Can the next global hit be found through algorithms? Swedish music company Amuse believes so. Through Amuse — the world’s first mobile record company — aspiring artists can easily distribute their music via their app to digital platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer and Tidal, as well as track its progress and receive royalties.
“With Amuse, we have created a simple path for unsigned artists to release their songs to the digital consumer. A song is uploaded in a minute and then available on streaming sites within just a few days. From the instant it’s released, our algorithms go to work, and we can then predict a song’s future performance given the addition of marketing and other resources. Through our data intelligence, we bypass the traditional artist hunt through A&R and completely reimagine the industry model,” explains Diego Farias, CEO of Amuse. Read More
The journey to outer space for American astronauts for the past seven years has begun at a Soviet-era launch site in Kazakhstan.
There, they pay homage to Russian cosmonauts and graciously participate in the rituals of their hosts, even the tradition of urinating on the right rear tyre of the bus that ferries them to the rocket.
The landscape is barren and desiccated, resembling the moon or some distant celestial body, a reminder that the astronauts are a long way from Cape Canaveral.
Now, human space flight is returning to the place where the American Space Age was born.
As soon as this year, Nasa expects to end its reliance on Russia and launch American pilots from US soil for the first time since the final shuttle mission in 2011.
But this time, the astronauts will fly on rockets unlike any Nasa has ever seen – built and operated by companies trying to turn space flight into a sustainable business.
These first flights will be the fruits of $6.8bn (£5.1bn) worth of contracts that Nasa awarded to Boeing and SpaceX and mark a fundamental shift in America’s human space programme – outsourcing access to Earth’s orbit to private sector companies, some of which hope to eventually bring tourists to space.
Those chosen by Nasa for its upcoming missions are a quartet of former military pilots and Nasa veterans who combined have spent more than a year in space over eight flights. They were all carefully selected not just to fly to the International Space Station but to help reinvigorate Nasa’s often-overlooked human space flight programme.
In 1985, we thought Einstein’s brain wasn’t much different from anyone else’s. We were wrong.
We still don’t completely understand how the brain works and yet we’re building machines to replicate it. Our quest to create artificial intelligence has grown into a near-frenzy as we surge ahead with unprecedented progress. But will we really reach the finishing line?
Any hope of success will depend on our ability to answer one simple question: What exactly is intelligence?
In 1985, American scientist Marian Diamond studied the brain of Albert Einstein and found an answer.
Was Einstein’s brain different?
We’re used to talking about neurons when referring to the brain, but we also have what are called glial cells. In Greek, glia means “glue.” Glial cells were given their name because we thought they did little more than just hold the brain together. One kind of glial cell is the star-shaped astrocyte.
In 1985, Diamond’s findings were almost disappointing. Einstein’s brain did not contain more neurons overall than the average person’s. It did, however, contain more astrocytes, in the left inferior parietal area of the brain, a region associated with mathematical thinking.
Since intelligence was assigned to neurons and astrocytes were thought to be little more than “glue,” this finding did not make headline news and was largely ignored.
What did Einstein’s brain actually reveal?
If you insert human astrocytes into the brains of newborn mice, they grow up to be more intelligent. Their learning and memory are significantly sharper. It’s only in the past few years that we’ve come to understand the extraordinary reason why.
We have always assumed that a synapse, the point where two brain cells join to carry information, is made up of two brain cells. We were wrong. A synapse is made of two brain cells — and an astrocyte.
Astrocytes nurture synapses. Not only are they key in synaptic plasticity, but they are plastic themselves. They grow and change. One astrocyte can be in contact with two million synapses, coordinating their activity and plasticity across vast realms of the human brain — and contributing to our intelligence.
How do astrocytes figure in artificial intelligence?
Artificial intelligence researchers from the University of A Coruña in Spain recently improved neural network performance by using an algorithm that included artificial astrocytes. When a neuron’s activity reached a maximum, the astrocyte was activated. It increased the weight of the neuron’s connections with the neurons of the adjacent layer by 25 percent, simulating what might happen in real life.
How do you increase astrocytes?
If Einstein was a genius because of his astrocytes, can we increase our astrocyte numbers and become geniuses too?
As early as 1966, Diamond and her team demonstrated that putting young rats in a stimulating environment rich with challenge and new experiences increased glial cells.
We now know that this even happens in elderly mice. Putting aged mice in an “enriched environment” increases astrocyte numbers and complexity, which correlates with better cognitive performance.
If you’re wondering, the effect is also seen in humans.
A study published this year followed production workers at a factory in Germany for 17 years. The volume of brain regions associated with executive function and motivation was larger in those who had been exposed to recurrent novelty in their work. This was associated with better cognitive performance at middle age.
Plasticity takes energy and effort and our brains are lazy. They don’t want to try to “grow” without good reason. Challenge and novelty tempt the brain with a reason to try.
What this means for you.
During her career as a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Diamond concluded that five factors were crucial for healthy astrocytes — and for the human brain to thrive at any age: a good diet, exercise, challenge, novelty — and love (she noticed the mice in her lab lived longer and did better when cuddled).
Focusing on these five things can increase stress resilience and keep you mentally sharp. If you’re leading a team, you may not be able to change everyone’s diet and exercise routines or show love, but you can make sure your team has ample opportunities for “newness” and challenge. Minimize repetitiveness and standardization and encourage employees to learn and master new things outside of their skill set.
Astrocytes are one thread in the complex tapestry of intelligence, but our growing knowledge about astrocytes has made intelligence a little less baffling today than it was a few years ago.
When Diamond (who passed away last week) reported her findings in 1985, the overwhelming conclusion was that Einstein’s brain was not much different from anyone else’s. Today, we can confidently say that Einstein’s brain was very different, after all. Read More
President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin are playing quite the game of geopolitical will-they-or-won’t-they.
On July 19, Trump told National Security Adviser John Bolton to invite Putin to the White House in the fall for a follow-up to this month’s now-infamous meeting in Helsinki. Putin played coy: He neither accepted nor declined the invitation right away; instead, he let five days go by, then had his aides suggest instead that maybe the two leaders could meet on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Argentina in November.
It was basically the diplomatic equivalent of, “I don’t think I can do dinner, but maybe I’ll run into you at the party on Saturday!”
Shortly after Putin’s non-rejection rejection, Bolton quickly backtracked, announcing that actually, Trump didn’t even want Putin to come to Washington right now — he’d rather wait until after special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation concludes.
Which brings us to Friday — on which Putin said, in front of a meeting of leaders of developing economies at Johannesburg, that while he’d totally love to come to Washington to meet with Trump, how about Trump just come to Moscow instead?
Say what you will about the brutal Russian dictator, the man certainly knows how to troll with the best of ’em.
But experts say there’s more than just trolling at work here: “It’s just another power play by Putin,” Rachel Rizzo, a European security expert at the Center for a New American Security think tank, told me. Read More
There is money to be made on our vices. So why do so many investors refuse to make it?
That’s an age-old question thrown into sharp relief this summer as Juul, the e-cigarette company that teenagers are gaga for these days, raises a round of financing that values the company on the same par with names like Lyft or Snap. There is perhaps no better market than one we are addicted to, but puritanical Silicon Valley typically refrains from industries that call upon our taste for sin.
So that means not to expect to see a marquee venture capital firm behind a new marketplace to organize the Adderall industry, even if there is surely a better way to connect dealers and buyers. Or behind a new technology to muffle the blast of a pistol, even if tens of millions of firearms are sold each year. Or behind a new innovation in how we experience pornography, even though the virtual reality platforms that firms’ portfolio companies build could very well revamp an estimated $100 billion industry worldwide. Read More