Thursday, December 22, 2016

Friday Thinking 23 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



Like many other analysts, we envisioned that the internet would reduce transaction costs so that corporate boundaries would become more porous and organizations would seek talent outside their boundaries. As it turned out, the costs fell much further than we expected and in turn lowered barriers to entry for startups and established businesses looking to expand into adjacent areas. To be sure, the internet reduced the costs of search, while email, social media, cloud computing, and applications such as enterprise resource planning reduced the costs of coordination. More broadly, these new capabilities enabled corporations to outsource overhead, crowdsource innovation, and eliminate middle managers and other intermediaries, thus freeing industries such as accounting, commercial banking, and even music to consolidate assets and operations.

How Blockchain Will Change Organizations

This year has seen a remarkable run for solar power. Auctions, where private companies compete for massive contracts to provide electricity, established record after record for cheap solar power. It started with a contract in January to produce electricity for $64 per megawatt-hour in India; then a deal in August pegging $29.10 per megawatt hour in Chile. That’s record-cheap electricity—roughly half the price of competing coal power.

“Renewables are robustly entering the era of undercutting” fossil fuel prices, BNEF chairman Michael Liebreich said in a note to clients this week.

Those are new contracts, but plenty of projects are reaching completion this year, too. When all the 2016 completions are tallied in coming months, it’s likely that the total amount of solar photovoltaics added globally will exceed that of wind for the first time. The latest BNEF projections call for 70 gigawatts of newly installed solar in 2016 compared with 59 gigawatts of wind.

The overall shift to clean energy can be more expensive in wealthier nations, where electricity demand is flat or falling and new solar must compete with existing billion-dollar coal and gas plants. But in countries that are adding new electricity capacity as quickly as possible, “renewable energy will beat any other technology in most of the world without subsidies,” said Liebreich.

World Energy Hits a Turning Point: Solar That's Cheaper Than Wind

Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England and chair of the Financial Stability Board — the global institution designed to try to prevent market panics and crashes — gave a bombshell talk at Lloyds last year, saying he thought letting the Carbon Bubble continue to grow exposed global markets to a risk on the level of the 2007 subprime crisis.

In other words, one of the most knowledgeable financial authorities on the planet has come to think that the difference between what the high-carbon part of the economy is priced at and what it’s worth is so enormous that letting it grow and then suddenly pop could crash financial markets worldwide.

the Carbon Bubble will pop not when high-carbon practices become impossible, but when their profits cease to be seen as reliable.

The pop comes when people understand that growth in these industries is over and that, in fact, these industries are now going to contract. That’s when investors start pulling out and looking for safer bets. As investors begin to flee these companies, others realize more devaluation is on the way, so they want to get out before the drop: a trickle of divestment becomes a flood and the price collapses. What triggers the drop is investors ceasing to believe the company has a strong future.

Trump, Putin and the Pipelines to Nowhere

The most important thing happening in Silicon Valley right now is not disruption. Rather, it’s institution-building — and the consolidation of power — on a scale and at a pace that are both probably unprecedented in human history.

The Great A.I.Awakening

The 21st century seems to have spawned a crisis of democracy especially since the financial meltdown of 2008. This is a longish article - but well worth the read - for anyone interested in electoral reform - including how we vote in ways that lever 21st century technology. Very importantly this is also of vital concern for anyone interested in implementing a Knowledge Management approach to organizational decisioning.
Because knowledge representation will always be biased—i.e. knowledge sorting is never entirely neutral—we decided to opt for an initiative-driven approach. Similar to lawyers, LiquidFeedback initiators promote their initiatives by providing the background and the rationale for why people should support them. Whoever likes the idea of an initiative but sees necessary adjustments or potential for improvements can write a suggestion. All participants can assess the suggestion with one click and tell us if they think it is useful or even a necessary condition for their support.

We implemented the four main aspects into the software that are essential for true self-organization in an equal discussion process: 1) Scalability through division of labor (realized by transitive delegations / liquid democracy); 2) Proportional representation of minorities (realized by collective moderation = no moderator / no leader needed); 3) Protection against non-transparent lobbying (realized by a fully transparent decision process); 4) Equal treatment of competing alternatives (realized by preferential voting).

