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Aug 8, 2017

How will Artificial Intelligence (AI) Affect Warfare?

In today's episode we discuss the role of artificial intelligence in the future of warfare. What are the risks? How is the United States likely to fare in confrontations involving the use of AI?

In a recent paper, Center for a New American Security Fellow Greg Allen and his co-author, Taniel Chan, illustrate both the risks and opportunities for the use of AI in warfare. We discuss these findings plus lessons learned from previous revolutions in the use of military technology.


Greg Allen (@Grecory_C_Allen) is an Adjunct Fellow with the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. He focuses on the intersection of Artificial Intelligence, cybersecurity, robotics, and national security. Additionally, Mr. Allen's writing and analysis has appeared in WIRED, Vox, and The Hill.

In 2017, The Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs published  his report entitled “Artificial Intelligence and National Security”. Allen and his co-author, Taniel Chan conducted this  study on behalf of the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA).

Mr. Allen currently works at Blue Origin, a space exploration and technology company. Prior to working at Blue Origin, he worked at Avascent, where he advised senior executives in government and the private sector.

Mr. Allen holds a joint MPP/MBA degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard Business School. Further, his Master’s Thesis was honored with the Belfer Center Award for Excellence in International and Global Affairs.

In addition, he graduated magna cum laude from Washington University in Saint Louis, where he was awarded the Arnold J. Lien prize for outstanding graduate in Political Science.



Artificial Intelligence and National Security by Greg Allen and Taniel Chan (Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 2017)- AI and the Future of Warfare


Center for a New American Security

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari


After August 31, the feds don't have to tell you how they're storing your biometric data

If you're concerned about how federal law enforcement officials are storing your biometric data, you'd better act fast. After August 31, they will no longer have to tell you. The FBI's Next Generation Identification system stores things like iris scans and fingerprints that you gave during things like employment background checks.  Currently, you can find out how the feds are storing your biometric information. However, the FBI becomes exempt from the Privacy Act provision that allows this on August 31. You can find the story in

Senate confirms Rosenworcel and Carr

The Federal Communications Commission is now up to 5 Commissioners. So it finally has a full panel of Commissioners. The Senate confirmed Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Brendan Carr last week. Rosenworcel previously served as a Commissioner during the Tom Wheeler FCC for three years from 2012 to 2015. Carr is the the FCC's current General Counsel.

In addition, President Donald Trump had also nominated Chairman Ajit Pai. However, the Senate did not take up Pai's nomination before the recess.

The three Republicans at the Commission will now be Pai, Carr and Michael O'Rielly. And the two Democrats are Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn. Edward Graham has the story in Morning Consult.

Tech sector opposes legal immigration restrictions

The tech sector is opposing the GOP immigration bill President Trump endorsed last week which would cut legal immigration in half over 10 years. The so-called RAISE Act prefers highly skilled workers and English speakers and moves extended family members of immigrants to the back of the line.

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC)-- the trade group that lobbies on behalf of tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and others--opposes the measure. ITIC president Dean Garfield said in a statement “This is not the right proposal to fix our immigration system because it does not address the challenges tech companies face, injects more bureaucratic dysfunction, and removes employers as the best judge of the employee merits they need to succeed and grow the U.S. economy.” Tony Romm has the story in Recode.

Meanwhile, Canada is emerging as the "New" New Colossus, welcoming Emma Lazaraus's "huddled masses yearning to breathe free". Canadian business and government leaders are seizing on the opportunity to welcome tech talent to Canada. David George-Cosh and Jacqui McNish report in the Wall Street Journal.

Apple and Amazon bow to China, Google complies with Russia

The tech sector is coming under increased pressure to conform to multinational norms. Paul Mozur at The New York Times reports that Apple has removed Chinese censor-evading VPN apps from its Chinese app storeAmazon also warned its Chinese customers to stop using software that evades China's Great Firewall.

Further, in Russia, Google has begun implementing terms it settled on in a dispute with its Russian competitor, Yandex. The agreement stipulates that Google would give Russians a choice of which browser to use on Android phones. In accordance with the agreement, Google began suggesting other browsers to Russian Android users last week. David Meyer reports in Fortune.

Senate passes 6 bills before recess

The Senate passed 6 bipartisan technology and communications bills before they departed for recess. They include bills  to expand spectrum availability (MOBILE NOW Act S. 19), improve service in rural areas ( S. 96) , and make it easier to call 911 from hotel rooms (Kari's Law Act of 2017, S. 123). Congress wrote the latter bill in response to Brad Dunn's fatal stabbing of his wife, Kari Hunt, in a hotel room in Marshall, Texas as Hunt's 9-year-old daughter tried to call 911.  Unbeknownst to the young girl, the hotel room phone required callers to dial 9 before 911, and she was unable to reach a dispatcher.

Other bills include:

  • Spoofing Prevention Act of 2017 (S. 134): Legislation to stop misleading or inaccurate caller ID information.
  •  Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2017 (S . 174): Legislation to require the FCC to condense duplicative reports on competition in the telecommunications market into one comprehensive report released every two years.
  •  Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things Act (DIGIT Act)(S. 88): Legislation to bring together private sector and government entities to assess the needs of the Internet of Things (IoT) and study the readiness of government to support the IoT.

Senators introduce the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017

Several advocacy groups are opposing a new bipartisan bill entitled the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017. The bill has the support of six Senators--3 Republican and 3 Democrat--including Senators Portman, McCain, Cornyn, Blumenthal, McCaskill, and Heitkamp. The new law would allow victims of sex trafficking to sue and press charges against any website that "knowingly or recklessly" enabled sex trafficking. Additionally, it would criminalize conduct by websites that “assists, supports, or facilitates a violation of federal sex trafficking laws”. Further, it would allow the states to prosecute sites under federal sex crimes laws.

Advocates argue that this new legislation would eviscerate Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 shields websites from liability stemming from content posted by their users. Without section 230, these advocates say, the internet as we know it simply would not exist. Further, the advocates argue that it would simply be too risky for sites like Facebook or Twitter to host user-generated content. Sarah Jeong covers this in The Verge.

Facebook's new diversity report shows little progress

Facebook released its fourth annual diversity report. Eighty-nine percent of its workforce self-identifies as white or Asian. However, the number of women working at Facebook has increased by 2 percentage points since last year to 35%. Nevertheless, women hold just 19% of tech positions at Facebook, although the company reports that 27% of its engineering hires are women.

Looking at the senior ranks ... 70% are white, 72% are male and of the women who have cracked the glass ceiling into the c-suite, 68% are white. However, the percentage of Facebook employees who identify as black went from 2 to 3%. Hispanics when from 4 to 5%. Clare O'Connor reports in Forbes.

Crowdfunding platforms block alt-right groups

Blake Montgomery at Buzzfeed reports that leading fundraising platforms like PayPal, GoFundMe, and Patreon have banned or limited some members of the alt-right from using their sites.

Researcher proves Amazon Echo can be a spying tool

A British researcher has demonstrated how he has been able to successfully install malware on an Amazon Echo that allowed him to eavesdrop. But the hack requires physical access to the target Echo and only works on pre-2017 Echo devices. Andy Greenberg has details in Wired.