Thursday, March 8, 2018

Friday Thinking 9 March 2018

Hello all – Friday Thinking is a humble curation of my foraging in the digital environment. My purpose is to pick interesting pieces, based on my own curiosity (and the curiosity of the many interesting people I follow), about developments in some key domains (work, organization, social-economy, intelligence, domestication of DNA, energy, etc.)  that suggest we are in the midst of a change in the conditions of change - a phase-transition. That tomorrow will be radically unlike yesterday.

Many thanks to those who enjoy this.
In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.
Jobs are dying - work is just beginning.

“Be careful what you ‘insta-google-tweet-face’”
Woody Harrelson - Triple 9




So brainwashed are we by the false money meme of “money as wealth” that whenever anyone proposes needed infrastructure maintenance, better schools and healthcare or any public goods, we are intimidated by some defunct economist who says “Where’s the money coming from?” They ought to know better, since, of course money is not scarce, it’s just information as I pointed out in 2001 at the annual meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank in an invited talk “Information, The World’s Real Currency, Is Not Scarce “

Money Is Not Wealth: Cryptos v. Fiats!

This does not look like totalitarianism unless you squint very hard indeed. As the sociologist Kieran Healy has suggested, sweeping political critiques of new technology often bear a strong family resemblance to the arguments of Silicon Valley boosters. Both assume that the technology works as advertised, which is not necessarily true at all.

Standard utopias and standard dystopias are each perfect after their own particular fashion. We live somewhere queasier—a world in which technology is developing in ways that make it increasingly hard to distinguish human beings from artificial things. The world that the Internet and social media have created is less a system than an ecology, a proliferation of unexpected niches, and entities created and adapted to exploit them in deceptive ways. Vast commercial architectures are being colonized by quasi-autonomous parasites. Scammers have built algorithms to write fake books from scratch to sell on Amazon, compiling and modifying text from other books and online sources such as Wikipedia, to fool buyers or to take advantage of loopholes in Amazon’s compensation structure. Much of the world’s financial system is made out of bots—automated systems designed to continually probe markets for fleeting arbitrage opportunities. Less sophisticated programs plague online commerce systems such as eBay and Amazon, occasionally with extraordinary consequences, as when two warring bots bid the price of a biology book up to $23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping).

In other words, we live in Philip K. Dick’s future, not George Orwell’s or Aldous Huxley’s. Dick was no better a prophet of technology than any science fiction writer, and was arguably worse than most. His imagined worlds jam together odd bits of fifties’ and sixties’ California with rocket ships, drugs, and social speculation. Dick usually wrote in a hurry and for money, and sometimes under the influence of drugs or a recent and urgent personal religious revelation.

Still, what he captured with genius was the ontological unease of a world in which the human and the abhuman, the real and the fake, blur together.

In his novels Dick was interested in seeing how people react when their reality starts to break down. A world in which the real commingles with the fake, so that no one can tell where the one ends and the other begins, is ripe for paranoia. The most toxic consequence of social media manipulation, whether by the Russian government or others, may have nothing to do with its success as propaganda. Instead, it is that it sows an existential distrust.

Philip K. Dick and the Fake Humans

I went to bed believing that I was more or less in control — that the unfinished business, unrealized dreams and other disappointments in my life were essentially failures of industry and imagination, and could probably be redeemed with a fierce enough effort. I woke up to the realization of how ludicrous that was.

Am I Going Blind?

“The hard part of standing on an exponential curve is: when you look backwards, it looks flat, and when you look forward, it looks vertical,” he told me. “And it’s very hard to calibrate how much you are moving because it always looks the same.”


Art and craftsmanship may suggest a way of life that waned with the birth of industrial society, but this is misleading. The future of work may resemble the history of work, and this is because of our newest, most advanced technologies.

The corporate system is transforming into a maze of fragmented tasks and short-term gigs. Although the modern era is often described as a skills economy, most companies have a short-term focus, which means for a worker that when her experience accumulates, it often loses institutional value.

Computer-based digital manufacturing does not work this way. It does not use moulds or casts. Without these, there is no need to repeat the same form. Every piece can be unique, a work of art. As Mario Carpo puts it: “Repetition no longer saves money and variations no longer cost more money.” This means that the marginal cost of production is always the same.

