Thursday, December 1, 2016

Friday Thinking 2 Dec. 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

Marcelo Gleiser, The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning


The Bitcoin blockchain – otherwise known as the public blockchain – works on a very simple principle. Every 10 minutes, any transaction that has happened around the world is put into a block. All of the computers around the world then fight to verify those transactions within that block, ensuring that they happened, they were secure, that all the math lines up. So all these computers are competing to solve this giant math problem. Whoever solves it actually wins 12.5 Bitcoins. So, for the first time ever, we have a system where there is a financial incentive to ensure security. Simply put – security is the lifeblood of the Bitcoin blockchain.
The financial incentive embedded in the Bitcoin blockchain feeds people's desire to keep it secure. Security isn't a part of the system, it is the system.

When the internet was invented, security wasn't the first thing they thought of. So all databases today are centralized. Which means if you break into one of them, you have access to all of them. But with blockchain, we have a decentralised system. So if you want to break into one house you would need to break into all of the houses in the entire Bitcoin blockchain at exactly the same time.

There are three key factors that will change the world:
In the next few years, I believe: 1) we will have global wifi 2) nearly everyone will probably also have access to some kind of phone, and 3) blockchain.

If people then have a secure system that allows them to transact freely on a secure public platform, why wouldn’t they use that?

In addition to all of that, it's extremely inexpensive – not free but close to it. The cost of a transaction, compared to more traditional fees, is infinitesimal. So you’re getting a streamlining of cost and efficiency for everyone, large and small.

There is more to blockchain than moving money. It has the potential to transform our lives - here's how

... people read differently today. Shorter attention spans and multi-tasking means that we are often reading several things simultaneously. I am certainly reading in smaller chunks and as I do so, something I am reading in one area might get stuck to something I am reading in another: global affairs with landscape ecology with fiction with . . . By stuck, I mean that they overlap on each other in my mind, creating interesting correspondences. So I see reading in smaller chunks as being full of possibility. Publishing five books of smaller size makes it easier to focus on one part of the larger work at a time; to come and go cognitively.

Mapping the Pragmatic Imagination: Interview with Ann M. Pendleton-Jullian (Part 1)

The Overton window, also known as the window of discourse, is the range of ideas the public will accept. It is used by media pundits. The term is derived from its originator, Joseph P. Overton (1960–2003), a former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, who in his description of this window claimed that an idea's political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within the window, rather than on politicians' individual preferences. According to Overton's description, this window includes a range of policies considered politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion, which a politician can recommend without being considered too extreme to gain or keep public office.

Overton described a spectrum from "more free" to "less free" with regard to government intervention, oriented vertically on an axis. As the spectrum moves or expands, an idea at a given location may become more or less politically acceptable. His degrees of acceptance of public ideas are roughly:
  • Unthinkable
  • Radical
  • Acceptable
  • Sensible
  • Popular
  • Policy
The Overton window is an approach to identifying which ideas define the domain of acceptability within a democracy's possible governmental policies. Proponents of policies outside the window seek to persuade or educate the public in order to move and/or expand the window. Proponents of current policies, or similar ones, within the window seek to convince people that policies outside it should be deemed unacceptable.

Overton window - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

“As the Island of Knowledge grows, so do the shores of our ignorance — the boundary between the known and unknown. Learning more about the world doesn’t lead to a point closer to a final destination — whose existence is nothing but a hopeful assumption anyways — but to more questions and mysteries. The more we know, the more exposed we are to our ignorance, and the more we know to ask.”

Science needs to fail in order to advance. This however means we must be wrong, which runs counter to our human desire for certainty. “We are surrounded by horizons, by incompleteness,”

— Marcelo Gleiser, The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning

The twentieth century began with utopia and ended with nostalgia.

Svetlana Boym - Nostalgia and Its Discontent

This is an excellent panel discussion well worth the 1.5 hrs - simply because the panelist are presenting a significant spectrum of knowledge in the domain of social intelligence - including an economist (but one that has evolved for neoliberal traditions)

Social Cognition and Collective Intelligence

Thomas W. Malone, Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management, MIT Sloan School of Management; Founding Director, Center for Collective Intelligence, MIT

Andrew W. Lo, Harris & Harris Group Professor of Finance, MIT Sloan School of Management; Director, Laboratory for Financial Engineering, MIT

Martin A. Nowak, Professor of Biology and Mathematics; Director, Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, Harvard University

Alexander (Sandy) Pentland PhD '82, Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences; Director, Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program, MIT

Rebecca Saxe PhD '03, Fred and Carole Middleton Assistant Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT

The concept of social cognition is a vital and honest account of a great deal of evidence - However, there is an emerging discourse about how we have entered a Post-Fact - Post-Truth world. Of course the 20th century’s demolition of all the world pillars of certainty contributes to the zeitgeist of immanence and uncertainty - that creates a sense of urgency for control that support an illusion of certainty. This is a great read - providing some insight in the pulse of our times.


