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Volume 21, Number 9 – 5/1/18
FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
Over a third of U.S. hospitals have at least one surgical robot. A pollution-gobbling park bench can absorb as many toxins as 275 trees. In Japan, the number of centenarians totaled 67,824 last year, compared to153 in 1963. Space mining will produce the world’s first trillionaire.
by John L. Petersen
Ayahuasca pioneer, Dr. Dennis McKenna, coming to Berkeley Springs Transition Talks
Join us Saturday, May 12, 2018, 2 to 4 pm in Berkeley Springs for “Climbing the Vine”!
Have you heard about the consciousness expanding plant medicine called Ayahuasca – a powerful potion from the Amazon that has opened up many millions of people to illuminated spiritual states and unique personal assessment?
If so, it is because of Terence and Dennis McKenna. These brothers were the pioneers who, as young researchers, explored the Amazonian rain forest, finding the shaman practitioners and secrets of the extraordinary mind-expanding ayahuasca elixir and bringing that knowledge to hundreds of thousands of 1960’s young people who were exploring the outer edges of consciousness.
Terrance and Dennis, along with contemporaries that included Timothy Leary, John Lilly, Ram Dass, and leaders in popularizing the use of psychedelics drugs – that were then used by people like Steve Jobs, to revolutionize our world.
Dennis McKenna and his brother Terence first came to S. America in 1971. Their unexpected adventures in pursuit of exotic psychedelics led to some surprising discoveries recounted in Terence’s book, True Hallucinations, and Dennis’ 2012 memoir, The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss. In 1981, Dennis returned to Peru, this time as a graduate student, and began his scientific investigations of ayahuasca, that continue to this day as a professional and personal passion. In this lecture, Dennis tells the tale of an unusual life lived in the shadow (or perhaps the light) of this mysterious and beautiful medicine.
“Ayahuasca has been a professional and personal passion of mine for nearly 50 years. It was the focus of my doctoral dissertation which I received from the University of British Columbia in 1984. I have continued to investigate it scientifically, while also continuing to learn from this plant teacher as a part of my spiritual and personal development. In this talk, I will share some reminiscences of a life lived ‘climbing the vine’ and some of the unlikely directions of the path I have followed and some of the truly unique people that I would never have encountered were it not for the gift of this medicine in my life. That story will be the main theme of this talk but it also includes a smattering of science and historical references to place it all in context.” ~ Dennis McKenna, Ph.D.
Let me tell you more…
Get complete details at TransitionTalks.org.
John Petersen to speak at Energy, Science and Technology Conference
I will be one of the keynote speakers at one of the foremost new energy conferences in the world, held in Idaho (near Spokane, Washington), on the 5th -8th of July. ESTC is a marvelously interesting mix of researchers and inventors who are on the leading edge of “free” and alternative energy. It is always a most provocative time full of new ideas . . . and mind-blowing technology that really works. The revolution is starting there.
Here’s what some of the folks who attended last year had to say about their experience:
This is a really great conference, with ample opportunities to meet many very interesting people and hear sometimes amazing presentations about working technologies that trumpet the emergence of a new world. That’s what I’m going to talk about. Here’s the description of my talk.
New Energy: The Linchpin to Unprecedented Change and the Emergence of a New Era
We are full into the most extraordinary period of change ever experienced by humanity . . . and the acceleration will increase before things begin to settle down. Amazing breakthroughs and manipulations of our reality signal a transition the likes of which baffles conventional wisdom.
The endpoint is a new world populated by new humans – both fundamentally different from the familiar forms that we all grew up with. Many sources paint a picture of a world without war for millennia.
Futurist John Petersen will paint the big picture of what is going on, where it could be headed and why new energy is such a key piece of the extraordinary new world.
You can get complete information on the program at energyscienceconference.com. If this is of interest to you, there are only about 40 seats left, so register soon.
Hope to see you there.
Will AI Replace Humans? – (Medium – April 17, 2018)
Advances in deep learning and areas of AI will coincide with the rise and proliferation of smarter robots. Even rather primitive digital transformation is already modifying human behavior in a marked way. A set of AI machines by the company Alibaba recently became the first to beat a human score at a reading comprehension test. We didn’t expect to see AI beat human experts at Go or Jeopardy in the same decade. Surgery was early to the robotics party: Over a third of U.S. hospitals have at least one surgical robot. It’s hard to imagine an industry that won’t be impacted (even disrupted) by AI in the 2020s: Transportation, real-estate, financial services, retail, fast-food, restaurants, customer service, insurance, construction, banking, the list goes on and on. A time will come when AI will be training us in education and how to improve our global economy, and not just addicting us to a data capture attention economy by the Ad-centric platforms. In an era where it’s being shown we can’t even regulate algorithms, how will we be able to regulate AI and robots that will progressively have a better capacity to self-learn, self-engineer, self-code and self-replicate? But at least one think tank predicts that although AI will optimize many of our systems, it will also create new jobs. Research firm Gartner further confirms the hypothesis of AI creating more jobs than it replaces, by predicting that in 2020, AI will create 2.3 million new jobs while eliminating 1.8 million traditional jobs. (Editor’s note: This opinion is a real outlier; drilling down into the Gartner report gave very little assurance that it was accurate.)
Yellowstone Hotspot: Scientists Find Source of Supervolcano’s Heat – (Tech Times – April 21, 2018)
Yellowstone erupts about every 600,000 years and its next eruption could be catastrophic. A group of NASA scientists and engineers has earlier revealed the idea of stealing the volcano’s heat to prevent an eruption. If more heat could be extracted, the volcano may not erupt. NASA estimates that cooling the volcano on its brink of eruption by 35% could ward off an explosion. The idea is to drill a hole into the side of the volcano and pump water through it. The circulating water would come back out heated to over 600 degrees, which given enough time, could slowly take enough heat from the volcano and prevent an explosion. “You would have to give the geothermal companies incentives to drill somewhat deeper and use hotter water than they usually would,” said Brian Wilcox of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “The long-term benefit is that you prevent a future supervolcano eruption which would devastate humanity.” Scientists, however, acknowledged that this idea of saving Earth from a supervolcanic eruption is far from perfect.
Even NASA Is Puzzled by These Ice Circles in the Arctic Ocean – (Tech Times – April 23, 2018)
On April 17, as part of its monthly Earth Matters blog, NASA posted a satellite image of what appeared to be a sheet of ice with curious holes in them and asked everyone to guess what it is. The photo is now revealed to be part of the eastern Beaufort Sea in the Arctic Ocean. It was taken as part of NASA’s Operation IceBridge, which flies annually over both polar regions to map the region’s land and sea ice. Some parts of the image remain hard to explain, though — most especially the mysterious ice circles, which are something IceBridge mission scientist John Sonntag had never seen previously. NASA doesn’t have a firm explanation of what the holes could be, since it’s hard to speculate with only a photograph or satellite image alone. The IceBridge mission is mainly an imaging operation and is ill-equipped to dabble in actual exploration, so needless to say that it isn’t capable of going down the area and have experts examine it. The circles remain a mystery, and NASA even says they’re difficult to fully explain. One speculation suggests that they may have been not so much formed but gnawed out by seals to create pockets where they can habitually use to breathe. This seems more plausible when looking at similar photographs of breathing holes crafted by ring and harp seals. Alternatively: “It could be a sort of drainage feature that results from when the hole is made in the ice,” according to National Snow and Ice Data Center scientist Walt Meier.
