Computer Artists, Brain Hacks, and the Amazing Electric Bus

Phil and Stephen review a grab-bag of news stories indicating that the future will be here sooner than we think.

It’s Getting Hard to Tell If a Painting Was Made by a Computer or a Human

In a randomized-controlled double-blind study, subjects were unable to distinguish the computer art from two sample sets of acclaimed work created by flesh-and blood artists (one culled from the canon of Abstract Expressionist paintings, the other from works shown at the 2016 edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong). In fact, the computer-made pictures were often rated by subjects as more “novel” and “aesthetically appealing” than the human-generated art. The ensuing peer-reviewed paper sparked an unsettling art world rumor: Watson had learned how to paint like Picasso.

Electric bus sets record with 1,101-mile trip on a single charge

Think it was impressive when a Tesla club drove a Model S nearly 670 miles? It has nothing on what Proterra just managed. The startup just drove a Catalyst E2 Max electric bus a whopping 1,101.2 miles on a single charge. That’s the furthest any EV has managed before recharging, and well past the 1,013.8 miles driven by the previous record-holder, a one-seat experimental car nicknamed “Boozer.” It’s not hard to see how Proterra managed the feat when you know about the technology, but this still bodes well for eco-friendly public transportation.

Quantum Computing Will Change Everything, and Sooner Than You Expect

Scientists are eager to use quantum computers to analyze microbes so they can create new vaccines, which quantum computers could then be used to optimize to reduce unwanted side effects. Some scientists believe that quantum computers are essential for achieving breakthrough preventative and treatments protocols for healthcare. According to Donald Parsons, a New York State Department of Health research physician, “Without quantum computers, new DNA sequencing data, the learning of the specific activities of the folded conformations of proteins, and the search for new drugs by docking algorithms, are being held back from full clinical application.”

Inside this box could be the future of carbon capture

ExxonMobil scientist Tim Barckholtz thinks so. Along with FuelCell Energy, Barckholtz and his team at ExxonMobil are tapping the power of utility-scale fuel cells to capture carbon emissions. The process is promising because, unlike other carbon capture technologies, the fuel cells would capture the emissions from a natural gas-fueled plant and generate additional power, rather than consume it

DARPA Is Planning to Hack the Human Brain to Let Us “Upload” Skills

In March 2016, DARPA — the U.S. military’s “mad science” branch — announced their Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT) program. The TNT program aims to explore various safe neurostimulation methods for activating synaptic plasticity, which is the brain’s ability to alter the connecting points between neurons — a requirement for learning. DARPA hopes that building up that ability by subjecting the nervous system to a kind of workout regimen will enable the brain to learn more quickly.

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