January came and went in a blink of an eye. The most notable advancement in January is likely China's creation of an integrated quantum communications network, but there were still several other exciting updates. From a startup proclaiming pig-to-human organ transplants later this year to a diabetic wearable that doesn't need needles to a digital AI version of Deepak Chopra you can talk and meditate with, there are some interesting developments to watch indeed.
Here are the top stories from the past month (in mostly chronological order):
The pandemic has reminded us that we cannot aim solely for higher GDP and profits, on the assumption that maximizing these indicators automatically redounds to the benefit of society. A renewed focus on public health, net-zero pledges and the arrival of Stakeholder Capitalism Metrics will ensure that 2021 will be a new 'Year Zero’.
Science and Futurism with Isaac Arthur is a YouTube channel which focuses on exploring the depths of concepts in science and futurism. Since its first episode in 2014, SFIA has considered topics ranging from the seemingly mundane, to the extremely exotic, featuring episodes on megastructure engineering, interstellar travel, the future of earth, and the Fermi paradox, among others. Yet regardless of how strange a subject may seem, Isaac always tries to ensure that the discussion is grounded in the known science of today.
Maryland-based biotech company United Therapeutics is planning to begin transplanting organs from genetically modified pigs into humans — and as soon as this year, as Medium-owned publication Future Human reports. “We’re right on that cusp. We’re looking to get into humans within the next year or two,” David Ayares — the chief scientific officer of United Therapeutics’ subsidiary Revivicor — told the publication. “We think we have the pig that is going to be what we bring forward into humans in 2021 or 2022.”
Chinese scientists have established the world's first integrated quantum communication network, combining over 700 optical fibers on the ground with two ground-to-satellite links to achieve quantum key distribution over a total distance of 4,600 kilometers for users across the country. The team, led by Jianwei Pan, Yuao Chen, Chengzhi Peng from the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, reported in Nature their latest advances towards the global, practical application of such a network for future communications.
EFF | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Last week, following riots that saw supporters of President Trump breach and sack parts of the Capitol building, Facebook and Twitter made the decision to give the president the boot. That was notable enough, given that both companies had previously treated the president, like other political leaders, as largely exempt from content moderation rules. Many of the president’s followers responded by moving to an alternative platform, Parler.
A Japanese startup at CES is claiming to have solved one of the biggest problems in medical technology: Noninvasive continuous glucose monitoring. Quantum Operation Inc, exhibiting at the virtual show, says that its prototype wearable can accurately measure blood sugar from the wrist. Looking like a knock-off Apple Watch, the prototype crams in a small spectrometer which is used to scan the blood to measure for glucose. Quantum’s pitch adds that the watch is also capable of reading other vital signs, including heart rate and ECG.
The Tribune | India
Development banks and states have pledged a total of $14.32 billion over the next four years to build a "Great Green Wall" to help contain desertification in Africa's northern Sahel region, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday. Speaking at an international biodiversity summit in Paris that his government is hosting, Macron said the pledges had exceeded the initial target of $10 billion.
8. Dr. Deepak Chopra debuts ‘Digital Deepak’ built on the AI Foundation platform, allowing everyone to connect with him through his digital extension
After more than a year in training, Dr. Deepak Chopra is proud to announce the launch of Digital Deepak, the world’s first fully interactive AI wellbeing app available to the general public, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play! This proprietary technology from the AI Foundation is the first of its kind, globally. The Digital Deepak app is a first of its kind, fully personalized wellbeing app that allows you to architect and experience your transformational journey with Deepak Chopra’s AI extension. Your meditations, training and journey are tailor made through unique conversations between you and Deepak Chopra’s AI extension, with help and guidance from the real Deepak along the way.
The US Army is developing a gun barrel stabilizer for its next-generation rifle that could greatly level out any unintended movement, Task & Purpose reports. The piece of tech is a leftover part of the military’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) effort, which was originally part of the US Special Operations Command’s (SOCOM) “Iron Man” suit project. The powered suit was abandoned in early 2019 — but the impressive-looking stabilizer shows that portions of its tech could still end up on the battlefield.
MIT Technology Review
On Wednesday, the US waited with bated breath as president Trump handed the government reins over to president Biden. The transition of power ended up peaceful, and Biden promptly ushered in his new vision for America with a flurry of executive orders. At the moment, the most pressing issues on his table are fighting the coronavirus pandemic, providing financial relief for Americans, and reversing a series of Trump-era policies on climate change, international relations, and immigration. Artificial intelligence, as expected, hasn’t yet made it to the top of list. But he has given several signals already about how his administration might think about and treat the technology.