Thursday, July 11, 2019

Friday Thinking 12 July 2019

Friday Thinking is a humble curation of my foraging in the digital environment. My purpose is to pick interesting pieces, based on my own curiosity (and the curiosity of the many interesting people I follow), about developments in some key domains (work, organization, social-economy, intelligence, domestication of DNA, energy, etc.)  that suggest we are in the midst of a change in the conditions of change - a phase-transition. That tomorrow will be radically unlike yesterday.

Many thanks to those who enjoy this.

In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.

Jobs are dying - Work is just beginning.
Work that engages our whole self becomes play that works.
Techne = Knowledge-as-Know-How :: Technology = Embodied Know-How  
In the 21st century - the planet is the little school house in the galaxy.
Citizenship is the battlefield of the 21st  Century

“Be careful what you ‘insta-google-tweet-face’”
Woody Harrelson - Triple 9



The first thing we wanted to know was whether men and women respondents rated the rooms differently. Contrary to popular lore, men and women saw the same mess: They rated the clean room as equally clean and the messy room as equally messy.

So if "dirt blindness" isn't to blame, why do women do more housework?

Participants rated the photos differently depending on whether they were told that a woman or a man lived there. Notably, respondents held higher standards of cleanliness for Jennifer than they did for John. When they were told the tidy room belonged to Jennifer, participants—regardless of gender—judged it less clean and more likely to inspire disapproving reactions from guests than when the same exact room was John's.

Interestingly, John's character was rated more negatively than Jennifer's for having a messy home, reflecting the common stereotype that men are lazy. Yet participants did not believe John would be any more likely than Jennifer to suffer negative judgment from visitors, which suggests that the "men are lazy" stereotype does not disadvantage them in a socially meaningful way.

Finally, people were more likely to believe that Jennifer would bear primary responsibility for cleaning, and this difference was especially large in the hypothetical scenario in which she or he is a full-time working parent living with a spouse.

That people attribute greater responsibility for housework to women than men, even regardless of their employment situation, suggests that women get penalized more often for clutter than men do.

Men do see the mess—they just aren't judged for it the way women are

A healthy society balances the collective responsibilities of governments in the public sector with the commercial interests of businesses in the private sector and the communal concerns of citizens in the plural sector—so labelled, instead of “civil society”, to be seen as taking its place alongside the sectors called public and private.

The plural sector is huge, comprising associations that are neither publicly owned by government nor privately owned by investors. Some, often called cooperatives, are owned by their members. The United States has more cooperative memberships than people. Others are owned by no-one, such as NGOs, foundations, religious orders, trusts, and clubs, as well as certain universities and hospitals. Many of these operate in “the commons”, meaning that their services are widely accessible, as are those of Wikipedia. Its size notwithstanding, the plural sector itself is obscure, despite Alexis de Tocqueville’s identification in the 1830s of its “associations” as key to the new Democracy in America.

Donald Trump is not the problem - Part I

"You don't need something more to get something more. That's what emergence means."– Murray Gell-Mann

In simple systems, the properties of the whole can be understood or predicted from the addition or aggregation of its components. In other words, macroscopic properties of a simple system can be deduced from the microscopic properties of its parts. In complex systems, however, the properties of the whole often cannot be understood or predicted from the knowledge of its components because of a phenomenon known as “emergence.” This phenomenon involves diverse mechanisms causing the interaction between components of a system to generate novel information and exhibit non-trivial collective structures and behaviors at larger scales. This fact is usually summarized with the popular phrase the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Examples: a massive amount of air and vapor molecules forming a tornado; multiple cells forming a living organism; billions of neurons in a brain producing consciousness and intelligence.

"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."– Theodosius Dobzhansky

Rather than just moving towards a steady state, complex systems are often active and responding to the environment -- the difference between a ball that rolls to the bottom of a hill and stops and a bird that adapts to wind currents while flying. This adaptation can happen at multiple scales: cognitive, through learning and psychological development; social, via sharing information through social ties; or even evolutionary, through genetic variation and natural selection. When the components are damaged or removed, these systems are often able to adapt and recover their previous functionality, and sometimes they become even better than before. This can be achieved by robustness, the ability to withstand perturbations; resilience, the ability to go back to the original state after a large perturbation; or adaptation, the ability to change the system itself to remain functional and survive. Complex systems with these properties are known as complex adaptive systems.

Examples: an immune system continuously learning about pathogens; a colony of termites that repairs damages caused to its mound; terrestrial life that has survived numerous crisis events in billions of years of its history.

Complex systems appear in all scientific and professional domains, including physics, biology, ecology, social sciences, finance, business, management, politics, psychology, anthropology, medicine, engineering, information technology, and more. Many of the latest technologies, from social media and mobile technologies to autonomous vehicles and blockchain, produce complex systems with emergent properties that are crucial to understand and predict for societal well-being. A key concept of complexity science is universality, which is the idea that many systems in different domains display phenomena with common underlying features that can be described using the same scientific models. These concepts warrant a new multidisciplinary mathematical/computational framework. Complexity science can provide a comprehensive, cross-disciplinary analytical approach that complements traditional scientific approaches that focus on specific subject matter in each domain.
"All models are wrong, but some are useful."– George Box
You can download a booklet version, for free

What is Complexity Science?

This is a great signal of the impact of Youtube and other video sharing platforms on Canadians. For anyone interested in the future of work - this has some important insights. The full pdf of the report can be downloaded.

Watchtime Canada - How YouTube Connects Creators and Consumers

This report was produced by Audience Lab at Ryerson University’s Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD). It was commissioned by Google.
YouTube is the world’s largest online video sharing platform with an astounding growth rate of more than 500 hours of uploaded video per minute. The platform attracts the second largest audience in the world (after its parent company, Google). YouTube has 2 billion monthly logged in users including 24 million Canadians. Further underscoring the platform’s growth are the number of channels with at least 1 million subscribers has doubled in the last year.

