Thursday, September 28, 2017

Friday Thinking 29 Sept. 2017

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



I've been reading the suddenly retro-popular The Sovereign Individual (it's from 1999) based on multiple recommendations (verdict: mixed). In it I came across an Arthur C. Clarke idea, which I'm surprised I hadn't encountered already, that instantly made my top-5 list of wise ideas about the future. Clarke noted that there are two "hazards of forecasting": failure of nerve, and failure of imagination, and observed that the former was more common. As my 2x2 below suggests, it might have something to do with the fact that serious futurists, at least in the West, seem to lean politically left as a group, which makes them arguably more prone to failure of nerve than imagination.

Good Forecasting Takes Strong Nerves

In the last years of his life, Pareto offered a commentary on Italy in the 1920s. He denounced the state’s inability to enforce its decisions and the way that Italians spent their time flaunting their ability to break the law and get away with it. He coined the phrase “demagogic plutocracy” to characterise the period, in which the rich ruled behind a fa├žade of democratic politics. He thought this particularly insidious for two reasons: those in power were more interested in siphoning off wealth for their personal ends than encouraging the production of new wealth, and consequently undermined national prosperity (remember Pareto’s training as an economist); and, as the demagogic elites govern through deceit and cunning, they are able to mask their rule for longer periods.

Why the elites always rule

And yet old. Before--once you think about it, surely long before--the weapon, a late, luxurious, superfluous tool; long before the useful knife and ax; right along with the indispensable whacker, grinder, and digger-- for what's the use of digging up a lot of potatoes if you have nothing to lug ones you can't eat home in--with or before the tool that forces energy outward, we made the tool that brings energy home. It makes sense to me. I am an adherent of what Fisher calls the Carrier Bag Theory of human evolution.

This theory not only explains large areas of theoretical obscurity and avoids large areas of theoretical nonsense (inhabited largely by tigers, foxes, other highly territorial mammals); it also grounds me, personally, in human culture in a way I never felt grounded before. So long as culture was explained as originating from and elaborating upon the use of long, hard objects for sticking, bashing, and killing, I never thought that I had, or wanted, any particular share in it. ("What Freud mistook for her lack of civilization is woman's lack of loyalty to civilization," Lillian Smith observed.) The society, the civilization they were talking about, these theoreticians, was evidently theirs; they owned it, they liked it; they were human, fully human, bashing, sticking, thrusting, killing. Wanting to be human too, I sought for evidence that I was; but if that's what it took, to make a weapon and kill with it, then evidently I was either extremely defective as a human being, or not human at all.

The novel is a fundamentally unheroic kind of story. Of course the Hero has frequently taken it over, that being his imperial nature and uncontrollable impulse, to take everything over and run it while making stern decrees and laws to control his uncontrollable impulse to kill it. So the Hero has decreed through his mouthpieces the Lawgivers, first, that the proper shape of the narrative is that of the arrow or spear, starting here and going straight there and THOK! hitting its mark (which drops dead); second, that the central concern of narrative, including the novel, is conflict; and third, that the story isn't any good if he isn't in it.

I differ with all of this. I would go so far as to say that the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.

One relationship among elements in the novel may well be that of conflict, but the reduction of narrative to conflict is absurd. (I have read a how-to-write manual that said, "A story should be seen as a battle," and went on about strategies, attacks, victory, etc.) Conflict, competition, stress, struggle, etc., within the narrative conceived as carrier bag/belly/box/house/medicine bundle, may be seen as necessary elements of a whole which itself cannot be characterized either as conflict or as harmony, since its purpose is neither resolution nor stasis but continuing process.

Finally, it's clear that the Hero does not look well in this bag. He needs a stage or a pedestal or a pinnacle. You put him in a bag and he looks like a rabbit, like a potato.

That is why I like novels: instead of heroes they have people in them.

If, however, one avoids the linear, progressive, Time's-(killing)-arrow mode of the Techno-Heroic, and redefines technology and science as primarily cultural carrier bag rather than weapon of domination, one pleasant side effect is that science fiction can be seen as a far less rigid, narrow field, not necessarily Promethean or apocalyptic at all, and in fact less a mythological genre than a realistic one.

