Thursday, August 17, 2017

Friday Thinking 18 August 2017

Hello all – Friday Thinking is a humble curation of my foraging in the digital environment. My purpose is to pick interesting pieces, based on my own curiosity (and the curiosity of the many interesting people I follow), about developments in some key domains (work, organization, social-economy, intelligence, domestication of DNA, energy, etc.)  that suggest we are in the midst of a change in the conditions of change - a phase-transition. That tomorrow will be radically unlike yesterday.

Many thanks to those who enjoy this.
In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.
Jobs are dying - work is just beginning.

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



Becoming an opportunity maker starts by catalyzing something bigger than ourselves. As strategy guru John Hagel reminds us, if the goal is to get better faster, we have to hang out at the edge where the knowledge flows are the richest and most turbulent. We need personal networks comprised of more people that aren’t like us, people that bring diverse perspectives, language, approaches and experiences into our conversations and networks. The imperative is to instill a sense of mutuality, or shared interest, into more situations. Connection capacity, or being the glue that holds people together, is a must have superpower needed to be an opportunity maker.

Saul Kaplan, Founder and Chief Catalyst, of the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) claims the key to purposeful mutuality is to enable more random collisions of unusual suspects, or what he calls, making a RCUS! (Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects) I asked Saul to tell us more about his philosophy, experience, and work at BIF.

Theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman first described the untapped potential of what could be as the “adjacent possible”. Most innovation isn’t about inventing anything new but merely the recombination of what already exists in new ways to solve a problem or deliver new value. Everything we need to innovate is in our sandbox and can be found at the edges between our sectors, disciplines, and silos. Getting better faster is all about exploring the adjacent possible.

I believe we can unleash the adjacent possible by creating the conditions for more random collisions of unusual suspects. We spend far too much time hanging out with usual suspects, people exactly like us. We don’t learn anything new that way. The gold is in the grey areas between our silos if we only spend time at the edge colliding with more unusual suspects.

Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects: Unleashing the Adjacent Possible

New tools and techniques for slicing up brains and tracing their connections have hastened progress over the past few years. And the resulting neural-network diagrams are yielding surprises — showing, for example, that a brain can use one network in multiple ways to create the same behaviours.

But understanding even the simplest of circuits — orders of magnitude smaller than those in ... maggots — presents a host of challenges. Circuits vary in layout and function from animal to animal. The systems have redundancy that makes it difficult to pin one function to one circuit. Plus, wiring alone doesn't fully explain how circuits generate behaviours; other factors, such as neurochemicals, have to be considered. “I try to avoid using the word 'understand',” says Florian Engert, who is putting together an atlas of the zebrafish brain at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “What do you even mean when you say you understand how something works? If you map it out, you haven't really understood anything.”

Still, scientists are beginning to detect patterns in simple circuits that may operate in more complex brains. “This is what we hope,” says Willie Tobin, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts: “that we can come across general principles that can help us understand larger systems.”

How to map the circuits that define us

As entities on the Web, we have devolved. Client-server has become calf-cow. The client—that's you—is the calf, and the Web site is the cow. What you get from the cow is milk and cookies. The milk is what you go to the site for. The cookies are what the site gives to you, mostly for its own business purposes, chief among which is tracking you like an animal. There are perhaps a billion or more server-cows now, each with its own "brand" (as marketers and cattle owners like to say).

This is not what the Net's founders had in mind. Nor was it what Tim Berners-Lee meant for his World Wide Web of hypertext documents to become. But it's what we've got, and it's getting worse.