Liquid democracy, its challenges and its forebears

Until today, particular decisions within software and product development have to be decided by privileged people. LiquidFeedback can democratize the decision-making process. An interview with the founders.
Whereas a growing amount of decision-making software is currently in use in the political arena, LiquidFeedback's distinctive feature is the possibility for users to delegate their vote to other users by topic. Rather than assuming that all participants are equally knowledgeable and equally invested in every political issue, Liquid Feedback (LF) lets them decide whom to delegate on specific initiatives. Those who hold proxy votes can in turn transfer them to other delegates, facilitating the emergence of networks of trust. Such trust, however, is not a blank check as proxies can be revoked at any given moment. The fluidity of the delegation process implemented by LF is an emerging political protocol, whose roots lie in the decentralized nature of the Internet. As we will see in the following interview, the authors of LF see their software as a concrete instantiation of the idea of liquid democracy, which allows individual constituents to retain their prerogatives without compromising effective decision-making.

Another far-reaching property of LF is that the platform does not allow for the use of secret ballots. In order to ensure transparency and protect against electronic frauds LF implements a voting system that is recorded and verifiable by anybody. The public nature of voting, however, comes at a cost. Because in modern democracies the privacy and anonymity of voting are considered essential to protect individual autonomy and freedom of choice LF is not suitable for consultations where secret voting is desired or required. Yet this limitation has not prevented the German counties of Friesland and Rothenburg and the cities of Wunstorf and Seelze from adopting the software to consult their citizens on a wide range of issues.

For the LF developers, the transparent and public nature of Internet voting is a necessary condition for implementing a system that can be trusted. Even though a country like Estonia has already adopted Internet voting in binding elections, security experts have voiced significant concerns over the trustworthiness of e-voting systems.This does not  mean that voting over the Internet does not have its uses.

...[the developers] have continued to develop LF and to promote digital democracy through the Association for Interactive Democracy, which has held workshops in Burma, Pakistan, Georgia, and Colombia. In 2014, the four co-authored The Principles of LiquidFeedback, a book that details the design principles, voting theory, and political philosophy behind the software.

In this interview, Behrens, Kistner, Nitsche, and Swierczek reflect upon the origins of Liquid Democracy, analyze the forms of leadership that emerge through LF, and discuss some of the design principles that have inspired them.

This is a 2hr 41min documentary by the BBC - a must view for anyone wanting to get a good handle on the history of the last 40 years that has contributed to our Post-Truth Politics.


HyperNormalisation wades through the culmination of forces that have driven this culture into mass uncertainty, confusion, spectacle and simulation. Where events keep happening that seem crazy, inexplicable and out of control—from Donald Trump to Brexit, to the War in Syria, mass immigration, extreme disparity in wealth, and increasing bomb attacks in the West—this film shows a basis to not only why these chaotic events are happening, but also why we, as well as those in power, may not understand them. We have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. And because it is reflected all around us, ubiquitous, we accept it as normal.

This epic narrative of how we got here spans over 40 years, with an extraordinary cast of characters—the Assad dynasty, Donald Trump, Henry Kissinger, Patti Smith, early performance artists in New York, President Putin, Japanese gangsters, suicide bombers, Colonel Gaddafi and the Internet. HyperNormalisation weaves these historical narratives back together to show how today’s fake and hollow world was created and is sustained. This shows that a new kind of resistance must be imagined and actioned, as well as an unprecedented reawakening in a time where it matters like never before.

Despite entering the ‘post-truth’ era of ‘hypernormalization - we should still pay attention to economics. The issue however, maybe less about economics and more about how we frame the issue - the health of our society is all about creating conditions that demonstrate distributed human flourishing.

Giving housing to the homeless is three times cheaper than leaving them on the streets

The final week of January saw an annual ritual in government statistical gathering that few people know about — the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Point-in-Time survey of the homeless population, in which HUD recruits volunteers around the country to go out and try to count up all the homeless people living in America. This year, White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough even joined up, volunteering as part of the San Francisco PIT crew.

