Thursday, March 17, 2016

Friday Thinking 18 March 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.

If the transaction costs of creating value go down radically, the form and logic of economic entities need to change. The new landscape of work is alien territory for most of today’s business leaders and business schools, but things are already moving towards a new world. The new topography consists of the network as the architecture of work and work as coordinated, contextual problem solving between non-co-located but interdependent people.

Four fairly new insights are challenging our traditional beliefs:
1. Value creation happens at the point of use, not the point of production;
2. Mass solutions are not as competitive as contextual solutions;
3. Transactions are replaced by interactions because contextual value creation cannot take place without interaction;
4. Open networks and reach and richness of networking are more valuable than control of proprietary assets.

The growing complexity of business means that no single leader can handle all the different challenges any more. Treating management as a temporary state and a task can be the new model of the future. The whole assumption that leadership resides within an individual may not be correct at all. Leadership should be understood as a relationship between leaders and followers. Followers choose their leaders as much as the leaders choose their followers.

Getting the network environment right for cooperation is imperative. Efficient digital environments make information open and transparent to all of the players, all the time. This information may include quantified-self type statistics and trend information for reflexive work. Real-time status updates on operations make responsiveness and planning the next move easy.
Esko Kilpi - Work and the games we play

SOMETHING REALLY DRAMATIC is happening to our media landscape, the public sphere, and our journalism industry, almost without us noticing and certainly without the level of public examination and debate it deserves. Our news ecosystem has changed more dramatically in the past five years than perhaps at any time in the past five hundred. We are seeing huge leaps in technical capability—virtual reality, live video, artificially intelligent news bots, instant messaging, and chat apps. We are seeing massive changes in control, and finance, putting the future of our publishing ecosystem into the hands of a few, who now control the destiny of many.

Social media hasn’t just swallowed journalism, it has swallowed everything. It has swallowed political campaigns, banking systems, personal histories, the leisure industry, retail, even government and security. The phone in our pocket is our portal to the world. I think in many ways this heralds enormously exciting opportunities for education, information, and connection, but it brings with it a host of contingent existential risks.
Facebook is eating the world

As we talk after the match, he clearly feels an enormous empathy for Lee Sedol, complaining about the online critics who have lambasted the Korean’s play. “Be gentle with Lee Sedol,” he says. “Be gentle.” But as hard as it was for Fan Hui to lose back in October and have the loss reported across the globe—and as hard as it has been to watch Lee Sedol’s struggles—his primary emotion isn’t sadness.

As he played match after match with AlphaGo over the past five months, he watched the machine improve. But he also watched himself improve. The experience has, quite literally, changed the way he views the game. When he first played the Google machine, he was ranked 633rd in the world. Now, he is up into the 300s. In the months since October, AlphaGo has taught him, a human, to be a better player. He sees things he didn’t see before. And that makes him happy. “So beautiful,” he says. “So beautiful.”
The Sadness and Beauty of Watching Google’s AI Play Go

The big deal isn’t that we made a machine that can beat us at Go, but that we made a machine that can learn to beat us at Go
AlphaGo’s Defeat of Lee Sedol is a Great Victory For Humanity

Lately I’ve been experiencing a new temporal sensation that’s odd to articulate, but I do think is shared by most people. It’s this: until recently, the future was always something out there up ahead of us, something to anticipate or dread, but it was always away from the present.

But not any more. Somewhere in the past few years the present melted into the future. We’re now living inside the future 24/7 and this (weirdly electric and buzzy) sensation shows no sign of stopping — if anything, it grows ever more intense. Elsewhere I’ve labelled this experience “the extreme present” — or another label for this new realm might be “the superfuture”. In this superfuture I feel like I’m clamped into a temporal roller coaster and, at the crest of the first hill, I can see that my roller coaster actually runs off far into the horizon. Wait! How is this thing supposed to end?

