Thursday, May 31, 2018

Friday Thinking 1 June 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



the Danes keep the financial sharks at bay, so to speak: most of the major Danish corporations, such as Carlsberg, LEGO, and Novo Nordisk, are controlled by foundations. One figure put the number of such Danish companies at over 1300, with the publicly-traded ones comprising about two-thirds of the total market capitalization of the Copenhagen Stock Exchange. This can help them to do better for all, instead of grabbing more for the few. In 2015, the Harvard Business Review named the CEO of Novo Nordisk the best-performing CEO in the world… and he was one of the lowest paid among the top candidates! Does he suffer? Maybe he hides a Maserati in his garage while cycling to work, thus helping to keep the country in balance.

Nothing is rotten in the state of Denmark

… artist Moon Ribas. She has vibration actuators, driven by seismic data from around the world, implanted in her calves. This allows her to feel seismic activity as a new, synthetic internal sense (she said it feels like having a second heartbeat). Ribas uses the sensors to put on dance performances, real-earth-time interpretive dances based on what she's feeling. She said something very insightful: becoming a cyborg makes her feel closer to nature, not closer to machines. Certainly, she puts new meaning into the mythological figure of an Earth Mother, which occurs in several cultures.

The idea of adding a new sense to your body, especially one that's a new kind of internal clock, really blurs the distinction between chronos and kairos. I don't particularly want to be a seismic Earth Mother myself, but imagine being attuned to other sorts of external processes. Altering the information environment/base layer of your cognition viscerally, through implants that pipe new sensory realities directly into your subsymbolic brain.

It used to be that there were sharp distinctions between internal and external clocks, kairos and chronos, individual time and social time, sensed time and read time. The very coherence of our identities and streams of consciousness rests on such distinctions. What happens when you mess with this stuff? Well, if you do it badly, obviously all sorts of ugly things could happen, but what if you did it well?

You'd get what I think of as stream time. Where your consciousness and subjective identity get their coherence from an augmented sensory body. Perhaps your consciousness is not co-extensive with your body (proprioception) but instead is grounded in some harmonious assemblage of your own sensory capabilities, some eclectic mix of spidey-senses, and some function of the biophysical states of close friends. Moon Ribas showed off several such "consciousness concepts" so to speak, that she's exploring with collaborators.

Kairos and Chronos through the last century.

Poeppel is more than a gadfly attacking the status quo: Recently, his laboratory used real-world behavior to guide the design of a brain-activity study that led to a surprising discovery in the neuroscience of speech.

Critiques like Poeppel’s go back for decades. In the 1970s, the influential computational neuroscientist David Marr argued that brains and other information processing systems needed to be studied in terms of the specific problems they face and the solutions they find (what he called a computational level of analysis) to yield answers about the reasons behind their behavior. Looking only at what the systems do (an algorithmic analysis) or how they physically do it (an implementational analysis) is not enough. As Marr wrote in his posthumously published book, Vision: A Computational Investigation into the Human Representation and Processing of Visual Information, “… trying to understand perception by understanding neurons is like trying to understand a bird’s flight by understanding only feathers. It cannot be done.”

How Brain Waves Surf Sound Waves to Process Speech

Walking through any city in the US, you may not notice the evidence of centuries of technological progress around you. From the power lines snaking above to the people tapping away on their smartphones to the water running through pipes underground, it’s all just part of day-to-day life.

Though most of us don’t see it, getting to this point has taken decades of innovation, iteration, and trial and error. But in developing countries, particularly African ones, millions of people are skipping the technological evolution process, leapfrogging over now-obsolete technologies and going straight to modern fixes. As a bonus, these often happen to be green, sustainable, and relatively cheap.

Here are a few of the industries where leapfrogging tech is having the biggest impact on peoples’ lives.

