French Building and Structure Geo-Info

February 23, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

OSINT professionals may want to take a look at a French building and structure database with geo-functions. The information is gathered and made available by the Observatoire National des Bâtiments. Registration is required. A user can search by city and address. The data compiled up to 2022 cover France’s metropolitan areas and includes geo services. The data include address, the built and unbuilt property, the plot, the municipality, dimensions, and some technical data. The data represent a significant effort, involving the government, commercial and non-governmental entities, and citizens. The dataset includes more than 20 million addresses. Some records include up to 250 fields.

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Source: https://www.urbs.fr/onb/

To access the service, navigate to https://www.urbs.fr/onb/. One is invited to register or use the online version. My team recommends registering. Note that the site is in French. Copying some text and data and shoving it into a free online translation service like Google’s may not be particularly helpful. French is one of the languages that Google usually handles with reasonable facilities. For this site, Google Translate comes up with tortured and off-base translations.

Stephen E Arnold, February 23, 2024

AI to AI, Program 2 Now Online

February 22, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

My son has converted one of our Zoom conversations into a podcast about AI for government entities. The program runs about 20 minutes and features our "host," a Deep Fake pointing out he lacks human emotions and tells AI-generated jokes. Erik talks about the British government’s test of chatbots and points out one of the surprising findings from the research. He also describes the use of smart software as Ukrainian soldiers write code in real time to respond to a dynamic battlefield. Erik asks me to explain the difference between predictive AI and generative AI. My use cases focus on border-related issues. He then tries to get me to explain how to sidestep US government, in-agency AI software testing. That did not work, and I turned his pointed question into a reason for government professionals to hire him and his team. The final story focuses on a quite remarkable acronym about US government smart software projects. What’s the acronym? Please, navigate to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fB_fNjzRsf4&t=7s to find out.

Map Data: USGS Historical Topos

February 20, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

The ESRI blog published “Access Over 181,000 USGS Historical Topographic Maps.” The map outfit teamed with the US Geological Survey to provide access to an additional 1,745 maps. The total maps in the collection is now 181,008.

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The blog reports:

Esri’s USGS historical topographic map collection contains historical quads (excluding orthophoto quads) dating from 1884 to 2006 with scales ranging from 1:10,000 to 1:250,000. The scanned maps can be used in ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Enterprise. They can also be downloaded as georeferenced TIFs for use in other applications.

These data are useful. Maps can be viewed with ESRI’s online service called the Historical Topo Map Explorer. You can access that online service at this link.

If you are not familiar with historical topos, ESRI states in an ARCGIS post:

The USGS topographic maps were designed to serve as base maps for geologists by defining streams, water bodies, mountains, hills, and valleys. Using contours and other precise symbolization, these maps were drawn accurately, made mathematically correct, and edited carefully. The topographic quadrangles gradually evolved to show the changing landscape of a new nation by adding symbolization for important highways; canals; railroads; and railway stations; wagon roads; and the sites of cities, towns and villages. New and revised quadrangles helped geologists map the mineral fields, and assisted populated places to develop safe and plentiful water supplies and lay out new highways. Primary considerations of the USGS were the permanence of features; map symbolization and legibility; and the overall cost of compiling, editing, printing and distributing the maps to government agencies, industry, and the general public. Due to the longevity and the numerous editions of these maps they now serve new audiences such as historians, genealogists, archeologists, and people who are interested in the historical landscape of the U.S.

This public facing data service is one example of extremely useful information gathered by US government entities can be made more accessible via a public-private relationship. When I served on the board of the US National Technical Information Service, I learned that other useful information is available, just not easily accessible to US citizens.

Good work, ESRI and USGS! Now what about making that volcano data a bit easier to find and access in real time?

Stephen E Arnold, February 20, 2024

The US Government Needs Its McKinsey Fix

February 20, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Governments don’t know how to spend their money wisely. Despite all its grandness, the United States has a deficit spending problem. According to Promarket, the US has a spends way too many tax dollars at McKinsey and Company: “Why The US Government Buys Overpriced Services From McKinsey.” McKinsey and Company is a consulting firm that provides organizations and the US government with advice on how to improve operations.

McKinsey is comparable to the IRS conducting a tax audit on the US government. The company is supposed to help the US implement social justice, diverse, and other political jargon into its business practices. The Clinton administration first purchased the over zealous services from McKinsey. Unfortunately McKinsey doesn’t do much other than repackage mediocre advice with an expensive price tag. How much does McKinsey charge for services? It’s a lot:

“Such practices used to be called “honest graft.” And let’s be clear, McKinsey’s services are very expensive. Back in August, I noted that McKinsey’s competitor, the Boston Consulting Group, charges the government $33,063.75/week for the time of a recent college grad to work as a contractor. Not to be outdone, McKinsey’s pricing is much much higher, with one McKinsey “business analyst”—someone with an undergraduate degree and no experience—lent to the government priced out at $56,707/week, or $2,948,764/year.”

