Thursday, November 30, 2017

Friday Thinking 1 Dec. 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



Perhaps Arthur C. Clarke was being uncharacteristically unambitious. He once pointed out that any sufficiently advanced technology is going to be indistinguishable from magic. If you dropped in on a bunch of Paleolithic farmers with your iPhone and a pair of sneakers, you’d undoubtedly seem pretty magical. But the contrast is only middling: The farmers would still recognize you as basically like them, and before long they’d be taking selfies. But what if life has moved so far on that it doesn’t just appear magical, but appears like physics?

After all, if the cosmos holds other life, and if some of that life has evolved beyond our own waypoints of complexity and technology, we should be considering some very extreme possibilities. Today’s futurists and believers in a machine “singularity” predict that life and its technological baggage might end up so beyond our ken that we wouldn’t even realize we were staring at it. That’s quite a claim, yet it would neatly explain why we have yet to see advanced intelligence in the cosmos around us, despite the sheer number of planets it could have arisen on—the so-called Fermi Paradox.

Is Physical Law an Alien Intelligence?

Technical breakthroughs happen slowly and then suddenly. People were actively working on mobile computing a decade before the iPhone. We underestimate how long it takes for a breakthrough technology to fully develop and get adoption, but we also underestimate the scale of disruption.

I believe that decentralized computing will mark a transition away from cloud computing and is the next major wave of computing. Some core tech components have been developed for 8 years now.

A vision for decentralized computing

We were interested in whether we could induce the monkey society we were studying to change from its status quo of many small fights and a few large ones to having many large fights. We observed that fights in this monkey group range in size from two to 30 or so individuals, with small fights common and large fights very rare. By simulating the society using data we had collected on fight-joining decisions, we found that we could measure the number of monkeys whose propensity to join fights would have to increase to move the system closer to the critical point.

In this system, it takes about three to five individuals to push the system over the edge. We also found that individuals vary in how much their behavior influences the system. If big contributors become more likely to join fights, the system moves toward the critical point where it is very sensitive, meaning a small perturbation can knock it over into this all-fight state. And while we didn’t study this in the paper, we speculate that the all-fight state, which means the system is going to change dramatically, might be useful. It might be something you want to do, to move toward the critical point and completely reconfigure the group if the environment is changing from known to unknown.

The Countless Computers Embedded in Nature

It was in the 19th century, however, when the ideologies of Progress really began to blossom and flower. One was economics, of which we will have more to say about below. Another was phrenology. Phrenology was a science that claimed that a person’s character – including his capacities and his dispositions – were contained within his skull and could be determined by studying his skull carefully. Today few take this seriously – although many still recognise that phrenology was an early progenitor to so-called ‘neuroscience’. But throughout the 19thcentury these ideas were enormously popular – one popular English work sold more than 300,000 copies!

What made phrenology so popular was what also made economics so popular at the time: it gave a rationale for a society based on Progress and also provided a blueprint for how this could be achieved. The phrenological doctrine, being so vague in its pronouncements, was highly malleable and could be used to justify whatever those in power needed justifying. So, for example, in 19th century England phrenology was used to justify laissez faire economic policies by emphasising unequal natural capacities amongst the population while in early 20thcentury Belgian Rwanda it was used to justify the supposed superiority of the Tutsis over the Hutus.

…. modern economics is more similar to phrenology than it is to, say, physics. This is not at all surprising as it grew up in the same era and out of remarkably similar ideas. But what is surprising is that this is not widely noticed today. What is most tragic, however, is that there is much in economics that can and should be salvaged. While these positive aspects of economics probably do not deserve the title of ‘science’ they at least provide us with a rational toolkit that can be used to improve political and economic governance in our societies.

Philip Pilkington: To What Extent Is Economics an Ideology and to What Extent Is It a Useful Theory?

This is an interesting article - another signal of the accelerating pace of scientific and technological change.

