Thursday, May 4, 2017

Friday Thinking 5 May 2017

Hello all – Friday Thinking is a humble curation of my foraging in the digital environment. My purpose is to pick interesting pieces, based on my own curiosity (and the curiosity of the many interesting people I follow), about developments in some key domains (work, organization, social-economy, intelligence, domestication of DNA, energy, etc.)  that suggest we are in the midst of a change in the conditions of change - a phase-transition. That tomorrow will be radically unlike yesterday.

Many thanks to those who enjoy this.
In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.
Jobs are dying - work is just beginning.

“Be careful what you ‘insta-google-tweet-face’”
Woody Harrelson - Triple 9


New password guidelines say everything we thought about passwords is wrong

“It’s an entirely different fuel-price world,” said Johannes Truby, an analyst at the Paris-based International Energy Agency. Since 2012, the agency has cut its outlook for European Union coal use in 2030 by 12 percent and now expects just 114 gigawatts of capacity will remain by then, compared with 177 gigawatts in 2014, the latest annual data available.

“We’ve shut down this power-plant site because the Energiewende doesn’t allow it to operate profitably any longer,” said Joachim Rumstadt, chairman of Steag’s managing board. The generator isn’t competitive even though it has “best available technology” for burning coal, he said at an April 4 press conference in the plant’s turbine hall.

About half of the record 10 gigawatts of European coal closures in 2016 took place in the U.K. after the government doubled its carbon price and companies including Drax began taking steps toward converting or phasing out facilities. Britain’s greenhouse gas emissions from power fell by almost a fifth

As recently as December 2013, the Union of the Electricity Industry in Europe, or Eurelectric, said that “the expansion of renewables is going hand in hand with an expansion of coal-fired generation.” Four years later, the group this month announced it has no intention of investing in new coal beyond 2020.

The pace of coal-plant closures means that this year solar capacity will overtake coal for the first time in Western Europe, according to Pira Energy, a unit of S&P Global Inc. At least another 4.3 gigawatts will be closed, placed on standby or converted to natural gas this year, according to Sandbag, a London-based environmental charity.

Europe’s Coal Power Is Going up in Smoke -- Fast

If organizations are going to thrive in these turbulent times, they must surrender many longstanding assumptions about expertise and quickly start leveraging the power of collaborative knowledge. But for many organizations, this won’t be easy as most continue to believe in the kind of power-driven, top-down knowledge management strategies common to the machine age.

But given the disruptive challenges most businesses now face, collaboration is key and collaborative knowledge generation–or sensemaking–is essential for staying attuned to competitive the complex, ever-shifting landscape that defines our hyper-connected universe.

“The power of authoritative knowledge is not that it is correct, but that it counts.”

The Collapse of Expertise and Rise of Collaborative Sensemaking

“The cost of communication is reduced by more than two orders of magnitude. In other words, it’s possible to send 100 to 1000 messages between services in the same amount of time as communicating and processing one message would take a decade ago.”

Resource allocation has always been one of the main tasks of management: what is to be done by whom and when. In centralized systems and with homogeneous resources, this allocation can be performed top-down and in advance of action, separately from the people who act. When knowledge and creativity are the decisive factors of value creation and when work takes place in digital, global, decentralized environments, this top-down process is increasingly inefficient.

A manager cannot know who knows or where the most valuable contributions could come from. This is a problem because time to value is an increasingly important metric.

Because of the aforementioned growing needs in daily organizational life a new architecture of work is emerging. Ideas and practices from post-blockchain smart contracts, artificial intelligence, machine learning and neural-networks are being adapted not only to work, but also to human work.

The new event driven, layered architecture refers to a new, open production logic: people from the whole network can contribute pieces of their time, creativity and expertise to ongoing events according to their interests, availability and experience, working in a transparent environment. The black box of machine learning is turned into an open field. The hidden layers are not hidden anymore. Work is a movement in time where some contributions are followed up by others and and some are not, creating a storyline and a developing narrative. The patterns are not caused by traditional competitive selection, or independent choices made by powerful agents. Instead, what is happening happens in networks of peer interaction.

