Animals!

Evolution has created wild and weird animals. Get to know a few of them.

Pablo Escobar’s hippos: Why drug lords shouldn’t play God

Females run spotted hyena society for a fascinating reason

Sloths: Evolutionary losers or the true jungle king?

On the origin of beauty: Darwin's controversial idea about sex

Giving animals rights enriches our own lives

Is animal cruelty the new slavery? 

The extinct animal Bill Nye would bring back to life

Bill Nye: Zoos enrich our lives but cost animals their dignity 

More playlists
  • Samsung researchers improve AI modeling to quickly create realistic (but fake) videos.
  • The model uses "single-shot learning" to create videos from a single picture.
  • The application of the tech could be in telepresence, video conferencing and gaming.

An AI can now take a single picture of a person's face and animate it convincingly. This can lead to animating paintings and photos but also add to the mistrust of images and deepfakes online.

The new method from researchers at the Samsung AI Center in Moscow incorporates facial landmarks from a source face into the facial data from the target face to animate it. The target face will do anything done by the source face, which can be any talking head.

What is different here from previous technology that has been developed to achieve this is the fact that rather than needing a lot of data (like video) to analyze, this approach called "single-shot learning" needs just one image of a person's face. The video that is generated from that can show the face making a range of expressions and speaking with reasonable credibility.

Samsung.

The animation of the "Mona Lisa" using source videos.

The new tech front loads the process of facial landmark recognition with a large amount of data from a bank of talking head videos. It then trains the model to be very efficient in connecting parts of the target face with the source.

The new AI also uses the Generative Adversarial Network, having two models compete against each other in creating a more "real" result.

Here’s how adversarial learning works:

Where can you use this technology, other than contributing to the epidemic of fake news that is sure to eventually affect personal relationships as much as the national conversations? "Such ability has practical applications for telepresence, including videoconferencing and multi-player games, as well as [the] special effects industry," Samsung said.

You can read the paper from the Samsung AI Center here.

  • Neuroscience and engineering are uniting in mind-blowing ways that will drastically improve the quality of life for people with conditions like epilepsy, paralysis or schizophrenia.
  • Researchers have developed a brain-computer interface the size of a baby aspirin that can restore mobility to people with paralysis or amputated limbs. It rewires neural messages from the brain's motor cortex to a robotic arm, or reroutes it to the person's own muscles.
  • Deep brain stimulation is another wonder of neuroscience that can effectively manage brain conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson's, and may one day mitigate schizophrenia so people can live normal, independent lives.


  • The study involves four experiments that measured individuals' socioeconomic status, overconfidence and actual performance.
  • Results consistently showed that high-class people tend to overestimate their abilities.
  • However, this overconfidence was misinterpreted as genuine competence in one study, suggesting overestimating your abilities can have social advantages.

People who come from high social classes are more likely to overestimate their abilities. That's not exactly shocking. But a new study reveals something a bit less intuitive: This overconfidence is often misinterpreted by others as genuine competence, even when the high-class individual is demonstrably average.

It's a phenomenon that could be perpetuating social hierarchies, and researchers suggest it might stem from high-class individuals' desire to gain social status.

"It can provide them a path to social advantage by making them appear more competent in the eyes of others," wrote the authors of the study, published Monday in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study involved four experiments:

Study 1 – High class, high confidence

This large field study involved about 151,000 small-business owners in Mexico who were applying for a loan. In what appeared to them to be part of the loan process, each applicant was asked to rate how well they think they performed compared to others on a memory game, designed to predict whether applicants will default on a loan. Results showed that higher-class people outperformed other groups, but not by as much as they thought they did.

Study 2 – Overconfidence and the desire to gain social rank

This experiment had several aims, but its main goal was to test whether the overconfidence of higher-class people is linked to a desire to rise in social rank. After submitting demographic and socioeconomic information, online participants took a test they were told would measure their mental abilities. Higher-class people were, again, more overconfident than others. But more importantly, according to the researchers, it showed that, "participants with relatively high social class had a stronger desire for social rank, which, in turn, was associated with more overconfidence."

