Life Coaching Elon Musk – Part 1


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What does it mean to be a certified life coach?

Well, you typically drop several thousand dollars to get educated, a certificate, lots of books, many videos, and hours of time chatting/sharing coaching thoughts with other friendly people called coaches.

Far too many of the coaches I know are far too young or have too few life experience to really offer guidance or navigational aids. Personally, I like someone who has made many mistakes, side steps, errors, reversals, and goofy decisions to provide me with true insight on living.

I love creativity. My coaching and writing focus on ingenuity. I’ve had a bit of luck being ingenius now and then, but most of all, I’ve been surrounded by many ingenious people who taught me a great deal on creativity, innovation, and exercising brilliance.  

Pushing seven decades of breathing should do that for a man or woman.

So, when Elon Musk comes into my office for our future coaching session, I like to think not only my age but the mileage I’ve put on my mind counts for something.

“Elon,” I begin, “I’m truly honored we’re together.”

The mastermind smiles and nods. I ask him to squelch his smartphone. He reluctantly complies.

“Elon, your imagination and influence have already made a vast and dramatic impact on humanity. But are you finding the personal fulfillment and satisfaction you seek as, perhaps, the most innovative man on the planet?”

The power-player squirms a bit on the leather sofa. His eyes speak volumes.

“The space thing is changing how we do extraterrestrial science in the future and every celebrity but Mathew McConaughey is driving a Tesla.”  I lean forward. “It’s good to be a Musk.”

Elon nods, a bit nervously.

“So, your satisfaction quotient should be off the charts. Rarefied air. Stratospheric, right?”

His eyes drop to his lap, where his clasped hands wring.

“Feeling a bit disrupted?”  He nods in the affirmative.

“Elon, we all have observed your life and have to ask.” I hesitate for a second. “Are you spending enough time with your kids?  Giving the little Musks more than the GNP of Austria?”

No response.

“Many of us were a bit taken aback when you drop kicked your first wife to the curb for a dazzling super model trophy wife, but, hey, you’ve got needs.”  I pause for drama. “The lavish life, the dazzling toys, the globe-trotting wonderfulness of having it all.  Do you feel like you have an authentic core happiness?”

Elon Musk fiddles with his car keys and ignores my question.

“Elon.  Are you happy?”

“Being the King of Innovation in the 21st Century is great and all,” offers the King of Innovation. “But my head and heart fear for what’s new tomorrow if I lack contentment with today.”

I ponder his revelation. Rockets, electric cars, transformational dreams of solar living. But does he love his goldfish? Has he played some kickball with his kiddies?

“Elon, your imagination is magic and you have enough ‘fuck you’ money to build a 30′ wall around the entirety of Mexico.” Our eyes finally meet. “What is the one thing you want more than anything?  Your Rosebud sled?”

His eyes drop once more to his car keys.

“I want to fall asleep and dream of pastoral fields and of a gentle, cleansing rain instead of technology, tactics, and transformation.”

I smile.  “Ah,” I say with a bit of warmth and affection in my tone, “the perfect start for our next session…”


Optical Memory on a Chip



By Robert Service – Science Magazine

Today’s electronic computer chips work at blazing speeds. But an alternate version that stores, manipulates, and moves data with photons of light instead of electrons would make today’s chips look like proverbial horses and buggies. Now, one team of researchers reports that it has created the first permanent optical memory on a chip, a critical step in that direction.

“I am very positive about the work,” says Valerio Pruneri, a laser physicist at the Institute of Photonic Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, who was not involved in the research. “It’s a great demonstration of a new concept.”

Interest in so-called photonic chips goes back decades, and it’s easy to see why. When electrons move through the basic parts of a computer chip—logic circuits that manipulate data, memory circuits that store it, and metal wires that ferry it along—they bump into one another, slowing down and generating heat that must be siphoned away. That’s not the case with photons, which travel together with no resistance, and do so at, well, light speed. Researchers have already made photon-friendly chips, with optical lines that replace metal wires and optical memory circuits. But the parts have some serious drawbacks. The memory circuits, for example, can store data only if they have a steady supply of power. When the power is turned off, the data disappear, too.

