LIFE

The Augmented Human Being

[3.30.16]

There are now 2000 gene therapies where you’ll take a little piece of engineered DNA, put it inside of a viral coat so all the viral genes are gone, and you can put in, say, a human gene or you can have nonviral delivery, but the important thing is that you’re delivering it either inside of the human or you’re taking cells out of the human and putting the DNA in and then putting them back in. But you can do very powerful things like curing inherited diseases, curing infectious diseases.                                 

For example, you can edit out the receptor for the HIV virus and cure AIDS patients in a way that's not dependent upon vaccines and multidrug resistance, which has plagued the HIV AIDS story from the very beginning. You’re basically making a human being which is now augmented in a certain sense so that, unlike most humans, they are resistant to this major plague of mankind—HIV AIDS.              

There are now people walking around who are genetically modified: There are some that are resistant to AIDS because they have had their T cells, or more generally, their blood cells modified. There are children that have been cured of blindness by gene therapy. None of this is CRISPR, but it’s in the same vein. CRISPR is overtaking it very quickly and it’s drafting behind all the beautiful work that’s been done with delivery of DNA, delivery of genetic components to patients.

GEORGE CHURCH is a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and director of the Personal Genome Project. George Church's Edge Bio Page

Popper Versus Bacon

Topic: 

  • LIFE
https://vimeo.com/126008620

People have to go around measuring things. There's no escape from that for most of that type of work. There's a deep relationship between the two. No one's going to come up with a model that works without going and comparing with experiment. But it is the intelligent use of experimental measurements that we're after there because that goes to this concept of Bayesian methods. I will perform the right number of experiments to make measurements of, say, the time series evolution of a given set of proteins.

This Is My Vision Of "Life"

Topic: 

  • LIFE
https://vimeo.com/126035884

My vision of life is that everything extends from replicators, which are in practice DNA molecules on this planet. The replicators reach out into the world to influence their own probability of being passed on. Mostly they don't reach further than the individual body in which they sit, but that's a matter of practice, not a matter of principle. The individual organism can be defined as that set of phenotypic products which have a single route of exit of the genes into the future. That's not true of the cuckoo/reed warbler case, but it is true of ordinary animal bodies. So the organism,

This Is My Vision Of "Life"

[4.30.15]

My vision of life is that everything extends from replicators, which are in practice DNA molecules on this planet. The replicators reach out into the world to influence their own probability of being passed on. Mostly they don't reach further than the individual body in which they sit, but that's a matter of practice, not a matter of principle. The individual organism can be defined as that set of phenotypic products which have a single route of exit of the genes into the future. That's not true of the cuckoo/reed warbler case, but it is true of ordinary animal bodies. So the organism, the individual organism, is a deeply salient unit. It's a unit of selection in the sense that I call a "vehicle".  

There are two kinds of unit of selection. The difference is a semantic one. They're both units of selection, but one is the replicator, and what it does is get itself copied. So more and more copies of itself go into the world. The other kind of unit is the vehicle. It doesn't get itself copied. What it does is work to copy the replicators which have come down to it through the generations, and which it's going to pass on to future generations. So we have this individual replicator dichotomy. They're both units of selection, but in different senses. It's important to understand that they are different senses.   

RICHARD DAWKINS is an evolutionary biologist; Emeritus Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, Oxford; Author, The Selfish Gene; The Extended Phenotype; Climbing Mount Improbable; The God Delusion; An Appetite For Wonder; and (forthcoming) A Brief Candle In The Dark. Richard Dawkins's Edge Bio Page

Popper Versus Bacon

[5.7.15]

People have to go around measuring things. There's no escape from that for most of that type of work. There's a deep relationship between the two. No one's going to come up with a model that works without going and comparing with experiment. But it is the intelligent use of experimental measurements that we're after there because that goes to this concept of Bayesian methods. I will perform the right number of experiments to make measurements of, say, the time series evolution of a given set of proteins. From those data, when things are varying in time, I can map that on to my deterministic Popperian model and infer what's the most likely value of all the parameters that would be Popperian ones that would fit into the model. It's an intelligent interaction between them that's necessary in many complicated situations.

INTRODUCTION
by John Brockman

There’s a massive clash of philosophies at the heart of modern science.  One philosophy, called  Baconianism after Sir Francis Bacon, neglects theoretical underpinning and says just make observations, collect data, and interrogate them. This approach is widespread in modern biology and medicine, where it’s often called informatics.  But there’s a quite different philosophy, traditionally used in physics, formulated by another British Knight, Sir Karl Popper. In this approach, we make predictions from models and we test them, then iterate our theories.

 In modern medicine you might find it strange that many people don’t think in theoretical terms. It's a shock to many physical scientists when they encounter this attitude, particularly when it is accompanied by a conflation of correlation with causation. Meanwhile, in physics, it is extremely hard to go from modeling simple situations consisting of a handful of particles to the complexity of the real world, and to combine theories that work at different levels, such as macroscopic theories (where there is an arrow of time) and microscopic ones (where theories are indifferent to the direction of time).