Tiny Lab-Grown ‘Brains’ Raise Big Ethical Questions – (NPR – April 25, 2018)
Bits of human brain tissue no larger than a pea are forcing scientists to think about questions as large as the nature of consciousness. These clusters of living brain cells are popularly known as minibrains, though scientists prefer to call them cerebral organoids. At the moment, they remain extremely rudimentary versions of an actual human brain and are used primarily to study brain development and disorders like autism. But minibrain research is progressing so quickly that scientists need to start thinking about the potential implications now, says Nita Farahany, a professor of law and philosophy at Duke University and the director of Duke Science and Society. “Is it possible that an organoid far off in the future could develop something that looks like consciousness or any kind of sentience, the ability to feel something like pain,” she says. At the moment these lab-grown minibrains are limited to a few million cells and don’t get much larger than a pea. In contrast, the human brain is thousands of times larger and contains about 85 billion cells. “Right now they’re pretty good proxies for being able to study how certain kinds of human neurons interact with each other and grow and develop over time,” Farahany says. A team at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif.has published evidence that a human minibrain transplanted into a mouse brain could develop functioning blood vessels. One area of ethical concern involves the practice of transplanting human brain tissue into animals. That could eventually lead to, say, mice with exceptional mental abilities, Farahany says. So now, she says, is when scientists and society needs to start asking questions like, “How comfortable are we with certain kinds of hybrids we’re creating and does that change the way we regard those animals or the kinds of protections that should be afforded to them.” (Editor’s note: If you have time to read only one article here, this is the one.)
Sitting Too Much Linked to Memory Problems and Higher Dementia Risk – (Tech Times – April 14, 2018)
Researchers from the University of California Los Angeles have discovered that sitting too much can cause changes on the part of the brain that is responsible for memory. This effect is said to be considered a precursor to cognitive decline and dementia, so you might want to start standing up more in your everyday routine. The study, which involved 35 people aged 45 to 75 years old, gathered data from the participants regarding their levels of physical activity as well as the average number of hours sitting each day over a week. The researchers then took a look at the brains of the participants through a high-resolution MRI scan. The researchers discovered that the subjects who were sitting too much daily, defined as three to seven hours per day, had significant thinning of their medial temporal lobe (MTL), the part of the brain where new memories are formed. The researchers found the same thing among the patients who sat for hours daily but also had time for physical activity. It means that the negative effects of sitting too much could not be offset by exercise. A thinner MTL is considered a predecessor for dementia along with other significant signs of cognitive decline in middle-aged to older people. The study, however, does not identify the reason behind the connection between too much sitting and a thinner MTL. The researchers speculate that the sedentary behavior may be increasing inflammation and hurting the ability of the brain to generate new blood vessels and cells.
When Do You Know You’re Old Enough to Die? Barbara Ehrenreich Has Some Answers – (Guardian – April 7, 2018)
Four years ago, Barbara Ehrenreich, 76, reached the realization that she was old enough to die. Not that the author, journalist and political activist was sick; she just didn’t want to spoil the time she had left undergoing myriad preventive medical tests or restricting her diet in pursuit of a longer life. While she would seek help for an urgent health issue, she wouldn’t look for problems. Now Ehrenreich feels free to enjoy herself. “I tend to worry that a lot of my friends who are my age don’t get to that point,” she said. “They’re frantically scrambling for new things that might prolong their lives.” The results of this are detailed in her latest book, Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer. Ehrenreich – who holds a PhD in cellular immunology – casts a skeptical, sometimes witty, and scientifically rigorous eye over the beliefs we hold that we think will give us longevity. She targets the medical examinations, screenings and tests we’re subjected to in older age as well as the multibillion-dollar “wellness” industry, the cult of mindfulness, and food fads. In 2000, Ehrenreich was diagnosed with breast cancer (she wrote the critical, award-winning essay Welcome to Cancerland about the pink ribbon culture). The experience of cancer treatment helped shape her thoughts on ageing, she says. “Within this last decade, I realized I was not going to go through chemotherapy again. That’s like a year out of your life when you consider the recovery time and everything. I don’t have a year to spare.” Ehrenreich, who is divorced, has talked to her children – Rosa, a law professor, and Ben, a journalist and novelist – about her realization she is old enough to die, but “not in a grim way”. That wouldn’t be her style. While a somber subject, she chats about it with a matter-of-fact humor. I think they’re with me. I raised them right,” she laughs. “The last time I had to get a new primary care doctor I told her straight out: ‘I will come to you if I have a problem, but do not go looking for problems.’” She pauses: “I think I beat her into submission.”
UK Pledges £61.4 Million to Fight Ocean Plastics – (Nation of Change – April 17, 2018)
British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that her government will earmark £61.4 million towards cleaning the world’s oceans of plastics. May hoped to encourage other Commonwealth countries to join the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance (CCOA) through which the funds will be directed. The CCOA was established by the UK and Vanuatu to tackle plastic pollution. So far, Ghana, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka have also decided to join, May announced. The fund will be divided in three parts: £25 million towards researching the science and economics of marine plastic pollution, £20 million to prevent plastic and other pollutants from industry in developing countries from reaching the ocean, and £16.4 million to improve waste management in the UK so that plastics don’t enter the ocean through rivers. May also hopes to encourage the 52 countries in the Commonwealth to join the UK in banning microbeads and restricting plastic bag use.
Recycled TZB Materials to Become Artificial Reefs – (Terrytown Patch – April 18, 2018)
The Tappan Zee Bridge is being torn down now that the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge is open for traffic. And what will happen to all of that de-construction material? More than 40,000 cubic yards of it will be dumped into coastal waters off of Long Island. But wait — that’s a good thing. Long Island will soon be the home of the largest expansion of artificial reefs in New York history, Cuomo said, the reefs will be comprised of cleaned and recycled materials from the TZB, as well as old tug boats, barges and scows. The material will be used to build six artificial reefs off the Long Island coast. “By constructing these reef habitats, we are investing in a stronger, more diverse marine ecosystem,” Cuomo said. “As the largest artificial reef construction program in state history, these efforts will increase New York’s marine biodiversity, provide new habitats for a variety of coral and fish, and support a growing tourism industry that brings thousands of anglers and travelers to Long Island’s pristine waters every year.” Recycled materials will come from the Department of Transportation, Canal Corporation and the Thruway Authority. Construction of New York’s first artificial reef dates back to 1949, and this latest initiative marks the state’s first coordinated effort to stimulate the full environmental and economic benefits of artificial reefs.
