FUTURE FACTS – FROM THINK LINKS
DID YOU KNOW THAT–
- Imaging technology has advanced to the point that someone’s face can be reconstructed from their brain scan.
- Researchers used a laser to hack Alexa.
- Walmart, Albertsons, Stop & Shop and others are opening “dark stores” that are closed to shoppers and just serve to fulfill online orders.
- The shortage of doctors in rural America is so acute that one doctor in West Texas serves all the people in 11,000 square miles.
by John L. Petersen
Full Access to Robert David Steele Transition Talk
Robert Steele held forth to a capacity crowd in Berkeley Springs last month, entertaining a clearly engaged audience in a 90 minute survey of the most life-changing books he had read. Robert’s Talk was long on lists of books and many asked that we make the video of the presentation available so that they could capture all of the detail. So they —- and you —- are in luck!
Although in the future we will be charging for access to the TransitionTalks videos, Robert and I wanted to get this one out to as many people as possible, so here is a link where you can see the great talk:
One favor for Robert: if you like this talk, please link to it and Tweet the video with your comments to both your friends and these addresses: #UNRIG #MAGA #Triggered @GOP @POTUS
The Biggest Change in Human History Coming in Next Seven Years: John Petersen Presentation on 7 December in Berkeley Springs
I have spent the last year bringing together pieces from many different sources to weave a tapestry picture of the coming change for this planet and our species. Bottom line: We’re about to enter a period of more change and upheaval than any time in human history – a crucible that will provide the distinct opportunity for those who have prepared themselves for this global shift to rise to the occasion as never before. The choices are stark. Each of us has the clear choice – and capacity – to initiate the process of becoming the new human that will populate the emergent new world . . . or to continue with the current version of the world that is rapidly imploding.
The trick is how to be knowledgeable about what is going on – so that what in fact transpires, does not produce disabling surprise and fear from an having an emotional attachment to the surrounding, imploding world – while, at the same time, beginning to focus on and internalize the core characteristics of the emergent new human . . . and the new world that will dominate the next evolutionary era of our species.
John L. Petersen
This is big stuff — really big stuff. I’ll spend three hours walking you systematically through what appears to be going on, what new world might emerge (out of three distinct possibilities), and how we might all prepare for this momentous transition. I promise this will be very provocative and I’ll do my best to give you a comprehensive picture of the coming seven years unlike any other that you have experienced.
Do come. We’ll have a very substantive and engaging afternoon!!
You can find complete information at TransitionTalks.org.
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
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|Our e-Magazine has complete information on our TransitionTalks series with articles from past speakers
Gregg Braden, Joe Dispenza & Bruce Lipton:
You Got a Brain Scan at the Hospital. Someday a Computer May Use It to Identify You. – (New York Times – October 23, 2019)
Thousands of people have received brain scans, as well as cognitive and genetic tests, while participating in research studies. Though the data may be widely distributed among scientists, most participants assume their privacy is protected because researchers remove their names and other identifying information from their records. But could a curious family member identify one of them just from a brain scan? Could a company mining medical records to sell targeted ads do so, or someone who wants to embarrass a study participant? The answer is yes, according to investigators at the Mayo Clinic. A magnetic resonance imaging scan includes the entire head, including the subject’s face. And while the countenance is blurry, imaging technology has advanced to the point that the face can be reconstructed from the scan. Under some circumstances, that face can be matched to an individual with facial recognition software. In a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the Mayo Clinic showed that the required steps are not complex. But privacy experts questioned whether the process could be replicated on a much larger scale with today’s technology. The fact that this was a straightforward test on a fairly small data set is “beside the point,” said Aaron Roth, computer scientist and privacy expert at the University of Pennsylvania.“It is clear that eventually this will be a worrying attack” on stored medical data, he said.