Counting the homeless is, of course, a critical element to making appropriate homelessness policy. But good policy also requires greater awareness of a discovery that research continually confirms — it's cheaper to fix homelessness by giving homeless people homes to live in than to let the homeless live on the streets and try to deal with the subsequent problems.

The most recent report along these lines was a May Central Florida Commission on Homelessness study indicating that the region spends $31,000 a year per homeless person on "the salaries of law-enforcement officers to arrest and transport homeless individuals — largely for nonviolent offenses such as trespassing, public intoxication or sleeping in parks — as well as the cost of jail stays, emergency-room visits and hospitalization for medical and psychiatric issues."

By contrast, getting each homeless person a house and a caseworker to supervise their needs would cost about $10,000 per person.

Here’s a short piece providing some research support to the idea of a guaranteed livable income.
... cash transfers may change a poor household’s economic calculus. Before receiving the cash, any spending on education or health might have seemed futile, but afterwards, parents might decide that a serious investment in their children’s school was sensible. To make this happen, it might mean cutting back on booze and smoking.

Definitive data on what poor people buy when they’re just given cash

It is increasingly common for governments to give poor people money. Rather than grant services or particular goods to those in poverty, such as food or housing, governments have found that it is more effective and efficient to simply hand out cash. In some cases, these cash transfers are conditional on doing something the government deems good, like sending your children to school or getting vaccinated. In other cases, they’re entirely unconditional.

For decades, policymakers have been concerned that poor people will waste free money by using it on cigarettes and alcohol. A report on the perception of stakeholders in Kenya about such programs found a “widespread belief that cash transfers would either be abused or misdirected in alcohol consumption and other non-essential forms of consumption.”

The opposite is true, according to a recently published research paper (paywall) by David Evans of the World Bank and Anna Popova of Stanford University.

The race toward a transportation phase transition - similar to the one that transformed an ancient ubiquitous horse powered transportation toward universal horseless carriage is itself accelerating. It hard to imagine just how this will happen - but it will likely be faster than we can imagine.
This year, Google reached a deal with Fiat Chrysler to equip its automated driving systems in 100 Pacifica minivans to try to make it easier for the technology to be installed on an assembly line.
“We’ve been really clear that we’re not a car company,” Mr. Krafcik said. “We’re not in the business of making better cars. We’re in the business of making better drivers.”

Google Parent Company Spins Off Self-Driving Car Business

Google’s self-driving car is ready to take the wheel.
Google’s parent company, Alphabet, said on Tuesday that its autonomous vehicle project was spinning off from its research lab X and would operate as a stand-alone company under the name Waymo.

Alphabet’s decision to spin out Waymo is a signal that the company thinks its self-driving technology has advanced beyond research project status and is ready for commercialization.

Autonomous vehicles are a hotly contested field of technology, pursued by other tech giants, promising upstarts and traditional automakers — all who see the potential of self-driving cars to upend the automobile industry.

Advancements in sensor technology coupled with breakthroughs in machine learning — the ability of computers to learn from vast amounts of data and improve over time — mean driverless cars (essentially supercomputers on wheels) could become a regular sight on the roads over the next few years.

Here’s another type of milestone toward a sort of passing of the Turing Test.
“This method is not only applicable to Bach chorales but embraces a wide range of polyphonic chorale music, from Palestrina to Take 6,” say Hadjeres and Pachet.

Deep-Learning Machine Listens to Bach, Then Writes Its Own Music in the Same Style

Can you tell the difference between music composed by Bach and by a neural network?
Bach wrote over 300 short chorale compositions.

These compositions have attracted computer scientists because the process of producing them is step-like and algorithmic. But doing this well is also hard because of the delicate interplay between harmony and melody. That raises an interesting question: could a machine create chorales in the same style of Bach?

Today we get an answer thanks to the work of Gaetan Hadjeres and Francois Pachet at the Sony Computer Science Laboratories in Paris. These guys have developed a neural network that has learned to produce choral cantatas in the style of Bach. They call their machine DeepBach (see also “AI Songsmith Cranks Out Surprisingly Catchy Tunes”).

