number of european regulations to govern the utilization of robots and other advanced AI agents.

The report was approved with a 17-2 vote (and two abstentions) by the parliament’s legal affairs committee.

Among many other issues addressed, the report considers:

  • The question of legal status: “whereas, ultimately, robots’ autonomy raises the question of their nature in the light of the existing legal categories – of whether they should be regarded as natural persons, legal persons, animals or objects – or whether a new category should be created”, advancing with the proposal of “creating a specific legal status for robots, so that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons with specific rights and obligations…”
  • The impact of robotics and AI on employment and social security, and concludes that “consideration should be given to the possible need to
    introduce corporate reporting requirements on the extent and proportion of the contribution of robotics and AI to the economic results of a company for the purpose of taxation and social security contributions; takes the view that in the light of the possible effects on the labour market of robotics and AI a general basic income should be seriously considered, and invites all Member States to do so;”
  • The need for a clear and unambiguous registration system for robots, recommending that “a system of registration of advanced robots should be introduced, and calls on the Commission to establish criteria for the classification of robots with a view to identifying the robots that would need to be registered;”

https://digitalminds2016.wordpress.com/2017/01/21/european-parliament-to-analyze-proposal-to-give-robots-legal-status-and-responsibilities/

Is there life out there? | Arlindo L. Oliveira in “Digital Minds”

As reported in an article in the journal Nature, Proxima Centauri (pictured), the star nearest to our sun, has an Earth sized planet, orbiting the “Goldilocks” zone (not too hot, not too cold).

The recently discovered planet orbits the mother star in 11 days, an orbit much smaller and much closer to its sun than the orbit of the Earth. However, since Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf, it is much cooler than our sun, which makes this orbit to be just the right size. The planet, named Proxima Centauri b, weights between 1.3 and 3 times the Earth, which makes it likely that it may be a rocky planet. The distance to the star makes it possible that it may exhibit liquid water.

life

This combination of factors makes it the planet most likely to help us obtain additional information about the possible existence of life outside of Earth. Earth based instruments, such as the European Southern Observatory, ESO, an array of telescopes in the Atacama desert, in Chile, will be able to obtain additional information.

ESO was involved in the discovery of Proxima Centauri b, and likely to play an important role in the discovery of further information about this planet that, in astronomical terms, lies tantalising close to Earth, at “only” 4.2 light-years. Sending a spacecraft out to that planet may also be a possibility, albeit a very challenging one.

The challenges involved in obtaining further information about this planet are significant, but not unsurmountable, as the Economist reports. In a few years, we may have some better answers to Fermi’s famous question, “Where are they?”, referring to the possibility of extra-terrestrial life.

Arlindo L. Oliveira

https://digitalminds2016.wordpress.com/2016/08/26/is-there-life-out-there/

Explaining (away) consciousness? | Arlindo L. Oliveira in “Digital Minds”

arlindo oliveiraConsciousness is one of the hardest to explain phenomena created by the human brain. We are familiar with the concept of what it means to be conscious. I am conscious and I admit that every other human being is also conscious. We become conscious when we wake up in the morning and remain conscious during waking hours, until we lose consciousness again when we go to sleep at night. There is an uninterrupted flow of consciousness that, with the exception of sleeping periods, connects who you are now with who you were many years ago.

Explaining exactly what consciousness is, however, is much more difficult. One of the best known, and popular, explanations was given by Descartes. Even though he was a materialistic, he balked when it came to consciousness, and proposed what is now known as Cartesian dualism, the idea that the mind and the brain are two different things. Descartes thought that the mind, the seat of conscience, has no physical substance while the body, controlled by the brain, is physical and follows the laws of physics

Descartes ideas imply a Cartesian theatre, a place where the brain exposes the input obtained by the senses, so that the mind (your inner I) can look at these inputs, make decisions, take actions, and feel emotions.

dennet

In what is probably one of the most comprehensive and convincing analyses of what consciousness is, Dennett pulls all the guns against the idea of the Cartesian Theather, and argues that consciousness can be explained by what he calls a “multiple drafts” model.

Instead of a Cartesian Theater, where conscious experience occurs, there are “various events of content-fixation occurring in various places at various times in the brain“. The brain is nothing more than a “bundle of semi-independent agencies“, created by evolution, that act mostly independently and in semi-automatic mode. Creating a consistent view, a serial history of the behaviors of these different agencies, is the role of consciousness. It misleads “us” into thinking that “we” are in charge while “we” are, mostly, reporters telling a story to ourselves and others.

His arguments, supported by extensive experimental and philosophical evidence, are convincing, well structured, and discussed at depth, with the help of Otto, a non-believer in the multiple drafts model. If Dennett does not fully explain the phenomenon of consciousness, he certainly does an excellent job at explaining it away. Definitely one book to read if you care about artificial intelligence, consciousness, and artificial minds.

Arlindo L. Oliveira

https://digitalminds2016.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/explaining-away-consciousness/

Can Prisma and DeepArt make everyone an artist? | Digital Minds | Arlindo L. Oliveira

The popularity of Prisma, one of the hot summer apps (together with Pokemon Go), has caught everyone by surprise, including its creators.