Welcome to the Exponential Age The New Industrial Revolution

Singularity University is a Silicon Valley think tank that offers educational programs and a business incubator. It was founded in 2008 at the NASA Research Park in California and is supported by NASA and Google.  According to its website, Singularity University focuses on scientific progress and “exponential” technologies. As technologies continue to advance, they accelerate the progression of seemingly unrelated technologies, exploding what is possible at a pace that’s difficult to fathom. This helps redefine what is possible today, and in our rapidly approaching tomorrow.

The Exponential Conference Series takes Singularity University’s unique vantage point and focuses it upon the exponentially accelerating technologies that are impacting industry such as Finance, Medicine, Healthcare, Education, Manufacturing, and food. This goes beyond just the effect of Moore’s Law.  The next generation of business leadership needs to be able to navigate these progressive changes and disruptive events faster and more effectively than any time in the past.

The creative destruction of capitalism goes up by powers of ten when it goes exponential.  Udo Gollub from Berlin, Germany recently attended the Singularity University Summit and wrote some observations.  Note that these are all extrapolations of exponential technology trends by Singularity University. Nothing here is definitive and everything is in flux.  This paper is just to motivate and stimulate thinking and uses some of the key points from the Summit.

The shadow of social media infestations of AI and botnets is still emerging - solutions remain uncertain. In some ways more transparency seems inevitable. This piece is also interesting in demonstrating emerging forms of analysis for social media. The ongoing development of AI and it’s potential for ‘weaponization’ in socio-cultural-political conflicts is worrisome - an AI arms race is in the works.

More than a Million Pro-Repeal Net Neutrality Comments were Likely Faked

I used natural language processing techniques to analyze net neutrality comments submitted to the FCC from April-October 2017, and the results were disturbing.
NY Attorney General Schneiderman estimated that hundreds of thousands of Americans’ identities were stolen and used in spam campaigns that support repealing net neutrality. My research found at least 1.3 million fake pro-repeal comments, with suspicions about many more. In fact, the sum of fake pro-repeal comments in the proceeding may number in the millions. In this post, I will point out one particularly egregious spambot submission, make the case that there are likely many more pro-repeal spambots yet to be confirmed, and estimate the public position on net neutrality in the “organic” public submissions.

Given the well documented irregularities throughout the comment submission process, it was clear from the start that the data was going to be duplicative and messy. If I wanted to do the analysis without having to set up the tools and infrastructure typically used for “big data,” I needed to break down the 22M+ comments and 60GB+ worth of text data and metadata into smaller pieces.

Thus, I tallied up the many duplicate comments and arrived at 2,955,182 unique comments and their respective duplicate counts. I then mapped each comment into semantic space vectors and ran some clustering algorithms on the meaning of the comments. This method identified nearly 150 clusters of comment submission texts of various sizes.

This is a very significant signal of the phase transition in global energy geopolitics.
While Norway has built much of its sovereign wealth through oil and gas development in the past—six percent of the fund is invested in fossil fuels—it's now home to a fast-growing solar power sector, with solar installations rising by 366 percent from 2015 to 2016.
"It is not surprising that we see the world's largest sovereign wealth fund managers no longer prepared to take the increasing risk associated with oil and gas assets, which do not have a long-term future,"

'Biggest Pile of Money on the Planet' To Dump Fossil Fuels Holdings

In 'astonishing' move, Norwegian government advised to divest its sovereign wealth fund of all its shares in oil and gas industry
Environmental advocates on Thursday applauded the latest organization to shift away from continued support of the fossil fuel industry—Norway's national bank.
In a move co-founder Bill McKibben called "astonishing," Norges Bank, which oversees the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, advised the Norwegian government to dump all of its shares in oil and gas companies, leaving those entities out of its $1 trillion fund.

The bank's decision comes two years after Norway's parliament approved a measure calling for the fund to begin divesting from coal companies.