We often think of individuals as independent and self-contained. The view suggested here sees individuals as nodes of the complex networks they form when interacting with others, co-creating themselves and the reality in which they participate.

The network is a complex system consisting of a large number of agents/nodes behaving according to their own principles of local, self-organizing interaction. No one agent or group of agents, determines how the system as a whole behaves. It is about self-organization.

Esko Kilpi - Neural networks as the architecture of human work

But security is a process, not a product. You can only make a device secure by continuously prodding at it, looking for its defects, and repairing them before they are exploited by your adversary.

DMCA 1201 is now the leading reason that security researchers fail to disclose the vulnerabilities they discover. Once a device has a copyright-protecting lock on it, reporting that device’s defects makes you potentially liable to bowel-watering criminal and civil penalties. In 2015, security researchers told the US Copyright Office that they are sitting on potentially lethal bugs in insulin pumps and cars, on bugs in thermostats and voting machines, in entertainment consoles whose unblinking eyes and ever-listening ears witness our most intimate moments.

By providing an incentive to companies to add copyright locks to their systems, we’ve also given them a veto over who can reveal that they have sold us defective and dangerous products. Companies don’t view this as a bug in their digital monopolization strategy: it is a feature.

Designing computers to treat their owners as untrustworthy adversaries, unfit to reconfigure them or know their defects, is a far more dangerous proposition than merely having computers with bad software.

The failure mode of prohibiting the owners of computers from changing which programs they run, and of knowing whether those computers are secure, is that those computers are now designed to control their owners, rather than being controlled by them.

This is the key difference between computers that liberate and computers that enslave.
Asimov had three laws. I propose two:
1. Computers should obey their owners
2. It should always be legal to tell the truth about computers and their security

How can we make technology that frees us, rather than enslaves us?

Here’s an interesting TED Talk about the emerging world of Algorithmic Intelligence and learning and their applications to the world of design and manufacturing.

The incredible inventions of intuitive AI | Maurice Conti

What do you get when you give a design tool a digital nervous system? Computers that improve our ability to think and imagine, and robotic systems that come up with (and build) radical new designs for bridges, cars, drones and much more -- all by themselves. Take a tour of the Augmented Age with futurist Maurice Conti and preview a time when robots and humans will work side-by-side to accomplish things neither could do alone.

This is an older article - but design fiction is a weak signal of the rise in importance of new foresight methods and especially the rise in salience of Design as a master discipline for shaping the human built environment (including the digital). Creating Diegetic scenarios for anything we design (including our organizations) can reveal powerful implications and affordances. There are two interesting 5 min video - that Sterling offers as exemplars. The ‘glass’ video is the best and a perfect diegetic presentation.

Sci-Fi Writer Bruce Sterling Explains the Intriguing New Concept of Design Fiction

Slate: So what is a design fiction?
Sterling: It’s the deliberate use of diegetic prototypes to suspend disbelief about change. That’s the best definition we’ve come up with.  The important word there is diegetic. It means you’re thinking very seriously about potential objects and services and trying to get people to concentrate on those rather than entire worlds or political trends or geopolitical strategies. It’s not a kind of fiction. It’s a kind of design. It tells worlds rather than stories.

Slate: Can you give an example?
Sterling: I think the most effective design fictions to date have been videos. They’re not science-fiction films; they don’t have any Avatar-style heroics. They’re mostly vignettes of people interacting with objects and services. There’s some element of intellectual sex appeal that makes people forward them to other people.

This is a 26 minute piece by David Weinberger - who’s book “Too Big Too Know” is a must read for the 21st century of information and knowledge in the Digital Environment. This is well worth the time - for anyone concerned with Knowledge and the quandary of understanding vs usefulness (as in all models are wrong but some are useful).
The new availability of huge amounts of data, along with the statistical tools to crunch these numbers, offers a whole new way of understanding the world. Correlation supersedes causation, and science can advance even without coherent models, unified theories, or really any mechanistic explanation at all.

[T]here are generic algorithms that can tell you something interesting about a set of data without you having to write any custom code specific to the problem. Instead of writing code, you feed data to the generic algorithm and it builds its own logic based on the data.”

