Thursday, November 3, 2016

Friday Thinking 4 Nov. 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.
Jobs are dying - work is just beginning.

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



A child today can expect to change jobs at least seven times over the course of their lives – and five of those jobs don’t exist yet.

The most important skills of tomorrow, according to five global leaders

"Urbanization is happening at an unprecedented pace and scale, and 3.7 billion people now live in cities. We think in the forthcoming years, by 2050, this will rise to 7 billion," said Joan Clos, executive director of Habitat III.

"It is historic in the sense that never in human history have we seen such a transformation of human society," he said. "This represents huge challenges, and the NUA aims to guide strategy to face these challenges."

"We want to say that we need not fear urbanization," he said. "There are some countries that want to stop urbanization, put a wall against it. We want to guide it."

Nations agree on global road map to steer breakneck urbanization

People are beginning to understand the nature of their new technology, but not yet nearly enough of them — and not nearly well enough. Most people, as I indicated, still cling to what I call the rearview-mirror view of their world. By this I mean to say that because of the invisibility of any environment during the period of its innovation, man is only consciously aware of the environment that has preceded it; in other words, an environment becomes fully visible only when it has been superseded by a new environment; thus we are always one step behind in our view of the world. Because we are benumbed by any new technology — which in turn creates a totally new environment — we tend to make the old environment more visible; we do so by turning it into an art form and by attaching ourselves to the objects and atmosphere that characterized it, just as we’ve done with jazz, and as we’re now doing with the garbage of the mechanical environment via pop art.

The present is always invisible because it’s environmental and saturates the whole field of attention so overwhelmingly; thus everyone but the artist, the man of integral awareness, is alive in an earlier day. In the midst of the electronic age of software, of instant information movement, we still believe we’re living in the mechanical age of hardware. At the height of the mechanical age, man turned back to earlier centuries in search of “pastoral” values. The Renaissance and the Middle Ages were completely oriented toward Rome; Rome was oriented toward Greece, and the Greeks were oriented toward the pre-Homeric primitives. We reverse the old educational dictum of learning by proceeding from the familiar to the unfamiliar by going from the unfamiliar to the familiar, which is nothing more or less than the numbing mechanism that takes place whenever new media drastically extend our senses.

In the past, the effects of media were experienced more gradually, allowing the individual and society to absorb and cushion their impact to some degree. Today, in the electronic age of instantaneous communication, I believe that our survival, and at the very least our comfort and happiness, is predicated on understanding the nature of our new environment, because unlike previous environmental changes, the electric media constitute a total and near-instantaneous transformation of culture, values and attitudes. This upheaval generates great pain and identity loss, which can be ameliorated only through a conscious awareness of its dynamics. If we understand the revolutionary transformations caused by new media, we can anticipate and control them; but if we continue in our self-induced subliminal trance, we will be their slaves.

The new extensions of man and the environment they generate are the central manifestations of the evolutionary process, and yet we still cannot free ourselves of the delusion that it is how a medium is used that counts, rather than what it does to us and with us. This is the zombie stance of the technological idiot. It’s to escape this Narcissus trance that I’ve tried to trace and reveal the impact of media on man, from the beginning of recorded time to the present.

Marshall McLuhan - The Playboy Interview

Here an article discussing an emerging demographic - one that transcends the traditional fragmenting populations into various age cohorts. The article is short and has links to other supporting articles. I also recommend reading the linked article by Gina Pell. This approach is also one taken by Environics and the development of ‘Value Tribes’. In terms of organizations concerned with recruitment of new employees or members - this sort of focus may be more relevant to finding people who can fit in with human chemistry. Rather than projecting the change in conditions of change being wrought by technology on a ascending younger generation.
This content is appropriate for people of all ages. And that’s the point. The days of targeting media and products at people based on their age is over.
“attitudes and habits that are widely thought to be millennial-specific may actually be quite widespread among the general population.” Relevance belongs to every age not only during the period of a generation’s ascension to power.

