Thursday, February 8, 2018

Friday Thinking 9 Feb. 2018

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




….consider the cases where machine-learning-based AI has gone wrong. It was bad when Google Photos identified black men as gorillas. It can be devastating when AI recommends that black men be kept in jail longer than white men for no reason other than their race. Not to mention autonomous military weapon systems that could deliver racism in airborne explosives.

To help ameliorate such injustices, the European Parliament’s has issued the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that is often taken to stipulate a “right to explanation” for algorithms that “significantly affect” users.[1] This sounds sensible. In fact, why not simply require all AI systems be able to explain how they came to their conclusions?

The answer is not only that this can be a significant technical challenge[2], but that keeping AI simple enough to be explicable can forestall garnering the full value possible from unhobbled AI. Still, one way or another, we’re going to have to make policy decisions governing the use of AI — particularly machine learning — when it affects us in ways that matter.

One approach is to force AI to be artificially stupid enough that we can understand how it comes up with its conclusion. But here’s another: Accept that we’re not always going to be able to understand our machine’s “thinking.” Instead, use our existing policy-making processes — regulators, legislators, judicial systems, irate citizens, squabbling politicians — to decide what we want these systems optimized for. Measure the results. Fix the systems when they don’t hit their marks. Celebrate and improve them when they do.

We should be able to ask for explanations when we can. But when we can’t, we should keep using the systems so long as they are doing what we want from them.

For, alas, there’s no such thing as a free explanation.

Optimization over Explanation

The Silk Road was established during the Han dynasty, beginning around 130 B.C. Markets and trading posts were strung along a loose skein of thoroughfares that ran from the Greco-Roman metropolis of Antioch, across the Syrian desert, through modern-day Iraq and Iran, to the former Chinese capital of Xian, streamlining the transport of livestock and grain, medicine and science. In 2013, President Xi Jinping announced that the Silk Road would be reborn as the Belt and Road Initiative, the most ambitious infrastructure project the world has ever known—and the most expensive. Its expected cost is more than a trillion dollars. When complete, the Belt and Road will connect, by China’s accounting, sixty-five per cent of the world’s population and thirty per cent of global G.D.P. So far, sixty-eight countries have signed on.

If bridges, pipelines, and railroads are the arteries of the modern world, then China is positioning itself as the beating heart. Since 2013, it has loaned about forty billion dollars a year to developing countries, according to David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Some analysts worry that China is delivering the money without the World Bank’s required protections for the environment and for people uprooted by major infrastructure projects. Nevertheless, Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore, said that he and other leaders in the region embrace the benefits. “The Chinese are going to grow their influence,” he said, at a recent session of the Council on Foreign Relations. “And this is one coherent framework within which the Asian countries—Central Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian—can participate in this.”

the phrase “Belt and Road” obscures more than it clarifies: the “belt” will be composed of land routes running from China to Scandinavia, the Iberian Peninsula, and the Middle East; the “road” refers to shipping lanes connecting China to Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.


To work on hard problems, to seek other ways of looking at things — in the end, for people who strive to make these collaborations work, there’s nothing better. “I think that that is the joy of being a scientist: That first and foremost we learn,” Bettencourt says. “And then we may, if we’re lucky and have discovered enough, come up with something new that no one’s quite figured out yet.”

Physicists at the Gate: Collaboration and Tribalism in Science

In 2014 the Pentagon announced its “Third Offset Strategy” to regain its military edge by harnessing a range of technologies including robotics, autonomous systems and big data, and to do so faster and more effectively than potential adversaries. But even its most ardent advocates know that the West may never again be able to rely on its superior military technology. Robert Work, the deputy defence secretary who championed the third offset, argues that the West’s most enduring military advantage will be the quality of the people produced by open societies. It would be comforting to think that the human factor, which has always been a vital component in past wars, will still count for something in the future. But there is uncertainty even about that.

The future of war

This is a long read - but well worth it for anyone interested in the accelerating development of Blockchain - distributed ledger technology. I remember reading somewhere that once we understand that Bitcoin is not a currency - we will be able to grasp it amazing potential. The focus of this article is beyond just Bitcoin and includes the emerging Blockchain developer - Ethereum.
The real promise of these new technologies, many of their evangelists believe, lies not in displacing our currencies but in replacing much of what we now think of as the internet, while at the same time returning the online world to a more decentralized and egalitarian system.

