Thursday, September 24, 2015

Friday Thinking 25 September 2015

Hello – Friday Thinking is curated on the basis of my own curiosity and offered in the spirit of sharing. Many thanks to those who enjoy this. 
In the 21st Century curiosity will SKILL the cat.

Shell said in June it was cutting 6,500 jobs as part of cost-cutting plans following the oil price slump.

When asked how renewable energy could affect his business, Mr van Beurden said solar power could emerge as a much bigger contributor to world energy needs.

"I have no hesitation to predict that in years to come solar will be the dominant backbone of our energy system, certainly of the electricity system."
However, during that period, the demand for energy will double, he said, leading to a "multi-decade transition," from fossil fuels being the dominant supply for energy, he says.
'Volatile' oil price hard to predict, says Shell boss

... Optimisation software typically comes up with natural-looking shapes that seem to mimic nature—which is not surprising as nature has had a few million years’ head start designing structures like bones, stems and leaves. Salomé Galjaard, the team leader at Arup, thinks optimised 3D-printed components could be widely used in civil engineering to save weight and materials, provided contractors and standards authorities accept them.

That seems to be happening. Stratasys, an American producer of 3D printers, said recently that one of its machines had been used by Airbus to make more than 1,000 parts, typically for interior use, for the first A350 XWB airliner. Stratasys said the parts, printed in a resin-type material, had met aerospace certification standards and, besides being lighter, helped Airbus meet its delivery commitments. GE says only 3D printing will be able to make the fuel nozzles for its next generation of jet engines. And instead of being constructed from 18 individual parts, they will be printed as single items. Besides providing enhanced performance, the nozzles will be 25% lighter and should last five times longer.
Wonderful widgets - Components  more elegant with software that produces  most efficient shape

Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.

This is good news for those of us intent on changing the world and creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage, and commitment that lead to broad-based change.

But networks aren’t the whole story. As networks grow and transform into active, working communities of practice, we discover how life truly changes, which is through emergence. When separate, local efforts connect with each other as networks then strengthen as communities of practice, suddenly and surprisingly a new system emerges at a greater level of scale. This system of influence possesses qualities and capacities that were unknown in the individuals. It isn’t that they were hidden; they simply didn’t exist until the system emerges. They are properties of the system, not the individual, but once there, individuals possess them. And the system that emerges always possesses greater power and influence than is possible through planned, incremental change. Emergence is how life creates radical change and takes things to scale.

Emergence violates so many of our Western assumptions of how change happens that it often takes quite a while to understand it. In nature, change never happens as a result of top-down, preconceived strategic plans, or from the mandate of any single individual or boss. Change begins as local actions spring up simultaneously in many different areas. If these changes remain disconnected, nothing happens beyond each locale. However, when they become connected, local actions can emerge as a powerful system with influence at a more global or comprehensive level. (Global here means a larger scale, not necessarily the entire planet.)
Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze -
Lifecycle of Emergence: Using Emergence to Take Social Innovation to Scale

In the past decade, most everyone with access has experienced what it’s like to learn from anyone, anywhere at any time. In everyday life, this is no longer an event to behold but the way we learn. Any policy maker or leader who doesn’t understand and live this needs to find other employment.
Dean Shareski - Make it Stop

This is a nice essay looking at our ability to engage in credible foresight - worth the read and also fun. My only caveat - is that sometime the future is not evident in a singular ‘thing’ -such as in 1899 in New York City when the first pedestrian had already been killed by an automobile - but rather a harder to imagine impact of an increase of scale when every household has two cars.
Why Futurism Has a Cultural Blindspot
We predicted cell phones, but not women in the workplace.
...disappointment in time capsules seems to run endemic, suggests William E. Jarvis in his book Time Capsules: A Cultural History. A headline from The Onion, he notes, sums it up: “Newly unearthed time capsule just full of useless old crap.” Time capsules, after all, exude a kind of pathos: They show us that the future was not quite as advanced as we thought it would be, nor did it come as quickly. The past, meanwhile, turns out to not be as radically distinct as we thought.

In his book Predicting the Future, Nicholas Rescher writes that “we incline to view the future through a telescope, as it were, thereby magnifying and bringing nearer what we can manage to see.” So too do we view the past through the other end of the telescope, making things look farther away than they actually were, or losing sight of some things altogether.