The biggest challenge for a worker in this new environment is to think like an artist, at the same time making good use of new technology. The artist becomes the symbol of humanness building on the increasing financial value of personalization and variation. It is not a zero sum game between faulty men and flawless machines. The machines propose and create potentials rather than take over.

The modern machine changes the way we understand skills and learning. A skill has always been, and will always be, trained practice.

learning needs to change: it is not first going through education and then finding corresponding work, but working first and then finding supporting, corresponding learning.

Work is becoming more situational and context-specific. Motivation and a sense of meaningfulness are going to be much more important than talent.

Esko Kilpi - Work of Art

As John Dewey said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.”

This is a 1.5 hour interview with Yuval Harari - well worth the view. His answers are well thought out and are both hopeful disturbing.

Yuval Noah Harari on the Rise of Homo Deus

“Studying history aims to loosen the grip of the past… It will not tell us what to choose, but at least it gives us more options.” – Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah Harari is the star historian who shot to fame with his international bestseller 'Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind'. In that book Harari explained how human values have been continually shifting since our earliest beginnings: once we placed gods at the centre of the universe; then came the Enlightenment, and from then on human feelings have been the authority from which we derive meaning and values. Now, using his trademark blend of science, history, philosophy and every discipline in between, Harari argues in his new book 'Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow', our values may be about to shift again – away from humans, as we transfer our faith to the almighty power of data and the algorithm.

In conversation with Kamal Ahmed, the BBC’s economics editor, Harari  examined the political and economic revolutions that look set to transform society, as technology continues its exponential advance. What will happen when artificial intelligence takes over most of the jobs that people do? Will our liberal values of equality and universal human rights survive the creation of a massive new class of individuals who are economically useless? And when Google and Facebook know our political preferences better than we do ourselves, will democratic elections become redundant?

As the 21st century progresses, not only our society and economy but our bodies and minds could be revolutionised by new technologies such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology and brain-computer interfaces. After a few countries master the enhancement of bodies and brains, will they conquer the planet while the rest of humankind is driven to extinction?

For all of us who believe in science - this is an very important signal for our future.

After Two Decades, Scientists Find GMOs in Corn Are Good for You.

There is a great deal of misinformation out there regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs). From monikers like “Frankenfoods” to general skepticism, there has been a variety of biased reactions to these organisms, even though we as a species have been genetically modifying our foods in one way or another for approximately 10,000 years. Perhaps some of this distrust will be put to rest with the emergence of a new meta-analysis that shows GM corn increases crop yields and provides significant health benefits.

The analysis, which was not limited to studies conducted in the U.S. and Canada, showed that GMO corn varieties have increased crop yields worldwide 5.6 to 24.5 percent when compared to non-GMO varieties. They also found that GM corn crops had significantly fewer (up to 36.5 percent less, depending on the species) mycotoxins — toxic chemical byproducts of crop colonization.

For this study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, a group of Italian researchers took over 6,000 peer-reviewed studies from the past 21 years and performed what is known as a “meta-analysis,” a cumulative analysis that draws from hundreds or thousands of credible studies. This type of study allows researchers to draw conclusions that are more expansive and more robust than what could be taken from a single study.

It seems that CRISPR is not alone - as an agent of horizontal gene transfer or genetic adaptations.
“Progress is being made at a pretty stunning rate,” said biochemist David Liu, of Harvard University, who has developed several versions of CRISPR. A parade of new discoveries, he said, “suggests that it’s possible to use these genome-editing tools and not make unintended edits.”

CRISPR ‘gone wild’ has made stocks swoon, but studies show how to limit off-target editing

The fear that CRISPR-based genome repair for preventing or treating genetic diseases will be derailed by “editing gone wild” has begun to abate, scientists who are developing the technique say. Although there are still concerns that CRISPR might run amok inside patients and cause dangerous DNA changes, recent advances suggest that the risk is not as high as earlier research suggested and that clever molecular engineering can minimize it.