The report contains two types of content: our original research findings, and contextual information about YouTube collected from public sources. The contextual information about YouTube includes nearly 25 images, and is purposed to familiarize the reader with the platform on and behind the screen. 

The bulk of the report presents, describes and analyzes our research findings. Our study is anchored by quantitative and qualitative data resulting from two surveys, of both YouTube creators and consumers, with more than 1,200 and 1,500 participants respectively. In addition to over 50 charts that represent the quantitative data, the research generated more than 9,000 qualitative comments. As presented in the report, this qualitative data helps bring the quantitative findings alive.

Top Findings
YouTube is the first media space where Canadians go to learn.
Seventy percent of Canadian YouTube consumers rank YouTube as the first media space they go to learn things.

YouTube’s benefits are provided at no cost to the system.
While YouTube costs an estimated $6B+ per year to maintain, the platform is free for creators and consumers, incurring no technological or administrative cost to Canada’s media ecosystem.

The rise of the creative entrepreneur.
YouTube has facilitated the rise of a new group of 160,000 Canadian creators including 40,000 who have achieved sufficient audience traction to monetize their channels. These YouTube entrepreneurs have created nearly 28,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs for themselves and others. 15% of YouTube channels generate more than $50,000 annually in gross revenue; 12% generate $75,000 or more; 9% generate $100,000 or more; and 6% report $150,000 or more.

Diversity of creators and perspectives.
Canadians value the diversity they see on YouTube including genres, perspectives, voices, languages, geographies, genders, and ethnicities that are not as visible on other media.

Michael Geist interviews one of the authors in a ½ hour podcast here.

Canada’s Quiet Success Story – Irene Berkowitz on the Canadian YouTube Creative Sector

The LawBytes Podcast, Episode 19: 

A long read - but worth the effort for a glimpse into the emerging world of drones - autonomous and otherwise. This is the emergence of a new form of collective sensorium and consciousness.

‘Nothing Kept Me Up At Night the Way the Gorgon Stare Did.’

The Gorgon Stare, a military drone-surveillance technology that can track multiple moving targets at once, is coming to a city near you.
Drones have come to define the United States’ forever war, the so-called war on terror. The expansion of drone systems developed by the military into new territories — including the continental United States — embodies this era’s hyper-paranoid ethos: new threats are ever imminent, conflict is always without resolution. At the same time, non-militarized drones have entered civilian life in a number of ways, from breathtaking cinematography to flight control at Heathrow airport. There are many avid documenters of this new technology, but no one seems to understand its many facets quite like Arthur Holland Michel, founder and co-director of the Bard Center for the Study of the Drone, which catalogs the growing use of drones around the world. Now, Holland Michel has written Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All, a book of startling revelations about drone surveillance in the United States.

Holland Michel has lived and breathed drone technology for the last six years, but nothing quite shocked him like the technology of Wide Angle Motion Imagery (WAMI). WAMI greatly expands the power that a camera attached to a drone can have; it is able to watch and record a much greater area while also tracking multiple specific targets within that area. In his book Holland Michel lays out how scientists and engineers created this surveillance technology through a Manhattan-project like mission. The name — a little too on the nose — that the scientists decided to give their new invention was “Gorgon Stare,” after the terrifying mythological creature whose mere glance could turn you to stone. Even from the very beginning, Gorgon Stare’s creators knew that its power would extend beyond its original stated purpose — to help prevent IED attack and track insurgents across conflict zones. Now, proponents of WAMI are finding uses for it in civilian life, and Holland Michel argues that the public must be involved in any decision before it is deployed above us. I met up with Arthur on a beautiful Spring day (perfect for flying drones) to discuss this profoundly troubling technology, how to prevent its worst potential from being realized, and maybe — just maybe — how drones can be used for good.

I was once asked if the future would provide humans with ‘new senses’ - I don’t think I answered that question very well - at the time. But I think we are on the brink of a phase transition in the percepts that the sensorium of a new extended mind will provide. 
"This research is game-changing for imaging," said Federico Capasso, the Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering at SEAS and senior author of the paper. "Most cameras can typically only detect the intensity and color of light but can't see polarization. This camera is a new eye on reality, allowing us to reveal how light is reflected and transmitted by the world around us."
"Polarization is a feature of light that is changed upon reflection off a surface," said Paul Chevalier, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS and co-author of the study. "Based on that change, polarization can help us in the 3-D reconstruction of an object, to estimate its depth, texture and shape, and to distinguish man-made objects from natural ones, even if they're the same shape and color."

Portable polarization-sensitive camera could be used in machine vision, autonomous vehicles, security and more

When the first full-length movie made with the advanced, three-color process of Technicolor premiered in 1935, The New York Times declared "it produced in the spectator all the excitement of standing upon a peak ... and glimpsing a strange, beautiful and unexpected new world."

Technicolor forever changed how cameras—and people—saw and experienced the world around them. Today, there is a new precipice—this one, offering views of a polarized world.

Polarization, the direction in which light vibrates, is invisible to the human eye (but visible to some species of shrimp and insects). But it provides a great deal of information about the objects with which it interacts. Cameras that see polarized light are currently used to detect material stress, enhance contrast for object detection, and analyze surface quality for dents or scratches.

However, like the early color cameras, current-generation polarization-sensitive cameras are bulky. Moreover, they often rely on moving parts and are costly, severely limiting the scope of their potential application.

Now, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a highly compact, portable camera that can image polarization in a single shot. The miniature camera—about the size of a thumb—could find a place in the vision systems of autonomous vehicles, onboard planes or satellites to study atmospheric chemistry, or be used to detect camouflaged objects.

