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“Danger, Will Robinson!”–Peter Thiel, Robots and the Underground Reich (Be Afraid, Be VERY Afraid!)

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COMMENT: In our last post, we not­ed that, in addi­tion to Peter Thiel, the CEO of Palan­tir (Thiel asso­ciate Alex Karp) had Ger­man roots. The avail­able evi­dence sug­gests that they are Under­ground Reich. 

(For new­er users of this web­site, we note that it is impos­si­ble to briefly explain the con­cept of The Under­ground Reich. The very men­tion of such a term will seem like mad­ness to the uni­ti­ti­at­ed. We rec­om­mend that peo­ple read The Nazis Go Under­ground, Mar­tin Bor­mann: Nazi in Exile, The New Ger­many and the Old Nazis, and “The Secret Treaty of Fort Hunt.”)

(For the ben­e­fit of younger and/or users of this web­site from for­eign coun­tries, the “Dan­ger Will Robin­son” coun­tries, the ref­er­ence to “Dan­ger, Will Robin­son” is from an unimag­in­ably cheesy sci­ence fic­tion series from late 1950’s-ear­ly 1960’s Amer­i­ca tele­vi­sion called “Lost in Space.” The young Will Robin­son had Rob­by the Robot as a com­pan­ion, who alert­ed the young­ster when threats were at hand. The same Hol­ly­wood robot had been fea­tured in the movie “For­bid­den Plan­et.” Two still scenes from the film are fea­tured in the pic­tures at right.)

A fright­en­ing devel­op­ment con­cerns the devel­op­ment of secu­ri­ty robots by a com­pa­ny cap­i­tal­ized by Peter Thiel and head­ed by Alex Karp!

In addi­tion to the Thiel/Karp Robo­t­eX ven­ture, we note that the Fes­to Cor­po­ra­tion is deeply involved in the devel­op­ment of robots.

We note that the devel­op­ment of robot­ic animals–such as the robot drag­on­fly pefect­ed by Festo–are seen as the next stage of drone/surveillance/attack tech­nol­o­gy.

Fes­to, in turn, over­laps the Carl Duis­berg Gesellschaft, the vehi­cle through which 9/11 hijack­er Mohamed Atta moved to Ger­many and then to the Unit­ed States.

Exam­ine the brief his­to­ry of that orga­ni­za­tion, set forth below. It is impos­si­ble for a knowl­edge­able read­er not to con­clude that the Carl Duis­berg Gesellschaft is inex­tri­ca­bly linked with the Bor­mann cap­i­tal net­work.

We also reca­pit­u­late an item from FTR #484. Hero­ic jour­nal­ist Daniel Hop­sick­er was told by agents of the Ger­man BKA (the equiv­a­lent of their FBI) that the Ger­mans with whom Atta was asso­ci­at­ing were the sons and daugh­ters of Ger­man indus­tri­al­ists.

In our many vis­its with Daniel Hop­sick­er, we have exam­ined the many Ger­mans who worked with Mohamed Atta and Rudi Deck­ers in the Huff­man Avi­a­tion milieu in Venice Flori­da.

On the last page of Paul Man­ning’s text, he cites an unnamed CIA pilot who “made the run to the Bor­mann ranch in Latin Amer­i­ca.” Might that “run” have gone through Venice Flori­da, a hub of covert oper­a­tions for decades? Might Mohamed Atta, Wolf­gang Bohringer and asso­ciates have been what comes up from the oth­er end of that run?

We also note that, offi­cial dis­claimers to the con­trary notwith­stand­ing, Bor­man­n’s sur­vival and post­war career are not in doubt, as evi­denced by the FBI’s file on Bor­mann, exerpt­ed by Paul Man­ning.

“Robo­t­eX Pri­vate Secu­ri­ty Robots Gets $2.06M Backed by Peter Thiel” by Meghan Kel­ly; venturebeat.com; 3/22/2013.

Robo­t­eX, a Cal­i­for­nia com­pa­ny build­ing robots for “first respon­ders,” has filled $2.06 mil­lion of a desired $5 mil­lion round of fund­ing, accord­ing to a fil­ing with the SEC.

Peter Thiel, along with Robo­t­eX founder Nathan Get­tings and chief exec­u­tive Alexan­der Karp were list­ed in the fil­ing. Though these three are named, the fil­ing cites four investor who are uniden­ti­fied.

Robo­t­eX was found­ed in 2007 and cre­ates robots with­out the use of gov­ern­ment fund­ing. Its line of “Avatar” robots are meant to help with secu­ri­ty, some­times in sit­u­a­tions that could be dan­ger­ous for humans. The web­site lists exam­ples such as serv­ing papers to a dan­ger­ous indi­vid­ual, enter­ing hostage sit­u­a­tion, patrolling, inves­ti­gat­ing sus­pi­cious pack­ages, and more.

The com­pa­ny also has a line of robots for the home and office that offer its own form of rov­ing secu­ri­ty sys­tem. You attach an iOS device to the robot, which you can then remote­ly con­trol to sur­vey the house on your behalf. . . .

“FESTO’S ROBOT DRAGONFLY AN AWESOME MIX OF PREHISTORIC AND FUTURISTIC” by Jason Dor­ri­er; Sin­gu­lar­i­ty Hub; 4/17/2013.

EXCERPT: Ger­man man­u­fac­tur­ing firm Fes­to recent­ly res­ur­rect­ed a Pale­o­zoic drag­on­fly. No, we’re not talk­ing de-extinc­tion or syn­thet­ic biology—this baby’s robot­ic. But at 70 cm (27 in) by 48 cm (19 in), Festo’s Bion­i­cOpter robot drag­on­fly is a futur­is­tic fly­ing machine with more than a touch of the pre­his­toric in it.

Drag­on­flies are clever fliers—they can hov­er, accel­er­ate quick­ly, stop on a dime, glide, and even fly back­wards. As Fes­to notes, “For the first time, there is a mod­el that can mas­ter more flight con­di­tions than a heli­copter, plane and glid­er com­bined.”

Festo’s drag­on­fly is a mar­vel to watch move.

The robot is dri­ven by nine ser­vos, a bat­tery, and an ARM micro­con­troller stowed in a flex­i­ble polyamide and ter­poly­mer struc­ture. The head and tail are moved by pass­ing an elec­tri­cal cur­rent through niti­nol mus­cles. The com­put­er con­trols the fre­quen­cy (15–20 Hz), twist­ing (90 deg), and ampli­tude (50 deg) of its four car­bon fiber and foil wings and, by tak­ing in a con­stant stream of wing data and body posi­tion, cor­rects for vibra­tion for sta­ble flight indoors or out. . . .

“His­to­ry of the Carl Duis­berg Soci­ety”

EXCERPT: In the 1920’s, Carl Duis­berg, Gen­er­al Direc­tor of Bay­er AG in Ger­many, envi­sioned send­ing Ger­man stu­dents to the Unit­ed States on work-study pro­grams. Duis­berg was con­vinced that inter­na­tion­al prac­ti­cal train­ing was crit­i­cal to the growth of Ger­man indus­try. Many of the return­ing trainees lat­er rose to promi­nent posi­tions at AEG, Bay­er, Bosch, Daim­ler Benz, and Siemens, bring­ing with them new meth­ods for mass pro­duc­tion, new ideas, and new busi­ness prac­tices. Fol­low­ing World War II, alum­ni from the first exchanges found­ed the Carl Duis­berg Gesellschaft (CDG) in 1949 to help engi­neers, busi­ness­men and farm­ers gain inter­na­tion­al work expe­ri­ence nec­es­sary for the rebuild­ing of Ger­many . . . .

“Board of Direc­tors: Carl Duis­berg Soci­ety”

Board of Direc­tors Carl Duis­berg Soci­ety: . . . Gerd D. Mueller (retired) [mem­ber of Bun­destag on CSU tick­et) Chair­man of the Board; Exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent and CFO Bay­er Cor­po­ra­tion . . . . Dr. Hans W. Deck­er; Trea­sur­er of the Board; Professor—Columbia Uni­ver­si­ty . . . Robert Fen­ster­ma­ch­er; Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of CDS Inter­na­tion­al, Inc. (ex offi­cio) . . . Carl Geer­ck­en; Part­ner Alston & Bird LLP . . . Dr. Olaf J. Groth; Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Strate­gic Analy­sis & Integration—Boeing Inter­na­tion­al Cor­po­ra­tion . . . Dr. H. Friedrich Holzapfel; Man­ag­ing Director—The Burling­ton Group . . . Dr. Gudrun Kochen­do­er­fer-Lucius; Man­ag­ing Director—InWEnt (Capac­i­ty Build­ing Inter­na­tion­al, Ger­many) . . . Fritz E. Kropatscheck; Mang­ing Director—Deutsche Bank, A.G. (retired) . . . Wolf­gang Linz (retired) Exec­u­tive Direc­tor CDS Inter­na­tion­al, Inc. . . . Dr. Karl M. May­er-Wittmann (retired); President—WEFA, Inc. . . . Frances McCaf­frey; Man­ag­er, Cen­ter Development—BMW of North Amer­i­ca . . . Dr. Horst K. Saal­bach Vice Chair­man of the Board–Festo Cor­po­ra­tion . . . Dr. Nor­bert Schnei­der; Chief Exec­u­tive Officer—Carl Duis­berg Cen­tren GmbH . . . .

Excerpt from the Descrip­tion for FTR #484

. . . . Daniel also notes that some of Atta’s Ger­man asso­ciates in Flori­da were sons and daugh­ters of promi­nent Ger­man indus­tri­al­ists. . . .

Mar­tin Bor­mann: Nazi in Exile by Paul Man­ning; p. 292.

EXCERPT: . . . A for­mer CIA con­tract pilot, who once flew the run into Paraguay and Argenti­na to the Bor­mann ranch described the estate as remote, ‘worth your life unless you entered their air space with the right iden­ti­fi­ca­tion codes. . . .

Mar­tin Bor­mann: Nazi in Exile by Paul Man­ning; p. 205.

EXCERPT: . . . The file revealed that he [Mar­tin Bor­mann] had been bank­ing under his own name from his office in Ger­many in Deutsche Bank of Buenos Aires since 1941; that he held one joint account with the Argen­tin­ian dic­ta­tor Juan Per­on, and on August 4, 5 and 14, 1967, had writ­ten checks on demand accounts in first Nation­al City Bank (Over­seas Divi­sion) of New York, The Chase Man­hat­tan Bank, and Man­u­fac­tur­ers Hanover Trust Co., all cleared through Deutsche Bank of Buenos Aires. . . .

 

 

 

Discussion

15 comments for ““Danger, Will Robinson!”–Peter Thiel, Robots and the Underground Reich (Be Afraid, Be VERY Afraid!)”

  1. Dave, i am sor­ry to tell you this, but there was no rob­by the robot in lost in space but for a one time quest shot. these were two very dif­fer­ent robots. but that’s ok. even the lone ranger can miss from time to time.