It is a strange realism, but it is a strange reality.

Ursula K. Le Guin - 1986 - The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction

This is an amazing signal - indicating that the domestication of the Internet is a change in conditions of change that is  transforming the basic sense of what is normal.
Still, the divisions can get fuzzy. Connecting a house to the public utility is unheard of, but many homes are electrified with power generators and solar panels. Propane-powered refrigerators are found in many kitchens. And “Amish taxi” services, driven by non-Amish people, provide a way to get around without violating the rule against owning a car.

In Amish Country, the Future Is Calling

A young woman, wearing a traditional full-length Amish dress and white bonnet, stepped away from a farmer’s market, opened her palm and revealed a smartphone. She began to scroll through screens, seemingly oblivious to the activity around her.

Not far away, a man in his late 60s with a silvery beard, wide-brimmed straw hat and suspenders adjusted the settings on a computer-driven crosscut saw. He was soon cutting pieces for gazebos that are sold online and delivered around the country.

The Amish have not given up on horse-drawn buggies. Their rigid abstinence from many kinds of technology has left parts of their lifestyle frozen since the 19th century: no cars, TVs or connections to electric utilities, for example.

But computers and cellphones are making their way into some Amish communities, pushing them — sometimes willingly, often not — into the 21st century.

This is a must see 25 min video - presenting the deep disruption in retail business being enacted by Amazon.

Scott Galloway - How Amazon is Dismantling Retail

Scott Galloway speaks at L2’s Amazon Clinic about how Amazon is disrupting retail. Not only has Amazon changed consumer shopping habits, it has changed the relationship between shareholders and investors. Investors are no longer satisfied with steadily growing profits; instead they seek fast growth and strong vision – even at the expense of profitability. See video for insights on the future of brand, Alexa’s effect on households.

This is a must read signal concerning the ongoing challenges to maintain and develop net neutrality and an Internet the enables empowered individuals to participate.

World Wide Web Consortium abandons consensus, standardizes DRM with 58.4% support, EFF resigns

In July, the Director of the World Wide Web Consortium overruled dozens of members' objections to publishing a DRM standard without a compromise to protect accessibility, security research, archiving, and competition.

EFF appealed the decision, the first-ever appeal in W3C history, which concluded last week with a deeply divided membership. 58.4% of the group voted to go on with publication, and the W3C did so today, an unprecedented move in a body that has always operated on consensus and compromise. In their public statements about the standard, the W3C executive repeatedly said that they didn't think the DRM advocates would be willing to compromise, and in the absence of such willingness, the exec have given them everything they demanded.

This is a bad day for the W3C: it's the day it publishes a standard designed to control, rather than empower, web users. That standard that was explicitly published without any protections -- even the most minimal compromise was rejected without discussion, an intransigence that the W3C leadership tacitly approved. It's the day that the W3C changed its process to reward stonewalling over compromise, provided those doing the stonewalling are the biggest corporations in the consortium.
EFF no longer believes that the W3C process is suited to defending the open web. We have resigned from the Consortium, effective today.

Disruption of our transportation has many signals - this article points to the seriousness that traditional transportation manufactures are taking the looming change in energy geopolitics and AI.

Renault-Nissan lays out plans for 12 new EVs and ‘robo’ global ride-hailing service

The future of cars is electric, and today the alliance that includes Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi laid out plans of how it plans to be one of the leaders in that area as well as autonomous vehicles. Alliance 2022, as the group calls itself, said that it plans to roll out 12 electric cars, and 40 vehicles with autonomous drive technology by 2022. It also wants to become “a global leader in ride-hailing services” that are operated by autonomous “robo” technology.

The plans, announced in Paris at an event this morning, point not just how car companies are doubling down on their plans for new cars and new business models, but how they are banking on economies of scale to make it happen to cut projected costs by €10 billion, the companies said.

