Quantum Leap: Days of Future Present
August 22, 2019
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Søren Kierkegaard
You Heard Of The Space Race, Get Ready For The Quantum Tantrum
By the time today’s babies start middle school, digital computers will be as outdated as an abacus, thanks to the coming quantum technology revolution. It’s an emerging field that aims to transform information processing, surveillance and more, and will confer huge economic and national-security advantages on countries that dominate it. America currently leads the race, but China is closing in fast. Beijing is pouring billions into research and development and is offering Chinese scientists — most of whom spent years training overseas — big perks to return home from Western labs.
Existing computers store, process and transmit information by breaking it down into long streams of bits, which are typically electrical or optical pulses representing a zero or one. Quantum technology is based on the field of quantum mechanics, which deals with the unique behavior of matter and energy at the atomic and subatomic level. Quantum particles, also known as quantum bits, differ fundamentally from the bits in today’s technology. Instead of following the laws of classic Newtonian physics, the distinct properties of quantum particles allow them to exist in multiple states at the same time; they can also link together and mirror each other even when separated at great physical distance.
In the coming years quantum computers will be using quantum bits, or qubits, to process information in new ways, no doubt smashing the computational power of any existing machine. Even though 2018 saw China filing for nearly twice as many patents as the US in quantum technology overall, for now America still leads the world in patents relating to quantum computers, thanks to heavy investment by IBM, Google, Microsoft and others.
Skynet Enters Preschool
- In cubicles across India, China, Nepal, the Philippines, East Africa and the US, tens of thousands of workers are tediously teaching machines to learn by annotating all kinds of digital images, identifying everything from stop signs and pedestrians in street scenes, to labeling factories and oil tankers in satellite photos, to pinpointing polyps on intestines in medical videos.
- It is a labor intensive process that tech companies rarely talk about. That could perhaps be because they are facing growing concerns from privacy activists over the large amount of personal data they are storing and sharing with outside businesses. (NYT)
Great News: Polio Schmolio
- The World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa announced on Wednesday that no new wild polio cases had been recorded in Nigeria in three years. If no more incidences emerge in the next few months, Africa could officially be declared polio free in 2020.
- The last case was recorded in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria in August 2016. The director said stopping the disease has not been easy and praised the “monumental effort” of health workers “on an unprecedented scale”. (Guardian)
Trump Wants A Plus One To The Party
- President Trump took another opportunity Tuesday to slavishly support Vladimir Putin, and denigrate former president Obama, by telling reporters in the Oval Office Russia should be allowed to rejoin the Group of Seven (G-7) industrial nations.
- All member nations had voted in 2014 to exclude Russia, from what was then the G-8, after its troops invaded Ukraine and Putin annexed Crimea. Western leaders condemned the actions as a “clear violation of international law” and sought to penalize the Russian government.
- Trump falsely claimed Obama had single-handedly ousted Russia because Putin had “outsmarted” him by seizing Crimea. Trump is scheduled to attend this year’s G-7 meeting August 25-27 in France. (NPR)
Epic Times at Epoch TImes
- The small New York-based nonprofit news outlet Epoch Times, whose ownership and operation are closely tied to the Chinese spiritual community of Falun Gong, has spent more than $1.5 million on some 11,000 pro-Trump Facebook ads in the last six months.
