Thursday, March 19, 2015

Friday Thinking, 20 March 2015

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

There are currently 18.2 billion connections to the internet throughout the world, and this will increase to 50 billion by 2020. The amount of data being transmitted via these connections has grown from 3ZB (3,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes) in 2010 to 10ZB (10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes) this year, and it is predicted to reach 40ZB (40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes) by 2020, according to Elfrink.

The Internet of Everything (IoE) has the potential to reach $19 trillion of value by 2022, and it "has the potential to grow global corporate profits by 21% in 2022," Elfrink said. "It's exponentially increasing."

By reaching the tipping point, it means that there is a greater need for organizations to have a chief data or digitization officer to create the end-to-end analytics needed to transform data into actionable intelligence...
Cisco: The Internet of Everything is at tipping point

Gartner says there will be 26 billion connected devices by 2020. Cisco says there will be 50 billion, Intel says it will be 200 billion, and the IDC says 212 billion. In any case, these are all really big numbers.
13 Mind-Boggling Internet Of Things Statistics

“ The Industrial Awakening will generate $14.2 trillion of global output by 2030. ”
Consider power plants that can predict when they will break down and call for preventive service with a two-week lead-time. Or trucks that are continuously re-designed based on user feedback. Or MRI machines sold to hospitals with a “per-MRI” price rather than as a purchase requiring millions of dollars upfront. All of these examples require connected, secure, self-diagnosing equipment to replace the $6.8 trillion of existing fixed infrastructure and machinery in the U.S. At our firm, we’ve designated this second wave of the Internet of Things as the Industrial Awakening.

The Industrial Awakening will generate $14.2 trillion of global output by 2030, according to a World Economic Forum report released last month. But business leaders are just beginning to appreciate the size of the opportunity, which includes connected device applications in sectors ranging from manufacturing to mining, agriculture to energy, and transportation to healthcare. As the report noted, the industries that fall within the “Internet of Things” category constitute two-thirds of the global economy. There are significant and compelling opportunities for new ventures in these markets.

New ventures ushering in the Industrial Awakening no doubt face challenges. Incumbents like GE, Cisco, and Siemens are directing thousands of engineers and billions of dollars toward this market, and industrial customers are often behind the curve in adopting new technological solutions. Gartner has suggested that IoT is hyped and disillusionment will set in. But as we study the market, looking beyond the headlines to how technology has evolved and businesses have adapted, we see a unique moment for entrepreneurs to invent the future of industry. Even at an early stage, startups that think creatively and connect with new customers can drive lasting value.
The Industrial Awakening: The Internet of Heavier Things

The next generation of the Internet can be key to solving those problems. The digital revolution is bringing a new and radically different platform for business and other institutions that can take us through the next quarter century of human progress. At the core of this next generation is a piece of software ingenuity that may surprise you. It is the technology underlying the digital currency bitcoin, and is known simply as the blockchain. This technology platform is open and programmable. As such it holds the potential for unleashing countless new applications—of which bitcoin currency is one —and as yet unrealized capabilities that have the potential to transform everything in the next 25 years.

At its most basic, the blockchain is global spreadsheet -- an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value and importance to humankind: birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, deeds and titles of ownership, educational degrees, financial accounts, medical procedures, insurance claims, votes, transactions between smart objects, and anything else that can be expressed in code. This ledger represents the truth because mass collaboration constantly reconciles it. We will not need to trust each other in the traditional sense, because the new platform ensures integrity.
Don Tapscott - What’s the Next Generation Internet? Surprise: It’s all about the Blockchain!

Productive stupidity means being ignorant by choice. Focusing on important questions puts us in the awkward position of being ignorant. One of the beautiful things about science is that it allows us to bumble along, getting it wrong time after time, and feel perfectly fine as long as we learn something each time. No doubt, this can be difficult for students who are accustomed to getting the answers right. No doubt, reasonable levels of confidence and emotional resilience help, but I think scientific education might do more to ease what is a very big transition: from learning what other people once discovered to making your own discoveries. The more comfortable we become with being stupid, the deeper we will wade into the unknown and the more likely we are to make big discoveries.
The importance of stupidity in scientific research

For anyone interested in participating in a collective intelligence project and/or experiencing some new collaboration and knowledge management tools - this looks very interesting.
Participate in a study on collective intelligence!
Loomio has received a small grant from Catalyst to help Litemap and Assembl develop their collective intelligence tools. These tools enable users to map the structure of a discussion and visualise the connections between people, thought and action.
If you’re interested in participating please fill out this form.