And, it seems, pressure from regulators, if not consumer demand.
“Consumers are still not in… they want a bigger range, a lower cost and faster starting time,” admitted Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Alliance 2022, “but with the emissions rules coming in it’s the end of gas. This will be driven not so much by consumer demand but by emission regulations… Between now and 2040 there will be no more diesel and gasoline. This is absolutely a scenario.”

This is a very important signal - in many ways. It signals another technology relevant to the emergence of a cashless society, a technology relevant to the Internet-of-Things (as devices talk to each other in new ways) and as one of the big four introducing something to a potentially huge new market (India - in this regard we have to remember how India resoundly rejected Facebooks ‘faux Internet Access - Free Basic’).

Google debuts Tez, a mobile payments app for India that uses Audio QR to transfer money

After several weeks of speculation and leaked details, today Google officially unveiled its first big foray into mobile payments in Asia. The Android and search giant has launched Tez, a free mobile wallet in India that will let users link up their phones to their bank accounts to pay for goods securely in physical stores and online, and for person-to-person money transfers with a new twist: Audio QR, which uses ultrasonic sounds to let you exchange money, bypassing any need for NFC.

“Send money home to your family, split a dinner bill with friends, or pay the neighbourhood chaiwala. Make all payments big or small, directly from your bank account with Tez, Google’s new digital payment app for India,” Google notes in its information portal about the new app.

Tez is Google’s play to replace cash transactions and become a more central part of how people pay for things, using their mobile to do so. But it’s also a chance for the company to push out some new technologies — like audio QR (AQR), which lets users transfer money by letting their phones speak to each other with sounds — to see how it can make that process more frictionless, and therefore more attractive to use than cash itself. More on AQR below.

Tez is launching today on iOS and Android in the country and will see Google linking up with several major banks in the country by way of UPI (Unified Payments Interface) — a payment standard and system backed by the government in its push to bring more integrated banking services into a very fragmented market. There will also be phones coming to the market from Lava, Micromax, Nokia and Panasonic with Tez preloaded, the company said.

This is an signal of the emerging field of nano-manufacturing for many purposes.
‘It is similar to the way robots are used on a car assembly line. Those robots pick up a panel and position it so that it can be riveted in the correct way to build the bodywork of a car. So, just like the robot in the factory, our molecular version can be programmed to position and rivet components in different ways to build different products, just on a much smaller scale at a molecular level.’

Claim of molecular bot that can build other molecules

Scientists at The University of Manchester have created the world’s first ‘molecular robot’ that is capable of performing basic tasks including building other molecules.
The tiny robots, which are a millionth of a millimetre in size, can be programmed to move and build molecular cargo, using a tiny robotic arm.

Each individual robot is capable of manipulating a single molecule and is made up of just 150 carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms. To put that size into context, a billion billion of these robots piled on top of each other would still only be the same size as a single grain of salt.

The robots operate by carrying out chemical reactions in special solutions which can then be controlled and programmed by scientists to perform the basic tasks.

In the future such robots could be used for medical purposes, advanced manufacturing processes and even building molecular factories and assembly lines.

This development signals another move in the human-machine frontier. For now this is a prosthetic aiming restore some form of sense functioning - giving the accelerating advances it will likely also augment sense capabilities.

Blind Patients to Test Bionic Eye Brain Implants

The prosthesis could help more people who have lost their vision than a device already on the market.
The maker of the world’s first commercial artificial retina, which provides partial sight to people with a certain form of blindness, is launching a clinical trial for a brain implant designed to restore vision to more patients.

The company, Second Sight, is testing whether an array of electrodes placed on the surface of the brain can return limited vision to people who have gone partially or completely blind. For decades, scientists have been trying to develop brain implants to give sight back to the blind but have had limited success. If the Second Sight device works, it could help millions of blind patients worldwide, including those who have lost one or both eyes.

The device, called the Orion, is a modified version of the company’s current Argus II bionic eye, which involves a pair of glasses outfitted with a camera and an external processor. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted the company a conditional approval for a small study involving five patients at two sites, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of California, Los Angeles. Second Sight still needs to conduct further testing of the device and answer certain questions before starting the trial but hopes to begin enrolling patients in October and do its first implant by the end of the year.

