(Brad Reed) Imagine having millions of nanobots in your brain that constantly remind you to log into Google+. That seems to be the vision of Google engineering director Ray Kurzweil, who tells The Wall Street Journal that by the 2030s we’ll have “millions, billions of blood cell-sized computers in our bloodstream… keeping us healthy, augmenting our immune system, also going into the brain and putting our neocortex onto the cloud.”
And what will these nanobots do for us once they’re in our brain, you ask? Well according to Kurzweil they’ll help us think of wittier quips that we can use to impress people.
“In 2035, I see somebody approaching me and I want to impress them and I want to think of something clever… I’ll be able to access additional neocortex and think of something clever,” he explains.
Kurzweil, of course, has earned his fame by making bold predictions about technology’s future and he believes that humanity will use technology attain immortality sometime over the next 30 years. Of course, the 65-year-old Kurzweil is smart enough to know that there’s a chance his flesh body (or as he calls it, “Body 1.0″) could die before he gets to upload his brain into a computer and fly around the world as a swarm of nanobots.
To ensure that he lives long enough to see such technological marvels, Kurzweil has said that he takes “250 supplements (pills) a day” and receives “a half-dozen intravenous therapies each week (basically nutritional supplements delivered directly into my bloodstream, thereby bypassing my GI tract).”
The lesson here is that while the thought of hooking our brains up to the cloud sounds crazy right now, it’s not nearly as far-out as some of Kurzweil’s other predictions.
(Lloyd Burrell, Contributor) Tom Wheeler, former head of the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) and frontrunner nominee to become the next Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), allegedly suppressed and biased research from the nation’s largest cell phone health research project while he served as head of the CTIA.
Timing critical – safety standards under review
Wheeler’s nomination comes at a critical time. The FCC is responsible for setting the U.S. safety standards that are supposed to protect people from radiation emitted by cell phones, cell towers and other wireless technologies. These safety standards, widely considered to offer little protection to the general public, are currently under review.
Earlier this year, the BioInitiative Working Group, a body of 29 independent scientists and health experts from 10 countries, launched a scathing attack on the inadequacy of the current standards. The report’s authors, re-iterating their position as published five years earlier, concluded, “The clear consensus of the BioInitiative Working Group members is that the existing public safety limits are inadequate for both ELF (extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields) and RF (radio frequency radiation).”
Growing calls for improved wireless safety standards
A growing number of public health bodies are asking that the current wireless safety standards be reviewed. In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields as a Group 2B possible carcinogen. Doctors groups are sounding the alarm. In its 2012 position paper, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine stated, “Multiple studies correlate RF exposure with diseases such as cancer, neurological disease, reproductive disorders, immune dysfunction, and electromagnetic hypersensitivity.”
Similarly, the International Society of Doctors for the Environment (ISDE) and Irish Doctors Environmental Association (IDEA) state that “there is sufficient scientific evidence to warrant more stringent controls on the level and distribution of electromagnetic radiation.”
Tom Wheeler’s poor track record in protecting the public interest
In 1993, a gentleman named David Reynard appeared on the Larry King Show announcing he was suing the wireless industry. Mr. Reynard alleged that the fatal brain tumor suffered by his late-wife had been caused by cell phone radiation. The deceased woman’s doctor gave a vivid and visual demonstration using an x-ray of the tumor showing that the location of the tumor corresponded exactly with the location of the cell phone’s antenna.
The public’s fears were aroused, Telecoms shares took a hit and the cell phone industry started looking for solutions. In his capacity as president for the wireless industry’s trade association, Wheeler struck a deal with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The industry would fund and conduct a major study on the safety of cell phones; in return, the FDA would agree not to regulate cell phones until this research was complete.
A $28 million research program was set up and funded by mobile phone carriers and manufacturers from 1993 to 1999 with the epidemiologist, Dr. George Carlo, at its head. According to the industry publication, RCR Wireless News, right from the outset, Wheeler had very clear expectations of what he wanted the research program to show. At a 1993 meeting, when Carlo was asked what he had concluded to date, Wheeler, dissatisfied with Carlo’s reply, spoke up and said, “We need to say phones are safe…”
No more biased research
Enough of the biased research. The public deserves to know about the dangers of wireless and similar technologies in addition to proper protection from them.
Sources for this article include:
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(Bill Snyder) The carrier wants to charge websites for carrying their packets, but if they win it’d be the end of the Internet as we know it.
Think of all the things that tick you off about cable TV. Along with brainless programming and crummy customer service, the very worst aspect of it is forced bundling.
You can’t pay just for the couple of dozen channels you actually watch. Instead, you have to pay for a couple of hundred channels, because the good stuff is scattered among a number of overstuffed packages.
Now, imagine that the Internet worked that way. You’d hate it, of course. But that’s the direction that Verizon, with the support of many wired and wireless carriers, would like to push the Web. That’s not hypothetical. The country’s No. 1 carrier is fighting in court to end the Federal Communications Commission’s policy of Net neutrality, a move that would open the gates to a whole new — and wholly bad — economic model on the Web.
As it stands now, you pay your Internet service provider and go wherever you want on the Web. Packets of bits are just packets and have to be treated equally. That’s the essence of Net neutrality. But Verizon’s plan, which the company has outlined during hearings in federal court and before Congress, would change that. Verizon and its allies would like to charge websites that carry popular content for the privilege of moving their packets to your connected device. Again, that’s not hypothetical.
ESPN, for example, is in negotiations with at least one major cellular carrier to pay to exempt its content from subscribers’ cellular data caps. And what’s wrong with that? Well, ESPN is big and rich and can pay for that exemption, but other content providers — think of your local jazz station that streams audio — couldn’t afford it and would be out of business. Or, they’d make you pay to visit their websites. Indeed, if that system had been in place 10 years ago, fledglings like Google or YouTube or Facebook might never have gotten out of the nest.
Susan Crawford, a tech policy expert and professor at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, says Verizon wants to “cable-ize the Internet.” She writes in her blog that “The question presented by the case is: Does the U.S. government have any role in ensuring ubiquitous, open, world-class, interconnected, reasonably priced Internet access?”
Verizon: The New Standard Oil
Verizon and other carriers answer that question by saying no.
They argue that because they spent megabucks to build and maintain the network, they should be able to have a say over what content travels over it. They say that because Google and Facebook and other Internet companies make money by moving traffic over “their” networks, they should get a bigger piece of the action. (Never mind that pretty much every person and business that accesses Google or Facebook is already paying for the privilege, and paying more while getting less speed than users in most of Europe.)
In 2005, AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre famously remarked that upstarts like Google would like to “use my pipes free, but I ain’t going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it.”
That’s bad enough, but Verizon goes even further. It claims that it has a right to free speech and, like a newspaper that may or may not publish a story about something, it can choose which content it chooses to carry. “Broadband providers possess ‘editorial discretion.’ Just as a newspaper is entitled to decide which content to publish and where, broadband providers may feature some content over others,” Verizon’s lawyers argue in a brief (PDF).
Continue reading @ Info World
(Shepard Ambellas) Soon on the streets of America police departments will likely deploy a new toy. A new device much like a ray-gun, that can disable a motor vehicle at the touch of a button.
A new gadget built by Diehl Defense, much like a portable Electro-Magnetic Pulse ray gun, can disable a vehicles electronic circuitry rendering it useless in battlefield or pursuit conditions.
This technology was put to the test on the battlefield of Afghanistan in 2011, while police departments and militaries around the world will likely grovel over the device. Deihl Defense is also a maker of guided missiles and other weaponry.
The official website for Diehl Defense explains the use for the device in a convoy protection scenario reading, “The new HPEM (High-Power-Electro-Magnetics) technology protects convoys against improvised explosive devices (IEDs), can stop getaway vehicles and prevent unauthorized access to limited access areas. Thus, this technology contributes decisively to the protection of soldiers in international missions.
The use of nonlethal HPEM systems is a new capability enabling military and civil forces to eliminate command, information and monitoring systems. HPEM sources can be used for personal and convoy protection, for instance, to overload and permanently destroy radio-based fuzing systems. In contrast to conventional jammers, the HPEM convoy protection system is also effective against new types of sensor-based IEDs. Enemy vehicles with electronic motor management can be stopped inconspicuously by mobile and stationary HPEM systems (car stopping).
HPEM can also support special and police forces in fulfilling their tasks. HPEM systems suppress enemy communication and disturb reconnaissance and information systems, for instance, in freeing hostages.”
Some wonder how long it will be before this technology will be utilized on the “battlefield” of America.
 Protection Systems Convoy Protection – Diehl.com
This article first appeared @ The Intelli Hub
(CBSNY) Chunks of ice apparently fell from the sky on an 80-degree day in Brooklyn. The question is, where did they come from?
