Video highlighting successes released before next solicitation
Inserting new capabilities into a satellite is no simple task. Doing so as that satellite hurdles through space 22,000 miles above the Earth is a bit more challenging still. DARPA’s Phoenix program, which hopes to repurpose retired satellites while they remain in orbit, seeks to fundamentally change how space systems could be designed here on earth and then sustained once in space.
This video illustrates some of the program’s technical progress since it began in July 2012. As performers demonstrate the progress of their work in the lab, an artist’s simulation of a fully-realized Phoenix demonstration scenario runs in the background to help illustrate how the technology would be applied. Demonstrations include flight-capable robotic arm manipulation with simulated space contact dynamics, tool development for the robotic arm with unique gripping and adhesion capabilities, autonomous robotic control software and hyperdexterous conformable robot modules in operation, among others.
“Today, satellites are not built to be modified or repaired in space,” said Dave Barnhart, DARPA program manager. “Therefore, to enable an architecture that can re-use or re-purpose on-orbit components requires us to create new technologies and new capabilities. This progress report gives the community a better sense of how we are doing on the challenges we may face and the technologies needed to help us meet our goals.”
Intel’s Genevieve Bell talks about why we adopt some gadgets and spurn others and why tech companies underestimate female users
Genevieve Bell is an anthropologist in a technologist’s world. Whereas most of Intel’s staff is dedicated to making and selling chips, Bell, who directs Interaction and Experience Research for the company, tries to imagine how people will use computers, mobile devices, and other gadgets in the future. And whereas an engineer might draw you a curve showing processors getting smaller and faster, Bell might spin a yarn about what Australian farmhands think of 3‑D printers. She’s already made a name for herself by breaking down outdated narratives about who uses new technologies and why; now her lab is putting her ideas into practice, developing products that will reinvent the way we experience computing. Here, Atlantic senior editor Alexis Madrigal asks Bell what nerds misunderstand about Japanese robots, haptics (that’s touch technology that provides tactile feedback), and kitchen tools—and what these case studies reveal about how we’ll adapt to the gadgets of tomorrow.
Alexis Madrigal: Could you go through the traditional way of thinking about gadget adoption? Which new users does it leave out?
Genevieve Bell: One of the things we told ourselves for a long time was that there was a particular group of early adopters. When I joined Intel, my boss sat me down and said, “We need your help on two things. [One,] women.” I said, “Which women?” And she said, “All women.”
We had this fascination with what the youths are doing and this notion that technology was being used by men. The data just didn’t reflect that. When you look the globe over, women are 44 to 45 percent of the world’s Internet users. They spend more time online than men—17 percent more a month. If you look at social-networking sites on a global scale, women are the vast majority on most sites, with the exception of LinkedIn. Facebook is an extension of social communication, which has often been the realm of women. Same with things like Skype, whose average user is 20-to-30-something, college educated, female. If you look across the sale of e-readers, those are vastly driven by women. The same with downloading books, which is a lucrative space right now. If you look at smartphone data, again, women are about half the users on the planet, but spend more time talking, texting, and using location-based services than their male counterparts. When I put all that together, I had this moment of going, What? What is it that makes people think we’re not using the technology
You can’t keep a good man down.
It seems that is equally true of a nation’s economic potential. New ideas, new products and the determination to lead in both innovation and the vision to see what is possible and to look into the future. Other nations may copy us and our technology and they may produce products for far less money than we can. When comes to innovation and leading however, we stand front and center. No one can do it better or faster.
With new technologies and ideas coming into fruition, manufacturing is set to take off her in the US.
And now, the Chinese, like their American entrepreneurial counterparts are looking to build products here.
For decades, every trend in manufacturing favored the developing world and worked against the United States. But new tools that greatly speed up development from idea to finished product encourage start-up companies to locate here, not in Asia. Could global trade winds finally be blowing toward America again?