Researchers Discover Mechanisms for the Cause of the Big Bang – (PhysOrg – October 31, 2019)
The origin of the universe started with the Big Bang, but how the supernova explosion ignited has long been a mystery—until now. In a new paper appearing today in Science magazine, researchers detailed the mechanisms that could cause the explosion, which is key for the models that scientists use to understand the origin of the universe. “We defined the critical criteria where we can drive a flame to self-generate its own turbulence, spontaneously accelerate, and transition into detonation,” says Kareem Ahmed, an assistant professor in UCF’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and co-author of the study. The researcher uncovered the criteria for creating a Big Bang-type explosion while exploring methods for hypersonic jet propulsion. “We explore these supersonic reactions for propulsion, and as a result of that, we came across this mechanism that looked very interesting,” he said. “When we started to dig deeper, we realized that this is relatable to something as profound as the origin of the universe.” Applications for the discovery could include faster air and space travel and improved power generation, including reactions that generate zero emissions as all of the products used in the combustion are converted into energy.
The Universe Might Be a Giant Loop – (Live Science – November 4, 2019)
Everything we think we know about the shape of the universe could be wrong. Instead of being flat like a bedsheet, our universe may be curved, like a massive, inflated balloon, according to a new study. That’s the upshot of a new paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, which looks at data from the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the faint echo of the Big Bang. But not everyone is convinced; the new findings, based on data released in 2018, contradict both years of conventional wisdom and another recent study based on that same CMB data set. If the universe is curved, according to the new paper, it curves gently. That slow bending isn’t important for moving around our lives, or solar system, or even our galaxy. But travel beyond all of that, outside our galactic neighborhood, far into the deep blackness, and eventually — moving in a straight line — you’ll loop around and end up right back where you started. Cosmologists call this idea the “closed universe.” It’s been around for a while, but it doesn’t fit with existing theories of how the universe works. So it’s been largely rejected in favor of a “flat universe” that extends without boundary in every direction and doesn’t loop around on itself. Now, an anomaly in data from the best-ever measurement of the CMB offers solid (but not absolutely conclusive) evidence that the universe is closed after all.
Earth’s Mantle and Crust Are in a Fiery Battle to the Death … of Supercontinents – (Live Science – November 7, 2019)
Earth’s hot, gooey center and its cold, hard outer shell are both responsible for the creeping (and sometimes catastrophic) movement of tectonic plates. But now new research reveals an intriguing balance of power — the oozing mantle creates supercontinents while the crust tears them apart. To come to this conclusion about the process of plate tectonics, the scientists created a new computer model of Earth with the crust and mantle considered as one seamless system. Over time, about 60% of tectonic movement at the surface of this virtual planet was driven by fairly shallow forces — within the first 62 miles (100 kilometers) of the surface. The deep, churning convection of the mantle drove the rest. The mantle became particularly important when the continents got pushed together to form supercontinents, while the shallow forces dominated when supercontinents broke apart in the model. This “virtual Earth” is the first computer model that “views” the crust and mantle as an interconnected, dynamic system, the researchers reported. Previously, researchers would make models of heat-driven convection in the mantle that matched observations of the real mantle pretty well, but didn’t mimic the crust. And models of the plate tectonics in the crust could predict real-world observations of how these plates move, but didn’t mesh well with observations of the mantle. Clearly, something was missing in the way that models put the two systems together.
Scientists Link Neanderthal Extinction to Human Diseases – (PhysOrg – November 7, 2019)
Growing up in Israel, Gili Greenbaum would give tours of local caves once inhabited by Neanderthals and wonder along with others why our distant cousins abruptly disappeared about 40,000 years ago. Now a scientist at Stanford, Greenbaum thinks he has an answer. Greenbaum and his colleagues propose that complex disease transmission patterns can explain not only how modern humans were able to wipe out Neanderthals in Europe and Asia in just a few thousand years but also, perhaps more puzzling, why the end didn’t come sooner. Employing mathematical models of disease transmission and gene flow, Greenbaum and an international team of collaborators demonstrated how the unique diseases harbored by Neanderthals and modern humans could have created an invisible disease barrier that discouraged forays into enemy territory. Within this narrow contact zone, which was centered in the Levant where first contact took place, Neanderthals and modern humans coexisted in an uneasy equilibrium that lasted tens of millennia. Ironically, what may have broken the stalemate and ultimately allowed our ancestors to supplant Neanderthals was the coming together of our two species through interbreeding. The hybrid humans born of these unions may have carried immune-related genes from both species, which would have slowly spread through modern human and Neanderthal populations.
