FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- Scientists have identified the genes linked to left-handedness.
- ROBOpilot is a modular system can be rapidly installed in a plane for an autonomous flight without making permanent modifications to the aircraft.
- A newly developed device harnesses the night sky to generate electricity in the dark.
- China’s publicly announced 2030 goal is to develop a high-performing quantum computer, which will have unprecedented decryption ability.
by John L. Petersen
ROBERT DAVID STEELE COMING TO BERKELEY SPRINGS
Well known analyst, critic and internet personality, former Presidential candidate (and former spy), Robert David Steele is coming to TransitioniTalks on Saturday, the 19th of October. Robert is one of the biggest thinkers around who has proposed sweeping, structural changes to how the US political system, intelligence community, White House and US economy should be fundamentally reorganized – ideas that have resulted in his being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, among many other accolades. Additionally, no one has reviewed more nonfiction books on Amazon than he has (almost 2600 now), and that great, broad input has given him a unique, sophisticated understanding of how the world really works.
I asked Robert what five books, out of all that he had read, had most disrupted this worldview – shaken the assumptions that he (and we all, by the way), had assumed, extracted from his careers and education and then built his life upon– and would he come and tell us about those big, life-changing ideas . . . and what we might do about it. This is particularly important in a world where it is increasingly hard to know what to believe.
So, he’s coming in October to put these extraordinary concepts on the table and then open to an extended Q&A session to allow all in attendance to learn as much as they can about the full spectrum of what we’re up against. Watch this short video interview to find out more:
Robert David Steele and John L. Petersen
What Robert has to say is really quite important . . . for a number of reasons.
- First of all, we are entering a period of seven or eight years that, by all indications, has the potential of generating some of the greatest, most chaotic, change in the recorded history of the planet – nothing less than that. In the face of that kind of upheaval, the first, and perhaps most important, imperative is to have a sophisticated understanding of what we all are playing with here – not just what we have been told.
- Secondly, I’ve started reading the books that Robert felt were so disruptive . . . and I’ve been blown away. These are credible, though clearly out of the box, ideas that I had never heard of . . . and that have now fundamentally changed how I look at things. These concepts are VERY important to any enlightened perspective of what is happening in this world and where we all may – or may not – be going.
- Thirdly, what Robert will be presenting is a critical component of your being effective and appropriately positioned to adjust to the coming changes. This is about a paradigm shift – a fundamental rewiring of how we make sense of the reality we experience. If you aren’t able to adjust and adapt, you’ll get surprised. You’ll be out of time and options . . . and certainly not prepared. Some of these ideas are so different from what we’ve been told that they clearly represent a possible new framework for understanding the emerging new world.
So, let me strongly encourage you to come to this presentation. This is an important part of becoming prepared for this extraordinary transition event that we are about to experience.
You can find complete information at TransitionTalks.org.
GREGG BRADEN POSTSCRIPT VIDEOS
We had a wonderful time with Gregg Braden in August. He spoke all day long to a full house of almost 250 people. Before his presentation he and I sat down for a conversation in our PostScript series of interviews. Here they are. Enjoy!
Gregg Braden and John L. Petersen — Part 1
Gregg Braden and John L. Petersen — Part 2
Free Book Offer
Our friends at The Fetzer Memorial Trust would like to give you a free hard-cover copy of the book “John E. Fetzer and the Quest for The New Age” by Brian Wilson, Ph. D.
John E. Fetzer, was a pioneer in the broadcast industry, owner of the World Series Detroit Tigers, advisor to two presidents and one of America’s 400 most wealthy individuals. Driven by a deep spiritual quest and interest in scientific exploration he is a true inspiration.
I found this biography of John Fetzer most interesting. Here was a titan of industry who had another life that was involved in helping to fund and enable a great deal of research in the metaphysical area and who set up a major foundation that continues to explore the leading edge of our reality.
The Fetzer Institute has always had a very impressive, big outlook on this world and what was possible and I’m pleased that they are making this hardcover book available at no cost to FUTUREdition subscribers.
I certainly would encourage you to take advantage of this offer. — JLP
To Receive Your Gift click here
(Limited to the first 500 requests)
Your book will be mailed to you free of charge. This is truly a free gift from The Fetzer Memorial Trust. The only mail you will receive from them, will be this book. You will not be added to a mailing list.
|Our e-Magazine has complete information on our TransitionTalks series with articles from past speakers|
Gregg Braden, Joe Dispenza & Bruce Lipton:
Amazon’s Sales Platform May Be Too Big to Police – (The Verge – August 30, 2019)
When a tech platform grows beyond a certain size, a now-familiar phenomenon begins to unfold. The creators no longer have a view of — or control over — all the day-to-day activity on the platform, allowing bad actors to manipulate it to their own ends. On Twitter, this led to unchecked harassment and abuse, much of it focused on women and minorities. On Facebook, it led to Cambridge Analytica and Russian interference in the 2016 election. On YouTube, it led to a surge in extremist content, boosted by algorithmic recommendations. Thanks to a terrific investigation (paywalled) in the Wall Street Journal, we saw how size has blinded Amazon to a host of dangerous products that third-party sellers have made available. Reporters Alexandra Berzon, Shane Shifflett and Justin Scheck found 4,152 items for sale on Amazon that have been declared unsafe or banned by federal regulators, or have deceptive labels. This included items that Amazon has said it bans — and dozens of them were labeled “Amazon’s Choice,” which is based on an item’s ratings, pricing, and shipping time, but likely strikes many Amazon customers as a seal of approval. Amazon’s marketplace is so chaotic that not even Amazon itself is safe from getting hijacked. In addition to being a retail platform, Amazon sells its own house-brand goods under names like AmazonBasics, Rivet furniture, Happy Belly food, and hundreds of other labels. Sellers often complain that these brands represent unfair competition, and regulators in Europe and the United States have taken an interest in the matter. But other sellers appear to have found a way to use Amazon’s brands for their own ends. Amazon promotes them heavily, racking up thousands of reviews on listings that the company then abandons when it stops production or comes out with a new version. Enterprising sellers then hijack these pages to hawk their own wares.
