Authoritarian tech, and tower-building drones


Despite President Biden’s assurances at Wednesday’s United Nations meeting 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 towards 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 countries, as well as other authoritarian states, are following China’s lead and are trending towards more digital rights abuses by increasing the mass digital surveillance of citizens, censorship, and controls on individual expression.

And while democracies also use massive amounts of surveillance technology, it’s the tech trade relationships between authoritarian countries that’s enabling the rise of digitally enabled social control. Read the full story.

—Tate Ryan-Mosley

Watch this team of drones 3D-print a tower

The news: A mini-swarm’s worth of drones have been trained to work together to 3D-print some simple towers. Inspired by the way bees or wasps construct large nests, the process has multiple drones work together to build from a single blueprint, with one essentially checking the others’ work as it goes.

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

Why it matters: One day, the method could help with challenging projects such as post-disaster construction or even repairs on buildings that are too high to access safely, the team behind it hopes—and could construct buildings in the Arctic or even on Mars. Read the full story.



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