These observations apply neatly to technology. We don’t have the personal flying cars we predicted we would. Coal, notes the historian David Edgerton in his book The Shock of the Old, was a bigger source of power at the dawn of the 21st century than in sooty 1900; steam was more significant in 1900 than 1800.

But when it comes to culture we tend to believe not that the future will be very different than the present day, but that it will be roughly the same. Try to imagine yourself at some future date. Where do you imagine you will be living? What will you be wearing? What music will you love?

Chances are, that person resembles you now. As the psychologist George Lowenstein and colleagues have argued, in a phenomenon they termed “projection bias,” people “tend to exaggerate the degree to which their future tastes will resemble their current tastes.”

A short articles about technology, learning and what ‘doing better’ means.
Make it Stop
"More time spent on technology in the classroom doesn't necessarily help kids do better in school, a new study has found."
When you read a statement like this people tend to have one of two reactions. From many who have been hesitant to embrace technology, there is an audible, "Told you so." For those proponents of technology, they often think, "If only they trained their teachers in how to use it." The reaction you rarely hear, but the one that signals the failure of many technology infusions into our schools is: "what do we mean by do better?"

The opening quote is from an LA times article about the failures of technology implementation in Los Angeles Unified School District. This is not the first time LAUSD technology efforts have been featured as a failure and unless things change, it won't be the last."Do better" is code for "increase test scores". It's beyond me how often school districts with seemingly smart people are still thinking of technology as a tool to simply improve test scores. This lack of vision and understanding is way past an acceptable level of ignorance. After decades of these initiatives, I'm not sure if this represents a lack of courage or vision but it has to stop. If all we want is to improve test scores we need to stop spending money on technology and start spending it improving our test taking skills. Without a doubt, we could drastically improve these results with a bit of intention. Focusing on things like memorizing facts will take us a lot further than exploring and creating rich content with technology.

This is very interesting - another step in the progression of the Blockchain and the transformation of …. many things.
IBM’s upcoming blockchain release could change the internet
IBM has announced that it will soon  release its own, open source version of blockchain software — the public ledger system that lets Bitcoin work. It’s not a move to reinvent cryptocurrency, but an ambitious attempt to allow individuals and large corporations alike to make full use of everything the internet makes possible. It has the potential to decentralize the internet, making it both safer and more versatile in one fell swoop.

A blockchain is just a database with special provisions built in to make it public and agreed-upon by all users — and that transparency is what makes tampering with the blockchain easy to detect. With a trusted, mutually visible place to store basic information, it’s possible to do things like send money over the internet; there’s no need to worry about fraud when the whole transaction is controlled by the info in the blockchain, which is available for you to review at any time. This has taken the form of blockchain-based securities trading, which speeds up the process from days to minutes, while bringing risks down to “zero.”

But the logic behind the blockchain doesn’t need to be limited to financial transactions. So-called “smart contracts” can put this sort of ability in anybody’s hands. This could make setting up an online store fairly trivial for private citizens, or allow people to easily sell their home directly, without the need for an intermediary. You could sign on to a smart contract as a mortgage and secure its rules according to the agreed-upon rules entered into the blockchain.

The versatility of the blockchain model was demonstrated by IBM itself earlier this year, when it announced its unrelated ADEPT program: Autonomous Decentralized Peer-to-Peer Telemetry. This offers a way to decentralize the Internet of Things, and keep everything coordinated through a form of blockchain. A different project, Etherium, bills itself as “how the internet was supposed to work,” using blockchain-based contracts to make tamper-proof online platforms. The simple ability to keep reliable public records can allow all sorts of interesting applications.

And a related other step.
Bitcoin is now a commodity according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). On Thursday the organization publicly stated it had settled with a Bitcoin exchange for trading option contracts after an enforcement case against a Bitcoin operator.

"In this order, the CFTC for the first time finds that Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are properly defined as commodities," according to the press release. CFTC now has authority to oversee cryptocurrency futures and options. Bitcoin derivatives and futures platforms must register as a swap execution facility or designated contract market.

