Thursday, January 3, 2019

Friday Thinking 4 Jan 2019

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



Design Thinking is by far the most prevalent of these creative strategies. And yet, too often design is taken to be coterminous with Design Thinking, and Design Thinking is often reduced to a mere method… a set of neat, linear steps that produces “innovative” outcomes. But creative process is often messier than these design pedagogies imply. Every project and every context demands its own refinements and adaptations of process. For this reason, design education must evolve beyond Design Thinking. How might we engage design students across a variety of creative strategies, including but not limited to Design Thinking? How might we help them navigate these various design processes, so that ultimately, they might be able to create their own?

The development of design as a discipline is iterative and ongoing.

Speculative Design is another sibling to Critical Design and Discursive Design. However, Speculative Design is explicitly oriented towards future scenarios. User scenarios are an important method found in many of these design strategies. These kinds of scenarios allow us to imagine things not as they are, but as they might be. They allow us to ask questions. What does the object do? For whom? Where does it do it? When? How does the object do it? And why?


the mind is: “the emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational, that regulates energy and information flow within and among us.” It’s not catchy. But it is interesting, and with meaningful implications.

The most immediately shocking element of this definition is that our mind extends beyond our physical selves. In other words, our mind is not simply our perception of experiences, but those experiences themselves. Siegel argues that it’s impossible to completely disentangle our subjective view of the world from our interactions.

“I realized if someone asked me to define the shoreline but insisted, is it the water or the sand, I would have to say the shore is both sand and sea, You can’t limit our understanding of the coastline to insist it’s one or the other.

Scientists say “mind” isn’t confined to your brain, or even your body

What Project Debater didn’t do was directly engage the criteria set forth by its human opponent. And here’s the thing: if I were in that debate, I wouldn’t have done so either. It’s a strong debating tactic to set the framework of debate, and accepting that framework is often a recipe for losing.

So the question is: did Project Debater simply not understand the criteria, or did it understand and choose not to engage on those terms? Watching the debate, I figured the answer was that it didn’t quite get it, but I wasn’t positive. I couldn’t tell the difference between an AI not being as smart as it could be and an AI being way smarter than I’ve seen an AI be before. It was a pretty cognitively dissonant moment. Like I said, unsettling

What it’s like to watch an IBM AI successfully debate humans

what people are looking for – rather than what people are merely looking at – determines what is obvious. Obviousness is not self-evident. Or as Sherlock Holmes said: ‘There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.’ This isn’t an argument against facts or for ‘alternative facts’, or anything of the sort. It’s an argument about what qualifies as obvious, why and how. See, obviousness depends on what is deemed to be relevant for a particular question or task at hand. Rather than passively accounting for or recording everything directly in front of us, humans – and other organisms for that matter – instead actively look for things. The implication (contrary to psychophysics) is that mind-to-world processes drive perception rather than world-to-mind processes.

This interpretation of the gorilla experiment puts humans centre-stage in perception, rather than relegating them to passively recording their surroundings and environments. It says that what we see is not so much a function of what is directly in front of us (Kahneman’s natural assessments), or what one is in camera-like fashion recording or passively looking at, but rather determined by what we have in our minds, for example, by the questions we have in mind. People miss the gorilla not because they are blind, but because they were prompted – in this case, by the scientists themselves – to pay attention to something else. The question – ‘How many basketball passes’ (just like any question: ‘Where are my keys?’) – primes us to see certain aspects of a visual scene, at the expense of any number of other things.

The fallacy of obviousness

A few weeks ago, a group of researchers from Google’s artificial-intelligence subsidiary, DeepMind, published a paper in the journal Science that described an A.I. for playing games. While their system is general-purpose enough to work for many two-person games, the researchers had adapted it specifically for Go, chess, and shogi (“Japanese chess”); it was given no knowledge beyond the rules of each game. At first it made random moves. Then it started learning through self-play. Over the course of nine hours, the chess version of the program played forty-four million games against itself on a massive cluster of specialized Google hardware. After two hours, it began performing better than human players; after four, it was beating the best chess engine in the world.