I don’t miss my pre-internet brain. I no longer remember it, and that may be a necessary step to survive in the upcoming 100 years. Nostalgia for your pre-2005-ish brain may be actively holding you back from living a better life right now. Who’s to say? The world only spins forward. If you do want a portal back to The Way Things Were, you can read a book, but the moment you finish it you’ll be right back here.
Douglas Coupland: Escaping the superfuture

There is a change in conditions of change related to demographics - the historically unprecedented transformation of the age pyramid. This combined with many other changes requires us to re-imagine how we live in our elderhood. This is very consistent with the tiny-house correlate - the micro-unit and the need to create a diverse ecosystem of commons. This is also consistent with other innovations such as a guaranteed minimum income.
Can a revolutionary senior co-housing model work across Canada?
Gwen Kavanagh never planned on becoming an advocate. But those plans changed when the financial adviser witnessed an older client struggle with loneliness and depression upon moving into a retirement home. Physically fragile and shy but with his mind fully intact, the man found little interest in the organized activities. “He would go to his room and try to sleep the day away,” Kavanagh recalls. “But when I came, he would perk up and we’d have great conversations. It really bothered me.”

She searched for other housing options that provided someone his age the required level of care while encouraging a sense of independence and a warm, intimate environment with like-minded residents. But Kavanagh was frustrated to find no alternative.

Inspired, the activist started a CARP chapter in her town of Barrie, Ont., and made housing its priority. It wasn’t long before she found the answer she was looking for – in Bracebridge. It was there that Kavanagh heard a presentation by Shelley Raymond, president of Solterra Co-housing, on a new housing arrangement for seniors.

The co-housing model enables a few seniors to buy a percentage interest in a home, each owning their private room and sharing the common areas. Residents contribute jointly to the utilities, common expenses, taxes and any care costs – and make household decisions together. A caregiver – “the house mom” – is responsible for housekeeping, food shopping and preparation, arranging any outings and general maintenance.

This is a Must View 2 min video - not only the mechanics of cooperation (among small bots) but the power of cooperation. Awesome and entertaining - and should inspire our imagination about what looming in the near and far future.
Let's all Pull Together: Team of µTug Microrobots Pulls a Car
Not only are ants impressively strong, they are also amazing team players. This research inspired by such teamwork examples how the ways that microrobots move effects their ability to work in teams. With careful consideration to robot gait, we demonstrate a team of 6 super strong microTug microrobots (for some more details see this other 2 min video ) weighing 100 grams pulling the author's unmodified 3900lb (1800 kg) car on polished concrete.

Change in the conditions of change is the key theme of the emerging digital environment and those conditions of change include - new domains of science.
the research highlights a larger point about how a new technology can reinvent the way brain science is done. “The ability of optogenetics to turn a largely correlational field of science into one that tests causation has been transformative,”
And optogenetics is just one of a suite of revolutionary new tools that are likely to play leading roles in what looks like a heyday for neuroscience. researchers grab those opportunities in genomics and optogenetics, still other advances are coming on the scene. A new chemical treatment is making it possible to directly see nerve fibers in mammalian brains; robotic microelectrodes can eavesdrop on (and perturb) single cells in living animals; and more sophisticated imaging techniques let researchers match-up nerve cells and fibers in brain slices to create a three-dimensional map of the connections.
Neuroscience’s New Toolbox
With the invention of optogenetics and other technologies, researchers can investigate the source of emotions, memory, and consciousness for the first time.
“There’s no such thing as a generic neuron,” says Anderson, who estimates that there may be up to 10,000 distinct classes of neurons in the brain. Even tiny regions of the brain contain a mixture, he says, and these neurons “often influence behavior in different, opposing directions.” In the case of the hypothalamus, some of the neurons seemed to become active during aggressive behavior, some of them during mating behavior, and a small subset—about 20 percent—during both fighting and mating.

That was a provocative discovery, but it was also a relic of old-style neuroscience. Being active was not the same as causing the behavior; it was just a correlation. How did the scientists know for sure what was triggering the behavior? Could they provoke a mouse to pick a fight simply by tickling a few cells in the hypothalamus?

