For better or worse, a new technology is making its way from consumers’ homes into America’s classrooms: voice-controlled "smart speaker" systems from companies such as Amazon and Google.

The internet-enabled devices listen to what users say, send audio recordings to the cloud, translate that information into commands, and respond accordingly—providing users with a personal digital voice assistant such as Amazon’s Alexa, which teachers are now using to help with everything from setting a classroom timer to leading a group of 3rd graders through a spelling test.

Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union are raising alarms about privacy.

"Should students be required to submit themselves to always-on voice-tracking and other third-party surveillance in order to get an education?" asked ACLU staff technologist Daniel Kahn Gillmor in an interview. 

Still, the early K-12 adopters of smart speakers and digital voice assistants are generally enthusiastic.

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Researchers working on Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) efforts hunt for the same thing that their predecessors sought for decades—a sign that life arose, as Carl Sagan would say, on another humdrum planet around another humdrum star and rose up into something technologically advanced.

It could happen any day. A strange radio signal. A weird, brief flash in the night sky. A curiously behaving star with no natural explanation.


It could be anything, so SETI researchers are casting a wide net, tracking down as many promising leads as they can. But one thing they’ve started to realize is that if a civilization from another world follows a similar path to our own, then we may be dealing with a whole different form of brainpower. Not a little green person, Vulcan, or strange organism we aren’t yet fathoming, but an artificial intelligence.



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More than 350 years ago, the English natural philosopher Robert Hooke looked through a microscope at a thin slice of cork and discovered that it was made of small, box-like compartments, which he named “cells.” From that moment on, Hooke and countless inquisitive minds after him strove for a better view of these fundamental building blocks of life. And now, the window into the cellular world has become a lot clearer.


In a new study in the April 20, 2018 issue of Science, researchers from Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Janelia Research Campus, Harvard Medical School, and collaborating institutions report the development of a microscope capable of capturing, in unprecedented detail, 3-D images and videos of cells inside living organisms. Adapting a technique used by astronomers to study distant stars, the research team, led by Nobel laureate and Janelia group leader Eric Betzig, showcased the new technology by generating a series of stunning movies: cancer cells crawling through blood vessels, spinal nerve cells wiring up into circuits, immune cells cruising through a zebrafish’s inner ear, and much more.


The resolution of the microscope is stunning and so powerful it can even capture subcellular details such as the dynamics of miniscule bubbles known as vesicles, which transport molecular cargo through to the cell. “This is the miracle of being able to see what we have never been able to see before. It’s simply incredible,” said study co-author Tomas Kirchhausen, HMS professor of cell biology, and the Springer Family Chair of pediatrics and a senior investigator at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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  • CRISPR-Cas9 shows promise for correcting genetic defects in a reliable manner 
  • Using the gene-editing system to ‘fix’ embryos has caused ethical controversy and it is unclear whether or not it is safe
  • New research from Weill Cornell University suggests that DNA in sperm could be fixed with CRISPR using a brief but powerful electrical shock  


Scientists may be able fix faulty DNA in a father’s sperm before it has even fertilized an egg, according to new research presented this week. 


CRISPR gene-editing technology has shown promise for snipping out bad DNA and replacing it in embryos, but as their cells multiply, the fixed DNA may make it into some cells and not others.  Changing the genetic makeup of sperm cells would solve that problem but, so far, scientists have struggled to find a way to gene-edit them without killing them. But scientists at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York think they may have found a way: by delivering an electrical pulse to the sperm, breaking its outer shell and allowing them to deliver CRISPR to the cell. 

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For toddlers, playing with toys is not all fun-and-games—it’s an important way for them to learn how the world works. Using a similar methodology, researchers from UC Berkeley have developed a robot that, like a child, learns from scratch and experiments with objects to figure out how to best move them around. And by doing so, this robot is essentially able to see into its own future.


A robotic learning system developed by researchers at Berkeley’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences visualizes the consequences of its future actions to discover ways of moving objects through time and space. Called Vestri, and using technology called visual foresight, the system can manipulate objects it’s never encountered before, and even avoid objects that might be in the way.



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AI will help bring novel therapies to market at lightning speeds, at much lower cost, and with no requirement for massive infrastructure and investments.


What if we could generate novel molecules to target any disease, overnight, ready for clinical trials? Imagine leveraging machine learning to accomplish with 50 people what the pharmaceutical industry can barely do with an army of 5,000.




What they’re doing is extraordinary, and it’s an excellent lens through which to view converging exponential technologies.

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