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Brave New World is looking pretty good, all things considered


In 1932, British novelist Aldous Huxley published Brave New World, considered by many to be the seminal work of modern dystopian science fiction in the English language. Along with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and then, later, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, these nightmarish masterpieces have given society pause on the dangers of technological progress throughout the decades and have become part of many high school and college literary reading lists. At the time of Brave New World's publication, the world was still recovering from the horrors of the 1918 pandemic and World War I, each claiming millions of lives. Society had entered an age of mass industrialization, pioneered by Henry Ford's assembly line. These developments, along with the emergence of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin's dictatorship, created a perfect backdrop for Huxley to create his dystopian future, one of a single world state, with no privacy, no individuality, no families, and no self-determination.

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Key U.S. general slips into Iraq for talks to salvage relations

The Japan Times

ABOARD, A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT – The top U.S. commander for the Middle East slipped quietly into Iraq Tuesday, as the Trump administration works to salvage relations with Iraqi leaders and shut down the government's push for an American troop withdrawal. Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie became the most senior U.S. military official to visit since an American drone strike in Baghdad last month killed a top Iranian general, enraging the Iraqis. McKenzie met with Iraq leaders in Baghdad and then went to see American troops at al-Asad Air base, which was bombed by Iran last month in retaliation for the drone attack. Later, he said he was "heartened" by the meetings, adding, "I think we're going to be able to find a way forward." His visit comes amid heightened anti-American sentiment that has fueled violent protests, rocket attacks on the embassy and a vote by the Iraqi parliament pushing for withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country.

De-escalation with Iran a shared goal of feuding U.S. lawmakers

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – U.S. lawmakers across the political spectrum called for de-escalation of tensions with Iran Wednesday following back-and-forth airstrikes, but clear divisions remained over President Donald Trump's military strategy with Tehran. Republicans praised the commander in chief for signaling he had no immediate plans to respond militarily hours after Iran's missile strikes on Iraqi bases housing American troops. Iran's riposte followed the death of a top-ranked Iranian commander from a U.S. drone attack. Many Democrats seethed over Trump's unilateral order to kill the Iranian commander, Qassem Soleimani, without congressional consent. But they took heart in both sides appearing to choose de-escalation rather than a war posture.

Distributed Attack-Robust Submodular Maximization for Multi-Robot Planning Artificial Intelligence

We aim to guard swarm-robotics applications against denial-of-service (DoS) failures/attacks that result in withdrawals of robots. We focus on applications requiring the selection of actions for each robot, among a set of available ones, e.g., which trajectory to follow. Such applications are central in large-scale robotic/control applications, e.g., multi-robot motion planning for target tracking. But the current attack-robust algorithms are centralized, and scale quadratically with the problem size (e.g., number of robots). Thus, in this paper, we propose a general-purpose distributed algorithm towards robust optimization at scale, with local communications only. We name it distributed robust maximization (DRM). DRM proposes a divide-and-conquer approach that distributively partitions the problem among K cliques of robots. The cliques optimize in parallel, independently of each other. That way, DRM also offers significant computational speed-ups up to 1/K^2 the running time of its centralized counterparts. K depends on the robots' communication range, which is given as input to DRM. DRM also achieves a close-to-optimal performance, equal to the guaranteed performance of its centralized counterparts. We demonstrate DRM's performance in both Gazebo and MATLAB simulations, in scenarios of active target tracking with swarms of robots. We observe DRM achieves significant computational speed-ups (it is 3 to 4 orders faster) and, yet, nearly matches the tracking performance of its centralized counterparts.

Drone war takes flight, raising stakes in Iran-U.S. tensions as Israel wades in

The Japan Times

NEW YORK – From the vast deserts of Saudi Arabia to the crowded neighborhoods of Beirut, a drone war has taken flight across the wider Middle East, raising the stakes in the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and Iran. In the year since President Donald Trump withdrew America from Iran's nuclear deal, there's been an increasing tempo of attacks and alleged threats from unmanned aircraft flown by Tehran's and Washington's allies in the region. The appeal of the aircraft -- they risk no pilots and can be small enough to evade air-defense systems -- fueled their rapid use amid the maximum pressure campaigns of Iran and the U.S. As these strikes become more frequent, the risk of unwanted escalation becomes greater. The U.S. military nearly launched airstrikes against Iran after a U.S. military surveillance drone was shot down in June. Meanwhile, Israeli fighter jets attack targets in Syria on an almost weekly basis, including on Saturday night.

A Temporal Clustering Algorithm for Achieving the trade-off between the User Experience and the Equipment Economy in the Context of IoT Machine Learning

We present here the Temporal Clustering Algorithm (TCA), an incremental learning algorithm applicable to problems of anticipatory computing in the context of the Internet of Things. This algorithm was tested in a specific prediction scenario of consumption of an electric water dispenser typically used in tropical countries, in which the ambient temperature is around 30-degree Celsius. In this context, the user typically wants to drinking iced water therefore uses the cooler function of the dispenser. Real and synthetic water consumption data was used to test a forecasting capacity on how much energy can be saved by predicting the pattern of use of the equipment. In addition to using a small constant amount of memory, which allows the algorithm to be implemented at the lowest cost, while using microcontrollers with a small amount of memory (less than 1Kbyte) available on the market. The algorithm can also be configured according to user preference, prioritizing comfort, keeping the water at the desired temperature longer, or prioritizing energy savings. The main result is that the TCA achieved energy savings of up to 40% compared to the conventional mode of operation of the dispenser with an average success rate higher than 90% in its times of use.

Yemen's Houthi rebels launch attack drones into Saudi Arabia

The Japan Times

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - Yemen's Houthi rebels said on Tuesday they launched at least two drones targeting a southwest Saudi city that's home to an air base. The Houthis' Al-Masirah satellite news channel reported the rebels launched Qasef-2K drones to strike the city of Khamis Mushait. The state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Tuesday, quoting military spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki, that soldiers "intercepted" two drones launched by the Houthis. The Iranian-allied Houthis increasingly have targeted the kingdom with bomb-carrying drones. Khamis Mushait, some 815 km (510 miles) southwest of the capital, Riyadh, is near the kingdom's border with Yemen.

Jibo Is Probably Totally Dead Now

IEEE Spectrum Robotics

In some very sad but not at all surprising news considering how things have been going for social robots lately, The Robot Report is, er, reporting that Jibo Inc. has completed the sale of its assets and intellectual property to a New York–based investment management firm, which I suspect is not going to be using Jibo's IP to build robots. We've known for a while that Jibo (the company) was having some challenges both in selling robots and meeting expectations. Layoffs followed, and back in June, a Boston Globe reporter stopped by Jibo's Boston office to find it deserted and full of packing material and sold furniture. New Jibos haven't been available to purchase for months, although owners reported getting software updates as recently as August. According to The Robot Report, however, Jibo has now sold all of its IP and assets to SQN Venture Partners, which is probably just going to try to sell them off for as much money as possible.

Is Video Game Addiction A Thing?

NPR Technology

There's been a lot of concern lately, by parents especially, about video game addiction. The World Health Organization has added the behavioral condition "gaming disorder" to their International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. In 2013, the American Psychological Association (APA) designated gaming disorder as "a condition for further study." But even that provoked pushback. Akin to an addiction to heroin or alcohol, the proposed diagnostic criteria roughly tracked those for substance abuse, such as withdrawal, tolerance, a desire to stop, and negative impact on life activities.