Participants will use Loomio, Litemap, and Assembl to map out the discussion theme of “what should web-based tools for direct democracy look like in the future?”. We hope to gain a comprehensive view of this theme and insight into the best practices for generating collective intelligence online.

This is a long but well written exploration of the implications of constructing our’selves’ in the digital environment - worth the read.
The Algorithmic Self
To negotiate contemporary algorithms of reputation and search—ranging from resumé optimization on LinkedIn to strategic Facebook status updates to OkCupid profile grooming—we are increasingly called on to adopt an algorithmic self, one well practiced in strategic self-promotion. This algorithmic selfhood may be critical to finding job opportunities (or even maintaining a reliable circle of friends and family) in an era of accelerating social change. But it can also become self-defeating. Consider, for instance, the self-promoter whose status updates on Facebook or LinkedIn gradually tip from informative to annoying. Or the search engine−optimizing website whose tactics become a bit too aggressive, thereby causing it to run afoul of Google’s web spam team and consequently sink into obscurity. The algorithms remain stubbornly opaque amid rapidly changing social norms. A cyber-vertigo results, as we are pressed to promote our algorithmic selves but puzzled over the best way to do so.

This is not an entirely new problem: We have always competed for better deals, for popularity, for prominence as an authority or a desirable person. But just as our metabolic systems may be ill adapted to a world of cheap, hidden sugar, the social cues and instinctive emotional responses that we’ve developed over evolutionary time are not adequate guides to the platforms on which our algorithmic selves now must compete and cooperate. To navigate them properly, we need the help of thoughtful observers who can understand today’s strategies of self-making within a larger historical and normative context.

Here is a great 18 min TED Talk by Jonathan Haidt about how important group cohesion is - in this he establishes that Darwin actually believed that evolution also worked via ‘group selection’ that a cooperative group with trump a group of selfish individuals.
Jonathan Haidt: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence
Psychologist Jonathan Haidt asks a simple, but difficult question: why do we search for self-transcendence? Why do we attempt to lose ourselves? In a tour through the science of evolution by group selection, he proposes a provocative answer.

Here’s an interesting piece about the possible future of HR.
Is Social Collaboration The Holy Grail For Business Growth?
What is social collaboration? Just as it sounds: Teams work together, usually towards a common goal, but the goal doesn’t have to be pre-defined. And that’s the beauty of it all. By combining brain power, better ideas are surfaced to help move the business forward. I know what you’re thinking: Didn’t we used to call this teamwork? Sure, teamwork is still key, but technological innovations have changed the game.

Technology can help us build global connections, combine ideas of many different individuals and give those ideas proper time to incubate. This incubation time is necessary for the idea to develop into a concept that one day hope to call a stroke of genius.

When people are able to collaboratively use a platform without interference from a manager then the entire enterprise is in really good shape. I only see this happening in smaller, younger startups. Larger, older companies have a hard time breaking through their traditional company culture.
What is preventing big enterprises from establishing a strong foundation for social collaboration?

Usually stuff like this:
  • A hierarchical culture. That conflicts with the non-hierarchical world of social collaboration, where everybody can create content and consume content.
  • Silo thinking that limits collaboration. What do you think would happen to your body, if one department, let’s say your liver, no longer collaborated with the rest?
  • Focus on the people who will not participate in social collaboration, rather than focus on the ones who will.
  • IT systems (including social collaboration software) are often ‘owned’ by IT, which may not care about people engagement.
  • Internal communication (a key component of social collaboration) is often ‘owned’ by marketing, which focuses more on clients and prospects than on the internal workforce
  • HR is often caught up in core processes (getting people paid now) rather than adding strategic value (making sure that people can be paid five years from now). Getting stuck at in administrating can prevent you from utilizing the power of social collaboration.