Terry Blasi and Louie Vitale said they were sitting on Blasi’s porch on Wednesday when something the size of a softball crashed through the trees.
“All of a sudden something had come down through the trees really loud and then a loud thump on the ground,” Vitale told TV 10/55′s Dick Brennan on Friday.
The pair raced to the street and found a chunk of ice.
“It must have come through really fast and then thud. It sounded like a bowling ball went through,” Blasi said.
This chunk of ice fell from the sky in Brooklyn on Sept. 4, 2013. (Photo: CBS 2)
Ice was scattered around the street.
“I said, ‘Holy [expletive]. Where did this come from?’ and we’re all looking up all over the sky,” Vitale said.
A plane is the most likely suspect as the ice landed on East 36th Street, near John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“Usually they say the ice is blue if it comes from an airplane latrine. But this is solid ice. I think it was something high-flying and it fell off,” Blasi said.
“I hope it’s not from outer space. Those things are radioactive,” a man named Dave said.
Blasi’s family is worried.
“My step-daughter grabbed the baby, panicked, ran, grabbed the baby, said it was extra-terrestrials,” Terry said.
Experts said that if it had come from space the impact would have been much worse.
Blais has preserved the ice in her freezer. The Federal Aviation Administration will look at the evidence on Monday. Until then, neighbors said they plan to take precautions.
“Hard hat, Kevlar. I’m gonna look both ways and then look up, left, right, and up,” Vitale said.
Blasi said she is dying to know what happened.
This article first appeared @ CBSNY
(Susanne Posel) National Institutes of Health (NIH) has begun an initiative to discover the viability of sequencing American infant’s DNA through the “heel stick” blood drawn screening conducted on newborns in hospitals to determine the propensity toward life-threatening diseases.
This scheme will cost $25 million over 5 years to understand each individual genetic code in lieu of having DNA routinely mapped and stored in a medical record.
Whether this study would have value has not been established. Experts warn that there are ethical questions surrounding such an endeavor.
Using genetic information to direct infant healthcare is a major concern.
The National Institute of Child health and Human Development (NICHHD) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) are collaborating to fund this initiative.
This program will analyze DNA from 2,000 newborns to be sequenced by:
• Brigham and Women’s Hospital
• Boston Children’s Hospital
• Children’s Mercy Hospital
• University of California in San Francisco (UCSF)
• University of North Carolina
UCSF is being given $4.5 million to participate in the study. They will be tasked with assessing “whether large-scale gene sequencing aimed at detecting disorders and conditions can and should become a routine part of newborn testing.”
Alan E. Guttmacher, MD, director of the ICHD said : “Genomic sequencing has the potential to diagnose a vast array of disorders and conditions at the very start of life. But the ability to decipher an individual’s genetic code rapidly also brings with it a host of clinical and ethical issues, which is why it is important that this program explores the trio of technical, clinical, and ethical aspects of genomics research in the newborn period.”
The University of California at Berkley will provide bioinformatics experts to study “the potential of sequencing the exome” which is the preferred method of screening infants.
This work will examine “the exome’s potential for identifying disorders that California currently includes in the newborn screen, as well as those that are not currently screened for, but for which newborns may benefit if detection can occur early in life.”
Continue reading @ Occupy Corporatism
(Julie Beal) DARPA issues a solicitation, they are looking for researchers who can develop the particular ability the solicitation calls for. Researchers respond with their ideas, and DARPA awards funding to the most promising proposals.
A very creepy solicitation (SB131-002) has now been released, which calls for a “Portable Brain Recording Device & App”. The thing is, this technology is already affordable, if you like that kind of thing, but DARPA wants it to be real easy to get, so it’s gotta be around $30. They need someone who can make it smaller and cheaper, because, according to the solicitation, they want “to promote use by a wide audience”, including children.
“Having EEGs in every classroom in America”, say DARPA, would allow teachers to devise lesson plans using the devices to help children learn about the biology of “the brain and sensory systems”, by using these brain-to-computer interfaces (BCIs):
“Students could record their own brain activity and download the data to their iPad.”
The Agency also claims the devices could be worn by “average citizens”, which would crowd-source huge amounts of EEG data that could be analysed to advance the understanding of neuroscience.
It also seems DARPA want students to use the EEG devices for more than just biology lessons, as the solicitation mentions the devices could be used to, “modulate student feedback based on brain state”, which would mean students being kitted out with these devices much or all of the time, as education morphs into isolated interactions with “digital tutor or electronic learning systems”.
Students in the future are expected to have their own personal learning experiences, with avatar tutors, interactive games, and tailored courses.
A ‘portable brain recording device’ can already be bought by Joe Public, for about $100 to $400 a piece. It is a BCI, consisting of a wireless headset which sends EEG data to a smartphone or computer, which is then analysed using an app. The companies currently marketing these devices include Neurosky, Myndplay, and Emotiv.
The devices can read, learn, and understand the neural patterns of the user, allowing them to control things on a computer, such as games, and even movies, by the power of their thought alone.
The Neurosky device is being marketed as a way to help autistic children, and even as a safety feature. This is the most troubling claim – saying the device can detect if you’re about to fall asleep, and can interact with your smart car to stop you having a crash – because anything that is said to make us safer can end up being deemed mandatory in the future (like wearing a seatbelt).
Even if there were no tyranny intended, the desires of the Producers are enough to turn us all into slaves. The Producers feed the consumers in a perpetual cycle – that’s all the world is now, just one Big Business. And the Producers need to understand the consumers, so they know what to produce, what to give them, and how to manipulate them into wanting what they have to offer. So advertisers are engaged in neuromarketing, and futurists are sure we will all have our own personalized consumer bubble to live in soon.
Personal EEG devices generally start out as military endeavors, or are planned as medical aids, but after that there’s money to be made by marketing them to the whole wide world, with a wealth of a extra benefits to be had, especially the acquisition of highly actionable data, such as EEG recordings. Such data will become even more significant if the United Nations manages to implement natural capital accounting, as this involves measuring Global Happiness, which is best done by analyzing EEG records.
Mission creep is the scourge of the age.
Neurosky say their main business is supplying the chips needed to make brain-to-computer interfaces possible, and the company is looking to increase its business with other companies wanting to incorporate BCI capabilities into their products. Neurosky’s future will include augmenting the EEG device with sensors that measure, “galvanic skin response (GSR), muscle electromyography (EMG), heartbeat electrocardiography (ECG or EKG), retinal electrooculography (EOG), blood oximetry and other biosensor areas”. All of these physiological variables are also used as biometric identifiers, and as a way to profile personality.
Neurosky assert their product is “unidirectional”, i.e. it sends signals to the computer/app, but cannot receive signals back. However, for many years, neuroscience has been assessing the efficacy of stimulating the brain, such as with pulses of microwave energy, so as to influence mood, intelligence, and even movement.
With all this in mind, just how far will DARPA get with their solicitation? Four small businesseshave been granted nearly$100,000 each to develop the “portable brain recording device and app” – but will any of them manage to make one “without requiring a proprietary interface or dongle”, for as little as $30?
Let’s hope not.
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(Thomas Dishaw) A very unusual “rainbow” chemtrail was spotted over Maryland recently.
On August 14 2013 Will Farrar, of the popular You Tube channel Whats Up In The Sky, uploaded the video of a multi-colored chemtrail sprinkling us with all kinds of goodies like barium salts, polymers and aluminum oxide.
If you are unfamiliar with the terms chemtrail or geo-engineering, I would suggest watching this great documentary, What In The World Are They Spraying.
(Thomas Dishaw) Just a glitch in the radar or something much more?
A perfectly round weather ring appears between Michigan and Toronto then mysteriously vanishes. According to times stamps it was present for 20 minutes.
The screenshot is taken from Weather.com at 11:15 AM EST on Friday August 9th.
Could this be caused by geo-engineering or HAARP? I’m not sure on this one, I would like to hear what the experts have to say. Don’t we all love a good conspiracy?
(Thomas Dishaw) These days it seems people are willing to forego privacy and common sense in order to embrace technological advancements that Orwell himself could not have dreamed up.
What people fail to realize, or worse choose to ignore, is how dangerous it is to allow companies or the Government free access to every thought, move, inclination, and desire you have in exchange for certain “conveniences”.
Lets start with the Starbucks phone app which, unfortunately, my wife loves . This app allows customers to organize store gift cards, reload gift cards, find the nearest Starbucks locations, and monitor rewards earned by using the card at any participating Starbucks location, all in the palm of your hand. Seems pretty tame, right? Especially once you factor in that 10% of Starbucks transactions are made through the mobile phone app. Well if you look into and think about how these benefits actually work it tells a frightening tale.
