Thursday, February 25, 2016

Friday Thinking 26 February 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.

1. Technology has moved from a vertical industry to a horizontal layer across our society. Technology used to be a specialized field. Technology companies sold their wares to large companies in large, complicated IT packages and to consumers as discrete products (computers and software applications). In the past decade, technology has dissolved into the fabric of our society. We all can access powerful technology stacks. We don’t need to know how to program. We don’t need a big IT department either. Now, technology is infrastructure, like our physical systems of highways and roads. This levels the playing field so new kinds of companies can emerge, and it’s forcing big companies to respond to a new breed of competitor, as well as a newly empowered (and informed) consumer base.

2. Big companies are on the precipice of the most wrenching transformation in history — and tech is only part of the reason why. BigCos change very slowly. They are cautious by nature and extremely suspicious of “the new.” BigCos study new developments and wait for proof before they change. As digital technology spread through society over the past three decades, big companies were slow to get a web page, slow to conduct business over the web, slow to lean into mobile and social, and slow to respond to new types of startup competition. Of course, now that the web is mature and consumer platforms like Facebook and Google are massive, BigCos have shifted resources to digital. But that last point — responding to startup and business model competition — is far more problematic, because responding to new kinds of competition isn’t something you can outsource. It requires a fundamental shift in corporate social structure — and culture is hard to change.

3. The next generation’s leaders don’t want to work at BigCos (if they don’t have to). In the past year I’ve met with senior executives at massive companies like Nestle, Publicis, P&G, Walmart, Visa, and McDonald’s. When I ask what keeps them up at night, all of them answer “hiring the next generation of leaders.” The best and brightest now see “launching a company,” “working at a startup,” or “working at a digital leader like Google or Facebook,” as a preferable career choice, starving BigCos of their most valuable asset: talent. While one might dismiss young professionals’ penchant for startups as a fad or a phase, there’s something far deeper at work, namely …
John Battelle - BigCos, NewCos, and the (Almost Ten) Trends Remaking Business

Beginning with essentially no backing and no resources Bitcoin has been able to organically attract attention and energy to grow into something that includes dozens of exchanges in something like 40 different countries and a computational infrastructure that processes an astounding 14 Million PetaFLOPS.

And it has done this while innovating directly against one of the most fundamental components of our current social fabric: money. The beaches are littered with the bodies of well funded efforts to step into this space and, indeed, even a major victory like PayPal required the improbably combined genius of Peter Thiel, Elon Musk, Luke Nosek, Reid Hoffman and the rest of the much gloried PayPal Mafia simply to carve out a nice niche in online payments.

And the Bitcoin has done this in merely seven short years.

What is the essence of this new form of collective intelligence that represents so much potential? My guess is that this can really only be answered with the benefit of hindsight. But I’ll venture a guess:
  • It is intrinsically global. More to the point, it is geographically unconstrained, and, therefore able to take advantage of any attention and energy anywhere in the world.
  • It is intrinsically virtual. In other words, it is able to connect with resources anywhere with minimal lag and at minimal cost.

These two features combine to mean that in principle this new form of Social Collective Intelligence can attract and utilize the total collective intelligence of the human species almost instantly. While in practice this level of concentrated collective intelligence isn’t likely to happen, the potential of tapping into and connecting precisely the girl in Phuket and the team in Slovenia when where and how they are needed is flat out revolutionary.
Let’s get this straight, Bitcoin is an experiment in self-organizing collective intelligence

At points, his message seemed to taunt the Feds. McAfee, who's running for president as a Libertarian, said the FBI hit this impasse because it only hires straight-laced computer experts who are less talented than his "prodigies."

"And why do the best hackers on the planet not work for the FBI? Because the FBI will not hire anyone with a 24-inch purple mohawk, 10-gauge ear piercings, and a tattooed face who demands to smoke weed while working and won't work for less than a half-million dollars a year," he wrote. "But you bet your ass that the Chinese and Russians are hiring similar people with similar demands and have been for many years. It's why we are decades behind in the cyber race."
John McAfee Offers To Hack Terrorist's iPhone For FBI

Do deeper due diligence. No matter how sophisticated the process, companies usually design interview questions to rate a candidate’s experience and fit — in other words, to find out whether they have the skills to succeed and the mindset to thrive in their specific corporate culture. In hiring virtual candidates, however, you need to dig deeper.