Norges Bank made the new recommendation in light of falling oil prices. Oil and gas are seen as increasingly risky investments as more countries turn to cleaner energy sources in order to meet requirements under the Paris climate agreement, which aims to keep global warming under two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

This is an equally significant signal - from a former vice chairman and head of product development at General Motors. He also held senior executive positions with Ford, Chrysler, BMW and Opel. Who, 120 years ago would have imagined cityscapes not filled with horses? What will transportation be like in the next 30 years?
A minority of individuals may elect to have personalized modules sitting at home so they can leave their vacation stuff and the kids' soccer gear in them. They'll still want that convenience.
The vehicles, however, will no longer be driven by humans because in 15 to 20 years — at the latest — human-driven vehicles will be legislated off the highways.
The tipping point will come when 20 to 30 percent of vehicles are fully autonomous. Countries will look at the accident statistics and figure out that human drivers are causing 99.9 percent of the accidents.

Bob Lutz: Kiss the good times goodbye

'Everyone will have 5 years to get their car off the road or sell it for scrap'
It saddens me to say it, but we are approaching the end of the automotive era.
The auto industry is on an accelerating change curve. For hundreds of years, the horse was the prime mover of humans and for the past 120 years it has been the automobile.

Now we are approaching the end of the line for the automobile because travel will be in standardized modules.

The end state will be the fully autonomous module with no capability for the driver to exercise command. You will call for it, it will arrive at your location, you'll get in, input your destination and go to the freeway.

On the freeway, it will merge seamlessly into a stream of other modules traveling at 120, 150 mph. The speed doesn't matter. You have a blending of rail-type with individual transportation.

One more signal in an ongoing trajectory.

Cheapest electricity on the planet is Mexican solar power at 1.77¢/kWh – record 1¢/kWh coming in 2019, sooner

Per a press release from the Centro Nacional de Control de EnergĂ­a (Cenace) of Mexico, the department received bids for 3TWh of solar electricity, with the lowest bids being 1.77¢/kWh coming from Italian multinational ENEL Green Power.

This record low price of electricity on earth, just beats out the 1.79¢/kWh from Saudi Arabia, and is part of a pattern marching toward 1¢/kWh bids that are coming in 2019 (or sooner).

Mexico’s Department of Energy along with Cenace announced the results of the country’s ‘Third Long Term Auction.’ Fifteen bids were accepted from eight wind and solar power companies. ENGIE bid as Solar and Wind companies, Mitsui alongside Trina, ENEL and Canadian Solar were some of the better known names.

ENEL won bids on four projects total with tariffs of 1.77¢, 1.77¢, 1.94¢ and 1.80¢/kWh. The projects were sized 167MW, 122MW, 277MW and 116MW, respectively – totaling 682MW total. These four bids are the two lowest, and 4th/5th lowest bids ever for solar power projects.

This is a strong signal of the progress being made with blockchain or distributed ledger technologies.

Visa Launches First Phase of Blockchain B2B Payments

Global credit card giant Visa has rolled out the first, pilot phase of its blockchain-based business-to-business payments service, B2B Connect.

First announced last year, Visa plans to use the platform to ease cross-border payments by facilitating direct payments between institutions, cutting out the middleman the industry currently relies on. The platform – developed with the assistance of blockchain startup Chain – is also designed to ensure secure, yet transparent payments between enterprises.

Already working with Visa on the project are U.S.-based Commerce Bank, South Korea's Shinhan Bank, the Union Bank of Philippines and the United Overseas Bank, based in Singapore.

Visa's global head of solutions, Kevin Phalen, told CoinDesk that the banks are trialing live bank-to-bank transactions over the platform.
Following this first phase of the project, phase two will see the project move to a commercial launch, slated to occur in the middle of 2018,

Now this is an interesting signal - a different orientation to the truism that whatever can be automated will be. It’s also a signal of the human enhancement through technology.

Ford, Ekso team up for 'bionic' auto workers

Robots have replaced many U.S. manufacturing workers, but new mechanical exoskeletons being tested by Ford Motor Co (F.N) may help factory workers to function like bionic people, reducing the physical damage of millions of repetitive tasks over many years.