Prisma uses deep learning algorithms to derive image processing methods that change your pictures in accordance with the style of a given artist. Other sites, like DeepArt apply these methods based on machine learning techniques, such as the one described in this article, to process photos that you upload.

The following drawing of The Thinker was obtained applying Prisma to one of my travel pictures.

arlindo01

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The following “painting” was obtained from one image of the tall ships in Lisbon, using DeepArt.

arlindo02

Applying the methods takes significant computer time, and is done by Prisma remote servers. These servers have, for a while, been unable to fully cope with the demand. Other sites, like DeepArt, also take significant time to process your request.

The results are, in many cases, surprising, obscuring the line between artistic merit and computerized image processing. Recently, Google raised a significant amount of money selling computer generated art.

For more examples of computer generated art, using Prisma and DeepArt, take a look at my deep art flickr album.

arlindololiveira | August 4, 2016 at 11:54 am | Tags: Deep Art, Prisma | Categories: Art, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning | URL: http://wp.me/p7fp8X-47

 

PINCHA DE MINDE | António Galopim de Carvalho

agp - 200Texto que nos foi simpaticamente enviado pelo Sr. Prof. Dr. António Galopim de Carvalho. Muito obrigado Professor.

Um depósito que, pelas suas características muito particulares, tem merecido a atenção de geógrafos e geólogos é o localmente conhecido por “pincha”, em Minde, no Maciço Calcário Estremenho.
Trata-se de uma cascalheira muito bem sedimentada, contida na classe dimensional compreendida entre 64 e 8 milímetros, exclusivamente constituída por clastos (fragmentos) de calcário do Jurássico médio (175 a 154 milhões de anos), muito achatados e de aspecto subarredondado. A matriz, ou seja, o material entre os clastos é uma areia argilosa, vermelha e em muito pequena quantidade, deixando vazios grande parte dos espaços entre os ditos clastos. Esta matriz tem origem nas camadas sedimentares areno-argilosas do Cretácico inferior (136 a 96 milhões de anos) que ali existiu, cobrindo o Jurássico, e já em grande parte erodidas. O arredondamento das arestas destes clastos é, sobretudo, devido a dissolução pelas águas da chuva carregadas de dióxido de carbono que penetram no terreno, processo que também explica a terra rossa (argila de cor vermelha) integrada na matriz. Com imbricação acentuada, indicadora do sentido das correntes que os transportaram, estes clastos achatados resultaram de um processo de fracturação pelo frio (crioclastia) em regime de tipo periglaciário (periférico dos glaciares que se fizeram sentir em Portugal, nomeadamente nas serras do Gerês e da Estrela) durante o Würm (idade do Gelo, entre 115 000 e 12 000 anos). Primeiro, estes clastos atapetaram as vertentes, deslizaram depois para o fundo do polje, ou seja, a grande depressão que ainda hoje marca a paisagem local, e foram remobilizados pelas águas do lago que aí se formou no período pluvial que se seguiu em virtude da melhoria do clima pós-glaciário.
O termo “pincha” parece estar relacionado com o jogo da “pincha” (botão), talvez pelo aspecto achatado destes clastos.

pincha01 - 545

pincha02 - 545

Pokemon Go: the first step in the path to Accelerando? | Arlindo L. Oliveira

arlindo oliveiraThe recent release of Pokemon Go,  an augmented reality mobile game attracted much attention, and made the value of its parent company, Nintendo, raise by more than 14 billion dollars. Rarely has the release of a mobile game had so much impact in the media and the financial world.

In large part, this happened because the market (and the world) are expecting this to be the first of many applications that explore the possibilities of augmented reality, a technology that superimposes the perceptions of the real and the virtual world.

Pokemon Go players, instead of staying at home playing with their cellphones, walk around the real world, looking for little monsters that appear in more or less random locations. More advanced players meet in specific places, called gyms, to have their monsters fight each other. Pokemon Go brought augmented reality into the mainstream, and may indeed represent the first of many applications that merge the real and the virtual world. The game still has many limitations in what concerns the use of augmented reality. Exact physical location, below a few feet cannot be obtained, and the illusion is slightly less than perfect. Nonetheless, the game represents a significant usage of augmented reality, a potentially disruptive technology.

