Thursday, May 14, 2015

Friday Thinking, 15 May 2015

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

Universities currently suffer from three malaises: they are deadly conservative, not nearly as socially inclusive as they should be, and the research environments that they cultivate remain too enclosed.

“In social sciences and arts in particular we are too closed to the outside world, spending far too much time talking only to each other; we imagine too often that research is something that only universities do,”...

we not only value research over teaching, we allow only a one-way flow between the two – research informs teaching and not vice-versa.” being more “entrepreneurial”, and open to the innovation going on outside the university, institutions can help to tackle the “three great malaises of the current higher education environment”.

“In our teaching we need to completely reinvent the goal and means of undergraduate learning,” he will claim. “Today we need to fight less for the right to teach what we want but rather for the right for students to learn what they want – let students plan their own learning paths; put them, their abilities at the centre of our courses.
Universities must reconnect with the outside world

Renewed investment in infrastructure has been a big theme in policy discussions lately – but the key thing to understand is that the money won’t be best spent on repairing and reinforcing today’s obsolete assets. Building the future that resembles the past will require the infrastructure of information. A good place to start would be to wire the country with the fastest broadband available, funded by some of the money currently dedicated to traditional infrastructure.  We also must start rethinking everything from building codes to transportation regulations. Big choices will have to be made, and in a time of rapid transformation toward both the future and the past, the time to start this conversation is now.
William H. Davidow & Michael S. Malone
How New Technologies Push Us Toward the Past

But very gradually, he says, the use of computers in mathematics is coming to be accepted as inevitable. And with respect to calculation and computation, especially among up-and-coming generations, it is already quite pervasive, if under-acknowledged. Frenkel agrees, saying that the use of computers to verify proofs is both an expected and welcome trend. As the towering mathematical enterprise reaches new heights, with more intricately and esoterically turreted peaks, each practitioner drilling down into minutiae that could never be understood by colleagues even in the same field, computers will be necessary for advancing the enterprise, and authenticating the integrity of the structure—a structure so complex in detail and so massive in scale that adjudication by mere human referee will no longer be feasible.

Voevodsky goes even further, arguing that the role of proof assistants—and the use of computers in general—extends beyond the isolated practical instances of avoiding errors. Because the broader culture and practice of how errors occur is an even larger roadblock threatening the foundation and future of mathematics. Error can be symptomatic of a certain disregard for what is really involved in proving something properly. Error, he says, can motivate “the direct dishonesty of claiming to have proved something without actually having done it. That’s a big force in mathematics today.”
In Mathematics, Mistakes Aren’t What They Used To Be
Computers can’t invent, but they’re changing the field anyway.

I think it's important to regard science not as an enterprise for the purpose of making predictions, but as an enterprise for the purpose of discovering what the world is really like, what is really there, how it behaves and why.
A Conversation with David Deutsch - CONSTRUCTOR THEORY

This is a fascinating paper on change and change in the conditions of change, including political phase transitions.
The Amazing, Autotuning Sandpile
A simple mathematical model of a sandpile shows remarkably complex behavior.
Remember domino theory? One country going Communist was supposed to topple the next, and then the next, and the next. The metaphor drove much of United States foreign policy in the middle of the 20th century. But it had the wrong name. From a physical point of view, it should have been called the “sandpile theory.”

Real-world political phase transitions tend to happen not in neat sequences, but in sudden coordinated fits, like the Arab Spring, or the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. These reflect quiet periods punctuated by crises—like a sandpile. You can add grains of sand to the top of a sandpile for a while, to no apparent effect. Then, all at once, an avalanche sweeps sand down from the top in an irregular pattern, possibly setting off little sub-avalanches as it goes.

This analogy doesn’t necessarily get us anywhere. After all, real sand is hard to analyze, just like real politics. But here’s the miracle. A kind of abstraction of a sandheap, known as the “abelian sandpile model,” created by physicists Per Bak, Chao Tang, and Kurt Wiesenfeld in 1987, seems to capture some of the rich, chaotic features of real sandpiles, not to mention other complex systems from biology, physics, and social science—while remaining simple enough to study mathematically.

