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Newsletter
Please see our weekly newsletter collection below. Our own staff and members contribute bits and bytes of interesting news and articles. They say that futurists make funny historians but we do our best to bridge that divide by illustrating our past themes and speakers as they develop and evolve. We hope that you enjoy reading these communications as much as we enjoy creating them for you. And if you have any news to share, please contact any member of our staff.

2017 September 8

Our newsletter will be on hiatus next week. But we won’t! We are looking forward to seeing many of you at our Risk, Security & Privacy meeting in Washington, DC. If you cannot join us, please follow along on Twitter, @ttivanguard and  #TTIrisk. Members should have already received the live stream URLs. If you have not, please contact Claudia Miklas.
 
If Iran’s centrifuges processed thorium salts, would anyone care (Carey Nachenberg, San Jose, Feb 2012)? Dutch researchers fired up a thorium-salt fission reactor in tests that were four decades in the making.
www.technologyreview.com/the-download/608712/a-thorium-salt-reactor-has-fired-up-for-the-first-time-in-four-decades/
 
Machine learning—if there’s a data set we can train it with, we can apparently train it for anything. The latest: Researchers at Oxford University fed a Deep Mind neural network thousands of hours of BBC-TV captioned videos, “showing a wide range of people speaking in a variety of poses, activities, and lighting.” The result: Lip-reading that surpassed the abilities of professional human lip readers. It’s hard not to think of Michael Rubinstein (San Francisco, Dec 2015) translating the deformations of a nearby potato chip bag back into the audible conversation that made them.
www.zdnet.com/article/lip-reading-bots-in-the-wild/
 
The headline says it all: “Science suffers as China plugs holes in Great Firewall: New restrictions hamper access to sites useful to research.” (David Reed, Brewster Kahle, San Francisco, May 2016; Calvin Chin, Singapore, Jul 2009)
 
At least QR codes (Claus Moberg, San Francisco, Dec 2014) are alive and well in China—including at weddings as a replacement for the purse in which one puts one’s red envelope.
www.a16z.com/2017/08/11/qr-codes-in-china/
 
First, a self-balancing all-electric motorcycle (Danny Kim, San Francisco, Dec 2013), then all-electric quadcopters (Ian Glenn, Brooklyn, Jul 2016; Eric Cheng, San Francisco, Dec 2014), and now an all-electric vertical-takeoff/landing, fixed-wing jet. We’re still waiting for Lit Motors to release its first commercial motorcycle; might Lilium, with its new $90M investment by Tencent, beat it to market?
www.cnbc.com/2017/09/05/tencent-leads-90m-investment-in-lilium-german-flying-car-company.html
 
Speaking of Eric Cheng (San Francisco, Dec 2014), DJI has 70% of the drone market, but last month the U.S. Army grounded its fleet of DJI drones “due to unspecified ‘cyber vulnerabilities.’” In response, DJI has launched a bounty program for identifying bugs. (Walter Bright, Washington, D.C., Sep 2014; Bob Lucky, Washington, D.C., May 2007; Eric Raymond, Miami, Feb 1999)
https://www.techcrunch.com/2017/08/28/dji-launches-bug-bounty-program-for-its-software-and-drones/
 
Controlled electrically, rather than magnetically, flip-flop qubits hold promise as a route toward easier-to-engineer quantum computers (Rodney Van Meter, Tokyo, Mar 2017, and San Francisco, Dec 2014).
www.phys.org/news/2017-09-flip-flop-qubits-radical-quantum.html
 
Workers in the gig economy (Arun Sundararajan, Boston, Apr 2017; Robin Chase, Atlanta, Feb 2014) often have to go it alone when it comes to benefits that conventional employees take for granted. For the past year Uber, in a partnership with Betterment, has provided a vehicle with which drivers can begin to establish a nest egg.
www.401kspecialistmag.com/hows-betterment-uber-401k-collaboration-going/
 
When it comes to elections, it is hardly news that politics and money dominate. The two are also entwined when it comes to protecting elections from cyberhacking. Even among the states with the best cyber-preparedness (Francesca Spidalieri, Washington, D.C., Sep 2016), few are allocating requested funds to their election agencies to secure the integrity of upcoming elections (Avi Rubin, Austin, Feb 2004; Michael Best, London, Jul 2014).
www.politico.com/story/2017/09/03/election-hackers-russia-cyberattack-voting-242266  
 
Of course elections aren’t the only hackable things. A recent intrusion into Equifax raises a who-shall-guard-the-guardians question: When this happens to a firm we entrust with credit reporting, what then? (Dan Wolf, Philadelphia, Jul 2015)
 
And then there’s hacking the national pastime. It’s not cheating to relay a baseball catcher’s signals to the batter, but only as long as no technology is employed. So adding an Apple Watch to the communications chain appears to be a clear violation of the rules—the latest in the storied history of Boston sports teams cheating. (Larry Downes, San Francisco, Feb 2010; K. Waterman, Atlanta, Feb, 2014).
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/05/sports/baseball/boston-red-sox-stealing-signs-yankees.html
 
Performance improvements that manifest as the advancement of Moore’s Law have little headroom left. This future-looking article suggests reversible computation as the answer to computing’s problem of energy dissipation (Subhasish Mitra, San Francisco, Dec 2015; David Blaauw, St. Louis, Sep 2008).
 
The future of microprocessors will be the subject of a special block of sessions at [next] in December, with Dave Patterson, Doug Burger, and Gordon Bell. But first, see you in D.C.!
 

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important” —T.S. Eliot

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