As his army blatantly annexed Crimea, Vladimir Putin went on TV and, with a smirk, told the world there were no Russian soldiers in Ukraine. He wasn’t lying so much as saying the truth doesn’t matter. And when Donald Trump makes up facts on a whim, claims that he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the Twin Towers coming down, or that the Mexican government purposefully sends ‘bad’ immigrants to the US, when fact-checking agencies rate 78% of his statements untrue but he still becomes a US Presidential candidate – then it appears that facts no longer matter much in the land of the free. When the Brexit campaign announces ‘Let’s give our NHS the £350 million the EU takes every week’ and, on winning the referendum, the claim is shrugged off as a ‘mistake’ by one Brexit leader while another explains it as ‘an aspiration’, then it’s clear we are living in a ‘post-fact’ or ‘post-truth’ world. Not merely a world where politicians and media lie – they have always lied – but one where they don’t care whether they tell the truth or not.

How did we get here? Is it due to technology? Economic globalisation? The culmination of the history of philosophy? There is some sort of teenage joy in throwing off the weight of facts – those heavy symbols of education and authority, reminders of our place and limitations – but why is this rebellion happening right now?

To make matters worse, by saying that all knowledge is (oppressive) power, postmodernism took away the ground on which one could argue against power. Instead it posited that ‘because reason and intellect are forms of domination . . . liberation must be looked for through feelings and the body, which are revolutionary per se.’ Rejecting fact-based arguments in favour of emotions becomes a good in itself.

This is something that government workers will not likely experience for at least a decade if not more - it will require the abandoning of current organizational silo legacy systems and implementing whole of government cloud platforms. However, this is a must read for anyone interested in Knowledge Management that understands that knowledge lives in people and the future of work is assembling knowledge networks as-when needed.
Dynamic Job Discovery
Google’s platform will monitor job searching behavior and the data present in career path progressions to suggest opportunities. It will also recommend additional roles that are aligned to a job seeker’s skill sets and interests. As the API collects more information, it can render more accurate assessments.

Google Brings Machine Learning to the Staffing Industry

Just a couple of weeks ago, Facebook made industry news when technology reporters discovered a Jobs tab on their business page. The social network later confirmed that it was experimenting with a suite of sourcing tools to capitalize on the boom in social recruiting. Workforce industry experts believe that Facebook may be trying to muscle in on LinkedIn’s sacred grounds. However, even bigger revelations came November 15 when Google announced its own foray into the realm of talent acquisition — a move that staffing insiders have been predicting for some time. The fascinating twist with Google is that the Internet giant has no plans to build a standalone technology, such as a branded applicant tracking system (ATS), online recruitment platform or vendor management system (VMS). Instead, Google is offering “Cloud Jobs API,” which allows workforce technology developers to integrate robust machine learning features into their systems.

What Is Cloud Jobs API?
Google is promoting its targeted API as a powerful job search and discovery platform dedicated to improving processes in the talent industry. Machine learning forms the core of the technology and its potential boon to staffing professionals. Google describes the innovation on its site:

Company career sites, job boards and applicant tracking systems can improve candidate experience and company hiring metrics with job search and discovery powered by sophisticated machine learning. The Cloud Jobs API provides highly intuitive job search that anticipates what job seekers are looking for and surfaces targeted recommendations that help them discover new opportunities.

To ensure that users receive the most relevant search results and recommendations, the API relies on Google’s advances in machine learning to understand how job titles and skills correlate. It then compiles the data to determine the closest match between job content, location and seniority.