    Posted by David | August 16, 2013, 5:58 pm
  2. There was a debate at the Milken Insti­tute (guess who’s under inves­ti­ga­tion again) on May 6 between Peter Thiel and Marc Andreessen about the promise of tech­nol­o­gy in terms of meet­ing our expec­ta­tions of rev­o­lu­tion­ary changes and solv­ing the key chal­lenges fac­ing human­i­ty. Thiel gave an extreme­ly neg­a­tive view of the both the inno­va­tions pro­vid­ed by tech­no­log­i­cal advances up until now and the prospects for big block­buster inno­va­tions going for­ward. The realms of biotech, nan­otech, clean ener­gy, trans­porta­tion, food, and oth­er oth­er areas of research have been decel­er­at­ing areas of inno­va­tion since the 1970’s accord­ing to Thiel and only com­put­ers have real­ly lived up to expec­ta­tions. Sim­i­lar­ly, the abil­i­ty of human­i­ty to adapt to the chal­lenges ahead also rely pri­mar­i­ly on com­put­ers. Dereg­u­la­tion seems to be Thiel’s pri­ma­ry pre­scrip­tion for how human­i­ty can get back on track, but he seems to take a gen­er­al view that human­i­ty and the US is just screwed no mat­ter what and we should expect stag­nant, dying civ­i­liza­tion. Be sure to lis­ten to Thiel’s open­ing state­ment as it is very reveal­ing about Thiel’s world­view, espe­cial­ly around ~7:30–12:30 where Thiel talks about how the “tech­no­log­i­cal cor­nu­copia” we were all promised in decades past that has­n’t trick­led down to the pub­lic and how maybe com­put­ers alone will raise liv­ing stan­dards. But then he down­plays the poten­tial for the US tech sec­tor, describ­ing com­pa­nies like Cis­co, Dell, HP, Ora­cle, IBM, Microsoft, and Apple as part of a com­put­er “rust belt” that’s poised for down­siz­ing and lay­offs. And then he ends his open­ing state­ment with an opti­mistic call say­ing things like next-gen­er­a­tion tech­nolo­gies like quan­tum com­put­ing, AI, space tech­nolo­gies, next-gen­er­a­tion life-sci­ences can pro­vide hope but we need to become a less “risk averse”, dereg­u­lat­ed soci­ety first. So real­ly, tech­nol­o­gy alone can’t save us. Only tech­nol­o­gy and an embrace of Objec­tivism will get the job done. Appar­ent­ly.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 20, 2013, 9:15 am
  3. One more moment to watch in the Thiel/Andreessen debate: jump to around ~38 min, when the mod­er­a­tor rais­es the ques­tion with Thiel over the pos­si­bil­i­ty that there we real­ly are on in the midst or on the cusp of some major rev­o­lu­tions, but that those rev­o­lu­tions are focused on areas that replace labor, like robot­ics, and that’s why the ben­e­fits have tech­nol­o­gy haven’t been as wide­ly seen by the mass­es. And note Thiel’s reponse “or maybe there not that much tech­nol­o­gy hap­pen­ing”. Thiel then goes on to talk about it’s not an issue of income inequal­i­ty because there’s just not that much wealth around to redis­trib­ute. The Malthu­sian views of Thiel real­ly need to be under­stood because this guy deeply influ­en­tial and he appears to be intent on guid­ing pub­lic pol­i­cy away from things like invest­ments in clean ener­gy research and towards one where wide­spread mate­r­i­al pover­ty is just viewed as an inevitabil­i­ty that can only be avoid­ed if we dereg­u­late the econ­o­my. Bil­lion­aire nihilis­tic Futur­ists ped­dling aus­ter­i­ty-cen­tric junk eco­nom­ic the­o­ries can be rather dan­ger­ous in an era of glob­al pover­ty, resource deple­tion, and cli­mate change.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 20, 2013, 9:42 am
  4. As Europe is learn­ing, col­laps­ing an econ­o­my is the pre­ferred method to force the pro­les the see the wrong of their ways. So of course the GOP would love to see Sil­i­con Val­ley col­lapse along with the rest of the US econ­o­my. How could it be any oth­er way:

    The New Repub­lic
    The GOP Plan to Crush Sil­i­con Val­ley What will become of Steve Jobs’s angel?
    AUGUST 20, 2013
    BY JOHN B. JUDIS

    When Con­gress returns from its sum­mer recess in ear­ly Sep­tem­ber, it will have exact­ly nine leg­isla­tive days to agree on a bud­get or the gov­ern­ment will shut down. House Repub­li­cans are seek­ing far greater cuts in non-defense spend­ing than Sen­ate Democ­rats, and some mem­bers of the GOP are threat­en­ing to hold up any bud­get agree­ment until the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion aban­dons the Afford­able Care Act. It’s going to be a slog, with all sorts of unseem­ly com­pro­mis­es. But let me sug­gest an area where Democ­rats should allow exact­ly zero more dol­lars to be excised from the fed­er­al bud­get: gov­ern­ment research for sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy. We’ve already seen a 13 per­cent drop in this area over the last two years, and it’s hard to over­state just how dam­ag­ing to the country’s future fur­ther reduc­tions would be.

    Many peo­ple still cling to the idea that gov­ern­ment is, with­out excep­tion, a drag upon the pri­vate econ­o­my. Con­ser­v­a­tives “know that when it comes to eco­nom­ic progress,” Arthur Brooks, the pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute, wrote last year in Nation­al Review, “the best gov­ern­ment phi­los­o­phy is one that starts every day with the ques­tion, ‘What can we do today to get out of Amer­i­cans’ way?’ ” They imag­ine the Unit­ed States as a land of plucky inven­tor-entre­pre­neurs (“We built it!” they cry) who work out of garages and depend sole­ly on their wits. The prob­lem is that this vision of Amer­i­can inven­tive­ness is pure myth.

    Steve Jobs, who has near­ly been beat­i­fied in his role as inde­pen­dent busi­ness­man, excelled at design­ing prod­ucts based on gov­ern­ment-fund­ed inven­tions. Some of Apple’s most vaunt­ed achievements—the mouse, a graph­i­cal user inter­face, the touch-screen, even Siri—were all devel­oped in part with fed­er­al finances. Or take Google. Its search engine came out of a $4.5 mil­lion dig­i­tal-libraries research grant from the Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion (NSF). You can also look at the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal indus­try. Accord­ing to a Con­gres­sion­al Bud­get Office study, 16 of the 21 “most influ­en­tial drugs” intro­duced between 1965 and 1992 depend­ed on fed­er­al­ly fund­ed research.

    The list goes on. Fed­er­al mon­ey helped sup­port the inven­tion of lasers, tran­sis­tors, semi­con­duc­tors, microwave ovens, com­mu­ni­ca­tion satel­lites, cel­lu­lar tech­nol­o­gy, and the Inter­net. Now, the feds are prime back­ers of the Human Genome Project (which could trans­form med­i­cine) and nan­otech­nol­o­gy (which could trans­form man­u­fac­tur­ing). Sub­tract these kinds of inno­va­tions from America’s future, and you have an econ­o­my depen­dent on tourism, the tot­ter­ing super­struc­ture of big finance, and the export of raw mate­ri­als and farm prod­ucts. More to the point, you have a weak­er country—not just in com­par­i­son with its com­peti­tors, but also in its abil­i­ty to pro­vide its cit­i­zens with rich­er, longer, more imag­i­na­tive lives.

    From World War II through the 1980s, Repub­li­cans under­stood this log­ic, back­ing gov­ern­ment sup­port for sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy. Har­ry Truman’s advance­ment of atom­ic ener­gy and John Kennedy’s enthu­si­asm for space trav­el are well known, but some of the biggest steps in “indus­tri­al policy”—the accept­able term is now “inno­va­tion strategy”—occurred dur­ing the pres­i­den­cies of Dwight Eisen­how­er and Ronald Rea­gan.

    After the Sovi­et Union launched Sput­nik in 1957, the Eisen­how­er admin­is­tra­tion cre­at­ed NASA. The same year, the Pen­ta­gon estab­lished what would become the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which laid the foun­da­tions for today’s infor­ma­tion econ­o­my, hav­ing helped devel­op every­thing from the Inter­net (orig­i­nal­ly ARPAnet) to chip design to arti­fi­cial-intel­li­gence soft­ware. DARPA and not Bay Area ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists pro­vid­ed the seed mon­ey for Sil­i­con Val­ley.

    Rea­gan, for his part, was known for say­ing that “gov­ern­ment is not the solu­tion to our prob­lem; gov­ern­ment is the prob­lem,” but in 1982, he cham­pi­oned a new pro­gram called Small Busi­ness Inno­va­tion Research, which by 2006 was spend­ing $2.1 bil­lion on more than 5,800 research grants to busi­ness­es. Over the course of his term, he also over­saw the for­ma­tion of Semat­e­ch, a gov­ern­ment-indus­try con­sor­tium that devel­oped new meth­ods of chip man­u­fac­tur­ing, and sev­er­al oth­er pro­grams that would become major fun­ders of com­put­er sci­ence and nan­otech­nol­o­gy.

    Repub­li­cans jus­ti­fied their ini­tial sup­port for indus­tri­al poli­cies on nation­al defense grounds—we had to stay ahead of the Rus­sians, after all—so the end of the cold war marked a major change in their out­look. Once Repub­li­cans took con­trol of Con­gress in the land­slide of 1994, they began defund­ing the Advanced Tech­nol­o­gy Pro­gram (which Rea­gan start­ed) and killed Congress’s own Office of Tech­nol­o­gy Assess­ment. Still, they con­tin­ued to sup­port the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health (NIH) and NSF and even, under George W. Bush, the Nation­al Nan­otech­nol­o­gy Ini­tia­tive. In 2007, Bush signed a bill that promised to dou­ble fund­ing for phys­i­cal sci­ence and engi­neer­ing in sev­en years and estab­lished a ver­sion of DARPA in the Ener­gy Department—ARPA‑E—to research renew­able ener­gy.

    How quaint that now seems. In his first year in office, Pres­i­dent Oba­ma accel­er­at­ed the pro­grams that Bush had approved—doubling the sci­ence bud­get and ful­ly fund­ing ARPA‑E—but Repub­li­cans greet­ed these efforts with out­right hos­til­i­ty rather than skep­ti­cism. Part of it had to do with par­ti­san pol­i­tics, part a grow­ing anti-gov­ern­ment sen­ti­ment with­in the Repub­li­can base, and part the attempt by Repub­li­can con­trib­u­tors like the Koch broth­ers to exploit that anti-gov­ern­ment sen­ti­ment to oppose reg­u­la­tions that affect their indus­tries.

    After the Repub­li­cans won the House in Novem­ber 2010, they forced the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion to agree to annu­al reduc­tions in spend­ing on sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy. The NIH’s bud­get has been cut after seques­tra­tion by $1.6 bil­lion and is now the low­est it has been since 2000. Reduc­tions to the NSF bud­get have led to about 1,000 few­er research grants. And the bud­get pro­pos­als now com­ing out of the House would gut pro­grams for renew­able ener­gy and cli­mate change. The Repub­li­cans pro­pose cut­ting ARPA‑E’s bud­get by 81 per­cent.

    Repub­li­cans say they oppose Obama’s inno­va­tion strat­e­gy because it con­sists of pick­ing win­ners. Some gov­ern­ment spending—for instance, on the Human Genome Project or nanotechnology—is hard to char­ac­ter­ize that way. But a lot of this spend­ing does favor cer­tain kinds of indus­tries over others—renewables over fos­sil fuels, micro­proces­sors over mem­o­ry chips, drugs that are “new mol­e­c­u­lar enti­ties” over vari­a­tions on old­er drugs—and in mak­ing these choic­es, the gov­ern­ment ends up sub­si­diz­ing research at some com­pa­nies rather than oth­ers. This process inevitably leads to fail­ures, Solyn­dra being the most noto­ri­ous recent exam­ple, because it requires the gov­ern­ment to fund tech­nolo­gies that aren’t yet suf­fi­cient­ly prof­itable to attract pri­vate cap­i­tal. It’s too ear­ly to eval­u­ate Obama’s ini­tial efforts; many of these invest­ments will take decades to come to fruition. But it can be said that, while Solyn­dra went under, elec­tri­cal trans­mis­sion using solar and wind dou­bled dur­ing Obama’s four years.