Now, researchers led by Harish Bhaskaran, a nanoengineering expert at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, and electrical engineer Wolfram Pernice at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, have hit on a solution to the disappearing memory problem using a material at the heart of rewritable CDs and DVDs. That material—abbreviated GST—consists of a thin layer of an alloy of germanium, antimony, and tellurium. When zapped with an intense pulse of laser light, GST film changes its atomic structure from an ordered crystalline lattice to an “amorphous” jumble. These two structures reflect light in different ways, and CDs and DVDs use this difference to store data. To read out the data—stored as patterns of tiny spots with a crystalline or amorphous order—a CD or DVD drive shines low-intensity laser light on a disk and tracks the way the light bounces off.

In their work with GST, the researchers noticed that the material affected not only how light reflects off the film, but also how much of it is absorbed. When a transparent material lay underneath the GST film, spots with a crystalline order absorbed more light than did spots with an amorphous structure.  

Next, the researchers wanted to see whether they could use this property to permanently store data on a chip and later read it out. To do so, they used standard chipmaking technology to outfit a chip with a silicon nitride device, known as a waveguide, which contains and channels pulses of light. They then placed a nanoscale patch of GST atop this waveguide. To write data in this layer, the scientists piped an intense pulse of light into the waveguide. The high intensity of the light’s electromagnetic field melted the GST, turning its crystalline atomic structure amorphous. A second, slightly less intense pulse could then cause the material to revert back to its original crystalline structure.

When the researchers wanted to read the data, they beamed in less intense pulses of light and measured how much light was transmitted through the waveguide. If little light was absorbed, they knew their data spot on the GST had an amorphous order; if more was absorbed, that meant it was crystalline.

Bhaskaran, Pernice, and their colleagues also took steps to dramatically increase the amount of data they could store and read. For starters, they sent multiple wavelengths of light through the waveguide at the same time, allowing them to write and read multiple bits of data simultaneously, something you can’t do with electrical data storage devices. And, as they report this week in Nature Photonics, by varying the intensity of their data-writing pulses, they were also able to control how much of each GST patch turned crystalline or amorphous at any one time. With this method, they could make one patch 90% amorphous but just 10% crystalline, and another 80% amorphous and 20% crystalline. That made it possible to store data in eight different such combinations, not just the usual binary 1s and 0s that would be used for 100% amorphous or crystalline spots. This dramatically boosts the amount of data each spot can store, Bhaskaran says.

Photonic memories still have a long way to go if they ever hope to catch up to their electronic counterparts. At a minimum, their storage density will have to climb orders of magnitude to be competitive. Ultimately, Bhaskaran says, if a more advanced photonic memory can be integrated with photonic logic and interconnections, the resulting chips have the potential to run at 50 to 100 times the speed of today’s computer processors.

Quitting and Just Giving Up. . . . . . . The #Art and #Science 


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Recently found on the Internet

1. Give up your need to always be right 

There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?” Wayne Dyer. What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?

2. Give up your need for control

Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better will that make you feel.

By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.

Lao Tzu

3. Give up on blame

Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.

4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk

Oh my. How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating. You are better than that.

The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.

Eckhart Tolle

5. Give up your limiting beliefs

Give up your limiting beliefs about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!

A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind.

Elly Roselle

6. Give up complaining

Give up your constant need to complain about those many, many, maaany things – people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.

7. Give up the luxury of criticism

Give up your need to criticize things, events or people that are different than you. We are all different, yet we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we all want to love and be loved and we all want to be understood. We all want something, and something is wished by us all.

8. Give up your need to impress others

Stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not just to make others like you. It doesn’t work this way. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take off all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.

9. Give up your resistance to change

Change is good. Change will help you move from A to B. Change will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss, embrace change – don’t resist it.

The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.

Wayne Dyer

10. Give up labels

Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open.

11. Give up on your fears

Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.

The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

12. Give up your excuses

Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses – excuses that 99.9% of the time are not even real.

13. Give up the past

I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.

14. Give up attachment

This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too, (it still is) but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things, (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another, attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and self less, where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.

15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations

Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them. They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling. They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives. They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need….and eventually they forget about themselves. You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.

A Contest: Project SOLI – Google’s Invisible Hand


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Don’t touch!  Yet, without contact, your fingers can manipulate and control personal technology.

And, The Guru, is having a contest for you to imagine new ways this ingenious device from the imagination of Google will change our world.

Project Soli is Google ATAP’s project to transcend from external input devices — such as dials, buttons, levers, and sliders — and make use of fingers as the only input device. As technology get more compact — miniaturized — interacting with them can get cumbersome. Project Soli uses your hand and finger motions alone to interact with techno=devices without physically touching them.