Speaking of collaboration - sometimes that requires people to cross boundaries - this is an interesting short article that is worth the read.
Professor Probes Why Only Some Researchers Cross Boundaries
Whether it’s crossing disciplines, breaking down silos or thinking outside the box, everyone’s talking about boundary spanning as the key to solving the world’s toughest problems.

So why isn’t everyone doing it?
A new study conducted by Tom Bateman, professor of management at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, and Andrew Hess, assistant professor of business administration at Washington & Lee University, offers some intriguing clues. The study, titled “Different Personal Propensities among Scientists Relate to Deeper vs. Broader Knowledge Contributions,” appeared March 2 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We wanted to see if we could predict who would do deeper, more specialized work, and who would do broader, boundary-spanning work,” said Bateman, an expert in leadership, motivation and decision-making. “Scientific research is absolutely crucial to the health and well-being of our planet and its people – and if we want to understand how scientific progress occurs, we have to develop a better understanding of why and how researchers pursue their work in the ways that they do.”

Broadly speaking, highly competitive researchers were more likely to turn out highly specialized work; similarly, highly conscientious researchers, keen to follow rules and meet expectations, likewise avoided breadth. Those who regarded their work as an opportunity to perform were also more likely to produce highly specialized research, but those who regarded their work as an opportunity to learn were likely to lean toward boundary-spanning breadth.

Speaking of crossing or even probing boundaries - this is an essay for all of us seeking to ‘do’ science - research, scholarship, practical application. This is an Occupational Hazard of any scientific discipline and especially for boundary spanners. Must Read
The importance of stupidity in scientific research
I recently saw an old friend for the first time in many years. We had been Ph.D. students at the same time, both studying science, although in different areas. She later dropped out of graduate school, went to Harvard Law School and is now a senior lawyer for a major environmental organization. At some point, the conversation turned to why she had left graduate school. To my utter astonishment, she said it was because it made her feel stupid. After a couple of years of feeling stupid every day, she was ready to do something else.

I had thought of her as one of the brightest people I knew and her subsequent career supports that view. What she said bothered me. I kept thinking about it; sometime the next day, it hit me. Science makes me feel stupid too. It's just that I've gotten used to it. So used to it, in fact, that I actively seek out new opportunities to feel stupid. I wouldn't know what to do without that feeling. I even think it's supposed to be this way. Let me explain.

A Ph.D., in which you have to do a research project, is a whole different thing. For me, it was a daunting task. How could I possibly frame the questions that would lead to significant discoveries; design and interpret an experiment so that the conclusions were absolutely convincing; foresee difficulties and see ways around them, or, failing that, solve them when they occurred? …

I'd like to suggest that our Ph.D. programs often do students a disservice in two ways. First, I don't think students are made to understand how hard it is to do research. And how very, very hard it is to do important research. It's a lot harder than taking even very demanding courses. What makes it difficult is that research is immersion in the unknown. We just don't know what we're doing. We can't be sure whether we're asking the right question or doing the right experiment until we get the answer or the result.

Second, we don't do a good enough job of teaching our students how to be productively stupid – that is, if we don't feel stupid it means we're not really trying. I'm not talking about `relative stupidity', in which the other students in the class actually read the material, think about it and ace the exam, whereas you don't. I'm also not talking about bright people who might be working in areas that don't match their talents. Science involves confronting our `absolute stupidity'. That kind of stupidity is an existential fact, inherent in our efforts to push our way into the unknown.

Speaking of HR and Big Data
Predictive Analytics: What Big Data Means for the Future of HR
The 21st century brought with it the concept of human capital management, an approach which informs much of our current thinking and tactics around human resources today, including, but not limited to, such employee lifecycle essentials as benefits administration, talent acquisition, employee engagement, employee development, rewards and recognition.
HR: A Function in Flux
Despite our current perceptions of HR, however, the future of human resources finds itself in flux – and poised for yet another major transition. As a profession, we’re at the pivotal point where employers must again learn how to adjust to a new brand of HR, driven by the growing importance (and influence) of globalization, the increasing pervasiveness of social and mobile technologies as well as the rise of “Big Data” and analytics.