    Even in the face of Repub­li­can intran­si­gence, the White House has con­tin­ued to press for its inno­va­tion strat­e­gy. In March 2012, Oba­ma unveiled a plan for a Nation­al Net­work for Man­u­fac­tur­ing Inno­va­tion, which would set up region­al insti­tutes that bring togeth­er sci­en­tists, engi­neers, and busi­ness and labor lead­ers to devise new man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nolo­gies. A pilot cen­ter, ini­ti­at­ed in Youngstown, Ohio, last August, is focused on 3‑D print­ing. This year, Oba­ma request­ed a bil­lion dol­lars for it in his 2014 bud­get, but he prob­a­bly won’t get it. “The thought was there, but the will isn’t there because of Repub­li­can oppo­si­tion,” says David Hart, a pro­fes­sor at George Mason who served as assis­tant direc­tor of inno­va­tion pol­i­cy at the White House Office of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy Pol­i­cy for the last two years.

    Some indus­tries do sup­port the administration’s inno­va­tion strat­e­gy, but two of the most influ­en­tial busi­ness groups, the Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers (NAM), have proved dif­fi­cult to per­suade, even though their mem­bers could end up ben­e­fit­ing huge­ly. The Cham­ber of Com­merce backed Semat­e­ch and Small Busi­ness Inno­va­tion Research grants under Rea­gan, but since 1994, it has staked its clout on an alliance with Repub­li­can con­gres­sion­al lead­ers. The orga­ni­za­tion is unmov­able. That’s why nego­ti­a­tions with NAM, which isn’t quite as hard-line con­ser­v­a­tive as the Cham­ber, have proved dou­bly frus­trat­ing. Hart remem­bers being faced with a catch-22: The White House need­ed NAM to get Repub­li­can con­gress­men on board, but “they said they need­ed the Repub­li­cans to sup­port the poli­cies” before they’d lob­by for them in the first place. This April, NAM did come out for the “con­cept” of the White House plan but said it remained “con­cerned about where the mon­ey is found to fund it.”

    ...

    It’s worth point­ing out that the two indus­try groups cit­ed as being sup­port­ive of this anti-pub­lic research stance (because, hey, why not pri­va­tize sci­en­tif­ic knowl­edge too), the Cham­ber of Com­merce and the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers (NAM), have a long his­to­ry of work­ing to pro­mote far-righ inter­ests, includ­ing ear­ly coop­er­a­tion with the Amer­i­can Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil’s (ASC) ear­ly activ­i­ties in estab­lish­ing the Mil­i­tary Indus­tri­al Com­plex. From Old Nazis, The New Right, and the Repub­li­can Par­ty by Russ Bel­lant; South End Press [HC]; 3rd edi­tion; Copy­right 1991 by Russ Bel­lant; ISBN 0896084183; p. 33–35:

    ...
    The Emer­gence of the Mil­i­tary-Indus­tri­al Com­plex
    Although the ASC began as an anti­la­bor oper­a­tion with sup­port from Sears (Fish­er was on the Sears pay­roll the first five years he head­ed ASC)99 and oth­er busi­ness­es, it soon became involved in for­eign pol­i­cy issues. It cospon­sored a series of annu­al meet­ings from 1955 to 1961 called Nation­al Mil­i­tary-Indus­tri­al Con­fer­ences in which ele­ments of the Pen­ta­gon, Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, and orga­ni­za­tions linked to the CIA dis­uc­ssed cold war strat­e­gy with lead­ers of many large cor­po­ra­tions, such as Unit­ed Fruit, Stan­dard Oil, Hon­ey­well, U.S. Steel, and, of course, Sears Roe­buck. Robert Wood was the key orga­niz­er of these events.100 One con­fer­ence “coop­er­at­ing orga­ni­za­tion” was the CIA-linked For­eign Pol­i­cy Research Institute.101

    The Insti­tute’s for­eign pol­i­cy the­sis dur­ing this peri­od was spelled out in a book, A For­ward Strat­e­gy for Amer­i­ca by Robert Strausz-Hupe, William R. Kint­ner, and Ste­fan T. Pos­sony. In dis­cussing nuclear-option sce­nar­ios in a hypo­thet­i­cal expand­ing U.S.-Soviet con­flict, the book m ake the fol­low­ing state­ment:

    Even at a moment when the Unit­ed States faces defeat because, for exam­ple, Europe, Asia and Africa have fall­en to com­mu­nist dom­i­na­tion, a sud­den nuclear attack against the Sovi­et Union could at leat avenge the dis­as­ter and deprive the oppo­nent of the ulti­mate tri­umph. While such a rever­sal at the last moment almost cer­tain­ly would result in severe Amer­i­can casu­al­ties, it might still nul­li­fy all pre­vi­ous Sovi­et conquests.102

    Anoth­er spon­sor of the con­fer­ences was the Air­craft Indus­tries Asso­ci­a­tion (AIA). Accord­ing to Clarence Las­by’s Provect Paper­clip, the AIA pres­sured the U.S. gov­ern­ment in the 1950’s to get Nazi sci­en­tists into the Unit­ed States.103 Werhn­er von Braun who worked on the Nazi rock­et pro­gram, and Gen­er­al John Medaris, who super­vised te Nazi sci­en­tists in the U.S. (and has opposed the inves­ti­ga­tion of the pro­grams by the Jus­tice Depart­men­t’s OSI), were both con­fer­ence participants.104

    Influ­en­tial pri­vate groups such as the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Man­u­fac­tur­ers, Cham­bers of Com­merce, and sev­er­al uni­ver­si­ty insti­tutes also par­tic­i­pat­ed in the con­fer­ence. In 1959 the Nation­al Mil­i­tary-Indus­tri­al Con­fer­ences estab­lished an Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee on For­eign Affairs that includ­ed a num­ber of rep­re­sen­ta­tives of big busi­ness. Also includ­ed, how­ev­er, were three polit­i­cal fig­ures of the anti-Semit­ic extreme right. One of these was Mark M. Jones, who fol­lowed Mar­vin K. Hart as head of the anti-Semit­ic Nation­al Eco­nom­ic Coun­cil. Also a mem­ber of the Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee was Mar­tin Blank, from Ger­many. Blank’s entries in Who’s Who in Ger­many described him as hav­ing worked in Berlin for a mine and steel mill busi­ness group from 1922 to 1945.105 A study of back­ers of Ger­man nazism, Who Financed Hitler, says that Blank rep­re­sent­ed a secret group of twelve Ruhr indus­tri­al­ists call the Ruhrlade, “the most pow­er­ful secret oriza­tion of the big busi­ness that exist­ed dur­ing the Weimar period.“106 Ruhrlade and its polit­i­cal emis­sary, Mar­tin Blank, became involved in fund­ing the rise of Hitler. The 1959 Mil­i­tary-Indus­tri­al Con­fer­ence bul­letin inden­ti­fies himh as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Ger­man indus­try.

    A third mem­ber of the com­mit­tee was Baron Fred­er­ish August von der Hey­dte, who had also been active with the 1958 con­fer­ence. His entry in Who’s Who in Ger­many and oth­er sources say that he was an “active offi­cer 1935–47” in the Ger­many army.107 Hey­dte, whose fam­i­ly was close to the exiled Hohen­zollen monarch,108 was report­ed to have writ­ten in 1953 that “democ­ra­cy is linked with col­lapse, defeat and for­eign uni­forms stalk­ing Ger­man soil,” and that “democ­ra­cy was brought by the vic­to­ri­ous ene­my togeth­er with the army of occupation.“109 Von der Hey­dte was a cofounder and ide­o­log­i­cal leader of the Chris­t­ian Demo­c­ra­t­ic Union, a par­ty that brought a vari­ety of Nazi ele­ments into its fold after the first post­war Ger­man elections.110 In recent years von der Hey­dte has formed an asso­ci­a­tion with Lyn­don LaRouche’s neo­fas­cist cult group.111 The only for­eign mem­bers of the Nation­al Mil­i­tary-Indus­tri­al Con­fer­ence’s For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee dur­ing this perios were Blank and von der Hey­dte.

    ...

    When groups like the US Cham­ber of Com­merce — a found­ing mem­ber of the Mil­i­tary-Indus­tri­al Com­plex and an ally of the next-gen­er­a­tion tech­nol­o­gy firms like Palan­tir — are lob­by­ing to defund US pub­lic research, it should become increas­ing­ly clear that the cur­rent dom­i­nant crop of US oli­garchs envi­sion a future where sci­en­tif­ic knowl­edge is ide­al­ly held in pri­vate hands. And if you’re plan­ning on leav­ing the US gov­ern­ment per­ma­nent­ly cash-strapped then even the MIC knows it’s going to have to find a new way to finance the R&D for the MICs of the future. This also sug­gest they have no inter­est in the long-term health of the US econ­o­my (or any econ­o­my that isn’t their pri­vate fief­dom) and would rather just cap­ture the ben­e­fits of 21st cen­tu­ry tech­no­log­i­cal rev­o­lu­tions with the for them­selves.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 31, 2013, 5:37 pm
  5. @Pterrafractyl–

    The Max Planck Insti­tute, they ain’t!

    A cou­ple of thoughts: In AFA #14, I not­ed that the ASC coa­lesced around the files of Har­ry Jung’s Amer­i­can Vig­i­lance Intel­li­gence Fed­er­a­tion, which was allied with the Hitler/Goebbels Anti-Com­intern.

    Also: One won­ders how much Bormann/German cor­po­rate mon­ey may be flow­ing into the GOP, ensur­ing that the U.S. will decline tech­nol­o­gy and com­mer­cial­ly?

    Keep up the Good Work!

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | August 31, 2013, 6:29 pm
  6. arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence

    Will Robots Replace Rent-a-Cops?
    By Daniel Stuck­ey

    http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/will-robots-replace-rent-a-cops

    Has a fear of robot­ics ever kept any­one from rob­bing banks? I’m not talk­ing about the sur­veil­lance sys­tems, laser-armed trip­wires, noisy alarms, or auto­mat­ed locks on the doors. I’m talk­ing about actu­al robots—an evo­lu­tion of the ROOMBA Vac­u­um clean­er, but with legs, not cute, and def­i­nite­ly not some­thing you want to rob.

    Now, an EU-fund­ed, £7.2 mil­lion ($11 mil­lion USD) col­lab­o­ra­tive project, called Strands, is under­way in Eng­land to devel­op 4D, arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence for secu­ri­ty and care appli­ca­tions. It aims to pro­duce intel­li­gent robo-sen­tinels that can patrol areas, and learn to detect abnor­mal­i­ties in human behav­ior. Could their project even­tu­al­ly replace secu­ri­ty guards with robots? It looks pos­si­ble.

    Strands, as Nick Hawes of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Birm­ing­ham said, will “devel­op nov­el approach­es to extract spa­tio-tem­po­ral struc­ture from sen­sor data gath­ered dur­ing months of autonomous oper­a­tion,” to devel­op intel­li­gence that can then “exploit [those] struc­tures to yield adap­tive behav­ior in high­ly demand­ing, real-world secu­ri­ty and care sce­nar­ios.”

    Hawes explained the chal­lenge of design­ing machines that can be uti­lized as gen­uine assis­tants, or real-life C3POs. “To do this,” he said, “we must make great leaps for­ward in under­stand­ing how robots can under­stand their worlds using the infor­ma­tion their sen­sors pro­vide.”