A decade ago, that would have been technologically impossible. But in the last 10 years, neuroscience has been transformed by a remarkable new technology called optogenetics, invented by scientists at Stanford University and first described in 2005. The Caltech researchers were able to insert a genetically modified light-sensitive gene into specific cells at particular locations in the brain of a living, breathing, feisty, and occasionally canoodling male mouse. Using a hair-thin fiber-optic thread inserted into that living brain, they could then turn the neurons in the hypothalamus on and off with a burst of light.

What’s radical about the technique is that it allows scientists to perturb a cell or a network of cells with exquisite precision, the key to sketching out the circuitry that affects various types of behavior. Whereas older technologies like imaging allowed researchers to watch the brain in action, optogenetics enables them to influence that action, tinkering with specific parts of the brain at specific times to see what happens.

Anderson points out, the research highlights a larger point about how a new technology can reinvent the way brain science is done. “The ability of optogenetics to turn a largely correlational field of science into one that tests causation has been transformative,” he says.

New computational paradigms are also looming as part of the emerging toolbox for science.
New chip paves the way for optical quantum technology in laptops and smartphones
Incorporating a number of quantum technologies on a single chip, researchers claim that their work paves the way for building quantum computing circuits into a range of everyday devices
In quantum physics, entangled photons are the cornerstone of much cutting-edge technology research, including quantum communications, computing, and encryption. Now an international team of researchers claims to have incorporated a range of quantum technologies on a single integrated chip that is compatible with existing fiber and semiconductor applications, and may soon provide the means to build quantum circuits directly into laptops and cell phones.

Using a bevy of quantum electronic components tested and proven in recent research (including a type of micro-ring resonator and a version of a quantum frequency comb necessary for hyperentanglement and the generation of multiphoton entangled quantum bit, or qubit, states), the team of researchers has achieved a new record in the complexity and amount of entangled photons generated on a single chip.

"This represents an unprecedented level of sophistication in generating entangled photons on a chip," said Professor David Moss, Director of the Centre for Micro-Photonics at Swinburne University of Technology. "Not only can we generate entangled photon pairs over hundreds of channels simultaneously, but for the first time we've succeeded in generating four-photon entangled states on a chip."

According to the researchers, the chip meets numerous criteria for its ready incorporation into existing technologies such as quantum information processing, imaging, and microscopy. This, they say, is because it is compact, cheap to make, scalable, compatible with ordinary electronic components, and it uses standard telecommunication frequencies.

"By achieving this on a chip that was fabricated with processes compatible with the computer chip industry we have opened the door to the possibility of bringing powerful optical quantum computers for everyday use closer than ever before," said Professor Morandotti of the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS).

Here is another domain of rapidly emerging tools that represent a deep change in the conditions of change.
The surprise of this victory isn't that it occurred.  Most expected it would, eventually...  
Instead, the surprise is how fast it happened.  How fast AlphaGo was able to bootstrap itself to a mastery of the game.  It was fast. Unreasonably fast.
However, this victory goes way beyond the game of Go.  It is important because AlphaGo uses a generic technique for learning.  A technique that can be used to master a HUGE range of activities, quickly.  Activities that people get paid for today.
Game ON: the end of the old economic system is in sight
Google is a pioneer in limited artificial general intelligence (aka computers that can learn w/o preprogramming them). One successful example is AlphaGo.  It just beat this Go Grandmaster three times in a row.  
What makes this win interesting is that AlphaGo didn't win through brute force.  Go is too complicated for that:

...the average 150-move game contains more possible board configurations — 10170 — than there are atoms in the Universe, so it can’t be solved by algorithms that search exhaustively for the best move.
It also didn't win by extensive preprogramming by talented engineers, like IBM's Deep Blue did to win at Chess.  

