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US-Philippines Defense Ties in the Spotlight with Submarine Visit

Posted: 05 Mar 2018 06:34 AM PST

This week, a U.S. submarine docked in the Philippines amid an active few weeks for the U.S.-Philippine alliance. The engagement is testament to a bilateral defense relationship that is on the uptick despite some lingering challenges under new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

As I have noted repeatedly in these pages, though the U.S.-Philippine defense relationship has had a bit of a rocky start since Duterte took office, at the same time, a confluence of events, including a change of personnel managing the relationship as well as ongoing developments such as the siege by Islamic State militants in the southern city of Marawi, had added some momentum to ties as well. Indeed, there were indications in 2017 that there could even be further boosts in this realm into 2018 as well (See: “What Will US-Philippine Military Exercises Look Like in 2018?”).

2018 has certainly witnessed a lot of activity with respect to the defense realm of the alliance thus far. Some of the developments over the past few months have been routine, quiet advancements in the U.S.-Philippine alliance that, though important, often go unreported, from discussions on countering terrorism and transnational organized crime to ongoing deliveries of military equipment for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

A few others have been dominating the headlines. Among these has been the visit of the USS Carl Vinson in the Philippines, which saw Philippine officials board the vessel in an engagement that was significant even though it was dwarfed by the historic voyage to Vietnam (See: “Why a First US Aircraft Carrier Vietnam Visit Matters”). There had also been some challenges, including fallout regarding the U.S. Worldwide Threat Assessment report’s mentioning of Duterte as among the threats to democracy in Southeast Asia as well as lingering concerns about how the Philippines is approaching its relationship with China and implications for the broader region and U.S. policy (See: “Beware the Illusion of China-Philippines South China Sea Breakthroughs”).

This week, amid that high level of alliance activity, a U.S. submarine docked in the Philippines. The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Bremerton (SSN 698) arrived at Subic Bay Freeport Zone on March 1 for what was described as a routine port visit during its deployment in the Indo-Pacific region.

Few additional details were publicly provided on the engagement. A U.S. government press release did note that this was the Bremerton’s ninth visit to Subic Bay in it 37 year history, and it will also be the final one as it is set to be decommissioned later this year.

A New Philippines Naval Station in Sulu?

Posted: 05 Mar 2018 06:29 AM PST

Late last month, the Philippines finalized plans for the construction of a new naval station in Sulu. Though specifics remain unclear at this early stage, the move reinforces the increasing importance Manila is placing on boosting its capabilities to address a wide range of security challenges, including those in the Sulu Sea.

As I have been noting in these pages, though the Sulu Sea has long been an area rife with a whole series of transnational challenges, there has been greater attention around it over the past few years. The overwhelming focus in the media has been on trilateral cooperation between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines (See: “Confronting Threats in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas: Opportunities and Challenges”).

Less in the headlines but equally if not more important, are national efforts being undertaken by each of these countries as well. For the Philippines, for instance, that has thus far included not only a series of exercises and patrols with individual countries, but also various moves taken by the Philippine Navy (PN) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in this respect (See: “Where is the Philippines Coast Guard in its Military Modernization?”).

In another development in this space, late last month, plans were finalized for the construction of a new naval station in Sulu. According to the Philippines News Agency (PNA), the PN plans to construct a naval station in Barangay Bual, Luuk, a town in Sulu, based on a property donated by the municipal government of Luuk.

On February 23, a series of ceremonies marked the official launch of the idea, with the signing of a memorandum of agreement and deed of donation by the commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao (Navforwem) Rear Admiral Rene Medina, Mayor Allayon Arbison Jr., and Sulu second district Rep. Munir Arbison, along with a groundbreaking ceremony and a medical and dental mission.

No further details were publicly disclosed about the new naval station or specific plans therein. And lest observers get carried away, it is worth noting that this is just a three-hectare area donated to the Philippine Navy. Additionally, there have been many instances in the Philippines of such basing ideas being hampered or delayed by a whole host of problems, ranging from inadequate funding to bureaucratic rivalry.

