• World Scientists Declare Climate Emergency

    A global coalition of scientists says “untold human suffering” is unavoidable without deep and lasting shifts in human activities that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and other factors related to climate change. In a paper published in BioScience, the authors, along with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from 153 countries, declare a climate emergency, present graphics showing trends as vital signs against which to measure progress, and provide a set of effective mitigating actions.

  • California Wildfires Signal the Arrival of a Planetary Fire Age

    Another autumn, more fires, more refugees and incinerated homes. For California, flames have become the colors of fall. Stephen Pyne writes that free-burning fire is the proximate provocation for the havoc, since its ember storms are engulfing landscapes. But in the hands of humans, combustion is also the deeper cause. Modern societies are burning lithic landscapes - once-living biomass now fossilized into coal, gas and oil - which is aggravating the burning of living landscapes. “Add up all the effects, direct and indirect – the areas burning, the areas needing to be burned, the off-site impacts with damaged watersheds and airsheds, the unraveling of biotas, the pervasive power of climate change, rising sea levels, a mass extinction, the disruption of human life and habitats – and you have a pyrogeography that looks eerily like an ice age for fire,” he writes. “You have a Pyrocene. The contours of such an epoch are already becoming visible through the smoke. If you doubt it, just ask California.”

  • Browser Tool Helps Researchers ID Malicious Websites, Code

    Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed an open-source tool that allows users to track and record the behavior of JavaScript programs without alerting the websites that run those programs. The tool, called VisibleV8, runs in the Chrome browser and is designed to detect malicious programs that are capable of evading existing malware detection systems.

  • Bio-Inspired Theoretical Research May Improve Robots’ Effectiveness on Battlefield

    In an effort to make robots more effective and versatile teammates for soldiers in combat, Army researchers are on a mission to understand the value of the molecular living functionality of muscle, and the fundamental mechanics that would need to be replicated in order to artificially achieve the capabilities arising from the proteins responsible for muscle contraction.

  • First Statewide Testing of ShakeAlert in the United States

    Earlier this month, the U.S. Geological Survey and the State of California pressed the “go” button to allow the first-ever statewide public testing of the California Early Earthquake Warning System, which is powered by USGS’s earthquake early warning alerts, called ShakeAlerts. Alerts will be delivered by two independent methods, first over the federal Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system and second through the University of California Berkeley’s MyShake smartphone app.

  • Techno-Fix Futures Will Only Accelerate Climate Chaos – Don’t Believe the Hype

    By Joanna Boehnert and Simon Mair

    Thanks to the efforts of climate activists, the climate and ecological emergency has never been more prominent. But acknowledging the problem is just a starting point. Now this momentum must be harnessed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reverse habitat destruction.

  • 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

    By Abigail Klein Leichman

    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?

    By Sarah Fecht

    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.”