Indiana aspires to become next great tech center

indianapolis, indiana — Semiconductors, or microchips, are critical to almost everything electronic used in the modern world. In 1990, the United States produced about 40% of the world’s semiconductors. As manufacturing migrated to Asia, U.S. production fell to about 12%.  

“During COVID, we got a wake-up call. It was like [a] Sputnik moment,” explained Mark Lundstrom, an engineer who has worked with microchips much of his life. 

The 2020 global coronavirus pandemic slowed production in Asia, creating a ripple through the global supply chain and leading to shortages of everything from phones to vehicles. Lundstrom said increasing U.S. reliance on foreign chip manufacturers exposed a major weakness. 

“We know that AI is going to transform society in the next several years, it requires extremely powerful chips. The most powerful leading-edge chips.” 

Today, Lundstrom is the acting dean of engineering at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, a leader in cutting-edge semiconductor development, which has new importance amid the emerging field of artificial intelligence. 

“If we fall behind in AI, the consequences are enormous for the defense of our country, for our economic future,” Lundstrom told VOA. 

Amid the buzz of activity in a laboratory on Purdue’s campus, visitors can get a vision of what the future might look like in microchip technology. 

“The key metrics of the performance of the chips actually are the size of the transistors, the devices, which is the building block of the computer chips,” said Zhihong Chen, director of Purdue’s Birck Nanotechnology Center, where engineers work around the clock to push microchip technology into the future. 

“We are talking about a few atoms in each silicon transistor these days. And this is what this whole facility is about,” Chen said. “We are trying to make the next generation transistors better devices than current technologies. More powerful and more energy-efficient computer chips of the future.” 

Not just RVs anymore

Because of Purdue’s efforts, along with those on other university campuses in the state, Indiana believes it’s an attractive location for manufacturers looking to build new microchip facilities. 

“Purdue University alone, a top four-ranked engineering school, offers more engineers every year than the next top three,” said Eric Holcomb, Indiana’s Republican governor. “When you have access to that kind of talent, when you have access to the cost of doing business in the state of Indiana, that’s why people are increasingly saying, Indiana.” 

Holcomb is in the final year of his eight-year tenure in the state’s top position. He wants to transform Indiana beyond the recreational vehicle, or “RV capital” of the country.  

“We produce about plus-80% of all the RV production in North America in one state,” he told VOA. “We are not just living up to our reputation as being the number one manufacturing state per capita in America, but we are increasingly embracing the future of mobility in America.” 

Holcomb is spearheading an effort to make Indiana the next great technology center as the U.S. ramps up investment in domestic microchip development and manufacturing.  “If we want to compete globally, we have to get smarter and healthier and more equipped, and we have to continue to invest in our quality of place,” Holcomb told VOA in an interview. 

His vision is shared by other lawmakers, including U.S. Senator Todd Young of Indiana, who co-sponsored the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, which commits more than $50 billion in federal funding for domestic microchip development. 

‘We are committed’

Indiana is now home to one of 31 designated U.S. technology and innovation hubs, helping it qualify for hundreds of millions of dollars in grants designed to attract technology-driven businesses. 

“The signal that it sends to the rest of the world [is] that we are in it, we are committed, and we are focused,” said Holcomb. “We understand that economic development, economic security and national security complement one another.” 

Indiana’s efforts are paying off. 

In April, South Korean microchip manufacturer SK Hynix announced it was planning to build a $4 billion facility near Purdue University that would produce next-generation, high-bandwidth memory, or HBM chips, critical for artificial intelligence applications.  

The facility, slated to start operating in 2028, could create more than 1,000 new jobs. While U.S. chip manufacturer SkyWater also plans to invest nearly $2 billion in Indiana’s new LEAP Innovation District near Purdue, the state recently lost bidding to host chipmaker Intel, which selected Ohio for two new factories. 

“Companies tend to like to go to locations where there is already that infrastructure, where that supply chain is in place,” Purdue’s Lundstrom said. “That’s a challenge for us, because this is a new industry for us. So, we have a chicken-and- egg problem that we have to address, and we are beginning to address that.” 

Lundstrom said the CHIPS and Science Act and the federal money that comes with it are helping Indiana ramp up to compete with other U.S. locations already known for microchip development, such as Silicon Valley in California and Arizona. 

What could help Indiana gain an edge is its natural resources — plenty of land and water, and regular weather patterns, all crucial for the sensitive processes needed to manufacture microchips at large manufacturing centers. 