Nonetheless, the very fact that such developments are occurring is testament to the fact that the Philippine military is seriously looking at ways to boost its presence to tackle transnational threats in the Sulu Sea. Though the headlines may be overwhelmingly focused on in subregional endeavors like trilateral patrols, domestic efforts in this vein will continue to be important to watch as well.

How do you plan to raise your super-intelligent child?

Posted: 05 Mar 2018 06:06 AM PST

(Nicolas Berggruen is chairman of the Berggruen Institute and publisher of The WorldPost.)

Will super-intelligent machines be our servants or masters? This is a misleading way of thinking because it treats artificial intelligence and humans as if they were fundamentally separate categories.

Instead, what seems to be emerging is something more like human-AI hybrids, extending and transforming our cognition and consciousness. We see the first traces of these hybrids in everyday experiences such as driving around with digital mapping technologies, which have reshaped our sense of space. Similarly, on social media, algorithms generating our news feed have helped to reshape what we know about politics and the world. For now, of course, such software from the likes of Google and Facebook remains air-gapped from the wetware in our heads. But this may change, as neuroscientific advances are enabling direct brain-to-computer interfaces.

As mad is it may seem, all of this could mean the emergence of a new “species” — a coevolved human-machine hybrid form, capable of dramatically new and perhaps even undreamed-of forms of calculation, cognition, emotions and even consciousness itself. In other words, we humans are engaged in a complex process of coevolution in conjunction with machines. In a coevolutionary relationship, each side exerts selective pressures on the other, thereby affecting each other’s evolution. So the question then is: How can we ensure that our coevolution with AI is mutualistic rather than antagonistic?

If we are aiming for a mutualistic relationship, then, strange as it may sound, maybe the healthiest way to look at AI is as we do our children. What we call artificial intelligence is in fact not artificial: Woven into the fabric of our cultures and consciousness, these machines are becoming part of us, extensions of us, and in turn, they will merge with others to succeed us. As such, even their algorithms can be regarded as “biological.” They remain our progeny, indirectly reflecting our genes, as well as our inherited culture — our loves and hates, our fears and hopes, our prejudices and generosities.

Appreciating that AIs are our children helps to clarify their ethical meaning. Specifically: What sort of children do we want to have? How do we ensure that they behave responsibly, play well with others, and have guardrails so that they can learn from their mistakes? In sum: How do we ensure that they reflect our better selves?

How do we make sure we inculcate these children with the right values so that they will venerate us rather than slay us, as Oedipal AIs? Even if the AIs believe they can sustain themselves without any further input from their parents, how do we ensure that they feel attachment — so that they know to turn, at least occasionally, to their elders for wisdom, guidance and, if I dare say so, love? If super-intelligent AI arrives with the possibility of world domination, we want to be sure that it sees itself as part of us and does not regard us merely as a disposable nuisance. This is the best way to safeguard our species.

Perhaps our goal should be to instill in our AIs an ancient Asian idea: filial piety, or reverence for one’s parents. As Confucius explained, it is not enough simply to ensure that your parents are well fed, for that is done even for dogs and horses. Rather, what distinguishes filial piety is the respect that offspring feel for their parents. This goes beyond the biblical commandment to “honor thy mother and thy father” and suggests a system of values based on principles of hierarchy, continuity and esteem. What will be needed here, however, is a form of fidelity that is not just between the individual child and her parents but which operates at the level of society and the species as a whole.

In short, just as having biological children requires that we behave intentionally and responsibly in raising them, so does creating AI present both an opportunity and a burden. Many of us think of how we raise our children as our most meaningful and important life endeavor. We should think similarly about how to raise AI, the ultimate child of civilization. I concede that perhaps this way of looking at technology sounds bizarrely romantic and perhaps even jejune. But the intent is humane: Only by insisting on thinking of human and AI as a single, conjoined, inseparable system can we be sure that both will survive.

