A Blog by Jonathan Low


Sep 19, 2019

First Increase In Human Lifespan Via Biological Aging Intervention Reported

Exciting, but be careful what you wish for. JL

Shelly Fan reports in Singularity Hub:

Measuring a person’s “true” age is surprisingly difficult due to genetics and lifestyle. Compared to chronological age, biological age better correlates with general health status, mental abilities, age-related diseases, and death. Because aging gradually deteriorates the entire body, scientists have struggled to find the best markers. A combination of markers may form the best “clock” that measures true age. But one stood out: epigenetic alterations. A three-drug combination can induce measurable anti-aging effects in humans. “This is the first report of an increase in human lifespan by means of an aging intervention.”

Why AI Can't Save Us From Deep Fakes

Because of increasingly ease with which they can be crafted and the speed with which they can be disseminated, deep fakes may overpower purely technological solutions.

A combination of social, legal and technical fixes will have to be employed to address the threat. JL  

Zoe Schiffer reports in The Verge:

Deepfakes are unlikely to be fixed by technology alone. (And) deepfakes can’t be solved just through the courts. Almost all solutions fight manipulation at the point-of-capture or at the detection level. Allowing people to manipulate videos and images using machine learning, with results that are almost impossible to detect with the human eye can go viral on social media in a matter of seconds. AI could actually make things worse by concentrating more data and power in the hands of private corporations. “Designing new technical models creates openings for companies to capture all sorts of images and create a repository of online life.”

The Reason Millions of Patients' Medical Data And Images Are On the Internet

Xrays, cat scans, cardiograms, your baby's ultra sound, all available on the internet. And not because of a nefarious plot, but because the growing consolidation and transferability of medical information has made it less secure.

But what happens if employers, banks, insurance companies - or a hacker - could get them - and use them to make judgements or extract financial concessions from patients? JL

Jack Gillum and colleagues report in ProPublica:

Medical images and health data belonging to millions of Americans, including X-rays, MRIs and CT scans, are sitting unprotected on the internet and available to anyone with basic computer expertise.The records cover 5 million patients in the U.S. and millions more around the world. A snoop could use free software programs or just a typical web browser  to view the images and data. As networks of medical centers became more complex and connected to the internet, the responsibility for security shifted to network administrators who assumed safeguards were in place. “Suddenly, medical security has become a do-it-yourself project,”

Humans And Computers See Differently. Does It Matter?

Yes, it matters a lot. Because human sight may be far superior. JL

Kevin Hartnett reports in Quanta:

The neural networks underlying computer vision receive an image as input and process it through a series of steps. They first detect pixels, then edges and contours, then whole objects, before eventually producing a final guess about what they’re looking at.There is a lot we don’t know about human vision, but we know it doesn’t work like that. The visual cortex feedback process is very different from the feed-forward methods that enable computer vision. “Learning in deep learning methods is as unrelated to human learning as can be. “The wall is coming. You’ll reach a point where these systems can no longer move forward in terms of development.”

How Hackers Can - And Do - Penetrate Smart Cities

The more connected and accessible, the more vulnerable. JL

James Rundle reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Cities are using sensors to collect data about public utilities, traffic, garbage collecting, road conditions and more, then using that data to deliver services to more people more efficiently. But the more connected a city is, the more vulnerable it is to cyberattacks. As cities add connectivity to their streetlights, power grids, dams, transit lines and other services, they are adding more targets to be hacked. Sensors are the building blocks of smart-city initiatives.The amount of data sensors collect is enormous. Smart meters, smart garbage bins and traffic control systems also mean points of entry. The potential for harm is pretty much endless.

What If Apple Makes the iPhone Itself A Service?

By lowering prices and offering inclusive upgrades on all its hardware, the company is effectively doing just that - and making good on its strategic shift to a service rather than product oriented company. JL

Ben Thompson reports in Stratechery:

Over the last three years the company’s “Wearables, Home and Accessories,” dominated by the Apple Watch and AirPods, has doubled from $11.8 billion to $22.2 billion. Over the same span Services revenue has increased from $23.1 billion to $43.8 billion. While Apple doesn’t need to worry about iPhone customers outside of China switching to Android, they are competing with the iPhones people already have, and, their own new, cheaper phones. How long until there is  an all-up Apple subscription? Pay one monthly fee, and get everything Apple has to offer. Nothing would show that Apple is a Services company more than making the iPhone itself a service

Poll: Two-Thirds of Americans Support Breaking Up Amazon, Google, Facebook

It is worth acknowledging that those polled might change their minds if such break-ups seriously impinged on convenience and pricing.

But assuming people have become more sophisticated about the consequences of tech usage, two-thirds is a very big number, especially across all demographics and ideologies. JL

Emily Stewart reports in Vox:

Americans are on board with breaking up Big Tech, especially if it means companies such as Amazon and Google stop showing them search results they make money off of first. Two-thirds of Americans would support breaking up tech firms by undoing mergers, such as Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram, if it means ensuring more competition in the future. Seven in 10 Americans say it’s a good idea to break up big tech companies when the content they’re showing people is ranked depending on whether the company is making money off of it or not. The results hold across age groups, education levels, demographics, and political ideologies.