Friday, September 28, 2007

Look! Up in the sky!

The skies are getting crowded (and smart): U.S. Special Operations Command wants long-lasting drones, and DARPA is looking for flexible ion engines for spy sats. Expect busy skies in the coming years, everybody competing against everybody else for information dominance.

In other news, yes, space is still mysterious. I get a thrill every time something like this happens.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Misc is always the most interesting category

A chimp personhood trial in Austria. Some commenters note, usefully, that we already grant personhood to some nonhumans (corporations).

Chicago wants automated flagging of 'suspicious behavior' by surveillance cameras (... and a pony; AFAIK, we are still far away from that in terms of actual technological capability - as with electronic voting, though, I'm more worried about a defective system than I'd be about a working one).

Google and Microsoft invest on an online genetic profiling company Seems pretty obvious to me as a business move - they are both in the business of managing information. BTW, I've given up on any sort of ownership or privacy of my genetic code long ago. We give away copies all the time: in medical procedures, shedding skin, whatever, and the whole MP3 issue should have taught us that if something can be ripped and copied, it will be, no matter how many laws you pass against it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Poor Poirot!

I don't think national states are going away, mind you, but of course they are no longer the only players, and internal tensions are appearing in a lot of countries.

Oh, and by the way

Plan for sea levels at least a meter higher in the near future.

Have fun.

Call me cynic, but I'm not counting on Ohio

A few politicians are getting it. But note that agreeing that there's a problem doesn't mean that the incentives are necessarily in place for an effective solution to be implemented.

Monday, September 17, 2007

It is 4AM. Do you really have to care about where your code is running?

A very interesting post by Marc Andreessen on Internet platforms, and where he thinks they are going.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Gray is the new black

Finnish companies do an about-face regarding early retirement: instead of enticing workers to leave early, now they are doing what they can to keep them working for as long as possible. The demographics -for Europe and Japan- are very simple: the workforce is aging and migrants aren't picking up the slack, so you need to get an leverage your older workers.

I think this is going to be one of the battlefronts for nootropics and neurotech during the coming decades, as aging countries -most of them with knowledge-intensive economies- do whatever they can to boost up the productivity of their workers.

When your voice will no longer be your password

From Guido, the globetrotting, hyperconnected mind behind Globally Connected: Vocal tract models are getting us closer to flawlessly imitating anybody's voice. The label of "vocal terror", of course, is idiotic, and in any case if imitating voices is enough to crack your security, you had a lousy security model to begin with (of course, mostly everybody does have a lousy security model, which makes possible things like social engineering hacks).

But if you want silly, vulnerable, expensive technological fixes to what are essentially systemic problems, let me suggest to you implantable devices that add an encrypted authentication signature to your voice on some barely-audible frequency. It won't make your system secure, but it will certainly look cool on your resume.
Geography is already being changed by global warming, with a direct impact in access to resources and trade routes, and hence on geopolitics. Needless to say, this is going to get even more interesting as time goes on...

Monday, September 10, 2007

From Danger Room: Armed Robots Go Into Action

The US is deploying tele-operated ground robots to Iraq, with an eye toward reducing casualties. This is in keeping with the overall theme -increased use of UAVs, tele-operated border stations, etc-, but I have to wonder about the effectiveness of these units for counterinsurgency, which depends on HUMINT.

If I were to ascribe an strategic signification to what is after all still a small-scale deployment, I'd have to note that this is a move that attempts to add to the political shelf life of the occupation by reducing casualties, while reducing at the same time its effectiveness. It's more consistent with a longer-term occupation than with an scenario of relatively quick success and withdrawal.


Sunday, September 2, 2007

Have you ever noticed...

That most proposed uses of AI depend on the violation of one or another of Asimov's Three Laws?