Thursday, June 11, 2015

Friday Thinking, 12 June 2015

Hello – Friday Thinking is curated on the basis of my own curiosity and offered in the spirit of sharing. Many thanks to those who enjoy this. J

Question for tomorrow -
Who needs 'market signals' in 21st century of Big Data about real-time behavior? Can real-time Information replace currency with accounting?

In parallel to the great migrations of the Depression era, young, educated people are flocking to cities like Detroit and Buffalo to begin a new kind of life. While the 1 percent worries about the new home construction index, others are taking advantage of relatively empty cities and abundant, inexpensive housing. The recent unbundling of healthcare from traditional career-track jobs is only making the opt-out path even more attractive.

People spent extremely long hours at work well before the industrial revolution. However, research shows that they actually spent far fewer hours actually performing work due to limited light, a lackadaisical work ethic, and numerous religious observances. The shift-based work day schedule developed during the industrial age has lasted well through the information age, and has extended into even longer hours for most knowledge workers. What happened to John Maynard Keynes’ prediction of a 15 hour workweek where people’s needs could easily be met with very little work?

While we’re still a long way from a post-scarcity economy, we are already at a point where a large portion of the population no longer works the traditional 40+ hour work week, and it has become increasingly difficult to find service workers that can reliably perform monotonous jobs. Perhaps, in the near future, the time-for-wages equation will shift positively and benefit all Americans, well beyond the privileged few that can choose to opt-out and return to a village lifestyle. A world where workers will be empowered to dictate their own hours, their own wages, and most importantly, their own freedom to explore their passions. A massive shift that opens up the opportunity for numerous peer-to-peer services and networks.
How tech is leading us back to a ‘village’-style life

Fewer than 250,000 people’s genomes have ever been sequenced, but that figure is set to double each year as genome sequencing becomes a routine way to diagnose disease at children’s hospitals and cancer centers. Some expect that eventually every newborn will have its genome decoded.
Rebooting the Human Genome

Dominant tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple are frequently described as battling to build better technology or hire the best programmers. John Maeda of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers believes that they and other big corporations now also fight on a newer front: design.

“That is the differentiator for companies today,” said Maeda,
Design has grown to become a key part of the decision-making process that leads to the creation of new technology products, whether they are software or hardware, said Maeda. Companies that understand the power of design understand that it is concerned with much more than just superficial aesthetics, he said.

“In actuality design is not really about how it looks, it’s about the system thinking that went into [a product],” he said. How design teams are organized inside a corporation, for example whether they report to the CEO or product and engineering managers, has become a critical question for large technology companies,

In recent years Google, Apple and Microsoft have all boasted of efforts to use broad, design-led thinking to reinvent their operating systems and other products.

When asked to point to a technology company that demonstrates how that approach to design can pay off, Maeda picked one that makes cars, not gadgets. “People bring up Apple, but Tesla’s the best example out there right now

Maeda predicted that the way Tesla and the leading Internet companies have embraced design would soon become standard across many industries.
Design Is What Differentiates Tech Companies Today

...because of its heavy reliance on statistics and on this sort of simple modeling, economics can resemble “computerized astrology.”

If we think of ourselves as empiricists who judge the value of the theory on the basis of how well it predicts, then we should have ditched economic models years ago. Never have our models managed with data to predict the major turning points, ever, in the history of capitalism. So if we were honest, we should simply accept that and rethink our approach.

But actually, I think they’re even worse. We can’t even predict the past very well using our models. Economic models are failing to model the past in a way that can explain the past. So what we end up doing with our economic models is retrofitting the data and our own prejudices about how the economy works.

