Tag Archives: Seoul National University (SNU)

Resurrection consent for digital cloning of the dead

It’s a bit disconcerting to think that one might be resurrected, in this case, digitally, but Dr Masaki Iwasaki has helpfully published a study on attitudes to digital cloning and resurrection consent, which could prove helpful when establishing one’s final wishes.

A January 4, 2024 De Gruyter (publisher) press release (repurposed from a January 4, 2024 blog posting on De Gruyter.com) explains the idea and the study,

In a 2014 episode of sci-fi series Black Mirror, a grieving young widow reconnects with her dead husband using an app that trawls his social media history to mimic his online language, humor and personality. It works. She finds solace in the early interactions – but soon wants more.   

Such a scenario is no longer fiction. In 2017, the company Eternime aimed to create an avatar of a dead person using their digital footprint, but this “Skype for the dead” didn’t catch on. The machine-learning and AI algorithms just weren’t ready for it. Neither were we.

Now, in 2024, amid exploding use of Chat GPT-like programs, similar efforts are on the way. But should digital resurrection be allowed at all? And are we prepared for the legal battles over what constitutes consent?

In a study published in the Asian Journal of Law and Economics, Dr Masaki Iwasaki of Harvard Law School and currently an assistant professor at Seoul National University, explores how the deceased’s consent (or otherwise) affects attitudes to digital resurrection.

US adults were presented with scenarios where a woman in her 20s dies in a car accident. A company offers to bring a digital version of her back, but her consent is, at first, ambiguous. What should her friends decide?

Two options – one where the deceased has consented to digital resurrection and another where she hasn’t – were read by participants at random. They then answered questions about the social acceptability of bringing her back on a five-point rating scale, considering other factors such as ethics and privacy concerns.

Results showed that expressed consent shifted acceptability two points higher compared to dissent. “Although I expected societal acceptability for digital resurrection to be higher when consent was expressed, the stark difference in acceptance rates – 58% for consent versus 3% for dissent – was surprising,” says Iwasaki. “This highlights the crucial role of the deceased’s wishes in shaping public opinion on digital resurrection.”

In fact, 59% of respondents disagreed with their own digital resurrection, and around 40% of respondents did not find any kind of digital resurrection socially acceptable, even with expressed consent. “While the will of the deceased is important in determining the societal acceptability of digital resurrection, other factors such as ethical concerns about life and death, along with general apprehension towards new technology are also significant,” says Iwasaki.  

The results reflect a discrepancy between existing law and public sentiment. People’s general feelings – that the dead’s wishes should be respected – are actually not protected in most countries. The digitally recreated John Lennon in the film Forrest Gump, or animated hologram of Amy Winehouse reveal the ‘rights’ of the dead are easily overridden by those in the land of the living.

So, is your digital destiny something to consider when writing your will? It probably should be but in the current absence of clear legal regulations on the subject, the effectiveness of documenting your wishes in such a way is uncertain. For a start, how such directives are respected varies by legal jurisdiction. “But for those with strong preferences documenting their wishes could be meaningful,” says Iwasaki. “At a minimum, it serves as a clear communication of one’s will to family and associates, and may be considered when legal foundations are better established in the future.”

It’s certainly a conversation worth having now. Many generative AI chatbot services, such as like Replika (“The AI companion who cares”) and Project December (“Simulate the dead”) already enable conversations with chatbots replicating real people’s personalities. The service ‘You, Only Virtual’ (YOV) allows users to upload someone’s text messages, emails and voice conversations to create a ‘versona’ chatbot. And, in 2020, Microsoft obtained a patent to create chatbots from text, voice and image data for living people as well as for historical figures and fictional characters, with the option of rendering in 2D or 3D.

Iwasaki says he’ll investigate this and the digital resurrection of celebrities in future research. “It’s necessary first to discuss what rights should be protected, to what extent, then create rules accordingly,” he explains. “My research, building upon prior discussions in the field, argues that the opt-in rule requiring the deceased’s consent for digital resurrection might be one way to protect their rights.”

There is a link to the study in the press release above but this includes a citation, of sorts,

Digital Cloning of the Dead: Exploring the Optimal Default Rule by Masaki Iwasaki. Asian Journal of Law and Economics DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ajle-2023-0125 Published Online: 2023-12-27

This paper is open access.