The only blockchain project that has crossed over into mainstream recognition so far is Bitcoin, which is in the middle of a speculative bubble that makes the 1990s internet I.P.O. frenzy look like a neighborhood garage sale. And herein lies the cognitive dissonance that confronts anyone trying to make sense of the blockchain: the potential power of this would-be revolution is being actively undercut by the crowd it is attracting, a veritable goon squad of charlatans, false prophets and mercenaries. Not for the first time, technologists pursuing a vision of an open and decentralized network have found themselves surrounded by a wave of opportunists looking to make an overnight fortune. The question is whether, after the bubble has burst, the very real promise of the blockchain can endure.

For all their brilliance, the inventors of the open protocols that shaped the internet failed to include some key elements that would later prove critical to the future of online culture. Perhaps most important, they did not create a secure open standard that established human identity on the network. Units of information could be defined — pages, links, messages — but people did not have their own protocol: no way to define and share your real name, your location, your interests or (perhaps most crucial) your relationships to other people online.

What Nakamoto ushered into the world was a way of agreeing on the contents of a database without anyone being “in charge” of the database, and a way of compensating people for helping make that database more valuable, without those people being on an official payroll or owning shares in a corporate entity. Together, those two ideas solved the distributed-database problem and the funding problem. Suddenly there was a way of supporting open protocols that wasn’t available during the infancy of Facebook and Twitter.

Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble

Yes, it’s driven by greed — but the mania for cryptocurrency could wind up building something much more important than wealth
Ethereum belongs to the same family as the cryptocurrency Bitcoin, whose value has increased more than 1,000 percent in just the past year. Ethereum has its own currencies, most notably Ether, but the platform has a wider scope than just money. You can think of my Ethereum address as having elements of a bank account, an email address and a Social Security number. For now, it exists only on my computer as an inert string of nonsense, but the second I try to perform any kind of transaction — say, contributing to a crowdfunding campaign or voting in an online referendum — that address is broadcast out to an improvised worldwide network of computers that tries to verify the transaction. The results of that verification are then broadcast to the wider network again, where more machines enter into a kind of competition to perform complex mathematical calculations, the winner of which gets to record that transaction in the single, canonical record of every transaction ever made in the history of Ethereum. Because those transactions are registered in a sequence of “blocks” of data, that record is called the blockchain.

The whole exchange takes no more than a few minutes to complete. From my perspective, the experience barely differs from the usual routines of online life. But on a technical level, something miraculous is happening — something that would have been unimaginable just a decade ago. I’ve managed to complete a secure transaction without any of the traditional institutions that we rely on to establish trust. No intermediary brokered the deal; no social-media network captured the data from my transaction to better target its advertising; no credit bureau tracked the activity to build a portrait of my financial trustworthiness.

And the platform that makes all this possible? No one owns it. There are no venture investors backing Ethereum Inc., because there is no Ethereum Inc. As an organizational form, Ethereum is far closer to a democracy than a private corporation. No imperial chief executive calls the shots. You earn the privilege of helping to steer Ethereum’s ship of state by joining the community and doing the work. Like Bitcoin and most other blockchain platforms, Ethereum is more a swarm than a formal entity. Its borders are porous; its hierarchy is deliberately flattened.

Here’s a report from the World Economic Forum on the Future of Work - the pdf of the report is downloadable for free.

Towards a Reskilling Revolution

As the types of skills needed in the labour market change rapidly, individual workers will have to engage in life-long learning if they are to achieve fulfilling and rewarding careers. For companies, reskilling and upskilling strategies will be critical if they are to find the talent they need and to contribute to socially responsible approaches to the future of work. For policy-makers, reskilling and retraining the existing workforce are essential levers to fuel future economic growth, enhance societal resilience in the face of technological change and pave the way for future-ready education systems for the next generation of workers.

Yet while there has been much forecasting on transformations in labour markets, few practical approaches exist to identifying reskilling and job transition opportunities. Towards a Reskilling Revolution: A Future of Jobs for All provides a valuable new tool that will help individual workers, companies, and governments to prioritize their actions and investments. Using big data analytics of online job postings, the methodology in this report demonstrates the power of a data-driven approach to discover reskilling pathways and job transition opportunities. The methodology can be applied to a variety of taxonomies of job requirements and sources of data.

This is an awesome MUST VIEW signal for why Google dominates the gps applications and also signals why it is primed for providing key operating system and data components of the emerging self-driving transportation industries - including delivery (I doubt Amazon is anywhere near this capability and will likely enter into some sort of licence or partnership with Google).


