Thursday, February 4, 2016

Friday Thinking 5 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.

Data from a top corporate consultant shows where—and why—decision-making is getting clogged.
If you were to judge the current corporate era solely on the basis of business jargon, you would think we’re in a time of hyperspeed change. Silicon Valley gurus talk rapturously about “failing fast,” and words like “agility” and “acceleration” dot the titles of seemingly dozens of popular business books. But look closely at how things truly work in most organizations today, and “speed” and “agility” are likely to be the last adjectives that pop to mind.

Across my travels, I get to talk to hundreds of top managers at the world’s largest companies, and they share a common complaint: “It’s just so hard to get stuff done.” Such bureaucratic frustrations probably date back to the Medicis. But at CEB we’ve collected a wealth of data that indicates a clear and troubling reality: Most business activity is slowing down, not accelerating. In benchmarking the speed of key processes across the corporate sector, we find again and again that decision-making at even the most basic level has slowed materially over the past five to 10 years. A few examples from our research illustrate this trend.
The Hard Evidence: Business Is Slowing Down

But, Kittlaus says, all these virtual assistants he helped birth are limited in their capabilities. Enter Viv. “What happens when you have a system that is 10,000 times more capable?” he asks. “It will shift the economics of the internet.”
Meet Viv: the AI that wants to read your mind and run your life

Sjostrom ordered the implant from a Seattle-based website called Dangerous Things. Founder and CEO Amal Graafstra said the company sells a variety of implantable transponders, based on the same concept as microchips for pets. The most popular model goes for about $100 (U.S.).

Graafstra has a chip implanted in each hand, using them to do everything from getting into his house to starting his motorcycle.

It eliminates the need for keys, which he calls one of the “three burdens,” the other two being a phone and a wallet/purse. He likens the trio to a “modern-day Tamagotchi,” referring to the Japanese digital pet introduced in 1996, because they demand so much of our daily attention.

“It’s incredibly freeing” not having to carry anything else, he said over the phone from Seattle.

“(You) feel like you’re communicating with machines directly as a human being. You’ve upgraded yourself.” “He called it a digital tattoo,”
Swede becomes first person to board a plane with just a wave of his hand

The web is where we go to connect with people, learn new subjects, and find opportunities for personal and economic growth. But not everyone benefits from all the web has to offer. As many as 26% of households earning less than $30,000 per year don’t access the Internet, compared to just 3% of adults with annual incomes over $75,000. Google Fiber is working to change that. Today, in all of our Google Fiber markets, we’re launching a program to connect residents in select public and affordable housing properties for $0/month with no installation fee.
Bringing Internet access to public housing residents

Distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) represent a significant challenge to existing business and governance models. Technical innovations such as DLTs can enable revolutionary changes in those business structures, ultimately causing major changes in the way in which the economy and society itself is organised and governed. Such changes are more far reaching than normal innovations in products, services and operating systems.
There are typically three pillars to these revolutions: significantly lower costs, new communication methods, and changed infrastructure and logistics.

Each technological revolution brings a different set of ‘common sense principles’ that change how businesses and society operate. These moved from mechanisation in factories; through economies of scale and vertical integration, mass production and standardisation; to functional specialisation, hierarchical pyramids and bureaucracy; and on to today’s information intensity and decentralised networks, marked by “heterogeneity, diversity, adaptability and co-operation”.

Previous technological revolutions had little or no impact on pyramidal, hierarchical systems of organisation and governance. But some suggest that our new technological era enables a potentially emergent ‘Collaborative Commons’, in which society is motivated by collaborative interests rather than individual gain. This could imply distributed, consensual community structures that do not depend on intermediaries organised in hierarchies (such as banks and governments). DLTs represent a challenge in precisely this way.

