Elon Musk Launches Neuralink to Connect Brains With Computers
BY Michael J. Coren
For humans to stand a chance in the age of artificial intelligence, we need to join the other team, at least in Elon Musk’s view.
The Tesla and SpaceX CEO dreams of humans evolving into cyborgs with augmented intelligence. That vision took a step forward on Mar. 27 when the Wall Street Journal reported Musk had co-founded Neuralink, a medical research company dedicated to building a seamless brain-computer interface.
Founding team member Max Hodak confirmed Musk’s involvement in the “embryonic” company, which was registered in California last July. Neuralink is already raiding research labs and universities for engineers and neuroscientists to build its technology, according to the Journal. Its goal: upgrade the interface between the digital world and human brains.
Researchers have compared today’s interfaces—screens, keyboards, and even crude direct brain implants—as dial-up modems compared to the lightning-fast connections our brains are capable of managing if we didn’t need to route all the data through our senses.
Musk is pursuing this high-bandwidth connection through a technology called “neural lace.” The term was coined by science-fiction novelist Iain M. Banks, who wrote a series about members of a galactic “Culture” civilization who had a “neural lace” allowing them to translate thoughts directly into computer commands, alter neurochemistry, and even restore consciousness after death. Musk’s version appears to be about seeking enhanced cognitive abilities by adding vast networks of tiny electrodes to the brain. Over time, these fuse with brain cells in a presumably superior mesh of human and artificial capabilities.
Elon Musk’s Billion Dollar Crusade to Stop The A.I. Apocalypse
BY Maureen Dowd
Photograph by Jonas Fredwall Karlsson
Elon Musk is famous for his futuristic gambles, but Silicon Valley’s latest rush to embrace artificial intelligence scares him. And he thinks you should be frightened too. Inside his efforts to influence the rapidly advancing field and its proponents, and to save humanity from machine-learning overlords.
I. RUNNING AMOK
It was just a friendly little argument about the fate of humanity. Demis Hassabis, a leading creator of advanced artificial intelligence, was chatting with Elon Musk, a leading doomsayer, about the perils of artificial intelligence.
They are two of the most consequential and intriguing men in Silicon Valley who don’t live there. Hassabis, a co-founder of the mysterious London laboratory DeepMind, had come to Musk’s SpaceX rocket factory, outside Los Angeles, a few years ago. They were in the canteen, talking, as a massive rocket part traversed overhead. Musk explained that his ultimate goal at SpaceX was the most important project in the world: interplanetary colonization.
Hassabis replied that, in fact, he was working on the most important project in the world: developing artificial super-intelligence. Musk countered that this was one reason we needed to colonize Mars—so that we’ll have a bolt-hole if A.I. goes rogue and turns on humanity. Amused, Hassabis said that A.I. would simply follow humans to Mars.
This did nothing to soothe Musk’s anxieties (even though he says there are scenarios where A.I. wouldn’t follow).
An unassuming but competitive 40-year-old, Hassabis is regarded as the Merlin who will likely help conjure our A.I. children. The field of A.I. is rapidly developing but still far from the powerful, self-evolving software that haunts Musk. Facebook uses A.I. for targeted advertising, photo tagging, and curated news feeds. Microsoft and Apple use A.I. to power their digital assistants, Cortana and Siri. Google’s search engine from the beginning has been dependent on A.I. All of these small advances are part of the chase to eventually create flexible, self-teaching A.I. that will mirror human learning.
WITHOUT OVERSIGHT, MUSK BELIEVES, A.I. COULD BE AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT: “WE ARE SUMMONING THE DEMON.”.. MORE
AI + Robots Will Cause Huge Unemployment
— We Need to Prepare
AI Automation will lead to huge unemployment and the world needs to prepare for it. Business mogul Mark Cuban and other warnings from technology leaders on the impact of robots and artificial intelligence (AI)
The Dallas Mavericks owner did not elaborate or offer recommendations but tweeted his message followed by a link.
Automation is going to cause unemployment and we need to prepare for it. https://medium.freecodecamp.com/bill-gates-and-elon-musk-just-warned-us-about-the-one-thing-politicians-are-too-scared-to-talk-8db9815fd398 …
Cuban’s tweet follows an interview with CNBC on Friday in which he said President Donald Trump and his administration do not understand technology advancements.
