Virtual Brains, Virtual Currencies, Real Revolutions

In collaboration with Exponential Finance


Your Brain in the Cloud: Access the Internet Directly with Your Mind

What if we could reverse-engineer the pattern-recognition units of our brains? Technologist and futurist Ray Kurzweil sees this as an imminent possibility, which would enable us to build virtual, cloud-based extensions of our minds with exponentially greater ability to organize and analyze information.


Ray Kurzweil is one of many ahead-of-the-curve speakers at 2015’s Exponential Finance conference, June 2-3 in New York City. Co-produced by Singularity University and CNBC, Exponential Finance provides insight into new technologies that leaders need to understand in order to make the most of the accelerating change happening across business sectors.

Peter Diamandis on How to Become a Billionaire

Exponential technologies are rapidly shifting the way we live and do business, says Singularity University's Peter Diamandis. Those who learn to take advantage of them are sure to ride the wave to extraordinary success.

Peter Diamandis is one of many ahead-of-the-curve speakers at 2015’s Exponential Finance conference, June 2-3 in New York City. Co-produced by Singularity University and CNBC, Exponential Finance provides insight into new technologies that leaders need to understand in order to make the most of the accelerating change happening across business sectors.


Brad Templeton: How Bitcoin Disrupts the Finance Industry

Should you invest in Bitcoin? Maybe not, says Brad Templeton, but that doesn't mean the digital currency isn't amazing in and of itself. Templeton explains what Bitcoin achieves and how it's set to spur further innovation.

Brad Templeton is one of many ahead-of-the-curve speakers at 2015’s Exponential Finance conference, June 2-3 in New York City. Co-produced by Singularity University and CNBC, Exponential Finance provides insight into new technologies that leaders need to understand in order to make the most of the accelerating change happening across business sectors.

Ray Kurzweil: Can You Read 100 Million Web Pages in a Few Seconds? Your Robot Assistant Will.

Comprehension is the human genius. But in a world where computers can process all of human history in a flash, that genius can be scaled. What possible industries would this eliminate risk from? Could scaled comprehension reliably create new business opportunities, each more efficient and profitable than the last?


We are talking about something more than augmenting human abilities with machine efficiency and power. We are talking about creating something that's simply more human: more capable of creativity, of understanding, of love, and of courage.

Ray Kurzweil is one of many ahead-of-the-curve speakers at 2015’s Exponential Finance conference, June 2-3 in New York City. Co-produced by Singularity University and CNBC, Exponential Finance provides insight into new technologies that leaders need to understand in order to make the most of the accelerating change happening across business sectors.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of new behaviours into daily routines, like physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitizing. Meanwhile, many old behaviours such as attending events, eating out and seeing friends have been put on hold.


However, one old behaviour that has persisted, and has arguably been amplified due to COVID-19, is sitting — and it is not surprising to see why. Whether sitting during transportation, work, screen time or even meals, everyday environments and activities are tailored nearly exclusively to prolonged sitting. As such, sedentary behaviours, like sitting, make up the vast majority of our waking day.

Pre-COVID-19 estimates place the average Canadian adult's sedentary behaviour at around 9.5 hours per day. Current daily sedentary time is likely even higher as a result of stay-at-home orders, limitations on businesses and recreational facilities, and elevated health anxieties.

Health vs. well-being

This is a problem, given that chronic excessive levels of sedentary time have been linked to greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, mortality and even some cancers. However, for many people, their own judgments and feelings about their quality of life (also known as subjective well-being) may be more important and relevant for informing their health decisions and behaviours than potentially developing chronic diseases.

Subjective well-being encompasses an individual's own evaluation of their quality of life. It includes concepts like affect (positive and negative feelings) and life satisfaction. Interestingly, these evaluations can conflict with physical health outcomes. For example, a person could have diabetes but still report good subjective well-being, while someone with no physical health conditions may report poor subjective well-being.

This is important, as it means how an individual feels about their own health may not always align with what their body may demonstrate. That's why evaluating subjective well-being is vital for painting a holistic picture of health.

Different contexts of sitting

Relatively little research has examined the relationships between sedentary behaviour and subjective well-being. Exploring these relationships is important, as different contexts of sitting — such as socializing versus screen time — may yield different feelings or judgments of subjective well-being, unlike relationships between physical health and sedentary behaviour, which tend to be more consistent.