Indiana aspires to become next great tech hub

The Midwestern state of Indiana aspires to become the next great technology center as the United States ramps up investment in domestic microchip development and manufacturing. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more from Indianapolis. Videographer: Kane Farabaugh, Adam Greenbaum

Ukrainian civilians help build up their country’s drone fleet

Inexpensive first-person view – or radio controlled – drones have become a powerful weapon in Ukraine’s war against Russian invaders. As the country presses the West for more military aid, many Ukrainian civilians are stepping in to help by making homemade attack drones. Lesia Bakalets has the story from Kyiv.

With $6.6B to Arizona hub, Biden touts big steps in US chipmaking

Washington; Flagstaff, Arizona — President Joe Biden on Monday announced a $6.6 billion grant to Taiwan’s top chip manufacturer to produce semiconductors in the southwestern U.S. state of Arizona, which includes a third facility that will bring the foreign tech giant’s investment in the state to $65 billion.

Biden said the move aims to perk up a decades-old slump in American chip manufacturing. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), which is based in the Chinese-claimed island, claims more than half of the global market share in chip manufacturing.

The new facility, Biden said, will put the U.S. on track to produce 20% of the world’s leading-edge semiconductors by 2030.

“I was determined to turn that around, and thanks to my CHIPS and Science Act — a key part of my Investing in America agenda — semiconductor manufacturing and jobs are making a comeback,” Biden said in a statement.

U.S. production of this American-born technology has fallen steeply in recent decades, said Andy Wang, dean of engineering at Northern Arizona University.

“As a nation, we used to produce 40% of microchips for the whole world,” he told VOA. “Now, we produce less than 10%.”

A single semiconductor transistor is smaller than a grain of sand. But billions of them, packed neatly together, can connect the world through a mobile phone, control sophisticated weapons of war and satellites that orbit the Earth, and someday may even drive a car.

The immense value of these tiny chips has fueled fierce competition between the U.S. and China.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has taken several steps to hamper China’s efforts to build its own chip industry. Those include export controls and new rules to prevent “foreign countries of concern” — which it said includes China, Iran, North Korea and Russia — from benefiting from funding from the CHIPS and Science Act.

While analysts are divided over whether Taiwan’s dominance of this critical industry makes it more or less vulnerable to Chinese aggression, they agree it confers the island significant global status.

“It is debatable what, if any, role Taiwan’s semiconductor manufacturing prowess plays in deterrence,” said David Sacks, an analyst who focuses on U.S.-China relations at the Council on Foreign Relations. “What is not debatable is how devastating an attack on Taiwan would be for the global economy.”

Biden did not mention U.S. adversaries in his statement, but he noted the impact of Monday’s announcement, saying it “represent(s) a broader story for semiconductor manufacturing that’s made in America and with the strong support of America’s leading technology firms to build the products we rely on every day.”

VOA met with engineers in the new technological hub state, who said the legislation addresses a key weakness in American chip manufacturing.

“We’ve just gotten in the cycle of the last 15 to 20 years, where innovation has slowed down,” said Todd Achilles, who teaches innovation, strategy and policy analysis at the University of California-Berkeley. “It’s all about financial results, investor payouts and stock buybacks. And we’ve lost that innovation muscle. And the CHIPS Act — pulling that together with the CHIPS Act — is the perfect opportunity to restore that.”

The White House says this new investment could create 25,000 construction and manufacturing jobs. Academics say they’re churning out workers at a rapid pace, but that still, America lacks talent.

“Our engineering college is the largest in the country, with over 33,000 enrolled students, and still we’re hearing from companies across the semiconductor industry that they’re not able to get the talent they need in time,” Zachary Holman, vice dean for research and innovation at Arizona State University, told VOA.

And as the American industry stretches to keep pace, it races a technical trend known as t: that the number of transistors in a computer chip doubles about every two years. As a result, cutting-edge chips get ever smaller as they grow in computing power.

TSMC in 2022 broke ground on a facility that makes the smallest chip currently available, coming in at 3 nanometers — that’s just wider than a strand of DNA.

Reporter Levi Stallings contributed to this report from Flagstaff, Arizona.

With $6.6B to Arizona hub, Biden touts big steps in US chipmaking

President Joe Biden on Monday announced a $6.6 billion grant to Taiwan’s top chip manufacturer for semiconductor manufacturing in Arizona, which includes a third facility that will bring the tech giant’s investment in the state to $65 billion. VOA’s White House correspondent Anita Powell reports from Washington, with reporter Levi Stallings in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Experts fear Cambodian cybercrime law could aid crackdown

PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA — The Cambodian government is pushing ahead with a cybercrime law experts say could be wielded to further curtail freedom of speech amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent. 