How the Artificial-Intelligence Program AlphaZero Mastered Its Games

How does 5G make this possible? Unlike previous generations of mobile technology, which tended to introduce a single novel feature for users (1G let you walk and talk, 2G let you send texts, 3G got you onto the internet, and 4G let you stream), 5G promises a whole suite of dramatic improvements. It uses entirely new wireless infrastructure to achieve speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G and promises to nearly eliminate any processing delays. It will also kick-start the internet of things, since it was designed to connect billions of machines, appliances, and sensors at low cost without draining their batteries.

China is racing ahead in 5G. Here’s what that means

This is a very interesting signal - how gaming not only provides real-time laboratories for economic experiments - but may also serve to develop the new economy type of platforms for distributed ledgers that account for many new ways were we can value our values.

How Blockchain Is Changing Computer Gaming

Ripples of change are starting to spread throughout the $108.9 billion computer gaming industry, as blockchain technology looks set to change core aspects of games enjoyed by 2.2 billion people around the world.

Better security as well as new opportunities and incentives for gamers are just some of the benefits that blockchain can bring to our virtual pastimes.

The developments are getting a boost from both big technology companies and increased funding for startups. Mythical Games provides an excellent example of the latter. The startup came out of stealth in November of this year, announcing a $16 million Series A funding round. The company plans to use the venture capital to develop a line of games on the EOSIO blockchain for PC, mobile, and consoles and create an open environment for developers to build games with “player-owned economies.”

The Japanese internet services company GMO recently announced that its “Bitcoin-based application for in-game rewards” would be released in August, with one game, Whimsical War, already lined up to use the app once it’s launched.
Sony is said to be moving towards using the blockchain for ownership records on the PlayStation Network. A blockchain-based video game is also set to launch for the PlayStation 4 in 2019.

Fortnite creator Epic Games is exploring blockchain and Microsoft is already rolling out a blockchain product that could handle content rights and royalties for the Xbox. Blockchain gaming even had its inaugural summit this autumn.

Facebook seems to be ever creepier aiming to enclose the Internet. This should be of interest to everyone using a smartphone and apps. The 42 min video explains the research and is a Must View.

How Facebook is tracking Android users without a Facebook account

There are literally over a billion people in the world with a Facebook account. There are also many more who do not have a Facebook account or perhaps are deleting their account soon. Given that Facebook has been in the news a lot recently, you too may be thinking about deleting your account. Maybe you’re thinking that once you delete your account Facebook will no longer be able to track you.

New research shows that Android users are still being tracked by Facebook even if they do not have a Facebook account. How are they doing this? Through third-party apps you download from the Google Play Store. This new research says that 42.55% of free apps on the Play Store can share your data with Facebook, even without an account. Among the apps that researchers found could share your data with Facebook are:
KAYAK Flights, Hotels & Cars
Opera Browser
Clean Master
Period Tracker Clue
Candy Crush Saga
Spotify Music
Indeed Job Search

The list is longer than this and each of these apps has been downloaded between 10 and 500 million times. The researchers found that over 61% of the apps they tested automatically transferred data to Facebook the moment the app was opened.

This is a longish presentation 1.6 hours - but a great summary of the work by James Paul Gee in relation to the future of education.

Humans Aren’t Who We Think They Are (They’re a Pretty Poor Lot, Really)

There is today a great deal of controversy over digital and social media. Even leaders in the tech industry are beginning to decry the time young people spend on smart phones and in social networks. To get at the “real” issues here, I want to start with the question: “What is a human being?”. Over the last couple of decades, quite different areas of research have made significant discoveries about the “nature” of human beings. This work, I believe, can give us a deeper understanding of digital and social media and more effective ways to harness them for good. The talk will be followed by a Q & A.