Leapfrogging Tech Is Changing Millions of Lives. Here’s How

Besides, I agree with much of what Pinker has to say. His book is stocked with seventy-five charts and graphs that provide incontrovertible evidence for centuries of progress on many fronts that should matter to all of us: an inexorable decline in violence of all sorts along with equally impressive increases in health, longevity, education, and human rights. It’s precisely because of the validity of much of Pinker’s narrative that the flaws in his argument are so dangerous. They’re concealed under such a smooth layer of data and eloquence that they need to be carefully unraveled. That’s why my response to Pinker is to meet him on his own turf: in each section, like him, I rest my case on hard data exemplified in a graph.

This discussion is particularly needed because progress is, in my view, one of the most important concepts of our time. I see myself, in common parlance, as a progressive. Progress is what I, and others I’m close to, care about passionately. Rather than ceding this idea to the coterie of neoliberal technocrats who constitute Pinker’s primary audience, I believe we should hold it in our steady gaze, celebrate it where it exists, understand its true causes, and most importantly, ensure that it continues in a form that future generations on this earth can enjoy. I hope this piece helps to do just that.

Steven Pinker’s Ideas of Progress Are Fatally Flawed 8 Graphs on Why

Mary Meeker is world renown for her annual Internet report - it is always worth the view - it is one of the best summaries of the state of the current there is. The link lists key take aways - plus has the ½ hour video presentation - with links to the slide deck.
The speed of technological disruption is accelerating. It took about 80 years for Americans to adopt the dishwasher. The consumer internet became commonplace in less than a decade.

Expect technology to also disrupt the way we work. Just as Americans moved from agriculture to services in the 1900s, employment types will again be in flux. This time, expect more on-demand and internet-related jobs to predominate.

China is catching up as a hub to the world’s biggest internet companies. Currently, China is home to nine of the world’s 20 biggest internet companies by market cap while the U.S. has 11. Five years ago, China had two and the U.S. had nine

Mary Meeker’s 2018 internet trends report: All the slides, plus analysis

Here’s a first look at the most highly anticipated slide deck in Silicon Valley.
It’s that time of year again, when Mary Meeker unloads her highly anticipated internet trends report for the Code Conference crowd in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. This year, the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner released 294 slides in rapid succession, covering everything from smartphone behavior in the U.S. to tech company competition in China.

This is a long report from the Data & Society Research Institute - shedding some light on the current media environment.

The Oxygen of Amplification

The Oxygen of Amplification: Better Practices for Reporting on Extremists, Antagonists, and Manipulators Online draws on in-depth interviews by scholar Whitney Phillips to showcase how news media was hijacked from 2016 to 2018 to amplify the messages of hate groups.

Offering extremely candid comments from mainstream journalists, the report provides a snapshot of an industry caught between the pressure to deliver page views, the impulse to cover manipulators and “trolls,” and the disgust (expressed in interviewees’ own words) of accidentally propagating extremist ideology.
After reviewing common methods of “information laundering” of radical and racist messages through the press, Phillips uses journalists’ own words to propose a set of editorial “better practices” intended to reduce manipulation and harm.

As social and digital media are leveraged to reconfigure the information landscape, Phillips argues that this new domain requires journalists to take what they know about abuses of power and media manipulation in traditional information ecosystems; and apply and adapt that knowledge to networked actors, such as white nationalist networks online.

This work is the first practitioner-focused report from Data & Society’s Media Manipulation Initiative, which examines how groups use the participatory culture of the internet to turn the strengths of a free society into vulnerabilities.

This is an interesting interview that discusses the profound difference in business model for the Internet that Wikimedia illuminates. While the saying - that if you are not paying - than you are the product - doesn’t seem to include more public ways of paying - for instance how we all pay for infrastructure. We pay for Wikipedia via donations provided by the public.
The business model in many ways drives the product and the product decisions. Many of the larger platforms have business models that rely on the incentivization of additional clicks or more time on-site or the extraction of additional data or the creation and modeling of user personas that can be used to sell not just ads on the site but data sets that can be sold to third parties. Those incentive structures, from a product and decision-making standpoint, and privacy policies and all of that are optimized to extract more from users without necessarily optimizing to provide more value to users.
if we — those of us who are invested in stewardship of the internet — want the internet to be a good, healthy, dynamic, ever-growing, rich, meaningful place full of content, it is important that the commons is sustained, because it is often the source of the highest-quality information that exists on the web.

