Burning Man, Artificial Intelligence, and Our Glorious Future

I’ve had several special opportunities in the last few weeks to think a bit more about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its future import for us remaining humans. Below I’m using my old-fashioned neurons to draw some non-obvious links.

The cause for reflection is the unexpected parallel between two events I’ve been involved in recently: (1) an interview of Elon Musk which I conducted for a conference in DC; and (2) the grand opening in London of a special art exhibit at the British Library which my wife and I are co-sponsoring. They each have an AI angle and I believe their small lessons demonstrate something intriguingly hopeful about a future of machine superintelligence

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Twitter Search as a Government case study

In addition to periodic think-pieces here at Shepherd’s Pi, I also contribute a monthly online column over at SIGNAL Magazine on topics relating to intelligence. This month I keyed off a recent discussion I had onstage at the 2015 AFCEA Spring Intelligence Symposium with Elon Musk, particularly a colloquy we had on implications of the emerging cleavage (post-Edward Snowden) between Silicon Valley technology companies and their erstwhile innovation partners, U.S. intelligence agencies.

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Intelligence, Artificial and Existential

"Not to Be or Not to Be?" artwork by Shuwit, http://shuwit.deviantart.com/

“Not to Be or Not to Be?” artwork by Shuwit, http://shuwit.deviantart.com/

I just published a short piece over at SIGNAL Magazine on an increasingly public debate over artificial intelligence, which the editor gave a great Shakespearean title echoing Hamlet’s timeless question “To be, or not to be”: Continue reading

Meet the Future-Makers

Question: Why did Elon Musk just change his Twitter profile photo? I notice he’s now seeming to evoke James Bond or Dr. Evil:

twitter photos, Elon v Elon

I’m not certain, but I think I know the answer why. Read on… Continue reading

Young Americans and the Intelligence Community

IC CAE conferenceA few days ago I travelled down to Orlando – just escaping the last days of the DC winter. I was invited to participate in a conference hosted by the Intelligence Community’s Center of Academic Excellence (IC CAE) at the University of Central Florida.  The title of my speech was “The Internet, 2015-2025: Business and Policy Challenges for the Private Sector.” But I actually learned as much as I taught, maybe more. Continue reading

Insider’s Guide to the New Holographic Computing

In my seven happy years at Microsoft before leaving a couple of months ago, I was never happier than when I was involved in a cool “secret project.”

Last year my team and I contributed for many months on a revolutionary secret project – Holographic Computing – which is being revealed today at Microsoft headquarters.  I’ve been blogging for years about a variety of research efforts which additively culminated in today’s announcements: HoloLens, HoloStudio for 3D holographic building, and a series of apps (e.g. HoloSkype, HoloMinecraft) for this new platform on Windows 10.

For my readers in government, or who care about the government they pay for, PAY CLOSE ATTENTION.

It’s real. I’ve worn it, used it, designed 3D models with it, explored the real surface of Mars, played and laughed and marveled with it. This isn’t Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance.” Everything in this video works today:

These new inventions represent a major new step-change in the technology industry. That’s not hyperbole. The approach offers the best benefit of any technology: empowering people simply through complexity, and by extension a way to deliver new & unexpected capabilities to meet government requirements.

Holographic computing, in all the forms it will take, is comparable to the Personal Computing revolution of the 1980s (which democratized computing), the Web revolution of the ’90s (which universalized computing), and the Mobility revolution of the past eight years, which is still uprooting the world from its foundation.

One important point I care deeply about: Government missed each of those three revolutions. By and large, government agencies at all levels were late or slow (or glacial) to recognize and adopt those revolutionary capabilities. That miss was understandable in the developing world and yet indefensible in the United States, particularly at the federal level.

I worked at the Pentagon in the summer of 1985, having left my own state-of-the-art PC at home at Stanford University, but my assigned “analytical tool” was a typewriter. In the early 2000s, I worked at an intelligence agency trying to fight a war against global terror networks when most analysts weren’t allowed to use the World Wide Web at work. Even today, government agencies are lagging well behind in deploying modern smartphones and tablets for their yearning-to-be-mobile workforce.

This laggard behavior must change. Government can’t afford (for the sake of the citizens it serves) to fall behind again, and  understanding how to adapt with the holographic revolution is a great place to start, for local, national, and transnational agencies.

Now some background… Continue reading

Title Forthcoming…

According to the calendar, summer ended yesterday, and September has closed that door and opened others.

One door which opened for me is that I have just been elected as the new 2014-2015 Deputy Chairman of the AFCEA Intelligence Committee, serving under incoming Chair Jake Jacoby, retired USN Vice Admiral, whose day job is as EVP of defense giant CACI International, but I like to think of him as my old boss as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency a decade ago. I’ve written before about the AFCEA Intelligence Committee which I described as “a prestigious collection of some of the smartest minds in that field… driving innovation, not only in intelligence but in the broader national security realm.” We proved that last week by joining INSA in hosting the well-reported Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington DC, which made quite a bit of news with speakers like DNI Jim Clapper, the Directors of CIA, NSA, DIA, NGA, FBI, and a myriad of other experts from inside and outside government – including privacy advocates, journalists, and government critics as panelists.  I’m looking forward to more exciting activities and research over the next year with AFCEA

At the same time, a door is closing. Due to Microsoft’s corporate restructuring, on Thursday September 18, 2014, the company made several tough decisions (see “Microsoft to close Microsoft Research lab in Silicon Valley” among other news stories).  And that day marked the final day at the company for the merry band of brothers in the esteemed Microsoft Institute for Advanced Technology in Governments, which I have led since 2010.  It was a pleasure to lead these extraordinary individuals and a privilege to work daily alongside the world’s most talented experts in their fields, guys like Dave Aucsmith, Bob Hayes, Bruce Harris, and Aris Pappas, who are each brilliant leaders and sterling friends.

I’m still on the payroll at Microsoft, and may or may not stay in the company, but I can’t say enough good things about what we all accomplished since I joined the Institute nearly seven years ago to work alongside geniuses like George Spix.  (By the way, that’s the longest I have ever spent in any one place in my entire fun-packed career.) When I joined the group as its first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) straight from DIA, I found it filled with like-minded innovators, eager to enable difficult government missions with cutting-edge research and technical solutions. Much of what we did remains, necessarily, shrouded in corporate proprietary information and the nature of the sensitive counsel we provided senior government executives. But also along the way we wrote innovative white papers, conducted seminars, and traveled the world working with Microsoft’s field teams and solutions architects to devise unbelievable capabilities, for local and national governments trying to serve and protect their citizens. Most of all, we had a blast working together.

LS EBC Badges

Hundreds of senior government leaders from around the globe have visited the Microsoft Institute; some badges from our Executive Briefing Center

In the parlance of our day, I’m “updating my LinkedIn profile.” But I even consider that as fun, too – because of the serendipitous breadth I see there, for a kid who has gone from writing dusty political science papers on civil-military relations, serving as a Cold-War Pentagon Kremlinologist for Andy Marshall, doing policy and speeches for the mayors of San Francisco and San Jose, helping launch an artificial-intelligence data-mining startup (successful!) in Silicon Valley – to then helping the IC answer the attacks of 9/11 and fight the Global War on Terror.

My time with Microsoft has been another incredible ride in a long, fun roadtrip … and I’m eager to turn the wheel around the next bend and floor it.

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