.. It seems that nature is full of CRISPR enzymes that are more accurate than the original Cas9, which comes from Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. Sontheimer tested a Cas9 from the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. In a head-to-head comparison in human embryonic kidney cells (a lab stalwart) growing in dishes, classic Cas9 hit the wrong target hundreds of times, while the NME version “exhibits a nearly complete absence of unintended targeting in human cells,” Sontheimer and his team wrote in a paper submitted to a journal. (It and the Sanger paper were posted on the bioRxiv website and have not yet been peer-reviewed.)

There is no question that if scientists aren’t careful, CRISPR can induce substantial off-target mutations. In another study Joung’s lab submitted to a journal, they show that when “promiscuous” forms of CRISPR were slipped into mice’s livers, as some genome-editing companies hope to do for some human metabolic diseases, it edited hundreds of spots in the mouse genome that it wasn’t supposed to.

Regulators will have to decide how much off-target CRISPR’ing is acceptable. Since people’s genomes experience constant natural mutations, due to cosmic rays and other forces, the level of acceptable off-target editing “should not be zero percent,” said Liu, “but editing that’s a tiny fraction of these natural changes” (and not in, say, tumor-suppressor genes).

While not classifying as creating a genetically modified organism - it is another advance in the domestication of DNA.
“For more than three decades, spinal cord injury research has slowly moved toward the elusive goal of abundant, long-distance regeneration of injured axons, which is fundamental to any real restoration of physical function,” said Mark Tuszynski, MD, PhD, professor of neuroscience and director of the UC San Diego Translational Neuroscience Institute.

Researchers Use Human Neural Stem Cell Grafts to Repair Spinal Cord Injuries in Monkeys

Findings represent major and essential step toward future human clinical trials
Led by researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, a diverse team of neuroscientists and surgeons successfully grafted human neural progenitor cells into rhesus monkeys with spinal cord injuries. The grafts not only survived, but grew hundreds of thousands of human axons and synapses, resulting in improved forelimb function in the monkeys.

The findings, published online in the February 26 issue of Nature Medicine, represent a significant step in translating similar, earlier work in rodents closer to human clinical trials and a potential remedy for paralyzing spinal cord injuries in people.

“While there was real progress in research using small animal models, there were also enormous uncertainties that we felt could only be addressed by progressing to models more like humans before we conduct trials with people,” Tuszynski said.

Understanding our personal and species microbial ecology will enable us to become healthier both in curbing the effects of adversarial microbes and enhancing the effects of beneficial microbes.
Gallo and colleagues found that the compound had an effect both when injected and when applied topically. Among mice injected with skin cancer cells, some received a shot of 6-HAP while others got a dummy shot. Tumors grew in all the mice, but the tumors in mice given the compound were about half the size of those in mice without the compound.

Human skin bacteria have cancer-fighting powers

The microbes make a compound that disrupts DNA formation in tumor cells
Certain skin-dwelling microbes may be anticancer superheroes, reining in uncontrolled cell growth. This surprise discovery could one day lead to drugs that treat or maybe even prevent skin cancer.

The bacteria’s secret weapon is a chemical compound that stops DNA formation in its tracks. Mice slathered with one strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis that makes the compound developed fewer tumors after exposure to damaging ultraviolet radiation compared with those treated with a strain lacking the compound, researchers report online February 28 in Science Advances.

The findings highlight “the potential of the microbiome to influence human disease,” says Lindsay Kalan, a biochemist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Talking about modifications of DNA - this is definitely a weak signal of technology that’s far from consumer ready - but the trajectory is clear - once a number of other technologies advance enough - the biocomputer (even as implantable enhancements) is emerging.

Inching closer to a DNA-based file system

Microsoft and UW add the concept of random access to files stored in DNA.
When it comes to data storage, efforts to get faster access grab most of the attention. But long-term archiving of data is equally important, and it generally requires a completely different set of properties. To get a sense of why getting this right is important, just take the recently revived NASA satellite as an example—extracting anything from the satellite's data will rely on the fact that a separate NASA mission had an antiquated tape drive that could read the satellite's communication software.

One of the more unexpected technologies to receive some attention as an archival storage medium is DNA. While it is incredibly slow to store and retrieve data from DNA, we know that information can be pulled out of DNA that's tens of thousands of years old. And there have been some impressive demonstrations of the approach, like an operating system being stored in DNA at a density of 215 Petabytes a gram.