Geologists Uncover History of Lost Continent Buried Beneath Europe – (Science – September 6, 2019)
Geologists have reconstructed, time slice by time slice, a nearly quarter-of-a-billion-year-long history of a vanished landmass that now lies submerged, not beneath an ocean somewhere, but largely below southern Europe. Although the tectonic history of the landmass has been generally known for a few decades, Laurent Jolivet, a geologist at Sorbonne University in Paris who was not involved in the new study, says, “[T]he amount of detail in the team’s systematic time-lapse reconstruction is unprecedented.” The only visible remnants of the continent—known as Greater Adria—are limestones and other rocks found in the mountain ranges of southern Europe. Scientists believe these rocks started out as marine sediments and were later scraped off the landmass’s surface and lifted up through the collision of tectonic plates. Yet the size, shape, and history of the original landmass—much of which lay beneath shallow tropical seas for millions of years—have been tough to reconstruct. For starters, Greater Adria had a violent, complicated history, notes Douwe van Hinsbergen, a geologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. It became a separate entity when it broke away from the southern supercontinent of Gondwana (which comprised what is today Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, the Indian subcontinent, and the Arabian Peninsula) about 240 million years ago and started to move northward, scientists believe. About 140 million years ago, it was a Greenland-size landmass, largely submerged in a tropical sea, where sediments collected and slowly turned into rock. Then, as it collided with what is now Europe between 100 million and 120 million years ago, it shattered into pieces and was shoved beneath that continent. Only a fraction of Greater Adria’s rocks, scraped off in the collision, remained on Earth’s surface for geologists to discover. Rather than simply moving north with no change in its orientation, Greater Adria spun counterclockwise as it jostled and scraped past other tectonic plates, van Hinsbergen’s team reports in Gondwana Research. Although the tectonic collision happened at speeds of no more than 3 to 4 centimeters per year, the inexorable smash-up shattered the 100-kilometer-thick bit of crust and sent most of it deep within Earth’s mantle, van Hinsbergen says.
GENETICS / HEALTH TECHNOLOGY / BIOTECHNOLOGY
Forget Single Genes: CRISPR Now Cuts and Splices Whole Chromosomes – (Science – August 29, 2019)
Imagine a word processor that allowed you to change letters or words but balked when you tried to cut or rearrange whole paragraphs. Biologists have faced such constraints for decades. They could add or disable genes in a cell or even—with the genome-editing technology CRISPR—make precise changes within genes. Those capabilities have led to recombinant DNA technology, genetically modified organisms, and gene therapies. But a long-sought goal remained out of reach: manipulating much larger chunks of chromosomes in Escherichia coli, the workhorse bacterium. Now, researchers report they’ve adapted CRISPR and combined it with other tools to cut and splice large genome fragments with ease. The tried and true tools of genetic engineering simply can’t handle long stretches of DNA. Restriction enzymes, the standard tool for cutting DNA, can snip chunks of genetic material and join the ends to form small circular segments that can be moved out of one cell and into another. But the circles can accommodate at most a couple of hundred thousand bases, and synthetic biologists often want to move large segments of chromosomes containing multiple genes, which can be millions of bases long or more. “You can’t get very large pieces of DNA in and out of cells,” says Jason Chin, a synthetic biologist at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, U.K. Now, Chin and his colleagues report they have solved these problems. First, the team adapted CRISPR to precisely excise long stretches of DNA without leaving scars. They then altered another well-known tool, an enzyme called lambda red recombinase, so it could glue the ends of the original chromosome—minus the removed portion—back together, as well as fuse the ends of the removed portion. Both circular strands of DNA are protected from endonucleases. The technique can create different circular chromosome pairs in other cells, and researchers can then swap chromosomes at will, eventually inserting whatever chunk they choose into the original genome.
Scientists Have Identified the Genes Linked to Left-handedness – (CNN – September 5, 2019)
For the first time, scientists have identified the genetic differences associated with left-handedness, a trait found in 10% of the human population. What’s more, those genetic variants result in differences in brain structure, which might mean that left-handed people have better verbal skills than the right-handed majority. The study, conducted by scientists from the University of Oxford is the first to identify which genetic variants separate the lefties from the righties. Researchers studied the DNA of 400,000 people, including 38,332 left-handers, from the UK Biobank, a database comprising the health information of volunteers across the country. They isolated four genetic regions associated with left-handedness; three of those regions were linked to proteins that influence brain structure and development. Specifically, the proteins were connected to microtubules, a component of cell “scaffolding” or the cytoskeleton. The cytoskeleton determines the structure of cells, as well as the way they operate within the body. Previous research has demonstrated the cytoskeleton’s influence on “left-right asymmetry” in other species. The research indicated that in left-handed people, “the left and right sides of the brain communicate in a more coordinated way. The study also indicated an association between the aspects of brain development linked to handedness and the likelihood of developing schizophrenia or Parkinson’s disease. Dominic Furniss, joint senior author alongside Douaud and a fellow at Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology, and Musculoskeletal Science said, “It has long been known that there are slightly more left-handers amongst patients with schizophrenia than the general population. By contrast, there are slightly less left-handers with Parkinson’s disease than the general population.” The new research suggests that these diseases, along with handedness, are the product of fundamental differences in brain development, some of which is driven by genes.
Meet the Artificial Embryos Being Called “Uncanny” and “Spectacular” – (Technology Review – September 11, 2019)
The stem cells live only a few days, lodged between tiny pillars on the surface of a microfluidic compartment. Yet during that time, stop motion video shows, the cells being multiplying, changing, and organizing themselves into hollow spheres. They are following their ultimate program—to try to turn into an embryo. And they are doing a startlingly good job of it. Today, researchers at the University of Michigan are reporting that they’ve learned to efficiently manufacture realistic models of human embryos from stem cells. They think the advance will let them test fertility drugs and study the earliest phases of pregnancy, but it is also raising novel legal and ethical issues. The artificial embryos were made by coaxing stem cells to spontaneously form tiny ball-shaped structures that include the beginnings of an amniotic sac and the inner cells of the embryo (the part that would become a person’s limbs, head, and the rest of their body) though they lack tissues needed to make a placenta. For now, scientists say, these aren’t true embryos and lack the capacity to turn into a person. However, as similar research races forward in Europe and China it is raising questions about how close scientists really are to synthetically creating viable human embryos in their labs. Already, research on artificial mouse embryos has progressed to the point where scientists are transferring them to female surrogates and trying to make live animals, though they haven’t succeeded yet. The rapid development of embryo models is posing a challenge to the National Institutes of Health, which isn’t sure it can fund this type of research because of a law that forbids it from paying for experiments involving human embryos. That law, the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, is written to say any human “organism” made from cells would count as an embryo. Because it’s not obvious what qualifies as an organism—that term means a life form, but isn’t defined in the law—the agency has started passing grant applications to a special “human embryo research steering committee” staffed by agency officials that will determine whether they would violate the statute.
Chinese Scientists Tried to Treat HIV Using CRISPR – (Live Science – September 11, 2019)
Scientists in China have used CRISPR gene-editing technology to treat a patient with HIV, but it didn’t cure the patient, according to a new study. The work marks the first time this particular gene-editing tool has been used in an experimental HIV therapy, according to the authors, from Peking University in Beijing. Even though the treatment didn’t control the patient’s HIV infection, the therapy appeared safe — the researchers did not detect any unintended genetic alterations, which have been a concern in the past with gene therapies. Experts praised the work as an important first step toward being able to use CRISPR, a tool that allows researchers to precisely edit DNA, to help patients with HIV. “They did a very innovative experiment on a patient, and it was safe,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist and a senior scholar at The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, who was not involved in the study. “It should be viewed as a success.” The new study is very different from the unrelated, controversial case of a Chinese scientist who used CRISPR to edit the genomes of twin babies in an attempt to make them resistant to HIV. In that case, the Chinese scientist edited the DNA of embryos, and these gene alterations can be passed down to the next generation. In the new study, the DNA edits were made in adult cells, which means they cannot be passed on. The study involved a single patient with HIV who had also developed leukemia, a type of blood cancer. As a result, the patient needed a bone marrow transplant. So the researchers used this opportunity to edit DNA in bone marrow stem cells from a donor before transplanting the cells into the patient.
