“We have a lot of data that’s created in space, but how valuable would it be to actually do compute and storage in space?” Meyerson asked. “We’ve been talking with Axiom about that and helping them to form partnerships. How do we use the C5 portfolio in cybersecurity and threat protection to assist Axiom with their supply chain and their partners, to bring the most advanced technologies to that critically important area?”
According to Zarkadakis, one of the most important fixes will be for governments to earn back the trust of the people they govern.
“We should have a more participatory form of government, rather than the one we have now,” Zarkadakis told me from his home base in London. “A mixture, if you like, of more direct democracy and representational democracy. And that’s where this idea of citizen assemblies comes about.”
He delves into his prescription for curing liberal democracy — and the precedents that can be drawn from science fiction — in the latest episode of the Fiction Science podcast. Check out the entire show via your favorite podcast channel, whether that’s Anchor, Apple, Spotify, Google, Breaker, Overcast, Pocket Casts or RadioPublic.
The process involves recruiting small groups of ordinary citizens, and getting them up to speed on a pressing social issue. In Zarkadakis’ case, the issue had to do with the policies and ethical considerations surrounding brain science. During a series of deliberations, the groups worked out a series of recommendations on research policies, free of the political maneuvering that usually accompanies such debates.
One of the key challenges involved how to connect regular citizens with expert knowledge. It struck Zarkadakis that machine-based expert systems — for example, IBM’s Watson, the question-answering computer that bested human champs on the “Jeopardy” game show — could help guide citizen assemblies through the complexities of complex issues such as climate change, health care and education.
“Those algorithms are very powerful,” he said. “They collect a lot of data, and they have a lot of collateral damage. They just want to sell ads. Now, can we do something about it? I think we can, of course. We can use this technology for other purposes. We can use this technology, for example, to build algorithms with different goals.”
Rewriting the formula for how personal data can be used is a big part of Zarkadakis’ prescription. In the book, he proposes the development of data trusts that put consumers in control of their own data — and put a price tag on the use of such data by businesses.
Is the market for an individual’s data lucrative enough to sustain the sellers? That was one of the questions my Fiction Science co-host, sci-fi author Dominica Phetteplace, asked Zarkadakis.
“Interestingly, they put up a collateral for that loan that wasn’t the airplanes. It wasn’t the slots they have on various air fields around the world. It was the loyalty program, a database,” he said.
Speaking of science fiction, the sky’s not the limit for Zarkadakis’ ideas: Early on, he planned to devote a chapter of “Cyber Republic” to the idea of creating decentralized, crypto-savvy cooperatives to govern future space settlements.
“My publisher dissuaded me from including the chapter in the book,” he said with a chuckle. “I didn’t want to argue the point too much, so I said, OK, fine, we’ll keep it on Earth and keep it earthly for this time.”
Instead, Zarkadakis laid out the idea in a pair of postings to his personal blog. He’s also working on a science-fiction novel that capitalizes on his familiarity with the ins and outs of AI and robotics — and who knows? In that novel, he just might address the invention of democracy for intelligent machines.
I reminded him that happy endings aren’t guaranteed, whether we’re talking about science fiction or real-world governance. The example I had in mind was the scene from “Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” where Natalie Portman’s character watches the birth of the Galactic Empire and remarks: “So this is how liberty dies: with thunderous applause.”
“Both of those novels are interesting, because they imagine future human colonies on the moon, very near, but in very different ways as well,” Zarkadakis said. “It’s always interesting to read science fiction when you are interested in politics.”
Will citizen assemblies and data trusts end up being consigned to the realm of science fiction, along with Heinlein’s lunar revolutionaries and Le Guin’s anarcho-syndicalists? Zarkadakis, for one, hopes not. The way he sees it, we’re already stuck in a bad science-fiction plot.
“We are living actually in a nightmare right now, as far as I’m concerned,” Zarkadakis said. “And I believe that one of the reasons why this is happening is because the public was not involved in the conversation, and therefore there was not acceptance by the public of those measures. To cut a long story short, I believe that this needs to change.”
Microsoft says it’s immediately putting $20 million from its AI for Health program toward analytical tools that can help researchers and public health officials get a handle on the coronavirus pandemic.
John Kahan, Microsoft’s chief data analytics officer, said AI for Health “will collaborate with nonprofits, governments, and academic researchers on solutions, and bring our experience to the table, providing access to Microsoft AI, technical experts, data scientists and other resources.”
Satellites, sensors, social media and purchasing data provide terabytes’ worth of information about how the global economy is working — and the insights gleaned from that data can be more precious than gold.
