This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From Around the Web (Through August 19)


Scientists Recreate Pink Floyd Song by Reading Brain Signals of Listeners
Hana Kiros | The New York Times
“Scientists have trained a computer to analyze the brain activity of someone listening to music and, based only on those neuronal patterns, recreate the song. The research, published on Tuesday, produced a recognizable, if muffled version of Pink Floyd’s 1979 song, ‘Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1).’ …Now, ‘you can actually listen to the brain and restore the music that person heard,’ said Gerwin Schalk, a neuroscientist who directs a research lab in Shanghai and collected data for this study.”


Meta’s AI Agents Learn to Move by Copying Toddlers
Eliza Strickland | IEEE Spectrum
“In a simulated environment, a disembodied skeletal arm powered by artificial intelligence lifted a small toy elephant and rotated it in its hand. It used a combination of 39 muscles acting through 29 joints to experiment with the object, exploring its properties as a toddler might. Then it tried its luck with a tube of toothpaste, a stapler, and an alarm clock. …The project applies machine learning to biomechanical control problems, with the aim of demonstrating human-level dexterity and agility. ”


Scientists Bioengineer Plants to Have an Animal-Like Immune System
Peter Rogers | Big Think
“Plants lack an adaptive immune system—a powerful system capable of detecting practically any foreign molecule—and instead rely on a more general immune system. Unfortunately, pathogens can rapidly evolve new ways to avoid detection, resulting in colossal crop loss. Using a rice plant as a model, scientists have bioengineered a hybrid molecule—by fusing components from an animal’s adaptive immune system with those of a plant’s innate immune system—that protects it from a pathogen.”


The Clean Energy Future Is Arriving Faster Than You Think
David Gelles, Brad Plumer, Jim Tankersly, and Jack Ewing | The New York Times
“The cost of generating electricity from the sun and wind is falling fast and in many areas is now cheaper than gas, oil or coal. Private investment is flooding into companies that are jockeying for advantage in emerging green industries. ‘We look at energy data on a daily basis, and it’s astonishing what’s happening,’ said Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency. ‘Clean energy is moving faster than many people think, and it’s become turbocharged lately.’i


AI Mania Triggers Dot-Com Bubble Flashbacks
Eric Wallerstein | The Wall Street Journal
“The nascency of AI programs such as ChatGPT means it is likely too early to determine whether Nvidia can raise revenue in line with the eye-watering valuation investors have slapped on its shares. If the company’s growth isn’t enough to reflect its price, the stock could crater. A basket of 43 high-multiple internet stocks—those worth at least $5 billion that traded at 25 times their revenue at the turn of the century—crashed 80% over the next two years, according to Sparkline. The companies weren’t duds, either.”


Gartner Hype Cycle places generative AI on the ‘Peak of Inflated Expectations’
Sharon Goldman | VentureBeat
i‘Generative AI is almost positioned as human-level intelligence, with a lot of people equating it to AGI,’  [Gartner analyst Arun Chandrasekaran] said, adding that others confuse generative AI with other AI techniques when they should be using predictive AI or causal AI instead, for example. But the main reason AI has hit the peak of the hype cycle, said Chandrasekaran, is the sheer number of products claiming to have generative AI baked into them. ‘It’s just enormous,’ he said.”


A Race for Autopilot Dominance Is Giving China the Edge in Autonomous Driving
Zeyi Yang | MIT Technology Review
“In just the past six months, nearly a dozen Chinese car companies have announced ambitious plans to roll out their NOA [Navigation on Autopilot] products to multiple cities across the country. While some of the services remain inaccessible to the public now, Sundin tells MIT Technology Review ‘the watershed could be next year.’i


A Letter Prompted Talk of AI Doomsday. Many Who Signed Weren’t Actually AI Doomers
Will Knight | Wired
“Two enterprising students at MIT, Isabella Struckman and Sofie Kupiec, reached out to the first hundred signatories of the [Future of Life Institute] letter calling for a pause on AI development to learn more about their motivations and concerns. The duo’s write-up of their findings reveals a broad array of perspectives among those who put their name to the document. Despite the letter’s public reception, relatively few were actually worried about AI posing a looming threat to humanity itself.”


Is Quantum Computing Hype or Almost Here?
Adam Frank | Big Think
“Last spring, I attended a conference where a leading expert in quantum computing gave an overview talk about the state of her field. Afterward, over coffee, I asked her how long before we would have working, practical quantum computers. She looked at me gravely and said, ‘Not for a very long time.’ Her quick response was remarkable given what we are told about progress in the field. From breathless media accounts, many people assume that quantum computing machines are just around the corner. It turns out that is not the case at all.”


JWST Spots Giant Black Holes All Over the Early Universe
Charlie Wood | Quanta
“The most straightforward explanation for the tornado-hearted galaxies [discovered by JWST] is that large black holes weighing millions of suns are whipping the gas clouds into a frenzy. That finding is both expected and perplexing. It is expected because JWST was built, in part, to find the ancient objects. …Yet the observations are also perplexing because few astronomers expected JWST to find so many young, hungry black holes—and surveys are turning them up by the dozen.”

Image Credit: Vimal S / Unsplash

Singularity Hub Staff
Singularity Hub Staff
Singularity Hub chronicles technological progress by highlighting the breakthroughs and issues shaping the future as well as supporting a global community of smart, passionate, action-oriented people who want to change the world.
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