The effects of globalization and social are already evident, allowing even smaller businesses and mom & pop shops to harness the power of a global workforce – one that’s available and connected 24/7, one that can collaborate across time zones and markets and one that can expand any company’s customer base beyond traditional borders.

Human resources has been directly affected by these changes, which have necessitated HR to activate increased strategic emphasis and dedicated initiatives targeting employee engagement, access to technologies and tools which enable collaboration and, of course, new ways of hiring, onboarding, training and developing talent.

Social remains a catalyst – and a solution – to both sides of this equation, as employee adoption of social networks as a means for internal communication and collaboration has enabled a smarter, more efficient and ultimately, more effective workforce.

Speaking of how Big Data can be used - here is an very interesting website and paper. It’s interesting for a couple of reasons: 1 The beauty of visualizing the data and concepts. 2) the availability of the paper and data. Both these reason also suggest the trajectory of scientific publication. Worth the view.
Virality Prediction and Community Structure
We are living in attention economy. Corporations and political campaigns spend enormous resources to fight for limited attention of people to make their messages and products viral. Then, can we understand why certain things go viral? Further, can we predict what will go viral?

We propose that network communities allow us to predict viral memes. By analyzing Twitter hashtags, we show that:
  • Communities allow us to estimate how much the spreading pattern of a meme deviates from that of infectious diseases;
  • Viral memes tend to spread like epidemics;
  • We can predict the virality of memes based on early spreading patterns in terms of community structure. Actually, we can predict the success of a meme after 4 weeks by looking at only the first 50 tweets.

This is a 42 min video that is an excellent ‘survey’ of many factors and trends shaping the future of the organization in the emerging digital environment. Worth the view.
The Future of Organization
Aiming to eliminate the compromises in organizational life. Covering some interesting and provocative ideas, spanning human rights, complexity science, the death of heuristics, influence flows, personal knowledge mastery, social physics, trust, the digital nervous system, Web 3.0, performance and learning, public relations, collective intelligence, sociocracy, Holacracy, podularity, wirearchy, emergent civilization, self-organization, organized self, socioveillance, middleware corporate, bread incorporated and the Mozilla manifesto.

Speaking of HR but this time on a national level - this is an interesting article on a couple of levels - first the initial metaphor of prevention versus treatment - is vital in good foresight. However, in many cases when resources as used to prevent something -resulting success often has nothing to show for it’s success. Hence the author uses established metrics related to the benefits of vaccination. With vaccination one can adequately discuss real costs - because at least minimal benefits can be assessed. In most cases we can know what we spend - but not know what the costs are - because we don’t know what we’ve gotten for our spending.
Worth the read - if only for the research on cost savings of vaccines.
Universal Basic Income as the Social Vaccine of the 21st Century
Can the savings of basic income exceed the costs?
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” — Benjamin Franklin
For those not familiar with this old idiom, it means it’s less costly to avoid problems from ever happening in the first place, than it is to fix problems once they do. It also happens to be the entire logic behind the invention of the vaccine, and it is my belief that universal basic income has the same potential.’s a huge challenge to fully appreciate because these savings are what we don’t experience. We aren’t spending tens of billions of dollars that we otherwise would have. Had we not spent millions then, we’d be spending billions on all of the effects of smallpox to this day and long into the future.

Try to imagine a world where we didn’t eradicate smallpox. Aside from the obvious increases in our already sky-high health  care costs and the deaths of over 100 million people, millions every year would be calling in sick to work to care for themselves or a loved one with smallpox. Businesses would be paying more for sick leave and losing millions of hours of productivity (estimated at $1 billion lost every year). Medical bankruptcies would likely be higher. Crime would likely be higher. The entire economy would suffer along with all of society.