How far ahead of Apple Maps is Google Maps?
Over the past year, we’ve been comparing Google Maps and Apple Maps in New York, San Francisco, and London—but some of the biggest differences are outside of large cities.

Take my childhood neighborhood in rural Illinois. Here the maps are strikingly different, and Apple’s looks empty compared to Google’s:

This is an important signal of the acceleration of science - everywhere.


IN MARCH 2016, Alphabet’s DeepMind research group set a milestone in artificial intelligence when its AlphaGo program defeated professional Go player Lee Sedol, then fifth-ranked in the world, at the complex board game Go.

Now China’s Tencent is claiming a milestone of its own in Go—and China’s ambitions in artificial intelligence. Last week, the company’s Fine Art program defeated China’s top professional Ke Jie, despite giving him a significant head start. Ke recently slipped to number two in the world, after holding the top spot for three years.

Fine Art’s victory won notice in the world of Go because it helps illustrate the gulf that has opened between human and machine players of the complex boardgame.
But it also highlights a shrinking gulf—between AI capabilities in the US and China. In a detailed national strategy for AI released last summer, China set a goal of drawing level with America by 2020, and pulling ahead by 2030. Central, state, and municipal governments are directing money towards AI research and companies.

This is a great article signalling some vitally important emergent concerns for all knowledge workers in the age of entanglement and transdisciplinary collaboration. A key issue - is that we are approaching the limits of what knowledge only based on formal logic can provide - in the age of uncertainty and entanglement we may need conversations that feed multiple ways of reasoning.
“People who are in these disciplines and have been educated in them, and have worked in them for a long time, feel like the barbarians are at the gate,” Bettencourt says. “Here come the physicists who don’t understand the concepts that people have been dealing with —  and start saying things nobody asked for.”

Researcher Tanmoy Bhattacharya, also of the Santa Fe Institute, remembers a meeting between physicists, biologists and linguists. “It was a surprise that it didn’t come to fisticuffs,” he says. “People were actually running around the room.” Fortunately the two groups were separated by a row of tables, “and nobody decided to jump over it.”

“In a sense, physics is the easy science,” says archaeologist Tim Kohler, who is currently working on a border-crossing collaboration. Or as computer scientist and engineer Danny Hillis wrote years ago, “Physicists have learned the lesson that a very simple theory of what is going on is often correct. Biologists have learned the opposite lesson: Simple mathematical theories of biology are usually wrong.”

“Biological and social sciences ask questions that are way beyond anything we have physical theories for,” says Bettencourt. “They’re new problems.”

Physicists at the Gate: Collaboration and Tribalism in Science

DID YOU KNOW THAT most animal species have roughly the same number of heartbeats over the course of their lives? Short-lived creatures’ hearts beat faster, using up their allotment more quickly — mice before humans, humans before elephants — and this universal quality may be the result of the fact that all of our bodies depend on networks of vessels with similar physics. Did you know that as cities grow, the rate of business transactions grows faster than their population, while the number of miles of roads grows slower?  Or that building a network of mysterious genes could help reveal the history of malaria?

All of these findings and more have been made in recent years by researchers reaching across the boundaries of their scientific fields. They are the focus of physicists collaborating with biologists, archaeologists, sociologists, and others, forming teams to look for questions to answer and new ways to describe the world. “Physics is not conceptually super-interesting anymore, not as interesting as biology and evolution and all things social — at least for me,” says Luis Bettencourt, a physicist at the Santa Fe Institute who once studied the origins of the universe and now studies the growth of cities.

In many cases, these new collaborations have been fueled by an explosion of data pouring in from DNA sequencing, cellphone records and other sources, filled with latent patterns that could reveal more about the systems that created them. “It’s an opportunity for people that are fluent with dealing with data, and modeling data” — in other words, certain kinds of physicists — “to come in and say something,” Bettencourt says.

But as physicists sink their teeth into the data, many are finding that entering another field is not simple. As Bettencourt puts it: “Physicists come at it and say, ‘What’s wrong with these people, biologists and social scientists? There’s all this data … Why don’t you just look at the data and see what it tells you about these systems?’

This is a long article but a very worthwhile read for anyone interested in understanding the principles of a network economy.

The Network Effects Manual: 13 Different Network Effects (and counting)

PayPal. Microsoft. Facebook. Uber. Twitter. Salesforce. These are some of the most impactful and significant companies in the world.
Each one is very different in a lot of ways, but there’s a single property that defines them all and lies behind their success.

