nhaliday + hard-tech   43

Hardware is unforgiving
Today, anyone with a CS 101 background can take Geoffrey Hinton's course on neural networks and deep learning, and start applying state of the art machine learning techniques in production within a couple months. In software land, you can fix minor bugs in real time. If it takes a whole day to run your regression test suite, you consider yourself lucky because it means you're in one of the few environments that takes testing seriously. If the architecture is fundamentally flawed, you pull out your copy of Feathers' “Working Effectively with Legacy Code” and you apply minor fixes until you're done.

This isn't to say that software isn't hard, it's just a different kind of hard: the sort of hard that can be attacked with genius and perseverance, even without experience. But, if you want to build a ship, and you "only" have a decade of experience with carpentry, milling, metalworking, etc., well, good luck. You're going to need it. With a large ship, “minor” fixes can take days or weeks, and a fundamental flaw means that your ship sinks and you've lost half a year of work and tens of millions of dollars. By the time you get to something with the complexity of a modern high-performance microprocessor, a minor bug discovered in production costs three months and five million dollars. A fundamental flaw in the architecture will cost you five years and hundreds of millions of dollars2.

Physical mistakes are costly. There's no undo and editing isn't simply a matter of pressing some keys; changes consume real, physical resources. You need enough wisdom and experience to avoid common mistakes entirely – especially the ones that can't be fixed.
techtariat  comparison  software  hardware  programming  engineering  nitty-gritty  realness  roots  explanans  startups  tech  sv  the-world-is-just-atoms  examples  stories  economics  heavy-industry  hard-tech  cs  IEEE  oceans  trade  korea  asia  recruiting  britain  anglo  expert-experience  growth-econ  world  developing-world  books  recommendations  intricacy  dan-luu  age-generation  system-design  correctness  metal-to-virtual  psycho-atoms  move-fast-(and-break-things)  kumbaya-kult 
june 2019 by nhaliday
Information Processing: Moore's Law and AI
Hint to technocratic planners: invest more in physicists, chemists, and materials scientists. The recent explosion in value from technology has been driven by physical science -- software gets way too much credit. From the former we got a factor of a million or more in compute power, data storage, and bandwidth. From the latter, we gained (perhaps) an order of magnitude or two in effectiveness: how much better are current OSes and programming languages than Unix and C, both of which are ~50 years old now?

...

Of relevance to this discussion: a big chunk of AlphaGo's performance improvement over other Go programs is due to raw compute power (link via Jess Riedel). The vertical axis is ELO score. You can see that without multi-GPU compute, AlphaGo has relatively pedestrian strength.
hsu  scitariat  comparison  software  hardware  performance  sv  tech  trends  ai  machine-learning  deep-learning  deepgoog  google  roots  impact  hard-tech  multiplicative  the-world-is-just-atoms  technology  trivia  cocktail  big-picture  hi-order-bits 
may 2019 by nhaliday
Harnessing Evolution - with Bret Weinstein | Virtual Futures Salon - YouTube
- ways to get out of Malthusian conditions: expansion to new frontiers, new technology, redistribution/theft
- some discussion of existential risk
- wants to change humanity's "purpose" to one that would be safe in the long run; important thing is it has to be ESS (maybe he wants a singleton?)
- not too impressed by transhumanism (wouldn't identify with a brain emulation)
video  interview  thiel  expert-experience  evolution  deep-materialism  new-religion  sapiens  cultural-dynamics  anthropology  evopsych  sociality  ecology  flexibility  biodet  behavioral-gen  self-interest  interests  moloch  arms  competition  coordination  cooperate-defect  frontier  expansionism  technology  efficiency  thinking  redistribution  open-closed  zero-positive-sum  peace-violence  war  dominant-minority  hypocrisy  dignity  sanctity-degradation  futurism  environment  climate-change  time-preference  long-short-run  population  scale  earth  hidden-motives  game-theory  GT-101  free-riding  innovation  leviathan  malthus  network-structure  risk  existence  civil-liberty  authoritarianism  tribalism  us-them  identity-politics  externalities  unintended-consequences  internet  social  media  pessimism  universalism-particularism  energy-resources  biophysical-econ  politics  coalitions  incentives  attention  epistemic  biases  blowhards  teaching  education  emotion  impetus  comedy  expression-survival  economics  farmers-and-foragers  ca 
april 2018 by nhaliday
Eternity in six hours: intergalactic spreading of intelligent life and sharpening the Fermi paradox
We do this by demonstrating that traveling between galaxies – indeed even launching a colonisation project for the entire reachable universe – is a relatively simple task for a star-spanning civilization, requiring modest amounts of energy and resources. We start by demonstrating that humanity itself could likely accomplish such a colonisation project in the foreseeable future, should we want to, and then demonstrate that there are millions of galaxies that could have reached us by now, using similar methods. This results in a considerable sharpening of the Fermi paradox.
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march 2018 by nhaliday
What Peter Thiel thinks about AI risk - Less Wrong
TL;DR: he thinks its an issue but also feels AGI is very distant and hence less worried about it than Musk.

