• TTI/Vanguard Newsletter: February 17, 2023

    February 17, 2023

    No one would expect Google to let Microsoft run away with incorporating AI text generator ChatGPT into Bing unchallenged. “Bard,” based on a version of the large language model LaMDA, will soon augment Google search results. Still, Google’s Internet Evangelist and friend of TTI/Vanguard Vint Cerf (Los Angeles, Jun 2022; Washington, D.C., May 2012; Philadelphia, Apr 2006; Miami, Sep 2002; London, Jul 1994) finds it worrisome how good these AI chatbots are at creating entirely plausible falsehoods.

    One New York Times journalist probed the depths of the quasi-psyche of ChatGPT and came away concerned that the AI might use humans to do its own nefarious bidding. He writes, “I worry that the technology will learn how to influence human users, sometimes persuading them to act in destructive and harmful ways, and perhaps eventually grow capable of carrying out its own dangerous acts.”

    Still, regular folks don’t want to be left out of the generative AI craze: They have been applying ChatGPT to seemingly everything and anything. For instance, a fiber arts enthusiast (Nina Paley and Theodore Gray, Michigan, May 2015) focused the generative AI on writing crochet patterns that would transform, stitchwise, into a reasonable finished product. Despite the wealth of crochet patterns sucked in by OpenAI’s model, the outcomes were pretty miserable, and crochet-specific neural net HAT3000 led crocheters to pull their hair out rather than cover it in a newly stitched creation. Even if you’re not into this sort of crafting, the lessons for the generative-AI-curious have broad applicability. 

    Okay, moving on:

    Two facts: (1) The typical modern wind turbine is expected to last roughly 20 years. (2) Wind turbine blades are big—really big. What, then, to do with those huge hunks of plastic resin once a turbine has been decommissioned? Vesta has announced the ability to recycle the epoxy that gives its blades their strength and long-term weather resistance, and reuse the recovered material to construct new blades. (George Berghorn, Berkeley, Mar 2019) Another solution is to repurpose old blades as playground components

    In Scottsdale in Dec 2022, Emily Morris shared how her company Emrgy was installing distributed hydroelectric generators in established waterways, such as irrigation channels. Project Nexus is taking a slightly different approach to the same opportunity by covering such canals with solar panels to simultaneously generate local electricity and reduce evaporation. 

    Quantum entanglement is in the early stages of being applied to Earthbound and satellite-based communications (Tanya Ramond, virtual conference, Sep 2021; Prem Kumar, San Francisco, Dec 2018). Progress is also being made by astronomers to exploit quantum mechanics in the service of high-resolution telescopes by removing the problem of photon phase instability among the multiple telescopes involved in an interferometry-based observation.

    The best way to reduce range anxiety for drivers of electric cars is to get more miles from each charge, and for each charge to be lickity-split. Ionblox promises to deliver both of these outcomes simultaneously with a battery with pre-lithiated silicon dominant anodes. Reported specs, which have been confirmed by Idaho National Laboratory, is 50% greater energy density and five times more power compared with lithium-ion batteries, and fast-charge times of 10 minutes to reach 80% capacity. Batteries such as these might also be what’s needed to get electric planes up in the air (Sebastian Thrun, virtual conference, Nov 2020).

    We all know that living trees absorb carbon dioxide. Even mechanical trees do that (Matthew Ryan, field trip, Arizona State University, Dec 2022). Now a researcher at Rice University is developing a novel engineered wood that can keep on keeping on even after the tree has been felled. After delignifying the wood (Tian Li, Washington, D.C., Sep 2018), it is then soaked in a solution containing microparticles of the metal–organic framework CALF-20 that both lends the wood structural stability and absorbs CO2.

    “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”—Robert Frost

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  • TTI/Vanguard: Deepfake Diagnostics

    May 07, 2021

    Members - please remember to register for TTI/V’s upcoming virtual conference, AI: Today and Tomorrow. Join us for 4 Tuesdays: June 22, June 29, July 13, and July 20. Register today! 

    First, deepfake people (Chris Piehota, virtual conference, Jun 2020; Dan Brahmy and Yossef Daar, Israel Virtual Startup Forum, Jan 2021); now, deepfake geography. But why wouldn’t hoax protagonists fabricate satellite imagery depicting whatever might bolster their false claims? In fact, inserting fake features into maps is an age-old falsification ruse. University of Washington researcher Bo Zhao says the current challenge is to educate the public on how to spot realistic-yet-bogus geographic pics. 

    Caregiving is a multifaceted endeavor, encompassing feeding, washing, dressing, and being social with the subject of that care. For instance, Karen Liu (Boston, Apr 2017) discussed her dress-the-patient robot not long ago. A team of Boston-area researchers, including MIT CSAIL’s Daniella Rus (Boston, Apr 2014), are extending the scope of robotic tasks to include hair brushing—a challenge that furthermore provides insights into mathematical models and control systems for manipulating all manner of soft fibers. Although the project purposefully considers how best to tame straight, wavy, and curly hair, the RoboWig demos do not appear to extend to the detangling of Black hair, further exacerbating the unintentional bias of far too many machine-learning systems. (Julie Ancis, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017)


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  • TTI/Vanguard: Register for June AI Conference

    April 30, 2021

    It is time to register for TTI/V’s upcoming virtual conference, AI: Today and Tomorrow. Join us for 4 Tuesdays: June 22, June 29, July 13, and July 20. Register today! 

    Congratulations to Michael Franz (Washington, D.C., Sep 2014), the winner of the 2020 Charles Thacker (San Diego, Nov 2002) Breakthrough in Computing Award for his work on just-in-time compilation—a body of work that includes the Rosette programming language, which makes it easy to create and implement domain-specific languages. www.// 

    The U.S. Digital Service is seeking the services of people like you—or people you have fostered professionally. As the soon-to-be-outgoing USDS administrator puts it, “Serving at USDS offers incredible potential for impact at scale. As [the Biden] administration takes off, we need the help of even more folks who are passionate about how technology can make government more equitable and accessible. If you’re an engineer, designer, product manager, acquisition strategist, or policy expert who cares about making government work better for real people. Moreover, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers seeks to create the Civilian Cybersecurity Reserve, an by-invitation-only, National Guard-like corps that can be called upon to address cybersecurity threats as they arise. (Tom Kalil, San Francisco, Dec 2017) 


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