Ebola Is Now Curable. Here’s How the New Treatments Work – (Wired – August 12, 2019)
Scientists and doctors in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been running a clinical trial of new drugs to try to combat a year-long Ebola outbreak and two of the experimental treatments appear to dramatically boost survival rates. While an experimental vaccine previously had been shown to shield people from catching Ebola, the news marks a first for people who already have been infected. “From now on, we will no longer say that Ebola is incurable,” said Jean-Jacques Muyembe, director general of the Institut National de Recherche Biomedicale in the DRC, which has overseen the trial’s operations on the ground. A drug called ZMapp, had been considered the standard of care during Ebola outbreaks. It had been tested and used during the devastating Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014. Now the goal was to see if those other drugs could outperform it. But preliminary data from the first 681 patients (out of a planned 725) showed such strong results that the trial has now been stopped. Patients receiving Zmapp in the four trial centers experienced an overall mortality rate of 49%. (Mortality rates are in excess of 75% for infected individuals who don’t seek any form of treatment.) The monoclonal antibody cocktail produced by a company called Regeneron Pharmaceuticals had the biggest impact on lowering death rates, down to 29%, while NIAID’s monoclonal antibody, called mAb114, had a mortality rate of 34%. The results were most striking for patients who received treatments soon after becoming sick, when their viral loads were still low—death rates dropped to 11% with mAb114 and just 6% with Regeneron’s drug, compared with 24%with ZMapp and 33% with Remdesivir. Article explains the mechanisms by which some of these drugs work.
Gel That Makes Teeth Repair Themselves Could Spell the End of Fillings – (New Scientist – August 30, 2019)
Tooth enamel can now be made to repair itself by applying a special gel. The product could save people from developing cavities that require dental fillings. Enamel is the hard, protective layer on the outside of teeth. It can be worn down by mouth acid and repeated chewing, leading to cavities that have to be plugged with fillings to prevent further decay. To overcome this problem, Ruikang Tang at Zhejiang University in China and his colleagues made a gel containing calcium and phosphate – the building blocks of real enamel – to try to encourage teeth to self-repair. They tested the gel by applying it to human teeth that had been removed from patients and damaged with acid. They then left the teeth in containers of fluid designed to mimic the mouth environment for 48 hours. During this time, the gel stimulated the growth of new enamel, with microscopy revealing that it had the same highly ordered arrangement of calcium and phosphate crystals as regular enamel. However, the new enamel coating was only 3 micrometers thick, which is about 400 times thinner than undamaged enamel. But Tang says the gel could be repeatedly applied to build up this repair layer. The team is now testing the gel in mice and hopes to test it in people. They still need to make sure the chemicals in the gel are safe and find a way for the new enamel to form in the real-life mouth environment, even when people eat and drink.
Unfurling the Waste Problem Caused by Wind Energy – (NPR – September 10, 2019)
While most of a turbine can be recycled or find a second life on another wind farm, researchers estimate the U.S. will have more than 720,000 tons of blade material to dispose of over the next 20 years, a figure that doesn’t include newer, taller higher-capacity versions. There aren’t many options to recycle or trash turbine blades, and what options do exist are expensive, partly because the U.S. wind industry is so young. It’s a waste problem that runs counter to what the industry is held up to be: a perfect solution for environmentalists looking to combat climate change, an attractive investment for companies such as Budweiser and Hormel Foods, and a job creator across the Midwest and Great Plains. Ninety percent of a turbine’s parts can be recycled or sold, according to Van Vleet, but the blades, made of a tough but pliable mix of resin and fiberglass — similar to what spaceship parts are made from — are a different story. “The blades are kind of a dud because they have no value,” he said. Decommissioned blades are also notoriously difficult and expensive to transport. They can be anywhere from 100 to 300 feet long, and need to be cut up onsite before getting trucked away on specialized equipment — which costs money — to the landfill. Cindy Langstrom manages the turbine blade disposal project for the municipal landfill in Casper, Wyo. Though her landfill is one of the only ones in the state — not to mention the entire U.S. — with enough space to take wind farm waste, she said the blades’ durability initially posed a financial hurdle. “Our crushing equipment is not big enough to crush them,” she said. Langstrom’s team eventually settled on cutting up the blades into three pieces and stuffing the two smaller sections into the third, which was cheaper than renting stronger crushing machines that are usually made for mining. Karl Englund, a researcher and chief technology officer of Global Fiberglass Solutions, believes he’s found a way to recycle blades by stripping the blades of their resin and then grinding them up to make chocolate chip-sized pellets. They can be used for decking materials, pallets and piping. His startup opened its first processing facility in central Texas this year.
Scientists Finally Know How Big Earthquakes Start: With Many Smaller Ones – (PhysOrg – August 20, 2019)
The vast majority of earthquakes we feel come soon after smaller ones, according to new research that offers new insights into how seismology works. The finding offers unprecedented insight into what happens before moderate and large earthquakes—and scientists are finding that the vast majority of them occur after smaller earthquakes start rippling underneath the ground, sometimes days or even weeks before the main shock. Previously, scientists observed that only half of all moderate quakes had precursor smaller events. Now, this new study of earthquakes in Southern California of at least magnitude 4 between 2008 and 2017 finds that at least 72% of them had earlier, smaller quakes. Study coauthor Zachary Ross, Caltech assistant professor of geophysics, said. “It’s important for understanding the physics of earthquakes. Are they silent until this big event? Or is there a weakening process of the fault, or some evidence that the fault is changing before this larger event?” The study shows how the answer is likely the latter explanation.
