• Why Did Microsoft Fund an Israeli Firm that Surveils West Bank Palestinians?

    Microsoft has invested in AnyVision, an Israeli startup which has developed a facial recognition technology used by Israel’s military and intelligence services to surveil Palestinians throughout the West Bank, in spite of the tech giant’s public pledge to avoid using the technology if it encroaches on democratic freedoms. The surveillance technology lets customers identify individuals and objects in any live camera feed, such as a security camera or a smartphone, and then track targets as they move between different feeds. The Israeli surveillance project is similar to China’s surveillance of its Uighur minority population. China is using artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology for a pervasive, intrusive monitoring of the Uighurs, a Muslim group living in western China.

  • Israeli Solution Prevents Bridge and Tunnel Disasters

    People responsible for the health of bridges, tunnels and elevated highways can now see a real-time, cloud-based, 3D “medical report” thanks to technology invented at Israeli startup Dynamic Infrastructure. The company’s proprietary deep-learning image analysis compares daily images of the structure with older images extracted from past periodic inspections.

  • Should New York Build a Storm Surge Barrier?

    It’s been seven years since Superstorm Sandy brought the city that never sleeps to a grinding halt. The Superstorm Sandy anniversary also marks seven years since New York started talking about building storm surge barriers to protect itself from future storms. At a recent event hosted by Columbia University, experts discussed a study that is evaluating the feasibility of building storm surge barriers around New York and New Jersey. The panelists also debated whether such a measure is a good idea.

  • The Hidden Politics of Climate Engineering

    At this point, the greatest danger of climate engineering may be how little is known about where countries stand on these potentially planet-altering technologies. Who is moving forward? Who is funding research? And who is being left out of the conversation?

  • Artificial Intelligence Research Needs Responsible Publication Norms

    After nearly a year of suspense and controversy, any day now the team of artificial intelligence (AI) researchers at OpenAI will release the full and final version of GPT-2, a language model that can “generate coherent paragraphs and perform rudimentary reading comprehension, machine translation, question answering, and summarization—all without task-specific training.” Rebecca Crootof writes in Lawfare that when OpenAI first unveiled the program in February, it was capable of impressive feats: Given a two-sentence prompt about unicorns living in the Andes Mountains, for example, the program produced a coherent nine-paragraph news article. At the time, the technical achievement was newsworthy—but it was how OpenAI chose to release the new technology that really caused a firestorm.

  • Why America Isn’t Equipped for the New Rules of War

    Sean McFate is a former paratrooper in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division; he’s also worked as a private military contractor in West Africa. Today he’s a professor at the National Defense University and Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.  His book The New Rules of War, published earlier this year, dissects the ways warfare must change in order for America to succeed. MIT Technology Review’s war reporter Janine di Giovanni sat down to ask him about his vision for the future of conflict.

  • AI Could Be a Disaster for Humanity. A Top Computer Scientist Thinks He Has the Solution.

    Stuart Russell is a leading AI researcher who co-authored the top textbook on the topic. He has also, for the last several years, been warning that his field has the potential to go catastrophically wrong. In a new book, Human Compatible, he explains how. AI systems, he notes, are evaluated by how good they are at achieving their objective: winning video games, writing humanlike text, solving puzzles. If they hit on a strategy that fits that objective, they will run with it, without explicit human instruction to do so.

  • House Democrats Set to Introduce First-of-Its-Kind Climate Refugee Bill

    Since 2008, catastrophic weather has displaced an average of 24 million people per year, according to data from the Swiss-based nonprofit Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. That number could climb to anywhere from 140 million to 300 million to 1 billion by 2050. The World Bank estimated last year that climate change effects in just three regions ― sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America ― could force 143 million people to flee by the middle of the century. House Democrats are set to introduce the first major piece of legislation to establish protections for migrants displaced by climate change, ramping up a push for a long-overdue framework for how the United States should respond to a crisis already unfolding on its shores.

  • How Climate Change Will Help China and Russia Wage Hybrid War

    Americans and Europeans may not yet notice the existential threat climate change poses, but they had better pay attention to it. Their adversaries could use climate change as a new front in hybrid warfare. “In several African countries we’re already seeing rural settlements disrupted by development projects funded and executed by China,” Howard Jones, CEO of the Born Free Foundation. Told Defense One’s Elizabeth Braw. “Those projects include altering the flows of entire river systems and putting good land to use for export of food and resources to China. Put this together with climate change and pre-existing poverty and we have a huge problem. And why would China care?” Braw adds: “Indeed, China, Russia, and other hostile states can use climate change as a new tool in blended aggression (often called hybrid warfare) against the West.”

  • Deflecting Massive Asteroids With a Nuclear Impulse

    Researchers have completed the first ever in-depth investigation into how an asteroid would respond to a nuclear deflection attempt. “The whole purpose of studies like this is to help us shorten the response timeline if we were to see something coming at us,” said one researcher. “We don’t want to have to scramble to figure out whether to use an impactor or a nuclear device on a particular asteroid. These studies help us define those thresholds.”

  • Climate change: Steep Warming Curve for Europe

    Climate is changing: Droughts, floods, and extreme weather events influence agriculture, economy, and society. Improved adaptability of industry and society to the future climate, however, requires reliable statements on medium-term climate development, in particular for certain regions. Researchers develop a new system for a more precise prognosis of the climate in the next ten years.

  • Mysterious Case of the Vanishing UFOs

    All over the rest of the world UFOs are in sharp decline, and may soon disappear altogether. People are simply not spotting unidentified spacecraft like they used to. Alien abductions are at an all-time low. UFO-spotting organizations are closing down. Since 2014 alien sightings have halved. The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, and dropping. “Where have all the UFOs gone?” Ben Macintyre asks in The Times, noting that “The recent drastic worldwide decline of unexplained phenomena is one of the odder unexplained phenomena of modern times.”

  • Cryptography without Using Secret Keys

    Most security applications, for instance access to buildings or digital signatures, use cryptographic keys that must at all costs be kept secret. That also is the weak link: who will guarantee that the key doesn’t get stolen or hacked? Researchers, using a physical unclonable key (PUK) and the quantum properties of light, researchers present a new type of data security that does away with secret keys.

  • How Partisan Hostility Leads People to Believe Falsehoods

    Researchers now have a better idea of why people who rely on partisan news outlets are more likely to believe falsehoods about political opponents. And no, it isn’t because these consumers live in media “bubbles” where they aren’t exposed to the truth. Instead, it has to do with how partisan media promote hostility against their rivals.

  • September 2019 Tied as Hottest on Record for Planet

    The globe continued to simmer in exceptional warmth, as September 2019  tied with 2015 as the hottest September in NOAA’s 140-year temperature record. The month also capped off another warm year so far, with the globe experiencing its second-warmest January through September (YTD) ever recorded. Arctic sea ice coverage shrank to third-lowest for September.