This next level of direct questioning should assess whether the person is independent, passionate about their work, and collaborative. They need to be flexible and willing to travel and know that corporate headquarters is still where the action takes place. In addition, the most important experience this individual should have is past success working remotely. Find out how they made it work and double down on the due diligence.
Hire the Best People, and Let Them Work from Wherever They Are

Bitcoin is financed without borders, financed without identity, financed for everyone, financed without banks and governments, financed without authority, without central points of control, etc. We basically present bitcoin to the world as open, decentralized, permissionless innovation, peer-to-peer finance without borders. The banks and the corporations say, “Oh, that’s awesome. We want that. Only without the open, decentralized, peer-to-peer, borderless, permissionless part. Could we instead have a closed, controlled, tame, identity-laden permission version of that please?”

Bitcoin just had its seventh birthday on January 3rd. It spent the first three years in obscurity so you had really four years since it’s been known among the tech elite, maybe two years since it’s become a news item.

We’re very much where the Internet was in 1992. The question is if you asked me in 1992: “Why isn’t social media happening? Why isn’t China picking up the Internet? Why aren’t we seeing popular revolution starting based on this wonderful communication platform? You said it would bring freedom to the world. Where is it?” If you said that in 1992, you’d be right. It’s not there.

Again, a lot of the thinking around blockchain, I think, is still influenced by what were the problems we’re trying to solve last decade — “Can we stick blockchain or bitcoin on top of that and solve them” — not really thinking about what can we do completely differently with these technologies.

Start thinking of bitcoin not as a currency but as a trust platform, one that provides you with a scriptable environment where you can combine conditions that get evaluated neutrally by a network-centric system of trust. I mean, it’s an enormously powerful idea and you can do all kinds of decentralized things with it that we haven’t yet imagined beyond currency.
Andreas Antonopoulos - Bitcoin is the Sewer Rat of Currencies
Institute for the Future
Bitcoin is the Sewer Rat of Currencies
distribute 100,000 of these, [Bitcoin] mining as a centralized occupation is over.

The fact is, we are now in a digital world as well as an analog one. That alone rewrites the future in a huge way. Digital itself is the only medium, and the whole environment. It’s also us, whether we like it or not. We are digital as well as cellular.
What if we don’t need advertising at all?

Digital lets expertise emerge naturally as people ask and answer questions peer-to-peer. People build up reputations across the organization as the “go to” person for topics even if they are not the official experts. This bypasses HR’s system and procedures for validating experts.

IT management risks losing control over enterprise technologies because in a fast-paced business world, teams—unwilling to wait for IT to rollout official solutions—solve their own needs quickly by resorting to cloud-based, consumer tools to manage projects and share information.

Personal branding worries management, as people who are active on the internal social network become “stars,” with greater name recognition inside the company than certain top managers. These de facto thought-leaders become a force to reckon with that is completely outside the hierarchy.
The Company Cultures That Help (or Hinder) Digital Transformation

The future of work - is not about a job - but about work that enables the scaling of learning - to scale learning requires harnessing intrinsic motivation - deep curiosity an interest that pull people to learn. We need to be able to ‘assemble knowledge networks’ as and when they are needed. People need new types of tools and supports.
Hire the Best People, and Let Them Work from Wherever They Are
Hiring a candidate who is going to work remotely has three levels of benefits.
  • The company benefits. Removing location as a limiting factor offers organizations access to (literally) all the talent in the world.
  • Hiring managers benefit because they have an opportunity to create diverse teams. For instance, it’s widely accepted that people who come together from different backgrounds bring new information and diverse perspectives.
  • Individual employees benefit, because they can live where they want, close to family or perhaps in a place that has the type of climate they prefer.
Most organizations say they are more open-minded than ever about virtual teams, and yet they still have old-school systems in place for hiring people across the country or around the world. From where I sit, the overlapping barriers come down to structure, culture, and mindset.

Structurally, many organizations remain hierarchical. Decisions are still passed down from one to many as opposed to emanating from small, autonomous teams.
Culturally, the face-to-face meeting is still an important symbol of productivity. Want to finish something? Sit around a table together and get it done.

Mindset is the toughest impediment of all. Many traditional leaders fear a loss of control if they give people the latitude to work where they can’t be overseen.