As health psychologists focused on physical activity and sedentary behaviour, we reviewed the scientific literature describing relationships between measures of sedentary behaviours such as physical inactivity and screen time, and subjective well-being as reflected by affect, life satisfaction and overall subjective well-being.

Our review highlights three main findings. First, sedentary behaviour, physical inactivity and screen time demonstrated weak but statistically significant correlations with subjective well-being. In other words, those who reported sitting more often and spending longer periods with no physical activity reported lower positive affect, higher negative affect and lower life satisfaction than those who sat less and moved more.

We also found that this relationship was most apparent in studies that compared people who were very sedentary to those who had more active lifestyles.

Not all sitting is bad sitting

Our second main finding relates to the context of the sedentary behaviour. While many studies examined overall sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity, some studies looked at specific contexts or domains of sitting and its relationship with subjective well-being. These studies revealed that different domains of sedentary behaviour have unique relationships with subjective well-being.

For example, screen time was consistently and negatively associated with subjective well-being. However, domains like socializing, playing an instrument and reading actually demonstrated positive associations with subjective well-being. These results differ from the traditional health-related sedentary behaviour research, in which all sedentary behaviour is viewed as harmful to health.

Our review suggests that some types of sedentary behaviour may be beneficial to quality of life. Rather, not all sitting is the same in terms of subjective well-being. So when people work towards reducing their sitting time, they should consider not just how much to reduce, but what kind to reduce.

Less sitting is good for everyone

Our third main finding concerns overall sitting and self-perceived levels of sedentary behaviour. Most studies found a weak statistically significant association between higher overall sedentary time and lower subjective well-being. However, in studies where participants were asked to compare their sedentary behaviour to how much they normally sit, those who perceived themselves as more sedentary than usual reported significantly poorer subjective well-being.

These findings suggest that how much an individual sits overall may not be as important as how much an individual sits compared to their usual level of sitting. This infers that anyone, regardless of how much they normally sit or are physically active, may potentially benefit from sitting less.

COVID-19 continues to influence daily life and routines. Even as businesses and gyms eventually reopen, and we feel more comfortable gathering with others and eventually stop wearing masks, we will almost certainly continue to sit and sitting will continue to change how we feel. While we may not be able to eliminate all of our sitting, we can all be mindful of both how much we can reduce it and where we can reduce it from to be healthier and feel better.The Conversation

Wuyou Sui, Postdoctoral fellow, Behavioural Medicine Lab, School of Exercise Science, Physical & Health Education, University of Victoria and Harry Prapavessis, Professor, Kinesiology, Western University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

  • Images can affect how people perceive the quality of a product.
  • In a new study, researchers show using virtual reality that images of farms positively influence the subjects' experience of coffee.
  • The results provide insights on the psychology and power of marketing.

Are coffee consumers influenced by the imagery and story around the production of the drink? Such was one of the central questions of a new study that explored the power of marketing on how "premium" aficionados consider coffee to be.

The researchers set out to explore whether the origins of the coffee can affect the perception of its quality in the minds of the drinkers. In particular, they focused on the concept of terroir, the special characteristics conferred upon the coffee by the specific terrain in which it was grown.

"Terroir is more than a mere geographical link between product and land," write the authors. "It relates to the idea that products are a unique expression of different environmental and sociocultural characteristics of a specific place." Thus, focusing a customer's attention on the environment in which the coffee was grown might make the product seem more authentic and of better quality.

Therefore, the researchers examined the effect of images on the coffee-drinking experience in three experiments. The study was carried out by the food scientist Francisco Barbosa Escobar from Aarhus University in Denmark and marketing experts Olivia Petit from the Kedge Business School in Marseille, France, and Carlos Velasco from the BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, Norway. Incidentally, Norwegians are among the world's top coffee consumers, with an average Norwegian adult consuming around 4 cups of coffee a day, reports Statistics Norway.

The first experiment involved 770 non-expert participants from the UK. They were shown online images and descriptions of four different specialty coffees, traded by a Norwegian coffee company. The researchers found that coffees with pictures of farms were rated higher in premiumness by the subjects than coffees with pictures of cities.

