Smart dust … it sounds like a magical substance sprinkled on dumber things. Which is kind of true. The concept has been making the hype-cycle rounds late this summer and setting off some industry buzz among megatrend watchers during an otherwise lackluster news and information cycle. But smart dust is not all that new a concept. Not long ago, it might have been known by the more mundane and geeky term micro-electromechanical systems, or MEMS, which is common in the computer chip world.
The rapid pace of innovation and the constantly exploding collection of possibilities is a major contributor to the fun we all have in digital jobs. There is never a boring moment, there is never time when you can't do something faster or smarter. The tiny downside of this is that our parents likely never had to invest as much in constant education, experimentation and self-driven investment in core skills. They never had to worry that they have to be in a persistent forward motion… sometimes just to stay current. This reality powers my impostor syndrome, and (yet?) it is the reason that I love working in every dimension of digital.
As America increases its military footprint in some of Africa's most dangerous trouble spots, confronting extremist affiliates of Al Qaeda and Islamic State, the risk of intelligence failures and more combat deaths is mounting. U.S. special forces who accompanied Niger's military at a meeting of village leaders in Tongo Tongo on Oct. 4 were working in the country's treacherous western borderlands, a region of shifting tribal allegiances, opaque motives and ethnic grudges going back decades, all feeding into a growing jihadist problem. Four Americans and five Nigerian troops died after leaving Tongo Tongo and being ambushed and heavily outgunned by fighters armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. The militants are believed to be from a Malian-led militia, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahel, which declared allegiance to the overall militant organization in 2015. One error appears to have been downplaying the danger.
Military operations and photography aren't the only areas benefitting from drone technology. Energy, insurance, telecommunications, and many other industries could also have drones in their future. Drone technology has been used by defense organizations and tech-savvy consumers for quite some time. However, the benefits of this technology extends well beyond just these sectors. With the rising accessibility of drones, many of the most dangerous and high-paying jobs within the commercial sector are ripe for displacement by drone technology.
The Singularity is a term you'll find in science and in science fiction. It was coined by mathematician John von Neumann to define a theoretical moment when the artificial intelligence of computers surpasses the capacity of the human brain. The term is borrowed from physics and quantum mechanics, where the term gravitational singularity is used in the study of black holes. These events are all considered singular because we are unable to predict what happens next; the disruptive degree of change associated with the event is simply too great for our current body of knowledge. While we are far from attaining the goal of artificial intelligence, there was a brief flurry of excitement recently when a computer passed the Turing Test, to mixed reviews.
Astronauts went spacewalking Friday to provide some necessary focus to the International Space Station's robot arm. The main job for commander Randy Bresnik and teacher-turned-astronaut Joe Acaba was to replace a blurry camera on the new robotic hand that was installed during a spacewalk two weeks ago. The two men were supposed to go spacewalking earlier this week, but NASA needed extra time to rustle up the repair plan. Astronauts went spacewalking Friday to provide some necessary focus to the International Space Station's robot arm. The Deep Space Gateway will orbit Earth and the moon and will open up opportunities for future exploration of deep space, as well as a return to the moon and missions to Mars.
Amidst the robocar hype, it's easy to forget that for all their powers, computers are still lousy drivers compared to humans. This week, Eric Adams introduced us to the people working to interpret hominid behavior for driving robots. Turns out perception is a remarkable, variegated thing, and cars need to learn how to do all the cool stuff we the fleshy can before performing seamlessly on the road. The same goes for companies. Google parent company Alphabet announced this week it will construct a techified neighborhood in Toronto.
The CERT Division of Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute has published an updated list of technologies that might give us headaches in the security department. The latest report can be considered an addendum to the CERT/CC 2016 Emerging Technology Domains Risk Survey. One of the goals of this report is to help the Department of Homeland Security United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) "make an informed decision about the best areas to focus resources for identifying new vulnerabilities, promoting good security practices, and increasing understanding of systemic vulnerability risk." Understanding trends and emerging technologies can help information security professionals, leaders of organizations, and others interested in information security to anticipate and prepare for such vulnerabilities. This technology is still developing and has only one proven business model to date, which is Bitcoin itself.
The dataset of scans is from more than 30,000 patients, including many with advanced lung disease. The NIH Clinical Center recently released over 100,000 anonymized chest x-ray images and their corresponding data to the scientific community. The release will allow researchers across the country and around the world to freely access the datasets and increase their ability to teach computers how to detect and diagnose disease. Ultimately, this artificial intelligence mechanism can lead to clinicians making better diagnostic decisions for patients. NIH compiled the dataset of scans from more than 30,000 patients, including many with advanced lung disease.
The ambush in Niger earlier this month that left four U.S. troops dead has been the subject of immense speculation, not only concerning President Trump's public response to the tragedy but also about what actually happened on the ground that day. Asked by Fox News on Capitol Hill if the administration has been forthcoming about the attack, Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., replied, "of course not" and added, "it may require a subpoena." Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday that the attack is under investigation. A dozen U.S. Army soldiers, mostly Green Berets, along with 30 Nigerians, traveled 125 miles north of Niger's capital, Niamey, in unarmored trucks on a routine mission and to meet with local village elders in Tonga Tonga, near the border with Mali, on Oct. 4. U.S. Army Sergeant La David Johnson was killed when his patrol was ambushed in Niger.