Australia wants to join the brain-building party

The Australian Academy of Science has published a report calling for an investment of AUS$200 million over 10 years to build a computer system that has the capacity for thought and intelligent decision-making. It wants to do it the hard way. The report describes the $3bn US BRAIN initiative as seeking to map the human brain in great detail, and the $1.2bn European-led Human Brain Project as seeking to model a functioning brain. It recommends that Australia takes a different approach, by working out how the human brain generates thoughts, and then replicating this inside a computer. My layman's understanding...

The Guardian asks: Are the robots about to rise?

The Guardian has a detailed article (here) about Ray Kurzweil, and the prospects for artificial general intelligence.  It's by Carole Cadwalladr, a feature writer and novelist who has produced a series of speculative pieces about the impact of technology. Presumably it was the sub-editor who added the obligatory Terminator photo, but it's still worth a read. In 2004 Andrew Marr wrote that the default answer to questions like this in newspaper headlines is "No".  (The observation was later named Betteridge's Law of Headlines.)  Phew.

Should you short Apple?

Here's a brief history of the human race, plus a glimpse into our near future. A few geological seconds ago, our ancestors discovered that cooking meat made it safer, more nutritious, and longer-lasting.  Cooked food is an efficient fuel, and it enabled the human brain to grow. Brains are expensive in terms of energy: ours use 25% of all the energy we consume.  If you're going to have a bigger brain, you need a more efficient source of energy.  The human brain is not the biggest in the animal kingdom, but it is large proportionate to our size and weight....

Google Glass for Virgins

Virgin Atlantic is trialling Google Glass.  For the next six weeks, Passengers flying Virgin Upper Class from Heathrow's terminal three will be greeted by staff wearing Google's wearable computers.  The Virgin staff will be able to greet their customers by name, and will have immediate access to their preferences for drinks and food.  They will be able to update travellers on weather, flight times, connections, and, well, pretty much anything the internet knows. If the trial goes well it will be rolled out to other locations.  Which prompts the question, is this the first time in history that Heathrow terminal...

Short story prize

Woo-hoo!  My short story The Raid won first prize in a competition run by Dark Places, an online literary magazine.  You can buy it (and four other stories) here for 77 pence - worth every penny!