Thursday, January 15, 2015

Friday Thinking, 16 January 2015

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

Hear, O Internet.
It has been sixteen years since our previous communication.
In that time the People of the Internet — you and me and all our friends of friends of friends, unto the last Kevin Bacon — have made the Internet an awesome place, filled with wonders and portents.
From the serious to the lolworthy to the wtf, we have up-ended titans, created heroes,  and changed the most basic assumptions about
How Things Work and Who We Are.
But now all the good work we've done together faces mortal dangers.
When we first came before you, it was to warn of the threat posed by those who did not understand that they did not understand the Internet.
These are The Fools, the businesses that have merely adopted the trappings of the Internet.
Now two more hordes threaten all that we have built for one another.
The Marauders understand the Internet all too well. They view it as theirs to plunder, extracting our data and money from it, thinking that we are the fools.
But most dangerous of all is the third horde: Us.
A horde is an undifferentiated mass of people. But the glory of the Internet is that it lets us connect as diverse and distinct individuals.
We all like mass entertainment. Heck, TV's gotten pretty great these days, and the Net lets us watch it when we want. Terrific.
But we need to remember that delivering mass media is the least of the Net's powers.
The Net's super-power is connection without permission. Its almighty power is that we can make of it whatever we want.
It is therefore not time to lean back and consume the oh-so-tasty junk food created by Fools and Marauders as if our work were done. It is time to breathe in the fire of the Net and transform every institution that would play us for a patsy.
An organ-by-organ body snatch of the Internet is already well underway. Make no mistake: with a stroke of a pen, a covert handshake, or by allowing memes to drown out the cries of the afflicted we can lose the Internet we love.
We come to you from the years of the Web's beginning. We have grown old together on the Internet. Time is short.
We, the People of the Internet, need to remember the glory of its revelation so that we reclaim it now in the name of what it truly is.
Doc Searls & David Weinberger - New Clues
January 8, 2015

Tomorrow's applications will consume multiple sources of data to create a fine-grained context; they will leverage calendar data, location data, historic clickstream data, social contacts, information from wearables, and much more. All that rich data will be used as the input for predictive analytics and personalization services. Eventually, data-driven experiences will be the norm.

And this basic idea doesn't even begin to cover the advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, deep learning and beyond -- collectively called "machine intelligence". Looking forward even more, computers will learn to do things themselves from data rather than being programmed by hand. They can learn faster themselves than we'd be able to program them. In a world where software builds itself, computers will only be limited by the data they can or cannot access, not by their algorithms. In such a future, is the value in the software or in the data?
The future of software is data-driven

Here are two very interesting posts - a MUST READ for anyone interested in social media research and in the youth cohort. For example - on Facebook -In short, many have nailed this on the head. It’s dead to us. Facebook is something we all got in middle school because it was cool but now is seen as an awkward family dinner party we can't really leave.
A Teenager’s View on Social Media
Written by an actual teen
I read technology articles quite often and see plenty of authors attempt to dissect or describe the teenage audience, especially in regards to social media. However, I have yet to see a teenager contribute their voice to this discussion. This is where I would like to provide my own humble opinion.

For transparency, I am a 19-year-old male attending The University of Texas at Austin. I am extremely interested in social media’s role in our society as well as how it is currently evolving. Thus, the views I provide here are my own, but do stem from observation of not only my own habits but my peers’ habits as well.

This article will not use any studies, data, sources, etc. This is because you can easily get that from any other technology news website and analyze from there. I’m here to provide a different view based off of my life in this “highly coveted” age bracket. That being said, I'm not an expert at this by a long shot and I'm sure there will be data that disproves some of the points I make, but this is just what I've noticed….

And here Danah Boyd’s comment, response to this post - also a MUST READ for anyone interested in the millenials.
An Old Fogey’s Analysis of a Teenager’s View on Social Media
Over the last few days, dozens of people have sent me a link to Andrew Watts’ “A Teenager’s View on Social Media written by an actual teen.”Increasingly, I’m getting uncomfortable and angry by the folks who are pointing me to this. I feel the need to offer my perspective as someone who is not a teenager but who has thought about these issues extensively for years.

