Thursday, October 25, 2018

Friday Thinking 26 Oct 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. Work that engages our whole self becomes play that works. Techne = Knowledge-as-Know-How :: Technology = Embodied Know-How  

“Be careful what you ‘insta-google-tweet-face’”
Woody Harrelson - Triple 9



technical engineering dimension is not the only one we should use to compare the proprietary and open models. There is an independent social dimension, where the metrics assess the interactions between people. Does it increase trust? Does it increase the importance that people attach to a reputation for integrity?

It is along this social dimension that open source unambiguously dominates the proprietary model. Moreover, at a time when trust and truth are in retreat, the social dimension is the one that matters.

Jupyter rewards transparency; Mathematica rationalizes secrecy. Jupyter encourages individual integrity; Mathematica lets individuals hide behind corporate evasion. Jupyter exemplifies the social systems that emerged from the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, systems that make it possible for people to cooperate by committing to objective truth; Mathematica exemplifies the horde of new Vandals whose pursuit of private gain threatens a far greater pubic loss–the collapse of social systems that took centuries to build.

Membership in an open source community is like membership in the community of science. There is a straightforward process for finding a true answer to any question. People disagree in public conversations. They must explain clearly and listen to those who response with equal clarity. Members of the community pay more attention to those who have been right in the past, and to those who enhance their reputation for integrity by admitting in public when they are wrong. They shun those who mislead. There is no court of final appeal. The only recourse is to the facts.

Jupyter, Mathematica, and the Future of the Research Paper

In 2016, Romer addressed this, in a way. “The practical insight is that there are two very different types of optimism,” he wrote. “Complacent optimism is the feeling of a child waiting for presents. Conditional optimism is the feeling of a child who is thinking about building a treehouse. ‘If I get some wood and nails and persuade some other kids to help do the work, we can end up with something really cool.'”

Romer’s work, summarized in what’s become known as endogenous growth theory, suggests that human ingenuity has allowed us to extract ever more value from a limited amount of resources. “We make progress because of things that people do,” he wrote. “We should encourage people to do a lot more of whatever it is that they are doing to generate progress.”

At the same time, however, we should find ways of discouraging people from doing things that harm the planet, such as putting out emissions from burning fossil fuels. One solution, Romer writes, is to impose a “very low” tax on emissions that will rise gradually over time.

Romer doesn’t have patience for pessimism. “The danger with the very alarmist portraits—for which there is real basis—is that it will make people apathetic and hopeless,” he said during the Nobel Prize conference. “My sense is that optimism is part of what helps motivate people attack a hard problem. Many people think protecting the environment will be so costly and so hard that they just want to ignore the problem or they want to deny it exists.”

Why newest Nobel laureate is optimistic about beating climate change

Since 1980, the global economy has undergone a dramatic transformation, with the globalization of the labor force, the rise of automation, and—above all—the growth of Big Finance, Big Pharma, and Big Tech. The social democratic consensus of the immediate postwar years has given way to a new phase of capitalism that is leaving workers further behind and reshaping the class structure. The precariat, a mass class defined by unstable labor arrangements, lack of identity, and erosion of rights, is emerging as today’s “dangerous class.” As its demands cannot be met within the current system, the precariat carries transformative potential. To realize that potential, however, the precariat must awaken to its status as a class and fight for a radically changed income distribution that reclaims the commons and guarantees a livable income for all. Without transformative action, a dark political era looms.

The Precariat: Today's Transformative Class?

This may interest many - the latest version of Global trends from the UK Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre. (on page 78, 270 & 276 you might find a familiar name). :)
“Resolving the tension between foresight and inherent uncertainty
is the holy grail of sound strategy”
We must learn to think differently and develop the agility to enable continuous adaptation. Creating, inventing, designing, introducing new processes, new ways of thinking, new forms of leadership and management which enable new ideas to be embraced, new technologies to be exploited and integrated, transforming our current system into one which is permanently innovative, adaptable, responsive and proactive. We need to explore new ways of finding answers for future, unforeseeable threats, to be ready to harness fleeting opportunities, and seek new ways to keep on finding answers and opportunities. It means changing the way we think, act, and acquire equipment, exercise command, lead. We are at a paradigm shift in the character of conflict: we need to change the way we do things fundamentally. The future starts today.

