Thursday, May 12, 2016

Friday Thinking 13 May 2016

Hello all – Friday Thinking is a humble curation of my foraging in the digital environment. My purpose is to pick interesting pieces, based on my own curiosity (and the curiosity of the many interesting people I follow), about developments in some key domains (work, organization, social-economy, intelligence, domestication of DNA, energy, etc.)  that suggest we are in the midst of a change in the conditions of change - a phase-transition. That tomorrow will be radically unlike yesterday.

Many thanks to those who enjoy this.
In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.

“Be careful what you ‘insta-google-tweet-face’”
Woody Harrelson - Triple 9

The next AI is no AI
After Panama: Stepping up the Fight Against Anonymous Companies

In Novel Tactic on Climate Change, Citizens Sue Their Governments
How to Make the Most of Your Career
Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow
Anticipating artificial intelligence
Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News
Electric Cars Could Wreak Havoc on Oil Markets Within a Decade
Japan has more car chargers than gas stations
Here's what it would take for the US to run on 100% renewable energy
Germany had so much renewable energy on Sunday that it had to pay people to use electricity
Carbon Dioxide Emissions Keep Falling in the U.S.
These images illustrate the future of autonomous vehicles
Taxis to take flight
Here's What the First Full-Scale Test of the Hyperloop Will Look Like
Microsoft’s Testing DNA Storage: 1,000,000,000 TB in 1 Gram
Exotic quantum effects can govern the chemistry around us
Scientists Make Sea Water Drinkable, Produce 6.3 Million Litres A Day
Connected Cattle: Wearables are Changing the Dairy Industry
How space technology is helping Canadians boldly grow where no one has grown before

Artificial Intelligence is starting to turn invisible from the outside in — and vice versa. The exact effects and workings of AI technologies are becoming more challenging to perceive and comprehend for humans. Even the experts themselves don’t always fully understand how an AI system operates.

In the near future, artificial intelligence will commonly become intangible, indistinguishable and incomprehensible for humans.

The next AI is no AI

The massive revelations in the Panama Papers have shined the starkest light yet on the vital need to fight corruption and end anonymous companies. Today, a group of leading organizations advocating for greater transparency in business, announced plans to create a Global Beneficial Ownership Register, a powerful new tool for exposing and ending the clandestine activities of anonymous companies, part of a broader effort to curtail the widespread global problem of bribery and other illegal activities.

The Global Beneficial Ownership Register (GBOR) would enable businesses to know who they are doing business with, financial institutions to know who their customers are, citizens to see who benefits from public funds, and law enforcement to hold individuals accountable for crime and corruption.

No global system for beneficial ownership transparency currently exists. The UK, Norway and Netherlands have all announced public registries containing beneficial ownership information. Even where progress is slow on the national level, sector specific projects such as the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative, local governments such as Sao Paulo, or development bodies such as the World Bank are adopting similar requirements.

After Panama: Stepping up the Fight Against Anonymous Companies

This may be a ‘weak signal’ for a new form of global citizen-activism one that both counters secret trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) (conducted not only in secrecy but with only select participants representing incumbent interests - rather than a broad-based inclusive forum of all potential stakeholders) and begins to hold countries & corporations more directly accountable to citizens. This is important as the recent development are attempting embed the ability of private corporations to sue nations for enacting legislation that may protect their citizen but harm their profit. Examples include everything from food labeling to prohibiting ingredients.

In Novel Tactic on Climate Change, Citizens Sue Their Governments

In the United States, an environmental law nonprofit is suing the federal government on behalf of 21 young plaintiffs. Individuals in Pakistan and New Zealand have sued to force their governments to take stronger action to fight climate change. A farmer in Peru has sued a giant German energy utility over its part in causing global warming.

And while the arguments can be unconventional and surprising, some of the suits are making progress.

