Airport Screening – Safety First, Why Not Show the World?

Americans don’t really seem to care about economic competition when it comes to ensuring safety at U.S. airports.  Things are different in Europe as we all know, but if Google has developed the best computer algorithms to identify concealed weapons in airport checkpoint body scanners in the U.S., wouldn’t the rest of the world want to do the same?  Not so, I’m afraid.  Those “wild and crazy” European Union officials are more concerned about Google’s business practices on their continent and want to exact some hefty fines that will delay many proven screening techniques in airports throughout Europe.  I am not making this up!

So in the land of the free and the brave, we have industry-wide contests to select winners in developing the best body-scanning technology to identify concealed weapons on airline travelers.  A $1.5 million contest to be exact, run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  It’s all about artificial intelligence for which the U.S. seems to be taking the lead in a large number of technological screening endeavors.  For the rest of the world, this may all seem too “robotic”, but let’s face it, we need to make some changes quickly for safety’s sake  The world’s traveling population is growing astronomically, and we need to rely more on available technological resources.  We don’t need more “friendly skies”; we need more vigilance that technolgy can provide whereever we may be on land or in the skies.  European resistance for the sake of a “level economic playing field” is misguided.

Please trust me, I am not advocating that America has all answers for airline safety world-wide.  But I do believe that we can help in making airline travel safer wherever you may be traveling.

Ray Myers


How to Catch an Extremist?

Facebook used to be a fun place.  As we all well know, that is not necessarily the case today.  Unfortunately it has also provided a means for terrorist networking.  I know this is not the happy “talk” that I like to post on this site, but we can not afford to be naive in how social networking is being used.  But do you really think artificial intelligence will save us from this blight of hatred and terrorism in which Facebook seems to play a large part?  I am not very reassured from what I read on both sides of the equation.

Facebook representatives have said they were hopeful that the new artificial intelligence technology could be used to counter any form of extremism that violated the company’s terms of use, although for the time being it will be “narrowly focused.”  Representatives from the international freedom of expression group at the Electronic Frontier Foundation wonder if Facebook’s action will be effective or will it be overreach.  “Are they trying to discourage people from joining terrorist groups to begin with, or to discourage them from from posting about terrorism on Facebook.”  I guess the answer could be “both,” but I think that Facebook is still trying to minimize the use of its platform as a terrorist “social network.”

Let’s start somewhere.  This is a needed form of network censorship.

Ray Myers

Is Life a Calendar to Fill Up?

Let technology do it for you.  Now you can go to your new improved Google calendar and find that “Goals” has scheduled all those things you have to do everyday.  “Goals” is the name of the software that offers you a menu of goals to choose from on a daily basis.  It can then scour the white spaces in your calendar for available times and will map out a schedule.  Of course you will still be in charge of deciding if this is all okay with you and let “Goals” make all the final arrangements.  Why not?

I don’t know about you, but all of this does scare me in my “old age.”  I really do have more spare time these days, and I would hate to have it all filled up by a virtual assistant of some kind.  I can still pretty much plan my calendar from day to day, and more often think in terms of month to month at a more leisurely pace.  And we can all thank artificial intelligence (A.I.) for making this all possible.  Yes, that’s right, your new personal assistant is really a robot after all.  And a very hard-working one at that.  He/she (your choice) can even sort your email into high and low priority items and weed out the junk.  Unfortunately, this appears to have freed up time for people to send more work email!

So be careful what you wish for, or in this case, what you really never wished for, but Google decided you needed.  Sherry Turkle at M.I.T. worries that “human” software agents can diminish authentic human interactions.  I don’t think robots ever worry about that!

Ray Myers

Making Artificial Intelligence Harmless?

How little we really know or maybe it’s just me.  Last week I blogged about the wonders of artificial intelligence (AI) and how it could have done miraculous things for characters like the Strawman in the Wizard of Oz.  Little did I know that prominent leaders in the scientific community are concerned that this technological power could also be used in ways that can potentially do more harm than good. 

To combat the imminent abuse of this powerful scientific resource for destructive purposes such as killer robots (e.g., terminators), leading tech entrepreneurs and companies have joined forces.  A new non-profit group has been formed called Open AI with a mega-fund of one billion dollars dedicated to finding and funding positive uses for AI.  Their intended mission is to do everything they can to ensure that the same tech that could support “killing machines” gets used for good instead.

Some say one billion dollars will not be enough.  A future where terminators could exist is basically inevitable.   Bill Gates has also expressed the urgency of this issue, stating that he does not “understand why some people are not concerned” about the possibility of a rogue, self-aware robot.  Artificial intelligence may help us address an array of human challenges but it is still man who decides how to use it best.

Ray Myers

If I Only Had a Brain!

Well don’t worry any more, Mr. Scarecrow.  There’s always artificial intelligence.  And as long as you have the necessary visual acuity you will now be able to recognize all the hand written characters from as many as fifty different languages!  I guess the hard part may be carrying around the lap top (mobile device?) that contains the software or other assistive programs you may need, but there are many mobility experts that can help today.  I do not know how many languages they may speak or write in Oz, but you will surely be in better shape than you were before.

Mr. Scarecrow may find that all these advances will make him a little nostalgic for the good old days when he would ramble down that yellow brick road with Dorothy and the gang, but I know that he will enjoy the independence this new technology brings.  It will change his life just as technology has changed all of our personal and professional lives in the twenty-first century.

Experts note that such advances in artificial intelligence and robotics reflect an intensifying focus in Silicon Valley.   I think that this focus will be of great future benefit to all people in every corner of the globe.

Ray Myers