Thursday, January 7, 2016

Friday Thinking 8 January 2016

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. 

In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.

Current deep learning algorithms and neural networks are far from their theoretically possible performance. Today, we can design vision networks that are 5-10 times cheaper and use 15 times less parameters while outperforming their much more expensive counterparts from one year ago, solely by the virtue of improved network architectures and better training methodologies. I am convinced that this is just the start: deep learning algorithms will become so efficient that they will be able to run on cheap mobile devices, even without extra hardware support or prohibitive memory overhead.
Christian Szegedy, Senior Research Scientist at Google
I expect within five years, we will have neural networks that can summarize what happens in a video clip, and will be able to generate short videos. Neural networks are already the standard solution to vision tasks. I expect they will become the standard solution to NLP and robotics tasks as well. I also predict that neural networks will become an important tool in other scientific disciplines. For example, neural networks could be trained to model the behavior of genes, drugs, and proteins and then used to design new medicines.
Ian Goodfellow, Senior Research Scientist at Google
In the past two years we are observing an accelerated success of deep learning in most areas it is applied to. Even if we don't achieve the Holy Grail of human level cognition within the next five years (though this will most probably happen in our lifetimes), we will see huge improvements in many additional domains. Specifically, I think the most promising area will be unsupervised learning, as most of the data in the world is unlabeled, and our own brain's neocortex is primarily a very good unsupervised learning box.
Eli David, CTO of Deep Instinct

Professional managers so called, namely people who believe they are qualified to manage everything because they sat still in an MBA or MHA classroom for a couple of years. Being educated in the abstractions of administration prepares no one for the cauldrons of practice.

Management, unlike medicine, uses little science: hence it is not a profession. Or to put this another way, because illnesses in organizations, and prescriptions for their treatment, have hardly been specified with any reliability, management has to be practiced as a craft, rooted in experience, and an art, dependent on insights. Visceral understanding counts for a lot more than cerebral knowledge.
Henry Mintzberg - Who can possibly manage a hospital?

He uses the discovery on [the remote Pacific island of] Yap to debunk standard textbook theories that money evolved from societies frustrated by the obvious limitations of barter. Here was an economy so simple it would have been easier to simply swap some fish or coconuts when wanting a nice sea cucumber. Indeed, Martin claims a consensus is emerging among anthropologists that there is little evidence any society ever relied on barter, for all the long-standing claims to the contrary.

The author believes Yap does not simply challenge conventional theories of money's origins, however. Far more profoundly, he says it should challenge our conception of what money actually is – for it is not something tangible, based on precious metals such as gold and silver. This, he argues, gives too much weight to the surviving historical evidence of metal-based coins and the views of muddle-headed economists and philosophers. Chief villain in his eyes appears to be John Locke, who may have provided intellectual ballast for modern liberal democracy but misunderstood money with devastating consequences.

Martin sees it as based upon a system of credit and clearing from the start. Giving it a suitably modern twist, he says we should view money as a social technology, a set of ideas and practices for organising society. It was created after the collision of Mesopotamian inventions of literacy, numeracy and accounting with Greek notions of equality, and evolved amid struggles for supremacy between sovereigns and their subjects. Ultimately, it was a liberating force for individuals against the state – but also something prone to near-ceaseless speculation and financial crises.

To prove his core point – that money is not currency – Martin reminds readers of a previous crisis 43 years ago in Ireland. Following an industrial dispute, the nation's banking system shut down for nearly seven months, with customers unable to withdraw or deposit money. Yet instead of the country grinding to a halt as anticipated, people began accepting cheques or IOUs based on their own assessments of risk. So in a rich and developed economy, albeit one with strong communal links, institutionalised banking was replaced by a personalised credit system – proving, he says, "the official paraphernalia" of banks, credit cards and notes, can disappear "and yet money still remains".
Money: The Unauthorised Biography by Felix Martin – review
A timely and entertaining history of money challenges not only capitalism but our entire notion of what currency is

In autumn 2008, Barack Obama was elected president, global financial markets were crashing and Satoshi Nakamoto issued a white paper called "Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System". This paper introduced the idea of a blockchain ledger, which the author intended to enable people to transfer money to each other without a bank.