GENETICS / HEALTH TECHNOLOGY / BIOTECHNOLOGY
A Beating Heart, Even after Death – (New York Times – September 24, 2019)
Tens of thousands of Americans today have mechanical pumps keeping them alive, offering the first serious glimpse of what the union of human and machine will look like. Left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) are sutured right into the hearts of patients with severe heart failure, mechanizing them to keep blood circulating throughout the body. While they don’t quite turn into cyborgs, most patients with LVADs don’t have a pulse, and if you put a stethoscope to their chest, instead of hearing the galloping of their heart, you would hear the hum of the pump. LVADs are pushing bodies into places unforeseen: They can survive even if their hearts stop beating, something previously unimaginable. The devices are also teaching us what happens when blood flows continuously through the body rather than in pulses with every beat of the heart. While many patients with LVADs can experience devastating complications such as strokes, bleeds and infections, many achieve previously unimaginable outcomes. The devices may soon help people with severe heart failure to live longer than those with the gold standard: a transplanted heart, which has shown to extend the lives of patients for an average of 11 years. Last year, researchers developed a prototype LVAD that charges wirelessly rather than through large batteries patients have to wear in special vests or in belts, making it easier to live with and letting many patients do what they cannot with current LVADs: swim.
Scientists Now Know How Sleep Cleans Toxins from the Brain – (Wired – October 31, 2019)
A study done by Laura Lewis and her team of researchers at their Boston University lab shows how our bodies clear toxins out of our brains while we sleep and could open new avenues for treating and preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. When we sleep our brains travel through several phases, from a light slumber to a deep sleep that feels like we’ve fallen unconscious, to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when we’re more likely to have dreams. Lewis’ work looks at non-REM sleep, that deep phase which generally happens earlier in the night and which has already been associated with memory retention. One important 2013 study on mice showed that while the rodents slept, toxins like beta amyloid, which can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, got swept away. Lewis was curious how those toxins were cleared out and why that process only happened during sleep. She suspected that cerebrospinal fluid, a clear, water-like liquid that flows around the brain, might be involved. What she discovered was that during non-REM sleep, large, slow waves of cerebrospinal fluid were washing over the brain. The EEG readings helped show why. During non-REM sleep, neurons start to synchronize, turning on and off at the same time. “First you would see this electrical wave where all the neurons would go quiet,” says Lewis. Because the neurons had all momentarily stopped firing, they didn’t need as much oxygen. That meant less blood would flow to the brain. But Lewis’s team also observed that cerebrospinal fluid would then rush in, filling in the space left behind. “Sleep is not just to relax,” says Maiken Nedergaard, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester. “Sleep is actually a very distinct function.” Neurons don’t all turn off at the same time when we’re awake. So brain blood levels don’t drop enough to allow substantial waves of cerebrospinal fluid to circulate around the brain and clear out all the metabolic byproducts that accumulate, like beta amyloid. The study may also have clinical applications for treating Alzheimer’s. Instead of trying to act on one particular molecule, new interventions might instead focus on increasing the amount of cerebrospinal fluid that washes over the brain.