What if poverty is like smallpox?
What if the realities of hunger and homelessness aren’t just facts of life, but examples of those costly pounds that we currently consider normal that we could just instead eradicate with an ounce of cure? How much would it cost to eradicate? How much could we save?

Speaking of the digital environment - here’s an important consideration - will immersive social media help? Will our ‘helping bots’ help?
Loneliness and social isolation are just as much a threat to longevity as obesity
Loneliness and social isolation are just as much a threat to longevity as obesity. The effect occurs even for people who like to be alone. Lack of relationships is a bigger health risk for people under age 65.

Now research from Brigham Young University shows that loneliness and social isolation are just as much a threat to longevity as obesity.
"The effect of this is comparable to obesity, something that public health takes very seriously," said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, the lead study author. "We need to start taking our social relationships more seriously."

Loneliness and social isolation can look very different. For example, someone may be surrounded by many people but still feel alone. Other people may isolate themselves because they prefer to be alone. The effect on longevity, however, is much the same for those two scenarios.

The association between loneliness and risk for mortality among young populations is actually greater than among older populations. Although older people are more likely to be lonely and face a higher mortality risk, loneliness and social isolation better predict premature death among populations younger than 65 years.

"Not only are we at the highest recorded rate of living alone across the entire century, but we're at the highest recorded rates ever on the planet," said Tim Smith, co-author of the study. "With loneliness on the rise, we are predicting a possible loneliness epidemic in the future."

For anyone interested in an easy visual about Bitcoin - here’s a great infographic.
Visualizing How A Bitcoin Transaction Works

And speaking about Bitcoin - here a short article by a famous Canadian Internet Guru (who’s finally onto this topic). :)
SXSW Preview: What’s the Next Generation Internet? Surprise: It’s all about the Blockchain!
By Don and Alex Tapscott
Yes, the digital revolution has brought countless wonders. The Internet, World Wide Web, Social Media, Mobile Computing, Geospaciality, Big Data and The Cloud, have enabled myriad wonderful developments in virtually every aspect of life.

But when it comes to business, a careful analysis shows that the changes to date are only scratching the surface. Capitalism’s basic institution, the corporation, has remained relatively unchanged. Hierarchy, vertical integration and bureaucracy -- hallmarks of the industrial age still reign. And when it comes to the economy as a whole, the digital revolution has not had a positive impact on prosperity for most. Social inequality is growing and most economists are predicting decades of structural unemployment. The economies of many developed countries are growing, but for the first time in history there is no commensurate job creation. Most people on the planet don’t participate in the digital economy.

Rather than the solution, technology has been a big part of the problem, and not just because a new round of automation, robotics or disruptive business models are wiping out important parts of the workforce. The old paradigm in technology and media, whether broadcasting, print or mainframe computing was centralized, controlled by powerful forces and the recipients were passive. The new paradigm was supposed to be distributed, controlled by everyone and empowering active participants. However, the distributed Internet was dropped into an economy that has concentrated power structures with asymmetrical ability to shape it for their own purposes. Whether the old financial services behemoths, the new titans of silicon valley, or the vast government bureaucracies that mine the digital world to monitor their citizens, the dream of a new age of empowerment and participation, free from the power structures of the industrial age has proved illusive. Wealth, prosperity and freedom have arrived but only for the few.

Speaking of South by SouthWest (SXSW) and the blockchain - here an article with links to some great articles about security in the digital environment.
Your Cybersecurity Reading Guide to #SXSW
Here are 7 articles you need to read on Cybersecurity during South by Southwest 2015
Here’s my favorite of these 7 articles. This is a MUST READ.
In our modern surveillance state, everyone can be exposed
Maintaining anonymity against powerful surveillor is nearly impossible. Even the most skilled hackers and spies risk discovery. In an era when everything is tracked and stored, we either need more robust ways of preserving anonymity – or to give up on the idea entirely.

Maintaining Internet anonymity against a ubiquitous surveillor is nearly impossible. If you forget even once to enable your protections, or click on the wrong link, or type the wrong thing, you’ve permanently attached your name to whatever anonymous provider you’re using. The level of operational security required to maintain privacy and anonymity in the face of a focused and determined investigation is beyond the resources of even trained government agents. Even a team of highly trained Israeli assassins was quickly identified in Dubai, based on surveillance camera footage around the city.

