US Government Opens the Kimono 🔓

Merry Christmas data nerds! 🎁

Congress has passed the OPEN Government Data Act, which should mean a bunch of new, shiny data to play with. And in a sector that could definitely benefit from what data analysis and machine learning could bring to bear. 📜

Find more datasets here.

Src: E Pluribus Unum

Wu-Tang Was Right

Cash does rules everything around us. 💰

There seems to be a trend amongst Chinese tech companies to deflect when asked about what societal implications their tech could have by shrugging and talking dollar signs. 💲💲💲

Exhibit A:

“We’re not really thinking very far ahead, you know, whether we’re having some conflicts with humans, those kinds of things,” [SenseTime co-founder Tang Xiao’ou] said. “We’re just trying to make money.”

Src: Bloomberg

Exhibit B: (Outerplaces)

According to Haung Yongzhen, the CEO of Watrix: “You don’t need people’s cooperation for us to be able to recognize their identity. Gait analysis can’t be fooled by simply limping, walking with splayed feet or hunching over, because we’re analyzing all the features of an entire body.”

Src: Outer Places

Exhibit C:

“We don’t support the government,” [Su Qingfeng, the head of ZTE’s Venezuela unit,] said. “We are just developing our market.”

Src: Reuters

I find it interesting that state supported companies in a Communist country keep using Capitalism as a shield. 🛡️


They’re Making a List, And Checking it Lots 📇

Oh yay, China is exporting its panopticon. 🤐

First up? Venezuela. The land of oil, soaring inflation, an imploding economy, and a leader that’s super into overt political intimidation. 🔨

It can’t be that bad, right? 🤷

“What we saw in China changed everything,” said the member of the Venezuelan delegation, technical advisor Anthony Daquin. His initial amazement, he said, gradually turned to fear that such a system could lead to abuses of privacy by Venezuela’s government. “They were looking to have citizen control.”

Uh, maybe it can. 😟

This holiday season’s must have gift? A build-your-own-authoritarian-regmie kit. 🎁

Src: Reuters

AI Could Create A Defense Dark Horse 🐎

A lot of focus is placed on the US-China AI space race (guilty), but the nature of AI could make for a surprise victor. Or at least a leveling of the playing field. 🚜

There is a risk that the United States, like many leading powers in the past, could take an excessively cautious approach to the adoption of AI capabilities because it currently feels secure in its conventional military superiority.

I noticed an interesting note in the piece that arms regulations are, by and large, aren’t placed on useful defense technologies that are easily spread. Like tanks and jets (“easily spread” is relative in this case). Compared to nukes, which are heavily regulated but hard to manufacture anyway. 🏭

AI is not subject to the same manufacturing difficulties and provides far more useful. It is also difficult to draw a clear line between commercial and military uses. All of this creates a scenario that will be tough to regulate with nearly all governments incentivized to take a shot. Interesting times ahead. 🔮

Src: Foreign Policy

Lazy Faire 🇺🇸🇨🇳

At the US government’s current rate of uninvolvement in the AI sector, China will overtake it in its quest for AI overlord status by the end of the year. At least when it comes to spending, the rest might not be far behind though. 💰

One of the recommendations from a subcommittee is to expedite the approval of the OPEN Government Data Set. You know, giving citizens the right to data they actually own as taxpayers. 🙄

My hunch is that the way Trump deals with something he doesn’t understand (and might admit to himself he doesn’t understand) is to ignore it, thus the administration’s lack of a plan. 😖

Src: The Next Web

Artificially Wartelligent 💣

Surprising no one, the Pentagon wants more of that AI goodness in its weaponry. They want it about $2 billion worth of bad. 💰

But, having AI be able to explain its decision making appear to be vitally important, which is nice to see. It sounds like plenty of people are uneasy with the idea of robots doing what they want with no oversight, at least in war scenarios. 👍

enabling AI systems to make decisions even when distractions are all around, and to then explain those decisions to their operators will be “critically important…in a warfighting scenario.”

Src: The Verge

With Great Computing Power Comes Great Responsibility? 🚨

Maybe that open letter decrying autonomous weapons wasn’t the best choice? 🤔

Relax, nothing crazy happened. Paul Scharre just brought up some really good points in this interview with the MIT Tech Review. And they boil down to the best way to impact the smart weapons sector is to help educate and steer policy, not stay away from it. 🔖

The open letter is the typical tech sector response to a problem like this too, avoid it and shift blame. “We’re just engineers”. 🙄

Smart weapons are coming one way or another, and I like the idea of having the people concerned about them involved in their creation and regulation. ⚒

Src: MIT Tech Review

The Tangled Web We Weave 🌐

AI and nationalism are strange bedfellows. On the one hand, most research at this point has been collaborative and open. Indeed, a lot of advances are open source and practically everything gets a paper written explaining the process. On the other hand, the implications for military use and national advancement are very real. 🛏

The US and China are the two main players in this slowly unfolding drama. The big tech companies of each are building research centers in the other and are likely attracting the bulk of the world’s talent. But they are beginning to diverge in a major way, China’s AI industry is heavily backed by the government and follows a policy of dual-use: commercial and military. The US government is basically staying out of it (probably because most of the decision makers don’t understand it) and employees are calling for their companies to stay out of military contracts and applications. 🇨🇳🇺🇸

No one benefits if an isolationist approach is taken, but nothing good will happen if the realities of what could result from partnerships and investments are ignored. China seems to want all joint ventures to skew towards benefitting them. Could we be headed towards a Cold War? ⛄️

Could AI spark a new wave of spying? Industrial espionage, asset development and exploitation, academic pillaging, funding stipulations, code breaking? 🕵️‍♀️🕵️‍♂️

The post on ASPI does a great job breaking down the situation and outlining what’s going on in China. Plus they recommend some approaches to potential solutions. Ultimately it feels like this is going to become a traditional battle between two countries that manifests in entirely new ways due to the technology involved. 🗺

Src: ASPI

DARPA Gets Chipy 🛡️

Looks like tech companies aren’t the only ones getting in on the chip game. DARPA is adding its muscle to the sector in an effort to make sure hardware development and innovation doesn’t get overlooked or minimized. 💪

What are they focusing on? 🤔

Using ML to automate and expedite development time, and having the tools accessible to n00bs. 🏭

“We’re trying to engineer the craft brewing revolution in electronics,”

Getting funky with materials and integration ideas. 👽

The ultimate goal is to effectively embed computing power in memory, which could lead to dramatic increases in performance.

Creating new architectures to make chips modular and changeable in real-time. Basically, they want one chip to be able to do more and different things. 📐

Today, multiple chips are needed, driving up complexity and cost.

Src: MIT Tech Review