That property is network effects.
Our three-year study, which we released recently, shows that nfx are responsible for 70% of the value created by tech companies since the Internet became a thing in 1994. Even though they are only a minority of companies, companies with nfx end up creating the lion’s share of the value.

Today we are pleased to present the Network Effects Map and accompanying manual for the first time. It’s an ever-evolving effort, and we’re continually making changes and updates. As of early 2018, we’ve identified 13 types, each with their own complex playbook. This manual is a starting point for discussion around nfx, and for understanding those playbooks.

Most major forms of meditation involve the capacity to observe the arising and passing of our breath, our sensations or our thoughts - without reactive involvement - the equanimous observation of our sense of being. This is a fascinating development. What will it mean for our capacity to ‘know ourselves’ in the future?

Neuroscientists Have Followed a Thought as It Moves Through The Brain

We didn't think it was possible.
A study using epilepsy patients undergoing surgery has given neuroscientists an opportunity to track in unprecedented detail the movement of a thought through the human brain, all the way from inspiration to response.

The findings confirm the role of the prefrontal cortex as the coordinator of complex interactions between different regions, linking our perception with action and serving as what can be considered the "glue of cognition".

Previous efforts to measure the passing of information from one area to the other have relied on processes such as electroencephalography (EEG) or functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which, whilenon-invasive, offer less than perfect resolution.

The study led by researchers from the University of California, Berkley, recorded the electrical activity of neurons using a precise technique called electrocorticograhy (ECoG).

Another fascinating development in our understanding of memory, viruses, and biological communication. The 2 min video does a great job of explanation.

Our memory comes from an ancient virus, neuroscientists say

The particulars surrounding how our memory works has baffled neuroscientists for decades. Turns out, it’s a very sophisticated process involving several brain systems. What about on the molecular level? Inside the brain, proteins don’t stick around longer than a few minutes. And yet, our memories can hang on for our entire lifetime.

Recently, an international collaboration of researchers from the University of Utah, the University of Copenhagen, and the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the UK, discovered something strange about a protein called Arc. This is essential to long-term memory formation. What they found was that it has very similar properties to how a virus infects its host. Their findings were published in the journal Cell.

In it researchers write, “The neuronal gene Arc is essential for long-lasting information storage in the mammalian brain, mediates various forms of synaptic plasticity, and has been implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders.” They go on to say, “little is known about Arc’s molecular function and evolutionary origins.”

As a result of the study, researchers now believe that a chance encounter occurring hundreds of millions of years ago, led to Arc’s centrality in our memory function today. Assistant professor of neurobiology Jason Shepherd, Ph.D. of the University of Utah, led this research project. He’s dedicated himself to the study of the protein for the last 15 years.

The potential of phages as a new form of antibacterial technology is not new - but what is, is the use of AI and advances in Gene sequencing to determine and/or create the necessary phage as and when needed.
“We can sequence a phage quickly and say, this is the exact DNA sequence we want,” says Paul Grint, CEO of AmpliPhi Biosciences, a startup that is concocting combinations of phages in advance to treat bacterial infections like Staphylococcus aureus. “Ideally, we want a product that we can take out of the refrigerator and give it to a patient,” he says.

Faced with failing antibiotics, scientists are using killer viruses to fight superbugs

Advances in DNA sequencing and AI could make the idea a more practical treatment option.
Alternatives are desperately needed as more and more bacteria evolve resistance to the drugs we use today. Each year in the US, about two million people become infected with resistant bacteria, and at least 23,000 of those die from their infections.

Resistance is much less likely to develop with phages, because each type of phage infects a specific type of bacteria. Using them to fight infections is an old idea. But until recently, finding the right type of phage was little more than guesswork. Sometimes a doctor would inject a patient with a phage and it would work, and sometimes it wouldn’t.

As a result, phage therapy is now used only for the sickest patients, as a treatment of last resort. But DNA sequencing and artificial intelligence could make finding the right phage much easier, turning the strategy into a more practical treatment option.

This is an interesting signal related to bacterial adaptations against antibiotics and other forms of treatment. Even bacteria struggle to survive.

Berserk leprosy bacteria are wildly mutating to become extremely drug resistant

New method to study the bacteria’s genetics reveals grim situation.
An ancient bacterium known for devastating and disfiguring its victims has turned to frantically ravaging its own genome to maintain its killer status, according to a new study.