The Actually Distributed Web

For a number of years I’ve felt that core training for 21st century work - including management and teamwork is achievement of some facility and comfort with improv humour. And increasingly in time of accelerating change and uncertainty - a comfort with improvization can be better than too much planning and strategy. This is a 20 min podcast and transcribed article.
“When great minds and intelligent people are sharing thoughts … the collective consciousness of the group will outweigh that of any individual.”
The ability to improvise is based on several core elements, no matter what the context. If it’s improvisation on a comedy stage, or as elite chef, first responder, special forces team or radio host, it’s about being present and focused in the moment in real time, and then simply reacting to what’s being given to you, adapting to how the people around you are reacting to how you are reacting, and communicating across the board. Those concepts of being present, reacting, adapting and communicating can fit in so many arenas.

How Improv Methods from Comedy Can Lift Business Performance

Improvisation, or the art form called improv, may call to mind comedy shows but it is now also a serious business tool. Organizations are using it to foster team work, collaboration, positive engagement and mindfulness, says Bob Kulhan, founder and CEO of Business Improv, who is also a part-time comedian and an adjunct professor at Duke University and Columbia Business School.

Here is an important signal about the new economy and the role of Blockchain - Distributed Ledger technology.

China to Start Using Blockchain to Collect Taxes and Send Invoices

China has just announced that it will use blockchain technology for social taxation and issuing electronic invoices. This is just the latest example of the broad array of applications possible for the technology.

The Chinese government listed blockchain in its “Thirteenth Five-Year” National Informatization Plan from 2015, and since that time the nation has been working diligently toward incorporate the technology into daily life. The tech’s inclusion in the plan signals the importance China has attached to it, and this was just confirmed by the government’s announcement that it “will utilize blockchain technology for social taxation and electronic invoice issuance matters.”

This is a major development, and given that the Chinese economy is the world’s largest, with a 2016 GDP of over RMB 70 trillion (approximately U.S. $10.4 trillion), this should be an interesting test case for the implementation of blockchain technology. China has already launched a test of its own cryptocurrency based on the technology, so these initiatives should be able to build on each other.

Furthermore, we should also see implementation at the city level in China, as several local and provincial governments have recently promulgated pro-blockchain policies. In fact, a smart cities initiative has already enticed a Chinese automaker to integrate the tech into its business model. Additionally, blockchain-based industrial parks have gone up in Chengdu, Hangzhou, and other major cities, and agencies at different levels of government have created blockchain R&D teams.

And another important signal from Russia. This one involves both excess electricity generation with Cryptocurrency mining. These signals could suggest the need for a publicly owned computational capacity - a public cloud - which could serve many functions and would be both accountable and accessible.

Russia Discusses Starting Cryptocurrency Mining With Its 20+ Gigawatt Surplus

Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov has revealed that discussions are underway regarding the creation of government centers for cryptocurrency mining, according to local publications. Meanwhile, a bill is being finalized to provide a legal framework for digital currency including bitcoin.

According to Bitfury Group, Russia currently accounts for only 2% of the world’s mining capacities while China leads with 60%. The U.S. and Canada collectively hold the second largest market share with 16%, followed by Georgia at 6%, and by Europe at 5%. Bitfury was founded by Valery Vavilov, a Russian-speaking native of Latvia.

This news closely followed the recent announcement from Russian Miner Coin (RMC) which plans to raise $100 million worth of cryptocurrency and start a large-scale bitcoin mining operation to compete with China. RMC is a company co-owned by one of Vladimir Putin’s advisors, internet ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev, who said that “Russia has the potential to reach up to 30 percent share in global cryptocurrency mining in the future.”

Ethereum Foundation supervisory board member Vladislav Martynov explained that “the growing interest in mining in Russia is due to the fact that there is an excess of electricity in the country and it is cheap enough.”

RMC’s presentation shows that “Russia has 20 gigawatts of excess power capacity, with consumer electricity prices as low as 80 kopeks (1.3 cents) per kilowatt hour, which is less than in China,” Fortune described.

Moore’s Law is Dead - Long Live Moore’s Law - Here a signal of what may be a huge paradigm change in computational capacity ready to emerge in the next few years. It’s not only IBM that is talking about Quantum Computers being almost here.

