The Pentagon’s ‘Terminator Conundrum’

October 25th, 2016

Almost unnoticed outside of defense circles…

I’ve been posting about this on here since 2002. 😐

Via: New York Times:

Almost unnoticed outside defense circles, the Pentagon has put artificial intelligence at the center of its strategy to maintain the United States’ position as the world’s dominant military power. It is spending billions of dollars to develop what it calls autonomous and semiautonomous weapons and to build an arsenal stocked with the kind of weaponry that until now has existed only in Hollywood movies and science fiction, raising alarm among scientists and activists concerned by the implications of a robot arms race.

The Defense Department is designing robotic fighter jets that would fly into combat alongside manned aircraft. It has tested missiles that can decide what to attack, and it has built ships that can hunt for enemy submarines, stalking those it finds over thousands of miles, without any help from humans.

“If Stanley Kubrick directed ‘Dr. Strangelove’ again, it would be about the issue of autonomous weapons,” said Michael Schrage, a research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management.

Defense officials say the weapons are needed for the United States to maintain its military edge over China, Russia and other rivals, who are also pouring money into similar research (as are allies, such as Britain and Israel). The Pentagon’s latest budget outlined $18 billion to be spent over three years on technologies that included those needed for autonomous weapons.

Self Driving Truck Makes First Commercial Delivery

October 25th, 2016

Via: New York Times:

The futurists of Silicon Valley may not have seen this one coming: The first commercial delivery made by a self-driving truck was 2,000 cases of Budweiser beer.

On Tuesday, Otto, the Uber-owned self-driving vehicle operation, announced the completion of its first commercial delivery, having delivered its beer load from Fort Collins, Colo., to Colorado Springs, a roughly 120-mile trip on Interstate 25.

Though largely symbolic, the beer delivery marks the first commercial partnership for Otto, which was founded less than a year ago. Terms of the deal between Otto and Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns the Budweiser brand, were not disclosed.

Google Co-Founder’s Reported ‘Flying Car’ Spotted Hovering in Hollister

October 25th, 2016

Via: Monteray Herald:

In Hollister, population 40,000, the first rule about Zee.Aero is you don’t talk about Zee.Aero.

Related: Airbus Wants to Build a Self-Flying Taxi Called Vahana

Memory of Mankind Project Burying Microscopic Engravings Containing Human Knowledge in an Austrian Salt Mine

October 24th, 2016

Via: BBC:

Kunze’s solution is the Memory of Mankind project, a collaboration between academics, universities, newspapers and libraries to create a modern version of those first ancient Sumerian tablets discovered in the desert. Their plan is to gather together the accumulated knowledge of our time and store it underground in the caverns carved out in one of the oldest salt mines in the world, in the mountains of Austria’s picturesque Salzkammergut. “The main point of what we are doing is to store information in a way that it is readable in the future. It is a backup of our knowledge, our history and our stories,” says Kunze.

This hinges on a special process that Kunze describes as “ceramic microfilm”, which he says is the most durable data storage system in the world. The flat ceramic plates are covered with a dark coating and a high energy laser is then used to write into them.

Each of these tablets can hold up to five million characters – about the same as a four-hundred-page book. They are acid- and alkali-resistant and can withstand temperatures of 1300C. A second type of tablet can carry colour pictures and diagrams along with 50,000 characters before being sealed with a transparent glaze.

The plates are then stacked inside ceramic boxes and tucked into the dark caverns of a salt mine in Hallstatt, Austria. As a resting place for what could be described as the ultimate time capsule, it is impressive. In the right light the walls still glisten with the remnants of salt, which extracts moisture and desiccates the air.

Obamacare Premiums to Soar 22% On Average

October 24th, 2016

Via: CNN:

Obamacare premiums are set to skyrocket an average of 22% for the benchmark silver plan in 2017, according to a government report released Monday.

The price hike is the latest blow to Obamacare. Insurers are raising prices and downsizing their presence on the exchanges as they try to stem losses from sicker-than-anticipated customers. Enrollment for 2017 will be closely watched since insurers want to see younger and healthier consumers enroll.

China’s Plan to Organize Its Society Relies on ‘Big Data’ to Rate Everyone

October 24th, 2016

Via: Washington Post:

Imagine a world where an authoritarian government monitors everything you do, amasses huge amounts of data on almost every interaction you make, and awards you a single score that measures how “trustworthy” you are.