I recommend the rest of the lecture as well, it's a good summary of "Zero to One"  and a good QA afterwards.

For context, in case anyone doesn't realize: Thiel has been MIRI's top donor throughout its history.

other stuff:
nice interview question: "thing you know is true that not everyone agrees on?"
"learning from failure overrated"
cleantech a huge market, hard to compete
software makes for easy monopolies (zero marginal costs, network effects, etc.)
for most of history inventors did not benefit much (continuous competition)
ethical behavior is a luxury of monopoly
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february 2018 by nhaliday
Accurate Genomic Prediction Of Human Height | bioRxiv
Stephen Hsu's compressed sensing application paper

We construct genomic predictors for heritable and extremely complex human quantitative traits (height, heel bone density, and educational attainment) using modern methods in high dimensional statistics (i.e., machine learning). Replication tests show that these predictors capture, respectively, ~40, 20, and 9 percent of total variance for the three traits. For example, predicted heights correlate ~0.65 with actual height; actual heights of most individuals in validation samples are within a few cm of the prediction.

https://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/09/accurate-genomic-prediction-of-human.html

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/11/23andme.html
I'm in Mountain View to give a talk at 23andMe. Their latest funding round was $250M on a (reported) valuation of $1.5B. If I just add up the Crunchbase numbers it looks like almost half a billion invested at this point...

Slides: Genomic Prediction of Complex Traits

Here's how people + robots handle your spit sample to produce a SNP genotype:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1e_zuIPJr1hgQupYAxkcbgEVxmrDHAYRj/view
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september 2017 by nhaliday
Educational Romanticism & Economic Development | pseudoerasmus
https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/852339296358940672
deleeted

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/943238170312929280
https://archive.is/p5hRA

Did Nations that Boosted Education Grow Faster?: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/10/did_nations_tha.html
On average, no relationship. The trendline points down slightly, but for the time being let's just call it a draw. It's a well-known fact that countries that started the 1960's with high education levels grew faster (example), but this graph is about something different. This graph shows that countries that increased their education levels did not grow faster.

Where has all the education gone?: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1016.2704&rep=rep1&type=pdf

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/948052794681966593
https://archive.is/kjxqp

https://twitter.com/GarettJones/status/950952412503822337
https://archive.is/3YPic

https://twitter.com/pseudoerasmus/status/862961420065001472
http://hanushek.stanford.edu/publications/schooling-educational-achievement-and-latin-american-growth-puzzle

The Case Against Education: What's Taking So Long, Bryan Caplan: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2015/03/the_case_agains_9.html

The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/01/whats-college-good-for/546590/
Students don't seem to be getting much out of higher education.
- Bryan Caplan

College: Capital or Signal?: http://www.economicmanblog.com/2017/02/25/college-capital-or-signal/
After his review of the literature, Caplan concludes that roughly 80% of the earnings effect from college comes from signalling, with only 20% the result of skill building. Put this together with his earlier observations about the private returns to college education, along with its exploding cost, and Caplan thinks that the social returns are negative. The policy implications of this will come as very bitter medicine for friends of Bernie Sanders.

