Links: Brain-2-Text-Interfaces, Frankensteins Years without Summer and the Story of the Bicameral Mind

🤖 Feature Visualization: There is a growing sense that neural networks need to be interpretable to humans. The field of neural network interpretability has formed in response to these concerns. As it matures, two major threads of research have begun to coalesce: feature visualization and attribution. Feature visualization answers questions about what a network — or parts of a network — are looking for by generating examples.
This article focusses on feature visualization. While feature visualization is a powerful tool, actually getting it to work involves a number of details. In this article, we examine the major issues and explore common approaches to solving them. We find that remarkably simple methods can produce high-quality visualizations. Along the way we introduce a few tricks for exploring variation in what neurons react to, how they interact, and how to improve the optimization process.

🤖 These AI Hotshots Plan to Reboot Manufacturing by Jumping Inside Robots: The startup Embodied Intelligence is developing smart manufacturing robots that learn from human workers through virtual reality.

🤖 Still needs dev, but its coming. State of the art is 1 Letter per second --> Brain-Controlled Typing May Be the Killer Advance that AR Needs: The current speed record for typing via brain-computer interface is eight words per minute, but that uses an invasive implant to read signals from a person’s brain. “We’re working to beat that record, even though we’re using a noninvasive technology,” explains Alcaide. “We’re getting about one letter per second, which is still fairly slow, because it’s an early build. We think that in the next year we can further push that forward.”

🌧 Frankenstein, the Baroness, and the Climate Refugees of 1816: It is two hundred years since “The Year Without a Summer”, when a sun-obscuring ash cloud — ejected from one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in recorded history — caused temperatures to plummet the world over. Gillen D’Arcy Wood looks at the humanitarian crisis triggered by the unusual weather, and how it offers an alternative lens through which to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a book begun in its midst.

🙃 Consciousness Began When the Gods Stopped Speaking: From the age of 6, Jaynes had been transfixed by the singularity of conscious experience. Gazing at a yellow forsythia flower, he’d wondered how he could be sure that others saw the same yellow as he did. As a young man, serving three years in a Pennsylvania prison for declining to support the war effort, he watched a worm in the grass of the prison yard one spring, wondering what separated the unthinking earth from the worm and the worm from himself. It was the kind of question that dogged him for the rest of his life, and the book he was working on would grip a generation beginning to ask themselves similar questions.
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, when it finally came out in 1976, did not look like a best-seller. But sell it did. It was reviewed in science magazines and psychology journals, Time, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. It was nominated for a National Book Award in 1978. New editions continued to come out, as Jaynes went on the lecture circuit. Jaynes died of a stroke in 1997; his book lived on. In 2000, another new edition hit the shelves. It continues to sell today.

👨‍🔬 Lab-grown 'minibrains' are revealing what makes humans special: At a symposium at The American Society of Human Genetics here last month, they reported zooming in on the genes expressed in a single brain cell, as well as panning out to understand how genes foster connections among far-flung brain regions. Pollen and others also are experimenting with brain "organoids," tiny structured blobs of lab-grown tissue, to detail the molecular mechanisms that govern the folding and growth of the embryonic human brain. "We used to be just limited to looking at sequence data and cataloging differences from other primates," says Fisher, who helped organize the session. "Now, we have these exciting new tools that are helping us to understand which genes are important."

🎞 The world of filmmaker Werner Herzog: “Nature here is vile and base,” Herzog tells Blank. “I would see fornication, and asphyxiation, and choking, and fighting for survival, and growing, and just rotting away. Of course there’s a lot of misery, but it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing. They just screech in pain.” If Herzog overstates, his intensity is effective. “We, in comparison to the articulate vileness and baseness and obscenity of all this jungle,” he continues in Burden of Dreams, “we only sound and look like badly pronounced and half-finished sentences out of a stupid suburban novel.” To drive home this experience of insignificance in the Amazon, Herzog eventually published his diary of the making of Fitzcarraldo, which he called Conquest of the Useless.

👽 What Happens If China Makes First Contact?: As America has turned away from searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, China has built the world’s largest radio dish for precisely that purpose.

😶 How to Hire Fake Friends and Family: In Japan, you can pay an actor to impersonate your relative, spouse, coworker, or any kind of acquaintance. Money may not be able to buy love, but here in Japan, it can certainly buy the appearance of love—and appearance, as the dapper Ishii Yuichi insists, is everything.

👾 Skyrim rendered in text: I decided some time ago to create a text-based Skyrim. That sounds overly ambitious at first, but as I developed the story and the game’s mechanics, I discovered its basic elements: a sword & sorcery game in a living, simulated world that is presented as a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) book.