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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.
Save the date: The Electronic Frontier Foundation is hosting a Barlow Symposium with the Freedom of the Press Foundation on August 7 at the Internet Archive in San Francisco from 2:00 to 6:00. The lineup of speakers, which includes Joi Ito (Chicago, May 2011; Barcelona, Jul 2007), Cory Doctorow (London, Jul 2010), Mitch Kapor, and Ed Snowden, will help celebrate Barlow’s seminal Internet-shaping ideas. More information here. Of course, many of us have been to the Internet Archive ourselves (Brewster Kahle, regional meeting, June 2016); we cannot think of a better reason to return.
Hey, Android users: Did you give Facebook (Sean Parker, San Francisco, Feb 2010) permission to log all the phone calls you made on your phone for the past couple of years? And all your text messages? Facebook thinks you did. (Jon Callas, London, Jul 2014)
We’ve come a long way from RFID (Wolf Kohn, Memphis, Sep 2006; Tom Grant, Toronto, Apr 2002). IBM researchers are working on “crypto-anchors”: blockchain-based, grain-of-salt-sized microcomputers (Dennis Sylvester, San Francisco, Dec 2015) that can be embedded in just about anything to authenticate an object through the entire supply chain.
Maybe robots should walk like primates instead of like dogs (Marc Raibert, Brooklyn, Jul 2016) or other things (Vital Sunspiral, Atlanta, Feb 2014; Sangbae Kim, Los Angeles, Feb 2011; Pamela Clark, Santa Monica, Dec 2007). Researchers at the University of Manchester have found that while chimpanzee movement violates the principle in evolutionary biomechanics that says “gaits of all animals evolved to use the least amount energy whilst travelling,” apparently the added stability is worth the added energy cost.
Meanwhile, Carnegie Mellon robots (Jeff Legault, Brooklyn, Jul 2016) will soon search miles of pipes at a former uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, Ohio, for leftover uranium deposits. The robots measure radiation levels more accurately from inside a pipe than external techniques can.
Moving from land to sea, MIT researcher Robert Katzschmann has developed a robotic fish (John Long, Boston, Apr 2014) that receives acoustic communications from its human handlers and propels itself without motors—water cycling through hollow chambers generates a very fish-like motion. The intended purpose is to observe sea life in an unperturbed state (Ellen Prager, Miami, Dec 2011; John Delaney, Seattle, Sep 2011 and Dec 2006).
Critics claim that predictive policing leads to discriminatory policing; practitioners, such as Jeremy Heffner (Brooklyn, Jul 2016) claim their algorithms minimize such effects. Finally, some actual facts: A team of researchers in conjunction with the LAPD looked at real-time field policing data. (Spoiler: They found “no evidence of racial bias in predictive policing.”)
Is it time to give up on Von Neumann architecture and put processing directly in memory (Subhasish Mitra, San Francisco, Dec 2015)?
Atlanta is still cleaning up from what’s surely the worst metropolitan ransomware cyberstorm ever. The city might have benefited from a paper to be delivered at the upcoming IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy. It describes “the murky ecosystem of ransomware payments.” Not-so-fun facts: “At least 20,000 individuals made ransomware payments over the past two years” with South Koreans “disproportionately impacted.” (Vincent Weafer, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017; Steve Grobman, San Francisco, May 2016)
“They'll never ever reach the moon, at least not the one that we're after.”
— Leonard Cohen