Now entrepreneurs and developers are proposing other uses for this ledger, such as writing executable contracts without lawyers and automatically settling the transfer of stocks and bonds without a clearing house. They're building applications on top of the blockchain that could publicly and immutably record everything from the birth of a child to a transfer of property ownership. Timestamps, ledgers and digital signatures have been around for many years, but this combination has unlocked the opportunity for many new and consequential innovations.

By putting business licences, property titles or birth certificates on the blockchain, governments will enable citizens to digitally conduct transactions without lawyers, notaries or queuing at government offices. Once on the blockchain, registered ownership of a car, a home or other assets can be transferred from one person to another without the need for a government recorder or other third party, while still being legal and publicly acknowledged.
How the blockchain will enable self-service government

This is a good short article outlining the dangers to innovation and progressive market and economic reform represented by the proposed TPP negotiated agreement.
Trans-Pacific Partnership is a wonderful idea – for China
The website of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative proudly describes the Trans-Pacific Partnership as “Made in America.” It does so to position this treaty, made up of a motley crew of allies, as a bulwark of free competitive markets against China. It is only fair, then, to judge the TPP on these merits: Will it lead to freer, more competitive markets and more rapid economic growth? Does it offer a better future for the U.S. and Canadian middle classes?

Worryingly to those of us who believe that entrepreneurship is crucial for economic growth, the TPP is failing on its declared goals. Once ratified, the agreement will make our markets less free and less competitive, and it will particularly hurt innovation-based entrepreneurship. This could not come at a worse time for our future economic growth, since, as The Economist has just reported, we are already at historic lows in the formation and growth of new companies and historically high levels of concentration across many industries.

The United States, which sees itself as the champion of entrepreneurship, has devised a deal that seems designed to make it harder for new high-tech businesses to start, scale up and succeed. Instead of “Made in America,” the U.S. Trade Representative should describe the deal for what it truly is: “The delight of Beijing.” A careful reading of the agreement shows that it is Chinese economic officials who should be opening their best champagne in celebration.

The only explanation for this outcome is that, in the secrecy under which the TPP was negotiated, interests representing a very narrow slice of U.S. society were allowed in, and the public interest was blocked at the door.

Another interesting article on the emerging technology of the Blockchain and it’s potential impact on our societies, economies and identities.
How the blockchain will enable self-service government
When a baby boy was born on August 4, 1961, the local newspaper announced his birth, as it did many others. More than a declaration of happy news by his parents, those few lines of information were part of a long-lasting tradition -- using the local daily to register, at a set point in time, the addition of a new person to society. Seemingly inconsequential timestamps like these occur every day and, as it turns out, play a key role in ensuring more fair and just societies.

It's not just limited to births. Kidnappers take photos of hostages holding the front page of a recent newspaper to act as proof that they are still alive. Governments often require entrepreneurs to publish the establishment of their new company in a local newspaper. Beyond newspapers, a postmark confirms to a government that taxpayers filed their taxes on time. A patent helps inventors to prove that they developed an invention first.

But when we depend on private companies to manage this task, we have the potential for exposing ourselves to abuse. Manipulation of the chronological order -- as when banks process a customer's largest cheque first rather than their most recent to increase the likelihood of it bouncing -- creates a less just world.

Similar to the internet's facilitation of instant, global communication, a combination of time-stamped and digitally signed transactions hosted on an accessible ledger could play an important role. They could help governments reduce friction and increase transparency associated with important transactions.

An article about the whole being greater and more intelligent then an aggregate of parts.
How collective intelligence helps organizations move past hierarchical leadership structures
Conventional wisdom tells us that organizations run best when critical decisions are made by a strong and capable CEO.

This is true even if it means calling upon a temporary leader until a permanent replacement can be found (as we saw with Twitter’s recent scramble to bring on Jack Dorsey).

