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‘How Normal Am I’ rates you for your appearance. This is not discrimination, but a test for normality

'How Normal Am I' rates you for your appearance. This is not discrimination, but a test for normality 86

A Dutch artist has launched a website whose algorithms evaluate the weight, age and beauty of visitors. It is enough to turn on the webcam, and you will be told everything that neural networks think of you. But you should not be offended by a bad grade and a forecast for old age – in fact, this is not the purpose of the project.

In the 21st century, technological progress not only makes human life easier, but also controls it. Algorithms analyze people by their appearance, and plastic surgeons use them to evaluate the beauty of certain patients – and stars. Back in early 2020, they recognized Robert Pattinson as the most handsome man on Earth. Six months later, users of social networks really began to go crazy over the actor.

In October 2020, Dutch artist Tijmen Schep launched a project called How Normal Am I.

How Normal Am I rates you for your appearance.  But this is not discrimination, but a test for normality.

Its goal is to demonstrate how artificial intelligence evaluates the appearance and behavior of people right now. In a press release, Tijmen describes it this way:

Algorithms evaluate us for beauty, age, gender, emotions, body mass index and even life expectancy, and this is already entrenched in our society. Tinder, for example, uses beauty ratings to match people who are roughly equally attractive, and photo weight estimation is used in the health insurance industry.

How Normal Am I is an interactive documentary that allows Internet users to listen to Schep’s story about technology and become the heroes of his research. The project was created with the support of the European Union and Schep worked on it for the research project Sherpa. Its authors want to draw people’s attention to the problems that AI will create by 2025.

To take part, just go to the main page of the site, agree to the terms, give the algorithm access to the webcam and answer a series of questions. AI works right in the browser, and the analysis is carried out on your computer, so do not be afraid that your data will be sent to the Internet without your knowledge.

Next, you see a window with your face, a video in which the author of the project explains what is happening, and a table that is filled in while the algorithm studies you and your behavior.

How Normal Am I first checks to see if you have read the terms and conditions – most members ignore them – then asks for age. And finally, it moves on to assessing his appearance – on a ten-point scale.

Throughout the analysis, Schep explains that algorithms that judge people by their appearance are not all that reliable. They are easy to manipulate: just turn on the light, bring your face closer to the screen and smile to boost your beauty score. In addition, AI inherits the prejudices of its creators: it learned from photographs that Chinese students recognized as beautiful, therefore it is not completely objective.

Further, the algorithm estimates the age of a person by his appearance (and indicates whether the user has lied about him), guesses the gender (now most of the participants are men) and estimates the body mass index.

According to the artist, it is also not difficult to deceive the program at this moment. The higher your eyebrows are raised, the thinner you appear to the AI.

How Normal Am I rates you for your appearance.  But this is not discrimination, but a test for normality.

The AI ​​then tells you how long you have left to live according to its estimates. Forecast at 70 is below average among participants

Further, the hero of the video offers to bend closer to the camera to capture the “code of his face”. Whether a person listened to this request is also taken into account. Most ignore it – and rightly so, because it’s just a test.

After that, Schep explains that all this time, the algorithm monitored the participant’s emotions and assessed whether he smiled at the sight of the dogs at the very beginning of the test – most people were left with sad faces.

At the end, the algorithm reports how actively the person interacted with the site: he moved the cursor and switched tabs. And completes the test by asking if the participant would like to share their results anonymously . This data will be used to compare you with everyone involved and improve AI.

The final indicator is calculated based on how much the results differ from the average among everyone who studied AI and who shared their data with the project.

You can check your normality here. This is definitely not the best way to judge your appearance or weight. Schep urges users to be careful about such profiling systems: they are increasingly used for ranking, but in fact they are not so objective and make people tend to be much more average.

Science & Technology

The European Space Agency has released a game about the settlement of Mars

The European Space Agency has released a game about the settlement of Mars 99

The European Space Agency, together with the British company Auroch Digital, released the game Mars Horizon. This is a simulator of the colonization of Mars.

In Mars Horizon, players will have to manage scientific activities, processes in the colony and, of course, finances. You will need to complete missions to make money before sending your astronauts to Mars. The agency directors, who will play the role of the players, will have to fight other large space agencies that pursue the same goals – sending colonists to Mars.