IBM Will Unleash Commercial "Universal" Quantum Computers This Year

The cloud-based "IBM Q" service is not expected to outperform conventional computers—yet
Hoping that if you build it, they will come, IBM plans to roll out the world’s first commercial ‘universal’ quantum-computing service sometime this year, the company announced on 6 March. Named IBM Q, the system will be accessible over the Internet for a fee.

It will not outperform conventional computers, at least not yet. But the company says that the system will be crucial in developing a market for future quantum machines that can handle complex calculations currently out of reach of classical computers. The cloud service is the latest salvo in the heated battle to build a useful quantum computer.

The project builds on know-how developed around IBM’s existing cloud computing service: Quantum Experience, which anyone can access for free. That system went online in May 2016 and recently received an upgraded user interface. “Having it up for ten months has taught us a lot,” says physicist Jerry Chow, who leads the quantum-computing laboratory at IBM’s research centre in Yorktown Heights, New York. It has provided a way for researchers around the world to practise building quantum algorithms without access to their own quantum computer. IBM’s overall strategy is to build “a community and an ecosystem” around its technology, Chow says.

The company is being tight-lipped about when exactly IBM Q will come online, saying only that it will happen this year. It is also not disclosing how powerful the system will be, or how much it will cost to access. The company says that it has already lined up its first clients, although it would not identify them, saying only that several commercial partners will test and develop their own applications for the machine.

This is another signal of human-computer integration - Although definitive research results about effectiveness don’t seem to be available.

Omega Ophthalmics is an eye implant platform with the power of continuous AR

Google and other tech companies have come up with glasses and contact lenses for the purposes of AR, but Omega Ophthalmics is taking a much more invasive approach by using surgically implanted lenses to create a space for augmented reality inside the eye.

It sounds wild, but lens implants aren’t a new thing. Implanted lenses are commonly used as a solve for cataracts and other degenerative diseases mostly affecting senior citizens; about 3.6 million patients in the U.S. get some sort of procedure for the disease every year.

Cataract surgery involves removal of the cloudy lens and replacing it with a thin artificial type of lens. Co-founder and board-certified ophthalmologist Gary Wortz saw an opportunity here to offer not just a lens but a platform to which other manufacturers could add different interactive sensors, drug delivery devices and the inclusion of AR/VR integration.

Though, he doesn’t expect young people with good vision to come running for AR implants anytime soon. Instead, he thinks his platform has a much broader application for 70-somethings wanting to maintain independence. An augmented map to help this person get around or to alert them if something is wrong medically would be useful.
He also mentioned the usefulness to “super soldiers” and others.

Does the technology work? Maybe. So far, Omega has hit the six-month mark with no incidents on a very small human clinical trial outside of the U.S. involving seven patients. I’m told the company also has a few other yet to be released studies in the works, including a much larger human trial it plans to launch soon.

The company must still wait for FDA approval and is hopeful Ophthalmics will receive approval in Europe in the next 12 to 24 months, pending outcome of the larger trial. Wortz seemed positive about the process with the FDA, as well.

This is not a tricorder but this technology is a good signal of significant advances in the combining of scientific fields.

Nano-chip promises to heal organs at a touch

Scientists say ‘nanotransfection’ technology can transform skin cells into stem cells to repair any type of tissue.
Injured tissues can be repaired and damaged organs healed using a new nanotech device that adapts a patient’s own skin to generate stem cells, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Researchers from Ohio State University call the new technology tissue nanotransfection (TNT).

They say TNT – which is basically a lab on a chip – can adapt skin cells to change into any type of tissue required, which can then be introduced to injured or degenerated areas. They claim a success rate of 98%.

“With this technology we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch,” says co-author Chandan Sen. “This process only takes less than a second and is non-invasive, and then you're off. The chip does not stay with you, and the reprogramming of the cell starts. Our technology keeps the cells in the body under immune surveillance, so immune suppression is not necessary."

