Thursday, November 13, 2014

Friday Thinking 14 November 2014

Hello all –Friday Thinking is curated in the spirit of sharing. Many thanks to those who enjoy this. J

The following principles are derived from a 2011 article by Google’s SVP of YouTube, Susan Wojcicki.

  1. Focus on the user: Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and many other successful entrepreneurs speak about the importance of building customer-centric businesses. Everything you do should solve a problem or fill a need for your “user.”
  2. Open will win: In a hyperconnected world with massive amounts of cognitive surplus, it’s critical to be open, allow the crowd to help you innovate, and build on each other’s ideas.
  3. Ideas can come from everywhere: Ideas are everywhere these days, and tapping into the power of the crowd is the best way to succeed fast. This is the basis for XPRIZE itself – when you’re looking for a breakthrough, turn to crowdsourcing for incredible ideas, insights, products and services.
  4. Think big, but start small: This is the basis for Singularity University’s 10^9+ thinking. You can start a company on Day 1 that affects a small group (with a minimally viable product), but aim to positively impact a billion people within a decade.
  5. Never fail to fail: The importance of rapid iteration: Fail frequently, fail fast and fail forward.
  6. Spark with imagination, fuel with data: Agility — nimbleness — is a key discriminator against the large and linear. And agility requires lots of access to new and often wild ideas and lots of good data to separate the worthwhile from the wooly. The most successful startups today are data-driven. They measure everything and use machine learning and algorithms to help them analyze that data to make decisions.
  7. Be a platform: Look at the most successful companies getting billion-dollar valuations — AirBnb, Uber, Instagram, Whatsapp — they are the platform plays. Is yours?
  8. Have a mission that matters. Does the company you’re starting have a massively transformative purpose (MTP)? Passion is fundamental to forward progress, and having an MTP is absolutely necessary to keep you moving during the most difficult times, keep you focused and attract the best talent to your company.
Peter Diamandis - Google’s 8 innovation principles

In today’s landscape of complex dilemmas in food economies, shifting concepts in work and education, technological disruption, economic distribution and disparities, shrinking job markets, political upheaval, class disenfranchisement, environmental collapse and resource wars, almost every single issue has become a systemic, complex problem with no obvious solution. And our leaders are desperately seeking for order in the midst of chaos. So, what should we do?

The common approach has been to avoid or attempt to “kill” complexity, but in this environment of accelerating change, that advice is similar to suggesting that we stop breathing in order to avoid the flu. One of the first things I tell clients is if they attempt to kill complexity in order to successfully navigate the future, they might as well quit doing business altogether. Whether building companies, steering governments or achieving personal goals, avoiding complexity isn’t the answer anymore. Rather, just the opposite is true.

In our world of accelerating complexity, we must recognize that it isn’t the rapidly changing landscape that is the real enemy of aspirational futures, but rather it’s our mental maps that are tuned to a way of thinking and acting that worked in the previous era. What we need now isn’t better teaching on mindsets that were successful in the last economy. We need to shift our models. Businesses, organizations, innovators, and entrepreneurs will need a new platform from which to operate. Instead of operating out of fear and a “fortress mentality,” leaders must embrace the increasing complexity as a matrix from which to create new ideas, new products and services, and new solutions.  … complexity is actually the catalyst for new ideas that can solve age-old problems. In this new world of rapid change, we must learn to “dance with complexity” rather than attempting to kill it.

What exactly does a future in which we “dance with complexity” look like?
Turning Wicked Problems Into Wicked Opportunities

This is an vital issue for the flourishing of people in the digital environment. This portal has lots of information worth the view.
The Public Sphere Project - The Commons
One of the biggest problems in contemporary life is the unchecked growth of market values as a way to govern resources and ourselves. This is resulting in the privatization and commodification or "enclosure" of the commons. Resources that morally or legally belong to everyone are increasingly coming under the control of markets. Not only does enclosure result in higher prices and the need to ask for permission to use something previously available to all, it shifts ownership and control to private companies. The market efficiencies that businesses seek can be illusory, however, because they often depend upon unacknowledged subsidies from the commons (for example, discount access to public resources) and the displacement of costs onto the commons (pollution, social disruption, harm to future generations). Enclosure does not add value in the aggregate; it merely privatizes value at the expense of the common wealth.