In this world, anything from defaulting on a loan to criticizing the ruling party, from running a red light to failing to care for your parents properly, could cause you to lose points.

And in this world, your score becomes the ultimate truth of who you are — determining whether you can borrow money, get your children into the best schools or travel abroad; whether you get a room in a fancy hotel, a seat in a top restaurant — or even just get a date.

This is not the dystopian superstate of Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report,” in which all-knowing police stop crime before it happens. But it could be China by 2020.

It is the scenario contained in China’s ambitious plans to develop a far-reaching social credit system, a plan that the Communist Party hopes will build a culture of “sincerity” and a “harmonious socialist society” where “keeping trust is glorious.”

Batteries May Trip ‘Death Spiral’ in $3.4 Trillion Credit Market

October 23rd, 2016

Disclosure: I sell solar power systems in New Zealand.

Via: Bloomberg:

Battery technologies starting to disrupt the electricity and automobile industries may also emerge as a trillion-dollar threat to credit markets, according to Fitch Ratings.

A quarter of outstanding global corporate debt, or as much as $3.4 trillion, is linked to the utility- and auto-industry bonds that rely on fossil fuel activities, the ratings agency wrote in a report published Tuesday.

Batteries have the potential to “tip the oil market from growth to contraction earlier than anticipated,” according to Fitch. “The narrative of oil’s decline is well rehearsed — and if it starts to play out there is a risk that capital will act long before” and in the worst case result in an “investor death spiral.”

While hybrid and battery-only cars are making slow progress in denting sales of gasoline and diesel-driven vehicles, their growth trajectory may be grossly underestimated, said the authors of the study.

Related: Tesla Installing Superchargers at Gas Stations

The Little-Known Company That Enables Worldwide Mass Surveillance

October 23rd, 2016

Via: The Intercept:

It was a powerful piece of technology created for an important customer. The Medusa system, named after the mythical Greek monster with snakes instead of hair, had one main purpose: to vacuum up vast quantities of internet data at an astonishing speed.

The technology was designed by Endace, a little-known New Zealand company. And the important customer was the British electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

Dozens of internal documents and emails from Endace, obtained by The Intercept and reported in cooperation with Television New Zealand, reveal the firm’s key role helping governments across the world harvest vast amounts of information on people’s private emails, online chats, social media conversations, and internet browsing histories.

The leaked files, which were provided by a source through SecureDrop, show that Endace listed a Moroccan security agency implicated in torture as one of its customers. They also indicate that the company sold its surveillance gear to more than half a dozen other government agencies, including in the United States, Israel, Denmark, Australia, Canada, Spain, and India.

Some of Endace’s largest sales in recent years, however, were to the United Kingdom’s GCHQ, which purchased a variety of “data acquisition” systems and “probes” that it used to covertly monitor internet traffic.

Documents from the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, previously disclosed by The Intercept, have shown how GCHQ dramatically expanded its online surveillance between 2009 and 2012. The newly obtained Endace documents add to those revelations, shining light for the first time on the vital role played by the private sector in enabling the spying.

AT&T Announces Purchase of Time Warner for Nearly $86 Billion

October 22nd, 2016


Via: BBC:

The US telecoms giant AT&T has announced that it will buy entertainment group Time Warner for nearly $86bn (£70bn).

The deal was agreed at a meeting of the two boards on Saturday but will still need to be approved by regulators.

Correspondents say it is the biggest deal in the world this year.

It reflects the desire of the telecoms company to acquire content to stream over its high-speed network and attract more online viewers.

If the deal is approved by regulators, AT&T would gain control of the HBO and CNN TV networks in addition to the Warner Bros film studio and other prized media assets.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said he did not anticipate any regulatory obstacles to the merger, saying any concerns could be overcome if concessions were made.

“This is a perfect match of two companies with complementary strengths who can bring a fresh approach to how the media and communications industry works for customers, content creators, distributors and advertisers,” he said.

Police Drones Zapping Suspects with Stun Guns: ‘The Public Is Going to Initially be Alarmed by This’

October 21st, 2016

Via: Wall Street Journal:

In a conference room away from the busy San Diego Convention Center floor where law-enforcement officials from around the world perused the latest police technology, a Taser employee showed some police leaders a drone, and discussed how different things could be attached to it, including a camera, a light and a stun gun—a less-lethal weapon that discharges an electric shock.

Mr. Tuttle said the drone was an off-the-shelf model, and not a prototype worked on by Taser.

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