Starbucks is the envy of all corporations, effectively transitioning customers to forget cash, skip debit cards and use their phone to make purchases, putting us one step closer to a cashless society or a chip in our body.
Next lets take a look at Apple, who is soon to release the new iPhone 5s. Apple is touting its biggest advancement in security which is fingerprint recognition. Privacy advocates like myself are jumping up and down over the rumor of intrusive technologies incorporated into this big brother tracking device. We already know cellphones listen and log every conversation we have even when turned off, and they can also access our cameras and be used as a banking tool soon to replace cash and debit cards. Do we really need to give them the ability to finger print us as well?
One of the most anticipated events since the return of Jesus Christ is the unveiling of Google Glasses. Tech Slaves are chomping at the bit to spend a hefty $1500 for a pair of zombie glasses to not only have their privacy invaded, but to be given the ability to invade others privacy as well. As we approach brain dead levels of society the thought of people walking around recording your every move while simultaneously texting and watching porn should strike a nerve with anyone who still has a pulse.
With the unfortunate suspicious death of Michael Hastings, two DARPA carjackers show us how easy it is for a Government agency to take over your automobile through your cars built in technology. It is kind of scary to watch technology manipulate basic driving techniques we take for granted every day. If the thought of gas tank manipulation, speed manipulation and loss of control of your steering wheel don’t scare you, maybe loosing your brakes will. Thanks DARPA for making non believers into believers with this brilliant showcase giving us more proof the Government did murder Michael Hastings.
One of the more unbelievable and intrusive technologies is the ability of your refrigerator or any other house hold appliance to spy on you. The privacy you thought you had in your own home may not be so private after all. Whats next, the monitoring of food purchases and waist through RFID? Maybe we could link it to Obamacare, making sure we are eating all of our fruits and vegetables? That would make Michelle happy, right? Anything to please our masters.
These are just the first five examples. Be sure to come back tomorrow to read about the remaining 5 ways Big Brother is taking over our lives.
(Thomas Dishaw) As the sun goes into a peak time of solar activity I’m very concerned about the latest news from NASA.
A chunk of the sun is missing and heading toward earth at 2 million miles per hour. It’s an astonishing 80 times bigger than earth.
Scientists are baffled by the recent activity, warning us a global blackout could occur.
Although no timetable was given on the arrival of this solar flare, actions like this make me wonder if their hiding something.
(Rob Williams) The power, reach and influence of the Central Intelligence Agency is a staple of conspiracy theories.
The news that the CIA is reportedly part-funding a scientific geoengineering study into how to control the weather is unlikely to dampen speculation over their activities.
According to US website ‘Mother Jones’ the CIA is helping fund a study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) that will investigate whether humans could use geoengineering – which is defined as deliberate and large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climatic system – to stop climate change.
The NAS website describes the study as an investigation into “a limited number of proposed geoengineering techniques, including examples of both solar radiation management (SRM) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR) techniques.”
The purpose of this is to comment “generally on the potential impacts of deploying these technologies, including possible environmental, economic, and national security concerns”, the website claims.
Solar radiation management (SRM) is a theoretical branch of geoengineering which moots the idea of reflecting sunlight in an attempt to block infrared radiation and halt rising temperatures.
The cost of the project is reported to be $630,000, which NAS is splitting with the CIA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NASA reports say.
A reference on the NAS website to “the US intelligence community” funding the project refers to the CIA, an NAS spokesman claimed.
Continue reading @ the independent
(Ian Burrell) The power of computing, and the thrill of its apparently infinite possibilities, has also long been a source of fear.
Going into a San Francisco second-hand book shop, shortly before a visit to Google’s headquarters in California, I happened upon a copy of Dick Tracy, an old novel based on Chester Gould’s cartoon strip starring America’s favorite detective.
For a 1970 publication, the plot seemed remarkably topical. Dick, and his sidekick Sam Catchem, find themselves battling a sinister character known as “Mr Computer” who wants to control the world. His strange powers enable him to remember everything he hears or sees and recall it instantly. This is a bad guy who can store data, analyse voice patterns and read private thoughts.
My visit to the legendary “Googleplex” at Mountain View comes at an awkward time for the company. Edward Snowden’s revelations about the snooping of the US Government’s National Security Agency (NSA) in its clandestine electronic-surveillance programme PRISM have provoked a crisis of trust in Silicon Valley. Larry Page, Google co-founder and CEO, rushed out a blog to deny claims in leaked NSA documents that it – in parallel with other American internet giants – had been co-operating with the spying programme since 2009. “Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ internet activity on such a scale is completely false,” he said.
Trust is everything to Google. It stands on the verge of a technological breakthrough that can transform its relationship with us. Already, it is universally recognised as the world leader in searching for information. It handles around 90 per cent of internet searches in the UK: when we want to know something, most of us turn to Google. But it wants more – it wants to become our constant companion.
The rapid evolution of mobile technology has brought new opportunities to a business generating annual revenue in excess of $50bn (£33.7bn). It began, just 15 years ago, as a service that enabled you to type a request into a personal computer and be given links to associated websites. Things have rather moved on. Soon Google hopes to have the ubiquitous presence of a personal assistant that never stops working, capable of conversing naturally in any language. Ultimately, as Page and co-founder Sergey Brin have asserted, the goal is to insert a chip inside your head for the most effortless search engine imaginable. Some will find this prospect exciting. Others might want to call for Dick Tracy.
The first stage of this new level of intimacy is Google Glass, which I am invited to trial as part of a briefing on the company’s future plans.
My first impression is that this revolutionary contraption is remarkably unobtrusive. It looks like a pair of glasses and, at 36 grams, weighs about the same as a typical pair of sunglasses due to its largely titanium frame. Despite the chunkiness of the right temple – made from plastic and where all the technology is stored – there is no sense of imbalance.
The awkwardness only starts when you start to interact. You turn the contraption on by tapping your finger on the right side of the frame, or surreptitiously throwing your head back. On a screen projected a few inches in front of your right eyeball is a digital clock and the magic words “OK glass”, the uttering of which takes you to a range of task options: ask a question, take a picture, record a video, get directions to, send a message to, make a call to, make a video call to.
The idea of Google Glass is that you can walk down busy streets receiving helpful facts – without needing to take your mobile phone from your pocket. It could end the urban hazard of pedestrians staring at their mobiles instead of looking where they’re going.
At the moment it’s a work in progress, which is why the prototype is called the Explorer and the 10,000 American-based pioneers who are trialling the apparatus – mostly web developers and heavy social-media users – are dubbed “explorers”.
Does it work? Yes and no. Answering questions is its central feature. It likes straightforward instruction such as “OK Glass… Google – what is the height of David Cameron?”, returning within four seconds with an image of the Prime Minister and a computer voice telling me “David Cameron is six feet zero inches tall”. But when I ask for the name of the wife of his predecessor, Gordon Brown, I’m offered details of “Golden Brown”, a hit for The Stranglers in 1982.
The camera and video option is novel and discreet, except when you bark out the words: “OK Glass, take a picture!” Three seconds after giving the order, you have a shot (or film) which you can share with friends on the Google+ social network. One Explorer recently used Google Glass to snap a police arrest as it was taking place. The potential is enormous: a proud mum could film her son taking a penalty kick in a football match while dad, abroad but connected through the Google Hangout service, could watch the action live through his wife’s Google Glass. The more you hand your life over to Google, the more you get out of this technology.
Google Glass is part of a wider ecosystem and is not currently intended as an alternative to a mobile phone but as a complement to it. Glass needs the mobile in your pocket to locate your position and connect to your contacts via 4G and Bluetooth. Rather than encouraging users to be constantly gibbering in public, the default position for this device is “off”, I am told. The screen has been positioned above the eye line and at two o’clock on a clock face to ensure that the people f you are with know from your squint when you are consulting Glass.
But none of these caveats can conceal the scale of Google’s ambition. It is staking its future on a vast store of information called the Knowledge Graph, which is growing at an exponential rate. When it launched in May 2012, Knowledge Graph was a pool of 3.5 billion facts on 500 million of the world’s most searched subjects. In a little over a year the knowledge held on the Google servers has grown to 18 billion facts on around 570 million subjects.
This Knowledge Graph is the base for Google Now, the latest incarnation of Google which is personalizing the search engine by giving you a series of bespoke “cards” as you log on. They tell you the local weather, the traffic you might face on the way to work, details of your meetings and restaurant bookings taken from your Google email account, your team’s latest result and so on.
In Building 43 of the Googleplex, Ben Gomes talks with barely concealed excitement about a “new epoch”. A Google fellow and the company’s Vice President of Search he has been working on these technologies for 14 years. “[Knowledge Graph] is everything you have at some point asked a query about – plus everything that everyone else has thought of!” he exclaims. “It’s a meld of all the world’s interests and information needs.”