    Tom Duck­ett, Direc­tor of the Lin­coln Cen­tre for Autonomous Sys­tems Research, will take the helm on the research of cre­at­ing 4D maps (like 3D, but in con­sid­er­a­tion of time­lines). He explained:

    The idea is to cre­ate ser­vice robots that will work with peo­ple and learn from long-term expe­ri­ences ... In a secu­ri­ty sce­nario a robot will be required to per­form reg­u­lar patrols and con­tin­u­al­ly inspect its sur­round­ings for vari­a­tions from its nor­mal expe­ri­ences... We are try­ing to enable robots to learn from their long-term expe­ri­ence and their per­cep­tion of how the envi­ron­ment unfolds in time. The tech­nol­o­gy will have many pos­si­ble appli­ca­tions.

    Dr Marc Han­hei­de, in charge of research­ing fun­da­men­tal human rela­tions capac­i­ties of the robot­ics added, “The main idea is to deploy robots that run for a long time so they have the chance to devel­op a com­mon-sense atti­tude on how the world should be and be able to spot the devi­a­tions.”

    No mat­ter how for­mi­da­ble a pri­vate secu­ri­ty offi­cer can be when wield­ing a 9mm pis­tol and a sweat-thirsty Ger­man Shep­herd, at the end of the day it’s still a mor­tal man. Not so with robot secu­ri­ty. While projects like this bring into ques­tion unbeat­able defense sys­tems of the future, the mil­i­tary is already being roboti­cized. But the Strands project is more con­cerned with cre­at­ing AI that can take the place of peo­ple doing mun­dane things—it’s a sig­nal of a sci­ence-fic­tion-pos­i­tive future.

    It’s the bank rob­bers and secu­ri­ty guards that stand to lose the most here. Robots have already start­ed snatch­ing jobs away from food ser­vice work­ers. Now not even mall cops and John Dillinger are safe from the rise of automa­tion.

    Posted by Swamp | September 1, 2013, 8:24 am
  7. Oh look, anar­chists with a “bet­ter money=freedom” fetish and dreams of using the inher­ent awe­some­ness of that bet­ter mon­ey to col­lapse the need for gov­ern­ment. How unex­pect­ed:

    Sep­tem­ber 24, 2013
    The New York­er
    Dark Wal­let: A Rad­i­cal Way to Bit­coin
    Post­ed by Michael del Castil­lo

    Cody Wil­son is a twen­ty-five-year-old for­mer law stu­dent at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin. He is also the inven­tor of the Lib­er­a­tor, a gun made almost entire­ly from plas­tic pieces cre­at­ed with a 3‑D print­er; he uploaded to the Inter­net a blue­print that any­one could use to print such a gun.

    Wil­son, who espous­es lib­er­tar­i­an views, cre­at­ed the blue­print to make a point: infor­ma­tion should be free. Not every­one agreed with him. In May, after Wil­son suc­cess­ful­ly fired the gun at a range near Austin and post­ed the design online, the State Depart­ment request­ed that those files be removed from the Web site of his non­prof­it, Defense Dis­trib­uted.

    Wil­son complied—but not before the files had been down­loaded two hun­dred thou­sand times, ignit­ing a debate about whether there should be lim­its to the free flow of infor­ma­tion over the Inter­net, and over the role of the gov­ern­ment in enforc­ing those restric­tions.

    Wil­son lives in “a utopi­an world in which con­tra­band will be only a notion­al con­cept, because enforce­ment will require polic­ing ideas and blue­prints, not sim­ply goods,” Jacob Sil­ver­man wrote in a piece about Wil­son and the Lib­er­a­tor in May.

    A native of Cabot, Arkansas—a small sub­urb of Lit­tle Rock—Wilson said that the State Department’s action per­suad­ed him to drop out of law school and pur­sue rev­o­lu­tion­ary activ­i­ties full-time. In fact, he had been plan­ning his next endeav­or for a while. When Indiegogo, a crowd­fund­ing site, boot­ed Defense Distributed’s cam­paign in August, 2012, for vio­lat­ing its terms of service—Indiegogo said the project relat­ed to the sale of firearms; Wil­son said it was for the cre­ation of information—Wilson began to raise mon­ey by ask­ing peo­ple to sup­port him using a cur­ren­cy called Bit­coin: encrypt­ed, dif­fi­cult-to-trace bits of code that func­tion like cash and can be exchanged over the Inter­net with­out a bank or a Pay­Pal account.

    Wil­son said that he even­tu­al­ly raised two hun­dred bit­coins for the Liberator—the equiv­a­lent of twen­ty-sev­en thou­sand dol­lars, accord­ing to the cur­rent exchange rate. His efforts attract­ed the atten­tion of a twen­ty-five-year-old Brit named Amir Taa­ki, who e‑mailed him with an invi­ta­tion to speak at the Bit­coin 2012 Con­fer­ence, in Lon­don. He accept­ed.

    Wil­son and Taa­ki met in per­son for the first time in Jan­u­ary of 2013, when Taa­ki took Wil­son to vis­it a work­space for hack­ers in Bratisla­va, Slo­va­kia, and to anar­chist squats in Lon­don. They recon­nect­ed in Berlin that July and began hash­ing out a plan to use the as of yet unreg­u­lat­ed, untaxed, near­ly untrace­able cur­ren­cy in a way that would, like the Lib­er­a­tor, under­mine the abil­i­ty of gov­ern­ments to reg­u­late the activ­i­ties of their cit­i­zens.

    In the Bit­coin world, where banks no longer serve as inter­me­di­aries between peo­ple and their mon­ey, bank accounts have been replaced by online “wal­lets” that peo­ple can use to vir­tu­al­ly store and send bit­coins.

    Wil­son and Taaki’s project, ten­ta­tive­ly known as Dark Wal­let, is a sim­ple wal­let designed to be eas­i­er to use for peo­ple who aren’t tech-savvy; they hope that in turn accel­er­ates the currency’s rate of adop­tion around the world. The wal­let will be open-source and free to use. Even­tu­al­ly, Wil­son and Taa­ki hope to cre­ate a vast sta­ble of Bit­coin-relat­ed tools.

    The goal, for Wil­son, is sim­i­lar to what he tried to do with the Lib­er­a­tor: use tech­nol­o­gy to remove gov­ern­ment inter­ven­tion from his life, and from the lives of like-mind­ed peo­ple.

    Unlike many cur­rent Bit­coin wal­lets, which can be dif­fi­cult to down­load and cum­ber­some to use, Wil­son and Taa­ki are design­ing Dark Wal­let, they told me, as an easy-to-install plug-in that sits dis­creet­ly on users’ Chrome or Fire­fox browsers. Made for Win­dows, Mac, and Lin­ux com­put­ers, Dark Wal­let would move most of the ener­gy-suck­ing process of insur­ing there’s only one of each bit­coin in cir­cu­la­tion, and that they aren’t spent in two places at the same time, to sep­a­rate servers.

    ...

    Wil­son, not sur­pris­ing­ly, sees work­ing with the gov­ern­ment as a betray­al of Bitcoin’s fun­da­men­tal pur­pose. “The pub­lic faces of Bit­coin are act­ing as counter-rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies,” he told me. “They’re active­ly work­ing to try to dif­fuse it, and to pol­lute it.” He was refer­ring, he said, not only to the Bit­coin Foun­da­tion but to ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists and entre­pre­neurs in New York and Sil­i­con Val­ley who increas­ing­ly embrace the cur­ren­cy as a way to prof­it, but don’t share his rev­o­lu­tion­ary aims. (Mato­nis said he is aware of Wilson’s con­cerns. “I don’t see my role as advanc­ing crony cap­i­tal­ism,” he said.)

    Wil­son believes Bit­coin should remain the back­bone of a sep­a­rate econ­o­my that under­mines the government’s abil­i­ty to col­lect tax­es and to con­trol the val­ue of currency—not be sub­sumed into the main­stream econ­o­my.

    “The state is basi­cal­ly allowed because we have all cho­sen to use these cer­tain insti­tu­tions to chan­nel our activ­i­ty and com­merce,” he told me. “But when we are enabled, through alter­na­tive means and tech­nolo­gies, to chan­nel our com­merce as we will, chan­nel our pro­duc­tion as we will, the state sim­ply dis­ap­pears.”

    Not every­one agrees, of course, that soci­ety would ben­e­fit from the dis­ap­pear­ance of gov­ern­ments. Wil­son used the Lib­er­a­tor to make the point that the gov­ern­ment shouldn’t reg­u­late the flow of infor­ma­tion; he wants to use Bit­coin to help build an econ­o­my out­side of the government’s reach.

    But his ide­ol­o­gy, tak­en to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion, would also leave ser­vices like roads, libraries, fire fight­ing, and polic­ing in the hands of the pri­vate sector—whose inter­ests may not be aligned, Wilson’s crit­ics argue, with those of the pub­lic at large.

    ...

    Oh look, Peter Thiel is inter­est­ed in Bit­coin. How com­plete­ly unex­pect­ed:

    Novem­ber 26 2007: 8:52 AM EST
    For­tune
    Meet the Pay­Pal mafia
    An inside look at the hyper­in­tel­li­gent, super­con­nect­ed pack of ser­i­al entre­pre­neurs who left the pay­ment ser­vice and are turn­ing Sil­i­con Val­ley upside down. For­tune’s Jef­frey O’Brien reports.
    By Jef­frey M. O’Brien, For­tune senior edi­tor

    (For­tune Mag­a­zine) — A door opens, and a blond man appears in a white jack­et with large but­tons. “Good morn­ing,” he says. “Peter’s in back. Make your­self com­fort­able in the din­ing room. I’ll be serv­ing break­fast short­ly.”

    Holy can­no­li. Peter Thiel has a but­ler. The 40-year-old entre­pre­neur runs a $3 bil­lion hedge fund. He’s the founder of a new ven­ture cap­i­tal firm that’s the talk of Sil­i­con Val­ley. He’s got an ear­ly $500,000 stake in Face­book that’s now worth about $1 bil­lion on paper. The man has bankrolled every­thing from restau­rants to movies and is laud­ed by many as some kind of free-mar­ket genius. He dri­ves a half-mil­lion-dol­lar McLaren super­car. And now a but­ler.

    Just back from a morn­ing run, Thiel emerges into the din­ing room of his home in the shad­ow of San Fran­cis­co’s Palace of Fine Arts. Wear­ing a pow­der-blue T‑shirt wet with sweat, he dis­plays the relaxed self-con­fi­dence of Michael Cor­leone. Per­haps it comes with the but­ler. “I’m Peter,” he says, extend­ing his hand and smil­ing before thank­ing me for agree­ing to such a late break­fast meet­ing. It’s 7:30 A.M. “It was nice to sleep in.”

    The door­bell rings, and in walks a scruffy, sleepy-eyed Max Levchin, 32, who has trekked over from his new $5 mil­lion-plus home a few blocks away in Pacif­ic Heights. Every gar­ment on Levch­in’s unwashed body is a free­bie — Uni­ver­si­ty of Illi­nois zip jack­et, mis­match­ing shorts, bright orange T‑shirt with some Hebrew let­ter­ing.

    Levchin runs one of the hottest com­pa­nies on the web, a pho­to-shar­ing site called Slide that draws 134 mil­lion users a month. Mak­ing nei­ther eye con­tact nor con­ver­sa­tion, he press­es his lips togeth­er, nods to indi­cate that he is, as ever, ready for busi­ness, and sits.