Strains of Mycobacterium leprae—the main bacterium behind leprosy*—are hypermutating and becoming extremely drug resistant. Researchers made the alarming discovery in a survey of 154 M. leprae genomes collected from 25 countries. The survey, published recently in Nature Communications, offers a rare genetic glimpse of the ancient, yet cryptic, bacterium, which still manages to cause 200,000 new cases worldwide each year.

The international team of researchers, led by Stewart Cole of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, noted that the hypermutating state “likely favors the emergence of drug resistance.” But, there’s a catch. Because M. leprae already has a concise genome, it also “could be detrimental and ultimately lethal,” he and his team write. Basically, the revved-up mutation rate could haphazardly damage genes essential for survival.

The researchers noted that, in several cases, the XDR strains infected patients over decades, with resistance to individual drugs developing one by one as new drugs were tried.
“Drug resistance is alarming for leprosy control,” the authors note. And their new study dug up completely new mutations that may make bacteria resistant to drugs in never-before-seen ways.

“Our discovery of these mutations... should encourage further experimentation in order to establish their true role and contribution to antimicrobial resistance,” the authors conclude.
*A second leprosy bacterium, Mycobacterium lepromatosis, was discovered in 2008 and has been found infecting red squirrels and humans.

I’ve been waiting for this for the last 10 years - the promise or regrowing out teeth. This isn’t quite that but it may signal that it’s getting closer.

The End Of Root Canals: Stem Cell Fillings Trigger Teeth To Repair Themselves, Research Study Claims

Wouldn't it be great if your teeth could heal themselves without the need of a painful root canal?
What if damaged teeth could heal themselves without the need of a root canal? Apparently, that’s what Harvard and the University of Nottingham are trying to figure out. They believe they can create stem cell stimulated fillings.

Worldwide, dentists treat hundreds of millions of cavities each year by drilling out the decayed part of the tooth and replacing it with a filling. According to Popular Science, the problem is up to 15 percent of those procedures will fail, which will lead to a root canal to remove the tooth’s pulp, a soft tissue in the center of the tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. The downside is, following a root canal, the tooth’s strength is weaker and could eventually need to be removed.

Adam Celiz is a therapeutic biomaterials researcher who believes that stem cells could help reduce the number of root canals and the need for dentures. Celiz and his team developed a new kind of filling that is made from stem cells that can help your tooth heal. Just like regular fillings, the biomaterial stem cells are injected into the tooth and hardened with ultra-violet light.

According to Daily Mail, the research placed second in the materials category of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies Competition in 2016. Applications were judged on the degree of innovation, the potential impact, and the quality of the science behind it.

And computational paradigms continue to advance - where will we be in another decade? Long live Moore’s Law.

NIST's superconducting synapse may be missing piece for 'artificial brains'

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have built a superconducting switch that "learns" like a biological system and could connect processors and store memories in future computers operating like the human brain.

The NIST switch, described in Science Advances, is called a synapse, like its biological counterpart, and it supplies a missing piece for so-called neuromorphic computers. Envisioned as a new type of artificial intelligence, such computers could boost perception and decision-making for applications such as self-driving cars and cancer diagnosis.

A synapse is a connection or switch between two brain cells. NIST's artificial synapse—a squat metallic cylinder 10 micrometers in diameter—is like the real thing because it can process incoming electrical spikes to customize spiking output signals. This processing is based on a flexible internal design that can be tuned by experience or its environment. The more firing between cells or processors, the stronger the connection. Both the real and artificial synapses can thus maintain old circuits and create new ones. Even better than the real thing, the NIST synapse can fire much faster than the human brain—1 billion times per second, compared to a brain cell's 50 times per second—using just a whiff of energy, about one ten-thousandth as much as a human synapse. In technical terms, the spiking energy is less than 1 attojoule, lower than the background energy at room temperature and on a par with the chemical energy bonding two atoms in a molecule.

Here’s another related article about the memristor and potential advances arising from it.

Thanks for the memory: NIST takes a deep look at memristors

In the race to build a computer that mimics the massive computational power of the human brain, researchers are increasingly turning to memristors, which can vary their electrical resistance based on the memory of past activity. Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have now unveiled the long-mysterious inner workings of these semiconductor elements, which can act like the short-term memory of nerve cells.

Just as the ability of one nerve cell to signal another depends on how often the cells have communicated in the recent past, the resistance of a memristor depends on the amount of current that recently flowed through it. Moreover, a memristor retains that memory even when electrical power is switched off.