The cybercrime draft is the third controversial internet law authorities have pursued in the past year as the government, led by new Prime Minister Hun Manet, seeks greater oversight of internet activities. 

Obtained by VOA in both English and Khmer language versions, the latest draft of the cybercrime law is marked “confidential” and contains 55 articles. It lays out various offenses punishable by fines and jail time, including defamation, using “insulting, derogatory or rude language,” and sharing “false information” that could harm Cambodia’s public order and “traditional culture.”  

The law would also allow authorities to collect and record internet traffic data, in real time, of people under investigation for crimes, and would criminalize online material that “depicts any act or activity … intended to stimulate sexual desire” as pornography. 

Digital rights and legal experts who reviewed the law told VOA that its vague language, wide-ranging categories of prosecutable speech and lack of protections for citizens fall short of international standards, instead providing the government more tools to jail dissenters, opposition members, women and LGBTQ+ people. 

Although in the works since 2016, earlier drafts of the law, which sparked similar criticism, have not leaked since 2020 and 2021. Authorities hope to enact the law by the end of the year. 

“This cybercrime bill offers the government even more power to go after people expressing dissent,” Kian Vesteinsson, a senior research analyst for technology at the human rights organization Freedom House, told VOA.  

“These vague provisions around defamation, insults and disinformation are ripe for abuse, and we know that Cambodian authorities have deployed similarly vague criminal provisions in other contexts,” Vesteinsson said. 

Cambodian law already considers defamation a criminal offense, but the cybercrime draft would make it punishable by jail time up to six months, plus a fine of up to $5,000. The “false information” clause — defined as sharing information that “intentionally harms national defense, national security, relations with other countries, economy, public order, or causes discrimination, or affects traditional culture” — carries a three- to five-year sentence and fine of up to $25,000. 

Daron Tan, associate international legal adviser at the International Commission of Jurists, told VOA the defamation and false information articles do not comply with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cambodia is a party, and that the United Nations Human Rights Committee is “very clear that imprisonment is never the appropriate penalty for defamation.” 

“It’s a step very much in the wrong direction,” Tan said. “We are very worried that this would expand the laws that the government can use against its critics.” 

Chea Pov, the deputy head of Cambodia’s National Police and former director of the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Cybercrime Department that is overseeing the drafting process, told VOA the law “doesn’t restrict your rights” and claimed the U.S. companies which reviewed it “didn’t raise concerns.”  

Google, Meta and Amazon, which the government has said were involved in drafting the law, did not respond to requests for comment. 

“If you say something based on evidence, there is no problem,” Pov said. “But if there is no evidence, [you] defame others, which is also stated in the criminal law … we don’t regard this as a restriction.”  

The law also makes it illegal to use technology to display, trade, produce or disseminate pornography, or to advertise a “product or service mixed with pornography” online. Pornography is defined as anything that “describes a genital or depicts any act or activity involving a sexual organ or any part of the human body, animal, or object … or other similar pornography that is intended to stimulate sexual desire or cause sexual excitement.” 

Experts say this broad category is likely to be disproportionately deployed against women and LGBTQ+ people. 

Cambodian authorities have often rebuked or arrested women for dressing “too sexily” on social media, singing sexual songs or using suggestive speech. In 2020, an online clothes and cosmetics seller received a six-month suspended sentence after posting provocative photos; in another incident, a policewoman was forced to publicly apologize for posting photos of herself breastfeeding. 

Naly Pilorge, outreach director at Cambodian human rights organization Licadho, told VOA the draft law “could lead to more rights violations against women in the country.” 

“This vague definition of ‘pornography’ poses a serious threat to any woman whose online activity the government decides may ‘cause sexual excitement,’” Pilorge said. “The draft law does not acknowledge any legitimate artistic or educational purposes to depict or describe sexual organs, posing another threat to freedom of expression.” 

In March, authorities said they hosted civil society organizations to revisit the draft. They plan to complete the drafting process and send the law to Parliament for passage before the end of the year, according to Pov, the deputy head of police. 

Soeung Saroeun, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia, told VOA “there was no consultation on each article” at the recent meeting. 

“The NGO representatives were unable to analyze and present their inputs,” said Saroeun, echoing concerns about its contents. “How is it [possible]? We need to debate on this.” 

The cybercrime law has resurfaced as the government works to complete two other draft internet laws, one covering cybersecurity and the other personal data protection. Experts have critiqued the drafts as providing expanded police powers to seize computer systems and making citizens’ data vulnerable to hacking and surveillance. 