Here it comes - faster than we think.
On March 22, an autonomous car will set out from the Golden Gate Bridge toward New York for a 3,500-mile drive that, if all goes according to plan, will push robo-cars much closer to reality. Audi’s taken its self-driving car from Silicon Valley to Las Vegas, Google’s racked up more than 700,000 autonomous miles, and Volvo’s preparing to put regular people in its robot-controlled vehicles. But this will be one of the most ambitious tests yet for a technology that promises to change just about everything, and it’s being done not by Google or Audi or Nissan, but by a company many people have never heard of: Delphi.

“It’s time to put our vehicle to the ultimate test by broadening the range of driving conditions,” says Delphi CTO Jeff Owens.

Delphi doesn’t build cars; it builds the stuff that goes into cars. It’s a key supplier to the auto industry, and has been for almost as long as there’s been an auto industry. It’s got a solid record of innovation, too. It built the first electric starter in 1911, the first in-dash car radio in 1936, and the first integrated radio-navi system in 1994.

Now it’s built a self-driving car, based on a 2014 Audi SQ5 (chosen simply because it’s cool. No, really.). The car looks like any other SQ5 (but for the stickers), but it’s packed with sensors and computers Delphi developed to replace humans: A camera in the windshield looks for lane lines, road signs, and traffic lights. Delphi installed a midrange radar, with a range of about 80 meters, on each corner. There’s another at the front and a sixth on the rear. That’s in addition to the long-range radars on the front and back, which look 180 meters ahead and behind.

Here’s something that definitely seems to edge toward the ‘creepy’ - could Mattel’s new Barbie possibly backfire? Or is this just starting us off early for our retirement bots? :)
Stop Mattel’s "Hello Barbie" Eavesdropping Doll
At February's Toy Fair 2015 in New York City, Mattel unveiled "Hello Barbie," the Wi-Fi-connected doll that uses an embedded microphone to record children's voices—and other nearby conversations. But when Mattel releases the $74.99 toy in late fall, things will get seriously creepy.

"Hello Barbie" transmits the recordings over the Internet to cloud servers. Mattel’s technology partner ToyTalk processes the audio with voice-recognition software. Mattel says it will use this information to "push data" back to children through Barbie's built-in speaker.

Georgetown University Law Professor Angela Campbell, Faculty Advisor to the school's Center on Privacy and Technology, said, "If I had a young child, I would be very concerned that my child's intimate conversations with her doll were being recorded and analyzed. In Mattel's demo, Barbie asks many questions that would elicit a great deal of information about a child, her interests, and her family. This information could be of great value to advertisers and be used to market unfairly to children."

Speaking of playing around - this is a fascinating must listen 17 min podcast. It tells of how the makers of the card game ‘Magic the Gathering’ figured out how to ‘dissolve’ bubble economics.
The Curse Of The Black Lotus
In a classic bubble — housing for example, or tech stocks or Beanie Babies — the fun ends in a crash. Things go belly up, and people can lose a lot of money.

The creators of the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering faced such a bubble. The cooler they made their cards, the more the resale value increased — and threatened to send Magic cards the way of the Beanie Baby.

Today on the show: how the folks who made Magic cards came up with a plan. A plan to once and for all conquer the science of bubbles, and make a collectible toy that could live forever.

Speaking about lego and reality - here’s some new construction technology coming from China - that may be arriving somewhere near you soon. A 4 min video.
3 Storeys in Each Day, China's New Normal,
Speed to Reach a Bluer Sky with energy efficiency, material economy, cohesive community. Broad Sustainable Building is a Modular Factory Built Product.

If the change in oil price is a mystery and I know that there are many reasons attempting to explain what’s happening - but here’s something more that is interesting in the changing game of energy production.
Wind Power Without U.S. Subsidy to Become Cheaper Than Gas
Wind power will be cheaper than electricity produced from natural gas within a decade, even without a federal tax incentive, according to a U.S. Energy Department analysis.