...definitions of perennial: enduring, perpetual, ever-lasting, recurrent, ever-blooming. Thus, Perennials was born.
It’s time we chose our own category based on shared values and passions and break out of the faux constructs behind an age-based system of classification. By identifying ourselves as Perennials, we supplant our constricting label with something that better reflects our reality online and off. Amazon and Netflix get it right with recommendation engines that target people based on behavioral data over outmoded generational stereotypes, so why shouldn’t we?

Meet the Perennials

Gina Pell on the Perennials, the growing group of people who aren’t bound by age in the way most people in society used to be.

We are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages. We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against our growing edge and know how to hustle. We comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic.
This is an idea that’s been gathering steam for some time.

Catherine Mayer wrote about Amortality for Time Magazine.
Amortals live among us. In their teens and 20s, they may seem preternaturally experienced. In later life, they often look young and dress younger. They have kids early or late — sometimes very late — or not at all. Their emotional lives are as chaotic as their financial planning. The defining characteristic of amortality is to live in the same way, at the same pitch, doing and consuming much the same things, from late teens right up until death.

Cowell is one of their poster boys; so too is France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, as mercurial as a hormonal teenager. Madonna is relentlessly amortal. It’s easier to diagnose the condition in the middle-aged, but there are baby amortals — think Mark Zuckerberg, the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, who looks set to comport himself like a student geek to the end of his days. The eldest amortals, born long before the first boomer wave, are still making mischief around the world.

This is a longish discussion - well worth the read for anyone concerned with AI and with the nature of what a ‘mind’ is or maybe more importantly what it can become.
To explore the space of possible minds is to entertain the possibility of beings far more exotic than any terrestrial species. Could the space of possible minds include beings so inscrutable that we could not tell whether they had conscious experiences at all? To deny this possibility smacks of biocentrism.

Conscious exotica

From algorithms to aliens, could humans ever understand minds that are radically unlike our own?
In 1984, the philosopher Aaron Sloman invited scholars to describe ‘the space of possible minds’. Sloman’s phrase alludes to the fact that human minds, in all their variety, are not the only sorts of minds. There are, for example, the minds of other animals, such as chimpanzees, crows and octopuses. But the space of possibilities must also include the minds of life-forms that have evolved elsewhere in the Universe, minds that could be very different from any product of terrestrial biology. The map of possibilities includes such theoretical creatures even if we are alone in the Cosmos, just as it also includes life-forms that could have evolved on Earth under different conditions.

We must also consider the possibility of artificial intelligence (AI). Let’s say that intelligence ‘measures an agent’s general ability to achieve goals in a wide range of environments’, following the definition adopted by the computer scientists Shane Legg and Marcus Hutter. By this definition, no artefact exists today that has anything approaching human-level intelligence. While there are computer programs that can out-perform humans in highly demanding yet specialised intellectual domains, such as playing the game of Go, no computer or robot today can match the generality of human intelligence.

Here’s one job that most wouldn’t have thought could be automated. But the thought of replace a judge with AI may be the wrong way to look at it - perhaps a better way it to think about how much AI together with the judge can help judges make better judgements.
We don’t see AI replacing judges or lawyers, but we think they’d find it useful for rapidly identifying patterns in cases that lead to certain outcomes. It could also be a valuable tool for highlighting which cases are most likely to be violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.

AI judge created by British scientists can predict human rights rulings

Artificial intelligence accurate 79% of the time, but no plans to bench judges just yet.
An artificial intelligence "judge" that can accurately predict many of Europe's top human rights court rulings has been created by a team of computer scientists and legal experts.

The AI system—developed by researchers from University College London, the University of Sheffield, and the University of Pennsylvania—parsed 584 cases which had previously been heard at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and successfully predicted 79 percent of the decisions.

A machine learning algorithm was trained to search for patterns in English-language datasets relating to three articles of the European Convention on Human Rights: Article 3, concerning torture and inhuman and degrading treatment; Article 6, which protects the right to fair trial; and Article 8, on the right to a private and family life. The cases examined were equally split between those that did find rights violations and those that didn't.