    It’s been nine years since Thiel and Levchin first dined togeth­er at Hobee’s, near Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty. Levchin had an idea for a com­pa­ny, and Thiel want­ed to invest. In short order Thiel joined as a co-founder, and togeth­er they set out to “cre­ate the new world cur­ren­cy.”

    Their brain­child would change the course of the Inter­net. They’d bring on sev­er­al hun­dred employ­ees to what would become Pay­Pal. They’d sign up more than 20 mil­lion users and burn $180 mil­lion in fund­ing before break­ing even and sell­ing out to eBay (Charts, For­tune 500) for $1.5 bil­lion.

    And then things got inter­est­ing. The eBay deal, remark­able only because it hap­pened in the bleak­ness of 2002, was­n’t so much an exit as an explo­sion. Most of Pay­Pal’s key employ­ees left eBay, but they stayed in touch. They even have a name for them­selves: the Pay­Pal mafia. And the mafiosi have been busy.

    ...

    This group of ser­i­al entre­pre­neurs and investors rep­re­sents a new gen­er­a­tion of wealth and pow­er. In some ways they’re clas­sic char­ac­ters of Sil­i­con Val­ley, where suc­cess and easy access to cap­i­tal breed ambi­tion and fur­ther suc­cess. It’s the rea­son peo­ple come to the area from all over the world. But even by that stan­dard, Pay­Pal was a petri dish for entre­pre­neurs. The obvi­ous ques­tion is, Why?

    ...

    A staunch lib­er­tar­i­an, Thiel fig­ured a web-based cur­ren­cy would under­mine gov­ern­ment tax struc­tures. Get­ting there, how­ev­er, would mean tak­ing on estab­lished indus­tries — com­mer­cial bank­ing, for instance — which would require finan­cial acu­men and engi­neer­ing exper­tise.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 25, 2013, 1:39 pm
  8. Well this is inter­est­ing: a ven­ture cap­i­tal fund just announced a $2 mil­lion invest­ment in Neu­ro­track, a com­pa­ny that spe­cial­izes in ear­ly detec­tion of Alzheimer’s dis­ease using a sim­ple, non-inva­sive test: you view images on your com­put­er, some famil­iar and some not, and the soft­ware tracks your eye­’s move­ment. Using that info alone Neu­ro­track appears to have the poten­tial to detect ear­ly signs of Alzheimer’s. And there’s a new­er vari­a­tion of the test that does­n’t even track eye-move­ment. Instead, the soft­ware tracks mouse move­ments that unblur blurred images. It’s pret­ty impres­sive if it works!

    But beyond the inter­est­ing appli­ca­tions for ear­ly Alzheimer’s detec­tion, you have to won­der what oth­er aspects of our minds’ inner work­ings will be inferrable via the track­ing of eye and mouse move­ments. It’s some­thing we should prob­a­bly be think­ing, because that ven­ture cap­i­tal fund invest­ing in this tech­nol­o­gy, the Founders Fund, is, of course, Peter Thiel’s fund.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 30, 2013, 1:47 pm
  9. Why is it that the coolest tech­nol­o­gy also tends to be the creepi­est?

    TechCrunch
    Amazon’s Smart­phones Detailed: ‘Project Smith’ 3D Flag­ship Mod­el And A Val­ue Hand­set With Fire­OS
    Matthew Pan­zari­no
    10/2/2013

    Ama­zon is in the process of devel­op­ing two smart­phones, one inex­pen­sive mod­el and one with a 3D eye-track­ing inter­face, TechCrunch has learned. The details are some­what sparse, but are cor­rob­o­rat­ed by sources and reports from ear­li­er this year.

    Ama­zon is plan­ning two devices, the first of which is the pre­vi­ous­ly rumored ‘expen­sive’ ver­sion with a 3D user inter­face, eye track­ing and more. Both devices were under the ‘Project B’ moniker before the news was leaked on WSJ ear­li­er this year. The expen­sive model’s code-name has since been changed to ‘Duke’ and now ‘Smith’ — and a release is not planned this year.

    Details of the devices appeared on a HN post­ing via a throw­away account ear­li­er today and TechCrunch ver­i­fied some aspects of the post­ing with our sources and came away with some addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion.

    They match up with details from the WSJ report:

    But the peo­ple famil­iar with the plans said the smart­phone and set-top box are just two ele­ments of a broad­er for­ay into hard­ware that also includes the audiostream­ing device and the high-end smart­phone with the 3‑D screen.

    Inside Amazon’s Lab126 facil­i­ty in Cuper­ti­no, Calif., where each of the devices have been under devel­op­ment, the efforts are known as Project A, B, C and D, or col­lec­tive­ly the Alpha­bet Projects, said the peo­ple famil­iar with the plans.

    The ‘Smith’ project includes a device that sounds like a bit of a hard­ware beast. The screen itself is not 3D but the device fea­tures four cam­eras, one at each cor­ner of the device that will be used to track eye and head motions in order to move the inter­face around to ‘give the impres­sion’ of 3D. Instead of using the phone’s inter­nal sen­sors, like Apple does with iOS 7, it would base the move­ments off of the user’s point of view. The­o­ret­i­cal­ly, this will pro­vide a more accu­rate 3D rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the screen’s con­tents.

    There has been some soft­ware test­ing on a fea­ture that will rec­og­nize the user’s face and ignore oth­er faces around it, so as not to project 3D per­spec­tives that are prop­er for your neigh­bors, but not for you.

    Anoth­er fea­ture said to be planned for the device, but not yet locked for release, is an image recog­ni­tion fea­ture that lets users take a shot of any real-world object and match it to an Ama­zon prod­uct for pur­chase. The pos­si­bil­i­ty of this object recog­ni­tion mod­el off­set­ting some of the cost of the device through pur­chas­es by users is men­tioned in the post­ing.

    Four cam­eras (5 includ­ing a rear cam­era for shoot­ing images) would be a large addi­tion­al expense, so it’s tough to imag­ine that mak­ing it to mar­ket, and it’s not need­ed for motion track­ing. But it could be nec­es­sary for the object cap­ture mode, and Ama­zon could be look­ing for a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing fea­ture that sets its devices apart from the crowd.

    ...

    You have to won­der what the abil­i­ty to lit­er­al­ly track what you’re look­ing at will do to the field of online adver­tis­ing because now adver­tis­ers can request to pay only for real “eye­balls” glanc­ing at their ads and not just page loads. One pos­si­bil­i­ty: the inter­net becomes a lot less safe for epilep­tics.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 3, 2013, 2:09 pm
  10. And now Peter Thiel is tak­ing his ded­i­ca­tion to build­ing a bizarro-world real­i­ty to the next step: he just invest­ed in a com­pa­ny that makes anti-mat­ter:

    The Verge
    The anti­mat­ter fac­to­ry: inside the project that could pow­er fusion and anni­hi­la­tion lasers

    By Rus­sell Bran­dom on August 28, 2013 11:15 am

    Physi­cists have been chas­ing anti­mat­ter tech­nol­o­gy for more than 80 years now — dri­ven by the promise of oppo­site­ly ori­ent­ed par­ti­cles that explode in a burst of ener­gy when­ev­er they make con­tact with their more com­mon coun­ter­part. If we could tame anti­mat­ter, those explo­sions could be used to pow­er a new gen­er­a­tion of tech­nol­o­gy, from mol­e­c­u­lar scan­ners to rock­et engines to the so-called “anni­hi­la­tion laser,” a tight­ly con­cen­trat­ed ener­gy beam fueled by anni­hi­lat­ing positrons. But while sci­en­tists have seen recent break­throughs in cre­at­ing the par­ti­cles, they still have trou­ble cap­tur­ing and con­tain­ing them.

    That progress has left us clos­er to work­able anti­mat­ter than ever before, and par­al­lel projects are already work­ing on nov­el devices to cool and trap the par­ti­cles, along with new mag­net­ic arrays to keep them sta­ble. With the right fund­ing, experts esti­mate we could see the dawn of the positron age in as few as five years. Positron Dynam­ics is one key play­er in the new wave of tech­nol­o­gy, work­ing on an inno­v­a­tive method for cool­ing down and cap­tur­ing positrons, the anti­mat­ter equiv­a­lent of the com­mon elec­tron. When­ev­er a positron and an elec­tron meet, they anni­hi­late each oth­er, which presents a seri­ous chal­lenge for any­one work­ing with them. It’s par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult because elec­trons are lit­er­al­ly every­where, float­ing in clouds around essen­tial­ly every atom in the uni­verse. Right now, the best solu­tion for cool­ing the positrons is run­ning them through a block of frozen neon (called a “mod­er­a­tor”), which offers a min­i­mum of stray elec­trons. But the sys­tem only catch­es rough­ly one in 100 positrons, and in the 30 years it’s been in use, no one’s been able to improve on it.

    Positron Dynam­ics thinks it can do bet­ter, and with seed fund­ing from Pay­pal bil­lion­aire Peter Thiel’s Break­out Labs, the com­pa­ny has enough mon­ey to find out. “We’ve run some ini­tial sim­u­la­tions, and it looks like we could be able to cre­ate as many as 10 micro­grams of positrons a week with a lin­ear accel­er­a­tor,” says co-founder Ryan Weed, PhD, a physi­cist and for­mer cryo­genic engi­neer for Jeff Bezos’s space flight com­pa­ny Blue Ori­gin. That’s a flood com­pared to the cur­rent trick­le that’s com­ing from iso­tope-based meth­ods, and it could be enough to turn positron cre­ation into a self-sus­tain­ing busi­ness.

    Instead of a sin­gle block of neon ice, the com­pa­ny uses an array of 50 or more thin­ly sliced semi­con­duct­ing solids. Fly­ing through the array, par­ti­cles will lose a lit­tle bit of heat to each one until they’re cool enough to trap. From there, the positrons can be pulled out of the emp­ty spaces between the lay­ers by a mag­net­ic field. Many of these tac­tics have been tried before, but nev­er in exact­ly this com­bi­na­tion. The lab also has a few new tricks up its sleeve, like keep­ing the entire sys­tem in a vac­u­um, so the positrons have a bet­ter chance of sur­viv­ing the dif­fer­ent lay­ers of array with­out run­ning into any elec­trons. Inevitably, most positrons will still explode before they can make it through the trap — but if Weed can get even one in ten to sur­vive, it would be a mas­sive break­through, poten­tial­ly turn­ing anti­mat­ter into an indus­tri­al prod­uct. Even bet­ter, if the Positron Dynam­ics-style mod­er­a­tor takes off, it could scale the process to even more positron-rich envi­ron­ments like lin­ear accel­er­a­tors, which cre­ate anti­mat­ter on a much larg­er scale.

    That’s where the real fun starts. Many positron sci­en­tists think that, as soon as five years from now, we’ll have the tech­nol­o­gy to trans­port positrons the same way we trans­port tanks of liq­uid nitro­gen or oth­er indus­tri­al chem­i­cals. Positrons are already used in some med­ical imag­ing tech­nolo­gies, like positron emis­sion tomog­ra­phy, thanks to their X‑ray-like abil­i­ty to iden­ti­fy tumors and oth­er points of high meta­bol­ic activ­i­ty in the body. Positrons also tend to nes­tle into atom­ic lev­el gaps in met­al, so Weed envi­sions a positron scan­ner that could spot sub-micro­scop­ic flaws in a semi­con­duc­tor or an air­plane engine. Giv­en the right stor­age break­throughs, Weed esti­mates the scan­ner might be work­able in as few as three years.