This is why I’m saying that this profession of mine is not really anywhere near astronomy. It’s much closer to mathematized superstition, organized superstition, which has a priesthood to replicate on the basis of how well we learn the rituals.
Yanis Varoufakis - virtual worlds and the future of economics

You cannot lead an industry by studying the actions of your competitors. To lead, you must understand the mission of your company and take the steps which, in time, will be studied by other, less successful companies seeking to emulate your success…

Autodesk is proud of its open door policy, and counts on it to bring the information before senior management that they need to set the course for the company. Such a policy can work only as long as people believe they are listened to, and that decisions are being made on grounds that make sense for the long-term health of the company. Rightly or wrongly, there is a widely-held belief which I’m articulating because I share it, that management isn’t hearing or doesn’t believe what deeply worries people throughout the company, and isn’t communicating to them the reasons for the course it is setting. This is how bad decisions are made…

The more successful the company, the closer HR is to senior management. Sixty-one percent of executives at high-revenue-growth companies in the U.S. say HR works with the C-suite to make strategic decisions about the business vs. 31 percent of underperformers. In three years, 79 percent of high performers say HR will work with the C-suite.
How leading US companies keep their employees happy

Leading scientists believe that the principal science of the next century will be the study of complex, autocatalytic, self-organizing, non-linear, and adaptive systems. This is usually referred to as “complexity” or “chaos theory”. For a long time, we thought the world operated based on Newtonian principles. We didn’t know better and thought we needed to interfere with the life’s self-organizing urge and try to control one another.

It seems we are ready now to move beyond rigid structures and let organizations truly come to life. And yet self-management is still such a new concept that many people frequently misunderstand what it is about and what it takes to make it work.

Morning Star is a collection of naturally dynamic hierarchies. There isn’t one formal hierarchy; there are many informal ones. On any issue some colleagues will have a bigger say than others will, depending on their expertise and willingness to help. These are hierarchies of influence, not position, and they’re built from the bottom up. At Morning Star one accumulates authority by demonstrating expertise, helping peers, and adding value. Stop doing those things, and your influence wanes—as will your pay.

Knowledge is power - that’s the truism of the 20th century - the counter for the 21st century has been the knowledge shared is power squared. However, here’s an attempt from Australia that seems more consistent with 19th century efforts to control security and enact thought control. This is definitely an important domain of conversation - can such things actually ensure security - or is this like an Informational Maginot Line - that will constrain the develop of knowledge capacity?
Dangerous minds: Are maths teachers Australia's newest threat?
Australian academics who teach mathematics may need to run new ideas by the Department of Defence before sharing them or risk imprisonment.

Some academics are set to become much more familiar with the department's Defence Export Control Office (DECO), a unit that enforces the Defence Trade Control Act 2012, Australia's end of a 2007 pact with the US and UK over defence trade.

Until recently, DECO only regulated physically exported weapons and so-called "dual use" items such as encryption, computing hardware and biological matter.
However in March the act was updated to include "intangible supply", which is intended to prohibit the transfer of knowledge from Australia that could be used to produce weapons.

From November 2016 Australian academics could face a potential 10-year prison term for sending information overseas if their ideas fall within the Defence Strategic Goods List (DSGL). Put another way, they could be jailed for delivering online course material to foreign students or providing international peers with access to a server hosting that material.

A common theme in the articles I’ve posted is the looming automation of work for all sorts of occupations - here’s an interesting response to that - one that is consistent with the idea of ‘hyper-specialization’ and passion/curiosity driven careers (leading through unpredictable occupational pathways and learning needs). There is an interesting table comparing 1920 - 2000s - 2010s that is worth the view.
How tech is leading us back to a ‘village’-style life
There has been a lot of discussion about how the acceleration of technology is decimating the middle class and traditional jobs. But there has been very little discussion of an emerging trend where individuals are opting out of these same jobs people fear will disappear.

Driven by a post-scarcity economic model whereby you can live very frugally if you choose to, some workers (mostly college-educated and urban) are opting out of the now traditional work structure and choosing their own path. As Chelsea Rustrum puts it in her book It’s a Shareable Life, “You can live a life dictated by choice, passion, and freedom — a life where your … experiences are of the highest value.”

They are opting into alternative, passion-based professions that have gained popularity and acceptance, such as craft beer producer or yoga teacher, and that have flexible hours. Twenty years ago, if Bob, the valedictorian, showed up to his high school reunion and said he was starting an artisanal coffee shop and manually roasting his own beans, most of the attendees would have laughed and asked each other, “What the heck happened to Bob?” Today, Bob is admired as one of the few that are beginning to embrace the lifestyles of a hundred years ago. Yes, machines can manufacture pretty darn good coffee. But Bob likes to hand roast coffee, and people like to drink it.

