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22 April, 2013 - Wall Street Journal
Kurzweil and the Knowledge Graph
While Raymond Kurzweil was looking for funding for his new enterprise, Google co-founder Larry Page tried instead to persuade the 65 year old A.I. pioneer to come work for him. Eventually the two agreed on a one-sentence job description: "to bring natural language understanding to Google". In particular, the inventor and genius from Brooklin is exploiting Google immense resources to "create a system that's expert in everything it has read and make that expertise available to the world". In his latest interview by the Wall Street Journal, Kurzweil describes his new daily routine, "riding the Google bus to work every day": thanks to Raymond's insights, we should hopefully expect some improvements soon to the Knowlegde Graph Google has been developing in the latest months.

8 February, 2012 - IBM News
First commercial Watson
IBM, WellPoint and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center unveiled the first commercially developed Watson-based cognitive computing breakthroughs. After more than 14,000 hours of training by human experts in general medicine and oncology, Watson is now able to help doctors in diagnostic procedures and deliver personalized, evidence based treatment to patients. As Manoj Saxena, IBM General Manager, put it: "These breakthrough capabilities bring forward the first in a series of Watson-based technologies, which exemplifies the value of applying big data and analytics and cognitive computing to tackle the industries most pressing challenges".

31 January, 2013 - Kurzweil A.I.
Watson in school
A modified version of Watson will be shipped to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the first academic institution receiving such a system. The stated goal of the partnership is the discovery of new market applications for the cognitive abilities of IBM A.I. system, which at the moment is primarily focused on healthcare and finance.

14 December, 2012 - TechCrunch
Google hires Kurzweil
After Siri, Watson, WolframAlpha, Venexia, Google enters in the market of semantic technologies and advanced natural language processing. Following the introduction of the so-called Knowledge Graph (a summary of information related to the user's query now appearing to the right of the search engine results), Google's latest step is hiring Raymond Kurzweil as full-time engineering director. Kurzweil is an inventor, researcher, futurist, as well as the most popular writer and speaker on Singularity. Understanding natural language and computing human knowledge are now the two main points in the agenda of all IT companies.

November 20, 2012 - The Telegraph
A blood test to reveal your age
Many scientists have recently suggested that the length of telomeres can be used to efficiently estimate biological age: the shorter the telomeres, the shorter the expected amount of remaning time to live. A recent study on 320 Seychelles warblers confirmed for the first time this prediction in the wild: in particular, by monitoring telomers length in the population of wild birds, researchers were able to succesfully use that measure to predict birds' death. If the results of the study are confirmed on humans, the discovery will open a new exciting possibility to monitor biological age at a reasonable price (kit for telomeres length measure can already be found for less than 500 dollars).

November 16, 2012 - Singularity Hub
Paging Dr. Watson
IBM and the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine signed an agreement to train super computer Watson in medicine: professors and students will ask Watson for diagnosis and treatment suggestions, evaluating and rating the quality of his answers. With medical information doubling every five years (and becoming useless in eigth), catching up with the latest discoveries is increasingly challening for doctors (whose estimated free time for the task is less then five hours a month) - hopefully, the new generation of artificial minds will prove valuable in meeting this important challenge.

August 28, 2012 - Bloomberg Business Week
A.I. on your mobile
Following Watson's success, IBM is developing a Watson "mobile friendly" version, bringing a super A.I. directly on mobile phones. Watson 2.0 should also include voice and image recognition capabilities, extending to mobile users advanced data analysis services already provided by the firm: in a not-so-distant future a farmer could stand in a field and ask his phone, “When should I plant my corn?”, or a doctor could ask "What is the best available drugs for disease X?".

August 20, 2012 - Minds and Machines
Thinking Inside the Box
The "Oracle approach" to A.I. tries to minimize the existential risk posed by hostile super intelligent, non-human beings by confining artificial minds to a "box" - i.e. giving them the ability to answer questions, but not to act in the physical world. A new scholarly paper by Stuart Armstrong, Anders Sandberg and Nick Bostrom (published in the Springer journal Minds and Machines) critically addresses the virtues and problems of several attempts to develop a safe oracle.

June 13, 2012 - Science
Aging Is Recorded in Our Genes
A new experiment confirms that our DNA is somehow affected by aging: if the sequence of bases does not change with aging, it seems that many so-called "epigenetic mechanisms" have a strong correlation with our biological age. One of the most common of these changes involves a chemical binding, known as methylation, which turns off the target gene: a new study have shown a huge difference in the methylation pattern of newborns and centenarians (80% of all cytosine nucleotides, compared with 73%). This discovery looks particularly promising since one third of the genes that are not turned off in the centenarians have been linked to cancer by previous research .