“After being trained on the chorale harmonizations by Johann Sebastian Bach, our model is capable of generating highly convincing chorales in the style of Bach,” say Hadjeres and Pachet. Indeed, about half the time, these compositions fool human experts into thinking they were actually written by Bach.

This is a long article - but well worth the read for anyone interested in the speed at which AI is improving language translation and how it will impact any other domain of human knowledge. It is a very good summary of the history of Google Brain project and AI as it emerges as a fundamental augmenter of Knowledge Management. The articles gives us a great insight on how Google let people do the work.
It is, in fact, three overlapping stories that converge in Google Translate’s successful metamorphosis to A.I. — a technical story, an institutional story and a story about the evolution of ideas.

One day in early 2011, Dean walked into one of the Google campus’s “microkitchens” — the “Googley” word for the shared break spaces on most floors of the Mountain View complex’s buildings — and ran into Andrew Ng, a young Stanford computer-science professor who was working for the company as a consultant. Ng told him about Project Marvin, an internal effort (named after the celebrated A.I. pioneer Marvin Minsky) he had recently helped establish to experiment with “neural networks,” pliant digital lattices based loosely on the architecture of the brain. Dean himself had worked on a primitive version of the technology as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota in 1990, during one of the method’s brief windows of mainstream acceptability. Now, over the previous five years, the number of academics working on neural networks had begun to grow again, from a handful to a few dozen. Ng told Dean that Project Marvin, which was being underwritten by Google’s secretive X lab, had already achieved some promising results.

Dean was intrigued enough to lend his “20 percent” — the portion of work hours every Google employee is expected to contribute to programs outside his or her core job — to the project. Pretty soon, he suggested to Ng that they bring in another colleague with a neuroscience background, Greg Corrado. (In graduate school, Corrado was taught briefly about the technology, but strictly as a historical curiosity. “It was good I was paying attention in class that day,” he joked to me.) In late spring they brought in one of Ng’s best graduate students, Quoc Le, as the project’s first intern. By then, a number of the Google engineers had taken to referring to Project Marvin by another name: Google Brain.

What they had shown, Dean said, was that they could do two major things at once: “Do the research and get it in front of, I dunno, half a billion people.”

Once you’ve built a robust pattern-matching apparatus for one purpose, it can be tweaked in the service of others. One Translate engineer took a network he put together to judge artwork and used it to drive an autonomous radio-controlled car. A network built to recognize a cat can be turned around and trained on CT scans — and on infinitely more examples than even the best doctor could ever review. A neural network built to translate could work through millions of pages of documents of legal discovery in the tiniest fraction of the time it would take the most expensively credentialed lawyer.

The Great A.I.Awakening

How Google used artificial intelligence to transform Google Translate, one of its more popular services — and how machine learning is poised to reinvent computing itself.
Translate made its debut in 2006 and since then has become one of Google’s most reliable and popular assets; it serves more than 500 million monthly users in need of 140 billion words per day in a different language. It exists not only as its own stand-alone app but also as an integrated feature within Gmail, Chrome and many other Google offerings, where we take it as a push-button given — a frictionless, natural part of our digital commerce. It was only with the refugee crisis, Pichai explained from the lectern, that the company came to reckon with Translate’s geopolitical importance: On the screen behind him appeared a graph whose steep curve indicated a recent fivefold increase in translations between Arabic and German. (It was also close to Pichai’s own heart. He grew up in India, a land divided by dozens of languages.) The team had been steadily adding new languages and features, but gains in quality over the last four years had slowed considerably.

Until today. As of the previous weekend, Translate had been converted to an A.I.-based system for much of its traffic, not just in the United States but in Europe and Asia as well: The rollout included translations between English and Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Turkish. The rest of Translate’s hundred-odd languages were to come, with the aim of eight per month, by the end of next year. The new incarnation, to the pleasant surprise of Google’s own engineers, had been completed in only nine months. The A.I. system had demonstrated overnight improvements roughly equal to the total gains the old one had accrued over its entire lifetime.