Almost all of them work in the tech industry and many of them are tech executives or venture capitalists. The general sentiment has been: “Look! Here’s an interesting kid who’s captured what kids these days are doing with social media!” Most don’t even ask for my interpretation, sending it to me as though it is gospel.

I’m not bothered by these teens’ comments; I’m bothered by the way they are interpreted and treated by the tech press and the digerati.

I’m a researcher. I’ve been studying American teens’ engagement with social media for over a decade. I wrote a book on the topic. I don’t speak on behalf of teens, but I do amplify their voices and try to make sense of the diversity of experiences teens have. I work hard to account for the biases in whose voices I have access to because I’m painfully aware that it’s hard to generalize about a population that’s roughly 16 million people strong. They are very diverse and, yet, journalists and entrepreneurs want to label them under one category and describe them as one thing.

Andrew is a very lucid writer and I completely trust his depiction of his peer group’s use of social media. He wrote a brilliant post about his life, his experiences, and his interpretations. His voice should be heard. And his candor is delightful to read. But his analysis cannot and should not be used to make claims about all teenagers. I don’t blame Andrew for this; I blame the readers — and especially tech elites and journalists — for their interpretation of Andrew’s post because they should know better by now.

Although this is an American post about American cities - All of us have to be concerned with citizenship in the 21st Century and the need for Internet Access as a robust public infrastructure governed as a commons - so that our freedoms of communication, access and human rights cannot be held hostage by privateers.
Mayors: A Responsive City Needs Great Internet Access
A recent Webby Awards/Harris Interactive poll found that consumers – constituents, in other words – have come to expect real-time tracking, same-day delivery, and the opportunity to provide instant feedback regarding every service and business they encounter. 80 percent of respondents said they expect payments to be handled automatically, 85 percent expect to see reviews from other customers, and 60 percent expect services to learn about their preferences. In the next five years, these expectations are only going to be higher; nearly 50 percent of respondents said they expect that there will be a service within the next five years that ships them products they need before they order them.

Meanwhile, the digital divide in U.S. cities remains staggering. 56 percent of Detroit households don’t have what the FCC calls “fixed broadband subscriptions” (meaning anything other than dial-up or mobile devices), and 40 percent have no Internet access at all (meaning they have no wired or mobile access). More than 36 percent of Cleveland residents have no Internet access at all. Miami, New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Chicago are all on the list as well. (Here’s the full ranking of cities with more than 50,000 residents.)

Mayors know that public trust in the institutions of the federal government is at record low levels these days. But mayors also know that public trust in local government remains strong. Mayors get things done; they don’t have time to play polarized, corrosive politics.

And here’s the kicker: polls show that world-class Internet access is becoming a voting issue in America.

Speaking of a responsive city - here’s something that hints at a new capacity to recognize new forms of value - especially value arising from network effects that can’t be captured via traditional methods. The emerging digital environment with its atmosphere of information will enable new business models.
The Rise of Social Stock Exchanges
A new, innovative platform is helping more investors support social enterprises.
Markets and socialism have been strange bedfellows since the start of the industrial revolution, and until recently, most of us have considered them mutually exclusive states of affairs. That is about to change. A third dimension is slowly finding its place in traditional market dichotomy—a dimension that includes social business, impact investing, and now social stock exchanges (SSEs).

Social businesses, in their many forms, have been around for a while, but the latest trend seems to be SSEs—trading platforms listing only social businesses. Using SSEs, investors can buy shares in a social business just as investors focused solely on profit would do in the traditional stock market. An investor would come to a SSE to find a social business with a mission according to his or her preference. This is great news for all players in the industry (including governments, multilateral financing institutions, community organizations, development agencies, and social entrepreneurs), and countries like Canada, the UK, Singapore, South Africa, Brazil, and Kenya have already opened their doors to their very own social stock exchanges. ...