‘There Is No Public Internet, and We Are the Closest Thing to It’

A conversation with Katherine Maher about Wikipedia’s nonprofit structure and what incentive-based media models lack.
How do you view Wikipedia and Wikimedia Foundation’s relationships with the major platforms — Google, Facebook, and so on. How would you characterize it?

For the most part, we grew up independently from most of the major platforms that dominate today. If you look around the biggest ones, we predate, I think, all of them but Google. At least of the ones that trade in knowledge and information. We were created for a very different purpose at a different time. The web that we came into actually had a number of larger collaborative, non-commercialized early projects, some of which still exist, and some of which don’t, that were more community-driven. And we sort of are a legacy of the original spirit of the web, and that’s very much what the Wikimedia Foundation was created to do — to ensure that Wikipedia was preserved as a nonprofit entity, with respect for community governance, and in the public interest and in the public spirit.

And that is a very different business model and incentive structure than most of these other organizations, and I think that sets us apart a little bit. We have different resources, different questions, different challenges, and different accountabilities. Now, over time, I think that the dynamics of the different companies have become more intertwined — in part because there has been increased consolidation in the market. Some of these platforms have found ways to incorporate the content that Wikipedia and Wikimedia, more broadly, offers.

This is a strong signal of a looming possibility of the digital environment - this could be hastened by the current climate that emphasizes a sort of nostalgia for patriarchal social structures and ‘leadership’ control.
The social credit system is actually a collection of blacklists, of which there are more than a dozen at the national level. Each list is based on similar offenses — such as misbehavior on planes and trains, or failing to abide by a court judgment — and determines the punishments people face, from throttling internet speeds to blocking loans.

China's social credit system has blocked people from taking 11 million flights and 4 million train trips

The social credit system in China has blocked people from taking more than 11 million flights and 4 million train trips.

The social credit system is used to punish citizens for bad behavior with numerous blacklists preventing them from traveling, getting loans or jobs, or staying in hotels, and even by limiting internet access.

China intends to roll out a more comprehensive, national social credit system in 2020, which has gained comparisons to the show "Black Mirror."

Many places in the developing world would choose a mobile over an indoor toilet - this is an important signal of a dramatic shift in North American culture - and even more significant once the majority of people realize that if cities provided ubiquitous wifi (paid by taxes) they wouldn’t need ‘phone plans’. Plus this may anticipate the shift to self-driving cars as new forms of public transit (they would really need mobile devices for this).
“Payment priority of cell phones is higher than personal and auto loans and similar to or slightly lower than that of mortgage,” Ram Ahluwalia, the chief executive officer of PeerIQ, a New York-based provider of data and analytics for the consumer lending sector, said in an interview. “Now with Lyft and Uber, you can access transportation via cell phone. The car no longer is a central asset. Technological change is driving shifts in consumer behavior.”

Americans Are Prioritizing Phone Payments Over Car Loans

U.S. consumers are more devoted to their mobile phones than their automobiles.
The sea change has taken place over the last few years as mobile devices become an integral tool not just for communication with loved ones or employers, but also everything from banking to dating to watching TV and listening to music. As cars grow relatively less important, borrowers struggling to pay back their loans on time are increasingly prioritizing payments on the latest iPhone instead of making sure they hold on to their pickup or coupe.

The shift is increasing the attractiveness of bonds generated from mobile-phone loans, a small but growing portion of the asset-backed securities market. While just $7.7 billion of bonds backed by phone purchases have been issued since 2016 -- and all by Verizon Communications Inc. -- the number may increase over coming years.