Lead author Daniel Gallego-Perez says the new technology comprises two elements: the nanotech chip designed to introduce reprogrammed DNA into existing adult cells; and a “specific biological cargo” that induces the cells to change from one type to another.
In a second experiment, skin cells were converted into nerve cells and introduced into the brains of mice crippled by stroke.

This is a longish article that signals a serious advance in the domestication of DNA - with many implications about the trajectory of the next human.
It was a notable first—the first time in the history of life that artificial eggs had been created outside an animal. Using the synthetic eggs, they’d produced eight mouse pups. Not only had those mice been healthy, but they had gone on to reproduce. The discovery took more than five years to perfect and 17 pages to describe in the journal Nature. Yamanaka has called Saitou a “genius.”

A New Way to Reproduce

Scientists are trying to manufacture eggs and sperm in the laboratory. Will it end reproduction as we know it?
The experiment was an attempt to turn ordinary cells obtained from human adults into fully functional gametes—that is, sperm or egg cells. No one has done it yet, but scientists say they are on the cusp of proving it is possible. If they can develop a technology for manufacturing eggs and sperm in the lab, it could bring an end to the problem of infertility for many. But it would also present a fundamental and, to some, troubling advance toward reducing the creation of life to a procedure in a laboratory.

It’s part of an explosion of research into how cells make decisions about their fate. To be a neuron or a beating heart cell? From the moment an egg is fertilized, a flurry of biochemical signals orchestrate its division, growth, and specialization as a complete new life is formed. The ambition of biologists who study development is to understand each step and, if they can, copy it in their laboratories.

And no type of cell made in the laboratory would have a bigger scientific and social impact than a sperm or an egg. Re-creating these would give scientists access to the chamber of secrets where the links between the generations are forged. “Is there anything more interesting than that? It’s so amazing,” says Renee Reijo Pera, the scientist who carried out the experiment with B.D.’s cells. “I know people who study how did life begin on Earth, or work on finding the edges of the universe. And I think none of that beats the fact that the sperm and the egg come together and you get a human. And mostly we get two arms and two legs. It is amazingly accurate.”

Progress toward making “artificial gametes” has been accelerating. In Japan, mice were born from eggs scientists had manufactured in a dish from a tail cell. Chinese scientists later claimed they had determined the exact sequence of molecular signals required to make mouse sperm. So far, the exact biochemical formula for prompting a stem cell to mature into functional human eggs or sperm remains out of reach. No human skin cell has been turned into a bona fide human reproductive cell. But many scientists believe it’s only a matter of time—maybe only a year or two—before they get the right recipe. Recent advances have been “absolutely clear, and breathtaking” says George Daley, a stem-cell biologist who recently became dean of Harvard’s medical school.

Others say it’s possible, even probable, that lab-made gametes could be genetically engineered to remove disease risks. And still more speculative possibilities are on the horizon. For instance, scientists believe it will be possible to make eggs from a man’s skin cell and sperm from a woman’s skin cell, though the latter would be more difficult because women lack Y chromosomes. This process, termed “sex reversal,” in theory could allow reproduction between two people of the same sex. And then there is what Greely terms the “uni-­parent—his own sperm, his own egg, his own ‘unibaby.’” Such bizarre possibilities have dominated news coverage of recent advances. The episode of All Things Considered that B.D. heard on the radio asked whether it would be possible to steal a hair from George Clooney’s head and create a clandestine Hollywood sperm bank.

This is an very interesting signal of an economy of abundance - and of implications for a consumer economy and an aging demographic.

Today’s families are prisoners of their own clutter

Tell me about it. That sums up Boston parents’ reaction to new research by UCLA-affiliated social scientists concluding that American families are overwhelmed by clutter, too busy to go in their own backyards, rarely eat dinner together even though they claim family meals as a goal, and can’t park their cars in the garage because they’re crammed with non-vehicular stuff.