This way of working is no longer sustainable. The talent gap in certain technical specialties, such as security and data science, is one reason. A more universal reason is that removing location as a limiting factor gives organizations a lot more freedom to find and hire the very best global talent — and keep them. How do you make virtual teams the rule rather than the exception? What kind of process do you need in place for hiring that superstar in Washington State? Four things are required:

The problem with ‘leadership’ in the new paradigm of emerging as a future of work in the digital environment - social computing, collaboration, assembling knowledge networks - is the baggage of hierarchy and power. Ascribed competence arising from dependence on position power.
Powerful People Underperform When They Work Together
All too commonly, we see groups of leaders fail to accomplish their goals — legislators who cannot agree on a bill, heads of state who cannot broker meaningful peace deals, or boards of directors who make disastrous decisions for their companies. Why do powerful people, when working together, fail as often as they do?

This question is particularly vexing because researchers have long found power to boost individual performance in a variety of ways. When people work alone, feeling powerful helps them process information more effectively, think more creatively, and focus for longer stretches of time. If power enhances individual performance, then by extension one would assume that groups comprising high-power individuals would perform particularly well. But our research found the opposite: power hampers the ability of leaders to work with other leaders.

In a series of experiments, we brought more than a thousand participants — students and executives — into our laboratory and videotaped their behavior as they worked on a variety of tasks on their own or in groups. The tasks were designed to mimic those that leaders might face in their day-to-day work: some tasks tested creativity and persistence while others tested decision-making and the ability to reach agreement in complex negotiations.

Why did groups of leaders fail so consistently? Videotapes of the group members’ interactions revealed some fascinating answers. Across studies, groups of leaders performed worse in part because their members fought over who should have higher status than others in the group — who should get to call the shots, who should have more influence over the group’s decisions, and who should command more respect than others. In essence, leaders fought over who should be “top dog” in the group, and this conflict over status harmed their ability to work together effectively.

Videotapes also showed that groups of leaders were less focused on the task and shared information less effectively with each other than did members of other groups. Again, this pattern is particularly ironic because power tends to make people more task-focused and efficient when working on tasks alone. When working together therefore, leaders’ status concerns — be they jockeying for position or avoiding the potential loss of face that might result from sharing ideas that could be judged harshly — appears to distract them from the task at hand.

Here is very good discussion of a very viable future of work and organization.
Platform Cooperativism vs. the Sharing Economy
The backlash against unethical labor practices in the “collaborative sharing economy” has been overplayed. Recently, The Washington Post, New York Times and others started to rail against online labor brokerages like Taskrabbit, Handy, and Uber because of an utter lack of concern for their workers. At the recent Digital Labor conference, my colleague McKenzie Wark proposed that the modes of production that we appear to be entering are not quite capitalism as classically described. “This is not capitalism,” he said, “this is something worse.”

But just for one moment imagine that the algorithmic heart of any of these citadels of anti-unionism could be cloned and brought back to life under a different ownership model, with fair working conditions, as a humane alternative to the free market model.

Take, for example, Uber’s app, with all its geolocation and ride ordering capabilities. Why do its owners and investors have to be the main benefactors of such platform-based labor brokerage? Developers, in collaboration with local, worker-owner cooperatives could design such a self-contained program for mobile phones. Despite its meteoric rise, $300 million in VC-backing (and its $18 billion evaluation bubble), as well as massive international reach, there is nothing inevitable about Uber’s long-term success. There’s no magic when it comes to developing such a piece of software; it’s not rocket science. Of course, technology is only one part of the equation and instead of letting techno-determinism run its course, I’d rather point to the long history of worker-owned cooperatives, EP Thompson and Robert Owen.

This is a very interesting development - a weak signal of the future of mass transit - using new platform on demand concepts - wait till the driverless vehicles comes on board.
Is Bridj the Next Phase in How People Will Get Around Cities?
A project in Kansas City will see if a ride-hailing service can work with a government agency to help bring public transportation into the 21st century
It’s a Boston outfit called Bridj and its approach is kind of a cross between Uber and shuttle buses, with a pinch of old-fashioned jitney cabs. The company is part of a new urban trend known as “microtransit,” where multi-passenger vehicles have no fixed stops, but instead follow routes based on rider input. For Bridj, that means operating small fleets of passenger vans upon which people can reserve a spot with a mobile app. And those vans use real-time data to find routes that avoid the inevitable headaches that come with city traffic.

