Thursday, May 26, 2016

Friday Thinking 27 May 2016

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.

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



The oil majors, “cannot assume that, as in the past, all they need to survive is to wait for crude prices to resume an upward direction. The oil markets are going through fundamental structural changes driven by a technological revolution and geopolitical shifts,” and the business model that has worked for the last quarter-century is broken.

The dim prospects are further darkened by the increasing urgency to reduce carbon emissions: oil companies may have on their books billions of barrels of reserves that will never be produced as the world shifts away from fossil fuels.
...two unappealing options for today’s oil majors: “managing a gentle decline by downsizing or risking a rapid collapse by trying to carry on business as usual.”

Of course, there is another option: the oil and gas companies could become energy companies, focusing on new technologies, decentralized energy systems, and providing clean energy.

Big Oil Companies Have Already Become Dinosaurs

Many managers these days seem to specialize in killing cultures, at the expense of human engagement.

Too many MBA programs teach this, however inadvertently. Out of them come graduates with a distorted impression of management: detached, generic, technocratic. They are educated out of context, taught to believe they can manage anything, whereas in actual fact they have learned to manage nothing. Such technocratic detachment is bad enough—numbers, numbers. numbers.

The Epidemic of Managing without Soul

This is a MUST VIEW - 54 min video presentation that does a very good job of summarizing many of the disruptive technologies that are transforming our world at an accelerating pace. This is well worth the view - for anyone skeptical of the profound changes in the conditions of change looming before us.

Clean Disruption - Why Energy & Transportation will be Obsolete by 2030

The keynote, based on the book 'Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation' assert that four technology categories will disrupt energy and transportation by:
1- Batteries / Energy Storage
2- Electric Vehicles
3- Self-Driving Vehicles
4- Solar Energy

The outcome of the Clean Disruption is that by 2030
• All new vehicles will be electric.
• All new vehicles will be autonomous (self-driving).
• Oil will be obsolete
• Coal, natural gas and nuclear will be obsolete
• 80+ per cent of parking spaces will be obsolete.
• Individual car ownership will be obsolete.
• All new energy will be provided by solar (and wind)

Clean Disruption is a technology disruption. Just like digital cameras disrupted film and the web disrupted publishing, Clean Disruption is inevitable and it will be swift.

This is a 21 min video by Canadian Sci-Fi writer and futurist Karl Schroeder - delivered in Warsaw. This is of interest for anyone curious about the Blockchain and data privacy. It starts with the realization that the smartphone was only introduced 9 years ago.

Technologies of Trust

Here’s some evidence of the magnitude of another demographic change (these are American findings - but the trend is relevant to all developed nations) - a sort of retrieving of an older family structure - but in a context of the need for a much longer ‘incubation’ period based on higher educational needs and a more difficult employment situation … and a few other variables as well.

For First Time In 130 Years, More Young Adults Live With Parents Than With Partners

For the first time in more than 130 years, Americans ages 18-34 are more likely to live with their parents than in any other living situation, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center.

In that age group, 32.1 percent of people live in their parents' house, while 31.6 live with a spouse or partner in their own homes and 14 percent live alone, as single parents or in a home with roommates or renters. The rest live with another family member, a nonfamily member or in group-living situations such as a college dorm or prison.

Pew notes that this is not a record high percentage for the number of young people living at home — in 1940, for instance, approximately 35 percent of people in that age range lived at home.

But back then, living with a spouse or partner was even more popular than that. Today not so: More people choose an alternative living situation, and out of the crowded field of choices, life with Mom and/or Dad has become the top pick for millennials.

This is worth the read if only for the graphs that depict just how quickly profound disruptive technology can change a society - in fact the graphs illustrate the nature of a socio-technical phase transition.
By the year 2020, it will cost $1.20/day for an off grid home to purchase a full day’s worth of electricity storage.