This is a good signal not only of the inevitable shift in energy geopolitics - but also of the important role that governments must play in accelerating this trajectory - in order to overcome the resistance of incumbents.
A building permit will not be required for charging stations or charging points. Nor will the charging of electric vehicles be regarded as a sale of electric energy under existing legislation

Poland’s Stunning Electromobility Plans

The Polish government has adopted a new law on electromobility aimed to turn Poland into an e-mobility leader in Europe. The country wants to have 1 million EVs on the road by 2025. Already home to electric bus manufacturing plants and a big EV battery plant, Poland is set to become the motor for electrifying transport in Europe. “We are really pioneers”, says Marta GajÄ™cka, Head of Energy Advisors to the President of the Republic of Poland, in an exclusive interview with Energy Post.

At first glance, Poland seems like an unlikely candidate to become an industrial powerhouse based on electric vehicles. The country had only 324 public charging stations available in 2016, compared with around 7,000 in the UK. About 1,068 EVs were sold in 2017, up from 556 in 2016. Contrasting with this apparently unpromising start, the Electromobility Development Plan adopted by the Polish Council of Ministers in 2017 plans for one million EVs on the road by 2025.

The new Act is the first set of rules in Poland on electrifying transport and is intended to promote electromobility and alternative fuel vehicles. It transposes a key European directive [Directive 2014/94/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 October 2014] on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure.

The advent of self-driving transportation is emerging faster than we think - the economics, and safety are driving forces.

Scandinavia gets its first autonomous public buses, but there's a big catch

Autonomous buses should start running on public roads in Norway in June, just don't expect them to be fast.
Mass-transit company Kolumbus in Stavanger, southwestern Norway, has just won the right to run an autonomous bus service on some of the city's public roads. The license is the first granted in Scandinavia, according to the company.

However, the Norwegian ministry of transport and communications-issued license comes with restrictions because current Norwegian legislation doesn't allow for completely driverless vehicles on public roads.

As a result, a Kolumbus employee must always be present on the bus, to manually override the autonomous controls with a brake button if a dangerous situation occurs.

The ministry has also set a maximum speed of 12kph or 7.5mph for the bus, as well as a maximum of six passengers on board at any time.

This is a weak but significant signal of emerging blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies.

The Marshall Islands replaces the US dollar with its own cryptocurrency

The Marshall Islands made its own cryptocurrency, doing away with the US dollar. The government has signed the change into law, making the “sovereign” its new official cryptocurrency, as spotted by CNBC Africa cryptocurrency trader host Ran Neuner on Twitter yesterday.

The bill was signed into effect on March 1st, but the news is making waves again this week. The Marshall Islands’ population is 53,066, so the change doesn’t affect many, but it is significant for citizens of the islands because banks and credit card companies will need to begin accepting it. With the recent change, US dollars are still likely to be accepted on the Marshall Islands — the sovereign will just be considered the nation’s official legal tender.

This is an interesting signal - related to engine design that could impact transportation, electricity generation, industrial applications. To understand the difference in design - read the article.

A New Generation of Axial Flux EV Motors

A startup Belgian company wants to join the EV world with its new axial flux motor design.
With all of the emphasis on lithium ion battery technology for electric vehicles (EVs), it is sometimes easy to forget that the electric motor is the device that actually propels the vehicle. Perhaps that’s because most EVs use motors of similar basic configuration. Now, a company in Belgium has a design that it hopes will change that….

Magnax has spent six years developing its axial flux motors. The design’s dual rotors allow the use of grain-oriented magnetic steel that Magnax claims can lower core losses by as much as 85% for improved efficiency. The company uses a rectangular section copper to wind its stator. This results in a fill factor as high as 90%, again improving efficiency. The stator windings are also in close proximity to the aluminum housing of the motor to enhance cooling. Magnax expects to deliver its first prototypes of its motor at the end of 2018. The company claims the initial motor will have a remarkable power to weight ratio, producing 400 horsepower (300 kilowatts) while only weighing around 50 pounds (22.5 kilograms).

