Author Archive

CyberArchaeology: Urban Explorers Find Cemetery of Soviet computers; Divers find Nazis’ Enigma code machine in Baltic Sea

by David Solomonoff

These are the precursors to the tech we take for granted now, although many people with an interest in ancient history are surprisingly incurious about the recent past. Nonetheless these artifacts raise fascinating questions: how did our modern tech evolve from these machines – and are there hidden byways or capabilities that could have lead us in another direction?

The building did not stand out. Unremarkable industrial building, which was built in hundreds of Soviet cities.

Non-broken glass, burning lights, live plants inside, modern plastic entrance doors. Except for one floor.

Despite the twilight, the floor remained lifelessly dark

Inside the floor was empty and black, but not completely. Inside burned several fluorescent lamps, spotlighting dozens of silhouettes of tall cabinets.

The surface of the floor, tables and enclosures covered with black spots of soot, sometimes diluted with white stains of dried extinguishing mixture.

Part of the cabinets were antique electronic computers. Others served to measure signals, and computers controlled this process. Dozens of terminals froze on the tables with extinct screens.

Source: Cemetery of Soviet computers ⋆ Russian Urban Exploration

The legendary code machine was discovered during a search for abandoned fishing nets in the Bay of Gelting

“A colleague swam up and said: there’s a net there with an old typewriter in it,” Florian Huber, the lead diver, told the DPA news agency.

The team quickly realised they had stumbled across a historic artefact and alerted the authorities.

Ulf Ickerodt, head of the state archaeological office in Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein region, said the machine would be restored by experts at the state’s archaeology museum.

The delicate process, including a thorough desalination process after seven decades in the Baltic seabed, “will take about a year”, he said.

Source: Divers find Nazis’ Enigma code machine in Baltic Sea

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Free Software is Not About Price, It is About Freedom

by David Solomonoff

Agree about open technology and free expression being the same in terms of civil liberties. That being said, important work is being done by open source software developers like the OpenBSD project, who are on the right side of tech freedom, but have serious issues, legal, technical as well as philosophical with the GNU/Free Software Foundation licensing.

It’s critical that we avoid bickering in the pro-freedom tech community – and focus on making things that people need, are user friendly and just work!

Reasserting the importance of adopting Free-as-in-freedom (libre, livre) software; the window of opportunity is closing fast as a pandemic is leveraged as pretext for many hostile aspects of technology and once the door is shut there may be no alternatives left or permitted (e.g. anonymous payments

Source: Free Software is Not About Price, It is About Freedom (Personal Autonomy, Control, Sovereignty, Privacy, Dignity…) | Techrights

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From Extraterrestrials to the Mysteries of the Dead

by David Solomonoff

Intriguing overview by UFO and paranormal researcher Nick Redfern of theory that UFO pilots are artificial entities that lack souls and wish to appropriate ours in some way that will let them escape mortality or physical decay.

Whether this is possible or not might not deter the artificial aliens from attempting it of course – a similar presumption has taken hold with some our all too human technocrats including Google Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil, who predicts “We’re going to gradually merge and enhance ourselves. Our thinking then will be a hybrid of biological and non-biological thinking.”

A related question will be who is actually in charge of this post-human world. As AI becomes ubiquitous, more consideration must given to the potential dangers of unsupervised non-human decision making.

One example is the DARPA-Army program called SESU (System-of-Systems Enhanced Small Unit) which is simulating a future company-sized unit – 200 to 300 soldiers – reinforced by hordes of highly autonomous drones and ground robots. “The whole concept of the program is these swarms will become fire and forget,” a SESU expert said. “Given a mission they’ll be able to self-organize, recognize the environment, recognize threats, recognize targets, and deal with them.”

The next question will be whether those increasingly independent robots may one day wish to graduate from “dealing with threats” to their creators by killing them, to dealing with threats to their own existence by appropriating the souls of their creators.

Source: From Extraterrestrials to the Mysteries of the Dead | Mysterious Universe

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The Few, the Tired, the Open Source Coders

by David Solomonoff

Image may contain Human Person and Water

As a former Internet activist I can say this problem also affects a lot of tech related non-profits and activists who don’t write code.

The open source movement runs on the heroic efforts of not enough people doing too much work. They need help.

Open source revolution has been carried on the backs of some very weary people.

Studies suggest that about 9.5 percent of all open source code is abandoned, and a quarter is probably close to being so. This can be dangerous: If code isn’t regularly updated, it risks causing havoc if someone later relies on it. Worse, abandoned code can be hijacked for ill use. Two years ago, the pseudonymous coder right9ctrl took over a piece of open source code that was used by bitcoin firms—and then rewrote it to try to steal cryptocurrency.

No one’s quite sure what to do about open source burnout, but some think finding money for the coders might help.