We are not only domesticating DNA but humans are making progress in domesticating matter (beyond that made possible by pyrotechnologies). This is one interesting signal.
One step along the way to making matter out of light is to make individual packets of light, called photons, interact with each other like matter does. (Normally photons zip along at the speed of light and don't react to each other at all.)
By allowing photons to interact with these shaken atoms, the team has created what they call "Floquet polaritons"—quasi-particles which are part-light and part-atom, and unlike regular photons, interact with each other quite strongly. These interactions are essential for making matter from light. Making polaritons with shaken atoms can give the polaritons much more flexibility to move around and collide with each other in new ways.

Scientists combine light and matter to make particles with new behaviors

Every type of atom in the universe has a unique fingerprint: It only absorbs or emits light at the particular energies that match the allowed orbits of its electrons. That fingerprint enables scientists to identify an atom wherever it is found. A hydrogen atom in outer space absorbs light at the same energies as one on Earth.

While physicists have learned how electric and magnetic fields can manipulate this fingerprint, the number of features that make it up usually remains constant. In work published July 3 in the journal Nature, University of Chicago researchers challenged this paradigm by shaking electrons with lasers to create "doppelganger" features at new energies—a breakthrough that lets scientists create hybrid particles which are part-atom and part-light, with a wide variety of new behaviors.

The research is part of a greater effort in Assoc. Prof. Jonathan Simon's lab to break down the walls between matter and light, in order to investigate their fundamental properties. In addition to learning about how materials behave at the quantum level, this work could one day help create more powerful computers or virtually "unhackable" quantum communications.

We know that complex and living systems by definition exist ‘far from equilibrium’ - thus they are regulated via systems that actively intervene to sustain a homeostasis of innumerable variables (many antithetical to each other) within viable ranges. We don’t know which variables determine the conditions of a complex living system. 
Bruno Latour’s recent book “Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime” argues that Gaia is an active agent - and humans are now co-creators of the living system that is earth.
The question is how is Gaia as an agent enacting homeostatic change? The 1 min video is worth the view.

Scientists discover the biggest seaweed bloom in the world

In patchy doses in the open ocean, Sargassum contributes to ocean health by providing habitat for turtles, crabs, fish, and birds and producing oxygen via photosynthesis like other plants. "In the open ocean, Sargassum provides great ecological values, serving as a habitat and refuge for various marine animals. I often saw fish and dolphins around these floating mats," Wang said.

But too much of this seaweed makes it hard for certain marine species to move and breathe, especially when the mats crowd the coast. When it dies and sinks to the ocean bottom at large quantities it can smother corals and seagrasses. On the beach, rotten Sargassum releases hydrogen sulfide gas and smells like rotten eggs, potentially presenting health challenges for people on beaches who have asthma, for example.

In general, predicting future blooms is difficult, Hu said, because the blooms depend on a wide-ranging spectrum of factors that are hard to predict. There's a lot left to understand, too, such as whether and how the Sargassum belt affects fisheries.

"We hope this provides a framework for improved understanding and response to this emerging phenomenon," Hu said. "We need a lot more follow-on work."

I remember the first time I saw a friend with a Sony Walkman. I was perplexed why anyone would want to walk around in their own sound bubble. So much for a natural foresight perspective.
A great many of the products that Sony once dominated with have been replaced, or have been consolidated into other devices. Over the years, Sony has made fantastic camcorders, stereo components, cameras, portable media players, and phones. Relatively few people buy most of these products anymore, with the smartphone usurping many of these devices’ functions, and all-in-one media players from the likes of Sonos and Amazon taking a large bite out of the home audio market.

The brand that kicked off the portable music revolution is now a walking zombie

Forty years ago this week, the Sony Walkman cassette player first went on sale.
The beautifully designed, easy-to-use TPS-L2 was the device that liberated the cassette from living room hi-fis and car tape decks to truly make music portable. It allowed you to walk, man. It changed the way we listened to music, and when and where we listened to it. Without it, there would likely be no iPod, no iPhone, no devices to enjoy entertainment wherever we are, whenever we’re there.

For Sony’s 35th anniversary, The Verge highlighted that the company had sold over 400 million Walkman-branded devices since the first one went on sale in 1979. Sony defined many of the eras of portable music technology since the first tape player, always managing to adapt the Walkman brand as necessary. It added radios to its Walkman, then it shifted to the CD Walkman (or sometimes, the “Discman”), and then onto the Minidisc Walkman, and finally onto the MP3 player. At one point, there was even a digital voice recorder, presumably marketed towards journalists, called the Scoopman.

It came up with some truly iconic designs along the way, as well as technical firsts, like the first portable CD player, the first minidisc player, and the first digital noise-canceling headphones. Looking at Sony’s own list of all its groundbreaking Walkman models over the years shows how impressive Sony’s technological prowess has been over the years, but it also highlights perhaps the company’s biggest problem: It apparently hasn’t released anything noteworthy since 2011, which is the last entry for a technology milestone listed in the “personal audio” section of its list of company milestones.

This is such an important signal for many reasons - the progression of our understanding of evolution, the need for transdisciplinary experiences, the need for multiple lines of evidence and multiple ways of reasoning.
Whereas most researchers work with only a handful of well-studied animals, such as fruit flies and mice, Extavour’s success comes from her penchant for less-ubiquitous lab critters, such as sand fleas and crickets. Typical model organisms harbour just a fraction of the diversity found in nature, so alongside the usual suspects, she examines a wide range of animals that help to reveal which genetic tools evolution most commonly uses.
All insect eggs have the same function — to protect and provide energy for the developing bug — but their huge variety of shapes and sizes has puzzled biologists for centuries.
analysis revealed a surprise: the evolution of egg shape and size depends largely on where the eggs are laid. Eggs laid in water are often small and spherical; those deposited into the body of another animal are also small, but tend to be oddly shaped.