The concepts and structures developed for distributed ledgers and the block chains they use are extremely portable and extensible to other areas of economic and social activity. As such, they have a profound potential for application within government operations — indeed, the eventual impact of DLTs on British society may be as significant as foundational events such as the creation of Magna Carta.
Distributed Ledger Technology: beyond block chain
A report by the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser

This is a great and important -MUST VIEW 1hr video by Lawrence Lessig about both the future of the Internet and the Blockchain.Lessig’s 1999 book “Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace” was highly prescient.  Lessig argued that in a digital environment both laws (legal code) and software/hardware (computer code) regulate activity, and that the impact of both needs to be considered when constructing a theory of regulation.
Deja vú all over again: Thinking through law & code, again
Keynote given at the #BlockchainSYD workshop, December 11, 2015, Sydney, AU.
Lester Lawrence "Larry" Lessig III is an American academic, attorney, and political activist. He is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the former director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.

This is an very interesting report - it is longish but it’s a MUST READ piece of government foresight. I wonder which Canadian government departments are researching this? This examples throughout this piece are vital demonstrations of the speed of implementation of this technology.
Distributed Ledger Technology: beyond block chain
A report by the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser
The progress of mankind is marked by the rise of new technologies and the human ingenuity they unlock.

In distributed ledger technology, we may be witnessing one of those potential explosions of creative potential that catalyse exceptional levels of innovation. The technology could prove to have the capacity to deliver a new kind of trust to a wide range of services. As we have seen open data revolutionise the citizen’s relationship with the state, so may the visibility in these technologies reform our financial markets, supply chains, consumer and business-to-business services, and publicly-held registers.

We know there will be challenges as Distributed Ledgers mature and disrupt how we think about and store data. The UK is in a unique position to explore those challenges and help maximise the benefits to our public services and our economy. We already have world-class digital capability, innovative financial services, a strong research community and growing private sector expertise. It is vital that our key assets – including the Alan Turing Institute, Open Data Institute and the Digital Catapult – work together with the private sector and with international partners to unlock the full potential of this technology.

We are both, therefore, delighted to be jointly leading efforts in this area, and look forward to working with other departments on seizing the opportunity as well as understanding how its use can be implemented for the benefit of UK citizens and the economy.
And here’s an accompanying 5 min video
Block chain technology

Here is a 2 hr video for anyone interested - it was is very recent and has lots of examples of experiments in implementing blockchain tech in some potentially disruptive ways.
Beyond bitcoin: The future of blockchain and disruptive financial technologies
Published on 15 Jan 2016
On January 14, the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at Brookings explored the future of distributed ledger technology, paying special attention to the innovation’s impact on financial services and policymaking.

This idea of guaranteed minimum income seems to be sustaining a buzz in an increasing number of places.
Why a bunch of Silicon Valley investors are suddenly interested in universal basic income
Basic income is having a moment. First Finland announced it would launch an ambitious experiment to see if it would work to give everyone in a given area is given a set amount of cash every year from the government, no strings attached. Now the Silicon Valley seed investment firm Y Combinator has announced it wants to fund a basic income experiment in the US.

YC's president, Sam Altman, announced on the YC blog that the company wants to hire a researcher to "work full-time on this project for 5 years," and supervise an experiment wherein Y Combinator will "give a basic income to a group of people in the US for a 5 year period, though we’re flexible on that and all aspects of the project."

Basic income as an insurance policy for the robot takeover
Y Combinator — a startup incubator that counts Dropbox, Airbnb, and Reddit among its alumni — seems mostly interested in basic income as a response to technological unemployment. In the future, the reasoning goes, enough work will be automated that demand for all but the highest skilled labor will collapse, leaving a small group of programmers and capitalists with all the coconuts and most people with nothing.

I'm skeptical this is ever going to happen (Matt Yglesias makes a good case against the hypothesis here), but basic income is one way to make sure everyone survives structural employment changes in the future.

Here is an interesting possibility - this has been in the making for a number of years - but seems to be coming to a reality this year.
Switzerland will be the first country in the world to vote on having a national wage of £1,700 a month
The plan would cost the government around 208 billion Swiss francs a year (£143 billion)
Switzerland is set to vote on a proposal that wants to pay everyone 2,500 Swiss francs (£1,700) a month regardless of whether people are working or not.