It may seem counter-intuitive to think about how vital data and information are to farming - the taunt is - you can’t eat information. But the hard fact is - you can’t eat without information and knowledge. The emerging urban farm and other similar developments will integrate data, AI, sensors and more in what may be a new agricultural epoch.
"We have this fully connected farm that is ever becoming even more connected," AeroFarms co-founder CEO David Rosenberg told me Tuesday during the Techonomy conference in New York. "That enables us to both manage the farm as well as take information from the farm and send it to the right people to make the most of that data."

Why data is an essential nutrient for AeroFarms crops

Urban agriculture pioneer AeroFarms eschews pesticides and herbicides. It gets away with using considerably less water than traditional growers of the leafy greens in which it specializes — it squeezes out almost 95 percent of what’s traditionally used. But there’s one ingredient it can’t go without: data.

That imperative drove the well-backed startup’s partnership with information technology giant Dell. Two big projects are underway there, within the 70,000-square-foot facility that houses Aerofarms’ ninth indoor farming operation in Newark, New Jersey.

The first initiative uses sensors to track information at virtually every step of the growing process — from seeding to germination to growing to harvesting and packaging — and send it wirelessly to servers where it is closely analyzed. Aerofarms uses that information to improve taste, texture, color, yield and nutrition metrics for its crops, according to a case study published by the two companies.

The second project employs special cameras to track the spectral conditions of the grow trays, and of the lighting technologies crucial for nurturing arugula, kale and mustard greens — products that AeroFarms sells to local supermarkets under the Dream Greens brand. (It nurtures 400 plant varieties.) If something unusual is detected, an alert is sent to a ruggedized tablet computer. The images are also collected and analyzed.

This is an interesting signal - not a new phenomena - but an important possibility.


With the help of a quarter-million video game players, Princeton researchers have created and shared detailed maps of more than 1,000 neurons — and they’re just getting started.
“Working with Eyewirers around the world, we’ve made a digital museum that shows off the intricate beauty of the retina’s neural circuits,” said Sebastian Seung, the Evnin Professor in Neuroscience and a professor of computer science and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute (PNI). The related paper is publishing May 17 in the journal Cell.

Seung is unveiling the Eyewire Museum, an interactive archive of neurons available to the general public and neuroscientists around the world, including the hundreds of researchers involved in the federal Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

“This interactive viewer is a huge asset for these larger collaborations, especially among people who are not physically in the same lab,” said Amy Robinson Sterling, a crowdsourcing specialist with PNI and the executive director of Eyewire, the online gaming platform for the citizen scientists who have created this data set.

“Previous brain atlases didn’t have a function where you could visualize by individual cell, or a subset of cells, and interact with them. Another novelty: Not only do we have the morphology of each cell, but we also have the functional data, too.”

The neural maps were developed by Eyewirers, members of an online community of video game players who have devoted hundreds of thousands of hours to painstakingly piecing together these neural cells, using data from a mouse retina gathered in 2009.

This is fascinating - although it was done in 2014 - and there has been some significant advances since then. This is a 10 min TED Talk
Around 2 min she talks about her experience taking neural chemicals typical of young adult male and how that changed her sense of self.
The rest of the presentation is even more fascinating. For anyone interested in the future of cognitive science and the digital environment - this is well worth the view.

Mary Lou Jepsen: Could future devices read images from our brains?

As an expert on cutting-edge digital displays, Mary Lou Jepsen studies how to show our most creative ideas on screens. And as a brain surgery patient herself, she is driven to know more about the neural activity that underlies invention, creativity, thought. She meshes these two passions in a rather mind-blowing talk on two cutting-edge brain studies that might point to a new frontier in understanding how (and what) we think.