The economics underlying this shift are of course driven by technology, which has progressively driven down the cost of commodity goods and enabled the easy sharing of capital assets. However, in an ironic twist, technological progress and abundance are ushering in a very retro lifestyle.

This is a great 1 hr video by Sandy Pentland of MIT & Social Physics fame presenting at the Santa Fe Institute.
Ties that Bind: The Goodness of Social Networks
Social networks have proven to be fertile ground for understanding human behavior. This fascinating exploration suggests that we’re much more motivated by social incentives that reward others than by economic self-interest alone. Pentland discusses how studying patterns of information exchange in a social network – even without any knowledge of the actual content – can help us predict with stunning accuracy how productive and effective that network is.

Here is The UN Secretary General's Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development. This is an interesting look at the future of Data Mobilization for social welfare.
The IEAG consists of over 20 international experts convened by the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to propose ways to improve data for achieving and monitoring sustainable development. The report highlights two big global challenges for the current state of data:

  • The challenge of invisibility (gaps in what we know from data, and when we find out)
  • The challenge of inequality (gaps between those who with and without information, and what they need to know make their own decisions)

The IEAG report makes specific recommendations on how to address these challenges, calling for a UN-led effort to mobilise the data revolution for sustainable development

Speaking of an emerging new form of economy - this is a must read for anyone that suspects that economics ‘as currently practiced’ is more of a ‘pseudo-science’ discipline that anything approaching an engagement with the ‘real’ world. This is an interview with the current Minister of Finance of Greece. What is evident from the research of the economic emerging within large virtual worlds is an anticipation of what ubiquitous Big Data will enable.
Interviewed by REASON magazine on virtual worlds and the future of economics
The moment that video game companies shifted from single-player to multiplayer games, without realizing it, they created a social economy. People interacting through the game have the opportunity not only to kill one another, but also to exchange stuff. Stuff that was valuable-or scarce, as an economist would say-within the virtual world.

In almost no time that sort of economy started creating, within the game, a lot of value, and also distributing it. If you have a kind of community involving millions of people who trade with one another, who engage with one another, and who can even create value through production processes-for instance, designing some shield or some garden and sending it through the store of the community to other players-all of a sudden, these video game companies realized that they have an economy in their hands.

A multiplayer game environment is a dream come true for an economist. Because here you have an economy where you don’t need statistics. And elaborate statistics is what you use when you don’t know everything, you’re not omniscient, and you need to use something in order to gain feeling as to what is happening to prices, what is happening to quantities, what’s happening to investments, and so on and so forth. But in a video game world, all the data are there. It’s like being God, who has access to everything and to what every member of the social economy is doing.

I also learned something else which I’m very grateful for. We economists are very much disposed toward our models, and our models assume that economic choices converge very quickly toward some kind of equilibrium where demand equals supply and where prices tend to their natural level and so on and so forth. Well, that’s not how the real world works. We should have known that.

In the video game world it’s quite astonishing to watch. Quickly, collective aggregate behavior converges at equilibrium and then disequilibrates itself. Then some other equilibrium comes and then goes away. It’s the speed and the irregularity of behavior around some equilibrium and the speed with which new equilibria are being formed.

Let me put it very brutally and very bluntly: Our best economic models-from the Federal Reserve or the U.S. Treasury or the International Monetary Fund or the Organization for Economic Development-are really not worth the trouble of putting together. Because they are presuming a kind of equilibrium stability and convergence toward equilibrium, because it makes our models look better. It is not something that is replicated in the real world.

A new development in the world of the Blockchain.
BitBeat: Blockstream Unveils Much-Awaited First Sidechain Prototype
After eight months developing its much-anticipated “sidechains” project, which aims to turn bitcoin’s technology into a more versatile platform  for innovative decentralizing applications, the cryptography team at Blockstream has unveiled its first prototype sidechain.

The “Sidechain Elements” software contains various features that could be appealing to institutions wanting to leverage bitcoin’s decentralized, peer-to-peer network in new, middleman-free business models. In particular, it includes applications that could help startups disrupt certain Wall Street processes.