If the plans go through, it will become the first country in the world to provide a basic unconditional monthly income, and they are already the first country to vote on the matter.

The idea, which has been put forward by a group of intellectuals who insist people will still want to work and get jobs, has not received positive interest from either left and right sided politicians.
The federal government approved to vote on the initiative in June.

The rationale behind the scheme is to break the link between employment and income, where people will have guaranteed income regardless whether they are in employment or not.

The committee’s proposal is based on a survey, carried out by Demoscope Institute, which reportedly showed the majority of Swiss residents would carry on working, or still look for a job, even if the guaranteed income was approved.

Here’s an interview with one of my favorite anthropologists David Graeber - on the topic of guaranteed minimum income.
Basic Income & Meaningless Jobs: David Graeber interview & Stenography
The Basic Income theory or system has been floating around in many different intellectual circles. Less than a week ago Sam Altman of Y-Combinator wrote an essay on it. And there is a whole subreddit devoted to it.

I’m not surprised by its popularity. Most people could really use some extra cash each month, ipso facto a lot of people want the Basic Income.

Anyways, I stenographed a conversation David Graeber had a while back about Basic Income, and I think that the content is still relevant. Here is a link to the video. And here is a pdf of one of his books The First 5000 Years of Debt
The actual video is 7min and is here:

Here is a very recent 20min RSA video (not animation) of a public debated on guaranteed income.
The Case for a Universal Basic Income
Published on 2 Feb 2016
Public debate about the possibility and desirability of a basic income - a weekly payment for every citizen – is gathering pace. Is it feasible? Should we do it? With the RSA's research into the idea for the past year Anthony Painter, the RSA’s Director of Policy and Strategy, and a panel of experts present their thinking.

I think this is a brilliant insight putting the phrase ‘fail fast and fail early’ on its head and better prepares us for an economy of innovation and the requisite scaling of learning. This is also an excellent rationale-methodology for the learning-while-doing paradigm so important in a ‘BETA’ world.
Disciplined Learning The Successor to Risk Management
Abstract. Disciplined learning, or “learn early, learn often,” updates naïve agile development and traditional risk management, and safely replaces the dreaded catch phrase, “fail early fail often.” Disciplined learning is a rich, creative and rewarding endeavor, already in use in small pockets of excellence.
Naïve agile development works remarkably well, given how simple it is. It is less than optimal, however, and insufficient for many situations. Disciplined learning adds to agile.

Traditional risk-management generally addresses how to avoid failure rather than how deliver success. Disciplined learning updates risk management by incorporating some of the principles of agile development.

Disciplined learning is neither obvious nor for the faint of heart, but it is in active use by top teams in many disciplines, who manage to deliver success in difficult circumstances.

There seems to be an increasing amount of articles and concerns about a foreboding dangers of Artificial Intelligence. This is a must view 75min video for anyone interested in the state of the art in deep learning.
Public Lecture with Google DeepMind's Demis Hassabis
Published on 19 Nov 2015
Watch the founder of Google DeepMind's Demis Hassabis' lecture about the future and capabilities of artificial intelligence.
This video was filmed by IET TV.

Having recently travelled and had a flight delay that caused me to miss a connecting flight - I wondered why in the 21st century - when airlines have the information about where I’m going and where I am - that there wasn’t a capacity to present me will alternative arrangement while I was in the air - such things as - renting a car, waiting for a standby flight or taking a hotel for a connecting flight the next morning - so that no one’s time was wasted and frustration was minimized. This is not rocket science today.
The buzz has it that Apps are on the edge of an extinction event and the that personal AI is looming on the horizon to instigate this disruption. Here’s an interesting article about one effort in this direction.
Meet Viv: the AI that wants to read your mind and run your life
The team behind Siri have a new idea: a voice-controlled personal assistant – linked to all your devices – that will take care of your every need
So I’ve arrived late at the office of Viv, an artificial intelligence company based in San Jose, California. I missed my train from San Francisco after dawdling leaving my apartment and then finding the taxi service app on my phone wouldn’t work. Dag Kittlaus, who I’ve kept waiting, looks on the bright side. “Your trials of getting here are a perfect illustration of how Viv will be helpful,” he says. “Wouldn’t it be nice to say ‘I need to get to San Jose, give me my options’ and Viv would know how close you are to the train station, when the next train is coming, where the nearest cars, how much it was going to cost…”