Back at the beginning of Western culture’s discovery of knowledge, Plato told us that it’s not enough for a belief to be true because then your uninformed, lucky guess about which horse will win the Preakness would have to count as knowledge. That’s why knowledge in the West has consisted of justifiable true beliefs — opinions we hold for a good reason.

Our new reliance on inscrutable models as the source of the justification of our beliefs puts us in an odd position. If knowledge includes the justification of our beliefs, then knowledge cannot be a class of mental content, because the justification now consists of models that exist in machines, models that human mentality cannot comprehend.

We can only know what we know because we are deeply in league with alien tools of our own devising. Our mental stuff is not enough.

Alien Knowledge - When Machines Justify Knowledge

But today — not even a decade since Anderson’s article — the controversy sounds quaint. Advances in computer software, enabled by our newly capacious, networked hardware, are enabling computers not only to start without models — rule sets that express how the elements of a system affect one another — but to generate their own, albeit ones that may not look much like what humans would create. It’s even becoming a standard method, as any self-respecting tech company has now adopted a “machine-learning first” ethic.

We are increasingly relying on machines that derive conclusions from models that they themselves have created, models that are often beyond human comprehension, models that “think” about the world differently than we do.

But this comes with a price. This infusion of alien intelligence is bringing into question the assumptions embedded in our long Western tradition. We thought knowledge was about finding the order hidden in the chaos. We thought it was about simplifying the world. It looks like we were wrong. Knowing the world may require giving up on understanding it.

This is a fascinating implication of the digital environment for all consumers - the price index become real-time dynamic responding to Big Data. And a counter-implication of consumers creating profiles to game price-making.
The price of a can of soda in a vending machine can now vary with the temperature outside.
that means price—not the one offered to you right now, but the one offered to you 20 minutes from now, or the one offered to me, or to your neighbor—may become an increasingly unknowable thing

If the marketplace was a war between buyers and sellers, the 19th-century French sociologist Gabriel Tarde wrote, then price was a truce. And the practice of setting a fixed price for a good or a service—which took hold in the 1860s—meant, in effect, a cessation of the perpetual state of hostility known as haggling.

it was expensive to train hundreds of clerks in the art of haggling. Fixed prices offered a measure of predictability to bookkeeping, sped up the sales process, and made possible the proliferation of printed retail ads highlighting a given price for a given good

By the mid-2000s, some economists began wondering whether Big Data could discern every individual’s own personal demand curve—thereby turning the classroom hypothetical of “perfect price discrimination” (a price that’s calibrated precisely to the maximum that you will pay) into an actual possibility.

How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All

Will you pay more for those shoes before 7 p.m.? Would the price tag be different if you lived in the suburbs? Standard prices and simple discounts are giving way to far more exotic strategies, designed to extract every last dollar from the consumer.
The right price—the one that will extract the most profit from consumers’ wallets—has become the fixation of a large and growing number of quantitative types, many of them economists who have left academia for Silicon Valley. It’s also the preoccupation of Boomerang Commerce, a five-year-old start-up founded by Hariharan, an Amazon alum. He says these sorts of price experiments have become a routine part of finding that right price—and refinding it, because the right price can change by the day or even by the hour. (Amazon says its price changes are not attempts to gather data on customers’ spending habits, but rather to give shoppers the lowest price out there.)

It may come as a surprise that, in buying a seasonal pie ingredient, you might be participating in a carefully designed social-science experiment. But this is what online comparison shopping hath wrought. Simply put: Our ability to know the price of anything, anytime, anywhere, has given us, the consumers, so much power that retailers—in a desperate effort to regain the upper hand, or at least avoid extinction—are now staring back through the screen. They are comparison shopping us.

They have ample means to do so: the immense data trail you leave behind whenever you place something in your online shopping cart or swipe your rewards card at a store register, top economists and data scientists capable of turning this information into useful price strategies, and what one tech economist calls “the ability to experiment on a scale that’s unparalleled in the history of economics.” In mid-March, Amazon alone had 59 listings for economists on its job site, and a website dedicated to recruiting them.