Of course, this begs the question – are there alternatives to top-down decision-making that can achieve better outcomes?

Like an organization facing bankruptcy or a desperate round of financing, bee colonies face a life-or-death decision every year – selecting a new hive location.

From hollow trees to abandoned sheds, a colony will consider dozens of candidate sites over a 30 square mile area, evaluating each with respect to dozens of competing criteria.  Does it have sufficient ventilation?  Is it safe from predators?  Is it large enough to store honey for winter?

It’s a highly complex decision with many tradeoffs and a misstep means death to the colony. This is a decision even a seasoned CEO would not want to face.
Remarkably, honeybees make optimal decisions.
As revealed by the painstaking research of Thomas Seeley at Cornell University, honeybees select the very best site at least 80 percent of the time.

Here’s is the most recent RSA - Animate video on education and learning - well worth the view.
Ever wondered why kids say they’re bored at school, or why they stop trying when the work gets harder? Educationalist Carol Dweck explains how the wrong kind of praise actually *harms* young people.

This short video is essential viewing for EVERYONE – from teachers and education workers to relatives and friends - and will totally revolutionise the way you interact with children.

This is a fascinating article about the possibility of developing a new approach to the dreaded performance evaluation review - using insight from team work in video games - given the movement toward sociometrics based on sensors and ‘big data’ this should be of interest to anyone involved in HR and Knowledge Management.
2015 has been a good year for feedback. The annual performance review is under fire from what seems like all sides, and the notion that giving employees regular, continuous feedback is gaining popularity in its place.

But as more people join the ranks of remote workers, feedback may soon become harder to give. Face time is still the default mode for delivering constructive criticism. For companies and managers, that presents a problem—but the world of gaming may hold some answers.

Unlike most organizations, games are purpose-built to provide continuous, real-time feedback. You win, you lose, you level up and feel a sense of satisfaction when you’ve improved. Game designer Jane McGonigal has argued that that feedback loop helps gamers create strong social relationships based on collaboration toward shared goals.

Riot Games is a leader in the gaming industry for employee satisfaction. Ranked number 13 in Fortune’s best places to work, the company has built a strong culture around feedback, using a combination of annual 360-degree reviews and one-on-one conversations between employees and managers. What's more, it's running experiments in some of its games—including the hit League of Legends—to inform those performing management practices.

Human-Machine Superintelligence Can Solve the World’s Most Dire Problems
The combination of human and computer intelligence might be just what we need to solve the “wicked” problems of the world, such as climate change and geopolitical conflict, say researchers from the Human Computation Institute (HCI) and Cornell University.
In an article published in the journal Science, the authors present a new vision of human computation (the science of crowd-powered systems), which pushes beyond traditional limits, and takes on hard problems that until recently have remained out of reach.

Humans surpass machines at many things, ranging from simple pattern recognition to creative abstraction. With the help of computers, these cognitive abilities can be effectively combined into multidimensional collaborative networks that achieve what traditional problem-solving cannot.

Most of today’s human computation systems rely on sending bite-sized ‘micro-tasks’ to many individuals and then stitching together the results. For example, 165,000 volunteers in EyeWire have analyzed thousands of images online to help build the world’s most complete map of human retinal neurons.

This microtasking approach alone cannot address the tough challenges we face today, say the authors. A radically new approach is needed to solve “wicked problems” – those that involve many interacting systems that are constantly changing, and whose solutions have unforeseen consequences (e.g., corruption resulting from financial aid given in response to a natural disaster).

New human computation technologies can help. Recent techniques provide real-time access to crowd-based inputs, where individual contributions can be processed by a computer and sent to the next person for improvement or analysis of a different kind. This enables the construction of more flexible collaborative environments that can better address the most challenging issues.