This is an important issue if we want to keep the Internet and the Web powerful for everyone - especially innovations and competition.
Zero for Conduct
On the surface, it sounds great for carriers to exempt popular apps from data charges. But it’s anti-competitive, patronizing, and counter-productive.
Compromise is great, but no democratic country should sacrifice the ideal of the global, interoperable Internet — and the speech and innovation it facilitates — in the name of pragmatism. I’m talking about the issue of “zero rating”: the practice being followed by mobile carriers around the world to provide Web access “for free” to their users to certain chosen services. Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Wikipedia become “the Internet” for the users of mobile data supported by “zero rating” plans, because accessing these services doesn’t cause users to hit the data caps applied by the carriers, and in many cases the plans don’t require the user to sign up for mobile data at all.

The pragmatists, and the mobile carriers, say that limited access to an online world made up of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Wikipedia is better than no access at all for people on the other side of the digital divide. Indeed, net neutrality activists are painted by the carriers’ lobbyists (and other mouthpieces) as anti-access: if you assume that only limited zero-rated access is possible in a developing country for people who can’t afford even a low-priced data plan, then wouldn’t you want that in preference to no access at all? These same voices claim that users of these limited services are being primed to sign up (eventually) for full Internet access.

Some countries have bravely disagreed. Chile has banned zero rating. Norway, which has had net neutrality guidelines in place since 2009, also bans the practice, saying that users have to have the right to decide what their Internet access is to be used for. Zero-rating also isn’t happening in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, or Japan.

But all other OECD countries have some flavor of zero rating in place. Here in the US, AT&T’s “sponsored data” program is an example of zero-rating sneaking into our nation, as is Sprint’s offer of inexpensive data plans that give access only to Facebook or Twitter.

Here’s the truth: Zero-rating is pernicious; it’s dangerous; it’s malignant. Regulators around the world are watching how the US deals with zero-rating, and we should outlaw it. Immediately. Unless it’s stopped, it’s not going to go away.

More than a responsive city - we need a responsive society and civilization.
Here is a sort of new ‘manifesto’ from two of the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto that was published 15 years ago. Although it does have the flavor of a rant (It is a manifesto) it is well worth the read.
New Clues from two Cluetrain authors
The Internet is nothing and has no purpose.
The Internet is not a thing any more than gravity is a thing. Both pull us together.
The Internet is no-thing at all. At its base the Internet is a set of agreements, which the geeky among us (long may their names be hallowed) call "protocols," but which we might, in the temper of the day, call "commandments."
The first among these is: Thy network shall move all packets closer to their destinations without favor or delay based on origin, source, content, or intent.
Thus does this First Commandment lay open the Internet to every idea, application, business, quest, vice, and whatever.
There has not been a tool with such a general purpose since language.
This means the Internet is not for anything in particular. Not for social networking, not for documents, not for advertising, not for business, not for education, not for porn, not for anything. It is specifically designed for everything.
Optimizing the Internet for one purpose de-optimizes it for all others.
The Internet like gravity is indiscriminate in its attraction. It pulls us all together, the virtuous and the wicked alike.

Here is some good news regarding the movement for more open science.
The arXiv preprint server hits 1 million articles
Website where scientists flock to upload manuscripts before peer review has doubled its holdings in six years.
The popular preprint server, where physicists, mathematicians and computer scientists routinely upload manuscripts to publicly share their findings before peer review, now holds more than 1 million research articles.

The repository, launched as an ‘electronic bulletin board’ in August 1991, just before the dawn of the World Wide Web, took 17 years to accumulate half a million manuscripts, but has taken just 6 more to double its holdings.

Researchers now submit around 8,000 articles to the arXiv each month — more than 250 a day, on average. The site’s administrators make the raw, non-peer-reviewed manuscripts available in batches after a brief quality-control check, such as a cursory glance for appropriateness by one of 130 volunteer moderators, and automated filtering to check for text overlap with existing papers.

The site reached more than 1 million papers on 29 December, after administrators returned from holidays and updated the server with manuscripts submitted after business hours on Christmas Eve (24 December).

Speaking of AI and automation of work - here’s something that is looming on the horizon for scientists as well
Robot Journalist Finds New Work on Wall Street
Software that turns data into written text could help us make sense of a coming tsunami of data.
Software that was first put to work writing news reports has now found another career option: drafting reports for financial giants and U.S. intelligence agencies.