Near the end of this year’s second presidential debate, Candy Crowley of CNN pointed out that iPads, iPhones, and other globally sought-after Apple products are all made in China. What would it take, she asked both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, to “convince a great American company to bring that manufacturing back here?”
I listened to this question with special interest, since I was following the debate, via hotel-room TV, from the Shenzhen manufacturing zone of southern China, where many of those same iPads and iPhones are made. For the few days before the debate, I’d been revisiting PCH International, an outsourcing company I’d first written about for this magazine in 2007, in “China Makes, the World Takes.” The company’s revenues have increased more than sevenfold since then and its workforce has grown almost as fast, despite the years of global recession. This is testament both to its own success and to the nonstop surge of outsourcing contracts to China.
The day after the debate, I walked through the famous Foxconn complex in the Longhua district of Shenzhen, where some 230,000 Chinese workers, mainly between the ages of 18 and 25, turn out products sold under international brand names, from Apple and Dell to Nintendo and Sony. Another Foxconn facility not far away employs another 200,000 people; throughout China the company’s workforce numbers 1.3 million. On previous attempts to get in over the years, I had never made it past Foxconn’s front gate—not surprising given the company’s policy of stiff-arming most foreign and domestic reporters…
Mao Zedong believed that revolutionary fervor could overcome technological backwardness. But when more pragmatic leaders took power in Beijing, they found that China lagged so far behind the West that the country risked permanent second-class status.
Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, launched China’s rise by reforming the economy and opening the country to the West. With this opening, however, came a long-running, state-sponsored espionage program to acquire advanced technology and accelerate the growth of China’s civil and military industries. And when Western companies first went into China, they believed that the damage from espionage was tolerable, part of the cost of doing business in the world’s fastest-growing market, and that they could “run faster” to create new technologies, thereby minimizing any loss. But what was tolerable when China was a developing economy is no longer acceptable when it is the second-largest economy in the world and a potential military competitor.
China is not the only country to use economic espionage, but it is the most aggressive. In key industries — telecommunications, aerospace, energy, and defense — the strategy has worked well. Now, the new Chinese leadership risks seeing the boost from spying undercut both China’s international leadership and its quest for indigenous innovation.
Romney ‘Won’ the debate by floating a pack of lies to the American Public.
This is why we can’t afford Romney as president, he’s willing to propagate wingnut lies and propaganda to score points on the campaign trail, he’s lying about this so what else would he lie about? It’s time to tear down this paranoid wingnut bullshit because our children and our grandchildren can’t afford it. We can’t hand them a huge deficit, but we shouldn’t hand our great grand children a cinder for a planet either.
The Department of Energy this June specified “33 clean energy projects” of a larger scale as part of its “loans program.” Of those, financing had been “closed” on 20 of them. The intent was to promote new technologies and approaches, not necessarily old ones.
There are also other things such as high speed rail and smart meters — which are listed elsewhere, under “Infrastructure,” as part of the same overarching stimulus legislation. Accounting for things like that, a report from the Brookings Institution non-partisan think tank this April tabbed the total green stimulus spending at $51 billion.
Then, there’s the matter of whether half of those companies that have gotten money “have gone out of business.”
A few recipients of the government funds have hit hard times. The most well-known of them is solar panel maker Solyndra, which received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. Two years later, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Still, it is unclear where Romney got his figure that “half” those businesses are no longer operating.
The Energy Department cites several success stories like one of the world’s largest wind farms in eastern Oregon, massive solar power plants in Arizona and grants to Ford to produce fuel-efficient cars.
In fact, of the 28 funded projects — involving 23 companies — listed in a 2012 congressional report, only four involve businesses that were either sold or are not in operation.
After 15 years of heralded progress on pandemic preparedness, tuberculosis control, tobacco regulation, and health metrics, the World Health Organization faces confusion over its future. In 2011, after a yearlong consultation with member states, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan described the agency as overextended and unable to respond with speed and agility to today’s global health challenges. The most serious examples: the WHO’s inability to address noncommunicable disease (NCD) prevention globally, to improve access to health systems, and to set global priorities in health.