Are We Ready for the Breastfeeding Father? – (New York Times – October 18, 2019)
Is it possible for a man to breastfeed a baby? For millenniums, this question has tickled people’s imagination. It has intrigued; it has disgusted; it has also remained largely hypothetical. That is, until last year, when a peer-reviewed case report confirmed that a transgender woman, assigned male at birth, was able to breastfeed her child after she was put on a regimen of hormonal drugs. Weeks before the baby’s birth, she was able to produce eight ounces of milk per day, and for the first six weeks, the baby could be sustained solely on that milk alone. Before the treatment, the patient had been receiving feminizing hormones for six years. We don’t know how long it would take for a cis man to induce functional lactation. But “we have a pretty good idea of the types of hormone cocktails that would be needed,” said Tamar Reisman, an endocrinologist with the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery and one of the two authors of the case report. It was not until the discovery and naming of the milk-producing hormone prolactin in 1933 that scientists could really begin to examine the lactating ability of male mammals. Experiments were performed on rats, monkeys and, in some cases, humans. And they worked. In a study in 1954, three men with cancer who had been on estrogen treatment were injected with large doses of luteotrophin, a form of prolactin. One of them, age 64, lactated on the sixth day of the treatment. He didn’t stop for seven years. The hormones are not without side effects and they inevitably entail some degree of breast growth. But as technology has made it increasingly feasible, the potential impact of male breastfeeding on gender roles — who takes on what sort of parenting duties, and all of the consequences that result from those early first choices — looms larger than ever.
Why Didn’t She Get Alzheimer’s? The Answer Could Hold a Key to Fighting the Disease – (New York Times – November 4, 2019)
Researchers have found a woman with a rare genetic mutation that has protected her from dementia even though her brain has developed major neurological features of the disease. This ultra rare mutation appears to help stave off the disease by minimizing the binding of a particular sugar compound to an important gene. That finding suggests that treatments could be developed to give other people that same protective mechanism. “I’m very excited to see this new study come out — the impact is dramatic,” said Dr. Yadong Huang, a senior investigator at Gladstone Institutes, who was not involved in the research. “For both research and therapeutic development, this new finding is very important.” A drug or gene therapy would not be available any time soon because scientists first need to replicate the protective mechanism found in this one patient by testing it in laboratory animals and human brain cells. Still, this case comes at a time when the Alzheimer’s field is craving new approaches after billions of dollars have been spent on developing and testing treatments and some 200 drug trials have failed. It has been more than 15 years since the last treatment for dementia was approved, and the few drugs available do not work very well for very long.
The Fight to Stop Nestlé from Taking America’s Water to Sell in Plastic Bottles – (Guardian – October 29, 2019)
The network of clear streams comprising California’s Strawberry Creek run down the side of a steep, rocky mountain in a national forest two hours east of Los Angeles. Last year Nestlé siphoned 45m gallons of pristine spring water from the creek and bottled it under the Arrowhead Water label. Though it’s on federal land, the Swiss bottled water giant paid the US Forest Service and state practically nothing, and it profited handsomely: Nestlé Waters’ 2018 worldwide sales exceeded $7.8bn. Ultimately, the debate’s particulars lead back to a question at the heart of issue: should water be commodified and sold by private industry, or is it a basic human right? Former Nestlé chief executive and chairman Peter Brabeck labeled the latter viewpoint “extreme” (that water is a basic human right) and called water a “grocery product” that should “have a market value”. He later amended that, arguing 25 liters of water daily is a “human right”, but water used to fill a pool or wash a car shouldn’t be free. At its current pace, the world will run out of freshwater before oil, Brabeck said, and he suggests privatization is the answer. Nestlé’s spending on lobbying and campaign contributions at the federal and state levels totals in the millions annually, the revolving door between the company and government perpetually turns, and it maintains cozy relationships with federal officials from the Forest Service to Trump administration.
