The search for extraterrestrial intelligence, better known as SETI, is taking advantage of a widening array of strategies — ranging from sophisticated laser searches, to a new type of wide-angle optical observatory, to arrangements to conduct the search simultaneously with other scientific efforts.
But new technologies are also bringing new challenges: For example, how will radio astronomers deal with the noise created by a fast-growing number of satellites in low Earth orbit?
Artificial intelligence is often portrayed as a rising competitor for human intelligence, in settings ranging from human-vs.-machine card games to the “Terminator” movie series. But according to Eric Horvitz, the director of Microsoft Research Labs, the hottest trends in AI have more to do with creating synergies between the humans and the machines.
It’s hard enough protecting your personal information while you’re alive, but you also have to worry about it after you die. For example, what will happen to all those postings and profiles you’ll be leaving behind on social media?
Earthquake experts say current building codes don’t reflect the riskiest features of the Seattle area’s geology — but the outlook for survivability looks a lot better if the Really Big One can just hold off for a few more years.
That’s the bottom line from a session focusing on Seattle’s seismic hazards, presented at ground zero today during the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting. The session — titled “Is the Coast Toast?” — followed up on a 2015 New Yorker article that painted a grim picture of the possibilities, based on studies of the Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia subduction zone.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has been working to improve the state of global health through his nonprofit foundation for 20 years, and today he told the nation’s premier scientific gathering that advances in artificial intelligence and gene editing could accelerate those improvements exponentially in the years ahead.
“We have an opportunity with the advance of tools like artificial intelligence and gene-based editing technologies to build this new generation of health solutions so that they are available to everyone on the planet. And I’m very excited about this,” Gates said in Seattle during a keynote address at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Such tools promise to have a dramatic impact on several of the biggest challenges on the agenda for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, created by the tech guru and his wife in 2000.
Concerns about international intellectual property theft are feeding into the formulation of new guidelines for auditing federal research funding. And the White House’s science adviser, Kelvin Droegemeier, says he’s trying to make sure the guidelines don’t become too restrictive.
“For research security in particular, I can tell you that we’ve developed a policy for guidance to agencies that is really good,” Droegemeier said today during a town hall session at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Seattle. “Let me just tell you, a year ago, I was concerned about where it was going to land, because I thought it was pretty heavy-duty. It would increase burden and wouldn’t actually address the challenges.”
Since then, the guidelines have been adjusted to respond to input received from international partners and from the Joint Committee on the Research Environment, or JCORE, which includes representatives from academia and industry as well as government agencies.
“The one thing that we don’t want to do is build really tall fences around really big areas,” Droegemeier, a meteorologist who heads the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, told attendees. “That would hamstring our research enterprises, and that’s not the right approach.”
After the session, Droegemeier told GeekWire that the guidelines would be released soon but didn’t provide a precise time frame.
The space snowman that was the focus of a close encounter with NASA’s New Horizons probe last year is helping scientists answer a cosmic question: How did the building blocks of the solar system get their start?
“This is a game-changer,” said Alan Stern, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute and principal investigator for the New Horizons mission.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tens of billions of devices, ranging from coffee makers to cars to spacecraft, could someday be connected to global networks thanks to what’s known as the Internet of Things, or IoT, and cybersecurity experts say that could open up a whole new universe for hackers and eavesdroppers.
Consider the humble coffee maker, for example: University of North Carolina techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci suggested that if Chinese authorities wanted to, say, root out Muslim activists in the country’s far western Xinjiang region, they could watch for the telltale sign of coffee or tea being brewed before morning prayers.
“Your coffee maker has an IP [address], and it might be at risk of identifying these people, because if I wanted one piece of data from the region, that would be my thing. … It’s a very synchronized hour, that’s the whole point of it,” Tufekci said here last weekend during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“Holy crap, we were just talking about coffee making, right? And now we’re talking about taking people to send to internment camps,” she said. “These lines are not as far apart from one another as one would think.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. — When the first human explorers head for Mars, they’re likely to have a non-human judging their performance and tweaking their interpersonal relationships when necessary.
NASA and outside researchers are already working on artificial intelligence agents to monitor how future long-duration space crews interact, sort of like the holographic doctor on “Star Trek: Voyager.” But there’ll also be a need for the human touch — in the form of crew members who could serve the roles of social directors or easygoing jokesters.