“I’m willing to bet that these companies building new plants … this will lead to fewer people being employed,” Cuban told CNBC , adding that “people aren’t going to have jobs.”
“How does [Trump] deal with displaced workers?” Cuban asked.
The “Shark Tank” judge is an investor in large technology companies including Amazon and Netflix. Cuban’s comments come after major technology chief executives have warned about the impact of automation and AI on jobs.
Last week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk spoke about autonomous cars and progress in that area happening “much faster than people realize”.
“But there are many people whose jobs are to drive. In fact I think it might be the single largest employer of people … Driving in various forms. So we need to figure out new roles for what do those people do, but it will be very disruptive and very quick,” Musk said.
Musk, among others, has been speaking about ways to deal with the displacement, including a growing chorus of voices in the technology industry calling for a universal basic income.
Related: Universal Basic Income
Meanwhile, Microsoft founder Bill Gates recommended last week that robots who took over human jobs should pay taxes. “If a human worker does $50,000 of work in a factory, that income is taxed,” Gates told Quartz.
What About AI and Our Economic Future?
BY Dyllan Furness Digital Trends
According to one recent analysis, it’s only a matter of time before robots and artificial intelligence claim the work of millions of Americans. The World Economic Forum figures more than seven million jobs could be lost to automation by 2020, with around two million gained. That would put over five million people out of work in the next few years.
It’s a good thing then that the White House started taking AI seriously this year. In May it announced a series of public workshops and a new Subcommittee on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to discuss and monitor the technology. The subcommittee published a report, Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence, in October, in which it stressed the economic implications of AI and urged a follow-up report by year’s end.
That report — Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy — was released on December 20. It describes how AI-driven automation will change our economy, offers a few scenarios policymakers should prepare for, and outlines some strategies to help the nation segue into an AI economy.
The report begins with an optimistic perspective: AI will have a strong positive impact on the overall growth of productivity. After all, machines don’t eat, don’t sleep, and they can be relatively cheap to employ. AI does simple work well and makes hard work easier.
Next, the report suggests that the skills needed to stand out in the job market will change. Today’s algorithms excel at simple, systematic tasks, and they’re growing more sophisticated by the day. If we can program an extraordinary AI accountant, then we should reconsider training those skills in humans. Specifically, the report recommends an emphasis on higher-level technical skills.
The third effect laid out in the report states that AI will impact every industry but the effects won’t be balanced. Each sector will experience different changes in wages, education requirements, locations, and job types.
As such, the report advises a “churning of the job market,” as some positions vanish and others emerge.
Lastly the report urges policymakers to prepare for short and long-term job loss for potentially millions of Americans.
The report also lays out three strategies for addressing these scenarios, including investing in AI for its benefits, training Americans for the jobs of the future, and helping workers make the transition to new positions.
There’s expert consensus behind these predictions, but no one knows for certain the degree to which they’ll occur and what the secondary effects will be. One thing is for sure though: AI is here and it’s here to stay.
Beijing World Robot Conference Drew Big Crowds
BY Frank Tobe
The Beijing World Robot Conference (WRC), sponsored by Beijing City, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the China Association of Science and Technology, was held October 21-25. It was big, long, ran over a weekend and gave a run-down of the breath of China’s fast-emerging robotics industry.
More than 145 vendors filled the exhibition hall which was separated into international and domestic industrial robots, and service and special purpose robots. In the main forum, 45 sessions comprising individual and panel presentations took place in the main auditorium with seating for 1,000 over three of the five days of the event.
Rodney Brooks described how collaborative robots are helping bring flexibility to electronics manufacturing; KUKA’s Bernd Liepert described how manufacturing benefits through the use of robotics; and IBM’s Grady Booch and many others discussed the future of AI in relation to robots, manufacturing, self-driving cars and cloud processing and connectedness; to name just a few of the Western speakers.
The audience consisted of business executives, government personalities, academics of all types and from all across China, Korea, Japan and the EU, robot manufacturers and their sales staffs, and, particularly on the weekend, whole families – from children to their great grandparents.
A variety of contests and challenges focused on young people peppered the event: an unmanned driving challenge, an underwater robot competition, a RoboCup Challenge of robots playing soccer, and a youth challenge to work with other kids to get a robot to shoot hoops.