The writing software, called Quill, was developed by Narrative Science, a Chicago company set up in 2010 to commercialize technology developed at Northwestern University that turns numerical data into a written story. It wasn’t long before Quill was being used to report on baseball games for TV and online sports outlets, and company earnings statements for clients such as Forbes.

Quill’s early career success generated headlines of its own, and the software was seen by some as evidence that intelligent software might displace human workers. Narrative Science CEO Stuart Frankel says that the publicity, even if some of it was negative, was a blessing. “A lot of people felt threatened by what we were doing, and we got a lot of coverage,” he says. “It led to a lot of inquiries from all different industries and to the evolution to a different business.”

Narrative Science is now renting out Quill’s writing skills to financial customers such as T. Rowe Price, Credit Suisse, and USAA to write up more in-depth, lengthy reports on the performance of mutual funds that are then distributed to investors or regulators.

“It goes from the job of a small army of people over weeks to just a few seconds,” says Frankel. “We do 10- to 15-page documents for some financial clients.”

Now speaking of AI - here’s something that show how many people are concerned with the speed of its progress.
Scientists, entrepreneurs, investors sign open letter on artificial intelligence
Scientists, entrepreneurs and investors have signed an open letter on artificial intelligence (AI) that was issued on Sunday by the US Future of Life Institute.
The signatories include Prof Stephen Hawking, the cosmologist, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motor and SpaceX, and Dr Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh, a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, who is the executive director of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at Cambridge University. The co-founders of Deep Mind, the British AI company that was acquired by Google in January 2014, are also among the signees.

The Future of Life Institute was founded last year and Jaan Tallinn, a co-founder of Skype, was among the founders. It says it is a "volunteer-run research and outreach organization working to mitigate existential risks facing humanity. We are currently focusing on potential risks from the development of human-level artificial intelligence."

The letter says:
The potential benefits are huge, since everything that civilization has to offer is a product of human intelligence; we cannot predict what we might achieve when this intelligence is magnified by the tools AI may provide, but the eradication of disease and poverty are not unfathomable. Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls."
It adds: “Our AI systems must do what we want them to do.”

The Open letter and the long list of signatories can be found here:

Speaking of the future of email - here’s something that hints about how the Internet of Things (IoT) may actually create a platform for a new level of consciousness. Think about last week’s article about the human trials of nanobots to hunt cancer. Once nanobots prove their safety and utility - what sorts of Internet, Meshwork, Bluetooth connections can we ‘inject’ into ourselves - or what sorts of wearables can capture neural processing. This is worth the read and we should be thinking about this.
‘I emailed a message between two brains’
Could we one day hook up our brains to the internet? Rose Eveleth investigates a claim for the ‘first’ online message sent between two minds.
As internet connections become faster and more of the devices we carry help keep us online, it can sometimes feel like we’re on the verge of spontaneous email communication. I send an email, you receive it, open it, and respond – all in a matter of seconds. Regardless of whether you think near-instant communication is a good thing or not, it’s certainly happening. Not long ago we routinely waited days or weeks for a letter – today even waiting hours for a reply can feel like an eternity.

Perhaps the ultimate way to speed up online communication would be to push towards direct brain-to-brain communication over the web. If brains were directly connected, there would be no more need for pesky typing – we could simply think of an idea and send it instantly to a friend, whether they are in the same room or half the world away. We’re not there yet, of course, but a recent study took a first step in that direction, claiming direct brain-to-brain communication over the internet between people thousands of miles from one another.

The work is simply a proof of concept, as Giulio Ruffini, one of the researchers on the project – and CEO of Starlab, based in Barcelona – is quick to explain. The team did not, as some reported, send words or thoughts or emotions from one brain to another. Instead they did something much simpler.

Here’s how it worked. One subject – in this case a man in Kerala, India – was fitted with a brain-computer interface that records brainwaves through the scalp. That person was then instructed to imagine they were moving either their hands, or their feet. If he imagined moving his feet, the computer recorded a zero. If he imagined moving his hands, it recorded a one.

This string of zeros and ones was then sent through the internet to a receiver: a man in Strasbourg, France. He was fitted with something called a TMS robot – a robot designed to deliver strong but short electrical pulses to the brain. When the sender thought about moving his hands, the TMS robot zapped the receiver’s brain in a way that made him see light – even though his eyes were closed. The receiver saw no light if the sender thought about moving his feet.