Kittlaus is the co-founder and CEO of Viv, a three-year-old AI startup backed by $30m, including funds from Iconiq Capital, which helps manage the fortunes of Mark Zuckerberg and other wealthy tech executives. In a blocky office building in San Jose’s downtown, the company is working on what Kittlaus describes as a “global brain” – a new form of voice-controlled virtual personal assistant. With the odd flashes of personality, Viv will be able to perform thousands of tasks, and it won’t just be stuck in a phone but integrated into everything from fridges to cars. “Tell Viv what you want and it will orchestrate this massive network of services that will take care of it,” he says.

It is an ambitious project but Kittlaus isn’t without a track record. The last company he co-founded invented Siri, the original virtual assistant now standard in Apple products. Siri Inc was acquired by the tech giant for a reported $200m in 2010. The inclusion of the Siri software in the iPhone in 2011 introduced the world to a new way to interact with a mobile device. Google and Microsoft soon followed with their versions. More recently they have been joined by Amazon, with the Echo you can talk to, and Facebook, with its experimental virtual assistant, M.

Here’s a challenge to the idea of a ‘generalist’ type managerial competence from Canada’s Henry Mintzberg.
Natural and Unnatural Managerial Jobs (thinking outside the boxes)
Unmanageable Managing  Some managerial positions are rather natural and others are not. Cheese in India is probably OK, but cheese in Asia? One hospital sure, but two together (which, when you get past the chart, are actually two apart), let alone nine different institutions?

Why are we tolerating so many unmanageable managerial jobs? Years ago, conglomerates were all the rage among corporations. If you knew management, you could manage everything—say a filmmaking studio plus a nuclear reactor plus a chain of toenail salons. That era passed, thankfully—now it’s fashionable again to manage coherent businesses—but we have passed into an era of internal conglomeration: many managers have to manage perplexing mixtures of activities.

Perhaps this is happening because drawing charts is a lot easier than selling cheese. Sit in some central office attached to no other activities in the organization; cluster its various activities together, each with a lucid label (Central Montreal, Cheese in Asia, whatever); put a box around each of these clusters on a piece of paper; join them all with lines to show who is the real boss; and email the tidy result to all concerned, leaving them to deal with any catastrophic consequences. Cheese in Asia: what could be simpler than that? Or more complicated?

Here’s a short interesting article on some cognitive attributes of [video] gamers versus non-gamers.
Science: Gamers are better and smarter than non-gamers
Non-gamers might describe them as unproductive and social recluse individuals who spend countless of hours a day in front of their PC or favourite gaming consoles. This is inevitable. Gamers have the habit of detaching themselves from the real world to dive into an otherworldly environment where they can solve problems, complete quests, or slay their virtual adversaries.

But not all gamers are antisocial. In fact, a study by Nicholas Taylor, Jennifer Jenson, Suzanne de Castell, and Barry Dilouya found out that gaming augments the social lives of gamers.

There are more benefits to gaming according to other studies. For instance, a research from the U.S. Department of Defense discovered that gamers are considerably smarter than non-gamers. There is a commonly held belief that most individuals achieve their full brain capacity by the age of 20. However, the research of Rey Perez, program officer at the warfighter performance department of the Office of Naval Research, that centred on exploring the effects of video game-like training programs has produced surprising results.

Gamers perform 10 to 20 percent higher in terms of perceptual and cognitive abilities compared to non-gamers according to the research. Furthermore, the research revealed gamers have longer attention spans and larger field of vision than normal people.