This is a great must read discussion by famous physicist David Deutsch
Why It’s Good To Be Wrong
Nothing obstructs access to the truth like a belief in absolute truthfulness.
That human beings can be mistaken in anything they think or do is a proposition known as fallibilism. Stated abstractly like that, it is seldom contradicted. Yet few people have ever seriously believed it, either.

That our senses often fail us is a truism; and our self-critical culture has long ago made us familiar with the fact that we can make mistakes of reasoning too. But the type of fallibility that I want to discuss here would be all-pervasive even if our senses were as sharp as the Hubble Telescope and our minds were as logical as a computer. It arises from the way in which our ideas about reality connect with reality itself—how, in other words, we can create knowledge, and how we can fail to.

The trouble is that error is a subject where issues such as logical paradox, self-reference, and the inherent limits of reason rear their ugly heads in practical situations, and bite.

When fallibilism starts to seem paradoxical, the mistakes begin. We are inclined to seek foundations—solid ground in the vast quicksand of human opinion—on which one can try to base everything else. Throughout the ages, the false authority of experience and the false reassurance of probability have been mistaken for such foundations: “No, we’re not always right,” your parents tell you, “just usually.” They have been on earth longer and think they have seen this situation before. But since that is an argument for “therefore you should always do as we say,” it is functionally a claim of infallibility after all. Moreover, look more closely: It claims literal infallibility too. Can anyone be infallibly right about the probability that they are right?
An accompanying 30 min video is here:

Speaking of proof assistants and AI - here’s where we are now.
Intelligence Program During 80,000-Hand Contest
But Scientifically Speaking, Human Lead Not Large Enough To Avoid a Statistical Tie
Four of the world's best players of heads-up no-limit Texas Hold'em amassed more poker chips than the Carnegie Mellon University artificial intelligence program called Claudico as they collectively played 80,000 hands of poker in a two-week competition that concluded today at Rivers Casino.

Though three of the four pros had higher winnings than Claudico, their $732,713 collective lead over the A.I. program was not quite large enough to attain statistical significance — in other words, the results can't be accepted as scientifically reliable. In all, $170 million was "bet" during the two-week "Brains Vs. Artificial Intelligence" exhibition. So despite the apparent lead by the humans, the competition ended in a statistical tie.

"We knew Claudico was the strongest computer poker program in the world, but we had no idea before this competition how it would fare against four Top 10 poker players," said Tuomas Sandholm, the CMU professor of computer science who directed development of Claudico. "It would have been no shame for Claudico to lose to a set of such talented pros, so even pulling off a statistical tie with them is a tremendous achievement."

Internet Access has become a human right.
Internet censorship, kill switches violate human rights law, say UN experts
Summary:The group of experts said that forcing the shutdown of internet access can "never be justified" under international human rights laws.
Forcing the shutdown of internet access is impermissible under international human rights law -- even during times of war and conflict, a group of leading experts have said.

A coalition of rights experts, including the UN special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye, said in a joint declaration released Monday that any effort to restrict access to the internet "can never be justified under human rights law."
That includes forcing the shutdown of networks, filtering and censoring content, and the physical takeover of broadcast stations.

Although the use of internet "kill switches" is rare, they have increasingly been used by both democratic and emerging states, particularly during uprisings, protests and marches, and civil unrest.

Speaking of Internet Kill Switches - here’s a related story about the inevitable transformation of Internet infrastructure into a public utility. This is worth the read.
How a Mid-Sized Tennessee Town Took on Comcast, Revived Its Economy and Did it With Socialism
Even if more mergers go through, having a public option for internet, cable and phone service is always better for consumers. Chattanooga, Tennessee showed America just that, by providing municipal broadband internet to residents.
Chattanooga, Tennessee has provided a model for all American towns who want to see their economies and populations grow quickly. And that model is simple – give sub-par internet providers like Comcast some legitimate competition with publicly-owned municipal broadband networks.

