The Wonder, November 9 - A Human Brain Super Computer, AI Police, and Solar-Powered Liquid

INblog, technology, the wonder|BYsf appworks

A Weekly Snapshot of Life-Changing Technology

Happy Friday!

Society has been bracing for an era of automation where workers are replaced by robots and smart systems. In truth, economists are still debating whether automation will devastate the American labor market or create more jobs. This holiday season, it is looking to be the former; Amazon announced it will hire 20,000 fewer temporary holiday workers this year as it turns to more automation and robots.

But in the long term, automation will be a good thing for society. As less complex jobs are replaced, workers will be free to shift towards jobs like teaching, caretaking, or nursing – areas where there is a huge shortage of workers. It might take some help from the government to support us through the transition by offering training and exploring concepts like universal basic income, but as a whole, we will become smarter and better cared for.

Don’t agree? Hit reply and tell me why.

Three Neat Things
  1. Problem Solved. Photomath can snap a photo of your math homework and explain how to solve the problem.
  2. Off to the Races. Horse racing is now available in VR.
  3. Opening the Portal. Facebook’s in-home video calling device went on sale this week, just in time for the holidays.

Now onto the Wonder.

A Human Brain Super Computer

The world’s largest super computer, designed and built to work in the same way as a human brain does, was turned on for the first time this week.

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Andrew’s Take: If there is a god, she might laugh at our feeble attempts to recreate her work. A mouse’s brain has 100X as many neurons as this thing has processers. If this team achieves its goal of a billion processors, it might be 1% of the scale of a single human brain. But however small it may seem in comparison, it reduces the gap between what nature created and what we are capable of making. The future is a tantalizing place.   

Darius’s Take: This is interesting on a few levels. Not only does this computer have a million processor cores (we’re using 4-6 cores in our computers today), but the processors are wired similarly to a brain instead of a traditional computer layout, allowing the cores to communicate by sending bits of data in parallel to multiple locations. This facilitates the ability to parallelize work across a multitude of cores, resulting in a much-improved execution time. While this superior processing power is impressive, this computer’s main function is to help understand how the human brain works by studying how it solves for complex real-time brain modeling applications. It’s amazing how much processing power our brains have, and we’re still only in the early stages of understanding it.

The AI Police

Researchers from Florida Atlantic University published the world’s first study using Medicare Part B data, machine learning, and advanced analytics to automate fraud detection.

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Andrew’s Take: Young entrepreneurs can find inspiration in this example of a new technology (AI) being used to solve an old problem (fraud). What makes this special is the amount of money it could save – $19-65 billion per year. But what happens when the criminals figure out how to use that same technology to commit fraud?

Darius’s Take: This is the perfect problem for Machine Learning to solve. Large datasets are hard for humans to comb through, but they are at the core of ML/AI. In this case, we have a rich historical dataset with plenty of fraud examples. Machine learning is used to look for patterns and flag possible fraud, which is then verified by humans. It’s a great example of how ML/AI can be used to increase productivity while reducing the human workload.

Solar-Powered Liquid

A research group from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden found a way to store solar energy in liquid for up to 18 years.

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Andrew’s Take: I’m filled with hope for the possibilities that this presents, particularly in our fight against climate change. Not only could we store energy for years without emissions, but maybe we could also transport that liquid the way we transport water? Places with abundant sun could share their energy. 

Darius’s Take:Goodbye batteries? Based on the latest research, we can now trap solar energy in a liquid and release it at a later time, up to 18 years. Although the research was based on the ability to store and release thermal energy, that could very well expand to storing or converting electrical energy too. We are witnessing a potential breakthrough in energy storage.

Protecting Our Planet...

Swiss entrepreneur, businessman, and philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss is donating $1 billion to accelerate land and ocean conservation around the world.

“For the sake of all living things, let’s see to it that far more of our planet is protected by the people, for the people and for all time.”

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you next week.

-Andrew and Darius