For the second and third experiments, the study used virtual reality environments of Times Square in New York City and a farm in Kenya as well as a control setting of a white room. The second experiment engaged 143 non-expert participants recruited via a behavioral studies platform at the BI Norwegian Business School in Oslo, Norway. The participants were asked to smell a sample of quality ground coffee from Kenya while at the same time traversing a virtual reality atmosphere. The subjects were then asked to rate the coffee.


Image (A) shows the instruments used in Experiment 2: Oculus GO virtual reality (VR) headset and sample coffee bag. The other panels show the VR environments used in the study - (B) farm, (C) city, and (D) control.Credit: Escobar / Petit / Velasco, Frontiers in Psychology


Compared to the control (white room), subjects in the farm VR atmosphere rated the coffee as more acidic. Conversely, subjects rated coffee as sweeter when inside the control VR atmosphere compared to the city VR atmosphere. Furthermore, coffee was considered more premium when subjects were in the farm VR atmosphere compared to the control, but there was no difference in premiumness score between farm and city.

For the third experiment, the research team involved 34 people who were professionals in the coffee industry. They were asked to taste and score Kenyan coffee while being in the same city and farm VR environments used in the previous experiment. The results revealed a strong effect of atmosphere on how much the experts enjoyed their experience, with a much greater preference for the farm setting versus the control environment of a white room.

But the different VR atmospheres had little effect on how the experts rated the premiumness of the coffee. The researchers believe that "given their specialized knowledge, coffee professionals examined more objective attributes of the coffee and could discriminate intrinsic factors relevant for the assessment of the coffee from irrelevant extrinsic cues."

The researchers think their results can lead to developing more immersive marketing experiences in virtual reality, which could be groundbreaking in many industries. A premium experience can lead to customers paying premium prices.

  • Empathy is a useful tool that allows humans (and other species) to connect and form mutually beneficial bonds, but knowing how and when to be empathic is just as important as having empathy.
  • Filmmaker Danfung Dennis, Bill Nye, and actor Alan Alda discuss the science of empathy and the ways that the ability can be cultivated and practiced to affect meaningful change, both on a personal and community level.
  • But empathy is not a cure all. Paul Bloom explains the psychological differences between empathy and compassion, and how the former can "get in the way" of some of life's crucial relationships.

The 2021 film “Godzilla vs. Kong" pits the two most iconic movie monsters of all time against each other. And fans are now picking sides.


Even the most fantastical creatures have some basis in scientific reality, so the natural world is a good place to look to better understand movie monsters. I study functional morphology – how skeletal and tissue traits allow animals to move – and evolution in extinct animals. I am also a huge fan of monster movies. Ultimately, this is a fight between a giant reptile and a giant primate, and there are relative biological advantages and disadvantages that each would have. The research I do on morphology and biomechanics can tell us a lot about this battle and might help you decide – #TeamGodzilla or #TeamKong?

Larger than life

First it's important to acknowledge that both Kong and Godzilla are definitely far beyond the realms of biological possibility. This is due to sheer size and the laws of physics. Their hearts couldn't pump blood to their heads, they would have temperature regulation problems and it would take too long for nerve signals from the brain to reach distant parts of the body – to name just a few issues.

However, let's assume that somehow Godzilla and Kong are able to overcome these size limitations – perhaps because of their radiation exposure they have distinctive mutations and characteristics. Based on how they look on the big screen, let's explore the observable differences that might prove useful in a fight.

Kong: the best of ape and human

At first glance, Kong is a colossal primate - but he's not simply a giant gorilla.

Kong has a mix of both gorilla and humanlike physical traits. Cliff/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

One of the most striking things about Kong is his upright, bipedal stance – he mostly walks on two legs, unlike any other living nonhuman apes. This ability could suggest close evolutionary relationship to the only living upright ape, humans – or his upright stance could be the result of convergent evolution. Either way, like us, Kong has thick muscular legs geared toward walking and running, and large free arms with grasping hands, enabling him to use tools.

Humanity's bipedal, upright posture is unique in the animal kingdom and provides a slew of biomechanical abilities that Kong might share. For example, human torsos are highly flexible and particularly good at rotation. This feature – in addition to our loose shoulder girdle – makes humans the best throwers in the animal kingdom. Throwing is helpful in a fight, and Kong could probably throw with the best of them.

Kong is also, of course, massive. He absolutely dwarfs the largest known primate, an extinct orangutan relative called Gigantopithecus that was a bit bigger than modern gorillas.