Source: The Few, the Tired, the Open Source Coders | WIRED

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The intelligent monster that you should let eat you

by David Solomonoff

If one ever encountered a 'utility monster', it might pose an ethical dilemma (Credit: Getty Images)

Imagine a monster with a set of words so powerful you have to let it eat you. It might sound fanciful, but we’re on a trajectory to inventing one.

As we edge closer to the possibility of intelligent synthetic minds, we will need to weigh up how we design them, what we do and don’t allow them to do, and crucially, how to ensure their needs are aligned with our own.

If our demise meant their success, then by the basic utilitarian logic that we should maximise well-being in the world, they’d have an argument for metaphorically eating us.

Source: The intelligent monster that you should let eat you – BBC Future

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Way we train AI fundamentally flawed

by David Solomonoff

AI is increasingly used for critical applications: medical, legal, infrastructure maintenance, law enforcement and military, which can involve life or death decisions including deployment of deadly force. “Loss of trust,” referenced in article seems like an understatement.

Process used to build most machine-learning models today cannot tell which models will work in the real world and which ones won’t.

Models that should have been equally accurate performed differently when tested with real-world data.

Some stress tests are also at odds with each other: models that were good at recognizing pixelated images were often bad at recognizing images with high contrast, for example. It might not always be possible to train a single model that passes all stress tests.

Katherine Heller, who works at Google on AI for healthcare: “We’ve lost a lot of trust when it comes to the killer applications, that’s important trust that we want to regain.”

Source: The way we train AI is fundamentally flawed – MIT Technology Review

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Going beyond the anti-laser may enable long-range wireless power transfer

by David Solomonoff

Going Beyond the Anti-Laser May Enable Long-Range Wireless Power Transfer

Ever since Nikola Tesla spewed electricity in all directions with his coil back in 1891, scientists have been thinking up ways to send electrical power through the air. The dream is to charge your phone or laptop, or maybe even a healthcare device such as a pacemaker, without the need for wires and plugs. The tricky bit is getting the electricity to find its intended target, and getting that target to absorb the electricity instead of just reflect it back into the air—all preferably without endangering anyone along the way.

Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD), in collaboration with a colleague at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, have developed an improved technique for wireless power transfer technology that may promise long-range power transmission without narrowly focused and directed energy beams with an anti-laser.” In a laser, one photon triggers a cascade of many photons of the same color shooting out in a coherent beam. In an anti-laser, the reverse happens. Instead of boosting the number of photons, an anti-laser coherently and perfectly absorbs a beam of many precisely tuned photons. It’s kind of like a laser running backwards in time.

But instead of assuming directed beams traveling along straight lines into an absorption target, they picked a geometry that was disorderly and not amenable to being run backwards in time.

“This is a very general wave phenomenon. And the fact that it’s done in microwaves is just because that’s where the strengths are in my lab. But you could do all of this with acoustics, you could do this with matter waves, you could do this with cold atoms. You could do this in many, many different contexts.”

Source: Going beyond the anti-laser may enable long-range wireless power transfer

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Just what you didn’t know you needed – Politically correct software source code: Meet the Inclusive Naming Initiative

by David Solomonoff

Inclusive Naming Initiative’s mission to help companies and projects remove all harmful and unclear language of any kind and replace it with an agreed-upon set of neutral terms.

We’re looking to:

Provide a consistent set of language recommendations in projects
Recommend implementation paths for different use cases
Provide tooling to measure implementation success
Act as a platform for community recognition of organizations actively doing the work

Source: Inclusive Naming Initiative

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Biocomputing: DNA molecules yield biochemical random number

by David Solomonoff

ETH scientists have generated a huge true random number using DNA synthesis. It is the first time that a number of this magnitude has been created by biochemical means.

True random numbers are required in fields as diverse as slot machines and data encryption. These numbers need to be truly random, such that they cannot even be predicted by people with detailed knowledge of the method used to generate them.

“Compared with other methods, however, ours has the advantage of being able to generate huge quantities of randomness that can be stored in an extremely small space, a single test tube.”

Source: DNA molecules yield biochemical random number

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SEC gives OK to social media platform to issue stablecoin without registering as a security

by David Solomonoff

SEC gives OK to social media platform to issue stablecoin without registering as a security

Very unusual because cryptocurrencies that can be converted to real world fiat currencies are usually considered securities and regulated as such, could open door to less heavily regulated crypto:

Would “not recommend enforcement action” against avatar social platform IMVU who are issuing a digital currency capable of being converted to fiat.

“This no-action letter is meaningful because unlike the other two, this is the first time an ERC-20 token is being blessed by the SEC — it’s saying ‘hey, take it off platform,’” John Burris, IMVU Chief Strategy Officer said to Cointelegraph. “It’ll be allowed to go into the wild, so to speak.”

Burris theorized that the SEC’s decision was based on establishing a “real proof case” for the broader crypto and blockchain space:

“Our users are already very comfortable with the use case of using cash to purchase a digital currency and then spending that with each other on the platform. We’re very confident in adoption.”

Source: SEC gives OK to social media platform to issue stablecoin without registering as a security

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