Global Strategic Trends The Future Starts Today

Since its inception in 2001, the Global Strategic Trends publication, part of a wider strategic analysis programme led by our Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, has undertaken continuous research to identify the key drivers of change that will shape and reshape our world. This analysis helps Defence, and our cross-government partners, to identify future developments, spot potential disruptions and detect weak signals that need to be evaluated. This helps improve our strategic foresight, offering us the potential to evolve upstream of threats and opportunities. As Dr Hoffman notes, however, there is no predictive holy grail. Like the actual holy grail, though, the synthesis referred to above has never been, and will never be found. Nevertheless, the development of a working long-term view is indispensable to any organisation that seeks to think, invest and act strategically, notwithstanding that the only certainty about the future is its inherent uncertainty. Foresight can prepare us better for an unexpected challenge; agile adaptation will close the gap.

Drawing on analysis from across other government departments, other nations’ governments, business and academia, this sixth edition of Global Strategic Trends focuses on supporting those who are formulating Defence policy, strategy and capability development, making it more relevant and useable. To better explore the range of uncertainty that exists, the illustrative ‘future worlds’ give an insight into alternate, plausible futures and discontinuities. The ‘impact and uncertainty’ analysis helps to quantify how confident we can be in our understanding of the key drivers. Without offering solutions, this work identifies the issues that need to be addressed and so helps us judge where – and perhaps when – we must invest our efforts. We commend it to you.

This is a great signal - while ostensibly about the virtual worlds of gaming - it portends some of the economics of the emerging digital environment. Questions of value and how we value our values, as well as questions of data transparency and new measures of political-sociocultural economics. The former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis spend time as the economist in residence at another gaming company Valve - where he found that realtime data enabled unprecedented economic experiments of real human behavior - rather than ‘math-magical equations supporting economic ideologies’.
The economy that supports EVE is all founded on in-game currency InterStellar Kredit (ISK) and currency-like Pilot License Extensions (PLEXes); PLEXes can be purchased through real-life currency as well. That’s where the economist Guðmundsson comes in. Alongside standard research scientist fare such as writing internal reports, he has to occasionally intervene to prevent inflation and unintended market consequences. Because PLEXes are tangentially related to the actual, real-life global economy, he helps CCP build protocols for when real life intrudes into the virtual game economy.

Meet The Alan Greenspan Of Virtual Currency In “EVE Online”

In a libertarian pirate paradise, Eyjolfur “Eyjo” Guðmundsson is a virtual economist charged with overseeing scams, spying, hacks, and attacks–without necessarily stopping them.
Eyjolfur “Eyjo” Guðmundsson, an academic, a gaming buff, and an in-house economist for CCP Games, describes his job as being just like “a research scientist for a central bank.” Except his bank and its currency don’t exist in the real world.

Guðmundsson oversees the function of InterStellar Kredit (ISK), the in-game money for EVE Online, a science fiction-themed game world whose average player spends three hours a day online. Approximately 500,000 users worldwide use the platform to constantly plot, scheme, and attack each other in ways that would make the NSA and CIA proud. The game’s creators, Iceland-based CCP Games, built an online environment so complicated it requires a real-life security squad and even official, in-game economists–like Guðmundsson. They watch and learn tactics of the biggest rascals so they can take that knowledge into the broader virtual world. While the CIA was worrying about World of Warcraft being used for money laundering, EVE players were busy committing virtual currency fraud to defeat their online rivals.

Part of EVE‘s appeal is its immense complexity and offering a sandbox where players can behave completely awfully to other players. While Warcraft and other massive multiplayer games such as Starcraft II are designed to be intuitive and draw a player into a world whose complexity and subtlety matches the time investments they put into a game, EVE throws players into the deep end of the pool. CCP representatives told me a significant percentage of the game’s players work in IT, and it shows: The company makes a game API available for developers to build on, and EVE‘s player base has largely moved beyond traditional mods to make amazingly complicated add-on tools.

This is a worrisome signal consistent with the state of growing inequality in the world - however, there is serious initiatives being undertaken to find ways to bring the Internet to everyone - including Google’s Project Loon.
Beyond missing out on economic opportunities, people who are unconnected are cut off from online public debates, education, social groups and the means to access digital government services such as filing taxes and applying for ID cards. “As our daily lives become increasingly digital, these offline populations will continue to be pushed farther to the margins of society,” the report states.

Exclusive: dramatic slowdown in global growth of internet access

Report showing dramatic decline in internet access growth suggests digital revolution will remain a distant dream for billions of people
The growth of internet access around the world has slowed dramatically, according to new data, suggesting the digital revolution will remain a distant dream for billions of the poorest and most isolated people on the planet.

The striking trend, described in an unpublished report shared with the Guardian, shows the rate at which the world is getting online has fallen sharply since 2015, with women and the rural poor substantially excluded from education, business and other opportunities the internet can provide.

The slowdown is described in an analysis of UN data that will be published next month by the Web Foundation, an organisation set up by the inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The data shows that growth in global internet access dropped from 19% in 2007 to less than 6% last year.

