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Tag: ALS

HI+AI

Sunday, 16 October, 2016 0 Comments

“An axe or a hammer is a passive extension of a hand, but a drone forms a distributed intelligence along with its operator, and is closer to a dog or horse than a device.” So says Bryan Johnson, founder and CEO of Kernel, which aims to develop biomedically engineered devices linked our central nervous system to restore and enhance human cognitive, motor and sensory abilities. In a word: neuroprosthetics.

“The combination of human and artificial intelligence will define humanity’s future” declares Johnson an article for TechCrunch that examines the interplay of artificial intelligence (AI) and human intelligence (HI). He argues that humanity has arrived at the border of intelligence enhancement, “which could be the most consequential technological development of our time, and in history.” Once we head into new country, the result could be people who need never need worry about forgetfulness again, or suffer the degradations of ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases. Johnson is very much on the side of the Valley evangelists, but he feels obliged to add what has become the mandatory cautionary note:

“It is certainly true that with every new technology we create, new risks emerge that need thoughtful consideration and wise action. Medical advances that saved lives also made germ warfare possible; chemical engineering led to fertilizers and increased food production but also to chemical warfare. Nuclear fission created a new source of energy but also led to nuclear bombs.”

Despite mankind’s inherent wickedness, Bryan Johnson does not fear the future and warns against using “a fear-based narrative” as the main structure for discussing HI+AI. This would limit the imagination and curiosity that are at the core of being human.

“The basis of optimism is sheer terror,” said Oscar Wilde, who was born on this day in 1864 at 21 Westland Row in Dublin.


Christian Schreiber: 1965 – 2016

Thursday, 7 July, 2016 0 Comments

The death on Monday morning of Dr Christian Schreiber was a tragedy with many facets. Tania lost a loving husband, Ella and Alma a caring father and his colleagues at the German Heart Centre in Munich a brilliant cardiac surgeon who was doing ground-breaking work in the fields of paediatric and congenital heart surgery.

But that’s not the end of this list of tragedies. Christian was the victim of a truly terrifying disease: ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. This progressive neurodegenerative illness affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord and those who are afflicted suffer unbearable physical and psychological pain. The suffering extends to family and friends, who are forced to witness its degradation of a person they love. All of this was amplified in Christian’s case because he was so young, so gifted, so multilingually charming and had so much to offer to those who needed his life-saving skills.

In the coming weeks, many personal and professional tributes will be paid to this wonderful man, but on the day when Germany play France in the semi-final of the Euro2016 tournament, it should be mentioned that football for Christian Schreiber was more than a game — each match was a morality play and the fans were his tribe. After completing an intricate operation in Kiev, or delivering a paper in London or attending a conference in Beijing, he would dash back to Munich to make the best use of his season ticket at the Allianz Arena, the stadium of his beloved FC Bayern. It was my good fortune to be his companion on some of these occasions and each one featured a non-stop assortment of scandalous stories, informed commentary, hilarious observations and a never-ending stream of questions that sprang from a curious mind insatiable for knowledge. One of the most memorable of these get-togethers was on Wednesday, 6 December 2006 when Bayern played a hard-fought 1-1 Champions League draw with Inter Milan. It was a bitterly cold night, but we were well insulated and had excellent seats near the half-way line. While the TV cameras followed the ball, we spent the evening watching the mighty defender Lúcio and the great striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic “get it on” in a terrific mixed martial arts battle. And all was well with our world.

For those who believe in such things, Christian will be looking down on tonight’s Germany-France game, enjoying every moment. For those who are broken-hearted by the loss, the memories of the moments are what we are left with now. The old Gaelic expression, Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann (“There shall not be his like again.”), sums up this unique, loving, loved, very much missed man. RIP

Christian Schreiber and his daughter Alma at the Allianz Arena, Munich

Dr Christian Schreiber and his daughter Alma at the Allianz Arena, Munich