What makes that endeavor, called “Ride KC: Bridj,” unique is that it will be done with the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority as a partner. Specifically, the people driving the Bridj vehicles will actually work for the transit agency. Ford is also a partner—it’s providing 10 new vans, each with free WiFi and room for as many as 14 passengers.

This may not seem like such a big deal. But it’s the first time in the U.S., a private ride-hailing operation—with a mobile app to order rides—will become tied into a city’s public transit system. If it works, expect the model to be copied in other cities as a way to offer people a more modern and flexible transportation option, one that takes advantage of much of the technology that has made Uber so popular.  

This is a very exciting possibility - the capacity to assemble knowledge networks as and when needed to advance innovations in science.
Guaana is a Kickstarter-esque platform where you contribute knowledge instead of money
Build projects bigger than yourself
Guaana is a community of open-minded scientists, visionaries, engineers, entrepreneurs, and specialists working together to explore bold ideas and boost the creation of future research.

Our mission is to accelerate the development of innovative research and ideas.

We are connecting the brightest minds in the world in a single network to collectively advance challenges they are passionate about. Actively amplifying our collective intelligence makes us smarter and so better able to solve even the toughest problems at hand.
Guaana Challenge brings together inspired minds and diverse expertise, forming a collective where ideas can be rapidly improved through intelligent discussion.
Whether it is scientific research or an important cause, we encourage our community to build upon each others ideas and collaborate with experts around the world to find better solutions than they would alone.

Share knowledge, discuss bold ideas, and find collaborators to explore ways of turning concepts into reality.

This is a very interesting article about the possibility of a post-advertising economy.
What if we don’t need advertising at all?
What we need next are better ways for demand and supply to inform and connect. Not just better ways to pay for media. (That would be nice, but media have mostly been a one-way channel for informing, and at best a secondary way to connect.)

Think about what will happen to markets when any one of us can intentcast our needs for products or services, and do so easily and in standard ways that any supplier can understand. Then think about what will happen when any company can inform existing or potential customers directly, without the intermediation of the media we know today — and with clear and well-understood permissions for doing that on both sides.

The result will be the intention economy, which will work far better for demand and supply than the attention economy we have today, simply because there will be so many more and better ways to inform and connect, in both directions.

Asking today’s media to give us the intention economy is like asking AM radio to give us cellular telephony.

This is a great 1 hr video by the daughter of Margaret Meade and Gregory Bateson focused on education and what she terms ‘epistemological therapy’ (I wish I would have said that).
Cybernetics in the Future - Introduction by Mary Catherine Bateson
This is Mary Catherine Bateson's introduction to the Cybernetics in the Future workshop held at the 2014 conference of the American Society for Cybernetics at George Washington University in Washington D.C. The workshop was led by Dai Griffiths and Robert Martin.

Quantum realities and consciousness - are two fascinating topics with horizons that have yet to be determined - this is a very interesting 45 min video about mostly the nature of the evolution of human perceptions - have they evolved to ‘see the truth?’ or to enable us to ‘be fit in an environment?’.
Entangling Conscious Agents, Donald Hoffman
Scientific investigations of consciousness that seek its biological basis typically assume that objects in space-time—such as neurons—exist even if unperceived, and have causal powers. I evaluate this assumption, using evolutionary games and genetic algorithms that study perceptual evolution, and find that it is almost surely false. Our perceptions of space-time and objects are a species-specific adaptation, not an insight into objective reality. In consequence, I propose a formal theory of consciousness—the theory of “conscious agents”—that takes consciousness to be fundamental, rather than derivative from objects in space-time. I use the theory of conscious
agents to solve the combination problem of consciousness, both for the combination of subjects and of experiences. I show that entanglement follows as a consequence of the combination of conscious subjects. I then discuss the relationship of these findings to the account of entanglement given by quantum-Bayesian interpretations of quantum theory.

Donald Hoffman, Ph.D.Cognitive Scientist and Author, Department of Cognitive Sciences, U.C. Irvine
Donald Hoffman is a cognitive scientist and author of more than 90 scientific papers and three books, including Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See (W.W. Norton, 2000). He received his BA from UCLA in Quantitative Psychology and his Ph.D. from MIT in Computational Psychology. He joined the faculty of UC Irvine in 1983, where he is now a full professor in the departments of cognitive science, computer science and philosophy. He received a Distinguished Scientific Award of the American Psychological Association for early career research into visual perception, and the Troland Research Award of the US National Academy of Sciences for his research on the relationship of consciousness and the physical world.