McKinsey can charge outrageous prices because the company uses unethical tactics and they can stay because the General Services Administration gets a 0.75% cut of what contractors spend. It is officially called the “Industrial Funding Fee” or IFF. The GSA receives a larger operating budget whenever it outsources to contractors.

Will changes be made for the next fiscal year? Unlikely.

Whitney Grace’s February 20, 2024

An International AI Panel: Notice Anything Unusual?

February 2, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

An expert international advisory panel has been formed. The ooomph behind the group is the UK’s prime minister. The Evening Standard newspaper described the panel this way:

The first-of-its-kind scientific report on AI will be used to shape international discussions around the technology.

What most of the reports omit is the list of luminaries named to this entity. You can find the list at this link.
image
A number of individual amateur cooks are working hard to match the giant commercial food processing facility is creating. Why aren’t these capable chefs not working with the big outfits? Can “outsiders” understand the direction of a well-resourced, fast-moving commercial enterprise? Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Good enough.
I want to list the members and then ask, “Do you see anything unusual in the list?” The names are ordered by country and representative:

Australia. Professor Bronwyn Fox, Chief Scientist, The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)

Brazil. André Carlos Ponce de Leon Ferreira de Carvalho, Professor, Institute of Mathematics and Computer Sciences, University of São Paulo

Canada. Doctor Mona Nemer, Chief Science Advisor of Canada

Canada. Professor Yoshua Bengio, considered one of the “godfathers of AI”.

Chile. Raquel Pezoa Rivera, Academic, Federico Santa María Technical University

China. Doctor Yi Zeng, Professor, Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences

EU. Juha Heikkilä, Adviser for Artificial Intelligence, DG Connect

France. Guillame Avrin, National Coordinator for AI, General Directorate of Enterprises

Germany. Professor Antonio Krüger, CEO, German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence.

India. Professor Balaraman Ravindran, Professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras

Indonesia. Professor Hammam Riza, President, KORIKA

Ireland. Doctor. Ciarán Seoighe, Deputy Director General, Science Foundation Ireland

Israel. Doctor Ziv Katzir, Head of the National Plan for Artificial Intelligence Infrastructure, Israel Innovation Authority

Italy. Doctor Andrea Monti,Professor of  Digital Law, University of Chieti-Pescara.

Japan. Doctor Hiroaki Kitano, CTO, Sony Group Corporation

Kenya. Awaiting nomination

Mexico. Doctor José Ramón López Portillo, Chairman and Co-founder, Q Element

Netherlands. Professor Haroon Sheikh, Senior Research Fellow, Netherlands’ Scientific Council for Government Policy

New Zealand. Doctor Gill Jolly, Chief Science Advisor, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Nigeria. Doctor Olubunmi Ajala, Technical Adviser to the Honorable Minister of Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy,
Philippines. Awaiting nomination

Republic of Korea. Professor Lee Kyoung Mu, Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Seoul National University

Rwanda. Crystal Rugege, Managing Director, National Center for AI and Innovation Policy

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Doctor Fahad Albalawi, Senior AI Advisor, Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence

Singapore. Denise Wong, Assistant Chief Executive, Data Innovation and Protection Group, Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)

Spain. Nuria Oliver, Vice-President, European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems (ELLISS)

Switzerland. Doctor. Christian Busch, Deputy Head, Innovation, Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research

Turkey. Ahmet Halit Hatip, Director General of European Union and Foreign Relations, Turkish Ministry of Industry and Technology

UAE. Marwan Alserkal, Senior Research Analyst, Ministry of Cabinet Affairs, Prime Minister’s Office

Ukraine. Oleksii Molchanovskyi, Chair, Expert Committee on the Development of Artificial intelligence in Ukraine

USA. Saif M. Khan, Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Critical and Emerging Technologies, U.S. Department of Commerce

United Kingdom. Dame Angela McLean, Government Chief Scientific Adviser

United Nations. Amandeep Gill, UN Tech Envoy

Give up? My team identified these interesting aspects:

  1. No Facebook, Google, Microsoft, OpenAI or any other US giant in the AI space
  2. Academics and political “professionals” dominate the list
  3. A speed and scale mismatch between AI diffusion and panel report writing.

Net net: More words will be generated for large language models to ingest.

Stephen E Arnold, February 2, 2024

Techno Feudalist Governance: Not a Signal, a Rave Sound Track

January 31, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

One of the UK’s watchdog outfits published a 30-page report titled “One Click Away: A Study on the Prevalence of Non-Suicidal Self Injury, Suicide, and Eating Disorder Content Accessible by Search Engines.” I suggest that you download the report if you are interested in what the consequences of poor corporate governance are. I recommend reading the document while watching your young children or grand children playing with their mobile phones or tablet devices.