Using "the commons" as a new discourse helps us re-frame the terms of discussion for many issues and declare our personal stake in protecting shared public resources. It helps draw new linkages among disparate market enclosures, and in this sense, helps fragmented public-interest constituencies develop a new, shared language. At the same time the discourse of the commons validates a number of specific governance models; civic institutions, stakeholder trusts, legal mechanisms, social customs and norms; that can help us protect and manage our common assets effectively. The emerging commons sector won't replace corporations or markets, but it will complement and temper them. In so doing, it will provide benefits corporations can't supply: healthy ecosystems, economic security, stronger communities and a participatory culture. And it will curb the corporate invasion of realms that we hold dear — nature, our minds, our food and our democracy.

This article is one of many ‘patterns’ that are discussed in this project. A pattern could be understood as a fundamental concept important in thinking about society and democracy n the future. A list of ‘patterns’ can be found here:
A Pattern Language

Speaking of a commons - here’s a great article by Dana Boyd. This is especially relevant in light of how social network platforms keep us in their enclosures through the ‘hostage capital’ of keeping our networks unaccessible by other platforms.
Net Neutrality is sooo much more than access to the “tubes”…
Like many other geeks in my world, I reacted to Obama’s push for net neutrality with a succinct “it’s about time.” Net neutrality isn’t about competing business agendas; it’s a civil rights issue. And, in my world at least, civil rights trumps business interests. Of course, getting the public to understand net neutrality seems to be a brutal task. Heck, getting civil rights leaders to understand how net neutrality affects them seems challenging in and of itself. (If you’re not familiar with the issues, start with The Oatmeal or watch “The Internet Must Go”.)

As I watch these debates unfold, one thing keeps nagging at me… Many of the corporate actors who are gung ho about fighting for net neutrality also provide differential service. Much to my horror, I’m watching the free (as in speech) and open internet crumble in many different forms. Net neutrality is such an obvious pillar that I still can’t believe that we’re debating it. But what about the broader decline in interoperability? What about the international conversations about creating separate internets? The issue of net neutrality has much more depth than simply talking about whether or not telcos can be trusted to provide a fair service (although that should be obvious by now).

All around us, I’m watching core principles of the internet sputter as key services crack. Consider email, the first “application” of the internet. In the 1960s, early incarnations of email weren’t interoperable across systems. With the rise of the ARPANET, email started to get standardized, making it possible to communicate across servers. By the time I got online, there was the closed AOL universe that didn’t talk to anyone and then there was the rest of the internet where anyone who could get access to a server, whether it be a university server or a prodigy account, could talk to anyone else via email. I took this for granted. Many of us still take this for granted, even as this reality is crumbling around us.

Here is nice article about the a few disruptive technologies and the future of work.
101 Endangered Jobs by 2030
Business owners today are actively deciding whether their next hire should be a person or a machine. After all, machines can work in the dark and don’t come with decades of HR case law requiring time off for holidays, personal illness, excessive overtime, chronic stress or anxiety.

If you’ve not heard the phrase “technological unemployment,” brace yourself; you’ll be hearing it a lot over the coming years. Technology is automating jobs out of existence at a record clip, and it’s only getting started.
Yes, my predictions of endangered jobs will likely strike fear into the hearts of countless millions trying to find meaningful work. But while crystal balls everywhere are showing massive changes on the horizon, it’s not all negative news.

For those well attuned to the top three skills needed for the future – adaptability, flexibility, and resourcefulness – there will be more opportunities than they can possibly imagine.

Ok so we all have to get familiar with the term technological unemployment - but maybe there’s is a complementary terms we also have to be ready for - the Maker Movement. There’s two short videos as well.
Makers, Hackerspaces & JF Sebastian
Creativity, Hope, Community &…Blade Runner ? ☺
The Maker era is in full bloom.…a BIG deal!
Paraphrasing Wikipedia, the Maker culture represents a technology-based extension of the DIY culture; typically including engineering oriented pursuits, such as electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, the use of CNC (computer numerically controlled) tools as well as more traditional activities such as woodworking, metalworking, arts and crafts. Makers encourage invention and prototyping.

