Cats know their names – but don’t really care!

“Cats are just as good as dogs at learning — they’re just not as keen to show their owners what they’ve learnt,” says John Bradshaw, a biologist at the University of Bristol, UK, who specializes in human–animal interactions.

The study took advantage of a technique known as ‘habituation–dishabituation’, commonly used in animal-behaviour studies. Atsuko Saito, a cognitive biologist at the University of Tokyo, and her colleagues visited 11 households with pet cats (Felis catus) and asked the owner to read a list of four nouns to their pet. These words were of the same length and rhythm as the cat’s name.

Full article on “nature“.

We may finally know what causes Alzheimer’s

 

 

If you bled when you brushed your teeth this morning, you might want to get that seen to. We may finally have found the long-elusive cause of Alzheimer’s disease: Porphyromonas gingivalis, the key bacteria in chronic gum disease.

That’s bad, as gum disease affects around a third of all people. But the good news is that a drug that blocks the main toxins of P. gingivalis is entering major clinical trials this year, and research published today shows it might stop and even reverse Alzheimer’s. There could even be a vaccine.

Read article on newscientist.

 

How do universities prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist?

Universities determine the future: they shape it through their research and prepare students for tomorrow’s jobs. But in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, it’s hard to know what the future will look like. Technological changes such as automation and artificial intelligence are expected to transform the employment landscape. The question is: will our education system keep up?

The answer matters because an estimated 65% of children entering primary schools today will work in jobs and functions that don’t currently exist, according to a recent Universities UK report. The research, which explores the “rapid pace of change and increasing complexity of work”, also warns that the UK isn’t even creating the workers that will be needed for the jobs that can be anticipated. By 2030, it will have a talent deficit of between 600,000 and 1.2 million workers in the financial and business sector, and technology, media and telecommunications sector.

University leaders would be “foolish” not to pay attention, says Lancaster University vice-chancellor Mark E Smith. “We look at the trends in the job market and the skills employers are looking for, and we listen to what employers are saying. We don’t want to be talking about yesterday’s problem.”

Read article on The Guardian.

 

AI – police wants it to stop violent crime before it happens

 

Police in the UK want to predict serious violent crime using artificial intelligence, New Scientist can reveal. The idea is that individuals flagged by the system will be offered interventions, such as counselling, to avert potential criminal behaviour.

However, one of the world’s leading data science institutes has expressed serious concerns about the project after seeing a redacted version of the proposals.

The system, called the National Data Analytics Solution (NDAS), uses a combination of AI and statistics to try to assess the risk of someone committing or becoming a victim of gun or knife crime, as well as the likelihood of someone falling victim to modern slavery.

West Midlands Police is leading the project and has until the end of March 2019 to produce a prototype.

Read article on NewScientist.

 

Prion Seeds Distribute throughout the Eyes of Patients

The findings are the latest to suggest that these universally fatal, if rare, diseases can be spread through the eyes.

We can get sick from prions in a few ways. Sometimes, people are born with mutations passed down in their family that increase the risk of developing a prion disease, including a form of CJD. Most commonly, as with people who have sCJD, the prions show up spontaneously, with the normally harmless prion protein changing into a misfolded form that makes nearby proteins misfold, too. But what’s especially terrifying about prions is that they can also be infectious, capable of spreading from person to person, or even animal to person.

It can take years, even decades, for the symptoms of a prion disease (such as dementia or muscle weakness) to show up, but once they do, it’s usually only a matter of months before death.

Full article here.

 

 

A sociologist becomes a geneticist and changes his mind

 

 

 

Conley describes his early academic work as “lefty sociology.” His Ph.D. thesis was on the black-white wealth gap and he dedicated his early career to studying the transmission of health and wealth between parents and children.

At N.Y.U., Conley kept getting into disagreements with geneticists, arguing that their methods were dangerously naïve. It seemed to him implausible that studying only twins — the gold standard of genetics research — was enough to teach us the difference between nature and nurture. But over time, he decided that it wasn’t enough to just argue.

Conley is an academic, and even within that tortured group he is something of a masochist. At that time he was a tenured professor, the kind of gig most people see as the endgame of an academic career, and yet he decided to go back and grind out another Ph.D., this time in genetics. He went into his program believing that our social environment is largely the cause of our outcomes, and that biology is usually the dependent variable.