This is an interesting article - a weak signal of the promise of our cognitive sciences to understand the neuroplasticity of our brains.

Scientists Are Attempting to Unlock the Secret Potential of the Human Brain

Sometimes, it occurs when a person suffers a nearly fatal accident or life-threatening situation. In others, they are born with a developmental disorder, such as autism. But a slim margin of each group develop remarkable capabilities, such as being able to picture advanced mathematical figures in one's head, have perfect recall, or to draw whole cityscapes from memory alone. This is known as savant syndrome. Of course, it’s exceedingly rare. But how does it work? And do we all hide spectacular capabilities deep within our brain?

In 2002, 31-year-old Jason Padgett, a community college dropout and self-described “goof,” was mugged outside of a karaoke bar. Two men knocked him down and kicked him in the back of the head repeatedly, leaving him unconscious. Padgett was checked out and sent home from the hospital that same night.

He’d suffered a serious concussion but didn’t know it, until the next morning when he noticed something peculiar. Upon entering the bathroom and turning on the faucet, he saw “lines emanating out perpendicularly from the flow.” He couldn’t believe it.
“At first, I was startled, and worried for myself, but it was so beautiful that I just stood in my slippers and stared.” It was like, “watching a slow-motion film.” He soon realized that he could see geometric shapes and fractals—irregular patterns that repeat themselves, in everything. “It’s just really beautiful,” he said.

Padgett began to find that he could intuitively understand the mathematical nature of everything around him. Before, he never rose beyond pre-Algebra. After the incident, he became infatuated with fractals and pi. His perception had completely changed. He soon grew obsessed with all the shapes he found in his house.

Another important signal in the transformation of our understanding of biological functioning.
other researchers are sceptical of nanotubes because they are unable to reconcile themselves to the idea that cells are constantly exchanging materials, including genetic information. “Our definition of a cell is falling apart,” Eugenin says. “That is why people don't believe in these tubes, because we have to change the definition of a cell.”

How the Internet of cells has biologists buzzing

Networks of nanotubes may allow cells to share everything from infections and cancer to dementia-linked proteins.
Yukiko Yamashita thought she knew the fruit-fly testis inside out. But when she carried out a set of experiments on the organ five years ago, it ended up leaving her flummoxed.

Her group had been studying how fruit flies maintain their sperm supply and had engineered certain cells involved in the process to produce specific sets of proteins. But instead of showing up in the engineered cells, some proteins seemed to have teleported to a different group of cells entirely.

Yamashita, a developmental biologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and the postdoctoral researcher with whom she was working, Mayu Inaba, called the phenomenon “mysterious trafficking”. They were convinced it was real — but they couldn't understand how it worked. So they shelved the project until one day, more than a year later, Inaba presented Yamashita with some images of tiny tubes reaching out from one cell to another — delicate structures that might have been responsible for the trafficking. Yamashita was sceptical, but decided to dig out images from her own postdoc project 12 years earlier. Sure enough, slender spikes jutted out towards the targeted cells. “It was really eye-opening,” Yamashita says. The group published its work in 2015, arguing that the tubes help testis cells to communicate precisely, sending a message to some of their neighbours and not others. “We thought the protein was trafficked,” Yamashita says, “but we didn't think there was an actual track.”

other labs have reported cell-connecting tubes in neurons, epithelial cells, mesenchymal stem cells, several sorts of immune cell and multiple cancers. Further types of tube have been spotted as well. In 2010, Gerdes and his team reported that some tubes end in gap junctions: gateways that bestow the neuron-like ability to send electrical signals and can also pass along peptides and RNA molecules. Yamashita speculates that such connections may be more than conceptually related to neuronal synapses. “Membrane protrusions might have evolved first, and higher organisms could have started upgrading them to make neurons for more complicated functions,” she says.

This is an important signal about cultured meats moving along the hype curve and getting closer to a supermarket near you. Before one gives into a sort of immediate ‘yuck reaction’ - think about which would give you a secure sense - a cultured hot dog - or the mystery meat that include our current choices of hot dog? Even the ‘natural’ offering recently available will likely have those ‘unusable body parts’ (e.g. lips and genitalia) mixed in - plus who knows what other ‘animals’.