Baby Bison Are Being Flown to Siberia to Try to Save the Permafrost – (Fast Company – April 23, 2018)
In a remote corner of northeastern Siberia near the Arctic Circle, researchers are experimenting with one potential solution: restoring pieces of a prehistoric ecosystem that could, in theory, keep the underground permafrost cold enough to stay intact. “Permafrost is a huge carbon reserve,” says Nikita Zimov, director of Pleistocene Park, a reserve that is beginning to rebuild the landscape of the past. Right now, you can drive hundreds of miles in Siberia without seeing any wildlife, he says. But 20,000 years ago, if you had walked around a piece of Siberia roughly the size of Central Park, you might have seen a few wooly mammoths, more than a dozen bison, around 30 horses, and 50 reindeer. Across the entire region, there might have been 30 million bison. This wildlife disappeared by the beginning of the Holocene epoch, possibly killed by prehistoric hunters. For more on that, see: In a Few Centuries, Cows Could Be the Largest Land Animals Left. With the animals gone, so was the grassland–a landscape that Zimov, and his father and research partner Sergey Zimov, think is key to protecting the permafrost now. By bringing back the animals, they believe, the grass can also return. The permafrost starts a few feet below the surface and can extend down as far as hundreds of feet. As the name suggests, permafrost is almost always frozen. But in the summer, if it gets hot enough, it can begin to melt. Then, in the following winter, a thick layer of snow on the ground can prevent cold air from penetrating and cooling the soil below. If a herd of animals tramples the snow, however, the frigid Siberian air can have a bigger cooling effect. The colder the permafrost gets, the less likely it will melt the following summer. In a seven-square-mile reserve in the Siberian wilderness that the Zimovs call Pleistocene Park, the researchers are testing whether their theories hold up. Reindeer, musk ox, and Yakutian horses already graze the fenced-off park, where the researchers are sampling the changes in below-ground temperature and carbon storage. In a crowdfunding campaign in 2017, the researchers raised funds to buy six bison, a key species in their vision. In preliminary research at Pleistocene Park, they say that they’re beginning to see evidence that the system works.
Google Is Learning to Differentiate between Your Voice and Your Friend’s – (Digital Trends – April 13, 2018)
Thanks to new research detailed in a paper titled, “Looking to Listen at the Cocktail Party,” Google researchers explain how a new deep learning system is able to identify voices simply by looking at people’s faces as they speak. “People are remarkably good at focusing their attention on a particular person in a noisy environment, mentally “muting” all other voices and sounds,” Inbar Mosseri and Oran Lang, software engineers at Google Research noted in a blog post. And while this ability is innate to human beings, “automatic speech separation — separating an audio signal into its individual speech sources — while a well-studied problem, remains a significant challenge for computers.” Mosseri and Lang, however, have created a deep learning audio-visual model capable of isolating speech signals from a variety of other auditory inputs, like additional voices and background noise. “We believe this capability can have a wide range of applications, from speech enhancement and recognition in videos, through video conferencing, to improved hearing aids, especially in situations where there are multiple people speaking,” the duo said. So how did they do it? The first step was training the system to identify individual voices (paired with their faces) speaking uninterrupted in an aurally clean environment. Ultimately, the researchers were able to train the system to “split the synthetic cocktail mixture into separate audio streams for each speaker in the video.” As you can see in the video, the A.I. can identify the voices of two comedians even as they speak over one another, simply by looking at their faces. “Our method works on ordinary videos with a single audio track, and all that is required from the user is to select the face of the person in the video they want to hear, or to have such a person be selected algorithmically based on context,” Mosseri and Lang wrote.
Fast, Efficient Optoelectronic Chips to Hit Market Next Year – (New Atlas – April 8, 2018)
MIT spin off company Ayar Labs is combining light and electronics to create faster, more efficient computers. The new optoelectronic chips are designed to speed up data transmission to and from conventional processor chips in a way that will also reduce energy consumption in chip-to-chip communications by 95% and could cut overall energy usages by large data firms by up to 50%. Since the invention of the silicon chip 60 years ago, the power of computers has doubled every two years, but the speed at which computer systems work hasn’t shown quite such dramatic progress. The problem is one of data transmission and the bottlenecks that any technology runs into, slowing down the whole to the speed of its most sluggish part. Chips may be able to operate at lightning speed, but they still communicate with one another using copper wires that not only slow down the system, they also force the chips to waste energy sitting idle while the data is transferred. As long as the copper wires are there, so is the bottleneck. The Ayar Labs solution is to create a hybrid chip that melds optical and electronic elements. This isn’t new, but where previous attempts wasted energy by treating the photonic and electronic parts as separate elements, Ayar cut out the copper to create silicon chips that directly integrate optical components at a cost of pennies per chip.
This Pollution-Gobbling City Bench Can Absorb as Many Toxins as 275 Trees – (Good News Network – March 21, 2018)
This elegant park bench does not just give weary pedestrians a place to rest their feet – it also absorbs as much air pollution as 275 trees, but in a tiny fraction of space. The CityTree bench is the work of Green City Solutions, a Dresden-based design company that creates innovative and environmentally-friendly solutions for urban infrastructure. The CityTree bench harbors 1,682 pots of moss that absorb dirt, soot, and other pollutants from the air. The solar-powered technology that is built into the bench can monitor particulate matter in the surrounding air and maintain its own watering system. The materials used to build the bench are easily recyclable and can be assembled within a matter of hours. The surface of the bench is graffiti-proof to prevent vandalism – and it comes with built-in Wifi for the modern city goer. Since its creation, CityTree benches have been installed in Oslo, Amsterdam, London, Berlin and Paris.
Airlines Back Creation of Global Drone Registry – (Reuters – April 17, 2018)
The world’s airlines are backing the development of a United Nations-led global registry for drones, as a rise in near collisions by unmanned aircraft and commercial jets fuels safety concerns, according to an executive of their trade group. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) backs efforts by the United Nations’ aviation agency to develop such a registry, which could also help track the number of incidents involving drones and jets, said Rob Eagles, IATA’s director of air traffic management infrastructure. IATA would consider collaborating with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to use the registry for data analysis to improve safety. ICAO is developing the registry as part of broader efforts to come up with common rules for flying and tracking unmanned aircraft. Airlines and airport operators are looking to drone registries, geo-fencing technology and stiffer penalties for operating drones near airports. They hope these steps will ensure flying remains safe as hobbyists and companies like Amazon.com Inc use more drones. In Britain, the number of near misses between drones and aircraft more than tripled between 2015 and 2017, with 92 incidents recorded last year, according to the U.K. Airprox Board. A single registry would create a one-stop-shop that would allow law enforcement to remotely identify and track unmanned aircraft, along with their operator and owner. “The intention at present is to merge this activity into the ICAO registry for manned aircraft, so that the sector has a single consolidated registry network,” said ICAO spokesman Anthony Philbin by email. The manned aircraft registry is operated by Aviareto, a joint venture between Switzerland-based aviation technology group SITA and the Irish government. SITA CEO Barbara Dalibard said her company wanted to build a blockchain-based global drone registry and had been working with Geneva Airport on tests of a geo-fenced zone around the airport where drones listed in the registry would not be able to fly. (Editor’s note: Presumably this registry would not include any of the world’s military drones.)
