Authoritarian technology and tower-building drones

Despite President Biden’s assurances at the UN meeting on Wednesday that the US is not seeking a new Cold War, one is brewing between the world’s autocracies and democracies – and technology is fueling it.

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

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

And while democracies also use vast amounts of surveillance technology, it is the commercial relationships between authoritarian states that enable the rise of digitally enabled social control. Read the full story.

— Tate Ryan-Moseley

Watch this team of drones 3D print a tower

The news: A mini swarm of drones is trained to work together to 3D print some simple towers. Inspired by the way bees or wasps build large nests, the process involves multiple drones working together to build from a single blueprint, each essentially checking the work of the others as they go.

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

Why it matters: One day, the method could help with difficult projects like post-disaster construction or even repair buildings that are too tall for safe access, the team behind it hopes — and could build buildings in the Arctic or even on Mars. Read the full story.

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