During missions, players are faced with intense turn-based gameplay and each step determines their success or failure. Each individual decision is critical – will you waste time repairing a faulty antenna? How about saving energy in the event of a fuel leak? Maybe if you decide to delay the dispatch of the mission by three months, it will prevent a disaster?

Auroch Digital has created Mars Horizon in collaboration with ESA. The developers consulted with the agency’s staff, including members of the ExoMars mission. ESA provided technical assistance to game developers, provided gameplay advice and tested the game. The developers were given the opportunity to try to manage space projects at the agency’s facilities themselves.

Today you can install the game on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation4 and Nintendo Switch. In the future, the developers want to create special educational versions of the game and put them in schools to show how such large international projects as the colonization of Mars are actually carried out.

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Science & Technology

What’s in store for us in the next decade?

What's in store for us in the next decade? 100

About 70 thousand years ago, Homo Sapiens was an insignificant animal living somewhere on the African continent. But in the millennia that followed, the Sapiens became the rulers of the planet: we subdued the environment, increased food production, built cities and connected them with trade networks. 

But our achievements, no matter how beautiful they look from the outside, have a downside, because our civilization has endangered more than one million species of animals and plants, and the rapid climate change (also the work of man) brings catastrophic consequences every year. But if other, now non-existing civilizations dominated the planet before us, does this mean that we are rapidly approaching sunset? Nobody knows the exact answers to these questions, but let’s try to figure it out.

Great civilizations of the past

Humans have been around for several hundred thousand years, but until the last 7,000 years, we roamed the earth in small groups, hunting, gathering edible plants and fearing threats from other people, animals and weather. Everything changed after the development of tools, weapons and fire, and the first major step towards civilization was the domestication of animals for food, clothing, transportation and communication.

As William R. Nester writes in his work entitled “The Rise and Fall of Civilizations” , plant domestication followed, with small groups settling in river valleys, planting and harvesting. Over the centuries, some of these settlements have developed into complex civilizations that include most or all of the following components:

  • cattle breeding and agriculture; complex, hierarchical political, social, economic, military, and religious institutions, each with a division of labor;
  • the use of metals, wheels and writing; clearly defined territories;
  • trade with other people.

The first “civilization” is believed to have originated in Mesopotamia around 5000 BC. BC, and over the next 6,500 years or so, great civilizations grew and appeared elsewhere, expanded their rule, and then perished for a variety of interconnected political, technological, economic, military, and environmental causes.

What's in store for us in the next decade? 101
Roman civilization originated around the sixth century BC. 
At the height of its power, the Roman Empire ruled over a vast tract of land, and all modern Mediterranean countries were part of ancient Rome.

Roman civilization originated around the sixth century BC. At the height of its power, the Roman Empire ruled over a vast tract of land, and all modern Mediterranean countries were part of ancient Rome.

Recently, scientists have finally solved the mystery of the death of the Mayan civilization – one of the brightest civilizations in the history of mankind, the dawn of which came approximately in the III-IX centuries. As the results of several scientific studies have shown, among the reasons for the death of the Maya, researchers single out several factors at once – droughts, wars, food shortages, etc.

Where is our civilization heading?

According to the data obtained using the ESCIMO computer model, we have just passed the “point of no return” – the moment when humanity could prevent the most severe consequences of rapid climate change. In a paper published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, the researchers write the following:

“Even if all emissions of harmful substances into the atmosphere are reduced to zero right now, this will not stop the rise in global temperatures.”

And yet, despite this disturbing news, let’s hope that we will meet 2030 and all the decades to come, caring for the environment and looking to the future with optimism. We do not want it, the passage of time is inexorable, and with it the changes in all areas of everyday life. Thus, many researchers regard the near future as a time even more technological than ours.

What will our world be like in 10 years?

Fighting fake news

As stated in an article published on the Science Focus portal, technology can lead us to a world where we will not be sure what is real and what is not. At the same time, thanks to technology, we can distinguish fact from fiction, which is especially relevant in the era of fake news and Deepfake.

For example, some AI startups use machine learning algorithms to identify fakes and errors on the Internet. 