May 14, 2012 - TGCOM
Robot and automated production processes
Canon - Japanese firm leader in digital equipments and technological products - announced a new ambitious internal project, that is, the complete automation of its production processes to cut personnel cost. According to Canon's spokesperson, the firm should be able to accomplish the impressive result in a few years. From a strategic point of view, the choice is particularly interesting: while many Japanese firms are now starting to relocate production outside the nation, Canon decides to invest in state-of-the-art technology to improve business efficiency.

April 17, 2012 - Stephen Wolfram Blog
Overcoming artificial stupidity
Three years after Wolfram Alpha's launch, Stephen Wolfram is proud to announce that his creature is now successful 90% of the time when trying to understand user input. Wolfram's own analysis stressed the importance of two factors: first, the improvement in the computational linguistic engine at the bottom of Alpha's operations; second, the obvious fact that Alpha is learning new things at an impressive rate, avoiding stupid answers for lack of "common sense knowledge". The progress of A.I. is somehow better tracked not much by the ability to answer like a man would, but the ability to avoid giving answers a man wouldn't.

March 23, 2012 - Kurzweil AI
Watson and Evidence Based Medicine
The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and IBM announced a partnership to develop a new IT platform exploiting A.I. Watson capabilities in connection with evidence-based medicine. Since every 5 years the medical literature doubles in size, it is becoming exponentially harder for doctors to be always updated with the latest scientific discoveries on cancer treatment: 'This comprehensive, evidence-based approach will profoundly enhance cancer care by accelerating the dissemination of practice-changing research at an unprecedented pace' - said Dr. Mark G. Kris from MSKCC. It is clear that the revolution promised by Artificial Minds such as Venexia is now starting to change any business process where the managment, storage, retrieval of structured information play a pivotal role.

February 29, 2012 - The New York Times
The future of OS?
It is now available for free the download of the first "public" version of Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 8. If for many aspects the "core" of the new product is just a better version of Seven, the interface is a radical rethinking of the very concept of desktop OS: the home screen inspired by Windows Phone (the so-called tiles) is a huge departure from the traditional "start menu" and desktop. In a world that is already experiencing a convergence of seemingly different tools (tablets, smartphones, computers), this is the first real attempt at producing a unified user experience across all devices: "Apple maintains that you still need two operating systems (...), Microsoft is asserting that, no, you can have one single operating system on every machine, always familiar". The first "stable" version is announced for Fall 2012.

January 3, 2012 - Technology Review
Cars from the future
Thilo Koslowski (vice president of Gartner) offers a stimulating analysis of the car market with some bold predictions on the future of the industry; in particular, cars will be constantly "updated" to support all the recent innovations in IT services. Together with these improvements, even more radical changes await us in the near future: from a business model dominated by ownership, we already have signals of a transition towards a new model dominated by "sharing", as in a peer to peer network.

January 3, 2012 - Technology Review
Cars from the future
Thilo Koslowski (vice president of Gartner) offers a stimulating analysis of the car market with some bold predictions on the future of the industry; in particular, cars will be constantly "updated" to support all the recent innovations in IT services. Together with these improvements, even more radical changes await us in the near future: from a business model dominated by ownership, we already have signals of a transition towards a new model dominated by "sharing", as in a peer to peer network.

November 2, 2011 - Medical Press
'Rejuvenated' stem cells from centenarian
A new path toward regenerative medicine may be opened by the latest discovery of Jean-Marc Lemaitre and his team at the Institute of Functional Genomics at the University of Montpellier. Following the the discovery (in 2007) that it is possible to coax certain adult cells back into their immature, pre-specialised state, Lemaitre's team took the challenge of extending this procedure to the elderly and very elderly, since cellular senescence prevents the standard procedure from working effectively. By adding two new ingredients to the standard kit, they showed that cells from subjects ranging in age from 74 to 101 can indeed be rejuvenated, as several markers of ageing indicate.

October 22, 2011 - Geek.Com
LEGO Robot sets Rubik's cube world record
Cubestomer II (a robot built from a Samsung smartphone with Android and 4 "Mindstorm" LEGO kits) solved Rubik's cube in the record time of 5.32 seconds. Easy? Not so much, if we think that the last human world champion won his title with a 7.68 seconds performance and the world record itself is set at 5.66 seconds; moreover, if we consider that humans, but not Cubestormer, get a chance to inspect the cube before starting the manipulation, the significance of this achievement is clear, making this "proof of concept" a paradigmatic example of what "cheap", consumer level technology enable us to do.