Could lab-grown fish and meat feed the world – without killing a single animal?

Critics dismiss it as unnatural ‘Frankenmeat’, but the San Francisco startups racing to take animal-free meat and fish to market think it’s wonder food. So how were the carp croquettes at the world’s first cultured fish tasting?
The broad avenues that lie south of Market Street in San Francisco are dotted with the headquarters of famous tech firms, from Uber and Airbnb to BitTorrent and Dropbox. Grand arts and civic buildings sit incongruously among office blocks, huddles of the city’s homeless and hip shared workspaces in which tech entrepreneurs and scientists plug away at their ideas to change the world. One such workspace houses Finless Foods, a company growing fish flesh in their laboratory, aiming to feed the 5,000 and then some without needing to kill a single animal. It was founded in 2016 by university buddies Mike Selden and Brian Wyrwas, bright-eyed biochemists in their mid-20s who are on a mission to save the oceans and bring affordable, contaminant-free fish to the masses.

Finless Foods is the first firm to enter the race to take cellular agriculture – meat grown outside of animals – to market with marine, as opposed to land animals. In 2013, the godfather of what is also known as cultured or in-vitro meat, Professor Mark Post from Maastricht University, unveiled the first ever cultured beefburger- no livestock required. It was dry and anaemic, but, says Post, “it showed it could be done.” Three years later, San Francisco startup Memphis Meats delivered a succulent beef meatball, following up this year with fried chicken and duck a l’orange. Meanwhile, Hampton Creek foods (also in San Francisco) are boldly promising they will be selling cultured poultry as soon as the end of next year.

This paragraph is definitely a signal of the emerging possibilities of domesticating DNA
I visit Finless Foods’ lab ahead of the prototype tasting. They’re moving to new bespoke quarters later this year, but in the meantime share a workspace with various young companies developing biotech solutions to the world’s problems. We pass Clara Foods, which has created the world’s first animal-free egg, and a centrifuge whizzing around something to do with regenerating “the nipple-areolar complex” for women after mastectomies. Senior scientist at Finless, Jihyun Kim, proudly invites me to peer through her microscope at fish cells developing in a beaker of clear, pink liquid resembling the run-off from defrosting pork. A pattern has formed on the bottom of the beaker – the slightest sliver of fish. It doesn’t look appetising, but neither do the contents of an abattoir.

This is an incredible signal - the end of an age type of signal. Another step in the change in energy geopolitics.
When Drax opened for business in 1974, Britain got 80 percent of its electricity from burning coal. As recently as five years ago, the figure was 40 percent. But last year, it was 9 percent, and this summer coal supplied less than 2 percent of Britain’s electricity. On April 21, 2017, for the first time since its inception, the British power grid went 24 hours without coal.
But it is the speed of King Coal’s demise in Britain – its first and most important stronghold – that is breathtaking, says Michael Grubb, energy analyst at University College London. It shows what can be done, even in an essentially market-based energy system such as operates in the U.K.
Coal was the foundation of Britain’s rise as the dominant global power in the 18th and 19th centuries. It became the engine of the modern industrialized and urbanized world.

In a Stunning Turnaround, Britain Moves to End the Burning of Coal

Britain is phasing out its coal-burning power plants, with the last one slated to be shuttered by 2025, if not sooner. It is a startling development for the nation that founded an industrial revolution powered by coal.
Bigger than any medieval castle, with its 12 giant white cooling towers gleaming in the sun, the Drax Power Station dominates the horizon for tens of miles across the flat lands of eastern England. For four decades, it has been one of the world’s largest coal power plants, often generating a tenth of the U.K.’s electricity. It has been the lodestar for the final phase of Britain’s 250-year-long love affair with coal – the fuel that built the country’s empire and industrialized the world.

But no more.
With coal came pollution. London became known as the “big smoke.” In 1952, an estimated 10,000 people died in the capital during a “peasouper” smog. Long before the world became seriously concerned about coal’s contribution to climate change, Europe was worried about acid rain caused by coal burning. British power stations were discovered to be killing fish a thousand miles away in the lakes of Norway.