“Fake news and social media have eroded trust in traditional media that have failed to adapt to the new reality. Solving the problem of fake news requires rebuilding the news ecosystem and educating people to think critically and to be more responsible on social media,” Michael Bronstein said, co-founder of AI startup Fabula, a professor of computing at Imperial College London. Well, let’s hope this fight against fake news will be successful.

What's in store for us in the next decade? 102
Most likely, by 2030, technology will help us lead a better life, morally and physically healthy. Jobs are also expected to undergo a number of major changes.

Genetic revolution

Today, many researchers have high hopes for the genome-editing CRISPR method, which can treat hereditary diseases or significantly reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. There is even talk of the possibility of reversing the biological aging process. 

But how far can we go in this war on disease? After all, most ailments are caused not by one gene, but by a combination of several genes and environmental factors. Some genes that predispose us to one disease simultaneously protect us from another.

The researchers point out that one of the main challenges today is the costly availability of CRISPR. Moreover, editing the human genome also raises ethical dilemmas – for example, a widely publicized act of a Chinese scientist who used CRISPR-Cas9 technology on unborn babies, for which he is now serving time in prison.

What's in store for us in the next decade? 103
Perhaps over the next 10 years, we will be able to address a number of difficult ethical issues.

However, many scientists hope that in the future, doctors will be allowed to use this technique for the benefit of people, but the “finer details” have yet to be determined. It appears that different cultures will approach ethical issues differently. So in this regard, the future is complex and difficult to predict.

Space revolution

The last time a human foot set foot on the lunar surface was in 1972. Then few could predict that people would not return to Earth’s satellite for another 50 years. As for the latest plans of the world space agencies (both private and public), the plans for the next decade include not only the launch of robotic vehicles, such as the Europa Clipper (scheduled to start in 2021), the James Webb Space Telescope, but also a return to the Moon and human flight to Mars.

In general, speaking about space exploration, we would like to believe that studies of the solar system and the observed Universe in the next 10 years will bring long-awaited news and answers to questions that excite the imagination. 

Technologies of the future from 2020 to 2030

More than 800 experts, economists, businessmen and executives surveyed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) predict the following technologies will be trending. They will make a technological revolution in our world (watch the video below about technologies of the future).

1. AI 2 IoT
3. Blockchain
4. 3D printing
5. Mobile technologies
6. Autonomous cars (transport)
7. Mobile Internet
8 Robotics
9. VR / AR
10. Wireless Power
11. Quantum computing
12. 5G/6G
13. Voice Assistant
14. Cybersecurity
15. Cloud (cloud computing)

Who knows, maybe in 2030 humanity will know for sure that it is not alone in the vastness of the infinite universe. What do you think the world will be like in the near future? 

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Science & Technology

Cancer vaccine shown to be safe and effective has entered human trials

Cancer vaccine shown to be safe and effective has entered human trials 104
University of Montreal

A person, like any living creature, can be vaccinated against cancer, although this disease is fundamentally different from viral infections against which vaccines are traditionally used. 

This has been proven by scientists at Ohio University, who developed a methodology for the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors. Animal studies have shown 90% effectiveness of this therapy and complete safety for the body.

Cancer tumors are extremely insidious and have a defense mechanism against the body’s immune system in the form of the signaling protein PD-1. It is present on both healthy and cancerous cells, and is responsible for the friend-or-foe recognition procedure when immune B and T cells approach them. As long as PD-1 proteins in cancer cells and PD-L1 proteins in lymphocytes are working normally, the immune system simply ignores the infection, not seeing it as a target to attack.

The idea of ​​Dr. Pravin Kaumay, the developer of the inhibitors, is to interfere with the identification procedure. For this purpose, special monoclonal antibodies have been developed, which are injected into the body, seek out PD-1 proteins and settle on them, preventing proper contact with PD-L1 proteins. Lymphocytes cannot recognize these cells and automatically start the procedure for destroying them – the immune system itself begins to eradicate cancerous tumors in the body.

More importantly, blocking the signaling system destroys the usual comfortable environment for cancer cells, they are constantly threatened, cannot grow and spread throughout the body. 

This is the beneficial effect of vaccination with inhibitors – this therapy is called PD1-Vaxx. The technology has been thoroughly tested, it uses second-generation inhibitors, which are much more effective. The first human patients have already been recruited in the US and Australia to test PD1-Vaxx.

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