By the end of his time, he says, the causal arrow in his mind had pretty much flipped the other way: “I tried to show for a range of outcomes that the genetic models were overstating the impact of genetics because of their crazy assumptions.” He sighs. “But I ended up showing that they’re right.”

Read full article on the New York Times.

 

Memory – Can you choose what to forget?

WE ALL have memories we would rather forget – and it is possible, if you try hard enough.

It is easy to think of memories as something you can actively strengthen, whereas forgetting is a passive process. But we have started to discover it can be intentional too.

Perhaps the easiest way to forget something is simply to try to suppress a memory. Jeremy Manning at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, has found that just telling people to “push thoughts out of their head” is enough to make them forget lists of words they have learned to associate with particular cues. “We don’t know how, but people seem to know how to do it.”

The truth about memory is far more elaborate than we previously thought. Here’s your guide to how it really works
This seems especially paradoxical because we also know that rehearsing memories helps to strengthen them. Suppression has been linked to decreased activity in the hippocampus, so we may be unknowingly reducing our hippocampal activity by focusing on the present, says Justin Hulbert at Bard College, New York.

Full article on newscientist

 

SMART, CONNECTED, TACTLESS AND NOT REALLY RESERVED OBJECTS


WHAT

They said: ” The one who won a golden coin won a golden coin, but lost a hand. ” (Implied: the one hand which hangs on the coin and which is thus no more usable). We could also say: ” These objects that you bought, are you possessing them, or are they possessing you? ” Strangely enough, this philosophical interrogation seems nowaday to be a concrete one …

WHY

We all know that our invaluable personal data, those whom we agree to share with big companies which deal in it, are then used to categorize the human race, study it, analyze it, and finally plan, anticipate and influence the decision-making of any kind of person. This new transparency man has been highlighted by Olivier Ertzscheid in his article ” The man is a document as the others: from the World Wide Web to the world wide life.»1

HOW

What we have to understand is that this collateral damage is inseparable with technical progress. And this stands for several reasons. The first one is simply that a useful tool is a tool which meets a need, and that a tool which you’re going to use is a tool which is not going to need lot of time or energy from you to be used. In other words, an “intelligent” tool is a tool which has to know you better than yourself. To know your needs and to understand how you express them. Simply, if we try to meet your needs in a precise way and before you waste time and energy to formulate them in a high level language it is necessary to know you precisely. This condition is not negociable. Thus it is required there to amass an impressive quantity of information on what you are.

The other point is that in a general way intelligence is something collective. We notice it in all kind of domains: Isaac Newton said ” If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. “2 speaking about his predecessors and, doing so, quoting Bernard of Chartres. Eric Raymond, co-creator of the “Open source” term, also leans on this idea to express the superiority of the Open source system on the Proprietary software one in his essay ” The Cathedral and the Bazaar “3. Finally, we also know from now on that a mass of chess players of varied quality manages to compete in a party with very strong players.4 In conclusion, if machines can surpass man, it is because man has only limited exchanges with his congeners, when machines can benefit from the experience of all almost without any limit. Thus, the more the machine is effective the more it has to have access to a wide source of data (which means of experiences).

Then we have to go with this issue: a tool helps you, but to improve itself, it has to steal information on you. Then: who’s possessing who? Could this be a symbiosis?

WHAT CAN BE DONE WITH IT

The issue here is that even if there is symbiosis, this knowledge of the man is problematic. As long as the technologies are there to help man, everything is ok. But what if they were used to destroy him? …

But nowadays, with the proliferation of connected objects, the issue is no more the simple trust, but the direct security of devices: what if the rat was hacked? It is moreover for that reason that the doll toy Cayla was removed from the market in Germany: this one recorded the voices of children and transmitted them to the servers of the manufacturer. The authorities worried that the information could be intercepted in hostile purposes.5

After all that, what do you think? Do you possess your objects or do they possess you? Or maybe other people possess you through your own objects?

GO FURTHER

NOTES

1■ Olivier Ertzscheid, « L’homme est un document comme les autres : du world wide web au world wide life », Hermès, La Revue- Cognition, communication, politique, CNRS-Editions, 2009, pp.33-40

2■ Wikipedia

3■ Eric S. Raymond, “The Cathedral & the Bazaar”, 2010

4■ Par exemple : The world vs Arkadij Naiditsch

5■ 01net magazine, 17/03/08

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