Peter Singer continues his excursion into what he calls “useful fiction” – thrillers that explore real-world implications of emerging technologies – in Burn-In: A Novel of the Real Robotic Revolution, to be released May 26, 2020. This interview explores a thoroughly researched (and footnoted!) host of new technologies, many already in production or on the horizon, all packed inside a plot-driven novel. The book is a painless way to understand what these technologies make possible and their impact on actual human beings. And the interview ranges widely over the policy implications, plus a few plot spoilers.

In the News Roundup, David Kris covers the latest Congressional FISA Follies, leading me into a rant on the utter irresponsibility of subjecting national security authorities to regular expiration – and regular ransom demands from the least responsible elements of Congress. Speaking of FISA, it turns out that the December Pensacola shootings were hatched by al-Qaeda’s Yemen franchise. Why are we only learning this in May? Because the evidence comes from an iPhone whose security Apple refused to find a way around. The FBI’s self-help solution worked in the end, but not until the trail had gone cold.

Decoupling is in overdrive this week. Nick Weaver talks about the move by the Trump Administration to achieve semiconductor self-sufficiency – and the not-coincidental announcements that TSMC will build a chip factory in Arizona and that the Commerce Department has drafted a new export rule aimed at making it much harder for TSMC to build chips for Huawei. In response, China is preparing a list of unreliable US suppliers of technology. I wonder whether putting companies on the list for diversifying their supply chain out of China will have the long-term effect of making companies more reluctant to open new supply relationships with Chinese companies.

David and I note that recent US accusations of Chinese and Iranian cyber intrusions on COVID-19 research may be more than just the usual imprecations.

And Nick explains why so many US professors are going to jail for undisclosed China ties. The key word is “undisclosed.”

Mark MacCarthy previews France’s (and Germany’s and the EU’s and the UK’s) increasingly tough sanctions for US social media firms that fail to remove “hate speech” and other bad content within 24 hours (or sometimes one hour). More and more, it seems, Section 230 immunity is just a local US ordinance.

Mark and Nick review the latest trial balloon from Europe’s technocrats: How about a Chinese firewall for Europe, ask apparently respectable policy thinkers working for the European Parliament.

David and Nick find themselves agreeing with the latest release from DHS’s CISA pouring cold water on online voting.

In quick hits, David notes the Trump administration’s now routine extension of the “telecom national security” Executive Order, Nick brings us This Week in NSO Bashing, I touch on a ransomware and doxing threat that has tripped up a celebrity law firm, and Nick and I muse on why cell phone contact tracing seems about to jump the shark.

We close with a surprising catfishing story that leads us into a discussion of the relative hotness of recent NSA directors and whether it’s true that being dual-hatted makes you irresistible to women.


Download the 316th Episode (mp3).

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