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Future salon news bits from last 2 months

Wayne R.
user 3177554
Group Organizer
Boulder, CO
Hi Futurists!

Got some news bits for you all. Back in April I got snowed under with work, and didn't read any news for about 2 weeks. Since then I've resumed posting news bits online, but let them pile up because I never had a large, unbroken block of time to go through the news bits. I finally went through them this weekend, and today I selected a handful of news bits that I thought were most important that I wanted to share with you all. I got a "human effects matrix" which is of immediate  practical application for choosing supplements, news about what we can learn about the current state of technology (car tracking and face recognition) from the Boston Marathon bombing event, and a study that shows patents don't encourage innovation -- at all. Which I thought was a very important result.

I'll send out more comprehensive emails in the next couple of weeks.

As for the meetings, yes, we need to get organized and get the meetings going -- the problem is I haven't had time to find a venue, and BPL kinda pulled the rug out from under us by scheduling up the weekends with their own events at all their branches. I guess we can't blame them for wanting to use their own facilities, but it means we have to find a new venue. A few people have suggested ideas to look into and if you have any suggestions please send to me. I'll be looking for a new venue over the next few weeks. With luck we might be able to get a meeting organized for July.


=== news bits: highlights from April/May 2013 ===

Human effect matrix: effect of supplements based on 17,069 studies, classified by evidence, magnitude of effect, and scientific consensus.­

Mice, men, and fate. Commentary on the study of individuality in genetically identical mice. "Is success a matter of genes? Nurture? Luck? Finch and Kirkwood’s review of aging showed decisively (if in a roundworm) that luck can play a role in longevity, even when practically all else is equal. Kempermann’s new mouse study shows that chance plays a role in cognitive development. For reasons as yet unknown, possibly having to do with intrauterine environments or randomness in the process by which individual genes are switched on, some mice became more active, others more passive; those that explored to a greater degree subsequently grew more neurons in their hippocampus."

The case against patents. "The case against patents can be summarized briefly: there is no empirical evidence that they serve to increase innovation and productivity, unless productivity is identified with the number of patents awarded -- which, as evidence shows, has no correlation with measured productivity. This disconnect is at the root of what is called the 'patent puzzle': in spite of the enormous increase in the number of patents and in the strength of their legal protection, the US economy has seen neither a dramatic acceleration in the rate of technological progress nor a major increase in the levels of research and development expenditure." If patents were abolished entirely, there would be no decrease in innovation.

Failed: facial recognition & Boston bombing. "Facial-recognition software did not identify the men in the ball caps. The technology came up empty even though both Tsarnaevs’ images exist in official databases." "The images captured on the street, both from surveillance cameras and smartphones, were not good enough to deliver high accuracy matching. Recall the video from the Lord & Taylor's surveillance cameras. [...] There's too much downtilt plus the subjects are tending to look the other way, plus the pixel density is too low (standard definition camera with a ~15 foot wide FoV)."­

Boston bombers were tracked using Mercedes mbrace system. The Mercedes-Benz mbrace system is a system for connecting the car to the internet, and one of its features is being able to track a car remotely from a browser or cell phone.

Meet the first digital generation. Wired profile of people born in 1993. "A Pew Internet survey from 2010 ranked the seven main ways teenagers communicated. Among then-17-year-olds, who are 20 now, in descending order these were text messaging, cell phone calls, landline calls, face- to-face, social networks, instant messaging, and -- dead last -- email. (Written letters didn’t even merit a footnote.) Teenage girls averaged 80 texts a day, Pew found. Boys, around 30." "Previous generations expressed these kinds of personae and affiliations through the clothes they wore or cars they drove. When you can construct your own identity—sorry, identities—online and flaunt them to 10,000 times as many people as might ever see your bumper sticker, what difference does it make whether you drive a pickup or a Volvo? That process of endless transformation has always been an important aspect of growing up -- one minute you’re an emo kid, the next you're a goth -- but now it takes place in a competitive arena with a massive audience. On the Internet, status is measured in friends, followers, retweets, and pageviews." "She is casual about what some might consider the risks of oversharing. In the future, she says, it won’t matter if you did post a picture of yourself covered in chocolate, because 'the people who care will all retire and the world will be run by my generation.'" "Videogames have also shaped how millennials strategize about life. These games impose a worldview subtly different from the precomputer one, in which a game required formal, transparent rules. Millennials grew up playing games into which creators had inserted hacks, shortcuts, and trapdoors for players to ferret out—or learn of from friends. 'The evolution of games started to mimic the complexity of real life.' Indeed, you can’t navigate modern life without cheat codes." "SoundCloud, a popular music site, takes this interactivity to an extreme, allowing users to post comments not only about a song but second by second during a song. The musicians get feedback on every single note."­

