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Credit: Matt Field. Based in part on photo by Morio CC SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

China is rapidly developing its military AI capabilities

China may lag behind the US military on metrics like the number of aircraft carriers it has, but it may be able to seize a “leapfrog opportunity” and invest in newer, cheaper weapons that could make carriers obsolete. That’s one conclusion in a new report about China’s well-funded, ambitious goal of becoming a world leader … Continued
ice melting on shore

Arctic warming, as seen by Alaska’s Native Inupiat

We’re taking on all the risks of these global and environmental changes, said one Native Inupiat whaling captain. “The train wreck is here... we’re just looking at it and trying to figure out: What do we do now? Who’s responsible? Now we have to deal with it.”
Illustration by Matt Field. Based in part on photo by Sean P. Anderson via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 2.0.

Social media regulation and its discontents

Facebook dumped Alex Jones, a notorious conspiracy theorist from its platform last week. While the company did this on its own, countries in Europe are experimenting with tough new governmental regulations on social media--with mixed results.

Overview: nuclear scientists as assassination targets

The disadvantages of assassinating nuclear scientists are many, including the possibility that assassinations will inspire retaliation, reduce the likelihood of a diplomatic solution, and increase the difficulties international regulators face in monitoring a covert nuclear program. In the abstract, moral and legal strictures also weigh against such assassination efforts. As a practical matter, however, if an existential imperative is present, it will likely trump legal and ethical considerations when a nation contemplates assassinating nuclear scientists.

China is speeding up its plutonium recycling programs

The China National Nuclear Corporation is pushing toward the third stage of a plutonium-recycling program by negotiating with France’s nuclear fuel cycle company Orano (formerly Areva) over the purchase of a large commercial reprocessing plant and has proposed construction of large commercial fast-neutron reactors by 2028.
US President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, look on as German Chancellor Angela Merkel communes with French President Emmanuel Macron during ceremonies commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

Why Germany won’t build its own nuclear weapons and remains skeptical of a Eurodeterrent

Aggressive Russian policies and the Trump administration’s transactional approach to alliances have put nuclear issues back on the agenda for European governments. Arguments for German acquisition of nuclear weapons have gained no traction among German decision makers, as this would require multiple costly and radical shifts of Berlin’s foreign and security policies.
September 2019 climate strike in New York City.

Best of 2019: Young experts on nuclear weapons, climate change, and disruptive technology

In 2019, young people had something to say about the lack of progress on stabilizing the climate, negotiating with North Korea, and preparing for the arrival of quantum computing.
autonomous driverless vehicles road rage Tiananmen Square

Road rage against the self-driving machine

More and more self-driving cars are hitting American streets, disrupting life as we know it. Some people are getting angry and disrupting them right back.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Hamburg on July 7, 2017. Credit: Kremlin Presidential Executive Office

A “media mirage”: Russia deployed sophisticated marketing tactics to help Trump win

In a squat, low-slung building in St. Petersburg, Russia, the staff of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian-government associated organization, crafted a doozy of a marketing campaign, one replete with a complex ecosystem of fake social media accounts, links to legitimate websites, and perhaps even a “think tank-style” publication. The goal was much grander than … Continued
Illustration by Matt Field.

Laboratories in the cloud

Cloud labs offer up the tools of genetic engineering to a broad array of people. These automated labs allow scientists to remotely use computers to design experiments. Some biosecurity experts worry about whether they could be misused.

Who will have the AI edge?

A new paper argues that companies like Google and Facebook could outpace militaries when it comes to the science of artificial intelligence.
Screenshots showing the two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and virtual reality versions of NUKEMAP.

Interview with Alex Wellerstein on NUKEMAP VR

It is no exaggeration to claim that, since it first went online in 2012, Alex Wellerstein’s original NUKEMAP tool has enabled millions of people all over the world to fathom the effects of a nuclear explosion. Now, Wellerstein is working on a new project that combines the information base of NUKEMAP with the immersive first-person experience of virtual reality.

Artificial Stupidity

Dumbing down AI might be the best way to keep it from making humans obsolete. Doesn't that feel good?
French President Emmanuel Macron. Credit: © World Economic Forum / Sikarin Thanachaiary CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

US may not join Macron cyber pact

French President Emmanuel Macron, himself the target of a pre-election hack, went on the offensive this week against the thieves, hackers, and foreign agents who use the internet to attack infrastructure, steal trade secrets, and tip elections. He got representatives of dozens of countries, companies, and nongovernmental organizations to sign onto efforts designed to make … Continued

The United States has learned the wrong lessons from previous diplomacy with North Korea

Physical steps to change North Korea’s relationship with the West may be key to rolling back their nuclear weapons program.

Is artificial intelligence really an existential threat to humanity?

Superintelligence is propounding a solution that will not work to a problem that probably does not exist, but now is the time to take the ethical and policy implications of artificial intelligence seriously

The brain-computer interface is coming, and we are so not ready for it

"There’s no fundamental physics reason that someday we’re not going to have a non-invasive brain-machine interface. It’s just a matter of time. And we have to manage that eventuality.” — neuroscience expert Jack Gallant
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Beyond imagining

A powerful new computer simulation is helping government agencies predict what every single survivor would do after a nuclear explosion in Washington, D.C.

“As much death as you want”: UC Berkeley’s Stuart Russell on “Slaughterbots”

If you never dreamed that toy-like drones from off the shelf at the big-box store could be converted—with a bit of artificial intelligence and a touch of shaped explosive—into face-recognizing assassins with a mission to terminate you—well, dream it.

A team of Howard University researchers wants to know how disinformation impacts Black people

Black voters are frequent targets of online disinformation. They were in 2016 when Russia's Internet Research Agency created fake Black activist profiles in its effort to interfere in that year's presidential election and they were in 2020, when scammers tried to dissuade people form getting absentee ballots. Howard University's Keesha Middlemass, a political science professor, and her colleagues have set out to explore how Black communities in Washington, DC, are impacted by disinformation.