If you could pay 1/10th what you do now for a car, would you? If you could pay 1/10th what you pay – and never have to worry about parking, down payments or car insurance, traffic and speeding tickets – would you? Of course you would – and according to the numbers – 57% of global consumers are ready to get rid of their car and trade it in for an autonomous electric car service (like Uber will be by 2020). This is made possible because of leaps in the technology surrounding autonomous vehicles.

The math, and evidence all around you, that shows shared autonomous vehicles powered by solar power and batteries are inevitable

... in 1900, we see that there is a single car out of many horse drawn carriages in New York City. Within thirteen years it transformed into one of many cars and one horse. Technology disruptions made this happen – and the evidence from the past several decades seems to show that battery pricing, electric car design, autonomous technologies and solar power are all about to hit their thirteen year strides.

In a keynote speech given by Tony Seba in Oslo, Norway on March 17th, 2016 titled, “Why conventional energy and transportation will be obsolete by 2030,” we are shown clear data on real world changes regarding energy storage, solar power and autonomous vehicles. A lot of these changes have been predicted by others over the last decades – the individual that comes to my mind first is Ray Kurzweil. What Tony does however, is to show us how the predictions of futurists past are actually coming true – and more importantly – how a certain few of these technological advances intertwine in a certain fashion that push them all forward even faster.

We start the conversation being reminded about horses and cars, and how it took 13 years to progress from a New York City full of horses to one full of cars. The key is the pace at which technology advances – cars were a new technology that were faster, cheaper, longer living and always followed directions. These benefits were so overwhelming that a technique of travel that humans had been using for millennia disappeared in a little over a decade.

In the mid-1980s AT&T visited a premier global consulting group and asked – “How many people will be using cell phones in the United States by the year 2000?” McKinsey and Co. predicted that by the year 2000 – there would be 900,000 subscribers. They were off by 98.2% - the actual number was 109 Million subscribers. AT&T missed a disruptive technology – and so did a highly paid consultant.

This is a potential Cable-Tel incumbent disrupter - if regulators enable the disruption - and if Canada would enable it use - the technology could enable communities to provide cheap fast access a new form of public infrastructure.

Wireless, Super-Fast Internet Access Is Coming to Your Home

The Supreme Court shut down his last venture, Aereo, after it riled TV broadcasters. Now Chet Kanojia wants to overturn how broadband is delivered.
In the gleaming but quiet headquarters of a startup called Starry—above the din of Boston’s Downtown Crossing—40 engineers are toiling to achieve a disruptive vision: delivering Internet access to apartments and businesses, cheaply and wirelessly, nearly 100 times faster than the average home connection today.

The idea of gigabit-per-second wireless service to homes has been around for at least 15 years, but technology advancements make the idea far more plausible today. The high-capacity wireless technology involved—known by a chunky piece of jargon, “millimeter wave active phased array”—is now much less expensive and bulky thanks to advances in microelectronics and software.

Here’s another example of how we can come together to provide an Internet that is public infrastructure - rather than be held hostage by rent-seeker incumbent cable-telephone corporations.

The Town That Made Its Own Internet

In Greenfield, Massachusetts, 40 percent of the town’s residents didn’t have access to Internet, so the mayor hired someone to build a cheap system of its own.
Greenfield, Massachusetts, is a small town nestled near the Connecticut River, 90 miles west of Boston and about 15 miles south of the Vermont border. It has around 18,000 residents and 580 businesses spread throughout its 25 square miles. It’s predominantly white, claims more independent voters than any other political affiliation, has a median household income of $48,442 (below the United States’ average by about $5,000), and over 10 percent of the town lives below the poverty line.

But come July 1, the town will become its own Internet Service Provider.

“We’re in a world now where if you do not have digital communication, you’re in a big rut,” says Dan Kelley, president of the Kelley Management Group, who was hired by the city four years ago to oversee the project.

Why will a ubiquitous high-bandwidth Internet be important? For one thing to support the participatory panopticon - to let the watched watch the watchers.

New Surveillance System May Let Cops Use All of the Cameras

THE 30 MILLION or so surveillance cameras peering into nearly every corner of American life might freak you out a bit, but you could always tell yourself that no one can access them all. Until now.