Last month, a federal magistrate judge in Oregon startled many legal experts by allowing the lawsuit filed on behalf of 21 teenagers and children to go forward, despite motions from the Obama administration and fossil fuel companies to dismiss it; the suit would force the government to take more aggressive action against climate change. The ruling by the magistrate judge, Thomas M. Coffin, now goes to Federal District Court to be accepted or rejected.

This is a short 3 min read - by Iconoclast and generally insightful ranter - Umair Haque. This is worth the read for anyone interested in the future of work.
You can’t plan a journey like a career. A career was up. But a journey is out. In a journey, you can’t plot a linear path full of objectives (“one day, I’ll be the VP!”). But you can think about possibilities. So break it down into 5–7 year chunks. After 5 years of programming, designing, marketing, what do you want to do? What will it allow you to build a new career doing? Maybe teaching, investing, writing, researching. I don’t know, you don’t know. Now you’re thinking possibilities, not just objectives.
A good journey tells a story. The story of you. Paul’s journey from journalism to entrepreneurship to investing tells a story of mastery.

How to Make the Most of Your Career

8 Rules for Thinking About Your Career
You do it, I do it. Think and fret about our careers. The world’s a baffling place these days. Life and work aren’t what they used to be. So neither is making the most of yourself.

Here’s how to think about it well.
You’re going to have careers the way your parents had jobs. They had 3–5 jobs in a single field or industry. The economy’s not the same. You’ll have 3–5 careers, across industries and fields. Paul is a journalist who became an entrepreneur and went on to be an investor. Mary is a teacher who became a therapist who became a professor.

Your series of careers is your journey. There’s not a good word for this idea of multiple careers. So I’ll just call it your journey. To plan it well, you have to turn yesterday’s career thinking on its head.

We used to think about where our careers would take us. But now we must think about the journeys we want to take. Careers were standard and interchangeable and had set paths. So much so that we gave them set names. Lawyer, doctor, engineer. That’s what those words mean, right?

For anyone interested in the work of Daniel Kahneman - but hasn’t read his book - here’s a 10 min video.

Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow


The hue and cry of concern over the rapidly developing capabilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been shared even in the most innocuous mass media. Omens of the singularity for good and ill have been promulgated as supporting evidence. This next article is a well-balanced piece from the journal Nature - worth the read.

Anticipating artificial intelligence

Concerns over AI are not simply fear-mongering. Progress in the field will affect society profoundly, and it is important to make sure that the changes benefit everyone.
In January, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington DC gave its annual Luddite Award to “a loose coalition of scientists and luminaries who stirred fear and hysteria in 2015 by raising alarms that artificial intelligence (AI) could spell doom for humanity”.

The winners — if that is the correct word — included pioneering inventor Elon Musk and physicist Stephen Hawking.
In January last year, both signed an open letter that argued for research and regulatory and ethical frameworks to ensure that AI benefits humanity and to guarantee that “our AI systems must do what we want them to do”. Hardly “fear and hysteria”.

As AI converges with progress in robotics, cloud computing and precision manufacturing, tipping points will arise at which significant technological changes are likely to occur very quickly. Crucially, advances in robot vision and hearing, combined with AI, are allowing robots to better perceive their environments. This could lead to an explosion of intelligent robot applications — including those in which robots will work closely with humans.

Many people worry about the influence of algorithms in shaping the information that reaches us. That is definitely a concern - but the intuitive thinking of relying on people is perhaps no more comforting - nor should we consider this any ‘new’ development.

Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News

Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.

Several former Facebook “news curators,” as they were known internally, also told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially “inject” selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all. The former curators, all of whom worked as contractors, also said they were directed not to include news about Facebook itself in the trending module.

In other words, Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation. Imposing human editorial values onto the lists of topics an algorithm spits out is by no means a bad thing—but it is in stark contrast to the company’s claims that the trending module simply lists “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.”

Here’s a 4 min MUST VIEW video - about the S-curve, peak oil Demand, looming electric cars.

