Wednesday 03 Jun 2020 | 22:01 | SYDNEY
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Technology

Playing Monopoly in space

For the first time since 2011, US astronauts have been launched aboard a US spacecraft from US soil. The flight of a SpaceX capsule to the International Space Station with two NASA crewmembers has broken a long drought for crewed spaceflight. It also reduces America’s dependence on Russian Soyuz

India’s Covid-19 tracing app: Power in the right hands?

Governments around the world are working hard to convince their populations to download the various Covid-19 infection tracing apps. As well as potentially helping to stymie the spread of the virus, the app download numbers serve another purpose: they could be read to indicate how much trust there

We’re all losers in the space arms race

Politics does make for unlikely bedfellows. Last month, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it had signed a joint declaration with the Republic of Burundi, whereby both agreed not to be the “first” to place weapons in space. Two weeks later Russia conducted an anti-satellite missile test

Covid-19 chaos creates fertile ground for cyberattacks

Coronavirus-related cyberattacks have proliferated since the first Covid-19 cases emerged in Wuhan, China. According to a recent Microsoft analysis, every country in the world has now experienced at least one such cyberattack, with the number of successful intrusions increasing daily. In a

Information warfare in the theatre of Covid-19

Chaos is a ladder, said Littlefinger in Game of Thrones. Crisis is an opportunity, Sun Tzu didn’t say in The Art of War. Either way, in the United States, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and “infodemic”, political chaos is a clear and present danger, and an opportunity, in the covert and

Beyond the buzz: A primer on swarms

In the world of emerging technologies, few concepts evoke excitement like swarms. The power of the swarm is in its natural formation – from bees, to schooling fish and flocking birds – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Swarms can achieve far more complex tasks than single entities

What price privacy? Contact tracing apps to combat Covid

Few in the West would have imagined two months ago that their government would consider tracking their personal mobile phones. But as Covid-19 rapidly sweeps through cities and incapacitates health systems, manual tracing of potentially infected individuals can no longer keep up. Even

Disinformation and coronavirus

The best way to prevent the novel coronavirus? Eating garlic. Or actually, try traditional Chinese medicine. In case you hadn’t heard, a vaccine already exists but the United States won’t share it. Wait a second, the coronavirus doesn’t exist at all, it’s all a conspiracy. How did I hear

The uncertain fate of .org

If you’ve used the internet, you’ve accessed a .org site. The domain is associated with civil society groups and non-government organisations ranging from the United Nations to the Lowy Institute. For almost two decades, .org has been the reliable host of websites and email services for millions

Is media literacy the magic bullet for fake news?

As online news and social media have proliferated over the last decade, a whole new category of information has entered the popular lexicon: fake news. Online disinformation has come a long way from “On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog” to a place where a malicious article hatched from a

The Australian lag in tech policy

Last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a much-awaited reform package to regulate the tech giants and their immense market power. Australia was to be “the model jurisdiction” for “dealing with digital platforms”, he declared. However, strong language aside, the promised reform

Australia’s new strategic geography

Australia’s strategic geography is not what it used to be. Technology has made the “sea-air gap”, an artefact treasured since the 1980s by a generation of Australian strategic planners, obsolete. Three developments compromise the idea that geography offers Australia defensive depth and

Best of The Interpreter 2019: Technology

The endless blessings of technology – where would we be without them? Not reading this page, for a start. Several decades into the so-called digital revolution (depending where you mark the start), tech has become almost as essential to our everyday lives as air and water, and yet behind the

Beijing’s cryptic blockchain gambit

China is going berserk for blockchain these days, and doing so with oh-so-very Chinese characteristics. The recent hype is certainly not without cause. After years of cautious support for the game-changing digital ledger technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, Beijing has been

Are free trade deals expanding a digital divide?

E-bills, e-signature, the electronic transfer of funds – advancements in technology are bringing about remarkable changes in the business landscape, domestically and internationally. All this change is facilitating the faster movement of goods across borders and forcing governments to keep pace.