Kong does have many gorillalike attributes as well, including long muscular arms, a short snout with large canine teeth, and a tall sagittal crest – a ridge of bone on his head that would be the anchor point for some exceptionally strong jaw muscles.

Strong, agile, comfortable on land and with the unparalleled ability to use tools and throw, Kong would be a brutal force in a fight.


Godzilla's upright posture is unique among lizards and dinosaurs. Figure depicts what he'd look like with a dinosaur posture. Kenneth Carpenter/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA


Godzilla: An aquatic lizard to be reckoned with

Godzilla appears to be a giant, semiaquatic reptile. Like Kong, Godzilla has the traits of a few different species.

Recent Godzilla movies show him decently mobile on land, but seemingly much more comfortable in the water despite his lack of overt aquatic features. Interestingly, Godzilla is depicted with gills on his neck – a trait that land vertebrates lost after they emerged from the sea about 370 million years ago. Given Godzilla's terrestrial features, it's likely that his species has land-dwelling reptile ancestors and reevolved a mostly aquatic lifestyle – kind of like sea turtles or sea snakes, which can actually absorb oxygen through their skin in water. Godzilla may have uniquely reevolved gills.

Godzilla's tail is what really separates him from Kong. It is massive, and anchored and moved by huge muscles attached to his legs, hips and lower back. Dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex stood horizontally and used their tails for balance and to help them walk and run. Godzilla, in contrast, stands vertically and keeps his tail low to the ground, probably for a different type of balance. This vertical posture is unique for a two-legged reptile and more resembles a standing kangaroo. Godzilla stands on two muscular, pillarlike legs similar to those of a sauropod dinosaur. These would provide stability and help support his gargantuan mass but would also bolster the strength of his tail.

In addition to his powerful tail, Godzilla carries three rows of sharp spikes going down his back, thick scaly skin, a relatively small head full of carnivorous teeth and free arms with grasping hands, all built onto a muscular body. Taken together, Godzilla is a terrifying and intimidating adversary.


Tim Simpson/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Kong is faster and could use tools, but Godzilla is stronger and has armored skin.


Ready, fight!

So now that we've looked a little closer at how Godzilla and Kong are built, let's imagine who might emerge victorious in battle.

Though Kong is a little bit smaller than Godzilla, both are more or less comparably massive in size and neither has a clear advantage here. So what about their fighting abilities?

Godzilla would likely favor his robust tail for both offense and defense – much like modern-day large lizards that use their strong tails as whips. Scale up that strength to Godzilla's size, and that tail becomes a lethal weapon – which he has used before.

However, Kong is more comfortable on land, faster and more agile, can use his strong legs to jump, and possesses much stronger arms than Godzilla – Kong probably packs a walloping punch. And as an ape, Kong would also likely use tools to some degree and might even capitalize on his throwing ability.

Both would have a gnarly bite, with Kong likely getting a slight advantage. However, Godzilla's bite is by no means weak, and all of his teeth are flesh-piercing, similar to crocodile and monitor lizard teeth.

On defense, Godzilla has the edge, with thick scaly skin and sharp spikes. He might even act like a porcupine, turning his back to a rapidly approaching threat. However, Kong's superior agility on land should be able to offer him some protection as well.

I will admit I am #TeamGodzilla, but it's very close. I may give a slight edge to Kong in broad terrestrial battle ability, but Godzilla's general mass, defense and tail would be hard to overpower. And lest we forget, the tipping point for Godzilla is that he has atomic breath! Until researchers find evidence of a dinosaur or animal with something like that, though, I will have to reserve my scientific judgment.

Regardless of who emerges victorious, this battle will be one for the ages, and I am excited as both a scientist and monster movie fan.

This article has been updated to use more inclusive languageThe Conversation.

Kiersten Formoso, PhD Student in Vertebrate Paleontology, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

  • The number of deepfake videos online has been increasing at an estimated annual rate of about 900%.
  • Technology advances have made it increasingly easy to produce them, which has raised questions about how best to prevent malicious misuse.
  • It's been suggested that the best way to inoculate people against the danger of deepfakes is through exposure and raising awareness.

      • When Donald Trump belatedly acknowledged defeat two months after last year's US presidential election, some news reports zeroed in on a fundamental question: whether his speech had actually happened at all.