The biologist using insect eggs to overturn evolutionary doctrine

Cassandra Extavour has transformed understanding of animal development — while championing diversity, and nurturing a side career as a soprano.
Even with time running out, Extavour was unwilling to take his word for it. She embarked on a months-long series of experiments to prove to herself that the gene did what he said. In the process, she built her own tools to ask a question that nobody had addressed before. “That’s the kind of project that I really love,” she says.

Two decades later, Extavour is still pursuing original research questions and overturning convention as she investigates some of the most fundamental aspects of animal development. In her lab at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Extavour wants to understand how single-celled entities blossomed into multicellular organisms during evolution, and how the intricate bodies of such organisms can develop from cells that all have the same genetic blueprint. “I have never heard of a problem that I thought was more interesting than that,” she says.

Extavour’s curiosity and rigorous thinking have led her to test, and in some cases disprove, widely accepted hypotheses about development and evolution. She upended the leading theory of how most animals generate the precursors of eggs and sperm1, and in a Nature paper this week, she and her team have cracked a long-standing question about the astonishing diversity of insect eggs.

In the Digital Environment - where everything and everyone is known - we still need moments of anonymity.

How to stop your emails from being tracked

Pixel trackers can hide in your email images
All of those obnoxious marketing emails that crowd your inbox aren’t just pushing a product. They’re also tracking whether you’ve opened the email, when you opened it, and where you were at the time by using software like MailChimp to embed tracking software into the message.

How does it work? A single tracking pixel is embedded into the email, usually (but not always) hidden within an image or a link. When the email is opened, code within the pixel sends the info back to the company’s server.

There have been some attempts to restrict the amount of information that can be transmitted this way. For example, since 2014, Google has served all images through its own proxy servers, which could hide your location from at least some tracking applications. And extensions such as Ugly Mail and PixelBlock have been developed to block trackers on Chrome and Firefox.

There is also a simple basic step you can take to avoid trackers: stop your email from automatically loading images since images are where the majority of these pixels hide. You won’t be able to avoid all of the trackers that can hide in your email this way, but you will stop many of them.
Here’s how to do it in the major desktop and mobile email apps:

It should be obvious - that the earth has become an ‘art project’ co-created with humans (as Bruno Latour notes and as McLuhan suggested in the 60s). Meeting our challenges - climate change, economic equality, generative flourishing of life and diversity - and inevitable more - requires a response-ability. - Imagine solar energy powered desalination to irrigate the Sahara?
“What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed.”

Tree planting 'has mind-blowing potential' to tackle climate crisis

Research shows a trillion trees could be planted to capture huge amount of carbon dioxide
Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis, according to scientists, who have made the first calculation of how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on crop land or urban areas.

As trees grow, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. New research estimates that a worldwide planting programme could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as “mind-blowing”.

The analysis found there are 1.7bn hectares of treeless land on which 1.2tn native tree saplings would naturally grow. That area is about 11% of all land and equivalent to the size of the US and China combined. Tropical areas could have 100% tree cover, while others would be more sparsely covered, meaning that on average about half the area would be under tree canopy.

The scientists specifically excluded all fields used to grow crops and urban areas from their analysis. But they did include grazing land, on which the researchers say a few trees can also benefit sheep and cattle.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Friday Thinking is a humble curation of my foraging in the digital environment. My purpose is to pick interesting pieces, based on my own curiosity (and the curiosity of the many interesting people I follow), about developments in some key domains (work, organization, social-economy, intelligence, domestication of DNA, energy, etc.)  that suggest we are in the midst of a change in the conditions of change - a phase-transition. That tomorrow will be radically unlike yesterday.

Many thanks to those who enjoy this.

In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.

Jobs are dying - Work is just beginning.
Work that engages our whole self becomes play that works.
Techne = Knowledge-as-Know-How :: Technology = Embodied Know-How  
In the 21st century - the planet is the little school house in the galaxy.
Citizenship is the battlefield of the 21st  Century

“Be careful what you ‘insta-google-tweet-face’”
Woody Harrelson - Triple 9



This is a time when human-planetary-technological relationships are being redefined — and this is a time characterized by fake news, hyper-monopolistic corporations, xenophobic nationalism, algorithmic opacity, and surveillance capitalism, all of which make the problems unintelligible, and solutions unimaginable. At the moment when collective action is most needed, the legitimacy that undergirds its institutions is eroding.

To move forward, we must explore wholly new modes of governance; new paths to legitimacy — because public imagination and legitimacy are foundational tools for building healthy futures for people and planet.

Could a network of regulatory experimentation labs in cities build legitimacy and shape inclusive innovation toward a great transition?

...cities and communities are at the heart of creating better futures. At this scale we experience trust and mutual accountability; it is the scale at which the unintended impacts and externalities of technologies are felt; and it is the scale of collective creativity. It is also the scale that is drawing increasing attention from “big tech” companies. Their recent urban development proposals, including Amazon’s HQ2 and Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs in Toronto, are challenging public means of constructing and preserving public value.

... it is increasingly clear that government neither has the capacity nor should be the sole architect of public value. Governance for public value is and needs to be formed at the intersection of state, markets, educational institutions and civic activism — that is, in new hybrid entities — where the public good is deliberated with all its different and complementary models of making societal decisions. In short, cities and communities are where pathways to deliberative legitimate innovation in a disruptive technological era can and must be discovered.

Legitimacities: Notes on innovating our cities from the sidewalk up

For almost half a century, something vital has been missing from leftwing politics in western countries. Since the 70s, the left has changed how many people think about prejudice, personal identity and freedom. It has exposed capitalism’s cruelties. It has sometimes won elections, and sometimes governed effectively afterwards. But it has not been able to change fundamentally how wealth and work function in society – or even provide a compelling vision of how that might be done. The left, in short, has not had an economic policy.

