WHITE HOUSE MAKES ITS AI MOVE.
President Biden has signed an executive order on artificial intelligence, which mandates companies to report on AI risks that could aid in creating weapons of mass destruction and seeks to mitigate the dangers of deep fakes. The order, limited in reach, aims to set the U.S. as a leader in AI regulation, complementing Europe’s own efforts. It addresses safety, security, and the promotion of AI development while also aiming to attract foreign talent and counter China’s technological progress. Despite the order’s focus on innovation and development, it acknowledges the need for Congressional action for broader impact. The order utilizes the Defense Production Act to enforce security mandates, requiring advanced AI tools to be tested for potential misuse in weapon production and necessitates cloud service providers to report foreign customers to the government. Additionally, it recommends watermarking to combat the spread of disinformation through deep fakes. Vice President Harris will discuss these initiatives internationally, emphasizing the importance of AI regulation to mitigate risks like bias, discrimination, and misinformation. However, some directives may be challenging to implement due to competitive private sector salaries and stalled privacy legislation in Congress. (New York Times)
MATTHEW PERRY DESERVES BETTER.
The death of actor Matthew Perry has been quickly exploited by the #DiedSuddenly movement, a cohort of anti-vaccine activists who propagate baseless theories linking unexpected deaths to Covid-19 vaccines. This group, using social media and other outlets, has twisted Perry’s death, which had no established cause, to insinuate that it was vaccine-related. This follows a pattern where tragedies are hijacked to spread misinformation, often targeting public figures as well as private individuals, causing additional anguish to grieving families. Perry, who was transparent about his struggles with substance abuse and health issues, becomes another victim posthumously maligned by a movement that thrives on institutional distrust and the spread of debunked narratives. The persistence of such conspiracy theories on platforms like X (formerly Twitter) indicates a broader cultural problem that extends beyond any single social media platform, undermining the efforts of those who strive for truth and transparency in public health discourse. (Wired)
FTX BANKMAN-FRIED CROSS EXAMINED.
Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, is facing a trial for fraud in Manhattan, where his previous public communications are under scrutiny. The prosecutor, Danielle Sassoon, confronted Bankman-Fried with inconsistencies between his former public persona and the internal operations of his business. Despite his attempts to present himself as forgetful, failing to remember statements he made as FTX’s CEO, the prosecution highlighted disparities between his public and private actions. Bankman-Fried’s colleagues have testified against him, admitting to fraud under his direction. Bankman-Fried, pleading not guilty to multiple charges, risks a life sentence if convicted. He acknowledged on the stand that Alameda Research, a hedge fund he founded, had a significantly larger line of credit with FTX than any other firm, which contradicts earlier statements denying special treatment for Alameda. This trial is pivotal, not only for Bankman-Fried but for highlighting the systemic issues within the crypto industry. (New York Times)
KIDNEY DISEASE DRUG ALMOST READY FOR SHOWTIME.
Novartis has made a promising $3.2 billion investment in Chinook Therapeutics, highlighted by the successful phase 3 trial of atrasentan, an oral drug targeting kidney disease. This trial met its primary endpoint, indicating improved kidney function, which may lead to accelerated FDA approval next year. Atrasentan was developed by Chinook to phase 3 before Novartis acquired it, aiming to enrich its portfolio for treating IgA nephropathy (IgAN). The trial with 340 IgAN patients showed safety consistent with earlier studies, having no serious treatment-related adverse events. Novartis is looking forward to filing for accelerated approval in the U.S., while also continuing to gather data for full approval, expecting more results by 2026. Additionally, Novartis reported favorable results for another IgAN drug, iptacopan, and is advancing a second Chinook-derived drug, zigakibart, in phase 3 trials. A timing discrepancy in endpoint analysis was clarified by Novartis, aligning with FDA guidance and harmonizing with other IgAN studies. (FierceBiotech)
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VULNERABILITY BEING ACTIVELY EXPLOITED.
A critical vulnerability in Citrix hardware, known as Citrix Bleed and rated 9.4 out of 10 in severity, allows attackers to bypass multifactor authentication to access enterprise networks. Despite a patch being available for three weeks, ransomware hackers are actively exploiting this flaw. The bug, tracked as CVE-2023-4966, reveals session tokens, which are crucial for device authentication. Active exploitation has been observed since August, with an estimated 20,000 Citrix devices compromised based on honeypot data. Security experts have noted a dramatic increase in exploitation from various IP addresses. While the vulnerability is straightforward to exploit, as evidenced by the reverse-engineering of Citrix’s patch, it has led to a discrepancy between the number of unpatched devices and those actually compromised. The exploit manipulates the way Citrix’s NetScaler Application Delivery Controller handles oversized responses, enabling attackers to gain sensitive information from the system’s memory, a serious security concern for affected networks. (Ars Technica)
UK BRACES FOR THE EFFECT OF AI ON INDUSTRY.
The “AI Safety Summit” at Bletchley Park is gathering a select group of industry leaders, government officials, and academics to discuss the risks and regulations of artificial intelligence. While the event is exclusive, with limited access, it has spawned surrounding events like AI Fringe, which is more inclusive and addresses AI’s broader implications. Despite the patchy inclusion, there’s a consensus on the need for a unified approach to AI risks. U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak proposed an AI safety institute, and President Biden issued an executive order on AI security. Critics argue that the summit’s focus on existential AI risks may overshadow immediate issues like misinformation. Meanwhile, the business community anticipates the implications of AI investment, acknowledging that AI development requires careful implementation and oversight. The summit’s discussions on AI safety are seen as crucial, yet there’s an acknowledgment that they might not encompass all necessary areas of concern, such as global regulation or geopolitical tensions. (Techcrunch)
ASTEROIDS MAY HAVE UNEARTHLY ELEMENTS.
The pursuit of new elements has evolved from ancient alchemy to modern nuclear science, enabling the creation of superheavy elements with up to 118 protons. However, these elements are typically unstable due to the electromagnetic repulsion between protons. Scientists theorize that an “island of stability” may exist around elements with 164 protons, where these forces could balance out, leading to relatively stable or even long-lived elements. Physicists have been exploring various locations, including space, to find these elements, given their natural occurrence is scarce on Earth due to geological processes. To understand where these superheavy elements might be found, researchers have modeled their mass density, which could be significantly higher than the densest element on Earth, osmium. Some asteroids, referred to as Compact Ultradense Objects (CUDOs), may harbor these elements in their cores. Space missions like the Gaia mission and NASA’s Psyche mission aim to study and sample asteroids, potentially discovering superheavy elements and advancing our knowledge of the universe’s composition. (The Conversation)
PREPPING FOR NASA’S LUCY MISSION.
Researchers have refined the size and surface reflectivity (albedo) of an asteroid named Dinkinesh, in preparation for NASA’s Lucy mission’s first encounter with it. Utilizing old infrared data from NASA’s WISE, scientists have enhanced the mission’s ability to observe Dinkinesh, a small asteroid located in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter. The Lucy spacecraft will fly by Dinkinesh at a close distance to test its instruments and procedures ahead of its primary goal of studying Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids. WISE’s data from 2010, though initially weak, revealed after image stacking that Dinkinesh is about half a mile in diameter and has a stony composition. These findings aid in understanding main-belt asteroids that are similar in size to potentially hazardous near-Earth objects. Insights from Dinkinesh may inform the origins of these near-Earth asteroids. NASA’s upcoming NEO Surveyor mission will continue to search for such objects using infrared wavelengths. The Lucy mission is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, aimed at unlocking the secrets of the solar system. (NASA)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.
IMAGE CREDIT: White House.