International conference “Living Machines” dedicated to technology inspired by nature in Genoa, Italy (July 10 – 13, 2023)

I love the look and the theme for this “Living Machines” conference, which seems to be water,

A June 28, 2023 Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) press release (also on EurekAlert) provides more detail about the conference,

Now in its twelfth year, the international conference “Living Machines”, organised by Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology, IIT), returns to Italy and comes to Genoa for the first time, from 10 to 13 July. Around one hundred experts from all over the world are expected, and they will present their achievements in the field of bio-inspired science and technology. The conference will take place in an exceptional venue, the Acquario di Genova (Genoa Aquarium), which, having reached its 30th birthday, is the ideal location at which to bring together various subject areas, from biology to artificial intelligence and robotics, with a focus on sustainability and environmental protection.

The scientific organiser of the event is Barbara Mazzolai, Associate Director for Robotics and head of the Bioinspired Soft Robotics Lab at IIT, along with Fabian Meder, researcher in the Bioinspired Soft Robotics Lab group and co-chair of the conference programme.

The conference will include two events open to the public: an exhibition area, which will be accessible from 11 to 13 July in the afternoon (from 2 to 4.30 pm); and a scientific café, which will take place on the 12 July at 5 pm. The conference will be an opportunity for international guests to appreciate the region’s beauty and talents, and it will also include the participation of students from the Niccolò Paganini Conservatory of Music. In addition, a satellite event of the conference will be the ISPA – Italian Sustainability Photo Award – exhibition, which will open at Palazzo Ducale on 10 July at 6 p.m.

The “Living Machines” conference is the landmark event for the international scientific community which bases its research on living organisms, such as human beings and other animal species – terrestrial, marine, and airborne – in addition to plants, fungi, and bacteria, in order to create so-called “living machines”, in other words, forms of technology capable of replicating their structure and mechanisms of operation.

“The conference is rooted in the union between robotics and neuroscience, using man and other animal species as a model for the study of intelligence and control systems,” said Barbara Mazzolai, Associate Director for Robotics at IIT. “This year the conference will focus on the role of biomimicry in the creation of robots that are more sustainable, with applications for the challenges of environmental protection and human health. Discussions will revolve around the development of robots with a lower energy impact, made using recyclable and biodegradable materials, and that can be used in emergency situations or extreme environments, such as deep sea, soil, space, or environmental disasters, but also for precision agriculture, environmental surveillance, infrastructure monitoring, human care and medical-surgical assistance.

In the conference programme, experts will take part in a first day of parallel workshop and tutorial sessions (on 10 July), during which the topics of bioinspiration and biohybrid technology in the fields of medicine and the marine environment will be addressed. This first day will be followed by three days of plenary sessions, featuring talks by internationally-renowned scientists. More specifically: Oussama Khatib, one of the pioneers of robotics and director of the Robotics Laboratory at Stanford University; Marco Dorigo, professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and one of the pioneers of collective intelligence; Peter Fratzl, director of the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, working on research into osteoporosis and tissue regeneration; Eleni Stavrinidou, coordinator of the “Electronic Plants” group at Linköping University and an expert in bioelectronic and biohybrid systems; Olga Speck, Principal Researcher at the University of Freiburg, specialising in biomimetic materials and the regenerative capabilities of plants; and Kyu-Jin Cho, director of the Research Centre for Soft Robotics and the Biorobotics Laboratory at Seoul National University, one of the world’s leading experts on soft robotics.

For conference participants only, the programme includes: a visit to the Acquario, guided by the facility’s scientific staff, who will illustrate the work and practices needed for the protection and conservation of marine species and the undergoing research projects; an exhibition area for prototypes and products by research groups and companies operating in this field; and a dinner at Villa Lo Zerbino, with a musical contribution by students from the Niccolò Paganini Conservatory.

Open to the general public, on 12 July from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. there will be a round table entitled “Living Machines: The Origin and the Future” chaired by science journalist Nicola Nosengo, Chief Editor of Nature Italy. Speakers will include Cecilia Laschi from the National University of Singapore, Vickie Webster-Wood from Carnegie Mellon University, Thomas Speck from the University of Freiburg and Paul Verschure from Radboud University Nijmegen.

