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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.

2018 May 25

China holds the top two spots on the Top500 list, but it’s not resting on its supercomputing laurels. The National Supercomputing Center in Shenzhen is planning to spend about half a billion dollars building an exascale supercomputer ten times faster than the current leader (Satoshi Matsuoka, Tokyo, Jul 2012). In its first full year of existence, Vanguard devoted an entire meeting to supercomputing, including a talk from Cray (Bob Ewald, Tempe, May 1992), which currently holds the #7 spot.
 
At our annual [next] meeting in December, we’ll hear from Jack Dongarra of the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Lab (#5 on the Top500), who has helped maintain the Top500 list since its inception.
 
Boston Dynamics’ latest robot will be joining Nancy Kleinrock’s early-morning run at Intelligence, Natural & Artificial next month. Well, not really, but the new robot does jog.
www.cnbc.com/2018/05/10/boston-dynamics-spotmini-and-atlas-robots-have-some-new-tricks.html
 
Columbia University researchers have written an algorithm that watches paint dry. Well, not exactly. It can study hours and hours of video and use machine learning to discern the behavior of pond-dwelling Hydra, a close relative of the sea anemone. (And yes, apparently Hydra do have behaviors and learned responses (Ellen Prager, Miami, Dec 2011).)
www.news.columbia.edu/content/1923
 
Now that cars are “smartphones with wheels” (Benedict Evans, San Francisco, Dec 2015), they can be retrofitted with new capabilities (Marco Della Torre, Los Angeles, Mar 2018), and even unlocked electronically by hackers (Srdjan Capkun, Washington, D.C., Sep 2016). And now the DoD’s Joint Nonlethal Weapons Program has used a targeted beam of microwaves to jam the electronics and halt a vehicle’s engine.
www.foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/the-defense-departments-new-microwave-ray-gun-can-repor-1825661096
 
Happy GDPR Day! (Jason Blackstock and Madeline Carr, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017, with more to come from Jeff Jonas in Brooklyn next month.) It’s a reminder that people on opposite sides of the pond differentially worry about privacy. But even in the U.S., the way Amazon pushed its facial recognition utility to law enforcement agencies may be a step too far. At least, the ACLU (Marc Rotenberg, Austin, Feb 2001; Barry Steinhardt, Toronto, Apr 2008) thinks so.
www.nytimes.com/2018/05/22/technology/amazon-facial-recognition.html
 
Speaking of Amazon and privacy, Alexa clearly overstepped her boundaries by sending recordings of one family’s private conversations to a random person from their address book. Fortunately, the conversations were on mundane topics (one was about hardwood flooring), but the family has unplugged all their Amazon devices and isn’t taking the company up on its offer to update the software.
www.ajc.com/news/national/amazon-alexa-recorded-private-conversation-sent-random-contact-woman-says/Q6aE2Uin3VIOdexkpZLszK/
 
Want to read the source code for Photoshop 1.0? It’s all here. Note: You’ll need to know Pascal. (Walter Bright, Jonathan Aldrich, Washington, D.C., Sep/Oct 2014; Vishal Sikka, Santa Monica, Dec 2007; Richard Stallman, Los Angeles, Apr 2001)
 
DAWNBench is an AI competition that ranks algorithms for speed and cost. And more than a few times, the Davids of the competition beat goliaths like Google. (Ellen Ullman, San Francisco, Dec 2017; Saket Navlakha, San Diego, Feb 2015)
www.theverge.com/2018/5/7/17316010/fast-ai-speed-test-stanford-dawnbench-google-intel
 
Michael Hayden (Washington, D.C., Sep 2016 and May 2010) has a new book out: The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies (Penguin, May 2018) and we’re pleased to announce that he’ll be joining us at Less Is More in D.C. in September (registration, agenda).
 
When registering for the DC conference, keep the Sep 12 field trip in mind! We’ll be at the USDA’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, where attendees will enjoy the contrast of learning first-hand how technology is being applied to improve food, water, and watersheds; to reduce the impact of pests; and to monitor crops and livestock—all in the rustic grandeur of the Depression-era, CCC-constructed Log Lodge. (Erik Andrejko, San Francisco, Dec 2016; Sean McDonald, San Francisco, Dec 2015; Paula Bramel, Vienna, Jul 2013)
 
Carnegie Mellon has a new AI degree, which sounds revolutionary until you realize that it’s a degree in AI, not a degree for AIs. (Manuela Veloso, Boston, 2014, Robert Murphy, San Jose, Feb 2012)
 
Maybe that’ll happen once bot-speak is more human-like—the goal of AI startup Semantic Machines, which Microsoft just acquired. The company was based in Berkeley, where Microsoft will establish a “conversational AI center of excellence.” Coincidentally, it looks like our March 2019 will be in Berkeley—the exact dates to be announced soon.
 
For our U.S. readers, have a memorable Memorial Day weekend!
 

“Here ends my forever memorable first High Sierra excursion. I have crossed the Range of Light, surely the brightest and best of all the Lord has built. And, rejoicing in its glory, I gladly, gratefully, hopefully pray I may see it again.”
 —John Muir

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