Gesture or “Mime” Control is a feature present on many of today’s mobile devices. The most popular is drawing an alphabet on the lock screen to get into a particular app or flash the V sign to auto-fire the camera shutter. The other way is waving your hand in front of the front-facing camera on your phone to identify the gesture and act accordingly. It can become frustrating to keep repeating the gesture to get the technology to respond.

But SOLI technology changes everything with a highly effective radar signal that picks up — and interprets correctly — the minute and precise motions.

Watch it:

My Contest:

Share with me one or more ways this non-invasive innovation will be used in the immediate future in consumer, medical, communications, military, or other applications.

First, FOLLOW this blog and my Tweet line @DouglasArnold on Twitter. Retweet the Twitter contest invitation with the hashtag #SoliContest.

Then, Tweet your Soli ideas, one per tweet, to me at @DouglasArnold, with the hashtags #Google #ProjectSoli embedded in the Tweet.

I will pick the single best entry on September 30 at 12 noon. The Winner will receive a fitted Dr. Sheldon Cooper tee shirt.  

Get crackin’ and Bazinga.

Douglas Arnold’s upcoming book, “Ingenuity!” will be out later this year. Follow this blog and you may qualify for a free copy upon publication. Arnold, The Ingenuity Guru, is a writer, workshop leader, and stage speaker on ingenuity, innovation, imagination, and creativity. His upcoming book focuses on sparking greater innovation in individuals and teams, and throughout the workplace and community. His weekly tweets, blogposts, and podcasts inform and entertain. You are invited to follow this blog and on Twitter @DouglasArnold.




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It’s an old joke that many fusion scientists have grown tired of hearing: Practical nuclear fusion power plants are just 30 years away — and always will be.

But now, finally, the joke may no longer be true: Advances in magnet technology have enabled researchers at MIT to propose a new design for a practical compact tokamak fusion reactor — and it’s one that might be realized in as little as a decade, they say. The era of practical fusion power, which could offer a nearly inexhaustible energy resource, may be coming near.

Using these new commercially available superconductors, rare-earth barium copper oxide (REBCO) superconducting tapes, to produce high-magnetic field coils “just ripples through the whole design,” says Dennis Whyte, a professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and director of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center. “It changes the whole thing.”

The stronger magnetic field makes it possible to produce the required magnetic confinement of the superhot plasma — that is, the working material of a fusion reaction — but in a much smaller device than those previously envisioned. The reduction in size, in turn, makes the whole system less expensive and faster to build, and also allows for some ingenious new features in the power plant design. The proposed reactor, using a tokamak (donut-shaped) geometry that is widely studied, is described in a paper in the journal Fusion Engineering and Design, co-authored by Whyte, PhD candidate Brandon Sorbom, and 11 others at MIT. The paper started as a design class taught by Whyte and became a student-led project after the class ended.

Power plant prototype

The new reactor is designed for basic research on fusion and also as a potential prototype power plant that could produce significant power. The basic reactor concept and its associated elements are based on well-tested and proven principles developed over decades of research at MIT and around the world, the team says.

“The much higher magnetic field,” Sorbom says, “allows you to achieve much higher performance.”

Fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the sun, involves fusing pairs of hydrogen atoms together to form helium, accompanied by enormous releases of energy. The hard part has been confining the superhot plasma — a form of electrically charged gas — while heating it to temperatures hotter than the cores of stars. This is where the magnetic fields are so important—they effectively trap the heat and particles in the hot center of the device.

While most characteristics of a system tend to vary in proportion to changes in dimensions, the effect of changes in the magnetic field on fusion reactions is much more extreme: The achievable fusion power increases according to the fourth power of the increase in the magnetic field. Thus, doubling the field would produce a 16-fold increase in the fusion power. “Any increase in the magnetic field gives you a huge win,” Sorbom says.

Tenfold boost in power

While the new superconductors do not produce quite a doubling of the field strength, they are strong enough to increase fusion power by about a factor of 10 compared to standard superconducting technology, Sorbom says. This dramatic improvement leads to a cascade of potential improvements in reactor design.

The world’s most powerful planned fusion reactor, a huge device called ITER that is under construction in France, is expected to cost around $40 billion. Sorbom and the MIT team estimate that the new design, about half the diameter of ITER (which was designed before the new superconductors became available), would produce about the same power at a fraction of the cost and in a shorter construction time.