If anyone hasn’t seen the recent Sci-Fi movie ‘Arrival’ - you are missing a great movie - this is not an ‘action movie’ or a special effects movie - although there is some great special effects and some ‘action’.
This is based on a story by Ted Chiang - from his book of short stories - now re-released under the title Arrival. I read this book in the early 2000s it was and still is the best book of sci-fi short stories I’ve ever read. Highly recommend this book.
The movie-story concerns the challenge to communicate with a truly alien entity when there is absolutely nothing in common. The hero is a female anthro-linguist. And it reminded me of the fact that when one only knows one language one is like a fish in water - unable to understand what water is.
When one knows two language - we enter a new state not just knowing two languages - but beginning to know about language.
The interesting question is - at what point of learning more languages is there a new form of knowledge about language? Here’s what Google’s finding out with AI and machine learning. A must read - for those interested in the future of AI.
"To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of true multilingual zero-shot translation," the paper explains. To make the system more accurate, the computer scientists then added additional data to the system about the languages.

Google's AI just created its own universal 'language'

The technology used in Google Translate can identify hidden material between languages to create what's known as interlingua
Google has previously taught its artificial intelligence to play games, and it's even capable of creating its own encryption. Now, its language translation tool has used machine learning to create a 'language' all of its own.

In September, the search giant turned on its Google Neural Machine Translation (GNMT) system to help it automatically improve how it translates languages. The machine learning system analyses and makes sense of languages by looking at entire sentences – rather than individual phrases or words.

Following several months of testing, the researchers behind the AI have seen it be able to blindly translate languages even if it's never studied one of the languages involved in the translation. "An example of this would be translations between Korean and Japanese where Korean⇄Japanese examples were not shown to the system," the Mike Schuster, from Google Brain wrote in a blogpost.

The team said the system was able to make "reasonable" translations of the languages it had not been taught to translate. In one instance, a research paper published alongside the blog, says the AI was taught Portuguese→English and English→Spanish. It was then able to make translations between Portuguese→Spanish.

However, the most remarkable feat of the research paper isn't that an AI can learn to translate languages without being shown examples of them first; it was the fact it used this skill to create its own 'language'. "Visual interpretation of the results shows that these models learn a form of interlingua representation for the multilingual model between all involved language pairs," the researchers wrote in the paper.

Here’s a 23 min vision of our Future from 51 years ago - entertaining - and worth remembering how far we’ve come. This is IBM’s educational film explaining what a computer is and how it works - today the computer seems much more magical when we think of the ‘black box’ of machine-deep learning and the evolutionary algorithm.

Man & Computer - IBM 1965

The film Man & Computer, made in 1965 by IBM's UK branch, provides a basic understanding of computer operations. A large portion of the film shows the ways in which a computer can be simulated by five people using the standard office equipment of the day. The film employs a number of different techniques, including animations, and features a few brief scenes of an IBM System/360 in use—just months after the first machines were delivered.

Starting in the 1940s, IBM became a major producer of films used for sales, training, documenting business processes, entertaining at company functions, and educating the public. Several IBM films were made by respected filmmakers and sometimes featured well-known actors.

And why will the capacity to assemble knowledge networks where and when needed? Here’s the first part of a two part series by Steve Denning - that helps to explain the need for agility.
Before 2011, Ericsson would build its systems on a five-year cycle, with a unit housing several thousand employees. When the system was finally built, it would be shipped to the telecoms and there would be an extended period of adjustment as the system was adapted to fit their needs. Now with Agile management, Ericsson has over 100 small teams working with its customers’ needs in three-week cycles. The result is faster development that is more relevant to the specific needs of the customers. The client gets value sooner. Ericsson has less work in progress. And Ericsson is deploying one to two years earlier than it otherwise would, so that its revenue comes in one to two years earlier.

Can Big Organizations Be Agile?

Can big firms be entrepreneurial? Some speakers at last week’s Drucker Forum in Vienna Austria spent time talking about what firms could be doing, or should be doing to operate entrepreneurially. The panel in our session at the Forum spent most of our time discussing what some big firms are already doing.  Our hypothesis was that the future is already here: it’s just very unevenly distributed. This two-part article is a deep dive into what we learned.

The panel began with the findings of the site visits by the SD Learning Consortium(SDLC) in 2016 to some large organizations that are implementing Agile and operating entrepreneurially at scale, including Barclays, Cerner, C.H.Robinson, Ericsson, Microsoft, Riot Games and Spotify. (The full report of the SDLC is available here.) The panel included Joakim Sundén (Spotify), Vanessa Adams (C.H.Robinson), Gary Hamel (Management Innovation eXchange) and myself.

