Five Reads: Cyber Command Fights Back

What follows is our roundup of five of the most compelling stories discovered over the last few days. Look for this column every week in this space.

Fighting Lies with Cyber Command
Julian Barnes reports that the United States Cyber Command has begun its first known overseas cyberoperation. It’s designed to protect American elections, including the November midterms (you’re voting, right?), from outside interests, specifically Russian, working spread misinformation to influence voters. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, the head of Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, said that American adversaries are “looking to really take us on below that level of armed conflict” by sowing distrust in society and “attempt to disrupt our elections.”

These issues aren’t going away. Learn more at SXSW 2019 from industry leaders like Joanna Shields, a featured speaker for the Intelligent Future track, a former UK Minister for Internet Security & Safety, a Special Advisor to the UK Government on the Digital Economy, and Chair & CEO of TechCityUK. She is currently CEO of BenevolentAI, the global leader in the development and application of AI for scientific innovation.

“This Crisis Is Real”
In another plea for a more intelligent future, at the 40th International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners at the European Parliament, BuzzFeed reported that Apple CEO Tim Cook called for a new law to address the rampant harvesting of personal data and the intrusion of big tech into individual’s lives. “Those of us who believe in technology’s potential for good must not shrink from this moment.” Read the transcript from Computer World or watch the speech on YouTube.

In an example of what Apple is doing differently than most tech giants, the New York Times profiled the Apple News editor, who, by being a person and not a machine, has become one of the most influential, yet unknown, people in media.

What Kids Learn From Google
The search engine megaforce wants to train young students to “Be Internet Awesome.” That’s the message of its digital-citizenship educated program explained by Natasha Singer and Sapna Maheshwari in a thoughtful piece that questions whether Google is the best model for proper internet behavior. The plan, which includes a cartoon game Interland (pictured above), focuses on helping students in third to sixth grade deal with bad online behavior and is expected to reach five million kids this year.

How Tech Transforms Art
For the first time, the revered auction house Christie’s put up a piece of artwork produced by artificial intelligence. In Vanessa Romo’s piece written for National Public Radio, she said that the portrait was expected to go for $7000 to $10,000. It ended up selling for a whopping $432,500, according to USA Today. The computer-generated “Edmond de Belamy” was created by Obvious, a Paris-based art collective that uses A.I. to print the paintings with inkjet and signs them with the formula to create them. “The whole process is about humans having as little input as possible in the finished piece,” Gauthier Vernier, one of three 25-year-olds who comprise Obvious.

Writing about another art-related breakthrough for Ozy, Tom Cassauwers explores how artists are using blockchain to explore the boundaries of technology, focusing on terra0, a work by Berlin artists Paul Kolling and Paul Seidler and British developer Max Hampshire that imagines a self-governing forest managed via blockchain. The same group recently launched a subproject called Flowertokens, a live plant version of CryptoKitties, the Ethereum-based game where players can purchase, breed and trade digital cats.

Ready for Space Flight?
Finally, if you’re feeling like you just really need to get away, check out the latest news from SpaceX, which announced plans for five additional launches in the remainder of 2018, for a total of 22, well exceeding their previous annual record. These trips are unmanned but are all part of SpaceX’s plans for “making life interplanetary.”

At SXSW 2019, the featured session The Legacy of Apollo and the Next Giant Leap will highlight the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, calling the Apollo missions arguably the most significant technological and exploration achievements the world has ever witnessed. Gen. Charlie Duke (Apollo 16 astronaut and moon walker), Gerry Griffin (former NASA Flight Director on Apollo missions), Vanessa E. Wyche (Deputy Director of the NASA Johnson Space Center), and Bobak Ferdowsi (Fault Protection Lead for the joint NASA-ISRO mission at NASA JPL) will discuss the obstacles that had to be overcome in order to reach the moon, the future return to the moon and the new horizon of Mars, and how exploring space can help make life better on Earth.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.



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Hugh Forrest

Hugh Forrest


Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.