Antitrust 101: Why Everyone Is Probing Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google – (Ars Technica – November 5, 2019)
The decades of deregulation since the Reagan administration have brought us to a whole new era of massive corporate consolidation and the rise of a new wave of conglomerates in sectors that didn’t even exist 40 years ago. The growth at the top in tech has been particularly stratospheric: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and a handful of others that have risen since the turn of the century now dominate our economy and our communications in a powerful way. Critics from all sides, however, now consider today’s tech titans to be too powerful, and all four companies have in recent years faced several investigations probing a central issue: antitrust law. Bigness by itself is not a crime, and none of the four platforms currently known to be under investigation is necessarily a monopoly in the sense the Sherman Act would have it. There’s no denying, however, that these four companies are dominant, and there are a couple of broad avenues of investigation available to everyone who’s digging in. One has to do with monopoly power and theories of consumer harm. Generally, if a company is a monopoly or a near-monopoly, then consumers can expect to see prices increase more or less unchecked, for example. Or perhaps, with no competitor spurring one along, the quality of service severely degrades. Shoppers do pay for products on Amazon and from Apple, but for Facebook and Google the picture is murkier. Individuals don’t hand over any cash to use those services. DOJ antitrust chief Makan Delrahim has made the case that something like worsening privacy standards, however, may still count as diminished service. This article delves into some of the finer points in the push to break up big tech.
A Smart Home Neighborhood: Residents Find It Enjoyably Convenient Or a Bit Creepy – (NPR – November 9, 2019)
Living in a smart home neighborhood, you experience both convenience and surveillance. And that’s typical in Black Diamond, a Seattle suburb, where Lennar Homes offers smart homes as part of a 4,800 unit development that includes other builders. There are also smart home developments in suburbs outside of cities such as Miami and San Francisco. Lennar is making Amazon tech standard on each of the 45,000 homes it builds this year. This partnership between builders and Amazon benefits both sides. Amazon wants to push for wider adoption of its Echo smart speaker. Lennar relies on Amazon to help distinguish it from other home builders in communities like Black Diamond. But Amazon has a lot of ground to cover if it wants to build a market of consumers hungry for smart homes. A Zillow survey says smart homes technology is down the list of desired home features, lagging far behind air conditioning and ample storage. It’s roughly as important as a hot tub for those shopping for a home. But Dave Garland thinks the technology will take off once people try it. He’s with Second Century Ventures, an investment arm of the National Association of Realtors. “There’s a new narrative when it comes to what ‘home’ means,” he says. “It means a personalized environment where technology responds to your every need.” His favorite is a Ring doorbell that logs visitors. “I have teenagers,” he said. “It’s nice to confirm when they come home. And I have proof of it.” Therron Smith had a very different reaction to the smart home pitch. “The thought of having cameras in every room and that potential exposure… just kind of made us nervous about it.” Smith works in tech, and says that’s how he knows the risks. It’s not just cameras, even light switches capture information. “That data’s not just sitting there, just… empty,” he says. “Somebody’s gonna look at it and leverage it, to try to turn a profit, or try to create an ad, or try to create some revenue.”
The Physical Footprint of the Digital World – (Axios – November 7, 2019)
Smartphones are chock-full of apps that can hail anything from rides to meals to toiletries — and this digital revolution comes with a physical footprint that is changing the way cities look and function. To support the new consumer lifestyle, companies are choking cities with cars, bikes and warehouses. The technology that makes it possible for urban dwellers to summon everything in an instant clearly comes with still-unknown costs. “In a major city, you don’t really have to leave the house,” says Richard Florida, an urban studies scholar at the University of Toronto. But all of those delivery and ride-hailing services “add pressure on cities in terms of traffic congestion and power use that people aren’t thinking about.” More than 1.5 million packages are delivered in New York City every day. Uber and Lyft have admitted their cars are making traffic worse. Restaurants are adding virtual outposts, which are kitchens — without waiters or tables — that exist solely to prepare orders for delivery, (see article in the Agriculture/Food section below). Grocery stores are doing the same. Walmart, Albertsons, Stop & Shop and others are opening “dark stores” that are closed to shoppers and just serve to fulfill online orders. See also: The Climate Stakes of Speedy Delivery.