To me, having touched Heathkits, Radio Shack products, and Lego, I’d have to call it a renaissance movement. The cultural rebirth of a distributed community of optimists producing a massive wave of creative wonders. It’s a tremendous and growing movement of tinkering innovators spanning the planet, doing what they love; often non-profits, non-corporates, often meeting in self-sponsored safe havens to tease a delightful new order from the aether. Very few barriers, very few rules, often all they ask is, “Just be excellent to each other.” Co-operating, Co-laborating, Co-creating. Fueling local economies. Awesome.

If we think that ‘maker space’ is only about 3D - this next one should make us think that the next kids chemistry set - will be the home genetic kit.
17-Year-Old Builds Algae Biofuel Lab in Her Bedroom to Win $100K Intel Science Talent Search Prize
Meet a next-generation scientist making the next generation of biofuel. 17-year-old Sara Volz invented a process that increases the amount of biofuel produced by algae to win this year’s Intel Science Talent Search. The Colorado Springs student claimed the $100,000 grand prize with her project, which uses artificial selection to pinpoint which organisms are churning out the most fuel. This new method not only helps to bring down the overall cost of algae biofuel, but it was developed primarily in her bedroom under a lofted bed!

The Intel Science Talent Search included seven other finalists, among them young researchers who received a combined $1.25 million by the Intel Foundation for their efforts. Society for Science & the Public has held the competition since 1942. “Society for Science & the Public is proud to join Intel in congratulating Sara Volz for her scientific accomplishments,” said Elizabeth Marincola, president of the organization. “Sara’s work demonstrates how a young person who is fascinated by science, which she has been since a kindergarten science fair, can work with few sophisticated resources and have real impact on society.”

Sarah was selected from a pool of 1,712 high school seniors. Her investigations into algae have not only earned her a major distinction, but have contributed to efforts in curbing climate change through clean energy production.

Moving past 3D printing here’s something more about hacking matter.
The main advantage of these programmable materials (such as wood below)  is the potential to make things that can respond to their environment without having to introduce complex, expensive, heavy actuation systems.
MIT and Carbitex make progress in 4D printing with programmable carbon fiber
In our in depth guide to the future disruptive technology everyone should know about we mentioned 4D printing. This emerging technology will allow users to print objects that then reshape themselves or self-assemble over time. Imagine a printed cube that folds before your eyes. The fourth dimension in 4D printing refers to materials that are able to change and mutate over time when exposed to water, temperature changes and/or air to self-assemble.

So what breakthrough has there been in 3D printing?
The MIT Self-Assembly Lab (under the direction of Skylar Tibbits) has been developing a variety of programmable materials with the aims of making advancements in 4D printing. Additionally, the Lab’s is working on a combination of textiles and unorthodox materials such as flexible carbon fiber.

Working alongside Carbitex (an advanced materials company) with a disruptive new flexible carbon fiber technology, CX6™, they have created a system to produce programmable carbon fiber material that can twist and respond to a several different activation energies.

Here is a 11 min video presentation from the Quantified Self website.
Akshay Patil: Better Relationships Through Technology
“There was nothing in my life pushing me to to have these more intimate relationships, the few people I actually care about.”

When Akshay Patil was putting together the guest list for his wedding he realized that it had been a long time since he’d spoken with some of the the people he was inviting. Even with his good friends, he surprised by his lack of communication, his inability to stay connected. As anyone faced with this realization he decided to try and change, but the realities of life quickly crept back and as they say, old habits die hard. When he left his last job and began looking for projects to work on, this troubling area of his life crept back to the fore. Maybe there was something he could do better track and change his communication and relationships. Using his development skills, and the ability to gather data from his Android phone, he decided to build a system that helped him stay in touch with the people that mattered most to him. In this talk, presented at the New York QS meetup group, Akshay talks about what’s he’s learned from using this app, including when it fails.

