When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last month, the seaside town of Port Talbot in Wales eagerly went along with the move. Brexit was approved by some 57 percent of the town's residents.

Now some of them are wondering if they made the wrong decision.

The June 23 Brexit vote has raised questions about the fate of the troubled Port Talbot Works, Britain's largest surviving steel plant — a huge, steam-belching facility that has long been the town's biggest employer.

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Cairo, completing the penultimate leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.

The trip over the Mediterranean included a breathtaking flyover of the Pyramids. Check it out:

President Obama is challenging Americans to have an honest and open-hearted conversation about race and law enforcement. But even as he sits down at the White House with police and civil rights activists, Obama is mindful of the limits of that approach.

"I've seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change," the president said Tuesday at a memorial service for five law officers killed last week in Dallas. "I've seen how inadequate my own words have been."

Mice watching Orson Welles movies may help scientists explain human consciousness.

At least that's one premise of the Allen Brain Observatory, which launched Wednesday and lets anyone with an Internet connection study a mouse brain as it responds to visual information.

The FBI says it is giving up on the D.B. Cooper investigation, 45 years after the mysterious hijacker parachuted into the night with $200,000 in a briefcase, becoming an instant folk figure.

"Following one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history," the FBI's Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement, "the FBI redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other investigative priorities."

This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.

Alabama authorities say a home burglary suspect has died after police used a stun gun on the man.  Birmingham police say he resisted officers who found him in a house wrapped in what looked like material from the air conditioner duct work.  The Lewisburg Road homeowner called police Tuesday about glass breaking and someone yelling and growling in his basement.  Police reportedly entered the dwelling and used a stun gun several times on a white suspect before handcuffing him.  Investigators say the man was "extremely irritated" throughout and didn't obey verbal commands.

It can be hard to distinguish among the men wearing grey suits and regulation haircuts on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. But David Margolis always brought a splash of color.

It wasn't his lovably disheveled wardrobe, or his Elvis ring, but something else: the force of his flamboyant personality. Margolis, a graduate of Harvard Law School, didn't want to fit in with the crowd. He wanted to stand out.

Montgomery Education Foundation's Brain Forest Summer Learning Academy was spotlighted Wednesday at Carver High School.  The academic-enrichment program is for rising 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in the Montgomery Public School system.  Community Program Director Dillion Nettles, says the program aims to prevent learning loss during summer months.  To find out how your child can participate in next summer's program visit Montgomery-ed.org

A police officer is free on bond after being arrested following a rash of road-sign thefts in southeast Alabama.  Brantley Police Chief Titus Averett says officer Jeremy Ray Walker of Glenwood is on paid leave following his arrest in Pike County.  The 30-year-old Walker is charged with receiving stolen property.  Lt. Troy Johnson of the Pike County Sheriff's Office says an investigation began after someone reported that Walker was selling road signs from Crenshaw County.  Investigators contacted the county engineer and learned signs had been reported stolen from several roads.

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Embracing Your Inner Robot: A Singular Vision Of The Future

Nov 14, 2012
Originally published on November 14, 2012 5:13 pm

Last week I went to a lecture by the inventor and futurist author Ray Kurzweil, who was visiting Dartmouth College for a couple of days. Kurzweil became famous for his music synthesizers and his text-to-speech software, which are of great help to those who can't read or are blind. Stevie Wonder was one of his first customers. His main take, that the exponential advance in information and computer technology will deeply transform society and the meaning of being human, resonates with many people and scares a bunch more.

Using his exponential curve for processing-power-per-dollar increase, Kurzweil estimates that by 2045 we will reach the "Singularity," a point of no return where people and machine will reach a deep level of integration. You can watch Kurzweil walk through his ideas at bigthink.com. Here's a sample posted to YouTube:

For those who can afford it — and that's a whole topic of discussion by itself: what will happen to those who can't? — life will be something very different. Lifespan will be enormously extended, death will become an affliction and not an inevitability. I guess only taxes will remain a certainty!

Are such scenarios sci-fi or the reality of the future?

Take synthetic biology, for example, the ability to reprogram the genes of existing creatures to make them do what we want them to do. We might have bacteria create electricity and clean water from waste, produce blood, vaccines, fuels or whatever we fancy. We could recreate specific bodily organs to replace those that are malfunctioning, using your own DNA; boost your immunity against effectively anything; enhance intelligence and memory.

Advances in the speed with which we read genomes have been so dramatic that we now talk about using DNA as a storage device. After all, DNA encodes information in very clear ways and we could manipulate it to encode any information we want. As George Church and Ed Regis write in their thought-provoking recent book Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature , in principle we could store the whole of Wikipedia (in all languages) on a chip the size of a cell, for a cost of $1 for 100,000 copies.

Human-machine integration, in fact, is already happening at many levels: most people feel lost without their cell phone, as if a part of their body or self is missing.

According to Kurzweil, by 2029 computers will be powerful enough to simulate the human brain. From his "Law of Accelerated Returns" he estimates that in 25 years we will have technologies billions of times more powerful than we have today. Just think that five years ago social media — today a transformative force in the world — was practically inexistent, or that the biggest computers in the 1970s were a million-times more expensive and a thousand-times less efficient than the chips we have in our smartphones, representing a billion-fold increase in computing efficiency per dollar.

Singularity, in the case of black hole physics (Kurzweil's inspiration for the term), represents a breakdown point, where the laws of physics as we currently understand them stop making sense. This doesn't mean that there is an a priori reason for us not to understand the physics near the singularity, but that we currently don't have the theoretical tools to do so.

In the case of artificial intelligence plus synthetic biology, the final alliance between humans and bio-informatics technology, it's much harder to predict what could happen.

Every new technology can be applied for good or for evil (or both). If, as Kurzweil, we take an optimistic view and see how humanity has benefited from technology as a harbinger of things to come (we live longer and better, and although we kill more efficiently, we kill less), the Singularity will bring a new stage in the history of evolution, prompted by one of its creations: us.

The body will be superfluous, since we are, in essence, coiled information, a blueprint, a sequence of instructions that can be duplicated at will. Will you then become a memory stick that can be inserted into a machine that can make copies of you? Or, perhaps, we will become a super-evolved character in a video game, an intelligent Sims person, convinced that the virtual reality surrounding us is real. After all, to simulate reality in ways identical to what we perceive is simply a matter of data gathering, advanced software, and processing power, all promises of this upcoming future.

If this is what's next, and odds are it is, we should start thinking of the consequences springing out of humanity's redefinition. For one thing, it'll be important to make sure copies of yourself are backed up in a safe location. You never know when an evil mind might decide to delete you from existence! That's right, in this new future we won't die anymore; we will be deleted.


You can keep up with more of what Marcelo is thinking on Facebook and Twitter: @mgleiser

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.