How Asia’s Airports Are Changing the Way We Travel – (CNN – April 17, 2018)
Airports throughout Asia are making the once-dreaded terminal a destination in its own right thanks to cutting edge technologies and carefully crafted, ultra-modern spaces. Asian airports — especially Singapore’s Changi Airport and South Korea’s Incheon Airport — have perfected the art of creating airport terminals that are destinations unto themselves with art, culture, food, entertainment, restful spaces, green spaces and, of course, plenty of shopping. For example, passengers arriving at Seoul’s Incheon airport (number two on this year’s best airports list) for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in February were among the first to try out the airport’s state-of-the-art new Terminal 2. As well as adding much-needed capacity to the country’s main international gateway, developers designed the building around passenger needs by focusing on technology. The centerpiece of the terminal is the Great Hall, which covers four stories. Decorated heavily in granite and wood, it features artworks by local artists. But the fun starts when you notice the fleet of robots on hand to help passengers navigate the airport. Forget finding an information desk or complicated terminal map. These friendly helpers will scan your boarding pass and escort you to your gate, conversing with you in any of four languages — Korean, English, Mandarin and Japanese. When not directly interacting with passengers, the robots helpfully wander around flashing final boarding calls. But when it comes to building a unique and world-leading passenger experience, Singapore’s Changi Airport surely sets the benchmark. The stand-out feature is the number of leisure facilities on offer. The four terminals are crammed full of retail, dining and entertaining options for both arriving and departing passengers. Terminal 3 has its famous multi-story slide, a butterfly garden and several other themed garden spaces. Passengers waiting for a flight can visit the cinema. The world’s tallest airport slide is of course loved by kids. Over in the departure hall of Terminal 2, the Enchanted Garden is a sensory experience of twinkling lights, meandering paths and motion-activated sounds of nature as travelers pass giant flower sculptures. If all that sounds a little too overwhelming, the terminal’s orchid and sunflower gardens offer a much more tranquil experience before take off.
Scooters Could Revolutionize Urban Transport — If It Weren’t for Stupid Humans – (Daily Herald – April 21, 2018)
Internet-connected electric scooters: a bunch of well-funded tech startups think they might just upend how we get around cities. First they have to survive a speed bump: jerks. Companies including Bird Rides, LimeBike, Spin and Waybots this spring flooded a half-dozen cities with the motorized two-wheelers. Then came a wave of scooters behaving badly. And in some cities, the era of startups disrupting first and seeking forgiveness later (Uber-style) seems to have worn out its welcome. What makes these upright rides different from children’s toys is their motors. They zip up to 15 miles per hour, which can make getting around five times faster than walking — but also a hair-raising test of balance. You do, undoubtedly, look goofy riding one. These scooters also have GPS and data connections. Using a smartphone app, you can locate one nearby and unlock it for as little as $1. But it’s up to you to ride responsibly and park out of the way. Evidence suggests many people don’t. “It now feels strange when I’m not tripping over one or almost getting clipped by someone zooming by each day,” said Alex Kummert, who commutes on foot into San Francisco’s Financial District. Cities are struggling to figure out how to manage transport options that aren’t built around personal cars. Where, exactly, are scooters supposed to be stored — should you have to pay for parking? Scooters laid haphazardly on sidewalks and in front of doors are a serious impediment for wheelchairs and the elderly. In China, where dockless bikes are now ridden by millions, the idea of shared transportation tech has been a hit but has also taken its toll. Some cities in China have far more bikes than there is demand, leaving sidewalks no place to walk or with piles of mangled bikes. Ofo, China’s largest dockless bike provider, says the solution is education. “People are going to park them incorrectly in the early days,” says Chris Taylor, Ofo’s head in North America where the company launched operations last year. But over time, he says, people learn what the “furniture zone” is on sidewalks.
This Student Runs a Fine-Dining Restaurant from His College Apartment – (Daily Meal – April 24, 2018)
Jimmy Wong is running a wildly successful fine-dining pop-up out of his college apartment anyway. The 20-year-old — who attends Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo — draws on his cultural roots and background to create carefully cultivated Californian cuisine through an Asian American lens for diners who are helping him pay his way through school. When Wong was 16, he started bussing tables at a Japanese restaurant. After working his way up to a front-of-house position, he emailed every “four-dollar-sign” restaurant in his area looking to expand his food-world expertise. Chez TJ and Plumed Horse wrote him back, both of which have one Michelin star. Wong spent the summer of his high school junior year shadowing pastry chefs at both kitchens. But the real motivation behind Wong’s pop-up, dubbed DENCH., was his time spent at Lazy Bear — a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in San Francisco that also started as a pop-up. “Coming into college, it was always on my bucket list to do pop-up dinners for people after seeing people in other schools run successful pop-up restaurants out of their college apartments,” Wong said. Since September, Wong has welcomed customers to indulge in a $45 five- to seven-course tasting menu. The food science major gets his ingredients from local farmers markets weekly, where everything is locally, organically, and sustainably sourced. Past menus have boasted dishes including shishito poppers, 62-degree tea eggs, and beef ribeye. “Since I’ve always preferred doing pastry, people also enjoy my desserts a lot,” Wong said. “Currently, I serve a dessert called Raekwon’s ice cream, which is a Valrhona chocolate ice cream served with a Valrhona chocolate cremeux, cocoa-dusted meringues, butter pecan croquant, French vanilla crème Chantilly, and cherry powder.”
Cricket Flour: A Healthier High Protein Flour – (Wellness Mama – January 11, 2018)
Cricket flour is gaining popularity as a healthy protein source without the environmental, economic, and health concerns that come with meats. A cricket is a grasshopper-like insect that is also known for its nighttime chirping. It is farmed in Thailand for human consumption because it has superior taste to other insect species. Compared to beef, crickets emit virtually no methane gas, 1% as much carbon dioxide, and a third of ammonia per kg of body weight per day. In addition, crickets grow about 20 times faster than cows, which means they require much less resources to grow. Crickets require less than half the farming area to generate the same amount of protein as do meats. Insects have been part of the human diet for thousands of years, especially in hotter climates where bugs can be harvested year-round. Currently, over 80% of nations consume insects as part of their diets. Cricket flour is made by whole-milling cooked crickets that have been dried. It is a whole, unprocessed food and not an isolated protein source. Cricket flour has a mild nutty taste that many people like. With 2/3 of the content being pure protein, many people use it as a protein powder. In addition, cricket flour can substitute for 25% of the flour content in any baking recipe to increase protein content. (Editor’s note: If you are not familiar with it, put “cricket protein powder” into your preferred search engine and browse through the many products on the market.)