The aforementioned benefits have made video games an important training tool inside the U.S. Department of Defence. Perez said that video games increase the fluid intelligence of individuals regardless of their age. Accordingly, fluid intelligence is the ability to change, to meet new problems, and to develop new tactics and counter-tactics without prior knowledge or experience.

This is an interesting article - a qualitative assessment on the current state of interest in social media.
60 teenagers reveal what they think is cool — and what isn't — in 2016
Too often when writing about what teenagers like, we neglect to talk to the most important group of all: teens. So we decided to put together a State of the Union on the American teenager. To learn what American teenagers in 2016 really like, and what they don't, we polled about 60 of them from across the US. We spoke with teens ages 13 to 19, in middle school, high school, and college.

We asked them about their digital lives and habits, the apps they use and the games they play, pop culture, and politics. Their answers offer a glimpse into what it's like being a teenager in 2016. We've drawn out the highlights below, along with some data from other sources, so keep scrolling for our guide to teenagers in 2016.

On average, the teens we spoke with received smartphones from their parents when they were 11 years old. At their youngest, they received phones when they were 8; at the other end, one teen's parents made her wait until she was 16 before she got a phone.
The most popular App by a landslide: Snapchat.
Spotify was almost universally heralded as the best music app, and it was also listed as a favorite app by a lot of respondents.
Instagram was another favorite.
A lot of teenagers we talked to really liked the Twitter  platform. "Twitter because I can update everyone all the time quickly and it's not annoying like Facebook."
Absent from the list: Facebook.
I use Facebook, but I feel like I can't be myself on it because my parents and my friends' parents are my Facebook friends.

We asked teens to identify the coolest app, website, or thing on the internet that adults probably didn't know about.
We got a fair number of responses from teens who thought Twitter, Tumblr, and Snapchat were cool (and they are!) and that adults didn't know about them (but they do!).
After School, a social network created specifically for high-school students to post anonymously on a social network - 10 of the 60 teens we spoke with listed as the app they were most excited about and doubted adults would know about -lets you make music videos of yourself or of other people.
Neko Atsume, numerous teens we talked to were obsessed with it. The game's name literally translates to "cat collecting," and that's exactly what you do in the adorable game
as far as slang goes, "Anything is very uncool as soon as BuzzFeed gets it."

The smartphone is really a platform for Apps that can tell you the time, act as a camera and let you make a phone call. The future may be a lot more wearable.
Swede becomes first person to board a plane with just a wave of his hand
Andreas Sjostrom boarded a flight from Stockholm to Paris in December without a boarding pass or even his phone.
As throngs of weary travellers streamed through one of Europe’s busiest travel hubs, the female security guard at Stockholm Arlanda Airport looked up at Andreas Sjostrom, confused.

Somehow, without a boarding pass or even a smartphone, Sjostrom had managed to activate her scanner, and the system was telling her to let him in.

Sjostrom is not a robot or a Jason Bourne-style secret assassin; he’s simply a curious Swede who decided to have a microchip implanted in his hand with his frequent flyer identification number on it.

He’s the first person in the world to get on a plane this way, sailing through security, then into the Scandinavian Airlines lounge and onto his flight to Paris in late December.

“It was a fluent experience,” Sjostrom, the vice-president of digital for a tech consulting company, told the Star by phone from Stockholm.
“Just the feeling that I carry something that cannot run out of batteries because it’s not battery-powered — it’s awakened by the reader when I come close to it, and I can’t lose it … I am actually carrying the right to travel. You can strip me of everything and the system will let me in anyway.”

The 43-year-old is a frequent flyer on Scandinavian Airlines. He bought a kit online and had the airline encrypt his EuroBonus number, used to keep track of bookings, on what’s called a near field communication (NFC) chip.

Mobile, Internet of Things, ubiquitous sensor - and the ever increasing atmosphere of Big Data - Cosmic Data - all require ever more powerful computational processing. Here’s another possible advance.
Chip Designed for Efficient, Mobile Neural Networks
An engineering lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology designed a new processing chip that could allow running of neural networks on mobile devices. A team led by electrical engineering and computer science professor Vivienne Sze described and demonstrated the new chip on 2 February at the International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco.