About the Speaker:
James Paul Gee is the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies and Regents’ Professor at Arizona State University. He is a member of the National Academy of Education. His books include: Sociolinguistics and Literacies (Fifth Edition 2015); Situated Language and Learning (2004); An Introduction to Discourse Analysis (Fourth Edition 2014); What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (Second Edition 2007); The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Media (2013); Teaching, Learning, Literacy in Our High-Risk High-Tech World: A Framework for Becoming Human (2017); and Introducing Discourse: From Grammar to Society (2017). Prof. Gee has published widely in linguistics, learning science, literacy studies, digital media, and discourse analysis.

The extended mind concept is truly viable when we consider the digital environment and our extension toward multiple forms of interface with every more inclusive and dense interfaces.

Brain Wave Sensing Robots Can Now Serve as Extensions of the Human Body

In a not-so-distant future, humans could soon control robot avatars with their mind, completely eliminating the need to complete manual labor or even, really, to leave your house. The foundational research for such a concept has already been pulled off by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

Robotics Ph.D. student Joseph DelPreto and his colleagues devised a system that allowed a human and robot named Baxter to collaborate on a multiple choice test using nothing but brain waves. DelPreto told Inverse back in June that his research could mark the beginning of a revolution in how humans dictate how robots act.

Similarly the neuroscience research advances into behavior and psychology.
“The use of real-time decoding and closed-loop control of neural activity will fundamentally transform our studies of the brain,” says study co-author Matthew Wilson, the Sherman Fairchild Professor in Neurobiology at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

Real-time readouts of thinking in rats

New open-source system provides fast, accurate neural decoding and real-time readouts of where rats think they are.
The rat in a maze may be one of the most classic research motifs in brain science, but a new innovation described in Cell Reports by an international collaboration of scientists shows just how far such experiments are still pushing the cutting edge of technology and neuroscience alike.

In recent years, scientists have shown that by recording the electrical activity of groups of neurons in key areas of the brain they could read a rat’s thoughts of where it was, both after it actually ran the maze and also later when it would dream of running the maze in its sleep — a key process in consolidating its memory. In the new study, several of the scientists involved in pioneering such mind-reading methods now report they can read out those signals in real-time as the rat runs the maze, with a high degree of accuracy and the ability to account for the statistical relevance of the readings almost instantly after they are made.

The ability to so robustly track the rat’s spatial representations in real-time opens the door to a whole new class of experiments, the researchers said. They predict these experiments will produce new insights into learning, memory, navigation and cognition by allowing them to not only decode rat thinking as it happens, but also to instantaneously intervene and study the effects of those perturbations.

The emerging human-AI synth-cyborg is coming sooner than we think.
“The promise of machine learning is to augment what a pathologist can do alone,” says Ulysses Balis, director of the division of informatics at the University of Michigan’s pathology department and chief strategy officer of a digital pathology company called Inspirata. “These technologies allow the profession to scale with increased demand.”

The First Frontier for Medical AI Is the Pathology Lab

But before adopting startup PathAI’s tools, doctors must see if they are worth the cost
Trained on vast troves of digitized slides showing an enormous variety of tumors, artificial-intelligence (AI) systems will likely provide more accurate diagnoses than human pathologists, at least on fairly rote diagnostic tasks. They may even pick up on subtle features that the best-trained human eyes could never see. In this crucial, high-stakes branch of medicine, AI tools may soon offer diagnoses—and treatment recommendations—that are as close to infallible as we’re likely to get in the foreseeable future. And they’ll do so in a matter of seconds.

Lately, dazzlingly high success rates for AI-based systems in recognizing the presence of certain specific illnesses have prompted speculation that such tools will replace doctors. But the developments in pathology show us a more likely outcome: that machines will make the ever-increasing complexity of modern medicine manageable for human beings. This human-machine combination will outperform what either could do individually. At first, the improvement will be small. But eventually, it will be great.

This is a nice brief summary of advances in the use of AI in 2018.

Artificial intelligence is mastering a wider variety of jobs than ever before

In 2018, artificial intelligence took on new tasks, with these smarty-pants algorithms acing everything from disease diagnosis to crater counting.