An important signal about the emerging situation of our information being used by everyone except us - unless we are willing to accept conditions of reciprocal accountability. This is well worth the read.
Writing in support of the court order to use the Nest camera footage in its investigation, U.S. Postal Service investigator Randall Berkland said TLO allowed users to research virtually anyone in the United States. Berkland would know: He’d used the tool extensively to investigate several crimes. And, he added, “Users would have unlimited access and resources to commit identity theft and fraud.”

“The opportunity for misuse is massive,” says Cooper Quintin, a technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for Internet civil rights. “Even if one were to require a court order for access to this database it could still be stolen by hackers, spies or rogue employees and used for illegal and harmful purposes.”

Among its biggest government clients are the Department of Justice, the Secret Service and the U.S. Navy. A license for a single user costs less than $1,500 a month.

How An Amateur Rap Crew Stole Surveillance Tech That Tracks Almost Every American

From January to June 2018, seven members of Da Boss’ gang pleaded guilty to various identity theft charges. In total they had caused about $1.2 million in damage, using stolen identities to buy luxury cars and iPhones and to lease apartments in Charlotte. Both they and their crimes would have been quickly forgotten as garden variety larceny were it not for the way they stole those identities.

Cops alleged Da Boss and his co-conspirators had access to the Holy Grail for any Internet-age scam artist: a surveillance technology that police and debt collectors use to track most of the United States’ 325 million inhabitants via their Social Security numbers, license plates, address histories, names and dates of birth. The mass-monitoring tech, called TLO, is a product of the Chicago-based credit reporting giant TransUnion, which last year had revenues of nearly $1.9 billion. One brochure for the service promises access to a startling amount of personal data drawn from myriad sources: more than 350 million Social Security numbers of dead and living Americans, 225 million employment histories and four billion address records. Add to that billions of vehicle registrations and call records and you have one of the largest commercial surveillance databases in existence.

It’s used not just by cops but also by debt collectors and private companies carrying out background checks. Private investigators use it to track cheating spouses. But in the wrong hands it can be used to steal the identity of almost anyone in America. And Da Boss and his crew got access to it.

This is a another good signal heralding the emergence of another computational paradigm and perhaps another era of Moore’s Law is on the horizon.
“Our work shows that quantum circuits are computationally more powerful than classical ones of the same structure,” Robert König, a complexity theorist at the Technical University of Munich and lead author of the paper, told me in an email. “We are not saying that the problem cannot be solved classically. It can, though this requires more resources.”

Researchers Finally Proved Quantum Computers are More Powerful Than Classical Computers

Until this week, there was no conclusive proof that quantum computers have an advantage over classical computers.
For the first time, an international team of researchers has proven that quantum computers offer a computational advantage over classical computers.

As detailed in a paper published Thursday in Science, the researchers designed a quantum circuit that was able to solve a math problem that would be impossible for a classical computer to solve when subject to the same constraints.

The team was able to achieve quantum advantage due to “nonlocality,” a feature of spatially isolated quantum systems that allows them to be considered a single system: a change in one system instantaneously results in a change in another.
Qubits are the quantum analog of bits in a classical computer, except rather being either a one or a zero, qubits can be in a “superposition” of both states at the same time.

This is one more signal in the transformation of our understanding of evolution - that perhaps evolution can enable faster evolutions as evolution increases complexity. A key implication is that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are as ‘natural’ as other organisms - domesticating DNA may be a key survival tool in the event of a new viral form of life arising in the ‘wild’. Or even staying just ahead of rapidly evolving pathogens.
“We had assumed that transduction occurred at rates analogous to dial-up internet,” said John Chen, an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the National University of Singapore and a lead co-author on this study. “But it appears that in some cases, transduction rates are more akin to broadband.” Their results not only suggest that transduction makes horizontal gene transfer much more common, but also that this bacterial internet might have been shaped by selection for the benefit of both bacteria and the viruses called bacteriophages.

A bacteriophage has another option, too: Its genes can slip into the bacterium’s genome unnoticed and lie in wait. Known as a prophage, this stretch of foreign DNA can persist for generations before activating. Approximately half of all sequenced bacteria contain a prophage, and many house more than one.
A complete set of genes can be delivered to a bacterial cell that’s never seen it before, bypassing millions or even a billion years of evolution in a second.
“We now understand that much larger blocks of the genome are hypermobile,”

‘Broadband’ Networks of Viruses May Help Bacteria Evolve Faster

A newly discovered mechanism may enable viruses to shuttle genes between bacteria 1,000 times as often as was thought — making them a major force in those cells’ evolution.
Bacteria have a sneaky evolutionary advantage: their own version of the internet for swapping survival solutions. It’s a living network of viruses that can shuttle genetic information between unrelated cells. Known as transduction, this process is one of the ways that bacteria can bypass the generation-by-generation plodding of vertical inheritance and instead share information horizontally, enabling genes slowly shaped by natural selection to enter a new population in an instant.