This is not a conscious agent - but certainly can become an enabler-enhancer for the panopticon - both participatory and surveillance.
Google Unveils Neural Network with “Superhuman” Ability to Determine the Location of Almost Any Image
Guessing the location of a randomly chosen Street View image is hard, even for well-traveled humans. But Google’s latest artificial-intelligence machine manages it with relative ease.
Here’s a tricky task. Pick a photograph from the Web at random. Now try to work out where it was taken using only the image itself. If the image shows a famous building or landmark, such as the Eiffel Tower or Niagara Falls, the task is straightforward. But the job becomes significantly harder when the image lacks specific location cues or is taken indoors or shows a pet or food or some other detail.

Nevertheless, humans are surprisingly good at this task. To help, they bring to bear all kinds of knowledge about the world such as the type and language of signs on display, the types of vegetation, architectural styles, the direction of traffic, and so on. Humans spend a lifetime picking up these kinds of geolocation cues.

So it’s easy to think that machines would struggle with this task. And indeed, they have.

Today, that changes thanks to the work of Tobias Weyand, a computer vision specialist at Google, and a couple of pals. These guys have trained a deep-learning machine to work out the location of almost any photo using only the pixels it contains.
Their new machine significantly outperforms humans and can even use a clever trick to determine the location of indoor images and pictures of specific things such as pets, food, and so on that have no location cues.

This is a very interesting development in prosthetic research. The images and 2 min video are worth the view.
This Is the Most Amazing Biomimetic Anthropomorphic Robot Hand We've Ever Seen
There are two generalized schools of thought when it comes to robot hand design. You have robot hands that are simple and straightforward and get the job done, like two- or three-finger grippers that can reliably do many (if not most) things well without any fuss. And then you have very complex hands with four fingers and a thumb that are designed to closely mimic human hands, on the theory that human hands were intelligently designed by millions of years of evolution, and we’ve designed all of our stuff around them anyway, so if you want your robot to be able to do as many things as possible as well as possible you want a hand that’s as humanlike as possible.

Because of the inherent complexity of a real human hand, biomimetic anthropomorphic hands inevitably involve lots of compromises to get them to work properly while maintaining a human-ish form factor. Zhe Xu and Emanuel Todorov from the University of Washington, in Seattle, have gone crazy and built the most detailed and kinematically accurate biomimetic anthropomorphic robotic hand that we’ve ever seen, with the ultimate goal of replacing human hands completely.

Autonomous robots continue - here’s a 3 min video showing the latest iteration from Boston Dynamics (now owned by Google)
Atlas, The Next Generation
Published on 23 Feb 2016
A new version of Atlas, designed to operate outdoors and inside buildings. It is specialized for mobile manipulation. It is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. It uses sensors in its body and legs to balance and LIDAR and stereo sensors in its head to avoid obstacles, assess the terrain, help with navigation and manipulate objects. This version of Atlas is about 5' 9" tall (about a head shorter than the DRC Atlas) and weighs 180 lbs.

The hand and eye are keys to human capabilities.
In First Human Test of Optogenetics, Doctors Aim to Restore Sight to the Blind
A breakthrough technology from neuroscience might allow blind people to see a monochromatic world.
If all goes according to plan, sometime next month a surgeon in Texas will use a needle to inject viruses laden with DNA from light-sensitive algae into the eye of a legally blind person in a bet that it could let the patient see again, if only in blurry black-and-white.

The study, sponsored by a startup called RetroSense Therapeutics, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is expected to be the first human test of optogenetics, a technology developed in neuroscience labs that uses a combination of gene therapy and light to precisely control nerve cells.

The trial, to be carried out by doctors at the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, will involve as many as 15 patients with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease in which the specialized light-sensitive photoreceptor cells in the eye die, slowly causing blindness. The aim of the treatment is to engineer the DNA of different cells in the retina, called ganglion cells, so that they can respond to light instead, firing off signals to the brain.

The Texas study will be followed closely by neuroscientists who hope to eventually use optogenetics inside the human brain to treat Parkinson’s or severe mental illness. “This is going to be a gold mine of information about doing optogenetics studies in humans,” says Antonello Bonci, a neuroscientist who is scientific director of the intramural research program at the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Baltimore.