There was even Star Challenge, a reality show about robotic startups and their key people, that will soon be broadcast on Chinese satellite and network TV.
Most of the WRC reviews that appeared in Chinese and international media emphasized the abundance of human-like robots such as JiaJia, a super realistic robot capable of micro facial expressions and basic conversation, from the University of Science and Technology of China. She was the media hit as can be seen in this video which shows JiaJia, an old man in traditional Chinese clothing drawing Chinese characters with a brush, and a few other mobile robots.
Other media showed a man flying a bionic butterfly drone, a badminton-playing robot that took on the crowd, and SmartTuna, a swimming industrial robot that finds leaks inside underwater pipelines which swam through clear plastic pipes for all to see.
Business executives from companies that were users or candidates to use robots in their businesses were exposed to a wide range of applications and uses throughout the conference and by demonstrations on the exhibition floor.
The conference program was forward-looking and addressed subjects such as Russian and Israeli co-operative partnerships, healthcare and surgical developments, collaborative robots, self-driving vehicles, drones, and research challenges that must be met for the industry to progress and succeed.
About 40% of the robots on display at the show were industrial, while the rest were service and specialized robots.
According to the China Robot Industry Association, 68,000 industrial robots were sold in China in 2015, up 20% compared to the same period of 2014. China accounted for about a quarter of robot sales globally in 2015, making the country the biggest market for industrial robots for three consecutive years. 32,996 industrial robots were manufactured in China last year, up 21.7% year on year.
China has set goals to be able to make in-country 150,000 industrial robots in 2020, 260,000 in 2025 and 400,000 by 2030 and Shenzhen-based Siasun Robot & Automation, China’s largest domestic robot manufacturer, had the largest exhibition space to show their full range of robotic products.
In April, the Ministry of Industry, the Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Finance and other ministries jointly issued a development plan for the next 5 years which included these goals and stressed the need for service robots as well as industrial ones, hence the emphasis at the show and in the conference program of the growing importance of non-industrial robots as consumer and entertainment products, social assistants and helpers and for all manner of use in business.
The Chinese government is determined to stimulate robot development in China. According to statistics released by the Qianzhan Industry Research Institute, China’s domestic robot industry in 2015 was just $243 million, albeit a year-over-year increase of 55%.
At the conference, Vice Premier Liu Yandong urged enhanced research and development of the industry. She said related policies should be improved, human resources should be developed, and global communication should be enhanced.
According to Ms. Yandong, the development of robotics technology plays an important role in supporting intelligent manufacturing, enhancing production efficiency and improving the people’s well-being, which ushers in a new era of economic and social development. She also said:
“The Chinese Government attaches great importance to robotics technology innovation and industrial development, and expects to speed up the development of intelligent industries represented by robotics and strengthen cultivation of innovation talents, improve synergized education mechanism and incentive evaluation mechanism integrating industries, universities, research institutes and users, and help innovation talents give full scope to their expertise; advance international exchange and cooperation, jointly develop international standards for robotics, intensify application for patents and protection of intellectual property rights, and strive to establish a robotics development pattern of inclusive development, resource sharing and complementary advantage.”
Internet of Things is a Pit Stop on the Way to Smart Dust
As processors get faster and smaller we seem to reach points of inflection, our technological progress allows us to do something that wasn’t really possible before, or at least wasn’t practical. We’ve seen this before: computers the size of rooms gave way to ones that fit under the desk. In time those too gave way to slabs of aluminium and glass that we carried around in bags, and then to computers that fit in our pockets, and just happen to also be able to make phone calls.
Known as Bell’s law, this proposition is intimately intertwined with the far more well known Moore’s law. But while Moore’s law may be dying, Bell’s law, at least for one last turn of the wheel, seems to be holding. You might think the change I’m talking about is the arrival of the much hyped Internet of Things, but the connected devices we see today are really only the first clumsy steps towards something else. They’re transition technology.
Over the next decade or two we can, perhaps, expect to see general purpose computing, sensors, and wireless networking, bundled up in millimeter-scale sensor motes that can drift in the air currents around us. The dust around us will soon become smart.