Sze and colleagues in MIT’s Energy-Efficient Multimedia Systems Group seek to develop more efficient, but still high-performance systems for multimedia applications that usually require a great good deal of computing resources.  In this case, Sze’s team is looking for alternatives to graphic processing unit or GPU chips now used to implement neural networks that simulate human thought, including the ability to recognize objects and people, or learn new skills.

While GPUs were designed initially to represent graphics on computing screens, they can be adapted to resource-intensive applications, such as neural networks. These applications of artificial intelligence are often called deep learning, but even high-power GPU chips still need to tap into data and power of remote systems in the cloud to perform deep-learning functions. More efficient circuits would make it possible to perform these functions completely on local devices, even mobile phones.

“Right now, the networks are pretty complex and are mostly run on high-power GPUs,” says Sze in a university statement. “You can imagine that if you can bring that functionality to your cell phone or embedded devices, you could still operate even if you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection. You might also want to process locally for privacy reasons.”

And here’s another development in the development looking at the extension of personal prosthetics.
This $40,000 Robotic Exoskeleton Lets the Paralyzed Walk
Still pricier than motorized wheelchairs, SuitX’s Phoenix exoskeleton weighs just 27 pounds and is custom-fit to the user’s body.
Paralyzed from the waist down after a BMX accident, Steven Sanchez rolled into SuitX’s Berkeley, California, office in a wheelchair. A half-hour later he was standing and walking thanks to the Phoenix—a robotic exoskeleton now available for around $40,000.

The suit returns movement to wearers’ hips and knees with small motors attached to standard orthotics. Wearers can control the movement of each leg and walk at up to 1.1 miles per hour by pushing buttons integrated into a pair of crutches.

At 27 pounds, the Phoenix is not the lightest exoskeleton in existence. It’s not the cheapest, either. But it has unique abilities; the suit is modular and adjustable so it can adapt to, say, a relatively tall person who just needs mobility assistance for one knee.

Here’s a new type of robot and maybe bartender? The picture is worth the view.
Meet the soft, cuddly robots of the future
Rigid robots step aside — a new generation of squishy, stretchy machines is wiggling our way.
In 2007, Cecilia Laschi asked her father to catch a live octopus for her seaside lab in Livorno, Italy. He thought she was crazy: as a recreational fisherman, he considered the octopus so easy to catch that it must be a very stupid animal. And what did a robotics researcher who worked with metal and microprocessors want with a squishy cephalopod anyway?

Nevertheless, the elder Laschi caught an octopus off the Tuscan coast and gave it to his daughter, who works for the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy. She and her students placed the creature in a saltwater tank where they could study how it grasped titbits of anchovy and crab. The team then set about building robots that could mimic those motions.

Prototype by prototype, they created an artificial tentacle with internal springs and wires that mirrored an octopus's muscles, until the device could undulate, elongate, shrink, stiffen and curl in a lifelike manner. “It's a completely different way of building robots,” says Laschi.

This approach has become a major research front for robotics in the past ten years. Scientists and engineers in the field have long worked on hard-bodied robots, often inspired by humans and other animals with hard skeletons. These machines have the virtue of moving in mathematically predictable ways, with rigid limbs that can bend and straighten only around fixed joints. But they also require meticulous programming and extensive feedback to avoid smacking into things; even then, their motions often become erratic or even dangerous when dealing with humans, new objects, bumpy terrain or other unpredictable situations.

This is a very interesting real-life experiment transforming roadways to solar-generators. I can imagine the ability to keep roadways snow-free as well.
In The Next Five Years, France Will Install Several Thousand Solar Panels On 1,000 Km Of Road
In recent decades, the French government has taken commendable steps to steer the country towards a greener and more eco-friendly future. Home to Europe’s largest solar plant, France has made remarkable headway in the photovoltaic industry, over the last few years. As part of the new “Positive Energy” initiative, authorities have announced plans to install several thousand solar panels on around 1,000 km (or 621 mi) of road, in the next five years.