And this is a weak signal - but an important commitment -  just the beginning of the emergence of smart swarms of nano-machines enhanced with human and AI guides.

Tiny Robots That Repair Pipes Could Eliminate Road Work

The UK is investing $8.9 million in a micro-robot project.
The road workers of the future could be smaller. And a lot less human.
On Monday, the United Kingdom’s Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy announced an $8.9 million investment into a project to develop micro-robots capable of inspecting and repairing the nation’s network of underground pipes.

If successful, the project could save the country billions of dollars annually — and change how road work gets done across the globe.

a team of researchers from four U.K. universities will work together to develop the micro-robots, which will each be approximately just one-centimeter long. The goal is for these bots to fly, swim, or crawl through the pipes that transport water, gas, and sewage beneath U.K. streets.

One will be an “inspection bot” that can autonomously navigate and examine the pipes using sonar technology. The other will be a “worker bot” capable of repairing pipes using cement and adhesives or cleaning them with a high-powered jet. That robot will be slightly larger and steered via remote control.

These are weak signals related to the emerging possibilities of synthetic biology - however, they are worth the read.

Five amazing ways redesigning biological cells could help us fight cancer

Cancer is the leading cause of death in the world.
It occurs when mutations in our cells lead to unchecked growth. But what if we could engineer biological cells to fight back?

Synthetic biology is a rapidly developing discipline that allows us to encode new computational capabilities into DNA. In the same way that electronic circuits are made from components such as resistors and diodes with well defined functions, synthetic biologists make use of an ever growing library of genetic parts with functions such as switches and sensors. Using this toolkit, cells can be reprogrammed to detect and destroy tumours.

Here are five remarkable ways that synthetic biology could help us treat cancer in the future.

And another good signal related to health, and domesticating DNA.
“It’s a very exciting time. The technology available to us now is just incredible. We’re able to sequence the genome of a tumour, understand its micro-environment, how it metabolises, what cells are controlling the tumour, and how those can be manipulated. Using the body’s own immune cells to target the tumour is elegant because tumours evolve so quickly there is no way a pharmaceutical company can keep up with it, but the immune system has been evolving for over four billion years to do just that.”
Tumours evolve in a branched way, like trees, but scientists have recently found immune cells in their “trunks”, which could be crucial to battling the disease from the base up.

Cancer may no longer be deadly in future, say British researchers announcing breakthrough

In 2018, scientists realized that immune cells are unlike other cells, and can survive well in another person, opening the door to transplants
Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London believe it is possible to strengthen the body’s defences by transplanting immune cells from strangers. Patients will begin to receive the new treatment next year, and the team now wants to establish “immune banks” to store disease-fighting cells.

Prof Adrian Hayday, an immunology expert and group leader of the immuno-surveillance laboratory at The Crick, said scientists and doctors could become more like engineers, upgrading the body rather than bombarding it with toxic chemotherapy.
“Using the immune system to fight cancer is the ultimate do-it-yourself approach,” he said.

“Even a few years ago the notion that any clinician would look at a patient and deliver a therapy which wasn’t going to directly affect the cancer in any way, shape or form, would have been pretty radical. But that’s what’s happening.

This is a fascinating signal of collective intelligence - with significant potential for understanding decisioning and new computational paradigms.

An Amoeba Just Found an Entirely New Way to Solve a Classic Computing Problem

A gelatinous, single-celled life form has just solved an increasingly complex problem that many researchers use to test algorithms.
Even more impressive is the fact that, as the problem got harder, the slime mould amoeba actually solved the problem in a totally different – and arguably more efficient – way than most algorithms.

The result suggests that these simple lifeforms might actually offer an alternative processing method to conventional computers.
Or, to put it more simply, our state-of-the-art electronic devices could actually learn something from an amoeba. Ouch.

To be clear, the amoeba wasn't faster than computers, not by a long stretch (check out how slow they move in the video below).
But while the problem got exponentially more complex, the amoeba's processing time only increased linearly.