But that method treated DNA as a glob of unorganized bits—you had to sequence all of it in order to get at any of the data. Now, a team of researchers has figured out how to add something like a filesystem to DNA storage, allowing random access to specific data within a large collection of DNA. While doing this, the team also tested a recently developed method for sequencing DNA that can be done using a compact USB device.

This is a very good signal of the emerging paradigm in medical and health sciences - not just the technology but the availability of ever more massive amounts of data.
“Where I see this going is that at a young age you’ll basically get a report card,” says Khera. “And it will say for these 10 diseases, here’s your score. You are in the 90th percentile for heart disease, 50th for breast cancer, and the lowest 10 percent for diabetes.”

Forecasts of genetic fate just got a lot more accurate

DNA-based scores are getting better at predicting intelligence, risks for common diseases, and more.
Such comprehensive report cards aren’t being given out yet, but the science to create them is here. Delving into giant databases like the UK Biobank, which collects the DNA and holds the medical records of some 500,000 Britons, geneticists are peering into the lives of more people and extracting correlations between their genomes and their diseases, personalities, even habits. The latest gene hunt, for the causes of insomnia, involved a record 1,310,010 people.

The sheer quantity of material is what allows scientists like Khera to see how complex patterns of genetic variants are tied to many diseases and traits. Such patterns were hidden in earlier, more limited studies, but now the search for ever smaller signals in ever bigger data is paying off. Give Khera the simplest readout of your genome—the kind created with a $100 DNA-reading chip the size of a theater ticket—and he can add up your vulnerabilities and strengths just as one would a tally in a ledger.

Such predictions, at first hit-or-miss, are becoming more accurate. One test described last year can guess a person’s height to within four centimeters, on the basis of 20,000 distinct DNA letters in a genome. As the prediction technology improves, a flood of tests is expected to reach the market. Doctors in California are testing an iPhone app that, if you upload your genetic data, foretells your risk of coronary artery disease. A commercial test launched in September, by Myriad Genetics, estimates the breast cancer chances of any woman of European background, not only the few who have inherited broken versions of the BRCA gene. Sharon Briggs, a senior scientist at Helix, which operates an online store for DNA tests, says most of these products will use risk scores within three years.
“It’s not that the scores are new,” says Briggs. “It’s that they’re getting much better. There’s more data.”

There’s is a lot of work that involves repetitive analysis - Here’s an example of highly trained humans that are still in the ballpark when it comes to results - but hopelessly in the dust when measured against time.

The Verdict Is In: AI Outperforms Human Lawyers in Reviewing Legal Documents

A new study released this week from LawGeex, a leading AI contract review platform, has revealed a new area in which AI outperforms us: Law. Specifically, reviewing Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and accurately spotting risks within the legal documentation.

For the study, 20 human attorneys were pitted against LawGeex’s AI in reviewing 5 NDAs. The controlled conditions of the study were designed to resemble how lawyers would typically review and approve everyday contracts.

After two months of testing, the results were in: the AI finished the test with an average accuracy rating of 94 percent, while the lawyers achieved an average of 85 percent. The AI’s highest accuracy rating on an individual test was 100 percent, while the highest rating a human lawyer achieved on a single contract was 97 percent.

As far as accuracy goes, the study showed that humans can (for the most part) keep up with AI in reviewing contracts. The same couldn’t be said when it came to speed, however.
On average, the lawyers took 92 minutes to finish reviewing the contracts. The longest time taken by an individual lawyer was 156 minutes and the shortest 51 minutes.
LawGeex’s AI, on the other hand, only needed 26 seconds.

Thinking of the previous signal - here’s a formerly ‘massive’ study. Still important - but soon to become outmoded.
Researchers were shocked to find that the prevalence of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse in the Dunedin birth cohort was more than twice the rate the mental health community predicted. The reason, Dunedin researchers discovered, was a chronic underreporting of these problems by subjects long after their struggles occurred, in the way most previous studies had been conducted. By recording these issues as they occurred throughout the subjects’ lives, the Dunedin project recorded the much higher, and more accurate figure — a first step in changing the way we as a society define and deal with mental illness. A more direct way to address mental illness was also discovered by researchers who, noting for the first time the prevalence of symptoms of schizophrenia in study participants under the age of 18, collected data with a method of cognitive testing and digital imaging of the brain through the retina. Using this “non-invasive window to the brain” to identify at-risk children for targeted treatment might decrease a child’s risk of debilitating mental illness later in life.