Is TikTok a Time Bomb? – (Fast Company – August 28, 2019)
You may have never heard of TikTok, but chances are the kids in your life have. The China-based social network made its U.S. debut in 2017 and now counts 104 million American downloads (1.2 billion worldwide). Since January, it has consistently ranked among the top three most downloaded apps, behind Facebook-owned duo WhatsApp and Messenger. The average user now spends around 45 minutes a day on TikTok, more time than they even spend on Facebook. On its surface, TikTok is pure social media candy that’s highly addictive to its tween audience, according to user data analyzed by App Ape. Users make 15-second videos (think funny dances, pranks, and lip-syncing bits), then use TikTok tools to incorporate music and effects. (Here’s what’s trending today.) They can then publish their creations to the whole world, YouTube-style. Beneath the surface, however, the picture is more complex. In its meteoric rise and its approach to leveraging user data, TikTok may augur the AI-informed future of social media, for better and for worse. TikTok’s parent company is hardly as warm and fuzzy as the platform would suggest. Valued at $75 billion, China-based ByteDance owns a suite of apps built around AI and fueled on user data. Among the first Chinese platforms to make significant inroads in the U.S., ByteDance is fast becoming a social media giant. It has a staff of 40,000 (roughly 10 times as many employees as Twitter) and has expressed serious interest in buying Twitter and Snapchat. TikTok’s youthful audience has drawn unwanted attention from sexual predators. Authorities in India have gone so far as to ban the platform outright. But what sets TikTok apart isn’t necessarily concerns about privacy or predators. All platforms wrestle with these issues. Rather, it’s the way it has risen to prominence—on the back of sophisticated AI and nearly limitless ad money. ByteDance spent roughly $1 billion in ads (as much as $3 million a day) in the last year, much of that for ads that appeared on the traditional social networks, according to the Wall Street Journal. In contrast to earlier channels like Facebook and Twitter that grew organically (if exponentially), TikTok has bought its way to the front of the queue. Before its U.S launch, the company hired a virtual army of social media celebs to create content for the platform—paying one influencer more than $1 million for a single video. While ads have brought TikTok exposure, its groundbreaking AI is what keeps users hanging around. According to Bloomberg, “Within a day, the app can get to know you so well it feels like it’s reading your mind.” Significantly, TikTok’s recommendation engines are distinct from algorithms used by Facebook and traditional networks, which rely heavily on suggestions from friends. Rather, TikTok harvests insights based on what its users actually click on, read, and watch—right down to the type of music, faces, and voices in videos—learning as it goes. (Editor’s note: We highly recommend this article for its exploration of the interface between AI and social media with an eye to monetization.)
Mind-reading Technology Is Closer Than You Think – (Fast Company – August 15, 2019)
Tesla founder Elon Musk’s company Neuralink just this summer announced that human trials will move forward next year for an implantable device that can read a user’s mind; scientists at UCSF recently released the results of a brain activity study, backed by Facebook, that shows it’s possible to use brain-wave technology to decode speech; in 2018, Nissan unveiled Brain-to-Vehicle technology that would allow vehicles to interpret signals from the driver’s brain; and Nielsen is already using neuroscience to capture nonconscious aspects of consumer decision-making. In April, the South China Morning Post reported that “government-backed surveillance projects are deploying brain-reading technology to detect changes in emotional states in employees on the production line, the military and at the helm of high-speed trains.” According to The Sydney Morning Herald, several Australian mining companies have adopted a SmartCap, a device that looks like a baseball cap but is lined with EEG electrodes on the interior rim, to “reduce the impact of fatigue on the safety and productivity of their staff.” These detectors, then, might warn a miner of exposure to carbon monoxide poisoning before they suffer a traumatic brain injury or send an alert to a truck or train driver to pull over if excessive drowsiness is detected. But, Nita Farahany, a leading scholar on the ethical, legal, and social implications of emerging technologies, who gave a TED Talk on the subject last November, warns that there are currently no safeguards in place to protect against inappropriate use of the data.
How to Build Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust – (New York Times – September 6, 2019)
Tesla cars driving in Autopilot mode have a troubling history of crashing into stopped vehicles. Amazon’s facial recognition system works great much of the time, but when asked to compare the faces of all 535 members of Congress with 25,000 public arrest photos, it found 28 matches, when in reality there were none. A computer program designed to vet job applicants for Amazon was discovered to systematically discriminate against women. Every month new weaknesses in A.I. are uncovered. The problem is not that today’s A.I. needs to get better at what it does. The problem is that today’s A.I. needs to try to do something completely different. In particular, we need to stop building computer systems that merely get better and better at detecting statistical patterns in data sets — often using an approach known as deep learning — and start building computer systems that from the moment of their assembly innately grasp three basic concepts: time, space and causality. Today’s A.I. systems know surprisingly little about any of these concepts. Take the idea of time. We recently searched on Google for “Did George Washington own a computer?” — a query whose answer requires relating two basic facts (when Washington lived, when the computer was invented) in a single temporal framework. The results were very poor. The situation is even worse when it comes to A.I. and the concepts of space and causality. Without these concepts, the article argues, no A.I. should be considered trust worthy.
Report Reveals Play-by-play of First U.S. Grid Cyberattack – (E&E News – September 6, 2019)
A first-of-its-kind cyberattack on the U.S. grid created blind spots at a grid control center and several small power generation sites in the western United States, according to a document posted by the North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC). To be clear: the unprecedented cyber disruption this spring did not cause any blackouts, and none of the signal outages at the “low-impact” control center lasted for longer than five minutes, NERC said. But the March 5 event was significant enough to spur the victim utility to report it to the Department of Energy, marking the first disruptive “cyber event” on record for the U.S. power grid. The case offered a stark demonstration of the risks U.S. power utilities face as their critical control networks grow more digitized and interconnected — and more exposed to hackers. “Have as few internet facing devices as possible,” NERC urged in its report. Two months prior to the event, then-U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned that Russian hackers were capable of interrupting electricity “for at least a few hours,” similar to cyberattacks on Ukrainian utilities in 2015 and 2016 that caused hourslong outages for about a quarter-million people. The more recent cyberthreat appears to have been simpler and far less dangerous than the hacks in Ukraine. The March 5 attack hit web portals for firewalls in use at the undisclosed utility. The hacker or hackers may not have even realized that the online interface was linked to parts of the power grid in California, Utah and Wyoming. “So far, I don’t see any evidence that this was really targeted,” said Reid Wightman, senior vulnerability analyst at industrial cybersecurity firm Dragos Inc. “This was probably just an automated bot that was scanning the internet for vulnerable devices, or some script kiddie,” he said, using a term for an unskilled hacker. Nevertheless, the case turned heads at multiple federal agencies, collectively responsible for keeping the lights on in the face of an onslaught of cyber and physical threats. The blind spots would have left grid operators in the dark for five-minute spans — not enough time to risk power outages but still posing a setback to normal operations. Article continues with more technical details of the cyberattack.