Here is here most recent video.

Mary Lou Jepsen on wearable MRI + holography-based telepathy

Just to illustrate how close this technology is becoming to primetime - this is a good signal of the state of the Art (pun intended) - where the cutting edge of both art and science (with its embodiment of knowledge - technology) is.

Now playing: a movie you control with your mind

Richard Ramchurn’s The Moment lets you play film director, using just your brainwaves.
Usually when you watch a film, you sit back in your chair, eyes trained on a screen, as the story unfolds. It’s a lot different when you watch one of Richard Ramchurn’s latest films.

Ramchurn, a graduate student at the University of Nottingham in Nottingham, England, is an artist and director who has spent the last several years creating films that you can control with your mind—simply by putting on a $100 headset that detects electrical activity in your brain. With this EEG headset on, scenes, music, and animation change every time you watch it, depending on the meanderings of your mind.

Ramchurn’s latest work, a 27-minute avant-garde tale called The Moment that (no surprise) explores a dark future where brain-computer interfaces are the norm, is nearly complete. While finishing up editing work, Ramchurn has started screening it in a small trailer around Nottingham, where six to eight people can sit and view it at once. (Just one of them controls it while the others observe.) He will also show it at a film festival in Sheffield, England, in June.

If you’re wearing the headset, a NeuroSky MindWave, while watching The Moment, it will track your level of attention by measuring electrical activity within a frequency range believed to correspond with attentiveness (though it should be noted that there are doubts about how well devices like this can actually do such tracking). The continually computed score is sent wirelessly to a laptop, where Ramchurn’s specially built software uses it to alter the editing of the scenes, the flow of the background music, and more. You don’t have to move a muscle.

An amazing signal of progress in biological imaging.

Bendy laser beams can examine human tissue like never before

Light-sheet fluorescence microscopy is an exciting new imaging method that harnesses thin sheets of light to make images of large biological samples such as fly and fish embryos, mice and even pieces of human tissue. And its use could lead to less intrusive and more effective diagnosis for patients.

At the University of St Andrews, we have recently utilised the unusual properties of shaped laser beams to get a clearer image deeper inside specimens – using beams that bend and curve round corners and get brighter, rather than dimmer, as they travel.
If you shine a torch at the book the words on the page will be visible, but you'll also see the words in front of and behind the page you're reading – making it extremely difficult to tell which word came from which page. The same problem applies to trying to see inside large samples using fluorescence microscopy.

When read the light-sheet way, the book becomes accessible again simply by holding the torch to the side of the book and shining it across each page separately.

In light-sheet microscopy, a thin sheet of light is sent into the side of the sample which slices right across the part you want to look at. This way, fluorescence is still generated in the plane of interest but not anywhere else and the end result is a crisp, clear image. By making the light-sheet thinner, smaller objects become visable.

This is a strong weak signal (yes that’s an oxymoron) - it’s strong in that this is a real project exploring real potential and weak in that it is research - with a lot of ‘creepiness’ potential. This is definitely worth the read for anyone interested in the trajectory of synthetic biology.

Scientists Kick Off Synthetic Biology Project to Make Virus-Resistant Super Cells

Recently, roughly 200 eminent scientists assembled in Boston. Their agenda? Creating “superhero” human cells impervious to all viral attacks and possibly other killers—radiation, freezing, aging, or even cancer.

The trick isn’t super-soldier serum. Instead, the team is relying on tools from synthetic biology to read the cell’s genetic blueprint and rewrite large chunks of the genome to unlock these superpowers.

“There is very strong reason to believe that we can produce cells that would be completely resistant to all known viruses,” said Dr. Jef Boeke, a geneticist at New York University and a co-leader of the project. “It should also be possible to engineer other traits, including resistance to prions and cancer.”