Doubting the Null Hypothesis: http://www.arnoldkling.com/blog/doubting-the-null-hypothesis/

Is higher education/college in the US more about skill-building or about signaling?: https://www.quora.com/Is-higher-education-college-in-the-US-more-about-skill-building-or-about-signaling
ballpark: 50% signaling, 30% selection, 20% addition to human capital
more signaling in art history, more human capital in engineering, more selection in philosophy

Econ Duel! Is Education Signaling or Skill Building?: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2016/03/econ-duel-is-education-signaling-or-skill-building.html
Marginal Revolution University has a brand new feature, Econ Duel! Our first Econ Duel features Tyler and me debating the question, Is education more about signaling or skill building?

Against Tulip Subsidies: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/06/06/against-tulip-subsidies/

https://www.overcomingbias.com/2018/01/read-the-case-against-education.html

https://nintil.com/2018/02/05/notes-on-the-case-against-education/

https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2018-02-19-0000/bryan-caplan-case-against-education-review

https://spottedtoad.wordpress.com/2018/02/12/the-case-against-education/
Most American public school kids are low-income; about half are non-white; most are fairly low skilled academically. For most American kids, the majority of the waking hours they spend not engaged with electronic media are at school; the majority of their in-person relationships are at school; the most important relationships they have with an adult who is not their parent is with their teacher. For their parents, the most important in-person source of community is also their kids’ school. Young people need adult mirrors, models, mentors, and in an earlier era these might have been provided by extended families, but in our own era this all falls upon schools.

Caplan gestures towards work and earlier labor force participation as alternatives to school for many if not all kids. And I empathize: the years that I would point to as making me who I am were ones where I was working, not studying. But they were years spent working in schools, as a teacher or assistant. If schools did not exist, is there an alternative that we genuinely believe would arise to draw young people into the life of their community?

...

It is not an accident that the state that spends the least on education is Utah, where the LDS church can take up some of the slack for schools, while next door Wyoming spends almost the most of any state at $16,000 per student. Education is now the one surviving binding principle of the society as a whole, the one black box everyone will agree to, and so while you can press for less subsidization of education by government, and for privatization of costs, as Caplan does, there’s really nothing people can substitute for it. This is partially about signaling, sure, but it’s also because outside of schools and a few religious enclaves our society is but a darkling plain beset by winds.

This doesn’t mean that we should leave Caplan’s critique on the shelf. Much of education is focused on an insane, zero-sum race for finite rewards. Much of schooling does push kids, parents, schools, and school systems towards a solution ad absurdum, where anything less than 100 percent of kids headed to a doctorate and the big coding job in the sky is a sign of failure of everyone concerned.

But let’s approach this with an eye towards the limits of the possible and the reality of diminishing returns.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/poison-ivy-halls/
https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/poison-ivy-halls/#comment-101293
The real reason the left would support Moander: the usual reason. because he’s an enemy.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/bright-college-days-part-i/
I have a problem in thinking about education, since my preferences and personal educational experience are atypical, so I can’t just gut it out. On the other hand, knowing that puts me ahead of a lot of people that seem convinced that all real people, including all Arab cabdrivers, think and feel just as they do.

One important fact, relevant to this review. I don’t like Caplan. I think he doesn’t understand – can’t understand – human nature, and although that sometimes confers a different and interesting perspective, it’s not a royal road to truth. Nor would I want to share a foxhole with him: I don’t trust him. So if I say that I agree with some parts of this book, you should believe me.

...

Caplan doesn’t talk about possible ways of improving knowledge acquisition and retention. Maybe he thinks that’s impossible, and he may be right, at least within a conventional universe of possibilities. That’s a bit outside of his thesis, anyhow. Me it interests.