Instead, the right has had one. Privatisation, deregulation, lower taxes for business and the rich, more power for employers and shareholders, less power for workers – these interlocking policies have intensified capitalism, and made it ever more ubiquitous. There have been immense efforts to make capitalism appear inevitable; to depict any alternative as impossible.

In this increasingly hostile environment, the left’s economic approach has been reactive – resisting these huge changes, often in vain – and often backward-looking, even nostalgic. For many decades, the same two critical analysts of capitalism, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes, have continued to dominate the left’s economic imagination. Marx died in 1883, Keynes in 1946. The last time their ideas had a significant influence on western governments or voters was 40 years ago, during the turbulent final days of postwar social democracy. Ever since, rightwingers and centrists have caricatured anyone arguing that capitalism should be reined in – let alone reshaped or replaced – as wanting to take the world “back to the 70s”. Altering our economic system has been presented as a fantasy – no more practical than time travel.

There is a dawning recognition that a new kind of economy is needed: fairer, more inclusive, less exploitative, less destructive of society and the planet. “We’re in a time when people are much more open to radical economic ideas,” 

“If we want to live in democratic societies, then we need to … allow communities to shape their local economies,” write Joe Guinan and Martin O’Neill, both prolific advocates of the new economics, in a recent article for the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) – a thinktank previously associated with New Labour. “It is no longer good enough to see the economy as some kind of separate technocratic domain in which the central values of a democratic society somehow do not apply.”

The new left economics: how a network of thinkers is transforming capitalism

James Lovelock - who coined the concept of the “Gaia Hypothesis” is about to turn 100 years old. He is publishing a new book coming this August.
Novacene picks up from that note of hope, and showcases another big idea. Gaia might, after all, be saved — by the singularity. This artificial-intelligence takeover, which so alarms many doomsayers, will be our redemption. Lovelock argues that increasingly self-engineering cyborgs with massive intellectual prowess and a telepathically shared consciousness will recognize that they, like organisms, are prey to climate change. They will understand that the planetary thermostat, the control system, is Gaia herself; and, in tandem with her, they will save the sum of remaining living tissue and themselves. The planet will enter the Novacene epoch: Lovelock’s coinage for the successor to the informally named Anthropocene.

James Lovelock at 100: the Gaia saga continues

Tim Radford reassesses the independent scientist’s groundbreaking body of writing.
Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence
James Lovelock will always be associated with one big idea: Gaia. The Oxford English Dictionary defines this as “the global ecosystem, understood to function in the manner of a vast self-regulating organism, in the context of which all living things collectively define and maintain the conditions conducive for life on earth”. It cites the independent scientist as the first to use the term (ancient Greek for Earth) in this way, in 1972.
On 26 July, Lovelock will be 100; his long career has sparkled with ideas. His first solo letter to Nature — on a new formula for the wax pencils used to mark Petri dishes — was published in 1945. But, unusually for a scientist, books are his medium of choice. He has written or co-authored around a dozen; the latest, Novacene, is published this month.

As that book’s preface notes, Lovelock’s nomination to the Royal Society in 1974 listed his work on “respiratory infections, air sterilisation, blood-clotting, the freezing of living cells, artificial insemination, gas chromatography and so on”. The “and so on” briefly referred to climate science, and to the possibility of extraterrestrial life. The story of Gaia began with a question posed by NASA scientists while Lovelock was a consultant at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. That is, how could you tell if a planet such as Mars harboured life?

This is an excellent 1 hour discussion with Esko Kilpi on the nature and future of work. This is a Must View for anyone interested in AI and Blockchain (distributed ledger) technologies.

Using AI and Blockchain Technology to Increase the Value of Our Work

Esko Kilpi, founder of the research and strategy group Esko Kilpi Company, is bold enough to defy the consensus of  all of our other Future of Work interviews and argue work is, in fact, not changing. “Work has always been the same thing and work is always going to be the same thing,” Kilpi says.

This is a great account of the state-of-the-Art in self-driving cars by Waymo. This is well worth the read to appreciate the design efforts being to enable this phase transition in transportation.
The arrival of self-driving cars doesn’t just mean we’ll one day lease Kia crossovers that can drive the family to Disneyland on their own. Autonomous vehicles are poised to disrupt transportation of people and goods alike into a post-ownership, post-Uber society. Small vehicles will deliver pizzas, groceries, and Ikea dressers. People will have sex in-transit. Cities will be planned differently, with real estate prices shaken, simply because a transit system has no limits, and a cab can appear at your door on a whim. Traffic fatalities will decrease by as much as 90%. Heck, buildings might even go mobile. With all this in mind, it’s almost an afterthought to consider that the automobile industry itself will change, as people may no longer buy cars at all.

The fate of self-driving cars hangs on a $7 trillion design problem

Waymo One is the world’s first self-driving taxi service. Just two rides in, and we’re already bored of the future.
It is precisely such outrĂ© robot behavior that Waymo’s designers and engineers have spent the past few years trying to humanize. And it’s a big job.

Waymo One is the company’s new, autonomous self-driving car service born almost 10 years ago out of Google’s highly experimental X lab. In 2014, Google unveiled its Firefly car, a cute, some might say dweebie, autonomous car without a wheel in Silicon Valley. Over time, they’ve grown up, spun off to be run by Alphabet instead of Google, and moved to the suburbs of Phoenix. Today, Waymo is a fleet of more than 600 modified Chrysler Pacificas, retrofitted with proprietary vision cameras, a giant Lidar (laser) scanner that harkens back to 1980s conversion vans, and ever-whirring secondary Lidar, which spin like zoetropes on the front and rear bumpers. It’s a dizzying array of technology that Waymo has worked tirelessly to render downright dull–a design strategy the company believes will be key to dominating the $7 trillion self-driving car industry.

