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US military invests in energy beam weapons to take down drones

ZDNet

The US military has invested in a prototype energy beam weapon designed to zap drones in the sky. This week, the US Air Force said the prototype, dubbed the Tactical High Power Operational Responder (THOR), is a "directed energy" weapon that could use both lasers and microwaves to take out unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and drone swarms. THOR, perhaps named in deference to the Norse god of thunder, is being developed to fire at multiple targets at the same time with what the military calls "rapid results." The weapon needs to be housed in a shipping container that is 20-foot-long, but this means it can also be transported, moved via cargo plane, and could be installed at different military bases. THOR has been developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate, located at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.


Even Small Companies Use AI, Machine Learning

#artificialintelligence

Data, technology, and people are at hand to make artificial intelligence and machine learning available to all commerce companies. To be certain, artificial intelligence and its sub-field, machine learning, have gone through cycles of inflated expectations followed by disappointments. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s, the United States government funded research for the machine translation of languages. The hope was that Russian-language documents could be instantly translated to English. But by 1966, a report from the Automatic Language Processing Advisory Committee, a government team of seven scientists, essentially killed machine translation research in the U.S. for about a decade.


Graphics-Chip Maker Nvidia Lifts Revenue Amid Videogame Boom

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

Demand for some of Nvidia's chips has been so hot that it has outpaced the company's ability to increase production, adding to chip-supply shortages riling the semiconductor industry. Nvidia's newest graphics cards were a holiday sensation, Chief Financial Officer Colette Kress said during an earnings call. She added that some inventories are likely to remain low in the first quarter even as Nvidia increases supply. "Throughout our supply chain, stronger demand globally has limited the availability of capacity and components," Ms. Kress said. President Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order directing a broad review of supply chains for semiconductors and other critical materials.


Biden Faces a Steep Challenge to Unite Democracies on Tech

WIRED

In a February 19 speech at the Munich Security Conference, delivered virtually from the White House, President Joe Biden declared, "We must shape the rules that will govern the advance of technologies and the norms of behavior in cyberspace, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, so they are used to lift people up, not used to pin them down." A few weeks earlier, during an address at the State Department's Truman Building, the president said, "Diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy." The Trump administration's undermining of years of work on internet diplomacy makes technology an ever more vital (and challenging) element of renewed US engagement abroad. Digital issues are no longer extricable from "traditional" foreign policy issues across trade, human rights, and security. And as the new White House starts to navigate these waters, one idea in particular has become a sort of bumper sticker for an overarching strategy: Unite democracies on technology. As the Chinese and Russian governments become more technologically assertive and undermine human rights, and as democracies grapple with how to appropriately implement rules and regulations for the likes of artificial intelligence systems, this work is essential.


Quantum cost: The pitfalls of simplifying politics

ZDNet

Quantum computers offer great promise for cryptography and optimization problems. ZDNet explores what quantum computers will and won't be able to do, and the challenges we still face. In 1936, some 2.4 million members of the Literary Digest magazine's mailing list responded to its publisher by mail, in the broadest presidential candidates' opinion poll conducted in the United States to that time. By a margin of 57 to 43, those readers reported they favored the Republican governor of Kansas, Alf Landon, over the incumbent Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The week after the election, the magazine's cover announced in bold, black letters the message, "Is Our Face Red!" Also: Could quantum computers fix political polls? The following January, Oxford University's Public Opinion Quarterly published an essay that examined how a seemingly much smaller survey of only 50,000 participants, conducted by a fellow named George Gallup, yielded a far more accurate result than did Literary Digest. Gallup's poll was "scientific," and Oxford wanted to explain what that meant, and why opinion polling deserved that lofty moniker. For the first time, the Oxford publication explained a concept called selection bias. Specifically, if you don't ask people for enough facts about themselves, you never attain the information you need to estimate whether the people around them think and act in similar ways.


US Navy tests orbiting solar panel that could one day beam power anywhere on Earth

Daily Mail - Science & tech

A pizza box sized solar panel in orbit is producing enough electricity to power an iPad, according to a succesful test of the technology by the US Navy. The Photovoltaic Radiofrequency Antenna Module (PRAM) was launched in May 2020 attached to a drone that loops around the Earth every 90 minutes and is designed to harness light from the sun to convert to electricity. The 12x12 inch panel is an early experiment for a technology that could one day harness solar radiation from the sun and beam it to anywhere on the Earth. It is designed to make the best use of light in space, which doesn't have to pass through the atmosphere where it loses energy before reaching the ground. The Pentagon one day envisages an array of panels in space that could send power to even the most remote parts of the planet and create a new global power grid.


U.S. orders deeper testing after engine scare on Boeing plane

The Japan Times

New York – The U.S. aviation regulator on Tuesday ordered a deeper inspection of the engines similar to the ones on a Boeing 777 aircraft that suffered a spectacular failure over Denver days earlier. The incident, in which a Pratt & Whitney engine burst into flames and scattered debris over a Denver suburb shortly after takeoff for Honolulu, led to scores of Boeing 777s being grounded worldwide over safety concerns. "U.S. operators of airplanes equipped with certain Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines (must) inspect these engines before further flight," the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said. The regulator said it was issuing the order "as a result of a fan-blade failure that occurred Saturday on a Boeing 777-200 that had just departed from Denver International Airport." Before they can return to the skies, "operators must conduct a thermal acoustic image (TAI) inspection of the large titanium fan blades located at the front of each engine. TAI technology can detect cracks on the interior surfaces of the hollow fan blades, or in areas that cannot be seen during a visual inspection," it said in a statement.


Battling the Weaponizing of AI

#artificialintelligence

"I don't use Facebook anymore," she said. I was leading a usability session for the design of a new mobile app when she stunned me with that statement. It was a few years back, when I was a design research lead at IDEO and we were working on a service design project for a telecommunications company. The design concept we were showing her had a simultaneously innocuous and yet ubiquitous feature -- the ability to log in using Facebook. But the young woman, older than 20, less than 40, balked at that feature and went on to tell me why she didn't trust the social network any more. This session was, of course, in the aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election. An election in which a man who many regarded as a television spectacle at best and grandiose charlatan at worst had just been elected to our highest office. Though now in 2020, our democracy remains intact.


5 Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Forever Change The Battlefield

#artificialintelligence

Anyone with a wet finger in the air has by now heard that Google is facing an identity crisis because of its links to the American military. To crudely summarise, Google chose not to renew its "Project Maven" contract to provide artificial intelligence (A.I) capabilities to the U.S. Department of Defense after employee dissent reached a boiling point. This is an issue for Google, as the "Do No Evil" company is currently in an arm-wrestling match with Amazon and Microsoft for some juicy Cloud and A.I government contracts worth around $10B. Rejecting such work would deprive Google of a potentially huge business; in fact, Amazon recently advertised its image recognition software "Rekognition for defense", and Microsoft has touted the fact that its cloud technology is currently used to handle classified information within every branch of the American military. Nevertheless, the nature of the company's culture means that proceeding with big defence contracts could drive A.I experts away from Google.


Ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt stresses 'urgency' in countering China on artificial intelligence as US …

#artificialintelligence

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt called on the US government to fast track development of emerging technology including artificial intelligence (AI) to …