FutureSource



FutureSource

Three grueling hearings in two days on Capitol Hill seem to indicate that years of government officials giving the tech giants of Silicon Valley—most notably Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon—a relatively loose regulatory rein are now over. Members of Congress of both parties were quick to condemn Facebook, Twitter, and Google for their failure to stop Russians from buying ads related to the US presidential election last year, but for some the problem runs much deeper. To the critics, the scope of Big Tech’s power over information (and therefore over nearly all aspects of modern life, from how we interact with our friends to how we choose our political leaders), along with their lack of accountability, resembles the great monopolies of the Gilded Age—and should be treated as such by governments.

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Global corruption is a dangerous mega-trend that refuses to be ignored. Blockchain, the rapidly-evolving technology that has already transformed the financial world, has numerous applications when it comes to fighting government corruption. FutureSource has previously examined how corruption has become a threat to international security. It is now taking a closer look at how blockchain and other technologies can help governments reduce graft and fraud.

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Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers play an integral role in maintaining or advancing a nation’s economic and societal competitiveness. A recent report of the eight most valuable startup companies in the US further emphasizes the impact of STEM disciplines in the creation of new industries and domains. The success of a majority of these startups heavily relies on STEM skillsets that include software/app development, data analytics and machine learning expertise, and the seamless integration of technologies that enhance user experiences. While the demand for STEM degrees continues to increase, the time needed to attain a higher education degree remains relatively constant and typically exceeds fifty-two months, well beyond the projected forty-eight months that students prefer. Several questions emerge from these findings:

  1. Is the rate of attaining a STEM degree or skillset keeping up with the evolving needs of society?
  2. Will advancements in automation and artificial intelligence reduce the demand for STEM workers?
  3. What policies should be considered to increase a nation’s competitiveness, in the age of artificial intelligence and automation?

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Angela Merkel
The German electorate has dealt Angela Merkel a wake-up call. Her new term will define her legacy.

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The single biggest shortcoming of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs is a lack of ability to measure their effectiveness. For this reason, there is much controversy around the concept of CVE and those who practice it, making it difficult for the government to justify funding certain programs themselves. In the past year, based on a now widely-held belief that governments cannot counter extremism alone, we have seen Silicon Valley’s tech giants attempt to define their own place in the CVE field. Their reactive, tech-driven approach has produced some metrics of success. However, it has, in turn, neglected to recognize the root causes of violent extremism that CVE-focused organizations aim to address.

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The Atlantic Council’s Science and Policy Fellow presented early-stage research on how machine-learning techniques can help decision makers better understand the public’s perception of new technologies, with significant implications for future policymaking.

Dr. Conrad Tucker, an associate professor of computer science and engineering at the Pennsylvania State University, and a science and policy fellow in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, showcased his current research project, Technology Phobia Readiness Condition (TEPHCON), during the second international InfoSymbiotics/DDDAS conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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A gene-editing technology that has already shown tremendous medical breakthroughs has some wondering if cancer and HIV can be defeated by genetic engineering. But despite the optimistic headlines, the technique known as CRISPR is also becoming an emerging international security threat. CRISPR could someday enable U.S. adversaries to genetically-engineer bioweapons or even create “super soldiers” to dominate future battlefields.

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Not even the most United Kingdom-sceptic European could have imagined that just a year after the Brexit referendum Britain would appear to be teetering on the brink of disorder. Indeed, over the past year the group behind this scenario planning / train crash project analysed the various possibilities of danger to both the British state and the union of the United Kingdom; but even four months ago the dangers seemed no more than potentials, each contingent on quite a number of other causalities. These have largely been swept away, for three core reasons.

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Truth: What is it? Will societies ever come to a consensus on how to define it? If we cannot, how can we ever design machines that learn from it? A very important concept in the field of machine learning is a concept of “ground truth”. The Oxford Dictionary defines ground truth to be “A fundamental truth. Also: the real or underlying facts; information that has been checked or facts that have been collected at source.” From this definition, we see the term “fundamental”, which immediately sets the stage for controversy surrounding the definition of the term “truth”, for if truth were indeed pure and absolute, why the need for adjectives such as “fundamental” or “ground”? However, the focus of this article is not to philosophize about the semantics surrounding the term truth. Instead, this article seeks to explore the potential implications relating to i) who provides ground truth data for machines to learn from, ii) should “majority rule” be the policy decision on what is considered “truth”?

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The scourge of global corruption has been well documented, but less is known about how rampant graft affects international security. Democratic capacity-building efforts, an important tool in fighting insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, have been hobbled by corruption for over a decade. States with violent extremist groups are often made even more unstable when the perception of corruption leads to public unrest and protests.

Through an investigation of this link between corruption and international security, it was found that online good governance initiatives in the West have also been implemented in fragile states and in the developing world. However, it may be too soon to determine whether government transparency technology can score decisive victories against corruption.

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