We interrupt this newsletter to announce that the Preconference Readings for March are available at the new and improved website.
We’re also happy to announce some details of our June field trip to Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, the world’s largest robotics R&D organization. In addition to a visit to the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC), the trip will highlight coordinated applications of sensors, robotics, and AI, and research conducted at the Traffic21 and Metro21 institutes, which are transforming Pittsburgh into a smart city. As such, our transition from CMU’s main campus to NREC will include a guided tour of the Adaptive Traffic Signals Corridor and the Living Edge Lab.
…And the winner, in the category of Business Technology, of a 2019 Axiom Business Book Award, is Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI, by Paul R. Daugherty (San Francisco, Dec 2018) and H. James Wilson. Congratulations, Paul!
“Oceans of data” is usually a metaphor, but scientists are now mining ocean data to advise fishermen where to fish for the best catch, and where not to fish to avoid sea turtles and other protected species. (Sampriti Bhattacharyya, San Francisco, Dec 2018)
A wave of folding smartphones is nearly upon is. Will they end the distinction between phones and tablets?
Then there’s the ever-more-indistinct line between larger tablets and laptops, notably the MS Surface products (Chuck Thacker, San Diego, Nov 2002). So, not to be left out, it looks like Microsoft filed a patent for a foldable laptop battery.
Hardly news to some (K Waterman (Atlanta, Feb 2014) publicly predicted this in 2016), but cryptocurrencies, once touted as unhackable, are being hacked. To be clear: these aren’t just hacks on currency exchanges, they are attacks on currency blockchains, via so-called 51% attacks that gain control over more than half the active nodes to create a fork that allows the hacker to spend the same money twice. Even the Ethereum cryptocurrency (Vitalik Buterin, Philadelphia, Jul 2015) was successfully attacked on Coinbase (Peter Van Valkenburgh, San Francisco, Dec 2017), though no money was lost.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Google is making a hard turn toward hardware and this year will release “smart speakers, wearables, and web cameras” in addition to a budget Pixel phone and an expensive one.
We’re getting more and more software that can detect fake news, this time from the Fraunhofer Institute (Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia, Boston, Apr 2017). But just when you think maybe the good guys are winning, OPENAI created new fake headline writing capabilities that are so plausible, its creators are afraid to unleash it on the world. Technology Review got ahold of the algorithm and created a fake news story. Truly scary.
Have you ever seen a janitor pick up trash using a spike with a long handle? A new British satellite uses a harpoon to clean up space debris. (Ed Lu, SRI field trip, Feb 2017)
Despite continuing improvements, Harv, the strawberry-harvesting robot, remains less adept than farmworkers. At what point will the economics of automated pickers make sense? (Jeff Legault, Brooklyn, New York, Jul 2016)
Yann LeCun (Pittsburgh, Oct 2012) argues in favor of the development of a new machine learning-focused programming language, but will coders relinquish their favorite languages?
China continues to aggressively develop solar power: Now it plans to launch a large array of small solar power plants into the stratosphere, where the inconveniences of clouds and nighttime won’t impede photon-to-electricity conversion; the electricity would be beamed to terrestrial receiving stations via microwave or laser. The plan is eventually achieve gigawatt capacity circa 2050. (Dmitriy Tseliakhovich, San Francisco, Dec 2015)
Not only history, but also contemporary accounts, have largely been written by men, neglecting the essential roles women—specific women—have played and do play. Women are tackling implicit bias (Julia Ancis, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017) with a movement to rectify this, at least within the context of Wikipedia (Denny Vrandecic, San Francisco, Dec 2018; Jimmy Wales, Jersey City, Oct 2013, and Washington, D.C., Dec 2005), by providing training and hackathons focused on creating biographical pages about important women.
"History can be rewritten because it doesn’t have to be contained in pages anymore, and the potential for expansion is unlimited. And because doing it better the second time around shows that we’ve learned from our incomplete job the first time."