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Move the World.

Welcome to the weekly Cool Stuff Roundup (trademark pending), where we collect the best stories from Freethink’s Slack channel, and share it with you.

We’ve been on an artificial intelligence kick this week, so there’s a lot of that. Plus, some intro-level primers on physics and nanobots, and a brewing controversy over who created “optogenetics.”

Leaders in Silicon Valley are working together on an ethical framework for artificial intelligence

One way to measure the significance of a given tech issue is to look at whether Silicon Valley companies are worrying about it together or separately. Let’s call it the SOPA Rule, named for the 2011 bill that was so bad, Google, Wikipedia, and 7,000 other websites organized an internet black-out to protest it. Whether smartphones should have headphone jacks does not follow the SOPA Rule. But it looks like artificial intelligence will.

According to The New York Times, representatives from Alphabet (nee Google), Amazon, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and several other Valley companies have formed a yet-to-be-named working group dedicated to “ensur(ing) that A.I. research is focused on benefiting people, not hurting them.” What will the group call itself? What will it actually do? Nobody knows yet. But it takes a big issue to bring all those people to the same table.

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Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook is teaming up with other tech giants to get ahead of A.I. / TechCrunch

A beginner’s guide to entropy

“Imagine you dropped an egg on the floor. Every atomic motion taking place in this messy event could have happened in reverse. The pieces of the egg could theoretically start on the floor, hurtle towards each other, reforming into an egg as it lifts off the ground, travel up through the air, and arrive gently in your hand. The movement of every atom in this time-reversed egg would still be perfectly consistent with the laws of physics. And yet, this never happens.”

Aatish Bhatia explains why.

...and nanotechnology

In partnership with Arizona State University and the New America Foundation, Slate is offering free, month-long courses on various emerging technologies. September’s topic is nanotechnology, a field both vast and tiny (it involves making robots and transistors that are naked to the human eye). Start with the primer, and follow along throughout September here.

Elon Musk is inching closer to combining natural and artificial intelligence

In one timeline, human beings create artificial intelligence. In Elon Musk’s timeline humans integrate artificial intelligence into their own brains. At least we think that’s what Musk is talking about it when he claims to be “making progress” on something called a “neural lace.”

“Hypothetically, neural lace systems could wirelessly transmit signals to external devices,” writes Joe Carmichael at Inverse. “Instead of typing clumsily on a smartphone’s keyboard, we could think our messages into existence. Another, seemingly more ambitious use would flip the switch, and allow the lace to communicate with neurons via electrochemical stimulation.”

Or as Musk put it back in June: “Creating a neural lace is the thing that really matters for humanity to achieve symbiosis with machines.”

Get ready for self-sailing ships

The Wall Street Journal reports on the future of unmanned cargo ships, which “could herald the biggest change in shipping since diesel engines replaced steam.” Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto talks to the Washington Post about his decision to welcome Uber’s driverless car program to Steel City: “It’s a small city, so you can do things here; it doesn’t get bogged down in red tape.”

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Unmanned cargo ship rendering / Rolls-Royce

What happens when a huge medical breakthrough has more than one creator?

A new therapeutic technique called “optogenetics” has the potential to change the way we treat conditions from blindness to chronic pain by allowing us to stimulate neurons using light. It’s the kind of cutting edge medical science that school kids of the future will learn about, along with penicillin and chemotherapy. The only problem? There’s some question over who actually came up with the idea in the first place.

Up Next

Inventions
Therapeutic Bed Could Help Prevent Brain Damage in Babies
therapeutic bed
Inventions
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Calmer is a therapeutic bed for incubators that simulates a caregiver’s breathing and heartbeat to relieve stress in newborns.

Wildfires
Predator Drones Are Using AI to Create Faster Fire Maps
fire maps
Wildfires
Predator Drones Are Using AI to Create Faster Fire Maps
The National Guard has used drones to create forest fire maps since 2017. New AI upgrades could make the maps in minutes, not hours.

The National Guard has used drones to create forest fire maps since 2017. New AI upgrades could make the maps in minutes, not hours.

Healthcare
Doctors Spray Chemo Inside Abdominal Cancer Patients
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Healthcare
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For the first time, a U.S. trial will test the ability of an experimental cancer treatment called PIPAC to help late-stage abdominal cancer patients.

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Transportation
“Touchless Touchscreen” Could Reduce Distracted Driving
Distracted Driving
Transportation
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Future of Medicine
The First Universal Flu Vaccine Could Be Coming Soon
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The First Universal Flu Vaccine Could Be Coming Soon
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After flu season, vaccines are outdated and researchers must predict next year’s virus. But soon, we may have a universal flu vaccine that doesn't expire.

The Sound of Science
This Electronic Musician Is Transforming the Soundscape of Hospitals
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Trained as a classical pianist, ambient artist Yoko Sen is on a mission to redesign medical devices' beeps and buzzes and save us from alarm fatigue.

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Dispatches
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Neuroscientists say that we may be ignoring a basic fact that could defuse the "screen-time wars" between parents and kids.

Coded
This Research Team Wants to Hack Your Car
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What happens when an SUV going 75 miles-per-hour down a highway is hacked from a remote computer?
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What happens when an SUV going 75 miles-per-hour down a highway is hacked from a remote computer? Two researchers in Pittsburgh want to make sure we never find out. As cars have become more automated, they’re becoming more hackable. But the only way to stop car hacking is to actually learn how to hack into cars and uncover their vulnerabilities.

Coded
The Evolution of a Dissident: How Ladar Levison Became Someone Who Said "No" to...
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For Ladar Levison, founder of secure email service Lavabit, everything changed when the two FBI agents showed up at his door.