Support for universal basic income on the rise. Until we have to discuss how to fund it

A new survey has revealed that almost half of all adults aged 18 to 75 in the UK would support the government if it were to introduce a universal basic income (UBI).

The survey, commissioned by the IPR from Ipsos-MORI, revealed that 49% of adults aged 18 to 75 expressed support for the UK Government introducing UBI to cover basic needs, while only 26% opposed its introduction.

“The data should generate interesting analysis on the political feasibility of introducing basic income in the UK – in particular, about potential constituencies of support, and the forms of basic income that appeal to different demographics – important issues about which we currently know very little,” said the study’s author Dr Luke Martinelli.

Image courtesy of Thomas

Although the notion of introducing a UBI has been gaining ground internationally and in the UK, the study revealed a major stumbling block arises once discussion moves away from the general principles of UBI to concrete proposals about how to fund such a system.

When individuals were asked to consider UBI funded through increased taxation, support dropped to 30%, with 40% opposed, and when participants were asked to consider UBI funded through cuts in welfare benefits spending, support dropped to 37%, with 30% opposed.

In an accompanying policy brief, the IPR makes the point that a UBI paid at £73.10 a week for working age adults that replaced existing benefits would cost an additional £143 billion over existing social security expenditure and require large increases in income tax revenue, which could increase working age poverty by approximately 7%.

Under this scenario, 42% of households would see their disposable income fall.

“These new data show quite surprising levels of support for basic income in the UK, although this falls when asked to consider UBI’s fiscal implications,” said Martinelli.

Image courtesy of Mohammad Tajer. Featured image courtesy of Neil Cowburn

The IPR’s analysis underlines the difficulty in introducing a UBI that meets individuals’ needs, is fiscally viable and reduces the negative effects of means testing.

As such the Policy Brief suggests that UBI advocates should be more realistic and less ambitious. The IPR suggests trialing more modest schemes, such as those limited to particular demographic groups.

However, regardless of whether they support or oppose UBI, 34% of survey participants would like UBI to be funded by increasing taxes on wealth, while 28% would prefer to fund it by cutting existing welfare benefits.

Scientists, software developers and artists have begun using VR to visualise genes and predict disease

A group of scientists, software developers and artists have taken to using virtual reality (VR) technology to visualise complex interactions between genes and their regulatory elements.

The team, which comprises of members from Oxford University, Universita’ di Napoli and Goldsmiths, University of London, have been using VR to visualise simulations of a composite of data from genome sequencing, data on the interactions of DNA and microscopy data.

When all this data is combined the team are provided with an interactive, 3D image that shows where different regions of the genome sit relative to others, and how they interact with each other.

“Being able to visualise such data is important because the human brain is very good at pattern recognition – we tend to think visually,” said Stephen Taylor, head of the Computational Biology Research Group at Oxford’s MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM).

“It began at a conference back in 2014 when we saw a demonstration by researchers from Goldsmiths who had used software called CSynth to model proteins in three dimensions. We began working with them, feeding in seemingly incomprehensible information derived from our studies of the human alpha globin gene cluster and we were amazed that what we saw on the screen was an instantly recognisable model.”

The team believe that being able to visualise the interactions between genes and their regulatory elements will allow them to understand the basis of human genetic diseases, and are currently applying their techniques to study genetic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

“Our ultimate aim in this area is to correct the faulty gene or its regulatory elements and be able to re-introduce the corrected cells into a patient’s bone marrow: to perfect this we have to fully understand how genes and their regulatory elements interact with one another” said Professor Doug Higgs, a principal researcher at the WIMM.

“Having virtual reality tools like this will enable researchers to efficiently combine their data to gain a much broader understanding of how the organisation of the genome affects gene expression, and how mutations and variants affect such interactions.”

There are around 37 trillion cells in the average adult human body, and each cell contains two meters of DNA tightly packed into its nucleus.

While the technology to sequence genomes is well established, it has been shown that the manner in which DNA is folded within each cell affects how genes are expressed.

“There are more than three billion base pairs in the human genome, and a change in just one of these can cause a problem. As a model we’ve been looking at the human alpha globin gene cluster to understand how variants in genes and their regulatory elements may cause human genetic disease,” said Prof Jim Hughes, associate professor of Genome Biology at Oxford University.

Using CRISPR, UK scientists edit DNA of human embryos

For the first time in the UK, scientists have altered human embryos. Using the gene-editing tool CRISPR, the scientists turned off the protein OCT4, which is thought to be important in early embryo development. In doing so, cells that normally go on to form the placenta, yolk sac and foetus failed to develop.

Source: BBC

Tesla and AMD developing AI chip for self-driving cars

Tesla has partnered with AMD to develop a dedicated chip that will handle autonomous driving tasks in its cars. Tesla's Autopilot programme is currently headed by former AMD chip architect Jim Keller, and it is said that more than 50 people are working on the initiative under his leadership.

Source: CNBC

Synthetic muscle developed that can lift 1,000 times its own weight

Scientists have used a 3D printing technique to create an artificial muscle that can lift 1,000 times its own weight. "It can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight. It's the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle," said Dr Aslan Miriyev, from the Creative Machines lab.

Source: Telegraph

Head of AI at Google criticises "AI apocalypse" scaremongering

John Giannandrea, the senior vice president of engineering at Google, has condemned AI scaremongering, promoted by people like Elon Musk ."I just object to the hype and the sort of sound bites that some people have been making," said Giannandrea."I am definitely not worried about the AI apocalypse."

Source: CNBC

Scientists engineer antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains

Scientists have engineered an antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains and is built to attack three critical parts of the virus, which makes it harder for the HIV virus to resist its effects. The International Aids Society said it was an "exciting breakthrough". Human trials will begin in 2018.

Source: BBC

Facebook has a plan to stop fake news from influencing elections

Mark Zuckerberg has outlined nine steps that Facebook will take to "protect election integrity". “I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity," he said during a live broadcast on his Facebook page. "I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine our democracy.”