    From there, things get even more ambi­tious. In the long term, Weed envi­sions huge engines fed by positrons, cre­at­ing the equiv­a­lent of a jet engine thrust from elec­tron-positron explo­sions. Anti­mat­ter dri­ves are com­mon in sci­ence fic­tion, but once positron stor­age becomes pos­si­ble, sci­en­tists can begin to make real progress on the dri­ves, turn­ing the ener­getic positron-elec­tron explo­sion into some­thing that could pow­er a sub­ma­rine or a space­ship. And positrons are espe­cial­ly use­ful for cre­at­ing a beam of intense­ly focused ener­gy — known as an anni­hi­la­tion laser — along with more com­plex arrange­ments that the Positron Dynam­ic team believes might be use­ful for cat­alyz­ing fusion.
    ...

    Well, at least now we know what Thiel’s drone army will be armed with.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 7, 2013, 2:50 pm
  11. Some­thing tells me that when this guy bills his course at Stan­ford as the “spir­i­tu­al sequel” to Peter Thiel’s Stan­ford course on busi­ness star­tups he isn’t kid­ding:

    Val­ley­Wag
    Sil­i­con Val­ley’s Ulti­mate Exit Is a Fan­ta­sy of Seced­ing from the U.S.

    Nitasha Tiku
    Seces­sion
    10/21/2013 2:29pm

    What if the per­fect liq­uid­i­ty event for Sil­i­con Val­ley was not a block­buster IPO, or an acqui­si­tion that paid out at some insane mul­ti­ple, but a lit­er­al exit from the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca? No more lum­ber­ing bureau­cra­cies, no lob­by­ing incum­bents, no “pet­ty” laws, no obstruc­tion­ist unions. That’s what a Stan­ford lec­tur­er and genet­ics start­up cofounder Bal­a­ji Srini­vasan pro­posed at Y Com­bi­na­tor’s annu­al start­up school this week­end.

    Srinivasan’s lec­ture, enti­tled “Sil­i­con Val­ley’s Ulti­mate Exit” explored the idea of tech­no-utopi­an spaces, which could even mean entire­ly new coun­tries that would “oper­ate beyond the bureau­cra­cy and inef­fi­cien­cy of gov­ern­ment,” reports CNET. With an “air of forced evan­ge­lism,” Srini­vasan told the crowd, “We need to build opt-in soci­ety, out­side the US, run by tech­nol­o­gy”:

    “We did­n’t secu­ri­tize mort­gages, order bailouts, start wars, or refuse to write movies or arti­cles on this until too late,” read one of Srini­vasan’s slides on where the blame lies and what the real prob­lems are that are hold­ing tech­nol­o­gy back. [...]

    With 3D print­ing, reg­u­la­tion is being turned into DRM. With quan­ti­fied self, med­i­cine is going mobile. With Bit­coin, cap­i­tal con­trol becomes pack­et fil­ter­ing. All of these exam­ples, Srini­vasan says, are ways in which tech­nol­o­gy is allow­ing peo­ple to exit cur­rent sys­tems like phys­i­cal prod­uct pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion; per­son­al health; and finance in favor of spaces of their own cre­ation.

    “The best part is this, the peo­ple who think this is weird, the peo­ple who sneer at the fron­tier, who hate tech­nol­o­gy, won’t fol­low you there,” he said. “We need to run the exper­i­ment, to show what a soci­ety run by Sil­i­con Val­ley looks like with­out affect­ing any­one who wants to live under the Paper Belt,” he added, using the term “paper belt” to refer to the envi­ron­ments cur­rent­ly gov­erned by pre-exist­ing sys­tems like the US gov­ern­ment.

    The Paper Belt. Expect to hear that term a lot more. What bet­ter way to sneer at the bureau­crat­ic night­mare of gov­ern­ment than to pic­ture an entire swath of the coun­try—from Wash­ing­ton D.C. to New York—gasp­ing for its last breath under a pile dead-trees slices as Sil­i­con Val­ley whizzes by on a Hyper­loop toward max­i­mum effi­cien­cy.

    The “Ulti­mate Exit” may sound like a line from a Heaven’s Gate man­u­al or a cer­tain Ger­man euphemism, but it’s mere­ly a more extreme exam­ple of the “anar­chist cheer­lead­ing,” as Kevin Roose called it that, we’ve seen from priv­i­leged tech­nocrats dur­ing the gov­ern­ment shut­down.

    Srini­vasan just picks up where Lar­ry Page’s vision of Google Island, Elon Musk’s Mars colony, Peter Thiel’s invest­ment in a law­less seast­ead, and the float­ing start­up incu­ba­tor 30 min­utes from Sil­i­con Val­ley left off. Only he begins to extrap­o­late some best exit prac­tices:

    Srini­vasan even went so far as to point out — per­haps with a bit of tongue-in-cheek­i­ness — that Sil­i­con Val­ley, includ­ing the up-and-com­ing entre­pre­neurs in the Y Com­bi­na­tor crowd, must design these process­es for exit peace­ful­ly, as com­bat­ing cur­rent sys­tems like the US gov­ern­ment would result in vio­lent fail­ure.

    This is the Tea Par­ty with bet­ter gad­gets. It’s prob­a­bly no coin­ci­dence that Srinivasan’s genet­ics start­up (start­ed in a Stan­ford dorm room, nat­u­ral­ly) has raised more than $65 mil­lion in fund­ing from investors like Peter Thiel’s Founders Fun. Thiel, of course, was a big backer of Ted Cruz and sin­gle-hand­ed­ly fund­ed a Ron Paul super PAC before the last pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

    Sil­i­con Val­ley likes to imag­ine that it can build a bet­ter world that the one we live in. That’s part­ly because the tech sec­tor spends so much time think­ing about the future and part­ly because it fan­cies itself pop­u­lat­ed by excep­tion­al objec­tivists.

    As George Pack­er wrote in the 2011 pro­file of Thiel:

    No tech­no­log­i­cal change would have more effect on the liv­ing stan­dards of strug­gling Amer­i­cans than improve­ments in ener­gy and food, which dom­i­nate the econ­o­my and dri­ve up prices. “That’s not one I focus on as much,” Thiel admit­ted. “It is very heav­i­ly polit­i­cal­ly linked, and my instinct is to stay away from that stuff.” Such over­sights are telling. In Thiel’s tech­no-utopia, a few thou­sand Amer­i­cans might own robot-dri­ven cars and live to a hun­dred and fifty, while mil­lions of oth­ers lose their jobs to com­put­ers that are far smarter than they are, then per­ish at six­ty.

    ...

    One of the things about “anar­chist cheer­lead­ing” that’s also anal­o­gous to the Tea Par­ty phe­nom­e­na is that the cheer­lead­ers for both anar­chiy and the Tea Par­ty tend to either be real­ly clue­less or real­ly, real­ly rich. Some­times both:

    New York Mag­a­zine
    10/16/2013 at 1:22 PM

    The Gov­ern­ment Shut­down Has Revealed Sil­i­con Valley’s Dys­func­tion Fetish

    By Kevin Roose

    Chamath Pal­i­hapi­tiya is not a dumb or heart­less man. A for­mer Face­book employ­ee, ven­ture-cap­i­tal­ist mul­ti­mil­lion­aire, and own­er of the Gold­en State War­riors, he’s got­ten into Sil­i­con Val­ley’s inner cir­cle as a promi­nent backer, for instance, of FWD.us, Mark Zucker­berg’s polit­i­cal lob­by­ing group, and he’s spent a lot of his social and finan­cial cap­i­tal push­ing for good caus­es in areas like health care. He’s clear­ly not some­one who takes the suf­fer­ing of oth­ers light­ly.

    So it’s sur­pris­ing that in an inter­view last week, Pal­i­hapi­tiya revealed that he is entire­ly emblem­at­ic of Sil­i­con Val­ley’s extreme myopia when it comes to the polit­i­cal sys­tem, and dis­mis­sive of those who suf­fer when the sys­tem grinds to a halt.

    Here’s the key moment, which occurred late in an inter­view with “This Week in Start-ups” host Jason Cala­ca­n­is. Pal­i­hapi­tiya begins by talk­ing about com­pa­nies and entre­pre­neur­ship, then, at around 31:00, Cala­ca­n­is makes a joke about the gov­ern­ment shut­down, which prompts this exchange (empha­sis added):
    [see video at link]

    Pal­i­hapi­tiya: The gov­ern­ment, they’re com­plete­ly use­less.

    Cala­ca­n­is: The gov­ern­ment got shut down today and the stock mar­ket went up 1 per­cent.

    Pal­i­hapi­tiya: We’re in this real­ly inter­est­ing shift. The cen­ter of pow­er is here, make no mis­take. I think we’ve known it now for prob­a­bly four or five years. But it’s becom­ing excru­ci­at­ing­ly, obvi­ous­ly clear to every­one else that where val­ue is cre­at­ed is no longer in New York, it’s no longer in Wash­ing­ton, it’s no longer in LA. It’s in San Fran­cis­co and the Bay Area. And when you look at sort of, like, how mar­kets react to things like that, and when there’s no reac­tion, it should be tak­en as a very sub­tle sig­nal that the pow­er dynam­ics have changed. Because mar­kets val­ue mean­ing­ful events, mar­kets dis­count mean­ing­less events. And so the func­tion­al val­ue of the gov­ern­ment is effec­tive­ly dis­count­ed to zero ...

    Com­pa­nies are tran­scend­ing pow­er now. We are becom­ing the emi­nent vehi­cles for change and influ­ence, and cap­i­tal struc­tures that mat­ter. If com­pa­nies shut down, the stock mar­ket would col­lapse. If the gov­ern­ment shuts down, noth­ing hap­pens and we all move on, because it just does­n’t mat­ter. Sta­sis in the gov­ern­ment is actu­al­ly good for all of us. It means they can nei­ther do any­thing semi-use­ful nor any­thing real­ly stu­pid. They just sit there and they just kind of, you know ...

    [Applause.]

    Cala­ca­n­is: There you have it.

    This exchange is extra­or­di­nary for a few rea­sons. First, it’s fac­tu­al­ly sus­pect. Pal­i­hapi­tiya implies that the stock mar­ket’s tepid response to the debt-ceil­ing shenani­gans means that investors don’t care about polit­i­cal out­comes — an asser­tion that does­n’t square with the stock mar­ket’s huge ral­ly today on news that House Repub­li­cans were get­ting ready to sign a debt-lim­it exten­sion.

    But the big­ger take­away from Pal­i­hapi­tiya’s rant is that a cer­tain strain of influ­en­tial Sil­i­con Val­ley thought has moved past pas­sive polit­i­cal apa­thy and into a kind of anar­chist cheer­lead­ing. Dys­func­tion and shut­downs are good, this line of think­ing goes, because it ham­strings Wash­ing­ton’s abil­i­ty to mess with the pri­vate sec­tor’s prof­it-mak­ing schemes. And as long as the Bay Area is still churn­ing out suc­cess­ful start-ups, what does it mat­ter if hun­dreds of thou­sands of gov­ern­ment work­ers are fur­loughed, essen­tial ser­vices are cut off for low-income Amer­i­cans, and the threat of a sov­er­eign default endan­gers the entire econ­o­my?

    Pal­i­hapi­tiya isn’t the only Sil­i­con Val­ley big­wig who has made the claim that gov­ern­ment dys­func­tion is a good thing, on the whole. His state­ment mir­rors what ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Marc Andreessen said last year, when he pro­claimed, “I love grid­lock!”

    ...

