TTI/Vanguard: Register for June AI Conference

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) 

Looking internationally, the United Nations is partnering with marketing firm Remesh, which uses AI to understand the needs of clients’ stakeholders, to address matters of foriegn diplomacy. As parties to a thorny negotiation engage in discussion, their comments pass through Remesh’s algorithm, clustering them according to agreement/disagreement with generated results. Pilot applications include consideration among Yemenis of how the pandemic impacted on-the-ground conflicts and Libyan’s views about the UN proposing upon them an interim government. Language models are integral to the success of such tools; this will be a focus of TTI/Vanguard’s summertime virtual conference on AI: Today and Tomorrow

What’s the first thing you think of when seeing a double (or higher order) rainbow? Beauty? Hope for the future? Leprechauns? One member of the newsletter team took a scattering theory course way back in grad school and always thinks of Airy functions when encountering the damped periodic multicolored displays enjoyed in and around Washington, D.C., on April 11. This article doesn’t attempt to solve any differential equations, but it does include jaw-dropping photos—photos that do inspire hope for the future—as well as some of the scientific background of rainbows.

After spending 40 days deep in a cave in the French Pyrénées with no means to keep track of time or interact with the outside world, 15 intrepid volunteers were healthy, happy, and congenial with one another, but mistaken about how long the had been down there by 25%. (David Virshup, Seattle, Dec 2008) 

The holy grail for Disney Imagineers has been a to-scale—kid scale—fully autonomous bipedal robot capable of roaming around a theme park and interacting with guests. The Kiwi project, led by Jon Snoddy (Pittsburgh, Jun 2019) and Boston Dynamics alum Scott LaValley, delivers with a Baby Groot as its first cute-as-a-button, ambling instantiation. (Marc Raibert, Brooklyn, Jul 2016) www.// 

Is code protected by copyright? This week, the US Supreme Court ruled no, ending the long and high-profile squabble over Google’s use of Oracle code in its development of Android. (Larry Downes, San Francisco, Feb 2010)

Speaking of behemoth tech companies, Apple is joining automakers in the collective sufferfest being caused by the global microchip shortage. The danger associated with overreliance on a small set of component manufacturers is hardly news; Barry Lynn (Tokyo, Jul 2012) devoted a whole talk to the topic nearly a decade ago, when he used an earthquake-induced disruption of … wait for it … Taiwanese microchips as one of his examples.

The value of bees never seems to become exhausted (Paulo de Souza, San Francisco, Dec 2014). This time, a study has shown that they can not only learn but also teach. Those who have shared the collective power of insect colonies with TTI/V (Deborah Gordon, Seattle, Dec 2012; David Hu, Pittsburgh, Jun 2019) would likely be excited, although not surprised, by this finding. 

In other creepy-crawly news, MIT engineer and composer Markus Buehler sonified the process of spider web construction to provide an additional dimension to scientists’ understanding of the networks these eight-legged creatures craft, with an eye toward mimicking spiders’ processes when 3-D printing complex microelectronics. (Todd Blackledge, Charlotte, Dec 2010; Mira Calex, Jersey City, Oct 2013; Guy Hoffman, Brooklyn, Jun 2018) 

The COVID pandemic amplified inequality in the United States. In a call to reverse that dangerous truth, one writer looks to the innovation—academic, municipal, and corporate—that made Silicon Valley back in the 1950s and even earlier. 

The previous item considers the characteristics of specific cities to their success as innovation hubs; this one considers commonalities of urban centers. An MIT network scientist used a pedestrian traffic inventory in Kendall Square to create a model of anticipated foot traffic in the vicinity of a variety of business types that could be applied to arbitrary cities. (Benjamin de la Peña, Seattle, Mar 2020; University of Washington, field trip, Seattle, Mar 2020) 

“Restore human legs as a means of travel. Pedestrians rely on food for fuel and need no special parking facilities.”—Lewis Mumford