This is a very important signal of the emerging transformation of global energy geopolitics - and perhaps the transformation of our cities as laboratories of institutional innovation - the acceleration of producer-consumer distributed paradigm …. For everything - OK for lots of things.
Under a large-scale power system a “blackout at one area would lead to wide-scale power outages. But the independent distributed micro-grid can sustain power even if the surrounding area is having a blackout.”
However, the Program has spurred the creation of micro-grids and distributed power generation across Japan that reduces municipalities dependence on large power plants.
“We are moving towards a day when we won't be building large-scale power plants. Instead, we will have distributed power systems, where small power supply systems are in place near the consumption areas,” ...

Quiet energy revolution underway in Japan as dozens of towns go off the grid

A northern Japanese city's efforts to rebuild its electric power system after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami mark a quiet shift away from the country's old utility model toward self-reliant, local generation and transmission.

After losing three-quarters of its homes and 1,100 people in the March 2011 temblor and tsunami, the city of Higashi Matsushima turned to the Japanese government's “National Resilience Program,” with 3.72 trillion yen ($33.32 billion) in funding for this fiscal year, to rebuild.

The city of 40,000 chose to construct micro-grids and de-centralized renewable power generation to create a self-sustaining system capable of producing an average of 25 & of its electricity without the need of the region's local power utility.
The city's steps illustrate a massive yet little known effort to take dozens of Japan's towns and communities off the power grid and make them partly self-sufficient .

And here another important signal related to the emerging change in our transportation infrastructure.

A Proterra electric bus just drove 1,100 miles on a single charge

The Catalyst E2 Max went 1,101.2 miles, thanks to a 660kWh battery.
On Tuesday, Proterra revealed that one of its Catalyst E2 Max electric buses just set a new world record for the longest distance traveled by an electric vehicle on a single charge. The bus, which packs a hefty 660kWh of storage—equivalent to 11 Chevy Bolts—drove a total of 1,101.2 miles (1,772.2km) at the Navistar Proving Grounds in Indiana. It's quite an impressive feat, considering the previous record holder was a lightweight experimental single-seat EV.

While 1,100 miles is a lot more than an average bus drives in a day, Proterra's record may prove quite helpful in persuading range-anxious transit authorities to ditch internal combustion in favor of battery power for future fleets.

Of course, the other factor is how long it takes to recharge. This is probably less of an issue with vehicles like buses, delivery trucks, and garbage trucks that spend their lives crawling around cities, since that kind of low-speed, stop-and-go duty cycle plays right into the strengths of an electric powertrain, and the vehicles can recharge at the end of their route. Proterra also developed a high-speed charging system for buses (which it's offering to anyone without licensing fees), although even with its high-voltage system in operation, the 660kWh record-breaking bus would still need at least an hour to get back to a full charge.

This is not the Star Trek -Tricorder - but it is one more signal towards it.
“Real-time results mean farmers can add fertilisers or tweak moisture levels as crops grow”

Handheld scanner divines how nutritious your food really is

FARMERS can now zap their crops with a handheld scanner to instantly determine nutritional content, which could prove crucial in mitigating the effects of climate change on food quality. It also brings similar consumer gadgets a step closer – so we can find out what is in our food for ourselves.

The device, called GrainSense, analyses wheat, oats, rye and barley by scanning a sample with various frequencies of near-infrared light. The amount of each type of light that is absorbed allows it to precisely determine the levels of protein, moisture, oil and carbohydrate in the grain.

This technique has been used for decades in the lab, but this is the first time it has been available instantly on a handheld device.

“Today you have to send at least half a kilo of grain to the lab,” says Edvard Krogius, the co-founder of GrainSense, the Finnish company developing the system. “It can take days or weeks to get results.”

By contrast, GrainSense requires a sample of just 50 to 100 kernels and can reveal their composition in about 5 seconds. This information, along with the GPS coordinates of where the measurements were taken, is linked to a mobile app.

