Innovation

Will AI Write the Next Great American Novel?

IN SEPTEMBER OF LAST YEAR, a startling headline appeared on the Guardian’s website: “A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human?” The accompanying piece was written by GPT-3, or Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3, a language-generating program from San Francisco–based OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research company whose founders include Tesla billionaire Elon Musk and Berkeley Ph.D. John Schulman. “The mission for this op-ed is perfectly clear,” the robotic author explained to readers.

From the Spring 2021 issue of California.

Meet Cal’s New Changemaker in Chief

RICH LYONS SPENT TEN YEARS (2008–2018) as dean of Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, where he himself studied as an undergraduate, before being appointed the University’s first-ever chief innovation and entrepreneurship officer in January 2020.

From the Spring 2021 issue of California.

Plant-based Creations from the Newest Crop of Food Entrepreneurs

At the Alt: Meat Lab, housed in the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, Berkeley students are developing plant-based alternatives to common animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and seafood. Under the tutelage of the Lab’s director and cofounder Dr. Ricardo San Martin, students study the basic principles of food science and collaborate on their own plant-based products.

From the Spring 2021 issue of California.

The Search for Unisex Contraceptive Drugs Gets a Major Boost

When Polina Lishko received a call in September informing her that she had won a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award, she almost hung up. The physiologist had had so many grant applications turned down in recent years that several mentees had switched fields out of frustration. Now, she was being presented with $625,000 she hadn’t even applied for. “I initially, seriously, suspected it was a prank.” 

From the Winter 2020 issue of California.

New Research Suggests Sleep Is Good Medicine for the Aging Brain

Sleep is good medicine.

As UC Berkeley neuroscientist Matthew Walker wrote in his 2017 book, Why We Sleep, “There does not seem to be one major organ within the body, or process within the brain, that isn’t optimally enhanced by sleep (and detrimentally impaired when we don’t get enough). That we receive such a bounty of health benefits each night should not be surprising.”

From the Winter 2020 issue of California.

From the Galaxy to the Genome: Berkeley Scores Two More Nobel Prizes

Two new Nobel laureates will receive free lifetime parking spots on the UC Berkeley campus this year. And for the first time in Cal’s history, a woman will enjoy this perk. 

Reinhard Genzel and Jennifer Doudna received back-to-back Nobel Prizes on Oct. 6 and 7, respectively—Genzel in physics and Doudna in chemistry.

From the Winter 2020 issue of California.

Julia Morgan Changed Architecture and Opened the Field for Women

In late June, visitors find the doors of Berkeley City Club locked, signs imploring would-be entrants to wear masks. The club, originally imagined as a space to foster women’s civic engagement, was designed by the famed architect Julia Morgan (B.A. 1894). There’s a swimming pool inside, its untouched water reflecting the aquamarine, cloistered arch ceiling above. Where there should be the echo of rhythmic splashing bouncing off tile, there’s a cavernous silence.

From the Fall 2020 issue of California.

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