This is a concise essay by Henry Mintzberg summarizing a few different enterprise models.
Social Enterprises and the Social Economy: Ownership Matters
Walmart is not Greenpeace. It may do its bit for greening, just as Greenpeace has promoted a product call Greenfreeze (for refrigerators). But Walmart is a business, in the private sector, while Greenpeace is an NGO, in the plural sector (civil society). Shareholders own Walmart; nobody owns Greenpeace. That matters.

This seems clear enough. But these days, in between these two examples, we find all sorts of organizations pushing the line between business enterprises and social associations: businesses that engage in social activities and associations that engage in economic activities. Does that mean this line no longer matters? Some people believe so. We do not. We believe that ownership matters.

As individuals, it is easy enough to balance our time between the economic and the social: for example, doing business in our working hours and volunteering for social activities in our private time. But how about organizations? True, every one has multiple intentions, some financial, others social. Greenpeace has to meet its budgets while focussing on protection of the environment, and Walmart wants to be seen as socially responsible while focussing on returns for its shareholders. But can organizations balance economic imperatives with social needs so that neither dominates?

At the extremes are corporations that concentrate on the profit-maximizing “Shareholder Value” (restricting their social activities to keeping within the letter of the law) and NGOs that concentrate exclusively on their social missions. In between, we list below five forms of organizing that seek some combination of the social with the economic, two with a priority for private profit, three with a priority for social impact.

Talking about new business models focused on social enterprise and enablement - here’s a great example.
Kickstarter Focuses Its Mission on Altruism Over Profit
Perry Chen, left, and Yancey Strickler, co-founders of the online crowdfunding website Kickstarter, have rejected the idea of an initial public offering or acquisition
Many technology start-ups aim to become “unicorns,” the companies that get valued at $1 billion or more on their way to probable vast riches. Yancey Strickler and Perry Chen have no interest in that.

As co-founders of Kickstarter, the popular online crowdfunding website that lets people raise money to help fund all manner of projects, including cooking gadgets and movies, Mr. Strickler and Mr. Chen could have tried to take their company public or sell it, earning millions of dollars for themselves and other shareholders.

Instead, they announced on Sunday that Kickstarter was reincorporating as a “public benefit corporation,” a legal change they said would ensure that money — or the promise of it — would not corrupt their company’s mission of enabling creative projects to be funded.

“We don’t ever want to sell or go public,” said Mr. Strickler, Kickstarter’s chief executive. “That would push the company to make choices that we don’t think are in the best interest of the company.”

Public benefit corporations are a relatively new designation that has been signed into law by a number of states. Delaware, where Kickstarter is reincorporating, began allowing public benefit corporations in 2013.

Under the designation, companies must aim to do something that would aid the public (such as Kickstarter’s mission to “help bring creative projects to life”) and include that goal in their corporate charter. Board members must also take that public benefit into account when making decisions, and the company has to report on its social impact.

“Public benefit corporations will harness the power of private enterprise to create public benefit,” Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware said in 2013, adding that such companies “consider profit to be the means — not the exclusive end goal — of their business.”
Other companies, including the e-commerce site Etsy, which went public in April, and Warby Parker, the eyeglasses retailer, have also opted to become B Corps.

And another perfect example of the social factor and institutional innovation.
The Sardex factor
When the financial crisis hit Sardinia, a group of local friends decided that the best way to help the island was to set up a currency from scratch
A cross the island of Sardinia there are more than 7,000 ancient towers built with large blocks of local stone. Known as nuraghi, they resemble giant beehives, jutting out across the landscape. Little is known about the nuraghi or their Bronze Age architects but almost every Sardinian I met had a theory about their purpose. Some told me that they were forts; others that they were residences, places of exchange, even communication beacons. “The amazing thing is that from every single nuraghe you see another nuraghe,” Carlo Mancosu, a 34-year-old Sardinian, told me. “Now imagine a system of communication with flames or light or mirrors. I think there existed a people in a network.”

It was this system, real or imagined, that inspired Mancosu and a group of childhood friends to found Sardinia’s first local currency: Sardex. Arts and humanities graduates with little financial experience, they built it from scratch in their home town of Serramanna as the island reeled from the financial crisis. Their hope was that the project would give them a job in the place where they had grown up. But six years later it has turned into a symbol of local action, spreading to create a new network of thousands of businesses. Together, they have traded nearly €31.3m in Sardex this year.