Authorities have also sought to create a national internet gateway that would require traffic to run through centralized government servers, though the status of that project has been unclear since early 2022 when the government said it faced delays. 

Exclusive: Russian company supplies military with microchips despite denials

PENTAGON — Russian microchip company AO PKK Milandr continued to provide microchips to the Russian armed forces at least several months after Russia invaded Ukraine, despite public denials by company director Alexey Novoselov of any connection with Russia’s military.

A formal letter obtained by VOA dated February 10, 2023, shows a sale request for 4,080 military grade microchips for the Russian military. The sale request was addressed from a deputy commander of the 546 military representation of the Russian Ministry of Defense and the commercial director of Russian manufacturer NPO Poisk to Milandr CEO S.V. Tarasenko for delivery by April 2023, more than a year into the war.

The letter instructs Milandr to provide three types of microchip components to NPO Poisk, a well-established Russian defense manufacturer that makes detonators for weapons used by the Russian Armed Forces.

“Each of these three circuits that you have in the table on the document, each one of them is classed as a military-grade component … and each of these is manufactured specifically by Milandr,” said Denys Karlovskyi, a research fellow at the London-based Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies. VOA shared the document with him to confirm its authenticity.

In addition to Milandr CEO Tarasenko, the letter is addressed to a commander of the Russian Defense Ministry’s 514 military representation of the Russian Ministry of Defense named I.A. Shvid.

Karlovskyi says this inclusion shows that Milandr, like Poisk, appears to have a Russian commander from the Defense Ministry’s oversight unit assigned to it — a clear indicator that a company is part of Russia’s defense industry.

Milandr, headquartered near Moscow in an area known as “Soviet Silicon Valley,” was sanctioned by the United States in November 2022, for its illegal procurement of microelectronic components using front companies.

In the statement announcing the 2022 sanctions against Milandr and more than three dozen other entities and individuals, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said, “The United States will continue to expose and disrupt the Kremlin’s military supply chains and deny Russia the equipment and technology it needs to wage its illegal war against Ukraine.”

Karlovskyi said that in Russia’s database of public contracts, Milandr is listed in more than 500 contracts, supplying numerous state-owned and military-grade enterprises, including Ural Optical Mechanical Plant, Concern Avtomatika and Izhevsk Electromechanical Plant, or IEMZ Kupol, which also have been sanctioned by the United States.

“It clearly suggests that this entity is a crucial node in Russia’s military supply chain,” Karlovskyi told VOA.

Novoselov, Milandr’s current director, told Bloomberg News last August that he was not aware of any connections to the Russian military.

“I don’t know any military persons who would be interested in our product,” he told Bloomberg in a phone interview, adding that the company mostly produces electric power meters.

The U.S. allegations are “like a fantasy,” he said. “The United States’ State Department, they suppose that every electronics business in Russia is focused on the military. I think that is funny.”

But a U.S. defense official told VOA that helping Russia’s military kill tens of thousands of people in an illegal invasion “is no laughing matter.”

“The company is fueling microchips for missiles and heavily armored vehicles that are used to continue the war in Ukraine,” said the defense official, who spoke to VOA on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivities of discussing U.S. intelligence.

Milandr’s co-founder Mikhail Pavlyuk was also sanctioned during the summer of 2022 for his involvement in microchip smuggling operations and was caught stealing from Milandr. Pavlyuk fled Russia and has claimed he was not involved.

Officials estimate that 500,000 Ukrainian and Russian troops have been killed or injured in the war, with tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians killed in the fighting.

“There are consequences to their actions, and the U.S. will persist to expose and disrupt the Kremlin’s supply chain,” the U.S. defense official said.

US, Europe, Issue Strictest Rules Yet on AI

washington — In recent weeks, the United States, Britain and the European Union have issued the strictest regulations yet on the use and development of artificial intelligence, setting a precedent for other countries.

This month, the United States and the U.K. signed a memorandum of understanding allowing for the two countries to partner in the development of tests for the most advanced artificial intelligence models, following through on commitments made at the AI Safety Summit last November.

These actions come on the heels of the European Parliament’s March vote to adopt its first set of comprehensive rules on AI. The landmark decision sets out a wide-ranging set of laws to regulate this exploding technology.

At the time, Brando Benifei, co-rapporteur on the Artificial Intelligence Act plenary vote, said, “I think today is again an historic day on our long path towards regulation of AI. … The first regulation in the world that is putting a clear path towards a safe and human-centric development of AI.”

The new rules aim to protect citizens from dangerous uses of AI, while exploring its boundless potential.