This Device Harnesses the Cold Night Sky to Generate Electricity in the Dark – (Science News – September 12, 2019)
By harnessing the temperature difference between Earth and outer space, a prototype of the device produced enough electricity at night to power a small LED light. A bigger version of this nighttime generator could someday light rooms, charge phones or power other electronics in remote or low-resource areas that lack electricity at night when solar panels don’t work. The core of the new night-light is a thermoelectric generator, which produces electricity when one side of the generator is cooler than the other. The sky-facing side of the generator is attached to an aluminum plate sealed beneath a transparent cover and surrounded with insulation to keep heat out. This plate stays cooler than the ambient air by shedding any heat it absorbs as infrared radiation. That radiation can zip up through the transparent cover and the atmosphere toward the cold sink of outer space. Meanwhile, the bottom of the generator is attached to an exposed aluminum plate that is continually warmed by ambient air. At night, when not baking under the sun, the top plate can get a couple of degrees Celsius cooler than the bottom of the generator. A typical lamp bulb might consume a few watts of electricity, says Shanhui Fan, an electrical engineer at Stanford University who worked on the device. So a device that took up a few square meters of roof space could light up a room with energy from the night sky. Aaswath Raman, a materials scientist and engineer at UCLA, also envisions using their team’s generator to help power remote weather stations or other environmental sensors. This may be especially useful in polar regions that don’t see sunlight for months at a time.
Organic Baubax Travel Shoes Made from Coconut, Bamboo and Wool – (Yanko Design – September 12, 2019)
Baubax’s travel shoes are organic from top to bottom, carefully picking and choosing materials that best fit the shoe’s needs. The rubber outsole gives the shoes the friction it needs to firmly grip onto even the slipperiest of floors, while a coconut coir and natural latex insole mimic the feeling of having a cushy mattress underneath your feet. Sitting between the insole and your feet is a layer of Australian merino wool, a breathable fabric that keeps your feet feeling ventilated, while letting you commit the otherwise cardinal sin of wearing your shoes without socks. Merino wool, however, possesses anti-bacterial properties too, so your feet stay healthy and your shoes don’t end up developing an odor. Sitting above everything is the Travel Shoes’ bamboo-fabric upper, which keeps your feet cool at all times, just like open-toed sandals, but without being a fashion faux-pas. This is a Kickstarter campaign. Yanko Design is online magazine dedicated to covering the best in international product design.
Fees on Electric Cars, Inspired by Koch Network, Are Unfairly Penalizing Drivers, Says Consumer Reports – (Nation of Change – September 12, 2019)
Drivers of electric cars are being unfairly punished by punitive fees in several states, according to a newly published analysis by Consumer Reports. Legislators in 26 states have enacted or proposed special registration fees for electric vehicles (EVs) that the consumer advocacy group found to be more expensive than the gas taxes paid by the driver of an average new gasoline vehicle. These punitive EV fees have been pushed in many states by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporate-funded group which produces model legislation and voted on a model resolution supporting “equal tax treatment for all vehicles” — a move that bears the fingerprints of the fossil fueled–Koch network. There are already 18 states with EV fees higher than the annual gas tax equivalent for an average new car, and at least eight more punitive fees have been proposed. In effect, the real world impact of these fees undermines the arguments of those who support or propose the EV tax policies. Proponents of higher EV fees say that they are necessary to ensure that plug-in cars pay their fair share for the roads. In nearly every state, highway funds are raised from revenue from gasoline taxes. Because EV drivers don’t buy gas, they aren’t chipping in for those highway funds, the argument goes. Or so the argument went, before Consumer Reports dug into the actual numbers. The report found that these punitive fees on EV registrations don’t actually make up for declining tax revenues. Currently, fees only make up 0.04 percent of state highway funding in states where they are in use. By 2025, this is only projected to increase to 0.3 percent, even with a rapid growth of EV adoption. The real culprit in the loss of gas tax revenue is that conventional vehicles have become far more efficient. As they consume less gasoline, less revenue is generated for the highway funds. Moreover, gas taxes have not kept up with inflation for decades.
ROBOpilot Converts General-purpose Aircraft to UAS – (GCN – September 11, 2019)
ROBOpilot, a collection of mechanical arms, cables, pumps and computer equipment, interacts with an aircraft the way a human pilot would – pulling on the yoke, pushing on the rudders, flipping switches and reading dashboard gauges, but with computer vision. It gets data from GPS and situational awareness sensors and analyzes it to make flight decisions. The project is the result of a collaboration between the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) awardee DZYNE Technologies. While automated flights are nothing new, what’s special about ROBOpilot is that the modular system can be rapidly installed in a plane for an autonomous flight without making permanent modifications to the aircraft. That means it can be swapped in and out of aircraft, avoiding the cost of permanently converting planes to unmanned aerial systems. To install ROBOpilot, users simply remove the pilot’s seat and replace it with a frame that contains all the equipment required for controlling the plane, including actuators, electronics, cameras, power systems and a robotic arm, AFRL officials said. Alok Das, senior scientist at AFRL’s Center for Rapid Innovation, said, “Imagine being able to rapidly and affordably convert a general aviation aircraft, like a Cessna or Piper, into an unmanned aerial vehicle, having it fly a mission autonomously, and then returning it back to its original manned configuration.”
FDA Finds a Surprise in Gene-edited Cattle: Antibiotic-resistant, Non-bovine DNA – (New Food Economy – August 15, 2019)
How do you get a better cow? You breed it. It’s a costly process, and some farmers mate selectively for generations before the whole herd comes out right. Imagine if that could happen faster—say, in a year or two, instead of decades. That’s the promise of gene-editing, a still-emerging technology in agriculture. Biologists use precision technology, such as CRISPR, to break the double helix, delete sections of those DNA strands, and then insert new genes that can occur naturally in other breeds. Those advocates include Recombinetics, a Minnesota-based animal genetics company. Its signature accomplishment is the “polled,” or hornless, Holstein dairy cow, which scientist Dan Carlson achieved by “turning off” the gene for the horns that farmers otherwise mechanically remove for safety reasons. That mutation occurs naturally in other breeds, like the Angus beef cow, and can be achieved rapidly through gene editing. This is why Mitch Abrahamsen, a company executive, has said his gene-edited animal is the same as one that’s cross-bred conventionally. It turns out he’s wrong about that. Last month, scientists in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine found that Recombinetics’ polled cattle had some notable irregularities. During a routine data run, they unexpectedly found foreign, non-bovine DNA that had bound itself to the animal’s genetic sequence during the edits—specifically, genes from the lab material. Essentially, the cow was cross-contaminated with antibiotic-resistant lab material. And while no one’s saying that the mutation is unsafe, either to humans or animals, no one can guarantee its safety either. It’s casting the slam-dunk claims about gene editing in doubt, and animal scientists are calling to pause the rush to food of the future. Ultimately, the finding shows that scientists still have much to learn about gene editing, and that it clearly isn’t just a quicker form of selective breeding. “It’s still sort of a young technology, and there’s improvements that are still being made,” says Heather Lombardi, who directs animal bioengineering at FDA.. “Things can go wrong that you don’t intend to happen, and they’re not always detected.”