For some critics of Agile, the passion with which both managers and staff pursue an Agile approach to management is confused with zealotry or with the mistaken belief that Agile is being presented as a panacea. As you will hear in the following presentations, Agile itself not only offers many implementation challenges. It also does what bureaucracy never even attempted: it mobilizes people’s energy and enthusiasm and generates meaning both at work and in work. It goes beyond the small-minded virtues of efficiency and reliability and draws on the large-hearted virtues of the human spirit: generosity and creativity.

This will require at minimum Google cardboard or some other Virtual Reality hardware. That said this experience makes a case that VR can increase empathy through providing immersive experience. It not primetime yet - but in a decade this may be a requisite technology in the workplace.

Welcome to Your Cell

What’s it like to spend 23 hours a day in a cell measuring 6x9 feet for days, weeks, months or even years? 6x9 is the Guardian's first virtual reality experience, which places you inside a US solitary confinement prison cell and tells the story of the psychological damage that can ensue from isolation.

We've created a mobile app allowing you to fully experience VR on your own, with or without cardboard viewer. If you don't have a smartphone scroll down to watch the 360° video.

The future is definitely not what it used to be - in fact the future may well be a recent invention one entangled with the invention of the concepts of progress and evolution - of personal choice over one’s ‘fate’. This is a longish piece.
“a Philosopher could not grasp the modern idea of progress ... until he was willing to abandon ancestor worship, until he analyzed away his inferiority complex toward the past, and realized that his own generation was superior to any yet known.”

Progress Isn't Natural

Humans invented it—and not that long ago.
How and why did the modern world and its unprecedented prosperity begin? Many bookshelves are full of learned tomes by historians, economists, political philosophers and other erudite scholars with endless explanations. One way of looking at the question is by examining something basic, and arguably essential: the emergence of a belief in the usefulness of progress.

Such a belief may seem self-evident today, but most people in the more-remote past believed that history moved in some kind of cycle or followed a path that was determined by higher powers. The idea that humans should and could work consciously to make the world a better place for themselves and for generations to come is by and large one that emerged in the two centuries between Christopher Columbus and Isaac Newton. Of course, just believing that progress could be brought about is not enough—one must bring it about. The modern world began when people resolved to do so.              

Why might people in the past have been hesitant to embrace the idea of progress? The main argument against it was that it implies a disrespect of previous generations. As the historian Carl Becker noted in a classic work written in the early 1930s, “a Philosopher could not grasp the modern idea of progress ... until he was willing to abandon ancestor worship, until he analyzed away his inferiority complex toward the past, and realized that his own generation was superior to any yet known.” With the great voyages and the Reformation, Europeans increasingly began to doubt the great classical writings on geography, medicine, astronomy, and physics that had been the main source of wisdom in medieval times. With those doubts came a sense that their own generation knew more and was wiser than those of previous eras.

It’s not even January and the predictions are beginning in earnest - Here’s one list looking at the world in 2076.

We’ve seen the future, and it will blow your mind

Futurology is doomed to failure, and a lot can happen in 60 years. But there are ways to make informed guesses about what is over the horizon
JOURNALISM has famously been described as “the first rough draft of history.” New Scientist‘s own brand of journalism – which is 60 years old this week – is a bit different. We aim to provide a first rough draft of the future.

I think most people accept that acceleration of change that we are living through. Design is emerging as a master discipline - or master practice that brings many other disciplines into an integrated approach to solutioning wicked problems. This is a 1hr 20min video with Pendleton-Jullian who has recently finished a manuscript, Design Unbound, with co-author John Seely Brown. The work presents a new tool set for designing within complex systems and on complex problems endemic to the 21st century

Ann Pendleton-Jullian ─ Design, Agency, and the Pragmatic Imagination

This talk will be two short talks - a diptych of conversations intended to set the stage for an emergent discussion around how design can couple the imagination to action for agency and impact.

The first half of the diptych - Design Unbound: Designing for Emergence in a Rapidly Changing and Radically Contingent World - will introduce the concepts and themes of the framing chapter of Ann Pendleton-Jullian’s recently completed manuscript with co-author John Seely Brown. It will talk about new frames, new tools and a new kind of agency. At a moment when every action seems to dislodge stones in precarious terrain — ecologically, politically, culturally — we need to find ways to affect change from inside. The tools and meta-tools of Design Unbound begin in architecture, landscape, and urban, design, but, unbound from thingness and disciplinary boundaries, they serve to shift from designing content to designing contexts in an increasingly complex, connected and contingent world.

