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Messages - vox_mundi

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1
A Self-Driving Freight Truck Just Drove Across the Country to Deliver Butter
https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/infrastructure/a30196644/self-driving-truck-cross-country/

Plus.ai, an artificial intelligence startup in Cupertino, California, has engineered an autonomous driving system for commercial freight trucks. This week, it made the world's first cross-country trip of its kind to deliver butter to a small town in Pennsylvania.

While this isn't the first time an autonomous truck has made a cross-country trip, it's likely the first time a commercial freight truck has made a real delivery like this.


2
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: December 12, 2019, 08:27:56 PM »
^ ... Games will be indistinguishable from reality much sooner than we realise



---------------------------------------

Man Trapped in Car in Icy River Saved By Yelling, 'Siri, Call 911'
https://gizmodo.com/man-trapped-in-car-in-icy-river-saved-by-yelling-siri-1840390841

KIMT3 News reported that 18-year-old Charles City, Iowa man Gael Salcedo was driving to classes at North Iowa Area Community College when he slid on ice and was plunged into the Winnebago River near Mason City the morning of Dec. 10. Accuweather pegs the temperature in the region at just a high of 11 degrees Fahrenheit and a low of -3 degrees that day, and the river was icy when Salcedo’s car was trapped in it. Salcedo rolled down his car window, concerned the vehicle might sink and trap him inside.



... “I lost my phone and since I couldn’t find it, I was like ‘Hey Siri, call 911.’ And once Siri called, that’s when I found my phone finally.” ...

3
The rest / Re: Brexit...
« on: December 12, 2019, 07:35:45 PM »
V for Vendetta, Watchmen Creator Alan Moore Explains Why He's Voting Today For the First Time in 40 Years
https://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/watchmen-creator-alan-moore-explains-why-hes-voting-tod-1840383240

Alan Moore, the legendary creator of graphic novels like Watchmen and V For Vendetta, hasn’t voted in 40 years. But he’s voting in Britain’s general election today for the Labour Party. Why? According to a new video, Moore says that he’s not sure the UK would ever have a meaningful vote again if the Conservatives got another four years in power.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1204879412828811265

... Here’s something you don’t see every day, an internet-averse anarchist announcing on social media that he’ll be voting Labour in the December elections. But these are unprecedented times. I’ve voted only once in my life, more than forty years ago, being convinced that leaders are mostly of benefit to no one save themselves. That said, some leaders are so unbelievably malevolent and catastrophic that they must be strenuously opposed by any means available. nut simply, I do not believe that four more years of these rapacious, smirking right-wing parasites will leave us with a culture, a society, or an environment in which we have the luxury of even imagining alternatives.

The wretched world we’re living in at present was not an unlucky war of fate; it was an economic and political decision made without consulting the enormous human population that it would most drastically affect. If we would have it otherwise, if we’d prefer a fixture that we can call home, then we must stop supporting — even passively — this ravenous, insatiable conservative agenda before it devours us with our kids as a dessert.

Although my vote is principally against the Tories rather than for Labour, I’d observe that Labour’s current manifesto is the most encouraging set of proposals that I’ve ever seen from any major British party. Though these are immensely complicated times and we are all uncertain as to which course we should take, I’d say the one that steers us furthest from the glaringly apparent iceberg is the safest bet…

If my work has meant anything to you over the years, if the way that modern is going makes you fear for all the things you value, then please get out there on polling day and make your voice heard with a vote against this heartless trampling of everybody’s safety, dignity and dreams. A world we love is counting on us.

4
The rest / Re: Archaeology/Paleontology news
« on: December 12, 2019, 05:33:58 PM »
World's Oldest Artwork Uncovered in Indonesian Cave
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-world-oldest-artwork-uncovered-indonesian.html




5
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: December 12, 2019, 05:29:51 PM »
^

Sounds like it's time for a Butlerian Jihad

Don't Worry!... the bacteria will save us!  :)

-------------------------------------------------

Researchers Call for Harnessing, Regulation of AI
https://techxplore.com/news/2019-12-harnessing-ai.html

Artificial intelligence appears to be "widening inequality," and its deployment should be subject to tough regulations and limits, especially for sensitive technologies such as facial recognition, a research report said Thursday.

The AI Now Institute, a New York University center studying the social implications of artificial intelligence, said that as these technologies become widely deployed, the negative impacts are starting to emerge.

The 93-page report examined concerns being raised "from AI-enabled management of workers, to algorithmic determinations of benefits and social services, to surveillance and tracking of immigrants and underrepresented communities," the researchers wrote.

Quote
... "What becomes clear is that across diverse domains and contexts, AI is widening inequality, placing information and control in the hands of those who already have power and further disempowering those who don't."

The researchers said AI systems are being deployed in areas such as healthcare, education, employment, criminal justice "without appropriate safeguards or accountability structures in place."

The report said governments and businesses should halt use of facial recognition "in sensitive social and political contexts" until the risks are better understood, and that one subset—"affect recognition" or the reading of emotions by computer technology—should be banned in light of doubts about whether it works.

It also called for tech workers "to have the right to know what they are building and to contest unethical or harmful uses of their work."

... More broadly, the researchers said the AI industry needs to make "structural changes" to ensure that algorithms are not reinforcing racism, prejudice or lack of diversity.

Report: https://ainowinstitute.org/AI_Now_2019_Report.pdf

------------------------------------------

Special Operations Command Made a Mind-Reading Kit For Elite Troops
https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2019/12/specops-lab-made-mind-reading-kit-elite-troops/161830/



TAMPA, Florida — As tomorrow’s elite soldiers work to persuade local populations to support them, they may be able to sense how their messages are being received by detecting invisible biometric signals. Or when pinned down by enemy fire, they may make hand gestures to designate targets for close air support, or operate swarms of drones with just a few voice commands.

Those were just a few of the superhuman abilities that researchers at U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) recently showed off in a series of demonstrations that brought together sensors, data, and AI, SOFWERX chief technology officer Brian Andrews said Tuesday at Defense One’s Genius Machines event here. SOFWERX is a prototyping and innovation partnership run by SOCOM and a non-profit company called DEFENSEWERX.

... Earlier this month, SOFWERX tested a “physiological analysis tool” (see: 'affect recognition' above) designed to help troops understand, in real time, how foreigners are receiving or interpreting their messaging, information, and psychological operations.

“We pulled together quite a few sensors, Andrews said. “Through radars, through video, you can tell heart-rate variability. You can get temperature from [the subject’s] body. You can do voice analysis” to detect how, for instance, a conversational partner feels about the information an operator is giving them.

SOCOM and 15 partners “pulled it together in about a week but we were fairly successful,” he said. “We put a test guy up there [and] asked him some questions that made him fairly uncomfortable. Now, getting ‘intent’ is hard; but we could tell: ‘Hey, this person is nervous when you ask this question. Their countenance changed.’ Micro-expressions is another way to look at this.”

They tested a scenario that put a soldier in a village where ISIS has been busily recruiting. As the operator talks to village elders, the system collects and interprets data. In real time, or later (so as not to be a distraction), the system indicates whether the villagers received the message and whether they viewed the messenger favorably, regardless of what they were saying.

----------------------------------

... if they're lying there's plenty of time to call in the Reaper drones with Hellfire missles to get medieval on their ass.

----------------------------------------

Sarcos Demonstrates Powered Exosuit That Gives Workers Super Strength
https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/industrial-robots/sarcos-guardian-xo-powered-exoskeleton


Guardian XO operator Fletcher Garrison demonstrates the company’s exosuit by lifting a 125-pound payload. Sarcos says this task usually requires three people.


... good for wrasselin' 'xenomorphs' to!

6
Science / Re: Trump Administration Assaults on Science and the Environment
« on: December 12, 2019, 12:49:54 AM »
Congress to Halt Military Use of Toxic Foam Contaminating Drinking Water
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-congress-halt-military-toxic-foam.html

Congress has reached a deal on a spending bill that would require the military to stop using firefighting foam containing toxic chemicals linked to cancer, but would abandon efforts to place stronger regulations on the chemicals.

The bill, called the National Defense Authorization Act, has been the focus of intense negotiations for months. House Democrats saw it as their best chance to force President Trump's Environmental Protection Agency to increase its oversight of a class of chemicals, called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances—commonly known as PFAS—that have contaminated drinking water sources across the country.

Senate Republicans resisted these measures, wary of forcing chemical companies and the Defense Department to undertake extensive cleanups.

But when hopes of a compromise faded last week, Democrats were left with little choice but to agree to significantly weaker provisions or kill the entire defense spending bill.

The bill that emerged out of a joint House-Senate committee this week had been stripped of measures that would require the EPA to designate the chemicals as "hazardous" and set a nationwide safety standard for PFAS in drinking water.

A proposal requiring contaminated sites across the country to be cleaned up under the Superfund program had also been removed, as had one that would limit how much PFAS chemical manufacturers could dump into water supplies.


... The military would also be barred by 2021 from giving service members ready-to-eat meals packaged in containers treated with PFAS.



------------------------------

Background:

https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,428.msg189529.html#msg189529

https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,428.msg189625.html#msg189625

-------------------------------

... Each Republican Senator & Congressman should be forced to drink a quart of this shit as a token of appreciation on behalf of a grateful nation.

7
Consequences / Re: Places becoming less livable
« on: December 12, 2019, 12:48:39 AM »
Congress to Halt Military Use of Toxic Foam Contaminating Drinking Water
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-congress-halt-military-toxic-foam.html

Congress has reached a deal on a spending bill that would require the military to stop using firefighting foam containing toxic chemicals linked to cancer, but would abandon efforts to place stronger regulations on the chemicals.

The bill, called the National Defense Authorization Act, has been the focus of intense negotiations for months. House Democrats saw it as their best chance to force President Trump's Environmental Protection Agency to increase its oversight of a class of chemicals, called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances—commonly known as PFAS—that have contaminated drinking water sources across the country.

Senate Republicans resisted these measures, wary of forcing chemical companies and the Defense Department to undertake extensive cleanups.

But when hopes of a compromise faded last week, Democrats were left with little choice but to agree to significantly weaker provisions or kill the entire defense spending bill.