In the years after the WHO was founded in 1948, the organization plucked a lot of low-hanging fruit. It helped governments improve hygiene and environmental health. It also supported the development and application of new technologies to control major infectious diseases such as malaria, syphilis, tuberculosis, and yaws. These missions largely went hand in hand with postwar reconstruction efforts. The WHO’s most cited success from its early years was its initiative to eradicate smallpox, which began in 1958 and was certified complete in 1979.
Yet even in this golden era, the WHO struggled with an internal debate over its fundamental mission. There was an ongoing tension between a “vertical” approach, which tackled specific diseases without addressing general health services and prevention needs, and a “horizontal” one, which looked to strengthen whole health systems and support basic-care services that would deliver broad-based, integrative, and long-term improvements in public health. Bilateral donors in particular favored vertical interventions because measurable results were easier to demonstrate over a short time frame, by quantifying, say, the number of bed nets delivered or vaccines administered. These programs are also easier to control, given that they typically have separate funding proposal and allocation processes, delivery systems, and budgets. However, champions of primary care believed the WHO should dedicate resources and efforts to a horizontal approach because short-term advances in certain diseases or vaccination coverage run the risk of fragmenting general health services and weakening the role of governments as the main stewards of national health systems.
Perhaps it’s the combined Twitter power of the Two Bills (Gates and Easterly), but working in development is hot, and not just for their 5.9 million followers. I’m not kidding: The website GradSchools.com lists 204 master’s programs in international development, meant to prepare students for the glamorous life of managing technical assistance to water and sanitation departments in Bangladesh or dealing with the logistics of emergency food programs in Somalia. Devex, the international development portal, boasts a database of 410,000 candidates for employers working in the aid arena to search. And the World Bank’s Young Professionals Program, a route to a permanent position at the organization, routinely attracts about 10,000 applicants for about 30 spots each year. In other words, it’s a lot harder than getting into Harvard. Kids today — they just want to save the world.
But there is more than one way to make the planet a better place. Here’s another option: Get an MBA and go work for a big, bad multinational company. Consider this: Over the past decade, foreign direct investment in Africa topped foreign aid — and in 2011 alone, by $7 billion. And unlike food handouts or free latrines, this kind of investment built factories, financed banks, and opened mines and oil fields, creating tens of thousands of jobs and transferring invaluable knowledge to the countries that need it most. That’s good news, because it is increasingly clear that new technologies are what’s driving improved quality of life in Africa, and new ways of doing business are vital to sustaining economic growth on the continent.
When I visited Costa Rica the tour guide told me that the poor in the disheveled huts had color tv and cell phones, but my photos also show that their security system against howler monkeys was a dog on a chain, their door a burlap sack, and their children in need of new shoes, more nourishment, and new clothes. Derek Thompson destroys a powerful meme that makes its rounds mostly in elderly conservative circles.
There is a strain of conservatism that suggests that the march of technology has made life so good for people at the bottom that we don’t have to worry much about income inequality. Tens of millions of Americans are living in poverty, “but it’s okay, because they have more microwaves than ever before,” is an argument that exists, and is widely persuasive. It’s accurate to say today’s poor own stuff that yesterday’s poor wouldn’t recognize. But the ubiquity of microwaves doesn’t displace the moral obligation of the richest country in the history of the world to protect people who literally can’t afford food to put in that microwave. Medical bankruptcy is hardly alleviated by the falling price of flat screen televisions.
One hundred ago, what is now the modern world was considerably more vulnerable to agricultural crisis. After poor seasons of weather, thousands would starve. It was a tragedy. But this tragedy occurred in the context of what were then amazing new technologies. As Bill Bryson wrote in At Home, the world had never been more brilliantly lit by gas or more reliably cleaned by plumbing. Nobody today would claim that gas lamps and plumbing technologies obviate the need for welfare. And yet, I do often hear it said that microwaves and TVs have partially or wholly relieved us of the burden of worrying about the poor. If the position isn’t simply wrong, it is at the very least historically myopic.