Imagine the transformation of the market without having to pay high-priced advisors?
RBS cuts hundreds of jobs as FCA approves ‘robo-advisers’
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has announced that it will be switching customer advice services over to automated ‘robo-advisers’ as it cuts 220 face-to-face positions.

Given the green light from UK regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) this week, the bank agreed that the move would lead to cheaper, more accessible financial advice.

‘Our customers increasingly want to bank with us using digital technology. As a result, we are scaling back our face-to-face advisers and significantly investing in an online investing platform that enables us to help a new group of customers with as little as £500 to invest,’ RBS said in an official statement.

Neal Stephenson’s most popular book may be “Snow Crash” an update to William Gibson’s groundbreaking ‘Neuromancer’ (for anyone interested in this genre of sci-fi - the update to ‘Snow Crash’ is ‘The Quantum Thief’ trilogy by Hannu Rajaniemi). But Stephenson’s next book is also brilliant - The Diamond Age - where a child has a AI-based book custom made to aid the child’s emotional and intellectual development. This is way, way better than the TV-babysitter.
Robot learning companion offers custom-tailored tutoring
New social robot from MIT helps students learn through personalized interactions
Parents want the best for their children's education and often complain about large class sizes and the lack of individual attention.

Goren Gordon, an artificial intelligence researcher from Tel Aviv University who runs the Curiosity Lab there, is no different.

He and his wife spend as much time as they can with their children, but there are still times when their kids are alone or unsupervised. At those times, they'd like their children to have a companion to learn and play with, Gordon says.

That's the case, even if that companion is a robot.
Tega is the latest in a line of smartphone-based, socially assistive robots developed in the MIT Media Lab. The work is supported by a five-year, $10 million Expeditions in Computing award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which support long-term, multi-institutional research in areas with the potential for disruptive impact.

Domestication of DNA and 3D printing continue to advance - in the coming decades can we imagine what manufacturing horizons will open up?
New Bioprinting Technique Shows Potential for Tissue Repair and Regenerative Medicine
New research details how scientists are moving closer to embedding vascular networks into thick human tissues, which could result in tissue repair and regeneration — and ultimately even replacement of whole organs.
A team at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A. Paulson School for Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has invented a method for 3-D bioprinting thick vascularized tissue constructs. The vasculature network enables fluids, nutrients, and cell growth factors to be perfused uniformly throughout the tissue.

The advance was reported Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This latest work extends the capabilities of our multi-material bioprinting platform to thick human tissues, bringing us one step closer to creating architectures for tissue repair and regeneration,” says the study’s senior author, Jennifer A. Lewis, who is a Wyss core faculty member and the Hansjörg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at SEAS.
In the study, Lewis and her team showed that their 3-D printed, vascularized tissues could thrive and function as living tissue architectures for upwards of six weeks.

This is great news for all of us worried about the increasing antibiotic resistance of bacteria.
This method of using existing antibiotics in combination with compounds that restore their potency could be a powerful weapon in the global antibiotic resistance crisis.
MRSA superbug’s resistance to antibiotics is broken
From superbug to… bug. Newly discovered chemical compounds can make MRSA bacteria vulnerable to the antibiotics they normally resist, restoring the old drug’s former powers.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureaus, commonly known as MRSA, is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections, and the second biggest cause of death by drug-resistant bacteria in the US. These bacteria are resistant to the most widely used class of antibiotics, called beta-lactams, which include penicillin, methicillin and carbapenems.

These drugs work by targeting essential components of a bacterium’s cell wall called peptidoglycans. But MRSA protects itself by using a type of molecule that can soak up the drug and stop it from working.
Now Christopher Tan and colleagues at Merck Research Laboratories in New Jersey have found a way to break this resistance. They have identified two compounds that make beta-lactam antibiotics powerful against MRSA again.

Called tarocin A and tarocin B, these compounds target a different part of a bacterium’s cell wall, called teichoic acid. Neither of these drugs kill bacteria on their own, but when either one is combined with an antibiotic, the combination can kill MRSA in both clinical samples and in infected mice. The compounds haven’t yet been tested in humans.

