High Tech Inside by aotaro

By Kris Klein

Staff Writer

Cyber Sovereignty: The Economic Imperatives of a Secure Cyberspace

Mounting tensions spark talk of war as the table is set for a dinner between rivals. On the eve of the first state visit to the United States by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, a single occurrence seems to calm threats of economic sanctions and cyber-attacks. Chinese hackers, accused by the United States of stealing trade secrets, are quietly arrested by their own government.

Reports of the arrests found a welcome, yet wary audience in American media. They are a sign of goodwill from China at a time when relations have grown determinedly apprehensive.

The United States and China maintain a relationship fraught with angst over cyber-espionage. As early as 2007 US officials accused China of stealing designs for a major American weapons system, and by 2013 the tally grew to as many as two dozen major weapons systems that were reportedly compromised by Chinese hackers.

In 2014, a Senate panel found that Chinese hackers had infiltrated the computer systems of private firms involved in the transportation of US troops and military equipment.

In 2015, a massive cyber-attack that originated in China infiltrated the federal Office of Personnel Management, exposing the personal information of millions of government employees.

The Obama administration has been lenient in its response to Chinese hacking that is used for military or political purposes and has tried to distinguish between these attacks and the types of attacks that are used to gain commercial or economic advantage. The US continues to struggle with engraining that principle in the conduct of international espionage.

During Xi Jinping’s US visit, he and Barack Obama vowed that their governments would not engage in or support commercial espionage. The verbal agreement between the two leaders tenders an opportunity for US diplomats. If China were to cede its commercial espionage programs, it would be a profound victory for US efforts to impede such spying.

Despite hope of progress, suspicions linger.

US intelligence officials expressed doubt that China will follow through on its promises. None of the hackers arrested by the Chinese government have yet to be prosecuted and reports continue to surface of subsequent Chinese commercial hacking of private American companies.

Punishing any future commercial spying, even if being permissive of political spying, can strengthen American innovation. While gradual progress is made in halting Chinese hacking altogether, the priority of the US is to protect innovation and technology. Setting clear limits on what the US deems permissible will deter foreign actors from stealing American technology.

The importance of Intellectual Property to Protecting Innovation

Legal protection for those who develop new ideas and technologies encourages advances that makes the US economically competitive. When those protections are not enforced, innovation falters and so does the economy. In a report to the United States Congress, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property emphasized the economic consequences of allowing IP theft to go unpunished.

Theft of technology robs companies of their investment in developing designs for competitive technologies. When these designs are stolen the result is typically cuts to payrolls that cost the American economy jobs.

IP theft also diminishes the incentives companies have to invest in future research and development. If a company cannot be guaranteed that a potential investment in research will offer any form of competitive advantage, the company has no reason to invest in research at all. The decline of investment in research and development means slower innovation and fewer new technologies to help create economic growth.

Chinese Hacking and the Threat to Intellectual Property

The commission’s report highlights China’s cyber-attacks as a particularly potent threat to protecting innovation. The commission identified China as the world’s most persistent perpetrator of IP theft, revealing that hacking from China accounts for between fifty and eighty percent of the value stolen in commercial espionage.

Sustained Chinese commercial hacking would be a significant setback for global efforts to strengthen intellectual property rights. How China chooses to develop its own legal system can be a useful tool in gauging the respect the Chinese government has for innovation and its willingness to help protect intellectual property.

Problems with China’s Legal Protections for Innovation

In 2012 the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published a report on China’s patent process in which it outlined legal enforcement as a major concern of American companies.

In order for a Chinese court to hear a legal case, the court must first accept the case. However there are no specific criteria outlining if a court will or will not accept a particular case, nor do courts publish the reasons they had against accepting a case. This leaves judges the power to arbitrarily decide whether or not a case will be heard.

American companies cited discriminatory legal practices as one of their main concerns with China’s patent enforcement. Companies perceive China’s legal system as discriminating against American companies in the favor of their Chinese competitors.

The lack of legal enforcement allows technology to be stolen from American companies with little cost to the the Chinese companies doing the stealing. The lack of legal enforcement for patents held by US companies reflects the unwillingness of the Chinese government to respect intellectual property rights across the globe and in cyberspace.