The future, he says, is for this enormous resource to be “present everywhere”. It’s a long step from the British Council library in Bangalore, where Gomes used to go to obtain his reading matter. “You borrowed a book – if it was available – and then you read it and got the next book. I got two books and that was all the information that I had for a week,” he says. “Today it would be unthinkable for that [information] not to be available in seconds.”
Google’s options have grown with recent advances in speech-recognition technology (it can now decipher 35 languages) and in natural-language processing, the “holy grail” that means the computer can understand what is being spoken (for example, knowing that “tall” refers to height) and hold a conversation. The “OK Google…” voice-prompted search tool (already installed on mobile apps) is to become standard on the Google Chrome engine.
Scott Huffman, Google’s engineering director, says the company’s intention is to “transform the ways people interact with Google”. That means having conversations similar to those you would have with humans. No longer will we have to go to “settings” to recalibrate our devices – we will simply order them to make the desired changes. And those devices will not be in our pockets – but all around us in every room.
“If you look back 10 years there was a computer on my desk and today there’s a computer in my pocket and it still has a screen and a keyboard,” says Huffman.
“But fast forward a bit and… I think there is going to be a device in the ceiling with microphones, and it will be in my glasses or my wristwatch or my shirt. And like the Google Glass it won’t have a keyboard… you just say ‘OK Google, blah-blah-blah’ and you get what you want.”
Where will it end? Gomes agrees that a chip embedded in the brain is far from a sci-fi fantasy. “Already people are beginning to experiment with handicapped people for manoeuvring their wheelchairs,” he says. “They are getting a few senses of direction with the wheelchair but getting from there to actual words is a long ways off. We have to do this in the brain a lot better to make that interaction possible. We have impatience for that to happen but the pieces of technology have to develop.”
Any visitor to the Googleplex will testify that this is not a regular company. By lunch time, Googlers are out on the sand of the beach volleyball court. A statue of a dinosaur skeleton – a pointed juxtaposition of past and future – has been decorated with model pink flamingos, hanging from its bones. Around the central patio there are awnings in Google-style primary colours which add to the impression of a holiday resort.
Continue reading @ Independent
(Anthony Gucciardi) The rise of ‘smart gun’ technology, which utilizes an RFID interface to allow for both the government and the manufacturer to remotely render the gun useless at any time, is the upcoming new tactic used by anti-Constitution control freaks in the effort to take away legal firearms from the hands of law-abiding citizens.
And these smart guns are coming much sooner than you think.
TriggerSmart, the manufacturer of the Orwellian weapons that already exist in various European regions thanks to branding that smart guns are the ‘safer’ alternative to real weapons, hopes to start selling smart guns within the United States as soon as possible — and you could see them make a grand entrance by 2014. But why would anyone with a brain ever buy these smart guns, whichliterally trace every action you take and send the data to the government for analysis?
Well, I believe that these smart guns will not simply be pushed by slick marketing via TriggerSmart and other invested corporations, but legislation that attempts to force these smart guns on the American public. As I originally covered back in March, smart guns are one of the biggest threats we face to the Second Amendment in history.
SMART GUNS: THE 2ND AMENDMENT ‘LOOPHOLE’
As the creators of the Big Brother weapons have already detailed in interviews, the true power behind these RFID-controlled smart guns is the concept that they are a loophole that allows for the government to disarm the people while still ‘upholding’ the Second Amendment. Essentially, it is the wet dream of anti-Constitutional mad men.
The government has tried taking away real guns from the general public, ultimately losing the war due to the fact that the public is too informed on the true statistics regarding gun control and gun defense. They cannot launch a hostile takeover of all guns within the country right now, and traitors to the nation like Dianne Feinstein are fully aware of this fact. As much as Feinstein and others would love to have ‘Mr. and Mrs. America’ turn in all of their guns, this simply will not happen in such a manner — at least not without mass warfare and bloodshed.
So what’s the next best thing? Smart guns that become paper weights at the discretion of the government.
In the event of a ‘terrorist attack’ of any kind, the government could shut down all smart guns in the area. In the event of an elevated terror alert level, there goes the guns. How about a mass shooting in your city? Better turn off the guns. Imagine if smart guns were prevalent during the Boston lockdown that followed the Boston marathon bombings, in which military-style police raided homes at gunpoint. Those smart guns would be turned off without any question.
And this is not even getting into the entire concept of how the smart guns could easily be hacked into at any point by virtually anyone.
The subject of smart guns I’m discussing right now is a glimpse into the future. In due time, the mainstream media news channels will begin discussing how great smart guns are and how they could prevent violence, as NPR has already done on a smaller scale.
It’s essential that you share this article as well as the video on the subject so that we can detail the timeline before it even happens. If we can document the truth here, and really inform people about the true reality of smart guns, we can ultimately beat the mainstream media before they even get started.
( Daniel Blustein) Sam Murphy of Cary, 14, stared at the screen with intense concentration. Her onscreen paddle quickly shot down to intercept a ball about to pass by.
The video game was Pong, but this is hardly the classic arcade version. Sam was motionless.
She was controlling the paddle with her mind.
“I think this is like the coolest thing ever,” Sam said. “I’m just thinking about it, and it’s going up.”
Sam and her opponent, Eli Wilber, 22, a recent Duke University graduate, wore wireless electrode caps that captured the electrical activity from the neurons in their brains to control the Pong paddles onscreen.
Sam is a camper and Wilber a counselor at Duke’s Summer Science Sleuths, a camp that aims to push high school students toward careers in science.
“Our role is to make science so fun, so much fun, and so interesting so they can’t not consider science,” said Chris Adamczyk, director of the program and the executive director of the Duke Center for Science Education.
The mind control Pong game was developed by David Schwarz, a Duke Ph.D. student excited to share his work with budding young scientists. To prepare for the campers, Schwarz tested the Pong activity in his lab on fellow students, some he had to pry away from the addictive mind-control game.
“The first time I played, I played for like an hour and a half without stopping,” said Vivek Subramanian, 23, who assisted Schwarz with the program.
“It’s supposed to be fun, first and foremost,” Schwarz said.
And it is.
“That was so much fun, oh my gosh, I’ve never done anything like that before”, said Cullen Morgan, a 10th grader from Wilmington.
But the program is also educational, giving students an introduction to neuroscience and the workings of a brain-machine interface, a device that can be controlled by just thinking.
The students first don headgear with spider-like arms, each containing a saline-soaked, felt-padded electrode. Some of the longer haired campers needed a bit of electrode wiggling and extra saline to make good contact. An onscreen diagram showed each electrode turn green when it was in the right place.
“1, 2, 3, go!” exclaimed Subramanian as he clicked to begin a brain training session.
Katy McNamara, 15, of Chapel Hill began repeatedly nodding her head. As she moved, the electrode cap sent her brain activity to the computer. The signal from her brain was linked to the control for moving the paddle down. When she reproduced the action, the paddle would drop.
“Oh, that is so cool!” said her opponent, Lehua Miller, 15, of San Diego, when she first saw the paddle move after the training was complete.
During the game, Katy vigorously nodded her head and blinked her eyes to move her paddle down and up. The paddle movement was erratic at first, but with a bit of practice – and a lot of concentration – the paddle moved with ease.
Eventually, some of the students could just imagine their physical action and the paddle would respond onscreen. “Wow, that’s really good. I’m really impressed,” said Schwarz, as one student made the paddle move while sitting motionless, imagining a leg kick.
Schwarz works in the lab of Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a pioneer in capturing brain activity to control machines. In 1999, the Nicolelis lab developed a way for a rat to control a robot arm with its mind. And in 2011, it showed off a monkey that could move a computer cursor on screen just by thinking. The monkey could even “feel” textures on the screen that were conveyed via stimulation to its brain.
The mind-control Pong game is just a simple example of the power of technology that may one day let the paralyzed walk. The lab’s goal is to have a paralyzed person control an exoskeleton with her brain to perform the opening kickoff at soccer’s World Cup next year in Brazil, said Dr. Laura Oliveira, a senior research scientist in the Nicolelis lab.
“Our lab is interested to make it possible for paralyzed people to recover independence,” Oliveira said.
Schwarz hopes to streamline his game setup for others to use. When he graduates, he wants to continue to develop science outreach and use video games as a teaching tool.
The Pong game is important because it shows a real-world use for the research, he said.
And it really resonated with the students.
“Every year we do something that’s really crazy, just mind blowing,” said third-year camper Jourdan Bethea, 16, of Wilmington.
This year that something was Schwarz’s game of mind-control Pong.
This article first appeared @ newsobserver
(Michael Ricciardi) A series for experiments in animal-human bio-engineering proposed by a team of Japanese researchers has cleared its first regulatory hurdles, news sources inside Japan reported Tuesday.