If realized, these ultra-safe cells would have immediate impact on the biotech industry, which often uses cells to manufacture drugs. Dealing with viral contamination is a billion-dollar problem, one that the industry is eager to crack.
But the team’s main goal isn’t a super-cell. Rather, they’re hoping the project, dubbed “Project Recode,” will develop a whole suite of molecular tools that enable scientists to write their own code into existing genomes—or fabricate entirely new artificial genomes.

This is a strong signal of the changing paradigm toward medical research involving the domestication of DNA.

25 Up and Coming Gene Therapies

Investment, Incentives, and IP Drive Growth in Clinical Development
Gene therapy’s numbers look promising. Additional figures furnished to GEN by Informa show the extent of gene-therapy development: Informa Pharma Intelligence’s Trialtrove database records 729 gene therapies as having been developed, of which nearly two-thirds (461) were preclinical. Those therapies have been assessed in 1,855 clinical trials, most in early phases: 657 in Phase I, 509 in Phase I/II, and 455 in Phase II. As for later development, 89 have reached Phase III, 32 are in Phase II/III, and 28 in Phase IV.

By far the most crowded therapeutic area is oncology, accounting for two-thirds or 1,254 of the 1,855 trials. The next-largest indication is cardiovascular with 214 trials (11.5%), followed by infectious disease (6.5%).

Clinical activity is expected to increase, in part due to the FDA’s Regenerative Medicine Advanced Therapy (RMAT) designation, created through the 21st Century Cures Act. “There are a lot of incentives for sponsors who get RMAT, including early and frequent interactions with the FDA, as well as the ability to discuss early on any potential surrogate or intermediate endpoints in their clinical trials,” Amanda Micklus, principal analyst with Informa Pharma Intelligence, told GEN. “The RMAT designation potentially could really advance the progress of these therapies through the pipeline.”

This signal may invoke some considerable ‘creepy’ reactions.

Hybrid human–chicken embryos illuminate key developmental milestone

A new technique reveals the earliest stages of human development without the need for human embryos.
Before a cluster of cells can develop into an embryo, it must first decide which end is up. But that process had never been observed in humans — until now.

For the first time, researchers have watched human ‘organizer’ cells direct the formation of an embryo’s top, bottom, front and back. They did so by developing a technique that sidesteps restrictions on research with human embryos by grafting human cells onto chicken embryos. The method, published on 23 May in Nature, could supplant the use of human embryos in some laboratory experiments.

Organizer cells were discovered in 1924, during a series of experiments in Germany on salamanders2. A pair of developmental biologists transplanted cells from the back of one salamander embryo onto the front of another, where the cells grew into a second, conjoined salamander. This suggested that certain cells on an embryo’s back could organize their neighbours into the complex array of structures that make up an animal.

Since then, researchers have identified organizer cells in the embryos of many other species. But scientists had never observed such cells guiding early human development. Ethical guidelines and laws in many countries — including the United States — prohibit scientists from experimenting with human embryos more than 14 days old, which is about the time when organizer cells would be likely to appear.

This is a very fascinating signal - art and science have always been entangled on the edge of technology (know-how and instruments) tinkering to bridge to new horizons - in this case we have music, data, and biotechnology.
“While the information stored on a CD or hard disk is a sequence of zeros and ones, biology stores genetic information in a sequence of the four building blocks of DNA: A, C, G and T,” said ETH Zurich’s Professor Robert Glass.

Massive Attack album to be encoded into DNA, because science

Mezzanine was the best-selling album released by English electronic band Massive Attack in 1998, topping the charts in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the UK.

This year, to mark the 20th anniversary, Robert Del Naja and Daddy G (the current members of the group) have collaborated with ETH Zurich to store the album in the form of nucleotides in DNA – a first in using DNA encoding techniques for commercial purposes.

Here’s how it works. The digital audio will be cut down to 15 MB using the Opus music compression format, then arranged in different combinations in order to encode information in a DNA molecule.