The bill that emerged out of a joint House-Senate committee this week had been stripped of measures that would require the EPA to designate the chemicals as "hazardous" and set a nationwide safety standard for PFAS in drinking water.

A proposal requiring contaminated sites across the country to be cleaned up under the Superfund program had also been removed, as had one that would limit how much PFAS chemical manufacturers could dump into water supplies.


... The military would also be barred by 2021 from giving service members ready-to-eat meals packaged in containers treated with PFAS.



------------------------------

Background:

https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,428.msg189529.html#msg189529

https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,428.msg189625.html#msg189625

-------------------------------

... Each Republican Senator & Congressman should be forced to drink a quart of this shit as a token of appreciation on behalf of a grateful nation.

8
Greenland Ice Losses Rising Faster Than Expected
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-greenland-ice-losses-faster.html

Greenland is losing ice seven times faster than in the 1990s and is tracking the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's high-end climate warming scenario, which would see 40 million more people exposed to coastal flooding by 2100.

... The findings, published today in Nature today, show that Greenland has lost 3.8 trillion tonnes of ice since 1992—enough to push global sea levels up by 10.6 millimetres. The rate of ice loss has risen from 33 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s to 254 billion tonnes per year in the last decade—a seven-fold increase within three decades.

In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that global sea levels will rise by 60 centimetres by 2100, putting 360 million people at risk of annual coastal flooding. But this new study shows that Greenland's ice losses are rising faster than expected and are instead tracking the IPCC's high-end climate warming scenario, which predicts 7 centimetres more.



Mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2018, Nature (2019)

9
Greenland and Arctic Circle / Re: What's new in Greenland?
« on: December 10, 2019, 06:37:07 PM »
Greenland Ice Losses Rising Faster Than Expected
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-greenland-ice-losses-faster.html

Greenland is losing ice seven times faster than in the 1990s and is tracking the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's high-end climate warming scenario, which would see 40 million more people exposed to coastal flooding by 2100.

... The findings, published today in Nature today, show that Greenland has lost 3.8 trillion tonnes of ice since 1992—enough to push global sea levels up by 10.6 millimetres. The rate of ice loss has risen from 33 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s to 254 billion tonnes per year in the last decade—a seven-fold increase within three decades.

In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that global sea levels will rise by 60 centimetres by 2100, putting 360 million people at risk of annual coastal flooding. But this new study shows that Greenland's ice losses are rising faster than expected and are instead tracking the IPCC's high-end climate warming scenario, which predicts 7 centimetres more.



Mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2018, Nature (2019)

10
Consequences / Re: Widespread Ocean Anoxia to be Noticeable by 2030
« on: December 10, 2019, 01:15:01 PM »
Dark Carbon May Be Hiding the True Scale of Ocean 'Dead Zones'
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-dark-carbon-true-scale-ocean.html

Dead zones within the world's oceans—where there is almost no oxygen to sustain life—could be expanding far quicker than currently thought, a new study suggests.

...Researchers measured the stable isotopes of organic carbon in sediment cores taken from the floor of the Arabian Sea, one of the world's large natural dead zones, in order to get a clear understanding about what is contributing to the organic matter contained within them.

This value is a mixture of all the distinct signatures from all the organisms that produced this carbon—thought to be mostly algae and bacteria living in the oxygen-rich, light, surface ocean where it sinks from.

However, using a distinct biomarker produced by anaerobic bacteria, they suggest that around one fifth of the organic matter on the seafloor could in fact stem from bacteria living in or around these dead zones.

They in fact believe the dead zones could be expanding much faster than previously thought, and that future calculations must take the bacteria into account in order to accurately predict the full impacts of climate change and human activity on the marine environment.

... Our study shows that organic matter that sinks to the seafloor is not just coming from the sea surface, but includes a major contribution from bacteria that live in the dark ocean and can fix carbon as well. Existing models could be missing out on a key contribution as a result of which people have underestimated the extent of the oxygen depletion we are to expect in a future, warming world.

Sabine K. Lengger et al, Dark carbon fixation in the Arabian Sea oxygen minimum zone contributes to sedimentary organic carbon (SOM), Global Biogeochemical Cycles (2019)

11
The rest / Re: Unsorted
« on: December 09, 2019, 07:21:18 PM »

12
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: December 09, 2019, 07:09:55 PM »
Quit Worrying About Killer Robots, They Are Coming Whether You Like It or Not – and They Absolutely Will Not Stop
https://www.theregister.co.uk/AMP/2019/05/15/lethal_ai_weapons/

The use of fully automated AI systems in military battles is inevitable unless there are strict regulations in place from international treaties, eggheads have opined.

Their paper, which popped up on arXiv [PDF] last week, discusses the grim outlook of developing killing machines for armed forces. The idea of keeping humans in the loop has always been favoured because modern AI systems like neural networks are like black boxes, their inner workings are inherently difficult to understand. Plus, you know, we've all seen Terminator.

Having said that, the trio of researchers – who hail from ASRC Federal, a company focused on supporting US federal intelligence and defense agencies, and the University of Maryland in the US – believe lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS) could be employed by the military, anyway.

“We explore the implications of increasingly capable AI in the kill chain and how this will lead inevitably to a fully automated, always on system, barring regulation by treaty,” the abstract of the paper – Integrating Artificial Intelligence into Weapon Systems – stated.

... Eventually, the machines will gradually push the humans out of the loop. First, they stand in supervisory roles and finally they’ll end up as “killswitch operators” that monitor these autonomous weapons. Machines can be much faster than humans. The act of killing an enemy is based on reflexes, and if soldiers realise that these types of tools can outperform them, they’ll eventually come to trust and rely on them.

... “It is our strong belief that intelligent weapons systems of the future will move and think at machine speed. This disproportionate capability and the inevitable system trust human operators will place in these machines means that most if not all lethal and sub-lethal interactions will only be analyzable in hindsight,” the paper said.

As these systems advance, the ones that rely less on human supervision will dominate. Instead, humans will be given other roles such as analyzing the behavior of these systems and concentrating on other strategic areas.

DARPA, the US military research arm, for example wants to develop fighter jets that can perform combat maneuvers for dogfighting autonomously. If it succeeds, human pilots will be able to trust their planes to do things dodging enemy fire to keep them safe. As the technology improves, the jets may be able to perform other tasks too like aiming and firing missiles mid air.

https://arxiv.org/pdf/1905.03899.pdf



---------------------------

The Air Combat Evolution (ACE) program seeks to create military planes that are capable of performing combat maneuvers for dogfighting without the help of human pilots. Vehicles won’t be completely unmanned, however. DARPA is more interested in forging stronger teamwork between humans and machines.

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/05/09/ai_fighter_planes_darpa/

The end goal is to have autonomous jet controls that can handle tasks like dodging out the way of enemy fire at lightning speeds, while the pilot takes on more difficult problems like executing strategic battle commands and firing off weapons. (... a plane can take 12 G, can the pilot?)

“We envision a future in which AI handles the split-second maneuvering during within-visual-range dogfights, keeping pilots safer and more effective as they orchestrate large numbers of unmanned systems into a web of overwhelming combat effects,” said Lieutenant Colonel Dan Javorsek, ACE program manager.

------------------------------------------


https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/robots/a29610393/robot-soldier-boston-dynamics/

[/parody]  8)

------------------------------------------

Air France Hopes to Reduce Delays With Self-Driving Luggage Carts
https://gizmodo.com/air-france-hopes-to-reduce-delays-with-self-driving-lug-1840313455


13
The rest / Re: US intervention in foreign lands
« on: December 09, 2019, 06:43:42 PM »
Documents Reveal Misleading Public Statements on War in Afghanistan
https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-confidential-documents/
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/09/world/asia/afghanistan-war-documents.html

A confidential trove of government documents obtained by The Washington Post reveals that senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable. ...

Thousands of pages of documents detailing the war in Afghanistan released by The Washington Post on Monday paint a stark picture of missteps and failures — and delivered in the words of prominent American officials, many of whom publicly had said the mission was succeeding.

14
Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: December 09, 2019, 06:40:43 PM »
Newly Identified Jet-Stream Pattern May Imperil Global Food Supplies
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-large-atmospheric-jet-stream-global.html

Scientists have identified systematic meanders in the globe-circling northern jet stream that have caused simultaneous crop-damaging heat waves in widely separated breadbasket regions-a previously unquantified threat to global food production that, they say, could worsen with global warming. The research shows that certain kinds of waves in the atmospheric circulation can become amplified and then lock in place for extended periods, triggering the concurrent heat waves. Affected parts of North America, Europe and Asia together produce a quarter of the world food supply. The study appears this week in the journal Nature Climate Change.

... Combing through large amounts of climate data from 1979 to 2018, Kornhuber and colleagues zeroed in on two Rossby waves with specific wavelengths, termed wave-5 and wave-7; that is, north-south wobbles in the jet stream that produce either 5 or 7 peaks and corresponding troughs around the planet's circumference. They found that while waves of lower or higher lengths seem to wobble around randomly, wave-5 and wave-7 patterns can lock into a grid of symmetric, often much larger meanders centered over predictable regions. The wave-5 patterns tend to hover over central North America, eastern Europe and eastern Asia; the wave-7 patterns over western-central North America, western Europe and western Asia. In both cases, the results are the same: hot air swirls up from the south into the peaks, producing abnormal spikes in temperature that can go on for weeks. This in turn reduces rainfall, dries up soils and vegetation, and kills crops in each region.

"Normally, low harvests in one region are expected to be balanced out by good harvests elsewhere," said study coauthor Dim Coumou of the Institute for Environmental Studies at VU University Amsterdam, who has been studying Rossby waves for years. "These waves can cause reduced harvests in several important breadbaskets simultaneously, creating risks for global food production."

Quote
... "We found a 20-fold increase in the risk of simultaneous heat waves in major crop-producing regions when these global-scale wind patterns are in place," ... "Until now, this was an underexplored vulnerability in the food system. During these events there actually is a global structure in the otherwise quite chaotic circulation. The bell can ring in multiple regions at once."