Study 3 – Overconfident (and average) in trivia games

In this trivia-game experiment, higher-class people again overestimated their abilities compared to the rest of the participants. Study 3 also replicated the prior findings showing that high-class people have a stronger desire to climb the social ladder, a trait that's associated with more overconfidence.

Study 4 – Overconfidence pays out

This mock-interview experiment was designed to see whether overconfidence led to social advantages. The student participants were each videotaped as they answered one interview question. Then, a group of strangers evaluated each candidate. In general, high-class participants who were overconfident in their abilities were rated more favorably than their peers by independent judges. The implication: Overconfidence seems to pay out in the social world.

'Fake it 'til you make it'

So, do these results suggest you should "fake it 'til you make it"? Not quite. The researchers wrote that "overconfidence is believed to be a significant underlying cause for many organizational and societal catastrophes, such as wars, strikes, litigation, entrepreneurial failures, and stock market bubbles."

What's more, different cultures and social classes may have varying attitudes toward overconfidence, as lead study author Peter Belmi told The New York Times:

"I grew up in the Philippines with the idea that if you have nothing to say, just shut up and listen."

  • Mother bonobos have been observed to help their sons find and copulate with mates.
  • The mothers accomplish this by leading sons to mates, interfering with other males trying to copulate with females, and helping sons rise in the social hierarchy of the group.
  • Why do mother bonobos do this? The "grandmother hypothesis" might hold part of the answer.

Like mother, like monkey.

Bonobo mothers, it turns out, can also be quite pushy in their quest to become grandmothers, according to a new study published in the journal Current Biology. The study describes how male bonobos are more likely to mate if their mothers are living in the group (so living near mom turns out to be a pretty good mating strategy for male bonobos).

The discovery originated among researchers observing bonobos in Africa. They noticed that older females in the group would involve themselves in relationships between male and female bonobos, particularly when it came to mating.

"I just wondered, 'What is it of their business?'" study author Martin Surbeck, Ph.D. told Inverse. "This all made more sense once we found out via genetic analysis that they were mothers of some of the adult males involved."

These would-be bonobo grandmothers push things along by leading their sons toward females in heat, protecting their sons from competing males during copulation, and they "form coalitions with their sons to help them acquire and maintain high dominance rank," the researchers wrote.

The same, however, is not true for chimpanzees. Researchers who observed chimps in Côte d'Ivoire, Tanzania and Uganda found that male chimpanzees whose mothers were present during mating attempts were actually less likely to succeed in having offspring. One possible reason: bonobos live in matriarchal societies while chimpanzees live in groups where all females are subordinate to all males.

"Such maternal behavior is more likely to be effective in bonobos, where the sexes are co-dominant and the highest ranks are consistently occupied by females, than in chimpanzees, where all adult males are dominant over all females," the researchers wrote. "We found that bonobo males with a mother living in the group at the time of the conception were about 3 times (odds ratio: 3.14) more likely to sire offspring than males that did not."

​The grandmother hypothesis

One explanation for why female primates experience menopause is called the "grandmother hypothesis". Instead of using precious energy to continually have children of their own, especially given long periods of gestation and child-rearing, aging females may be ahead to encourage their offspring to have children of their own. The researchers aren't exactly sure the grandmother hypothesis explains the pushy-mother behavior within bonobo societies, but it might be part of the story.

"The interesting twist is that in humans, [the hypothesis] was originally thought to happen through support of their daughters, while in bonobos it is through the sons," Surbeck told The Washington Post.

  • Abortion rights in the United States might be in for a bit of a reduction.
  • Many of the debates around abortion center around what rights, if any, a fetus should have.
  • If a fetus is a person, the question of if it would be a citizen seems quickly comes to mind.

With the recent spike in laws limiting abortion access in the United States recently, the debate over the future of abortion has been rekindled with a newfound seriousness. There is reason to believe that abortion rights may soon be reduced across the nation. Some of you will be elated to read that, others nauseated.

The question of what rights a fetus would be entitled to in a society where abortion is abolished is an important one, as it can have a significant impact on our debate. Today, we'll look at one part of that question. Specifically, if a fetus is deemed a person, would it also have citizenship?

Fetal Citizenship?

If a person is a person from the moment of conception onward, then why wouldn't they have citizenship rights granted to them right away? That seems like the intuitive line of thinking. Indeed, persons who have no citizenship, "stateless persons" as they are known, run into endless legal issues as a result of their status. Shouldn't this be prevented if a fetus is a person?

The question can quickly lead one down a rabbit hole of potentialities. Would a child conceived on American soil become an American? What if the parents were foreigners?

There is a surprising lack of information on this subject. Luckily, I was able to speak with Mr. Mike Gonidakis, the President of Ohio Right to Life, who was able to explain that I wasn't just looking in the wrong places.

He told me that the question of fetal citizenship "isn't on the radar" for any mainstream right to life organization and that over the past several years of working nothing of the kind had ever been so much as been proposed.

"Over the last 10 years we haven't introduced or seen any introduction of such a bill," he told me, in reference to legislation that would make the unborn citizens. I was left with no doubts as to the pragmatic motivation behind the lack of concern with the citizenship question by our conversation. As he explained, making it so the census counts the unborn would do little, in his eyes, to lower abortion rates by itself.

So, if a fetus is supposed to be a person but doesn’t have the same rights as other people, like citizenship, how does that work out?

As Mr. Gonidakis said, the concern of many pro-lifers is limited to protecting the unborn, not giving them the same rights as those who are born.

The idea that a fetus could be given rights without those rights being the same rights as are held by other people is not without precedent in the philosophy of rights. Several systems of human rights don't quite manage to give every human being the same rights despite their best efforts.

For example, James Griffin developed a system of human rights that is based around the human capacity for "normative agency," our ability to devise and act on a plan for our lives. He argues in his book that this means those with normative agency should have certain rights to liberty, autonomy, and welfare.

However, critics have pointed out that some humans don't have normative agency. Young children, those in vegetative states, the severely mentally disabled, and the senile, would be prime examples. In response, he bites the bullet and agrees that these individuals lack "human rights" but still have rights for other reasons. A child might lack the same rights as an adult, such as the ability to vote, but this isn't to say they don't have any rights.

One could easily view the lack of discussion around fetal citizenship the same way. The pro-life argument is one of granting the unborn certain rights, not all of the rights. In this case, a fetus would have, it seems, the "unalienable" right to life but little else. Another pair of sources I spoke with who wished to remain anonymous made similar arguments to this. One of them also pointed out that the 14th amendment, which covers citizenship, applies only to those who are born.

It is also worth saying that I was unable to find a single example of a country where abortion is or was illegal that granted citizenship to the unborn.

What would the pro-choice response to this be?

It depends on what pro-choice angle you take.

Just like the pro-life movement, the pro-choice side has many different stances that all agree on the single point that abortion should be legal in at least some cases. If you take the position that abortion should be permitted on the grounds of bodily autonomy, that is to say, that a woman has full rights to how her organs are used, then the citizenship question becomes irrelevant. No citizen has the rights to the use of another citizen's organs. That said, it could be argued that even if a fetus was a citizen that it would still have no right to use another person's body — no matter what other rights it might have.

This line of theoretical thought is academic though and should be taken with more than a grain of salt. Since nobody is seriously considering the issue, nobody has made an argument on why abortion should still be legal even if a fetus were a citizen.

Is fetal citizenship the next great debate in abortion policy? Are anchor embryos going to be a thing? Probably not, if the current trajectory of the pro-life movement is maintained. However, the discussion of what kind of rights, if any, a fetus is entitled too can inform our debate over the issue of abortion and perhaps help us to rise above the vitriol that often characterizes it.