The U.S. automaker said on Thursday that workers at two U.S. factories are testing upper-body exoskeletons developed by Richmond, California-based Ekso Bionics Holdings Inc (EKSO.O), which are designed to reduce injuries and increase productivity.

The four EksoVests were paid for by the United Auto Workers union, which represents hourly workers at Ford, and the automaker plans tests for the exoskeleton in other regions including Europe and South America. The cost of the exoskeletons, which were developed as part of a partnership between Ford and Ekso, was undisclosed.

Two workers at each of the company’s Wayne and Flat Rock factories have been testing the exoskeletons since May.

On the same theme of human enhanced workers - this is a good signal about the future of our co-workers - or of new forms of cognitive prosthetics.
We’re not living in the golden age of AI, but we are living in the golden age of AI-enhanced productivity. Call it the First Pass Era. AI is now powerful enough to make a solid first attempt at countless complex tasks, but it’s not so powerful that it seems threatening. For more thought-intensive, subjective work, we still need humans.

“Years ago, people thought that when it comes to creativity we’re safe, because AI cannot become as creative as humans or as special as humans. It’s not true,” says Azermai. When industry folk accuse her of creating a tool to steal their jobs, she tells them that their jobs are indeed under threat—but not by AI. Rather, she says to the naysayers, “You’ll lose your job to people who have learned how to cooperate with machines. You will lose your job if you keep turning your head the other direction and pretending it doesn't exist.”


Last fall, Google Translate rolled out a new-and-improved artificial intelligence translation engine that it claimed was, at times, “nearly indistinguishable” from human translation. Jost Zetzsche could only roll his eyes. The German native had been working as a professional translator for 20 years, and he’d heard time and time again that his industry would be threatened by advances in automation. Every time, he’d found, the hype was overblown—and Google Translate’s makeover was no exception. It certainly wasn’t the key to translation, he thought.

But it was remarkably good. Google had spent the better part of 2016 reworking its translation tool to be powered by AI—and in doing so, it had created something unnervingly powerful. Google Translate, once known for producing stilted but passable translations, had begun producing fluid, highly accurate prose. The kind of output that, to the untrained eye, was nearly indistinguishable from human translation. A 15,000-word New York Times story hailed it as “the great AI awakening.” The engine quickly began learning new tricks, figuring out how to translate language pairs it hadn’t encountered before: If it could do English to Japanese and English to Korean, it could figure out Korean to Japanese. At last month’s Pixel 2 launch, Google took its ambitious agenda a step further, introducing wireless headphones that it promised could translate 40 languages in real-time.

That labor shift is unfolding across industries. The Washington Post’s in-house AI, Heliograf, published some 850 stories last year, with human reporters and editors adding analysis and colorful details. In graphic design, AI tools can now generate a first pass at designs, leaving the final execution to human designers. In film and publishing, new tools promise to weed through slush piles in search of the next great hit, freeing up editors from the never-ending submissions queue. These AI tools are like plucky young assistants on steroids: They’re highly competent and prolific, but still need a seasoned manager to do the heavy intellectual lifting. And, of course, that manager has to get on board with working alongside machines to reap the benefits.

At Fennemore Craig, an Arizona-based corporate law firm, lawyers have jumped aboard the AI train, piloting a new technology from a startup called ROSS Intelligence. Using a combination of IBM Watson and proprietary algorithms, ROSS is the AI-driven successor to tools like LexisNexis: It combs through millions of pages of case law and writes up its findings in a draft memo. The process, which might take a human lawyer four days, takes ROSS roughly 24 hours. ROSS doesn’t suffer from exhaustion or burnout: The tool can pull infinite all-nighters without its work suffering as a consequence.