Cost reductions and technology improvements will reduce the price of wind power to below that of fossil-fuel generation, even after a $23-per-megawatt-hour subsidy provided now to wind farm owners ends, according to a report released Thursday. That may drive up demand for turbines from companies like General Electric Co. and Vestas Wind Systems A/S.

“Wind offers a power resource that’s already the most competitive option in many parts of the nation,” Lynn Orr, under secretary for science and energy at the Energy Department, said on a conference call with reporters. “With continued commitment, wind can be the cheapest, cleanest power option in all 50 states by 2050.”

Increasing wind energy to 35 percent of U.S. electricity supplies by 2050 will cause power prices to decline 2.2 percent and result in $400 billion in benefits related to reduced emissions of greenhouse gases. Wind energy provided 4.5 percent of U.S. power supplies in 2013.

Here’s a great article about a fantastic British TV series called ‘Black Mirror’ - for anyone who is looking for something like a 21st Century ‘Twilight Zone’ - this is the series.
Design for Dystopia
How seductive designs help “Black Mirror” tell unnerving stories
If you still haven’t gotten around to watching Black Mirror, beware of spoilers ahead. But if you’ve heard anything at all about the show then this probably won’t be a spoiler: By and large, things go badly.

A British series that began in 2011 and made its way to U.S. viewers this past December via Netflix, Black Mirror became an immediate cult hit and critics’ darling here. It’s sometimes described as science fiction, but that’s misleading. The show depicts various near-future dystopias — worlds very much like the one we live in, but with slightly more “advanced” technologies and media tools. One way to read the results is to interpret high tech as Black Mirror’s recurring villain, at the root of every disturbing finale.

But that’s misleading, too. Really, it’s never the tech that goes sideways into some sorry abyss; it’s always us. Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker has called it a show about “weak people using powerful tools” — and I’m pretty sure that by “weak people” he means most of humanity. That narrative approach is precisely what makes the best episodes so unnerving.
But many of the imagined objects and interfaces of Black Mirror aren’t immediately frightening. They’re seductive. And that is what, in the end, makes them frightening.

As we domesticate DNA - the universe of genetic networks becomes ever more entwined and complex. This is a great article - illuminating just how much of an ecology a human is.
Some genes 'foreign' in origin and not from our ancestors
Many animals, including humans, acquired essential 'foreign' genes from microorganisms co-habiting their environment in ancient times, according to new research. The study challenges conventional views that animal evolution relies solely on genes passed down through ancestral lines, suggesting that, at least in some lineages, the process is still ongoing.
The transfer of genes between organisms living in the same environment is known as horizontal gene transfer (HGT). It is well known in single-celled organisms and thought to be an important process that explains how quickly bacteria evolve, for example, resistance to antibiotics.

HGT is thought to play an important role in the evolution of some animals, including nematode worms which have acquired genes from microorganisms and plants, and some beetles that gained bacterial genes to produce enzymes for digesting coffee berries. However, the idea that HGT occurs in more complex animals, such as humans, rather than them solely gaining genes directly from ancestors, has been widely debated and contested.

Lead author Alastair Crisp from the University of Cambridge, UK, said: "This is the first study to show how widely horizontal gene transfer (HGT) occurs in animals, including humans, giving rise to tens or hundreds of active 'foreign' genes. Surprisingly, far from being a rare occurrence, it appears that HGT has contributed to the evolution of many, perhaps all, animals and that the process is ongoing, meaning that we may need to re-evaluate how we think about evolution."

Speaking of ‘Alien DNA’ here’s a something ‘very far out’. It’s not just our personal microbial profile that is interesting - but also planetary microbial profiles. The extension of the human from the micro-to-macro doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon.
The Microbial Yearbook That Will Help Us Find Aliens
If you were an alien astronomer, and you happened to pinpoint Earth in the night sky, our atmosphere’s blueish glow might clue you in to the presence of life. But pale blue dots aren’t the only potentially habitable worlds out there. Depending on what sorts of life forms are dominant, a whole spectrum of colorful, life-bearing worlds might be scattered throughout the cosmic hinterlands.