“People understand that high-speed Internet access is quickly becoming a national infrastructure issue just like the highways were in the 1950s,” Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke told CNN Money. “If the private sector is unable to provide that kind of bandwidth because of the steep infrastructure investment, then just like highways in the 1950s, the government has to consider providing that support.”

If you’re sick of having only one cable/internet company in your town and have horror stories about dealing with a global corporation that has a monopoly and doesn’t care about you, you aren’t the only one. According to a 2011 survey by the FCC, 61 percent of Americans have only one cable and internet provider to choose from. And in 2012, Comcast and Time Warner both ranked in the top ten most hated companies. Comcast even took home Consumerist’s grand prize of Worst Company in America in 2010 and 2014. This call between an exasperated Comcast customer just trying to cancel his service and a Comcast rep insisting that he keep the service he doesn’t want captures how a lot of Americans feel about monopoly cable providers like Comcast.

In 2008, Chattanooga formed the Electric Power Board, which is a public utility company owned by the city’s taxpayers. The EPB got right to work building a “smart grid” to better service the city’s power needs in the event of outages, and to provide super-fast, fiber-optic internet to everyone in the city, which launched in September of 2009. Since its launch, the EPB’s network has proven to be 50 times faster than the average American’s internet connection, delivering 1 gigabit of information per second. A 2-hour video that normally takes 25 minutes to download on a regular broadband network would only take 33 seconds to download on Chattanooga’s network. And like other cable providers, EPB offers TV, internet, and phone service as a bundle, and for less than Comcast charges.

Here’s a recent report from the Economist - sounds an awful lot like what someone you may know has been saying for a long time. :)
Automated, creative and dispersed: The future of work in the 21st century
How will the way we work evolve in the coming years? This is a much-debated topic as business leaders observe the current pace of technological change and consider its impact on the future of their organisations.

The factors that influence the way we work are diverse: they include technology, politics, society the environment and more besides. Any serious attempt to predict the future of work must therefore draw on many disciplines and incorporate many points of view.
That is the guiding principle behind this research project, conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by Ricoh Europe. The project began with a series of interviews with experts in fields ranging from economics to ergnomics, to identify the key trends in the next 10 to 15 years.

The EIU then investigated those trends in depth through a survey of European executives. The findings of that survey are analysed in a new report, entitled Automated, creative & dispersed: The future of work in the 21st century.
The key findings are as follows:
  • In the next decade-and-a-half, digital technology will dissolve the concept of work as we know it.
  • The growing use and sophistication of automation will shift the emphasis of human employment towards creativity and social skills.
  • This new reality of work will require a new, more nurturing approach to management.

Speaking of automated and distributed - here a signal of the beginning of the emerging Logistics Internet that Rifkin speaks about.
First autonomous tuck going into operation
At a ceremony at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway last week, Gov. Brian Sandoval handed over an official Nevada license plate for use by a new Freightliner Inspiration Truck – the world’s first autonomous 18-wheeler - on public roads.  

Though a human “driver” will need to sit behind the wheel in case of an emergency, the new system is intended to usher in an era that could very well lead to fleets of trucks that have no humans on board at all, said Wolfgang Bernhard, the board member overseeing truck operations at Freightliner’s parent, Daimler AG.

Even in its current, more limited form, the technology offers a number of advantages, Bernhard said, noting that 90 percent of truck crashes involve human error, according to government data, much of that due to fatigue.

“An autonomous system never gets tired, never gets distracted,” Bernhard said. “It is always on 100 percent.”
Proponents of autonomous vehicles also contend the technology will reduce fuel consumption and emissions and improve roadway utilization – translating into more cars operating more smoothly on crowded urban roads.

Speaking of creativity - this is a fantastic concept map for anyone interested in learning.
HoTEL =Holistic approach to Technology Enhanced Learning

Speaking about dispersed - here’s a new smartphone gadget that promises a lot more affordances than this article outlines - for one whole new forms of art photography, citizen science, and fun.
UH Researchers Create Lens to Turn Smartphone into Microscope
Lens Could Give Schools, Clinics Low-Cost Alternative to Conventional Equipment
Researchers at the University of Houston have created an optical lens that can be placed on an inexpensive smartphone to amplify images by a magnitude of 120, all for just 3 cents a lens.