Reform and Hope for Chinese Support of Intellectual Property

Earlier this year Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a new ideological campaign called “The Four Comprehensives”, and one ‘Comprehensive’ is of particular interest to the fate of IP in China.

Out of the Four Comprehensives, the third is the most significant to IP. The stated aim of Xi Jinping is to “Comprehensively govern the nation according to law”. The rule of law in China may aptly demonstrate the posture of Chinese leaders toward IP and the potential for those leaders to agree to limit the theft of IP through commercial cyber-espionage. Developing the rule of law in China by fighting corruption that hampers legal enforcement could be the key to developing China’s intellectual property rights into those of a modern economic power.

As China’s President presses on with his political campaigns against corruption and in support of his “Four Comprehensives”, the politically inclined on-looker will be wondering if these campaigns will bear fruit of substance to the economy and to international relations, or if they are merely Xi Jinping’s tools for consolidating power.

The potential growth of the global economy will be determined by our technological innovations, and therein lies the importance of China’s willingness to reform its behavior in both cyberspace and the courtroom. We can all hope that Chinese leaders mean what they say when they promise us their support for innovation and the rule of law.

Image by aotaro


By Rebecca Benest
Staff Writer

In a world where we are becoming increasingly dependent on our devices, new technological developments now called the Internet of Things, or IoT, could completely change the way we see technology and our world. On a daily basis, most of us use technology to continuously check email, send messages, instantaneously communicate across the world, count our calorie intake, and check the news, among other things. A wife at work who wants an errand run can easily call, text, email, or Face Time her spouse with a favor. But what if this became unnecessary? What if the same spouse, who wanted the lawn watered, did not need to ask anyone at all? What if her house was measuring the water in the soil, and in accordance with the predicted rain in the upcoming days, communicated with the watering system to keep the soil perfectly watered without wife, spouse, or child lifting a finger? This is the idea of the Internet of Things. Creating a “smart” house or a “smart” city opens us up to an endless amount of possibilities. As the mass gathering of personal data becomes a reality, however, there are dangers and concerns just as real.

The Internet of Things, instead of harnessing communication between machines, harnesses sensors. The sensors essentially gather and evaluate data; they can then communicate with a myriad of machines, throughout a house or a city, and can control the machines based on the data gathered. This is related to Cloud-based applications, which are constantly collecting similar information. The difference here is that our possibilities widen when the sensors are connected to our phones, cars, all the appliances in our homes, or the stoplights on every street. All these devices become one harmonious system, one massive machine coordinated perfectly and instantaneously.

Yet this moves beyond our alarm clock telling the coffee pot to turn on five minutes before the alarm goes off. Take a large bridge, for example. Bridges can be built with smart cement, which measures stress and cracks. This means the bridge can alert the city if there is any danger to its structure. In the winter, the smart cement can also measure the amount of ice on the road, warning all approaching vehicles to slow down and informing them of which areas are most slippery. Should a driver not heed the warning, the car can take over and slow itself down, according to safety protocol. In the same way, the car can tell the phone when it is in drive, and the phone can disable the texting mechanism to prevent texting while driving. The Internet of Things becomes a part of everything we do throughout the day, from our morning routines to the types of food we buy to the way our governments are structured; it maximizes efficiency and safety.

The Internet of Things Council, a think tank of (mostly European) professionals, explains the reach of IoT further than just our devices. They approach IoT as a complete paradigm shift, a change in the way we view our government, our society, and ourselves. They view it, most interestingly, as a method that would lessen evil in global society. The Internet of Things could potentially help create a more equal distribution of wealth; could limit resource gathering and minimize climate change; could optimize democracy, eradicate corruption, and allocate resources to best deal with all living diversity of the planet. Succinctly, “[we] believe such a system would systematically lessen the very potentiality of evil occurring.” Looking beyond a smart house, IoT could dramatically alter the way countries are governed, assuming governments can gather every minuscule datum on every citizen’s life.

While this does create the ability to “lessen evil,” there is an abundance of concerns. While IoT can work to enforce the law, easily catching crimes such as tax fraud, there’s worry that it’s less about what IoT can do, and more about who’s in control. If the billionaire tech moguls and government leaders are controlling the system and gathering the data, they can easily gather the data in the most profitable way possible. Furthermore, if the government is gathering data on our every motion to “prevent terrorism,” there are no lines or boundaries. We can use the same program that prevents terrorism to track the economic and social behaviors of a population, and that program can then communicate with every inanimate object in our lives to manipulate those behaviors to whatever extent deemed necessary. Because there is no way for any individual or group to gather and analyze data to that extent, there is no way to fact check anything we are being told; we have no choice but to blindly trust both government and tech company. In this light, the Internet of Things starts to become an eerie reminder of George Orwell’s 1984.