So let’s ask the reader: How do you plan to raise your super-intelligent child?

La revolución de los carros autónomos

Posted: 05 Mar 2018 06:05 AM PST

El corresponsal extranjero y columnista de The Miami Herald y El Nuevo Herald

Cuando vi una demostración del programa piloto de Domino’s Pizza para repartir pizzas con autos sin conductor en Miami esta semana, la primera pregunta que me hice fue si los gobiernos van a estar preparados para la pérdida masiva de empleos que traerán consigo los carros autónomos.

No es una pregunta académica: estos autos van a estar en las calles muy pronto. Ford Motor Co., que está operando los autos que se manejan solos de Domino’s Pizza, dice que va a empezar a vender estos carros en 2021. Waymo, Tesla, GM, Toyota, Nissan y Audi, entre otros, han dicho que lo harán en 2020 o 2021, si no antes.

El carro autónomo de Domino’s Pizza que me mostraron funciona así: uno pide una pizza a través de una aplicación de su teléfono celular, e inmediatamente recibe un mensaje con un número de código. Cuando llega el automóvil que se maneja solo, uno escribe su número de código en una tableta que está fijada en la ventana trasera del automóvil, y un altavoz en el techo del auto confirma que puede sacar su pizza. La ventanilla trasera del automóvil se baja, y uno saca su pizza.

¿Por qué razón alguien preferiría pedir sus pizzas de esta manera? Por la misma razón que los jóvenes prefieren pedir su comida en una tableta en muchos restaurantes de comida rápida, en lugar de tener que interactuar con un mesero: consideran que es más rapido, y no hay que dejar propina.

Los entusiastas de los autos autónomos señalan que estos vehículos son un 95 por ciento más seguros que los automóviles conducidos por humanos, porque un 95 por ciento de los accidentes ocurren por error humano, como cuando el conductor se duerme al volante o está ebrio. El auto que se maneja solo no se duerme, ni se emborracha.

En su libro El conductor en el automóvil sin conductor, los autores Vivek Wadhwa y Alex Salkever dicen que en poco tiempo estaremos debatiendo si se debería permitir que los humanos manejemos autos. “Mis nietos me pedirán que les cuente cómo era conducir un automóvil en una ciudad de las de antes. Les diré que era algo aterrador, peligroso”, escribieron.

Pero tambien es cierto que los autos sin conductor eliminarán muchos trabajos, aunque crearán otros. Uber y Lyft, las plataformas de internet que ofrecen taxis privados, ya están experimentando con servicios de taxis sin conductor en varias ciudades.

¿Qué sucederá con los más de 350,000 taxistas que según la Oficina de Estadísticas Laborales de Estados Unidos están trabajando actualmente en este país? ¿Y qué pasará con los 38,000 taxistas registrados en Buenos Aires, o los 24,000 registrados en Ciudad de México?

¿Y que pasará con los camioneros? Según el Departamento de Trabajo, hay más de 1 millón de camioneros en Estados Unidos. La Asociación Estadounidense de Camioneros sitúa la cifra en 3.5 millones.

Simultáneamente, Amazon, Fedex, UPS y DHL están experimentando con drones -vehículos aéreos no tripulados- para comenzar a entregar sus paquetes. Muchos trabajos de transporte de paquetes y reparto de pizza también desaparecerán.

En momentos en que la tasa de desempleo en Estados Unidos es de un 4.1 por ciento, su nivel más bajo en casi 50 años, pocos en Washington están preocupados por este tema.

Los optimistas señalan que desde los tiempos de la revolución industrial los alarmistas nos vienen diciendo que la tecnología producirá un desempleo masivo, y eso no ha sucedido. Pero los escépticos replican que la tecnología está avanzando más rápidamente que nunca, y que la disrupción laboral será mucho más grave esta vez.