Beth Noveck, professor of experiential AI at Northeastern University, expressed enthusiasm about the rules.

“It’s really exciting that the EU has passed really the world’s first … binding legal framework addressing AI. It is, however, not the end; it is really just the beginning.”

The new rules will be applied according to risk level: the higher the risk, the stricter the rules.

“It’s not regulating the tech,” she said. “It’s regulating the uses of the tech, trying to prohibit and to restrict and to create controls over the most malicious uses — and transparency around other uses.

“So things like what China is doing around social credit scoring, and surveillance of its citizens, unacceptable.”

Noveck described what she called “high-risk uses” that would be subject to scrutiny. Those include the use of tools in ways that could deprive people of their liberty or within employment.

“Then there are lower risk uses, such as the use of spam filters, which involve the use of AI or translation,” she said. “Your phone is using AI all the time when it gives you the weather; you’re using Siri or Alexa, we’re going to see a lot less scrutiny of those common uses.”

But as AI experts point out, new laws just create a framework for a new model of governance on a rapidly evolving technology.

Dragos Tudorache, co-rapporteur on the AI Act plenary vote, said, “Because AI is going to have an impact that we can’t only measure through this act, we will have to be very mindful of this evolution of the technology in the future and be prepared.”

In late March, the Biden administration issued the first government-wide policy to mitigate the risks of artificial intelligence while harnessing its benefits.

The announcement followed President Joe Biden’s executive order last October, which called on federal agencies to lead the way toward better governance of the technology without stifling innovation.

“This landmark executive order is testament to what we stand for: safety, security, trust, openness,” Biden said at the time,” proving once again that America’s strength is not just the power of its example, but the example of its power.”

Looking ahead, experts say the challenge will be to update rules and regulations as the technology continues to evolve.

Hybrids, electric vehicles shine at New York auto show

The 2024 New York International Auto Show kicked off in Manhattan in late March — and visitors have until April 7 to admire some of the coolest new car technology. Evgeny Maslov has the story, narrated by Anna Rice. Camera: Michael Eckels.

Scathing federal report rips Microsoft for response to Chinese hack

BOSTON — In a scathing indictment of Microsoft corporate security and transparency, a Biden administration-appointed review board issued a report Tuesday saying “a cascade of errors” by the tech giant let state-backed Chinese cyber operators break into email accounts of senior U.S. officials including Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

The Cyber Safety Review Board, created in 2021 by executive order, describes shoddy cybersecurity practices, a lax corporate culture and a lack of sincerity about the company’s knowledge of the targeted breach, which affected multiple U.S. agencies that deal with China.

It concluded that “Microsoft’s security culture was inadequate and requires an overhaul” given the company’s ubiquity and critical role in the global technology ecosystem. Microsoft products “underpin essential services that support national security, the foundations of our economy, and public health and safety.”

The panel said the intrusion, discovered in June by the State Department and dating to May, “was preventable and should never have occurred,” and it blamed its success on “a cascade of avoidable errors.” What’s more, the board said, Microsoft still doesn’t know how the hackers got in.

The panel made sweeping recommendations, including urging Microsoft to put on hold adding features to its cloud computing environment until “substantial security improvements have been made.”

It said Microsoft’s CEO and board should institute “rapid cultural change,” including publicly sharing “a plan with specific timelines to make fundamental, security-focused reforms across the company and its full suite of products.”

In a statement, Microsoft said it appreciated the board’s investigation and would “continue to harden all our systems against attack and implement even more robust sensors and logs to help us detect and repel the cyber-armies of our adversaries.”

In all, the state-backed Chinese hackers broke into the Microsoft Exchange Online email of 22 organizations and more than 500 individuals around the world — including the U.S. ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns — accessing some cloud-based email boxes for at least six weeks and downloading some 60,000 emails from the State Department alone, the 34-page report said. Three think tanks and foreign government entities, including a number of British organizations, were among those compromised, it said.

The board, convened by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in August, accused Microsoft of making inaccurate public statements about the incident — including issuing a statement saying it believed it had determined the likely root cause of the intrusion “when, in fact, it still has not.” Microsoft did not update that misleading blog post, published in September, until mid-March, after the board repeatedly asked if it planned to issue a correction, it said.

Separately, the board expressed concern about a separate hack disclosed by the Redmond, Washington, company in January, this one of email accounts — including those of an undisclosed number of senior Microsoft executives and an undisclosed number of Microsoft customers — and attributed to state-backed Russian hackers.

The board lamented “a corporate culture that deprioritized both enterprise security investments and rigorous risk management.”