The next step is opening the code up for outside developers to review, critique and tinker with. “We are now  inviting the technical community…to join in and participate and try out and comment on, and actually suggest changes or improvements,” said company president Adam Back, noting that chief technology officer Gregory Maxwell will discuss the details with bitcoin developers at a San Francisco meeting at 7 p.m. PDT (10 p.m. EDT) later Monday.

So the future of transactional payments and identity security? This is very interesting. There’s also a short video.
Forget Credit Cards, Now You Can Pay With Your Eyes
A new Japanese phone with an iris scanner may mark a new era of password-free mobile payments
In a spy movie, the protagonist or the villain, sneaking in to a secure facility, might trick an eye scanner into letting him or her through a locked door. But over in Japan, the dystopian-sounding iris scan is now being used for more pedestrian purposes: to pay for a new pair of socks or the latest manga.  

A new phone, released this month by Japanese telecommunications giant NTT Docomo, comes with iris recognition technology. Fujitsu’s Arrows NX F-04G phone allows users to unlock websites and access stored information using only their eyes, scanned by the phone’s front-facing camera. This means users can store credit card information and then pay for online purchases simply by staring into the screen.  

At 55,728 Japanese yen (about $450), Arrows is the first commercially available phone to use this technology. Iris scanning is not new, but the technology has long been prohibitively expensive. The Arrows iris scanner meets standards set by the FIDO (Fast IDentity Online) Alliance, an industry consortium dedicated to developing technical specifications for password-less online authentication. FIDO offers a protocol companies can follow to make sure their technology can interact with others. Members include Google, PayPal, Mastercard and Visa.

Another of my favorite themes is our relationship with our microbial profile - this is a great easy article highlighting the relationship with our microbial ecology and out immune system. Worth the read, at the most fundamental of levels the immune system distinguishes self-vs-other and when there are 10 times more other cells than our human cells that make up ‘our self’ - what is it that constitutes the ‘self’. :) As we domesticate DNA the boundary between self and environment will become more complex - perhaps self-as-environment is more precise.
All About Flora: How Important Gut Health Really Is
Don’t be grossed out – those little guys living in your guts are your friends.
Your intestines host up to 1,000 unique species, and how often do you think of any of them? Probably not very often at all, but they're really amazing little things. For starters, there are more of them than you: Bacterial cells outnumber human cells in most people by about tenfold.

But it doesn't stop there. With an immune system adapted to fight off all kinds of bacteria and viruses, it's amazing that so many are allowed to stay and thrive. What's more, many are beneficial to your health – helping you thrive.

A Gut-Centered Immune System
You and the bacteria that live in your gut have a mutually beneficial relationship. "It's really a partnership we all have," says Dr. James Versalovic, a professor of pathology at Baylor College of Medicine. You give them a place to live, and in return they help regulate your immune system, digest your food, produce some key nutrients and protect you from toxins and pathogens.

One of the most important functions is the modulating of our immune system, Versalovic says. That is, turning it up or down when the time is right.
"The microbes that live within us effectively act as a dimmer switch for our immune systems," he says. "Some enhance our immune responses, and others dim it down, or suppress inflammation."

As if this weren’t complex enough - 13 years after the first human genome was mapped - it’s already obsolete. What will happen in the next 13 years? What’s important about this approach is not only a capacity to ‘graph’ humanity - but the technique will undoubtedly begin to be applied to the Gaia-nome :) (you heard it here first).
Rebooting the Human Genome
The official map of the human genome can’t tell you everything about your genes. Does graph theory offer a better way?
The Human Genome Project was one of mankind’s greatest triumphs. But the official gene map that resulted in 2003, known as the “reference genome,” is no longer up to the job.

So say scientists laying plans for a new universal map they say will combine the genomes of hundreds, and eventually thousands, of people to create a true reference that reflects all of humanity.

The problem with the existing gene map is that it represents only one way a person’s genome could look. The new map, called a “graph genome,” or pan-genome, would use mathematics to reflect every possible twist or turn a person’s genome could take as it spirals around 46 chromosomes.

“It’s very new technology. But in less than five years, everyone is going to be using it,” predicts Gabor Marth, a geneticist at the University of Utah.