Afortunadamente, el presidente Trump y los líderes de China, Japón, Alemania y otras economías importantes tendrán que lidiar con este tema cuando se reúnan el 30 de noviembre en Buenos Aires, Argentina, para la Cumbre del G-20. El tema central de la cumbre será: “El futuro del trabajo”.

Es urgente que los líderes mundiales busquen elevar los estándares mundiales de educación para poder entrenar a quienes se quedarán sin trabajo. Es hora de empezar a hablar en serio de este tema, porque aunque la tecnología va a seguir mejorando el mundo, también va a afectar el trabajo de muchos.

Ariana Grande up for Wicked role

Posted: 05 Mar 2018 06:00 AM PST

Ariana Grande is in talks to star in the Broadway production of ‘Wicked’.

The 24-year-old pop star has opened discussions with bosses to take on the role of green witch Elphaba from Jackie Burns.

If she was to be cast in the part it would be a dream come true for Ariana, who made her stage debut at the age of just 13, as she has made no secret that she is a huge fan of the production.

A source told The Sun newspaper: “This is a huge feat for Ariana. The role of Elphaba is one of the most coveted parts to play on Broadway. Only a very select group of actresses have been chosen over its 13-year run and Ariana is in talks to take the gig. Bosses believe she’s got the acting talent to take it on and think it’s a bonus that her pop star appeal can pull in fresh ­audiences.”

The Grammy-winning musical is inspired by ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and tells the untold story of the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good and it runs at the Gershwin Theatre in New York City.

Ariana previously admitted the part of Elphaba was the role she coveted more than any other on Broadway when she appeared as a guest on Apple Music’s ‘Carpool Karaoke: The Series’ last year.

Speaking to host Seth MacFarlane, she said: “I was a huge theatre nerd my whole life, still am. It’s what I put on when I need to restore my soul and heal myself. It brings you back to home … One of my dream roles is to play Elphaba. I would do it tomorrow!”

The potential Broadway role is the latest project Ariana is taking on as she tries to move on from the Manchester Arena bombing which left 22 people dead after her concert in the UK city last May.

The ‘One Last Time’ singer then staged the One Love Manchester benefit concert to raise money for the victims of the terrorist atrocity.

Ariana was due to perform a tribute at the recent BRIT Awards but had to pull out due to illness leaving former Oasis star Liam Gallagher to step in and sing ‘Live Forever’ for his hometown.

Oscars: Early Ratings Down From 2017 Telecast

Posted: 05 Mar 2018 05:55 AM PST

Live viewership of the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony was down significantly from the 2017 telecast, according to preliminary Nielsen ratings for ABC’s nearly four-hour telecast.

The 8 p.m.-11 p.m. portion of ABC’s telecast averaged an 18.9 household rating and 32 share in Nielsen’s metered market overnight ratings, which cover about 70% of U.S. TV households. That’s down about 16% from the 22.5/37 rating generated by the 2017 Oscars.

However, the preliminary ratings are not adjusted for time zone differences. ABC’s 8 p.m.-11:48 p.m. ET Oscarcast aired live coast to coast, which means the live West Coast viewership is not accurately reflected in the overnight numbers that measure only primetime hours in all markets. Nor do they include viewership from the post-11 p.m. final 48 minutes when the most prominent awards were handed out to winners that included Gary Oldman as best actor, for “Darkest Hour,” and Frances McDormand, for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

Nonetheless, the overnights give a glimpse of the baseline turnout for the ceremony that crowned the fantasy drama “The Shape of Water” as best picture.

Despite the drop, ABC was the dominant network of the night, easily topping its Big Four competitors combined.

More accurate national ratings for the full telecast will be available later today.

More to come

Chinese Animation Streaming Platform Bilibili Heads for U.S. IPO

Posted: 05 Mar 2018 05:31 AM PST

Bilibili, China‘s leading video streaming platform that specializes in animation, is headed for a North American share sale. The company aims to raise some $400 million in fresh capital.