Wetware meets hardware and software - everyware - soon we may be able to see ourselves in ourselves and even more interact directly with the digital environment. This is definitely not ready for primetime - but when we consider the acceleration of machine/deep learning and the power of our wearables - the augmented cognitive capacity and communication that will be available in the next decade and more is something that few of us can imagine.
Telepathy: 'Mind Reading' Computer Deciphers Words From Brainwaves
Japanese scientists have potentially developed a device that can "read minds," a computer that can read information from brainwaves and decipher words before they are spoken. This "telepathic" computer allowed the researchers to realize that the brain's electrical activity is the same whether words are spoken aloud or held inside.

A team of scientists, led by Yamazaki Toshimasa, the Kyushu Institute of Technology's brain computer interface expert, examined the brains of 12 men, women and children while they recited a series of words, recording their brainwaves while the subjects did so. They used an electroencephalogram, or EEG, as their method of identifying words in the Broca area of the brain.

The researchers said that the device is able to examine brainwaves to identify the syllables and letters of the Japanese alphabet, giving the device the ability to decipher words and phrases without them needing to be said aloud, according to the Daily Mail. They identified the Japanese words for "goo," "par" and "scissors" with the computer before they were spoken….

Here’s another development that can easily look like technology sufficiently sophisticated to ‘be magic’. A great 4 min video as well.
A team of researchers in Japan has created HaptoClone, which allows people to touch objects and other people without being near them. In other words, we now have touchable holograms.

“This system has two workspaces apart from each other and the two workspace fields are virtually ‘superimposed’ optically and haptically,” according to the overview page for HaptoClone created by the Shinoda-Makino Lab at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Frontier Sciences. A person in one workspace is able to see an image of the object in the other workspace, and when they reach out to “touch” the object, ultrasound energy creates a touching sensation.

New forms of bedtime stories? novels or movies? Science publications? 1 min video.
If augmented reality is the future of storytelling, it should come as no surprise that the technology has made its way into the world of graphic novels. The already visual storytelling experience in comic books and graphic novels is the perfect platform for technological enhancement, and books like Modern Polaxis have already made the jump. Modern Polaxis is a graphic novel that comes with an augmented reality mobile app, so the time travelling science fiction story literally leaps off the page.

Polaxis is the name of the story’s protagonist, and the book is set up as a collection of his personal journal entries. “Modern Polaxis is a paranoid time traveller”, explains Sutu, the author, illustrator, and animator of the book. And although Polaxis keeps a journal record of his travels, “all his secret information, his paranoid delusions and conspiracy theories, he hides away in a layer of Augmented Reality”.

Imagine using your smartphone as a freshness detector either when you’re shopping or cooking?
Microspectrometer technology for smartphones to help determine fruit freshness
New miniature sensor technology that fits into smartphones could soon allow consumers to instantly determine how fresh or ripe fruit and vegetables are.
The University of Western Australia's microelectronics research group has developed a tiny spectrometer which uses light to analyse the properties of different objects.

The technology had long been used on a much larger scale, to determine the quality and value of crops, to test raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry, for medical diagnostics, defence, and by the oil and gas sector.
But those required expensive laboratory grade instruments.
The microspectrometer was completely different.

It was manufactured using a well-established software system that allowed it to be produced at low cost.
"This change effectively takes spectroscopy from laboratory-based scientific and industrial uses and places it in the hands of consumers and commercial users for field-portable applications," head of the research team Professor Lorenzo Faraone said.

He said in the future, the sensor could be fitted to smartphones so that shoppers could check their groceries in real time just by pointing their phone at the fresh food.
"It could also be used in drones to help search for minerals in the ground or to identify water around crops and for a multitude of other innovative commercial applications," he said.

This is a very interesting integration of capabilities - that serve to cost out the local benefits of solar energy with a precision and efficiency that is amazing. The digital environment and the informational atmosphere.
Google helps analyze if rooftop solar panels are good deal
Google's proposition is a faster, simpler way of sizing up possible pros and cons of solar than calling out someone for a site evaluation or using the more complex calculator offered by the U.S. Energy Department.
The company that lets you compare air fares and translate foreign languages online wants to make it easier to weigh the costs and benefits of installing solar panels on household rooftops.

