ROBOTS: Meet the New Generation of Robots for Manufacturing
James Hagerty | Wall Street Journal
“Another big trend at work: The Renault robots are ‘collaborative,’ designed to work in proximity to people. Older types of factory robots swing their steel arms with such force that they can bludgeon anyone who strays too close. Using sonar, cameras or other technologies, collaborative robots can sense where people are and slow down or stop to avoid hurting them.”

NANOTECHNOLOGY: Medical Microbots Take a Fantastic Voyage Into Reality
Rachel Courtland | IEEE Spectrum
“Many of these devices are still little more than laboratory curiosities, but others are being tested in animals. And some engineers are confident that tiny, untethered instruments will one day be used in medicine…With the right design, researchers say, a microrobot—or a swarm of them—could deliver a highly targeted dose of drugs or radioactive seeds, clear a blood clot, perform a tissue biopsy, or even build a scaffold on which new cells could grow.”

GENETICS: CRISPR, the disruptor
Heidi Ledford | Nature
“Researchers are considering how CRISPR could or should be deployed on organisms in the wild. Much of the attention has focused on a method called gene drive, which can quickly sweep an edited gene through a population. The work is at an early stage, but such a technique could be used to wipe out disease-carrying mosquitoes or ticks, eliminate invasive plants or eradicate herbicide resistance in pigweed, which plagues some US farmers.”

TECHNOLOGY: How textiles repeatedly revolutionised human technology
Virginia Postrel | AEON
“The story of technology is in fact the story of textiles. From the most ancient times to the present, so too is the story of economic development and global trade. The origins of chemistry lie in the colouring and finishing of cloth. The textile business funded the Italian Renaissance and the Mughal Empire; it left us double-entry bookkeeping and letters of credit, Michelangelo’s David and the Taj Mahal. As much as spices or gold, the quest for fabrics and dyestuffs drew sailors across strange seas. In ways both subtle and obvious, textiles made our world.”

FUTURE OF EDUCATION: Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun: How Nanodegrees can democratize tech education
Nate Swanner | The Next Web
When I probed Thrun about what a Nanodegree would actually deliver for someone who finished the program, he pointed me to the new Android Nanodegree announced on-stage at Google I/O. “If you finish this [Google Android Nanodegree], and you get a Nanodegree for Android Developer, then you are basically employable as an Android developer — as a top-notch Android developer.”

DIGITAL PRESERVATION: The quest to save today’s gaming history from being lost forever
Kyle Orland | Ars Technica
“‘When you’re seeking to preserve a historic house, there may be layers, it may have been lived in by many different people. Mount Vernon had been lived in by George Washington’s descendants, so they made a decision to restore it to George Washington’s time and erase this later history. Do you make the same kind of decision with games?'”

CROWDSOURCING: The Emerging Science of Human Computation
Technology Review
“They begin by pointing out the extraordinary successes of human computation. One of the most notable is the Fold.it project in which participants are asked to fold virtual proteins in the most efficient way possible. The goal is to solve one of the most important outstanding problems in molecular biology: how proteins fold so rapidly and efficiently. The project has had some impressive successes. Soon after it began, it discovered the tertiary structure of a regulatory protein for the pros-simian immunodeficiency virus, a problem the research community had puzzled over for decades and one that that could lead to new ways of tackling the AIDS virus.”

FUTURE OF WORK: New Research Says Robots Are Unlikely to Eat Our Jobs
Steve Lohr | NY Times
“The McKinsey study analyzes and forecasts the potential impact of so-called digital talent platforms. The report looks at three types of such platforms: job-finding and employee-seeking websites (such as Monster.com and LinkedIn); marketplaces for services (Uber and Upwork, for example); and data-driven talent discovery tools (like Evolv and Knack). By 2025, McKinsey estimates, these digital talent platforms could add $2.7 trillion a year to global gross domestic product, which would be the equivalent of adding another Britain to the world economy. And the digital tools, the report states, could benefit as many as 540 million people in various ways, including better matches of their skills with jobs, higher wages and shorter stints of unemployment.”

Open Letter on the Digital Economy
Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee, Steve Jurvetson, et al | Technology Review
“Previous surges brought with them greatly increased demand for labor and sustained job and wage growth. This time around, the evidence is causing some people to wonder if things are different. Or, to paraphrase many recent headlines, will robots eat our jobs? We think this is the wrong question, because it assumes that we are powerless to alter or shape the effects of technological change on labor. We reject this idea. Instead, we believe that there’s a great deal we can do to improve prospects for everyone.”

Image Credit: Shutterstock

I've been writing for Singularity Hub since 2011 and have been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. My interests cover digital education, publishing, and media, but I'll always be a chemist at heart.

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