Waymo, meanwhile, is the first to market with what’s dubbed “Level 4” self-driving technology. That means you can say, “pick me up here, and drop me off there,” and the car is smart enough to handle the rest. Because Waymo is the first through the breach during a time autonomous vehicle fatalities are still front-page news, public perception of self-driving cars will largely be shaped by this one company–at least to start. Which may help explain why Waymo is positioning autonomous vehicles not as exciting and futuristic, but as a nonthreatening public utility here to prevent 1.25 million deaths in auto accidents a year.

And so Waymo’s designers and engineers have worked to make the service “courteous and cautious,” in the words of Dan Chu, the head of product at Waymo. That narrative is reinforced across the full Waymo One experience. It’s everywhere from the car’s interface, which cautions and reassures you at every turn, to the way it drives, which brakes early and often to avoid the whiff of an accident. To assuage people’s fears of climbing into robo cars (and to prevent a truly catastrophic media event), Waymo One vehicles still have a human “driver” inside. It’s an employee who actually just sits awkwardly at the self-steering wheel with their hands on their lap, prepared to hit a red “stop” button that’s secured in the car’s center cup holder with what looks like beer koozie.

I believe that Design Science is a ‘master discipline’ an approach that is necessary to develop truly functional and more importantly ‘evolvable’ systems. This is a vital signal - for a creative, generative and evolvable future.
redesigned MacBook Pro keyboards with mechanisms that are, again, a fraction of a millimeter thinner, but that are easily defeated by dust and crumbs (the computer I am typing on right now—which is six months old—has a busted spacebar and 'r' key). These keyboards are not easily repairable, even by Apple, and many MacBook Pros have to be completely replaced due to a single key breaking. 

History Will Not Be Kind to Jony Ive

Ive, Apple's Chief Design Officer, is leaving the company. He leaves a legacy that made its products hard to repair and impossible to upgrade.
Jony Ive, the man most often credited with Apple’s visual, industrial, and product design, is leaving the company. He leaves a legacy of pushing its products toward disposability and unrepairability, a choice that has reverberated across the consumer electronics industry.

With Ive as Chief Design Officer, Apple released the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, AirPods, and various iterations of the iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook, and MacBook Pro. He was there for, and key to Apple's transformation from a computer company to the most valuable company in the world. Under his watch, Apple’s products became thinner, lighter, and sleeker. They also became steadily less modular, less consumer friendly, less upgradable, less repairable, and, at times, less functional than earlier models. These design decisions extended beyond Apple: Ive’s influence is obvious in products released by Samsung, HTC, Huawei, and others, which have similarly traded modularity for sleekness.

Ive is regularly held up as a genius. He has been knighted by the British crown, he was featured on the cover of the ultra-luxe Hodinkee magazine for people who buy watches that cost as much as cars, and his departure was announced in a six-part series by the Financial Times. Apple sells a $300 coffee table book dedicated to the genius of its (and his) design.

But history will not be kind to Ive, to Apple, or to their design choices. While the company popularized the smartphone and minimalistic, sleek, gadget design, it also did things like create brand new screws designed to keep consumers from repairing their iPhones.

Under Ive, Apple began gluing down batteries inside laptops and smartphones (rather than screwing them down) to shave off a fraction of a millimeter at the expense of repairability and sustainability.

This is another significant signal - all the more relevant as renewable energy emerges as the dominant geopolitical energy paradigm. Imagine if we used ‘zero-marginal cost’ renewable energy to desalinate ocean water and irrigate the Sahara with the best irrigation tech we can develop? Carbon capture, relieving pressure for populations, food and eco-diversity and more. 
As with all solutions (pun intended) new fields of problems arise - requiring a paradigm change in our design approaches to whole systems.
desalination is coming into play in many places around the world. Several factors are converging to bring new plants on line. Population has boomed in many water-stressed places, including parts of China, India, South Africa, and the United States, especially in Arizona and California. In addition, drought—some of it driven by a changing climate—is occurring in many regions that not that long ago thought their supplies were ample.
the cost of desalinated water has been coming down as the technology evolves and the cost of other sources increases. In the last three decades, the cost of desalination has dropped by more than half.


Each day 100 million gallons of seawater are pushed through semi-permeable membranes to create 50 million gallons of water that is piped to municipal users. Carlsbad, which became fully operational in 2015, creates about 10 percent of the fresh water the 3.1 million people in the region use, at about twice the cost of the other main source of water.

Expensive, yes, but vital for the fact that it is local and reliable. “Drought is a recurring condition here in California,” said Jeremy Crutchfield, water resources manager at the San Diego County Water Authority. “We just came out of a five-year drought in 2017. The plant has reduced our reliance on imported supplies, which is challenging at times here in California. So it’s a component for reliability.”

A second plant, similar to Carlsbad, is being built in Huntington, California with the same 50-million-gallon-a-day capability. Currently there are 11 desalination plants in California, and 10 more are proposed.

It’s been a long time coming for desalination—desal for short. For decades, we have been told it would one day turn oceans of salt water into fresh and quench the world’s thirst. But progress has been slow.

From self-driving cars to insect bots - the world of mobile sensors progresses. The image and the two short videos are worth the view. It is likely that commercial application is still far off.

The RoboBee flies solo—Cutting the power cord for the first untethered flight

The RoboBee—the insect-inspired microrobot developed by researchers at Harvard University—has become the lightest vehicle ever to achieve sustained flight without the assistance of a power cord. After decades of work, the researchers achieved untethered flight by making several important changes to the RoboBee, including the addition of a second pair of wings. That change, along with less visible changes to the actuators and transmission ratio, gave the RoboBee enough lift for the researchers to attach solar cells and an electronics panel.

In the Harvard Microrobotics Lab, on a late afternoon in August, decades of research culminated in a moment of stress as the tiny, groundbreaking Robobee made its first solo flight.

