We received word last week that three-time speaker and long-time friend of TTI/Vanguard, Gen. Michael Hayden, was hospitalized after a stroke. We wish him a full and speedy recovery.
Congrats to the Insight lander—and to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, which designed the two CubeSat (Jordi Puig-Suari, Boston, Apr 2017) communications satellites that accompanied it. And we’re pleased to welcome JPL as a new TTIV member with the December meeting.
Closer to home, MIT researchers recorded a successful flight of a plane with no moving parts, propelled by ionic wind. (Paul MacCready, Los Angeles, Nov 1998)
First they came for the mosquitos, and I did not speak out.… National Public Radio compared the first CRISPR babies, delivered recently in China, to the first test tube baby, but we think this is a bigger moment than that—maybe the biggest in the history of human evolution. There’s some reason to doubt the reports, but not the inevitability of genetically designing future generations. George Church (Boston regional meeting, Jun 2015) was surprisingly sanguine about deploying CRISPR generally, noting for example that we could end malaria if we could eliminate the insects that carry it, but it’s hard not worry about unintended consequences.
Remember when Apple and Amazon reached $1 trillion in market value? The recent tech stock slump has hit them worse than Microsoft, which, through a last-man-standing process, is now the most valuable company in the world, with a market cap of $753 billion.
Ohio is the first U.S. state to accept bitcoins for tax payments. (Yes. Ohio.)
The New York Times’s “One Thing You Can Do” about climate change (“hang onto your cellphone longer”), cites Lotfi Belkhir’s research (Washington, D.C., Sep 2018).
If judges can have risk ratings for bail applicants (Matt Alsdorf, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017), how about giving parents risk ratings for potential babysitters?
The two research projects to share in winning the Gordon Bell Prize for supercomputing used the same supercomputer: Summit, located at Oak Ridge National Lab, currently the fastest in the world. Researchers at ORNL itself won for a study that looked at the genetic basis of opioid addiction. And researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used Summit for a machine-learning study of extreme weather patterns. Both teams broke the exascale barrier, with ORNL’s usage peaking at a staggering 36 exaops (Satoshi Matsuoka, Tokyo, Jul 2012).
Reuters has posted a video of a Lockheed Martin demonstration of an exoskeleton system for soldiers.
Four years ago, Michael Mastrandrea and Noah Diffenbaugh (San Francisco, Dec 2014) were unequivocal about the immediacy of the problem of climate change and the direness of the consequences. The latest IPCC report is even more stark in its assessment of our likely future, prompting a thoughtful essay by Jon Evans in TechCrunch that asks the question, “At what point do we admit that geoengineering is an option?” (Richard Turco, Santa Monica, Dec 2007)
Can Samsung, currently the #5 provider of cellular network equipment (behind Huawei, ZTE, Ericsson, and Nokia), capture 20% of the market by 2020? It plans to spend $22 billion trying. (Sundeep Rangan and Marco Mezzavilla, Brooklyn regional meeting, Oct 2016; Gordon Castle, Philadelphia, Jul 2015)
Perovskite photovoltaics can be thin and even flexible, because they are printed like ink. Where do we sign up for our Grateful Dead solar-paneled T-shirts? (Karsten Held, Vienna, Jul 2013)
Google claims it can predict which restaurants are unsanitary better than health inspections can. One is reminded of Google’s notorious flu-season predictions, which were right until they weren’t (Eric Haseltine and Chris Gilbert, Menlo Park, Nov 2016; Hal Varian, San Francisco, Feb 2010). This might be different, though. The latter only used search data, while for restaurants, the company starts with search terms like “stomach cramps” and then goes into a user’s phone location data and figures out which restaurants might be implicated. Which we find awesome and creepy (Stephen Wicker and Dan Gillmor, Washington, D.C., Sep 2018). Yes, the data is de-identified and aggregated, but Arvind Narayanan (Washington, D.C., Sep 2017) showed us how easily data can be de-anonymized.
Speaking of the privacy of data, George Church has a new startup, Nebula Genomics, a genomic company whose business model has a twist (pun intended): Users own their data and can sell it; companies can learn who has unique genetic characteristics of interest to them through Nebula, and users can elect to leave the anonymity that Nebula provides. In that, it’s similar to Julian Ranger’sthen-startup SocialSafe (London, Jul 2014), Paul Glimcher’s Human Project (Boston, Apr 2017), and Nicole Immorlica’s (Boston, Apr 2017) vision of Data as Labor.
Gait recognition has gone from possibility (Shonali Krishnaswamy, Philadelphia, Jul 2015) to deployment (in China, of course) in just a few short years, though not yet in real-time.
Also in China, facial recognition is having social consequences, as a businesswoman was publicly chastised for jaywalking. The face was right, the shaming was real, but the crime was wrong: She was present only as a billboard ad on the side of a bus. (Andreas Weigend, San Francisco, Feb 2017; Roger McNamee and Jonathan Taplin, Los Angeles, Mar 2018)
By 2020, the number of competitors to the U.S.’s GPS system could go from 0 to 3: the EU’s Galileo, Russia’s being-improved GLONASS, and China’s Beidou Navigation System, which just added two more satellites. (Alexandre Bayen, Los Angeles, Mar 2018; Anne Miglarese, Vienna, Jul 2013; Brook DeLorme, Memphis, Sep 2006; Per Enge, Phoenix, Dec 2003; Charlie Trimble, Toronto, Apr 2002)
Is there a next step to AI beyond reinforcement learning? And if so, is active inference theory, developed by Karl Friston, director of University College London’s Functional Imaging Laboratory, it? (Chris Eliasmith, Washington, D.C., Sep 2018; Kenneth Stanley, Brooklyn, Jun 2018; Scott Niekum, Austin, Feb 2016) www.wired.com/story/karl-friston-free-energy-principle-artificial-intelligence/
“They don’t make any more fun of us than we deserve.” —Bill Gates, on HBO's series, 'Silicon Valley.’ We hope to see you [next] week in the heart of the Bay Area!
The TTI/Vanguard Team