Wei-Chuan Shih, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UH, said the lens can work as a microscope, and the cost and ease of using it – it attaches directly to a smartphone camera lens, without the use of any additional device – make it ideal for use with younger students in the classroom.

It also could have clinical applications, allowing small or isolated clinics to share images with specialists located elsewhere, he said.

Here’s another simple article explaining the impact of the Bitcoin -software platform called the blockchain.
Why Bitcoin Could Be Much More Than a Currency
Bitcoin doesn’t have to replace government-backed money to improve the way we do business online.
Boosters of Bitcoin commonly call the digital currency the future of money. But even if it doesn’t turn out to be, a growing group of investors and entrepreneurs is convinced that the idea at the center of Bitcoin could revolutionize industries that rely on digital record keeping. It might replace conventional methods of keeping track of valuable information like contracts, intellectual-property rights, and even online voting results.

Bitcoin’s real promise, they say, is not the currency. It’s the underlying technology, in which thousands of computers in a distributed network use cryptographic techniques to create a permanent, public record of every single Bitcoin transaction that has ever occurred (see “What Bitcoin Is and Why It Matters”). Investors are betting that this record-keeping system, called the blockchain, will be valuable for many other things besides tracking payments.

It’s become common for enthusiasts to compare where Bitcoin is now to where the Internet was in the 1980s and early 1990s. Joel Monegro, a venture capitalist at Union Square Ventures, says the open-source technology that creates the blockchain can be fairly compared to the open-source protocol that is the basis for the Internet, called TCP/IP. Technically a pair of protocols, the Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, TCP/IP dictates the specific ways data is packaged and routed between computers in a network. For years after TCP/IP was invented, the technology was accessible only to people with a certain level of technical knowledge. Similarly, right now Bitcoin is too arcane for most people and challenging to use even for those who are familiar with it.

Here is a longish but worthy summary of the changing paradigm (or at least one of them) in our economy. The Internet and IoT as a platform is creating a new attractor of efficiency disrupting old business models and enabling whole new models to be developed.
Cover story: The sharing economy
Although the sharing economy has yet to become a ubiquitous concept most youngish adults probably recognise its two icons. They know that if they want to order a cab they can simply tap the Uber app on their smartphone, or if they would like to arrange accommodation from local hosts in any of more than 190 countries they can use the Airbnb app.

Yet the implications of this technological shift are far from fully appreciated. For the enthusiasts it enables a far more efficient use of existing resources. “The key focus is under-utilised assets being better used,” says Bolko Hohaus, a technology fund manager at Lombard Odier.

Although there are possible applications in many sectors it is still cars that provide the best example of the technology’s advantages. Estimates vary but the typical vehicle spends perhaps 90 per cent or even 95 per cent simply parked. If the figure could be reduced from, say, 90 per cent to 80 per cent through the use of smart technology it could be possible to double the number of journeys with the same number of cars. Or alternatively it could be feasible for the total number of car journeys to be the same as today but with half the number of vehicles in use – reducing the environmental impact.

There is no agreed definition but it is widely accepted that the sharing economy involves using information technology to make more efficient use of existing resources. Walter Price, the manager of the Allianz Technology Trust, says: “The key idea is sharing resources and making the economy more efficient.”

It is also known by other names including the on-demand economy, collaborative consumption, the mesh and the peer-to-peer economy.

This is a fascinating article and the 15 min video is very worth the view. The whole thing may be a weak signal to a new approach to re-imagining urban design given changing demographics and the impact of mass-customization. Another dimension to the sharing economy.
What It's Like To Live In a Tiny Apartment Inside America's Oldest Mall
The average new US home is about 2,600 square feet. You’ll get less than ten percent of that in these micro-apartments, which at their smallest are just 225 feet and make an art of fitting a life into a very sweet-looking closet.