To make the message more meaningful, the researchers came up with a cipher: one string of zeros and ones (or hands and feet) meant “hola” and another meant “ciao”. The receiver – who had also been taught the cipher – could then decode the signal of lights to interpret which word the sender had sent.

This is a recent study carried out by the private gene-sequencing company 23andMe. While the study is not a random sample of Americans it is interesting and is the largest such study to date and has produced results similar to other studies.
White? Black? A Murky Distinction Grows Still Murkier
In 1924, the State of Virginia attempted to define what it means to be white.
The state’s Racial Integrity Act, which barred marriages between whites and people of other races, defined whites as people “whose blood is entirely white, having no known, demonstrable or ascertainable admixture of the blood of another race.”

There was just one problem. As originally written, the law would have classified many of Virginia’s most prominent families as not white, because they claimed to be descended from Pocahontas.

So the Virginia legislature revised the act, establishing what came to be known as the “Pocahontas exception.” Virginians could be up to one-sixteenth Native American and still be white in the eyes of the law.

People who were one-sixteenth black, on the other hand, were still black.
In the United States, there is a long tradition of trying to draw sharp lines between ethnic groups, but our ancestry is a fluid and complex matter. In recent years geneticists have been uncovering new evidence about our shared heritage, and last week a team of scientists published the biggest genetic profile of the United States to date, based on a study of 160,000 people.
Here’s the original study:
The Genetic Ancestry of African Americans, Latinos, and European Americans across the United States
For anyone interested in their genetic background here the 23andMe site:
Learn over a hundred things about yourself.
23andMe’s in-home, saliva-based service helps you know more about yourself. With reports on over 100 health conditions and traits, here are a few of the things you can learn about you.

Talking about distinctions between entities becoming murkier, here some recent research that hints that being human is more like being a particular ecology.
Do viruses make us smarter?
A new study from Lund University in Sweden indicates that inherited viruses that are millions of years old play an important role in building up the complex networks that characterise the human brain.
Researchers have long been aware that endogenous retroviruses constitute around five per cent of our DNA. For many years, they were considered junk DNA of no real use, a side-effect of our evolutionary journey.

In the current study, Johan Jakobsson and his colleagues show that retroviruses seem to play a central role in the basic functions of the brain, more specifically in the regulation of which genes are to be expressed, and when. The findings indicate that, over the course of evolution, the viruses took an increasingly firm hold on the steering wheel in our cellular machinery. The reason the viruses are activated specifically in the brain is probably due to the fact that tumours cannot form in nerve cells, unlike in other tissues.

“We have been able to observe that these viruses are activated specifically in the brain cells and have an important regulatory role. We believe that the role of retroviruses can contribute to explaining why brain cells in particular are so dynamic and multifaceted in their function. It may also be the case that the viruses’ more or less complex functions in various species can help us to understand why we are so different”, says Johan Jakobsson, head of the research team for molecular neurogenetics at Lund University.

The article, based on studies of neural stem cells, shows that these cells use a particular molecular mechanism to control the activation processes of the retroviruses. The findings provide us with a complex insight into the innermost workings of the most basal functions of the nerve cells. At the same time, the results open up potential for new research paths concerning brain diseases linked to genetic factors.
The original paper is here:
TRIM28 Represses Transcription of Endogenous Retroviruses in Neural Progenitor Cells.

Here is an interesting topic and a free downloadable book about the real communication capabilities of the virtual world.
Nonverbal Communication in Virtual Worlds: Understanding and Designing Expressive Characters
Over the last 20 years there has been an expansion of network mediated social activities, and an accompanying explosion of research interest into the poetics of networked communication. Of particular interest is the rise of what have come to be known as “virtual worlds”: persistent graphical environments populated (and often partially authored) by large communities of individual users. Interactors in these worlds are embodied as avatars: digital puppets or representations through which the user exerts his or her will on the environment. It is this virtual embodiment that makes today’s virtual worlds so interesting. With virtual embodiment comes a host of new and important communicative possibilities, and an assortment of new challenges and literacies including a wide range of nonverbal communication behaviors and non-linguistic social signaling options.

