Erie

Opportunity Zones To Fund Erie, PA Smart City Makeover

Opportunity Zones are an investment bonanza for cash-strapped cities to implement Smart City technology. With over 9,000 OZ’s created in just 2 years, estimates run as high as $6 trillion for investable funds. ⁃ TN Editor

Additional security cameras, LED lighting and free public Wi-Fi were introduced to downtown Erie in 2018 as part of a pilot program for what’s known as smart city technology.

Mayor Joe Schember’s administration and other local officials want to bring the same technology to local neighborhoods targeted for reinvestment under the federal Opportunity Zone program.

Schember, in an interview last week, said his administration — working with the Erie Innovation District and others — is working to bring “secure smart city” equipment and technology over the next 12 months to the eight Opportunity Zones in the Erie region that have been designated by Gov. Tom Wolf’s office and certified by the U.S. Treasury Department.

According to Schember, that would include security cameras that could read license plates and have facial-recognition capabilities; energy-efficient LED street lights; and free Wi-Fi in public spaces throughout the Opportunity Zone tracts. The intent is to make those areas safer and more attractive for investment.

“It’s kind of an aggressive goal. … But let’s get these areas done and within the next three years, I’d like to see that technology throughout the entire city,” Schember said.

The city areas approved for the Opportunity Zone program are Erie’s bayfront; the former GAF Materials Corp. site on the city’s west bayfront; the area near Dobbins Landing that is planned for Scott Enterprises’ $150 million Harbor Place development; the Erie Innovation District along State Street; and the neighborhoods near UPMC Hamot and Erie Insurance.

The other tracts are the former International Paper site and the SB3 Industrial Park, both located on East Lake Road; Savocchio Business Park near East 16th Street and Downing Avenue, which would be renamed the Joyce A. Savocchio Opportunity Park as part of the city’s plan; and areas of the city adjacent to the GE Transportation facility in Lawrence Park.

Local officials are still working on funding, Schember said.

However, city officials believe the city can save $400,000 to $500,000, each year, on electrical costs by widespread implementation of LED lighting, including in the Opportunity Zones, Schember said.

The city spends about $1.2 million annually for electricity and utility pole maintenance, Schember said.

“We can then use that [savings] to help fund the other components of this,” Schember said.

The Opportunity Zone program was created as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that was signed into law by President Donald Trump in December 2017 as a way to jump-start economic investment in low-income, urban and rural communities.

That program aims to encourage private investment in low-income census tracts by providing tax incentives to investors — money from capital gains can be invested with major tax advantages. City officials estimate that the region’s Opportunity Zones could attract up to $600 million worth of investment.

Karl Sanchack, the Innovation District’s CEO, said moving smart city technology into the Opportunity Zones is a logical next step for Erie’s smart city efforts. Smart cities are urban areas that use different forms of electronic data collection, including sensors, to supply information that is then used to efficiently manage assets and resources.

The downtown smart city pilot project was announced in April 2018 and focused on downtown and Perry Square. New LED lighting, video surveillance cameras, and free Wi-Fi were installed in an area encompassing State Street, between Sixth and 12th streets.

Quantela Inc., a global data analytics company that has worked on similar projects worldwide, helped implement the project, which was paid for by $300,000 in Erie Innovation District funds.

“From an Innovation District standpoint, I take my cues from the city and the Mayor’s Office,” Sanchack said. “We are going to start by trying to deploy the things we did [downtown] in the Opportunity Zones in 2019, and into 2020.”

Sanchack said cameras will help “provide a general sense of flow for traffic,” and they will contribute to safety and security. They can also help identify “specific license plates of interest” for Erie police in high-crime areas, he said.

