Category Archives: Technology

Nuclear Weapons Are Getting Less Predictable, and More Dangerous

By Patrick Tucker – On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, to discuss, among many things, the prospect of a new, comprehensive nuclear-weapons treaty with Russia and China.

At the same time, the Pentagon is developing a new generation of nuclear weapons to keep up with cutting-edge missiles and warheads coming out of Moscow. If the administration fails in its ambitious renegotiation, the world is headed toward a new era of heightened nuclear tension not seen in decades.

That’s because these new weapons are eroding the idea of nuclear predictability.

Since the dawn of the nuclear era, the concept of the nuclear triad — bombers, submarines, and intercontinental ballistic missiles — created a shared set of expectations around what the start of a nuclear war would look like.

If you were in NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado and you saw ICBMs headed toward the United States, you knew that a nuclear first strike was underway. The Soviets had a similar set of expectations, and this shared understanding created the delicate balance of deterrence — a balance that is becoming unsettled.

Start with Russia’s plans for new, more-maneuverable ICBMs. Such weapons have loosely been dubbed “hypersonic weapons” — something of a misnomer because all intercontinental ballistic missiles travel at hypersonic speeds of five or more times the speed of sound — and they create new problems for America’s defenders.

“As I stand here today, I don’t know what that solution set looks like,” Gen. Paul Selva, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at an Air Force Association event in April. “If you’re going Mach 13 at the very northern edge of Hudson Bay, you have enough residual velocity to hit all 48 of the continential United States and all of Alaska. You can choose [to] point it left or right, and hit Maine or Alaska, or you can hit San Diego or Key West. That’s a monstrous problem.”

This makes it harder for U.S. leaders, in the crucial minutes before a potentially civilization-ending nuclear strike, to understand just what kind of weapon is inbound. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

Retailers: A better algorithm could increase online sales by 76 percent
By Brian Wallheimer – Brick-and-mortar stores use rows of candy, lip balms, and magazines in the checkout aisles to entice shoppers into making additional purchases. Online shopping sites suggest add-on products for the same reason.

New York University’s Xi Chen, MIT’s Will Ma and David Simchi-Levi, and Chicago Booth’s Linwei Xin have developed an algorithm for these online offers that could help retailers raise the number of such impulse purchases. Their study, which involved a collaboration with Wal-Mart’s online grocery division, indicates that if an algorithm were to consider the retailer’s inventory, it could nearly double add-on sales.

The algorithms behind online add-on offers can be sophisticated, drawing on shoppers’ habits and preferences. But they can also be tricky to tailor, as customers don’t always have to register accounts to purchase products online, and they may shop for a wide variety of items. Moreover, retailers can have trouble figuring out what a shopper actually needs. If a shopper buys five T-shirts, a store might suggest other T-shirts for her to buy, when what she really needs is shorts.

Wal-Mart’s online grocery platform makes add-on suggestions that are based on only the items in the customer’s current shopping cart—and it tries to use those to identify what a shopper might be missing. Say someone has purchased cereal but not milk. The algorithm would offer that customer milk, either at full price or possibly discounted.

But the method has a flaw, the researchers say: it doesn’t take inventory into account. more>

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3 Ways AI Projects Get Derailed, and How to Stop Them

The rate of companies implementing AI is continuing to skyrocket. Don’t fall victim to wasted time and a blown budget.
By Don Roedner – In the blink of an eye, AI has gone from novelty to urgency.

Tech leaders are telling companies they need to adopt AI now or be left behind. And a recent Gartner survey shows just that: AI adoption has skyrocketed over the last four years, with a 270 percent increase in the percentage of enterprises implementing AI during that period.

However, the same survey shows that 63 percent of organizations still haven’t implemented AI or machine learning (ML) in some form.

Why are there so many organizations falling behind the curve?

We meet with companies every week that are in some stage of their first ML project. And sadly, most of the conversations go more or less the same way. The project is strategic and highly visible within the organization. The internal proof of concept went off without a hitch. Now, the team is focused on getting the model’s level of confidence to a point where it can be put into production.

It’s at this point – the transition from proof of concept to production software development – that the project typically runs into big trouble. When we first meet with data science teams, their budget is often dwindling, their delivery deadline is imminent, and their model is still underperforming.