At University College London, physical chemist Peter Coveney, is using theory, modeling and supercomputing to predict material properties from basic chemical information, and to mash up biological knowledge at a range of levels, from biomolecules to organs, into timely and predictive clinical information to help doctors. In doing this, he is testing a novel way to blend the Baconian and Popperian approaches and have already had some success when it comes to personalized medicine and predicting the properties of next generation composites.

—JB

PETER COVENEY holds a chair in Physical Chemistry, and is director of the Centre for Computational Science at University College London and co-author, with Roger Highfield, of The Arrow of Time and Frontiers of Complexity. Peter Coveney's Edge Bio Page.


Lawrence Ian Reed: "The Face Of Emotion"

Topic: 

  • LIFE
http://vimeo.com/108134304

What can we tell from the face? There're mixed data, but some show a pretty strong coherence between what is felt and what’s expressed on the face. Happiness, sadness, disgust, contempt, fear, anger, all have prototypic or characteristic facial expressions. In addition to that, you can tell whether two emotions are blended together. You can tell the difference between surprise and happiness, and surprise and anger, or surprise and sadness. You can also tell the strength of an emotion.

Edgies on Extinction

Topic: 

  • LIFE
http://www.vimeo.com/110920324

"EDGIES ON EXTINCTION": 10 Minute talks by Helena Cronin, Jennifer Jacquet, Steve Jones, and Chiara Marletto, and an EDGE discussion joined by Molly Crockett, Hans Ulrich Obrist, and John Brockman.

Lawrence Ian Reed: "The Face Of Emotion"

HeadCon '14
[11.18.14]

What can we tell from the face? There're mixed data, but some show a pretty strong coherence between what is felt and what’s expressed on the face. Happiness, sadness, disgust, contempt, fear, anger, all have prototypic or characteristic facial expressions. In addition to that, you can tell whether two emotions are blended together. You can tell the difference between surprise and happiness, and surprise and anger, or surprise and sadness. You can also tell the strength of an emotion. There seems to be a relationship between the strength of the emotion and the strength of the contraction of the associated facial muscles. 


[26.27 minutes]

LAWRENCE IAN REED is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology, Skidmore College. Lawrence Ian Reed's Edge Bio page


THE FACE OF EMOTION

My name is Lawrence Ian Reed. I’m a Clinical and Evolutionary Psychologist over at Skidmore College. Today I want to talk about facial expression of emotion, and a question that’s been gnawing at me for probably six or seven years. We've got some answers, and I’m excited to talk to you guys about what they are.

The first questions that I asked about facial expression were "how" questions: How do our facial expressions change when we’re feeling depressed or when we’ve got bipolar disorder, or when we’re being deceptive? I don’t ask those questions any more for a couple reasons. One is that the questions I’m asking now are much more interesting. The other reason is that I felt satisfied with a lot of the answers. I’m going to review some of those questions and talk about how they led up to the questions that I’m asking now, and we’ll see what you guys think about what I have to say.
 

Michael McCullough: "Two Cheers For Falsification"

HeadCon '14
[11.18.14]

What I want to do today is raise one cheer for falsification, maybe two cheers for falsification. Maybe it’s not philosophical falsificationism I’m calling for, but maybe something more like methodological falsificationism. It has an important role to play in theory development that maybe we have turned our backs on in some areas of this racket we’re in, particularly the part of it that I do—Ev Psych—more than we should have.


[43:37 minutes]

MICHAEL MCCULLOUGH is Director, Evolution and Human Behavior Laboratory, Professor of Psychology, Cooper Fellow, University of Miami; Author, Beyond Revenge. Michael McCullough's Edge Bio page


TWO CHEERS FOR FALSIFICATION

I’m Mike McCullough. I’m a psychologist at the University of Miami. I want to talk a little bit about some thoughts I’ve been entertaining about falsification, and particularly its place in my bailiwick, which is Ev Psych.

Most of you, when you think about falsification, think about Karl Popper, who had this idea that is pretty compelling, which is that we can never have positive evidence for a hypothesis. Hypotheses give us predictions about how the world should be ordered. What we like to do is take the data from the world and then make inferences about whether the hypothesis is true. This is a problematic kind of reasoning. It’s not valid reasoning. As I'm sure many of you know, he suggested that there is a valid reasoning we can use for making inferences about the truth value of hypotheses from observations, but the way to do that is to look for predictions that are falsified in the world.

Duck Sex, Aesthetic Evolution, and the Origin of Beauty

Topic: 

  • LIFE
http://vimeo.com/102665504

The way nature is—the nature of flowers, the nature of birdsong and bird plumages—implies that subjective experiences are fundamentally important in biology. That the world looks the way it does and is the way it is because of their vital importance as sources of selection in organic diversity, and as a result we need to structure evolutionary biology to recognize the aesthetic, recognize the subjective experience. 

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