Taking back control of the Singularity

Taking back control of the Singularity

David Wood’s new book, “The Singularity Principles” is published at an opportune moment. A growing number of well-informed people are saying that the technological singularity – the arrival of superintelligent machines – now appears to be much nearer than they used to think. If it is, then the job of making sure the outcome is positive for humans becomes urgent. Wood and I discussed his book in the latest episode of The London Futurist Podcast. Rapture for Nerds The task of ensuring that superintelligence is safe for humanity is hindered by the fact that many people do not take it...
Regenerating the thymus: profile of Greg Fahy

Regenerating the thymus: profile of Greg Fahy

We heard a great deal about T cells during the Covid pandemic. They are crucial to resisting infection, and they are manufactured in your thymus, a small organ behind your breastbone. Unfortunately, the thymus starts to deteriorate when you are young, which is why the elderly were particularly susceptible to Covid. Greg Fahy was already a successful and noted cryobiologist when he embarked on a series of experiments to regenerate the thymus. He wants to remind our bodies how to be young. Wanting to be President When Greg Fahy was small he wanted to be President. This was simply because...
Could you – and should you – get paid to do AI safety research?

Could you – and should you – get paid to do AI safety research?

How close are we to artificial general intelligence (AGI), a machine with all the cognitive ability of an adult human? Surveys of AI researchers indicate that professionals think the most likely timeline is a decade or so either side of the middle of this century. That is not very long, but quite a few well-informed people think it could be even sooner. One such person is Ross Nordby, who explains his thinking on the latest edition of the London Futurist Podcast. The startling progress of AI Ross is a programmer with deep expertise in real-time physics for video games. A...
Extending health spans by extending telomeres: profile of Liz Parrish

Extending health spans by extending telomeres: profile of Liz Parrish

Patient zero Liz Parrish was nervous. She was on a plane to Colombia, where she would undergo an untested gene therapy. She and her colleagues had spent two years developing the therapy and making the preparations, but they could not know how it would work out. It was September 2015, and Parrish had been inspired to take this step because her son, suffering from type 1 diabetes, was unable to obtain treatment for his condition in the USA. She decided to embark upon a mission to persuade the FDA to move from a precautionary approach to a proactive one. It...
Superintelligence may be closer than most people think, says neuroscientist

Superintelligence may be closer than most people think, says neuroscientist

There is a paradox in artificial intelligence (AI). The technology is already very powerful, and most people agree that it will transform every industry and every aspect of our lives. But deployment of AI in industry seems to be proceeding slower than expected. One explanation for this is that CEOs and CTOs are understandably nervous about deploying systems that are unpredictable. They are even more nervous about systems which make mistakes, but unless they make mistakes they cannot learn. Fast progress in AI research Whatever the hold-ups in industry, AI is making great strides in the lab. Researchers are surprised,...
Why is it so hard to deploy AI?

Why is it so hard to deploy AI?

We all know AI will transform everything There might be a corporate executive somewhere who hasn’t yet concluded that over the next few years, artificial intelligence (AI) will transform their organisation and their industry. If there is, they are very unusual. However, despite this general acknowledgement of its importance, many companies are struggling to deploy AI. How should they do it? Daniel Hulme has some suggestions, which he explains in episode 8 of the London Futurist podcast. Daniel is the founder and CEO of Satalia, which until recently was London’s largest independent AI consultancy, helping companies solve hard problems with...
Has there been a second AI Big Bang?

Has there been a second AI Big Bang?

The first Big Bang in 2012 The Big Bang in artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the breakthrough in 2012, when a team of researchers led by Geoff Hinton managed to train an artificial neural network (known as a deep learning system) to win an image classification competition by a surprising margin. Prior to that, AI had performed some remarkable feats, but it had never made much money. Since 2012, AI has helped the big technology companies to generate enormous wealth, not least from advertising. A second Big Bang in 2017? Has there been a new Big Bang in AI, since...
Preventing the brain from aging: profile of Jean Hébert

Preventing the brain from aging: profile of Jean Hébert

Machines can be fixed Jean Hébert wanted to be a molecular biologist long before he knew what the term meant. As a boy in elementary school in Montreal, Quebec, he decided that getting old was a bad idea. He reasoned that we are essentially machines, so it must be possible to fix our bodies when they suffer damage, and begin to malfunction. This line of thinking led him all the way to a PhD in genetics, but while doing that he realised that re-engineering the genome to stop aging would be very hard indeed. He decided to change direction, and...
Can the UAE become one of the world’s major centres for longevity research?

Can the UAE become one of the world’s major centres for longevity research?