Core77’s Rain Noe brings us a video of the “micro-lofts” at the Arcade Microlofts in Providence, Rhode Island. The Arcade played a huge role in the history of shopping in America—even though not many people know it outside of the city. The “mall” was built in the 1820s, when the idea of a series of shops inside the same enclosed space was a total novelty. Rather than a main street lined with independent stores, the Arcade offered something else. Here, shopping was entertainment, not a chore—sheltered from weather, pollution, and the outside world.

It’s been two years since the units went on the market, and they’ve been wildly popular. But the video found by Core77 gives us the clearest look at what living in such a tiny, historic space is really like. We hear from two different residents at the Arcade, each of whom explain how their tiny apartments have affected their lifestyles (or not):

And here is a great exploration of the emerging economy. It’s a Must Read. The article is a simple read but lays out very important implications for decisions about shaping our physical infrastructure
How New Technologies Push Us Toward the Past
Much has been written over the last decade about how the Internet, by enabling online commerce, social networks, and easy access to information and entertainment, has transformed the global economy.  But we’re just beginning to see the dramatic changes this will in turn bring to the physical landscape.  Ubiquitous connectivity will not only supercharge our way of life and our ways of working, it will in some sense reverse them.

To understand why, consider that the physical infrastructure of today’s society evolved in response to basic information transfer problems. In order to efficiently exchange the information necessary to buy and sell goods, produce things of value, learn, or be entertained, people had to gather in physical places. Thus, you can see our existing infrastructural assets, and the business processes supporting them, as information transfer proxies.  Consumers go to retail stores to find out what is available at what prices—in other words, in large part, to get information.  Workers go to office buildings to gain access to files and communicate with co-workers—again, for information access and transfer processes. Walmart stores and office buildings are essentially giant file cabinets where shoppers and workers go to get and exchange information.

Today, information and communications technologies remove the need for such proxies. To name some obvious examples, eBay, Google, Amazon, and Orbitz have each in their own way reversed traditional requirements that the customer travel – to a garage sale, library, bookstore, or travel agency – to obtain a good or service.  Information transfer processes are efficient enough to allow stores to come to shoppers, files to come to laptops, and work to come to workers.

So let’s imagine what our economy’s physical landscape might look like when three things are true:
We mainly buy at home. Amazon and Federal Express are pointing the way to a future when no one need venture outside the comfort of home to procure the goods they want…
We mainly work at home. The costs associated with bringing people to specific buildings where they can access the information they need to accomplish work are increasingly untenable....
We mainly learn and are entertained at home. Any accounting of middle-class earners and how their household incomes are allocated tells the same tale: more and more as a proportion is being spent on virtual goods and services…..

As this future unfolds, much of today’s infrastructure to provide and support information transfer proxies will rapidly become irrelevant. And our social landscapes might well revert to something more like the walkable, livable, sociable communities that urban activists like Jane Jacobs have rued the disappearance of.

Here is a short article that illustrates Robotics, AI, and 3D printing.
Chinese Company Teams with Intel to 3D Print Large BunnyPeople™ Robot Integrated With RealSense
This year at the annual Intel Developer Forum (IDF15), held in Shenzhen, China, Intel teamed with a Chinese 3D printing company to create a rather intuitive 21st century version of the famed BunnyPeople. The 2015 version of the Intel Mascot is much more advanced than the original 1997 stuffed animal version.

This years version is a 1 meter tall robot which can interact, tell stories, and even pick out and identify different animals. The robot was quite the attraction at IDF15 with many people stopping to take pictures with it. Little did they know that this version of the BunnyMan was actually 3D printed and equipped with Intel’s Real Sense technology.

Intel and 3D printing company Nanjing Profeta Tech., spent just 2 months designing, 3D printing, and installing this incredible robot with the needed electronic components. This was about 1/3 of the time it would have taking to create using more traditional manufacturing methods. At the same time, 3D printing allowed the team of designers to fabricate miniature versions of the robot prior to creating the full-scaled final product.

