TTI/Vanguard Newsletter: January 20, 2023

Congratulations to Aditya Ramesh (Washington, D.C., Sep 2022) for OpenAI’s DALL-E—and generative AI more generally—being selected as the lead-off item on MIT Technology Today’stop-ten list of 2023 breakthrough technologies. The Data, AI, and Robotics conference in Cambridge March 14–16 will feature some firms applying generative AI to biomolecular problems. Register now. Among other technologies on Technology Today’s list is RISC-V; we have a speaker queued up on that topic later in 2023, as well.

It’s the turn of the year, which means it’s time for prediction lists. Not to be left out is the state of the art—and the business—of quantum computing and associated domains. Here’s a list of 11 predictions from Quantum Insider

With items on quantum and MIT, it’s no coincidence that part of TTI/V’s field trip to MIT the afternoon of March 14 will feature the Center for Quantum Engineering. (After all, the same person who creates the newsletter also programs the field trips.) Members with an interest in quantum, or immersive environments, or aerodynamic fluid flow, or animal-inspired robots, or autonomous drone control should schedule the field trip into their travel plans. Surely that Venn diagram includes you!

This month, our thoughts have been with our sodden California members (and friends and relatives) who have been subjected to a pummeling succession of atmospheric rivers. It would be reasonable for one to think that all this water has filled the state’s reservoirs to protect it from future dry spells—but not necessarily. It has been standard practice for reservoirs to preemptively release considerable water pre-winter just in case storms like these roll through. Some Western watersheds will be taking the new approach of forecast-informed reservoir operations, which rely on dynamic weather information to determine reservoir water levels, only releasing this precious resource when necessary to avert imminent flooding. (Sarah Porter, Scottsdale, Dec 2022) Click here to read the article.
Often the contrarian, Gary Marcus (San Francisco, Dec 2019; Brooklyn, Jun 2018; Boston, Apr 2014) shared his views on just how smart ChatGPT is—or isn’t—on the Ezra Klein Show. Click here to read the article.

We could probably fill this entire newsletter with ideas on using ChatGPT and other tools. We’ll use restraint and just offer the story of the “artificial wife” created—and since euthanized due to untenable cloud computing costs (and objections from his actual girlfriend)—by “Bryce,” who provided a couple of paragraphs of backstory to ChatGPT for text generation, Azure’s neural TTS for text-to-speech, the Stable Diffusion image generator (Aditya Ramesh, Washington, D.C., Sep 2022), and a machine-learning classifier to determine the bot’s emotions based on textual response to apply appropriate tonality to that speech. Click here to read the article.

It’s sort of like looking for the lost keys under the lamppost: Languages spoken and written by the largest number of people—or by the people with the greatest resources—receive the most attention by AI researchers. Who but members of an indigenous population really cares about its language? On the flipside, who but those same folks are best equipped to create their own language models to preserve and create a repository and teaching resource for the language of their ancestors? The nonprofit Māori radio station Te Hiku has embarked on just such a journey with data sovereignty of te reo speakers at the center of the project. (Achal Prabhala, Washington, D.C., May 2012) Click here to read the article.

In Berkeley in Mar 2019,  George Hotz shared his story of’s direct-to-consumer, sub-$1000, plug-and-play level-2 autonomous-driving add-on with TTI/Vanguard. The hardware package costs a little more now—doesn’t everything?—but has improved capabilities, and it still runs on the openpilot open-source OS for driving. Plus, the company now makes it possible to use the Comma 3 unit as the head of a human-scale robot. Click here to read the article.

It’s not just genetic mutations through the course of an organism’s life that drive aging, but also contributing is the degradation of epigenetic information, which affects the regulation of gene expression. When epigenetic factors become overwhelmed with repairing nonmutating breaks in DNA, they lose the ability to regroup and perform their normal function, leading to evident aging. The good news, as Harvard Medical School professor David Sinclair has discovered through his mouse studies, is that restoring the integrity of the epigenome through gene therapy can successfully reverse the induced epigenetic changes and, with that, the signs of aging. (George Church, virtual conference, Dec 2020; Sonia Arrison, Atlanta, Feb 2014; Jennifer Garrison, Scottsdale, Dec 2022) Click here to read the article.

“As we get better at reversing aging it will be possible to take one medicine and within weeks feel and even look younger. Imagine going to a doctor to get a pill for diabetes, and this same medicine will prevent heart disease, Alzheimer's, cancer, and will give you more vitality too.”—David Sinclair