Let me summarize the document for you because its contents provide some color and context for the upcoming US government hearings with a handful of techno feudalist companies:

Web search engines and social media services are one-click gateways to self-harm and other content some parents and guardians might deem inappropriate.

Does this report convey information relevant to the upcoming testimony of selected large US technology companies in the Senate? I want to say, “Yes.” However, the realistic answer is, “No.”

Techmeme, an online information service, displayed its interest in the testimony with these headlines on January 31, 2024:

image

Screenshots are often difficult to read. The main story is from the weird orange newspaper whose content is presented under this Techmeme headline:

Ahead of the Senate Hearing, Mark Zuckerberg Calls for Requiring Apple and Google to Verify Ages via App Stores…

Ah, ha, is this a red herring intended to point the finger at outfits not on the hot seat in the true blue Senate hearing room?

The New York Times reports on a popular DC activity: A document reveal:

Ahead of the Senate Hearing, US Lawmakers Release 90 Pages of Internal Meta Emails…

And to remind everyone that an allegedly China linked social media service wants to do the right thing (of course!), Bloomberg’s angle is:

In Prepared Senate Testimony, TikTok CEO Shou Chew Says the Company Plans to Spend $2B+ in 2024 on Trust and Safety Globally…

Therefore, the Senate hearing on January 31, 2024 is moving forward.

What will be the major take-away from today’s event? I would suggest an opportunity for those testifying to say, “Senator, thank you for the question” and “I don’t have that information. I will provide that information when I return to my office.”

And the UK report? What? And the internal governance of certain decisions related to safety in the techno feudal firms? Secondary to generating revenue perhaps?

Stephen E Arnold, January 31, 2024

Fujitsu: Good Enough Software, Pretty Good Swizzling

January 25, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

The USPS is often interesting. But the UK’s postal system, however, is much worse. I think we can thank the public private US postal construct for not screwing over those who manage branch offices. Computer Weekly details how the UK postal system’s leaders knowingly had an IT problem and blamed employees: “Fujitsu Bosses Knew About Post Office Horizon IT Flaws, Says Insider.”

The UK postal system used the Post Office Horizon IT system supplied by Fujitsu. The Fujitsu bosses allowed it to be knowingly installed despite massive problems. Hundreds of UK subpostmasters were accused of fraud and false accounting. They were held liable. Many were imprisoned, had their finances ruined, and lost jobs. Many of the UK subpostmasters fought the accusations. It wasn’t until 2019 that the UK High Court proved it was Horizon IT’s fault.

The Fujitsu that “designed” the postal IT system didn’t have the correct education and experience for the project. It was built on a project that didn’t properly record and process payments. A developer on the project shared with Computer Weekly:

“‘To my knowledge, no one on the team had a computer science degree or any degree-level qualifications in the right field. They might have had lower-level qualifications or certifications, but none of them had any experience in big development projects, or knew how to do any of this stuff properly. They didn’t know how to do it.’”

The Post Office Horizon It system was the largest commercial system in Europe and it didn’t work. The software was bloated, transcribed gibberish, and was held together with the digital equivalent of Scotch tape. This case is the largest miscarriage of justice in current UK history. Thankfully the truth has come out and the subpostmasters will be compensated. The compensation doesn’t return stolen time but it will ease their current burdens.

Fujitsu is getting some scrutiny. Does the company manufacture grocery self check out stations? If so, more outstanding work.

Whitney Grace, January 25, 2024

Regulators Shift into Gear to Investigate an AI Tie Up

January 19, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Solicitors, lawyers, and avocats want to mark the anniversary of the AI big bang. About one year ago, Microsoft pushed Google into hitting its Code Red button. Investment firms, developers, and wild-eyed entrepreneurs knew smart software was the real deal, not a digital file of a cartoon like that NFT baloney. In the last 12 months, AI went from jargon and eliciting yawns to the treasure map to the fabled city of El Dorado (even if it was a suburb of Grants, New Mexico. Google got the message quickly. The lawyers. Well, not too quickly.

image

Regulators look through the technological pile of 2023 gadgets. Despite being last year’s big thing, the law makers and justice deciders move into action mode. Exciting. Thanks, MSFT Copilot Bing thing. Good enough.

EU Joins UK in Scrutinizing OpenAI’s Relationship with Microsoft” documents what happens when lawyers — after decades of inaction — wake to do something constructive. Social media gutted the fabric of many cultural norms. AI isn’t going to be given a 20 year free pass. No way.

The write up reports:

Antitrust regulators in the EU have joined their British counterparts in scrutinizing Microsoft’s alliance with OpenAI.