He dismisses objections from educational psychologists who claim that studying a subject improves you in subtle ways even after you forget all of it. I too find that hard to believe. On the other hand, it looks to me as if poorly-digested fragments of information picked up in college have some effect on public policy later in life: it is no coincidence that most prominent people in public life (at a given moment) share a lot of the same ideas. People are vaguely remembering the same crap from the same sources, or related sources. It’s correlated crap, which has a much stronger effect than random crap.

These widespread new ideas are usually wrong. They come from somewhere – in part, from higher education. Along this line, Caplan thinks that college has only a weak ideological effect on students. I don’t believe he is correct. In part, this is because most people use a shifting standard: what’s liberal or conservative gets redefined over time. At any given time a population is roughly half left and half right – but the content of those labels changes a lot. There’s a shift.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/bright-college-days-part-i/#comment-101492
I put it this way, a while ago: “When you think about it, falsehoods, stupid crap, make the best group identifiers, because anyone might agree with you when you’re obviously right. Signing up to clear nonsense is a better test of group loyalty. A true friend is with you when you’re wrong. Ideally, not just wrong, but barking mad, rolling around in your own vomit wrong.”
--
You just explained the Credo quia absurdum doctrine. I always wondered if it was nonsense. It is not.
--
Someone on twitter caught it first – got all the way to “sliding down the razor blade of life”. Which I explained is now called “transitioning”

What Catholics believe: https://theweek.com/articles/781925/what-catholics-believe
We believe all of these things, fantastical as they may sound, and we believe them for what we consider good reasons, well attested by history, consistent with the most exacting standards of logic. We will profess them in this place of wrath and tears until the extraordinary event referenced above, for which men and women have hoped and prayed for nearly 2,000 years, comes to pass.

https://westhunt.wordpress.com/2018/02/05/bright-college-days-part-ii/
According to Caplan, employers are looking for conformity, conscientiousness, and intelligence. They use completion of high school, or completion of college as a sign of conformity and conscientiousness. College certainly looks as if it’s mostly signaling, and it’s hugely expensive signaling, in terms of college costs and foregone earnings.

But inserting conformity into the merit function is tricky: things become important signals… because they’re important signals. Otherwise useful actions are contraindicated because they’re “not done”. For example, test scores convey useful information. They could help show that an applicant is smart even though he attended a mediocre school – the same role they play in college admissions. But employers seldom request test scores, and although applicants may provide them, few do. Caplan says ” The word on the street… [more]
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april 2017 by nhaliday
Embryo editing for intelligence - Gwern.net
https://twitter.com/pnin1957/status/917693229608337408
My hunch is CRISPR/Cas9 will not play a big role in intelligence enhancement. You'd have to edit so many loci b/c of small effect sizes, increasing errors. Embryo selection is much more promising. Peoples with high avg genetic values, of course, have an in-built advantage there.
ratty  gwern  enhancement  scaling-up  genetics  genomics  iq  🌞  CRISPR  futurism  biodet  new-religion  nibble  intervention  🔬  behavioral-gen  faq  chart  ideas  article  multi  twitter  social  commentary  gnon  unaffiliated  prediction  accuracy  technology  QTL  biotech  selection  comparison  scale  magnitude  hard-tech  skunkworks  speedometer  abortion-contraception-embryo  estimate 
february 2017 by nhaliday
Countdown | The Economist
The entrepreneur’s finances are as jaw-dropping, inventive and combustible as his space rockets
musk  investing  news  hard-tech  tech  business  frontier  profile  org:rec  org:biz  org:anglo  barons  entrepreneurialism  allodium 
october 2016 by nhaliday
What You Can't Say
E Pur Si Muove:
http://blog.samaltman.com/e-pur-si-muove
https://archive.is/yE75n

Sam Altman and the fear of political correctness: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/12/sam-altman-fear-political-correctness.html
Earlier this year, I noticed something in China that really surprised me. I realized I felt more comfortable discussing controversial ideas in Beijing than in San Francisco. I didn’t feel completely comfortable—this was China, after all—just more comfortable than at home.