The disclosure comes only days after iQIYI, one of China‘s leading video streamers, revealed details of its IPO on the NASDAQ exchange.

In its filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, Bilibili did not reveal pricing or timing of its share sale. It showed Morgan Stanley, BofA Merrill Lynch and J.P. Morgan as bookrunners on the sale.

Like iQIYI, Bilibili is currently loss-making, but growing fast. The company had revenues of $379 million (RMB2.47 billion) in 2017 and recorded losses of $28.2 million (RMB184 million). It reported monthly active users of 72 million in the fourth quarter of last year, and an audience strongly skewed to young adults. Some 82% are born between 1990 and 2000.

Vast spending on content and scrambles for market share have kept China’s mainstream video platforms in the red until now. Bilibili may sense an opportunity to make a great leap forward. Its closest rival AcFun, owned by Alibaba’s Youku as well as financier SB China Capital, was recently closed down.

A risk factor was revealed in July last year when both Bilibili and AcFun were abruptly forced to remove large amounts of their foreign content. That appeared to be the result of a government crackdown on material that it deemed sensitive ahead of last year’s big domestic political events, and as part of an ever-changing regulatory attitudes towards Japanese, Korean and American content.

Chen Rui, Bilibili’s founder and chairman, currently owns 21.5% of the company. Other existing investors include private equity firm CMC Capital with 12.8% and IDG-Accel China Funds with 7.6%, funds belonging to Legend Capital with 5.9% and Tencent 5.2%.

Spotify’s Daniel Ek and Troy Carter to Receive UJA’s Music Visionary of the Year Award

Posted: 05 Mar 2018 05:30 AM PST

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek and global head of creator services Troy Carter will be presented with the prestigious Music Visionary of the Year award by UJA-Federation of New York. The two executives will be feted at a gala luncheon on June 13 in New York City.

Past recipients of the award include Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer, Universal Music Group executive vp Michele Anthony, and Republic Records founders Monte and Avery Lipman, among others.

The annual event is known to draw top music talent. Previous attendees and performers include Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Stone Gossard, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and Adele.

Last week, Spotify filed to go public via an unusual direct listing to the New York Stock Exchange.

Pickup Trucks: Possible 2021 Ram HD Exposes New Grille: Spied

Posted: 05 Mar 2018 05:00 AM PST

With the new half-ton 2019 Ram 1500 set to go on sale this month, Ram engineers have turned their attention to upgrading and redesigning the Ram 2500 and 3500. Our spy shooters have been getting intel and hints at visual changes to some possible future models. Here’s what they sent us:

“Camouflaged Ram heavy-duty prototypes have been running for quite a while. With these slips of the front camouflage, we finally get a sense of some key design changes and how they relate to the recently released 2019 Ram 1500.

“Our latest photos reveal some significant changes to the grille shape and detailing on the updated Ram 2500/3500 front end. These prototypes are still wearing the Laramie-style grille (which may or may not continue in production), but the grille frame and its surrounding design elements are thoroughly overhauled.

“The simple outline of the current Ram HD grille has been significantly stylized, with a raised center portion eventually curving to create what appears to be a brow effect over the headlights. The new look brings the HD into harmony with the redesigned 2019 Ram 1500, while still giving the HD its own bolder look. The Ram HD grille frame also appears to have some notched details at the top and bottom — almost like teeth — which enter the grille space.

“The new shape of the grille will likely require a totally new hood design, and may also require revised front fenders to accommodate the grille’s wider coverage. As of now, it still appears that the existing Ram HD headlights may carry over, but new units could still be added as testing progresses. If new headlights are part of the redesign, then expect the same shaped housing with new internal elements, instead of totally redesigned units.

