DefCon 23: Presentation notes

Here and behind the cut are the notes I took at DefCon 23. They are necessarily incomplete because they're notes, and I refer you to the speakers' presentations and eventually video recordings for the whole story.

Applied Intelligence: Using Information That's Not There - Michael Schrenk

  • Knowing your operations and resources
  • More effective and efficient
  • Competitive intelligence
  • What's happening outside of your business
  • Know your competitors and markets
  • Collect, analyze, and apply external data
  • There is a professional association of people who do competitive intelligence
  • Applied intelligence is actionable and changes what you do
  • Most is useless unless you develop it …
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Notes from the Transhuman Superpowers and Longevity Conference - 12 July 2015

And now, hopefully sooner than the last set, my notes taken during the Transhuman Superpowers and Longevity Conference held on 12 July 2015 in Oakland, CA. Everything's behind the cut, with references as applicable. Personal observations (are on separate lines in parenthesis) to differentiate them from the speaker's material. Vertical Farm Civilization - Karl Doerrer

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Advances in transplantable organ preservation, grinders get night vision, and using genehacking to treat lymphoma.

Organ transplants are a fairly hairy aspect of the medical practice and are a crapshoot even with the best medical care money can buy. Tissue matching viable organs seems about as difficult as brute-forcing RSA keys due to the fact that, at the proteomic level even the slightest mismatch between donor and recipient (and there will always be some degree of mismatch unless they are identical twins) will provoke an immune response that will eventually destroy the transplanted organ unless it's not kept under control. Additionally, unless the organ is perfectly cared for prior to installation the tissues will begin …

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Fabbing tools in orbit and with memory materials, and new structural configurations of DNA.

A couple of weeks ago before Windbringer's untimely hardware failure I did an article about NASA installing a 3D printer on board the International Space Station and running some test prints on it to see how well additive manufacturing, or stacking successive layers of feedstock atop one another to build up a more complex structure would work in a microgravity environment. The answer is "quite well," incidentally. Well enough, in fact, to solve the problem of not having the right tools on hand. Let me explain.

In low earth orbit if you don't have the right equipment - a hard drive …

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Controlling genes by thought, DNA sequencing in 90 minutes, and cellular memory.

A couple of years ago the field of optogenetics, or genetically engineering responsiveness to visible light to exert control over cells was born. In a nutshell, genes can be inserted into living cells that allow certain functions to be switched on or off (such as the production of a certain hormone or protein) in the presence or absence of a certain color of light. Mostly, this has only been done on an experimental basis to bacteria, to figure out what it might be good for. As it happens to turn out, optogenetics is potentially good for quite a lot of …

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Neuromorphic navigation systems, single droplet diagnosis, and a general purpose neuromorphic computing platform?

The field of artificial intelligence has taken many twists and turns on the journey toward its as-yet unrealized goal of building a human-equivalent machine intelligence. We're not there yet, but we've found lots of interesting things along the way. One of the things that has been discovered is that, if you understand it well enough (and there are degrees of approximation, to be sure) it's possible to use what you know to build logic circuits that work the same way - neuromorphic processing. The company AeroVironment recently test-flew a miniature drone which had as its spatial navigation system a prototype neuromorphic …

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Reversing progressive memory loss, transplantable 3D printed organs, and improvements in resuscitation.

Possibly the most frightening thing about Alzheimer's Disease is the progressive loss of self; many humans measure their lives by the continuity of their memories, and when that starts to fail, it calls into question all sorts of things about yourself... as long as you're able to think about them. I'm not being cruel, I'm not cracking wise, Alzheimer's is a terrifying disease because it eats everything that makes you, you. Thus, it is with no small feeling of hope that I link to these results at the Buck Institute for Research On Aging - in a small trial at UCLA …

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Inducing neuroplasticity and the neurological phenomenon of curiosity.

For many years it was believed by medical science that neuroplasticity, the phenomenon in which the human brain rapidly and readily creates neuronal interconnections tapered off as people got older. Children are renowned for learning anything and everything that catches their fancy (not always what we'd wish they'd learn) but the learning process seems to slow down the older they get. As adults, it's much harder to learn complex new skills from scratch. In recent years, a number of compounds have been developed that seem to kickstart neuroplasticity again, but they're mostly used for treating Alzheimer's Disease and not so …

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Genetically modified high school grads, stem cell treatment for diabetes, and deciphering memory engrams.

A couple of years ago I did an article on the disclosure that mitochondrial genetic modifications were carried out on thirty embryos in the year 2001 to treat mitochondrial diseases that would probably have been fatal later in life. I also wrote in the article that this does not constitute full scale genetic modification ala the movie Gattaca. It is true that mitochondria are essential to human life but they do not seem to influence any traits that we usually think about, such as increased intelligence or hair color, as they are primarily involved in metabolism. In other words, mitochontrial …

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Growing human retinas in vitro, patching damaged brains, and imaging an entire brain's activity.

In the journal Nature earlier this month a paper was published by one Dr. Valeria Canto-Soler who works in the field of regenerative medicine at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns-Hopkins University. Medical science has gotten pretty good at creating induced pluripotent stem cells, or stem cells which started out as other kinds of human body cells that were hacked to devolve back into pluripotent stem cells which can then be caused to differentiate into other, more specialized kinds of cells. Dr. Canto-Soler and her research team have taken this process to the next logical step: Causing those cultured stem …

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