In a recent paper, Paolo Dini of the London School of Economics writes that, “Sardex has institutional characteristics that make it almost unique among the thousands of examples of CCs [complementary currencies] that have existed throughout human history and that still exist in almost every country in the world.”

The root of the word finance is the Latin finis, “end”. For Amato and Fantacci, the two Italian economic historians, Sardex’s simplicity reflects finance’s etymology and its true purpose: it allows a creditor and debtor to come together, make a payment and part ways, ending their relationship. Nothing could be further from the unsustainable repackaged debt, the system of delayed payments, which resulted in the collapse of the banking system in 2008. “[Sardex] is money that serves an end,” Giuseppe told me. “And once that end has been reached — it has done its work.”

Here’s a wonderful idea whose time has come - this is a perfect program for the digital environment, the emergence of inexpensive gene sequencing, and other diagnostic technology plus the potential to use computational help like Watson. This will be global in the next decade. Amazing research opportunities in every anomaly.
A national program to diagnose difficult-to-diagnose patients
The National Institutes of Health's Undiagnosed Diseases Network launches today, and Euan Ashley, MRCP, DPhil, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine and of genetics at the Stanford University School of Medicine, has been named co-chair of the UDN steering committee.

The network, which seeks to provide answers for patients with mysterious conditions and to advance medical knowledge of both rare and common diseases, is an outgrowth of a smaller NIH program begun in 2008 called the Undiagnosed Disease Program. The new, expanded network inaugurates an online application gateway for patients, called the UDN Gateway, that will harness the expertise of physicians at six major medical centers across the United States, while integrating patient access, patient consent forms and patient genome and other data through a single Internet portal. Within two years, the UDN expects to handle 250 patients per year.

Ashley, who co-directs Stanford's clinical genomics service and the Center for Inherited Cardiovascular Disease, is interested in precision health—the new approach to health that more precisely defines diseases to better understand them, predicts which individuals or populations are at risk and seeks to prevent disease.

This is a Nature article indicating the rise of interdisciplinary research. The graphs are clear and revealing - worth the view.
Interdisciplinary research by the numbers
An analysis reveals the extent and impact of research that bridges disciplines.
Interdisciplinary work is considered crucial by scientists, policymakers and funders — but how widespread is it really, and what impact does it have? Scholars say that the concept is complex to define and measure, but efforts to map papers by the disciplines of the journals they appear in and by their citation patterns are — tentatively — revealing the growth and influence of interdisciplinary research.

Since the mid-1980s, research papers have increasingly cited work outside their own disciplines. The analysis shown here used journal names to assign more than 35 million papers in the Web of Science to 14 major conventional disciplines (such as biology or physics) and 143 specialities. The fraction of paper references that point to work in other disciplines is increasing in both the natural and the social sciences. The fraction that points to another speciality in the same discipline (for example, a genetics paper pointing to zoology) shows a slight decline.

Over three years, papers with diverse references tend to pick up fewer citations than the norm, but over 13 years they gain more.

This is wonderful.
'The Open Tree of life' for 2.3 million species released
A first draft of the "tree of life" for the roughly 2.3 million named species of animals, plants, fungi and microbes—from platypuses to puffballs—has been released.

A collaborative effort among eleven institutions, the tree depicts the relationships among living things as they diverged from one another over time, tracing back to the beginning of life on Earth more than 3.5 billion years ago.

Tens of thousands of smaller trees have been published over the years for select branches of the tree of life—some containing upwards of 100,000 species—but this is the first time those results have been combined into a single tree that encompasses all of life. The end result is a digital resource that available free online for anyone to use or edit, much like a "Wikipedia" for evolutionary trees.

"This is the first real attempt to connect the dots and put it all together," said principal investigator Karen Cranston of Duke University. "Think of it as Version 1.0."

The current version of the tree—along with the underlying data and source code—is available to browse and download at

In the last Friday Thinking - there was an article about AI writing news articles. Here’s another article about crowdsourcing investigative work for the types of journalism important to us all.
How community verification and transparency can drive powerful engagement
A Bellingcat-Checkdesk case study and tips for journalists, by Tom Trewinnard from Checkdesk
Back in February 2015, the citizen investigative journalist project Bellingcat decided to launch an ambitious investigation into military vehicle sightings in conflict-stricken eastern Ukraine.