Here’s a fantastic Nature article discussing CRSPR - with wonderful graphics to illustrate the dynamics.
CRISPR, the disruptor
A powerful gene-editing technology is the biggest game changer to hit biology since PCR. But with its huge potential come pressing concerns.
Three years ago, Bruce Conklin came across a method that made him change the course of his lab.

Conklin, a geneticist at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, California, had been trying to work out how variations in DNA affect various human diseases, but his tools were cumbersome. When he worked with cells from patients, it was hard to know which sequences were important for disease and which were just background noise. And engineering a mutation into cells was expensive and laborious work. “It was a student's entire thesis to change one gene,” he says.

Then, in 2012, he read about a newly published technique called CRISPR that would allow researchers to quickly change the DNA of nearly any organism — including humans. Soon after, Conklin abandoned his previous approach to modelling disease and adopted this new one. His lab is now feverishly altering genes associated with various heart conditions. “CRISPR is turning everything on its head,” he says.

The sentiment is widely shared: CRISPR is causing a major upheaval in biomedical research. Unlike other gene-editing methods, it is cheap, quick and easy to use, and it has swept through labs around the world as a result. Researchers hope to use it to adjust human genes to eliminate diseases, create hardier plants, wipe out pathogens and much more besides. “I've seen two huge developments since I've been in science: CRISPR and PCR,” says John Schimenti, a geneticist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Like PCR, the gene-amplification method that revolutionized genetic engineering after its invention in 1985, “CRISPR is impacting the life sciences in so many ways,” he says.

Speaking of DNA - here’s a research finding linking the activation or expression of some genes dependent on the season. A genetic link to ‘seasonal affective disorders?’ maybe - and more maybe because of the link with the immune system - there’s a genetic link with allergies.
Your DNA Changes With the Seasons, Just Like the Weather
What do you know of inflammation? Inflammation is for the winter, when genes uncoil in your blood and messengers send codes containing the blueprints for proteins to protect you from the harsh diseases of the cold. Inflammation is for those long nights, when the sun hides its face, or rain clouds block the sky, and trillions of little T-cells are born to fight the diseases of cold and flu season.

At least, that’s the news from a new study showing that DNA reacts to the seasons, changing your body’s chemistry depending on the time of year.

The findings, published today in Nature Communications1, show that as many as one-fifth of all genes in blood cells undergo seasonal changes in expression. Genes often are seen as immutable, but a lot of our body’s workings depend upon which genes are translated when. In the winter, the study found, your blood contains a denser blend of immune responders, while summer veins swim with fat-burning, body-building, water-retaining hormones. These seasonal changes could provide insight into inflammatory diseases like hypertension, and autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes.

The question is slap-your-forehead simple: How do genes respond to seasonal changes? Surprisingly, nobody had yet looked. “We knew that there are some genes that change their expression throughout the day, and then it hit us—like BLAM!—what is the effect on genes of the length of day throughout the year?” says Chris Wallace, an immunogeneticist at Cambridge University.

In the blood cells, about 5,000 genes showed some changes depending on the season. And because the study was looking specifically at white blood cells, it makes sense that most of the genetic changes had to do with immune system responses.

This is CRISPR - but a very interesting breakthrough - this is a 4 min video worth the view.
Making Medicine with Chemical Building Blocks
Illinois chemistry professor Marty Burke explains how his research group breaks down complex chemicals into simple "building blocks." His group recently discovered that thousands of molecules that could be very useful as medicines can be built with only 12 different building blocks, which could dramatically speed up drug development.
Another 3 min video about the same topic by Burke. But a much better illustration of the actual machine that build the molecules - this is not 3D printing but does for chemistry what 3D printing does for manufacturing.
A Molecule-Making Machine

This is fascinating - the human as a spime - a record of their history to exposure to viruses.
New blood test shows all the viruses you've ever been infected with
Welcome to your personal, viral logbook
Chances are, you don't know all the viruses you've encountered throughout your life. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just find out? According to a new study in Science, researchers have devised a blood test that can do just that by identifying the viruses that your immune system has fought in the past. The test is in its infancy, but it’s already giving us some insight into just how similar people’s immune systems are — despite the large geographic distances that can separate them.