This is a very important signal - one that should make clear the need for new socio-technological-political institutions - like an Auditor General of Algorithms to ensure AI is doing what is says it’s doing and to apply vigilant monitoring of results. It also signals another important issue of the need to develop broader medical models that don’t presume agency is only in a drug or technological intervention - but include meaning, and social relationships.

AI-controlled brain implants for mood disorders tested in people

Researchers funded by the US military are developing appliances to record neural activity and automatically stimulate the brain to treat mental illness.
Brain implants that deliver electrical pulses tuned to a person’s feelings and behaviour are being tested in people for the first time. Two teams funded by the US military’s research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), have begun preliminary trials of ‘closed-loop’ brain implants that use algorithms to detect patterns associated with mood disorders. These devices can shock the brain back to a healthy state without input from a physician.

The work, presented last week at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) meeting in Washington DC, could eventually provide a way to treat severe mental illnesses that resist current therapies. It also raises thorny ethical concerns, not least because the technique could give researchers a degree of access to a person’s inner feelings in real time.

The general approach — using a brain implant to deliver electric pulses that alter neural activity — is known as deep-brain stimulation. It is used to treat movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, but has been less successful when tested against mood disorders. Early evidence suggested that constant stimulation of certain brain regions could ease chronic depression, but a major study involving 90 people with depression found no improvement after a year of treatment.

The scientists behind the DARPA-funded projects say that their work might succeed where earlier attempts failed, because they have designed their brain implants specifically to treat mental illness — and to switch on only when needed. “We’ve learned a lot about the limitations of our current technology,” says Edward Chang, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), who is leading one of the projects.

Truth is always stranger than fiction and to quote from Jurassic Park - Life finds a way. This is a must read.

Life goes deeper

The Earth is not a solid mass of rock: its hot, dark, fractured subsurface is home to weird and wonderful life forms
The living landscape all around us is just a thin veneer atop the vast, little-understood bulk of the Earth’s interior. A widespread misconception about the deep subsurface is that this realm consists of a continuous mass of uniform compressed solid rock. Few are aware that this mass of rock is heavily fractured, and water runs in many of these fractures and faults, down to depths of many kilometres. The deep Earth supports an entire biosphere, largely cut off from the surface world, and is still only beginning to be explored and understood.

The amount of water in the subsurface is considerable. Globally, the freshwater reservoir in the subsurface is estimated to be up to 100 times as great as all the available fresh water in the rivers, lakes and swamps combined. This water, ranging in ages from seven years to 2 billion years, is being intensely studied by researchers because it defines the location and scope of deep life. We know now that the deep terrestrial subsurface is home to one quintillion simple (prokaryotic) cells. That is two to 20 times as many cells as live in all the open ocean. By some estimates, the deep biosphere could contain up to one third of Earth’s entire biomass.

To comprehend the deep biosphere, we must look past the familiar rules of biology. On the surface, life without the Sun for an extended period of time is dangerous or deadly. Without daylight, no plants or crops can grow. Temperatures get colder and colder. Few organisms, including human beings, can long tolerate such conditions. For instance, people living within the Arctic Circle – as well as the maintenance staff at Antarctic research stations during winter – experience 24-hour darkness for several months each year. They are more vulnerable to health issues such as depression. They find ways to adapt and get through the long, dark, cold winter, but it isn’t easy.

Now imagine the challenges in places that have been isolated from sunlight and organic compounds derived from light-dependent reactions for millions or even billions of years. It seems incomprehensible that anything could survive there. Yet scientists, including the members of our team at Princeton University in New Jersey, have found surprisingly diverse microorganisms in the deep Earth, adapted to a lifestyle independent of the Sun.

This is a great signal - a real world test of vertical farming in truly hostile environments. The images are worth the view. This is something Canada should be leading in - given our native population in the Arctic.

This climate-defying farm could transform life in the coldest place on Earth

Antarctica's nonstop winters make it impossible to grow food outdoors. Fruits and vegetables are instead shipped long distances from overseas, just a few times per year.

But engineers at the German Aerospace Center (GAC) will soon build a high-tech farm that will allow Antarcticans to harvest produce.

