TTI/Vanguard Newsletter: October 7, 2022

Videos from the Washington, D.C. conference on Artificial Intelligence are now available. When logged in as a member on the conference webpage, click on the title of the talk you are interested in watching, go to the video tab, and enjoy. Several talks are also available publicly on TTI/Vanguard’s YouTube channel, so if you are not currently a member, you can still enjoy some of last month’s excitement. (Better yet, contact Kelly Baughman to discuss (re)joining!)

Here’s a preview of the still-in-development lineup for December’s [next] conference in Scottsdale, which will be augmented by an all-afternoon field trip to Arizona State University (speakers listed in alpha order, with more to come). Register today!

• Tim Andrews, CEO of Counterpoint Advisory and recent coauthor of "A Brief History of a Perfect Future: Inventing the World We Can Proudly Leave Our Kids by 2050”
• Stefan Bilbao, Professor at the University of Edinburgh: Next-Generation Sound Synthesis, modeling the physics of musical instruments using advanced computational methods
• Jennifer Garrison, Professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging: Menopause and how the accelerated aging of ovaries can shed light on aging more generally
• Eric Haseltine, Chairman of the Board of the U.S. Technology Leadership Council, and formerly senior executive in various aspects of the U.S. intelligence community; and Chris Gilbert, Physician: Russian physics attacks and Havana syndrome
• Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, Professor at Arizona State University: Influence of the microbiome on autism
• Paul Mola, Founder, President, and CEO of Roswell Biotechnology: Molecular chips for fast, simultaneous testing of pathogens
• Sarah Potter, Professor, Arizona State University: Public policy for water management
• Demetri Terzopoulos, Professor at UCLA: AI/machine vision work focused on simulating humans

The world took a step forward in planetary defense with TTI/Vanguard member Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab’s flawless execution of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART). Exactly as planned at 7:14 pm EDT on Sep 27, the spacecraft self-destructed by scooting past asteroid Didymos and smashing into Dimorphos, which orbits it. Data collected over the coming weeks measuring the disruption of Dimorphos’s orbit will tell scientists whether a similar assault against an asteroid threatening Earth might deflect it safely. (Dan Durda, Washington, D.C., May 2007) Click here to read the article.

DALL-E, created by Aditya Ramesh (Washington, D.C., Sep 2022), generates photos from text prompts. Researchers at Meta are expanding this concept into the temporal dimension by generating videos from text. Click here to read the article.

Ben Shneiderman (Washington, D.C., Sep 2022; Washington, D.C., Sep 2015) has inked an opinion-and-analysis piece in Scientific American on the value of diversity and inclusion in the AI domain, drawing in not only people of color, with disabilities, and/or distributed across the spectrum of genders and sexual orientations, on the one hand, but also people with blue-sky optimism about AI and with muddy-boots realism, on the other. Working together and listening to one another should improve the fairness, equity, and implementation of the AIs and the outcomes they generate.

Our hearts go out to the people whose lives were upended by Hurricane Ian. One community in southwest Florida—Babcock Ranch—caught the brunt of the storm just as its neighbors did, yet never lost power and didn’t suffer significant flooding. This planned community was designed with resilience in mind: powered by solar with battery backup, electric lines buried underground, giant retaining ponds to protect from inundation, absorbent streets, and more. Disasters need not be disastrous, but resilience requires forethought and commitment. (Jennifer Mathieu, regional meeting, MITRE, Sep 2017) Click here to read the article.

There’s a newly discovered coronavirus afoot that has been hiding out in Russian bats. In Time, a  similar article to the one linked begins: “It’s the news that public health experts expect but dread: virus-hunting researchers have discovered a new coronavirus in bats that could spell trouble for the human population. The virus can infect human cells and is already able to skirt the immune protection from COVID-19 vaccines [or infection].” Great. TTI/Vanguard members can’t say they weren’t forewarned. (Barbara Han, Austin, Feb 2016; DominicSuciu, Seattle, Mar 2020; virtual conference, Sep 2020; Dan Lucey, Los Angeles, Jun 2022) 

Most scientists and engineers would agree that research in the fundamentals of physics is important; it can lead to new understanding and ultimately new technologies. Case in point: the Nobel Prize in physics awarded this week to Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger for their work using entangled photons to test the quantum foundations of reality. Today’s advances in quantum information science would not be possible without their seminal work half a century ago (e.g., German Kolmakov and Shaina Raklyar, Washington, D.C., Sep 2022; Prineha Narang, Boston, Mar 2022; Tanya Ramond, virtual conference, Sep 2021). However, even some particle physicists consider the work of theoreticians who invent new particles out of whole cloth—and mathematical manipulations—to be a misguided effort

The common use of the term microbiome encompasses viruses and bacteria associated with the human body, most often of the gut and/or skin. The teeming mass of microbes that lives within and on us greatly affects our health and wellbeing (Jeannette Wing, virtual conference, Sep 2021; Jessica Richman, Austin, Feb 2016; Larry Smarr, San Jose, Feb 2012). Researchers at the University of California-San Diego (field trip, UCSD, Feb 2009) and startup Micronoma turn their attention to another lifeform—fungi—that affect human health by creating the first pan-cancer mycobiome [not a typo] atlas. It surveys 35 cancer types and their associated fungi. Click here to read the article.

Stephen Wolfram (Washington, D.C., May 2009) opines on the possibility and, more fundamentally, the nature of alien intelligence, basing his analysis on what he calls the Principle of Computational Equivalence, namely that “all processes, whether they are produced by human effort or occur spontaneously in nature, can be viewed as computations.” If we consider that the computations performed by the human brain connote intelligence, then the computations performed by natural phenomena similarly connote intelligence. Taken to its logical conclusion, Wolfram argues, alien intelligences exist among us today, with the weather as one manifestation. Click here to read the article.

“A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.”—Marcel Proust