A satellite initiative of the conference will be the exhibition for ISPA, the Italian Sustainability Photo Award, which will open at Palazzo Ducale on 10 July at 6.00 p.m. ISPA is the photographic award created by the Parallelozero agency in cooperation with the main sponsor PIMCO, to raise public awareness of environmental, social, and governance sustainability issues, encapsulated in the acronym ESG. The works of the winning photographers and finalists in the last three editions will be on display in Genoa: a selection of images that depict the emblematic stories of Italy, a nation moving towards a more sustainable future, a visual narrative that makes it easier to understand the country’s progress in research and innovation.

The organisations supporting the event include, in addition to the principal organiser Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (Italian Institute of Technology), the international Convergent Science Network [emphasis mine], the Office of Naval Research, Radboud University Nijmegen, and the Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems Cluster of Excellence in Freiburg.

Event website: https://livingmachinesconference.eu/2023/

I was particularly struck by this quote, “The conference is rooted in the union between robotics and neuroscience [emphasis mine], using man and other animal species as a model for the study of intelligence and control systems,” from Barbara Mazzolai as I have an as yet unpublished post for a UNESCO neurotechnology event coming up on July 13, 2023. These events come on the heels of a May 16, 2023 Canadian Science Policy Centre panel discussion on responsible neurotechnology (see my May 12, 2023 posting).

For the curious, you can find the Convergent Science Network here.

Courtesy of graphene: world’s thinnest light bulb

Columbia University’s (US) School of Engineering and Applied Science is trumpeting an achievement with graphene, i.e., the world’s thinnest light bulb. From a June 15, 2015 Columbia Engineering news release (also on EurekAlert),

Led by Young Duck Kim, a postdoctoral research scientist in James Hone’s group at Columbia Engineering, a team of scientists from Columbia, Seoul National University (SNU), and Korea Research Institute of Standards and Science (KRISS) reported today that they have demonstrated — for the first time — an on-chip visible light source using graphene, an atomically thin and perfectly crystalline form of carbon, as a filament. They attached small strips of graphene to metal electrodes, suspended the strips above the substrate, and passed a current through the filaments to cause them to heat up.

“We’ve created what is essentially the world’s thinnest light bulb,” says Hone, Wang Fon-Jen Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia Engineering and coauthor of the study. “This new type of ‘broadband’ light emitter can be integrated into chips and will pave the way towards the realization of atomically thin, flexible, and transparent displays, and graphene-based on-chip optical communications.”

The news release goes on to describe some of the issues associated with generating light on a chip and how the researchers approached the problems (quick answer: they used graphene as the filament),

Creating light in small structures on the surface of a chip is crucial for developing fully integrated “photonic” circuits that do with light what is now done with electric currents in semiconductor integrated circuits. Researchers have developed many approaches to do this, but have not yet been able to put the oldest and simplest artificial light source—the incandescent light bulb—onto a chip. This is primarily because light bulb filaments must be extremely hot—thousands of degrees Celsius—in order to glow in the visible range and micro-scale metal wires cannot withstand such temperatures. In addition, heat transfer from the hot filament to its surroundings is extremely efficient at the microscale, making such structures impractical and leading to damage of the surrounding chip.

By measuring the spectrum of the light emitted from the graphene, the team was able to show that the graphene was reaching temperatures of above 2500 degrees Celsius, hot enough to glow brightly. “The visible light from atomically thin graphene is so intense that it is visible even to the naked eye, without any additional magnification,” explains Kim, first and co-lead author on the paper.

Interestingly, the spectrum of the emitted light showed peaks at specific wavelengths, which the team discovered was due to interference between the light emitted directly from the graphene and light reflecting off the silicon substrate and passing back through the graphene. Kim notes, “This is only possible because graphene is transparent, unlike any conventional filament, and allows us to tune the emission spectrum by changing the distance to the substrate.”

The ability of graphene to achieve such high temperatures without melting the substrate or the metal electrodes is due to another interesting property: as it heats up, graphene becomes a much poorer conductor of heat. This means that the high temperatures stay confined to a small “hot spot” in the center.

“At the highest temperatures, the electron temperature is much higher than that of acoustic vibrational modes of the graphene lattice, so that less energy is needed to attain temperatures needed for visible light emission,” Myung-Ho Bae, a senior researcher at KRISS and co-lead author, observes. “These unique thermal properties allow us to heat the suspended graphene up to half of the temperature of the sun, and improve efficiency 1000 times, as compared to graphene on a solid substrate.”

The team also demonstrated the scalability of their technique by realizing large-scale of arrays of chemical-vapor-deposited (CVD) graphene light emitters.