But despite the difference in size and magnetic field strength, the proposed reactor, called ARC, is based on “exactly the same physics” as ITER, Whyte says. “We’re not extrapolating to some brand-new regime,” he adds.

Another key advance in the new design is a method for removing the the fusion power core from the donut-shaped reactor without having to dismantle the entire device. That makes it especially well-suited for research aimed at further improving the system by using different materials or designs to fine-tune the performance.

In addition, as with ITER, the new superconducting magnets would enable the reactor to operate in a sustained way, producing a steady power output, unlike today’s experimental reactors that can only operate for a few seconds at a time without overheating of copper coils.

Liquid protection

Another key advantage is that most of the solid blanket materials used to surround the fusion chamber in such reactors are replaced by a liquid material that can easily be circulated and replaced, eliminating the need for costly replacement procedures as the materials degrade over time.

“It’s an extremely harsh environment for [solid] materials,” Whyte says, so replacing those materials with a liquid could be a major advantage.

Right now, as designed, the reactor should be capable of producing about three times as much electricity as is needed to keep it running, but the design could probably be improved to increase that proportion to about five or six times, Sorbom says. So far, no fusion reactor has produced as much energy as it consumes, so this kind of net energy production would be a major breakthrough in fusion technology, the team says.

The design could produce a reactor that would provide electricity to about 100,000 people, they say. Devices of a similar complexity and size have been built within about five years, they say.

“Fusion energy is certain to be the most important source of electricity on earth in the 22nd century, but we need it much sooner than that to avoid catastrophic global warming,” says David Kingham, CEO of Tokamak Energy Ltd. in the UK, who was not connected with this research. “This paper shows a good way to make quicker progress,” he says.

The MIT research, Kingham says, “shows that going to higher magnetic fields, an MIT speciality, can lead to much smaller (and hence cheaper and quicker-to-build) devices.” The work is of “exceptional quality,” he says; “the next step … would be to refine the design and work out more of the engineering details, but already the work should be catching the attention of policy makers, philanthropists and private investors.”

The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.



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We say the words, but we rarely listen. Human Being.  

To be, said Shakespeare. To exist or live — to take place, to happen, to occur. 

To occupy a place, to hold a position.

To continue, to remain as before. Let it be, said Lennon.

To belong, to attend, to befall. May the force be with you, said General Dodanna. (I know Han said it, but he didn’t say it first.)

So, do you just live, merely exist, or do you occupy a place?

Do you simply continue, to remain as before, or do you belong, do you attend?

Are you, by choice, uniting, igniting, delighting?

Are you being?



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 Computer experts have long warned about a catastrophic cyber-attack in the US, a sort of Web 3.0 version of 9/11 that would wreak enormous damage throughout the country. Like most Americans, I shrugged. With all of the enormous resources the country enjoys, those warnings seemed like the rantings of a digital Chicken Little.

Oddly enough, the revelations of the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden gave me some false comfort. If the powerful NSA was so good at hacking its own citizens, then surely the agency could prevent criminals, terrorists and foreign enemies from doing the same?
And then there’s Silicon Valley, which I frequently write about. Surely the uber-geeks who run the world’s greatest innovation cluster could code something to smite the evildoers? Well, on behalf on the US, I admit I was terribly wrong. We are so screwed.

I came to this conclusion recently, over a span of seven days. Earlier this month I attended a preview of retail giant Target’s new “Internet of Things” showroom in downtown San Francisco. The company had constructed a mock house intended to show how “smart devices” connected to the internet could seamlessly work together to automate the 21st-century digital home. A car alarm wakes up the baby sleeping in the nursery. A sensor detects the baby’s cries, alerts the parents and automatically triggers the stereo to play soothing music.

It was all very impressive, but I couldn’t help notice an irony: the retailer that in 2013 was subject to a hack that comprised the credit-card data of 100 million consumers now wanted people to entrust their entire homes to the internet. “It’s been a long time coming, but we are just getting started,” a Target executive said.

One week later I found myself at a dinner in a fancy hotel to discuss cybersecurity with the executives of top Silicon Valley firms. Unlike the festive Target event, the mood was decidedly grim. Actually it was downright alarming.

Forget about the Sony and Ashley Madison hacks. Those cyberthefts may cost companies some money and embarrassment, but that’s not what the execs were nervous about. Even the successful breach of Chrysler’s in-car systems, which allowed hackers to take control of a Jeep on the highway and prompted the recall of 1.4 million vehicles, is a mere appetiser compared with what’s coming down the road.