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DARPA

DARPA: Funding Wearable Brain-Machine Interfaces

Technocrats at DARPA are intent on creating a non-surgical brain-machine interface as a force-multiplier for soldiers. The research will require “Investigational Device Exemptions” from the Administration. ⁃ TN Editor

DARPA has awarded funding to six organizations to support the Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3) program, first announced in March 2018. Battelle Memorial Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), Rice University, and Teledyne Scientific are leading multidisciplinary teams to develop high-resolution, bidirectional brain-machine interfaces for use by able-bodied service members. These wearable interfaces could ultimately enable diverse national security applications such as control of active cyber defense systems and swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles, or teaming with computer systems to multitask during complex missions.

“DARPA is preparing for a future in which a combination of unmanned systems, artificial intelligence, and cyber operations may cause conflicts to play out on timelines that are too short for humans to effectively manage with current technology alone,” said Al Emondi, the N3 program manager. “By creating a more accessible brain-machine interface that doesn’t require surgery to use, DARPA could deliver tools that allow mission commanders to remain meaningfully involved in dynamic operations that unfold at rapid speed.”

Over the past 18 years, DARPA has demonstrated increasingly sophisticated neurotechnologies that rely on surgically implanted electrodes to interface with the central or peripheral nervous systems. The agency has demonstrated achievements such as neural control of prosthetic limbs and restoration of the sense of touch to the users of those limbs, relief of otherwise intractable neuropsychiatric illnesses such as depression, and improvement of memory formation and recall. Due to the inherent risks of surgery, these technologies have so far been limited to use by volunteers with clinical need.

For the military’s primarily able-bodied population to benefit from neurotechnology, nonsurgical interfaces are required. Yet, in fact, similar technology could greatly benefit clinical populations as well. By removing the need for surgery, N3 systems seek to expand the pool of patients who can access treatments such as deep brain stimulation to manage neurological illnesses.

The N3 teams are pursuing a range of approaches that use optics, acoustics, and electromagnetics to record neural activity and/or send signals back to the brain at high speed and resolution. The research is split between two tracks. Teams are pursuing either completely noninvasive interfaces that are entirely external to the body or minutely invasive interface systems that include nanotransducers that can be temporarily and nonsurgically delivered to the brain to improve signal resolution.

  • The Battelle team, under principal investigator Dr. Gaurav Sharma, aims to develop a minutely invasive interface system that pairs an external transceiver with electromagnetic nanotransducers that are nonsurgically delivered to neurons of interest. The nanotransducers would convert electrical signals from the neurons into magnetic signals that can be recorded and processed by the external transceiver, and vice versa, to enable bidirectional communication.
  • The Carnegie Mellon University team, under principal investigator Dr. Pulkit Grover, aims to develop a completely noninvasive device that uses an acousto-optical approach to record from the brain and interfering electrical fields to write to specific neurons. The team will use ultrasound waves to guide light into and out of the brain to detect neural activity. The team’s write approach exploits the non-linear response of neurons to electric fields to enable localized stimulation of specific cell types.
  • The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory team, under principal investigator Dr. David Blodgett, aims to develop a completely noninvasive, coherent optical system for recording from the brain. The system will directly measure optical path-length changes in neural tissue that correlate with neural activity.
  • The PARC team, under principal investigator Dr. Krishnan Thyagarajan, aims to develop a completely noninvasive acousto-magnetic device for writing to the brain. Their approach pairs ultrasound waves with magnetic fields to generate localized electric currents for neuromodulation. The hybrid approach offers the potential for localized neuromodulation deeper in the brain.
  • The Rice University team, under principal investigator Dr. Jacob Robinson, aims to develop a minutely invasive, bidirectional system for recording from and writing to the brain. For the recording function, the interface will use diffuse optical tomography to infer neural activity by measuring light scattering in neural tissue. To enable the write function, the team will use a magneto-genetic approach to make neurons sensitive to magnetic fields.
  • The Teledyne team, under principal investigator Dr. Patrick Connolly, aims to develop a completely noninvasive, integrated device that uses micro optically pumped magnetometers to detect small, localized magnetic fields that correlate with neural activity. The team will use focused ultrasound for writing to neurons.

Throughout the program, the research will benefit from insights provided by independent legal and ethical experts who have agreed to provide insights on N3 progress and consider potential future military and civilian applications and implications of the technology. Additionally, federal regulators are cooperating with DARPA to help the teams better understand human-use clearance as research gets underway. As the work progresses, these regulators will help guide strategies for submitting applications for Investigational Device Exemptions and Investigational New Drugs to enable human trials of N3 systems during the last phase of the four-year program.

“If N3 is successful, we’ll end up with wearable neural interface systems that can communicate with the brain from a range of just a few millimeters, moving neurotechnology beyond the clinic and into practical use for national security,” Emondi said. “Just as service members put on protective and tactical gear in preparation for a mission, in the future they might put on a headset containing a neural interface, use the technology however it’s needed, then put the tool aside when the mission is complete.”

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Experts: The Only Defense Against Killer AI Is Not Developing It

Out of control killer AI in warfare is inevitable because it will become too complex for human management and control. The only real answer is to not develop it in the first place. ⁃ TN Editor

A recent analysis on the future of warfare indicates that countries that continue to develop AI for military use risk losing control of the battlefield. Those that don’t risk eradication. Whether you’re for or against the AI arms race: it’s happening. Here’s what that means, according to a trio of experts.

Researchers from ASRC Federal, a private company that provides support for the intelligence and defense communities, and the University of Maryland recently published a paper on pre-print server ArXivdiscussing the potential ramifications of integrating AI systems into modern warfare.

The paper – read here – focuses on the near-future consequences for the AI arms race under the assumption that AI will not somehow run amok or takeover. In essence it’s a short, sober, and terrifying look at how all this various machine learning technology will play out based on analysis of current cutting-edge military AI technologies and predicted integration at scale.

The paper begins with a warning about impending catastrophe, explaining there will almost certainly be a “normal accident,” concerning AI – an expected incident of a nature and scope we cannot predict. Basically, the militaries of the world will break some civilian eggs making the AI arms race-omelet:

Study of this field began with accidents such as Three Mile Island, but AI technologies embody similar risks. Finding and exploiting these weaknesses to induce defective behavior will become a permanent feature of military strategy.

If you’re thinking killer robots duking it out in our cities while civilians run screaming for shelter, you’re not wrong – but robots as a proxy for soldiers isn’t humanity’s biggest concern when it comes to AI warfare. This paper discusses what happens after we reach the point at which it becomes obvious humans are holding machines back in warfare.

According to the researchers, the problem isn’t one we can frame as good and evil. Sure it’s easy to say we shouldn’t allow robots to murder humans with autonomy, but that’s not how the decision-making process of the future is going to work.

The researchers describe it as a slippery slope:

If AI systems are effective, pressure to increase the level of assistance to the warfighter would be inevitable. Continued success would mean gradually pushing the human out of the loop, first to a supervisory role and then finally to the role of a “killswitch operator” monitoring an always-on LAWS.

LAWS, or lethal autonomous weapons systems, will almost immediately scale beyond humans’ ability to work with computers and machines — and probably sooner than most people think. Hand-to-hand combat between machines, for example, will be entirely autonomous by necessity:

Over time, as AI becomes more capable of reflective and integrative thinking, the human component will have to be eliminated altogether as the speed and dimensionality become incomprehensible, even accounting for cognitive assistance.

And, eventually, the tactics and responsiveness required to trade blows with AI will be beyond the ken of humans altogether:

Given a battlespace so overwhelming that humans cannot manually engage with the system, the human role will be limited to post-hoc forensic analysis, once hostilities have ceased, or treaties have been signed.

If this sounds a bit grim, it’s because it is. As Import AI’s Jack Clark points out, “This is a quick paper that lays out the concerns of AI+War from a community we don’t frequently hear from: people that work as direct suppliers of government technology.”

It might be in everyone’s best interest to pay careful attention to how both academics and the government continue to frame the problem going forward.

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