And in completely different domain.
….estimates that automation will replace 40% to 80% of the workers at a mine. New mines and those with many years of life left are the prime candidates for automation.

Robotics, driverless tech are taking over mining jobs

Is mining a bellwether for automation’s impact on employment?
In the next decade, the mining industry may lose more than half of its jobs to automation, according to a new report. That's not based on future technologies, but on automated equipment being deployed today.

The mining industry is primed for automation. It's capital intensive, buys expensive equipment and pays relatively well.

This industry is adopting self-driving trucks, automated loaders and automated drilling and tunnel-boring systems. It is also testing fully autonomous long-distance trains, which carry materials from the mine to a port, according to the report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development in Winnipeg, Canada.

And it’s not just mining - Agriculture is on the verge of transformation on a number of frontiers - automation and domestication of DNA.

Swarms of precision agriculture robots could help put food on the table

Swarms of drones will help farmers map weeds in their fields and improve crop yields. This is the promise of an ECHORD++ funded research project called ‘SAGA: Swarm Robotics for Agricultural Applications’. The project will deliver a swarm of drones programmed to monitor a field and, via on-board machine vision, precisely map the presence of weeds among crops.

Additionally, the drones attract each other at weed-infested areas, allowing them to inspect only those areas accurately, similar to how swarms of bees forage the most profitable flower patches. In this way, the planning of weed control activities can be limited to high-priority areas, generating savings at the same time as increasing productivity.

“The application of swarm robotics to precision agriculture represents a paradigm shift with a tremendous potential impact” says Dr. Vito Trianni, SAGA project coordinator and researcher at the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies of the Italian National Research Council (ISTC-CNR). “As the price of robotics hardware lowers, and the miniaturization and abilities of robots increase, we will soon be able to automate solutions at the individual plant level,” says Dr. Trianni. “This needs to be accompanied by the ability to work in large groups, so as to efficiently cover big fields and work in synergy. Swarm robotics offers solutions to such a problem.” Miniature machines avoid soil compaction and can act only where needed; robots can adopt mechanical, as opposed to chemical, solutions suitable for organic farming; and robot swarms can be exactly scaled to fit different farm sizes. The Saga project proposes a recipe for precision farming consisting of novel hardware mixed with precise individual control and collective intelligence.

This is something that may help the world come to better understandings and compromises and/or marketers sell us stuff we don’t want.

Model helps explore how changing certainty in belief of one statement can lead to changings belief in truth of others

A small team of researchers with members from the U.S., the Netherlands, Russia and Italy has developed a new model that illuminates how changing the degree of certainty a person holds for a given belief can lead to changes in beliefs about other things that a person believes to be true. In their paper published in the journal Science, the team outlines their model and offers some possible ways it might be used. Carter Butts with the University of California offers a Perspective piece on the model developed by the team and suggests that it could be used to model attitudes as well as beliefs in empirical propositions.

As Butts notes, there are many examples of people harboring beliefs that fly in the face of logic—people believing that humans sprang into existence just 10,000 years ago, for example, or groups of people adamantly insisting that inoculating infants causes autism despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. Such beliefs, the researchers say, can be based on other beliefs that prevent the acceptance of that which may seem obvious. Believing that we humans, for example, are too insignificant compared to the rest of the world to be able to cause something as impressive as global warming would make it very difficult to accept the idea regardless of the evidence. To make sense of such belief systems by groups of people, the researchers have extended prior work that led to the development of the Friedkin-Johnson model used to illustrate how individual people use information under complex circumstances to make decisions that can result in the formation of beliefs.

This may seem counter intuitive - or even irrational to some - yet it in complex context - this may be the wisest approach.

Need a strategy? Let it grow like a weed in the garden

Searching for a strategy? Here’s how to get one, according to just about every book and article on the subject. I have stylized this a bit, in what I call the Hothouse Model of Strategy Formulation.
Wait, don’t go off and start your strategy quite yet. First read what I call a grassroots model of strategy formation.

Here’s another Gartner technology list.

Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017

Gartner, Inc. today highlighted the top technology trends that will be strategic for most organizations in 2017. Analysts presented their findings during the sold-out Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, which is taking place here through Thursday.

Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as one with substantial disruptive potential that is just beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use or which are rapidly growing trends with a high degree of volatility reaching tipping points over the next five years.

"Gartner's top 10 strategic technology trends for 2017 set the stage for the Intelligent Digital Mesh," said David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow. "The first three embrace 'Intelligence Everywhere,' how data science technologies and approaches are evolving to include advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence allowing the creation of intelligent physical and software-based systems that are programmed to learn and adapt. The next three trends focus on the digital world and how the physical and digital worlds are becoming more intertwined. The last four trends focus on the mesh of platforms and services needed to deliver the intelligent digital mesh."

The top 10 strategic technology trends for 2017 are:
AI and Advanced Machine Learning
Intelligent Apps
Intelligent Things
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Digital Twin
Blockchain and Distributed Ledgers
Conversational System
Mesh App and Service Architecture
Digital Technology Platforms
Adaptive Security Architecture

The inevitability of digital currency may seem like simply talking about today’s use of the debit card. However, this is not the case. The Blockchain or distributed ledger technology is fundamentally different and will change the world in ways we can’t predict.
"The government will push for the systematization of digital currency on a full scale in tandem with a global trend in the U.S., Japan and other countries."

South Korea plans national digital currency using a Blockchain

At the 12th annual FinTech Demo Day in Seoul, the chairman of South Korea’s Financial Services Commission (FSC), Yim Jong-yong, announced that his department will “Lay the systemic groundwork for the spread of digital currency.”
The FSC is the South Korean government office overseeing financial services. In 2008, the department assumed authority over all financial policies regarding the financial market from the Ministry of Finance, making it the government’s top financial regulator.

While no details were given about the form or technology that the FSC’s digital currency will use, other than a suggestion that it would include a blockchain, a consortium on blockchain technology to jointly research and run pilot projects will be launched by the government and the local financial industry players this year.

According to South Korea’s largest news agency, Yonhap News, Yim announced that his department is offering three trillion won in funding over the next three years, worth about US$2.65 billion, to financially support the development of the fintech sector in South Korea.

Yim described the measures behind his department’s FinTech funding spree as the, "Basic direction" of their second-stage fintech development roadmap, which they plan to unveil in Q1 2017. "In the second stage, the government will place a focus on re-designing the existing system to be suitable for the fintech environment," Yim clarified.

The use of Bitcoin by establishment banking systems it evolving - however this article also suggests the inherent security issues that are being leveraged to make them vulnerable.

City banks plan to hoard bitcoins to help them pay cyber ransoms

Experts say blue chip companies have decided it’s cheaper to deal with extortionists than risk damaging attacks
Several of London’s largest banks are looking to stockpile bitcoins in order to pay off cyber criminals who threaten to bring down their critical IT systems.
The virtual currency, which is highly prized by criminal networks because it cannot be traced, is being acquired by blue chip companies in order to pay ransoms, according to a leading IT expert.

On Friday, hackers attacked the websites of a number of leading online companies including Twitter, Spotify and Reddit. They used a special code to harness the power of hundreds of thousands of internet-connected home devices, such as CCTV cameras and printers, to launch “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attacks through a US company called Dyn, which provides directory services to online companies. DDoS attacks involve inundating computer servers with so much data traffic that they cannot cope.

There is no evidence that Dyn was the subject of extortion demands but it has become apparent that hackers have been using the code to threaten other businesses into paying them with bitcoins or risk becoming the target of similar attacks.

Advance in nanotechnology and the emergence of new materials and new uses seems to be accelerating.
“We’re taking carbon dioxide, a waste product of combustion, and we’re pushing that combustion reaction backwards with very high selectivity to a useful fuel,” Rondinone said. “Ethanol was a surprise -- it’s extremely difficult to go straight from carbon dioxide to ethanol with a single catalyst.”

Nano-spike catalysts convert carbon dioxide directly into ethanol

In a new twist to waste-to-fuel technology, scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed an electrochemical process that uses tiny spikes of carbon and copper to turn carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into ethanol. Their finding, which involves nanofabrication and catalysis science, was serendipitous.

