Bull Session

The Neuroscience of Improvisation

May 4, 2018          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we chat about creativity and the neuroscience of improvisation. Over the past decade, the field of improvisational neuroscience has exploded. Neuroscientist Dr. Charles Limb investigated the neural underpinnings of spontaneous musical performance, by examining improvisation in professional jazz pianists using functional MRI. Dr. Limb wanted to know more about the cognitive context enabling the emergence of spontaneous creative activity. Dr. Limb’s research and others like it are fundamental to discovering how human creativity operates. Everyone is creative, it’s just a matter of degree. Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
Neural Substrates of Spontaneous Musical Performance: An fMRI Study of Jazz Improvisation

Jazz improv and your brain: The key to creativity?

Bull Session

The Redwood Genome Project

April 27, 2018          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss the Redwood Genome Project, a five-year initiative launched by the Save the Redwoods League to sequence the coast redwood and giant sequoia genomes, in order to better understand the redwoods on a genomic scale, and in so doing, protect and restore the forests.

Threats to the redwoods include not only logging and development, but also disease, drought, and pests, which have been exacerbated by climate change. Because the redwoods manifest a broad genetic range, some are better at withstanding drought or resisting disease than others. In the past, reforestation projects placed an emphasis on those varieties exhibiting rapid growth rather than these other traits. However, today managers must be able to plan for a genetically diverse forest.

The Redwood Genome Project has begun to sequence, assemble, and annotate these genomes. It will also develop tools for assessing genetic diversity, which will assist in the creation of the forest management plans. Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
Redwood Genome Project

Bull Session

Ready, Set, Automate

April 20, 2018          

Episode Summary

This week on The Digital Life, we chat about automation, potential job losses, and the findings in Barclay’s newly released report: “Robots at the gate: Humans and technology at work”.

Technology is reshaping work and the global workforce from agriculture to manufacturing, financing to healthcare, and everything in between. Transformation is coming, maybe more quickly than we think. Routine work is being automated and non-routine jobs that favor human ingenuity and adaptability will make up the core of future employment. Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
Robots at the gate: Humans and technology at work

Bull Session

Genetically Modified Crops

April 12, 2018          

Episode Summary

This week on The Digital Life, we chat about the USDA’s recent announcement, declaring a regulation free approach to the design, cultivation, and sale of certain gene-edited plants.

On March 28, 2018, the USDA made an important announcement that included the following statement: “Under its biotechnology regulations, USDA does not regulate or have any plans to regulate plants that could otherwise have been developed through traditional breeding techniques ….” This includes new methods, like genome editing, that “can introduce new plant traits more quickly and precisely, potentially saving years or even decades in bringing needed new varieties to farmers.”

Genetically modified crops may be better able to resist herbicides, withstand viral and fungal attacks, contain more nutrients and even be more flavorful. However, in the US, because such GM food products will not likely be subject to disclosure, it’s only a matter of time before CRISPR altered foods are available at your grocery store with (or without) your knowledge. Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
Crispr’d Food, Coming Soon to a Supermarket Near You

Bull Session

Digital People

April 5, 2018          

Episode Summary

What happens when we can’t distinguish between the real and the artificial? On The Digital Life this week, we chat about what happens when we’re able to create convincing representations of people, digitally.

At the Game Developer Conference last week, Epic Games showed off Siren, a digital character powered by the real-time motion capture of an actress on the stage. The character detail, shading, and lighting was of especially high quality, including realistic looking facial expressions. While Siren isn’t quite capable of blurring the line between CGI and reality, the technology is definitely a big step in that direction.

The longer term possibilities of technologies like this seem endless: With realistic digital rendering of people in virtual space, it will be possible to digitally capture yourself or your family to potentially interact with future generations. On the other hand, it will also be possible to make it appear as if people said things that they really didn’t, further contributing to the deluge of digital misinformation. Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
Epic Games shows off amazing real-time digital human with Siren demo