In this book, we begin the work of articulating the challenges and possibilities for non-verbal communication in virtual worlds. Drawing on a wide range of disciplines and perspectives, we consider the past, present, and future of human communication online.

Speaking of non-verbal behavior - this has got to be some sort of Turing Test.
Poker-playing program knows when to fold 'em
UAlberta researchers solve heads-up limit Texas hold ‘em poker.
The challenge of imperfect information
In a world first, researchers in the Computer Poker Research Group at the University of Alberta have essentially solved heads-up limit Texas hold ‘em poker with their program, called Cepheus.

“Poker has been a challenge problem for artificial intelligence going back over 40 years, and until now, heads-up limit Texas hold ‘em poker was unsolved,” says Michael Bowling, lead author and professor in the Faculty of Science, whose findings were published Jan. 9 in the journal Science.

Cepheus, created by Bowling, PhD students Neil Burch and Michael Johanson and Finnish software developer Oskari Tammelin, is the first computer program to play an essentially perfect game of poker. Cepheus accomplished this goal with no human expert help, only being given the rules of the game.

“It was trained against itself, playing the equivalent of more than a billion billion hands of poker,” says Bowling. “With each hand it improved its play, refining itself closer and closer to the perfect solution. The program was trained for two months using more than 4,000 CPUs each considering over six billion hands every second. This is more poker than has been played by the entire human race."

Cepheus marks a milestone for artificial intelligence and game theory. Though many perfect-information games (in which all players are aware of everything that has occurred in the game before they make a decision) have been solved, no nontrivial imperfect-information game played competitively by humans has previously been solved. And although perfect information may be a common property of parlour games, it is far less common in real-world decision-making situations.
Think you can beat Cepheus?
You can query the program’s strategy or play against it online at

Speaking of AI - here’s something interesting from DARPA and it’s free.
DARPA Offers Free Watson-Like Artificial Intelligence
DeepDive Offers DIY Artificial Intelligence
If you wonder what the government has done for you lately, take a look at DeepDive. DeepDive is a free version of IBM's Watson developed in the same Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), but now available free and open-source.

Although it's never been pitted against IBM's Watson, DeepDive has gone up against a more fleshy foe: the human being. Result: DeepDive beat or at least equaled humans in the time it took to complete an arduous cataloging task. These were no ordinary humans, but expert human catalogers tackling the same task as DeepDive -- to read technical journal articles and catalogue them by understanding their content.

"We tested DeepDive against humans performing the same tasks, and DeepDive came out ahead or at least equaled the efforts of the humans," professor Shanan Peters, who supervised the testing, told EE Times.

DeepDive is free and open-source, which was the idea of its primary programmer, Christopher Re.
"We started out as part of a machine-reading project funded by DARPA in which Watson also participated," Re, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, told EE Times. "Watson is a question-answering engine (although now it seems to be much bigger). [In contrast] DeepDive's goal is to extract lots of structured data" from unstructured data sources.

This is an interesting presentation by Alan Kay - it’s 1hr 43 min - This is well worth the watch for anyone interested in the future of programming - and this is important - because the development of better higher level programming languages will be vital to enabling this form of literacy to become accessible to everyone - to be able to be empowered and engaged in shaping the emerging digital environment.
Is it really "Complex"? Or did we just make it "Complicated"?
Alan Kay gives a talk at Qualcomm in San Diego, on October 30, 2013 on education, process science, and economics of mediocrity.

Speaking of different type of prosthetics - here’s something that is not about ‘intelligence augmentation’ but ….
A sensational breakthrough: the first bionic hand that can feel
The first bionic hand that allows an amputee to feel what they are touching will be transplanted later this year in a pioneering operation that could introduce a new generation of artificial limbs with sensory perception.

The patient is an unnamed man in his 20s living in Rome who lost the lower part of his arm following an accident, said Silvestro Micera of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland.