Here another article on the Blockchain - generally positive and provides a very simple graphic illustration of how it works.
Blockchain allows suppliers and consumers – even competitors – to share a decentralised digital ledger across a network of computers without the need for a central authority.
The assets that can be described on the blockchain can be financial, legal, physical or electronic. No single party has the power to tamper with the records – sophisticated algorithms keep everyone honest by ensuring data integrity and authentication of transactions.

How blockchain will transform our cities

Many trends on the horizon offer opportunities that could transform our cities. From self-driving vehicles and the sharing economy through to cloud computing and blockchain technologies, each of these trends is quite significant on its own. But the convergence of their disruptive forces is what will create real value and drive innovations.

Take blockchain and the sharing economy as an example. Bringing these two forces together can potentially disrupt established companies like Uber and Airbnb. The success of these companies is largely due to their ability to make use of existing assets people owned, that had been paid for, but from which new value could be derived.

Effectively, these companies set up digital platforms that harnessed “excess capacity” and relied on other people to deliver the services.

Here’s another article from Sloan Management Journal - written by Don Tapscott - while this is not possible in the near-term - it seems an inevitable part of the trajectory of the digital environment.
Value isn’t saved in a file somewhere; it’s represented by transactions recorded in a global spreadsheet or ledger, which leverages the resources of a large peer-to-peer network to verify and approve transactions. A blockchain has several advantages. First, it is distributed: It runs on computers provided by volunteers around the world, so there is no central database to hack. Second, it is public: Anyone can view it at any time because it resides on the network. And third, it is encrypted: It uses heavy-duty encryption to maintain security.
We believe that blockchain will transform how businesses are organized and managed. It allows companies to eliminate transaction costs and use resources on the outside as easily as resources on the inside.

How Blockchain Will Change Organizations

What if there were an internet of value — a secure platform, ledger, or database where buyers and sellers could store and exchange value without the need for traditional intermediaries? This is what blockchain technology will offer businesses.
For the last century, academics and business leaders have been shaping the practice of modern management. The main theories, tenets, and behaviors have enabled managers to build corporations, which have largely been hierarchical, insular, and vertically integrated. However, we believe that the technology underlying digital currencies such as bitcoin — technology commonly known as blockchain — will have profound effects on the nature of companies: how they are funded and managed, how they create value, and how they perform basic functions such as marketing, accounting, and incentivizing people. In some cases, software will eliminate the need for many management functions.

Sound far-fetched? Let us explain. The internet vastly improved the flow of data within and between organizations, but the effect on how we do business has been more limited. That’s because the internet was designed to move information — not value — from person to person. When you email a document, photograph, or audio file, for example, you aren’t sending the original — you’re sending a copy. Anyone can copy and change it. In many cases, it’s legal and advantageous to share copies.

By contrast, if you want to expedite a business transaction, emailing money directly to someone is not an option — not only because copying money is illegal but also because you can’t be 100% certain the recipient is the person he says he is. As a result, we use intermediaries to establish trust and maintain integrity. Banks, governments, and in some cases big technology companies have the ability to confirm identities so that we can transfer assets; the intermediaries settle transactions and keep records.

This is something all scientists and other professionals should learn - both for their own knowledge and understanding but more importantly in order to communicate knowledge.
If you’re not learning you’re standing still. So what’s the best way to learn new subjects and identify gaps in our existing knowledge?

The Best Way to Learn Anything: The Feynman Technique

There are two types of knowledge and most of us focus on the wrong one. The first type of knowledge focuses on knowing the name of something. The second focuses on knowing something. These are not the same thing. The famous Nobel winning physicist Richard Feynman understood the difference between knowing something and knowing the name of something and it’s one of the most important reasons for his success. In fact, he created a formula for learning that ensured he understood something better than everyone else.

It’s called the Feynman Technique and it will help you learn anything faster and with greater understanding. Best of all, it’s incredibly easy to implement.