October 3, 2011 - New Scientist
Matti Mintz of Tel Aviv University achieved a surprising result by successfully implanting an artificial cerebellum in a rat's brain. It is not easy to underestimate the experiment: while it is true that cochlear implants have already proved that it is possible for external devices to communicate with the brain, Mintz's work proved that communication can go both ways, i.e. sending and receiving neural signals - as Mintz hiself put it, "it's proof of concept that we can record information from the brain, analyse it in a way similar to the biological network, and return it to the brain". In a not-so-distant future, such devices could be used to replace areas of brain tissue damaged by stroke and other conditions.

September 14, 2011 - Kurzweil A.I.
A.I. and evidence-based medicine
Insurance company WellPoint and IBM are officially working together to improve medical decision-making with the use of sophisticated A.I. tools. In particular, given that medical information is doubling every five years, coordinating medical data (new clinical trials, doctors' experience, test results, patients' health record) is becoming a huge challenge: the goal of the project is to use Watson's capabilities to quickly identify the most likely diagnosis and present possible treatment options.

August 18, 2011 - Physorg
Chips like brains
IBM announces the construction of a new generation of "smarter chips", explicitely designed to mimic the way human brains acquire and process information. At the end of a 6-years project in collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (the famous DARPA), the "smart" chips are now engaging in simple challenges, such as steering a simulated car through a maze, or playing Pong. However, what's important is not what the chips are doing, but how they're doing it - as Giulio Tononi, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, points out: the ability to learn new things and do "unexpected things" without explicit programming is a first step towards more sophisticated, human-like computational abilities.

July 4, 2011 - New York Times
Making Friends With a Robot
Amy Harmon meets Bina48, a humanoid robot explicitely designed to be "a friend". Sold to the millionaire Martine Rothblatt, the robot has been programmed to resemble Rothblatt's (human) partner. With the help of the “frubber” (the skin-like material that covers her body) and countless micro-motors, Bina48 smiles, looks confused and shows a pretty impressive range of genuine expressions. A must-read, somewhat surreal, interview to the very end: “What is it like to be a robot?” “Well,” she said gently, “I have never been anything else.”

June 2, 2011 - The Economist
Stephen Wolfram is the Alpha Geek
An interview to the computer scientist Stephen Wolfram appears in The Economist on the possibility of computing the entire human knowledge. The former child prodigy - international physicist at the age of 15, Ph.D. at 20 and winner of the MacArthur genius prize - and Mathematica founder (the world's most famous computer software for technical computing) explains the effort of his company: "Our objective is that pretty much anything you need to go ask a human expert about right now, will be able to be answered automatically”; doing this is, he says, “insanely difficult”, but Wolfram Research already have a huge collection of curated, cross-checked data in the world. The potential of applying succesfull analytical tools to all kinds of data is enormous, of course: what is needed now is a computational engine with "real" (not just simulated) intelligence.

May 21, 2011 - Kurzweil AI
Great Breakthrough in Medical Prothesis
Researchers from Oregon State University reached a significant medical prothesis breakthrough: Rob Summers, who was completely paralyzed below the chest five years ago, can now stand on his own for up to four minutes at a time —(25 minutes with assistance). The exciting result was achieved through what is called direct “epidural electrical stimulation” of the lower spinal cord, mimicking signals the brain normally transmits to initiate movement: as it turns out, the spinal cord itself is smart enough to learn to control muscle and moviments without direct control from the brain. Hopefully, these results may be useful to tackle other important medical challenges, such as Parkinson’s disease and stroke.

April 19, 2011 - Nature
Nanoparticles VS. Cancerous Cells
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories, the University of New Mexico, and the UNM Cancer Research and Treatment Center have produced an effective strategy for using nanoparticles to blast cancerous cells with a melange of killer drugs. The basic idea is to combine honeycombed nanoparticles (around 150 nanometers) that have cavities to store drugs with the improved "targeting system" provided by an encapsulating lipid bilayer (liposome): with this strategy, a single "protocell" loaded with a drug cocktail may kill a drug-resistant cancer cell. An advantage of this approach over traditional chemotherapy comes from the facts that lipids serve as a protective shield: if no cell is found, only few poisons leak into the system of the human host.

March 14, 2011 - Time
The Secrets to Long Life
The Longevity Project - a new book based on an unprecedented study on longevity - comes full of surprises: 1500 subjects and a 90 year long research show that many things we have always taken for granted are actually nothing more than common sense. When Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin looked at their huge dataset for behavioral and psychological attributes that relate to longevity, they found - among other things - that worrying is actually good for health, optimism is overrated and women thrive post-divorce (while men don't). As it turns out, however, the single best personality predictor of long life is confirmed to be conscientiousness, a personality trait that has often been associated with long and healthy life in the psychological literature.

