Bull Session

AI Goes to Art School

April 14, 2016          

Episode Summary

Can an AI create art? This week on The Digital Life we chat about the brand new "Rembrandt", which was 3D-printed by an artificial intelligence algorithm, trained by analyzing the artist's catalog of 346 paintings. The Next Rembrandt project, recently unveiled in Amsterdam, is, of course, not exactly the work of the Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, but rather a portrait that replicates both the subject matter and the style of the artist with eerie accuracy. If art is an expression of humanity, a reaction to the world and the events around us, what does this latest AI advancement mean? We discuss all this and more.

Resources
The Next Rembrandt
A New Rembrandt: Can a machine capture an artist's essential style?

 

Bull Session

Engineering Synthetic Biology

April 7, 2016          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we chat about the intersection of computer science / engineering and synthetic biology and Cello, a programming language for living cells.

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Boston University (BU) synthetic biologists have created software that automates the design of DNA circuits for living cells. This software, called Cello, has the potential to help people, who are not necessarily skilled biologists, to quickly begin designing useful, working biological systems. Using Cello, oil companies, for example, could develop smart bacteria that could clean up oil spills. Cello, which is open source, can be downloaded from the online repository GitHub or accessed via a Web interface.

Resources
A Programming Language for Living Cells

Bull Session

Artificial Intelligence

March 31, 2016          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we chat about the evolution of artificial intelligence in light of recent public failure and success by tech giants in the AI space. First, Microsoft had to terminate Tay, its teenage chatbot, after the bot started tweeting neo-Nazi propaganda and other abusive language at people. Meanwhile, Google's DeepMind has created an AI capable of beating some of the very best human players in the world at Go, the Asian strategy board game.

Resources
Microsoft Terminates Its Tay AI Chatbot after She Turns into a Nazi
In a Huge Breakthrough Google AI Beats a Top Player at the Game of Go

Bull Session

On Cloning

March 24, 2016          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss efforts to clone animal species to save them from extinction. In Seoul, Korea, a controversial lab plans to clone endangered animals using a technique called Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (SCNT), in which you extract the nucleus of skin cells from the animal you wish to clone, and then insert them into an egg with its nucleus removed. The lab has successfully used SCNT in their current business, cloning favorite pets who are recently deceased for a high price tag.

Resources
Inside the Cloning Factory that Creates 500 New Animals a Day

Bull Session

Digital Afterlife

March 17, 2016          

Episode Summary

This week on The Digital Life we discuss how death, burial, and remembrance is changing as it intersects with technology.

A host of factors, from demographic shifts and an increasing population to lack of land space and environmental concerns, are changing the ways in which we remember the departed.

For instance, in a downtown Tokyo temple, Ruriden, a futuristic graveyard space, features thousands of glowing glass Buddha statues. Each of these statues will eventually represent a deceased person and visitors can use a swipe card to easily locate the correct statue corresponding to their deceased family member or friend. The selected statue glows a different color when the visitor arrives.

From green cemeteries burying bodies equipped with a global positioning device to virtual graveyards and digital memorials, death and burial are changing as the digital life gives way to the digital afterlife.