Deep fakes could have real consequences for Southeast Asia

In Malaysia, a sex-tape scandal engulfing the country in recent months has threatened to destabilise the governing coalition. While the tape has been determined by the police to be authentic, and not a forgery, it is still questioned in some quarters. The truth of the video itself is a point of

All may not be smooth along China’s Digital Silk Road

Make no mistake about China’s vast and continuous trajectory of technological expansionism. Even as the US aims to ring-fence Huawei’s reach into the US and overseas consumer markets, a “digital silk road” paved by Chinese tech giants has long been built to span from the Asia-

Remembering the Moonwalk

The anniversary is upon us, with 21 July (Australian time) marking 50 years since the moment that human footprints were first placed on another world. The landing of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon was one of the most significant historical events of the 20th century, and

The “new era” of digital authoritarianism

The recent discussion on cyber security has been focused on offensive cyber capability and the threat to critical infrastructure. But in the last several months, an equally troubling trend has come to the fore. Internet shutdowns and deliberate disruptions have quickly become the policy instrument

The transformative potential of big data

We intuitively know the volume of digital information yet the increasing numbers are still staggering. In 2013, 90% of all the data in the world had been generated in the preceding two years. Forecasts suggest that by 2020, there will be as many bits in the digital universe as there are stars in the

Are we ready for a rare earths trade war?

Rare earth minerals have emerged as the latest front in the escalating US-China trade war. Nearly a decade after the Chinese government controversially suspended rare earth exports to Japan during the 2010 Senkaku dispute, similar threats are now being made if the bilateral trade dispute with the US

The Pacific’s social politics

When the news broke that Peter O’Neill had finally resigned from PNG’s top job last Thursday, it spread instantaneously, lighting up mobile phone screens across the country. It was social media, much more than PNG’s traditional news outlets, that had bored away relentlessly at O’Neill’s

Huawei and the decoupling dilemma

In two dramatic policy announcements this month, the Trump administration effectively barred US companies and government agencies from buying telecommunications equipment or services from – or selling any components to –Chinese technology champion, Huawei. President Donald Trump signed a broadly

Huawei reaches into Britain

Whatever the true situation behind the sacking of Gavin Williamson as British defence secretary over claims (which he strenuously denies) that he leaked information to the Daily Telegraph from a meeting of the National Security Committee on Chinese telecom company Huawei, one thing is crystal clear

If 5G takes a little longer in Australia, all the better

The fifth generation of cellular network technology promises much higher performance in terms of data throughput, speed, and lower latency. This will unlock a regime of new digital technologies that have been developing on the sidelines for some time. Scholars contributing to the neuroscience in

An Australian model for the renewable-energy transition

Australia is experiencing a remarkable renewable energy transition. The pipeline for new wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity systems is 6-7 Gigawatts (GW) per year for the period 2019-21. This equates to 250 Watts per person per year compared with about 50 Watts per person per year for the

The new Middle Eastern space race

The launch of the first Israeli mission to the Moon is a milestone for lunar exploration and for private spaceflight.   Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/Cd8nGQwrhd — SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 22, 2019   The Bereshet spacecraft is a small lander, carrying a few instruments and some

Mark Zuckerberg and the revolt of the public

I joined Facebook in 2010. As if by magic, the lives of ‘friends’ lost in time and space materialised on my laptop, so I could partake of their everyday moods, their exotic vacations, their children’s sporting events. This triumph of intimacy over distance accounted for Facebook’s

Facebook’s first 15 years and lessons for diplomacy

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook post, marking 15 years since he hatched the social network in his Harvard dorm, claims Facebook has the potential to be “profoundly positive” for years. Certainly, Facebook has changed diplomacy by changing the way people connect and communicate. But, despite

Asia’s space sale

A Chinese rover on the Moon. An Indian satellite at Mars. A Japanese commander of the International Space Station. An imminent launch of a Chinese lander to the far side of the Moon. Future Chinese plans for robot missions to Mars and Indian plans for Venus. Spaceflight across Asia has advanced

Beijing’s online gaming clampdown

Last month, Tencent Chairman and Chief Executive Pony Ma (马化腾) sent out an open letter, announcing a major strategic shift in direction for one of Asia’s most valuable technology firms. “We believe that the first stage of the mobile internet, the consumer internet, is drawing to a close

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