“We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked,” said ORNL’s Adam Rondinone, lead author of the team’s study published in ChemistrySelect. “We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realized that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own.”

The team used a catalyst made of carbon, copper and nitrogen and applied voltage to trigger a complicated chemical reaction that essentially reverses the combustion process. With the help of the nanotechnology-based catalyst which contains multiple reaction sites, the solution of carbon dioxide dissolved in water turned into ethanol with a yield of 63 percent. Typically, this type of electrochemical reaction results in a mix of several different products in small amounts.

It is sometimes very hard to imagine how fast fundamental change can happen. The next decade will see major transformation to our transportation systems with the self-driving car including global energy geo-politics.
Especially for the 400 million Indians who have no access to electricity, solar power would mean access to clean and affordable energy.

India’s solar power set to outshine coal

Solar power in India will be cheaper than imported coal by 2020, but replacing the subcontinent’s fossil fuels with renewable energy is an enormous task.
India wants to provide its entire population with electricity and lift millions out of poverty, but in order to prevent the world overheating it also needs to switch away from fossil fuels.

Although India is blessed with ample sunshine and wind, its main source of energy is coal, followed by oil and gas. Together, they provide around 90 per cent of the total energy demand of the subcontinent – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – with coal enjoying the highest share, at more than 70 per cent.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance reckons that by as early as 2020 large photovoltaic ground-mounted systems will be more economical in India than plants powered by imported coal.

Its conclusion is based on what is called the levelised cost of energy (LCOE) – a way of comparing different methods of electricity generation, using the average total cost of building and operating a power plant, divided by its total lifetime energy output.
Bloomberg says the LCOE for photovoltaic systems is about US$0.10 per solar kilowatt hour, compared with a current levelised cost for coal in Asia of about US$0.07.

Even if coal prices remain steady, which it thinks is unlikely, it believes that the continuing fall in PV prices means that solar energy will be more economic than coal by 2020. Only 10 years ago, solar generation was more than three times the price of coal.

Another article that falls into the ‘Moore’s Law is Dead - Long Live Moore’s Law’ file.
"If we were to draw energy from a typical AA battery based on this design, it would last for a billion years," said Dr Sungsik Lee, the paper's first author, also from the Department of Engineering. "Using the Schottky barrier allows us to keep the electrodes from interfering with each other in order to amplify the amplitude of the signal even at the state where the transistor is almost switched off."

"This will bring about a new design model for ultralow power sensor interfaces and analogue signal processing in wearable and implantable devices, all of which are critical for the Internet of Things," said Nathan.

Ultralow power transistors could function for years without a battery

A newly-developed form of transistor opens up a range of new electronic applications including wearable or implantable devices by drastically reducing the amount of power used. Devices based on this type of ultralow power transistor, developed by engineers at the University of Cambridge, could function for months or even years without a battery by 'scavenging' energy from their environment.

Using a similar principle to a computer in sleep mode, the new transistor harnesses a tiny 'leakage' of electrical current, known as a near-off-state current, for its operations. This leak, like water dripping from a faulty tap, is a characteristic of all transistors, but this is the first time that it has been effectively captured and used functionally. The results, reported in the journal Science, open up new avenues for system design for the Internet of Things, in which most of the things we interact with every day are connected to the Internet.

The transistors can be produced at low temperatures and can be printed on almost any material, from glass and plastic to polyester and paper. They are based on a unique geometry which uses a 'non-desirable' characteristic, namely the point of contact between the metal and semiconducting components of a transistor, a so-called 'Schottky barrier.'

While the tipping point has been reached the bottom is a ways away - however it may be nearer than anticipated. Remember the looming crisis of ‘peak oil’?