Electric Cars Could Wreak Havoc on Oil Markets Within a Decade

There are more than one billion cars on the road worldwide today, and only one tenth of one percent of them have a plug. OPEC contends that even in the year 2040, EVs will make up just one percent. But don't be so sure. By 2020, some electric cars and SUVs will be faster, safer, cheaper, and more convenient than their gasoline counterparts. What if people just stop buying oil? In the first episode of our animated series, Sooner Than You Think, Bloomberg's Tom Randall does the math on when oil markets might be headed for the big crash.

And if we’re still a bit skeptical about how fast a switch from gas to electric cars can happen - here’s a definite ‘medium-strong’ signal.
As charging stations become more common, electric-car support services are also emerging. Open Charge Map, for example, operates an online listing of public charging points worldwide. A mobile app combines the data with GPS technology to guide drivers to the nearest site.

Japan has more car chargers than gas stations

That surprising discovery comes from Nissan Motor Co., which reported that the number of power points in Japan, including fast-chargers and those in homes, has surged to 40,000, surpassing the nation’s 34,000 gas stations.

The figure shows that in the relatively brief time since electric vehicles were introduced, the infrastructure to support them has become bigger than what the oil industry built over decades in the world’s third-biggest economy — at least by this one measure.

Why that matters is obvious. Nissan’s battery-powered Leaf can travel 135 km on a charge, and the anxiety of being stuck away from home without power has restrained consumer demand. As the charging network expands and batteries become more powerful, that concern will wane.

And here’s an interesting article about some work that shows us how possible it is to engage in a phase transition into a new world of geo-political energy - a zero-marginal cost energy world. Wouldn’t it be interesting if all those solar powered parking meters - could also become charging stations?
Electrifying everything produces an enormous drop in projected demand, since the energy-to-work conversion of electric motors is much more efficient than combustion motors, which lose a ton of energy to heat. So the amount of energy necessary to meet projected demand drops by a third just from the conversion.

Here's what it would take for the US to run on 100% renewable energy

It is technically and economically feasible to run the US economy entirely on renewable energy, and to do so by 2050. That is the conclusion of a study last year in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, authored by Stanford scholar Mark Z. Jacobson and nine colleagues.

Jacobson is well-known for his ambitious andcontroversial work on renewable energy. In 2011 he published, with Mark A. Delucchi, a two-part paper on "providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power." In 2013 he published a feasibility study on moving New York state entirely to renewables, and in 2014 he created a road map for California to do the same.

His team's 2015 paper contains 50 such road maps, one for every state, with detailed modeling on how to get to a US energy system entirely powered by wind, water, and solar (WWS). That means no oil and coal. It also means no natural gas, no nuclear power, no carbon capture and sequestration, and no biofuels.

The road maps show how 80 to 85 percent of existing energy could be replaced by wind, water, and solar by 2030, with 100 percent by 2050. The result is a substantial savings relative to the status quo baseline, in terms of energy costs, health costs, and climate costs alike. The resulting land footprint of energy is manageable, grid reliability is maintained, and more jobs will be created in renewables than destroyed in fossil fuels.

Here’s another signal - I suppose this is still technically a ‘weak signal’, however it’s a signal of an energy abundance that is entirely plausible - perhaps inevitable given the economics of zero-marginal costs - and also why energy will have to be a public infrastructure - since the real return on investment will be the huge domains of consequential positive externalities.

Germany had so much renewable energy on Sunday that it had to pay people to use electricity

On Sunday, May 8, Germany hit a new high in renewable energy generation. Thanks to a sunny and windy day, at one point around 1pm the country’s solar, wind, hydro and biomass plants were supplying about 55 GW of the 63 GW being consumed, or 87%.

Power prices actually went negative for several hours, meaning commercial customers were being paid to consume electricity.

….Germany’s power surplus on Sunday wasn’t all good news. The system is still too rigid for power suppliers and consumers to respond quickly to price signals. Though gas power plants were taken offline, nuclear and coal plants can’t be quickly shut down, so they went on running and had to pay to sell power into the grid for several hours, while industrial customers such as refineries and foundries earned money by consuming electricity.