Google is rolling out a new online service that quickly tallies up considerations of going solar and whether homeowners should consider buying or leasing photovoltaic panels costing thousands of dollars. Google's Project Sunroof combines the eye-in-the-sky images behind Google Earth with calculations on how much shade trees cast over a rooftop, data on local weather patterns, industry pricing and available subsidies to arrive at its bottom line.

The service expanded in December to analyze properties in the Raleigh area, as well as 15 other metro areas in Arizona, Nevada, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Colorado.

Interested potential customers are referred to solar-panel installers for further follow-up, cutting their marketing costs, said Carl Elkin, the senior software engineer behind the service.
"We at Google believe in solar energy. The solar industry needs our help," he said.

Telepresence robots aren’t new - I know at least one Federal agency that uses two of them - but this one is the next generation.
Social, telepresence robots revealed by scientists
Say hello to Nadine, a "receptionist" at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. She is friendly, and will greet you back. Next time you meet her, she will remember your name and your previous conversation with her. She looks almost like a human being, with soft skin and flowing brunette hair. She smiles when greeting you, looks at you in the eye when talking, and can also shake hands with you. And she is a humanoid.

This is a very interesting development that makes plausible a new platform for cloud computing - even household servers for personal home IoT could be a type of cloud commons...
Nvidia's Drive PX 2 is the world's first in-car AI supercomputer
Nvidia has announced the successor to last year's Drive PX in-car computer. The new model, known as the Drive PX 2, is liquid cooled and seriously powerful, sporting 12 CPU cores and 8 teraflops of processing power. It's designed to allow vehicles to accurately sense their surroundings and navigate autonomously.

The computer is designed to provide autonomous vehicles with the latest Nvidia GPU tech, allowing for 360-degree situational awareness. According to the company, in terms of raw power, it's roughly equivalent to 150 MacBook Pros. Nvidia believes that the level of power provided by the new computer will be necessary if self-driving cars are ever to hit the mainstream.

With autonomous vehicles using an array of sensors, the Drive PX 2 is naturally able to process information from a wide range of sources. It can handle inputs from 12 video cameras, ultrasonic sensors, and both radar and LiDAR. All that data is combined and analyzed by Nvidia's DriveWorks software tool set, allowing the vehicle to picture the world around it, determine its position, pinpoint obstacles, and plot the safest possible route.

It's made up of two Tegra CPUs paired with two discrete GPUs based on the company's Pascal architecture. That hardware provides 8 teraflops of processing power, allowing for up to 24 trillion deep learning operations per second.

Nanobots in our blood stream and drones in our ecologies all working to garden Gaia as canvas of human aesthetic response and responsibility.- As McLuhan noted in the early 50s the earth is now a human work of art - let’s hope it’s good..
Starfish-Killing, Artificially Intelligent Robot Is Set to Patrol the Great Barrier Reef
Crown of thorns starfish are destroying the reef. Bots that wield poison could dampen the invasion
The Great Barrier Reef will have a robotic protector beginning this winter. The underwater autonomous vehicle is programmed to patrol the massive living structure in search of destructive crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), which it then kills by lethal injection. These starfish prey on coral polyps, and although they are native to the reef, their population has exploded in the past few years, possibly because of overfishing of their natural predators. The latest report from Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority places the venomous invertebrates alongside climate change and human activity as a significant threat to the reef, which lost half its coral cover between 1985 and 2012.

COTSbot, developed by robotics researchers at Queensland University of Technology in Australia, could help slow the starfish's invasion. Artificially intelligent, it correctly identified its target 99.4 percent of the time in laboratory tests. “It's now so good it even ignores our 3-D-printed decoys and targets only live starfish,” Queensland's Matthew Dunbabin says. A fleet of COTSbots could supplement the efforts of human divers who currently remove or poison the sea stars by hand and could operate during bad weather or high currents. They could also be useful at night when starfish are more active but swimming is prohibited.