The team of anthropologists and archeologists spent four years studying 32 middle-class Los Angeles families in their natural habitat — their toy-littered homes — and came to conclusions so grim that the lead researcher used the word “disheartening” to describe the situation we have gotten ourselves

At first glance, the just-published, 171-page “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century” looks like a coffee table book. But it contains very real-life photos of pantries, offices, and backyards, and details a generally Zen-free existence. Architectural Digest or Real Simple this is not.

Here’s a signal that’s getting stronger - this is in the ‘what can be automated will be’ file, as well as in the ‘How do humans create value’ file and other emerging issues including ‘Universal Basic Income’.
The best collaborative robots (cobots) have some great qualities, but that doesn't make using them a no-brainer.

This Company Hired Its First Robo-Worker for $30,000--and Never Looked Back

Increasingly, robots are small, portable, easy to train, and within financial reach for many businesses. Should you add one to your team?
Creating Revolutions, which is based in Miami, makes a spill-proof tabletop pager for the hospitality industry, but the product was plagued by a double-digit failure rate due to human assembly errors, says chief innovation officer Einar Rosenberg. So he brought in a Universal Robots model UR3 collaborative robot (cobot for short) that's designed to work alongside humans, not replace them. He used it for three crucial, very precise tasks, such as applying a spot of sealant inside the device's aluminum housing. The failure rate dropped to less than 1 percent. The cobot "saved us from going under," Rosenberg says.

Cobots are the fastest-growing segment in the automation universe. Two players dominate: Universal Robots, based in Odense, Denmark, and Boston's Rethink Robotics, whose co-founder, MIT's Rodney Brooks, is a co-founder of iRobot, maker of the Roomba vacuum cleaner. Cobots generally don't need complicated coding, and they're cheap (less than $50,000 all in). Or you can rent one. On the downside, cobots can't lift more than a few pounds or reach more than a few feet. They're slow--otherwise they'd outpace their human co-workers--and they're new, so no one knows their actual lifespan, but early adopters are fans. They share their ideas for bringing cobots onto your team.

Pick your spots.
Acorn Sales, a maker of custom rubber stamps in Richmond, Virginia, with a dozen employees and less than $2 million in sales, sells a lot of product online, and its margins are tight. "I'm always looking for ways to get more efficient," says CEO Adam Raidabaugh. Acorn put its $30,000 cobot to work cutting wooden blocks down to size and drilling mounting holes in them--a task it performs better, faster, and cheaper in-house than Acorn's former supplier did. Cobots also excel at picking stuff up over here and putting it down over there (using grippers or suction cups), spot welding, spray-painting, bending, and other such mundane tasks. On the other hand, they're not so good at variable tasks that require discernment or creativity.

Make the proper introductions.
Although 360,000 to 670,000 U.S. jobs have already been eliminated because of robots, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a recent study it conducted found no evidence that "new technologies will make most jobs disappear and humans largely redundant." But try telling that to your staff when a cobot shows up on the shop floor. Rosenberg says he needed four long meetings to convince his employees at Creating Revolutions that people were not going to lose their jobs to cobots. He reminded them that cobots specialize in the dirty, dull, and dangerous jobs. Raidabaugh had a similar conver­sation with his team. "We can now automate tasks no one likes to do," he says. "That frees people up to do more meaningful work," which can create growth opportunities for individuals and the companies they work for. Acorn has never had to lay anybody off in the 53 years since its founding, Raidabaugh says, and it's not about to start now.

This is a longish article that provides some very interesting signals and a number of conditions of change - including nano-tech, robotics, genetics, microbial profiles, insect-animal-ecologies, climate change and more. Worth the read.

Ticks are here to stay. But scientists are finding ways to outsmart them

Here are the latest bulletins from the tick wars
Ticks make formidable enemies. “Almost every control measure that has been tried has failed, and has failed miserably,” Gaff says. “We are slowly coming to embrace the fact that you cannot eradicate ticks.” What human ingenuity might do, however, is manage the risks and — dream big! — make ticks irrelevant.