This is another positive sign of progress in the climate change domain. What important to note is that while the decline in carbon emissions -despite continued economic growth  is partly the result of warmer winters - but also despite warmer summers which always uses electricity for air conditioning.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions Keep Falling in the U.S.

Despite continued economic growth, emissions in the U.S. are on a steady decline thanks in large part to cheap natural gas.
Carbon dioxide emissions in the United States fell again in 2015, according to new data from the federal government. Though the levels increased slightly in 2013 and 2014, last year’s drop is in line with the gradual decline that’s been occurring for a decade. The nearly 5.3 billion metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide the country added to the atmosphere in 2015 is 12 percent smaller than that number in 2005.

Most of the reduction comes from burning less coal. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, changes in the national mix of electricity production—especially the shift toward cleaner-burning natural gas—accounted for 68 percent of the emissions reductions between 2005 and 2015.

A relatively mild winter likely also contributed to the drop seen in 2015. The number of so-called “heating degree days,” an indicator that reflects energy use for heating, was the lowest since 2012.

This is an interesting article and series of images about the future of autonomous transportation. Worth the view - an 8 min video included.

These images illustrate the future of autonomous vehicles

But when we talk about autonomous vehicles, we often get mired in the day-to-day details: Will it make parallel parking easier? Will it reduce traffic congestion? Is it safe to take my hands of the wheel?

To explore what the future of driving could look like, Honda commissioned Map and Mori Inc. to create a concept for the future of transportation. “Honda. Great Journey” depicts seven terrain-specific, self-driving concept vehicles for a cross-continent journey across deserts, mountains, snowy tundra, and rainforests.
The future of transportation is about more than automating our commutes and drug store runs: It’s about exploring what’s possible. That means creating vehicles that can take us from Africa to the Arctic and back again—and handle all the extreme situations along the way. The self-driving vehicle of the future will anticipate (and solve) problems that people can’t, from muddy roads to cracked ice to rockslides on narrow mountain roads.

These aren’t autonomous quite yet - but it seems totally awesome - I can visualize that with a proper ‘head up’ display - even travel lanes will be well marked so that anyone can use these. The ‘flying car’? Maybe.

Taxis to take flight

The premiere of manned flights with the world's first certified Multicopter, e-volo's Volocopter VC200, Karlsruhe, Germany, marks a step forward in urban mobility. Volocopter is a personal aerial vehicle designed to be so easy and safe to fly that anyone can command it. Due to its electric propulsion, it has no tailpipe emissions and is impressively quiet. For the first time, the dream of personal flight as a daily routine is viable. The vehicle not only offers more widespread use in conventional aircraft domains, but brings us a step closer to air taxi services and entire transportation systems in the third dimension.

Volocopter VC200 received the permit-to-fly as an ultralight aircraft from German aviation authorities in February 2016. In the context of the commenced test program, e-volo has started to conduct manned flights. The historic world premiere of a flight with a certified multicopter was made by e-volo managing director Alexander Zosel on March 30, 2016 on an airfield in Southern Germany.

"The flight was totally awesome," says Alex Zosel after his landing. "The first flight was unbelievable. I got in, we did the pre-checks for what felt like maybe 20 seconds, and after that I'd already got the all-clear for flying. I didn't wait long, I simply pushed the lever upward and Volocopter sprung upward in a single bound. It hovered totally weightlessly."

Thanks to its innovative flight control, the vertical take-off and landing aircraft (VTOL) is extremely easy to fly. The aircraft is piloted one-handedly with a single joystick and significantly reduces the number one reason for accidents in conventional helicopters: human error. To demonstrate this feature, Zosel releases his hand from the joystick to applaud his team during the premiere flight, while Volocopter automatically holds its position. A comprehensive redundancy concept compensates any failure by critical components including the loss of several motors. This was demonstrated exhaustively during the certification process. Furthermore, the vehicle is quiet and due to its purely electric motor with its quickly interchangeable battery system, it is also absolutely emission free.