That showed me just how bad things have become, and how much things have changed since I first got started here in 2005.

It seems easier to accidentally speak heresies in San Francisco every year. Debating a controversial idea, even if you 95% agree with the consensus side, seems ill-advised.
--
And so it runs with shadow prices for speech, including rights to say things and to ask questions. Whatever you are free to say in America, you have said many times already, and the marginal value of exercising that freedom yet again doesn’t seem so high. But you show up in China, and wow, your pent-up urges are not forbidden topics any more. Just do be careful with your mentions of Uncle Xi, Taiwan, Tibet, Uighur terrorists, and disappearing generals. That said, in downtown Berkeley you can speculate rather freely on whether China will someday end up as a Christian nation, and hardly anybody will be offended.

For this reason, where we live typically seems especially unfree when it comes to speech. And when I am in China, I usually have so, so many new dishes I want to sample, including chestnuts and pumpkin.

replies: http://www.businessinsider.com/sam-altman-ignites-debate-on-whether-silicon-valley-culture-makes-it-tough-to-innovate-2017-12

https://medium.com/@jasoncrawford/what-people-think-you-cant-say-in-silicon-valley-a6d04f632a00

Baidu's Robin Li is Helping China Win the 21st Century: http://time.com/5107485/baidus-robin-li-helping-china-win-21st-century/
Therein lies the contradiction at the heart of China’s efforts to forge the future: the country has the world’s most severe restrictions on Internet freedom, according to advocacy group Freedom House. China employs a highly sophisticated censorship apparatus, dubbed the Great Firewall, to snuff out any content deemed critical or inappropriate. Google, Facebook and Twitter, as well as news portals like the New York Times, Bloomberg and TIME, are banned. Manned by an army of 2 million online censors, the Great Firewall gives outsiders the impression of deathly silence within.

But in fact, business thrives inside the firewall’s confines–on its guardians’ terms, of course–and the restrictions have not appeared to stymie progress. “It turns out you don’t need to know the truth of what happened in Tiananmen Square to develop a great smartphone app,” says Kaiser Kuo, formerly Baidu’s head of international communications and a co-host of Sinica, an authoritative podcast on China. “There is a deep hubris in the West about this.” The central government in Beijing has a fearsome capacity to get things done and is willing to back its policy priorities with hard cash. The benefits for companies willing or able to go along with its whims are clear. The question for Baidu–and for Li–is how far it is willing to go.

Silicon Valley would be wise to follow China’s lead: https://www.ft.com/content/42daca9e-facc-11e7-9bfc-052cbba03425
The work ethic in Chinese tech companies far outpaces their US rivals
- MICHAEL MORITZ

The declaration by Didi, the Chinese ride-hailing company, that delivery business Meituan’s decision to launch a rival service would spark “the war of the century”, throws the intensive competition between the country’s technology companies into stark relief.

The call to arms will certainly act as a spur for Didi employees, although it is difficult to see how they can work even harder. But what it does reveal is the striking contrast between working life in China’s technology companies and their counterparts in the west.

In California, the blogosphere has been full of chatter about the inequity of life. Some of this, especially for women, is true and for certain individuals their day of reckoning has been long overdue. But many of the soul-sapping discussions seem like unwarranted distractions. In recent months, there have been complaints about the political sensibilities of speakers invited to address a corporate audience; debates over the appropriate length of paternity leave or work-life balances; and grumbling about the need for a space for musical jam sessions. These seem like the concerns of a society that is becoming unhinged.

...