Speaking of better relationships through technology - here’s a hint a future that may be sooner than we can anticipate. There is lots to think about in this development - one of which is a profound rethinking of how we train people - a digital form of Master-Apprentice relationship. There is a 2 min video as well.
UW study shows direct brain interface between humans
Sometimes, words just complicate things. What if our brains could communicate directly with each other, bypassing the need for language?

University of Washington researchers have successfully replicated a direct brain-to-brain connection between pairs of people as part of a scientific study following the team’s initial demonstration a year ago. In the newly published study, which involved six people, researchers were able to transmit the signals from one person’s brain over the Internet and use these signals to control the hand motions of another person within a split second of sending that signal.

“The new study brings our brain-to-brain interfacing paradigm from an initial demonstration to something that is closer to a deliverable technology,” said co-author Andrea Stocco, a research assistant professor of psychology and a researcher at UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. “Now we have replicated our methods and know that they can work reliably with walk-in participants.”

The project could also eventually lead to “brain tutoring,” in which knowledge is transferred directly from the brain of a teacher to a student.

This article should be a must read for anyone engaged in serious communications via digital platforms. Although it discusses GitHub it is great policy guidelines for all forms of social media and collaborative platforms.
15 rules for communicating at GitHub
At GitHub, we have a very specific way of working. For one, we use GitHub to build GitHub. Not just for code, but to collaborate on things like Legal, Marketing, and internal policies. But it’s not that the medium defines the workflow (although it certainly helps), in fact, it’s the other way around.

GitHub’s communication style can be summed up in one word: asynchronous. Much of this is defined by the workflows of the open source community, where many of us got our start, but part of it, as a distributed company, is out of necessity. Like open source, rarely are two people in the same place at the same time, working on the same thing at the same time. Yet as in the case of Wikipedia versus Encyclopedia Britannica, distributed workflows produce better results than their traditional counterparts, and I’d argue that everyday quality of life is better for those involved, as a result.

Asynchronous communication through high-fidelity mediums like issues and chat eliminate the endemic “you had to be there” aspect of most corporate workflows, andreduces the need for a dedicated management class to capture, collect, and shuttle information back and forth between business units. You could have the best tools in the world, but without the necessary social norms, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Culture’s inherently hard to define, but here’s 15 “rules”, that represent the intangible in how we approach communication at GitHub:

This article is well worth the read if only for the references to the new Big Data tools becoming available to more and more people. Thinking of the about the possibility of technological unemployment for traditional survey social science - Big Data tools and the need to develop data science capability should be an alarm bell.
Big data: 8 ideas to watch
A look at the major forces shaping the data world.
...we marvel at the impressive data applications and tools now being employed by companies in many industries. Data is having an impact on business models and profitability. It’s hard to find a non-trivial application that doesn’t use data in a significant manner. Companies who use data and analytics to drive decision-making continue to outperform their peers.

Up until recently, access to big data tools and techniques required significant expertise. But tools have improved and communities have formed to share best practices. We’re particularly excited about solutions that target new data sets and data types. In an era when the requisite data skill sets cut across traditional disciplines, companies have also started to emphasize the importance of processes, culture, and people.

….To be clear, data analysts have always drawn from social science (e.g., surveys, psychometrics) and design. We are, however, noticing that many more data scientists are expanding their collaborations with product designers and social scientists.

...Every few months, there seems to be an article criticizing the hype surrounding big data. Dig deeper and you find that many of the criticisms point to poor analysis and highlight issues known to experienced data analysts. Our perspective is that issues such as privacy and the cultural impact of models are much more significant.

As we look into the future, here are the main topics that guide our current thinking about the data landscape.

Here’s more about Moore’s Law.
1 Trillion Cycles Per Second: DARPA’s New Circuit Breaks Records
Officials from Guinness World Records recognized DARPA’s Terahertz Electronics program for creating the fastest solid-state amplifier integrated circuit ever measured.
The ten-stage common-source amplifier operates at a speed of one terahertz (1012 GHz), or one trillion cycles per second—150 billion cycles faster than the existing world record of 850 gigahertz set in 2012.