Sex on the Internet: Goldman Sachs Sold Its Village Voice Stake Because of Online Prostitution; How Big a Business Is It?
When the news broke that Goldman Sachs had rid itself of its investment in Village Voice Media due to the company’s connection with Backpage.com, a website known mostly for its advertisements for “escorts” and certain kinds of massage, and which one prominent critic had charged with being the “biggest forum for sex trafficking of under-age girls in the United States,” two questions immediately came to mind:
1) How on earth did Goldman Sachs get mixed up in all this?
2) How pervasive is the online sex business anyway?
Let’s leave that first question to the Goldman Sachsers and move on to the second.
Cynics have long held that the secret driving force behind the spread of the Internet, and new technologies in general, has been our insatiable desire for all things sexy. Actually, this wasn’t so much a secret as something close to conventional wisdom in the 1990s, when one expert confidently declared that porn and other so called “adult services” were, as he put it, the “No. 1 income generator on the Internet.”
These days, of course, there are plenty of other “income generators” on the internet, ranging from online shopping to dopey Facebook games, and there is so much free porn so readily available online it’s hard to imagine who exactly is paying for any of it. But porn - and those “adult services” - still generate a boatload of cash.
The “escort” ads that ended up so embarrassing Goldman Sachs are only a small part of the puzzle. According to The AIM Group, which tracks such things, Backpage.com is the dominant player in the healthily growing “prostitution advertisement” industry online, generating some $26 million in revenues in the last 12 months. Other players in this market, with names like Eros.com and MyRedBook.com, added another $10.6 million in revenues to the pile. (The former big Kahuna in the field, Craigslist, reluctantly shut down its own adult listings in 2010.)
Last year, a researcher discovered that iPhones — among the world’s most popular electronic devices — were storing detailed, unencrypted information on their owners’ locations and uploading it to any computer they were connected to. Subsequent research revealed that both Apple iPhones and Google Android devices were sending detailed location information back to Apple and Google — and that in some cases, users didn’t know about it and even if they did, they had no way of stopping it.
Just a few months ago, another researcher discovered that software made by a company called Carrier IQ had been secretly installed on millions of smartphones and was tracking consumers’ locations and other private information. In both cases, millions of consumers who were carrying smartphones in their pockets had no idea that their personal information was being collected — and no way of stopping it.
When people talked about protecting their privacy when I was growing up, they were talking about protecting it from the government. They talked about unreasonable searches and seizures, about keeping the government out of their bedrooms. They talked about whether the government was trying to keep tabs on the books they read or the rallies they attended. Over the last 40 or 50 years, we’ve seen a fundamental shift in who has our information and what they’re doing with it. That’s not to say that we still shouldn’t be worried about protecting ourselves from government abuses. But now, we also have relationships with large corporations that are obtaining, storing — and in many cases, sharing (and selling) — enormous amounts of our personal information.
When the Constitution was written, the founders had no way of anticipating the new technologies that would evolve in the coming centuries. They had no way of anticipating the telephone, and so the Supreme Court ruled over 40 years ago, in Katz v. United States, that a wiretap constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. The founders had no idea that one day the police would be able to remotely track your movements through a GPS device, and so the Supreme Court ruled in January, in United States v. Jones, that this was also a search that required court approval.
All of this is a good thing: Our laws need to reflect the evolution of technology and the changing expectations of American society. This is why the Constitution is often called a “living” document.
But we have a long way to go to get our modern privacy laws in line with modern technology.
Between our wireless phone company, the company that we use for e-mail, our smartphone company and the companies that provide the apps on our phones, there exists a detailed, expansive record of everywhere we’ve been, every website we’ve visited and everyone we’ve called, e-mailed and texted and what we’ve said — often going back years and years.
In many if not most cases, these companies are legally free to share this information with whomever they want. And in most cases, people have no idea that this is happening. This all amounts to a really big deal.