The Chinese hack was initially disclosed in July by Microsoft in a blog post and carried out by a group the company calls Storm-0558. That same group, the panel noted, has been engaged in similar intrusions — compromising cloud providers or stealing authentication keys so it can break into accounts — since at least 2009, targeting companies including Google, Yahoo, Adobe, Dow Chemical and Morgan Stanley.

Microsoft noted in its statement that the hackers involved are “well-resourced nation state threat actors who operate continuously and without meaningful deterrence.”

The company said that it recognized that recent events “have demonstrated a need to adopt a new culture of engineering security in our own networks,” and added that it had “mobilized our engineering teams to identify and mitigate legacy infrastructure, improve processes, and enforce security benchmarks.”

US, Britain announce partnership on AI safety, testing

WASHINGTON — The United States and Britain on Monday announced a new partnership on the science of artificial intelligence safety, amid growing concerns about upcoming next-generation versions.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and British Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan signed a memorandum of understanding in Washington to jointly develop advanced AI model testing, following commitments announced at an AI Safety Summit in Bletchley Park in November.

“We all know AI is the defining technology of our generation,” Raimondo said. “This partnership will accelerate both of our institutes work across the full spectrum to address the risks of our national security concerns and the concerns of our broader society.”

Britain and the United States are among countries establishing government-led AI safety institutes.

Britain said in October its institute would examine and test new types of AI, while the United States said in November it was launching its own safety institute to evaluate risks from so-called frontier AI models and is now working with 200 companies and entites.

Under the formal partnership, Britain and the United States plan to perform at least one joint testing exercise on a publicly accessible model and are considering exploring personnel exchanges between the institutes. Both are working to develop similar partnerships with other countries to promote AI safety.

“This is the first agreement of its kind anywhere in the world,” Donelan said. “AI is already an extraordinary force for good in our society and has vast potential to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges, but only if we are able to grip those risks.”

Generative AI, which can create text, photos and videos in response to open-ended prompts, has spurred excitement as well as fears it could make some jobs obsolete, upend elections and potentially overpower humans and catastrophic effects.

In a joint interview with Reuters Monday, Raimondo and Donelan urgent joint action was needed to address AI risks.

“Time is of the essence because the next set of models are about to be released, which will be much, much more capable,” Donelan said. “We have a focus one the areas that we are dividing and conquering and really specializing.”

Raimondo said she would raise AI issues at a meeting of the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council in Belgium Thursday.

The Biden administration plans to soon announce additions to its AI team, Raimondo said. “We are pulling in the full resources of the U.S. government.”

Both countries plan to share key information on capabilities and risks associated with AI models and systems and technical research on AI safety and security.

In October, Biden signed an executive order that aims to reduce the risks of AI. In January, the Commerce Department said it was proposing to require U.S. cloud companies to determine whether foreign entities are accessing U.S. data centers to train AI models.

Britain said in February it would spend more than 100 million pounds ($125.5 million) to launch nine new research hubs and AI train regulators about the technology.

Raimondo said she was especially concerned about the threat of AI applied to bioterrorism or a nuclear war simulation.

“Those are the things where the consequences could be catastrophic and so we really have to have zero tolerance for some of these models being used for that capability,” she said.

Kia Recalls 427,000 Telluride SUVs; Could Roll Away While Parked

New York — Kia is recalling more than 427,000 of its Telluride SUVs due to a defect that may cause the cars to roll away while they’re parked.

According to documents published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the intermediate shaft and right front driveshaft of certain 2020-2024 Tellurides may not be fully engaged. Over time, this can lead to “unintended vehicle movement” while the cars are in park — increasing potential crash risks.

Kia America decided to recall all 2020-2023 model year and select 2024 model year Tellurides earlier this month, NHTSA documents show. At the time, no injuries or crashes were reported.

Improper assembly is suspected to be the cause of the shaft engagement problem — with the recall covering 2020-2024 Tellurides that were manufactured between Jan. 9, 2019, and Oct. 19, 2023. Kia America estimates that 1% have the defect.

To remedy this issue, recall documents say, dealers will update the affected cars’ electronic parking brake software and replace any damaged intermediate shafts for free. Owners who already incurred repair expenses will also be reimbursed.

In the meantime, drivers of the impacted Tellurides are instructed to manually engage the emergency brake before exiting the vehicle. Drivers can also confirm if their specific vehicle is included in this recall and find more information using the NHTSA site and/or Kia’s recall lookup platform.

Owner notification letters are otherwise set to be mailed out on May 15, with dealer notification beginning a few days prior.