Holding the manipulation of prices in mind - this is both an exciting window into the positive use of Big Data - as potentially very scarry. Citizens have to gather their collective might to ensure regulation serves people first.

Connected Car Data Is the New Oil

In three years, automakers could make more money from connected vehicle data than car sales.
Now that cars are becoming connected, automakers and others want in on the data-for-dollars boom. It's estimated that more than 380 million connected cars will be on the road by 2021 globally, more than double the number now. The data they generate will be red meat to marketers since they'll be able to log people's location, driving habits, in-car entertainment choices, and more, while automakers and others will be able to better predict maintenance issues and provide other services to keep customers happy and loyal.
The automotive industry is still in the very early stages of figuring out how to cash in on connected car data. Through several partnerships and acquisitions focused on advancing vehicle connectivity and refining data analytics, automotive mega supplier Delphi's recent moves give a glimpse of what the future of driving data collection could look like -- and how automakers could turn massive amounts of car data into big bucks.

And the connected, self-driving car may not have to be constrained to highways.
“The basic challenges are solved,” Lilium CEO Daniel Wiegand told WIRED and WIRED Germany in an exclusive interview. Now comes several years of flight testing before moving into serial production. The German startup has backing from the European Space Agency and millions in funding, which will help Wiegand meet his goal of tripling his staff to about 135 people.

Lilium’s Funky ‘Jet’ Could Make Our Dreams of Flying Cars Come True

LOOKING AT IT, you wouldn’t think the Lilium Jet could fly. It looks more like a computer mouse than any aircraft you’ve seen, and its 36 small propellers run on electricity, not jet fuel. But this funky airplane just proved it can take to the sky, and it might be the flying car you’ve been waiting for.

The jet, which isn’t actually a jet, can take off and land vertically like a helicopter and fly like an airplane, making it just the thing for congested cities because it doesn’t need a runway. In other words, it’s everything you want in a flying car: It picks you up wherever you are, and plunks you down exactly where you want to go.

A full-size prototype of the airplane made its maiden voyage an airfield near Munich earlier this month. It lasted just a few minutes, with no one in either of the two seats, and a pilot controlling it from the ground. But it flew, proving that the unconventional design isn’t total malarkey.
Here’s another article with some short videos of the car flying.

Watch this all-electric ‘flying car’ take its first test flight in Germany

Complementing the rise of dynamic pricing that coordinates consumer ‘need’ - other products and contextual availability (soon to heighten artificial scarcity) - is the phase transition in the economic structures of the retail industry.
"This is creating a slow-rolling crisis," Cohen told Business Insider. "The people that work in retail stores will lose their jobs, then spend less money in retail stores because they are no longer employed. That creates a cascade of economic challenges."

The retail apocalypse is creating a 'slow-rolling crisis' that is rippling through the US economy

Retailers are closing thousands of stores and going bankrupt at a rate not seen since the recession, and tens of thousands of people are losing their jobs as a result.

The effects of these job losses will hit local economies hard, according to Mark Cohen, the director of retail studies at Columbia Business School.

Algorithmic Intelligence isn’t replacing humans as much as it’s enhancing our capacity to do new forms of work. The best chess players now are groups of humans with computers and AI.

Inside an Intergalactic Video Game, a Search for Real Alien Worlds

Showing that algorithms are often no match for human vision, players of EVE Online will sift through satellite imagery in a vast citizen science hunt for exoplanets.
This June the University of Geneva will launch the largest citizen science project yet conceived, enlisting hundreds of thousands of video gamers in the search for undiscovered exoplanets. The project will be launched in EVE Online, a video game set in a fictional galaxy that players tour in spaceships as they compete for resources and dominance of virtual territory.

The effort shows how the limits of algorithmic automation can be overcome through clever crowdsourcing, and it shows how the communities built around video games can be tapped to perform useful tasks.

In conjunction with Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS), a company that pairs game makers with scientists, EVE players will be given access to 167,000 light curve images, collected by the European Space Agency satellite CoRoT, which launched in December 2006. “To date, scientists have found around 30 planets inside the data set,” said Michel Mayor, winner of the 2017 Wolf Prize for Physics and discoverer of the first exoplanet. “We estimate there are around a dozen undiscovered planets still hidden within the images.”