“Terahertz circuits promise to open up new areas of research and unforeseen applications in the sub-millimeter-wave spectrum, in addition to bringing unprecedented performance to circuits operating at more conventional frequencies,” said Dev Palmer, DARPA program manager.

“This breakthrough could lead to revolutionary technologies such as high-resolution security imaging systems, improved collision-avoidance radar, communications networks with many times the capacity of current systems and spectrometers that could detect potentially dangerous chemicals and explosives with much greater sensitivity.”

In relation to better relationships and to Big Data - this article is pointing to the need for new paradigms of research and disciplinary relationships. There is an increasing realization that the truly vital domains of new knowledge will require more than interdiscipline or multi-discipline approaches. Research centers will have to be ready to foster a trans-disciplinary development of knowledge - knowledge outside the currents streams of segregation of disciplines - especially as we realize the dissolving boundary between the biological and the social-technological-cultural. Also this approach will likely accelerate the development of new knowledge.
New interdisciplinary center at MIT to focus on the microbiome and human health
Partnership with MGH, other institutions to foster regional ecosystem for rapidly evolving field.
More than 90 percent of the genes in our bodies do not come from our own cells. Instead, the vast majority of this genetic material is found within the trillions of microorganisms that call our bodies home. Collectively known as the microbiome, these communities of bacteria and other microbes play a significant role in the functioning of the digestive tract, immune system, skin, and other body systems.

In recent years, the microbiome has attracted increasing attention for its role in health and disease. This week, MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) announce the launch of the Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics, a new interdisciplinary center dedicated to advancing the understanding of the microbiome’s role in human biology and harnessing this knowledge to develop treatments for related illnesses.

With an expendable $25 million fund to support research and operations for the first five years, the center will fuel collaborations at the junction of clinical practice, basic research, computational biology, and engineering — critical disciplines for gathering and analyzing vast quantities of data related to the diverse types of bacteria within the human body, and their interactions with each other and the body’s own cells and organs. The ultimate goal is to develop tools and techniques for treating diseases and conditions linked to an altered microbiome.

“Today, low-cost genetic sequencing and high-powered computational methods give us an unprecedented ability to collect information about the human microbiome, but our ability to translate this data into usable knowledge is lagging behind,” says Arup K. Chakraborty, the Robert T. Haslam (1911) Professor of Chemical Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, and Biological Engineering at MIT, and director of the MIT Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES). “This center is built around a bold idea: to accelerate our progress toward a world in which conditions with a genesis in the microbiome can be prevented and treated by solutions derived from a deep scientific understanding of the microbiome.”

Speaking about the potential influence of our microbial ecologies on human health and cognition.
A virus has been discovered that affects cognitive abilities in healthy people
A virus that infects human brains and makes us more stupid has been discovered, according to scientists in the US.  The algae virus, never before observed in healthy people, was found to affect cognitive functions including visual processing and spatial awareness.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the University of Nebraska stumbled upon the discovery when they were undertaking an unrelated study into throat microbes. Surprisingly, the researchers found DNA in the throats of healthy individuals that matched the DNA of a virus known to infect green algae.

Dr Robert Yolken, a virologist who led the original study, said: “This is a striking example showing that the ‘innocuous’ microorganisms we carry can affect behaviour and cognition….

This article is definitely not about ‘ready for prime time’ application - but… maybe not that far away from serious applications.
Controlling Genes With Your Mind
You’d be forgiven at this point for wondering whether the work is the product of “because we can” thinking or even a mad scientist, but in the long term it might have practical medical value.
Scientists have figured out how to control genes with their minds.
You read that right. A team of bioengineers has developed a proof-of-concept system with which a person can regulate simple gene functions using electrical signals in his or her brain. Odd though it seems, it might one day be a useful medical tool, the team reports in Nature Communications.

Actually, it shouldn’t be that surprising. The biology and neuroscience behind their technique isn’t all that new or even complicated by modern standards. Biologists first began to understand how to control gene expression—the process that allows organisms to produce different kinds of cells from the same DNA—in E. coli during the 1970s. More recently, bioengineers have devised ways to regulate gene expression in mice and humans. Theoretically, doctors could use gene expression to treat disease through various relatively non-invasive techniques—for example, illuminating light-sensitive proteins that bind to particular, targeted genes in the brain could help treat depression.