By 2020 the US will be hit with an earthquake of a cyber-attack that will cripple banks, stock exchanges, power plants and communications, an executive from Hewlett-Packard predicted. Companies are nowhere near prepared for it. Neither are the Feds. And yet, instead of mobilising a national defence, we want a toaster that communicates with the washing machine over the internet.
In many ways the Target event and the dinner demonstrate a kind of collective cognitive dissonance about technology. We’ll eagerly pursue innovations like the internet of things and electronic health records even as we’re increasingly aware of how vulnerable such technology makes us to terrorists and criminals. In fact, the reference to earthquakes was fitting. Scientists have long predicted the “Big One” – a massive earthquake in Seattle or San Francisco that will kill lots of people and cause trillions of dollars of damage. Yet people still build houses and buildings on what is essentially the most dangerous land in the country.

What struck me about the dinner, attended by executives from Hewlett-Packard, software company Cloudera and PayPal, along with academics and investors, was the naked pessimism in the room. Nobody even tried to put a happy face on the situation. “A slow-moving train wreck,” one executive said. Forget about coordinating with each other or the Feds: companies don’t even know how to deal with their own hacks, never mind worry about someone else’s. A whopping 57% of chief executives have not been trained on what to do after a data breach, according to a report by HP. And more than 70% of executives think their companies only partially understand the risks. Buying antivirus software is one thing; deploying an effective strategy is quite another. However, companies don’t even want to admit they were hacked in the first place.

Think about the big hacks that have dominated headlines in recent years. In most cases the companies disclosed the intrusion only after someone forced them to do so – either journalists or the hackers themselves. Again, let’s focus on Target. In December 2013, blogger Brian Krebs disclosed that hackers stole data from millions of Target REDcard users. Yet it took Target more than 24 hours to confirm it. One wonders when or even if Target would have admitted the breach had it not been for Krebs’s story. The hack took place at the height of the holiday shopping season, the most important sales period for retailers.

Indeed, hours before Krebs broke the story, then CEO Gregg Steinhafel issued an unusual statement to say that he was pleased with holiday sales. Once the hack became public, sales sharply fell. A few months later I wrote a story for the San Francisco Chronicle that disclosed hackers, possibly from China, had inflitrated the systems of the country’s top three medical-device companies. Only Medtronic eventually admitted to the hack – about four months after my story appeared and more than a year after the hack occurred. Sadly, Corporate America’s ineptitude is only half the problem. In general, people “just don’t give a shit” because they don’t have any real skin in the game, said one person at the dinner. Unless lots of consumers lose lots of money, cybercrime will continue to remain a vague and distant threat.

Oh sure, it’s pretty annoying when you have to cancel your credit cards. But since banks and other financial institutions cover any financial losses from fraud, people don’t feel any financial pain from cybercrime – at least not enough to make them care.

How else to explain this? According to SplashData, the five most popular passwords in circulation are “123456”, “password”, “12345”, “12345678” and “qwerty”. Darwin wins again.

For all American pontifications about privacy, we don’t exactly make it hard for people to see our stuff.

A survey by the Pew Center showed that in 2014, while Americans said that they care deeply about privacy, the vast majority of respondents – 91% – had not made any changes to their internet or cellphone use to avoid having their activities tracked or noticed. Only 7% reported that they had made these kinds of changes in “recent months”.

Sadly, the people at the dinner all agreed, the only thing to shake companies, consumers, and the government out of our weird stupor is a massive cyber-attack akin to 9/11. Only instead of planes flying into the World Trade Center, these cyber-attacks, whether from a hostile state or terrorists, will hurt all of us, not just people who happen to shop at Target. In the meantime we will continue to connect our appliances to the internet and download attachments from sketchy emails. But don’t count on companies or the Feds to prevent the Big One. Because they are just as lost as we are.

Thomas Lee is a columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle who frequently writes about cybersecurity. This is adapted from a column that appeared in the newspaper last week.



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  Over 1,000 high-profile artificial intelligence experts and leading researchers have signed an open letter warning of a “military artificial intelligence arms race” and calling for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons”.The letter, presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was signed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and professor Stephen Hawking along with 1,000 AI and robotics researchers.

The letter states: “AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of [autonomous weapons] is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”

The authors argue that AI can be used to make the battlefield a safer place for military personnel, but that offensive weapons that operate on their own would lower the threshold of going to battle and result in greater loss of human life.