The Associated Press reached out to Irvine, California-based Kia America for further comment Sunday. No comment was received.

Gmail Revolutionized Email 20 Years Ago

San Francisco — Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin loved pulling pranks, so they began rolling out outlandish ideas every April Fool’s Day not long after starting their company more than a quarter century ago. One year, Google posted a job opening for a Copernicus research center on the moon. Another year, the company said it planned to roll out a “scratch and sniff” feature on its search engine.

The jokes were consistently over-the-top, and people learned to laugh them off as another example of Google mischief. That’s why Page and Brin decided to unveil something no one would believe was possible 20 years ago on April Fool’s Day.

It was Gmail, a free service boasting 1 gigabyte of storage per account, an amount that sounds almost pedestrian in an age of 1-terabyte iPhones. But it sounded like a preposterous amount of email capacity back then, enough to store about 13,500 emails before running out of space compared to just 30 to 60 emails in the then-leading webmail services run by Yahoo and Microsoft. That translated into 250 to 500 times more email storage space.

Besides the quantum leap in storage, Gmail also came equipped with Google’s search technology so users could quickly retrieve a tidbit from an old email, photo or other personal information stored on the service. It also automatically threaded together a string of communications about the same topic, so everything flowed together as if it was a single conversation.

“The original pitch we put together was all about the three ‘S’s’ — storage, search and speed,” said former Google executive Marissa Mayer, who helped design Gmail and other company products before later becoming Yahoo’s CEO.

It was such a mind-bending concept that shortly after The Associated Press published a story about Gmail late on the afternoon of April Fool’s 2004, readers began calling and emailing to inform the news agency it had been duped by Google’s pranksters.

“That was part of the charm, making a product that people won’t believe is real. It kind of changed people’s perceptions about the kinds of applications that were possible within a web browser,” former Google engineer Paul Buchheit recalled during a recent AP interview about his efforts to build Gmail.

It took three years to do as part of a project called “Caribou” — a reference to a running gag in the Dilbert comic strip. “There was something sort of absurd about the name Caribou, it just made make me laugh,” said Buchheit, the 23rd employee hired at a company that now employs more than 180,000 people.

The AP knew Google wasn’t joking about Gmail because an AP reporter had been abruptly asked to come down from San Francisco to the company’s Mountain View, California, headquarters to see something that would make the trip worthwhile.

After arriving at a still-developing corporate campus that would soon blossom into what became known as the “Googleplex,” the AP reporter was ushered into a small office where Page was wearing an impish grin while sitting in front of his laptop computer.

Page, then just 31 years old, proceeded to show off Gmail’s sleekly designed inbox and demonstrated how quickly it operated within Microsoft’s now-retired Explorer web browser. And he pointed out there was no delete button featured in the main control window because it wouldn’t be necessary, given Gmail had so much storage and could be so easily searched. “I think people are really going to like this,” Page predicted.

As with so many other things, Page was right. Gmail now has an estimated 1.8 billion active accounts — each one now offering 15 gigabytes of free storage bundled with Google Photos and Google Drive. Even though that’s 15 times more storage than Gmail initially offered, it’s still not enough for many users who rarely see the need to purge their accounts, just as Google hoped.

The digital hoarding of email, photos and other content is why Google, Apple and other companies now make money from selling additional storage capacity in their data centers. (In Google’s case, it charges anywhere from $30 annually for 200 gigabytes of storage to $250 annually for 5 terabytes of storage). Gmail’s existence is also why other free email services and the internal email accounts that employees use on their jobs offer far more storage than was fathomed 20 years ago.

“We were trying to shift the way people had been thinking because people were working in this model of storage scarcity for so long that deleting became a default action,” Buchheit said.

Gmail was a game changer in several other ways while becoming the first building block in the expansion of Google’s internet empire beyond its still-dominant search engine.

After Gmail came Google Maps and Google Docs with word processing and spreadsheet applications. Then came the acquisition of video site YouTube, followed by the introduction of the Chrome browser and the Android operating system that powers most of the world’s smartphones. With Gmail’s explicitly stated intention to scan the content of emails to get a better understanding of users’ interests, Google also left little doubt that digital surveillance in pursuit of selling more ads would be part of its expanding ambitions.

Although it immediately generated a buzz, Gmail started out with a limited scope because Google initially only had enough computing capacity to support a small audience of users.

But that scarcity created an air of exclusivity around Gmail that drove feverish demand for elusive invitations to sign up. At one point, invitations to open a Gmail account were selling for $250 apiece on eBay. “It became a bit like a social currency, where people would go, ‘Hey, I got a Gmail invite, you want one?’” Buchheit said.