Humans have "immunological memory," meaning that our immune cells remember all the viruses we’ve encountered in the past. It's a biological system that helps speed up our immune response during future encounters with the same virus. Researchers tapped this memory tool to figure out virus infection histories for over 500 people across four continents.

This is an excellent discussion of the issues of a genetic modification to the species of mosquito that transmits Dengue Fever. Interesting read.
Genetically Modified Mosquito
Sparks a Controversy in Florida
Officials in the Florida Keys are seeking to use a GM mosquito that could help prevent a recurrence of dengue fever there. But fears among some residents — which scientists say are unfounded — are slowing the release of mosquitoes whose offspring are genetically programmed to die.
When people think of genetically modified organisms, food crops like GM corn and soybeans usually come to mind. But engineering more complex living things is now possible, and the controversy surrounding genetic modification has now spread to the lowly mosquito, which is being genetically engineered to control mosquito-borne illnesses.

A U.K.-based company, Oxitec, has altered two genes in the Aedes aegypti mosquito so that when modified males breed with wild females, the offspring inherit a lethal gene and die in the larval stage. The state agency that controls mosquitos in the Florida Keys is awaiting approval from the federal government of a trial release of Oxitec’s genetically modified mosquitos to prevent a recurrence of a dengue fever outbreak. But some people in the Keys and elsewhere are up in arms, with more than 155,000 signing a petition opposing the trial of genetically engineered mosquitoes in a small area of 400 households next to Key West.

Many scientists say, however, that genetically modifying the Aedes mosquito — and possibly other types of mosquitoes carrying diseases such as malaria — is a more effective and environmentally benign way of controlling mosquito-borne illnesses than spraying pesticides and other measures. Oxitec’s genetically engineered Aedes aegypti has proven itself in other countries, successfully reducing populations of the insect by up to 90 percent in field trials in the Cayman Islands, Brazil, Malaysia, and Panama. Overall, the trials were so successful that Brazil approved the use of the GM mosquitoes last year.

Talking about domesticating DNA! - here’s something that leave the imagination a little stunned - where will we be in the next decade? This is worth the read.
Team develops transplantable bioengineered forelimb in an animal model
A team of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators has made the first steps towards development of bioartificial replacement limbs suitable for transplantation. In their report, which has been published online in the journal Biomaterials, the researchers describe using an experimental approach previously used to build bioartificial organs to engineer rat forelimbs with functioning vascular and muscle tissue. They also provided evidence that the same approach could be applied to the limbs of primates.

"The composite nature of our limbs makes building a functional biological replacement particularly challenging," explains Harald Ott, MD, of the MGH Department of Surgery and the Center for Regenerative Medicine, senior author of the paper. "Limbs contain muscles, bone, cartilage, blood vessels, tendons, ligaments and nerves - each of which has to be rebuilt and requires a specific supporting structure called the matrix. We have shown that we can maintain the matrix of all of these tissues in their natural relationships to each other, that we can culture the entire construct over prolonged periods of time, and that we can repopulate the vascular system and musculature."

This is an excellent article on the emergence of a new understanding of the influence of the nervous system on our health - opening the way for new forms of treatments.
Hacking our nervous system
In the late 1990s, Tracey was experimenting with a rat’s brain. “We’d injected an anti-inflammatory drug into the brain because we were studying the beneficial effect of blocking inflammation during a stroke,” he recalls. “We were surprised to find that when the drug was present in the brain, it also blocked inflammation in the spleen and in other organs in the rest of the body. Yet the amount of drug we’d injected was far too small to have got into the bloodstream and travelled to the rest of the body.”

After months puzzling over this, he finally hit upon the idea that the brain might be using the nervous system – specifically the vagus nerve – to tell the spleen to switch off inflammation everywhere.

It was an extraordinary idea – if Tracey was right, inflammation in body tissues was being directly regulated by the brain. Communication between the immune system’s specialist cells in our organs and bloodstream and the electrical connections of the nervous system had been considered impossible. Now Tracey was apparently discovering that the two systems were intricately linked.