The farm will feature a year-round greenhouse that can grow food for researchers at the Neumayer III polar station on the Ekstrom Ice Shelf.

Called the Eden-ISS, the farm exists inside a climate-controlled shipping container. The greenhouse relies on a technique called vertical farming, in which food grows on trays or hanging modules under LEDs instead of natural sunlight.

Take a look at the farm, which will come to Antarctica in October, below.
Before the Eden-ISS shipping container farm debuts in Antarctica, the GAC is testing growing fruits and vegetables at its headquarters in Bremen, Germany.

Here’s another farming concept that can be urbanized - the 2 min video explains it all.

Algae farm turns carbon dioxide from Absolut Vodka distillery into oxygen and nutritious foods

At this year's London Food Tech Week, we met up with Fredrika Gullfot, founder of Simris – an algae farm in southern Sweden.
Simris uses algae to produce foods and supplements rich in Omega-3, which is otherwise sourced from fish and is a major cause of overfishing.

This is a good signal of emerging approaches to maintaining health via synthetic biology and likely nanotechnology.
The researchers have only tested the system in cell cultures in vitro, so it is unclear if and how these new synthetic T cells will function in the human body. The new system is a long way from being used in cancer treatment, but the possibilities are considerable if the system can be made to work.

Synthetic T Cells Seek and Destroy Cancer

Recently, researchers have engineered a new kind of T cell that can combat tumors. Scientists have modified these new immune cells to include additional functions so that they can effectively seek and destroy cancer cells. The problem is that therapies involving these cells can have significant side effects, and the production of these synthetic T cells is technically challenging, making it a time-consuming and expensive process.

A team of researchers at ETH led by Professor Martin Fussenegger has found an innovative solution to this issue. In a new study, the team has demonstrated a simplified approach to creating customized immune cells for fighting cancer[1]. The research team built human renal cells and (adipose) stem cells that included three additional components, which made them into customized cells that mimic T cells.

The first component that the team added to these synthetic T cells consisted of molecular antennae that extended well beyond the cell membrane. The second component consisted of antibodies with specific docking sites embedded in the cell membrane; these sense cancer cells due to their unique surface structures and bind to them. The third component was a gene network that generates a molecule complex. This complex includes a “warhead” that pierces the cancer cell membrane, this is linked to a converter molecule that activates and deploys an anti-cancer substance into the cancer cell.

This is another signal both of new forms of treatment for cancer and for great advances in medical technologies.
“Remarkable advances in modern mass spectrometry now allow us to analyze complex mixtures of proteins in cancer cells and pinpoint drug targets, on instruments that are sensitive enough to weigh even a single electron!” says Peter O’Connor, professor of analytical chemistry.

Heavy metal found in meteoroids kills cancer cells

Iridium is rare on Earth, but is abundant in meteoroids—and large amounts of iridium have been discovered in the Earth’s crust from around 66 million years ago, leading to the theory that it came to this planet with an asteroid which caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The researchers created a compound of iridium and organic material, which they can directly target towards cancerous cells, transferring energy to the cells to turn the oxygen (O2) inside them into singlet oxygen, which is poisonous and kills the cell—without harming any healthy tissue.

Shining visible laser light through the skin onto the cancerous area triggers the process—this reaches the light-reactive coating of the compound and activates the metal to start filling the cancer with singlet oxygen.

Photochemotherapy—using laser light to target cancer—is fast emerging as a viable, effective, and non-invasive treatment. Patients are becoming increasingly resistant to traditional therapies, so it is vital to establish new pathways like this for fighting the disease.

Furthermore, the researchers used state-of-the-art ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry to gain an unprecedented view of the individual proteins within the cancer cells—allowing them to determine precisely which proteins are attacked by the organic-iridium compound.

Another signal of the emerging use of biobots for human health purposes.