“It’s like a two-prong attack,” says David Brown, of the charity Antibiotic Research UK. “They’re weakening the wall by a second mechanism, which makes it easier for the beta-lactams to have their effect as well.”

The future of health is not only about living longer but also about sustaining good health throughout our longer life.
Stem Cells Regenerate Human Lens After Cataract Surgery, Restoring Vision
Approach may have broad therapeutic implications on tissue and organ repair
Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Shiley Eye Institute, with colleagues in China, have developed a new, regenerative medicine approach to remove congenital cataracts in infants, permitting remaining stem cells to regrow functional lenses.

The treatment, which has been tested in animals and in a small, human clinical trial, produced much fewer surgical complications than the current standard-of-care and resulted in regenerated lenses with superior visual function in all 12 of the pediatric cataract patients who received the new surgery.

The findings are published in the March 9 online issue of Nature.  

Here’s another interesting breakthrough with some significant positive potential.
Newly Identified Bacteria Break Down Tough Plastic
Researchers have identified a species of bacteria that uses just two enzymes to break down a tough type of plastic polymer. The findings are published in the 11 March issue of Science.

Poly(ethylene terephthalate), or PET, is a very common type of plastic polymer; it's often used in plastic water bottles and about 56 million tons of PET were produced worldwide in 2013 alone. However, while it may be a convenient material for humans, PET is highly resistant to biodegradation, and the accumulation of PET in ecosystems around the globe, particularly in the oceans, may pollute habitats and harm wildlife. To date, very few species of fungi — and no bacteria — have been found to break down PET.

The researchers collected 250 environmental samples, such as soil and sludge, from the yard of a PET bottle-recycling factory and analyzed many different species of bacteria that were growing within the samples. One new bacterium, which they namedIdeonella sakaiensis 201-F6, could nearly completely degrade a thin film of PET after six weeks, at a temperature of 30°C (or 86°F).

Remarkably, these plastic-eating enzymes of 201-F6 share very little genetic resemblance to their closest related enzymes, suggesting that their purpose may have evolved quite recently. This study demonstrates how species can adapt very quickly to changes in their environment.

And here’s another approach to the domestication of DNA - the attempt to imagine the next decade or two - become harder and harder. This article is well worth the read - it clearly explains the ongoing development of gene-based therapies using yeast to generate human antibodies.
Mutant Yeast Are Cranking Out Pharma’s Next Superdrug
THE OFFICES OF Adimab, a biotech company in Lebanon, New Hampshire, smell pleasantly of fresh bread. It’s an olfactory illusion, albeit a welcome one. Nobody is baking anything. The laboratory is lined with beaker after beaker of incubating Saccharomyces cerevisiae—yeast.

So, no crusty treats, but instead Adimab is using all that yeast to cure cancer. And Ebola. And Alzheimer’s and antibiotic-resistant bacteria and practically any disease for which a treatment is so ambitious doctors only dare to dream about it. New Hampshire is far from the biotech hubs of Cambridge and San Diego, but Adimab is quietly becoming a driving force behind one of pharma’s most promising new directions—using the naturally-occurring weapons of the immune system to treat disease.

Instead of doing all yeasty things, these cells are making human proteins—specifically antibodies, proteins that bind to yet other proteins on the surfaces of invading bacteria, viruses, and even cancer cells. Infusing patients directly with synthetic antibodies opens up a new front against disease. Former President Jimmy Carter, for example, recently announced he was cancer-free after treatment that included the antibody therapy Keytruda.

This is a fascinating idea with lots of potential applications for alleviating energy costs and uses.
The Sky May Hold the Secret to Efficient Air Conditioning
An unconventional approach to cooling sends heat to the cold sky.
The idea is to exploit a natural phenomenon called radiative cooling. All objects emit thermal radiation. When it’s emitted toward the sky, a portion of it is absorbed and reflected by the atmosphere. Another portion, which falls within a particular range of frequencies, escapes into the upper atmosphere and outer space, where conditions are much colder. This can cause the object emitting that radiation to cool to below the temperature of the surrounding air.