The exoplanet project will be folded into EVE Online’s existing fiction and narrative (a virtual version of Mayor will “run” the project in-game). At the height of the game’s popularity, there were more than half a million players. C.C.P., the Reykjavik-based company that makes EVE Online, no longer reports player numbers.

Game-like platforms and even wiki-platforms are demonstrating new forms of value-creation by enabling citizen-science and crowdsourcing of cognitive work. Here’s one recent example. Imagine what the world of work could be when there is a universal livable income - that enables value-creation beyond the constraints of employer-employee and market channels.
“Mozak” has helped the Allen Institute increase the number of neuron reconstructions from 2.33 a week that a team of professional analysts were doing on their own, to 8.3 reconstructions a week, said Staci Sorensen, senior manager of morphology at the Allen Institute. That reflects both the contributions of players and the productivity benefits of an internal version of “Mozak” that the institute’s professionals now use.
About 200 people a day play “Mozak” now, and with more players will come more reconstructions.
“I’m hoping ultimately for an order of magnitude, a factor of 10, acceleration,” said Christof Koch, president and chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute. “How big is the community willing to do this? Is it 20 oddballs or thousands?”

Video Games Help Model Brain’s Neurons

Since November, thousands of people have played the game, “Mozak,” which uses common tricks of the medium — points, leveling up and leader boards that publicly rank the performance of players — to crowdsource the creation of three-dimensional models of neurons.

The Center for Game Science, a group at the University of Washington that Dr. Popović oversees, developed the game in collaboration with the Allen Institute for Brain Science, a nonprofit research organization founded by Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, that is seeking a better understanding of the brain. Dr. Popović had previously received wide attention in the scientific community for a puzzle game called “Foldit,” released nearly a decade ago, that harnesses the skills of players to solve riddles about the structure of proteins.

The Allen Institute’s goal of cataloging the structure of neurons, the cells that transmit information throughout the nervous system, could one day help researchers understand the roots of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and their treatment. Neurons come in devilishly complex shapes and staggering quantities — about 100 million and 87 billion in mouse and human brains, both of which players can work on in Mozak.

“Mozak” is the latest in a growing array of citizen science initiatives with the dual aims of using the wisdom of crowds to tackle complex problems and engaging the public in science. There are public efforts to count bird populations to help scientists understand the effects of climate change. An effort called Galaxy Zoo aids the work of astronomers by getting the masses to classify the shapes of galaxies from telescope imagery.

The progress regarding the use of CRISPR is astounding.

Crispr-Based Diagnostics System Designed

A bioengineering team from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology designed simple, inexpensive diagnostics tools to detect infectious diseases, based on Crispr, an emerging genome-editing technology. A report of the technology appears in this week’s issue of the journal Science (paid subscription required).

Researchers from the Broad Institute, a medical research center affiliated with Harvard and MIT, as well as labs from the two institutions, are seeking to make detection of disease simpler and less costly for clinicians, particularly those in low-resource regions of the world. The team led by Broad Institute bioengineer Feng Zhang, also on the faculty at MIT, applied Crispr — short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats — to the task. Zhang is among the pioneers in Crispr technology.

The team call its technology platform Specific High Sensitivity Enzymatic Reporter Unlocking, or Sherlock, which the researchers tested with a number of different infectious disease samples. The tests show Sherlock can discriminate between small samples of Zika and dengue viruses, even with the amplification reagents freeze-dried and reconstituted with water later on, similar to processes used in remote clinics. Further tests show Sherlock able to detect Zika viruses in tiny blood, urine, and saliva samples, as well as potentially predict viral loads from Zika in patients.

Moreover, the researchers show Sherlock can analyze DNA samples for human genetic characteristics. The team collected saliva samples from 5 individuals, and used Sherlock to identify common genetic variations known as single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs. The researchers then compared Sherlock’s analyses with reports from the personal genetics company 23andMe, and found within 5 minutes that they matched. Further tests also show Sherlock can detect 2 cancer-causing mutations in blood samples.

