Deep Tech

DeepTech: Hypersonic Weapons, DARPA’s Black Start Exercise, AI In Healthcare

It Only Sounds Like Science Fiction

Blast off! It’s Party Time, As US, Russia, & China Develop Hypersonic Weapons

Last week DARPA, the US military’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, started soliciting proposals to develop missile defense systems with Glide Breaker fielding interceptors. The systems are designed to intercept hypersonic weapons, which can exit the atmosphere, evade detection by radar and satellite, and potentially neutralize US missile defenses (once thought to be nigh-invincible). Certain types of hypersonic weapon systems, like ‘boost-glide’ weapons, combine a strength and maneuverability not previously achievable, and could be armed with conventional or nuclear warheads. China and Russia are already at advanced stages of development. Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, reassured reporters that the US is ahead of the competition. That is, at least in research. So, to sum up: the US military industrial complex is spending undisclosed sums to develop a defense system for a weapon that doesn’t actually exist yet. Let’s hope they take more care in developing these weapons than they did storing spent nuclear fuel.

US Grid Vulnerabilities: How Do You Black Start after a GreyEnergy Attack?

Last week, DARPA staged a black start exercise on Plum Island, New York. The exercise simulated real-world obstacles of restoring power to a dead US grid in the wake of a cyberattack. Despite DARPA’s development of grid recovery tools, the US has been slow to respond to grid security vulnerabilities: physical attack, cyber-attack, electromagnetic pulse (EMP), or a geomagnetic storm event. It wasn’t until January this year that the US adopted procedural regulations which give the president the power to declare a grid security emergency. In March, the FBI revealed that the US’s electrical grid is under constant threat of cyber attack by Russian actors. While the US has been slow to catch up; other countries haven’t had the chance. The cyber-attack against Ukrainian critical infrastructure brought Kieve to a halt as experts scrambled to contain the effects of the BlackEnergy malware. Researchers now warn of GreyEnergy malware, which has already been detected in Poland. The newly released World Energy Outlook 2018 warns that much infrastructure vulnerability comes from internet connectivity. Not convinced? Security experts warn that the US nuclear arsenal is increasingly under threat of cyber attack.

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Genetic Testing Is a Terrible Idea; Here’s Why

Genetic tests and databases are increasingly under fire for privacy violations and racial biases. Researchers lament that some disease-risk tests don’t work at all on Asians, Hispanics, or Black Americans. Others have accused companies like 23andMe of fueling and profiteering off tests to ‘prove’ racial supremacy. A new tech startup, Nebula Genomics, will give away free genome reports if users answer personal questions about their health and habits. The company will sell user responses and genetic test results to drug companies. And, 23andMe already sells info to drug companies. Think your distant cousin’s 23andMe DNA test has no effect on you? Think again. The majority of white Americans are identifiable by their DNA thanks to consumer genomics databases like 23andMe. In fact, this is how police finally caught the Golden State Killer after a decades-long search. Investigators simply uploaded DNA samples collected in the 1970s to GEDmatch a public, consumer genealogy website, and voila! The future has come, but your anonymity is gone.

Is AI a panacea? The promise & the peril of AI in healthcare

Among AI’s biggest potentials is to improve healthcare outcomes by reducing the number of mistakes made in diagnosing and treating illness. Researchers have developed a new system to speed up drug discovery, Pattern to Knowledge (P2K), that uses AI to sift through massive amounts of data from scientific results to reduce obstacles in drug research and development.  And Google AI can predict metastatic breast cancer 99% of the time. Some tech experts and investors believe that eventually AI-powered robots will help care for a global, aging demographic. Already, an AI powered robot seal helps seniors deal with early stages of dementia. However, policy analysts and advocacy groups point to privacy concerns and medical malpractice liability. Google has also come under fire for its practices with DeepMind, the AI health app. For 5 years, Google collected and used data on 1.6 million patients without consent. And iWatch algorithms can predict early signs of diabetes with 85% accuracy. The only problem is that there are no privacy laws about what Apple can (or can’t) do with the data. Some investors are pushing interactive insurance policies, which use devices like fitbits to track user activity. What if your iWatch is actually watching you?


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