“3D printing is quite magical when used in production,” Nanjing Profeta Tech. “It is much faster, compared to traditional industrial processes. Not only is it less complicated, but also much easier to produce, with less production difficulties arising. With traditional means, once produced, any structural problems that arise mean that you need to start all over again. This is not the case with 3D printing.”

Well robots may have ‘real’ sense - but they may train themselves in the same virtual worlds as humans.
Even Robots Now Have Their Own Virtual World
A highly realistic simulated world is proving vital to robotics researchers.
In a month’s time, a motley assortment of robots will attempt to navigate a punishing obstacle course laid out in a fairground park in Pomona, California. At the challenge, organized by the Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA), about two dozen machines will make their way through a series of tasks meant to push the limits of robot navigation, manipulation, and locomotion.

Before many of the robots set foot (or wheel) on the course, however, they will be put through their paces in a highly realistic virtual world. This 3-D environment, called Gazebo, makes it possible to try out robot hardware or software without having to power up the real thing. It’s a cheap and quick way to experiment without risking damage to valuable hardware components. And it allows many researchers to work on a single robot simultaneously.

DARPA is a government agency charged with funding far-out research, and its contest is meant to encourage the development of robots that could enter an extremely dangerous environment— such as a badly damaged nuclear power plant after a meltdown—and perform work that humans would normally do. Each task the robots will face in Pomona will simulate vital repair work, such as turning off a water pump, sealing a contaminated building, or driving vehicles carrying equipment. Most of the robots involved are humanoid in shape, although some more closely resemble huge mechanical spiders.

And here’s robots-drones for the submariner.
Inspiring a New Wave of Engineers with Underwater Robots
Robot contests have always been a popular way to attract students to engineering. So it’s no surprise that the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society is using such competitions to interest students in the field. In particular, the society is asking students to design and build autonomous underwater vehicles.

In the real world, AUVs do a variety of tasks. For example, they monitor ocean environments, locate undersea archaeological sites, and patrol ports and harbors for security purposes. The robots can reach shallower waters than research boats and dive deeper than humans. They can also work around the clock, even in inclement weather, and their sensors can be as accurate as those on research vessels or satellites.

Today’s AUVs use the latest in technology, like HD video cameras, lithium batteries, LED lights, imaging sonar, GPS, Wi-Fi, and acoustic tracking transponders. And they come in all shapes and sizes. Some look like stingrays, while others resemble footballs, crabs, or octopi.

And today’s AUVs are inexpensive. An open source robot and software kit can sell for less than US $1,000.
With all these attributes, it’s no wonder AUV student competitions are growing in popularity around the world. The society has sponsored contests in Hong Kong, India, Japan, and Singapore.

And if we think selfies are ubiquitous - here comes the selfie paparazzi. This actually looks very cool the graphics are worth the look - the interesting question is how will we manage the selfie traffic when everyone has a swarm of Lily’s?
Lily is the World’s First Throw-and-Shoot Camera
Lily is a new robotic camera drone that aims to shake up not only the drone industry, but the camera industry as a whole. It’s the world’s first “throw-and-shoot camera” that lets anyone capture cinematic aerial photos and videos without needing to do any piloting.

The story of Solar now is a mainstream one - are we preparing ourselves for this change in urban architecture, energy, geopolitics and more?
MIT says solar power fields with trillions of watts of capacity are on the way
But U.S. government policies need to be more supportive of the industry
A massive study on solar power by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology came to two main conclusions: Solar energy holds the best potential for meeting the planet's long-term energy needs while reducing greenhouse gases and federal and state governments must do more to promote its development.

The main goal of U.S. solar policy should be to build the foundation for a massive scale-up of solar generation over the next few decades, the study said.

"What the study shows is that our focus needs to shift toward new technologies and policies that have the potential to make solar a compelling economic option," said Richard Schmalensee, a Professor Emeritus of Economics and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

The study found that even with today's crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) technologies, the industry could achieve terawatt-scale deployment of solar power by 2050 without major technological advances. A terawatt is a trillion watts of electricity.
The whole report can be downloaded here:

Here’s some potentially very positive news for all of us Boomers and our children.
Alzheimer’s breakthrough uses ultrasound technology
Queensland scientists have found that non-invasive ultrasound technology can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and restore memory.