Amidst competing claims from powerful international leaders over who was involved in the conflict, one thing was certain: Hundreds upon hundreds of reported sightings of heavy artillery across the region were being uploaded to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, VKontakte and other social networks.

Sifting through the reports, verifying and geolocating each sighting posed a monumental challenge — especially for a small group of volunteer investigators.
Bellingcat, however, had a plan: using Checkdesk, they sought to open the investigation to their wider community and let their cadre of followers get involved in the news gathering and verification process.

Collaborative newsgathering in action
The first challenge in the investigation was to gather as many of the reported sightings as possible into one place — no small task given that they were dispersed across a half-dozen different social networks, and cross-network re-sharing often made finding the original post a challenge in and of itself.

On Checkdesk, Bellingcat decided to use a handful of Stories as a workbenches for the task. On the platform, each Story serves as an anchor around which people can focus their energies and help move the investigation along.
Here’s the link to Checkdesk

Speaking of the future and the emergence of new science.
King - Man + Woman = Queen: The Marvelous Mathematics of Computational Linguistics
The ability to number-crunch vast amounts of words is creating a new science of linguistics.
Computational linguistics has dramatically changed the way researchers study and understand language. The ability to number-crunch huge amounts of words for the first time has led to entirely new ways of thinking about words and their relationship to one another.

This number-crunching shows exactly how often a word appears close to other words, an important factor in how they are used. So the word Olympics might appear close to words like running, jumping, and throwing but less often next to words like electron or stegosaurus.  This set of relationships can be thought of as a multidimensional vector that describes how the word Olympics is used within a language, which itself can be thought of as a vector space.  

And therein lies this massive change. This new approach allows languages to be treated like vector spaces with precise mathematical properties. Now the study of language is becoming a problem of vector space mathematics.

Today, Timothy Baldwin at the University of Melbourne in Australia and a few pals explore one of the curious mathematical properties of this vector space: that adding and subtracting vectors produces another vector in the same space.

The question they address is this: what do these composite vectors mean? And in exploring this question they find that the difference between vectors is a powerful tool for studying language and the relationship between words.

And while we are exploring the present and future of linguistics - this is a very entertaining essay - worth the read - if not just because of the title. However, there is some depth in this - about ‘language games’ and with some thought we can begin to grasp how metaphor plays very well in the games of language.
‘The Big Lebowski’, Wittgenstein, and the Garbage Pile That Is Online Discourse
Recently Slate tech writer David Aurbach wrote a fascinating column about how Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language can account for much of the confusion that arises when we debate issues online. I thought this was as good an opportunity as any to debut my own long-held theory that The Big Lebowski(1998) demonstrates these exact ideas. That’s right, folks: The Big Lebowski is based on Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language.

That may sound like a stretch, but stay with me. Ethan Coen wrote his senior thesis at Princeton about Wittgenstein. There are a startling amount of parallels between Wittgenstein’s work and the plot of this movie. There are also a few parallels between his life and the characters in this movie. And finally, it came out in 1998, when the concept of easy mass communication was first becoming a reality for the average person with the rise of 24-hour news networks and widespread internet access.

So it’s fair to say that Ethan Coen might have come to some of the same conclusions based on early internet culture and illustrated them in the The Big Lebowski.

The main point that I think applies to both is Wittgenstein’s concept of a “language-game” or what I want to call a “language puzzle.” He wrote a lot about how “philosophy is the battle against bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” In other words, when we’re doing philosophy, it’s very easy to get caught up in language and just kind of start moving words around without saying anything, and then we feel like we’re doing something when we’re really not. The point of Aurbach’s column is that this is also what happens when we debate online.

Here’s something pointing to the future not just of hiring but of performance review in the workplace of the digital environment.
How games, social media are changing the way people get hired
New candidates culled using algorithms for 'predictive talent analytics'
Attention self-starters, creative thinkers and change agents — the interview and resume game is yesterday's bagels, say entrepreneurs who suggest the mighty algorithm is poised to overturn the way companies hire people.

"Someone is going to say 'we're looking for team players.' Well, what does that mean?" asks Guy Halfteck, founder and CEO of Knack, a Silicon Valley-based company that matches potential employees with companies using online games and predictive analytics.