As such a new method of technology, still constantly expanding and testing limits, the Internet of Things is not yet something to be seen as immediately available. While we might not see the traffic lights telling our cars the quickest route from home to work any time soon, the reality of the technology is still rapidly increasing. As with almost all other modern progress, it is easy to see the myriad advantages and disadvantages, neither of which can or should be ignored. Yet regardless of your position on the matter, the Internet of Things is most likely a part of the looming future that needs to be continuously and critically discussed, both before and after implementation.

Photo by Flickr User dmje


By Siru Rose Zhu
Staff Writer

“Under the Dome,” a recently released “TED-like documentary” focusing on the “air pollution crisis” in China has gone viral with more than 100 million viewers within 24 hours after the release. According to the New York Times, “Before it was taken down from Internet sites, more than 200 million Chinese had viewed it (out of approximately 600 million with Internet access),” not including the viewers overseas. It seems like the documentary “found a ready audience in China,” and the topic of pollution also found audiences worldwide. “Pollution, after all, has become personal;” it is true that people are becoming more aware of the pollutions that we can see, feel or touch–global warming, smog, chemical-filled water, pesticides, etc., but there are problems that are easily overlooked which are even more personal than those.

In early March this year, a court case, Firstenberg v. Monribot, has once again reminded the public about the ongoing discussion about artificial Electromagnetic Field (EMF) pollution. Arthur Firstenberg sued his neighbor Raphaela Monribot for causing him suffering such as “dizziness, nausea, amnesia, insomnia, tremors, heart arrhythmia, acute and chronic pain,” by insisting on using “her cell phone, computers and other ordinary electronic equipment,” on top of her “dimmer switches and compact fluorescent bulbs,” which “emitted their own painful rays.” Mr. Firstenberg also argued that sharing the same electric utility connection between the two houses “intensified the effect.”

However, this was not the first time Mr. Firstenberg filed a case regarding the damages done to him due to his “electromagnetic hypersensitivity.” He once attempted and failed to “block the installation of Wi-Fi in the city library and other public places” in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

What is this “electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS)?”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “EHS is characterized by a variety of non-specific symptoms, which afflicted individuals attribute to exposure to EMF. The symptoms most commonly experienced include dermatological symptoms (redness, tingling, and burning sensations) as well as neurasthenic and vegetative symptoms (fatigue, tiredness, concentration difficulties, dizziness, nausea, heart palpitation and digestive disturbances).” The WHO report claimed that many well-conducted studies have shown no correlation between EHS symptoms and EMF exposure, and concluded that EHS “has no clear diagnostic criteria” and no scientific basis to show the link between the two.

However, many of these “well-conducted” studies are deemed as problematic and invalid by many people who claimed to suffer from EMF exposure. One of these studies is titled “Hypersensitivity Symptoms Associated with Electromagnetic Field Exposure” conducted by Professor Elaine Fox from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex. The study used double-blind tests to expose two groups of people (one EMF-sensitive group, and one EMF-nonsensitive group) to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) signal and the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) signal respectively, and observed the participants. The study concluded that GSM signal has no effects [on the participants], and [participants’] level of arousal increased during UMTS condition but “the number and severity of symptoms experienced did not increase,” “cognitive functioning [of the participants] was not affected” by exposure to either signal, and “physiological measures did not differ” across the three conditions.

Brian Stein, an electrosensitivity sufferer in the United Kingdom, claimed this study by Professor Fox was problematic because they turned the signal mask in the lab on for 10 minutes and off for 10 minutes to see if people reacted to the switch. Stein said that electrosensitivity does not work like that. It usually takes much longer time for the symptoms to appear and also sometimes even longer for the symptoms to disappear. Graham Lamburn from Powerwatch, an independent EMF and health risks research organization, also pointed out that there are EHS patients who are sensitive to different things. Some people may be sensitive to 3G mobile phones, while some people may be more sensitive to wi-fi signals,etc. None of this kind of differentiation was done in the study. It is problematic to expose participants to only one or two kinds of signals. Most importantly, this study carried out in 2004-2006 was funded by Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) – a company that is organized by the mobile communications industry.