At the same time, brain scientists have stretched the boundaries of what we can do with our minds alone. Motivated in part by a desire to help those who’ve lost limbs, researchers have designed robotic arms a person can control using brain signals alone, and you can buy similar, though somewhat less sophisticated, devices online.

Here’s something for all smartphone users. The article also include the top 10 data plan eaters and top 10 storage hogs.
Named and shamed: the worst battery and performance sapping apps
Did someone say poor battery life and resource hogging bloatware? These are all too familiar complaints in the world of Android, so you might be interested in this little collection of the biggest culprits.

Anti-virus provider AVG has collected data from a variety of anonymous users, who all agreed to share information via the AVG Android app, in order to determine which apps are the worst when it comes to draining your precious battery life, performance, and storage.

As you might expect, apps that constantly refresh themselves in the background to pull data from the web are the biggest performance drainers. Facebook’s busy app topped the list, along with Instagram, BlackBerry Messenger and textPlus services also eating up precious resources. Here’s the list of top 10 apps that are most likely to be slowing down your smartphone.

This is just plain Awesome. A 4 min video - Amazon delivery drones aren’t that far-fetched.
Flying Robot Rockstars
KMel Robotics presents a team of flying robots that have taken up new instruments to play some fresh songs. The hexrotors create music in ways never seen before, like playing a custom single string guitar hooked up to an electric guitar amp. Drums are hit using a deconstructed piano action. And there are bells. Lots of bells.

Speaking of robots - here’s something coming soon to unemploy the retired security guard.
Rise of the Robot Security Guards
Startup Knightscope is preparing to roll out human-size robot patrols.
As the sun set on a warm November afternoon, a quartet of five-foot-tall, 300-pound shiny white robots patrolled in front of Building 1 on Microsoft’s Silicon Valley campus. Looking like a crew of slickDaleks imbued with the grace of Fred Astaire, they whirred quietly across the concrete in different directions, stopping and turning in place so as to avoid running into trash cans, walls, and other obstacles.

The robots managed to appear both cute and intimidating. This friendly-but-not-too-friendly presence is meant to serve them well in jobs like monitoring corporate and college campuses, shopping malls, and schools.

Knightscope, a startup based in Mountain View, California, has been busy designing, building, and testing the robot, known as the K5, since 2013. Seven have been built so far, and the company plans to deploy four before the end of the year at an as-yet-unnamed technology company in the area. The robots are designed to detect anomalous behavior, such as someone walking through a building at night, and report back to a remote security center.

Speaking of flying - well this is not flying but truly a reimagining of transportation.
Frictionless Maglev for transportation that is 50 times more efficient than Rail
Evacuated Tube Transport Technology (ET3) is magnetically levitated capsules in vacuum tubes.
Propulsion energy required is 100,000 times less than required by a car. ET3 will achieve 50 times more transportation per kWh (or ton of CO2) than electric cars or trains. The cost is ten times less. They calculate they can build an ET3 system for about $7 million per mile.

ET3 has been awarded two recent patents. One is for the system and another patent is for the interchange methods. There was an original patent in 1999.

ET3 is “Space Travel on Earth” where car sized passenger capsules travel in 1.5m (5') diameter tubes on frictionless maglev (magnetic levitated vehicle). Air is permanently removed from the two-way tubes that are built along a travel route. Airlocks at portals allow transfer of capsules without admitting air. Linear electric motors accelerate the capsules, which then coast through the vacuum for the remainder of the trip using no additional power. Most of the energy is regenerated as the capsules slow down where kinetic energy of the capsule is converted to electric power with a linear electric generator

Shameless again.
The dynamic of a Wayfinding - an Unfolding Mapping
The problem with complexity is that everything is interconnected. While history is fundamental in shaping complex systems, explaining the unfolding evolution and future of a system is not like explaining the past behavior of a system. As they say, 20/20 hindsight doesn’t translate into accurate foresight. But hindsight can so easily seduce us to thinking we can create maps of changing conditions.


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