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Can AI help create “smart borders” between countries?

Can AI help create “smart borders” between countries?

A refugee in Uganda’s Oruchinga settlement uses an iris scan to claim food assistance.

Claire Nevill/WFP


In 2016, border patrols in Greece, Latvia and Hungary received a prototype for an AI-powered lie detector to help screen asylum seekers. The detector, called iBorderCtrl, was funded by the European Commission in hopes to eventually mitigate refugee crises like the one sparked by the Syrian civil war a year prior.

iBorderCtrl, which analyzes micro expressions in the face, received but one slice of the Commission’s €34.9 billion border control and migration management budget. Still in development is the more ambitious EuMigraTool, a predictive AI system that will process internet news and social media posts to estimate not only the number of migrants heading for a particular country, but also the “risks of tensions between migrants and EU citizens.”

Both iBorderCtrl and EuMigraTool are part of a broader trend: the growing digitization of migration-related technologies. Outside of the EU, in refugee camps in Jordan, the United Nations introduced iris scanning software to distribute humanitarian aid, including food and medicine. And in the United States, Customs and Border Protection has attempted to automate its services through an app called CBP One, which both travelers and asylum seekers can use to apply for I-94 forms, the arrival-departure record cards for people who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

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Tim Brinkhof
Tim Brinkhof is a Dutch, New York-based journalist. He studied European history at New York University and has written about politics and technology for Vox, Jacobin, New Lines Magazine and MIT Technology Review.
New implants let paraplegics surf the web and play computer games

Rodney Gorham, an Australian living with ALS, has reconnected with the world, thanks to a brain-machine interface called the Stentrode.

Rodeny Dekker

When I greeted Rodney Gorham, age 63, in an online chat session, he replied within seconds: “My pleasure.”

“Are you moving parts of your body as you type?” I asked.

This time, his response came about five minutes later: “I position the cursor with the eye tracking and select the same with moving my ankles.” Gorham, a former sales representative from Melbourne, Australia, living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a rare form of Lou Gehrig’s disease that impairs the brain’s nerve cells and the spinal cord, limiting the ability to move. ALS essentially “locks” a person inside their own body. Gorham is conversing with me by typing with his mind only–no fingers in between his brain and his computer.

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Stav Dimitropoulos
Stav Dimitropoulos's features have appeared in major outlets such as the BBC, National Geographic, Scientific American, Nature, Popular Mechanics, Science, Runner’s World, and more. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter @TheyCallMeStav.
Leading XPRIZE Healthspan and Beating Negativity with Dr. Peter Diamandis

XPRIZE founder and chairman Peter Diamandis launches XPRIZE Healthspan at an event on November 29.

Hevolution Foundation

A new competition by the XPRIZE Foundation is offering $101 million to researchers who discover therapies that give a boost to people aged 65-80 so their bodies perform more like when they were middle-aged.

For today’s podcast episode, I talked with Dr. Peter Diamandis, XPRIZE’s founder and executive chairman. Under Peter’s leadership, XPRIZE has launched 27 previous competitions with over $300 million in prize purses. The latest contest aims to enhance healthspan, or the period of life when older people can play with their grandkids without any restriction, disability or disease. Such breakthroughs could help prevent chronic diseases that are closely linked to aging. These illnesses are costly to manage and threaten to overwhelm the healthcare system, as the number of Americans over age 65 is rising fast.

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Matt Fuchs

Matt Fuchs is the editor-in-chief of Leaps.org and Making Sense of Science. He is also a contributing reporter to the Washington Post and has written for the New York Times, Time Magazine, WIRED and the Washington Post Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him @fuchswriter.