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Coming Soon to a Battlefield: Robots That Can Kill – (Atlantic – September 3, 2019)
Lethal, largely autonomous weaponry isn’t entirely new: A handful of such systems have been deployed for decades, though only in limited, defensive roles, such as shooting down missiles hurtling toward ships. But with the development of AI-infused systems, the military is now on the verge of fielding machines capable of going on the offensive, picking out targets and taking lethal action without direct human input. So far, U.S. military officials haven’t given machines full control, and they say there are no firm plans to do so. Many officers—schooled for years in the importance of controlling the battlefield—remain deeply skeptical about handing such authority to a robot. Critics, both inside and outside of the military, worry about not being able to predict or understand decisions made by artificially intelligent machines, about computer instructions that are badly written or hacked, and about machines somehow straying outside the parameters created by their inventors. Some also argue that allowing weapons to decide to kill violates the ethical and legal norms governing the use of force on the battlefield since the horrors of World War II. But if the drawbacks of using artificially intelligent war machines are obvious, so are the advantages. “The problem is that when you’re dealing [with war] at machine speed, at what point is the human an impediment?” Robert Work, who served as the Pentagon’s No. 2 official in both the Obama and Trump administrations, said in an interview. “There’s no way a human can keep up, so you’ve got to delegate to machines.” Every branch of the U.S. military is currently seeking ways to do just that—to harness gargantuan leaps in image recognition and data processing for the purpose of creating a faster, more precise, less human kind of warfare. Pentagon rules, put in place during the Obama administration, don’t prohibit giving computers the authority to make lethal decisions; they only require more careful review of the designs by senior officials. And so officials in the military services have begun the thorny, existential work of discussing how and when and under what circumstances they will let machines decide to kill. Be advised, the United States isn’t the only country headed down this path. Article includes numerous descriptions of new robotic weaponry either in operation or in development by different countries. (Editor’s note: we recommend this article.)
I Work for N.S.A. We Cannot Afford to Lose the Digital Revolution. – (New York Times – September 10, 2019)
The best early warning systems that US has do not have the ability to issue a warning to the president that would stop a cyberattack that takes down a regional or national power grid or to intercept a hypersonic cruise missile launched from Russia or China. The cyberattack can be detected only upon occurrence, and the hypersonic missile, only seconds or at best minutes before attack. And even if we could detect a missile flying at low altitudes at 20 times the speed of sound, we have no way of stopping it. It is by no means certain that we will be able to cope with those two threats, let alone the even more complicated and unknown challenges presented by the general onrush of technology — the digital revolution or so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution — that will be our future for the next few decades. That revolution will sweep through all aspects of our society so powerfully that our only chance of effectively grappling with its consequences will lie in taking bold steps in the relatively near term. There are four key implications of this revolution that policymakers in the national security sector will need to address. The first is that the unprecedented scale and pace of technological change will outstrip our ability to effectively adapt to it. Second, we will be in a world of ceaseless and pervasive cyberinsecurity and cyberconflict against nation-states, businesses and individuals. Third, the flood of data about human and machine activity will put such extraordinary economic and political power in the hands of the private sector that it will transform the fundamental relationship, at least in the Western world, between government and the private sector. Finally, and perhaps most ominously, the digital revolution has the potential for a pernicious effect on the very legitimacy and thus stability of our governmental and societal structures. (Editor’s note: While being aware of its intent to assist in the creation of a shift in public opinion – part of which could crudely be phrased as an acceptance of the idea that in order to compete with China, the US and the West in general must become much more like China in the sense that the separation between government and private industry becomes increasingly nominal and there will be nothing the government has not woven its threads into – we recommend this article.)
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
America, the Gerontocracy – (Politico – September 3, 2019)
Hate crime is rising, the Arctic is burning, and the Dow is bobbing like a cork on an angry sea. If the nation seems intolerant, reckless and more than a little cranky, perhaps that’s because the American republic is showing its age. Our leaders, our electorate and our hallowed system of government itself are extremely old. Let me stipulate at the outset that I (the author of this article) harbor no prejudice toward the elderly. As a sexagenarian myself, I’m fully mindful of the scourge of ageism. But to affirm that America must work harder to include the elderly within its vibrant multicultural quilt is not to say it must be governed almost entirely by duffers. If you calculate the median age of the president, the speaker of the House, the majority leader of the Senate, and the three Democrats leading in the presidential polls for 2020, the median age is … uh … 77. We heard a lot last November about the fresh new blood entering Congress, but when the current session began in January, the average ages of House and Senate members were 58 and 63, respectively. That’s slightly older than the previous Congress (58 and 62), which was already among the oldest in history. The average age in Congress declined through the 1970s but it’s mostly increased since the 1980s. The Deep State is no spring chicken, either. Two years ago, nearly 30% of the civilian federal workforce was over 55; two decades earlier, it was closer to 15%. The two Democratic presidential candidates proposing the most dramatic departure from the status quo are Bernie Sanders, who’ll turn 78 on September 8, and Elizabeth Warren, who’s 70. Cognitive functioning declines dramatically on average after age 70, and the types of intelligence that decline most sharply on average are “the capacity to absorb large amounts of new information and data in a short time span and apply it to solve problems in unaccustomed fashion.” None of this means a septuagenarian can’t function effectively as a political leader. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell are 79 and 77, respectively, and by all reports they’re operating at peak mental capacity. But to affirm that not all elderly people are impaired cognitively is very different from affirming that none is. The cognitive-function issue is not a theoretical one, if political commentators are to be believed. The past month has brought near-daily speculation about our 73 year-old president’s state of mind.
More Americans Questioning Official 9/11 Story as New Evidence Contradicts Official Narrative – (MintPressNews – September 11, 2019)
In late July, commissioners for a New York-area Fire Department, which responded to the attacks and lost one of their own that day, called for a new investigation into the events of September 11. On July 24, the board of commissioners for the Franklin Square and Munson Fire District, which serves a population of around 30,000 near Queens, voted unanimously in their call for a new investigation into the attacks. The likely reason for the dearth of coverage on an otherwise newsworthy vote was likely due to the fact that the resolution that called for the new investigation contained the following clause: “Whereas, the overwhelming evidence presented in said petition demonstrates beyond any doubt that pre-planted explosives and/or incendiaries — not just airplanes and the ensuing fires — caused the destruction of the three World Trade Center buildings, killing the vast majority of the victims who perished that day;” In the post-9/11 world, those who have made such claims, no matter how well-grounded their claims may be, have often been derided and attacked as “conspiracy theorists” for questioning the official claims that the three World Trade Center buildings that collapsed on September 11 did so for any reason other than being struck by planes and from the resulting fires. (Editor’s note: We highly recommend the following, which is possibly the best, and certainly one of the most professionally produced 9/11 video documentaries on the subject: the moving story 9/11: Press For Truth. It traces the passionate journey of a small group of grieving families who waged a tenacious battle against those who sought to bury the truth of the events surrounding that fateful day. Here is a link to a 15-minute condensed version and here is a link to the full 84 minute documentary. See also: Judicial Watch Sued To Get Footage of The ‘Plane’ Hitting The Pentagon On 9/11 (Video). And see: Major University Study Finds “Fire Did Not Bring Down Tower 7 On 9/11”.