“One of our sources snapped a couple rear shots of one of the prototypes wearing the new grille design, and we see some taillight changes compared to current Ram HDs. The new taillights appear to have been lifted from global Rams, which would provide a cheap way to offer some changed rear lighting to the updated Ram HDs. Despite the foreign taillights, the rest of the vehicle has no other global-market cues (non-U.S. side marker lights, etc.) and it’s wearing the U.S.-spec third brake light on the top of the cab (red lenses versus the black frame with clear bulbs on global Rams).

“The changes revealed here might serve as a mild refresh to the 2019 Ram HD trucks until full next-generation Ram HDs enter production at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Warren Truck Assembly Plant in Michigan in late 2020.”

KGP Photography images

Grace Helbig, Mamrie Hart on Their YouTube Talk Show: Pee-wee Herman Meets Hoda & Kathie Lee

Posted: 05 Mar 2018 05:00 AM PST

Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart, popular YouTube comedians who are real-life BFFs, have launched their new a weekday talk show — serving up very light fare, not biting political or social commentary.

The duo describe the show, called “This Might Get…,” as a cross between offbeat ’80s kids program “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” and the “Today” show’s Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford.

“So much of this show is Grace and I shooting the shit together — we want the focus to be just the two of us,” said Hart (above left). Helbig said the genesis for this show was “we wanted more of a professional reason to hang out with each other.”

The show, produced by Studio71, premiered Monday (March 5) on the dedicated YouTube “This Might Get” channel. New episodes will post each weekday at 3:30 am PT. (Watch the first installment, below.) Studio71 revealed plans for the show with Hart and Helbig, when Helbig signed to the company’s creator network. The format of “This Might Get…” is similar to Rhett & Link’s “Good Mythical Morning,” which also is affiliated with Studio71.

Each episode, running 7-12 minutes, will focus on a different topic, meme, or pop-culture event. Helbig said the show will “lean toward more evergreen, comedic content” rather than current events but, she added, “We can’t stay away from pop culture.” Also: expect puns.

In the premiere episode, the duo draw self-portraits with their teeth, try to shave their camerman’s beard, and floss each other’s teeth. Other activities in the show’s first week: Grace and Mamrie learn to play the drums, and Mamrie demos a novel way to eat a Dorito. “I don’t want to give too many secrets, but basically technology and pure laziness come together,” she said.

The YouTubers plan to experiment with the format, featuring special guests, challenges, DIYs, how-tos, and fashion and beauty tips. “We can try a bunch of things, throw a lot of things against the wall and see what sticks,” Hart said.

Hart and Helbig plan to shoot all five episodes per week in one day, at Studio71’s facility in Burbank, Calif. The YouTubers are accustomed to one-woman-band video production, but now have the full production resources of Studio71 for “This Might Get” including a dedicated set.

Quipped Helbig: “The show is more polished – but we aren’t.” Hart added, “There’s so much we couldn’t do before with just a tripod in my kitchen.” The fanbases for both Helbig (32) and Hart (34) skew toward millennial and Gen Z females.

“This Might Get” is executive produced by Michael Goldfine, who serves as EP of Studio71’s owned-and-operated channels. He’s worked with the two YouTubers before, having produced both Lionsgate’s 2016 comedy film “Dirty 30” and “Camp Takota,” in which Helbig and Hart co-starred with fellow YouTube star Hannah Hart (who isn’t related to Mamrie).

“He’s like a rascally younger brother – even though he’s older than me,” Mamrie Hart said about Goldfine.

“This Might Get…” is a reference to Helbig and Mamrie Hart’s past live comedy tour, “This Might Get Weird Y’all.” Helbig also had a short run on late-night cable TV: In 2015, she hosted “The Grace Helbig Show” on E!, which aired for eight episodes. For now, Helbig doesn’t see a return to traditional TV: “We feel like there’s an open spot for something fun and silly on YouTube every day,” she said.

Grace Helbig is repped by WME and managed by Bleecker Street. Mamrie Hart is repped by CAA and Bleecker Street.

Watch the first episode of “This Might Get”: