Vitalik Buterin invented the world's hottest new cryptocurrency and inspired a movement — before he'd turned 20 - "I think a large part of the consequence is necessarily going to be disempowering some of these centralized players to some extent because ultimately power is a zero sum game. And if you talk about empowering the little guy, as much as you want to couch it in flowery terminology that makes it sound fluffy and good, you are necessarily disempowering the big guy. And personally I say screw the big guy. They have enough money already." [more inside]
Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World - "With interviewees ranging from Elon Musk to a gaming addict, Werner Herzog presents the web in all its wildness and utopian potential in this dizzying documentary." (via)
25 years ago, Paul M. Romer's oft-cited article: "Endogenous Technological Change" (pdf) was published in The Journal of Political Economy. In it, he tried to explain how technological progress and knowledge creation affected the dynamics of growth. Romer’s model (pdf) became the "primary engine that fueled a decade-long re-examination of long-term growth in economics." This past October, Dr. Romer posted 7 follow-up blog entries to his historic paper, in order to 'revisit the basics,' starting with: Nonrival Goods After 25 Years. [more inside]
Humans 2.0 - "With CRISPR, scientists can change, delete, and replace genes in any animal, including us. Working mostly with mice, researchers have already deployed the tool to correct the genetic errors responsible for sickle-cell anemia, muscular dystrophy, and the fundamental defect associated with cystic fibrosis. One group has replaced a mutation that causes cataracts; another has destroyed receptors that H.I.V. uses to infiltrate our immune system." [more inside]
Rewrite the rules to benefit everyone, not just the wealthy - "If there's one thing Joseph Stiglitz wants to say about inequality, it's that it has been a choice, not an unexpected, unfortunate economic outcome. That's unnerving, but it also means that citizens and politicians have the opportunity to fix the problem before it gets worse." (via) [more inside]
Uber would like to buy your robotics department Today’s early-stage inquiry — so-called basic research, the Level 1 work, where scientists are still puzzling over fundamental questions — is financed almost exclusively by the federal government. It’s too far out, too speculative, to attract much investment; it isn’t clear if anyone will make any money on it. This wasn’t always the case.
As part of our special focus on innovation in Africa, we have developed a list of 40 remarkable African innovators. Actually, it’s more like 47 but we counted teams as one. Our decision to celebrate these idea creators and solution providers stems from our belief that the true wealth of Africa is not buried under its soil, but in the brains of its best minds. This list is a testament to that belief.
Joe Stiglitz on Inequality, Wealth, and Growth: Why Capitalism is Failing (video; if you don't have 30m, skip to 20m for discussion of political inequality, wealth, credit and monetary policy) - "If the very rich can use their position to get higher returns, more investment information, more extraction of rents, and if the very rich have equal or higher savings rates, then wealth will become more concentrated... economic inequality inevitably gets translated into political inequality, and political inequality gets translated into more economic inequality. The basic and really important idea here is that markets don't exist in a vacuum, that market economies operate according to certain rules, certain regulations that specify how they work. And those effect the efficiency of those markets, but they also effect how the fruits of the benefits of those markets are distributed and the result of that is there are large numbers of aspects of our basic economic framework that in recent years have worked to increase the inequality of wealth and income in our society... leading to a society which can be better described, increasingly, as an inherited plutocracy." [more inside]
The CRISPR Revolution [ungated: 1,2,3] - "Biologists continue to hone their tools for deleting, replacing or otherwise editing DNA and a strategy called CRISPR has quickly become one of the most popular ways to do genome engineering. Utilizing a modified bacterial protein and a RNA that guides it to a specific DNA sequence, the CRISPR system provides unprecedented control over genes in many species, including perhaps humans. This control has allowed many new types of experiments, but also raised questions about what CRISPR can enable." [more inside]
Monsanto Is Going Organic in a Quest for the Perfect Veggie - "The lettuce, peppers, and broccoli—plus a melon and an onion, with a watermelon soon to follow—aren't genetically modified at all. Monsanto created all these veggies using good old-fashioned crossbreeding, the same technology that farmers have been using to optimize crops for millennia. That doesn't mean they are low tech, exactly. Stark's division is drawing on Monsanto's accumulated scientific know-how to create vegetables that have all the advantages of genetically modified organisms without any of the Frankenfoods ick factor." [more inside]
What do 3D printing, jelly, liver transplants, chainmail, dental fillings, ferrofluids, and the Six Million Dollar man have to tell us about our future? Materials scientist and engineer Mark Miodownik lets us know in this Royal Institution lecture.
Why People Really Love Technology: An Interview with Genevieve Bell The thing I love about Intel researcher Genevieve Bell is that she finds surprising things by looking at what's left out of the dominant narratives about technology. She finds data that's ignored because it didn't fit into the paradigm of, say, how people adopt technology. The dominant narrative is that young men determine the popularity of phones, computers, websites, and the like. But when Bell looked at the data, the story we told ourselves about how the world worked was not reflected in the numbers. That's why I wanted to talk to her about what gadgets people around the world might be using over the next decade. I figured she was someone who could look past the conventional wisdom and find the missing pieces of the future
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon have created what they are calling "acoustic barcodes". These barcodes can be decoded by a computer with a microphone attached, and their video presents several potential use cases including an interactive whiteboard, cell phone mode controls, and children's toys.