‘Artificial Leaf’ Successfully Produces Clean Gas – (Sign of the Times – October 21, 2019)
A widely-used gas that is currently produced from fossil fuels can instead be made by an ‘artificial leaf’ that uses only sunlight, carbon dioxide and water, and which could eventually be used to develop a sustainable liquid fuel alternative to petrol. The carbon-neutral device sets a new benchmark in the field of solar fuels, after researchers at the University of Cambridge demonstrated that it can directly produce the gas — called syngas — in a sustainable and simple way. Syngas is currently made from a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, and is used to produce a range of commodities, such as fuels, pharmaceuticals, plastics and fertilizers. Rather than running on fossil fuels, the artificial leaf is powered by sunlight, although it still works efficiently on cloudy and overcast days. And unlike the current industrial processes for producing syngas, the leaf does not release any additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Article describes the production process.
The Car Is Made of Wood – (Jalopnik – October 29, 2019)
Electric vehicles have been turning the tide in the automotive industry in terms of making cars better for the environment. But Japan’s Ministry of the Environment believed we could do better—and the result is an unprecedented supercar made entirely of wood. Most of the bodywork and part of the tub is composed of nano cellulose fibers, or plant-derived material (including agricultural waste) that’s one-fifth of the weight of—and five times as strong as—steel, the Ministry of the Environment notes. By using those fibers, the result is a car about half as light as your traditional one, with a 10% overall reduction in mass. Additionally, the production process also drastically reduces carbon emissions associated with automotive manufacturing. It’s basically just recycling on a massive scale. The Nano Cellulose Vehicle (NCV) looks awesome. The sharp-cut angles of the bodywork and the butterfly doors immediately bring to mind Lamborghini, or the Acura NSX. The interior features kimono-wrapped seats and a gorgeous wooden dashboard (not just that fake wood look you get in most cars). See also: New “Metallic Wood” Could Lead to Super-Light Cars.
Recycling Cars’ Lithium Batteries Is More Complicated Than You Might Think – (Ars Technica – November 6, 2019)
Automotive lithium batteries weigh hundreds of kilograms and contain a substantial amount of raw materials, some of which can be quite valuable. Due to the relative youth of the automotive electrical-battery market, however, an organized recycling industry is only just now developing, and it faces significant technical hurdles before recycling becomes both widespread and economical. In this article, a group of researchers take a look at possible means of recycling and consider how to get the most value out of electric-vehicle batteries after they’re no longer performing well enough to run a car. The authors of the analysis make one thing clear up front: the majority of the cost of a lithium-ion battery isn’t in the raw materials. Instead, the cost is in the manufacturing needed to transform those raw materials into something that can function in a battery, then getting them into a structure that combines durability, performance, and safety. Thus, there’s more value in having a lower-performing battery than there is in breaking the battery apart to get at its materials. The primary issue with lithium batteries is a loss of capacity over time. But in contrast to cars, grid-scale electricity storage isn’t sensitive to either the amount of space taken up by batteries or their weight. As such, a battery that’s no longer appropriate for a car could still work perfectly well on the grid. That said, this is a temporary situation. Making recycling more complicated. the power packs for the Tesla model S, the BMW i3, and Nissan Leaf, which differ by over 200kg and have significantly different shapes. The individual cells in the batteries are also different sizes and shapes, and the chemistries of the cathodes are distinct. All of this rules out a single process or automated system for handling electric vehicle batteries. Still, there’s great potential for limiting the environmental impact of gathering the raw materials needed by reusing batteries’ materials. Article details possibilities.