SkyCool is developing a technology meant to exploit this phenomenon, based on relatively recent advances in the ability to manipulate light at the nanoscale. Engineers have known for a while that radiative cooling is useful for cooling buildings at night. During the day, however, the sun’s radiation counteracts the cooling effect. But a few years ago Raman and a colleague at Stanford determined that it should in fact be possible to achieve radiative cooling during the day.

In 2014, the group published a paper in Nature in which they showed that a device designed to combine the optical properties of three different materials, arranged in stack of multiple layers, cooled to nearly 5 °C below the ambient air temperature. This proved that “the cold darkness of the Universe” can be used as a renewable resource, “even during the hottest hours of the day,” wrote the researchers.

Raman says the company has also shown that its prototypes can significantly lower the temperature of water, meaning it should be possible to “plug this into a wide range of cooling and refrigeration systems” that use cooled water to remove heat from the air. For typical buildings in North America, he adds, “you will want to use this in conjunction with an existing cooling or refrigeration system.”

On the energy front this may be an amazing breakthrough that may be on the market next year.
Graphene Polymer batteries with triple the energy density of lithium ion and commercialization by end of 2016
Graphenano is a Spanish company based in Yecla (Murcia) and they have presented their graphene polymer battery that can largely solve obstacles to the development of the electric car.
Grabat Energy, a subsidiary of Graphenano will have a plant in Yecla with 20 production lines. They will produce 80 million battery cells. In this first phase, Grabat will have 200 employees and an investment of 30 million euros, contributed equally by Chint and Graphenano.

The second phase will be much more ambitious. The Chinese company will contribute 350 million euros to Graphenano make a second factory in Yecla. They will form a joint venture to market their products in China. It is expected to have a global revenue exceeding 3 billion and 5,000 employees. They will have batteries for home, mobile, aircraft also produce for bicycles, motorbikes, cars and drones. Grabat has achieved a battery with a range of 800 kilometers and a weight of just 100 kilograms that can be loaded into a conventional outlet only one - third the time required by a lithium-ion-lithium equivalent (which are riding automakers in their electric models). Mario Martinez said in a high-density plug "could be loaded in just five minutes."

Adapted to a car like the Tesla Model S, graphene polymer batteries would increase range from 334 to 1,013 kilometers. In a Nissan Leaf range would increase from 250 to 546 kilometers on a single charge.

The batteries are said to have a density of 1,000 Wh / kg and a voltage of 2,3V. Independent analyses by TÜV and Dekra show that the batteries are safe and are not prone to explosions like lithium batteries.

The energy situation continues to progress toward a deep disruption of the old energy technologies and geo-politics. The graphs say it all.
Natural gas expected to surpass coal in mix of fuel used for U.S. power generation in 2016
For decades, coal has been the dominant energy source for generating electricity in the United States. EIA's Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) is now forecasting that 2016 will be the first year that natural gas-fired generation exceeds coal generation in the United States on an annual basis. Natural gas generation first surpassed coal generation on a monthly basis in April 2015, and the generation shares for coal and natural gas were nearly identical in 2015, each providing about one-third of all electricity generation.

The mix of fuels used for electricity generation has evolved over time. The recent decline in the generation share of coal, and the concurrent rise in the share of natural gas, was mainly a market-driven response to lower natural gas prices that have made natural gas generation more economically attractive. Between 2000 and 2008, coal was significantly less expensive than natural gas, and coal supplied about 50% of total U.S. generation. However, beginning in 2009, the gap between coal and natural gas prices narrowed, as large amounts of natural gas produced from shale formations changed the balance between supply and demand in U.S. natural gas markets.

No comments:

Post a Comment