There is a deep concern about the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria - but as we continue to domesticate bacteria - their very mechanisms can be used against all of them.
The appeal of using CRISPR is that such drugs would be very specific—theoretically, they would kill a single species of germ while leaving beneficial bacteria intact. Broad-spectrum antibiotics, by contrast, kill off large swaths of both good and bad bacteria. In fact, the overuse and abuse of conventional antibiotics is what leads to resistance in the first place.

Edible CRISPR Could Replace Antibiotics

Researchers are developing a probiotic to make disease-causing bacteria self-destruct.
As resistance to antibiotics grows in the U.S., researchers are looking for new ways to fight germs like Clostridium difficile, a bacterium that can cause fatal infections in hospitals and nursing homes.

One way to do that: a “CRISPR pill” that instructs harmful bacteria to self-destruct.

CRISPR is the powerful gene-editing technology already being explored as a way to precisely edit human genes to cure diseases (see "Can CRISPR Save Ben Dupree?"). But the technology’s versatility is such that it’s being studied for a huge range of other uses. Just last week scientists in Boston showed they could craft CRISPR into cheap, simple diagnostic tests.

Now scientists want to turn it into ultra-precise antimicrobial treatments to “specifically kill your bacteria of choice,” says food scientist Jan-Peter Van Pijkeren of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

This is a ‘big deal’ - a key signal in the domestication of DNA and the use of CRISPR.

CRISPR Eliminates HIV in Live Animals

Due to their innate nature to hide away and remain latent for extended periods of time, HIV infections have proven notoriously difficult to eliminate. Yet now, new data released from a research team led by investigators at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) and the University of Pittsburgh shows that HIV DNA can be excised from the genomes of living animals to eliminate further infection. Additionally, the researchers are the first to perform this feat in three different animal models, including a "humanized" model in which mice were transplanted with human immune cells and infected with the virus. Findings from the new study were published recently in Molecular Therapy in an article entitled “In Vivo Excision of HIV-1 Provirus by saCas9 and Multiplex Single-Guide RNAs in Animal Models.”      

This is the first study to demonstrate that HIV-1 replication can be completely shut down and the virus eliminated from infected cells in animals with a powerful gene-editing technology known as CRISPR/Cas9. The new work builds on a previous proof-of-concept study that the team published in 2016, in which they used transgenic rat and mouse models with HIV-1 DNA incorporated into the genome of every tissue of the animals' bodies. They demonstrated that their strategy could delete the targeted fragments of HIV-1 from the genome in most tissues in the experimental animals.

This is hugely interesting - extending the concept of the ‘plastic brain’ to our other brains (stomach and intestine). Thinking with our ‘gut instinct is a reality - our first brain helps determine if food is good for us. But also the link between our microbial profile, digestion, and ‘mental health’ is emerging as ever more complex. The other implication is about the definition of ‘mind’ as the extension of our sensorium beyond both the boundaries of the skull and the body.
“Scientific dogma believed that gut neurons don’t regenerate and that this ‘brain,’ known as the enteric nervous system, remained relatively static shortly after birth,” Pasricha says. “We now have proof that, not only do they regenerate, but the whole network turns completely over every few weeks in adult animals.”


New evidence that, contrary to dogma, a healthy adult gut loses and regenerates a third of its nerve cells weekly.
Johns Hopkins researchers today published new evidence refuting the long-held scientific belief that the gut nerve cells we’re born with are the same ones we die with.

In a report published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the investigators say the finding has profound implications for the understanding and treatment of disorders and diseases that affect the digestive system.

Previous studies have suggested that a healthy adult gut generates few or no new neurons. According to Pasricha, the Johns Hopkins study demonstrates that a healthy adult small intestine loses and regenerates about five percent of its nerve cells every day, or a third of them every week.

Here’s something for everyone wondering about the future of Military aircraft - I’m thinking of the F-35 in particular.
“We’ve not only shown how an Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle can perform its mission when things go as planned, but also how it will react and adapt to unforeseen obstacles along the way,” said Capt. Andrew Petry of the Air Force Research Laboratory in a Lockheed Martin statement. “This is a critical step to enabling future Loyal Wingman technology development and operational transition programs.”

