News — At The Edge — 1/26

Technologically, civilization is being taken down a dead end — killer robots, missiles, artificial intelligence, global health — where one small mistake or accident will kill us all.

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Future of artificial intelligence becomes key topic at World Economic Forum (4 min. video)

The potential benefits and danger of AI was a primary discussion. CNET senior producer Dan Patterson speaks to Ben Goertzel, CEO and founder of SingularityNET, about the future of artificial intelligence. https://finance.yahoo.com/video/future-artificial-intelligence-becomes-key-022802079.html

Restraining the robots: Autonomous weapons and the new laws of war —

“[2017] report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)…[said] 49 deployed systems which could detect possible targets and attack them without human intervention…disturbs the coalition of 89 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in 50 countries…[thus] the ‘Campaign to Stop Killer Robots’….

[But] ‘fire and forget’ missiles that could loiter…[before] told to attack have been around for decades….Anti-personnel mines…[once] deployed no human is involved in choosing when or whom they strike….Weapons have been able to track their prey unsupervised since the first acoustic-homing torpedoes…used in the second world war…[but] choice about what to home in on…is made by a person….

[Challenge now] is the ability to pick the target out from a field of non-targets. There are two technological developments….One is that computers are far more powerful…[and] much more sophisticated in their ability to distinguish between objects….

DARPA, is working on autonomous attack swarms more like [starlings]…[and] can ‘self-sort’ based on firing order….

’The thing about robots is that they don’t have pensions’…[or] have dependents….[Also] human control creates vulnerabilities…[to] pump a lot of encrypted data back and forth…[can be] attacked physically…[jammed] or subverted through cyberwarfare…[or] ’contested electromagnetic environments’….

But autonomous systems can be interfered with…[as] targets will try to distort the signatures which autonomous weapons seek to discern…[and] the neural networks used in machine learning are intrinsically vulnerable to spoofing….

Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is calling for a pre-emptive ban on ‘fully autonomous’ weapons. The trouble is that there is little agreement on where the line is crossed….

Meaningful control’…requires an understanding of the context in which the weapon is being used as well as capacity for timely and reasoned intervention…[and] requires accountability….

[Weapons] with automatic target recognition, present the biggest challenge…[because] range of target environments that could be hard to anticipate…[and] out of meaningful human control depending on where they end up, the competence and experience of the operators, what is likely to step into their path and, potentially, changes to their algorithms made through on-board machine learning….

International Humanitarian Law (IHL)…built around the rules of war…demands that armies distinguish between combatants and civilians…[and] use no more force than is proportional….’However sophisticated new machines may be, that is beyond their scope’….

Leaving aside law and ethics, autonomous weapons could pose new destabilizing risks. Automatic systems can interact in seemingly unpredictable ways, as when trading algorithms cause ‘flash crashes’…[and] raises the possibility of a flash war caused by ‘a cascade of escalating engagements’.

If we are open to the idea that humans make bad decisions… we should also be open to the idea that AI systems will make bad decisions — just faster’….

[Still] America, Britain and Russia, explicitly opposes the ban…[arguing] autonomous weapons might make war more humane….

But how long until an embattled army decided to…let slip the robodogs of war?

Which brings back one of the biggest problems…verification, and this will always be a vexed issue when it comes to autonomy…[in] ‘software, not hardware.’https://www.economist.com/briefing/2019/01/19/autonomous-weapons-and-the-new-laws-of-war

Trump’s Missile Defense Plan Creates More Problems Than It Solves

Missile Defense Review describes creating capabilities to stop an array of long-range missiles, including [hypersonic]…[and] capabilities that could neutralize a missile anywhere in the world during its initial ascent, space-based tracking and interception technologies, and even high-energy lasers mounted on ‘airborne platforms’….

It would be technically unachievable, and economically ruinous if you tried’….Not to mention that the more the US discusses and pursues elaborate defenses, the more it may provoke rivals like China and Russia to respond by bolstering their offensive capabilities….

[T]he more realistic proposals: an expansion of ground-based interceptors in Alaska…against short-range missiles….Developing defenses against cruise missiles — which enter the atmosphere for part of their flight — and ultrasonic missiles….Even developing sensor arrays in space to detect and track missiles…could potentially be achieved….

[But] keep in mind that current missile-defense systems aren’t particularly reliable, especially against long-range weapons that travel at high speed….

’The main significance of the review is that it changes the program from a limited, regional defense system to an unlimited, global defense system. That is simple to say — it is impossible to do….