Although signing up for Gmail became increasingly easier as more of Google’s network of massive data centers came online, the company didn’t begin accepting all comers to the email service until it opened the floodgates as a Valentine’s Day present to the world in 2007.

Swedish Embassy Exhibit Highlights Uses of Artificial Intelligence

WASHINGTON — Artificial intelligence for good is the subject of a new exhibit at the Embassy of Sweden in Washington, showing how Swedish companies and organizations are using AI for a more open society, a healthier world and a greener planet.

Ambassador Urban Ahlin said at an embassy reception that Sweden’s broad collaboration across industry, academia and government makes it a leader in applying AI in public-interest areas such as clean tech, social sciences, medical research and greener food supply chains. That includes tracking the mood and health of cows.

Fitbit for cows

It is technology developed by DeLaval, a producer of dairy and farming machinery. The firm’s market solution manager in North America, Joaquin Azocar, said the small wearable device the size of an earring fits in a cow’s ear and tracks the animal’s movements 24/7, much like a Fitbit.

The tags send signals to receivers across the farm. DeLaval’s artificial intelligence system analyzes the data and looks for correlations in patterns, trends and deviations in the animals’ activities to predict if a cow is sick, in heat or not eating well.

A trained veterinarian, Azocar said dairy farmers being alerted sooner to changes in their animals’ behavior means they can provide treatment earlier, translating to less recovery time.

AI helping in childbirth

There are also advances in human health applications. The developing AI Pelvic Floor project identifies high-risk cases of pelvic floor injury and facilitates timely intervention to prevent or limit harm.

It was developed by a team of gynecologists and women’s health care professionals from Sweden’s Sahlgrenska University Hospital to help the nearly 20% of women who experience injury to their pelvic floor during childbirth.

The exhibition “is a great way to showcase the many ways AI is being adapted and used in medicine and in many other areas,” said exhibition attendee Jesica Lindgren, general counsel for international consulting firm BlueStar Strategies. “It’s important to know how AI is evolving and affecting our everyday life.”

Green solutions using AI

The exhibition includes examples of what AI can do about climate change, including rising sea levels and declining biodiversity.

AirForestry is developing technology “for precise forestry that will select and harvest trees fully autonomously.” The firm says that “harvesting the right trees in the right place could significantly improve overall carbon sequestration and resilience.”

AI and the defense industry

Outlining the development of artificial intelligence for the defense industry, the exhibit acknowledges the controversy.

“There are exciting possibilities to use AI to solve problems that cannot be solved using traditional algorithms due to their complexity and limitations in computational power,” the exhibit states. “But it requires thorough consideration of how AI should and shouldn’t be utilized. Proactively engaging in AI research is necessary to understand the technology’s capabilities and limitations and help shape its ethical standards.”

AI and privacy

Exhibition participant Quentin Black is an engineer with Axis Communications, an industry leader in video surveillance. He said the project came out of GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, a European Union policy that provides privacy to people who are out in public whose image could be picked up on video surveillance cameras.

The regulations surrounding privacy are stricter in Europe than they are in the United States, Black said.

“In the U.S., the public doesn’t really have an expectation of privacy; there’s cameras everywhere. In Europe, it’s different.” That regulation inspired Axis Communications to develop AI that provides privacy, he said.

The Axis Live Privacy Shield remotely monitors activities indoors and outdoors while safeguarding privacy in real time. The technology is downloadable and free, he said.

Black explained the four quadrants shown on a display monitor. One window of the monitor displayed privacy with a full-color block-out of all humans, using AI to distinguish the difference between the people and the environment.

Another window showed masking of just the person’s head. A third window showed pixelization of the person’s entire body and the immediate environment surrounding them. And the final window showed blockage of the environment, so “an inverse of the personal privacy,” Black explained.

“So, if it was a top-secret facility, or you want to see the people walking up to your door without a view of your neighbor’s house, this is where this can this be applied,” he said.

Tip of the iceberg

Molly Steenson, president and CEO of the American Swedish Institute, said, “I think that AI is on everybody’s thoughts, and what I appreciate about the House of Sweden’s approach in this exhibition is highlighting a thoughtful, scientific, business-oriented and human-oriented perspective on AI in society today.”

Although AI and machine learning have been around since the 1950s, she said it is only now that we are seeing “the contemporary upswing and acceleration of AI, especially generative AI in things like large language models.”

“So, while large companies and tech companies might want us to speed up and believe that it is only scary or it is only good, I think it’s a lot more nuanced than that,” she said.