The enteric nervous system controls and regulates vital gastrointestinal functions such as digestion, immunity and inflammation. After the brain, the digestive tract contains the largest nervous system in the human body.

US Air Force Successfully Tests Autonomous F-16 Ground Strike Capability

Project with Lockheed Martin announces second successful test of a fully autonomous F-16 strike fighter.
The “Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle” (UCAV) demonstrated that it could deal with an unexpected air-to-air threat, navigate to its target independently, and carry out an air-ground-strike.

The tests form part of a project known as Loyal Wingman, a program dedicated to building a system to pilot autonomous planes that operate as wingmen to human pilots. Importantly, the unmanned aircraft are directed by the lead aviator and not ground control as unmanned drones such as ‘Reapers’ are.

This is a must watch 1 ½ min video of autonomous robots sorting packages.

Robots sorting system helps Chinese company finish at least 200,000 packages a day in the warehouse

Chinese delivery firm is moving to embrace automation.
Orange robots at the company's sorting stations are able to identify the destination of a package through a code-scan, virtually eliminating sorting mistakes.
Shentong's army of robots can sort up to 200,000 packages a day, and are self-charging, meaning they are operational 24/7.

The company estimates its robotic sorting system is saving around 70-percent of the costs a human-based sorting line would require.

This is awesome - file it under the trying to know how small a difference will make a difference project. Understanding the state of the earth with ever more precision.

Buried lasers will sense Earth's spin and quakes doing the twist

The aluminum hatches are the only clue to what lies beneath. Buried amid the corn and wheat fields of Fürstenfeldbruck, a sleepy monastery village 20 kilometers from Munich, Germany, is an inverted pyramid of concrete, steel pipes, and precision sensors, as deep as a three-story building. Last month, when lasers began coursing around the edges of the tetrahedron, Rotational Motions in Seismology (ROMY), as it is called, began its reign as the most sophisticated ring laser in the world, capable of sensing how Earth itself twists and turns.

"It's a structure that has never been built before," says Heiner Igel, a seismologist at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and the principal investigator for the €2.5 million machine. "It's something so special." What makes it singular is the finesse needed to keep the lasers stable and to detect tiny changes in their wavelengths.

In doing so, ROMY will measure minuscule changes in Earth's spin rate and spin axis. The speed and pace of those measurements promise to add an increment of precision to GPS navigation, and ROMY may even be able to detect a subtle effect predicted by Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity: the drag of the rotating planet on nearby spacetime, like a spoon turned in a pot of honey. ROMY also will be sensitive to the weak rotations that accompany earthquakes, long-ignored motions that contain clues to the interior structure of Earth. By showing the value of recording those motions, ROMY could pave the way for miniature sensors that could help oil and gas prospectors and even planetary scientists who want to listen for tremors on the moon and Mars.

New password guidelines say everything we thought about passwords is wrong

When I recently discovered a draft of new guidelines for password management from NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology), I was amazed about the number of very progressive changes they proposed.

Although NIST’s rules are not mandatory for nongovernmental organizations, they usually have a huge influence as many corporate security professionals use them as base standards and best practices when forming policies for their companies. Thus, another fact I was surprised about was a lack of attention to this document, finalized March 31, from both official media and the blogosphere. After all, those changes are supposed to affect literally everyone who browses the Internet

Here is a quick look at the three main changes the NIST has proposed:
  • No more periodic password changes. This is a huge change of policy as it removes a significant burden from both users and IT departments. It’s been clear for a long time that periodic changes do not improve password security but only make it worse, and now NIST research has finally provided the proof.
  • No more imposed password complexity (like requiring a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters). This means users now can be less “creative” and avoid passwords like “Password1$”, which only provide a false sense of security.
  • Mandatory validation of newly created passwords against a list of commonly-used, expected, or compromised passwords. Users will be prevented from setting passwords like “password”, “12345678”, etc. which hackers can easily guess.

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