University of Queensland researchers discovered that the innovative drug-free approach breaks apart the neurotoxic amyloid plaques that result in memory loss and cognitive decline.
“The ultrasound waves oscillate tremendously quickly, activating microglial cells that digest and remove the amyloid plaques that destroy brain synapses. “The word ‘breakthrough’ is often mis-used, but in this case I think this really does fundamentally change our understanding of how to treat this disease, and I foresee a great future for this approach.”

“In contrast, this method uses relatively inexpensive ultrasound and microbubble technology which is non-invasive and appears highly effective. The approach is able to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier, activating mechanisms that clear toxic protein clumps and restoring memory functions.

Research has been conducted using mice with an Alzheimer’s model, with the next step being to scale the research in higher animal models ahead of human clinical trials, which are at least two years away. “This treatment restored memory function to the same level of normal healthy mice,” Professor Götz said.

And another very interesting research finding - about the inherent plasticity of the brain and the possibility of developing whole new senses - this is worth the read.
With geomagnetic compass hooked to the brain, blind rats act like they can see
By attaching a microstimulator and geomagnetic compass to the brains of blind rats, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 2 found that the animals can spontaneously learn to use new information about their location to navigate through a maze nearly as well as normally sighted rats. Researchers say the findings suggest that a similar kind of neuroprosthesis might also help blind people walk freely through the world.

Most notably, perhaps, the findings show the incredible flexibility of the mammalian brain.
"The most remarkable point of this paper is to show the potential, or the latent ability, of the brain," says Yuji Ikegaya of the University of Tokyo. "That is, we demonstrated that the mammalian brain is flexible even in adulthood--enough to adaptively incorporate a novel, never-experienced, non-inherent modality into the pre-existing information sources."

In other words, he says, the brains of the animals they studied were ready and willing to fill in "the 'world' drawn by the five senses" with a new sensory input.

"We were surprised that rats can comprehend a new sense that had never been experienced or 'explained by anybody' and can learn to use it in behavioral tasks within only two to three days," Ikegaya says.

Solar Energy, 3D printing, Internet of Things, all represent fundamental changes in the conditions of change. And this is the other complementary aspect to the domestication of DNA another change in the conditions of change.
Crispr: is it a good idea to ‘upgrade’ our DNA?
New genome-editing technology has the potential to eliminate genetic disease by making changes to our DNA that will pass down the generations. Such modification is currently banned in the UK but could that be about to change?
Last year Tony Perry made mice that would have been brown-furred grow up white instead. That Perry, a molecular embryologist at the University of Bath, tweaked their coat colour isn’t new – scientists have been making so-called knock-out mice, in which certain genes are disabled, since the technique was invented in 1989. It is a long and cumbersome procedure that involves combining pieces of DNA in embryonic stem cells and mouse breeding.

But Perry, who published his study in December, didn’t use this method. Instead he used a new genome-editing technology that has been taking the scientific world by storm since it was first developed from the bacterial immune system in 2012, and shown to work in human cells in 2013.

The powerful tool, known as Crispr, allows the precise and easy manipulation of the DNA in the nucleus of any cell. Make the manipulations in sperm, egg or a one-cell embryo, which is just about to start replicating its DNA, and they can become permanently sealed in the so-called germ line, to be inherited by future generations. Using the procedure on the germ line, Perry inactivated a key gene for mouse coat colour.

But Perry’s work added a unique flourish. He did the editing not in a one-cell mouse embryo – which is how most animal germ-line editing by Crispr has been done to date – but earlier, during the process of fertilisation, by injecting the Crispr components and the mouse sperm into the mouse egg at the same time. It is the same technique – intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) – widely used in IVF. And it worked. “This or analogous approaches may one day enable human genome targeting or editing during very early development,” notes the paper published in the journal Scientific Reports. If human germ-line editing were ever to be used clinically, incorporating Crispr into the ICSI phase of IVF is how it might be.