Bloomberg, Fitch Predict Oil “Death Spiral” As Early As 2023

Someone once said that financial markets respond to only two factors — fear and greed. In February,Bloomberg warned readers that the next collapse of oil prices will occur within 10 years, maybe sooner, due to an explosion of electric cars on the road. In a new study released this week, Fitch Ratings, one of the three largest financial rating services in the world, claims that grid-scale battery storage could exert negative pressure on utility industry stocks. Corporate stocks and bonds issued by utility and automotive companies represent ¼ of all corporate debt in the world — $3.4 trillion, to be exact.

The Bloomberg team presents its findings in the chart below. It shows when the oil collapse is expected, assuming three different scenarios for the growth of electric cars. The selloff could begin as early as 2023 or as late at 2028. No one can predict the future, but Bloomberg offers this advice: “One thing is certain: Whenever the oil crash comes, it will be only the beginning. Every year that follows will bring more electric cars to the road, and less demand for oil. Someone will be left holding the barrel.”

This is something that all governments should be preparing to implement in the next few years.

U.S. Designates Electric Vehicle Charging Corridors

The federal government is designating 48 electric vehicle charging corridors along 25,000 miles of major U.S. highways as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and make it easier for drivers to switch to electric cars, the White House announced Thursday.

The plan calls for electric vehicle charging stations to be installed at least every 50 miles within the corridors and new government-approved signage to help drivers identify the locations of charging stations along the highway in 35 states.

This is only a proposition - but it’s als an inevitable development.

$100 million project to make intelligence-boosting brain implant

If you could implant a device in your brain to enhance your intelligence, would you do it? A new company has just invested $100 million into developing such a device, and is being advised by some of the biggest names in science.

The company, Kernel, was launched earlier this year by entrepreneur Bryan Johnson. He says he has spent many years wondering how best to contribute to humanity. “I arrived at intelligence. I think it’s the most precious and powerful resource in existence,” says Johnson.

His goal is for human intelligence to expand and develop in the same way that artificial intelligence has in recent years. The first experiments planned will be on memory. Johnson is working with Theodore Berger, at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who is looking at the hippocampus – a brain region key for memory.

Berger is currently studying people with epilepsy, who already have electrical implants in their brains to treat their seizures. Rather than using these implants to stimulate the brain, Berger’s team have been using them to record brain activity instead, to tell us more about how our memory works.

Memory prosthesis
Once we learn how a healthy brain functions, we should eventually be able to mimic it, says Johnson. By electrically stimulating the same pattern of activity, the team think they should be able to restore memory in people with memory disorders. Berger has already had some success with animals, and has started experiments in people. Kernel will be starting new human studies in the coming months, says Johnson.

Domesticating DNA, Big Data, visualization and probably next deep learning. This is a great article on the current state of understanding the complexity of the genome and how it functions. This is well worth the read - for anyone interested in how we are getting ever closer to the interface between nature and nurture (especially in the domain of epigenetics).
“The genome tells you what can happen,” says Oliver Fiehn, a biochemist at the University of California, Davis. The proteome and the metabolome can show what’s actually going on.

Big biological datasets map life's networks

Multi-omics offers a new way of doing biology
Michael Snyder’s genes were telling him that he might be at increased risk for type 2 diabetes. The Stanford University geneticist wasn’t worried: He felt healthy and didn’t have a family history of the disease. But as he monitored other aspects of his own biological data over months and years, he saw that diabetes was indeed emerging, even though he showed no symptoms.

Snyder’s story illustrates the power of looking beyond the genome, the complete catalog of an organism’s genetic information. His tale turns the genome’s one-dimensional view into a multidimensional one. In many ways, a genome is like a paper map of the world. That map shows where the cities are. But it doesn’t say anything about which nations trade with each other, which towns have fierce football rivalries or which states will swing for a particular political candidate.

Open one of today’s digital maps, though, and numerous superimposed data sources give a whole lot of detailed, real-time information. With a few taps, Google Maps can show how to get across Boston at rush hour, offer alternate routes around traffic snarls and tell you where to pick up a pizza on the way.

Now, scientists like Snyder are developing these same sorts of tools for biology, with far-reaching consequences. To figure out what’s really happening within an organism — or within a particular organ or cell — researchers are linking the genome with large-scale data about the output of those genes at specific times, in specific places, in response to specific environmental pressures.