This is another very interesting prototype - that if it is successful could revolutionize certain domains of transportation - the illustration is well worth the look.

Here's What the First Full-Scale Test of the Hyperloop Will Look Like

Wednesday morning, in the Nevada desert, one of the companies working to develop a hyperloop will deliver a proof of concept—the first full-scale demonstration of the transportation technology that will be able to travel at speeds over 300 mph in an open-air environment, potentially changing the future of transit along the way.

What engineers are calling a “propulsion open-air test” (POAT) will be the first public peek at the electromagnetic propulsion system developed by Hyperloop One, formerly Hyperloop Technologies, which released this animation today. The company’s name change, also announced today, will differentiate the two-year-old startup from its competitor Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT). On Monday, HTT made its own announcement that it had licensed a different propulsion technology using passive magnetic levitation.

For anyone who doubts that biology is now an information science - this is an important signal in the advance of computing beyond silicon - and perhaps of a looming phase transition in Moore’s law.
Although the technology is still years away from coming out with a commercially viable DNA data storage solution, these early experiments by Microsoft and Twist Bioscience are quickly pushing the of data storage density and longevity.

Microsoft’s Testing DNA Storage: 1,000,000,000 TB in 1 Gram

Microsoft has purchased 10,000,000 strands of DNA from biology startup Twist Bioscience towards researching digital data storage solutions.
Microsoft is now looking to biology to come up with solutions for data storage. The tech giant just purchased ten million strands of synthetic DNA from Twist Bioscience to use for digital data storage research.

The purchase involves ten million long oligonucleotides. Twist Bioscience CEO Emily M. Leproust, Ph.D. said in a press release: “Today, the vast majority of digital data is stored on media that has a finite shelf life and periodically needs to be re-encoded. DNA is a promising storage media, as it has a known shelf life of several thousand years, offers a permanent storage format and can be read for continuously decreasing costs.”

“We need new methods for long-term, secure data storage,” says Doug Carmean, a Microsoft partner architect in its Technology and Research organization. Their initial tests have shown that they can successfully encode and recover 100 percent of binary data from synthetic DNA.

The boundaries through which science is ‘boldly going’ - may be accelerating. 100 years ago physicists were grappling with Einstein and relativity - which also introduced us to the strangeness of quantum mechanics. The 21st Century is not only the century of complexity but perhaps of whole new domains of ‘strange’ science - including revealing how that strangeness is entangled in our everyday lives - and minds.
"The tunneling of protons in molecules of porphycene in solution is spectacular proof that even at room temperature and in a dense environment, a purely quantum effect can rule the course of a chemical reaction. But this is not the end of the surprises. We have a reasonable suspicion that one more exotic quantum phenomenon is involved in the movements of the two protons in porphycene, always jumping together. The world of chemistry around us would then be even more interesting," says Prof. Waluk.

Exotic quantum effects can govern the chemistry around us

Objects of the quantum world have a concealed and cold-blooded nature—they usually behave in a quantum manner only when they are significantly cooled and isolated from the environment. Experiments carried out by chemists and physicists from Warsaw have changed this simple picture. It turns out that not only does one of the most interesting quantum effects occur at room temperature and higher, but it plays a dominant role in the course of chemical reactions in solutions.

We generally derive our experimental knowledge of quantum phenomena from experiments carried out using sophisticated equipment under exotic conditions: at extremely low temperatures and in a vacuum, isolating quantum objects from the disturbing influence of the environment. Scientists from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC PAS) in Warsaw, led by Prof. Jacek Waluk and Prof. Czeslaw Radzewicz's group from the Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw (FUW), have just shown that one of the most spectacular quantum phenomena—quantum tunneling—takes place even at temperatures above the boiling point of water. However, what is particularly surprising is the fact that the observed effect applies to hydrogen nuclei, which tunnel in particles floating in solution. The measurements leave no doubt that in conditions typical for our environment, tunneling turns out to be the main factor responsible for the chemical reaction.

