Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Russian Telescope Detects “Strong Alien Signal”

Strong-Alien-Signal

Signal detected a year ago from star HD164595, only 95 light years away and with at least one planet, but Seti scientists are scanning the area and have yet to find it.

A Russian radio telescope scanning the skies has observed “a strong signal” from a nearby star, HD164595, in the constellation Hercules. The star is a scant 95 light years away and 99% of the size of Earth’s own sun. It has at least one planet, HD164595b, which is about the size of Neptune and has a 40-day year.

Seth Shostak of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (Seti) in Mountain View, California, told the Guardian he was shocked to have learned of the discovery only now – the readings from Russian radio telescope Ratan-600, Shostak said, were taken a year ago.

Seti, a private organization, searches the skies for alien life and has been underwritten by US government divisions as diverse as Nasa and the Department of Energy. Operated by the Russian Academy of Sciences, Ratan-600’s primary area of focus is monitoring the sun, though it has contributed to Seti’s work.

The news came to international attention on Saturday through Claudio Maccone of the University of Turin in Italy, who attended a talk by the scientists who recorded the signal on 15 May 2015. Maccone passed data from the presentation to the science and science-fiction writer Paul Gilster, who maintains a blog about interstellar exploration called Centauri Dreams.

Maccone sent the Guardian his proposed presentation for the International Academy of Astronautics 2016 meeting on the subject of the search for alien life, set for 27 September. He will call for the permanent monitoring of HD164595. “The power of the signal received is not unrealistic for type I civilizations,” he wrote.

The phrase “type I civilization” is a designation on the Kardashev scale, named for Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev developed in the 1960s and described in English in his 1985 paper On the Inevitability and the Possible Structures of Supercivilizations. A type I civilization would be similar to the current development of technology on earth.

“Could it be an ET?” asked Shostak rhetorically. “Of course, but [Ratan-600] didn’t have a receiver that has any spectral resolution.” The receiver on the Russian radio telescope is very wide, which aids it in its primary mission of monitoring solar activity but also means that, like a terrestrial radio receiving a news station, rock’n’roll station and country station at the same time, it is difficult to discern which band is broadcasting at which frequency. “They have a receiver that would swallow a big chunk of the radio dial at once,” Shostak said.

Because the receiver covers such a big sweep of the radio dial, it is hard to tell if the signal comes from intelligent life.

If it is being broadcast across a large chunk of the radio spectrum, the noise is probably coming from a quasar or another source of stellar “noise”; if it is over a narrower band but very strong, it is likelier to be the product of intelligence.

Gilster said he was curious about the possibility that the signal could be caused by “microlensing” – a quirk of gravity that occurs when massive objects like stars or quasars are aligned behind another heavenly body.

“My own thought is that this is very possibly a one-time signal, much like the famous WOW! signal some years back,” Gilster said. On 15 August 1977, astronomer Jerry Ehman received a powerful radio signal from a group of stars called Chi Sagittarii; he circled the surprising spot on the readout and wrote “WOW!” The signal never returned.

“If it too doesn’t repeat,” said Gilster, “then we won’t know what it was, including the possibility of some kind of local signal whose source just hasn’t been figured out.”

Shostak said he wished he had been made aware of the signal earlier. “Why is it that we’re hearing about this now because one of the guys gave a talk in Moscow a year ago?” he asked. “Maccone’s explanation is that the Russians are ‘shy’. [But] it’s generally accepted procedure in the Seti community if you find a signal that you think is interesting, you call up people in another observatory and say: ‘Hey, here’s the position in the sky,’ and you see what happens.”

Gilster said his understanding was that the Russian team had spent the past year analyzing and confirming its data.

Shostak told the Guardian that Seti’s own radio telescope was scanning the coordinates in question in search of the promising signal as of Sunday night. That evening, though, everything was quiet.

The Russian radio telescope team and Maccone have been contacted for comment.

Read Article (Sam Thielman | theguardian.com | 08/29/2016)

Inevitably, such contact will happen --It’s just a matter of time. All we can do it hope that governments of planet earth don’t screw-up a first contact. It’s quite obvious that governments have secret agendas’ and who knows what they might do?

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New Tennessee Tech Could SuperCharge Education

SuperCharge-Education

The technologies of tomorrow are making headway into Tennessee classrooms as one of the largest Digital Resources Library was announced today in Nashville, Tennessee. It took nearly eighteen months to complete the library, which brought fifty-eight Tennessee teachers together, who curated digital learning resources for high school courses that are aligned to state standards.

While Texas and a handful of other states have also created digital libraries, this is one of the largest digital libraries which combined the efforts of numerous organizations including the Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA), Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS), Tennessee Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (TASCD), and the Tennessee Educational Technology Association (TETA).