Researchers have identified two wavelengths of meanders in the northern hemisphere jet stream that can cause massive heat waves across several major agricultural regions at once. Here, a wave-7 pattern, which over the past 40 years has hurt crop yields in the red-marked areas of central/west North America, western Europe and western Asia.

The scientists showed that in years when these amplified waves occurred during two or more summer weeks, cereal production went down 4 percent when averaged across all the affected regions, and as much as 11 percent in a single affected region. Food-price spikes often followed. The waves have hit in 1983, 2003, 2006, 2012 and 2018, when many temperature records fell across the United States, Canada, Scandinavia and Siberia. In addition to killing crops, the waves have killed thousands of people, especially in Europe and Russia, where air conditioning is far less common than in North America.

While the study focuses mainly on hot spells in the Rossby waves' northern peaks, it also suggests that opposite extremes can occur in the southerly troughs. A precursor study by Kornhuber and others earlier this year noted that during the 2018 northern heat waves, more southerly regions including the Balkans and Japan saw extraordinary rains and destruction from flooding and landslides. During a 2010 northern heat outbreak in Russia, concurrent flooding on the Indus River in Pakistan displaced millions and destroyed crops.


A wave-5 pattern, which has simultaneously affected crops in central North America, eastern Europe and eastern Asia.

... Many scientists believe that Rossby waves will grow and stall more often as the planet warms. Kornhuber said that this scenario is quite plausible-almost all the global events have occurred since 2000- but that says is not yet enough data to form a consensus on this. Regardless, he said, "even if the frequency or the size of the [Rossby] waves doesn't change, the heat extremes linked to the patterns will become more severe, because the atmosphere as a whole is heating."

Kai Kornhuber, et.al. Amplified Rossby waves enhance risk of concurrent heatwaves in major breadbasket regions , Nature Climate Change (2019).

----------------------------------------------------

Climate Change and the Threat to Global Breadbaskets
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-climate-threat-global-breadbaskets.html

In a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, IIASA researcher Franziska Gaupp and colleagues looked at the risk of simultaneous breadbasket failures due to climatic extremes, and how the risk has changed over time. "Climatic connections between global phenomena such as the El Niño Southern Oscilliation (ENSO) and regional climate extremes such as Indian heatwaves, or flood risks around the globe pose a risk to the global food system," notes lead author Gaupp. "Climatic shocks to agricultural production contribute to food price spikes and famine, with the potential to trigger other systemic risks, including political unrest and migration. This analysis can provide the basis for a more efficient allocation of resources to contingency plans and strategic crop reserves that would enhance the resilience of the global food system."

The study looks at climatic and crop yield data for the main agricultural regions within the highest crop producing countries by mass from 1967 to 2012. The analysis shows that there has been a significant increase in the probability of multiple global breadbasket failures for particularly wheat, maize, and soybeans. For soybeans, for example, the implications of crop failure in all major breadbaskets associated with climate risk would be at least 12.55 million tons of crop losses. This exceeds the 7.2 million tons of losses in 1988-1989, one of the largest historical soybean production shocks. ...

Gaupp, F., Hall, J., Hochrainer-Stigler, S. et al. Changing risks of simultaneous global breadbasket failure. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2019)

-------------------------------------

Favorable Environments for Large Hail Increasing Across U.S.
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-favorable-environments-large-hail.html

A group of atmospheric scientists have uncovered an environmental footprint that could help explain why the cost of hailstorm damage is rapidly increasing in the United States.



The scientists, led by Brian Tang at the University at Albany, combined 38 years of weather data—from 1979 to 2017—to determine how many days per year had favorable conditions for large hail, greater than the size of a golf ball, across the U.S.

Consistent increases over the 38-year period were observed east of the Rocky Mountains, including a 10 to 15-day uptick in parts of the Central Plains and Midwest. Most of the Northeast also experienced an increase of about three to eight days. The findings were consistent with increases in reported large hailstones in these regions.

A report in 2018 found that each year since 2008 has produced well over $10 billion in U.S. insured losses from severe thunderstorms. That's more than twice the inflation-adjusted damage rate that was typical in the early 2000s and more than four times the rate seen in the 1980s. Hail makes up the majority of these losses, typically between 50 percent and 80 percent. Total damages from hail, including uninsured losses, most likely are varying between $12 and $20 billion per year.


Trends in annual large hail environment days.

Open Access: Brian H. Tang et al. Trends in United States large hail environments and observations, npj Climate and Atmospheric Science (2019)

15
Consequences / Re: Volcanoes
« on: December 09, 2019, 06:22:13 PM »
Five Dead, Many Missing and ‘No Signs of Life’ After Volcanic Eruption on New Zealand Island
https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/12/08/white-island-whakaari-eruption-new-zealand-jacinda-ardern/

At least five people are dead with many others reported missing — and authorities fearing the worst — after a volcano erupted Monday at a popular tourist site in New Zealand.

Several dozen visitors, including some from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, were on or near White Island when it erupted at 2:11 p.m. local time, releasing thick clouds of ash about 12,000 feet into the air. Some 18 people suffered serious burn injuries and were rescued.

Police do not believe there are any survivors among the missing, following what scientists called a “throat-clearing kind of eruption.”

“No signs of life have been seen at any point,” New Zealand Police said in a statement. “Police believe that anyone who could have been taken from the island alive was rescued at the time of the evacuation. Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island.”

Deputy Commissioner John Tims said at a news conference that he didn’t know how many are still unaccounted for, estimating that figure to be in the “double digits.”



---------------------------------------

Volcano F is Origin of 'Floating Stones'
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-volcano-stones.html


Stones do not float in water—this is a truism. But there is hardly a rule without exception. In fact, some volcanic eruptions produce a very porous type of rock with a density so low that it does float: Pumice. An unusually large amount of it is currently drifting in the Southwest Pacific towards Australia. When it was first sighted in the waters around the island state of Tonga at the beginning of August, it almost formed a coherent layer on the ocean's surface. The "pumice raft" made it into headlines all over the world.

Various underwater volcanoes were discussed at that time as the potential source. But direct proof for the exact origin of the pumice was missing so far. Researchers at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany), together with colleagues from Canada and Australia, are now publishing evidence in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research that clearly identifies the culprit. It is a so far nameless underwater volcano just 50 kilometres northwest of the Tongan island of Vava'u. "In the international scientific literature, it appears so far only under the number 243091 or as Volcano F," says Dr. Philipp Brandl of GEOMAR, first author of the study.

... The team found what they were looking for on of freely accessible satellite images. On an image of the ESA satellite Copernicus Sentinel-2 taken on 6 August 2019, clear traces of an active underwater eruption can be seen on the water surface. Since the images are exactly georeferenced, they could be compared with corresponding bathymetric maps of the seafloor. "The eruption traces fit exactly to Volcano F," says Dr. Brandl.


17
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: December 09, 2019, 01:31:45 AM »
Algorithm to Complete Beethoven's Unfinished Symphony
https://dw.com/en/algorithm-to-complete-beethovens-unfinished-symphony/a-51577665

Musician and software developers have created an algorithm that will take over where Beethoven left off, and finish the composer's uncompleted tenth symphony, Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (FAZ) reported Sunday.

The algorithm-composed symphony will be performed in April by the Bonn Beethoven Orchestra for Beethoven Year 2020, celebrating the composer's 250th birthday. The developers still have some work to do.

Röder, director of the Austrian music technology hub Karajan Institute, has led an international team of musicologists, composers and IT specialists since summer 2019 to develop an algorithm that thinks like Beethoven.

... Röder told FAZ the first few tests in summer were challenging. After a few bars, the program was supposed to take over and improvise, but it ended up playing endless loop of sounds.

"It sounded more like Stravinsky than Beethoven," said Röder, adding that now the program has an idea of what Beethoven is supposed to sound like. The algorithm also needs to predict the blend of surprise and consistency that creates rich compositions.

During a test with music experts in November at the Beethoven House in Bonn, a few bars of the tenth were played, until the algorithm took over for over a minute with an improvised interpretation.

"No machine has ever made it this long before," said music technologist Röder. "This is unparalleled."


18
The rest / Re: SpaceX
« on: December 08, 2019, 12:57:15 AM »
SpaceX Working On Fix for Starlink Satellites So They Don’t Disrupt Astronomy
https://spacenews.com/spacex-working-on-fix-for-starlink-satellites-so-they-dont-disrupt-astronomy/

... President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said the Starlink brightness problem caught the company by surprise

... Shotwell said the next batch has one satellite “where we put a coating on the bottom.” She noted that this is just an experiment and could not predict if it will work. “We’re do trial and error to figure out the best way to get this done,” said Shotwell.

Shotwell admitted that nobody in the company anticipated the problem when the satellites were first designed.

19
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: December 07, 2019, 10:59:28 PM »
^

Like Archimid mentioned above, the problem with AI is not that it's inherently malicious, but, rather, it's goals may not align with ours.

---------------------

Shall We Play a Game? A game about AI making paperclips and unintended consequences
https://www.theverge.com/platform/amp/tldr/2017/10/11/16457742/ai-paperclips-thought-experiment-game-frank-lantz
https://wiki.lesswrong.com/wiki/Paperclip_maximizer



Quote
... The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else.

—Eliezer Yudkowsky, Artificial Intelligence as a Positive and Negative Factor in Global Risk

The paperclip maximizer is the canonical thought experiment showing how an artificial general intelligence, even one designed competently and without malice, could ultimately destroy humanity. The thought experiment shows that AIs with apparently innocuous values could pose an existential threat.

The paperclip maximizer illustrates that an entity can be a powerful optimizer—an intelligence—without sharing any of the complex mix of human terminal values, such as life, love, and variety, which developed under the particular selection pressures found in our environment of evolutionary adaptation, and that an AGI that is not specifically programmed to be benevolent to humans will be almost as dangerous as if it were designed to be malevolent.

Any future AGI, if it is not to destroy us, must have human values as its terminal value (goal). Human values don't spontaneously emerge in a generic optimization process. A safe AI would therefore have to be programmed explicitly with human values or programmed with the ability (including the goal) of inferring human values.