The future of food has to pay attention to this signal - low cost, middle-class and boutique cultured food.

Japanese and U.S. firms team up to develop lab-grown wagyu product

U.S. food company Just Inc. and Japanese meat producer Toriyama Chikusan Shokuhin have forged a partnership for the development of lab-grown wagyu beef, with the aim of distributing their product globally.

It is believed to be the first time that a Japanese and U.S. company have tied up to develop cultured meat.
Under the deal, San Francisco-based Just will culture cells taken from Akagi brand wagyu cows raised at Toriyama Chikusan’s farm in Gunma Prefecture in order to create meat with the same quality as real Akagi beef.

Cultured meat is produced from the cells of animals in a laboratory setting. The method does not involve the slaughtering of animals and reduces the emissions of greenhouse gases.
Cultured meat is also said to be safer than conventional meat as antibiotics and growth hormones are not used during its production.

Another weak signal - of biotech advancement in domesticating DNA and another possible front in the mass resistance to ‘Franken-biology’ - The promise though is an increasing ability to create a viable ‘metabolic’ economy were all waste can be metabolized into useful outputs.
The results, published in Environmental Science and Technology Wednesday, showed that the gambit paid off. The researchers put both regular and modified plants in test tubes with the offending gases. The gas levels in the tubes with the unaltered plants didn't change at all. But the concentration of benzene in the tube with the rabbit-enhanced plant decreased by 75 percent in eight days. Chlorine levels fell even faster: by 82 percent after three days and to almost undetectable levels by day six.
the plants could be incorporated into a "bio-filter" that would purify air pushed into it by a fan.

Scientists Combine House Plant With Rabbit Gene to Form 'Green Liver' Against Indoor Air Pollution

Scientists at the University of Washington (UW) may have found an unexpected way to tackle persistent indoor air pollution: a common houseplant modified with rabbit DNA.

Researchers wanted to find a way to remove the toxic compounds chloroform and benzene from the home, a UW press release explained. Chloroform enters the air through chlorinated water and benzene comes from gasoline and enters the home through showers, the boiling of hot water and fumes from cars or other vehicles stored in garages attached to the home. Both have been linked to cancer, but not much has been done to try and remove them. Until now.

"People haven't really been talking about these hazardous organic compounds in homes, and I think that's because we couldn't do anything about them," senior study author and UW civil and environmental engineering department research professor Stuart Strand said in the release. "Now we've engineered houseplants to remove these pollutants for us."

The researchers also want to see if they can use the same concept with other genes and other chemicals, like formaldehyde, which can be released into the home via furniture or cooking.

This is a great signal - suggesting that science and folklore may produce real breakthroughs.

Bacteria found in ancient Irish soil halts growth of superbugs—new hope for tackling antibiotic resistance

Researchers analysing soil from Ireland long thought to have medicinal properties have discovered that it contains a previously unknown strain of bacteria which is effective against four of the top six superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics, including MRSA.

The new strain of bacteria was discovered by a team based in Swansea University Medical School, made up of researchers from Wales, Brazil, Iraq and Northern Ireland.

They have named the new strain Streptomyces sp. myrophorea.
The soil they analysed originated from an area of Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, which is known as the Boho Highlands. It is an area of alkaline grassland and the soil is reputed to have healing properties.

The search for replacement antibiotics to combat multi-resistance has prompted researchers to explore new sources, including folk medicines: a field of study known as ethnopharmacology. They are also focusing on environments where well-known antibiotic producers like Streptomyces can be found.

An extremely interesting signal - not just of transforming the capabilities of copper to those of gold - but of the re-emergence of ‘alchemy’ as we learn to hack matter.

Chinese scientists have turned copper into material almost identical to gold

It is expected to reduce the use of rare, expensive metals in factories.
A team of scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences has recently turned cheap copper into a material that is almost identical to gold. The material is expected to reduce the use of rare, expensive metals in factories.