Sound familiar? The guidelines below might help your organization get its AI model to production on time without blowing your budget. more>

Socialism: A short primer

By E.J. Dionne, Jr. and William A. Galston – Something new is happening in American politics.

Although most Americans continue to oppose socialism, it has reentered electoral politics and is enjoying an upsurge in public support unseen since the days of Eugene V. Debs.

The three questions we will be focusing on are: Why has this happened? What does today’s “democratic socialism” mean in contrast with past versions? And what are the political implications?

It’s worth recalling how important socialism once was at the ballot box to understand that this tradition has deeper roots in our history than many imagine. In the 1912 presidential election, Debs secured six percent of the popular vote, and Socialists held 1,200 offices in 340 cities, their ranks including 79 mayors.

The crash of 2008, rising inequality, and an intensifying critique of how contemporary capitalism works has brought socialism back into the mainstream—in some ways even more powerfully than in Debs’ time, since those who use the label have become an influential force in the Democratic Party.

Running as a democratic socialist, Sen. Bernie Sanders received 45 percent of the Democratic primary vote in 2016, and in the 2018 mid-term elections, members of Democratic Socialists of America were among the prominent Democratic victors. Their ranks included Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who quickly became one of the country’s best-known politicians.

The economic and financial collapse of 2008-2009 undermined the claim that the economy had entered a new era of stability and moderation. Experts who had preached the virtues of self-regulation were forced to recant. The slow recovery from the Great Recession left many Americans wondering whether they would ever regain the income and wealth they had lost. more>

What’s Great Power Competition? No One Really Knows

By Katie Bo Williams – More than a year since the new National Defense Strategy refocused the U.S. military away from counterinsurgency and back towards the country’s greatest strategic competitors, some policy and strategy experts say the Pentagon hasn’t yet figured out how to “compete” with Russia and China.

In fact, it hasn’t even settled on a definition for the “competition” in “great power competition.”

The uncertainty has left former officials scratching their heads about how, specifically, the Defense Department plans to counter China and Russia beneath the threshold of armed conflict. It also appears to be pulling the Pentagon’s policy planners beyond their traditional purview of fighting and winning wars.

“The NDS has two pieces to it: it says you have to compete with China and Russia and prepare for conflict with China and Russia,” said Mara Karlin, a former deputy assistant defense secretary for strategy and force development. “Those are different. The way you would manage and develop your force is different depending on which one you are biasing towards.” more>

How to Avoid a Fascist Future

BOOK REVIEW

Being Numerous: Essays on Non-Fascist Life, Author: Natasha Lennard.

By Bradley Babendir – This idea runs through Being Numerous, a collection of essays that seek to demonstrate and enact a means of non-fascist thinking. Lennard approaches a range of subjects as part of this project, from the controversy over someone punching Richard Spencer, to representations of dead bodies in media, to suicide. Each essay is rooted in Lennard’s foundational argument that “liberal, capitalist ideology … fails to address its own potential accidents and limitations.”

The first essay, “We, Anti-Fascists,” is a forceful piece in favor of anti-fascist organizing and thinking. Lennard opens the essay with an endorsement of the on-the-ground counter-violence of Antifa, and makes a convincing case for the necessity of such violence when traditional institutions cannot be trusted to protect counter-protesters. She also argues against the overreaction to Antifa by mainstream American media after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, after which, Lennard says, newspapers spent more page-space condemning anti-fascists than they did the white nationalists who had murdered the civil-rights activist Heather Heyer.

This defense of Antifa is perhaps the part of the essay that will grab most readers’ attention, but Lennard’s subsequent exploration of what she calls “fascistic habit” is its liveliest and most engaging section. more>

Updates from Ciena

The Next Wave Of Digital Growth in India
By Gautam Billa – Demand for wireless mobile broadband in India has been one of the most prevalent technology trends in recent years, putting more pressure on operators to prepare their networks for digital growth in India. Fueled by a considerable drop in smartphone prices and broadband tariffs, the consumption of mobile data dramatically escalated last year.

In fact, wireless broadband subscribers more than doubled in two years, from 200 million in 2016 to 493 million in 2018, according to data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

The expansion of 4G networks beyond major cities and into rural areas in India has led to better coverage and quality of services, resulting in more subscribers and data consumption. Content in local languages has greatly improved, further contributing to the rising demand for data services across India.