The goal of maximizing paperclips is chosen for illustrative purposes because it is very unlikely to be implemented, and has little apparent danger or emotional load (in contrast to, for example, curing cancer or winning wars). This produces a thought experiment which shows the contingency of human values: An extremely powerful optimizer (a highly intelligent agent) could seek goals that are completely alien to ours (orthogonality thesis), and as a side-effect destroy us by consuming resources essential to our survival.

Game: https://www.decisionproblem.com/paperclips/



 ... You’ll start off making them the old fashioned way: one clip for one click. But pretty soon you’ll be purchasing autoclippers to do the work for you while you turn your attentions to running an algorithmic hedge fund, then building a quantum computer, and then (much later) exploring the known Universe in search of new matter to turn into more and more paperclips.

... Paperclips is essentially a game about balance and efficiency.
https://www.google.com/amp/s/lifehacker.com/universal-paperclips-guide-3-tips-for-beating-the-addi-1819801757/amp

20
The rest / Re: Archaeology/Paleontology news
« on: December 07, 2019, 10:20:40 PM »
Floor Pavements in Pompeii Illustrate Surveying Technology
https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/12/floor-pavements-in-pompeii-illustrate-surveying-technology/



Decorative pavements in the floor of a recently unearthed Roman house in Pompeii offer a glimpse into the life and work of an ancient land surveyor. The pavements depict a stylized drawing of an ancient surveyor’s tool called a groma, along with a diagram of a surveying technique and the plan of a construction project in Pompeii. So far, they’re the only original Roman illustrations of the tools and techniques the Romans used to help build an empire and its infrastructure.

Only a few metal fragments of a Roman groma exist today (also recovered from Pompeii), and archaeologists have found only a few images carved into surveyors’ tombstones. Otherwise, we know the tool only from descriptions in medieval versions of ancient Roman surveying manuals.

The newly unearthed pavements at Pompeii suggest that those medieval copies were pretty close to the original ancient texts. An image on the floor of the entrance hall is nearly identical to illustrations in medieval copies of Roman texts, attributed to Roman surveyor Hygius and famed architect Vitruvius.

... For some reason, Hygius and Vitrivius didn’t include illustrations of a groma in their texts, so modern scholars have to rely on their descriptions and on fragments of a real groma found at Pompeii. The instrument consisted of a set of crossed arms balanced at the end of a horizontal pole so they could spin freely around the center. Four weighted plumb lines hung from the ends of the arms. A Roman land surveyor would line up two of the plumb lines on a distant point and then use the four arms of the groma to calculate an angle in relation to that line.

That seems to be what’s depicted in the pavement: a cross in a circle, at the top of a long straight line. ...

21
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: December 07, 2019, 07:03:08 PM »


From fears about work and privacy to a rivalry between the U.S. and China, FRONTLINE explores the promise and perils of AI. The documentary traces a new industrial revolution that will reshape and disrupt our lives, our jobs and our world, and allow the emergence of the surveillance society.

22
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: December 07, 2019, 06:54:51 PM »
Remember; the X-Files was a documentary ...

------------

Israeli Researchers Manipulate Memories in Mice, Say Could Apply to Humans
https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Israeli-researchers-manipulate-memories-in-mice-say-could-apply-to-humans-610174

A team of Israeli researchers have succeeded in implanting emotions in mice that were never experienced.

"We were able, for the first time, to cause mice to assign a negative value to an event that never took place, and accordingly, to remember a feeling that was not experienced in reality," said University of Haifa PhD student Haneed Kayyal, who led the study with postdoctoral fellow Dr. Adonis Yiannaks.

Specifically, in a three-part study, the scientists identified a neural pathway in the brain that determines whether a particular taste will have a positive or negative emotional value (impacting future consumption), and to use these neurons to erase or transplant memories that were never experienced in reality.

Since these neural pathways are highly similar across mammals, including mice and humans, the researchers believe the study will be applicable in people, too.



---------------------------------

Soft Neural Implant Allows Scientists to Manipulate Brain Cells via Smartphone
https://www.dezeen.com/2019/11/22/brain-neural-implant-smartphone/

...For neuroscience researchers, the main advantage of the new wireless implant is ease of use. The inventors describe its replaceable drug cartridges as "Lego-like" and "plug-and-play", while set-up happens over an "elegant, simple" smartphone interface.

----------------------------------

... and because it's the Holiday season



Helping New York celebrate the festive season, twelve ABB robots are interacting with visitors to Bloomingdale’s iconic holiday celebration at their 59th Street flagship store. ABB’s robots are the main attraction in three of Bloomingdale’s twelve-holiday window displays at Lexington and Third Avenue, as ABB demonstrates the potential for its robotics and automation technology to revolutionize visual merchandising and make the retail experience more dynamic and whimsical. (... aww ... just like grandma used to do  ;) )


23
The rest / Re: US intervention in foreign lands
« on: December 07, 2019, 06:41:32 PM »
Six Saudis Said Questioned After Pensacola Navy Base Shooting
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/06/us/pensacola-florida-navy-shooting.html

A member of the Saudi Air Force armed with a handgun fatally shot three people and injured eight others on Friday morning during a bloody rampage in a classroom building at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla., where he was training to become a pilot.

... Six other Saudi nationals were detained for questioning near the scene of the shooting, including three who were seen filming the entire incident, according to a person briefed on the initial stages of the investigation. A group that monitors online jihadist activity said that shortly before the shooting, a Twitter account with a name matching the gunman’s posted  a “will” calling the United States a “nation of evil” and criticizing its support for Israel.

---------------------------------

Pentagon Moves Forward with Saudi Defense Mission
https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/pentagon-moves-forward-with-saudi-defense-mission/2019/11/27/e1a36444-112a-11ea-b0fc-62cc38411ebb_story.html

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The United States is negotiating cost-sharing terms with Saudi Arabia for an expanding military mission aimed at ensuring the kingdom is protected from attacks on critical oil infrastructure, officials said.

Trump authorized a boost to the relatively light U.S. footprint in Saudi Arabia, from an advisory mission that stood around 800 to a force of about 3,000, following the Sept. 14 assault on Saudi oil facilities

----------------------------------

Trump Mulls Sending Additional 14,000 Troops to Middle East
https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-administration-considers-14-000-more-troops-for-mideast-11575494228

WASHINGTON—The Trump administration is considering a significant expansion of the U.S. military footprint in the Middle East to counter Iran, including dozens more ships, other military hardware and as many as 14,000 additional troops, U.S. officials said.

-----------------------------------

Pentagon Officials Struggle to Explain Plans for Middle East Deployments
https://www.politico.com/news/2019/12/05/american-troops-middle-east-iran-076369


24
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: December 06, 2019, 10:26:50 PM »
Japanese Researchers Teaching Robots to Repair Themselves
https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/robotics-hardware/japanese-researchers-teaching-robots-to-repair-themselves



At Humanoids 2019 in Toronto, researchers from the University of Tokyo showed how they taught a PR2 to perform simple repairs on itself by tightening its own screws. And using that skill, the robot was also able to augment itself, adding accessories like hooks to help it carry more stuff. Clever robot!

It can also check its screws autonomously from time to time, or rely on a human physically pointing out that it has a screw loose, using the human’s finger location to identify which screw it is. Another challenge is that most robots, like most humans, are limited in the areas on themselves that they can comfortably reach. So to tighten up everything, they might have to find themselves a robot friend to help.

The other neat trick that a robot can do once it can tighten screws on its own body is to add new bits of hardware to itself. PR2 was thoughtfully designed with mounting points on its shoulders (or maybe technically its neck) and head, and it turns out that it can reach these points with its manipulators, allowing to modify itself.


25
Research Reveals Past Rapid Antarctic Ice Loss Due to Ocean Warming
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-reveals-rapid-antarctic-ice-loss.html

New research from the University of Otago has found the sensitive West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsed during a warming period just over a million years ago when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were lower than today.

Using biomarkers to reconstruct past ocean temperatures, and through ice sheet computer models, the study published in Quaternary Science Reviews shows that the accepted maximum global warming of 1.5°C under the Paris Agreement could lead to a runaway retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

The study found that one million years ago in the ocean surrounding Antarctica, the summer ocean temperature was on average 5°C (±1.2°C) warmer than today.

"Using the data, the ice sheet simulation indicates a complete collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet with additional melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet resulting in sustained global sea-level rise of centimetre to decimetres per decade."

The study proposes a two-step model for West Antarctic ice loss which initially involves mild ocean warming forcing ice margin retreat, followed by a rapid warming primarily driven by the extensively modified oceanic and hydrologic system following further ice sheet retreat.



Beltran Catherine et al. Southern Ocean temperature records and ice-sheet models demonstrate rapid Antarctic ice sheet retreat under low atmospheric CO2 during Marine Isotope Stage 31, Quaternary Science Reviews (2019)

Highlights

• Quantification of the Southern Ocean warming during MIS31 using molecular temperature reconstructions at high latitudes.

• Sustained surface Southern Ocean warming & collapse of the sub-Antarctic ocean fronts under low atmospheric CO2 conditions.

• Use of sea surface temperature data to test scenarios for the AIS retreat using coupled ice-sheet/ice-shelf model.

• Two steps WAIS retreat: 1) mild ocean warming forcing ice margin retreat 2) rapid ocean warming as the ice sheet retreats.

We show that the Paris Agreement target temperature of 1.5°C is sufficient to drive runaway retreat of the WAIS.

26
Antarctica / Re: What's new in Antarctica ?
« on: December 06, 2019, 06:21:43 PM »
Research Reveals Past Rapid Antarctic Ice Loss Due to Ocean Warming
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-reveals-rapid-antarctic-ice-loss.html

New research from the University of Otago has found the sensitive West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsed during a warming period just over a million years ago when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were lower than today.

Using biomarkers to reconstruct past ocean temperatures, and through ice sheet computer models, the study published in Quaternary Science Reviews shows that the accepted maximum global warming of 1.5°C under the Paris Agreement could lead to a runaway retreat of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

The study found that one million years ago in the ocean surrounding Antarctica, the summer ocean temperature was on average 5°C (±1.2°C) warmer than today.