The first critical test of this exciting hypothesis was to cut the vagus nerve. When Tracey and his team did, injecting the anti-inflammatory drug into the brain no longer had an effect on the rest of the body. The second test was to stimulate the nerve without any drug in the system. “Because the vagus nerve, like all nerves, communicates information through electrical signals, it meant that we should be able to replicate the experiment by putting a nerve stimulator on the vagus nerve in the brainstem to block inflammation in the spleen,” he explains. “That’s what we did and that was the breakthrough experiment.”

On the energy front it seems that Saudi Arabia could retain a place as a key energy exporter even in a future where carbon fuels have been displaced.
Saudi Arabia solar power exports ‘absolutely realistic’
Hopes that Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude oil producer, could soon become a top solar energy exporter are well founded, according the head of one of the country’s leading power firms.
“Saudi could be a solar exporter – I think it’s absolutely realistic and it’s going to happen,” said Paddy Padmanathan, CEO of ACWA Power, which runs a portfolio of solar, coal, gas and desalination plants across the Middle East.

In the short term, he said it was likely solar would fill the gaps in fast rising demand in the country, 10-11% a year in what is now a 50 GW grid.

“Within a decade I have a suspicion we will produce a significant amount of electricity using renewable energy and particularly solar – but we will consume it.”

“There will come a time when we have enough capacity for exports… the minute we start looking across a broader mix of countries we can start looking at time zone differences.”

“I think in 2020 we’re going to look back and say – if we pick one year as a point of inflexion – I’m very confident it will be 2015.”
Just to get a sense of how much land area is needed to supply the current global energy needs - here’s an interesting illustration.
How Much Room Do We Need To Supply The Entire World With Solar Electricity?

Here’s a new study from Stanford. The question is NOT IF - But WHEN the world will have cheap abundant energy. I’m sure this timeline can/will be accelerated. The other question is - Are we really ready to enact fundamental change in our geopolitics?
Stanford engineers develop state-by-state plan to convert U.S. to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2050
Mark Z. Jacobson and colleagues show that it's technically possible for each state to replace fossil fuel energy with entirely clean, renewable energy.
One potential way to combat ongoing climate change, eliminate air pollution mortality, create jobs and stabilize energy prices involves converting the world's entire energy infrastructure to run on clean, renewable energy.

This is a daunting challenge. But now, in a new study, Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, and colleagues, including U.C. Berkeley researcher Mark Delucchi, are the first to outline how each of the 50 states can achieve such a transition by 2050. The 50 individual state plans call for aggressive changes to both infrastructure and the ways we currently consume energy, but indicate that the conversion is technically and economically possible through the wide-scale implementation of existing technologies.

"The main barriers are social, political and getting industries to change. One way to overcome the barriers is to inform people about what is possible," Jacobson said. "By showing that it's technologically and economically possible, this study could reduce the barriers to a large scale transformation."

Here’s a new development from DARPA - that may soon be in a self-driving car or drone near you.
Tiny Lasers on Microchips Could Help Self-Driving Cars "See" The Road
Since self-driving cars don’t have drivers, the cars have to perceive their surroundings themselves. Lidar is a great option—it’s like radar but with lasers instead of radio waves—but it’s big and pricy. However, a new kind of lidar from DARPA could change that.

DARPA, the U.S. Department of Defense’s emerging tech branch, announced the new tech last week: It’s lidar that’s small enough to be put on a microchip. These tiny scanners can help self-driving military vehicles survey surrounding terrain to steer, improve targeting capabilities, detect nearby chemical or biological weapons, and more. They’re calling the new system SWEEPER. It sweeps data-gathering lasers back and forth more than 100,000 times a second, which is 10,000 times faster than current lidar.

Right now, lidar systems are big, honking, ugly things that stick out from the bodies of experimental cars—meanwhile, DARPA’s little lidar chips could be discreetly blanketed all over a vehicle. And while lasers are super accurate and can generate great maps for self-driving cars, they’re guided by mechanisms that are often big, slow, and sensitive to temperature swings and impacts.

Not only is SWEEPER cheaper, but it also steers the lasers without using mechanical means. Instead, it uses tiny arrays of emitters that “control the direction of selected electromagnetic signals by varying the phase across many small antennas,” a press release says. Since SWEEPER is smaller and less expensive, it opens more doors to commercial use.