This is a vital signal - that we must all attend to - while it is not a weak signal many will doubt its truth.

Honesty is majority policy in lost wallet experiment

Public more likely to return wallet containing larger sum of money, global study finds
Here’s a moral dilemma: if you find a wallet stuffed with bank notes, do you pocket the cash or track down the owner to return it? We can each speak for ourselves, but now a team of economists have put the unsuspecting public to the test in a mass social experiment involving 17,000 “lost” wallets in 40 countries.

This is a great signal of the emerging research synesthesia - where data, and reality are analyzed through different modalities - that also enable not just the arts and sciences to collaborate - but to also illuminate implicit aesthetic frameworks acting as presuppositions and/or shaping what we perceive as facts.
The method does not yet allow for any kind of directed modifications—any changes in properties such as mechanical strength, elasticity, or chemical reactivity will be essentially random. "You still need to do the experiment," he says. When a new protein variant is produced, "there's no way to predict what it will do."

By turning molecular structures into sounds, researchers gain insight into protein structures and create new variations

Want to create a brand new type of protein that might have useful properties? No problem. Just hum a few bars.
In a surprising marriage of science and art, researchers at MIT have developed a system for converting the molecular structures of proteins, the basic building blocks of all living beings, into audible sound that resembles musical passages. Then, reversing the process, they can introduce some variations into the music and convert it back into new proteins never before seen in nature.

Although it's not quite as simple as humming a new protein into existence, the new system comes close. It provides a systematic way of translating a protein's sequence of amino acids into a musical sequence, using the physical properties of the molecules to determine the sounds. Although the sounds are transposed in order to bring them within the audible range for humans, the tones and their relationships are based on the actual vibrational frequencies of each amino acid molecule itself, computed using theories from quantum chemistry.

The system was developed by Markus Buehler, the McAfee Professor of Engineering and head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at MIT, along with postdoc Chi Hua Yu and two others. As described in the journal ACS Nano, the system translates the 20 types of amino acids, the building blocks that join together in chains to form all proteins, into a 20-tone scale. Any protein's long sequence of amino acids then becomes a sequence of notes.

An interesting signal on a number of dimensions - serious efforts to deal with the challenges to our pollinators - but also modeling how we are inevitably shifting to a human managed planet with a digital environment/atmosphere.

Big data and innovations for healthy bees

Big data, an interactive platform and six different technological innovations are the core of the recently started Horizon 2020 project B-GOOD ( in its 4-year mission to pave the way toward healthy and sustainable beekeeping across the European Union.

In close cooperation with the EU Bee Partnership, the project aims to develop a EU-wide bee health and management data platform, which will enable sharing of knowledge between scientists, beekeepers and other actors in the area.

To ensure interoperability and the establishment of the platform as a centralised EU bee data hub and support beekeepers in maintaining honey bees healthy, the European Food Safety Authority—EFSA's Health Status Index (HSI) will be further extended and operationalized.

This will be done for example by selection of key health indicators, creation of user-friendly protocols, development of novel tools to monitor health parameters giving attention for the honeybee gene pool.

This is no new signal - simply the confirmation of the inevitable emergence of our domestication of DNA (and related bio-informatics). After all it is the ‘differences’ that make a difference - that is at the horizon - evolution. So the question (one that I asked in 2010) - will the first national gene sequencing census occur by 2015? 
Many questions are still to be solved, however. For instance, only 1.5% of genes encode proteins, and the functions of most genes are unknown. In addition, most genes do not function independently, but seem to participate in complex pathways, networks and systems. The HGP also raised awareness that subtle genomic variations can be associated with human diseases, including but not limited to cancer and genetic diseases.

The genomes of all individuals are nearly identical, and it is the small differences among them (around 0.1% of the genome), such as a single letter change, that result in the differences between us. 
The cost per genome sequenced has been reduced from $3 billion to less than $1,000 in the past 15 years, and is expected to be further reduced by 10 times within the next five years.

However, as we embrace these advances in genomic medicine, we must also consider emerging problems caused by inconsistent results among underrepresented populations. Genetic research and disease treatments have traditionally been misled by biased genome datasets that are skewed by the overrepresentation of individuals from well-studied groups

We are witnessing a revolution in genomics - and it's only just begun

Have you had your genome sequenced? If you asked this question five years ago, people would have thought you were crazy. Today, genome sequencing is already for sale in supermarkets. It costs under $600 and takes less than a week for an individual to have his or her genome sequenced, and can even be ordered online.

Fifteen years ago, the first ever genome sequencing project carried out on humans, called the Human Genome Project (HGP), was completed. It took more than 13 years to accomplish, cost more than $3 billion and drew on efforts from scientists and non-scientists around the world.

Since then, the entire landscape of genome sequencing has been revolutionised. It is hard to believe that we are now talking about sequencing the genomes of a million people. In fact, the rate of progress in genomics development resembles - if not surpasses - that of Moore’s Law in processor development. Tremendous advances have been made in the field of DNA sequencing - but this is just the beginning.

Well it’s not Soylent Green - but this is a vital signal for the future of food.
“It is a completely new kind of food, a new kind of protein, different to all the food on the market today in how it is produced as it does not need agriculture or aquaculture,”

Plan to sell 50m meals made from electricity, water and air

Solar Foods hopes wheat flour-like product will hit target in supermarkets within two years
Solar Foods is also working with the European Space Agency to supply astronauts on a mission to Mars after devising a method it says creates a protein-heavy product that looks and tastes like wheat flour at a cost of €5 (£4.50) per kilo.

The Helsinki-based company, assisted by research from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and the Lappeenranta University of Technology, will apply to the EU for a novel food licence later this year before starting commercial production in 2021.
The powder known as Solein can be given texture through 3D printing, or added to dishes and food products as an ingredient.