This is a longish but excellent discussion of a paradigm change in the treatment of people with a range of psycho-cognitive issues. This approach will likely continue to expand as the technology of brain imaging continues to develop. Worth the read.
The mind’s biology
Doctors are reaching past the symptoms of mental illness to fix the circuits that breed them
Scientists have long known that the most forward part of the brain is the seat of higher cognition. But only in recent years have they been able to link certain mental disorders with specific brain circuits, the connections between neurons that are responsible for every one of our thoughts, emotions and actions. Asif’s tools enable him to more precisely diagnose his patients’ problems and, ultimately, to treat them.

Neuroscience’s inroads have emboldened a small but growing number of clinicians and researchers to reject diagnostic protocols on which mental health practitioners have relied for years — the cataloguing of symptoms such as sadness, fatigue, loss of appetite — and instead focus on finding biological clues associated with these symptoms in a blood test, a brain image or a saliva sample.

These are the biomarkers, the concrete measurements of mental illness, that many think will move the mental health profession into the 21st century. For Asif, some of the tools being used in the search are already yielding practical results, such as sending a patient’s cheek swab for DNA analysis to help determine which psychotropic medication will be most effective and best tolerated.

There is a lot of concern with issues of the domestication of DNA and the possibility of changing ourselves - but this may already have been happening for a long time.
A Parasite That Causes Chimpanzees to Become Sexually Attracted to Leopards
Chimpanzees infected with the parasite Toxoplasmosis gondii become attracted to the urine of leopards, says a new study. If the behaviour of our closest relatives can change so dramatically, what are the implications of the parasite’s hold over humans?

Toxoplasmosis gondii is a protozoan parasite related to the malaria-causing Plasmodium. Toxoplasma infects a whole range of warm-blooded birds and animals, including humans. But it can reproduce sexually in the gastrointestinal tract of cats alone. To get into a cat, the sex-starved protozoan conspires to get its secondary host eaten. It toys with its hosts’ brains, manipulating their behaviour so they put their lives at risk.

Toxoplasma-infected rats not only lose their fear of cats, but become sexually attracted to them. They recklessly frolic in areas that reek of cat urine, enticing a hungry cat to pounce on them. When rats get eaten by cats, the parasite enters the gut and has sex.

Humans get infected by eating uncooked meat or not washing their hands after gardening. Up to 60% of the human population is infected. A 2014 study says toxo infections detected in pregnant Indian women ranged from about 9% to 37%. Since testing for the parasite is not mandatory, we don’t know how widespread it is.

Just as it does with rodents, the parasite changes people’s personalities. It delays their reaction times and reduces their ability to concentrate. Scientists found infected men were suspicious, jealous, dogmatic, and unlikely to heed the rules of society. Infected women were warm-hearted, extroverted and easy-going. Toxoplasma forms small cysts in the brain that are associated with a range of human mental health conditions, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.

The human microbial ecology is emerging as ever more important in health and well-being.
Missing gut microbes linked to childhood malnutrition
Gut check suggests possible treatments for kids with deficient diets
The bacteria living in kids’ guts play a starring role in growth and development, three new studies published February 18 in Science and Cell suggest.

Food matters, too, but not as much as people once thought, says biologist Brett Finlay of the University of British Columbia, who was not involved in the new work. “People used to think if you just fed the kids they’d be fine,” Finlay says. “But that didn’t work.” Instead, certain gut microbes might be needed to protect children suffering from poor diets. “It’s extremely exciting,” he says. “We know what causes malnutrition, and maybe now we can do something to fix it.”

Each year, malnutrition contributes to the deaths of more than a million children worldwide. Millions others survive, but a lack of calories or nutrients can stunt growth, delay brain development and harm the immune system. Even after they receive adequate food, many of these kids just don’t bounce back, Finlay says. “Everyone’s been kind of puzzled about why.”

In recent years, scientists have seen several hints that microbes might have something to do with it. But no one knew if microbes could actually treat malnutrition, and if so, which strains of bacteria would help.