Tiny robots step closer to treating hard-to-reach parts of the body

Tiny remotely operated robots could be designed to diagnose and treat illness in hard-to-reach areas of the human body, research suggests.

In tests, a swarm of robots measuring a few millionths of a metre long - about the size of a blood cell - were guided magnetically to sites in the stomach of rats.
The robots were manufactured by coating tiny algae with magnetic particles.
They could be tracked in tissue close to the skin's surface by imaging the algae's natural luminescence, and in hard-to-reach deeper tissue by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Scientists suggest their findings could lead to a way to deliver drugs to parts of the body that are otherwise difficult to treat.
The robots could also sense chemical changes linked to the onset of illness within parts of the body, which makes them potentially useful as probes for remote diagnosis.

An international team of researchers, led by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, developed micro-robots by coating a microscopic algae with non-harmful, biocompatible magnetic particles. The devices can smoothly swim in biological fluids, such as dilute blood and gastric fluid.

The universe of microbial existence continues to reveal fascinating wonders.
“We can watch these complex communities in what is essentially their natural habitat and study their structure or metabolism. There’s a lot we can learn when we can study biofilms in their whole freaky native state,” said Melissa Garren, a marine biologist at California State University, Monterey Bay.

Building Codes for Bacterial Cities

Biofilms are bacterial fortresses, but understanding how hydrodynamics and competition shape their architecture could reveal their subtle weaknesses.
Biofilms are everywhere. Far from being rare alternatives to the lone microbe swimming in a flask or sprawled in a Petri dish, 99.9 percent of the simple cells called prokaryotes default to living in close quarters among millions of their compatriots. These biofilms of clustering bacteria can create impossible-to-eradicate infections on central lines and catheters; they foul everything from sewer lines to our teeth. The billions of bacteria that can live in a single biofilm cover themselves with a sticky combination of sugar and protein called the extracellular matrix, which effectively glues them to their surface of choice. Both the matrix and the physical shape of the biofilm protect those cells living at the center of the structure from attack by predators and antibiotics. The size of the biofilm and the interaction of cells within it give the different cells the opportunity to specialize in a particular task, such as acquiring food, subverting predators or acting as a reservoir of genetic material from which to regrow the entire structure.

….many of the interactions among the bacteria in biofilms are intensely competitive, both within a biofilm and between them. Fast-growing organisms will snatch up nutrients before their neighbors take over their space. Other bacterial species secrete antibiotics to prevent competitors from elbowing into their territory. To prevent freeloading cells from getting the benefit of extracellular matrix produced at a cost of energy and valuable nutrient resources, some species of bacteria attach themselves to matrix molecules to “privatize” them. The microbes in a biofilm can also specialize at different tasks, depending on where in the biofilm they are located and their genetic background. Cells on the edge focus on acquiring food and warding off predators, whereas those in the core often hunker down and serve as reserves. The cells within also walk the fine line between sharing resources and competing for them. The success or failure of all these interactions depends strongly on precise details of the dynamic physical circumstances in which the biofilms are growing, which can change significantly over a scale of microns.

What results, Coyte says, is a complex cooperative that looks and acts differently from bacteria growing in pure culture. “We have a habit of thinking of bacterial evolution in Petri dishes, which means we’re missing crucial factors on selection pressures based on physics,” she said.

Here’s a signal to file under the ‘Moore’s Law is Dead - Long live Moore’s Law’ and the emergence of new computational paradigms.

Graphcore AI chips are 100X times faster

AI chip Startup Graphcore IPU systems are designed to lower the cost of accelerating AI applications in cloud and enterprise datacenters to increase the performance of both training and inference by up to 100x compared to the fastest systems today.

Graphcore systems excel at both training and inference. The highly parallel computational resources together with graph software tools and libraries, allows researchers to explore machine intelligence across a much broader front than current solutions. This technology lets recent success in deep learning evolve rapidly towards useful, general artificial intelligence.