It is produced through a process similar to brewing beer. Living microbes are put in liquid and fed with carbon dioxide and hydrogen bubbles, which have been released from water through the application of electricity. The microbes create protein, which is then dried to make the powder.

The stranger than fiction meme continues to surprise me - this is awesome. There are some people worried about the potential impact on human health of 5G technology - sort of wanting to wear tin foil head covers. But life is enabled by electrons flowing in all manner of ways.
“Not to sound too crazy, but we have an electric planet,” said John Stolz, a microbiologist at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

Each wire runs vertically up through the mud, measuring up to two inches in length. And each one is made up of thousands of cells stacked on top of each other like a tower of coins. The cells build a protein sleeve around themselves that conducts electricity.
And cable bacteria grow to astonishing densities. One square inch of sediment may contain as much as eight miles of cables.

Wired Bacteria Form Nature’s Power Grid: ‘We Have an Electric Planet’

Electroactive bacteria were running current through “wires” long before humans learned the trick.
Electroactive bacteria were unknown to science until a couple of decades ago. But now that scientists know what to look for, they’re finding this natural electricity across much of the world, even on the ocean floor. It alters entire ecosystems, and may help control the chemistry of the Earth.

In the mid-1980s, Dr. Stolz was helping to study a baffling microbe fished out of the Potomac River by his colleague Derek Lovley. The microbe, Geobacter metallireducens, had a bizarre metabolism. “It took me six months to figure out how to grow it in the lab,” said Dr. Lovley, now a microbiologist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Like us, Geobacter feed on carbon compounds. As our cells break down these compounds to generate energy, they strip off free electrons and transfer them to oxygen atoms, producing water molecules. Geobacter couldn’t use oxygen, however, because it lived at the bottom of the Potomac, where the element was in short supply.

Instead, Geobacter transfers its electrons to iron oxide, or rust, Dr. Lovley and his colleagues discovered. The process helps turn rust into another iron compound, called magnetite.

Over the years, he and his colleagues have come across Geobacter in many places far beyond the Potomac. They’ve even encountered the bacteria in oil drilled from deep underground. “It’s basically found everywhere,” Dr. Lovley said.

Electroactive microbes are so abundant, in fact, that researchers now suspect that they have a profound impact on the planet. The bioelectric currents may convert minerals from one form to another, for instance, fostering the growth of a diversity of other species. Some researchers have speculated that electroactive microbes may help regulate the chemistry of both the oceans and the atmosphere.

A very interesting signal - not just of a feature of Firefox - but of a new privacy security paradigm - recasting ‘fake news’ as a screen for privacy from tracking.

Firefox Will Give You a Fake Browsing History to Fool Advertisers

Using the 'Track THIS' tool opens up 100 tabs at a time that will make you seem like a hypebeast, a filthy rich person, a doomsday prepper, or an influencer.
Security through obscurity is out, security through tomfoolery is in.
That’s the basic philosophy sold by Track THIS, “a new kind of incognito” browsing project, which opens up 100 tabs crafted to fit a specific character—a hypebeast, a filthy rich person, a doomsday prepper, or an influencer. The idea is that your browsing history will be depersonalized and poisoned, so advertisers won’t know how to target ads to you. It was developed as a collaboration between mschf (pronounced "mischief") internet studios and Mozilla's Firefox as a way of promoting Firefox Quantum, the newest Firefox browser.

“These trackers and these websites really commoditize you, and they don’t really make you feel like a person,” Daniel Greenberg, director of strategy and distribution for mschf, said in a phone call. “So we wanted to do something visceral that makes the user feel like they’re in control again.”

Imagine a ‘national game’ one based on a nation’s economy, culture, resources and more - that citizens could play to enact their favorite theories of what makes a ‘good’ world. Imagine this being a massive multiplayer online game - that educated us all about the connections and consequences of policies?
Ryan and Deci say that this boils down to competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Mastering something, feeling free to follow your interests and values, and having ways to bond with others give you the sense you are living well—no matter your cultural heritage. People everywhere—Europe, Asia, South America—need these things like they need vitamin C
Cognitive science has detailed the rich experience of playing video games. A 2017 paper analyzed 116 scientific studies of video game effects, and the conclusions were impressive. Yes, video games can become a fixation, but gamers tap into brain areas associated with improved attention spans, visuospatial skills, and motor systems more effectively than non-gamers. Further studies have argued that playing video games can help overcome depression and improve memory.

Playing Video Games Makes Us Fully Human

No other media meets our emotional and social needs like electronic games.
The popularity of video games is staggering. Last year, the top 25 public game companies—China’s Tencent, Sony, and Microsoft ranking highest—had annual earnings of more than $100 billion for the first time. The United States video game industry earned more than global box office movie ticket sales, U.S. video streaming subscriptions, and the U.S. music industry. By 2021, according to Statista, a market research firm, 2.7 billion people will be playing video games, up from 1.8 billion five years ago. A Pew survey reveals the age group that plays most often is 18 to 29.3In the 30 to 49 age group, nearly 50 percent of men and 40 percent of women play. A study in Europe shows people 45 and up are more likely to play video games than children aged 6 to 14.

Pete Etchells, a professor of psychology and communications in England, and author of a new book, Lost in a Good Game, thinks video games tap into the reaches of emotional and moral faculties that traditional arts and entertainment can’t reach. The player can drive action, exert agency, and explore imagined worlds freely. Video games, Etchells says, “embody the principles of existentialism.” A story can be cathartic but only a game can make you feel guilty for what you’ve done or were compelled to do. A 2010 paper in Review of General Psychology states, “Compared with other media such as books, films, and radio, electronic games appear to have an unusually expansive appeal and serve a surprising number of emotional, social, and intellectual needs.” For Etchells, an avid gamer, video games are a “creative medium” that can “offer us unparalleled opportunities for exploring what it means to be human.”