The disputes among scholars regarding the health risks of electromagnetic radiation are ongoing. George Johnson, a New York Times columnist, argues that “the radiation emitted and received by wireless devices is far too low in frequency to shake apart the molecules in living cells.” They said that only in the extreme intense exposures such as inside of a microwave oven, the radiation waves are harmful because the generation of heat. On the other hand, other experiments pointed out that the magnetic part of the electromagnetic radiation changes “some functioning in cells and altered the action of neurotransmitters,” and the oscillation of the radiation (60 hertz) “increased the number of abnormal embryos in chicken eggs.” A study published in 1989 in the The New York Times Science section suggested the possibility that “this ubiquitous background radiation might cause cancer.” An epidemiological study compared children in Denver who died of cancer from 1950 to 1973 and found that the children “who lived near electrical distribution lines were twice as likely to develop the disease as those who did not,” and a subsequent study which set up to eliminate the flaws in the previous study “had nearly identical conclusions.”

Regardless of what scholars have said, there exists relevant information qualified by extensive research.

Hans Berger, known as the inventor of the Electroencephalography (EEG) brain electrical activity machine, discovered “Alpha brain waves” in 1929, which are the first recorded electrical frequencies transmitted by the human brain. Alpha waves are “most present in a wakeful state that is characterized by a relaxed and effortless alertness,” and alpha states “have been described variously as sublime, flying, floating, lightness, peace, and tranquility.” Alpha waves also control our creativity, performance, stress and anxiety levels, and immune system.

Almost 25 years after the discovery of alpha waves, Professor W. O. Schumann of the University of Munich confirmed through scientific tests that the resonant oscillation of the Earth Ionosphere resonates exactly at 7.83 Hertz, which was eventually named “Schumann Resonance.” After the publication of the discovery of Schumann Resonances, a physician named Dr. Ankermueller found out that the vibrational pulse of the Earth Ionosphere – Schumann Resonance, is exactly identical to the Alpha spectrum of human brain waves.

Is it just a coincidence that one of the most important brain waves of our relaxed state is tuned in with the pulse of the Planet Earth? A German scientist Rütger Wever from the Max Planck Institute, who studied the effects of light and frequency on human’s circadian rhythms, carried out an experiment in a specially-built underground bunker that was completely shielded from the natural frequency of the Earth. The study lasted over a 30-year period. In each experiment, the student volunteers “agreed to live in the bunker for up to four weeks.” The study discovered that when the Schumann resonance was filtered out of the bunker, mental and physical health of the students sufferred. The students felt sick, had headaches and upset circadian rhythms. Interestingly, every time Wever secretly introduced Schumann resonance through a man-made magnetic pulse generator, the ill effects suffered by the volunteers disappeared or decreased. The reduced level of stress, headaches and emotional distress, and the restored sense of well-being were also observed by the experimenters. Wever’s bunker experiment has shown the importance of natural resonant frequency to the mental and physical well-being of humans.

Dr. Wolfgang Ludwig, a leading physicist and researcher on earth/mind connection, said that “measuring Schumann resonance in or around a city has become absolutely impossible. Electromagnetic pollution from cell phones has forced us to make our measurements at sea.” Meanwhile, Ludwig discovered that “the Earth’s vibration could be clearly measured in nature and on the ocean,” because the artificial electromagnetic signals in the cities interfere with and block out the natural Schumann resonance. Louis Slesin, a Manhattan industry watchdog who has been reporting on electromagnetic radiation for three decades, said, “you have four billion people using cellphones and we’re living next to towers, and as more than one person has said, this is the world’s largest biological experiment. You are an electrical being. You wouldn’t have a thought in your head or move your fingers without an electrical impulse. The idea that any of these external fields have no influence on you seems to me preposterous.”

The EMF “pollution” is so personal that we are exposed to it 24/7 almost inescapably. Scientists are still debating the health risks of all the invisible electromagnetic radiation. Regardless what the official conclusion might be, we can at least educate ourselves on the “pollution,” research the correct information, connect the dots, make better decisions and voice our solutions.

Photo by Patrick Emerson