Tag 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>

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>

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>

Updates from Adobe

Beautiful Disruptions
By Charles Purdy – French artist Arthur-Louis Ignoré, better known as Ali, arrived in the city of Rennes eight years ago to begin his art studies. Since then, his public murals and street art have become well known in the city—and beyond.

Ali’s first works developed in a circular fashion; he describes them as mandalas or kolams. In the early days, he always worked without making sketches or plans, or using tools beyond his painting or drawing implements.

He adds, “Since I wasn’t asking permission to paint in these spaces, I had to work fast. Once I’d chosen a place, I would define a center and then add elements one by one, enlarging the circle.”

As time has progressed, his works have become larger and more complex, so he likes to have an idea of the overall form he’s going to create before he starts working—though he still creates each piece’s patterns and ornamentation as he goes.

A recent example of Ali’s large-scale work is the more than 11,000-square-foot mural on the roof of the family welfare (CAF) building in Rennes, which he created for that city’s Maintenant festival.

“For this project, I first traced out the lines that form the basic structure. Then, as with my smaller works, I filled in the shapes and added motifs and ornamentation, organizing everything in a symmetrical manner.” more>

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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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Updates from Ciena

Top 5 business benefits of modernizing legacy networks
By Wayne Hickey – Modernizing legacy networks is a hot topic, and for very good reasons.

Consider this – your legacy network is rapidly headed to obsolescence, while your packet-based applications are growing. Legacy applications are hindering your revenue growth opportunities, consuming your budget, and degrading your customers’ quality of experience, which can lead to the loss of your existing and/or new customers.

Two primary factors are driving the migration of legacy networks; (1) the imminent phase-out of legacy systems, and (2) the need to use modern packet networking techniques to improve network efficiencies, serve end-users better, and open up new revenue-generating business opportunities.

Let’s further break it down into the top 5 business benefits of modernizing legacy networks:

The biggest bang for your buck is to reduce the number of networks you operate with the goal of getting to a single, common network. Why? Running parallel networks is costly, complex, and ultimately unrealistic. Network silos are costly to manage and prevent the use of common features, toolsets, and services. more>

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Internet capitalism pits fast technology against slow democracy

By Tom Wheeler – Technology-driven changes—like those we are presently experiencing—produce demands for security and stability that pose a threat to liberal democracy and capitalism. Across the world, autocrats are on the rise because they claim they can deliver answers; symbols such as Brexit or the Wall pose as solutions; and old economic “isms” are reborn as “new” solutions. This is not a unique experience; our struggles in the information age echo similar struggles in the industrial age.

When change attacks at gigabit speed, the quest for solutions also accelerates. It took the telephone a leisurely 125 years to connect one billion people. The Android mobile phone, in contrast, reached the same milestone in less than six years. The buffer of time that traditionally helped individuals and economic activity acclimate to new technology is compressed.

Liberal democracies, however, are hard to condense. A representative democracy of free and fair elections and an equally-applied rule of law is, by design, a slow process. In a time of rapid technological change, innovative capitalists step up to make the rules regarding how their activities impact the rest of us. Previously, such self-interested rule-making has been confronted eventually by a collective public interest, democratically expressed, to create new rules that protect the common good.

The second criteria necessary for democracy to work is for us to overcome our inherent tribal instincts and band together. Unfortunately, the business plan of the internet economy undermines this priority by hastening a retreat to tribes. Internet companies—both networks and those that provide services over them—have discovered a digital alchemy that takes your private information and turns it into their corporate asset. Using that information, the companies slice and dice us into tribal groupings to sell to advertisers—or foreign interests seeking to sow discord by playing one tribe against another. more>