If you think this is just a technological fantasy, it’s not. As William Gibson said, “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.” The Michigan Micro Mote is the world’s smallest computer, measuring just a couple of millimeters it currently comes in three types able to measure temperature, pressure, or to take images.
Of course, the idea isn’t new. Kris Pister at UC Berkeley coined the term “smart dust” in the mid-nineties as part of a DARPA research project, concluding that, “We will program the walls and the furniture, and some day even the insects and the dust.”
If we think ahead to the time when everything is smart, and everything is networked, when computing has diffused out into our environment, the phrase data exhaust will be not longer a figure of speech but a literal statement. Your data will exist in a halo of devices surrounding you, tasked to provide you with sensor and computing support as you walk along. Calculating constantly, consulting with each other, predicting, anticipating your needs. You’ll be surrounded by a web of distributed sensors, computing, and data.
We’re on the edge of “no sparrow shall fall” computing, and inevitably the architectures and protocols of today’s Internet of Things connected devices will heavily influence the emerging smart dust architectures in just the same way the protocols and architectures of the other Internet, the digital one, has influenced the the Internet of Things.
The real question then is who will have access to the sensors, the computing power, and to the data that they generate. Whether the architectures for the smart dust networks will be peer-to-peer and make that computing power and sensing available to individuals, or whether the network architectures will centralize command-and-control into a few hands.
The diffusion of computing into the environment will mean not just that computing power is always available, but that this computing power offers the possibility of continuous monitoring and surveillance. If you think about the kinds of information that today we approximate, determine by polling and sampling, and then by making a calculation. In the future, we won’t have to calculate; we’ll measure.
The prospect of smart dust brings the arguments around the Internet of Things into stark perspective. It makes the lack of concern around the security of our things terrifying rather than just worrying.
What most people are missing about the Internet of Things is that sure, we can connect a bunch of things to the Internet. But it’s not about that. The prospect of smart dust makes it clear, the Internet of Things isn’t about connecting people to things, or things to the Internet; it’s about putting computing and sensing everywhere. We need to build and design our things for that, because that’s what’s approaching. Faster than you might think.
TOPICS: Smart Dust, internet of things, computers, DARPA, Futures
Wanted: Smart Public Policy for Internet of Things Security
By Amy Nordrum
Without us even knowing it, the connected devices in our homes and businesses can carry out nefarious tasks. Increasingly, the Internet of Things has become a weapon in hackers’ schemes. This is possible in large part due to manufactures’ failure to program basic security measures into these devices.
Now, experts in the U.S. are asking regulators to step in. Calls for public policy to improve device security have reached a fever pitch following a series of high-profile denial-of-service attacks leveraged in part by unsuspecting DVRs, routers, and webcams. In October, hackers flooded the Internet service company Dyn with traffic by assembling millions of IoT devices into a virtual botnet using a malicious program called Mirai.
“The problems are not problems that markets can solve,” says Bruce Schneier, a security specialist affiliated with Harvard University who has asked for more regulation. He says attacks like the one on Dyn are akin to air pollution—an externality that manufacturers aren’t motivated to fix.
In light of recent attacks, it’s clear that Internet of Things (IoT) devices will continue to serve on the front lines of botnets if their security isn’t somehow improved. And to critics, history shows that manufacturers cannot be trusted to do that on their own.
“I would say it’s ripe for regulation because frankly, the manufacturers aren’t doing what’s in the broad social interest, they’re doing what’s in their narrow commercial interest,” says Zachary Goldman, executive director of New York University’s Center on Law and Security.
Still, the case for regulation is a complicated one. The IoT is a sweeping term used to refer to billions of assorted devices that connect to the Internet. It includes a wide range of objects including wireless trashcans, connected cars, voice-controlled power outlets, and industrial machinery. In loosest terms, it could encompass everything from basic sensors to supercomputers.
Regulating these devices together means devising a rule that would be broad enough to cross many sectors and cover all of these products. So far, there has been no clear proposal or agreement among supporters on a potential regulatory framework for IoT security. And many disagree that government regulation would be effective, saying hackers change their attacks so frequently that it would be hard for any regulatory body to keep up.
When asked what effective U.S. IoT security regulation, Schneier shared a few ideas: minimum security standards, interoperability standards, the ability to issue a software update or patch after a product has hit the market, and even placing code in escrow so that problems can still be managed in case a company goes out of business.