The track record…of ballistic-missile defense…is one of hype and promise followed by deployment of very limited capability’….Russia has consistently cautioned the US against building missile-defense infrastructure that could be interpreted as shifting the balance of power in nuclear deterrence. ‘Nobody listened’….

’If you liked the president’s border wall, wait until you see the space wall.’” https://www.wired.com/story/trump-missile-defense-review/

World Economic Forum warns of AI’s potential to worsen global inequality —

“Tech and political leaders sounded the alarm…about the potential for artificial intelligence to exacerbate huge inequalities across the world…if individual organizations and countries implement AI systems and others do not, then they will race far ahead, spreading inequality between economies and leading to unforeseen consequences for the planet….

One of the problems with the spread of high tech is that government policies governing emerging technologies can be incredibly piecemeal….

[AI] could have exponential effects on companies and economies, the resulting inequalities would be a sort of ‘weaponization’ of the space….[Already] San Francisco is a ‘train wreck‘ of inequality because of Silicon Valley….

AI is going to be a new human rightand every country needs to have access to [it]….[Those] who have it will be smarter, healthier, richer and of course, their warfare will be significantly more advanced….Those without with AI will be less educated, weaker, poorer and sicker….We also have a tremendous crisis of trust in the misuse of data and privacy’….

AI could create 13–17 trillion dollars of incremental GDP in the next 11 years. And every country…[has] an AI plan….

AI will have profound effects on jobs, privacy, and security….[but] race for AI is ‘moving too quickly and many people misunderstand it. It’s creating tension between countries.’ So we need a ‘transparent discussion.’” https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/23/world-economic-forum-warns-of-ais-potential-to-worsen-global-inequality/

Ten threats to global health in 2019 —

“[2019] World Health Organization’s new 5-year strategic plan…ensuring 1 billion more people benefit from access to universal health coverage, 1 billion more people are protected from health emergencies and 1 billion more people enjoy better health and well-being….Here are 10 of the…issues that will demand attention….

  • Air pollution and climate change Nine out of ten people breathe polluted air every day…[and] considered by WHO as the greatest environmental risk to healthkilling 7 million people prematurely every year…[and] a major contributor to climate change….
  • Noncommunicable diseases…such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, are collectively responsible for over 70% of all deaths worldwide…[from] tobacco use, physical inactivity, the harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diets and air pollution.….
  • Global influenza pandemic…the only thing we don’t know is when….
  • Fragile and vulnerable settings….1.6 billion people (22% of the global population) live in places where protracted crises (…such as drought, famine, conflict, and population displacement) and weak health services leave them without access to basic care….
  • Antimicrobial resistance…threatens to send us back to a time when we were unable to easily treat infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and salmonellosis…[and]could seriously compromise surgery and [chemotherapy]….Drug resistance is driven by the overuse of antimicrobials in people…[and] animals, especially those used for food production, as well as in the environment….
  • Ebola and other high-threat pathogens….[A] watchlist for priority research and development includes Ebola, several other hemorrhagic fevers, Zika, Nipah, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and disease X, which represents the need to prepare for an unknown pathogen that could cause a serious epidemic.
  • Weak primary health care[to] provide comprehensive, affordable, community-based care throughout life….
  • Vaccine hesitancy…despite the availability of vaccines — threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases….Measles, for example, has seen a 30% increase in cases globally….2019, WHO will ramp up work to eliminate cervical cancer worldwide by increasing coverage of the HPV vaccine…[and] may also be the year when transmission of wild poliovirus is stopped….
  • Dengue…a mosquito-borne disease that causes flu-like symptoms and can be lethal and kill up to 20%…is spreading to less tropical and more temperate countries…that have not traditionally seen the disease…..40% of the world is at risk of dengue fever….WHO’s Dengue control strategy aims to reduce deaths by 50% by 2020.
  • HIV….continues to rage with nearly a million people every year dying of HIV/AIDS….Today, around 37 million worldwide live with HIV.” https://www.who.int/emergencies/ten-threats-to-global-health-in-2019

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Doc Huston

Consultant & Speaker on future nexus of technology-economics-politics, PhD Nested System Evolution, MA Alternative Futures, Patent Holder — dochuston1@gmail.com

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Doc Huston

Doc Huston

Consultant & Speaker on future nexus of technology-economics-politics, PhD Nested System Evolution, MA Alternative Futures, Patent Holder — dochuston1@gmail.com

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