This is an interesting article for anyone interested in the impact of virtual reality VR - on behavior in non-virtual worlds.

Can Stanford’s Deep Dive Into Virtual Reality Help Save the Oceans?

Stanford professor Jeremy Bailenson and fellow researchers at the school’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) have been exploring the effects of virtual reality on human behavior since the late 1990s. They’ve written countless papers documenting the fact that experiences in a virtual world—like exercising more, saving for retirement, using less paper, or showing more empathy—change behavior in the real one. They initially used expensive, custom-built hardware for their research; the kind of VR systems available today, like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, didn’t exist when they conducted most of their experiments.

But now that VR systems have gotten out of the lab and into the world, the team is beginning to let some of its work loose as well.

This week, for the first time, the researchers publicly released one of their potentially behavior-changing VR simulations for free download for the HTC Vive. The Ocean Acidification Experience is intended to teach users about the chemistry behind ocean acidification, as well as the problems it causes, and what they can do to help prevent it. To hit those marks, of course, the simulation has to be engaging enough to keep users involved.

People may have noticed the object of this article already - in which case this will simply be a confirmation. If you haven’t noticed this is a very worthwhile article in order to understand the impact of simple font and contrast for legibility.
Typography may not seem like a crucial design element, but it is. One of the reasons the web has become the default way that we access information is that it makes that information broadly available to everyone. “The power of the Web is in its universality,” wrote Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web consortium. “Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

How the Web Became Unreadable

I thought my eyesight was beginning to go. It turns out, I’m suffering from design.
It’s been getting harder for me to read things on my phone and my laptop. I’ve caught myself squinting and holding the screen closer to my face. I’ve worried that my eyesight is starting to go.

These hurdles have made me grumpier over time, but what pushed me over the edge was when Google’s App Engine console — a page that, as a developer, I use daily — changed its text from legible to illegible. Text that was once crisp and dark was suddenly lightened to a pallid gray. Though age has indeed taken its toll on my eyesight, it turns out that I was suffering from a design trend.

For Fun
Anyone who enjoyed the Twilight Zone - may very well enjoy this 21st century version. Highly recommend this TV series - it’s well written, acted and always thought provoking. There have been only a few episodes in uneven years.

Black Mirror

A television anthology series that shows the dark side of life and technology.

For anyone who knows what happens to me in the last week of October or for anyone who might be curious - there this year’s batch of pumpkins - however, my photography is terrible - so these pictures are far from accurate portrayals of the real pumpkins.

Halloween Pumpkins - 2016

This year I did an H. P. Lovecraft theme - my son who's an artist & independent game developer did the designs and hand drew them onto the pumpkins. There were six Lovecraft creatures and one anime figure.

There are two Lovecraft creature carved on 120 lb pumpkins. Each of these pumpkins took over 12 hours to carve - probably because I'm not a professional so I'm pretty slow. The other pumpkins took on average about 5-6 hours to carve. This doesn't include the time to formulate the design and hand draw them on the pumpkins.
Carving can only begin about six days before Halloween. I first empty all the pumpkins and thin the walls with a special curved knife from Lee Valley. The rest of the carving is done with about six types of wood carving tools.

I use the amber 60 watt bug lights to light up the pumpkins - since they provide consistent lighting in all weather conditions.

The 120 lb pumpkins are:
Cthulhu - a Godzilla sized sea monster with a sort of octopus face and dragon wings. Cthulhu is considered to be a Great One in the pantheon of Lovecraftian cosmic entities.

Shub-Niggurath - The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.

The other four are carved on regular 35 lb pumpkins and include:
- An 'Elder-Thing' inspired creature - all eyes and mouths
- Dagon - an ancient type of fish god -
- A Ghast - a race of fearsome humanoids that live in the vaults of Zin.
- And finally a Gug - a race of horrifying speechless giants

The anime figure is called Priscilla - from an anime series called Claymore. Priscilla is a female warrior rank #2 and she is depicted in an 'awakened' state where her demonic energy arises. Priscilla is my daughter's hero and alter-ego. :)

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