But what’s the best way to extract the gold from the dross? That’s where longtime space entrepreneur Dick Rocket intends to step in with a stealthy venture called Orrery.ai.
“There’s a gap between the data analysis firms and the financial sector,” Rocket told GeekWire this week. “That is our gap.”
Rocket launched Orrery.ai about a year ago, with backing from angel investors, but he and a small executive team are just now ramping up a more ambitious private funding campaign. They’re also mulling over where to put their headquarters. (The Seattle area is in the mix, along with sites in Florida, Texas, New York and Georgia.)
Big data just might give astronomers a better grip on the answer to one of the biggest questions in physics: Exactly what’s behind the mysterious acceleration in the expansion rate of the universe, also known as dark energy?
The role of data analysis in resolving the mystery came to the fore on May 14 during a talk given at the DIRAC Institute’s first-ever open house on the UW campus. The speaker was none other than Berkeley astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter, who won a share of the Nobel Prize in physics in 2011 for finding the first evidence of dark energy.
It’s no secret that a rising flood of data, from the results of sophisticated genetic tests to the vital signs recorded by your smartphone, is transforming the way we approach health and wellness. But one of the pioneers of that trend says big data could well shift the focus of the quest for wellness from the hospital to the home.
“I think the most powerful unit for scientific wellness is the family,” Leroy Hood, co-founder of Seattle’s Institute for Systems Biology and chief science officer at Providence St. Joseph Health, said during a March 7 forum on the future of health.
The forum was hosted by the Institute for System Biology’s headquarters as part of Town Hall Seattle’s science lecture series.
“Game of Thrones,” the HBO sword-sorcery-and-sex series that begins its seventh season tonight, has spawned a geekier kind of game: doing data analytics to study who’s on top and who’ll get the ax (figuratively and literally).
The Wall Street Journal delved deeply into the data geekery last week, noting that fans have recorded the screen time and other statistics for nearly 200 notable characters over the course of the past 60 episodes. Intricate algorithms seek to correlate the characters’ characteristics with their chances of surviving the poison pens wielded by book author George R.R. Martin and the series’ screenwriters.
Indian data scientist Shail Deliwala ran the numbers and came up with several correlations. Some mesh with common sense (for example, characters with lots of dead relatives are less likely to survive), while others mesh more with literary sense (for example, the larger the attacking force, the higher the chances that the defenders will prevail).
Small drones, big data and computer vision: That’s the tech-frontier trifecta for Clobotics, a Shanghai startup that says it’s raised $5 million in seed funding and opened a research and development center in the Seattle area.
“This is where I took the plunge,” Clobotics co-founder George Yan, a former executive at Microsoft China and the Chinese drone venture Ehang, told GeekWire.
Yan said Clobotics (“cloud” plus “robotics”) has been more than a decade in the making. The venture aims to capitalize on the capabilities of aerial robotics and artificial intelligence to automate the task of evaluating the condition of hard-to-reach infrastructure.
GGV Capital, a U.S.-Chinese venture capital firm, is leading a $5 million financing round to get Clobotics off the ground, Yan said.
A Canadian subsidiary of the Boeing Co. has announced plans to open a data analytics laboratory in downtown Vancouver, B.C., to help the aerospace giant and its customers figure out how to maximize their efficiency and minimize their costs.
The downtown lab will supplement Boeing Vancouver’s operations in suburban Richmond, where 200 software engineers and data scientists are currently employed.
“The expansion represents a natural extension of Boeing Vancouver’s analytics, software development and professional consulting work,” Boeing Vancouver President Bob Cantwell said in a news release issued today. “As one of the largest analytics groups within Boeing, we are well suited to house the new Vancouver Labs, which will focus on delivering data-driven solutions at a rapidly increased pace over traditional development.”
A spokesman for the company, Mike Pound, told GeekWire that 50 data analysts would be working at the downtown location, which is in a converted warehouse on Homer Street in the Yaletown district. Moving day is due to take place next month.
Researchers have analyzed data about mobile phone use in Rwanda to figure out how wealthy a phone’s user is – and they say they might be able to do the same kind of analysis for any other country.
The study, published today in the journal Science, applies big-data models to look at much more than income. The Rwandan data, for example, could be massaged to predict which phone users owned a motorcycle or a TV.
Joshua Blumenstock, the study’s lead author and an information scientist at the University of Washington, is now working on a follow-up project to see how easily the computer models can be applied to places beyond Rwanda.
“In every country, we hypothesize that there’s a relationship between how people use their phone and how wealthy they are,” he said in a Science podcast. “The exact nature of that relationship is going to change from one country to another, and it might even change from one year to the next within a country. But fundamentally, you’d think that there are these relationships that exist.”