There is an European Commission budgetary proposal to boost E.U. funding for science and technology by 45% from €55B to €80B by trimming some fat form the controversial Common Agricultural Policy. [more inside]
Inducement Prizes -- Best known for the Ansari X Prize, the DARPA Grand Challenge and the Clay Mathematics Millennium Problems, inducement prizes have a long history, but their recent successes have led to increased government interest, viz. challenge.gov, and resulted in the development of vaccines, thanks in large part to the work of Michael Kremer.* [more inside]
Using a 3-D petri dish, Researchers at Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island have built a completely functional artificial human ovary that will allow doctors to harvest immature human egg cells (oocytes) and grow them into mature, ready-to-be-fertilized human eggs outside the body. (In vitro) The advance could eventually help preserve fertility for women facing chemotherapy or other medical treatments that may be destructive to ovarian folliculogenesis. Press Release. Article link. (paywall) [more inside]
Scientists Repurpose Adult Cells - "Scientists have transformed one type of fully developed adult cell directly into another inside a living animal, a startling advance that could lead to cures for a variety of illnesses and sidestep the political and ethical quagmires associated with embryonic stem cell research." [nature abstract, nature writeup, audio announcement]
Andy Grove on Our Electric Future - "Energy independence [viz.] is the wrong goal. Here is a plan Americans can stick to." Perhaps some infrastructure spending1,2 is in order? [etc., &c., cf.] [more inside]
The Edison of our age? Stanford Ovshinsky may not be a household name, but his inventions have the power to change the world.
Sounds Cool! Thermoacoustic refrigeration research at Penn State has been sponsored by Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream company. The aim? To produce an efficient yet environmentally friendly ice cream freezer...[more inside]
Beyond Discovery - illustrations of the path from research to human benefit
So yesterday I posted the story about how researchers had discovered that both sexes cared about appearance when selecting dates. Today Stanford (!!) releases the startling discovery that cars get hot when parked in the sun. Meanwhile K State learns that women feel better about their bodies when complemented, and the other shocker story is that problem gamblers share traits with substance abusers. And how about that New Scientist story about the fact we're entering a dark age? So what's up with science lately, particularly in America?
Science explores 125 big questions that face scientific inquiry over the next quarter-century. [via]
Mobile-phone radiation damages lab DNA. Sure to be controversial and certainly not the last word, but it raises some interesting points of conversation. Government surveillance becomes much easier with wireless communications and there is a huge corporate financial investment in the infrastructure. Could we really trust the government(s) to tell us if this particular technology was harmful? And at what point would you give serious consideration to giving up a technology that had proved to be such an intrinsic part of your life? Are you addicted beyond the point of no return?
Other media carrying the story via Google News.
Other media carrying the story via Google News.
Eyetracking for fun and profit. The Eyetrack III study observed 46 people for one hour as their eyes followed mock news websites and real multimedia content. This article summarizes their observations. Too impatient to read? Cool transparent heatmap overlay gizmo here. Via the rather cool creativebits.
Let there be light - Canadian researchers have devised a new polymer material by manipulating buckyballs (carbon atoms that look like soccer balls). The technology could be used to create optical (light based) switches to replace electronic network switches. It could lead to an Internet based entirely on light.
Laser-o-vision: A system that projects light beams directly into the eye could change the way we see the world.
"If you like surfing the web, it is probably because you believe people are basically good." That's the Economist interpreting the results of a recent study by IBM researchers of how cultural characteristics apparently affect people's readiness to adopt new communications technologies.
this childs game (java applet) is so complex you could use it to construct a computer. the original paper (postscript), is heavy going - if you're not a compter science student but would like to understand more try this wonderful book by one of the authors (example pictures).
MIT's R&D for the US Army of the future appears to be based on a comic book.
MIT's Erotic Computation Group. "By developing advanced sexual appliances and techniques, we seek to broaden the range of human amative expression and heighten our potential for sexual gratification." Good to see that at least some people are doing research that will benefit all mankind.
Two months from illiterate to MP3 trading hax0rz. Very cool social experiment showing how easy today's GUIs are to use, especially for kids.
This breaking story brings a new aspect to a complex debate. Reasearchers in a private clinic in the US have created human embryos specifically for the purpose of extracting stem cells. This seems a good platform on which to discuss the wider issue of the interaction between public/private research funding, technology and life. Here's hoping it won't just end up a pro-life/pro-choice bloodbath.
Bill Joy thinks the world will end unless we stop doing certain kinds of research right now. I think Bill Joy is full of crap, but he has valid points. (More inside)
Lynn Conway is one of the major talents in the history of the development of computers, responsible for major advances without which computers we buy now would be much different. She's also a transsexual, born physically male. While working for IBM she had her sex-change operation, and IBM immediately fired her for it.
Too Much Information? Heavy information overload: the world's total yearly production of print, film, optical, and magnetic content would require roughly 1.5 billion gigabytes of storage. This is the equivalent of 250 megabytes per person for each man, woman, and child on earth.