WRITERS TAKE OFFENSIVE AGAINST AI.
Several renowned authors, including John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, and George R.R. Martin, are suing OpenAI, alleging “systematic theft on a mass scale” of their copyrighted works by the AI model ChatGPT. Organized by the Authors Guild, the suit argues that ChatGPT infringes upon registered copyrights and threatens literary culture. The Guild emphasizes the necessity for authors to control how their works are used by generative AI to preserve the integrity of literature. OpenAI, respecting authors’ rights, is engaging in conversations with creators globally, seeking mutually beneficial solutions. Previous lawsuits from various authors claim infringement of intellectual property by OpenAI, which contends that these claims misunderstand copyright scope and the principles of fair use. This ongoing conflict has influenced Amazon’s policies on AI-generated material and the proliferation of such texts in their Kindle Direct Program. (Associated Press)
AI RACE TO THE BOTTOM.
Max Tegmark, co-founder of the Future of Life Institute, voiced concerns over the accelerated development of artificial intelligence (AI), citing a “race to the bottom” among tech companies. Despite his call for a six-month development pause, supported by over 30,000 signatories including Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak, work on advanced AI systems continues unabated. Tegmark emphasized the pervasive fear and competition, which prevent unilateral pauses by companies. The open letter, heralding a political awakening on AI safety, has highlighted concerns, from immediate risks like deepfake generation to existential threats from uncontrollable super-intelligent AI. Tegmark advocates for the establishment of global safety standards and urges urgent government intervention, especially concerning open-source AI models, likening their unrestricted access to handing out templates for nuclear bombs. The open discourse on AI safety is gaining traction, with Tegmark considering the safety summit at Bletchley Park a positive step toward addressing AI-related risks. (The Guardian)
“Ghost forests” are appearing along the United States’ East Coast, representing large tracts of dead trees converted to marshlands due to rising sea levels. Over the last 30 years, scientists have identified more than 40,000 acres of such forests in the mid-Atlantic region alone. These ghost forests are formed as advancing seas push saltwater inland, causing the death of trees unable to tolerate high salinity, and subsequently allowing marsh plants to colonize the flooded areas. Researchers are investigating the amount of carbon dioxide and methane released by the decaying trees, as this could potentially accelerate climate change. Understanding the likely spread of ghost forests is crucial for coastal communities, enabling them to undertake conservation efforts or manage retreat from vulnerable areas. The rapid transformation from forests to marshlands vividly illustrates the profound impacts of climate change on coastal ecosystems. (PNAS)
AMR AND HUMAN TRAVEL.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a pressing global health concern, with the origins of novel antibiotic-resistant strains remaining largely elusive on a global scale. A study, analyzing global data from 2006 to 2017, probed the correlates of AMR emergence in humans, considering factors like antibiotic use in humans and livestock, economic activity, and reporting biases. The study discovered a positive correlation between AMR emergence and human antibiotic consumption. However, AMR emergence and livestock antibiotic consumption relationship are influenced by the country’s GDP, showing a slight positive association in higher GDP countries, contradicting some past studies. Human travel is also noted as a significant contributor, likely facilitating the introduction of novel AMR strains into new territories. A generated country-level map highlights global AMR emergence risk and uncovers surveillance gaps, aiding in the formation of informed prevention and intervention policies. The findings provide crucial insights to curb AMR spread globally. (Proceedings of the Royal Society B)
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SPACE TRAVEL DRUG.
Researchers, including Chia Soo, M.D., from UCLA and the Forsyth Institute, studied a compound, BP-NELL-PEG, in mice sent to the International Space Station (ISS) to investigate its ability to preserve bone density. Astronauts in space experience rapid bone loss due to the lack of gravity’s weight on bones. The mice, upon returning from the ISS, showed that the compound had protected them from rapid bone loss. This result is significant for long-duration spaceflights. The current methods, involving exercise and osteoporosis drugs, have limitations and potential adverse effects. The compound central to BP-NELL-PEG is NELL-1, crucial for bone development, activating pathways increasing bone cell formation, and inhibiting reabsorption. The research is a substantial step but applying the findings from mouse models to humans will require further studies. Additionally, this compound has potential Earthside applications for patients at risk for premature bone loss. (Fierce Biotech)
TERRA PRETA MYSTERY ALMOST SOLVED.
Mysterious fertile black soil, or terra preta, in the Amazon rainforest has long puzzled scientists. It was suspected to be made by ancient Amazonians but how remained unclear. Now, a study reveals that it was intentionally created by ancient civilizations to nourish their crops. Modern-day Indigenous populations continue to create this fertile soil using similar practices. Terra preta is rich in carbon, phosphorus, nitrogen, and calcium, making it an important carbon reservoir for sequestering greenhouse gases. The study provides the first documentation of modern creation of terra preta, with evidence of purposeful soil enrichment through organic waste and ash. However, some experts remain unconvinced about the simplicity and speed of the process, and whether similar methods were used in ancient times, and further studies are required to trace this knowledge through time across the Amazon. (Science)
STONE AGE CONSTRUCTION WONDER.
Researchers have discovered a Stone Age construction, a pair of overlapping logs fitted together with a notch, offering rare insight into early human building with wood. Uncovered in 2019, this nearly 500,000-year-old structure is well-preserved due to submersion in a river. The logs bear marks of shaping, carving, and tool marks. Luminescence dating, a novel technique utilizing minerals in the sand, determined the age of the logs. These were crafted before Homo sapiens evolved, possibly by Homo heidelbergensis. The discovery challenges the prevailing perspective derived mainly from stone tools and suggests a settled or repeatedly visited habitation rather than a nomadic lifestyle. The utilization and modification of wood depict the capabilities and adaptative strategies of early human relatives, providing a fresh perspective on early human life and their interaction with their environments. (Associated Press)
IMAGE CREDIT: University of Liverpool.
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