Scientists developed this material by shooting a copper target with a jet of hot, electrically charged argon gas. The fast-moving ionized particles blasted copper atoms off the target. The atoms cooled down and condensed on the surface of a collecting device, producing a thin layer of sand.

Scientists then put the material in the reaction chamber to turn as a catalyst to turn coal to alcohol to check the efficiency of the material. Only precious metal can effectively handle this chemical process.
The study is published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances

This is something that is actually a MUST IMAGINE. How shadow illuminates.
The shadow of a 4 dimensional space is a 3 dimensional space (just as the shadow of a 3 dimensional space is to us a 2 dimensional drawing.
Shadows also have deep psychological reverberations. Here’s a quote from one of my favorite sci-fi writers - Yoon Ha Lee.
There is no such thing as conservation of shadows. When light destroys shadows, darkness does not gain in density elsewhere. When shadows steal over earth and across the sky, darkness is not diluted.  
The question that comes to mind is - “Is it Shadows all the way down? Or Up?”

Is There a Fifth Dimension?: Arlie Petters at TEDxNCSSM

Arlie O. Petters is a professor of mathematics, physics, and business administration at Duke University. Petters was born in a poor, rural community in Belize. At the age of 13, he emigrated to Brooklyn. He participated in an accelerated B.A./M.A. program at Hunter College, receiving his degrees in mathematics and physics in 1986. In 1991, he received his Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT. Petters' research is focused on the development of mathematical theory of gravitational lensing. He is the leading author of the book, /Singularity Theory and Gravitational Lensing/. Petters also works within Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, where he deals with finance, social entrepreneurship, and environmentally sustainable STEM business efforts. Petters has given back to the minority community by mentoring numerous underrepresented minority students, faculty, and professionals. He is highly involved in the Belizean community. In 2005, Petters founded the Petters Research Institute, which works to aid Belizean individuals pursuing work in STEM fields and aiding Belizean national development through environmentally sustainable applications of technology. In 2008, he was named by the Queen of England to Membership in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire as a result of his exceptional work in research, education, and outreach. In 2010, he was appointed as the Chairman of the Council of Science Advisors to the Prime Minister of Belize.

Happy 2019 - we have already been exposed to a large assortment of ‘best of 2018’ and other forms of annual reviews and guesses for the next year. As brilliant as Asimov was - his primary assumptions were focused on a belief that space would be a primary concern and although acknowledging problems of pollutions - did not anticipate climate change.

35 years ago, Isaac Asimov was asked by the Star to predict the world of 2019. Here is what he wrote

By ISAAC ASIMOV Special to The Star 1983
lf we look into the world as it may be at the end of another generation, let’s say 2019 — that’s 35 years from now, the same number of years since 1949 when George Orwell’s 1984 was first published — three considerations must dominate our thoughts:

If the United States and the Soviet Union flail away at each other at any time between now and 2019, there is absolutely no use to discussing what life will be like in that year. Too few of us, or of our children and grand· children, will be alive then for there to be any point in describing the precise condition of global misery at that time.

Let us, therefore, assume there will be no nuclear war — not necessarily a safe assumption — and carry on from there.

Computerization will undoubtedly continue onward inevitably. Computers have already made themselves essential to the governments of the industrial nations, and to world industry: and it is now beginning to make itself comfortable in the home.

A person is hard pressed not to think that 2018 was a crazy year - but this 16 min read can help us remember the ‘good times’ that was 2018.

99 Good News Stories You Probably Didn’t Hear About in 2018

The world didn’t fall apart this year. You were just getting your news from the wrong places.
For the last 12 months, the global media has been focused on a lot of bad news. But there were other things happening out there too: conservation successes, huge wins for global health, more peace and tolerance, less war and violence, rising living standards, some big clean energy milestones, and a quiet turning of the tide in the fight against plastic. Stories of human progress, that didn’t make it into the evening broadcasts, or onto your social media feeds.

We spent the year collecting them, in our ongoing mission to stop the fear virus in its tracks.

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