“We are very excited about the launch of the digital library and believe it will be a tremendous resource for our educators and students,” said TSBA Executive Director Dr. Tammy Grissom.

Funded by the American Public Education Foundation and Pickler Companies, the Tennessee Digital Resources Library was created to help school districts use and share open educational resources to help teachers deliver content in the classrooms. Many top educators see the process of technology coming into the classroom as “inevitable” which is why Tennessee took such a strong position in embracing new technologies and creating partnerships with Apple, Inc., which provided technical support to all fifty-eight teachers.

In August 2015, teachers began curating digital learning materials for the following fourteen high school courses: Algebra I and II; Biology; Chemistry; Economics; English I, II, III and IV; Geometry; Government; Physical Science; U.S. and World History.

“Tennessee has been a true reform leader in the post-common core world. The state has established Tennessee-specific standards. They are developing curriculum around these high standards, and with the TDRL, we have the opportunity to bridge the digital divide and create greater educational opportunity for all students,” said Foundation president David A. Pickler, J.D, founder and president of Pickler Companies. The Foundation and Pickler Companies provided all fifty-eight teachers supporting the project with iPad Air 2s and stipends ranging from $500 to $1000 (team leaders).

While many are hoping technology will save time and offer personalized and adaptive delivery of curricula, it is also a potential savings for school districts. The curated digital materials replace costly textbooks that often are obsolete before ever reaching students. Additionally, at a time of significant national concern with the price of higher education, there is also hope that innovative technology can better prepare students for tech-driven workplaces. Early supporters include Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Rep. John Forgety (R-Athens), with Tracy noting that to accomplish TDRL “took leadership,” and that these digital resources “will improve the quality of education across the spectrum in Tennessee.”

The Tennessee School Boards Association website, www.tsba.net (click TDRL), houses the materials, which are free to all teachers.

Read Article (Mia Toschi | huffingtonpost.com | 07/12/2016)

Regardless of age, Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

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The Most Technologically Advanced County in the World

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Have you ever been to Estonia? It’s tiny. Could you find it on a map?

The Baltic nation of only 1.3 million citizens stands out from its Eastern European neighbors in that it has an advanced economy and a high standard of living. And it’s also a technology paradise. You may know it as the home of Skype. But there’s a lot more to the tiny country than that.

In Estonia, voting, signing documents and filling out tax returns is done online, thanks to X-Road, an online tool that coordinates multiple online data repositories and document registries. X-Road provides all Estonians — ordinary citizens, enterprises and government officials — with unparalleled access to the data they need to do business, get licenses, permits and other documents that would take days, weeks or even months in other countries.

X-Road is built with scalability in mind, so that the growing number of services and repositories can easily be attached to the system. Although this digital backbone alone is rather impressive, it’s just one of many products in tech-forward Estonia.

Instead of being held back by its past and falling victim to ailments that plague many post-communist countries, such as corruption, a bloated government and an obsolete education system, Estonia has decided to start with a clean slate and invest in its future. To transform its society into a community of tech-savvy individuals, children as young as 7 are taught the principles and basics of coding. (In comparison, only one in four schools in the U.S. teaches computer programming.)

Such strong foundations have yielded impressive results: Estonians are driven, forward-thinking and entrepreneurial, and the same goes for the government. It takes only five minutes to register a company there and, according to The Economist, the country in 2013 held the world record for the number of startups per person. And it’s not quantity over quality: Many Estonian startups are now successful companies that you may recognize, such as Skype, Transferwise, Pipedrive, Cloutex, Click & Grow, GrabCAD, Erply, Fortumo, Lingvist and others. By the way, Estonia uses the euro.

If all this sounds enticing and you wish to become an entrepreneur there, you’re in luck; starting a business in Estonia is easy, and you can do it without packing your bags, thanks to its e-residency service, a transnational digital identity available to anyone. An e-resident can not only establish a company in Estonia through the Internet, but they can also have access to other online services that have been available to Estonians for over a decade. This includes e-banking and remote money transfers, declaring Estonian taxes online, digitally signing and verifying contracts and documents, and much more.

E-residents are issued a smart ID card, a legal equivalent to handwritten signatures and face-to-face identification in Estonia and worldwide. The cards themselves are protected by 2048-bit encryption, and the signature/ID functionality is provided by two security certificates stored on the card’s microchip.

But great innovations don’t stop there. Blockchain, the principle behind bitcoin that also secures the integrity of e-residency data, will be used to provide unparalleled safety to 1 million Estonian health records. The blockchain will be used to register any and all changes, illicit or otherwise, done to the health records, protecting their authenticity and effectively eliminating any abuse of the data therein.