"Seriously, not to be cynical about it but it's almost meaningless. It just makes the person who wrote it feel good."

New York-based Pymetrics also uses games to evaluate potential candidates, particularly for the financial sector. In this case, neuroscience games.

"We're able to actually gather tens of thousands of data points per person through these games, whereas questionnaires, you have one question, you have one data point," says Pymetric's head of marketing Alena Chiang.

"The traditional way of doing HR is not great. It's actually unintentionally discriminatory, and what we really want to do is democratize that and take out any subjectivity or bias that exists right now."

Back to the future of the past so we can understand what’s happening now. This is a very interesting piece.
The pop star and the prophet
Musicians aren't likely to get rich from selling records today, unlike their 20th Century predecessors - and one man saw it all coming a long time ago. So singer-songwriter Sam York went to ask him if the future will be better for musicians, or worse. 1976, a French polymath called Jacques Attali wrote a book that predicted this crisis with astonishing accuracy. It was called Noise: The Political Economy of Music and he called the coming turmoil the "crisis of proliferation".

Soon we would all have so much recorded music it would cease to have any value, he said. And that sounds pretty accurate to me - I don't remember the last time I spent £10 ($15) on a new album.

"It was a strange book, on a strange issue," Attali says at his home in Paris. He's in his 70s now, and still a prolific writer and thinker.

To understand how he came to predict the "crisis of proliferation" you have to understand the bigger theory that he put forward in the book. Music, money and power were all tightly interlinked, he wrote, and had a fractious relationship stretching back through history.

Powerful people had often used music to try and control people. In the 9th Century, for example, the emperor Charlemagne had imposed by force the practice of Gregorian chant "to forge the cultural and political unity of his kingdom". Much later, the arrival of capitalism and the pop charts gave moguls the chance to use music to extract large amounts of money from people.

But at the same time, music can be used to subvert power, and undermine the status quo. Rock and roll in 1950s America, for example, helped to sweep away a raft of conservative social mores.

This tension led Attali to conclude that industry executives could not control the way we bought and sold music forever. As we became flooded with more music than we could ever listen to, he argued, the model would eventually collapse.

And this "crisis of proliferation" has come to pass, as I've already noted. Instead we are now "drowning in music", as George Ergatoudis, head of music at BBC Radio 1 puts it, and earning enough to live on in these times when "scarcity is busted" is a problem.

Attali also had another big idea. He said that music - and the music industry - forged a path which the rest of the economy would follow. What's happening in music can actually predict the future.

Here’s something from the military establishment on preparing for the future.
11 proposals for DoD's future cyber workforce
The Department of Defense is looking to develop a force of the future that will be able to defend and retaliate in cyberspace, as well as deliver the technology infrastructure to support troops in the field. In doing so, DoD will need to recruit and train a larger civilian workforce, according to a draft reform package currently under review by Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Along with more resources and better training for the troops, the "Force of the Future" plan includes creation of a Defense Digital Services (DDS) modeled after the U.S. Digital Service (USDS) teams working to improve citizen services at civilian agencies.

If the plan is approved, DoD would seek to build two teams — one at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and another in Silicon Valley. Combined, the teams would start with 50 term appointees in the first six months, building up to 100 people within the first year.

Similar to the USDS and other similar civilian programs, the DDS would consist of a rolling temporary workforce designed to bring fresh, innovative people in for brief terms of service. Team members would initially be appointed to two-year terms, with the option for a single two-year extension.

We all know that trading on the stock market is dominated by computers and algorithms - but now anyone can hire an algorithmic portfolio manager.
How artificial intelligence is transforming the financial industry
Your next stockbroker might just be a computer.
More and more, financial firms are turning to machines to do the job humans have done for decades.

Last spring, wealth management firm Charles Schwab launched a new service called Schwab Intelligent Portfolios. The service is unique in that it's not a person who decides where to invest your money, it's an algorithm - lines of code programmed into a computer.

"It's lower cost for the investor," says Tobin McDaniel, who leads the Schwab Intelligent Portfolios team.

"As opposed to working with a traditional advisor where you might pay up to 1%, here you get portfolio management at essentially no management fee."

...And just this summer, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group closed most of its trading pits after 167 years.