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
China’s Children Are Its Secret Weapon in the Global AI Arms Race – (Wired – April 19, 2018)
For Chinese President Xi Jinping, the defeat of the world Go champion, Korean Lee Sedol by DeepMind’s Alpha Go made it clear that artificial intelligence would define the 21st century as the space race had defined the 20th. The event carried an extra symbolism for the Chinese leader. Go, an ancient Chinese game, had been mastered by an AI belonging to an Anglo-American company. Xi knew he had to act. Within twelve months he revealed his plan to make China a science and technology superpower. By 2030 the country would lead the world in AI, with a sector worth $150 billion. How? By teaching a generation of young Chinese to be the best computer scientists in the world. Becoming a science and technology superpower in the the twenty-first century means evolving from a model in which the mastery of routine skills is the end of education, to one in which they’re a means to the end of creative inquiry. In 2013 Shanghai’s teenagers gained global renown when they topped the charts in the PISA tests administered every three years by the OECD to see which country’s kids are the smartest in the world. Aged 15, Shanghai students were on average three full years ahead of their counterparts in the UK or US in math and one-and-a-half years ahead in science. A decade ago, we consoled ourselves that although kids in China and Korea worked harder and did better on tests than ours, it didn’t matter. They were compliant, unthinking drones, lacking the creativity, critical thinking or entrepreneurialism needed to succeed in the world. No longer. Though there are still issues with Chinese education – urban centres like Shanghai and Hong Kong are positive outliers – the country knows something that we once did: education is the one investment on which a return is guaranteed. China is on course to becoming the first education superpower. Today, the US tech sector has its pick of the finest minds from across the world, importing top talent from other countries – including from China. Over half of Bay Area workers are highly-skilled immigrants. But with the growth of economies worldwide and a Presidential administration intent on restricting visas, it’s unclear that approach can last.
After Toronto Attack, Online Misogynists Praise Suspect as ‘New Saint’ – (NBC –April 2018)
Before allegedly killing 10 people with a van in Toronto, Alek Minassian appeared to have posted a message on Facebook that linked him to a toxic online community of misogynists that has become the source of a growing pattern of violence. The Facebook post, which authorities believe came from Minassian, links Minassian to an online community known as “incels,” short for involuntary celibates. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation also reported that Facebook confirmed the authenticity of the post. Self-described incels congregate mostly online, meeting in forums and message boards like Reddit and 4chan, and its offshoot site 8chan, to discuss their hopelessness with women in posts that are peppered with racist and misogynistic rants. “Chads” are incel-speak for good-looking men, who incels believe can’t be one of them. “Stacys” are the women who find “Chads” attractive. The Facebook message also refers admiringly to Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in Isla Vista, California, in 2014, and left behind a manifesto and videos detailing his sexual frustration as the motivation for his violence. Rodger has since emerged as a source of inspiration among the incel community. “Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161. The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!” Minassian allegedly posted. BlkPillPres, whose username is a nod to the black pill, lingo in the incel community for coming to the realization that a woman will never have sex with them, wrote “I want to see some mass food poisoning deaths, maybe a pipe bomb or two, or hopefully somebody finally uses a f—ing truck to just ram down [women] during a school parade or something, mix it up a little.” Violence perpetrated by men connected to misogynistic online communities has become systemic enough to warrant attention from organizations that track hate groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center added misogynistic organizations to their list of hate groups for the first time this year. When asked by a Reddit user earlier this month whether “open racism, including slurs” were against the site’s rules, CEO Steve Huffman wrote in a comment on Reddit, “it’s not.”
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
Canada to Measure Marijuana Use by Testing Sewage – (NPR – April 13, 2018)
As a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana works its way through the Canadian Parliament, the government is gearing up to track cannabis consumption more closely than it has before. Statistics Canada has begun to do city-scale drug screening by monitoring what Canadians flush down the toilet. Six cities have agreed to contribute samples from the place where all drains congregate — their wastewater treatment plants. Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Alberta; Vancouver and Surrey in British Columbia; and Halifax, Nova Scotia, will participate. All told, the network would capture data on drug use from about a quarter of Canada’s total 36 million inhabitants. Canada joins several countries in Europe that sample wastewater for drugs annually. New Zealand has been collecting data from sewage since last year, and Australia tests nearly half of its population’s wastewater for substance use. Ideally, Statistics Canada would like to estimate how much cannabis Canadians consume, in total, through the sewage measurements. It might be possible then to subtract legal sales and arrive at the amount of cannabis sold illegally. (What about home-grown?) Researchers say it’s relatively straightforward to detect marijuana traces, such as tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Tests pick it up even in dilute wastewater. But there’s something more difficult: using the THC concentration in sewage to extrapolate back to the amount of pot consumed. According to Italian researchers who tested sewage for cocaine in 2004, to was the first time anyone had used wastewater to estimate illicit drug use. Toxicologist Ettore Zuccato, at the Mario Negri Institute in Milan, led the experiments. Soon, scientists around the world were reporting results from testing a few water treatment plants at a time. Use of MDMA, or Ecstasy, peaked on weekends, people in larger cities excreted more evidence of cocaine and smaller cities’ sewage often reflected more opioid use. But the sampling protocols were a bit of a patchwork, so it was difficult to compare drug use in Milan with that of Antwerp, Belgium. In 2010, Sewage Analysis Core Group Europe, or SCORE for short, started to standardize this testing. Pretty quickly, SCORE agreed on how to measure evidence of cocaine, MDMA, methamphetamine and amphetamine. They also settled on standard estimates of total drug use from the wastewater concentration of these drugs and their metabolites. But estimating total marijuana use is particularly tricky because the compound measured to detect cannabis use — THC-COOH— sticks around in fat, not water, and it leaves the body slowly, over days rather than hours. And while cocaine and MDMA have a couple of well-established modes of administration, there’s a bit more variance in how people use marijuana.