While there are many lessons that the U.S. and the rest of the world can learn from Estonia, these are especially important: A country must be willing to adapt and change the infrastructure of both the government and the economy if needed, and to continually optimize them. A nation needs to understand that a change of mindset should be thorough and start with the young. An education system should be designed in a way that doesn’t cripple young minds, or overburden them with too much irrelevant information. And, finally, if you want entrepreneurship to thrive, it is necessary to remove bureaucratic and technical obstacles at all levels.

Read Article (Jurica Dujmovic | msn.com | 07/10/2016)

Not to rain on anyone’s parade but there is no information about how (or if) senior citizens in Estonia became tech savvy. Focus seems to be totally on the young members of society and none on their elderly. Other than that, the relationship between government and the public is very impressive and should be viewed as an example of how the digital era can provide benefits to all.

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Tech-Savvy Algonquin Students Help Senior Citizens

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Northborough, Massachusetts – Senior citizens who have questions about their iPhones, iPads, Macs and PCs can find answers at Technology Afternoons, held from 2:15 to 4 p.m., two Thursdays a month at the Northborough Senior Center. Eileen Parker, Algonquin Regional High School math teacher, leads the school’s Community Action Program (CAP), which provides student volunteers for a variety of activities, including Technology Afternoons.

According to Palmer, “[CAP] consists of 35 [Algonquin] teens who are dedicated to giving back in the community. These students currently support the Northborough and Southborough senior centers, the Southborough Youth & Family Services, the Coleman House (in Northborough), and other community organizations.”

Palmer said that she recruits students, and advises them how to behave respectfully when volunteering. In her classroom, she keeps a large calendar listing upcoming service opportunities.

Currently there are 10 students who participate in Technology Afternoons. About their qualifications, Palmer said, “… Let’s face it. Teenagers are super savvy when it comes to technology. They have been using computers since elementary school and cell phones are really important to them!”

On a recent Thursday, Algonquin senior Danielle DellaPenna, 18, counseled Lisa, who was struggling to decide whether to replace her “Windows” cellphone with an iPhone, given to her by her son’s girlfriend.

“Windows allows me to do very safe text to speech while I am driving. With the iPhone, I’ll have to deal with Siri, and look at the phone while I’m driving,” Lisa said. “I’m going to tell my son that I’m not too old to learn about it, but I’m not changing phones.”

DellaPenna tried to sell Lisa on the benefit of apps with the iPhone, to no avail.

She said, “I’ve been doing [Technology Afternoons] since last year because community service is important to me.”

That sentiment was shared by Algonquin freshman Bradi Mullens. Both students said that they often help seniors set up email accounts on cellphones, and download music into iTunes.

Palmer added that the students deal with cellphone ring tones, cellphone pictures, texting, iPad usage, Kindle usage, and a lot of Word and Excel documents.

“One senior citizen had an [Algonquin] student help prepare all their labels for their Christmas cards this December,” she said. “Anything goes in this program!”

Kelly Burke, director of the Northborough Senior Center said, “It’s been phenomenal to work with all these students who are great experts, having grown up using technology. Our seniors sometimes need help, and we knew that we were going to the right place to find knowledgeable, willing helpers.”

Palmer echoed Burke’s sentiment, “The Algonquin students have a lot of energy, and good hearts. They embrace these CAP service projects.”

For more information and the schedule for Technology Afternoons, contact Kelly Burke at 508-393-5035 or Kburke@town.northborough.ma.us. Palmer can be reached at Epalmer@nsboro.k12.ma.us.

Read Article (Jane Keller Gordon | fiftyplusadvocate.com | 02/26/2016)

Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more.

Despite technology not providing an adequate alternative for device user manuals, there are still many in society that see the need and do-the-right-thing. And no, apps don’t cut it, they obviously require a certain level of tech skill to use and understand.

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) And Global Geopolitics

AI-And-Global-Geopolitics

Artificial Intelligence (AI), a top priority for the ubiquitous American tech companies, for Industry 4.0 or digital China, is already reshaping global business, but this major scientific and technological disruption will also deeply impact the relations between powers.

While narrow AI has moved from the labs to our daily lives, informed personalities like Stephen Hawking, Nick Bostrom, Bill Gates or Elon Musk have rightly raised concerns about the risks inherent to a strong AI capable of equaling or even surpassing human intelligence.

Anticipating the emergence of an even more powerful and increasingly autonomous AI reinforced by quantum computing, these engaged voices are asking for a collective reflection upon what could constitute an external challenge to mankind, a technology which could dominate its creator.

The recent win of the AlphaGo computer program over the Korean Go champion Lee Sedol was indeed a strong signal of the rapid development of machine learning at the intersection of computer science and neuroscience.