The wiring of his new bionic hand will be connected to the patient’s nervous system with the hope that the man will be able to control the movements of the hand as well as receiving touch signals from the hand’s skin sensors.
Dr Micera said that the hand will be attached directly to the patient’s nervous system via electrodes clipped onto two of the arm’s main nerves, the median and the ulnar nerves.
This should allow the man to control the hand by his thoughts, as well as receiving sensory signals to his brain from the hand’s sensors. It will effectively provide a fast, bidirectional flow of information between the man’s nervous system and the prosthetic hand.

“This is real progress, real hope for amputees. It will be the first prosthetic that will provide real-time sensory feedback for grasping,” Dr Micera said.

Here is some good news on the Biotechnology frontier.
Promising antibiotic discovered in microbial ‘dark matter’
Potential drug kills pathogens such as MRSA — and was discovered by mining 'unculturable' bacteria.
An antibiotic with the ability to vanquish drug-resistant pathogens has been discovered — through a soil bacterium found just beneath the surface of a grassy field in Maine. Although the new antibiotic has yet to be tested in people, there are signs that pathogens will be slow to evolve resistance to it.

Today in Nature, a team led by Kim Lewis of Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, report that the antibiotic, which they have named teixobactin, was active against the deadly bacterium MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in mice, and a host of other pathogens in cell cultures. If the compound behaves similarly in people, it may prove to be a much-needed triumph in the war against antibiotic-resistance.

The device used to discover teixobactin is generating excitement also because it has the potential to reveal further undiscovered antibiotics: it enables 'unculturable' microbes to thrive in the lab, and so makes it easier to discover bacteria that naturally produce compounds deadly to other pathogens.

“The technology is very cool,” says Gerard Wright, a biochemist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, who was not involved with the study. “Nobody knew if these bacteria produced anything useful.”
The news comes amid continuing warnings from public-health experts about the dangers of antibiotic resistance. In 2014, the World Health Organization declared that the post-antibiotic era — a time in which people could die from ordinary infections and minor injuries — could begin this century. MRSA has spread from hospitals into the community, and in 2013, there were 480,000 new cases of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis worldwide, a condition that requires treatment with increasingly toxic drugs.

Speaking about our relationship with the microbial ecologies that surround and inhabit us - this is interesting.
Do viruses make us smarter?
A new study from Lund University in Sweden indicates that inherited viruses that are millions of years old play an important role in building up the complex networks that characterise the human brain.
Researchers have long been aware that endogenous retroviruses constitute around five per cent of our DNA. For many years, they were considered junk DNA of no real use, a side-effect of our evolutionary journey.

In the current study, Johan Jakobsson and his colleagues show that retroviruses seem to play a central role in the basic functions of the brain, more specifically in the regulation of which genes are to be expressed, and when. The findings indicate that, over the course of evolution, the viruses took an increasingly firm hold on the steering wheel in our cellular machinery. The reason the viruses are activated specifically in the brain is probably due to the fact that tumours cannot form in nerve cells, unlike in other tissues.

“We have been able to observe that these viruses are activated specifically in the brain cells and have an important regulatory role. We believe that the role of retroviruses can contribute to explaining why brain cells in particular are so dynamic and multifaceted in their function. It may also be the case that the viruses’ more or less complex functions in various species can help us to understand why we are so different”, says Johan Jakobsson, head of the research team for molecular neurogenetics at Lund University.

While were on the subject of biotechnology and the emergence of radically new drugs including gene-based imuno-therapies. Here’s something that anyone interested in the unprecedented tectonic shift in demographics (and don’t forget the trajectory of robotics).
Live forever: Scientists say they’ll soon extend life ‘well beyond 120’
Fixing the ‘problem’ of ageing is the mission of Silicon Valley, where billions is pouring into biotech firms working to ‘hack the code’ of life – despite concerns about the social implications

Here is an article presenting more progress on the development of 3D printing of building and other forms of architecture.
New Dutch CyBe robot 3D prints a wall with 'greener' concrete
Could we all be living in 3D printed homes in the near future? Its advantages are evident – lower production costs, more design freedom and less pollution. Only the practical, applied side of the equation is lagging somewhat behind, in part due to the sheer scale of necessary investments.

And while there are currently several on-going 3D printed construction programmes in existence, these are often crazily expensive, slow, and nowhere near commercial deployment. Just last week we reported on a Slovenian company who announced to be willing to sell giant concrete 3D printers to commercial construction businesses, but as far we know this hasn't yet resulted in commercial building project.