Anatomy of a robocar accident. Brad Templeton predicts that when the first robocar accidents start happening, everybody will get sued -- drivers/occupants of the car, manufacturers, software developers, component developers, etc."There will be no shortage of lawyers out to make a reputation on an early case here, and several defendants in every case." There is likely to be a 360 degree 3D view of everything, video, and detailed sensor recordings to be used as evidence in lawsuits. But as long as the robocar makers are doing their job of meeting their projections for how much they are reducing accidents, the cost of such settlements will have been factored into the insurance premiums, and settlements will be made without problems.

Last of a breed: postal workers who decipher bad addresses. "At the height of the program, in 1997, the centers processed 19 billion images annually, about 10 percent of all mail at the time, the post office said. In the last year, this center, and the one in Wichita, Kan., that will close in September, deciphered just 2.4 billion images, or a mere 1.5 percent of the mail, the post office said."­

Crime and privacy. "In 1997 I predicted in my book The Dilbert Future that someday all crimes would be solvable. My thinking was that video surveillance and other technology, such as electronic noses, would make it nearly impossible to get away with anything illegal. There will always be crimes of passion, and there will always be insane criminals, and criminals who didn't get the memo that crime doesn't pay. And a few geniuses will always find a way to stay ahead of technology. Crime itself will never go to zero, but I'm going to double down on my prediction that technology will someday make it nearly impossible to get away with crime." Scott Adams goes on to say that the loss of privacy will lead to legalization. A loss of privacy reveals how many people are involved in a particular activity, then aw enforcement has no practical way to handle all of the "criminals" who are now exposed, so laws evolve to reflect what is practical. While I think this is plausible, I don't think it has to happen the way he describes. There is an advantage to keeping things illegal. Having so many things illegal that just about everybody breaks some law somewhere from time to time is extremely useful when coupled with prosecutorial discretion. Let's say you piss off a police officer, prosecutor, judge, or politician -- someone with political power. They can look through all the databases of all your activities and find some law that you broke and put you in jail for 25 years. Technically, you broke some law but your real crime was pissing off a powerful person. This is how you have a "nation of men" with the facade of a "nation of laws".­

Markets erode moral values. "In a number of different experiments, several hundred subjects were confronted with the moral decision between receiving a monetary amount and killing a mouse versus saving the life of a mouse and foregoing the monetary amount." "To study immoral outcomes, we studied whether people are willing to harm a third party in exchange to receiving money. Harming others in an intentional and unjustified way is typically considered unethical." "If a market offer was accepted a trade was completed, resulting in the death of a mouse. Compared to the individual condition, a significantly higher number of subjects were willing to accept the killing of a mouse in both market conditions. This is the main result of the study. Thus markets result in an erosion of moral values." The experimenters think this shows that people tend to ignore their own moral standards when acting as market participants, searching for the cheapest electronics, fashion or food.

Breadwinning wives and nervous husbands. Apparently, in a result that will surprise no one, there is a sharp drop-off in marriages at the point where the woman starts earning more than the man, more divorces, and in couples that do stay together, they are less happy when the woman earns more.­

Mary Meeker unloaded another boatload of charts. Things growing like gangbusters: the internet, smartphones, tablets. She predicts wearables and sensors are next. Tremendous growth in video. Sharing is growing exponentially and we are entering a period of unprecedented transparency. Mobile internet use has surpassed desktop in China, South Korea, mobile ad revenue is growing. Android users in China have surpassed the USA. Alibaba commerce has surpassed Amazon + eBay combined. China has "push to talk" Taxi reservation apps. Internet leaders have strong profit margins. Online education is growing rapidly. New startups are re-imagining every basic business process. The USA has the biggest gap between revenues and expenses since WWII.­

The global youth jobless crisis: a tragic mess that is not getting any better. The share of 15-24-year olds in the labor force (working/looking for work) who do not report to be working at all is: Greece 54.2%, Spain 52.4%, Ireland 31.4%, France 22.9%, Eurozone 22.6%, USA 22.6%, Canada 14.4%, Mexico 9.7%, Germany 8.2%, and Switzerland 6.2%.