There are four simple steps to the Feynman Technique, which I’ll explain below:
  1. Choose a Concept
  2. Teach it to a Toddler
  3. Identify Gaps and Go Back to The Source Material
  4. Review and Simplify

The idea of living long enough to live longer is approaching - although who knows how much longer. Despite recent setback in life-expectancy increases, the onset of both self-driving cars, medical advances and guaranteed livable income - may well transform what a normal life is. There’s a 4 min video as well.
“We believe that this approach will not lead to immortality,” said Izpisua Belmonte. “There are probably still limits that we will face in terms of complete reversal of ageing. Our focus is not only extension of lifespan but most importantly health-span.”

Ageing process may be reversible, scientists claim

New form of gene therapy shown to produce rejuvenating effect in mice, although scientists say human clinical applications are decade away
The team showed that a new form of gene therapy produced a remarkable rejuvenating effect in mice. After six weeks of treatment, the animals looked younger, had straighter spines and better cardiovascular health, healed quicker when injured, and lived 30% longer.

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, who led the work at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, said: “Our study shows that ageing may not have to proceed in one single direction. With careful modulation, ageing might be reversed.”

The genetic techniques used do not lend themselves to immediate use in humans, and the team predict that clinical applications are a decade away. However, the discovery raises the prospect of a new approach to healthcare in which ageing itself is treated, rather than the various diseases associated with it.

The findings also challenge the notion that ageing is simply the result of physical wear and tear over the years. Instead, they add to a growing body of evidence that ageing is partially – perhaps mostly – driven by an internal genetic clock that actively causes our body to enter a state of decline.

Here’s a very short article introducing a new approach based on combining two new approaches - a signal of accelerating innovation that combinatory capabilities can unleash. Worth the read.
“We are hoping that our approach will be the next leap forward, providing, among other things, the ability to engineer immune cells for immunotherapy,” said Amit.

New CRISPR Technique Lets Us Probe the Darkest Corners of Biology

By combining two cutting-edge gene-editing techniques into one, according to the researchers, a single experiment using this method can yield results that would require thousands of experiments using previous techniques, and these are results that neither method could’ve yielded on its own.  They tested the technique on immune cells in mice to examine how those cells were wired as they combatted pathogens and were able to see in high resolution the functions of the genes involved in the various immune cells as they reacted to invading pathogens.

With CRISPR as the scissor and single-cell RNA sequencing as the molecular microscope, this combination method opens up a new world in genetic engineering and will likely result in many new applications in medical research. It could possibly be used in the future to examine how cancer cells survive through mutations, which brain cells are involved in the development of disorders like Alzheimer’s, or how immune cells go through their messy decision-making process.

The more we learn about our microbiome the more we understand how we are more ecologies than singular selves.
"This is like putting together the last few pieces of a complicated jigsaw puzzle that has been worked on for many years," says Felipe Andrade, M.D., Ph.D., the senior study investigator and associate professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who also practices at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
"This research may be the closest we've come to uncovering the root cause of RA," adds first author Maximilian Konig, M.D., a former Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine fellow now at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Researchers add to evidence that common bacterial cause of gum disease may drive rheumatoid arthritis

Investigators at Johns Hopkins report they have new evidence that a bacterium known to cause chronic inflammatory gum infections also triggers the inflammatory "autoimmune" response characteristic of chronic, joint-destroying rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The new findings have important implications for prevention and treatment of RA, say the researchers.

In a report on the work, published in the Dec. 14 edition of the journal Science Translational Medicine, the investigators say the common denominator they identified in periodontal disease (gum disease) and in many people with RA is Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans. An infection with A. actinomycetemcomitans appears to induce the production of citrullinated proteins, which are suspected of activating the immune system and driving the cascade of events leading to RA.

We are seeing a Maginot Line of Incumbents in the carbon fuels industries scaling the castles of governance - this may delay the inevitable but it’s not likely to reverse the economics.

This Just Became the World's Cheapest Form of Electricity Out of Nowhere

Solar power is becoming the world’s cheapest form of new electricity generation, data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) suggests.

According to Bloomberg’s analysis, the cost of solar power in China, India, Brazil and 55 other emerging market economies has dropped to about one third of its price in 2010. This means solar now pips wind as the cheapest form of renewable energy—but is also outperforming coal and gas.

