Artificial Intelligence

5 non-health tech stories you should care about this week

DARPA hopes to bring “brain-like intelligence” to computers, plus, a startup aims to deliver wireless, gigabit-speed Internet service via millimeter waves.


It’s Friday, so it’s time to take a look at what you may have missed in the world of tech outside healthcare.

Here are five interesting general technology stories that people in healthcare should pay attention to, since these issues could have an impact on health tech. We’d love your feedback in the comments below and on social media.

1. “DARPA funds a program so computers can read thoughts” (CIO)

The program, called Neural Engineering System Design (NESD), is one of DARPA’s many research programs that aims to bring brain-like intelligence to computers. The research program will cover neuroscience, low-power chips, photonics and medical devices.

DARPA hopes its device will open a faster channel for the brain and computer to communicate. The goal is to convert sensory information like sights and sounds that are stored in the brain to digital data — or 1s and 0s — more quickly than possible today.

2. “Super high-speed internet delivered over the air isn’t as crazy as it sounds” (The Verge)

This week, a new startup, Starry, announced it would bring gigabit-speed internet access to consumers, without data caps, at a price that is equal or less than your average broadband plan. It also announced that it would do this without ripping up the ground to lay expensive fiber cables or asking local governments for construction permits. It would beam the signals over the air.

3. “A new quantum approach to big data” (MIT News)

Machine learning systems can help researchers deal with this ever-growing flood of information. Some of the most powerful of these analytical tools are based on a strange branch of geometry called topology, which deals with properties that stay the same even when something is bent and stretched every which way.

Such topological systems are especially useful for analyzing the connections in complex networks, such as the internal wiring of the brain, the U.S. power grid, or the global interconnections of the Internet. But even with the most powerful modern supercomputers, such problems remain daunting and impractical to solve. Now, a new approach that would use quantum computers to streamline these problems has been developed by researchers at MIT, the University of Waterloo, and the University of Southern California.

4. “27% of all malware variants in history were created in 2015” (CSO)

Last year was a record year for malware, according to a new report from Panda Security, with more than 84 million new malware samples collected over the course of the year.

That averages out to around 230,000 new malware samples a day, said Luis Corrons, technical director of Panda’s PandaLabs unit. Or 27 percent of all malware ever created.


5. “Pssst, Your PGP Is Leaking” (Motherboard/Vice)

But what users might not know is that messages encrypted using [Pretty Good Privacy] leak a wealth of data about their senders and recipients, possibly allowing a well-resourced attack to map out who a target is sending secret messages to. In a talk at Usenix Enigma, a new security conference, Nicholas Weaver from the International Computer Science Institute explained the general technical details behind the NSA’s mass surveillance systems, and touched upon a number of problems with PGP.

“To be honest, the spooks love PGP,” he said. “It’s very chatty, gives you a lot of metadata, gives you the entire communication record.”