There may be ways to attack ticks without touching a single molecule of their die-hard little bodies. Ecologists have made progress in tracing what ticks need from the woods and lawns where they lurk. For instance, researchers believe that it was a bumper crop of acorns in 2015 that, through a Rube Goldberg series of consequences, created conditions for a perfect tick storm two years later. Breaking key ecological connections could knock back the tick menace in the future.

Molecular biologists are focusing on tick survival tricks. Researchers are looking for weak spots inside tick guts and trying to take advantage of ticks’ reckless abandon in mating. Biology is proving as important as electronics in the robot line of defense.

Perhaps smog can be seen as industrial air clutter. This is an interesting signal - one that could be adapted to many forms of transportation.

The first smog-filtering bicycles will roll out in China by the end of the year

Millions of Chinese cyclists may soon be able to ditch their air-pollution masks. Dutch innovation firm Studio Roosegaarde has partnered with bike-share startup ofo to develop a new model that can collect polluted air, purify it, and release the clean air around the cyclist. Studio founder Daan Roosegaarde confirms to Quartz that the first prototype of the smog-sucking “future bike” is expected to be ready by the end of this year.

Unveiled at the TED conference in April, the “Smog Free Bicycles” are part of Roosegaarde’s suite of objects to address the global air pollution crisis. Last year, he unveiled a Smog Free Tower in China that could purify 30,000 cubic meters (about 1 million cubic feet) of air every hour. The collected soot is transformed to fashion accessories—rings and cufflinks—so advocates can wear Beijing’s smog as memento mori.

He has had a measure of success with Smog Free Tower. A recent study by Eindhoven University of Technology professor Bert Blocken showed that Roosegaarde’s creation effectively reduced pollution up to 45% within 20 meters (65 feet).

This is a strong signal of the continuing transformation of all forms of manufacturing and a looming phase transition enabled by the platforms of the coordination economy. The 2 min video is alone worth the view.

Why It’s Taking Less and Less to Manufacture More of the Things We Want

Manufacturing productivity has been on a tear. It’s nearly doubled versus construction productivity over the last couple decades.

Ever wonder why? I do. And at the heart of the answer is the increasing use of programmable logic controllers. These specialized computers analyze data, act on programmed, complex functions, report on a facility’s performance and hiccups, and generally supervise the operation. Simply, they orchestrate key parts of the industrial process.

A wide range of factors contribute to the improving performance and declining cost of these tools. Microprocessors, digital storage, memory, input-output, software—they’ve all followed an exponential curve and helped supercharge manufacturing to deliver what we see today.

Take sensors, for example.
From 2004 to 2013, image sensors have had a 5x decrease in the space between pixels (pixel pitch) and a 10x increase in image resolution. This improvement—which is already compounding the effects of programmable logic controllers by providing pick-and-place robots with the eyes they need to make rapid selections—is further boosted by advances in other areas. Without a greater range of bright and dark areas in images (HDR) and many more frames per second (time resolution), enabled by increased edge computing power, image sensors would not be nearly as effective as they are today.

This is an excellent Must Read (longish) book review of three important books. The Review is focused on a serious analysis of Facebook. Anyone using Facebook should read this.

You Are the Product

The Attention Merchants: From the Daily Newspaper to Social Media, How Our Time and Attention Is Harvested and Sold by Tim Wu. Atlantic, 416 pp,

Chaos Monkeys: Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine by Antonio García Martínez. Ebury, 528 pp

Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon have Cornered Culture and What It Means for All of Us by Jonathan Taplin. Macmillan, 320 pp,

What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does – ‘connect’, ‘build communities’ – and the commercial reality. Note that the company’s knowledge about its users isn’t used merely to target ads but to shape the flow of news to them. Since there is so much content posted on the site, the algorithms used to filter and direct that content are the thing that determines what you see: people think their news feed is largely to do with their friends and interests, and it sort of is, with the crucial proviso that it is their friends and interests as mediated by the commercial interests of Facebook. Your eyes are directed towards the place where they are most valuable for Facebook.