This is a great 8 min video illustrating a brilliant approach to providing solar energy to local areas - centered around schools and other community centers. Worth the view.
SolarTurtle Introduction
The SolarTurtle has already received a lot of attention and continue to do so. In February 2014 the project was proclaimed as a Climate Solver by the WWF.Established by WWF Sweden in 2008, the Climate Solver platform is an international platform that displays the best technologies to reduce carbon emissions and support energy access while creating awareness of the value of innovation as a tool to tackle climate change. The SolarTurtle was also a finalist in the Better Living Challenge (BLC) in October 2014. Over the course of two weeks hundreds of people came to see the SolarTurtle and the response was overwhelmingly positive. This is very encouraging as it shows that the public finds the SolarTurtle both novel and useful and can make a difference to their lives.

With the shift to electricity accelerating the storage problem looms as a bottleneck or catalyst. This is a good review of technology hovering in the wings, although a number of items talk about 2015.
Future batteries, coming soon: charge in seconds, last months and power over the air
While smartphones, smarthomes and even smart wearables are growing ever more advanced, they're still limited by power. The battery hasn't advanced in decades. But we're on the verge of a power revolution.

Big technology companies, and now car companies that are making electric vehicles, are all too aware of the limitations of current lithium-ion batteries. While chips and operating systems are becoming more efficient to save power we're still only look at a day or two of use on a smartphone before having to recharge. That's why universities are getting involved.

We've seen a plethora of battery discoveries coming out of universities all over the world. Tech companies and car manufacturers are pumping money into battery development. And with races like Formula E adding pressure to improve, that technology is only going to get greater.

But while we've been writing about these developments for years there's still nothing in our phones. This is because everyone is waiting for the perfect replacement before making the jump. That and commitments to current batteries thanks to manufacturing technique that cost a lot to change and existing deals for minerals being hard to break.

Next year is starting to shape up as the year batteries change. We've collected all the best battery discoveries that could be with us soon. From over the air charging to super-fast 30-second re-charging, you could be seeing this tech in your gadgets sooner than you think.

This is a 12 min TED Talk highlighting the state of the Art of autonomous drones - this is worth the view for anyone interested in the future of parcel delivery, surveillance and monitoring and whatever else the imagination can develope to use and make drones. The visuals of the range of drones easily recall to our mind the Hollywood images of alien visitors.
Raffaello D'Andrea: Meet the dazzling flying machines of the future
When you hear the word "drone," you probably think of something either very useful or very scary. But could they have aesthetic value? Autonomous systems expert Raffaello D'Andrea develops flying machines, and his latest projects are pushing the boundaries of autonomous flight — from a flying wing that can hover and recover from disturbance to an eight-propeller craft that's ambivalent to orientation ... to a swarm of tiny coordinated micro-quadcopters. Prepare to be dazzled by a dreamy, swirling array of flying machines as they dance like fireflies above the TED stage.

The continuing progress on fundamental question of matter unfold possibilities that will make sophisticated technologies appear as if they were magic.
The Quantum Secret to Superconductivity
In a virtuoso experiment, physicists have revealed details of a “quantum critical point” that underlies high-temperature superconductivity.
With that magnetic blast and a subsequent series of identical ones executed last winter, researchers at the National Laboratory for Intense Magnetic Fields (LNCMI) in Toulouse, France, uncovered a key property of the crystal, a matte-black ceramic in a class of materials called cuprates that are the most potent superconductors known. The findings, reported today in the journal Nature, provide a major clue about the inner workings of cuprates, and may help scientists understand how these materials allow electricity to flow freely at relatively high temperatures.

“Technically amazing,” said J.C. Séamus Davis, an experimental physicist with appointments at Cornell University, St. Andrews University in Scotland, and Brookhaven National Laboratory who was not involved in the experiment. “The paper is a masterpiece.”

While the detection of a quantum critical point does not definitively answer that question, “this has really clarified the situation,” said Subir Sachdev, a leading condensed-matter theorist at Harvard University. The finding knocks several proposals for the electron-pairing glue in cuprates out of the running. “There are now two prominent candidates for what’s happening,” Sachdev said.

One of the candidates, if verified, would enter the textbooks as a completely novel quantum phenomenon, with an exoticism that appeals to many theorists. But if the other, more conventional explanation of high-temperature superconductivity proves true, then, according to Davis, scientists will immediately know the key handle that needs to be turned to strengthen the effect. In that case, in the quest for room-temperature superconductivity, Davis said, “the route forward would be clear.”