This is an interesting development in Australia - that would enable new forms of funding for innovation and start-ups.
Watch out for mum and dad venture capitalists as inventors turn to crowdfunding
New laws being considered by Parliament would make it easier for ordinary people to buy a tiny stake of an infant company, whether they want it to become the next Google or just help a local business grow. For the companies, the changes would mean business owners can get access to the public's money without having to fulfil onerous reporting requirements. It's called crowd-sourced equity funding.

Most people are familiar with donation-based crowd funding, where artists ask for money to record a new album or inventors ask people to purchase a product in advance. This gives them money to buy whatever materials are needed to set up production,  such as the successful Flow bee hive – with a tap for mess-less, sting-less honey extraction. But funders in this project were getting bee hives in return, not a share in the company.  

The government's crowd-sourced funding laws won't affect this donation crowd funding – you will still be able to use Pozible to raise money for your parents to go on holiday or develop your clothes-washing backpack. Instead, the laws could turn Australia into a real-life continuous episode of Shark Tank – a television show where small-business owners and inventors ask millionaires for money in exchange for a stake in the company.    

The idea is to open funding options for entrepreneurs and give investors the chance to get in on the ground floor of a company like Atlassian – the Sydney software company that started with a $10,000 credit card and listed recently on the New York stock exchange with a $3.5 billion valuation.

Maybe within three years? Lab grown human body parts - hips, knees, ears and more - hitting us as we reach demographics with more people over 65 than under 16.
Rebuilding body parts with lab grown cartilage
Reconstructed body parts such as noses and ears, which have been grown in a lab, could soon be available to patients needing surgery. Swansea researchers hope to be the first in the world to start using it on humans within three years.

The process involves growing someone’s cells in an incubator and then mixing them with a liquid which is 3D printed into the jelly-like shape needed.
It is then put back in an incubator to grow again until it is ready.

“In simple terms, we’re trying to grow new tissue using human cells,” said Prof Iain Whitaker, consultant plastic surgeon at the Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery at Morriston Hospital.

“We’re trialling using 3D printing which is a very exciting potential modality to make these relatively complex structures.

This is a very interesting recent study looking at the stomach bacteria of a 5,000 old ‘Ice Man’.
Ötzi the Iceman's gut microbes may revise the story of human migration into Europe
Gut microbes found in a 5,300-year-old mummy may revise the story of human migration into Europe.

A team of researchers recently found the remains of H. pylori in the digestive tract of a Copper Age mummy known as Ötzi, or the Iceman. He died 5,300 years ago, near the present-day border between Italy and Austria, and his remains were frozen in a glacier for thousands of years until hikers stumbled across the body in 1991. He’s been well-studied in the decades since, but his stomach had been overlooked until 2010, when a group of radiologists happened to take a second look at an earlier CT scan and noticed that Ötzi’s stomach was actually well-preserved.

Its contents could help re-write human prehistory.
Now that his team has proven it’s possible to find and sequence the genome of ancient bacteria, however, they hope to study H. pylori from the guts of other mummies from around the world.

That could give researchers more insight into ancient human migration patterns, and it could open an entirely new field of study.

“This is one of the first initial cases for what modern DNA sequencing technology in combination with powerful computational methods can achieve,” says coauthor Thomas Rattei of the University of Vienna. “I would see, actually, a totally new research area, which I would call paleomicrobiology, that studies particularly ancient microbes.”

And more about domesticating DNA to create energy.
IU scientists create 'nano-reactor' for the production of hydrogen biofuel
Combining bacterial genes and virus shell creates a highly efficient, renewable material used in generating power from water
Scientists at Indiana University have created a highly efficient biomaterial that catalyzes the formation of hydrogen -- one half of the "holy grail" of splitting H2O to make hydrogen and oxygen for fueling cheap and efficient cars that run on water.

A modified enzyme that gains strength from being protected within the protein shell -- or "capsid" -- of a bacterial virus, this new material is 150 times more efficient than the unaltered form of the enzyme.