Welcome, robot overlords. Please don't fire us? "The question we want to answer is simple: If capital-biased technological change is already happening -- not a lot, but just a little bit -- what trends would we expect to see? What are the signs of a computer-driven economy? First and most obviously, if automation were displacing labor, we'd expect to see a steady decline in the share of the population that's employed. Second, we'd expect to see fewer job openings than in the past. Third, as more people compete for fewer jobs, we'd expect to see middle-class incomes flatten in a race to the bottom. Fourth, with consumption stagnant, we'd expect to see corporations stockpile more cash and, fearing weaker sales, invest less in new products and new factories. Fifth, as a result of all this, we'd expect to see labor's share of national income decline and capital's share rise. These trends are the five horsemen of the robotic apocalypse, and guess what? We're already seeing them, and not just because of the crash of 2008. They started showing up in the statistics more than a decade ago."

The first digital, bug-like compound eye camera sees 180 degrees, near-infinite depth of field (DoF). "While you and I, and most other animals on Earth, are equipped with just a pair of standard eyes (simple eyes in biological parlance), some living creatures have compound eyes that are made of thousands of ommatidia. Each ommatidium has a cornea to focus the light, a long cone full of photoreceptors, and a single axon (neuron) link to the optic nerve at the end, to connect it to the brain. In essence, each ommatidium is an individual, low-resolution eye. The input from the thousands of ommatidia is combined by the brain, to form a high-resolution image. [...] To create a digital compound eye, the researchers attached microlenses to individual photodiodes with flexible wires, and then embedded them in a flexible polymer. The polymer is then inflated, forming a hemispherical, bug eye shape. Voilà: An artificial, digital compound eye. To create an actual image, software processes each of the individual microlens/photodiode inputs, and stitches them together in a similar way to software that stitches together a panoramic photo."

=== video ===

Bioengineered kidney works in rats. You take a dead kidney from a donor, wash away the cells but keep the scaffolding, and repopulate with stem cells from the patient and then transplant the functional new kidney into the recipient.­

DNA testing chip delivers results in one hour, paves way for personalized drug treatments. "As youn can see, it's less than half the size of a business card. It contains everything needed for testing DNA." What the chip actually detects are single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which can detect what genes are in specific alleles. This is sufficient to detect certain diseases.­

Immortality, big data, and tatoos. Our social media activity is like tatoos -- permanent, and reveals a lot about us.­

Has technology lived up to our electric dreams? Series of 3 programs from The Beeb where a family tries to live with the technology of the day from the 1970s to 90s to experience how life is changed by technology. Chronicles society's transition from a family life where people spent time eating and playing together to where everyone lives in their own little world with their own electronic devices. The producers did an amazing job of tracking down and repairing old technologies. This link is to the first program, the 70s. To get to the 2nd and 3rd programs, the 80s and 90s, click the links in the description box under the video.­

The key to growth: race with the machines. Erik Brynjolfsson says, in 1997 Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov, but today, the chess grand master is neither man nor machine, but a man-machine team working together. He says this is the solution to the economic dilemma of the decoupling of income from productivity -- humans need to stop "racing against the machines", and "race with the machines". What I don't understand, though, is what this implies we should do different. Is not a modern corporation a "man-machine team"? No corporation today consists of only humans or only machines. And the "decoupling" of productivity and income shows no signs of abatement.­

Position based fluids demonstration. Apparently there is a new technique for simulating water, and it is more realistic and can render in real time.­

Euclideon Geoverse 2013. This software can display 3D models down to sub-millimeter detail. They say they have invented a geospatial index/search algorithm that lets the system pull out only 1 point for each pixel on the screen, and thanks to this can let you fly through models of essentially unlimited size with essentially unlimited detail.­

A Boy And His Atom: the world's smallest movie. It was made using stop-motion with two scanning tunneling microscopes, which work by using an atomic-scale electrically conducting tip to detect surfaces when brought near enough to the surface for a quantum tunneling effect to take place.­

Smart headlights see through rain, snow. Turn your headlights into projectors, then use a camera pair and fast computer to calculate where the raindrops are going to be and turn off those pixels on the projectors, and voilà, you can see through the rain like it's not there.­

Mataerial introduction. Mataerial is a robot artist that makes 3D shapes with 3D curves at any angle or even hanging from the ceiling. At the the heart of the process is a new "3D printing" system that uses chemicals that solidify immediately at the point of extrusion. "The magic behind what you see in the demo video is a chemical reaction that solidifies mixing thermosetting polymers exactly by the time they are extruded. This allows us to print on horizontal, vertical, smooth or irregular surfaces, without the need for additional support structures."­
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