The project, which aims to provide renewable energy to over 5 million people (approximately 8-percent of the French populace), will be funded by increasing taxes levied on fossil fuels. As the French minister of ecology and energy Ségolène Royal points out, it will help reduce dependency on environmentally-harmful fossil fuels, without needing separate land for solar or wind farms. Fitted directly onto existing roads, the solar panels will use a special photovoltaic technology, unveiled last year by researchers from France-based firm Colas.

The concept of solar power-trapping roadways is not exactly new, – back in 2014, Netherlands built the world’s first solarized biking trail. The current project, however, is by far the most ambitious. Of the total 1,000 km, every 13 ft (around 4 m) of the solar panel-fitted pathway will generate enough power to meet the energy demands of one household, minus heating. According to the country’s Agency of Environment and Energy Management, 3,281 ft (or 1,000 m) will supply adequate electricity to over 5,000 people.

The roads will be paved with special Wattway panels that are in fact incredibly robust and durable. The result of five long years of research, the panel features a thin layer of polly-crystalline silicon, which in turn harvests solar power with remarkable efficiency. Measuring around 7 mm in thickness, each of these strips can withstand the weight of all kinds of vehicles, including a 6-axle truck. The panels have been designed such that they provide sufficient traction to prevent accidents and skids.

The accelerating speed of the domestication of DNA - may give us new organism sooner than we think.
Gene editing offers dramatic advances in speed, scope and scale of genetic improvement. It also offers an opportunity for more nuanced GMO governance.
Very few technologies truly merit the epithet “game changer” — but a new genetic engineering tool known as CRISPR-Cas9 is one of them. Since we first developed the ability to alter the genetic material inside a plant or animal in the 1970s, efforts to do so have required weeks, months or even years of molecular tinkering. With CRISPR (the technology’s shorthand name), precision and speed have soared.

“In the past, it was a student’s entire Ph.D. thesis to change one gene,” Bruce Conklin, a geneticist at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, recently told The New York Times. “CRISPR just knocked that out of the park.”

The tool is also extremely versatile and seems to work in nearly every creature and cell type in which it has been tried. In the words of Jill Wildonger of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, “It really opens up the genome of virtually every organism that’s been sequenced to be edited and engineered.”

And that, when it comes to agriculture and the environment, is both its promise and its peril. CRISPR opens the door to all kinds of potential food production improvements. But improvements for whom? Farmers? Consumers? Agribusiness? Sustainable farming systems? Industrial agriculture? And who will decide?

And not just the domestication of DNA - but the combinatronics of nano-bio-info-cogni tech.
Why this praying mantis is wearing 3D glasses
British scientists treated praying mantises to a 3D movie in the hopes of better understanding the way humans see — and possibly changing the way robots do.
Praying mantises at Newcastle University in the U.K. have been outfitted with tiny 3D glasses and treated to special screenings as part of an experiment that researchers hope will inform our understanding of 3D vision in humans and possibly even robots.

“No one’s put 3D glasses on an insect before,” says Jenny Read, the study leader and a professor of vision science at the university, on the phone from Newcastle.
Scientists have already demonstrated that praying mantises have 3D vision, but no one has studied how it works, Read notes.

In the recent experiment, the mantises hung upside down in front of a computer screen wearing the glasses while a 3D image was projected just out of their reach. Under observation, the tiny predators reached out and tried to grab the silver-screen prey. That reaction confirmed they can see in 3D and proves the 3D glasses work, Read says. “They see in the 3D all the time, but in order to investigate it, we need to be able to manipulate it.”

Many in my generation and those following transformed how people are born - from doctor-centric to woman-centric approaches. As the baby-boomers enter the elder-stages of life - there will inevitably be a re-thinking of the transition on ‘other-end’ of life.
Could the Funeral of the Future Help Heal the Environment?
A traditional ten-acre cemetery holds enough embalming fluid to fill a small swimming pool. But there may be a greener way
The lives of humans leave indelible marks on the environments they choose to call home. But you might be surprised at how much environmental damage a person can do after they’re dead.