But ultimately, Schneier said policymakers and cybersecurity experts would have to work out the details. “What would it look like? I don’t think it’s sound-bitey, I think we need to still figure it out,” he says. “It’s not obvious what we need to do but it’s clear that the market can’t solve it.”
David Thaw, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who specializes in cybersecurity policy, says proponents should consider a few important questions in their discussions, such as is there an agency that clearly has the authority to regulate and enforce any proposed new rules? And if so, is it possible to draft effective and appropriate regulations?
So far, no single agency has been tasked with keeping tabs on the IoT. Instead, some agencies have found reason to cover parts of it. Currently, the Department of Health and Human Services protects personal health information stored on connected devices, while the Federal Reserve has published security guidance that covers devices linked to the financial industry. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration also recently issued guidelines for connected cars.
For general consumer devices, the Federal Trade Commission has used Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act which prohibits “unfair and deceptive acts” in commerce to bring a case against a manufacturer that marketed its routers as secure but neglected to include what the FTC considered basic security protocols.
Other than bringing cases based on this provision, the FTC doesn’t have clear authority to more broadly regulate the security of IoT devices. Even so, the agency has tried to take other steps to improve the situation. In 2015, it outlined best practices for IoT security, such as requiring users to change default passwords when setting up a product, and urged manufacturers to pursue “self-regulatory programs” within their industries.
“We recommend that companies engage in ‘security by design’ which means they conduct regular risk assessments, and minimize the data that they collect and maintain, and that they test their security before launching a product,” says Jared Ho, an attorney in the FTC’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection.
In 2015, the FTC also concluded that specific IoT security legislation was not warranted, though it said lawmakers should enact general data security legislation that not only protects consumers from leaky devices but also extends to the functionality of the device itself. That means if hackers capture an innocent WiFi-enabled coffeepot within their botnet, or cause a heart monitor to suddenly sputter in a patient’s chest, manufacturers could be held accountable.
If Congress ever gets around to drafting IoT security legislation, the FTC’s 2015 recommendations for reasonable IoT security practices could someday become law. Industry groups have also floated their own recommendations as a starting point. Rulemakers could also look to third-party certifications available through groups such as the Online Trust Alliance.
Thaw in Pittsburgh says he recommends an approach known as flexible regulation. Rather than mandating technical security prescriptions that may soon be outdated, flexible regulation describes critical steps that companies must take such as performing a risk assessment, drafting a plan to minimize security risks, training staff in security protocols, and sticking to their cybersecurity plan. Regulators describe this set of steps they expect companies to take, and issue punishment if they fail to do so.
It may seem like companies could easily fudge compliance with this approach, but Thaw looked back at industries governed by flexible regulations from 2000 to 2010 and found they were four times more effective at preventing data breaches than those subject to regulations requiring specific technological features.
Moving forward, he says flexible regulation is probably the best way to approach IoT security, if policymakers or the public decide to do it at all. He also likes that it’s sufficiently broad to serve the many companies, devices, and security risks that operate within the IoT. “One-size-fits-all is an attacker or adversary’s dream,” he says.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology took a flexible approach in the agency’s Cybersecurity Framework, which outlines its preferred strategy for securing critical infrastructure projects. Thaw adds that even with broad flexible IoT regulations in place, regulators could still choose to establish more narrow rules and standards for specific sectors or types of devices.
Regardless of the approach, Goldman of NYU suggests “treading cautiously” when creating any IoT security protocols, saying it’s quite possible to wind up with onerous regulations “that don’t advance security, but do squelch innovation,” he says. “That’s bad.”
Another option, Goldman describes, would be to grant victims the right to recover damages from manufacturers. This would admittedly only help after an attack had already occurred, but it could give manufactures a financial incentive to implement better security.
“At present, I think it would be very hard if not impossible to sue manufacturers of the devices that were hijacked in the Mirai botnet attack,” he says. “But Congress could write a law that says they’re liable if they don’t engage in standard security practices.”
When it comes down to it, there is broad agreement among cybersecurity experts that improving IoT security is a complicated but critical matter. With a newly-elected U.S. Congress set to begin its duties in January, manufacturers and consumers will have to see whether this Congress is up for the challenge.