Tuesday 13th of April 2021

how I started worrying and hated the Bomb... jason and the advisory-nauts...


After 59 years of service, Jason, the famed science advisory group, was being fired, and it didn't know why. On 29 March, the exclusive and shadowy group of some 65 scientists received a letter from the Department of Defense (DOD) saying it had just over a month to pack up its files and wind down its affairs. "It was a total shock," said Ellen Williams, Jason's vice chair and a physicist at the University of Maryland in College Park. "I had no idea what the heck was going on."

The letter terminated Jason's contract with DOD's Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USDR&E) in Arlington, Virginia, which was Jason's contractual home—the conduit through which it was paid for all of its government work. So, in effect, the letter killed off all of Jason's work for defense and nondefense agencies alike.

Just days away was the group's spring meeting in Washington, D.C., where members and government sponsors would refine the dozen or so problems Jason would tackle in San Diego, California, during members' summer leave from their campuses and labs. Jason had to keep functioning, even as it prepared to die. It told sponsors it was still planning to do the studies, and advised members to keep their calendars open but not sign summer leases. It made plans for an attenuated spring meeting reception: not the usual dinner, but meatball and spinach-feta appetizers and plastic cups at the cash bar.

Meanwhile, members hurriedly wrote emails and made urgent phone calls, looking for other contractual homes. Then, on 25 April, the night before the reception, came a reprieve. Williams and Jason's chair, Russell Hemley, a materials chemist at the University of Illinois in Chicago, heard from the Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which for decades had commissioned Jason to study the health of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. Now, NNSA said it couldn't afford a gap in its studies and pledged to pick up the Jason contract, at least until January 2020.

At the reception, in an auditorium at MITRE Corporation, Jason's administrator in McLean, Virginia, Jason members appeared relieved by NNSA's decision, although what went wrong at DOD was unclear. "The department remains committed to seeking independent technical advice and review," a USDR&E spokesperson said in a statement. "This change is in keeping with this commitment while making the most economic sense for the department." Mike Griffin, a former NASA administrator who heads USDR&E, declined to speak to Science about the dismissal...



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contradicting clown trump possibly...

JASON is an independent group of elite scientists which advises the United States government on matters of science and technology, mostly of a sensitive nature. The group was first created as a way to get a younger generation of scientists—that is, not the older Los Alamos and MIT Radiation Laboratory alumni—involved in advising the government. It was established in 1960 and has somewhere between 30 and 60 members. Its work first gained public notoriety as the source of the Vietnam War's McNamara Line electronic barrier. Although most of its research is military-focused, JASON also produced early work on the science of global warming and acid rain.[1] Current unclassified research interests include health informaticscyberwarfare, and renewable energy.


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adding secrecy to transparency...

A new lawsuit seeks to kill a recent Trump administration rule that critics say deals a blow to transparency by giving the Environmental Protection Agency broad authority to shoot down public information requests.

The new rule—put in place without public input—was published on the Federal Register June 26 and goes into effect July 26.

"This rule is a shameful attempt to keep Americans in the dark about the Trump administration's sickening failures to protect our air, water, and wildlife," said Meg Townsend, open government attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "We have a right to know what EPA is trying to hide and which Trump appointee is trying to hide it."

In their suit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District Columbia, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Integrity Project argue that the new regulation violates the Freedom of Information Act by allowing for information requests to be denied on the basis of "responsiveness," and violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by allowing for responses to be delayed. The administration also violated the APA by not allowing for public comment on the rule change, the suit says.


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ready or not — coming out...


Australians need to decide how we use artificial intelligence technologies before those decisions are made for us, a major report commissioned by chief scientist Alan Finkel has warned.

Key points:
  • The report warns Australians are using "off-the-shelf" AI, which is not necessarily designed for the Australian environment
  • It calls for a national strategy to guide the regulation and use of artificial intelligence
  • Australia's chief scientist says the Government needs to know how AI software is being used and what "behaviour we are complicit in"


A group of expert scientists, working under the Australian Council of Learned Academies, have today released a report urging the Government to develop a national strategy to guide regulation and use of emerging technology, and establish an independent AI institute.

It also noted that "inevitable" AI technology was poised to disrupt almost every fabric of Australian society and warned that it should be developed in an "effective" and "ethical" way.

The wide-ranging report examined how Australia was placed to respond to emerging technologies, including everything from 'robo-judges' in the United States sentencing low-range offenders, to automated psychologists identifying a client's subtlest expressions, or automated cameras in China publicly shaming jaywalkers.

Reporting group co-chair Professor Neil Levy, the former head of neuroethics at Victoria's Florey Institute, said AI offered great opportunity and great risk.

"We are talking about a huge contributor to the world economy ... and something with very major risks if it's not managed appropriately," Professor Levy said.

National strategy needed

Professor Levy said Australia needed to have control over its own AI systems and the data they used.

He noted China's recently introduced 'social credit score', where citizens could be rewarded or punished by a largely automated behaviour monitoring system, and that technologies like it could enter Australia if the country was not prepared to respond to their emergence.



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