Here is something from 1967 - who could imagine Hunter S. Thompson & a Hell’s Angel on CBC TV? If it shows anything - it how much public sentiment has changed about certain things.
Hunter S. Thompson meets a Hell's Angel, 1967: CBC Archives
In this clip from 1967, Hunter S.Thompson comes face to face with a member of the Hell's Angels. Thompson became known internationally for his book "Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs". He spent a year living and riding with the Angels, experiencing their lives and hearing their stories first hand. The biker says 60% of the book is "cheap trash"

And here is a wonderful - very informative 6 min video on Alternate Reality Games - this really is a must watch for anyone who is interested in the Future of Games.
ARGs Part I - What Are Alternate Reality Games?

And here is part II - on Augmented Reality Games
Also a Must Watch

Here is an interesting critique of a just released study by social media platform we all ‘love’ about it own shaping of users’ news feed. :) Just in case Facebook users didn’t know that their ‘feed’ from their ‘friends’ is shaped by algorithms and not just who’s posting.
Facebook: Fair and Balanced
The most crucial thing people forget about social media, all technologies, is that certain people with certain politics, insecurities, and financial interests structure them. On an abstract level, yeah, we may all know that these sites are shaped, designed, and controlled by specific humans. But so much of the rhetoric around code, “big” data, and data science research continues to promote a fallacy that the way sites operate is almost natural, that they are simply giving users what they want, which then downplays their own interests and role and responsibility in structuring what happens. The greatest success of “big” data so far has been for those with that data to sell their interests as neutral.

Today, Facebook researchers released a report in Science on the flow of ideological news content on their site. “Exposure to ideologically diverse news and opinion on Facebook” by Eytan Bakshy, Solomon Messing, and Lada Adamic (all Facebook researchers) enters into the debate around whether social media in general, and Facebook in particular, locks users into a so-called “filter bubble”, seeing only what one wants and is predisposed to agree with and limiting exposure to outside and conflicting voices, information, and opinions. And just like Facebook’s director of news recently ignored the company’s journalistic role shaping our news ecosystem, Facebook’s researchers make this paper about minimizing their role in structuring what a user sees and posts. I’ve just read the study, but I already had some thoughts about this bigger ideological push since the journalism event as it relates to my bigger project describing contemporary data science as a sort of neo-positivism. I’d like to put some of my thoughts connecting it all here.

Here’s another article about Facebook’s filtering from Technology Review.
Facebook’s Filter Study Raises Questions About Transparency
Social scientists would like Facebook to be more open about its goals and guidelines for research on user behavior.
Facebook’s latest scientific research, about the way it shapes the political perspectives users are exposed to, has led some academics to call for the company to be more open about what it chooses to study and publish.

This week the company’s data science team published a paper in the prominent journal Science confirming what many had long suspected: that the network’s algorithms filter out some content that might challenge a person’s political leanings. However, the paper also suggested that the effect was fairly small, and less significant than a user’s own filtering behavior (see “Facebook Says You Filter News More Than Its Algorithm  Does”).

Several academics have pointed to limitations of the study, such as the fact that the only people involved had indicated their political affiliation on their Facebook page. Critics point out that those users might behave in a different way from everyone else. But beyond that, a few academics have noted a potential tension between Facebook’s desire to explore the scientific value of its data and its own corporate interests.

For Fun
For everybody interested in the good humour of the first responders and the security community.
Homeland Security Dance Off!
Cops, Firefighters, Soldiers, and Medics battle it out in this epic dance off. Who will win?
Once seen, it can’t be unseen! Police officers, fire fighters, members of the military, and emergency medical technicians — all grooving to the beat, some better than others! Painstakingly gathered from public events, down times at the station, and oblivious private “shows,” this Eagle Eggs collection not only gives you a whole new perspective on Those That Serve, but pits them against each other in a fast-paced battle of the beat!

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