Should one military power start developing systems capable of selecting targets and operating autonomously without direct human control, it would start an arms race similar to the one for the atom bomb, the authors argue.Unlike nuclear weapons, however, AI requires no specific hard-to-create materials and will be difficult to monitor.

“The endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting,” said the authors.

Toby Walsh, professor of AI at the University of New South Wales said: “We need to make a decision today that will shape our future and determine whether we follow a path of good. We support the call by a number of different humanitarian organisations for a UN ban on offensive autonomous weapons, similar to the recent ban on blinding lasers.”

Musk and Hawking have warned that AI is “our biggest existential threat” and that the development of full AI could “spell the end of the human race”. But others, including Wozniak have recently changed their minds on AI, with the Apple co-founder saying that robots would be good for humans, making them like the “family pet and taken care of all the time”.

At a UN conference in Geneva in April discussing the future of weaponry, including so-called “killer robots”, the UK opposed a ban on the development of autonomous weapons, despite calls from various pressure groups, including the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.



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An international research team based at The University of Texas at Dallas has made electrically conducting fibers that can be reversibly stretched to more than 14 times their initial length and whose electrical conductivity increases 200-fold when stretched.

The research team is using the new fibers to make artificial muscles, as well as capacitors with energy storage capacity that increases about tenfold when the fibers are stretched.

Fibers and cables derived from the invention might one day be used as interconnects for super-elastic electronic circuits, robots and exoskeletons having great reach, morphing aircraft, giant-range strain sensors, failure-free pacemaker leads, and super-stretchy charger cords for electronic devices.

Wrapping carbon nanotube sheets into fibers

In a study published in the July 24 issue of the journal Science, the scientists describe how they constructed the fibers by wrapping lighter-than-air, electrically conductive sheets of tiny carbon nanotubes to form a jelly-roll-like sheath around a long rubber core.

The new fibers differ from conventional materials in several ways. For example, when conventional fibers are stretched, the resulting increase in length and decrease in cross-sectional area restricts the flow of electrons through the material. But even a “giant” stretch of the new conducting sheath-core fibers causes little change in their electrical resistance, said Dr. Ray Baughman, senior author of the paper and director of the Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute at UT Dallas.

One key to the performance of the new conducting elastic fibers is the introduction of buckling into the carbon nanotube sheets. Because the rubber core is stretched along its length as the sheets are being wrapped around it, when the wrapped rubber relaxes, the carbon nanofibers form a complex buckled structure, which allows for repeated stretching of the fiber.

“Think of the buckling that occurs when an accordion is compressed, which makes the inelastic material of the accordion stretchable,” said Baughman, the Robert A. Welch Distinguished Chair in Chemistry at UT Dallas.

“We make the inelastic carbon nanotube sheaths of our sheath-core fibers super stretchable by modulating large buckles with small buckles, so that the elongation of both buckle types can contribute to elasticity. These amazing fibers maintain the same electrical resistance, even when stretched by giant amounts, because electrons can travel over such a hierarchically buckled sheath as easily as they can traverse a straight sheath.”

Radical electronic and mechanical devices possible

By adding a thin overcoat of rubber to the sheath-core fibers and then another carbon nanotube sheath, the researchers made strain sensors and artificial muscles in which the buckled nanotube sheaths serve as electrodes and the thin rubber layer is a dielectric, resulting in a fiber capacitor. These fiber capacitors exhibited the unrivaled capacitance change of 860 percent when the fiber was stretched 950 percent.

Adding twist to these double-sheath fibers resulted in fast, electrically powered torsional — or rotating — artificial muscles that could be used to rotate mirrors in optical circuits or pump liquids in miniature devices used for chemical analysis. The conducting elastomers can be fabricated in diameters ranging from the very small — about 150 microns, or twice the width of a human hair — to much larger sizes, depending on the size of the rubber core. Individual small fibers also can be combined into large bundles and plied together like yarn or rope,” according to the researchers.

“This technology could be well-suited for rapid commercialization,” said Dr. Raquel Ovalle-Robles MS’06 PhD’08, an author on the paper and chief research and intellectual properties strategist at Lintec of America’s Nano-Science & Technology Center.

“The rubber cores used for these sheath-core fibers are inexpensive and readily available,” she said. “The only exotic component is the carbon nanotube aerogel sheet used for the fiber sheath.”

Credit: Kurzweil Newsletter