Speaking of tiny - here’s a breakthrough in memory - This is ½ a Terabyte in a microSD chip!! Expensive now - but given the inevitable price plunge - this opens the way for Terabyte-capable wearables.
Microdia crams 512GB into a microSD card, out in July
Meant for professional photographers with an unquenchable desire for storage space, this microSD card will cost upwards of $1,000
Just a few stands away from SanDisk here at Computex is Microdia, and while it doesn't quite have the same brand recognition as the memory card giant, this California-based company also makes flash memory and accessories. It would have been easy to ignore, but then I would have missed a microSD card that stuffs 512GB worth of storage space into a piece of plastic smaller than your fingernail.

You read that right, 512GB -- more than twice the size of the 200GB microSD card that SanDisk announced back at Mobile World Congress in March. The extra-capacity SDXC format allows for up to 2TB cards, but 512GB is the largest we've yet seen.

Naturally, it won't be cheap. Microdia says it estimates the Xtra Elite will cost around $1,000 -- which converts to around £655 or AU$1,285 -- when it goes on sale in July, though that's not the final retail price. You can buy a 64GB card (one eighth of the size) for around $30, £18 or AU$35.

And this week in Robotics - the DARPA contest winner is.
Korean Robot Makers Walk Off With $2 Million Prize
A team of roboticists from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology claimed a $2 million prize on Saturday that was offered by a Pentagon research agency for developing a mobile robot capable of operating in hazardous environments.

Twenty-five teams of university and corporate roboticists competed for the prize, which was first proposed in 2012 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The robots were graded on their ability to complete eight tasks, including driving a vehicle, opening a door, operating a portable drill, turning a valve and climbing stairs, all in the space of an hour.

The Korean victory is a validation of the work of JunHo Oh, the designer of the Hubo family of humanoid robots that he has developed since 2002. The winning Hubo is a clever machine that can kneel and drive on wheels in addition to walking.

This may be of interest to anyone who interested in contributing to the world’s largest knowledge commons (other than the Internet itself).  There are several video - the first is a 40 sec video by Jimmy Wales.
How to join a Wikipedia meetup near you
Have you ever been interested in editing Wikipedia? Maybe you had a question and didn’t know where to ask? Wikipedia meetups are an easy way to learn how to edit. Experienced Wikipedians will be on hand to help you navigate the site, get oriented, and learn best practices. They can show you how to get it right the first time, instead of by trial and error. This video and companion FAQ help explain what a meetup is and how to find one near you—regardless of your expertise.

And in a sort of anti-Wiki process here’s an elaboration from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.This is important set of negotiation with many significant implication - that one would think should be more transparent.
What Is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)?
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a secretive, multinational trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement. The main problems are two-fold:

(1) Intellectual Property Chapter: Leaked draft texts of the agreement show that the IP chapter would have extensive negative ramifications for users’ freedom of speech, right to privacy and due process, and hinder peoples' abilities to innovate.

(2) Lack of Transparency: The entire process has shut out multi-stakeholder participation and is shrouded in secrecy.

The twelve nations currently negotiating the TPP are the US, Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam. The TPP contains a chapter on intellectual property covering copyright, trademarks, and patents. Since the draft text of the agreement has never been officially released to the public, we know from leaked documents, such as the May 2014 draft of the TPP Intellectual Property Chapter [PDF], that US negotiators are pushing for the adoption of copyright measures far more restrictive than currently required by international treaties, including the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

For Fun
Here’s something that funny and interesting - an afterlife for memes. The gifs and pictures make it so clear.
13 Painfully Outdated Phrases We All Still Use
1. "Hang up the phone."
2. "Roll down the window."
3. "Close, but no cigar."
4. You sound "like a broken record."
5. You look like you've "been through the wringer."
6. "Dropping a dime" on someone.
7. "Hold your horses."
8. I need to "blow off some steam."
9. Did you "tape it"?
10. I just need your "John Hancock" on this form.
11. Don't "telegraph your punches."
12. "Carbon copy."
13. "See you on the flip side."

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