From Rotting Crops to Migrant Worker Shortages, Times Are Hard Down on the Farm That Brexit Built – (Wired – April 3, 2018)
Robots won’t save the UK’s farms from a migrant labor shortage. Ahead of this year’s growing season, many farmers are worried they won’t have enough people to pick their crops. For example, the near totality of the G’s Fresh (a large agribusiness in the UK) seasonal workers, the ones taking care of the harvesting, are from Eastern European countries, with Romanians and Bulgarians making up the biggest cohorts. That is not an isolated case: according to the National Farmers’ Union, less than one per cent of seasonal workers in British farms are UK-born – a drop in the ocean of workers from Romania, Bulgaria and the so-called EU8 countries. But following the 2016 referendum, and the government’s decision that freedom of movement from the EU will stop at the end of 2020, Eastern European migrant workers have already started shunning the UK. For the harvest, G’s needs around 2,000 workers, 600 of them in Cambridgeshire alone. The company is currently grappling with a gnawing question: come June, will the fields crawl with people deftly cutting heads of iceberg and romaine, or will the company find itself in the unenviable position of not having enough pickers? More importantly, when the UK leaves the EU for good, how will farmers across the country have their fruits and vegetables picked? Labor shortages in agriculture are not a recent problem – nor a specifically British one: farmers from Canada, to Australia, to California, have been complaining for years about recruitment pains. In wealthy countries, less and less locals are willing to toil in the field on seasonal contracts: G’s attempts to recruit seasonal workers from the UK’s most high-unemployment areas have proved routinely unsuccessful. Seasonal workers usually go fruit-picking for two to three summers in a row, putting aside the money and coming back the following year, until they reach a certain goal – they might want to earn enough money to buy a house, or fund their university studies back in Romania. But amidst a weakening pound, perceived anti-immigrant hostility, and a lot of uncertainty regarding whether they will be able to come back working in the UK over the next years, some of them resolved to build relationships with growers in places that are not in the throes of hazy divorce with the world’s largest trading bloc. Put simply, people now prefer veggie-picking in Germany.
America Can’t Be Trusted Anymore – (Foreign Policy – April 10, 2018)
It’s hard to be powerful when nobody believes a word you say. One of the most overused clichés in contemporary U.S. diplomacy is Ronald Reagan’s invocation of a Russian proverb: “Trust but Verify.” Originally used in the context of the Cold War, it conveyed that Washington should be willing to reach agreements with its adversaries but only if it could be sure the other side would live up to its commitments. But is the real problem that Washington can’t trust others, or rather that other states can’t trust it? Even before Deceitful Donald showed up, the United States had amassed a pretty good record of reneging on promises and commitments. At a minimum, Washington cannot claim any particular virtue or trustworthiness in its dealings with others. In the unipolar era, in fact, the United States repeatedly did things it had promised not to do. To be sure, this is how one expects great powers to behave, especially when important matters are at stake. The Athenians famously told the Melians that “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” Time hasn’t changed that. For example, America’s handling of the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea does not inspire confidence in its trustworthiness. There is no question that North Korea violated the agreement by secretly working on an alternative enrichment path, but the United States never lived up to its commitments either. In particular, it failed to lift economic sanctions as promised, and the light-water power reactors it had pledged to provide were delayed for years and ultimately never arrived. As Stephen Bosworth, the veteran U.S. diplomat who headed the multinational effort to implement the agreement, later put it, “The Agreed Framework was a political orphan within two weeks after its signature.” The article then goes on to discuss the checkered history of U.S. policy toward Libya. (Editor’s note: As both North Korea and Libya are prominently in the news at this point, we recommend this article for some of the background it provides.)
Famed War Reporter Robert Fisk Reaches Syrian ‘Chemical Attack’ Site, Concludes “They Were Not Gassed” – (Mint Press New – April 17, 2018)
Robert Fisk’s bombshell first-hand account for the UK Independent, “The search for truth in the rubble of Douma – and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack” runs contrary to nearly every claim circulating in major international press concerning what happened just over week ago on April 7th in an embattled suburb outside Damascus: not only has the veteran British journalist found no evidence of a mass chemical attack, but he’s encountered multiple local eyewitnesses who experienced the chaos of that night, but who say the gas attack never happened. Fisk is the first Western journalist to reach and report from the site of the alleged chemical weapons attack widely blamed on Assad’s forces. Writing from Douma in eastern Ghouta, Fisk has interviewed a Syrian doctor who works at the hospital shown in one of the well-known videos which purports to depict victims of a chemical attack. Fisk is among the most recognizable names in the past four decades of Middle East war reporting, having twice won the British Press Awards’ Journalist of the Year prize and as seven-time winner of the British Press Awards’ Foreign Correspondent of the Year. The opening sentences in the Independent article are: This is the story of a town called Douma, a ravaged, stinking place of smashed apartment blocks–and of an underground clinic whose images of suffering allowed three of the Western world’s most powerful nations to bomb Syria last week. There’s even a friendly doctor in a green coat who, when I track him down in the very same clinic, cheerfully tells me that the “gas” videotape which horrified the world– despite all the doubters–is perfectly genuine. War stories, however, have a habit of growing darker. For the same 58-year old senior Syrian doctor then adds something profoundly uncomfortable: the patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm.” Fisk goes on to identify the doctor by name – Dr. Assim Rahaibani – which is notable given the fact that all early reporting from Douma typically relied on “unnamed doctors” and anonymous opposition sources for early claims of a chlorine gas attack (lately morphed into an unverified “mixed” chlorine-and-sarin attack). (Editor’s note: We highly recommend these two articles which not only reflect real, on the ground, journalism but also how stories get spun and morph into completely different stories.)
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Some Said They’d Flee Trump’s America. These People Actually Did. – (New York Times – April 14, 2018)
More than one family has of late dispensed with the trappings of the American dream (house, school, career) and gone nomad. Hopping from one vacation rental to the next or piling into R.V.s, they have sold or rented out their homes and unloaded most of their possessions, financing their travels with savings or work done remotely. They chronicle their adventures on YouTube channels, Instagram and blogs including NomadTogether, Unsettle Down and Terra Trekkers. They gather at annual conventions like the Project World School Family Summit in Guanajuato, Mexico, with sessions like “No, I’m not on vacation” and “Worldschoolers, your child can go to university!” Just like late-1960s hippies, right? But living an untethered life has gotten easier now that many people need only a laptop and a fast internet connection to earn a living. Websites like Nomadlist help people decide where on Earth to go. The rise of Airbnb makes it easy to rent space in most corners of the globe with a swipe of your iPhone. Roving parents can find global play dates and moral support on Facebook groups like Worldschoolers, which has about 40,000 members. Paul Kortman, who, with his wife, Becky Kortman, wrote “Family Freedom: A Guide to Becoming a Location Independent Family,” estimates that a family could travel indefinitely on $60,000 a year, a salary he says could be earned with a little ingenuity. “All you need to do is have a laptop and be an intelligent person,” Mr. Kortman said. “You don’t need a specific skill set.” It does help, though.