The second short talk - The University 2033: Designing the Future of Higher Education - will present ongoing work undertaken by Ann Pendleton-Jullian with students and innovative leaders in this domain to redesign the future of the university – not the master plan, but the model and mechanisms that form a university level learning and research ecosystem for the 21st century. Originating in her own work on several projects, then transferred to a set of humanities studios at Georgetown University, and on to a set of multi-disciplinary studios at Ohio State, this project proposes more than incremental change. More than focusing on the fixing or repairing of problems, or the opportunities and challenges of disruptive technologies, these studios begin by asking: “What are we aiming at?” “How do we create a true paradigm shift for the context of 2033 (not merely remodel the university of the industrial era)?” This work has led to Georgetown President Jack DeGioia’s initiative “Designing the Future(s) of Georgetown” and is the genetic material for a new university being planned and designed for Eastern Africa in Kajiado, Kenya.

Speaking about the need for a design approach - this is an excellent video Keynote address (1hr. 30min) by Cory Doctorow from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He elaborates the concept of Digital Rights Management (DRM) and dangers it poses for all of us now and in the future - actually making the Internet less secure.

Keynote: Cory Doctorow

We are so stoked to have Cory Doctorow as our keynote this year. We've been trying to get the stars to align for many HOPEs, and this time they did. But we're glad we waited until now, since so much has happened in the past few years that Cory has been on top of - Snowden, Manning, privacy, copyright issues, surveillance - and his talk will no doubt open your eyes even more. As co-editor of Boing Boing, special adviser to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and a vocal proponent of changing our copyright laws, Cory really has a lot of super-important and relevant thoughts to share with our HOPE audience.

I can’t seem to help but love Bruce Sterling as he riffs on the present - this is well worth the view - for anyone interested in both current social media ‘stacks’ and a great critique on the state of the nation state. A 59 min video.

Closing Remarks: Bruce Sterling | SXSW Interactive 2016

World traveler, science fiction author, journalist, and future-focused design critic Bruce Sterling spins the globe a few rounds as he wraps up the Interactive Conference with his peculiar view of the state of the world from a global perspective, as one who lives in Turin, Belgrade, and Austin. Most recently, Bruce has been an instigator of the DIY - Internet of Things model home project, Casa Jasmina. He also makes an annual "state of the world" assessment, with Jon Lebkowsky, for two weeks every January on The WELL.

About SXSW:
Started in 1987, South by Southwest (SXSW) is a set of film, interactive, and music festivals and conferences that take place early each year in mid-March in Austin, Texas. SXSW’s original goal was to create an event that would act as a tool for creative people and the companies they work with to develop their careers, to bring together people from a wide area to meet and share ideas. That continues to be the goal today whether it is music, film or interactive technologies.
Here’s Bruce 20 years ago talking about IT in 50 years - a very nice test of predictive imagination.

Bruce Sterling - The dark side impacts of IT on society

Bruce Sterling -  Author, journalist, editor, and critic of science fiction and non-fiction
Running time: 33 minutes

The future of energy and energy geopolitics continues it to accelerate its phase transition.

No More Coal: All Coal Power Plants in France Will Be Shut Down by 2023

President Francois Hollande has announced that France, which already derives over 75% of its electricity from nuclear fission, will close its remaining coal power plants by 2023.
The announcement was made at an annual UN climate change conference during which world leaders came together to work on solutions to the Earth's environmental problems.

I had my roof replace about 8 years ago with 25 year asphalt shingles - I can already see some of the degrading. My rationale was that the next time I redid my roof it would be with solar panels - this may be sooner than I anticipated.
"It’s looking quite promising that a solar roof will actually cost less than a normal roof before you even take the value of electricity into account. So the basic proposition would be, 'Would you like a roof that looks better than a normal roof, last twice as long, cost less and by the way generates electricity?' Why would you get anything else?"

Elon Musk says a Tesla solar roof could cost less than your crappy normal roof

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the solar roof that will be sold under a combined Tesla-SolarCity will likely cost less than a normal roof to install.

Musk unveiled four solar shingle options for a solar roof on October 28. The solar roof will incorporate glass developed by Tesla’s new glass division.

Tesla will produce the solar cells for the roof with Panasonic at a manufacturing facility in Buffalo, New York.