That’s why a research team led by Siddharth Hegde of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has just built the world’s first alien yearbook, cataloging the myriad colors our interstellar neighbors might exhibit. By documenting the reflection signatures for diverse microbial life forms, scientists will be better equipped to look at a distant world and discern whether its pale glow hides life’s telltale fingerprints. The 137 microbes profiled so far are reported today in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

“This database gives us the first glimpse at what diverse worlds out there could look like,” said Lisa Kaltenegger, a co-author on the study and director of Cornell’s new Institute for Pale Blue Dots in a statement. “We looked at a broad set of life forms, including some from the most extreme parts of Earth.”

Astronomers have spent the last few years gearing up for a new phase of exoplanet exploration. Very soon, bigger and more powerful telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope will give us our first opportunity to peer into the atmospheres of distant planets, and use reflected starlight to decode their chemical compositions. When this happens, astronomers will, for the first time, be able to search exoplanets for biosignatures—chemical fingerprints that may indicate life.

While there continues to be a ‘long way to go’ the speed of the journey may make the distance closer than we think. Here’s something for the boomers who are moving into a new stage of life - one that is unprecedented.
Scientists find class of drugs that boosts healthy lifespan
A research team from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), Mayo Clinic and other institutions has identified a new class of drugs that in animal models dramatically slows the aging process—alleviating symptoms of frailty, improving cardiac function and extending a healthy lifespan.

The new research was published March 9 online ahead of print by the journal Aging Cell.
The scientists coined the term "senolytics" for the new class of drugs.

"We view this study as a big, first step toward developing treatments that can be given safely to patients to extend healthspan or to treat age-related diseases and disorders," said TSRI Professor Paul Robbins, PhD, who with Associate Professor Laura Niedernhofer, MD, PhD, led the research efforts for the paper at Scripps Florida. "When senolytic agents, like the combination we identified, are used clinically, the results could be transformative."

"The prototypes of these senolytic agents have more than proven their ability to alleviate multiple characteristics associated with aging," said Mayo Clinic Professor James Kirkland, MD, PhD, senior author of the new study. "It may eventually become feasible to delay, prevent, alleviate or even reverse multiple chronic diseases and disabilities as a group, instead of just one at a time."

Speaking of our accelerating genetic research capabilities - this is a long but must read article for anyone interested in the genetics of sex.
Sex redefined
The idea of two sexes is simplistic. Biologists now think there is a wider spectrum than that.
As a clinical geneticist, Paul James is accustomed to discussing some of the most delicate issues with his patients. But in early 2010, he found himself having a particularly awkward conversation about sex.

A 46-year-old pregnant woman had visited his clinic at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia to hear the results of an amniocentesis test to screen her baby's chromosomes for abnormalities. The baby was fine — but follow-up tests had revealed something astonishing about the mother. Her body was built of cells from two individuals, probably from twin embryos that had merged in her own mother's womb. And there was more. One set of cells carried two X chromosomes, the complement that typically makes a person female; the other had an X and a Y. Halfway through her fifth decade and pregnant with her third child, the woman learned for the first time that a large part of her body was chromosomally male. “That's kind of science-fiction material for someone who just came in for an amniocentesis,” says James.

Sex can be much more complicated than it at first seems. According to the simple scenario, the presence or absence of a Y chromosome is what counts: with it, you are male, and without it, you are female. But doctors have long known that some people straddle the boundary — their sex chromosomes say one thing, but their gonads (ovaries or testes) or sexual anatomy say another. Parents of children with these kinds of conditions — known as intersex conditions, or differences or disorders of sex development (DSDs) — often face difficult decisions about whether to bring up their child as a boy or a girl. Some researchers now say that as many as 1 person in 100 has some form of DSD.

For fun
This is a case of spontaneous human meme-ing. The pictures are worth 1k words …. and more.
A Door In Germany Broke Down And The Most Memetacular Thing Happened
Where IS the Techniker?

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