"Using the data, the ice sheet simulation indicates a complete collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet with additional melting of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet resulting in sustained global sea-level rise of centimetre to decimetres per decade."

The study proposes a two-step model for West Antarctic ice loss which initially involves mild ocean warming forcing ice margin retreat, followed by a rapid warming primarily driven by the extensively modified oceanic and hydrologic system following further ice sheet retreat.



Beltran Catherine et al. Southern Ocean temperature records and ice-sheet models demonstrate rapid Antarctic ice sheet retreat under low atmospheric CO2 during Marine Isotope Stage 31, Quaternary Science Reviews (2019)

Highlights

• Quantification of the Southern Ocean warming during MIS31 using molecular temperature reconstructions at high latitudes.

• Sustained surface Southern Ocean warming & collapse of the sub-Antarctic ocean fronts under low atmospheric CO2 conditions.

• Use of sea surface temperature data to test scenarios for the AIS retreat using coupled ice-sheet/ice-shelf model.

• Two steps WAIS retreat: 1) mild ocean warming forcing ice margin retreat 2) rapid ocean warming as the ice sheet retreats.

We show that the Paris Agreement target temperature of 1.5°C is sufficient to drive runaway retreat of the WAIS.

27
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: December 06, 2019, 06:04:43 PM »
Accel Robotics Gets $30 Million Investment for AI-Enabled Cashierless Stores
https://techxplore.com/news/2019-12-startup-cashierless-storesand-30m.html

A technology startup in San Diego has just raised $30 million from investors to continue building out its software for cashier-less, "grab-and-go" stores. The model, popularized by Amazon Go, allows shoppers to simply walk into a store, grab items from the shelves, and walk out—with the receipt sent directly to their mobile device.

The startup, Accel Robotics, is developing computer vision software—along with cameras, sensors and store equipment—to make this concept work. In fact, the startup can build out an entire modular store for its customers, preloaded with the computer brains to enable a "checkout-free" experience.

Accel has a lot of competition in the world of grab-and-go retail tech. Technology titan Amazon recently announced big ambitions for the cashier-less store model, with plans to expand to larger formats and license the technology out to other retailers. Plus, Amazon is joined by a slew of technology startups looking to create cashier-less checkout systems, including Trigo, Grabango and Standard Cognition.

---------------------------

AI-Enabled Assistant Robot Returning to the Space Station with Improved Emotional Intelligence
https://techcrunch.com/2019/12/05/ai-enabled-assistant-robot-will-return-to-the-space-station-with-improved-emotional-intelligence/

The Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (or CIMON, for short) recorded a number of firsts on its initial mission to the International Space Station, which took place last November, including becoming the first-ever autonomous free-floating robot to operate aboard the station, and the first-ever smart astronaut assistant. But CIMON is much more than an Alexa for space, and CIMON-2, which launched aboard today’s SpaceX ISS resupply mission, will demonstrate a number of ways the astronaut support robot can help those working in space — from both a practical and an emotional angle.

... So for example, on the artificial intelligence side, we have something called emotional intelligence, based on our IBM Watson Tone Analyzer, with we’re trying to understand and analyze the emotions during a conversation between CIMON and the astronauts to see how they’re feeling — if they’re feeling joyful, if something makes them angry, and so on.”

That, Biniok says, could help evolve CIMON into a robotic countermeasure for something called “groupthink,” a phenomenon wherein a group of people who work closely together gradually have all their opinions migrate toward consensus or similarity. A CIMON with proper emotional intelligence could detect when this might be occurring, and react by either providing an objective, neutral view — or even potentially taking on a contrarian or “Devil’s advocate” perspective, Biniok says.



--------------------------------

Facebook Taught an AI the 'Theory of Mind'
https://www.engadget.com/2019/12/06/facebook-taught-an-ai-the-theory-of-mind/

When it comes to competitive games, AI systems have already shown they can easily mop the floor with the best humanity has to offer. But life in the real world isn't a zero sum game like poker or Starcraft and we need AI to work with us, not against us. That's why a research team from Facebook taught an AI how to play the cooperative card game Hanabi (the Japanese word for fireworks), to gain a better understanding of how humans think.

Specifically, the Facebook team set out to instill upon its AI system the theory of mind. "Theory of mind is this idea of understanding the beliefs and intentions of other agents or other players or humans," Noam Brown, a researcher at Facebook AI, told Engadget. "It's something that humans developed from a very early age. But one AIs have struggled with for a very long time."

"It's trying to put itself in the shoes of the other players and ask why are they taking these actions," Brown continued, "and being able to infer something about the state of the world that it can't directly observe."

"What we're looking at is artificial agents that can reason better about cooperative interactions with humans and chatbots that can reason about why the person they're chatting with said the thing they did," ... "Chatbots that can reason better about why people say the things they do without having to enumerate every detail of what they're asking for is a very straightforward application of this type of search technique."

“One of the really exciting things about this is that the improvement we’re observing is really orthogonal to the improvements that are being observed with deep reinforcement learning: You can add this on top of any strategy, and it will make it much stronger,” Brown said



--------------------------



---------------------------

Intel’s Neuromorphic Loihi Processor Scales to 8M Neurons, 64 Cores
https://www.extremetech.com/computing/295043-intels-neuromorphic-loihi-processor-scales-to-8m-neurons-64-cores

Intel has announced a significant advance for its neuromorphic research processor, codenamed Loihi. The company has now scaled up its Loihi implementation to the 64-processor level, allowing it to create a system with more than 8M neurons (8.3M). This new configuration (codenamed Pohoiki Beach) delivers 1,000x better performance than conventional CPUs

... Neuromorphic computing is a subset of computing that attempts to mimic the brain’s architecture using modern technological analogues. Instead of implementing a typical CPU clock, for example. Loihi is based on a spiking neural network architecture. The basic Loihi processor contains 128 neuromorphic cores, three Lakefield (Intel Quark) CPU cores, and an off-chip communication network. In theory, Loihi can scale all the way up to 4,096 on-chip cores and 16,384 chips.


28
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: December 06, 2019, 05:57:22 PM »
AI Judges and Verdicts Via Chat App: Brave New World of China's Digital Courts
https://techxplore.com/news/2019-12-ai-verdicts-chat-app-brave.html

China is encouraging digitisation to streamline case-handling within its sprawling court system using cyberspace and technologies like blockchain and cloud computing, China's Supreme People's Court said in a policy paper.

The efforts include a "mobile court" offered on popular social media platform WeChat that has already handled more than three million legal cases or other judicial procedures since its launch in March, according to the Supreme People's Court.

In a demonstration, authorities showed how the Hangzhou Internet Court operates, featuring an online interface with litigants appearing by video chat as an AI judge—complete with on-screen avatar—prompts them to present their cases.

"Does the defendant have any objection to the nature of the judicial blockchain evidence submitted by the plaintiff?" the black-robed virtual judge sitting under China's national emblem asked in a pre-trial meeting.

"No objection," a human plaintiff answered.



Since the Hangzhou court's establishment, China has set up similar chambers in Beijing and the southern metropolis of Guangzhou.

Together, they have accepted a total of 118,764 cases, and concluded 88,401, the Supreme People's Court said.

29
Consequences / Re: Places becoming less livable
« on: December 06, 2019, 05:37:35 PM »
Study Finds BPA Levels in Humans Dramatically Underestimated
https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-12-bpa-humans-underestimated.html

Researchers have developed a more accurate method of measuring bispehnol A (BPA) levels in humans and found that exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemical is far higher than previously assumed.

The study, published in the journal the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology on Dec. 5, provides the first evidence that the measurements relied upon by regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are flawed, underestimating exposure levels by as much as 44 times.

... BPA can be found in a wide range of plastics, including food and drink containers, and animal studies have shown that it can interfere with the body's hormones. In particular, fetal exposure to BPA has been linked to problems with growth, metabolism, behavior, fertility and even greater cancer risk.

Despite this experimental evidence, the FDA has evaluated data from studies measuring BPA in human urine and determined that human exposure to the chemical is at very low, and therefore, safe levels. This paper challenges that assumption and raises questions about other chemicals, including BPA replacements, that are also assessed using indirect methods.

Open Access: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landia/article/PIIS2213-8587(19)30381-X/fulltext

30
Consequences / Re: Wildfires
« on: December 05, 2019, 10:39:48 PM »
California Bans Insurers from Dropping Policies in Fire-Ravaged Areas
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-12-05/california-bans-insurers-from-pulling-policies-in-fire-ravaged-areas?_amp=true

State regulators on Thursday pulled the emergency brake on insurers fleeing California’s fire zones.

Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced a one-year moratorium banning insurers from not renewing policies for homeowners in wildfire-ravaged areas of the state.

“I have heard the same story again and again. People getting dropped by their insurance after decades,” Lara said. “To add insult to injury, many struggle to find coverage.”

... A California Department of Insurance report last year found that the number of homeowners in the wildland-urban interface who complained about getting dropped by their plans more than tripled from 2010 to 2016. Complaints about increased premiums rose 217%.

The state estimates that more than 1 million California homes are considered at high risk for wildfires.

https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-wildfire-homeowners-insurance-20180830-story.html

31
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: December 03, 2019, 06:17:11 PM »
DARPA Looks to Add Reasoning to Autonomous Teams
https://gcn.com/articles/2019/09/04/darpa-create-reasoning-autonomous-systems.aspx

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to lay the foundation for integrating unmanned systems into larger missions by developing reasoning, contextually aware teams of autonomous systems.

The Context Reasoning for Autonomous Teaming (CREATE) program aims to use artificial intelligence to build scalable teams of autonomous systems that can react to changing context and learn from experience to make decisions without centralized control and communications. It is specifically focused on teaming for systems constrained by size, weight and power, such as drones, undersea unmanned vehicles or satellites.

An artificially intelligent autonomous machine working in a team will be able to understand how its own sensing and actuation modes relate to several high-level mission goals to help machine team members balance their resources autonomously.

https://www.darpa.mil/work-with-us/ai-next-campaign

--------------------------------------

Can DARPA CREATE an AI for Unmanned-Unmanned Teaming?
https://www.c4isrnet.com/unmanned/2019/09/09/can-darpa-create-an-ai-for-unmanned-unmanned-teaming/

As more robots move onto the battlefield, DARPA wants those machines to work together, learn from each other to do better and move away from actions which cause regret. To spark research into this area, the Pentagon’s blue sky projects wing launched “CREATE,” or “Context Reasoning for Autonomous Teaming.”