Computer scientists have created a way of letting law enforcement tap any camera that isn’t password protected so they can determine where to send help or how to respond to a crime. “It’s a way to help people take advantage of information that’s out there,” says David Ebert, an electrical and computer engineer at Purdue University.

The system, which is just a proof of concept, alarms privacy advocates who worry that prudent surveillance could easily lead to government overreach, or worse, unauthorized use. It relies upon two tools developed independently at Purdue. The Visual Analytics Law Enforcement Toolkit superimposes the rate and location of crimes and the location of police surveillance cameras. CAM2 reveals the location and orientation of public network cameras, like the one outside your apartment. You could do the same thing with a search engine like Shodan, but CAM2 makes the job far easier, which is the scary part. Aggregating all these individual feeds makes it potentially much more invasive.

Here is one more signal pointing to the future of transportation - Uber is only the ‘Napster’ of the initial disruption of how we provide ourselves with transportation - and mass-transit.
“We aim to become a world leading mobility provider by 2025,” VW Chief Executive Officer Matthias Mueller said in the statement. “Within the framework of our future Strategy 2025, the partnership with Gett marks the first milestone for the Volkswagen Group on the road to providing integrated mobility solutions that spotlight our customers and their mobility needs.”

Uber Rival Gett Receives $300M in Funding From Volkswagen

Gett Inc., a taxi-ordering application that competes with Uber Technologies Inc., raised $300 million in a strategic investment from German carmaker Volkswagen AG to fund its growth in Europe and New York City.

Gett, based in Tel Aviv, Israel, has offered rides for as low as $1 and expanded its services to include deliveries of goods. The company hired Wells Fargo & Co. to find investors for the round, people familiar with the matter said in February. Volkswagen’s contribution brings total funds raised by Gett to more than $520 million, the taxi service said Tuesday in an e-mailed statement.

Volkswagen is not the first car manufacturer to get involved in the ride-hailing business. General Motors Co. bought a 9 percent stake in Lyft for $500 million in January and Apple Inc. made a $1 billion investment in China’s Didi this month.

This is a 5 min video that is a weak signal to larger realizations of the fundamentally social and embodied nature of being human. And in considering our embodiment - we must go beyond just our flesh but our entanglement in our environment of things. Although this research is essentially based on gaming experience but also the power of metaphor to prime how we reason.
Last week I made reference to Edwin Hutchins book “Cognition in the Wild” who outlined a case that cultural practices are systems of distributed cognition. If you were also to read Ian Hodder’s “Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things” these research works make a very strong case for the deeply social nature of being human.

Enclothed Cognition - Do Character Outfits Affect Our Play?

Put a person in a lab coat, and they start to think like a scientist. Does the same symbolic meaning apply to the outfits characters wear in games? Though often considered simply aesthetic choices, the clothes that characters wear may actually impact how players perceive them and their intended playstyle in the game.

A 2012 study invented the term "enclothed cognition" to describe the psychological impact clothing had on people's behavior. When dressed in coats that they were told belonged to doctors, people performed tests in a way they associated with a doctor's way of thinking. Given the same coats and told they belonged to painters, a different group of people showed none of the same behavioral changes. This study's results have yet to be explored in much further detail, but it raises interesting questions for games and game designers. Does clothing change the way people play their characters? Though clothing choices or color shaders are often thought of as purely aesthetic options and a way for the player to express their (or the character's) personality, it would be interesting to look at whether the character's appearance actually changes the way they are played. For designers, it would be interesting to do a playtest and ask players what impression they got from the appearance of a character.