The purpose of the proposed experiments is to grow human organs inside the body of a non-human animal.
While many in the US, Canada and Europe might have some foreboding about this ‘Island of Dr. Moreau’ – esque scenario, there is little aversion or opposition to such chimeric tinkering in Japan. In Japan, levels of scientific literacy are quite high by global standards and the culture takes enormous pride in its innovative talent — especially in the sciences; full approval for the experiments is expected in the next 30 days.
Once approval happens, the recommendation will be sent to a special committee charged with drafting guidelines regulating Japan’s state-of-the-Science bio-engineering programs.
The Japanese regulatory board currently permits the growing of chimeric (i.e., a combination of human and animal genomes) embryos in vitro for up to two weeks but prohibits transplanting of these into the uterus of an animal.
The team, led by by Hiromitsu Nakauchi of Tokyo University, wants to implant an embryo made from a fertilized pig egg and a special type of human stem cell called an “induced Pluripotent Stem cell” (iPS) into the uterus of a pig.
In 2012, Japanese biologist Shinya Yamanaka received a Nobel prize for his 2005-6 pioneering work in cell reprogramming that induced skin cells to revert to a younger cell state called ‘pluripotency’ called iPS cells) from which any cell type can be created. The technique does not require the destruction of an actual human embryo. This was welcome news for a new science that was being held back by various Bio-ethics concerns (beyond even destruction of the embryo).
This technique is at the heart of Nakauchi’s experiments.* [see note below] The team hopes that the iPS cell contained within the embryo will develop into a fully-functional and human compatible human organ (e.g., a kidney or liver or spleen) as part of the chimeric piglet fetus, as it also develops “normally.”
Speaking to the AFP, Nakauchi commented:
“We’ll see if the experiment goes well, but if we succeed in producing a human organ, the rest of the work toward practical use would be done within five years.”
Earlier this year, Nakauchi’s team successfully grew a white pig (that was engineered to not produce its own pancreas) to produce the pancreas of a black pig whose DNA was different from the white pig’s DNA
While some might find this manipulation of genomes disturbing or dangerous, Nakauchi does not see why it should viewed much differently from what we are already doing.
“Pigs have organs that are similar to human’s, in terms of both size and shape. In addition, we eat them on a daily basis”, he commented, “We have long used pigs in medicine, too. So they are thought to be acceptable to human bodies.”
Indeed, Nakauchi noted several examples: pig-grown insulin for diabetics and pig-grown pancreases and cardiac-valves have been successfully transplanted into humans.
However, there would be some strong religious objections to accepting organ transplants with organs grown in pigs.
But, these experiments — if successful — will represent a double advance: the creation of a viable animal embryo with a human iPS cell in it, and, the first time such organs will be grown in utero.
It is not clear if the new born piglet in the recently proposed experiments is intended to survive once the human organ has been “harvested”.
* NOTE: This technique, though a breakthrough and marvel of science, is imperfect; the procedure of implanting genes (long sequences of the nucleotide bases: A, T, C or G) creates “insertional defects” (like copy number variations) which can cause serious metabolic problems and diseases. However, as reported here on PS, a major advance in this discipline occurred in 2010 (Warren et al) with the invention of RNA-induced Pluripotent Stem cells (RiPS cells) which use RNA (instead of actual DNA) to induce the pluripotent (multi-potent) state (the RNA molecules are then rapidly degraded by the cell, leaving no trace).
It is not clear at this stage if the Japanese research team will be using the newest technique, or the older version, with the risks that entails.
Source material for this post came from June 18 Phys.org article: ‘Japan experts to OK animal-human embryos test: reports (Update) by Kyoko Hasegawa
This article first appeared @ Planet Save
(Victoria Woollaston) Motorola has announced it is looking at alternatives to traditional passwords in a bid to make logging into online sites, or accessing mobile phones, more secure.
Among the ideas discussed at the D11 conference in California on Wednesday were electronic tattoos and authentication pills that people swallow.
The tattoos, developed by Massachusetts-based engineering firm MC10, contain flexible electronic circuits that are attached to the wearer’s skin using a rubber stamp.
A researcher at the University of Illinois used standard CMOS semiconductor computer chip technologies to create the Biostamp.
It uses high-performance silicon and can stretch up to 200 per cent.
The Biostamp can monitor temperature, hydration and strain, among other medical statistics
The first prototypes were stuck on using an plaster-style patches.
More recent prototypes are applied directly to the skin using a rubber stamp.
It can then be covered with spray-on bandage to make it more durable and waterproof enough to wash.
The MC10 Biostamp is said to last up to two weeks before it starts to come loose.
MC10 originally designed the tattoos, called Biostamps, to help medical teams measure the health of their patients either remotely, or without the need for large expensive machinery.
Motorola claims that the circuits, which also contain antennae and built-in sensors, could be adapted to work with mobile phones and tablets.
This would prevent thieves and other people from being able to access a phone, or individual apps on the device, if it is stolen or lost.
Another idea presented during the keynote talk at the Wall Street Journal conference with head of Motorola Dennis Woodside and senior vice president for advanced technology and products, Regina Dugan, was a swallowable pill.
The Proteus Digital Health pill has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration and was given European regulatory approval in 2010.
HOW DOES THE PROTEUS DIGITAL HEALTH PILL WORK?
The Proteus Digital Health pill contains a computer chip and a switch.
Once swallowed, the acid in the wearer’s stomach causes electrolytes to turn the switch on and off.
This creates an 18-bit ECG-like signal that can be picked up by mobile devices and authentication hardware to verify the wearer is the correct owner of the device or account.
It can also monitor heart rate.
The pill was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration in 2012 after getting European regulatory approval in 2010.
Motorola’s Regina Dugan called it the ‘vitamin authentication pill’ and said the pills can be taken every day for 30 days, if necessary, without any problems.
It contains a computer chip that can be powered like a battery using the acid in the wearer’s stomach.
Once swallowed the ‘vitamin authentication pill’ creates an 18-bit ECG-like signal inside the wearer’s body that can be picked up by mobile devices and authentication hardware outside.
This could be used verify the wearer is the correct owner of the device or account.
Dugan continued that the pill could be taken every day for 30 days, if necessary, without any problems.
Woodside added Motorola would not be shipping these ‘right away’ but they have ‘tested it authenticating a phone, and it works.’
He continued: ‘Having the boldness to think differently about problems that everybody has every day is really important for Motorola now.’
Dugan, who used to be head of the US Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, explained that each signal emitted by the pill could be unique to each user.
Both these ideas move away from traditional passwords and towards technology that turns the user into a physical authentication token.
Explaining the reasons behind the plans, Dugan said: ‘Authentication is irritating. In fact its so irritating only about half the people do it.
‘Despite the fact there is a lot of information about you on your smartphone, which makes you far more prone to identity theft.
‘After 40 years of advances in computation, we’re still authenticating the same way we did years ago – passwords.
PASSWORDS ARE NO LONGER SECURE
A team of hackers, commissioned by technology website Ars Technica, recently managed to crack more than 14,800 supposedly random passwords – from a list of 16,449 – as part of a hacking experiment.
The success rate for each hacker ranged from 62 per cent to 90 per cent, and the hacker who cracked 90 per cent of hashed passwords did so in less than an hour using a computer cluster.
The hackers also managed to crack 16-character passwords including ‘qeadzcwrsfxv1331′.
Earlier this month PayPal’s chief security officer, Michael Barrett said he wants to see a mixture of online passwords with hardware-based identification such as finger print scanning becoming more common.
Talking at the IT conference Interop in Las Vegas at the start of May, Barrett said: ‘Passwords, when used ubiquitously everywhere at Internet-scale are starting to fail us.
‘Users pick poor passwords and then they’ll reuse them everywhere.
‘That has the effect of reducing the security of their most secure account to the security of the least secure place they visit on the internet.’
‘In fact it’s worse, the average users does it 39 times a day and it takes them 2.3 seconds every time they do it.
‘Power users will do it up to 100 times a day.
‘So what are we doing about it? Well [Motorola] is thinking of a whole variety of options for how to do better at authentication such as near-term things including tokens or fobs that have NFC or bluetooth.
‘But you can also think about a means of authentication you can wear on your skin every day, say an electronic tattoo or a vitamin pill’.
During the talk, Woodside also unveiled Motorola’s plans to launch a new handset.
Motorola was bought by Google 2011, which owns the Android operating system.
The new phone, called the Moto X, will be built in Texas and Woodside said he was ‘pretty confident in the products we’re going to be shipping in the fall’.
Woodside added that the Moto X would benefit from Motorola’s expertise in managing ultra-low power sensors — such as in accelerometers and gyroscopes — that can sense usage contexts and turn off certain components when not required, to save power.