How Airships Could Return to Our Crowded Skies – (BBC News – November 8, 2019)
Airships lost out to conventional aircraft after a series of disastrous crashes. But now safer technology could be the key to their return. In four to five years, all being well, one of the first production models of the enormous Airlander airship dubbed “the flying bum” will be the first airship to fly to the North Pole since 1928. The men and women on board the Airlander are tourists on an $80,000 luxury experience rather than explorers. Tickets are on sale now. The Airlander won’t be alone in the skies either. About the same time, a vast new airship the shape of a blue whale, at roughly the length of an A380 and as high as a 12-story building should rise up above its assembly plant in Jingmen, China. Its job: heavy lifting in some of the toughest places on Earth. The manufacturers have some Boeing-sized ambitions for this new age of the airship. They expect to have about 150 of these airships floating around the world within 10 years. Article includes technical details of the Airlander.
The Rise of the Virtual Restaurant – (New York Times – August 14, 2019)
Food delivery apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub are starting to reshape the $863 billion American restaurant industry. As more people order food to eat at home, and as delivery becomes faster and more convenient, the apps are changing the very essence of what it means to operate a restaurant. No longer must restaurateurs rent space for a dining room. All they need is a kitchen — or even just part of one. Then they can hang a shingle inside a meal-delivery app and market their food to the app’s customers, without the hassle and expense of hiring waiters or paying for furniture and tablecloths. Diners who order from the apps may have no idea that the restaurant doesn’t physically exist. The shift has popularized two types of digital culinary establishments. One is “virtual restaurants,” which are attached to real-life restaurants like Mr. Lopez’s Top Round but make different cuisines specifically for the delivery apps. The other is “ghost kitchens,” which have no retail presence and essentially serve as a meal preparation hub for delivery orders. Uber and other companies are driving the change. Since 2017, the ride-hailing company has helped start 4,000 virtual restaurants with restaurateurs like Mr. Lopez, which are exclusive to its Uber Eats app. Janelle Sallenave, who leads Uber Eats in North America, said the company analyzes neighborhood sales data to identify unmet demand for particular cuisines. Then it approaches restaurants that use the app and encourages them to create a virtual restaurant to meet that demand.
SECURITY AND THE FUTURE OF WARFARE
Researchers Used a Laser to Hack Alexa and Other Voice Assistants – (CNN – November 5, 2019)
A group of researchers determined that they can command Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google’s Assistant by shining a laser at smart speakers and other gadgets that house virtual helpers. Researchers at the University of Michigan and Japan’s University of Electro-Communications figured out they could do this silently and from hundreds of feet away, as long as they had a line of sight to the smart gadget. The finding could enable anyone (with motivation and a few hundred dollars’ worth of electronics) to attack a smart speaker from outside your house, making it do anything from playing music to opening a smart garage door to buying you stuff on Amazon. The researchers explained that they were able to shine a light that had a command encoded in it (such as “OK Google, open the garage door”) at a microphone built into a smart speaker. The sounds of each command were encoded in the intensity of a light beam, said Daniel Genkin, a paper coauthor and assistant professor at the University of Michigan. The light would hit the diaphragm built into the smart speaker’s microphone, causing it to vibrate in the same way as if someone had spoken that command.