Yun Daniel Park, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Seoul National University and co-lead author, notes that they are working with the same material that Thomas Edison used when he invented the incandescent light bulb: “Edison originally used carbon as a filament for his light bulb and here we are going back to the same element, but using it in its pure form—graphene—and at its ultimate size limit—one atom thick.”

The group is currently working to further characterize the performance of these devices—for example, how fast they can be turned on and off to create “bits” for optical communications—and to develop techniques for integrating them into flexible substrates.

Hone adds, “We are just starting to dream about other uses for these structures—for example, as micro-hotplates that can be heated to thousands of degrees in a fraction of a second to study high-temperature chemical reactions or catalysis.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Bright visible light emission from graphene by Young Duck Kim, Hakseong Kim, Yujin Cho, Ji Hoon Ryoo, Cheol-Hwan Park, Pilkwang Kim, Yong Seung Kim, Sunwoo Lee, Yilei Li, Seung-Nam Park, Yong Shim Yoo, Duhee Yoon, Vincent E. Dorgan, Eric Pop, Tony F. Heinz, James Hone, Seung-Hyun Chun, Hyeonsik Cheong, Sang Wook Lee,    Myung-Ho Bae, & Yun Daniel Park. Nature Nanotechnology (2015) doi:10.1038/nnano.2015.118 Published online 15 June 2015

This paper is behind a paywall.

Two final notes: there was an announcement earlier this year (mentioned in my March 30, 2015 post) that a graphene light bulb would be in stores this year. Dexter Johnson notes in his June 15, 2015 post (Nanoclast blog on the IEEE [International Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] website) that the earlier light bulb has a graphene coating. You may want to check out Dexter’s posting about the latest light bulb achievement as he also includes an embedded video illustrating how Columbia Engineering’s graphene filament works.

Hyper stretchable nanogenerator

There’s a lot of talk about flexibility, stretchability and bendability in electronics and the latest is coming from Korea. An April 13, 2015 Korea Advanced Institute for Science and Technology (KAIST) news release on EurekAlert describes the situation and the Korean scientists’ most recent research into stretchable electronics,

A research team led by Professor Keon Jae Lee of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed a hyper-stretchable elastic-composite energy harvesting device called a nanogenerator.

Flexible electronics have come into the market and are enabling new technologies like flexible displays in mobile phone, wearable electronics, and the Internet of Things (IoTs). However, is the degree of flexibility enough for most applications? For many flexible devices, elasticity is a very important issue. For example, wearable/biomedical devices and electronic skins (e-skins) should stretch to conform to arbitrarily curved surfaces and moving body parts such as joints, diaphragms, and tendons. They must be able to withstand the repeated and prolonged mechanical stresses of stretching. In particular, the development of elastic energy devices is regarded as critical to establish power supplies in stretchable applications. Although several researchers have explored diverse stretchable electronics, due to the absence of the appropriate device structures and correspondingly electrodes, researchers have not developed ultra-stretchable and fully-reversible energy conversion devices properly.

Recently, researchers from KAIST and Seoul National University (SNU) have collaborated and demonstrated a facile methodology to obtain a high-performance and hyper-stretchable elastic-composite generator (SEG) using very long silver nanowire-based stretchable electrodes. Their stretchable piezoelectric generator can harvest mechanical energy to produce high power output (~4 V) with large elasticity (~250%) and excellent durability (over 104 cycles). These noteworthy results were achieved by the non-destructive stress- relaxation ability of the unique electrodes as well as the good piezoelectricity of the device components. The new SEG can be applied to a wide-variety of wearable energy-harvesters to transduce biomechanical-stretching energy from the body (or machines) to electrical energy.

Professor Lee said, “This exciting approach introduces an ultra-stretchable piezoelectric generator. It can open avenues for power supplies in universal wearable and biomedical applications as well as self-powered ultra-stretchable electronics.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

A Hyper-Stretchable Elastic-Composite Energy Harvester by Chang Kyu Jeong, Jinhwan Lee, Seungyong Han, Jungho Ryu, Geon-Tae Hwang, Dae Yong Park, Jung Hwan Park, Seung Seob Lee, Mynghwan Byun, Seung Hwan Ko, and Keon Jae Lee. Advanced Materials DOI: 10.1002/adma.201500367 30 March 2015Full

This paper is behind a paywall.

The researchers have prepared a short video (22 secs. and silent),