However, a more immediate danger connected with the advancement of intelligent machines is an AI fracture enlarging what is already known as the digital divide. While AI’s algorithms and big data increase the productivity of a small segment of the global village, half of the world population still does not have access to internet. “Don’t be evil” can be Google’s slogan, but exponential technologies carry with them the risks of unprecedented inequalities.

While AI’s social and political effects are often discussed the geopolitical implications of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” have been surprisingly absent from the public debates.

How AI could affect the Sino-Western relations and, more specifically, the Sino-American relations, the major determinant of today’s international order? For decades, nuclear weapons stood as the frightening symbols of the Cold War, will AI become the mark of a 21st century Sino-Western strategic antagonism?

For humanity, the atomic age has been a time of paradoxes. In the aftermath of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings an arms race involving the most lethal weapons defined the U.S.-Soviet relations in what constituted also a permanent existential threat to human civilization. But, analysts will also argue that it is the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine acting as a deterrent among rational actors which prevented a direct conflict between the two superpowers.

As the 2015 Plan of Action for Iran’s nuclear program demonstrates, 70 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, world powers actively collaborate to avoid nuclear proliferation even if North Korea appears to be a counter example of this dominant trend.

But the Sino-Western convergence of views on the issue of nuclear proliferation does not apply in the cyberspace. Despite a certain level of interconnection between some private Chinese and American internet companies and financial institutions, the overall Sino-American relations in the cyberspace are characterized by strategic mistrust.

Besides, in space science and in the exploration of the universe, the U.S. and China are unfortunately following two separate courses. While China prepares to operate her own modular space station, the International Space Station (ISS) shows that in this strategic field the West can work with Russia but that Sino-Western synergies are almost impossible to reach.

Any responsible approach to AI has to take into account the combined lessons of the atomic age, of the digital dynamics and of the space exploration. Should a Western AI and a Chinese AI develop on two separate trajectories one would dangerously increase the risks of creating an irreversible Sino-Western strategic fracture for AI does not increase power in a limited quantitative manner but it modifies its nature.

In this context and following the appreciation of the interactions between AI and global politics an International Artificial Intelligence Agency should be established inspired by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

It is in the “Atoms for Peace” address to the United Nations General Assembly that U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) proposed in 1953 the creation of the IAEA. Today, our actions must be guided by the spirit of “AI for Mankind”.

A United Nations International Artificial Intelligence Agency involving academics, private businesses, the world civil society and, of course, the governments should at least give itself the following four objectives.

  • First, it has to create the conditions for AI’s awareness across our societies and for a debate to take place on AI’s ethical implications. Scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, legal experts, philosophers, economists have to analyze AI from all possible angles, its future(s), its potential effects for humanity.
  • Second, this international body should take all possible actions to prevent an AI fracture which would dangerously enlarge the digital divide. One can’t accept to have, on one side, a tiny segment of humanity making use of a series of Human Enhancement Technologies (HET) and, on the other side, the vast majority of the world population becoming de facto diminished, what transhumanism revealingly abbreviates as H+ can’t be a plus for a few and a minus for all the others.
  • Third, the agency should ask for transparency in the AI research at both the governmental and the company level. The issue of nuclear proliferation and therefore the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) followed the secretive Manhattan Project and the use of nuclear bombs to end the war in the Pacific, if humanity really wants to protect itself from the military use of strong AI and its tragic consequences it has to define a set of rules and policies which would maintain research within reasonable and collectively accepted limits. The IAEA imperfectly manages an existing threat; the AI agency would aim at preventing the realization of what could be an even greater danger.
  • Fourth, an international AI body should encourage knowledge sharing and international cooperation. Elon Musk’s OpenAI initiative is certainly a constructive force encouraging openness and collaboration but the “AI for Mankind” ideal cannot depend only on a group of private entrepreneurs.

Artificial Intelligence, more than any other technology, will impact the future of mankind, it has to be wisely approached on a quest toward human dignity and not blindly worshiped as the new Master of a diminished humanity, it has to be a catalyst for more global solidarity and not a tyrannical matrix of new political or geopolitical divisions.

Read Article (David Gosset | huffingtonpost.com | 06/29/2016)

Make no mistake, the era when AI and the Quantum Computer initiate their combined evolution, they will pose the greatest challenge to humanity it has yet experienced. Humanity’s approach to this era is truly “A child playing with a bomb”.

There are those of us that have been screaming warnings and developing platforms for preparation, but at this moment society appears to be fixated on watching digital evolution become self-aware right in front of them. And do nothing!

To act after the fact, is basically an exercise in futility.

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