What will happen now? Here’s my short list of actions:

  1. Legal eagles on both sides of the Atlantic will begin grooming their feathers in order to be selected to deal with the assorted forms, filings, hearings, and advisory meetings. Some of the lawyers will call Ferrari to make sure they are eligible to buy a supercar; others may cast an eye on an impounded oligarch-linked yacht. Yep, big bucks ahead.
  2. Microsoft and OpenAI will let loose an platoon of humanoid art history and business administration majors. These professionals will create a wide range of informative explainers. Smart software will be pressed into duty, and I anticipate some smart automation to provide Teflon the the flow of digital documentation.
  3. Firms — possibly some based in the EU and a few bold souls in the US — will present information making clear that competition is a good thing. Governments must regulate smart software
  4. Entities hostile to the EU and the US will also output information or disinformation. Which is what depends on one’s perspective.

In short, 2024 will be an interesting year because one of the major threat to the Google could be converted to the digital equivalent of a eunuch in an Assyrian ruler’s court. What will this mean? Google wins. Unanticipated consequence? Absolutely.

Stephen E Arnold, January 19, 2024

Stretchy Security and Flexible Explanations from SEC and X

January 18, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Gizmodo presented an interesting write up about an alleged security issue involving the US Securities & Exchange Commission. Is this an important agency? I don’t know. “X Confirms SEC Hack, Says Account Didn’t Have 2FA Turned On” states:

Turns out that the SEC’s X account was hacked, partially because it neglected a very basic rule of online security.

image

“Well, Pa, that new security fence does not seem too secure to me,” observes the farmer’s wife. Flexible and security with give are not the optimal ways to protect the green. Thanks, MSFT Copilot Bing thing. Four tries and something good enough. Yes!

X.com — now known by some as the former Twitter or the Fail Whale outfit — puts the blame on the US SEC. That’s a familiar tactic in Silicon Valley. The users are at fault. Some people believe Google’s incognito mode is secret, and others assume that Apple iPhones do not have a backdoor. Wow, I believe these companies, don’t you?

The article reports:

[The] hacking episode temporarily threw the web3 community into chaos after the SEC’s compromised account made a post falsely claiming that the SEC had approved the much anticipated Bitcoin ETFs that the crypto world has been obsessed with of late. The claims also briefly sent Bitcoin on a wild ride, as the asset shot up in value temporarily, before crashing back down when it became apparent the news was fake.

My question is, “How stretchy and flexible are security systems available from outfits like Twitter (now X)?” Another question is, “How secure are government agencies?”

The apparent answer is, “Good enough.” That’s the high water mark in today’s world. Excellence? Meh.

Stephen E Arnold, January 18, 2024

Guidelines. What about AI and Warfighting? Oh, Well, Hmmmm.

January 16, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

It seems November 2023’s AI Safety Summit, hosted by the UK, was a productive gathering. At the very least, attendees drew up some best practices and brought them to agencies in their home countries. TechRepublic describes the “New AI Security Guidelines Published by NCSC, CISA, & More International Agencies.” Writer Owen Hughes summarizes:

“The Guidelines for Secure AI System Development set out recommendations to ensure that AI models – whether built from scratch or based on existing models or APIs from other companies – ‘function as intended, are available when needed and work without revealing sensitive data to unauthorized parties.’ Key to this is the ‘secure by default’ approach advocated by the NCSC, CISA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and various other international cybersecurity agencies in existing frameworks. Principles of these frameworks include:

* Taking ownership of security outcomes for customers.

* Embracing radical transparency and accountability.

* Building organizational structure and leadership so that ‘secure by design’ is a top business priority.

A combined 21 agencies and ministries from a total of 18 countries have confirmed they will endorse and co-seal the new guidelines, according to the NCSC. … Lindy Cameron, chief executive officer of the NCSC, said in a press release: ‘We know that AI is developing at a phenomenal pace and there is a need for concerted international action, across governments and industry, to keep up. These guidelines mark a significant step in shaping a truly global, common understanding of the cyber risks and mitigation strategies around AI to ensure that security is not a postscript to development but a core requirement throughout.’”

Nice idea, but we noted “OpenAI’s Policy No Longer Explicitly Bans the Use of Its Technology for Military and Warfare.” The article reports that OpenAI:

updated the page on January 10 "to be clearer and provide more service-specific guidance," as the changelog states. It still prohibits the use of its large language models (LLMs) for anything that can cause harm, and it warns people against using its services to "develop or use weapons." However, the company has removed language pertaining to "military and warfare." While we’ve yet to see its real-life implications, this change in wording comes just as military agencies around the world are showing an interest in using AI.

We are told cybersecurity experts and analysts welcome the guidelines. But will the companies vending and developing AI products willingly embrace principles like “radical transparency and accountability”? Will regulators be able to force them to do so? We have our doubts. Nevertheless, this is a good first step. If only it had been taken at the beginning of the race.

Cynthia Murrell, January 16, 2024

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