    It would be an easy view to write off, if it weren’t so influ­en­tial. Sil­i­con Val­ley is, after all, the coun­try’s most lucra­tive eco­nom­ic engine right now, and it is accu­mu­lat­ing polit­i­cal cap­i­tal to accom­pa­ny its prof­its. If tech lead­ers like Pal­i­hapi­tiya and groups like FWD.us have their way, future bouts of dys­func­tion in Wash­ing­ton might not just be about the tea par­ty clash­ing with Democ­rats and the Repub­li­can Estab­lish­ment. One day, they might be car­ried in by a Bay Area breeze.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 21, 2013, 8:32 pm
  12. “Google exec­u­tives said the com­pa­ny would hon­or exist­ing mil­i­tary con­tracts, but that it did not plan to move toward becom­ing a mil­i­tary con­trac­tor on its own.” So says the exec­u­tives that just bought a com­pa­ny that builds hunter-killer chee­tah-bots for the Pen­ta­gon:

    The New York Times
    Google Adds to Its Menagerie of Robots

    By JOHN MARKOFF
    Pub­lished: Decem­ber 14, 2013

    SAN FRANCISCO — Big­Dog, Chee­tah, Wild­Cat and Atlas have joined Google’s grow­ing robot menagerie.

    Google con­firmed on Fri­day that it had com­plet­ed the acqui­si­tion of Boston Dynam­ics, an engi­neer­ing com­pa­ny that has designed mobile research robots for the Pen­ta­gon. The com­pa­ny, based in Waltham, Mass., has gained an inter­na­tion­al rep­u­ta­tion for machines that walk with an uncan­ny sense of bal­ance and even — chee­tahlike — run faster than the fastest humans.

    It is the eighth robot­ics com­pa­ny that Google has acquired in the last half-year. Exec­u­tives at the Inter­net giant are cir­cum­spect about what exact­ly they plan to do with their robot col­lec­tion. But Boston Dynam­ics and its ani­mal king­dom-themed machines bring sig­nif­i­cant cachet to Google’s robot­ic efforts, which are being led by Andy Rubin, the Google exec­u­tive who spear­head­ed the devel­op­ment of Android, the world’s most wide­ly used smart­phone soft­ware.

    The deal is also the clear­est indi­ca­tion yet that Google is intent on build­ing a new class of autonomous sys­tems that might do any­thing from ware­house work to pack­age deliv­ery and even elder care.

    Boston Dynam­ics was found­ed in 1992 by Marc Raib­ert, a for­mer pro­fes­sor at the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy. It has not sold robots com­mer­cial­ly, but has pushed the lim­its of mobile and off-road robot­ics tech­nol­o­gy, most­ly for Pen­ta­gon clients like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa. Ear­ly on, the com­pa­ny also did con­sult­ing work for Sony on con­sumer robots like the Aibo robot­ic dog.

    Boston Dynam­ics’ walk­ing robots have a rep­u­ta­tion for being extra­or­di­nar­i­ly agile, able to walk over rough ter­rain and han­dle sur­faces that in some cas­es are chal­leng­ing even for humans.

    A video of one of its robots named Big­Dog shows a noisy, gas-pow­ered, four-legged, walk­ing robot that climbs hills, trav­els through snow, skit­ters pre­car­i­ous­ly on ice and even man­ages to stay upright in response to a well-placed human kick. Big­Dog devel­op­ment start­ed in 2003 in part­ner­ship with the British robot mak­er Fos­ter-Miller, NASA’s Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­to­ry and Har­vard.

    The video has been viewed more than 15 mil­lion times since it was post­ed on YouTube in 2008.

    More recent­ly, Boston Dynam­ics dis­trib­uted a video of a four-legged robot named Wild­Cat, gal­lop­ing in high-speed cir­cles in a park­ing lot.

    Although the videos fre­quent­ly inspire com­ments that the robots will evolve into scary killing machines straight out of the “Ter­mi­na­tor” movies, Dr. Raib­ert has said in the past that he does not con­sid­er his com­pa­ny to be a mil­i­tary con­trac­tor — it is mere­ly try­ing to advance robot­ics tech­nol­o­gy. Google exec­u­tives said the com­pa­ny would hon­or exist­ing mil­i­tary con­tracts, but that it did not plan to move toward becom­ing a mil­i­tary con­trac­tor on its own.

    Under a $10.8 mil­lion con­tract, Boston Dynam­ics is cur­rent­ly sup­ply­ing Darpa with a set of humanoid robots named Atlas to par­tic­i­pate in the Darpa Robot­ics Chal­lenge, a two-year con­test with a $2 mil­lion prize. The contest’s goal is cre­at­ing a class of robots that can oper­ate in nat­ur­al dis­as­ters and cat­a­stro­phes like the nuclear pow­er plant melt­down in Fukushi­ma, Japan.

    “Com­pe­ti­tions like the Darpa Robot­ics Chal­lenge stretch par­tic­i­pants to try to solve prob­lems that mat­ter and we hope to learn from the teams’ insights around dis­as­ter relief,” Mr. Rubin said in a state­ment released by Google.

    Boston Dynam­ics has also designed robots that can climb walls and trees as well as oth­er two- and four-legged walk­ing robots, a neat match to Mr. Rubin’s notion that “com­put­ers are start­ing to sprout legs and move around in the envi­ron­ment.”

    A recent video shows a robot named Chee­tah run­ning on a tread­mill. This year, the robot was clocked run­ning 29 miles per hour, sur­pass­ing the pre­vi­ous legged robot land speed record of 13.1 m.p.h., set in 1999. That’s about one mile per hour faster than Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, the two-time Olympic gold medal­ist in the 100-meter dash. But it’s far short of a real chee­tah, which can hit 65 m.p.h.

    Google’s oth­er robot­ics acqui­si­tions include com­pa­nies in the Unit­ed States and Japan that have pio­neered a range of tech­nolo­gies includ­ing soft­ware for advanced robot arms, grasp­ing tech­nol­o­gy and com­put­er vision. Mr. Rubin has also said that he is inter­est­ed in advanc­ing sen­sor tech­nol­o­gy.

    Mr. Rubin has called his robot­ics effort a “moon­shot,” but has declined to describe spe­cif­ic prod­ucts that might come from the project. He has, how­ev­er, also said that he does not expect ini­tial prod­uct devel­op­ment to go on for years, indi­cat­ing that Google com­mer­cial robots of some nature could be avail­able in the next sev­er­al years.

    Google declined to say how much it paid for its newest robot­ics acqui­si­tion and said that it did not plan to release finan­cial infor­ma­tion on any of the oth­er com­pa­nies it has recent­ly bought.

    ...

    The count­down begins for the inevitable bear vs chee­tah-bot fight because it’s only a mat­ter of time before Google sticks Google Street-View cam­eras on their new toys and sends them off into the wilder­ness. While one should obvi­ous­ly be root­ing for the bear in such a con­flict, the chee­tah-bot might be the bet­ter bet.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 16, 2013, 11:38 am
  13. Here’s a reminder that we should prob­a­bly assume that today’s tech­no-oli­garchs have every intent on being tomor­row’s tech­no-oli­garchs. Indef­i­nite­ly:

    Pan­do Dai­ly
    Eric Schmidt updates his tech­topi­an vision for the future

    Michael Carney_PandoDaily By Michael Car­ney
    On March 7, 2014

    To say that tech­nol­o­gy will be a defin­ing force in shap­ing the future of the world is so obvi­ous, it hard­ly bears men­tion­ing. Try­ing to pre­dict how that future will unfold and what technology’s impact will be, how­ev­er, is an exer­cise that allows much less cer­tain­ty. That’s exact­ly the chal­lenge under­tak­en by “The New Dig­i­tal Age: Reshap­ing the Future of Peo­ple, Nations and Busi­ness,” the now year-old book writ­ten by Google Chair­man Eric Schmidt and Direc­tor of Google Ideas Jared Cohen.

    Schmidt and Cohen con­tin­ued their whirl­wind glob­al book tour this week stop­ping by the Oasis: The Mon­ty Sum­mit tech­nol­o­gy con­fer­ence in San­ta Mon­i­ca for a keynote address on the state of tech­nol­o­gy. A lot has tran­spired in the year since the book went to press. The Arab Spring and the Edward Snow­den-led NSA leaks have both demon­strat­ed technology’s pow­er to dri­ve change, but also the unex­pect­ed con­se­quences that can unfold.

    “I think we’ve seen the unpre­dictabil­i­ty of polit­i­cal change due to tech­nol­o­gy,” Schmidt said dur­ing the inter­view con­duct­ed by Bloomberg TV’s Emi­ly Chang. He went on to add, “It’s very easy to unseat an auto­crat, but what next? Rev­o­lu­tions are easy to start, but hard to fin­ish.” Accord­ing to Cohen, “There’s a lim­it to tech­no­log­i­cal opti­mism – the gun still speaks. That may not be a good thing, but it’s true.”

    ...

    Schmidt and Cohen also looked into their crys­tal ball to pre­dict which areas of tech­nol­o­gy would have the most impact in the com­ing years. Cohen’s answer was that the growth in mobile adop­tion, which in turn brings inter­net access to entire­ly new pop­u­la­tions would have a pro­found impact on edu­ca­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly for women.

    Schmidt, on the oth­er hand, points to advances in arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and the use of automa­tion in our every­day lives as an area of pro­found impact.

    “Robots will become omnipresent in our lives in a good way,” he says. “Tech­nol­o­gy is evolv­ing from ask­ing a ques­tion to mak­ing a rel­e­vant rec­om­men­da­tion. It will fig­ure out things you care about and make rec­om­men­da­tions. That’s pos­si­ble with today’s tech­nol­o­gy.”

    Of course Google has been active­ly acquir­ing robot­ics and home automa­tion com­pa­nies over the last year, includ­ing block­buster deals to absorb Nest Labs, the $3.2 bil­lion mak­er of smart ther­mostats and smoke detec­tors, Deep­mind, the $500 mil­lion arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence com­pa­ny, and Boston Dynam­ics the com­pa­ny known for devel­op­ing robot­ics and soft­ware for human sim­u­la­tion (for an undis­closed sum).

    Add in Android, the company’s dom­i­nant mobile plat­form, its fledg­ling wear­ables divi­sion led by Google Glass, and its dri­ver­less car pro­gram and Google seems bet­ter posi­tioned than any­one to lead us into an auto­mat­ed future. Asked what he sees Google “being” in 10 years, Schmidt respond­ed, “[our goal is to see that] improve­ment in AI make things more effi­cient and enjoy­able.”

    Whether con­sumers, reg­u­la­tors, and pri­va­cy watch­dogs will view this as pos­i­tive­ly as Schmidt does is anoth­er mat­ter entire­ly.

    Final­ly, Schmidt and Cohen touched on the future poten­tial for tech­nol­o­gy to extend lifes­pans and push the cur­rent bound­aries of mor­tal­i­ty. Google has report­ed­ly invest­ed “hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars” into Cal­i­co, a clan­des­tine anti-aging health­care start­up, but Schmidt declined to dis­cuss details of the work tak­ing place there. He did, how­ev­er, dis­cuss a future pre­ven­ta­tive med­i­cine sce­nario in which we might all wear sen­sors that con­duct real-time, non-inva­sive health mon­i­tor­ing, such as for exam­ple high res­o­lu­tion cam­eras that mon­i­tor changes in our skin that can be indica­tive of the onset of dis­ease or oth­er health changes.

    It’s not every­day that you get to hear two of the most well-informed tech­nol­o­gists of our time prog­nos­ti­cate on where the future might lead us. In Schmidt and Cohen’s telling, that future will be one in which tech­nol­o­gy increas­es the pace of polit­i­cal change, infor­ma­tion is more read­i­ly avail­able, and health is a mat­ter of pre­ven­tion rather than repair.