... This is a step beyond the remotely directed and controlled systems of today, which use extensive communications networks to give humans fine-tuned controls over how machines move. Should those networks break down, machines that can move toward objectives on their own is a goal, even if those moves are less efficient or effective than the choices a human operator would have made. Advances in electronic warfare, combined with fears about the the loss of communication networks, both terrestrial and in orbit, are part of what’s driving military research and investment in autonomous machines.

What sets CREATE apart from, say, swarming systems of quadcopters, is that DARPA wants to find a framework that can communicate with a heterogeneous group of machines: likely quadcopters and unmanned ground vehicles too, different kinds of flying and swimming robots. In other words, a whole mechanical menagerie working to a similar purpose.

With the right AI tool, the machine-machine team should be able to discern the context of where they are, what is happening, and then act independently. In addition, they can meet multiple spontaneous goals that arise over the course of a mission.

Getting to that point means a system that can learn and, especially, a system that can learn from mistakes.

“Agents within the team will have mechanisms for regulation to ensure (favorable) emergent behavior of the team to (1) better ensure the desired mission outcome and (2) bound the cost of unintended adverse action or ‘regret,’” reads the solicitation.



------------------------------------

Killing Cruise Missiles: Pentagon To Test Rival Lasers
https://breakingdefense.com/2019/12/exclusive-three-ways-to-kill-cruise-missiles-pentagon-to-test-rival-lasers/

PENTAGON: The Army, Air Force, and Navy may be only three years away from a 300-kilowatt laser weapon, one powerful enough to shoot down cruise missiles — using the same basic technology as the checkout counter at your local supermarket.

... Industry has proposed several designs that “have all been demonstrated at lower power levels, 50 to 150 kilowatts,” Karr said. Those power levels are enough to burn through drones and rockets, but not larger, faster and tougher targets like cruise missiles.

“We want to have a 300-kilowatt laser by 2022. We’d like to get up to 500 kilowatts by 2024,” he said, “and then, if we still haven’t hit the limit of anything, it’s on to the megawatt class."

32
Consequences / Re: The Holocene Extinction
« on: December 03, 2019, 05:08:17 PM »
Australia's Threatened Birds Declined 59% Over the Past 30 Years
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-australia-threatened-birds-declined-years.html



Australia's threatened birds declined by nearly 60% on average over 30 years, according to new research that reveals the true impact on native wildlife of habitat loss, introduced pests, and other human-caused pressures.

Alarmingly, migratory shorebirds have declined by 72%. Many of these species inhabit mudflats and coasts on their migration from Siberia, Alaska or China each year.

These concerning figures are revealed in the world-first Threatened Bird Index. The index, now updated with its second year of data, combines over 400,000 surveys at more than 17,000 locations.



Jeremy S. Simmonds et al. A composite measure of habitat loss for entire assemblages of species, Conservation Biology (2019)

33
The rest / Re: Economic Inequality
« on: December 03, 2019, 05:01:24 PM »
England: Atlas of Inequality Challenges Assumptions of Rich and Poor Areas
https://phys.org/news/2019-12-atlas-inequality-assumptions-rich-poor.html

The English Atlas of Inequality, developed by Professor Alasdair Rae and Dr. Elvis Nyanzu from the University of Sheffield's Department of Urban Studies and Planning, maps 149 commuting zones—known as Travel To Work Areas (TTWAs)—across England, showing levels of inequality within the areas.

Researchers used the most commonly used inequality measure, the "Gini coefficient," which looks at income distribution, alongside the "20:20 Index," a measure of economic imbalance within areas and also "Moran's I' which measures geographic clustering of different income groups.

The results of their work highlight the risks of using one single measure to understand the issue of inequality in England. So to complete the atlas, the researchers also measured inequality within all local authority districts and parliamentary constituencies.

Professor Alasdair Rae, said: "When we look at the income distribution in Sheffield, the city is less unequal than some other major English cities, such as London or Cambridge. However, when we look at Sheffield's neighborhoods, 81 feature as being among the least deprived 20 percent in England on income, whereas 116 neighborhoods feature among England's most deprived 20 percent.

When using the Gini coefficient to measure inequality, researchers found that some of England's most deprived coastal communities such as Skegness, Sunderland and Bridlington wouldn't be seen as a priority; as despite being among the poorest local economies, they are some of the most equal within their own boundaries.

Professor Alasdair Rae, said: "Our atlas highlights the fact that no one measure of inequality paints the full picture and that methodological diversity is needed before we start to think of solutions to inequality at a local, sub-national and national level.

http://ajrae.staff.shef.ac.uk/atlasofinequality/

35
The rest / Re: Political theatre/wrestling
« on: December 03, 2019, 01:12:38 PM »
Rightwing ‘Bill Mill’ Accused of Sowing Racist and White Supremacist Policies
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/dec/02/alec-white-supremacy-conservatives-racism

ALEC, the rightwing network that brings conservative lawmakers together with corporate lobbyists to create model legislation that is cloned across the US, has been accused of spreading racist and white supremacist policies targeted at minority communities.

A report published on Tuesday by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and other advocacy groups charges ALEC with propagating white supremacy.

https://ccrjustice.org/

In one of the sharpest criticisms yet levelled at the controversial “bill mill”, the authors warn that:

Quote
... “conservative and corporate interests have captured our political process to harness profit, further entrench white supremacy in the law, and target the safety, human rights and self-governance of marginalised communities”.

... The network, it says, amounts to a “shadow state apparatus” in which “private industry seizes control of the authority of the state, writing legislation and public policy for the general public behind the closed doors of a CEO suite”.

36
Choose Your Own Climate and Energy Policies
https://www.axios.com/choose-your-own-climate-and-energy-adventure-9020127b-727c-451d-bbc9-f340655f599f.html

A new simulator out today empowers readers to choose their own path when it comes to tackling climate change.

https://www.climateinteractive.org/tools/en-roads/

Why it matters: The tool, created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and think tank Climate Interactive, underscores the grand challenge of employing technologies and policies to tackle climate change.

What’s new: This simulator is the first of its kind designed for politicians and others who care about climate change and energy, but aren’t researchers accustomed to arcane models.

  • From this simulator, which is still quite detailed, we curated an even more simplified interactive (see below) presenting nine questions on everything from carbon dioxide prices to land management.
  • At the end, it shows how your choices affect annual greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature rise and energy costs over the next 80 years.

... The bottom line: The biggest upshot of the simulator shows that cutting emissions needs to be first about reducing the world’s use of fossil fuels, instead of merely ramping up cleaner forms of energy. Global energy demand keeps increasing, so wind and solar are being added on top of fossil fuels in most places around the world.
Quote
... “It takes a long time for clean energy to displace the coal, oil and gas that is being planned. We need policies that more directly keep those fuels in the ground."

— Andrew Jones, co-founder, Climate Interactive

37
Choose Your Own Climate and Energy Policies
https://www.axios.com/choose-your-own-climate-and-energy-adventure-9020127b-727c-451d-bbc9-f340655f599f.html

A new simulator out today empowers readers to choose their own path when it comes to tackling climate change.

https://www.climateinteractive.org/tools/en-roads/

Why it matters: The tool, created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and think tank Climate Interactive, underscores the grand challenge of employing technologies and policies to tackle climate change.

What’s new: This simulator is the first of its kind designed for politicians and others who care about climate change and energy, but aren’t researchers accustomed to arcane models.

  • From this simulator, which is still quite detailed, we curated an even more simplified interactive (see below) presenting nine questions on everything from carbon dioxide prices to land management.
  • At the end, it shows how your choices affect annual greenhouse gas emissions, global temperature rise and energy costs over the next 80 years.

... The bottom line: The biggest upshot of the simulator shows that cutting emissions needs to be first about reducing the world’s use of fossil fuels, instead of merely ramping up cleaner forms of energy. Global energy demand keeps increasing, so wind and solar are being added on top of fossil fuels in most places around the world.
Quote
... “It takes a long time for clean energy to displace the coal, oil and gas that is being planned. We need policies that more directly keep those fuels in the ground."

— Andrew Jones, co-founder, Climate Interactive

38
Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: December 02, 2019, 10:51:23 PM »
A French Fry Shortage Coming After Weak Potato Harvest
https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2019/12/02/a-french-fry-shortage-could-be-coming-after-weak-potato-harvest.html

Cold temperatures and the impact of Hurricane Dorian damage potato crops in the U.S. and Canada.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is estimating that domestic potato output will drop 6.1% this year.

The United Potato Growers of Canada forecasts that about 18% of Manitoba's planted area was left unharvested, according to Bloomberg.

39
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: December 02, 2019, 10:41:46 PM »
Quote
Synergy
Good philosophy. See good in bad. I like.

Mr. Kim - Fifth Element


------------------------
Quote
Which is first to arrive? ...


It's a horse race.

40
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: December 02, 2019, 06:21:11 PM »
Three Teams Selected to Design Project Blackjack’s Brains
https://www.c4isrnet.com/battlefield-tech/space/2019/11/21/three-teams-selected-to-design-project-blackjacks-brains/

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has selected three teams to design Pit Boss, a system that can take data from satellites in low earth orbit, process that information in space and disseminate that information to users on Earth without any human input or instructions.

Pit Boss is an autonomous mission management system that DARPA is building for another of its casino-themed initiatives, Project Blackjack. That program aims to demonstrate the value of a large proliferated constellation of low earth orbit satellites for a variety of military uses. Pit Boss aims to use an advanced architecture, processors, and encryption to autonomously collect and process data from the entire Blackjack constellation. It is also envisioned to be able to incorporate future advanced algorithms, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).

Pit Boss connects the brains of each Blackjack satellite, making it one exceptionally smart, networked system,” said Raytheon Space Systems Director Mike Rokaw in a statement Nov. 19. “Rather than sending data down to a ground station for processing, which takes time we don’t have, Pit Boss will send data from space straight to the right operator at the right time.”

“Self-knowing satellites are the next step in autonomous space-based mission planning,” he said. “And, this isn’t limited to missile warning and defense. Future constellation management systems will migrate to this type of methodology.”



---------------------------

DARPA Seeks to Improve AI at the Military Edge with 'Hyper-Dimensional Data Enabled Neural Networks'
https://www.datacenterdynamics.com/news/darpas-hyper-dimensional-data-enabled-neural-network-proposal-seeks-improve-ai-military-edge/

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is looking to fund research into shallow neural network architectures that could run accurately on low-powered Edge systems.

Hyper-Dimensional Data Enabled Neural Networks (HyDDENN) would be able to provide similar results compared to existing state-of-the-art (SOA) Deep Neural Networks (DNN) running in hyperscale data centers, but without the latency and large computational requirements.

41
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: December 02, 2019, 05:30:08 PM »
Revealed: ADF Plan for Weaponised Robots
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/defence/adf-aims-to-integrate-robotic-war-strategies/news-story/27d291a070d1352678b54419cad7dba1



The Australian Defence Force is devising a strategy to develop hi-tech soldiers and weaponised ­robots under a new program to “modernise levels of protection and lethality” for frontline troops.

As China and other nations aggressively expand modern warfare technology, defence chiefs have adopted an “accelerated” plan, focusing on Human Machine Teaming to combine robotic systems and soldier ­capacity to “achieve tactical ­advantage”.

https://twitter.com/Ghost_Robotics/status/1045381119993139205

Major General Mick Ryan, who has championed new technologies, has predicted that by the middle of the 21st century, military forces will contain tens of thousands of robots and that decisions of human commanders will be informed and shaped by artificial intelligence.



The Australian understands autonomous hardware, is already being trialled in armoured vehicles, unmanned ground vehicles, digital guns incorporating computerised sight and automated firing technology and weaponised drones are new technologies being considered to support modern land warfare.

... An Australian Army report titled Robotic and Autonomous Systems Strategy says the use of “advanced and networked technologies on the battlefield is increasing and future war-fighting is expected to centre on human-machine teams both in the physical and virtual sense”.

------------------------------------

China Tests Killer Drones for Street-to-Street Urban Warfare, Plans Sales Overseas
https://www.scmp.com/news/china/military/article/3039827/chinese-tech-firm-testing-urban-attack-drone-designed-carry-out

Engineers recently completed a successful air-to-ground test firing exercise for the mini quadcopter named Tianyi, built by a subsidiary of a state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, Modern Weaponry reported.



Military commentator Song Zhongping said mini-quadcopters such as the Tianyi, which are powered by four rotors, were easy to manoeuvre and could navigate their way round buildings and carry out precision strikes – even firing through windows at close range.

The makers say the drone, which is designed to be controlled by soldiers on the ground, has an operational distance of 5km (3 miles) and has a vertical range of 6km.

It will be fitted with infrared and laser detectors to enable night surveillance operations and armed with two 50mm rockets designed to strike from a distance of up to 1km. ...

-----------------------------------

Israeli Military is Buying Copter Drones With Machine Guns
https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2017/07/israeli-military-buying-copter-drones-machine-guns/139199/

The Israeli military is buying small multi-rotor drones modified to carry a machine gun, a grenade launcher and variety of other weapons to fight tomorrow’s urban warfare battles. Their maker, Florida startup Duke Robotics , is pitching the TIKAD drone to the U.S military as well.



“Because it’s a robot, it’s agnostic to the payload. I can mount an M4, SR25, a 40-millimeter grenade launcher, no matter what. I can carry up to 22 pounds and [the plate system] will stabilize the drone and allow me to get an accurate shot.” ... All of this is possible with current technology and there have been examples of this kind of tech over the years, most recently with the Switchblade project. The technology is basic – I suspect DJI or a similar drone manufacturer could build this in a weekend – but it’s the target market and marketing that is the most interesting.

... Defense One was able to confirm independently that the Israeli military is buying an unspecified number of the units.


Now Fly My Pretties! Fly!

-------------------------------

Army Tests Out Drone that Can Fire Grenades into Enemy Hideouts
https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/11/14/army-tests-out-drone-can-fire-grenades-enemy-hideouts.html/amp

U.S. Army weapons officials are testing an experimental drone armed with a multi-shot, 40mm grenade launcher to destroy enemy targets hiding behind cover.

The man-packable Cerberus GL unmanned aerial system -- made by Skyborne Technologies Pty. Ltd. -- is being evaluated in the Army Expeditionary Warfare Experiments 2020 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

... In addition to the Cerberus grenade-firing UAS, Benning officials evaluated a UAS armed with a Vietnam-era M72 Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW) last year, Davis said.

The system featured a six-bladed commercial drone that could hover over a target and fire the LAW straight down on the enemy, Davis said.

"We've got like 100,000 LAWs in the inventory," he said. "All you are trying to do is get that weapon further forward so you can shoot behind an obstacle. It worked pretty good."

Last year's AEWE also evaluated an M72 LAW equipped with a programmable 66mm warhead, which peppered targets with about 4,000 fragments of shrapnel.

------------------------------

Turkey Adds Autonomous Facial Recognition Kamikaze Drones to Military Portfolio
https://www.biometricupdate.com/201911/turkey-adds-autonomous-facial-recognition-kamikaze-drones-to-military-portfolio

... Deployed in military operations at the Syrian border and equipped with higher ammo capacity and accuracy, the drones can easily destroy an entire brigade or warship. They have artificial intelligence systems and can carry a variety of explosives. The drones use facial recognition to detect human targets and can “autonomously fire-and-forget through the entry of target coordinates,” according to a new PAX report.

-------------------------------

Killer Drones: How Many Are There and Who Do They Target?
https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/nov/18/killer-drones-how-many-uav-predator-reaper
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/us-drone-strike-afghanistan-killed-civilians-taliban-khost-death-toll-birth-a9228956.html

In a rare piece of disclosure, the US said 473 air strikes (from both drones and planes, the figures are not separated out) had been made against targets outside Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria between January 2009 and December 2015. It acknowledged there had been as many as 116 civilian deaths as a result of those strikes, 4% of the reported casualties.

Research conducted by Reprieve in 2014 “found that in attempts to kill 41 individuals, the US killed as many as 1,147 other people and that on average the high value targets died three times”.

In March Donald Trump made analysis harder by signing an executive order banning reporting of drone casualty details.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-revocation-reporting-requirement/

------------------------------------

We're Running Out of Time to Stop Killer Robots
https://www.inverse.com/article/60899-killer-robots-companies-ban-drones

A new report warns that they're coming sooner than you think.

If we don’t adopt legislation to stop killer robots from proliferating soon, they could become commonplace. That’s the message of a new report from the peace advocacy nonprofit PAX. The report claims weapons manufacturers and countries are moving toward producing autonomous weapons systems. These systems, the report warns, could cascade into immoral and unethical use.

PAX had fifty arms producers participate in a survey where they were asked if they were working on producing autonomous weapons and if they are “committed to not contributing to the development of lethal autonomous weapons.” From there, PAX rated companies based on how concerning their practices were. PAX rated 30 of the 50 companies as “high concern.” The report was published this week.

https://www.paxforpeace.nl/publications/all-publications/slippery-slope



Of those 30 companies, American defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon made the list. The report, titled “Slippery Slope,” claims these companies are working on technology that could be used for killer robots and that they didn’t have “clear policies” outlining how to keep killer robots in check.

The kinds of weapons these companies are working on ranged from autonomous combat drones to autonomous submarines to autonomous tanks. Many of these companies are working on technology that would allow killer robots to swarm together.

42
The U.S. Army Versus a Warming Planet: The Strange Case of the Disappearing Report
https://www.redanalysis.org/2019/11/12/us-army-versus-warming-planet/

In August 2019, the Centre for Climate and Security published an article about a recent publication by the U.S Army War College. The document, entitled “Implications of Climate change for the U.S Army”, however, cannot be found anymore on the “publications” page of the U.S Army War College.

The version posted by the Centre for Climate and Security has neither foreword, nor commissioning letter, nor date of publication. However, according to the CCS, it would have been “commissioned by then-Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley (who is now the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)”.

Despite the atypical character of its appearance, this report is quite interesting, in as much as it is written by military staff and researchers, based on a dense corpus of research papers published by civil as well as by national security organizations since 2003, and for the Chief of Staff. A such, it opens a window on a way the U.S military thinks about climate change.

In the very words of its authors,

Quote
“ … , if climate change is occurring and we choose to do nothing, we invite catastrophe, though we cannot know just how bad this payoff would be … Prudent risk management therefore suggests that we should work to avoid the catastrophic outcome and prepare for and mitigate climate change. Based on this argument, this report accepts as a core assumption the reality of climate change and climate-change related global warming, and therefore focuses on what the Army should do to prepare itself”.

Report: https://climateandsecurity.files.wordpress.com/2019/07/implications-of-climate-change-for-us-army_army-war-college_2019.pdf

43
Consequences / Re: Places becoming less livable
« on: December 02, 2019, 04:25:15 PM »



44
The rest / Re: SpaceX
« on: December 01, 2019, 09:03:38 PM »


StarLink Express starts @ 0.20

45
The rest / Re: Archaeology/Paleontology news
« on: November 30, 2019, 03:32:15 AM »
18,000-Year-Old Puppy Found Frozen and Almost Perfectly Preserved in Permafrost
https://gizmodo.com/found-frozen-and-almost-perfectly-preserved-in-permafro-1840093915

Researchers are trying to determine whether an 18,000-year-old puppy found in Siberia is a dog or a wolf.

The frozen puppy, found near Yakutsk in eastern Siberia, was just two months old when it died, reports CNN. Scientists from the Centre for Palaeogenetics—a joint project between Stockholm University and the Swedish Museum of Natural History—used radiocarbon dating on its rib bone to place its brief time on Earth to 18,000 years ago, during the tail end of the last Ice Age.

As to which species this animal belonged is now an intriguing question, as the DNA analysis was inconclusive. The little critter doesn’t seem to fit the genetic profile of a dog or a wolf, and it quite possibly represents an intermediary stage during the domestication of dogs.