While we are considering the topic of cognition this is a very interesting article well worth considering for anyone involved in the future of education and understands the change in conditions of change and the need to re-imagine everything.
We’re living in an increasingly multi-disciplinary world, so why shouldn’t our majors reflect that? In the next ten years, we’ll start to see less Biology, Math, English and more Big Data, Creative Studies, and Decision Sciences.
Finland is considering its most radical overhaul of basic education yet: abandoning teaching by subject for teaching “by phenomenon.” Traditional lessons such as English Literature and Physics are already being phased out among 16-year-olds institutions in Helsinki.
Instead, the Finns are teaching “topics” such as the European Union, which encompasses learning languages, history, politics, and geography. No more of an hour of history followed by an hour of chemistry. The idea aims to eliminate one of the biggest gripes of students everywhere: “What is the point of learning this?” Now, each subject is anchored to the reason for learning it.

12 Facets of Education That Will Be Obsolete By 2025

Educational research is especially fertile right now, and efforts to integrate it into curricula over the next decade are going to leave some of us high and dry unless we start paying attention this second. Significant findings range from brain-based study habits to insights into the nature of intelligence and motivation. They also include glimpses into which of today’s factors will no longer be, well, factors come 2025. In this list we outline 12 of the primary facets of learning, instruction, and policy that won’t be around to see the next decade.

An advance in surveillance and an advance in encryption - where the ball ends up - who can know in advance?

Computing a secret, unbreakable key

What once took months by some of the world's leading scientists can now be done in seconds by undergraduate students thanks to software developed at the University of Waterloo's Institute for Quantum Computing, paving the way for fast, secure quantum communication.

Researchers at the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo developed the first available software to evaluate the security of any protocol for Quantum Key Distribution (QKD).

QKD allows two parties, Alice and Bob, to establish a shared secret key by exchanging photons. Photons behave according to the laws of quantum mechanics, and the laws state that you cannot measure a quantum object without disturbing it. So if an eavesdropper, Eve, intercepts and measures the photons, she will cause a disturbance that is detectable by Alice and Bob. On the other hand, if there is no disturbance, Alice and Bob can guarantee the security of their shared key.

This is an interesting 15 min MUST READ  - and perhaps is a weak signal of the possibility of an institutional innovation - to help prevent design crimes against society. This is a vital consideration for genuine progress in the digital environment. What is brilliant about this article is that it points out that it is design that is behind the worst aspects of our experience with technology - not the technology itself.

How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist

I’m an expert on how technology hijacks our psychological vulnerabilities. That’s why I spent the last three years as Google’s Design Ethicist caring about how to design things in a way that defends a billion people’s minds from getting hijacked.

When using technology, we often focus optimistically on all the things it does for us. But I want you to show you where it might do the opposite.

Where does technology exploit our minds’ weaknesses?
I learned to think this way when I was a magician. Magicians start by looking for blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities and limits of people’s perception, so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it. Once you know how to push people’s buttons, you can play them like a piano.
Hijack #1: If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices
Here is the website


This is an 11 min read (or so) about the current state of Etherium - a blockchain initiative - it also a readable and accessible account of Bitcoin & Blockchain basics and the continuing importance of organization and community in the healthy development of these technologies.
I cannot overemphasize enough how important this combination of full programming functionality and ease of use is. People are doing things in Ethereum that are not possible right now in Bitcoin. It has created a new generation of developers which never worked with Bitcoin but are interested in Ethereum.
Bitcoin could have this advanced functionality, but it would be through a series of other layers that work with the Bitcoin protocol that haven’t been created yet, while Ethereum is providing it out of the box.

Ethereum is the Forefront of Digital Currency

We have sat here for the last 3 years seeing only infrastructure apps like wallets and exchanges emerge on top of Bitcoin. Why is that?
My theory has been that the scripting language in Bitcoin — the piece of every Bitcoin transaction that lets you run a little software program along with it — is too restrictive.

Enter Ethereum. Ethereum has taken what was a four function calculator of a programming language in Bitcoin and turned it into a full fledged computer. We now stand only 9 months out from the beginning of the Ethereum network and the level of app development is already faster than Bitcoin’s. We are finally getting rapid iteration at the app layer. In one early example, people have designed a decentralized organization (The DAO) — a company whose heart is code and peripheral operations are run by humans, rather than the other way around — that has raised $150m so far in the largest crowdfunding ever.