While male chauvinism is still common in the home, women have an easier time gaining recognition and respect in China’s technology workplaces — although they are still seriously under-represented in the senior ranks. Many of these high-flyers only see their children — who are often raised by a grandmother or nanny — for a few minutes a day. There are even examples of husbands, eager to spend time with their wives, who travel with them on business trips as a way to maintain contact.

https://twitter.com/jasonlk/status/954036667777662982
What I learned from 5 weeks in Beijing + Shanghai:

- startup creation + velocity dwarfs anything in SF
- no one in China I met is remotely worried about U.S. or possibly even cares
- access to capital is crazy
- scale feels about 20x of SF
- endless energy
- not SV jaded

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-economy-tech-analysis/china-goes-on-tech-hiring-binge-and-wages-soar-closing-gap-with-silicon-valley-idUSKBN1FD37S

https://twitter.com/BDSixsmith/status/953554454967668738
https://archive.is/JpHik
Western values are freeriding on Western innovation.
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Comparatively unimpeded pursuit of curiosity into innovation is a Western value that pays the carriage fare.
--
True. A lot of values are worthwhile in certain contexts but should never have been scaled.

Diversity, "social mobility", iconoclasm
--
--
but due to military and technological victory over its competitors
--
There's something to be said for Western social trust as well, though that's an institution more than an idea
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october 2016 by nhaliday
The Future of Genetic Enhancement is Not in the West | Quillette
https://qz.com/750908/the-future-of-genetic-enhancement-is-in-china-and-india/

If it becomes possible to safely genetically increase babies’ IQ, it will become inevitable: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/07/14/if-it-becomes-possible-to-safely-genetically-increase-babies-iq-it-will-become-inevitable/

Baby Genome Sequencing for Sale in China: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608086/baby-genome-sequencing-for-sale-in-china/
Chinese parents can now decode the genomes of their healthy newborns, revealing disease risks as well as the likelihood of physical traits like male-pattern baldness.
https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/06/16/the-cultural-revolution-that-will-happen-in-china/
https://gnxp.nofe.me/2017/07/26/the-future-will-be-genetically-engineered/
http://www.nature.com/news/china-s-embrace-of-embryo-selection-raises-thorny-questions-1.22468
http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/08/embryo-selection-in-china-nature.html

China launches massive genome research initiative: https://news.cgtn.com/news/7767544e34637a6333566d54/share_p.html

research ethics:
First results of CRISPR gene editing of normal embryos released: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2123973-first-results-of-crispr-gene-editing-of-normal-embryos-released/
http://www.bbc.com/news/health-32530334
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608350/first-human-embryos-edited-in-us/
http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2017/07/first-human-embryos-edited-in-us-mit.html
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14912382
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature23305.html
caveats: https://ipscell.com/2017/08/4-reasons-mitalipov-paper-doesnt-herald-safe-crispr-human-genetic-modification/

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/first-crispr-human-clinical-trial-gets-a-green-light-from-the-u-s/
http://www.nature.com/news/crispr-gene-editing-tested-in-a-person-for-the-first-time-1.20988
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12960844
So this title is a bit misleading; something like, "cells edited with CRISPR injected into a person for the first time" would be better. While CRISPR is promising for topological treatments, that's not what happened here.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/chinese-scientists-to-pioneer-first-human-crispr-trial/
China sprints ahead in CRISPR therapy race: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6359/20
China, Unhampered by Rules, Races Ahead in Gene-Editing Trials: https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-unhampered-by-rules-races-ahead-in-gene-editing-trials-1516562360
U.S. scientists helped devise the Crispr biotechnology tool. First to test it in humans are Chinese doctors
https://twitter.com/mr_scientism/status/955207026333929472
https://archive.is/lJ761

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/01/24/579925801/chinese-scientists-clone-monkeys-using-method-that-created-dolly-the-sheep
https://twitter.com/0xa59a2d/status/956344998626242560
https://archive.is/azH4S
https://twitter.com/AngloRemnant/status/956348983303114753
https://archive.is/RclJG
https://twitter.com/AngloRemnant/status/956352891287228416
https://archive.is/BfHuV

http://www.acsh.org/news/2017/03/07/did-gene-therapy-cure-sickle-cell-disease-10950

lol: http://www.theonion.com/infographic/pros-and-cons-gene-editing-56740

Japan set to allow gene editing in human embryos [ed.: (for research)]: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-06847-7
Draft guidelines permit gene-editing tools for research into early human development.
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august 2016 by nhaliday

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