Jan 152015
 

Although experts say that Artificial Intelligence is still several decades away, current technology is on the verge of giving us fully weapon systems. For years, our Navy has protected its ships with automated defensive weapon systems that target threats without much human help. Our Army’s counter-mortar system tracks incoming mortar rounds and returns a volley of mortars without direct human input. Once launched, our Air Force’s anti-aircraft missiles seek out the nearest heat source without further human control. However, unlike drones, fully automated weapons will soon have complete autonomy in terms of what they target and how they engage the enemy, all without any human involvement or intervention. One system approaching this capability is the $200,000 Samsung SGR-1 sentry-bot which patrols the Korean demilitarized zone for South Korea. It uses heat and motion sensors to detect intruders and is armed with machine guns and grenade launchers -although these cannot be fired without human authorization. Current research is determining how to make robots better able to operate on their own for extended periods of time, possibly behind enemy lines. Some of today’s semi-autonomous robots are able to independently choose targets to attack and locate power sources on their own. It is estimated that fully autonomous robots are still about 20 years away from deployment. Critics say we should not remove the human factor from lethal battlefield decisions. Others say properly-programmed autonomous weapons can eliminate some human battlefield mistakes such as misidentifying targets or discounting vital intelligence because of cognitive bias. Our Pentagon has recently issued a temporary pledge that it will keep humans in the loop with regards to targeting and the use of deadly force. However, other nations developing these weapons have made no such pledge.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current autonomous weapons policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to introduce an international treaty to ban the development and use of autonomous weapons systems

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Climate geoengineering is the intentional, large-scale manipulation of the Earth’s climate system to reduce the effects of climate change. Our climate is a result of the amount of solar radiation hitting the Earth and the amount of heat reflected and radiated back into space. This balance depends on several variables including reflectivity, cloud coverage, the amount of heat absorbed by the Earth, and the amount of heat trapped in our atmosphere by greenhouse gasses. For geoengineering strategies to succeed, at least one of these variables must be changed. Geoengineering strategies consist of either increasing Earth’s reflectance or blocking incoming solar radiation so we receive less heat, or reducing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere to allow more heat to radiate back into space. It is hoped that reducing the burning of fossil fuels will increase this radiant effect. Scientists worry we are not reducing the 9 gigatons of carbon dioxide we put in the air each year fast enough to avoid significant changes to our climate. They also worry about the albedo effect. As Earth warms and ice melts, this white reflective surface is replaced by dark heat-absorbing oceans and lands, creating a feedback loop that melts more ice and forces our planet to retain more and more heat.

Proposals to increase the reflectance of incoming solar radiation include the injection of sulfur particles into the stratosphere, the whitening of marine clouds and the placement of millions of tiny orbital mirrors or sunshades into space. Other geoengineering proposals are designed to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. One calls for building machines to capture CO2 in sorbent material and remove it for burial. Another involves large-scale ocean fertilization to stimulate growth of marine organisms which absorb carbon. Planting trees and painting rooftops white are examples of small-scale geoengineering. However, scientists say geoengineering by itself is not able fix our climate-change problems. These techniques are meant to complement carbon reduction efforts, not replace them.

In 2007, the UN concluded that geoengineering options for addressing climate change were speculative and unproven -with the costs, benefits and risks not well understood. For these reasons, critics claim large scale geoengineering projects have the potential to make things even worse. For example, sulfur aerosols placed in our stratosphere are known to reduce global temperatures because this gas is also ejected by large volcanic eruptions. In the past, these events have cooled the weather for several years, as these aerosols remain airborne for several years or even decades. However, no one knows how much sulfur is enough to reduce global warming, but it is known that too much could trigger a prolonged global winter. Unfortunately, all large-scale climate geoengineering research has consisted of computer modeling and laboratory testing. None of these projects have yet been attempted. Opponents say geoengineering projects should not be undertaken without the full consent and participation of those who are most vulnerable to the risks and effects of climate geoengineering experiments.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose climate geoengineering and wish to identify a legislator who will sponsor a bill to prohibit these projects until proven safe and effective

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to research viable geoengineering projects that can reduce the effects of climate change

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Nanotechnology is the study of materials and devices measuring less than a nanometer, or one billionth of a meter in size. A human hair is 30,000 nanometers wide. Nanotechnology has been touted as the key to coming breakthroughs in medicine and robotics. Researchers wish to use nanotechnology’s atom-by-atom construction technique to produce objects such as tiny, bacterium-sized devices that can repair clogged arteries, kill cancer cells or repair cellular damage from aging. With the world’s population expected to reach 11 billion by 2050, scientists believe nanotechnology could help governments and industry keep our planet livable by slashing waste and helping provide sustainable food, clean water and pollution-free energy. Proponents say filter systems for drinking and waste water, natural gas pipelines and smokestacks can be designed at the molecular level to remove the smallest impurities.

However, as research continues on these lofty goals, business and industry are already developing uses for nanomaterials in everyday consumer products. Manufacturers have discovered that substances manipulated at the nano-scale have different properties than the same substances manipulated at larger scales. Many cosmetic and sunscreen manufacturers now use microscopic bits of silver called nanoparticles, not to make their products more effective, but to help make sunblock rub on clear. Companies have also added these materials to anti-aging creams, toothpastes and shampoos, as well as food containers and clothing. Critics claim these firms have added nanomaterials to their products without conducting any human testing to determine its safety. Advocates say research indicates nanomaterials can enter the bloodstream through contact with the skin and by ingestion and inhalation. Recent studies have found unhealthy reactions in human intestinal cells after exposure to silver nanoparticles. Nanoparticles can also move in the natural environment once discarded. Advocates say products with nanomaterials should be required to be tested for toxicity before being sold to the public and should be labeled once certified.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.394 – Nanotechnology Advancement and New Opportunities Act

H.R.1385 – Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current nanotechnology policy and wish to defeat H.R.394 and H.R.1385

I support establishing a partnership with private manufacturers to provide funding for pre-commercial nanomanufacturing research and development projects; establishing the nanotechnology research grant program to address the need for clean, cheap, renewable energy; to address technologies for remediation of pollution and other environmental protection technologies; to address the need for sensors and other materials related to homeland security needs; to address health related applications of nanotechnology; allowing a tax credit for nanotechnology education and training program expenses. Establishing: a grant program for the development of curriculum materials for interdisciplinary nanotechnology courses at institutions of higher education; establishing a program to encourage manufacturing companies to enter into partnerships with occupational training centers for the development of training to support nanotechnology manufacturing, and wish to pass H.R.394

I support establishing a safety standard that provides a reasonable certainty of no harm from exposure to a cosmetic or an ingredient in a cosmetic and that protects the public from any known or anticipated adverse health effects associated with the cosmetic or ingredient; issuing guidance prescribing good manufacturing practices for cosmetics and ingredients and wish to pass H.R.1385

 Posted by at 12:00 am