He added that it will interact in different ways to other handsets and said the camera would ‘fire up in a way not seen before’ calling the handset ‘more contextually aware’ than other phones.
Motorola’s engineers have also come up with processors that will help save power, but didn’t elaborate further.
This article first appeared @ the Daily Mail
(Vijaykumar Meti) It seems Samsung is following its rival Apple for developing fingerprint scanningtechnology. Both Samsung and Apple are in a race for testing biometric technology for their upcoming products –Galaxy and iPhone respectively.
Samsung fan site, SamMobile recently published a set of leaked firmware build for Samsung Galaxy S3, which also seemed to have incorporated fingerprint scanning technology. The leaked firmware suggests that the company is working to employ biometric scanning to their upcoming high-end Galaxy range of device.
Rumors have been surfacing for a while now that Apple is also working on the similar technology for its next iPhone. Last year, Apple acquired AuthenTec, a biometric scanning company.
In a similar report by BGR, Apple is planning to employ the new fingerprint scanning technology in its upcoming iPhone 5S. Apple aims to boost the sales of the iPhone 5S by adding the new feature.
The rumors of fingerprint scanning technology for next iPhone started surfacing in March. An analyst from KGI Securities released his new research report that said Apple will unveil the iPhone 5S with a fingerprint scanner beneath the home button for security. This feature will allow users to unlock the screen after scanning their fingerprint.
Similar unlocking security feature is already available on laptops but implementing the fingerprint security in the next Galaxy or iPhone would be the first feature of its kind in the smartphone industry.
This article first appeared @ International Digital Times
(Michael Fitzgerald) It’s a bleak scenario. A massive earthquake along the New Madrid fault kills or injures 60,000 people in Tennessee.
A quarter of a million people are homeless. The Memphis airport – the country’s biggest air terminal for packages – goes off-line. Major oil and gas pipelines across Tennessee rupture, causing shortages in the Northeast. In Missouri, another 15,000 people are hurt or dead. Cities and towns throughout the central U.S. lose power and water for months. Losses stack up to hundreds of billions of dollars.
Fortunately, this magnitude 7.7 temblor is not real but rather a scenario imagined by the Mid-America Earthquake Center and the Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management at George Washington University. The goal of their 2008 analysis was to plan for a modern recurrence of quakes that happened along the New Madrid fault more than 200 years ago, in 1811 and 1812.
No one alive has experienced a major earthquake in the Midwest, yet geologists say it’s only a matter of time. That puts a lot of uncertainty on disaster officials. Their earthquake precautions – quake-resistant building codes, for example – have never been reality tested. Some question if enough has been done to strengthen existing buildings, schools and other infrastructure. It is difficult to prepare for a geological catastrophe the public cannot see and has never experienced.
“We mostly react to disasters, and it’s been extremely rare that we get ahead of things,” said Claire Rubin, a disaster response specialist in Arlington, Va. “A lot of hard problems don’t get solved. They get moved around and passed along.”
Steven L. Lueker is among disaster response officials who worry about the New Madrid fault and another fault to the north, in the Wabash Valley. He’s the emergency management coordinator for Jefferson County in Southern Illinois, and he rattles off likely impact statistics. One of the most important: The New Madrid fault is expected to generate a large-scale earthquake within the next 50 years.
“I may not be here when it happens,” said Lueker. “Or it may happen while we’re talking. You don’t know.”
When it does happen, Lueker said Mount Vernon, the Jefferson County seat, likely will be a staging area for support flowing into Tennessee and Missouri – unless the Mount Vernon airport itself is too damaged. He doesn’t – can’t – know.
Uncertainty is the maddening aspect of earthquakes. They can’t be predicted, even very big ones. We know they happen frequently along the earth’s tectonic plates. We also know there are no such plates in the central United States, yet that part of the country has had major earthquakes in three zones: the New Madrid fault, which on computer models looks like Harry Potter’s scar slashing across Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee; the Wabash Valley fault in Illinois and Indiana; and the East Tennessee Seismic Zone that runs into Alabama.
These are not like the faults in California, which last had a major earthquake in 1994, when the magnitude 6.7 Northridge temblor killed 57 people and caused $20 billion in damages. The mid-continent faults rupture less often; New Madrid gets the shakes maybe 200 times a year, about a tenth the number in California. And earthquakes in the central United States tend to be smaller. The New Madrid fault appears to have a big rupture every 300 years or so; the Wabash Valley has one perhaps every 500 years.
But when quakes do hit the central United States, geology means they are felt much farther away, because the Earth’s crust in the region does not absorb the shock waves in the way it does in the Western United States. “The Northridge earthquake was barely felt in Las Vegas, 250 miles away,” said Gary Patterson, director of education and outreach at the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis. “Here, a large quake would be felt 1,200 miles away in Canada.”
Not everyone thinks the New Madrid fault will produce another big earthquake. Seth Stein, a geologist at Northwestern University, has argued that the small quakes occurring along the fault are not the kind that suggest the earth is gathering energy for a large one.
“He’s a smart guy,” said Patterson. “But it’s interesting that you have to go 500 miles away from the fault to find a scientist who disagrees with the consensus” that another New Madrid quake is inevitable.
At the same time, Patterson and others concede it is difficult to explain why the faults in the central United States are active at all.
Disaster preparedness officials – encouraged by the federal and state governments – are getting ready for a large quake anyway. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sponsors events like the Great Shake-Out and Earthquakes Mean Business, instructing communities and businesses the protective mantra of, “Drop, Cover and Hold On.”
Disaster officials also collaborate on regional drills. The Mid-America Earthquake Center’s 2008 scenario is one example. Another is the Central United States Earthquake Consortium, a planning agency that represents eight states, which is scheduling a large-scale exercise next year.
Earthquake preparedness is not always widely embraced, however, at least as a matter of policy. Developers in Memphis and Shelby County, Tenn., for example, are engaged in a protracted debate over whether to update the local building code to require tougher material standards such as framing clips that help secure a house’s frame to its foundation. Engineers say the costs of including this hardware in homes would be minimal. The developers think otherwise.
What’s not in dispute is that the region’s building codes are untested. Almost every state that would be affected by a quake on the New Madrid fault has a building code. But building codes have only been earthquake-oriented for 20 years or so. And there hasn’t been a magnitude 6 or greater earthquake in the area since 1895, when a 6.7 hit in Charleston, Missouri.
Even people uninitiated in earthquakes are somewhat prepared, according to FEMA, based on experience with other disasters including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and wildfires.
That may be true, but earthquakes present their own complications, said Amr S. Elnashai, outgoing director of the Mid-America Earthquake Center at the University of Illinois. Earthquakes have aftershocks and cause landslides, for example.
For all its planning, said Elnashai, “the Midwest is more aware but it is not better prepared.” There has not been much work to improve and retrofit pipelines, most buildings, or critical facilities like schools, banks and chemical plants.
The region is also unprepared for the politics of response. A large-scale New Madrid earthquake could devastate portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, and Tennessee. These states are members of the consortium that is preparing for a major disaster in the Midwest.
The clear problem will be allocating resources. Would Memphis and St. Louis get most of the attention after a major earthquake, while small towns and vast rural areas are just as badly affected?
“For a small community like Marion, Ill., versus a Bloomington, Ind., versus a Paducah, Ky., who gets those resources? Who makes the decision?” said James M. Wilkinson Jr., the consortium’s executive director. The consortium has started to address those questions.
In the end, preparedness only gets us so far, said Lueker, the emergency management director in Jefferson County, Ill. He noted what happened in 2011 on the northeast coast of earthquake-prone Japan, where some who heard sirens going off after a magnitude 9.0 quake still stood and watched an approaching tsunami.
“They’re the best-trained people in the world, and they still died,” he said. “As well trained as those people are, it makes me wonder how well we can be prepared.”
Nigeria’s government, instead, is teaming up with MasterCard to run a pilot program which would turn the country’s national ID cards into debit cards.
MasterCard and the Nigerian National Identity Management Commission made the government debit card announcement at the World Economic Forum on Africa on Wednesday. 13 million combination government ID cards/debit cards will be rolled out over the next year; Nigeria has a population of approximately 167 million. The ID cards, which contain demographic and biometric data belonging to each Nigerian citizen encoded on a microchip, will be linked to bank accounts. When the cards are used at stores or kiosks, cashiers will be able to verify the buyer’s identity using both the regular photo identification and the biometric chip-encoded information.
For Nigeria, which is undergoing an economic boom fueled by new businesses and mobile phones, the worry is that ethnic violence and omnipresent corruption could slow down growth. Due to the tracking capabilities, security, and built-in paper trail of cashless currency, the Nigerian government feels debit card payments could be a solution. After the initial 13 million cards are given to pilot testers, the government hopes to deploy 120 million ID cards/debit cards once the scheme proves workable.