Scientists have known this transduction network must influence bacterial evolution across the sweep of centuries, but they presumed its short-term impact might be limited because transduction events seemed rare. A study published last week in Science, however, discovered a new mechanism of transduction that occurs 1,000 times more often, and that may accelerate bacterial evolution to a similar degree. Transduction may in fact be a central force in bacterial evolution.

This may seem like a mind-boggling signal - but it’s one well worth tracking - if this proves successful - how many more ‘Moons’ or even Suns may be possible? What other possible satellites and what other purposes may be possible?
I had just finished a short story called Sun of China by Cixin Liu (he is the first Chinese Sci Fi writer translated into english - his wonderful trilogy “Three Body Problem” is highly recommended) - which was all about a technology that created a second sun to help shape climate on earth - then I saw this article. The story is in his collection of short stories called The Wandering Earth.

Why a City in China Wants to Launch an Artificial Moon Into Space

A Chinese city has hatched a plan to launch an artificial moon into space within the next two years, according to a new report.
Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province, has proposed a plan to launch an artificial moon, or illumination satellite, into space, Asia Times is reporting. The moon would be eight times brighter than the Earth’s actual moon, creating an opportunity for the streets of Chengdu to be illuminated by the satellite instead of street lights.

According to local reports picked up by the Asia Times, the city has been evaluating the technology behind an artificial moon for years and has tested it enough to feel it’s ready for launch. The artificial moon is made from a reflective coating that can aim the sun’s light back to Earth and cover a span of 6 miles to 50 miles. Officials on the ground can control the diameter of the light to ensure it focuses precisely on the city and nowhere else, according to the report.

If Chengdu can get approval for the artificial moon and actually launch it in space in the next couple of years, the city is hopeful it’ll help it save money on illuminating its streets. The city also believes that tourists would be more likely to visit and see how the moon works during the night, according to the report.

However, you won’t necessarily need to travel to Chengdu to see it: according to the reports, astronomers with telescopes should be able to see it anywhere on the globe.

This is a fascinating signal for a potential metabolic science and economy.


Scientists have created micron-sized spheres built to catch and destroy bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic chemical used to make plastics.
BPA is commonly used to coat the insides of food cans, bottle tops, and water supply lines, and was once a component of baby bottles. While BPA that seeps into food and drink is considered safe in low doses, scientists suspect prolonged exposure affects the health of children and contributes to high blood pressure.

The good news is that reactive oxygen species (ROS)—in this case, hydroxyl radicals—are bad news for BPA. Inexpensive titanium dioxide releases ROS when triggered by ultraviolet light. But because oxidating molecules fade quickly, BPA has to be close enough to attack.

Cyclodextrin is a benign sugar-based molecule often used in food and drugs. It has a two-faced structure, with a hydrophobic (water-avoiding) cavity and a hydrophilic (water-attracting) outer surface.

BPA is also hydrophobic and naturally attracted to the cavity. Once trapped, ROS the spheres produce degrades BPA into harmless chemicals.
In the lab, researchers determined that 200 milligrams of the spheres per liter of contaminated water degraded 90 percent of BPA in an hour, a process that would take more than twice as long with unenhanced titanium dioxide.

From understand an ‘natural broadband’ used by bacteria and viruses - to programmable DNA - the possibility space expands exponentially or even more.
For example, a cell’s inflammatory response and its adaptive immune response trigger different signal patterns of the transcription factor NFkB.  A pill could be programmed to recognize just one of these and release its payload accordingly.

DNA-based molecular computing will pave the way for programmable pills

Molecular circuitry offers a better way to measure, and potentially harness, cellular signaling mechanisms.
Scientists have long known that living cells use a complex system of signals to sense their environment and to transmit this information internally and to their neighbors. Specific signaling molecules, their concentration, and the way this changes over time are some of the factors that go into this system.

Enter Jackson O’Brien and Arvind Murugan at the University of Chicago. These guys have developed a way to measure changes in molecular signals using a powerful form of molecular computation. They say their approach creates the building blocks for a new way to study and exploit cell signaling: “Our work lays the foundation for temporal pattern recognition through analog molecular computation.”