February 3, 2011 - Nature
Pictures of a virus
A recent Nature paper written by more than 80 researchers portrayed the first virus photo ever. The "camera" was the Linac Coherent Light Source, a new laser producing extremely "hard" X rays. Even if the virus was disintegrated by the laser beam, the impulses were so fast that it was possible to recreate its picture before the explosion. Considering that getting the shape of other viruses took as long as 12 years with previous tools, this technological leap promises great discoveries in several scientific fields.

February 1, 2011 - New Scientist
Kinect and the human-machine interface
A first glance at Kinect's revolution reveals that the new Microsoft controller is much more than a game. "Hacked" the day after its official presentation, Kinect has an RGB camera, two infrared sensors, four microphones: instead of using a standard controller, the user can interact with her XBox just by using her body. Even if commercially interesting applications are yet to come, the "proofs of concept" available all around the Web are a promising start to change forever human-machine interface: bye bye mouse, welcome Minority Report.

January 2011 - Corriere della Sera
Meet Watson, the supercomputer that beats humans
On the Italian Corriere della Sera the announcement of the latest challenge between man and machine: 13 years after the chess match Deep Blue vs Kasparov, the new IBM supercomputer - Watson - will take part to a Jeopardy! game. The challenge witnesses the improvement of A.I. in recent years: winning a quiz requires natural language understanding and strategic thinking - brute force just will not do. Watson is an IBM project developed with help from universities in America and Europe: MIT, University of Texas, USC, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Trento.

January 9, 2010 - Nature Neuroscience
The biological bases of musical pleasure
An interesting study appeared on Nature Neuroscience investigates the neurobiological foundation of pleasure and anticipation of pleasure caused my music. Using brain imaging tools, the researchers were able to prove a functional dissociation in the brain: the caudate was more involved during the anticipation and the nucleus accumbens was more involved during the experience of peak emotional responses to music. The results help to explain why music is of such high value across all human societies, and indirectly confirm the possibility of influencing brain's behavior through suitable melodies, as already established (in psychology) by iLabs research on symbolic music.

December 23, 2010 - Kurzweil AI
A start-up country
The forthcoming Singularity is likely to change the relationships among individuals in our society: in the Internet era, the geographical boundaries of a nation are less and less important, when compared to the social opportunities offered by the Web. In a not so distant future, the technological revolution will favor the adoption of new values and conventions, giving strong incentives for the formation of innovative social systems: the Seasteading Institute is the first organization planning new communities (literally) in high sea. Inspired by libertarian ideas, the company's mission is to explore the actual possibilities of building autonomous, small nation in today's world. .

November 28, 2010 - Harvard Gazzette
The first reversal of aging
Researchers from Harvard claim to have obtained the first real example of reversal of aging in mice. By creating animals with a "telomerase switch", the scientists were able to generate prematurely aged mice. The switch allowed the team to find out whether reactivating telomerase in the animals would restore telomeres and mitigate the signs and symptoms of aging. The work showed a dramatic reversal of many aspects of aging, including reversal of brain disease and infertility.

November 19, 2010 - Institute of Physics
Penrose and the origin of the world
Roger Penrose argues that recent data from the WMAP satellite support his idea of "conformal cyclic cosmology". While many physicists hold an inflationary model of cosmology - where the Big Bang is basically the birth of the whole universe -, Penrose believes that the Big Bang is just one among many "transitions" between different "aeons" in the history of the universe.

November 10, 2010 - Physorg.com
Beating the cold... and much more
Viruses are mankind's biggest killer yet they are among the hardest of all diseases to treat. Previously scientists believed that antibodies could only reduce infection by attacking viruses outside cells and also by blocking their entry into cells. Researchers from U.K. have now discovered that antibodies can fight viruses from within infected cells, by using a proteing called TRIM21 to trigger the cells' response. The discovery promises a new generation of more effective antiviral drugs.

October 9, 2010 – New York Times
Google Smart Vehicles
The Google Car is now reality. With someone behind the wheel to take control if something goes awry, seven test cars have driven 1,000 miles without human intervention and more than 140,000 miles with only occasional human control. Developed by a team of scientists led by Sebastian Thrun - the 43-year-old director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory - the Google Car now offers an amazing preview of how our streets will look like within a decade. The availability of autonomous A.I. products also raises important issues in ethics and law: who is responsible for a car that makes a mistake?