- The video ads praise Trump, peddle conspiracy theories and criticize the “fake news” media. Former practitioners of Falun Gong told NBC News that believers think the world is headed toward a judgment day, where those labeled “communists” will be sent to a kind of hell, and those sympathetic to the spiritual community will be spared. Trump is viewed as a key ally in the anti-communist fight. (NBCNews)
- Paging Big Brother: In Amazon’s Bookstore, Orwell Gets a Rewrite: As fake and illegitimate texts proliferate online, books are becoming a form of misinformation. The author of “1984” would not be surprised. (NYT, $)
Additional World News
- America’s Most Powerful CEOs Say They No Longer Only Care About Shareholder Value. Here’s How They Can Prove It. (Slate) and In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation. (NYT, $)
- “American Factory,” a New Netflix Film from the Obamas, Explores the Challenges of a Globalized Economy (The New Yorker, $)
- Crack Cocaine Makes a Paris Neighborhood ‘Hell’ for Users and Residents: Five squalid acres at the edge of the city are home to France’s largest open-air crack market — an “apocalyptic situation,” the local police chief says. (NYT, $)
- Benin Awakens to the Threat of Terrorism After Safari Ends in a Nightmare: A safari guide knew every watering hole in Pendjari National Park in Benin. He did not know that terrorists across the border could reach him in his country. (NYT, $)
- As Taliban Talk Peace, ISIS Is Ready to Play the Spoiler in Afghanistan (NYT, $)
We’re Going Down, We’re Yelling “But The Economy”
- The Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday the US federal deficit will expand by $800 billion more than previously expected over the next decade. Recent increases in spending, along with the huge Republican tax cut passed in 2017, will push the nation into levels of debt not seen since the end of World War II.
- The 2019 deficit will come close to hitting $1 trillion, an unusually high number during a period of economic growth.
- The new deficit estimates have economists worried that policy makers will have few of the usual tools to bolster the economy in the event of a recession, as there is little room to spend, or reduce taxes again, or cut already low interest rates. (WaPo)
- “I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies, and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.” – Thomas Jefferson
Indefinitely Detained, Indefinitely Indifferent
- The Trump administration plans to dump the 1997 settlement agreement reached in the federal lawsuit entitled Flores vs. Reno, which set national policy for the detention, release and treatment of minor immigrants in US custody.
- The administration will replace it with a regulation that would allow the government to indefinitely detain migrant children with their parents. The current limitation for detention is 20 days; the administration has already been challenged many times for violating various parts of the Flores agreement by attorneys for minors in custody. (Guardian)
From Enemy To Frenemy To Friend To Fan
- The New Yorker takes an in-depth look at how Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became a heartland evangelical in his journey from being a scathing critic of Donald Trump’s, to becoming the president’s most faithful foot soldier. (NewYorker)
Additional USA News
- The ‘follow-up appointment’: For many people in medical debt, a trip to the emergency room leads to the courtroom (WaPo, $)
- In the Straits: The Story of the Inmate Turned Millionaire Turned Lone Survivor: He was a convicted felon who found a niche in Seattle’s construction boom. As the region’s fortunes rose and fell—and rose again—so did his. Then a fatal boating accident came for Michael Powers’s fairy-tale ending. (SeattleMet)
- Florida’s Panthers Hit With Mysterious Crippling Disorder: State wildlife officials are sharing video of disabled animals in an effort to identify the ailment and save the beloved, endangered cats. (NYT, $)
- Personal Data About Small-Donor Democrats Is All Over the Internet: The blame lies not with Russian hackers but with the presidential candidates and the federal government. (NYT, $)
- What Do Rally Playlists Say About the Candidates?: Presidential campaigns have a sound. We analyzed the playlists of 10 contenders to see how the songs aligned with the messages. (NYT, $)
Link Me In
- Elon Musk’s Neuralink has drawn quite a bit of attention since a new project to create technology that can basically read minds was announced. A presentation by Tesla’s CEO and founder of Neuralink focused on the technology behind Neuralink’s brain-computer interface, which would rely on surgery and implanted hardware, with just a passing mention of the worries about hostile AI.
- The plan currently consists of implanting a 4mm x 4mm chip into the brain through a tiny hole. The chip would get power from, and communicate with, some wireless hardware located behind the ear, much like currently available cochlear implants. The chip would then be able to take readings of neural activity and processes and transmit it back to an outside system – essentially allowing for mind-reading!
- Asking for approval for tests on humans, Neuralink is pushing the limits of what we once thought was technology only available to Captain Kirk. None of these challenges in front of Neuralink are insurmountable, but they’re all real, and they’re what stands between an obvious extension of existing technology and Musk’s mid-term vision. (ArsTechnica)
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.” – Bill Keane
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU