3 things direct from the future

Edition 62

Once every 2 weeks I will deliver “3 things direct from the future”. A 2 minute read that will always give you:

  • one thing that can help,
  • one thing to be wary of, and
  • one thing to amaze.

If this sounds interesting to you then please subscribe.


1. One thing that helps

Earthquake Warning Signal

Earthquakes strike without warning and every second we can save predicting and identifying their magnitude is critical in saving lives. Scientists have found that earthquakes produce light-speed adjustments to the Earth’s gravitational field very early on. While seismographs measure the strength of earthquakes using seismic waves, elastogravity waves – the quick change in rock density at different locations – happen before the seismic waves arrive at the station. But how do we detect elastogravity signals?

Machine learning comes in to help us. Scientists know that big earthquakes, like the 2011 quake that caused a tsunami in Japan, produce detectable elastogravity waves. They trained the machine learning network called PEGSNet (Prompt ElastoGravity Signals Network) using data from both real and synthetic gravity signals. It was necessary to use synthetic data just because data from the real world is so scarce. Nevertheless, PEGSNet was able to identify the magnitude and location of the 2011 earthquake (in a simulation) 5 to 10 seconds earlier than other known methods.

Further training and testing is required so that PEGSNet  can be used internationally. For now, most of its data is from Japan so there may be inconsistency when used in other locations. 5 to 10 seconds may not seem like much but remember that when disaster strikes, every second can save a life.


2. One to be wary of

We Know Where You Are

During times of emergency the public is usually open to a bit more government reach than normal.  The trouble is that often after the emergency the changes stick around.  Enhanced surveillance abilities granted after 9/11 were never rolled back and now the COVID pandemic has seen our locations and movement tracked like never before. America’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been purchasing phone location data to check on people’s movement.

Phone location data pinpoints your location by the hour. Knowing where people went and at what time is be helpful in observing whether curfews are obeyed. However, the CDC seems to have more in mind when they bought data. Cybersecurity researcher Zach Edwards says: “The CDC seems to have purposefully created an open-ended list of use cases, which included monitoring curfews, neighbor-to-neighbor visits, visits to churches, schools and pharmacies, and also a variety of analysis with this data specifically focused on violence.”

What’s the problem with this approach? For one thing, governments arouse suspicion when they use data gathered during the pandemic for non-related reasons. This gives conspiracy theorists an opportunity to spread misinformation to the public, but more importantly it hides the fact that they are using the emergency to expand the use of the data without scrutiny.


3. One to amaze

Giant Railroad Robot

Well this is the coolest working robot I’ve seen so far! A giant humanoid robot just working on the railroad all day long.

It is able to lift heavy objects up to 32 feet in the air as it goes about repairing wires along railways. It picks up objects like a human  and has a head which looks like it’s been ripped off Wall-E! The head can tilt and rotate because this huge robot is piloted remotely by a human using VR. Yes, it’s got a pilot that uses the robot’s “eyes” to see via a VR headset. The robot moves in motion with the remote pilot who is kitted out with what must be an awesome VR setup – I really want that job!

It’s expected to be ready to officially work around 2024 which is not that far away. For sure, this Wall-E will not only be used in construction, but also in other fields as well, like in manufacturing or in rescuing the poor cat trapped up on a tree. I’m keeping my eye out for the job ad “Operator needed for 32 foot giant robot, can work from home”.

Have a great week.

Daniel J McKinnon

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