The emerging technology behind O’Brien and Murugan’s work is a form of DNA computing that synthetic biologists have great hopes for. The process is based on the way that one piece of single-strand DNA can displace another in a double-strand DNA, a technique that can be precisely controlled using well developed tools

These tools can precisely control the rate and reversibility of these “displacement strand reactions” over many orders of magnitude. So this creates switch-like behavior—the reaction is either on and off. And combining several different switches makes logic operations possible.

Another signal of domesticating DNA and improving life expectancy via replacing diseased or damaged organs - perhaps eventually growing better organs.
"We were amazed to see that our engineered tissue had both the structure and function of a healthy oesophagus, and hooked up with nearby blood vessels within a week of transplantation."
"This is a major step forward for regenerative medicine, bringing us ever closer to treatment that goes beyond repairing damaged tissue and offers the possibility of rejection-free organs and tissues for transplant."

Lab-grown oesophagus implanted in mice

Scientists in London have grown a bio-engineered oesophagus which was successfully implanted into mice.
The work, published in Nature Communications, was led by scientists at UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (ICH), Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and the Francis Crick Institute.

The team hopes the research could eventually lead to clinical trials of lab-grown food pipes for children born with part of their oesophagus damaged or missing.
The oesophagus is a complex, multi-layered organ, made up of multiple tissue types, which acts as a pipe carrying food and liquid from the mouth to the stomach.

The team used a rat oesophagus, which was stripped of its cells, leaving behind a collagen scaffold.
They seeded it with early-stage muscle and connective tissue from mice and humans, and other early rat cells which went on to form the lining on the inside of the organ.
The use of stem cells from different species enabled researchers to differentiate between the origin of each tissue type which developed.

Ever since I did a speed-reading course - I’ve realized that font, and sentence length can have a significant impact of not just the speed of our reading - but the comfort, comprehension and Pleasure of our reading. My question is why has there not been significant research on the best font and style for reading pleasure, comprehension and speed? This is a key technology of knowledge management - especially in this time of accelerating pace of knowledge creation.
Here’s one signal in that direction
“The mind will naturally seek to complete those shapes and so by doing that it slows the reading and triggers memory,”

Font of all knowledge? Researchers develop typeface they say can boost memory

Researchers say font, which slants to the left and has gaps in each letter, can aid recall
Australian researchers say they have developed a new tool that could help students cramming for exams – a font that helps the reader remember information.

Melbourne-based RMIT University’s behavioural business lab and design school teamed up to create “Sans Forgetica”, which they say uses psychological and design theories to aid memory retention.

About 400 university students have been involved in a study that found a small increase in the amount participants remembered – 57% of text written in Sans Forgetica compared with 50% in a plain Arial.

This is an interesting signal that will bring many possibilities to make Virtual Reality much more Actual. There’s a 2 min video.

Lightweight Glove Allows Virtual Objects to Be Touched

The glove only weighs around 40 grams and can be powered by a small battery. It's also the first step towards a full-body VR suit, which paves the way for holodeck-like experiences eventually.
There are many hurdles virtual reality needs to overcome before we start getting experiences on a par with the holodeck from Star Trek. One of those hurdles is feedback and the ability to experience a virtual world through touch. A research team in Switzerland believes it has the answer, though, and a glove to prove it.

As ETHZ reports, a research team from EPFL in Lausanne and ETH in Zurich have developed a very lightweight haptic feedback glove. Weighing in at just 40 grams (8 grams per finger), the glove allows the wearer to touch and hold virtual objects.

Sensitivity is high enough (up to 40 Newtons of resistance per finger) that the glove can simulate holding a hard object such as a coffee cup right down to a soft object such as a sponge. As the glove only uses 200 Volts and a few milliwatts of power to function, it will be possible to provide power via a small battery.

And here’s another signal of the emerging world of AI-ssistance augmenting and enhancing human capability and even creativity.
“When you’re playing it, it’s this really awesome experience where, occasionally, it will feel like it’s sort of reading your mind and play the exact note you’re intending to,” he says. “And then other times, it will completely disobey you but still do something reasonable.”

Google’s AI-powered Piano Genie lets anyone improvise perfectly by bashing buttons

Machine learning is enabling some brilliant things in art and music. The latest example, from Google’s creative research team Magenta, is the Piano Genie — an AI program that lets you improvise fluently on the piano by simply bashing away at eight buttons.

The team behind Piano Genie was inspired by Guitar Hero, a game that also simplifies how to play an instrument. They didn’t want users to just tap along to prewritten songs, but to make up pieces of melody on the fly instead. To enable this, they trained an AI program on a huge dataset of classical piano music, teaching it to predict what notes follow each other the same way your phone’s predictive text function guesses what you’ll write next. (You can also try out a web version for yourself here