October 1, 2022

Authoritarian technology, and tower-building drones

Authoritarian technology, and tower-building drones

Despite President Biden’s assurances at Wednesday’s United Nations meeting that the US is not seeking a new cold war, a human is brewing between the world’s autocracies and democracies – and technology is driving it.

Late last week, Iran, Turkey, Myanmar and a handful of other countries took steps to become full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an economic and political alliance led by the authoritarian regimes of China and Russia.

The majority of SCO member states, as well as other authoritarian states, are following China’s lead and tending towards more digital rights violations by increasing mass digital surveillance of citizens, censorship and controls on individual expression.

And while democracies also use large amounts of surveillance technology, it is the technological trade relations between authoritarian countries that enable the rise of digitally-enabled social control. Read the full story.

—Tate Ryan-Mosley

Watch this team of drones 3D print a tower

The news: A mini-swarm of drones was trained to work together to 3D print some simple towers. Inspired by the way bees or wasps build large nests, the process has multiple drones working together to build from a single blueprint, with one essentially checking the other’s work as it goes.

How it works: One drone places a layer of building material, and the other verifies the accuracy of everything printed so far. The drones are fully autonomous while flying, but they are monitored by a human who can step in if things go awry.

Why it matters: One day, the method could help with challenging projects such as post-disaster construction or even repairs to buildings too tall to safely access, the team behind it hopes – and could build buildings in the Arctic or even on Mars. Read the full story.

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