A Growing Cult of Millennials Is Obsessed with Early Retirement. This 72-Year-Old Is Their Unlikely Inspiration – (Money – April 17, 2018)
Vicki Robin had no idea she’d become a millennial icon. The 72-year-old coauthor of the 1992 bestseller Your Money or Your Life was recuperating from a hip replacement early last year when a young man she’d met at a sustainability event months prior told her she was popular on a Reddit forum about financial independence. “It was stunning,” Robin says. “I’m an elder in a community I didn’t know existed.” Robin’s fans belong to an impassioned, mostly millennial movement known online as the FIRE community, or simply FIRE. It’s an acronym that stands for “financial independence, retire early.” Adherents track down to the penny where their money goes, mindful of how much each purchase will really cost, with the idea that dollar amounts should be equated to “hours of life energy,” in Robin’s words. So if you make $300 a day (after taxes) and want to buy a $100 pair of shoes, you ask yourself: Are those shoes really worth nearly a third of a day of your precious time on earth? Traditional retirement is a thing of the past. No one works for 40 years at the same company anymore and retires to a front porch with a gold watch and a pension to show for it. So instead of tweaking the traditional model around the edges, these young people are saying, let’s just blow up the whole concept of career, and retirement, and start from scratch. To be sure, there are many subcultures within the FIRE movement. There’s regular FIRE, for all those people who want to exit the rat race early but might like to occasionally enjoy a good restaurant on the way, or hire a plumber to fix their broken toilet instead of breaking out the wrench themselves. There’s also barista FIRE, for those who might need or want to supplement their savings with a part-time job at a place like Starbucks for the health insurance—a key necessity for early retirees. On the extreme ends, there are the frugal FIRE adherents. But reaching financial independence is only part of the equation. Once you get there, you have to figure out what to do with the rest of your life—how you’ll spend a retirement that could last 50 or 60 years.
Finland Has Second Thoughts about Giving Free Money to Jobless People – (New York Times – April 24, 2018)
For more than a year, Finland has been testing the proposition that the best way to lift economic fortunes may be the simplest: Hand out money without rules or restrictions on how people use it. Now, the experiment is ending. The Finnish government has opted not to continue financing it past this year, a reflection of public discomfort with the idea of dispensing government largess free of requirements that its recipients seek work. The demise of the project in Finland does not signal an end of interest in the idea. Other trials are underway or being explored in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Canadian province of Ontario, the Netherlands and Kenya. Finland’s goals were modest and pragmatic. The government hoped that basic income would send more people into the job market to revive a weak economy. Under Finland’s traditional unemployment program, those lacking jobs are effectively discouraged from accepting temporary positions or starting businesses, because extra income risks the loss of their benefits. Recipients have been free to do as they wished — create start-ups, pursue alternate jobs, take classes — secure in the knowledge that the stipends would continue regardless. The Finnish government was keen to see what people would do under such circumstances. The data is expected to be released next year, giving academics a chance to analyze what has come of the experiment. In the meantime, Finland has already moved on to consider a broader revamping of its social service programs. It is studying a new form of social welfare policy now in effect in Britain: so-called universal credit, which rolls existing government aid programs into one monthly lump sum payment. In Britain, the shift to universal credit has poor people reeling, depriving many of them of government support while their cases shift from the old system. Benefits have increased for some people, but many recipients have wound up with less. (Editor’s note: It sounds as though the Finnish experiment was terminated largely because the “universal basic income” wasn’t universal; the people who didn’t get anything wound up resenting those who did. This is not a situation where half-measures are going to work.)
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Man Brings Telescope to the Street and Invites People to Look at the Moon – (Good News Network – March 28, 2018)
In an awe-inspiring video that was chosen as a “Staff Pick” on Vimeo, Wylie Overstreet takes his $1,000 telescope out onto the streets of Los Angeles. When passerby inevitably become curious over his bulky metal instrument sitting on the sidewalk, he tells them it’s a telescope and asks them if they would like to use it to see the moon. With filmmaker Alex Gorosh on hand to record their reactions, dozens of people all take turns peering through the telescope to get a glimpse of the moon like they’ve never seen it before. Some people were brought to tears; others simply gasped in surprise – but every single one of them was moved by the incredible view. The video, which is appropriately overlapped with the soothing sounds of Claude Debussy’s “Clair De Lune”, is a compilation of people’s reactions from ten different nights over the course of one year. Video clip is embedded in article.
World’s Oldest Person Dies in Japan Aged 117 – (Reuters – April 22, 2018)
A Japanese woman born in the final year of the 19th century and believed to have been the world’s oldest person died on Saturday, Kyodo news agency said. She was 117. Nabi Tajima, born in 1900, died from old age at a hospital on her native southwestern island of Kikaijima, Kyodo said. In Japan, the number of centenarians totaled 67,824 last year, government data shows, up sharply from 153 in 1963. See also: The Centenarian Tide Is on the Rise. The number of centenarians in the US was estimated at 72,197 in 2014 (Editor’s note: That was four years ago and it surely must be quite a bit higher now). There are many questions around how to care for the oldest of the old, and it probably doesn’t just come down to building more nursing homes, said Kathrin Boerner, associate professor of gerontology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Many of them want to stay in their own homes, and research suggests they are doing that. “In our studies, 60% of those 95 years and above are living in the community (either living independently or with family members). They are not necessarily healthy but they are a hardy people,” Boerner said.
Space Mining Will Produce World’s First Trillionaire – (RT – April 22, 2018)
The next trillion-dollar industry will be in the mining sector, and the world’s first trillionaire will make his/her fortune by mining in outer space, Goldman Sachs claims. The prediction is echoed by renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who says: “The first trillionaire there will ever be is the person who exploits the natural resources on asteroids.”“There’s this vast universe of limitless energy and limitless resources. I look at wars fought over access to resources. That could be a thing of the past, once space becomes our backyard,” Tyson said. More than 12,000 asteroids, which are within approximately 45 million kilometers of our planet, have already been identified by NASA. Geologists believe they are packed with iron ore, nickel, and precious metals at much higher concentrations than those found on Earth. Goldman has been keeping a close eye on improvements in mining technology and the trends toward lower costs for manufacturing spacecraft. “While the psychological barrier to mining asteroids is high, the actual financial and technological barriers are far lower. Prospecting probes can likely be built for tens of millions of dollars each and Caltech has suggested an asteroid-grabbing spacecraft could cost $2.6 billion,” it said in a report. Asteroid mining is mostly being led by private sector interests, but there’s also Luxemburg which sees massive opportunities and hopes to become a cosmic mining hub. Two years ago, the tiny European country, which is home to several communication satellite companies, established the Space Resources Initiative. It plans to provide $223 million of its national space budget in early-stage funding and grants to companies working toward space mining. The government of Luxembourg is working closely with two of the leading companies in the sector – Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources. Both companies, which have been operating for several years, plan on profiting from asteroid mining.