A New Zealand City the Size of Berkeley, CA, Has Been Studying Aging for 45 Years. Here’s What They Discovered.

The Dunedin Study, which began as a study of childhood development, has become one of humanity’s richest treasure troves of data on what makes us who we are.
Between April 1 of 1975 and March 31 of 1976, a young psychologist named Phil Silva set out to capture the psychological and medical data of every child born three years previously in Queen Mary Maternity Hospital in the city of Dunedin, on the coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Silva had gathered the same childrens’ data at the time of their birth. But now he had something much bigger in mind: one of the most comprehensive studies of children’s health ever attempted.

Some 45 years later, Silva’s project, The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, or the Dunedin Study, has far outpaced his goals, and even his participation. He retired as its director in 2000, but the study is still running, with a stunning 95 percent of its original 1,093 participants from a range of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds still involved. Its data has been used in the publication of some 1,200 scientific papers, two-thirds of which have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Several have provided landmark findings and have been cited thousands of times across scientific fields.

The Dunedin Project has used raw data to cut through the noise of everyday life, giving researchers across the world the chance to observe the implications and consequences of developmental, genetic, and social influences on its subjects’ health, wealth, and happiness. The end result offers one of the clearest pictures of what makes us who we are, and why. It’s proof that we can learn from a single study over an incredibly long period of time. And in some ways, 45 years in, the study has only just begun.

This may be much more ominous - or not - it will likely depend on the transparency and oversight required for any application to support democratic and human rights. This is a long read - but an important one. This technology will continue to be developed.
Predictive policing technology has proven highly controversial wherever it is implemented, but in New Orleans, the program escaped public notice, partly because Palantir established it as a philanthropic relationship with the city through Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s signature NOLA For Life program. Thanks to its philanthropic status, as well as New Orleans’ “strong mayor” model of government, the agreement never passed through a public procurement process.
In fact, key city council members and attorneys contacted by The Verge had no idea that the city had any sort of relationship with Palantir, nor were they aware that Palantir used its program in New Orleans to market its services to another law enforcement agency for a multimillion-dollar contract.
Because the program was never public, important questions about its basic functioning, risk for bias, and overall propriety were never answered.


Palantir deployed a predictive policing system in New Orleans that even city council members don’t know about
In May and June 2013, when New Orleans’ murder rate was the sixth-highest in the United States, the Orleans Parish district attorney handed down two landmark racketeering indictments against dozens of men accused of membership in two violent Central City drug trafficking gangs, 3NG and the 110ers. Members of both gangs stood accused of committing 25 murders as well as several attempted killings and armed robberies.

Subsequent investigations by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and local agencies produced further RICO indictments, including that of a 22-year-old man named Evans “Easy” Lewis, a member of a gang called the 39ers who was accused of participating in a drug distribution ring and several murders.

According to Ronal Serpas, the department’s chief at the time, one of the tools used by the New Orleans Police Department to identify members of gangs like 3NG and the 39ers came from the Silicon Valley company Palantir. The company provided software to a secretive NOPD program that traced people’s ties to other gang members, outlined criminal histories, analyzed social media, and predicted the likelihood that individuals would commit violence or become a victim. As part of the discovery process in Lewis’ trial, the government turned over more than 60,000 pages of documents detailing evidence gathered against him from confidential informants, ballistics, and other sources — but they made no mention of the NOPD’s partnership with Palantir, according to a source familiar with the 39ers trial.

The program began in 2012 as a partnership between New Orleans Police and Palantir Technologies, a data-mining firm founded with seed money from the CIA’s venture capital firm. According to interviews and documents obtained by The Verge, the initiative was essentially a predictive policing program, similar to the “heat list” in Chicago that purports to predict which people are likely drivers or victims of violence.

Another signal in the domestication of bacteria.