According to Betteridge’s Law, any headline that ends with a question mark can be answered with a “no”. But let’s not be hasty. A few months ago, the UAE declared a shift in its healthcare policy towards longevity and healthy aging. Throughout its fairly short history, the UAE has been a remarkably ambitious country. Could it become one of the world’s longevity capitals - a global centre for longevity research? Transformations In the 51 years since its creation in 1971, the UAE has gone through a series of remarkable transformations. It has developed from a collection of Bedouin tribes to...
AI and skin biomarkers: profile of Anastasia Georgievskaya

AI and skin biomarkers: profile of Anastasia Georgievskaya

Anastasia Georgievskaya is using AI to develop biomarkers from photos of consumers’ skin. She is doing important work for the longevity revolution, but the consumers are more attracted by offers of improved attractiveness than offers of extended lifespan. Skin biomarkers Anastasia Georgievskaya runs a company in Estonia that provides consumers with recommendations engines for healthcare and lifestyle changes, using indicators from photographs of their skin. The company is called Haut.AI, and it operates a software platform which solicits images, and also lifestyle and preference data from individuals. It processes this information, and provides the results to clients. The clients include...
Biotech firm puts R2D2 to work in lab

Biotech firm puts R2D2 to work in lab

Applying AI to drug development Drug development is a time-consuming and expensive business. Notoriously, it takes over 10 years and costs around $2 billion to bring one drug to market — and around 90% of candidate drugs fail during human trials. And the situation is getting worse. Eroom’s Law (Moore’s Law in reverse) is the observation that the cost of developing a new drug doubles roughly every nine years. The most promising solution to this problem is applying artificial intelligence to the process. A number of companies are pursuing this, and one of the leaders is Insilico Medicine, which announced...
The Impact of AI on Delivery Businesses

The Impact of AI on Delivery Businesses

The travelling salesman problem You know the Travelling Salesman Problem? Find the shortest route that takes you to every city on a list and returns you home. It’s a hard problem. In fact it’s an NP-hard problem, where NP stands for non-deterministic polynomial time. Just in case you were in any doubt about how hard it is. But if you’re a grocery retailer, delivering the weekly shopping to millions of homes, or the country’s leading furniture maker... well, it’s a problem you have to solve. Who you gonna call? Tesco deliveries Tesco not only has to deliver hundreds of thousands...
Using AI to live to 200: profile of Sergey Young

Using AI to live to 200: profile of Sergey Young

Hard work Sergey Young was born in Dalnegorsk, a small and shrinking town in Russia's Far East. It is closer to China and Japan than to the regional capital Vladivostok, and Young describes it as not so much in the middle of nowhere as at the end of nowhere. But he was lucky enough to be born into the age of glasnost and perestroika (openness and restructuring). It didn't seem lucky at first. His parents were chemical engineers, and he followed in their footsteps by taking an engineering degree in Moscow. He was still only 18 when his mother phoned...
The optimistic investor: profile of Jim Mellon

The optimistic investor: profile of Jim Mellon

The greatest investment opportunity in history Jim Mellon is an optimist. Which is just as well, since he is one of the people trying to engineer a complete transformation in attitudes towards aging – attitudes within the medical profession, among the public at large, and crucially, in the investment community. As an example of his optimism, Mellon says that, thanks largely to the vertiginous advances in artificial intelligence, “if you can stay alive for another ten to twenty years, and if you aren’t yet over 75, and if you remain in reasonable health for your age, you have an excellent...
First wholly AI-developed drug enters Phase 1 Trials

First wholly AI-developed drug enters Phase 1 Trials

For several years we have been hearing about the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve traditional drug discovery and development. In the last two years, clinical trials have begun. The UK’s Exscientia made headlines last April by announcing the start of a Phase 1 clinical trial for a drug it designed using AI for an established protein target. Recursion Pharmaceuticals in Utah uses AI to find new uses for the drugs owned by other companies. Insilico Medicine has now announced the crucial next step: the start of the world’s first Phase 1 clinical trial of a drug developed from...
The role of AI in extending health span

The role of AI in extending health span

“Not proper science” The field of longevity medicine is coming alive. Until the last few years, the project of halting and reversing aging was not seen as “proper science”, and not a fit use for public funds. Aging was seen as an inevitable and permanent part of the human condition. It was not a disease, but a vulnerability to disease which grows over time, and cannot be redressed. People who argued the contrary were viewed by the medical establishment as entertaining mavericks at best, disreputable charlatans at worst. The sneering has not entirely disappeared, but today there is significant investment...
AI in healthcare in 2022

AI in healthcare in 2022

In the tenth anniversary year of the Big Bang in AI we will see better drug discovery processes, better diagnostics, and better understanding of human biology. Tenth anniversary of AI’s Big Bang Next year will see the tenth anniversary of the Big Bang in artificial intelligence (AI). In September 2012, a team led by Geoff Hinton won an annual image recognition competition called ImageNet, using a type of silicon chip called graphics processing units (GPUs) and a type of algorithm called convolutional neural nets (CNNs). Hinton's team was not the first to use these techniques, but the margin of their...
Bridging the gap between scientists and clinicians: profile of Morten Scheibye-Knudsen

Bridging the gap between scientists and clinicians: profile of Morten Scheibye-Knudsen

The longevity "bug" Early in his medical career, Morten Scheibye-Knudsen spent six months working as a physician in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. It is a small town of fewer than 20,000 people, but he was enchanted, and almost didn't return to his native Denmark. We should be grateful that he did listen to the call of anti-aging research, and head back to Copenhagen: he went on to become one of the leading pioneers applying modern artificial intelligence (AI) to the field of longevity medicine. Scheibye-Knudsen caught the longevity "bug" as a teenager, appalled by watching his grandparents grow frail...