        The dramatic proliferation of deepfakes – online imagery that can make anybody appear to do or say anything within the limits of one's imagination, cruelty, or cunning – has begun to undermine faith in our ability to discern reality.

        Recent advances in the technology have shocked even seasoned technology observers, and made anyone with a phone and access to an app like Avatarify capable of an adequate version.

        According to one startup's estimate, the number of deepfake videos online jumped from 14,678 in 2019 to 145,277 by June of the following year. Last month, the FBI warned that "malicious actors" will likely deploy deepfakes in the US for foreign influence operations and criminal activity in the near future. Around the world, there are concerns the technology will increasingly become a source of disinformation, division, fraud and extortion.

        When Myanmar's ruling junta recently posted a video of someone incriminating the country's detained civilian leader, it was widely dismissed as a deepfake. Last year, the Belgian prime minister's remarks linking COVID-19 to climate change turned out to be a deepfake, and Indian politician Manoj Tiwari's use of the technology for campaigning caused alarm. In Gabon, belief that a video of the country's ailing president was a deepfake triggered a national crisis in early 2019.

        Manipulating images to alter public perception for political reasons dates back at least as far as Stalin – who famously deleted purged comrades from official photos.

        However, some say a more pressing issue is the increased vulnerability of non-public figures to online assault. Indian journalist Rana Ayyub has detailed attempts to silence her using deepfake pornography, for example.

        Some argue the threat of the technology itself is overhyped – and that the real problem is that bad actors can now dismiss video evidence of wrongdoing by crying "deepfake" in the same way they might dismiss media reports that they dislike as "fake news."

        Still, according to one report, technically-sophisticated, "tailored" deepfakes present a significant threat; these may be held in reserve for a key moment, like an election, to maximize impact. As of 2020 the estimated cost for the technology necessary to churn out a "state-of-the-art" deepfake was less than $30,000, according to the report.

        The popularizing of the term "deepfakes" had a sordid origin in 2018. Calls to regulate or ban them have grown since then; related legislation has been proposed in the US, and in 2019 China made it a criminal offense to publish a deepfake without disclosure. Facebook said last year it would ban deepfakes that aren't parody or satire, and Twitter said it would ban deepfakes likely to cause harm.

        It's been suggested that the best way to inoculate people against the danger of deepfakes is through exposure. A variety of efforts have been made to help the public understand what's at stake.

        Last year, the creators of the popular American cartoon series "South Park" posted the viral video "Sassy Justice," which features deepfaked versions of Trump and Mark Zuckerberg. They explained in an interview that anxiety about deepfakes may have taken a back seat to pandemic-related fears, but the topic nonetheless merits demystifying.

        For more context, here are links to further reading from the World Economic Forum's Strategic Intelligence platform:

        • A growing awareness of deepfakes meant people were quickly able to spot bogus online profiles of "Amazon employees" bashing unions, according to this report – though a hyper-awareness of the technology could also lead people to stop believing in real media. (MIT Technology Review)
        • The systems designed to help us detect deepfakes can be deceived, according to a recently-published study – by inserting "adversarial examples" into every video frame and tripping up machine learning models. (Science Daily)
        • Authoritarian regimes can exploit cries of "deepfake." According to this opinion piece, claims of deepfakery and video manipulation are increasingly being used by the powerful to claim plausible deniability when incriminating footage surfaces. (Wired)
        • It's easy to blame deepfakes for the proliferation of misinformation, but according to this opinion piece the technology is no more effective than more traditional means of lying creatively – like simply slapping a made-up quote onto someone's image and sharing it. (NiemanLab)
        • A recently-published study found that one in three Singaporeans aware of deepfakes believe they've circulated deepfake content on social media, which they later learned was part of a hoax. (Science Daily)
        • "It really makes you feel powerless." Deepfake pornography is ruining women's lives, according to this report, though a legal solution may be forthcoming. (MIT Technology Review)
        • "A propaganda Pandora's box in the palm of every hand." Deepfake efforts remain relatively easily detected, according to this piece – but soon the same effects that once required hundreds of technicians and millions of dollars will be possible with a mobile phone. (Australian Strategic Policy Institute)

        On the Strategic Intelligence platform, you can find feeds of expert analysis related to Artificial Intelligence, Digital Identity and hundreds of additional topics. You'll need to register to view.

        Reprinted with permission of the World Economic Forum. Read the original article.