This is a very significant signal - especially given the decline of religiosity in the developed world.

Going to More Concerts is The New Prozac

Apparently TicketMaster has held the key to a happier life this whole time! Science says regularly hitting shows leads to a happier life.
Sell all your possessions, buy a van, throw in your concert essentials, and hit the road in pursuit of your favorite band. If anyone asks you why, send them this study that proves immersing yourself in live music, communal concert experiences, has been linked to feelings of happiness and satisfaction with one’s life.

The findings revealed that engaging with music by dancing or attending musical events was associated with higher subjective wellbeing than for those who did not engage with music in these forms. The findings also emphasized the important role of engaging with music in the company of others with regard to subjective wellbeing, highlighting an interpersonal feature of music.

The confusion between optimism based on the promise of human scientific progress and Capitalism as the means to further human and planet welfare helps create epistemological pathologies. This is an interesting book review of an important signal related to optimism, science and aspirations of human progress.

Keep your scythe, the real green future is high-tech, democratic, and radical

"Radical ecology" has come to mean a kind of left-wing back-to-the-landism that throws off consumer culture and mass production for a pastoral low-tech lifestyle. But as the brilliant science journalist and Marxist Leigh Phillips writes in Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-Porn Addicts: A Defence Of Growth, Progress, Industry And Stuff, if the left has a future, it has to reclaim its Promethean commitment to elevating every human being to a condition of luxurious, material abundance and leisure through technological progress.

Phillips is a brilliant writer and an incisive scientific thinker with impeccable credentials in the science press. He's also an unapologetic Marxist. In this book -- which is one of the most entertaining and furious reads about politics and climate you're likely to read -- he rails against the "austerity ecology" movement that calls for more labor-intensive processes, an end to the drive to increase material production, and a "simpler" life that often contains demands for authoritarian, technocratic rule, massive depopulation, and a return to medieval drudgery.

It wasn't always thus. The left -- especially Marxist left -- has a long history of glorifying technological progress and proposing it as the solution to humanity's woes. Rather than blaming the machine for pollution, Marxists blame capitalism for being a system that demands that firms pollute to whatever extent they can, right up the point where the fines outweigh the savings.

The answer, Phillips argues, is a democratically planned economy -- a socialist solution. Not the "green lefty" answer, which requires "de-growth," but growth that is guided by democratic, not market, forces:
•  The capitalist says: There may or may not be resource limits, but don’t worry about them! Innovation will come along in time! Full steam ahead!
•  The green lefty says: Innovation can’t save us! There’s an upper limit to what humans can have / an upper limit on the number of humans. Slam on the brakes!
•  The socialist says: Through rational, democratic planning, let’s make sure that the innovation arrives so that we can move forward without inadvertently overproducing. And move forward we must, in order to continue to expand human flourishing. So long as we do that, there are in principle no limits. Let’s take over the machine, not turn it off!

A Personal Request
I have an adult daughter with an intellectual disability and on the Autism Spectrum. Some parents, colleagues and I are working to establish a social enterprise for adults on the spectrum. In a world where everything that can be automated will be - these people need new avenues besides basic ‘jobs’ to shape a ‘well lived life’.

Toward this purpose, we have created theSpace a social studio to inspire and steward creative interests within a co-created community for self-development.

Our latest effort is the creation of a Patreon website to help support this enterprise

As our members develop their interests and talents - they will be supported to establish their own Patreon sites - in order to help support themselves and their creative development.

Any amount of regular sponsorship will enable us to create new social institutions help those with intellectual disabilities find a life-long path of learning and value creation.