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Scientists Seek Ban on Method of Editing the Human Genome

A group of leading biologists on Thursday called for a worldwide moratorium on use of a new genome-editing technique that would alter human DNA in a way that can be inherited.

The biologists fear that the new technique is so effective and easy to use that some physicians may push ahead before its safety can be assessed. They also want the public to understand the ethical issues surrounding the technique, which could be used to cure genetic diseases, but also to enhance qualities like beauty or intelligence. The latter is a path that many ethicists believe should never be taken. Read more ...

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Microsoft's Bill Gates insists AI is a threat

Humans should be worried about the threat posed by artificial Intelligence, Bill Gates has said.

The Microsoft founder said he didn't understand people who were not troubled by the possibility that AI could grow too strong for people to control.

Mr Gates contradicted one of Microsoft Research's chiefs, Eric Horvitz, who has said he "fundamentally" did not see AI as a threat.

Mr Horvitz has said about a quarter of his team's resources are focused on AI.

During an "ask me anything" question and answer session on Reddit, Mr Gates wrote: "I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. Read more...

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High-impact-factor Syndrome

By Carlton M. Caves

You are surprised to find that you have been tasked with evaluating minor-league pitchers eager to get into major-league baseball. You interview applicants, collect information, and observe their performance. But, being a physicist, you know next to nothing about evaluating pitching skill, so to make your life easier, you fix on a single figure of merit, the pitcher’s heat (fastball speed). Although you have access to each applicant’s fastball speed, you elect to rank the candidates in terms of the average speed of all the pitchers on an applicant’s current minor-league team. Using this as a proxy for individual pitching ability, you assemble a pitching staff. As the season wears on, your pitchers are drubbed in game after game. You see the general manager approaching with a frown on his face, and...the alarm goes off. Read more...

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'A robot is my friend': Can machines care for elderly?

With the world's elderly population growing rapidly, scientists are suggesting that robots could take on some of the burden of providing care, support and - most surprisingly - companionship.

A boy born today in Britain is expected to live on average to the age of 91, a girl to 94.

Worldwide 1.5 billion people over the age of 65 are expected to be around in 2050. Read more...

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