A decade ago, Kevin Kelly conceived a new business model enabled by the costless coordination of the digital environment - he called it 1,000 True Fans. He defined a true fan as anyone willing to spend a set amount every year (e.g. $100 - which if we multiply by 1,000 equals an income of $100K). Because the creator would not be constrained to local markets - it is very plausible for a creator to actually find 1,000 people. Patreon is a strong signal indicating the real viability of this model.

Patreon, one of the most interesting media startups of the last few years, has raised $60 million

The service, which lets fans pay creators, will process more than $150 million in contributions this year.
Patreon, which helps fans fund their favorite podcasters, video makers and other content creators, is getting new funding itself.

The four-year-old startup has raised $60 million from a group led by Thrive Capital, which is re-joined by other previous backers including Index, CRV and Freestyle Capital. DFJ Growth is the new money in this round.

Patreon won’t release a valuation but says the $450 million TechCrunch floated last week is incorrect. My semi-educated hunch is that it’s not far off — perhaps it’s 10 percent too high. The company has now raised $107 million.

In any case, the real story here is that Patreon is one of the most interesting companies in media right now, as it appears to have gained real traction as an alternative to advertising for a wide variety of people who make stuff you can read, watch or listen to.

Lefty podcasters Chapo Trap House, for example, are generating more than $84,000 per month on Patreon, which is very good money for three dudes with a year-old show. Peter Vecsey, once one of the dominant voices in sports media, surprised lots of people this summer by resurfacing on the platform.

Patreon has a very simple business model: Fans give money to Patreon to pass along to their favorite content makers; Patreon takes a 5 percent cut and gives those content makers a platform to host subscriber-only content.

For Fun and Interests
This is an interesting Google Talk - if anyone doesn’t know who Dan Harmon is - he was the key writer in the sit com Community, and the recent animated TV shows Gravity Falls and Rick and Morty (which is an awesome animated TV show - imagine a mashup of South Park, The Simpsons and Dr Who - written by H.P. Lovecraft, Robin Williams and Richard Feynman).

Dan Harmon | Talks at Google

Dan Harmon (Rick and Morty, Community, Harmontown) stops by Google to Talk about his creative process, his ongoing projects - including the upcoming season 3 of Rick and Morty, Dungeons and Dragons, and if reality is just a fart.

Dan Harmon is a seasoned writer for film and television. He is the creator and executive producer of NBC’s “Community”, co-creator of Adult Swim’s animated series, “Rick and Morty”, and co-creator of Comedy Central’s “The Sarah Silverman Program”.  Harmon co-wrote the Academy Award ™ nominated film, “Monster House” and the now famously failed television comedy pilot, “Heat Vision and Jack”, with writing partner Rob Schrab. He and Schrab founded Channel 101, a website celebrating innovative new web series. Dan also performs a weekly live show and recorded podcast, called “Harmontown” and has "Harmonquest" on Seeso.

This is Awesome. A sort of 21st Century Wright Brother - home inventor - signaling a future of transportation - perhaps. The video is 26 min of his first flights - worth the view.


Swedish engineer Axel Borg’s homemade electric multirotor sounds like the world’s angriest swarm of bees when it flies and that may be the least terrifying thing about it. Built over the course of two years with a budget of $10,000, Borg’s flying chair — supported by four circular rotor-mounts, with a total of 72 rotors — is like the world’s best and worst quadcopter at the same time. A lot of drones claim to put the pilot in the driver’s seat, with the help of point-of-view cameras. Borg’s creation delivers with no cameras required.

“I have great respect for the physical forces present, and I do get a little scared sometimes,” he told Digital Trends. “However, the system is divided into five completely separated sub-assemblies and I believe it is pretty unlikely that all of them will go wrong. The possible exception, as always, is pilot stupidity, which is my main concern at the moment. I really doubt my judgment from time to time. I think it’s related to constant undersleeping, being a father of two small kids.”

Given those life circumstances, it’s downright amazing that Borg has managed to achieve a project of this magnitude — especially since he also finds time to spend with his wife and hold down a full-time job.