    It’s a com­pelling and occa­sion­al­ly ide­al­is­tic view. But as I said at the out­set, pre­dict­ing the future is an exer­cise that by def­i­n­i­tion does not allow for much cer­tain­ty.

    Yep, Eric Schmidt declined to dis­cuss the details of Google’s new longevi­ty biotech com­pa­ny dur­ing a talk about the pro­found changes tech­nol­o­gy might have on soci­ety. How odd.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 9, 2014, 6:24 pm
  14. Check out the lat­est invest­ment by Peter Thiel’s Mithril Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment firm: They’re going to com­pete with the emerg­ing mini-nuclear fis­sion pow­er plant indus­try with mini-nuclear fusion plants:

    TechCrunch
    Y Com­bi­na­tor And Mithril Invest In Helion, A Nuclear Fusion Start­up
    8/14/2014 by Kyle Rus­sell

    Build­ing a nuclear fusion reac­tor that can gen­er­ate more ener­gy than is put in to make it work is one of the biggest chal­lenges fac­ing engi­neers today. Like quan­tum com­put­ing, decades of research have most­ly result­ed in proofs of con­cept, not hard­ware that can be rolled out com­mer­cial­ly.

    So it came as a sur­prise to hear that Y Com­bi­na­tor and Mithril Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment are invest­ing $1.5 mil­lion in Helion Ener­gy, a Red­mond, Washin­gon-based start­up that says it has a plan to build a fusion reac­tor that breaks even on ener­gy input and out­put, a chal­lenge whose solu­tion has been con­sid­ered decades away for, well, decades. Helion CEO David Kirt­ley says that his com­pa­ny can do it in three years.

    Helion was found­ed by four sci­en­tists work­ing at MSNW, an orga­ni­za­tion spun-off from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton that focus­es on deter­min­ing the fea­si­bil­i­ty of turn­ing plas­ma physics research into com­mer­cial­iz­able hard­ware with aero­space and pow­er-gen­er­a­tion appli­ca­tions.

    When the team left to form their own com­pa­ny, they did so with the express inten­tion of using elec­tron­ics advance­ments from oth­er fields to cre­ate a mag­net­ic-iner­tial con­fine­ment fusion reac­tor.

    That was one of the big rea­sons Mithril took an inter­est in Helion when first intro­duced ear­ly this year. “The found­ing team has spent ten years work­ing on the prob­lem. Between 2003 and 2009 they found many solu­tions that don’t work, many paths not to take,” Mithril man­ag­ing gen­er­al part­ner Ajay Roy­an told me on a phone call.

    The team saw that the tech­nol­o­gy being built for space propul­sion and the smart grid could be used to con­trol a mag­net­ic field that con­tains plas­ma under­go­ing nuclear fusion — and even “squeeze” the plas­ma to increase the rate of reac­tion.

    Unlike ITER, the inter­na­tion­al effort to build the world’s largest exper­i­men­tal fusion reac­tor, Helion isn’t aim­ing at design­ing a full-scale pow­er sta­tion. That comes with sev­er­al advan­tages, the biggest being that they don’t think it will cost them any­where near $50 bil­lion to con­struct a reac­tor that achieves break-even, and full-scale plas­ma exper­i­ments will begin well before ITER’s new goal of 2027. Kirt­ly says that they esti­mate that reach­ing break-even with their design should require “just a few tens of mil­lions of dol­lars.”

    Instead of build­ing at the scale of a gigawatt pow­er sta­tion right out of the gate, the com­pa­ny is look­ing to com­pete with small­er, more dis­trib­uted plants, like large diesel gen­er­a­tors in regions where fuel has to be trucked in. It’s a mar­ket where the cur­rent “best” solu­tion isn’t great and the bar­ri­ers to entry are far eas­i­er to deal with than when com­pet­ing with the big guys.

    At the scale they’re design­ing for, the team thinks that it will have sig­nif­i­cant price advan­tages once they go to mar­ket. Their design col­lects charged par­ti­cles with each pulse, mean­ing it can gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty with­out hav­ing to con­struct a pricey tur­bine in addi­tion to the reac­tor. The reac­tor is fueled by deu­teri­um, an iso­tope of hydro­gen that is abun­dant in sea water, mak­ing it more afford­able than truck­loads of diesel.

    In an ide­al world, every­thing works out for Helion over the next few years. They achieve break-even, raise an Uber-like moun­tain of cap­i­tal in a Series C to begin build­ing fac­to­ries, and begin crank­ing out reac­tors that pro­vide reli­able, emis­sions-free ener­gy with­out any nuclear waste to dis­pose of. As they tran­si­tion from pro­vid­ing a niche prod­uct for remote regions to mas­sive pow­er sta­tions, the idea that we had to burn fos­sil fuels to sus­tain our way of life begins to seem quaint. Hur­rah for human­i­ty.

    That long-term dream is what moti­vat­ed Y Com­bi­na­tor pres­i­dent to begin look­ing for oppor­tu­ni­ties in nuclear fis­sion and fusion one and a half years ago. “Any time you can come up with a new, cheap­er source of ener­gy, it has a huge impact on qual­i­ty of life for every­one,” Alt­man told me ear­li­er this week. “Clean, safe, renew­able ener­gy is the best thing you can do for the poor­est half of the world.”

    With all of that said, three years is a long time. All kinds of com­pa­nies run in to road­blocks that lead to fail­ure over that kind of time frame, and most of those com­pa­nies aren’t build­ing tech­nolo­gies on the bleed­ing edge of plas­ma physics.

    Things could go accord­ing to plan for Helion. Or, it could turn out that some key ingre­di­ent to build­ing a reac­tor that actu­al­ly gen­er­ates more pow­er than put in is trick­i­er than orig­i­nal­ly pre­dict­ed and the com­pa­ny has to put anoth­er $100 mil­lion into R&D.

    ...

    Since we can be pret­ty sure Thiel has the pow­er­ing of Seast­eading colonies in mind with this tech­nol­o­gy, let’s hope what­ev­er design they come up with is thor­ough­ly hur­ri­cane-proof.

    Keep in mind that Thiel is also prone to warn­ing human­i­ty that tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion will stag­nate and soci­ety will col­lapse unless we dereg­u­late indus­try and just let indus­tri­al­ists like Thiel run wild with tech­nol­o­gy. So, assum­ing that pre­dict­ed peri­od of col­lapse takes place (despite the pos­si­ble near-term devel­op­ment of cheap, clean fusion tech­nol­o­gy) and since Thiel is already invest­ing in anti-mat­ter tech­nol­o­gy and the capac­i­ty to build a drone army, one of the more intrigu­ing ques­tions raised by this announce­ment is whether or not we should pre­fer that Peter Thiel arms his future drone armies with or fusion bombs or anti-mat­ter bombs? Maybe anti-mat­ter fusion bombs? Which one is going to be more eco-friend­ly while wag­ing war on a dying world from his Seast­eading colony?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 14, 2014, 11:23 am
  15. Fes­to presents our future work­force: 3D-print­ed bion­ic ants. Plus oth­er bion­ic crit­ters. Plus not you:

    Wired.co.uk
    Our Future Wor­force
    3D-print­ed bion­ic ants

    Robot­ics
    27 March 15 by Daniel Cul­pan

    Ants are nature’s very own army: goal-dri­ven, inde­fati­ga­ble and capa­ble of great vic­to­ries in the face of adver­si­ty. Now, a Ger­man engi­neer­ing com­pa­ny is look­ing to har­ness the pow­er of these insects using the lat­est bion­ic tech­nol­o­gy, in the hope of rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing the work­force of the future.

    As part of its Bion­ic Learn­ing Net­work, Fes­to has cre­at­ed a swarm of Bion­i­cANTs: robot insects around the size of a human hand, which unnerv­ing­ly resem­ble a super-sized ver­sion of their insect fore­bears. The Bion­i­cANTs are pro­grammed to mim­ic the intel­li­gence of their real world coun­ter­parts — includ­ing their abil­i­ty to co-oper­ate and com­plete fiendish­ly com­plex tasks, such as mov­ing objects much larg­er than them­selves, which they’d be unable to do alone.

    ...

    Each Bion­i­cANT is embed­ded with a stereo cam­era in its head and sen­sors under­neath, giv­ing it an intu­itive sense of spa­tial aware­ness and the abil­i­ty to locate and grip objects with its pin­cers. Adding to the robots’ uncan­ny appear­ance is their 3D-print­ed plas­tic body and six ceram­ic legs pow­ered by piezo tech­nol­o­gy, which keeps them scut­tling along effi­cient­ly to get the job done.

    The swarm uses a wire­less net­work to com­mu­ni­cate, effec­tive­ly cre­at­ing a mini pro­duc­tion pow­er­house. By using a series of com­plex algo­rithms, Fes­to’s vision is to pio­neer intel­li­gent robots that could help pave the way for fac­to­ries of the future run by an entire­ly autonomous work­force.

    But how could robot ants actu­al­ly be used today? Simone Schmid, from Fes­to, tells WIRED.co.uk: “Piezo-ceram­ic actu­a­tors are now main­ly used as pres­sure sen­sors and in ener­gy gen­er­a­tion; their use in minia­ture robots is extreme­ly rare.”

    She con­tin­ues: “Already today, piezo valves from Fes­to are used on board vehi­cles, for exam­ple as com­fort valves in seats. They are also used in lab­o­ra­to­ry automa­tion and in med­ical tech­nol­o­gy, where they can pre­cise­ly meter the sup­ply of air and oxy­gen in mobile res­pi­ra­tors. In view of their low ener­gy con­sump­tion, their bat­ter­ies only sel­dom need chang­ing. More­over, their switch­ing process is almost silent; this reduces the bur­den on patients.”

    But before we humans start get­ting antsy about these intel­li­gent robots poten­tial­ly leav­ing us in the unem­ploy­ment queue, there’s a whole bes­tiary of bion­ic ani­mals wait­ing in the wings. Fes­to has already turned its hand to cre­at­ing every­thing from robot­ic kan­ga­roos bounc­ing around on flex­i­ble blades to bion­ic pen­guins that would­n’t be out of place in the Antarc­tic.

    It’s not just earth­bound crea­tures that are under­go­ing a sci-fi meta­mor­pho­sis either. The Bion­ic Learn­ing Net­work recent­ly sent its eMo­tion­But­ter­flies into flight. These ultra-light­weight insects use an intel­li­gent net­work­ing sys­tem, com­prised of ten high-speed infrared cam­eras. These then track infrared mark­ers on the tiny, 32-gram bod­ies of the robo-insects, with the data trans­ferred back to a cen­tral com­put­er, allow­ing their move­ments to be coor­di­nat­ed and pre­vent­ing mid-air col­li­sions. Each but­ter­fly has a 50cm wingspan and can fly for four min­utes.

    How­ev­er, it’s unlike­ly you’ll see an eMo­tion­But­ter­fly flut­ter­ing around your gar­den any­time soon; as with all of Fes­to’s robot­ic ani­mal king­dom, these tech­no-crit­ters are slat­ed to be the basis of future indus­tri­al robots

    “But before we humans start get­ting antsy about these intel­li­gent robots poten­tial­ly leav­ing us in the unem­ploy­ment queue, there’s a whole bes­tiary of bion­ic ani­mals wait­ing in the wings. Fes­to has already turned its hand to cre­at­ing every­thing from robot­ic kan­ga­roos bounc­ing around on flex­i­ble blades to bion­ic pen­guins that would­n’t be out of place in the Antarc­tic.”

    Meet your replace­ment. Train­ing starts Mon­day.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 29, 2015, 6:47 pm

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