“Is Curing Patients a Sustainable Business Model?” Goldman Sachs Analyst Asks – (Ars Technica – April 12, 2018)
In a recent report, a Goldman Sachs analyst asked clients: “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” Analyst Salveen Richter wrote: “The potential to deliver ‘one-shot cures’ is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy. … However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies. … While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow.” For a real-world example, they pointed to Gilead Sciences, which markets treatments for hepatitis C that have cure rates exceeding 90%. In 2015, the company’s hepatitis C treatment sales peaked at $12.5 billion. But as more people were cured and there were fewer infected individuals to spread the disease, sales began to languish. Goldman Sachs analysts estimate that the treatments will bring in less than $4 billion this year. “[Gilead]’s rapid rise and fall of its hepatitis C franchise highlights one of the dynamics of an effective drug that permanently cures a disease, resulting in a gradual exhaustion of the prevalent pool of patients,” the analysts wrote. The report noted that diseases such as common cancers—where the “incident pool remains stable”—are less risky for business. In the past, this truth would not have been spoken. It would have lived deep within an investment banker’s soul and nowhere else. (Editor’s note: It’s not really necessary to read this article – the basic information is all in this paragraph. It is necessary to think about it.)
Amazon Starts Delivering Goods to the Trunk of Your GM or Volvo – (Bloomberg – April 24, 2018)
Amazon.com Inc. has partnered with General Motors Co. and Volvo Cars to deliver packages to car trunks in 37 U.S. cities, as the e-commerce giant seeks new delivery methods for customers who may be wary of leaving packages outside or allowing couriers into their homes. The app-based service, which lets car owners provide delivery agents with keyless access to trunks, is an example of how Amazon is exploring new methods of delivering goods to customers. It also follows moves by competitors to get their technology into cars, such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s partnership with Daimler AG, Volkswagen AG and Volvo to bring its digital assistant to autos in China. The two carmakers are logical partners for Amazon. GM has millions of cars that are wirelessly connected. With Volvo, the collaboration with Amazon is an expansion of a service that has been available in Sweden and Switzerland since 2015 through the Swedish carmaker’s Volvo On Call app. The in-car delivery scheme, available to Amazon Prime members, is an attempt by Amazon to overcome the hesitation that many feel about opening their home remotely for couriers.
For Thousands of Years, Humans Slept in Two Shifts. Should We Do It Again? – (Big Think – April 12, 2018)
A. Roger Ekirch, historian at Virginia Tech, uncovered our segmented sleep history in his 2005 book At Day’s Close: A Night in Time’s Past. There’s very little direct scientific research on sleep done before the 20th century, so Ekirch spent years going through early literature, court records, diaries, and medical records to find out how we slumbered. He found over 500 references to first and second sleep going all the way back to Homer’s Odyssey. “It’s not just the number of references—it is the way they refer to it as if it was common knowledge,” Ekirch said. Two-part sleep was practiced into the 20th century by people in Central America and Brazil and is still practiced in areas of Nigeria. Segmented sleep—also known as broken sleep or biphasic sleep—worked like this: First sleep or dead sleep began around dusk, lasting for three to four hours. People woke up around midnight for a few hours of activity sometimes called “the watching.” They used it for things like praying, chopping wood, socializing with neighbors, and for sex. “Second sleep,” or morning sleep, began after the waking period and lasted until morning (daybreak). Intriguingly, right about the time accounts of first sleep and second sleep began to wane, references to insomnia began appearing. Subjects in an experiment in the 1990s gradually settled themselves into bi-phasic sleep after being kept in darkness 10 hours a day for a month, so it may be the way we naturally want to sleep. But is it the healthiest way?
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
New $20 Coin Captures One of Canada’s Closest UFO Encounters – (CTV News – April 3, 2018)
It was just around lunchtime, so the story goes, when Stefan Michalak saw several unusual silver objects cross the sky in Manitoba’s Whiteshell Provincial Park. The date was May 20, 1967, and Michalak, an avid rock collector, was searching for new specimens near the shores of Falcon Lake. What unfolded that day would go down in Canadian history as one of the country’s best-documented UFO encounters – one that’s now commemorated in a limited-edition coin from the Royal Canadian Mint. Michalak didn’t know what to make of the strange silver objects, even as one of them landed on a rocky outcropping nearby. So he decided to pull out some paper and sketch the object, according to author Chris Rutkowski, who detailed the encounter in the book “When They Appeared.” “He thought it was some sort of American secret Apollo moon landing thing that got astray,” Rutkowski said. Michalak was perplexed by what he saw, so he walked over and touched the side of the object. It was so hot, it burned his glove. That’s when, rather suddenly, the object shot back into the sky. “Then this thing took off and blasted a hot gas on him, setting his clothes on fire, injuring him and then giving him some burns on his abdomen as well,” Rutkowski said. The perplexing incident has fascinated Manitobans for years. Investigations were carried out by the RCMP, the Canadian Forces and U.S. officials. None have conclusively determined what happened. Regardless, the Falcon Lake incident, as it’s come to be known, has cemented itself in Canadian lore for 51 years. So it seemed only natural to immortalize the event in a collectable coin, said Allison Crawford, a spokesperson for the Mint. The coin has a $20 value but retails for $129.95. Made from pure silver, the one-ounce coin comes with a black light that, when shone on the oblong currency, reveals the yellowish blast that burned Michalak. Only 4,000 of the coins will be produced, making the currency highly collectible, Crawford said.
JUST FOR FUN
The Museum of the Future – (Museum website – no date)
The Museum of the Future is a unique incubator for futuristic innovation and designs, currently under construction in Dubai, UAE. Opening in 2019, the Museum of the Future builds on over 5 years of temporary immersive explorations held at the World Government Summit. These popups led to the conception of the Dubai Future Foundation and the permanent Museum of the Future, which is set to become the world’s largest and most exciting way to discover tomorrow’s trends and opportunities. It’s not a typical museum, as in a repository of artifacts, but an active place to be filled with innovation facilities and design studios, a repository for ideas not yet conceived. You can browse quickly through the website; it’s quite elegant but not extensive. And then check out this article: Dubai’s Museum of the Future Is Shaping Up as the World’s Most Complex Building. Dubai’s new Museum of the Future, however, takes a groundbreaking approach to architecture and what it means to be a museum. Designed by Killa Design and scheduled to open in 2019, the museum will take a torus shape, a gleaming silver oval with an open center. The building looks almost like an eye keeping watch over this growing city, the largest in the United Arab Emirate. It was important that the design be emblematic of the mission—a dazzling combination of art, engineering, and construction. Art and poetry are manifest in the design, with Arabic calligraphy inscribed onto the exterior that features quotes from the prime minister about the future. But these “inscriptions” are in fact highly engineered windows, a dynamic blend of art and function. Don’t miss the explanation of how the building was designed and the photographs.
A FINAL QUOTE
No amount of sophistication is going to allay the fact that all your knowledge is about the past and all your decisions are about the future. ~ Ian Wilson
A special thanks to: JoAnn Burnett, Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Bobbie Rohn, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy, Heidi Waltos, and all of you who have sent us interesting links in the past. If you see something we should know about, do send it along – thanks.
Edited by John L. Petersen
A Vision for 2012: Planning for Extraordinary Change
by John L. Petersen
Former senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart has said “It should be required reading for the next President.”
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