For 48.7 percent of the about 2.6 million who died in the U.S. in 2013 alone, here’s how the average death went down: The person who passed away passed into the hands of a mortician at one of about 19,000 funeral homes. Their body was washed, disinfected, massaged and posed, and embalming fluid was pumped into their veins. They were gussied up with makeup, clothing and hair products and placed in a metal casket.

After the service, the body was transported to a cemetery in a hearse or other vehicle. The family bid them goodbye and the casket was lowered into a grave dug by a backhoe and several workers with shovels. There, the casket rested in a liner structure designed to keep the grave from collapsing inwards: either a concrete box within the grave or a plastic, metal or concrete structure with no bottom. The grave was sealed up, leaving time and anaerobic degradation to do their thing.

There are variations on this theme, of course: Jewish funeral traditions, for example, call for plain wooden caskets. People who object to the cost (about $7,100 for a standard-issue funeral with viewing and burial) may opt for less expensive accoutrements. And then there’s cremation—according to the National Funeral Directors Association, 45.4 percent of people choose cremation instead of burial.

Each after-death action comes with its own set of environmental impacts, from embalming chemicals that leach into groundwater to transportation emissions. Many cremation facilities lack modern filtration systems and spew carbon dioxide and mercury into the atmosphere. Cemeteries themselves carry an environmental cost: Many depend on fertilizers and large amounts of water to maintain that clipped, mowed look.

This is a fun and interesting use of visual to represent relative size of the economy - The graphics are worth the view.
The Shape of the US Economy
It’s clear that the U.S. economy is heavily concentrated in certain locations (the Northeast, California, Chicago) and less in others (the Heartland and Mountain regions), but what is the precise distribution?

How much of the U.S. GDP comes from large cities versus rural areas? And how do the economies of each city compare with each other?
The distorted map below, known as a cartogram, is one way of approaching the question.

This is interesting the first peer-reviewed journal of science fiction
Vol 1, No 1 (2016)
MOSF Journal of Science Fiction seeks to uphold the spirit of educated inquiry and speculation through the publication of peer-reviewed, academic articles, essays and book reviews exploring the myriad facets of science fiction. The journal welcomes unsolicited, original submissions from academics around the world, with an emphasis on the interdisciplinary and innovative history of science fiction. Issues are published three times a year and each issue will feature 8 to 12 academic articles.

And talking about fiction - this is just cool.
Microfiction Monday Magazine
Microfiction Monday Magazine seeks to publish exceptional stories told in 100 words or less on the first Monday of every month.

In physics, impulse is the change in an object’s momentum. It is equal to the product of force and time.
To bring about a given change in momentum, you can apply a small force over a long period of time, or apply a big force in a short amount of time.

With microfiction, think of impulse as the story. You can tell it in long form, averaging its impact, or tell it in short form with a big punch. If done right, microfiction can pack a big punch in a small space, allowing the busy reader the ability to absorb a fantastic story in under a minute. The creation of microfiction is also an excellent exercise as a writer, encouraging the elimination of superfluous text and challenging the writer to be efficient with word choice without sacrificing story.

Excerpt from ‘Bootstrap’ by Kathleen Ann Goonan
Manufactured objects, when removed from their function, hold a mysterious beauty for me. I am of the OOO school of thought - Object-Oriented-Ontology. As I explained to Ariel, objects have their own being, unknowable to us, which has as much ‘being-ness as we do. Furthermore (my own twist) putting matter into particular forms imposes upon it a kind of slavery from which I liberate it through arranging it in new relationships. I free it by un-purposing it, you might say…
I enjoy wending through streets, a secret agent of unpurposing. My conversations with objects result in no hurt feelings, no arguments.
They speak, I listen, we play.

No comments:

Post a Comment