The practice of traders shouting and using hand signals to buy and sell commodities had become outdated. The work they once did has been replaced by a much quieter competitor - the computer.

And it’s not just the stock market either.
Sweden testing first-ever unmanned airport control tower
Ever pictured landing in an airport with no human oversight? In an era when deadly blunders still occur and hackers infiltrate well-secured environments, a Swedish airport is testing an unmanned control tower. Operators say the technology is safer.

Welcome to Ornskoldsvik Airport in Sweden, where a lonely control tower with no one inside guides planes down safely. This may appear scary at first –the person controlling your landing is about 90 miles away, in another complex.

But the science is cheaper and more advanced, experts say. “There is a lot of good camera technology that can do things that the human eye can’t,” Pat Urbanke of Searidge Technologies, the company behind the technology, told AP.

“We understand that video is not real life, out the window. It’s a different way of surveying,” he added.

Thinking about new forms of work - new forms of performance art - this is a very interesting article - well worth the read and the pondering.
The Business of Playing Video Games
A famous professional video-game player on the Internet, Tom Burke has made waves for treating his passion like a full-time job. Does that make him a sellout?
Every so often, Tom Burke wakes up and finds that someone has given him $1,000 for playing video games. He gets smaller amounts many times a day—$5 here, $20 there from fans that love watching him play. It never stops feeling weird to him, but it’s how Burke makes a living. Under the online handle Witwix, he collects donations by broadcasting himself on the video-game live-streaming website Twitch, where he’ll play for up to 12 hours a day for audiences that reach well into the thousands.

Burke shows off different games in a variety of ways on his Twitch channel, but he’s famous in the gaming world for his speedrunning—a peculiar style of gameplay that involves beating single-player titles like the Legend of Zelda and Super Mario in as little time as possible. He made a name for himself by setting many impossible-seeming completion times for I Wanna Be the Boshy, a notoriously difficult indie game in which the player guides a blobby cartoon character through absurd two-dimensional spike-filled levels. Burke set his first world record last year and has yet to lose it.

Only a small handful of gamers make any real money from speedrunning. Even fewer make enough to actually support themselves. But as gaming culture has grown, so has speedrunning’s popularity. Burke’s success is controversial as a result. While many gamers embrace the idea of profiting from a hobby they love, others worry speedrunning’s creeping professionalization is ruining the gaming-for-gaming’s-sake purity of a once-niche passion.

Burke, who’s a big, bearded guy with a touch of Chris Pratt’s boyish charisma, is at an extreme end of this debate, because he approaches video-game streaming as a business above all else. I sat down with him at 3 a.m. one night last January, while reporting on a weeklong speedrunning marathon called Awesome Games Done Quick, and asked about this philosophy. What does it take to make it as a video-game performer? And why are people actually paying him for this?

For Gamers and Jonathan Blow fans - here’s a trailer for the release data of his long-in-development game.
The Witness release date trailer
January 2016 - for PS4 and PC.

Here’s a longer article talking about the game
In 2008, developer Jonathan Blow released Braid, a 2D platformer with puzzling gameplay and a gorgeous, hand-drawn visual style. It blew up on Xbox Live Arcade and became one of the main titles people pointed at as part of the "indie game" revolution.
One year later, in 2009, he announced his follow-up, an adventure puzzle game called The Witness.

"I thought it was going to be a much smaller game at the time, so when I announced it, I said ‘coming Christmas 2011,'" Blow recalls, laughing. "Of course, the reaction on the internet was, ‘Oh my god, that's so far in the future. Why are they even bothering announcing it two years ahead of time?' Now it's six and a half years later."

There's no doubt that it's been an unexpectedly long journey for Blow's next project, but The Witness is finally nearing completion. We've played 20-plus hours of it, and what we've discovered is an engrossing, challenging puzzle game that refuses to hold players' hands and isn't afraid of its audience getting stuck.
This is, confirms Blow, all according to plan.

Data, data, data - everywhere - and we’ll be able to see and analyse it. This is a 6 min video - worth the view.
Forget Counting Steps. Quantifying Health Will Save Your Life.
The future of health care could hinge on what Daniel Kraft calls "smart disease management," the operative word being "smart" and referring to innovative diagnostic technology. In this video, Kraft displays several examples of how 3D printing, EKG, and video games can be used to boost your health. The key goal is to pursue lots of good data to help keep track of a person's condition. "There's an immense amount of power in data," says Kraft, and it's power that can be harnessed to help keep people alive.