LER MAIS: https://digitalminds2016.wordpress.com/author/arlindololiveira/

Centro Ciência Viva do Alviela – CARSOSCÓPIO | 20 de Maio de 2016 | CAFÉ CIÊNCIA | Transportes do futuro

ImageProxyCAFÉ CIÊNCIA | Transportes do futuro

Aproxima-se a grande velocidade o próximo Café Ciência “Transportes do Futuro”: dia 27 de Maio de 2016, pelas 21h, no Centro Ciência Viva do Alviela. É a velocidade que tem levado à evolução dos transportes ao longo do tempo, mas também as questões de segurança dos cidadãos e proteção do ambiente. O Professor José Maria André do Departamento de Engenharia Mecânica do Instituto Superior Técnico da Universidade de Lisboa explica-nos como estão a ser pensados, ao nível científico e tecnológico, os transportes aéreos e terrestres que nos permitirão deslocar com maior rapidez e segurança, no futuro.
Imagine voar de Nova Iorque a Tóquio em 4 horas em vez das 15 ho! ras atuais! Viver em Portugal, sair de casa às 8h30 e começar a trabalhar às 9h00, em Paris. E em Portugal, será que o norte e o sul vão estar ligados apenas por alguns minutos?
Não perca tempo, inscreva-se e junte-se a nós para mais um Café Ciência com olhos postos na Ciência e Tecnologia do futuro.
As inscrições são gratuitas, obrigatórias e poderão ser efetuadas através do 249 881 805 ou info@alviela.cienciaviva.pt
Número máximo de inscrições: 70

Mais informação em www.alviela.cienciaviva.pt

Nos charcos e nas grutas – mitos ou realidade? | Centro Ciência Viva do Alviela | 21 de Maio, 17 horas

alvielaVamos comemorar o Dia Internacional da Biodiversidade, no próximo dia 21 de Maio, a partir das 17h, no Centro Ciência Viva do Alviela.

A cultura popular diz que os anfíbios são nojentos, viscosos e peçonhentos. Já os répteis têm a fama de serem animais perigosos com as suas mordidelas dolorosas e venenos mortais. Quem é que nunca ouviu dizer que os morcegos são animais do demónio, que bebem sangue, enrolam-se nos cabelos, e são sinónimo de azar ou doença?

Jael Palhas (Projeto Charcos com Vida) e Maria João Silva(CCVAlviela) explicam-nos qual a origem destes mitos e crenças populares e de que forma afetam a conservação destes anim! ais. Sabia que a ciência tem provado que são úteis ao homem e essenciais nos ecossistemas?

Traga um pequeno lanche pois fazemos um piquenique convívio enquanto aguardamos pelo final do dia para observação da biodiversidade noturna: noite dos morcegos e visita a um charco.

Quer saber toda a verdade sobre anfíbios, répteis e morcegos? Aventure-se e faça uma caminhada noturna connosco. Vamos conhecer as criaturas da noite!

As inscrições são obrigatórias e têm um custo de 3? por participante.

Mais informações através do 249 881 805 ou  info@alviela.cienciaviva.pt

(Mais)

Une guerre mondiale a commencé | Brisez le silence (par John Pilger)

Pilger - 200John Pilger est un journaliste de nationalité Australienne, né à Sydney le 9 Octobre 1939, parti vivre au Royaume-Uni depuis 1962. Il est aujourd’hui basé à Londres et travaille comme correspondant pour nombre de journaux, comme The Guardian ou le New Statesman.

Il a reçu deux fois le prix de meilleur journaliste de l’année au Royaume-Uni (Britain’s Journalist of the Year Award). Ses documentaires, diffusés dans le monde entier, ont reçu de multiples récompenses au Royaume-Uni et dans d’autres pays.

John Pilger est membre, à l’instar de Vandana Shiva et de Noam Chomsky, de l’IOPS (International Organization for a Participatory Society), une organisation internationale et non-gouvernementale créée (mais encore en phase de création) dans le but de soutenir l’activisme en faveur d’un monde meilleur, prônant des valeurs ou des principes comme l’autogestion, l’équité et la justice, la solidarité, l’anarchie et l’écologie.

Article initialement publié le 20 mars 2016 en anglais, sur le site officiel de John Pilger, à cette adresse.

LER TEXTO INTEGRAL AQUI:  LE PARTAGE

 

DESCOBERTA EXTRAORDINÁRIA | Sonified Higgs data show a surprising result | by Harriet Jarlett

Serão os grandes músicos excepcionais sensitivos e descodificadores das mais ténues vibrações do mundo físico? Porque nos toca a “alma” a música dos grandes clássicos? Sintonia (sinfonia) universal?

(José Filipe da Silva)

Scientists at CERN have been using new techniques to try and learn more about the tiniest particles in our universe. One unusual method they’ve utilised is to turn data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) into sounds – using music as a language to translate what they find.

Physics data and music share many similar connections, from resonances and vibrations, to patterns and frequency. By sonifying the data, comparing it to a musical score and then applying what we know about music theory it can give researchers a different perspective on the data, and throw up unusual insights.

This is exactly what happened this week when physicists at CERN sonified the Higgs boson data. They were shocked when, after listening to random notes as the data played its random tune, a bump in the graph translated into a well-known pattern of recognisable notes.

“It’s surprising that such an awful piece of music would be found in such important data,” said Wilhelm Richard Wagner, a CERN physicist who works on the Valkyries theory. “I’d have expected the universe to sound even more dramatic, more like a film score…’

The team are now working on sonifying as much data as possible to see if further musical patterns can be recognised. The next step is to see if other physics theories, not just the Standard Model, have music in their background noise.

You can listen to the sonified Higgs boson in the video below

VER AQUI:  CERN