But despite the keen interest in memristors, scientists have lacked a detailed understanding of how these devices work and have yet to develop a standard toolset to study them.

Now, NIST scientists have identified such a toolset and used it to more deeply probe how memristors operate. Their findings could lead to more efficient operation of the devices and suggest ways to minimize the leakage of current.

Brian Hoskins of NIST and the University of California, Santa Barbara, along with NIST scientists Nikolai Zhitenev, Andrei Kolmakov, Jabez McClelland and their colleagues from the University of Maryland's NanoCenter in College Park and the Institute for Research and Development in Microtechnologies in Bucharest, reported the findings in a recent Nature Communications.

The tricorder is getting ever closer.

Handheld device sequences human genome

They say the feat, detailed in the journal Nature Biotechnology, opens up exciting possibilities for using genetics in routine medicine.
It is a far cry from the effort to sequence the first human genome which started in 1990.

The Human Genome Project took 13 years, laboratories around the world and hundreds of millions of dollars.
Since then there has been a revolution in cracking the code of life.

This is a very interesting signal suggesting an ultimately universal reversal of past criminal records - or at the very least blanket pardons.

SF will wipe thousands of marijuana convictions off the books

San Francisco will retroactively apply California’s marijuana-legalization laws to past criminal cases, District Attorney George Gascón said Wednesday — expunging or reducing misdemeanor and felony convictions going back decades.

The move will affect thousands of people whose marijuana convictions brand them with criminal histories that can hurt chances for finding jobs and obtaining some government benefits.

Proposition 64, which state voters passed in November 2016, legalized the recreational use of marijuana in California for those 21 and older and permitted the possession up to one ounce of cannabis. The legislation also allows those with past marijuana convictions that would have been lesser crimes — or no crime at all — under Prop. 64 to petition a court to recall or dismiss their cases.

Rather than leaving it up to individuals to petition the courts — which is time consuming and can cost hundreds of dollars in attorney fees — Gascón said San Francisco prosecutors will review and wipe out convictions en masse.

Signalling the phase transition in energy geopolitics.

The EU got less electricity from coal than renewables in 2017

For the first time, the European Union generated more electricity from wind, solar and biomass than from coal in 2017, according to new analysis from two thinktanks.
The figures, from London-based Sandbag and Berlin-based Agora Energiewende, are a best estimate, based on near-complete electricity market data from each of the 28 EU member states.

Their report says: “This is incredible progress, considering just five years ago coal generation was more than twice that of wind, solar and biomass.”
Despite this new milestone, EU power sector emissions were unchanged in 2017, the analysis suggests. Low-carbon sources met 56% of demand, a figure that is unchanged since 2014.

One more important signal of the change in energy geopolitics involves the solution of water shortages using renewable (zero marginal cost) energy.

Desalination Orders Flood In

….off grid zero emission electricity for desalination using new technology, process improvements and plants that perform many functions as analysed in the new IDTechEx report, "Desalination: Off Grid Zero Emission 2018-2028". It predicts that, coming from very little in 2018, off grid zero emission desalination, including for brackish water, will be a rapidly growing $35 billion market in 2028. The report looks closely at its roadmap of exciting new desalination and electricity technologies that will boost performance and reduce cost, in particular the two reducing what is often the largest cost element - electricity. Here is some of the progress in the orderbooks for desalination as the problems and solutions rapidly embrace replenishing water tables, lakes and rivers, not just supplying current agricultural, industrial and drinking water needs.

For Example:
The huge population of China is going to get very thirsty as some of its water tables are depleted. The Chinese Government says that, by 2030, the water shortage in China's coastal areas will be 21.4 billion cubic meters a day so it plans three million tonnes of desalinated water a day by 2020. Progress towards this was rapid to 2010, then stalled, most going to industry because domestic price was unacceptable so regional government prevaricated. However, in 2018, China has 131 seawater desalination plants still 66.6% supplying industry. The official view is that, "China will speed up the legislation on seawater utilisation, expand the use of seawater and address public concerns over drinking desalinated water," so no more kicking the (water) can down the road. Beijing plans a quadrupling of seawater desalination to 3.6 billion liters daily by 2020. Meanwhile, just one wastewater project over five years is clocking in at $15 billion. The Chinese Government will ensure China makes its own desalination creating a major exports but it is a long way from doing that.

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