tech tags

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

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.

Bull Session

Future Crime and the Surveillance State

March 10, 2016          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss future crime and the surveillance state in light of China‚Äôs recent efforts to use predictive analytics and big data to stop terrorism. China Electronics Technology Group, a state-run defense contractor, is developing the software to analyze data on everything from employment to hobbies to purchasing habits of ordinary citizens to try to predict terrorist acts before they happen. The software, in more ways than one, echoes the fantastical pre-crime technology featured in the science fiction film Minority Report. In this week’s episode we explore the question of predicting crime using technology and its consequences.

Bull Session

Apple vs. FBI

February 25, 2016          

Episode Summary

This week on The Digital Life, we discuss privacy, security, and the hubbub around the FBI request of Apple to unlock an iPhone owned by one of the San Bernardino shooters. Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated that Apple would not comply with the FBI request, as it would force the company to build a backdoor to the iPhone, an outcome that no reasonable person would find acceptable. The US government and the FBI in particular has a history of misusing information in the name of security, dating back to J. Edgar Hoover. And Apple’s defiance of the FBI comes at a time when the US government is still trying to repair the damage of the Snowden revelations about surveillance and massive data collection. Nonetheless, the government is attempting to force Apple’s compliance insisting that the law, not the company’s technology, should not be the final word on access for data critical to an investigation.


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