This is a famous lecture concerning how to have a Great career and/or a life that brings us fulfillment. I don’t think anyone will regret listening to this lecture.
Hamming, "You and Your Research"
The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn" was the capstone course by Dr. Richard W. Hamming (1915-1998) for graduate students at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey California.

This course is intended to instill a "style of thinking" that will enhance one's ability to function as a problem solver of complex technical issues. With respect, students sometimes called the course "Hamming on Hamming" because he relates many research collaborations, discoveries, inventions and achievements of his own. This collection of stories and carefully distilled insights relates how those discoveries came about. Most importantly, these presentations provide objective analysis about the thought processes and reasoning that took place as Dr. Hamming, his associates and other major thinkers, in computer science and electronics, progressed through the grand challenges of science and engineering in the twentieth century.

This is a MUST READ for all the Coffee Lovers - not the mystery pods (who knows what’s in them & what chemicals they use to ‘flavor’ that substance) that is dumbing down people into McConsumers - but for those who are exploring the increasing quality of local micro-roasted coffee, or home roasting - finding the amazing flavours of real coffee.
Coffee reveals itself as an unlikely elixir
From liver disease to diabetes, coffee compounds protect against an array of health condition
For a historically mistrusted drink, coffee is proving to be a healthy addiction. Scientific findings in support of coffee’s nutritional attributes have been arriving at a steady drip since the 1980s, when Norwegian researchers reported that coffee seemed to fend off liver disease. Since then, the dark brown beverage has shown value against liver cancer, too, as well as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Coffee even appears to protect against depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Taken as a whole, these results might explain the most astonishing finding of all. People who drink two or more cups of coffee a day live longer than those who don’t, after accounting for behavioral differences,U.S. researchers reported in 2012. Studies in Japan, Scotland and Finland agree.

Talk about a twofer. Coffee not only picks you up, it might put off the day they lower you down.

Yet coffee has had trouble shaking it’s bad-for-you reputation. It may be one of the most widely consumed drinks in the world, but people have long assumed that, at least in its energizing caffeinated version, coffee comes with a catch.

“People notice the caffeine,” says cardiologist Arthur Klatsky, who has researched coffee for decades at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research in Oakland. “And there is this general feeling that anything that has some effect on the nervous system has to have something bad about it.” It doesn’t help that caffeine is mildly addictive.
“Coffee consumption has not been consistently linked with hypertension,” says Rob van Dam, a Dutch nutritional epidemiologist at the National University of Singapore. In fact, most worries once attached to coffee and caffeine, including stomach ulcers, acid reflux and the heart flutter known as atrial fibrillation,fail to show up in large population studies.

Most studies show benefit — or at least no harm — from coffee. As a result, the aggregate view on the popular beverage is changing. But acceptance is slow in coming because scientists have yet to fully ascertain just how coffee works. Among its ingredients, caffeine and polyphenols are clearly positive players, but beyond that, coffee gets muddy.

I love this.
Where the Big Green Copier Button Came From
In a 1999 presentation for WPT Fest, Xerox PARC anthropologist Lucy Suchman described how she helped Xerox engineers understand how hard copiers were to use
Around this time [1979] a project began at PARC to develop an intelligent, interactive expert system that would provide instructions to users in the operation of a particular photocopier, just put on the market and reported by its intended users to be “too complicated.” With Austin Henderson, I initiated a series of studies aimed first at understanding what made the existing machine difficult to use, and later at seeing just what happened when people engaged in “interactions” with my colleagues’ prototype expert advisor.

In order to explore these questions in detail we got a machine ourselves and installed it in our workplace. I then invited others of my co-workers, including some extremely eminent computer scientists, to try using the machine to copy their own papers for colleagues, with the understanding that a video camera would be rolling while they did so. This resulted among other things in what has become something of a cult video that I produced for John Seely Brown for a keynote address to CHI in 1983, titled “When User Hits Machine.”

The film was shown to researchers and engineers at Xerox, and it led to significant changes in interface design, including the addition of the now ubiquitous large green button that allows users to quickly and easily make a copy.