“The initial rollout in Nigeria of 13 million MasterCard-branded National Identity Smart Cards with electronic payment capability–followed by a nation-wide rollout of potentially 120 million cards to all adult citizens–will allow cardholders to deposit funds on the card, receive social benefits, pay for goods and services, withdraw cash from all ATMs that accept MasterCard, and engage in many other financial transactions that are facilitated by electronic payments,” MasterCard’s Michael Miebach told Fast Company via email. “In addition to the various functionalities of a Smart ID, the scheme will allow Nigerians, 70% of whom currently having no back account, to participate in the global economy.”
Continue reading @ fast company
(Wesley J Smith) If you want to know what’s going to go wrong in the culture, read the professional journals.
A case in point: An article in the April 10 New England Journal of Medicine called for the creation of a commodities market for “made-to-order” human embryos.
They note that sperm and eggs are already bought and sold for in vitro fertilization (IVF) and, further, that New York legalized buying eggs for use in biotechnological research a few years ago. Hence, “it is not clear” (an oft-used phrase in bioethical advocacy that frees the author from actually having to prove a point) why we should not also allow companies to make “made-to-order embryos” for profit, since that activity would be “more similar to the sale of gametes than the sale of children.”
As a matter of basic biology, that isn’t true: A human embryo is an organism, a nascent human being, while an egg or sperm is just a cell. But what’s a little sophistry in the cause of deconstructing ethics? After all, to use a movie idiom, there’s gold in them thar hills!
The authors engage in misdirection by focusing on special-order embryos as just another service to be offered in the already ethically wide-open infertility industry. But expanding IVF opportunities isn’t really what their proposal is about. Rather, the primary customers of a future embryo manufacturing industry would be biotech companies and their university affiliates, which would pay top dollar for merchandise possessing desired genetic traits, just as they now do for genetically engineered research mice.
But designing the embryo product line will not be easy. Fertilization is an inexact process. Sure, some desired attributes—sex or certain genetic defects—could be obtained through using specifically selected or altered eggs or sperm and genetic testing of embryos to find those that possess the desired characteristics. But made-to-order embryos would be hit and miss, limiting the industry’s growth potential.
The real money would come from human cloning, which would permit the manufacture of tailor-made, genome-specific embryos—and in theoretically virtually unlimited numbers. Indeed, the authors give away the game when they write, “It is not clear how the sale of made-to-order embryos differs from the sale of oocytes [eggs] for the manufacture of embryos by somatic-cell nuclear transfer”—SCNT being the cloning process used to make Dolly the sheep. In other words, an egg is a fertilized embryo is a cloned embryo, with each presenting distinct mercantile potential.
Advocacy of this sort arouses the suspicion that human cloning must be getting very close. Further evidence comes from California, where a bill aimed at increasing the number of human eggs available for use in experiments easily passed the Assembly on May 2, 54-20. The bill, AB-926 aims to repeal the ban on paying women to supply eggs for research (beyond expenses) and allow university or other institutional review boards to establish compensation rates to pay women for their “time, discomfort, and inconvenience.”
“Discomfort” is a tactful word for what women experience when submitting to mass egg extraction. The process—known as superovulation—requires administering supercharged doses of hormones that stimulate the ovaries to release 20 to 30 eggs in a cycle, instead of the usual 1 or 2. After that, the donor’s (or seller’s) eggs are harvested under anesthesia via a needle inserted through the vaginal wall.
Most extractions do not harm the egg supplier. But some women are wounded: Potential side effects include infection, the swelling of ovaries to the size of a melon, infertility, stroke, some cancers, and, in rare cases, even death.
Why the sudden need for eggs in biotech? They are the essential ingredient in cloning, one egg per cloning attempt. And since women are far less likely to risk superovulation to make cloned embryos for use in experiments than they are to enable the birth of a baby, research eggs are currently in very short supply. Indeed, this “egg dearth” has materially impeded the development of cloning, which has scientists champing at the bit to obtain a bounteous supply. If—or when—human cloning is finally accomplished, egg demand will go vertical. Scientists are unlikely to have access to a sufficient supply unless they pay.
Continue reading @ weekly standard
(Kim Zetter) There’s so much data available on the internet that even government cyberspies need a little help now and then to sift through it all. So to assist them, the National Security Agency produced a book to help its spies uncover intelligence hiding on the web.
The 643-page tome, called Untangling the Web: A Guide to Internet Research (.pdf), was just released by the NSA following a FOIA request filed in April by MuckRock, a site that charges fees to process public records for activists and others.
The book was published by the Center for Digital Content of the National Security Agency, and is filled with advice for using search engines, the Internet Archive and other online tools. But the most interesting is the chapter titled “Google Hacking.”
Say you’re a cyberspy for the NSA and you want sensitive inside information on companies in South Africa. What do you do?
Search for confidential Excel spreadsheets the company inadvertently posted online by typing “filetype:xls site:za confidential” into Google, the book notes.
Want to find spreadsheets full of passwords in Russia? Type “filetype:xls site:ru login.” Even on websites written in non-English languages the terms “login,” “userid,” and “password” are generally written in English, the authors helpfully point out.
Misconfigured web servers “that list the contents of directories not intended to be on the web often offer a rich load of information to Google hackers,” the authors write, then offer a command to exploit these vulnerabilities — intitle: “index of” site:kr password.
Continue reading @ wired
(Mark Prigg) A Russian billionaire has revealed controversial plans to upload his own brain and become immortal by 2045.
His ‘2045 initiative’ is described as the next step in evolution, and over 20,000 people have signed up on Facebook to follow its progress, with global conferences planned to explore the technology needed.
Still some work to do: 32 year-old Dmitry Itskov, seen here in prototype robotic form, believes he will be able to upload his brain to a hologram body in 2045 and live forever
‘We are in the process of creating focus groups of experts,’ said Itskov.
‘Along with these teams, we will prepare goal statements and research programs schedules.’
The foundation has already planned out its timeline for getting to a fully holographic human, and claims it will be ready to upload a mind into a computer by 2015, a timeline even Itskov says is ‘optimistic’.
‘This is our program for the next 35 years, and we will do our best to complete it.’
The ultimate aim is for a hologram body.
‘The fourth development track seems the most futuristic one,’ said Itskov.
‘It’s intent is to create a holographic body. Indeed, its creation is going to be the most complicated task, but at the same time could be the most thrilling problem in the whole of human evolution.’
32 year-old Dmitry Itskov believes technology will allow him to live forever in a hologram body.
To help realize the lofty aim, he has set up the Global Future Congress, which held its first meeting in Moscow last year.
The congress will meet again in New York City this June, where it promises to unveil the most human-like robot the world has ever seen.
It will also addressing the ethical and social issues of immortality.
‘Modern civilization, with its space stations, nuclear submarines, iPhones and Segways cannot save mankind from the limitations in the physical abilities of our bodies, nor from diseases and death,’ the ‘2045’ Strategic Social Initiative says in its manifesto.
‘We believe that it is possible and necessary to eliminate aging and even death, and to overcome the fundamental limits of the physical and mental capabilities currently set by the restrictions of the physical body.
‘Before 2045 an artificial body will be created that will not only surpass the existing body in terms of functionality, but will achieve perfection of form and be no less attractive than the human body.
‘People will make independent decisions about the extension of their lives and the possibilities for personal development in a new body after the resources of the biological body have been exhausted.’
The initiative also believes the first generation of ‘android’ bodies will have superhuman capabilities.
‘The new human being will receive a huge range of abilities and will be capable of withstanding extreme external conditions easily: high temperatures, pressure, radiation, lack of oxygen, etc.
‘Using a neural-interface humans will be able to operate several bodies of various forms and sizes remotely.’
The project is also addressing the moral issues of living forever.
‘We suggest the implementation of not just a mechanistic project to create an artificial body, but a whole system of views, values and technology which will render assistance to humankind in intellectual, moral, physical, mental and spiritual development.’
Continue reading @ the daily mail
(David Kravets) The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.
Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (.pdf) is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.
Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.
This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet. Think of it as a government version of Foursquare, with Big Brother cataloging every check-in.
“It starts to change the relationship between the citizen and state, you do have to get permission to do things,” said Chris Calabrese, a congressional lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union. “More fundamentally, it could be the start of keeping a record of all things.”
Continue reading @ wired
(CBS) Nordstrom says it wants to serve you better, so it’s tracking your movements through their stores. The CBS 11 I-Team has learned the retailer is using software to track how much time you spend in specific departments within the store. The technology is being used in 17 Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack stores nationwide, including the NorthPark store in Dallas.
A company spokesperson says sensors within the store collect information from customer smart phones as they attempt to connect to Wi-Fi service. The sensors can monitor which departments you visit and how much time you spend there. However, the sensors do not follow your phone from department to department, nor can they identify any personal information tied to the phone’s owner, says spokesperson Tara Darrow.