Bloomberg reports that 2016 has seen remarkable falls in the price of electricity from solar sources, citing a $64 per megawatt-hour contract in India at the tart of the year, and a $29.10 per megawatt-hour deal struck in Chile in August—about 50% the price of electricity produced from coal.

This is a nice illustration of the how solar and other renewables are not only bringing energy to places that need it - but how the paradigm of distributed production can bring more self-governance.

Solar Power Helps Raise Income Levels In Kenya

Solar powered lights are changing the way people do business in Kenya. In the town of Embu, which is located in central Kenya northeast of Nairobi, Violet Karimi is a farmer who can now take advantage of the evening hours to sell her produce, thanks to the arrival of solar lights in her town. Now at night she leaves her three children studying at home by the light of a solar lantern and takes fruit and vegetables harvested on her farm to sell in Embu’s open air market.

“I collect my stock and head to the market where I trade until late in the evening,” said the 36-year-old. “This is possible because the solar lights in the market and the rest of Embu town are switched on the whole night.” On a good day, she says she can bring home as much as $30. That’s three times as much as she could sell during a shorter day before the solar lights made longer trading hours possible. “Customers want to shop in the evening because that is when they leave work,” she said. “The solar lighting has encouraged them to stay and buy as long as they like.”

Solar lights have other benefits as well. Before they came to her village, Karimi and her children depended on smoky kerosene lanterns and candles to light their home. Both give of toxic fumes and increase the risk of fire as well. She says the lights in the village also make her feel more secure at night. Even after working late into the evening at the market, she feels comfortable hiring a motorbike taxi to take her home. “The streets are well lit with solar energy and so I am not afraid of traveling at night because there is security,” she says.

This is an interesting 5min video of Margaret Atwood talking about climate change - what I like is the meme that anti-science can be surmounted by economics - especially given the change in conditions of (economic) change represented by the digital environment and new energy geopolitics.

Margaret Atwood on Climate Change: Anti-Science Can Only Be Surmounted by Economics

If you look at the history of what happened to Darwin when he published, what would you call that? Yes he was hugely attacked at the time. And it's often a case of people do not want to give up their cherished beliefs, especially cherished beliefs that they find comforting. So it's no good for Richard Dawkins to say let us just stand on the bold bear promontory of truth and acknowledge the basically nothingness of ourselves. People don't find that cozy so they will go around the block not to do that. And that's very understandable and human. And religious thinking, you know, the idea that there's somebody bigger than you out there who might be helpful to you if certain rules are observed, that goes back so far. We probably have an epigene or something or a cluster of epigenes for that and you see it a lot in small children that there is a monster under the bed and you can't tell them there isn't. They don't find that reassuring. What you can tell them is yes there is a monster under that bed but as long as I put this cabbage right in this spot it can't come out.

So yes anti-science. When science is telling you something that you really find very inconvenient, and that is the history of global warming and the changes that we are certainly already seen around us. First of all it was denial. It could not be happening. Now there's grudging admission as things flood and droughts kick in and food supplies drop and the sea level rises and the glaciers melt big time. I have seen that; been there. You can't deny that it's happening but you then have to pretend that it's nothing to do with us. So therefore nothing so we don't have to change our behavior. That's the thinking around that. And that can get very entrenched until people see that by trying to solve the problem jobs can be created and money can be made. And that will be the real tipping point in public consciousness in this country

This is an excellent must view 7min video for anyone interested in the use of games for learning, education and therapy.

Because Games Matter - A Better Vision

Sara Winters, born with ocular albinism, was legally blind for most of her early life. Game therapy helped her brain learn to make sense of the images processed by her eyes: it helped her to read, to find friends and community, and to build a life helping others. She shares her story with us Because Games Matter.

Here’s an Electronic Frontier Foundation site that let’s you test how well your browser protects you against tracking.


Is your browser safe against tracking?
When you visit a website, online trackers and the site itself may be able to identify you – even if you’ve installed software to protect yourself. It’s possible to configure your browser to thwart tracking, but many people don’t know how.

Panopticlick will analyze how well your browser and add-ons protect you against online tracking techniques. We’ll also see if your system is uniquely configured—and thus identifiable—even if you are using privacy-protective software.

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