To be clear, I don’t think this needs to be a contest between Bitcoin vs. Ethereum and Coinbase plans to strongly support both. I think this is about advancing digital currency as much as we can. There is a significant amount of overlap between the two, however, so the comparison is valuable and the potential for competition is real.
How did we get here?

...It was, and still is, incredible that Bitcoin got off the ground and is alive after 7 years. It is the first network ever to allow anyone in the world to access a fundamentally open financial system through free software. It has ~$7bn in market cap and has never had a systemic issue which could not be fixed. To some this is already a great success.
Ethereum’s programming languages lets you do much more than Bitcoin’s

This is a great example of the potential of the digital environment to harness the power of citizen science, institutional innovation and open source tools and data.

Garage Biotech: New drugs using only a computer, the internet and free online data

Pharmaceutical companies typically develop new drugs with thousands of staff and budgets that run into the billions of dollars. One estimate puts the cost of bringing a new drug to market at $2.6 billion with others suggesting that it could be double that cost at $5 billion.

One man, Professor Atul Butte director of the University of California Institute of Computational Health Sciences, believes that like other Silicon Valley startups, almost anyone can bring a drug to market from their garage with just a computer, the internet, and freely available data.

In a talk given at the Science on the Swan conference held in Perth this week, Professor Butte outlined the process for an audience of local and international scientists and medics.

The starting point is the genetic data from thousands of studies on humans, mice and other animals, that is now freely available on sites from the National Institute of Health and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. The proliferation of genetic data from experiments has been driven by the ever decreasing cost of sequencing genetic information using gene chip technologies.

One small step for domesticating DNA - one larger step for harnessing the whole gene pool.
Thanks in part to innovations at Gen9, very large-scale DNA fabrication is getting closer. In 2001, it cost $12 for each extra pair of DNA letters chemically strung onto a gene in a lab. But prices have dropped steadily. In March, Gen9 began offering prices as low as just three cents a pair.

Big Ideas, Big Conflicts in Plan to Synthesize a Human Genome

Printing genomes on demand could mean custom-built organisms, difficult ethical questions, and profits for a handful of companies.
The biggest beneficiary of a plan to fabricate a human genome from scratch could be a Massachusetts startup called Gen9 that has close ties to the authors of the still-secretive proposal.

Two weeks ago, more than 130 scientists, ethicists, and government funding officials met behind closed doors at Harvard University to discuss a follow-up to the Human Genome Project—one that would write a genome rather than read it. The event, named HGP Write, was meant to rally interest around the idea of synthesizing all six billion DNA letters of a human genome and using the results to “boot up” a cell.

That grand goal will require new technology as well as lots and lots of DNA. “We are going to be one of the companies that is going to make this possible,” says Kevin Munnelly, the CEO of Gen9, which was started in 2009 to manufacture DNA strands and whose founders include George Church, the visionary Harvard Medical School geneticist at the center of the genome-writing plans. “I don’t think anyone can make as much DNA as we can with six technicians in 15,000 square feet.” Constructing a human genome, analysts say, would take three times the number of man-made genes currently produced globally each year and require at least $90 million worth of DNA.

Better and cheaper ways of writing DNA could make it possible to print entire genomes. Want a micro├Ârganism that eats carbon dioxide and makes fuel? Someday you might be able to point and click and get one delivered. In addition to Church, the company’s other scientific founders (who have their own life-size portraits) are engineer Joe Jacobson of MIT and synthetic biologist Drew Endy of Stanford University. “Gen9 is their baby. This is their idea. This is what they have wanted to do for a long time,” Munnelly says of the three founders. “The founding principle is to promulgate synthetic biology by making it easier to adopt.”

Here’s something that should inspire more hope in the much discussed antibiotic crisis. There is also a 53 min video presentation.