Meanwhile, another challenger has appeared and one who looks to have all the necessary papers to be successful. Not only has CyBe Additive Industries been prototyping an interesting 3D printer (a robotic arm, rather than a bulky and unwieldy XYZ setup), they have also developed a special type of 'filament' (CyBe mortar) that could prove to be perfect for 3D printing houses and other concrete structures. The Dutch company, that was founded in 2013 and has offices in Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Oss, is therefore definitely one to keep an eye on….

Speaking about 3D printing - if this is combined with Google’s self-driving car - I think I can smell the death of Uber. The host of great pictures are worth the view - I would love to own one of these cars.
A 3D-printed car is coming that stretches the boundaries of design
Local Motors has been building cars with the help of community-submitted part designs for years now, but this September, it has far more ambitious plans: creating a working, 3D-printed electric vehicle, also based on a design by someone from its community. The contest ran during May, and a winner — along with several runner-ups — was announced earlier this month. Local Motors is already printing out initial models of the winning frame as a test, and it's even given one a drive around.

While it isn't clear how much of the vehicle will be 3D printed beyond the body, its limited run and purpose means that Local Motors is able to consider some surprisingly wild designs. The final car will supposedly be highly inspired by the winner, with elements from the runner-ups possibly looped in as well. Below, you can see the winning submission and the six runner-ups — as well as a few other interesting entries that didn't make the cut.

Speaking of ‘greener’ here’s something that will likely come to a city near you soon. This is a 2 min Video that says a lot in a little time. Worth the view.
Shigeharu Shimamura teams up with GE to grow lettuce indoors faster, cleaner and cheaper
A 2300 square meter former semiconductor plant has become the world's largest indoor vegetable farm, thanks to Shigeru Shimamura and special LED lights from General Electric.

The farm produces 10,000 heads of lettuce per day all while using less than 1% of the water needed for a normal farm, and none of the weather or pest related risks that come with growing outdoors. Produce waste is also slashed from 50 to just 10% as well.

Shimamura's indoor farming company, Mirai, has partnered with GE and is looking to set up similar operations in locations around the world, starting with Hong Kong and Russia.

For delight and education
Speaking of drones - this is one postive and very cool use of drones - the 2 min video is fascinating.
A Drone Caught These Whales Singing as They Fish for Their Lunch
The marine mammals team up to make catching small fish easier.
When humpback whales are plying polar waterways, they’re constantly trying to fill up—sucking down as much as two tons of food a day. They need to pack on the pounds to support their 70,000-pound frame before migrating thousands of miles south to tropical waters to breed.

You'd think that with their massive mouths, humpbacks would search out the biggest fish they could swallow. But no, their diet is primarily made up of tiny shrimp and small fish they filter through their baleen plates.

And with hungry humpbacks on the lookout for the same food supply, you would expect that they would keep their distance from each other.But take a look at this seagull-view footage, and it’s clear—humpbacks have a strategy all their own when it comes to fishing, and that strategy takes teamwork.

If anyone doesn’t know about Open Culture (The best free cultural & educational media on the web) - this is a must visit site. Here’s a couple of simply cool and awesome demonstrations of the huge treasure trove of what’s available - from music, lectures, ebooks and more. If these videos don’t demonstrate the innovative power of diversity nothing will.
Watch Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile’ Performed on a Gayageum, a Traditional Korean Instrument
Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 song “Voodoo Chile” is already a classic. But it becomes all the more so when you see it performed by Luna Lee on a Gayageum, a traditional Korean stringed instrument. The first Gayageum dates back to the 6th century.
Pakistani Musicians Play Amazing Version of Dave Brubeck’s Jazz Classic, “Take Five”
How’s this for fusion? Here we have The Sachal Studios Orchestra, based in Lahore, Pakistan, playing an innovative cover of “Take Five,” the jazz standard written by Paul Desmond and performed by The Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1959. Before he died last year, Brubeck called it the “most interesting” version he had ever heard. Once you watch the performance above, you’ll know why.

Some self-promotion
The Mutual Constraints of Identity and Social Fabric – Part 1

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