Israel Accused of Planting Mysterious Spy Devices Near the White House – (Politico – September 12, 2019)
The U.S. government concluded within the past two years that Israel was most likely behind the placement of cellphone surveillance devices that were found near the White House and other sensitive locations around Washington, according to three former senior U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter. But unlike most other occasions when flagrant incidents of foreign spying have been discovered on American soil, the Trump administration did not rebuke the Israeli government, and there were no consequences for Israel’s behavior, one of the former officials said. The miniature surveillance devices, colloquially known as “StingRays,” mimic regular cell towers to fool cellphones into giving them their locations and identity information. Formally called international mobile subscriber identity-catchers or IMSI-catchers, they also can capture the contents of calls and data use. The devices were likely intended to spy on President Donald Trump, one of the former officials said, as well as his top aides and closest associates — though it’s not clear whether the Israeli efforts were successful. Trump is reputed to be lax in observing White House security protocols. Politico reported in May 2018 that the president often used an insufficiently secured cellphone to communicate with friends and confidants. While the Chinese, who have been regularly caught doing intelligence operations in the U.S., were also seen as potential suspects, they were determined as unlikely to have placed the devices based on a close analysis of the devices. “You can often, depending upon the tradecraft of the people who put them in place, figure out who’s been accessing them to pull the data off the devices,” another former senior U.S. intelligence official explained. StingRays cost more than $150,000 each, according to Vice News. “The costs involved are really significant,” according to a former senior Trump administration official. “This is not an easy or ubiquitous practice.”
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
Robot Priests Can Bless You, Advise You, and Even Perform Your Funeral – (Vox – September 9, 2019)
A new priest named Mindar is holding forth at Kodaiji, a 400-year-old Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. Like other clergy members, this priest can deliver sermons and move around to interface with worshippers. But Mindar comes with some … unusual traits. A body made of aluminum and silicone, for starters. Mindar is a robot. Designed to look like Kannon, the Buddhist deity of mercy, the $1 million machine is an attempt to reignite people’s passion for their faith in a country where religious affiliation is on the decline. For now, Mindar is not AI-powered. It just recites the same preprogrammed sermon about the Heart Sutra over and over. But the robot’s creators say they plan to give it machine-learning capabilities that’ll enable it to tailor feedback to worshippers’ specific spiritual and ethical problems. “This robot will never die; it will just keep updating itself and evolving,” said Tensho Goto, the temple’s chief steward. “With AI, we hope it will grow in wisdom to help people overcome even the most difficult troubles. It’s changing Buddhism.” Robots are changing other religions, too. In 2017, Indians rolled out a robot that performs the Hindu aarti ritual, which involves moving a light round and round in front of a deity. That same year, in honor of the Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary, Germany’s Protestant Church created a robot called BlessU-2. It gave preprogrammed blessings to over 10,000 people. Then there’s SanTO — short for Sanctified Theomorphic Operator — a 17-inch-tall robot reminiscent of figurines of Catholic saints. If you tell it you’re worried, it will respond by saying something such as, “From the Gospel according to Matthew, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Landmark Paternity Case Challenges Japan’s Work Culture – (CNN – September 12, 2019)
A 38-year-old Japanese national has filed a lawsuit against his employer for alleged harassment after taking paternity leave, in a landmark case that looks set to challenge Japan’s often highly-gendered corporate culture. Japanese law grants both men and women up to one year of leave from work after having a child. Parents are not guaranteed pay from their employer, but are eligible for government benefits while off. However, only 5% of eligible fathers took paternity leave in 2017, according to government data. The case, which appeared before a Tokyo court on Thursday, was brought about after the man claimed that his employer, sportswear maker Asics, purposefully sidelined him from his job in sales and marketing following his return from parental leave in 2015 and 2018. Asics has denied the allegations. The case is among the first to tackle the issue of paternity harassment in Japan, where working culture often dictates that male employees work long hours and place company loyalty ahead of the family. The man, who has requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of his claim — media in Japan have honored the request — took six weeks off after his first son was born in 2015 and then another 13 months of leave before his son’s second birthday. Asics offers male employees up to two years paternity leave.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Our Galaxy Might Be Home to 10 Billion Earth-Like Planets – (Extreme Tech – August 19, 2019)
The Milky Way galaxy is enormous, and we’ve scanned only the tiniest fraction of it in search of planets. We’ve spotted a few thousand of them orbiting distant stars, and now a team of researchers from Penn State University has used that data to estimate the number of Earth-like exoplanets in the entire galaxy — they peg that number between 5 and 10 billion. Of course, we can’t know for certain how many Earth-like exoplanets exist, nor can we even say for certain what “Earth-like” means in other solar systems. For the purposes of this study, the team took Earth-like to mean a planet between three-quarters and 1.5 times the size of Earth with an orbital period between 237 and 500 days. The researchers started their calculations with data from the Kepler Space Telescope. During its nine-year mission, Kepler identified more than 2,600 exoplanets using the transit method. It watched groups of stars for small dips in light that suggest planets passing in front of them. Kepler demonstrated that many solar systems are similar to our own, but the detection methods favored larger planets orbiting close to a star because they produce more discernible drops in light. To fill in the gaps, the team used data from the ESA’s Gaia spacecraft.
Cancer Now Tops Heart Disease as the No. 1 Cause of Death in These Countries – (CNN – September 3, 2019)
The world is slowly seeing cancer surpass cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death among middle-age adults in several countries, according to a new study. Among adults ages 35 to 70, cardiovascular disease still ranks as the leading cause of death globally, but the new research, published in the journal The Lancet, found that deaths from cancer are now more common than those from cardiovascular disease in some high-income and middle-income countries. Those countries include Sweden, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Poland and Turkey. The researchers noted in the study that “this epidemiological transition” might be due to improved prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease in high-income countries, whereas successful strategies to prevent and treat cancers, other than tobacco control, are yet to lead to large reductions in most cancers. The study involved analyzing data on deaths and diseases among 162,534 adults across five continents. After analyzing the data across those countries, the researchers found that non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, were the most common cause of deaths and illnesses globally among the adults. The researchers also found that cardiovascular disease was more common in middle-income and low-income countries than in high-income countries. Meanwhile, there was a higher incidence of death from cancer than cardiovascular disease in high-income countries and some upper middle-income countries, according to the data. In the high-income countries, “death from cancer was twice that from cardiovascular disease,” the researchers wrote in the study. Whereas, in the low-income countries, “death from cardiovascular disease was three times that from cancer,” they wrote.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
A Speedy Test for Norovirus Could Help Water Supplies Check for Contamination – (NPR – August 30, 2019)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates some 20 million people suffer acute intestinal illness from norovirus each year in this country. It’s responsible for more than half of all cases of foodborne illness in the United States. It can also get into municipal water supplies, when old pipes or storm overflow cause waste water contaminated with the norovirus to mix with drinking water. Water utilities regularly check for contamination, but existing tests for norovirus take time and require sophisticated laboratory equipment. So when Tucson’s water utility wanted help improving on the status quo, Jeong-Yeol Yoon, a biomedical engineer, said he could build an inexpensive norovirus detector. Yoon’s lab specializes in building small, handheld devices for testing water quality and food safety. Many of these devices use a cell phone camera attached to a microscope. “You can buy the microscope attachment to a smartphone very easily,” Yoon says. ” Nowadays you can get [magnification of] 200x, 400x and 600x and they are still under $100 dollars.” The norovirus test he’s developed also uses paper-based microfluidic chips. These are inexpensive wafers that draw water samples onto them, so there’s no need for external pumps. Even with available magnification, the viruses are too small to see. So Yoon mixes a water sample with tiny fluorescent polystyrene beads coated with antibodies to the norovirus. If the virus is in the water sample on the paper chip, the beads will clump around the virus, making it possible for the cell phone camera to detect them. Yoon says the device works rapidly. “From sample to answer…five minutes.”