The earth is definitely not short of water - it’s just that most of it is ocean water. However, the energy to desalinate water is increasingly available at zero-marginal cost. But beyond solar and wind - other advances are occuring that can help potential water shortages.

Scientists Make Sea Water Drinkable, Produce 6.3 Million Litres A Day

MUMBAI: As 13 states struggle with drought, scientists in a corner of India have devised a way to make potable water - 6.3 million litre of it every day - from sea water.  They have also developed certain filtration methods that ensure groundwater containing arsenic and uranium are safe to drink.

The pilot plant at Tamil Nadu's Kalpakkam, built by scientists of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre use waste steam from a nuclear reactor to purify the seawater. Its capacity is 6.3 million litre every day.

"Besides, BARC has developed several membranes, by which, at a very small cost, groundwater contaminated by uranium or arsenic can be purified and make fit for drinking," Dr Vyas added.

On his recent visit to BARC, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pedalled a bicycle that had a water purifier installed on it. It turns dirty contaminated water into potable water. Turning the pedals produces the energy the purifier needs.

The nuclear scientists have also made several household water purifiers that are being marketed all over drought-hit Marathwada. Some these use thin membranes and special filters to separate the contaminants.

For anyone who thinks the digital environment - and ubiquitous, high bandwidth Internet is primarily for the urban situation - here’s an interesting development. What’s important is to imagine all the sensors that could make any form of agricultural service and product better, more efficient or more. All forms of husbandry or cultivation could benefit.
“This is not a very sexy industry; it’s not the next killer app,” says Saad Ansari, cofounder and chief technical officer of Connecterra. “But improving food manufacturing productivity is a real problem, and not a lot of people are working on it.”
Ansari, a computer scientist, says his company’s mission is to use data analytics to improve food production.
“By 2050, food output will have to be increased by 60 percent worldwide, so we started a venture that would lay the groundwork,” he says. “We really don’t need more cows; we need more milk from fewer cows.”

Connected Cattle: Wearables are Changing the Dairy Industry

Trackers using cloud computing applications are increasing milk production
Dairy farming is a vital part of the economy in many countries. One key to profitability is getting the most cows pregnant during a breeding season. But knowing when a cow is in estrus—in heat—and ready for insemination can be tricky. The answer from at least two companies is simple: Outfit the cows with high-tech pedometers.

Estrus occurs every 21 days and lasts from 6 to 24 hours. Most dairy farmers look for the characteristics visually—difficult if the farmers are in charge of hundreds of cattle or if estrus occurs at night. If the signs are missed, there’s another 21-day wait. Miss them too many times and the cow might be sold for meat. For small farmers, that can be a significant loss, because selling the milk from cows that give birth is often their primary source of income.

To spot signs of estrus in a more automated way farmers are turning to cow-tracking systems. One of the most common indicators is that the cows walk more—some up to six times as much. A Fujitsu system counts steps, while another one from startup Connecterra also monitors the cows’ health. The two companies recently displayed their systems at separate events attended by IEEE. Fujitsu, Japan’s largest IT service provider, headquartered in Tokyo, demonstrated its support service for commercial farmers and breeders in February at the Mobile World Congress. Connecterra, a predictive analytics startup from Amsterdam, showed off its system for small dairy farms at the Web Summit in November.

However, agriculture may also become a key urban activity and part of urban social economy.
The northern pilot project will grow six perishable foods — cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, lettuce and herbs — otherwise imported.

How space technology is helping Canadians boldly grow where no one has grown before

A hydroponic system designed to feed astronauts is part of a pilot project for growing fresh fruits and vegetables in Canada's North, where food insecurity persists.
Canadian researchers are using space technology to grow crops above the 60th parallel.

Using a hydroponic system designed to feed astronauts, residents can harvest fruits and vegetables year-round in the extreme climate of northern Canada.
The prototype is destined for Hay River, N.W.T., where the Northern Farm Training Institute will house five units.

Environmental biologist Mike Dixon knows what it takes to grow plants in barren places, both on and off Earth.

No comments:

Post a Comment