“This is literally measuring a signal. You are not connected to the signal,” says Darrow.
The store calls the information “anonymous aggregate reports that give us a better sense of customer foot traffic” and will ultimately be used to increase the shopping experience for Nordstrom customers. Darrow says the company could use the information to increase staffing during certain high-traffic times or change the layout of a department.
While Nordstrom has been collecting the information since October, the company has not implemented any changes based on the information it has collected. The store has posted a sign at its NorthPark entrance to alert customers and advise them they can opt out by turning off their phones.
Continue reading @ CBS
(Wired) Google is barring anyone deemed worthy of a pair of its $1,500 Google Glass computer eyewear from selling or even loaning out the highly coveted gadget.
The company’s terms of service on the limited-edition wearable computer specifically states, “you may not resell, loan, transfer, or give your device to any other person. If you resell, loan, transfer, or give your device to any other person without Google’s authorization, Google reserves the right to deactivate the device, and neither you nor the unauthorized person using the device will be entitled to any refund, product support, or product warranty.”
Welcome to the New World, one in which companies are retaining control of their products even after consumers purchase them.
It was bound to happen. Strange as it may sound, you don’t actually own much of the software you buy today. You essentially rent it under strict end-user agreements that have withstood judicial scrutiny. Google appears to be among the first to apply such draconian rules to consumer electronics.
“If it takes off like iPhones did, this is going to be part of people’s everyday activity, and now we are starting down this path that is going to be completely controlled,” said Corynne McSherry, the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s intellectual property coordinator. “It’s not clear to me what they are doing is unlawful. It’s a contract issue.”
The company knows if the eyewear was transferred because each device is registered under the buyer’s Google account.
For the moment, not just anybody can buy the eyewear.
Google has created the Silicon Valley equivalent of a velvet rope under its so-called Google Glass Explorers program. If Google liked what you posted on social media under the hashtag #ifihadglassand, Google grants you the opportunity to fork out $1,500 for the Explorer edition of the headset.
Google declined comment. Google also isn’t saying when it would lift its velvet rope and whether the same Draconian terms of service would apply when it does lift the velvet rope.
Google’s tight rein over the gadget came to light today when one of the first would-be owners of the device abruptly halted an eBay auction because he feared reprisals from Google.
“After getting a message on Twitter from Google saying I had been selected as part of the program a couple weeks ago, it just came to mind if they are giving out to a limited number of people, I could put it out there on eBay and sell it for a lot more than $1,500,” said Ed, a Philadelphia man who halted his auction Wednesday. (Wired agreed not to publish his last name as a condition of him telling his story.)Because the only correspondence Ed has had with Google is the initial tweet about his acceptance into the program, he had no idea he wasn’t allowed to sell his Google Glass, which he had been authorized to purchase for $1,500 in the coming weeks. Instead, he found out via the Glass Explorers Google+ group.
He also discovered that some were upset that he had the audacity to sell his Google Glass headset.
“People were acting like I had did something sacrilegious,” he said.
Continue reading @ wired
(John Paul Titlow) The hyper-connected smart home of the future promises to change the way we live. More efficient energy usage, Internet-connected appliances that communicate with one another and cloud-enhanced home security are just some of the conveniences we’ll enjoy.
It’s going to be amazing. It will also open up major questions about privacy.
We’re already catching a glimpse of our futuristic living quarters with products like the Nest, the WiFi-connected smart thermostat with an Apple-esque sleekness. Each year, the Consumer Electronics Show introduces us a handful of new connected appliances and household items, each one bringing us closer to the so-called “Internet of things” we keep hearing about. Everybody from giant Internet service providers to scrappy startups are getting in on the smart home game, building products that will make our homes more efficient, secure and livable. Before long, Jetsons-style robots will be feeding our pets.
If you think digital privacy is a contentious issue now, just wait.
Government Requests For Personal Data On The Rise
Consider this: In the last few years, Internet service providers and mobile carriers have seen a huge spike in government requests for data about customers. AT&T alone receives 700 such requests per day, according to The New York Times. They’re not alone. Carriers and ISPs collectively receive thousands of requests for customer data per day from local law enforcement, federal agencies and courts. In many cases, they’re willingly handing it over. In very few are they actually telling us about it.
This uptick in government data requests corresponds with the rapid rise of smartphones and other connected gadgets among the general population. Naturally, as these devices proliferate, they are inevitably being used by some consumers to do bad things. But as we’ve seen, the technology has evolved more quickly than our society’s rules about privacy — such as those enshrined in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — can possibly be crafted.
Why does it matter what companies like Verizon and Comcast do with their customers’ information? Because those very same firms are now selling smart home products that will allow them to collect more data about our lives than ever before.
“The information that’s available in a smart home can be really extraordinarily detailed,” says Rebecca Jeschke, media relations director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Analyzing a household’s power usage alone can reveal details about a family’s schedule and habits and may even one day hint at what different appliances might be used for.
“The technology is such that it won’t be too long before you can look at somebody’s power usage be able to know when they opened the fridge or how much food was in it,” says Jeschke. “And that’s without a wired fridge. That’s just the power.”
Your Smart Home Will Be a Trove Of Data
Every time we connect another one of our household appliances to the Internet, we’re going to be generating another set of data about our lives and storing it some company’s servers. That data can be incredibly useful to us, but it creates yet another digital trail of personal details that could become vulnerable to court subpoenas, law enforcement requests (with or without a warrant) or hackers.
Okay, so maybe you don’t care if somebody else knows what’s in your WiFi-connected refrigerator. But what about your bedroom?
Comcast is one of the many companies making a move toward the connected home. The cable giant offers a product called XFinity Home that offers the latest in home automation technology: smart energy management, remote-controlled door locks and in-home video surveillance. All of these features and more are conveniently accessible from smartphones, tablets and a Web-based portal.
Having remote, mobile access to our homes in this way presents enormous advantages. But it also raises a red flag when it comes to privacy, says Abdullahi Arabo, a research fellow at the University of Oxford who wrote a paper examining the privacy implications of smart home technology.
“In reality, our smart devices hold more information than our brains,” says Arabo. “This makes them a good target for hackers, malware and unauthorized users.”
Of course, this has been the case for quite some time, but in the age of the smart home, a stolen or hacked phone isn’t just a repository of personal information: it’s a remote control for your entire house. If you’ve signed up for the remote surveillance service, it also contains live video feeds from every room in the house.
Continue reading @ readwrite
(Spencer Ackerman) Cops and soldiers may soon be able to pull out their iPhones to track the eyes, facial features, voice and fingerprints of suspected criminals and combatants.
The California-based company AOptix rolled out a new hardware and app package that transforms an iPhone into a mobile biometric reader. As first reported by Danger Room in February, AOptix is the recipient of a $3 million research contract from the Pentagon for its on-the-go biometrics technology.
Opting for what it considers ease of use, the company decided to build its latest biometrics package, which it calls Stratus, atop an iPhone. A peripheral covering wraps around the phone — it’s an inch and a half thick, three inches wide and six inches tall — while the AOptix Stratus app presents a user interface familiar to any iOS user. Except you’re not going to be recording Vine videos, you’re going to be recording the most unique physical features of another human being.
“From an end-user perspective, it’s much, much smaller, lighter and easier to use an app-based capability” than the bulky biometrics tools currently in military use, Joey Pritikin, an AOptix vice president, tells Danger Room. “Anyone who’s used an iPhone before can pick this up and use it.”
The Stratus system is designed to be a “single-handed” device, Pritikin explains. Load the app and tap for iris scanning or facial recognition. The imaging display, readable from about 11 inches distant and using nothing more than the iPhone’s camera, will automatically focus and snap the shot. The phone’s ambient microphone handles voice recording, but fingerprint scanning comes from the back of the Stratus peripheral wraparound, not the iPhone’s touchscreen. Unlike a similar product from Tactivo, there’s no smartcard reader, but it scans more biometric data than someone’s fingerprint.
Continue reading @ wired
(Thomas Dishaw) As “Big Brother” invades every aspect of your life you can now get a full body scan at the airport and Bloomingdale’s New York location.
The machine dubbed “Me-Ality” is only designed for women (imagine that) and bounces radio waves off your skin to give you the perfect jean measurement.
Now a few things concern me about Bloomingdale’s “jean machine”. One, I don’t like “human microwaves” and second remember all the naked body scanners at the airports?
Is the “jean machine” able to see through clothes? Do they store your picture in their database forever? How much radiation does this “human microwave” produce?
To bad the general public doesn’t care and consumers will willfully step in and out of this machine to gobble up useless slave goods in a quest to imitate our Madison Avenue idols.