Workbench for virus design

ETH researchers have developed a technology platform that allows them to systematically modify and customise bacteriophages. This technology is a step towards making phage therapies a powerful tool for combating dangerous pathogens.
A new era may now be dawning in the use of bacteriophages, however, as a team of researchers led by Martin Loessner, Professor of Food Microbiology at ETH Zurich, has just presented a novel technology platform in a paper published in the journal PNAS. This enables scientists to genetically modify phage genomes systematically, provide them with additional functionality, and finally reactivate them in a bacterial “surrogate” – a cell-wall deficient Listeria cell, or L-form.

The new phage workbench allows such viruses to be created very quickly and the “toolbox” is extremely modular: it allows the scientists to create almost any bacteriophages for different purposes, with a great variety of functions.

“Previously it was almost impossible to modify the genome of a bacteriophage,” Loessner says. On top of that, the methods were very inefficient. For example, a gene was only integrated into an existing genome in a tiny fraction of the phages. Isolating the modified phage was therefore often like searching for a needle in a haystack.

“In the past we had to screen millions of phages and select those with the desired characteristics. Now we are able to create these viruses from scratch, test them within a reasonable period and if necessary modify them again,” Loessner stresses.

This is a great 18 min video outlining both the concept of Quantum Computing and IBM’s online offering to anyone who wishes to learn and use their instantiation so far.

A Beginner’s Guide to Quantum Computing

Dr. Talia Gershon, a materials scientist by training, came to IBM Research in 2012. After 4.5 years of developing next-generation solar cell materials, she got inspired to learn about quantum computing because it might enable all kinds of discoveries (including new materials). Having authored the Beginner's Guide to the QX, she passionately believes that anyone can get started learning quantum! - Maker Faire Bay Area 2017

This is a very interesting signal for the future of centralized energy producers.
TVA, as a government-owned, fully regulated utility, has only the goals of “low cost, informed risk, environmental responsibility, reliability, diversity of power and flexibility to meet changing market conditions,” as its planning manager told the Chattanooga Free Press. (Yes, that’s already a lot of goals!)
But investor-owned utilities (IOUs), which administer electricity for well over half of Americans, face another imperative: to make money for investors. They can’t make money selling electricity; monopoly regulations forbid it. Instead, they make money by earning a rate of return on investments in electrical power plants and infrastructure.
The problem is, with demand stagnant, there’s not much need for new hardware. And a drop in investment means a drop in profit. Unable to continue the steady growth that their investors have always counted on, IOUs are treading water, watching as revenues dry up.

After rising for 100 years, electricity demand is flat. Utilities are freaking out.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is the latest to be caught short.
The US electricity sector is in a period of unprecedented change and turmoil. Renewable energy prices are falling like crazy. Natural gas production continues its extraordinary surge. Coal, the golden child of the current administration, is headed down the tubes.

In all that bedlam, it’s easy to lose sight of an equally important (if less sexy) trend: Demand for electricity is stagnant.

Thanks to a combination of greater energy efficiency, outsourcing of heavy industry, and customers generating their own power on site, demand for utility power has been flat for 10 years, and most forecasts expect it to stay that way. The die was cast around 1998, when GDP growth and electricity demand growth became “decoupled”:

Another significant project advancing our domestication of DNA - we fear the possibility of a human created virus - a real threat - but the world of existing real threats dwarf our capacity to respond effectively to nature as it exists.

Global Virome Project is hunting for more than 1 million unknown viruses

The search for microbes lurking in animal hosts aims to prevent the next human pandemic
To play good defense against the next viral pandemic, it helps to know the other team’s offense. But the 263 known viruses that circulate in humans represent less than 0.1 percent of the viruses suspected to be lurking out there that could infect people, researchers report in the Feb. 23 Science.

The Global Virome Project, to be launched in 2018, aims to close that gap. The international collaboration will survey viruses harbored by birds and mammals to identify candidates that might be zoonotic, or able to jump to humans. Based on the viral diversity in two species known to host emerging human diseases — Indian flying foxes and rhesus macaques — the team estimates there are about 1.67 million unknown viruses still to be discovered in the 25 virus families surveyed. Of those, between 631,000 and 827,000 might be able to infect humans.

The $1.2 billion project aims to identify roughly 70 percent of these potential threats within the next 10 years, focusing on animals in places known to be hot spots for the emergence of human-infecting viruses. That data will be made publicly available to help scientists prepare for future virus outbreaks — or, ideally, to quash threats as they emerge.  

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