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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.


The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Automating Everything - Cyber-Defense and Countering Pandemics – Managing Impossible Threats - Part 7

Further, the basic method of monitoring multiple semi-autonomous artificial agents can be applied to other circumstances. For example, evolutionary algorithms may one day give us the ability to have a host of agents operating in defense of a computer network – perhaps even a national, multi-national or effectively global network. A sufficient advanced artificial intelligence or a team of human security experts or some combination thereof might maintain oversight and focus resources automatically when the normal, lower-level agents seemed challenged or outmatched. The triggers for this intervention would likely be numerous, and balanced by the need to avoid overreacting or overcommitting resources. But events such as an indication of clear data breaches in a sub-network, or encryption requiring intense supercomputing or quantum-computing analysis, or even a tricky political judgement call (such as repeated attacks seemingly sourced from the computers of a hostile nation or private organization) may require more advanced thinking or vastly greater processing power than might otherwise be available.

Similarly, an AI and/or human team attempting to deal with a nanotech attack involving a multitude of differing and rapidly changing molecular machines might have to allow a degree of automatic response occur on the local level while gathering information, assessing successful and unsuccessful tactics and sourcing resources as appropriate. A bioweapons attack using a multitude of natural and/or artificial plagues might require a similar capacity to respond at both a conscious and unconscious level.

The basic system would effectively be multi-layered. The simplest and most widespread elements of each system will collect information and begin any reflexive responses they have automatically – whether they are digital medical instruments, spectroscopic air readings, online objects in the Internet of Things, anti-virus programs running on individual PCs, tablets, smartphones and microcomputers, independent software security agents, or nanites or natural or artificial biological elements of a human or civilizational immune system.

Hence, antivirus programs looped into this system would engage their usual resources, but also alert another node about attacks that were unusual in their frequency or nature, and pass on what was observed diagnostically as well the real or apparent source of the attacks. The node being contacted would collect information either to be passed on further or analyzed there. Once analyzed, the software would determine if there were a source – or a highly compromised network or set of networks – which could be cut off in response to the issue, or whose operators could be alerted to their vulnerable state. That analysis would also help determine whether experts should be proactively notified of the issue. As the technology advanced, running genetic algorithms to see how existing security software could be immunized against a virus and its immediate variations would also be an option. The power to perform critical actions, such as contacting a hostile organization being used unknowingly as the host for attacks; determining the source of the attacks or actively going after that source would be left in the hands of the highest-level decision makers in the system.

Alternatively, a doctor examines a patient with very bad case of the flu, and the strain is automatically analyzed and its DNA transmitted securely for at least partial sequencing. A cursory examination of the strain determines whether it is a normal strain of the flu, a more dangerous variant, or something altogether different from a known normal disease to newly discovered natural virus to a bio-weapon. Anything flagged as dangerous triggers a notification, but also begins whatever responses can be automated in terms of assessing the risks, geolocating incidents of infection and its vectors, developing a vaccine in a secure location and notifying all networked sensors and medical personnel to be aware of this specific threat. If information came about additional instances involving different diseases, for example in the case of a rapidly mutating virus, multiple diseases being released intentionally and/or artificial bioweapons, this information could be gathered and cross-referenced even as the work to deal with the existing health issues continued in the field. Dealing with nano-terrorism could be similar, though the first signs could come from security systems that carefully analyze and filter air noting unusual materials (or unusually structured materials) showing up in their continuous spectroscopic analysis of the solids, liquids and gases filtered out or other high-end security options. Alternatively, as sensors and immense processing power become more ubiquitous, information collected for medical or scientific reasons may note such an intrusion, especially if the raw data (particularly data collected at a government’s behest, or with their primary funding) is used to help assess potential catastrophic threats (such as bio or nano-terrorism).

If dealing with such a problem, the creation of countering agents or even immunizing species – viruses which have no effect other than triggering natural immune systems against dangerous plagues, or defensive nanites built to eliminate invasive ones – could occur locally under the direction of a central source or, especially in the case of furiously changing bio- or nano-threats, could transpire semi-autonomously, with responses occurring within established parameters and data on the steps taken being transmitted to the oversight centers which would be given veto power on extreme measures (fire to purge contaminated buildings, releasing potentially uncontrollable, self-sustaining nanites into the wild) and which could intervene as needed, but which would otherwise allow each local actor respond to the best of their ability, albeit while fully informed of the best practices as yet uncovered.


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