Graphcore’s IPU (Intelligence Processing Unit) is a new AI accelerator bringing an unprecedented level of performance to both current and future machine learning workloads. Its unique combination of massively parallel multi-tasking compute, synchronized execution within an IPU or across multiple IPUs, innovative data exchange fabric and large amounts of on-chip SRAM give unheard of capabilities for both training and inference across a large range of machine learning algorithms.

This is Nerdy Cool -4min video

The Lava Lamps That Help Keep The Internet Secure

At the headquarters of Cloudflare, in San Francisco, there's a wall of lava lamps: the Entropy Wall. They're used to generate random numbers and keep a good bit of the internet secure: here's how.

Thanks to the team at Cloudflare - this is not a sponsored video, they just had interesting lava lamps!

Many people may well consider this well out of the box of rational consideration. That said there is lots of significant literature focused on the problem of consciousness - including a host of serious scientist who consider the possibility of pan-psychism. The problems of measuring consciousness may be even more difficult and more subtle than measuring gravity waves. This does sound like a reasonably scientific way to approach measurement of consciousness.

The Global Consciousness Project

Meaningful Correlations in Random Data

The behavior of our network of random sources is correlated with interconnected human consciousness on a global scale
When human consciousness becomes coherent, the behavior of random systems may change. Random number generators (RNGs) based on quantum tunneling produce completely unpredictable sequences of zeroes and ones. But when a great event synchronizes the feelings of millions of people, our network of RNGs becomes subtly structured. We calculate one in a trillion odds that the effect is due to chance. The evidence suggests an emerging noosphere or the unifying field of consciousness described by sages in all cultures.

The Global Consciousness Project is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration of scientists and engineers. We collect data continuously from a global network of physical random number generators located in up to 70 host sites around the world at any given time. The data are transmitted to a central archive which now contains more than 15 years of random data in parallel sequences of synchronized 200-bit trials generated every second.

Our purpose is to examine subtle correlations that may reflect the presence and activity of consciousness in the world. We hypothesize that there will be structure in what should be random data, associated with major global events that engage our minds and hearts.

Subtle but real effects of consciousness are important scientifically, but their real power is more immediate. They encourage us to make essential, healthy changes in the great systems that dominate our world. Large scale group consciousness has effects in the physical world. Knowing this, we can intentionally work toward a brighter, more conscious future.

Wow another cool signal of sailing to come.

The America's Cup AC75 boat concept revealed.

Here it is! The ground-breaking new #americascup class race boat concept. The #AC75 is the bold new high performance fully foiling monohull.: “Once foiling, the AC75 has the potential to be faster than an AC50 both upwind and downwind.”

For anyone interested in what autism is - this 14 min TED talk is a wonderful summary of the history of the research.

Steve Silberman: The forgotten history of autism

Decades ago, few pediatricians had heard of autism. In 1975, 1 in 5,000 kids was estimated to have it. Today, 1 in 68 is on the autism spectrum. What caused this steep rise? Steve Silberman points to “a perfect storm of autism awareness” — a pair of doctors with an accepting view, an unexpected pop culture moment and a new clinical test. But to really understand, we have to go back further to an Austrian doctor by the name of Hans Asperger, who published a pioneering paper in 1944. Because it was buried in time, autism has been shrouded in misunderstanding ever since.

Please Support a Kickstarter for Apprenticing Creative Self-Employment For Adults With Autism

As a social enterprise - theSpace offers members is an  apprenticeship for creative self-employment, as well as for building generative community that supports more effective autonomy and self-advocacy.

​We have pledges for almost 85% of our goal and we have 6 days left in the Campaign. If we don't reach our goal we won't receive the funds already pledged - Any Support will help.

Right now we are at a critical juncture---and after a first year in operation (as of February 2018)--where we need to ensure that we can pay our monthly rent, while continuing to increase our core group of members...and become even more sustainable, as we grow our membership and reputation!
We anticipate that by this time next year...if we can continue to grow at this rate---that we will be completely sustainable !

More information on theSpace can be found on our website