Robots, dragons, Facebook's racist algorithms, and Martian viruses...
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Hello, carbon-based lifeforms!

Robots versus dragons

Howdy folks,

My interest in artificial intelligence, neuroscience, and quantum physics all came as a direct result of my early exposure to the works of a single rock star philosopher: Nick Bostrom.

Most Neural newsletter readers will be familiar with his work. His paper, "Are you living in a computer simulation?," popularized the idea itself. 

He's also the author of Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, a book that takes a deep dive into general artificial intelligence and beyond.  

But when I think of Bostrom, I think of his work on the philosophy on immortality. 

In The Fable of the Dragon-TyrantBostrom imagines death itself as a monstrous dragon who demands the sacrifice of humans to appease it. 

Reading this short story changed my entire worldview with respect to technology, the future, and what's really important.

I can't help but wonder what would happen if the artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and neuroscience communities bonded together to form a joint global task force to figure out how to defeat death once and for all. 

Bostrom's keen insight has a way of cutting an argument down to its brass tacks.

I highly recommend reading the Dragon-tyrant story. But if you'd prefer to see a badass cartoon about it instead, I'll link the video towards the end of the newsletter. 

Tales from the arXiv archives

One algorithm to fail them all

Just imagine it: a single AI-powered platform that functions as a point-of-entry for innumerable systems. 

Chatbots? Got that.

Driverless cars? It does that too.

Chemistry and radiology? Sure why not.

And when it makes errors we can figure out why?


And when it makes errors we can figure out why??

Actually... no. And that's the problem.

A giant team of multidisciplinary researchers working with Stanford's Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence center recently published a report, "On the Opportunities and Risks of Foundation Models," and it makes for a fascinating read.

You can check out the whole paper here on arXiv.


What we’re writing


Deepfake tech doesn’t have to be ‘bad’ It's just drawn that way


Scientist says viruses may be the key to colonizing other planets Viruses, uh, find a way


Facebook is very sorry that we keep noticing its racist AI Because using racist algorithms is more profitable than not using racist algorithms


Why are so many scummy, scammy AI companies thriving? Hint: $$$


WhatsApp fined $267M for breaking EU data privacy rules A drop in the bucket for the Facebook-owned app


China’s prototype Mars helicopter looks strikingly familiar… Knockoff space helicopters... now I've seen it all

What we’re reading


New algorithm can identify pre-Alzheimer's brain changes with over 99% Accuracy (Science Alert)


New AI system fills rifle sights with extensive, easy-to-digest info (C4ISRNET)


Scientists develop AI to predict the success of startup companies (

Sponsored by TNW

Neural is taking the stage at TNW Conference

Yes, Neural covers AI and quantum computing but we're so much more! We’ve got one eye on big tech, one on the startup scene, and a third robotic eye focused on politics and government policy.

And that’s exactly why we’re proud to introduce Neural at TNW Conference, featuring an amazing speaker list with people who work and create in a variety of domains.

From Unity’s Danny Lange – a legend in the gaming industry – to Shopify’s Ella Hilal, we’re hosting some of the AI/ML community’s most important thinkers. And, as a technology journalist, I can’t wait to see and hear what Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, the CEO and publisher of MIT’s Technology Review, has to say.

Come see them virtually or in person at our two-day tech festival on Sept 30 and Oct 1.

Something profound from the internet

No jokes this week, just a list of really cool (and free!) resources for science lovers:


Our favorite AI video of the week

As promised, CGP Grey's excellent adaptation of Nick Bostrom's The Fable of the Dragon-tyrant!

Click the image below to watch on YouTube:

CGP Grey - The Fable of the Dragon-tyrant

Well, bye

When I'm not raging against the machine, or playing some Rage Against the Machine poorly on my acoustic guitar, I tend to watch retro TV. 

Don't get me wrong, I watch new stuff too, but there's something interesting about watching stuff from yesteryear. 

This week, I'm watching The Ultimate Fighter season 8 on Hulu. The entire series is there and, while I'm not the biggest UFC fan by any stretch, there's something to be said about a reality TV show where people end up cage fighting to settle their differences.

See ya next week!




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