Even two years ago the idea of self-driving cars as a near future possibility seemed like a foolish optimism. Yet given the speed of progress - by 2020 it is entirely plausible that there will be some form of public transit being offered via self-driving vehicles.
“Boston is ready to lead the charge on self-driving vehicles, and I am committed to ensuring autonomous vehicles will benefit Boston’s residents. This is an exciting step forward, and together with our public and private partners, we will continue to lead the way in creating a safe, reliable and equitable mobility plan for Boston’s residents,” city mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement.

Self-driving car startup Nutonomy to begin road tests in Boston

Self-driving taxi startup Nutonomy is expanding its autonomous vehicle trials to roads in the U.S. after it agreed to a partnership with City of Boston and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Nutonomy was spun out of the MIT and is headquartered in Boston, but it initially begin trialling its ‘robo’ taxi service in Singapore in August, narrowly beating Uber — which is conducting tests in Pittsburgh — to the punch. Nutonomy’s relationship with the Singaporean government, which was part of its most recent $16 million funding round, was critical to helping it get a start in the Southeast Asia city-state, where it aims to launch a commercial service to the public by 2018.

Nutonomy is working with Grab, Southeast Asia’s billion-dollar Uber rival, in Singapore to help it get access to more data and ferry its customers from A to B. It remains unclear whether it will forge a similar partnership with Lyft — a key Grab ally in the U.S. — in order to actually collect passengers in the U.S. For one, though, it does have the support of government officials who will help “expand the testing area to other parts of the city in the near future,” Nutonomy said.

This next short article - illustrates the progress being made in the study of our brains - well worth the read.
“Also, we looked at genetically identical twins and asked how similar their connection profiles were. It turns out that their brains were more dissimilar than they were similar ― only about 12.5 percent similarity. Thus our experiences go a very long way to sculpting the connections in the brain.”

Scientists Have Figured Out How To ‘Fingerprint’ Your Brain

The technology could be used to predict mental or neurological illness.
The more we learn about the human brain, the more we discover just how vast and complex it is.

As some scientists are discovering, each brain is wired in a completely unique way. In the same way that each of us has a specific fingerprint, we also have a distinct map of brain connections ― what’s known as the “connectome.” New research from Carnegie Mellon University mapped the brain’s structural connections to show that this network of connections is unique to each individual.

The connectomes of the different brains were so distinct that they could be used to identify each person with 100 percent accuracy. A person’s brain connectome seemed to reflect not only information about genetics, cognition and neurological health, but also life experiences.

A surprising aspect of the findings was just how much an individual’s connectome tended to change over time ― it tended to shift around 13 percent every 100 days ― which suggests that brain connections are highly influenced by our experiences. This reflects what neuroscientists call “plasticity,” meaning the brain’s tendency to reorganize itself by developing new connections.  

This is a very interesting Yaneer Bar-Yam of complexity fame. He provides an analysis of representative democracy when the population has become highly polarized. It not very long and insightful.

When Representative Democracy Isn’t

Yaneer Bar-Yam and Alexander Siegenfeld, New England Complex Systems Institute and MIT
The 2016 US election has been antagonistic and remains a source of friction. Some protesters reject Trump as their president due to a wide gulf that exists between them and him. There is a large literature about the failure of voting systems to reflect majority preference. Here we discuss briefly how the nature of representation can break down when people differ. Measures of increasing polarization imply this topic is of importance.

This is an excellent weak signal of the evolution of evolution - of humans as an evolutionary agent.

Algorithm finds best carbon dioxide 'sponges' from a trillion recipes

Researchers borrowed from Darwinian principles to identify the promising carbon capture metallic-organic frameworks (MOFs). Angus Bezzina reports.
Carbon dioxide “sponges” called metallic-organic frameworks, or MOFs, soak up the greenhouse gas before it's emitted. But with almost limitless combinations of ingredients, how do materials scientists hit on the best MOF recipe?

A Canadian team took inspiration from evolution to whittle more than a trillion recipes down to less than 200 of the most promising. Sean Collins and colleagues at the University of Ottawa tweaked an algorithm used in genetic studies to cross MOF “parent” structures and find the most effective “daughter” materials.

When the algorithm trawled through 1.65 trillion potential MOF molecular structures, it turned up more than 1,000 “exceptional” MOFs and of those, 141 that could be synthesised and tested.