The growth is happening at a tremendous rate and isn’t showing any signs of stopping. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report, the monthly data consumption per smartphone in India will reach 15GB by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 14 percent from 6.8GB in 2018. India will have more than one billion smartphones by 2024 and 80 percent of the users will have 4G LTE connections, according to the report.

Video, Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud-based services will further drive demand for broadband in both consumer and business segments. Low-latency gaming, applications, and business services are also increasing in popularity. more>

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Optimizing the Digital Transformation Process

By Stuart Carlaw – When looking at optimizing the digital transformation process in industrial and manufacturing verticals, the task is complex, fraught with risk and subject to increasing pressures in abundance. ABI Research has outlined a number of best practices that fall within a two-step process that will help in “de-risking” the transformation process.

Probably the most profound challenges for anyone looking to implement a technology-driven transformation process is clearly understanding where you are currently in terms of solution maturity and what the end vision should be. Once you know where you are, then you can realistically look to where to target for advancement.

The Industry 4.0 Maturity Model by ABI Research has been designed to provide companies with a quick snapshot of their maturity level and should be viewed as a tool to help align corporations objectively about not only where they stand in the spectrum of industrial development but also where their vision should be aligned regarding future projects.

Once an organization has a good perspective of where it sits on the maturity scale, the job of avoiding common mistakes becomes a far easier prospect. The chances of chasing unrealistic technology goals and making poor decisions based on stock price rather than operational viability become far less when leadership is honest and aligned around a clear understanding of state zero represented in today’s modus operandi.

However, any company is not out of the woods until it galvanizes around a few golden rules when it pivots towards making meaningful changes to your future fortunes. >more>

The trilemma of Big Tech

By Karin Pettersson – Last week Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage in San Jose, California, and presented his vision for the future at the company’s yearly developers’ conference.

The attention given to the conference by the world’s media was testimony to the fact that Facebook is now more powerful than most nation states. Its products provide the infrastructure for core democratic functions such as free speech, distribution of news and access to information. Our societies, to a larger and larger degree, are shaped by how Zuckerberg and a small elite of Silicon Valley business leaders choose to do business. And the results, frankly speaking, are catastrophic.

‘Have social media made the world a better place?’ Poppy Harlow of CNN asked the influential tech writer Kara Swisher ‘No, not now’ was the dry answer.

The founder of the modern web, Tim Berners-Lee, has called for regulation of the internet as the only way to save it, and the virtual-reality pioneer and internet philosopher Jaron Lanier has written a book about why people should get off ‘social media’ as soon as possible.

The current situation is clearly unsustainable and the measures taken so far to address it insufficient. But before discussing solutions we need to define what the problem is. And here it is easy to get lost in details and anecdotes. Not all of the problems of social networks are fatal to democracy.

The economist Dani Rodrik has framed the discussion around the state of the world economy as a trilemma, where hyperglobalization, democratic policies and national sovereignty are mutually incompatible. We can, he argues, combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full.

It might be conceptually useful to structure the discussion of the global information space in an analogous manner. One can have democracy, market dominance and business models that optimize for anger and junk—but only two at a time. more>

Updates from Chicago Booth

How opinion polls are presented affects how we understand them
By Alice G. Walton – Oleg Urminsky and Luxi Shen used data provided by the prominent data-driven forecasting organization FiveThirtyEight leading up to the 2016 US presidential election.

The researchers presented the then-current forecasts to two groups of study participants, but in different formats. One group saw probability projections that, on average, said Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had a 74 percent chance of winning. The other group saw margin forecasts that said, on average, that she would get 53 percent of the vote.

On a given day, both forecasts represented the same snapshot in time—two essentially identical takes on Clinton’s expected victory. But participants interpreted the forecasts differently. When people saw the probability forecast and were then asked to estimate a margin by which Clinton would win, they overestimated, predicting she would get 60 percent of the vote on average, more than the 53 percent. Meanwhile, people shown the second, margin forecast predicted the probability of her winning at 60 percent on average rather than the actual 74 percent average.

Both predictions turned out to be incorrect, as Clinton won 48 percent of the vote and lost the election to Republican candidate Donald Trump, who received 46 percent. But they illustrated bias in people’s perceptions.

The difference in interpretations is unlikely to be explained by forecasters having the wrong assumptions in their models, the researchers say. more>

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