The origin of dogs is still not completely clear, hence the importance of the new discovery. The first domesticated dogs emerged in Asia around 14,000 to 16,000 years ago, but genetic evidence suggests the divergence date between dogs and ancient wolves happened at some point between 20,000 to 40,000 years ago. To complicate matters, dogs may have been domesticated twice, once in Asia and once in Europe.

That the newly discovered puppy is some kind of evolutionary missing link is wholly plausible, as the timing appears to be right. But more evidence is needed.

46
Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: November 29, 2019, 07:42:01 PM »
Global Warming and Possible Simultaneous Impact on Agriculture and Marine Fisheries
https://phys.org/news/2019-11-simultaneous-impact-global-agriculture-marine.html


Dimensions of agriculture and marine fisheries vulnerability to climate change

... Researchers have sought to demonstrate what will happen to our two main sources of food—agriculture and fisheries—when looked at simultaneously. They note that other studies have looked at the impact of climate change on both sources, but until now, none of them have looked at what will happen to food availability when both are impacted at the same time.


Vulnerability of agriculture and marine fisheries as a function of exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity to the impacts of climate change.

... The researchers report that the model showed that the worst-case scenario was rather dire—90 percent of the global population will be living in an area where production from agriculture and fisheries is falling by the end of this century. More specifically, the model showed a 25 percent reduction in average global productivity in the agriculture sector. For fisheries, the model showed declines of up to 60 percent. The researchers note that the model also showed different outcomes based on possible global warming mitigation efforts. They also noted that poorer countries will on average be more strongly impacted than richer, more advanced countries.

Open Access: Lauric Thiault et al. Escaping the perfect storm of simultaneous climate change impacts on agriculture and marine fisheries, Science Advances (2019)

47
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: November 28, 2019, 06:04:22 PM »
^ +1

Papers please ...

Your Next Car Will Be Watching You More Than It's Watching the Road
https://gizmodo.com/your-next-car-will-be-watching-you-more-than-its-watchi-1840055386/amp

... Chooch is developing a facial recognition system to detect the rightful owners of cars. When someone is renting a car, they hold up their passport and show their face to the car’s camera. The car’s built-in AI then uses facial recognition to identify them and make sure the right person is sitting behind the steering wheel. (... what's it do if you don't have a passport; lock the doors and gas you? )

(... they might want to rethink the company name; see https://definedictionarymeaning.com/topic/42682/chooch )

48
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: November 28, 2019, 02:08:28 AM »
Former Go Champion Beaten By DeepMind Retires Because AI 'Cannot Be Defeated'
https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/technology-50573071
https://www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2019/11/27/20985260/ai-go-alphago-lee-se-dol-retired-deepmind-defeat

The South Korean Go champion Lee Se-dol has retired from professional play, telling Yonhap news agency that his decision was motivated by the ascendancy of AI.

“With the debut of AI in Go games, I’ve realized that I’m not at the top even if I become the number one through frantic efforts,” Lee told Yonhap. ..“Even if I become the number one, there is an entity that cannot be defeated.”

... Since the tournament DeepMind has only improved its AI Go systems. In 2017, it created AlphaGo Zero, a version of the program which surpassed even AlphaGo.


49
Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: November 27, 2019, 11:12:58 PM »
Cyborg Soldier 2050: Human/Machine Fusion and the Implications for the Future of the DOD
https://madsciblog.tradoc.army.mil/
https://taskandpurpose.com/army-cyborg-soldier-2050-study-2641466143.amp.html

At the direction of the DoD Biotechnologies for Health and Human Performance Council Executive Committee (BHPC), the BHPC study group conducted a year-long assessment entitled “Cyborg Soldier 2050: Human/Machine Fusion and the Impact for the Future of the DOD - CCDC CBC-TR-1599”.



... The primary objective of this effort was to forecast and evaluate the military implications of machines that are physically integrated with the human body to augment and enhance human performance over the next 30 years.

This report summarizes this assessment and findings; identifies four potential military-use cases for new technologies in this area; and assesses their impact upon the DOD organizational structure, warfighter doctrine and tactics, and interoperability with U.S. allies and civil society.

  • ocular enhancements to imaging, sight, and situational awareness
  • restoration and programmed muscular control through an optogenetic bodysuit
    sensor web
  • auditory enhancement for communication and protection
  • direct neural enhancement of the human brain for two-way data transfer

... the BHPC study group analysis suggested that the development of direct neural enhancements of the human brain for two-way data transfer would create a revolutionary advancement in future military capabilities.

According to the report, neural implants are anticipated to start being used by Special Forces, military pilots, drone operators, and intelligence personnel by 2030. By 2050, that circle would expand as the technology is better understood and it becomes more widely available.

... The report also recognizes how individuals with mega-enhanced hearing, eyesight, or cognitive abilities might would have a "defined competitive advantage" over average people in society. How would that be managed?

Quote
... "Efforts should be undertaken to reverse negative cultural narratives of enhancement technologies."

... Although not intrinsically a DOD mission, defense leadership should understand that negative public and social perceptions will need to be overcome, if these technologies are to be fielded.



------------------------------

Scientists Demonstrate Direct Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scientists-demonstrate-direct-brain-to-brain-communication-in-humans/

In a new study, technology replaces language as a means of communicating by directly linking the activity of human brains. Electrical activity from the brains of a pair of human subjects was transmitted to the brain of a third individual in the form of magnetic signals, which conveyed an instruction to perform a task in a particular manner. This study opens the door to extraordinary new means of human collaboration while, at the same time, blurring fundamental notions about individual identity and autonomy in disconcerting ways.

... Overall, five groups of individuals were tested using this network, called the “BrainNet,” and, on average, they achieved greater than 80 percent accuracy in completing the task.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-41895-7)

In his book Beyond Boundaries one of the leaders in the field, Miguel Nicolelis, described the merging of human brain activity as the future of humanity, the next stage in our species’ evolution.

He has already conducted a study in which he linked together the brains of several rats using complex implanted electrodes known as brain-to-brain interfaces. Nicolelis and his co-authors described this achievement as the first “organic computer” with living brains tethered together as if they were so many microprocessors. The animals in this network learned to synchronize the electrical activity of their nerve cells to the same extent as those in a single brain. The networked brains were tested for things such as their ability to discriminate between two different patterns of electrical stimuli, and they routinely outperformed individual animals.

If networked rat brains are “smarter” than a single animal, imagine the capabilities of a biological supercomputer of networked human brains.

------------------------------

DARPA Funds Technology for Thought-Controlled Drones
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/614495/us-military-super-soldiers-control-drones-brain-computer-interfaces/amp/

Earlier this month it was reported that the U.S. military is currently developing a brain-computer interface that could allow soldiers to control drones with their thoughts, and without the need for any surgery. With $104 million in funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Next-generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology Program (N³) is being led by three graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

“With this technology, a soldier could act – such as by directing a weapon’s fire or maneuvering a vehicle – at the speed of thought,” ... “There would be no delay from pulling a trigger or turning a steering wheel, but that doesn’t mean that the decision to act would be faster – or better, for that matter,” Mahncke added.

... The point is that such technology might not allow for those split-second decisions not to fire. ... “Friendly fire incidents can occur regardless of how a weapon system is controlled, but the faster the weapon system acts, the less opportunity there is for a soldier to stop the wrong action in time,” said Mahncke.

... DARPA is often on the cutting edge of technology, in the space where laws and ethics are not always clear.

Quote
... “The military has been working on a lot of interesting, and somewhat frightening products,” said Rob Enderle, technology industry analyst at the Enderle Group. “A few years back I read about a technology that basically turned off your inner voice, the one that tells you you can’t do something,” explained Enderle.

----------------------------

A New Joystick For the Brain-Controlled Vehicles Of the Future
https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2019/09/new-joystick-brain-controlled-vehicles-future/160092/

A group of scientists from several universities has created an unobtrusive brain-computer interface strip that could revolutionize the way humans convert their thoughts into a machine-readable format.

A narrow strip affixes to the upper neck, performing the data collection of a traditional EEG cap. The signals are then interpreted by software —aided by machine learning— to produce data that could be used to steer vehicles or operate other computers. The entire system is called SKINTRONICS.



... Beyond brain-based piloting, the military is exploring the use of brain-computer interfaces for communication.

------------------------------

Brain-Computer Interfaces are Developing Faster Than the Policy Debate Around Them
https://www.theverge.com/platform/amp/interface/2019/7/31/20747916/facebook-brain-computer-interface-policy-neuralink

It’s time to talk about what’s possible — and what shouldn’t be ...

50
The rest / Re: Archaeology/Paleontology news
« on: November 27, 2019, 09:32:14 PM »
Inbreeding and Population/Demographic Shifts May Have Led to Neanderthal Extinction
https://phys.org/news/2019-11-inbreeding-populationdemographic-shifts-neanderthal-extinction.html

Small populations, inbreeding, and random demographic fluctuations could have been enough to cause Neanderthal extinction, according to a study published November 27, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE

Using data from extant hunter-gatherer populations as parameters, the authors developed population models for simulated Neanderthal populations of various initial sizes (50, 100, 500, 1,000, or 5,000 individuals). They then simulated for their model populations the effects of inbreeding, Allee effects (where reduced population size negatively impacts individuals' fitness), and annual random demographic fluctuations in births, deaths, and the sex ratio, to see if these factors could bring about an extinction event over a 10,000-year period.

The population models show that inbreeding alone was unlikely to have led to extinction (this only occurred in the smallest model population). However, reproduction-related Allee effects where 25 percent or fewer Neanderthal females gave birth within a given year (as is common in extant hunter-gatherers) could have caused extinction in populations of up to 1,000 individuals. In conjunction with demographic fluctuations, Allee effects plus inbreeding could have caused extinction across all population sizes modelled within the 10,000 years allotted.

Vaesen K, Scherjon F, Hemerik L, Verpoorte A (2019) Inbreeding, Allee effects and stochasticity might be sufficient to account for Neanderthal extinction. PLoS ONE 14(11): e0225117

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