The work, which was published in Science Advances, not only looks at the gas-capturing qualities of the materials, but also the amount of energy needed to release it again for storage – called “parasitic energy” – which materials scientist Matthew Hill at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation says is as important as absorbency.

But he is quick to caution that there are still a number of other factors that need to be examined in the lab before any of the MOFs identified in the study can be implemented in a modern industrial setting.

And if evolving evolution is concerning - here’s another ‘moment’ in the domestication of DNA - and the emerging responsibility of being an agent of evolution. There’s a 7 min video as well - this is a Must View for anyone who wants to understand the state of synthetic DNA.
“If you separate circuits into two different liposomes, you could have one tool doing one job in one liposome, and the same tool doing a different job in the other liposome,” the study’s lead author Daniel Martin-Alarcon says in a press release. “It expands the number of things that you can do with the same building blocks.”

Researchers Just Solved One of the Biggest Problems in Synthetic Biology

Researchers have discovered that placing synthetic genetic circuits in liposomes prevents them from interfering with one another, while still allowing them to communicate.
Not only could this new form of "modular" genetic circuits lead to more complex engineered circuits, it could also provide insight as to how the earliest life on Earth formed.

And another dot in the matrix of synthetic living systems - or human-made life.
"No living organism is known to put silicon-carbon bonds together, even though silicon is so abundant, all around us, in rocks and all over the beach," says one of the researchers, Jennifer Kan from Caltech.

For the first time, living cells have formed carbon-silicon bonds

Life - but not as we know it.
Scientists have managed to coax living cells into making carbon-silicon bonds, demonstrating for the first time that nature can incorporate silicon - one of the most abundant elements on Earth - into the building blocks of life.

While chemists have achieved carbon-silicon bonds before - they’re found in everything from paints and semiconductors to computer and TV screens - they’ve so far never been found in nature, and these new cells could help us understand more about the possibility of silicon-based life elsewhere in the Universe.

After oxygen, silicon is the second most abundant element in Earth’s crust, and yet it has nothing to do with biological life.

Now the mapping of the human genome is complemented with the mapping ot the epigenome.

Beyond the DNA -- comprehensive map of the human epigenome completed

International Human Epigenome Consortium established epigenetic maps of 2,100 cell types
Scientists have established comprehensive maps of the human epigenome, shedding light on how the body regulates which genes are active in which cells. Over the last five years, a worldwide consortium of scientists has established epigenetic maps of 2,100 cell types. Within this coordinated effort, the CeMM Research Center for Molecular Medicine contributed detailed DNA methylation maps of the developing blood, opening up new perspectives for the understanding and treatment of leukemia and immune diseases.

One of the great mysteries in biology is how the many different cell types that make up our bodies are derived from a single cell and from one DNA sequence, or genome. We have learned a lot from studying the human genome, but have only partially unveiled the processes underlying cell determination. The identity of each cell type is largely defined by an instructive layer of molecular annotations on top of the genome - the epigenome - which acts as a blueprint unique to each cell type and developmental stage.

Unlike the genome the epigenome changes as cells develop and in response to changes in the environment. Defects in the factors that read, write, and erase the epigenetic blueprint are involved in many diseases. The comprehensive analysis of the epigenomes of healthy and abnormal cells will facilitate new ways to diagnose and treat various diseases, and ultimately lead to improved health outcomes.

And our knowledge of the tree of life continues to change the tree into a network that still offers mysteries.

New insights from the most comprehensive tree of prokaryotic life assembled to date

Researchers at Temple and Oakland universities have completed a new tree of prokaryotic life calibrated to time, assembled from 11,784 species of bacteria. The new tree explores grand patterns of evolutionary change that, surprisingly, has revealed remarkable similarities with that of eukaryotes, including animals, plants, and fungi.

With widespread rapid and low-cost sequencing available, the branches in the tree of life have grown ever more detailed and scientists can more readily uncover macroevolutionary forces at work.

For Fun
Sometimes all of us want to be able to sound wise - but find it hard to come up with something original. Here’s a feature that might help.
"Infinity is the womb of ephemeral boundaries"

The enigmatic wisdom of Deepak Chopra

It has been said by some that the thoughts and tweets of Deepak Chopra are indistinguishable from a set of profound sounding words put together in a random order, particularly the tweets tagged with "#cosmisconciousness". This site aims to test that claim! Each "quote" is generated from a list of words that can be found in Deepak Chopra's Twitter stream randomly stuck together in a sentence.

No comments:

Post a Comment