TTI/Vanguard: Newsletter

Note from Lisa Yao: I am in the difficult position of announcing both the death of beloved former Advisory Board member Michael Hawley and the retirement of beloved current Director of TTI/V Steven Cherry. Neither event was unexpected, but our community is lesser for both losses. Mike’s life has been well-celebrated in many online tributes and in his New York Times obituary. Steven penned a poignant goodbye yesterday. And the team had a few things to add. Standing on the shoulders of these two giants, we look toward the future of TTI/V. We are a futuristic organization after all. But we also keep a nod to the past, to all who have served and shaped TTI/Vanguard over the years. 
The early digital cell phones were open to eavesdropping and attacks. The early Wi-Fi routers were open to attack. You would think we’d learn something, but millions of smart home devices are open to attack. (Jason Hong, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017)
The image of a delivery drone waiting for a bus seems crazy, but researchers at Stanford note that it could save a lot of energy. (Peter Calthorpe, Berkeley, Mar 2019)
A new Facebook tool, which they call a “neural transcompiler,” converts code from one programming language to another. Unfortunately, Cobol isn’t one of them. (Armando Solar-Lezama Washington, D.C., Sep 2018; Bret Victor, Berkeley, Mar 2018; Emina Torlak, Washington, D.C., Sep 2014; Doug Lenat, Los Angeles, Apr 2001)
Amazon order confirmations and shipment notifications no longer describe the items that were ordered or being shipped. The question is why. One possible answer: So Google or other companies can’t see any details of the transaction. (George Sidman, Salt Lake City, Dec 2009; David Gilmour, Dallas, Dec 1999)
Do we really need phones with six cameras? Even Gillette stopped at five blades. (Marc Levoy, San Francisco, Dec 2014, and Charlotte, Dec 2010)
What we need even less, apparently, are camera manufacturers. After an 84-year run, Olympus is selling off its entire imaging business.(Symon Whitehorn, Los Angeles, Feb 2011)
The world’s first fully automated robot cafeteria opened in Foshan, a city in Guangdong province.
A new rule will extend a ban on green cards issued outside the United States until the end of the year. It applies to H-1B visas, H-2B visas (but not food processing working); J-1 visas for cultural exchanges, and L-1 visas for key employees of multinational corporations. (Richard Freeman, Pittsburgh, Jun 2019; Ian Stewart, Brooklyn, Jul 2016)
Police in Detroit arrested a man for theft without ever even asking him if he had an alibi. After all, it’s not like facial recognition could possibly make a mistake, especially if the suspect is a person of color. The case, which was eventually dismissed, is thought to be the first of a false arrest due entirely to an AI error in matching a mug shot to a facial database. It’s not hard to be reminded of the AI/bias talks we had at our June conference series. (Michele Ruiz and Dan Gould, Michael Kearns, online, June 2020).
Open-access publishing (Brewster Kahle, San Francisco, May 2016 and Feb 2005) got a huge boost recently in a deal between the University of California system and the #2 commercial publisher of academic journals, Springer Nature.
Which is odder, that Apple is leaving the Intel realm, or that it was ever in the Intel realm to begin with? Or maybe that Microsoft now has an antivirus app for Android? (And which is odder, that Microsoft is in the app space now, or that it’s in the Android space?) Technology makes for strange bedfellows. (At our final June meeting this week, Ike Nassi reminisced about the original 68000 series chips, and the then-historic shift to PowerPC.)
Anybody see the remake of “The Invisible Man,” starring Elizabeth Moss? Us neither. But a group at UC-Irvine have genetically engineered human embryonic kidney cells to express the same “active camouflage” particles that give squids and other cephalopods a form of transparency. (Dusko Ilic, London, Jul 2014; Jaron Lanier, Atlanta, Nov 2000)
Oak Ridge National Lab’s reign having the top supercomputer in the world (Jack Dongarra, San Francisco, Dec 2019) didn’t last long. But the leading computer is now in Japan—2.5x faster than Summit—not China. (Satoshi Matsuoka, Tokyo, Jul 2012; field trip Texas Advanced Computing Center, Austin, Feb 2016) 

Despite reliance on just 200 instead of its usual 3700 polling places, Kentucky conducted a successful pandemic-era primary through bipartisan preplanning, ample distribution of absentee ballots, 15 early-voting days, coordination between state and county election officials, and no use of ill-considered voting machines (Richard DeMillo, Seattle, Mar 2020; Avi Rubin, Austin, Feb 2004). The state’s two largest counties had but one polling place each, but they were stadiums, with enough poll workers, check-in lines, and voting stations to keep the flow of voters moving smoothly.


“Retirement isn't the end of the road, but just a turn in the road.” Thank you Steven Cherry for seven great years!