Scientists discover antarctic sponge extract can help kill MRSA

A serious and sometimes fatal bacterial infection, known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), may soon be beatable thanks to the efforts of University of South Florida scientists who have isolated and tested an extract from a sponge found in Antarctica. The sponge extract, known as Dendrilla membranosa, yields a new, natural product chemical which has shown in laboratory tests that it can eliminate more than 98 percent of MRSA cells. The research team has named the new chemical "darwinolide."

The study describing their methods and results was published this week in the American Chemical Society's journal Organic Letters.

While years ago the highly-resistant MRSA infection was particularly problematic in places such as hospitals and nursing homes, it has developed into an infection that can be found in commonly-used places such as gyms, locker rooms and schools.

This is a great story - and opens up a whole new domain for DIY 3D printing. The article provides detail pictures of the whole process.

This college student 3D printed his own plastic braces for $60 — and they actually fixed his teeth

An undergraduate at New Jersey Institute of Technology made his own plastic braces using a 3D printer, $60 of materials, and a healthy dose of ingenuity — and they actually worked.

Amos Dudley had braces in middle school, but he didn't wear a retainer like he was supposed to, so his teeth slowly shifted back.

He didn't want to shell out thousands of dollars for a whole new round of braces, so the digital-design major decided to make his own. The process wasn't exactly easy. He had to research orthodontic procedures and plot the route of his successive braces, so his teeth would move in the right way. But once that was done, all it took was fabricating a series of models out of relatively inexpensive plastic, and then following through on wearing them.

And it was worth it for Dudley, whose smile turned out looking remarkable.

Here’s some interesting news that may make us feel a bit better about the mass-extinction event involved with Climate Change.

Top 10 new species for 2016

A hominin in the same genus as humans and an ape nicknamed "Laia" that might provide clues to the origin of humans are among the discoveries identified by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) as the Top 10 New Species for 2016.

The list also includes a new kind of giant Galapagos tortoise, which could serve as a poster species for conservation and evolution, and two fish -- a seadragon in stunning shades of ruby red and pink and, conversely, an anglerfish that would not win an undersea beauty pageant.

Rounding out this year's Top 10 are three invertebrates -- a tiny isopod that builds its own mud shelters, a beetle named after a fictional bear who traveled from Peru to London and a damselfly with a suggestive name, and two plants -- a carnivorous sundew that was considered endangered as soon as it was found and a tree that was hiding in plain sight.

This is an interesting project with promise to help restore devastated reefs - the need for electricity can ultimately be provided via zero-marginal cost renewables.

This Coral Restoration Technique Is 'Electrifying' a Balinese Village

The technique is also changing attitudes and inspiring locals to preserve their natural treasures.
As you walk the beach in Pemuteran, a tiny fishing village on the northwest coast of Bali, Indonesia, be careful not to trip on the power cables snaking into the turquoise waves. At the other end of those cables are coral reefs that are thriving with a little help from a low-voltage electrical current.

These electrified reefs grow much faster, backers say. The process, known as Biorock, could help restore these vital ocean habitats at a critical time. Warming waters brought on by climate change threaten many of the world’s coral reefs, and huge swaths have bleached in the wake of the latest El Ni├▒o.

Skeptics note that there isn’t much research comparing Biorock to other restoration techniques. They agree, however, that what’s happening with the people of Pemuteran is as important as what’s going on with the coral.

Pemuteran is home to the world’s largest Biorock reef restoration project. It began in 2000, after a spike in destructive fishing methods had ravaged the reefs, collapsed fish stocks and ruined the nascent tourism industry.

Another signal in the end-game of fossil fuels and phase-transition into another energy geo-politics of zero-marginal cost energy. On top of this is a shift from investments in fossil fuel extraction and into battery research and technology.

Exxon Mobil faces 'change or die' moment on climate

A significant group of shareholders are seeking to force Exxon Mobil to acknowledge the growing threat from climate change at the company's AGM on Wednesday.
These investors want the world's biggest publicly traded oil company to support the goal of a 2C global temperature limit.

Exxon Mobil is also being investigated for potential fraud by withholding information on the role of fossil fuels in driving up temperatures.