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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.
Congrats to John Hennessy (San Francisco, Feb 2010) and David Patterson (San Francisco, Dec 2017; Phoenix, Dec 2008), co-winners of the 2017 ACM A.M. Turing Award for their seminal work on RISC architectures.
Sometimes the invisible hand gets it right: The new U.S. News & World Report rankings suggest that those with computer science graduate degrees are doing better than those with M.B.A.s.
Coincidentally, a new Wyoming law adds computer science to the state's Common Core education platform: Every K-12 school will be required to teach computer science by 2022. (Maryanne Wolf, Jersey City, Oct 2013; Jeannette Wing, Washington, D.C., May 2009)
In part because there are so many CubeSats (Jordi Puig-Suari, Boston, Apr 2016) in space these days, NASA has moved its Planetary Protection Office “from its traditional home among scientists to the engineering-oriented Safety and Mission Assurance directorate,” according to AviationWeek. How will SMA keep track of everything in space? With a pair of CubeSats, of course.
Now you can sound like Matt Damon too. In much the same way that Irmak Sirer (Los Angeles, Mar 2018) used machine learning to morph his face in Matt Damon’s, researchers at Baidu can now mimic your voice nearly flawlessly with just 100 5-second pieces of audio as training data.
Micro-robot kelp farms (Matthew Atwood, Vienna, Jul 2013), small fusion reactors (Dennis Whyte, San Francisco, Dec 2015), and giant swaying wind turbine blades (Feargal Brennan, Salt Lake City, Dec 2009) are among the hundreds of projects discussed at this year’s ARPA-E conference (Roland Pitts, Miami, Dec 2011).
We still don’t know exactly what happened in Tempe, Ariz., when an Uber autonomous vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian walking her bicycle, even though there was driver on board. (Yes, he’s an ex-felon (armed robbery), but that’s probably irrelevant. Yes, she came out of the shadows, so probably Uber isn’t at fault either.) One thing we do know: Once a car is in fully autonomous mode, it's unlikely that a human behind the wheel can regain control, understand the context, override what the car is or isn't doing, and avert the accident the vehicle was headed toward. We learned this lesson in the Air France 447 crash (Bob Charette, Washington D.C., Oct 2014) and it’s at least as true on highways as in the air.
Should law enforcement be able to get search warrants (Phillip Bevis, Austin, Feb 2004; Marc Rotenberg, Austin, Feb 2001) “to demand Google accounts not of specific suspects, but from any mobile devices that veered too close to the scene of a crime”? Even Jon Callas’s Blackphone (London, Jul 2014) can’t protect your metadata from being collected.
We can disparage big data (Daniel Tunkelang, Washington, D.C., Apr/May 2013) and worry about causality versus correlation (Samantha Kleinberg, Los Angeles, Mar 2018; Doug Lenat, Jersey City, Oct 2013), but often the solution is more data. And at the least, a big-data finding can be a wake-up call. Case in point: “Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds,” according to a comprehensive study by by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census Bureau.
“I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.”
— Stephen Hawking