The process of creating the material was recently reported in "Self-assembling biomolecular catalysts for hydrogen production" in the journal Nature Chemistry.
"Essentially, we've taken a virus's ability to self-assemble myriad genetic building blocks and incorporated a very fragile and sensitive enzyme with the remarkable property of taking in protons and spitting out hydrogen gas," said Trevor Douglas, the Earl Blough Professor of Chemistry in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Chemistry, who led the study. "The end result is a virus-like particle that behaves the same as a highly sophisticated material that catalyzes the production of hydrogen."

The genetic material used to create the enzyme, hydrogenase, is produced by two genes from the common bacteria Escherichia coli, inserted inside the protective capsid using methods previously developed by these IU scientists. The genes, hyaA and hyaB, are two genes in E. coli that encode key subunits of the hydrogenase enzyme. The capsid comes from the bacterial virus known as bacteriophage P22.

For Fun
This is a great YouTube playlist for anyone eclectically curious. It’s also a great model for summaries of scientific papers. Any one interested in knowledge management, knowledge generation and exchange.
Two Minute Papers
Expand your knowledge, hear more about research. I endeavor to bring the most awesome research discoveries to the masses.

This isn’t the Darwin Awards but it is fun.
The 2015 ITIF Luddite Award Nominees: The Worst of the Year’s Worst Innovation Killers
Technological innovation is the wellspring of human progress, providing higher living standards, improved health, a cleaner environment, increased access to information and many other benefits. Yet despite all of these benefits, a growing array of interests—some economic, some ideological—now stand in stubborn opposition to innovation. Following in the footsteps of the infamous Ned Ludd, an Englishman who led a movement in the early 19th century to destroy mechanized looms, today’s neo-Luddites likewise want to foil technological progress.

Neo-Luddites no longer wield sledgehammers, but they wield something much more powerful: bad ideas. For they work to convince policymakers and the public that innovation is the cause, not the solution to some of our biggest social and economic challenges, and therefore something to be thwarted. Indeed, the neo-Luddites have wide-ranging targets, including everything from genetically modified organisms to new Internet apps, artificial intelligence, and even productivity itself.  In short, they seek a world that is largely free of risk, innovation, or uncontrolled change.

The rise of neo-Luddism is not just an interesting social and political development. Rather, it undercuts one of the central challenges of our time: the need to rapidly raise living standards to ensure that all households earn high incomes. If society does not support risk-taking and the robust introduction of new technologies, then we will be consigned to stagnation. Fostering an environment in which innovation can thrive means rejecting “neo-Luddism.” Indeed, if we want a society in which innovation thrives, then replacing neo-Luddism with an attitude of risk-taking and faith in the future needs to be at the top of the agenda. (You can take a test to determine how supportive you are of technological progress at is external).)

There are many bad ideas that, if followed, would slow human progress. But the purpose of ITIF’s annual Luddite award is to highlight the worst of the worst. For 2015, we present 10 nominees and invite readers to vote for the organization or individual they believe has done the most to smash the engines of innovation. In no particular order, this year’s nominees are as follows:
1. Alarmists tout an artificial intelligence apocalypse.
2. Advocates seek a ban on “killer robots.”
3. States limit automatic license plate readers.
4. Europe, China, and others choose taxi drivers over car-sharing passengers.
5. The paper industry opposes e-labeling.
6. California’s governor vetoes RFID in driver’s licenses.
7. Wyoming outlaws citizen science.
8. The Federal Communications Commission limits broadband innovation.
9. The Center for Food Safety fights genetically improved food.
10. Ohio and others ban red light cameras.


  1. Wow, I had no idea these weekly collections were so extensive John - you certainly collect a lot of interesting material each week!

    1. Thank you so much Mark - coming from you because I know your own efforts at curration, I take that as high praise. I very much enjoy your weekly collections.

  2. Wow,
    Stumbled upon your blog and what an eclectic collection of further reading.
    Thank you for posting John.
    I do not know how long it took you but I will be forwarding on your blog to several of my work colleagues as various articles will be of interest to them.
    One is in awe of your capabilities.

    1. Derek many many thanks. I truly appreciate it. I seem to be compelled to follow my curiosity and forage food for thought. :)