What Employees Want Most from Their Workspaces – (Harvard Business Review – August 26, 2019)
In an effort to support a healthier and more productive workforce, employers across the country are expected to spend an average of $3.6 million on wellness programs in 2019. Think onsite gyms. Standing desks. Meditation rooms. Nursing hotlines. These are just some of the benefits companies are investing in. But is any of it paying off? The results of a recent Harvard study suggest that wellness programs, offered by 80% of large U.S. companies, yield unimpressive results – and our findings mirror this. Future Workplace and View recently surveyed 1,601 workers across North America to figure out which wellness perks matter to them most and how these perks impact productivity. Surprisingly, we found employees want the basics first: better air quality, access to natural light, and the ability to personalize their workspace. Half of the employees surveyed said poor air quality makes them sleepier during the day, and more than a third reported up to an hour in lost productivity as a result. In fact, air quality and light were the biggest influencers of employee performance, happiness, and wellbeing, while fitness facilities and technology-based health tools were the most trivial.
Careers of the Future: 42 New Professions of Tomorrow – (Medium – July 31, 2019))
One-quarter of jobs in the U.S. are at “high-risk” of automation, since 70% or more of their tasks could be done by machines. Another 36% of jobs are at “medium-risk” as a machine could do between 30% and 70% of their tasks. Some 40% of jobs are at “low-risk”, with less than 30% of their tasks able to be performed by a robot. Cognizant, an American multinational corporation that provides IT services, including digital, technology, consulting, and operations services, predicts the jobs that will come about from the ones lost after automation takes over. The reports are written as hypothetical job adverts and some do require quite a bit of imagination, while others are not far from our current reality. Here are the 42 jobs that they expect will arise in the near future. For example: Personal Data Broker – Companies like Facebook and Google make a lot of money from selling our personal information to companies. Cognizant imagines a future where you will have full control over your personal data, meaning that you can make money off of it. The personal data broker will have a simple job — to make sure their customers receive money from the companies they sell their data to. The person in this position will monitor and trade personal data on a newly created data exchange.
What Does the Quran Really Say about a Muslim Woman’s Hijab? – (YouTube – February 10, 2017)
This is a TED-X talk given by Samina Ali. Ms. Ali is an author, activist and cultural commentator. Her debut novel, Madras on Rainy Days, won France’s prestigious Prix Premier Roman Etranger Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award in Fiction. Ali’s work is driven by her belief in personal narrative as a force for achieving women’s individual and political freedom and in harnessing the power of media for social transformation. She is the curator of the critically acclaimed virtual exhibition, Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices. In recent times, the resurgence of the hijab along with various countries’ enforcement of it has led many to believe that Muslim women are required by their faith to wear the hijab. In this talk, novelist Samina Ali takes us on a journey back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) to reveal what the term “hijab” really means and how have fundamentalists conflated the term to deny women’s rights.
From Mind Control to Murder? How a Deadly Fall Revealed the CIA’s Darkest Secrets – (Guardian – September 6, 2019)
Frank Olson had been one of the first scientists assigned to the secret US biological warfare laboratories at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland during the second world war. Olson died in 1953, but, because of clandestine US government experiments, it took decades for his family to get closer to the truth. His wife and their three children were told that Frank “fell or jumped” to his death from a hotel window. Decades later, however, spectacular revelations cast Olson’s death in a completely new light. First, the CIA admitted that, shortly before he died, Olson’s colleagues had lured him to a retreat and fed him LSD without his knowledge. Eventually other details came to light. (Editor’s note: In its overt content, this article is about past events rather than the future. It’s also about the possible in any time frame.)
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
The Wealth Detective Who Finds the Hidden Money of the Super Rich – (Bloomberg – May 23, 2019)
Gabriel Zucman, 32, is an assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley and the world’s foremost expert on where the wealthy hide their money. His doctoral thesis, advised by Thomas Piketty, exposed trillions of dollars’ worth of tax evasion by the global rich. For his most influential work, he teamed up with his Berkeley colleague Emmanuel Saez, a fellow Frenchman and Piketty collaborator. Their 2016 paper, “Wealth Inequality in the United States Since 1913,” distilled a century of data to answer one of modern capitalism’s murkiest mysteries: How rich are the rich in the world’s wealthiest nation? The answer—far richer than previously imagined—thrust the pair deep into the American debate over inequality. Their data became the heart of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s stump speech, recited to the outrage of his supporters during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have all either consulted him or based some of their proposals on his work. Zucman and Saez have now written a cookbook of sorts for any 2020 candidate looking to soak the rich. The Triumph of Injustice, to be published by W.W. Norton & Co. early next year, focuses on how wealth disparity can be fought with tax policy. The tools Zucman has identified to date challenge a series of assumptions, fiercely held by many economists and policymakers, about how the world works: That unfettered globalization is a win-win proposition. That low taxes stimulate growth. That billionaires, and the superprofitable companies they found, are proof capitalism works. For Zucman, the evidence suggests otherwise. And without taking action, he argues, we risk an economic and political backlash far more destabilizing than the financial crisis that sparked his work.
JUST FOR FUN
Adventures in Replying to Spam | James Veitch – (YouTube – January 27, 2017)
James Veitch has spent years doing the tireless, thankless work of replying to spam emailers so you don’t have to. He returns to TED to tell the tale of yet another spam email adventure, this time with a vital lesson attached: How to annoy your way off any spammer’s mailing list. (Editor’s note: If you watched that one and still haven’t yet laughed quite enough, try this one. The laughs are just as good.)
A FINAL QUOTE
I don’t try to describe the future. I try to prevent it. ~ Ray Bradbury
A special thanks to: Chas Freeman, Ursula Freer, Diane Petersen, Gary Sycalik, Steve Ujvarosy, 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