TRENDS OF GOVERNANCE
The Enemy Within – (Truth Dig – November 4, 2019)
This op-ed piece is by Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, New York Times best-selling author, and professor in the college degree program offered to New Jersey state prisoners by Rutgers. He writes: Our democracy is not in peril—we do not live in a democracy. The image of our democracy is in peril. The deep state—the generals, bankers, corporatists, lobbyists, intelligence chiefs, government bureaucrats and technocrats—is intent on salvaging the brand. It is hard to trumpet yourself as the world’s guardian of freedom and liberty with Donald Trump blathering on incoherently about himself, inciting racist violence, insulting our traditional allies along with the courts, the press and Congress, tweeting misspelled inanities and impulsively denouncing or sabotaging bipartisan domestic and foreign policy. But Trump’s most unforgivable sin in the eyes of the deep state is his criticism of the empire’s endless wars, even though he lacks the intellectual and organizational skills to oversee a disengagement. The deep state committed the greatest strategic blunder in American history when it invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. Such fatal military fiascoes, a feature of all late empires, are called acts of “micro-militarism.” Dying empires historically squander the last capital they have, economic, political and military, on futile, intractable and unwinnable conflicts until they collapse. The architects of the imperial death spiral, however, are untouchable. No one is held accountable. A servile press treats these mandarins with near-religious veneration. Generals and politicians, many of whom should have been cashiered or put on trial, are upon retirement given lucrative seats on the boards of the weapons manufacturers, for whom these wars are immensely profitable. They are called upon by a fawning press to provide analysis to the public of the mess they created. We, the American public, are spectators. An audience. Who will be seated when the game of musical chairs stops? Will Trump be able to hold on to power? Will Pence be the new president? Or will the deep state elevate a political hack like Biden or a neoliberal apologist such as Pete Butiggieg, Amy Klobuchar or Kamala Harris to the White House? What if the rot in the Republican Party is so profound it won’t sign on for the political extinction of the most incompetent president in American history? The power struggle, which includes blocking Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren from obtaining the Democratic Party nomination, will make for months of great television and generate billions in advertising revenue. (Editor’s note: If you have time to read only one article from this issue of FUTUREdition, we recommend this one. Whether you support Donald Trump or hold only negative opinions of him, this is worth reading.)
‘We’re Keeping the Oil’ in Syria, Trump Says, But It’s Considered a War Crime – (ABC News – October 28, 2019)
After President Donald Trump said the U.S. will be “keeping the oil” in northeastern Syria, his administration is looking into the “specifics,” according to a senior State Department official – but it’s prompted renewed cries that doing so is a war crime. Trump has a long history of calling for the U.S. to “take the oil” in the Middle East, in Iraq and Syria in particular. But any oil in both countries belongs to their governments, and according to U.S. law and treaties it has ratified, seizing it would be pillaging, a technical term for theft during wartime that is illegal under U.S. and international law. “We’re keeping the oil,” Trump said to a conference of police chiefs in Chicago. “I’ve always said that — keep the oil. We want to keep the oil, $45 million a month. Keep the oil. We’ve secured the oil.” when detailing the U.S. special forces raid against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Trump said U.S. troops would remain in Syria to secure “massive” oil reserves and even put up “a hell of a fight” against any force that tried to take them. “We should be able to take some also, and what I intend to do, perhaps, is make a deal with an ExxonMobil or one of our great companies to go in there and do it properly,” he added. Defense Secretary Mark Esper confirmed Monday that U.S. troops will remain in the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zor “to secure the oil fields” against ISIS. See also: ISIS Makes Up To $3 Million a Day Selling Oil, Say Analysts.
The St. Petersburg Vegans Cooking up a Revolution – (BBC News – November 3, 2019)
As Russia enters its 20th year under the authoritarian leadership of Vladimir Putin, St Petersburg’s vegan anarchist community thrives. Hated by the far right and out of tune with Russia’s prevailing nationalist mood, the activists have created a version of what their ideal society would look like – and they’re promoting this vision with delicious food. Could they be changing attitudes among other young Russians? The front of their restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall that serves vegan burgers, hot dogs and nuggets to go, is covered with stickers promoting anti-fascism, anarchism, and other vegan outlets in the city. Their meal deal offer, something commonly called a “business lunch” in Russia, is called “the anti-business lunch”. Although some of them have been working there for longer than others, all eight members of the team have an equal say in the business. There are no managers and no hierarchies. “That’s why we’re called Horizontal – because every person who joins our restaurant is on the same level, and has the same rights and an equal position with all of the others,” she says. The restaurant adheres to the principles of anti-racism, feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, the abolition of borders, and animal liberation. In a country where people who are gender non-confirming or trans are shunned, and even sometimes attacked, Horizontal is a space where anyone’s preferred pronouns will be respected. Horizontal is one of about a dozen similar spaces across St Petersburg, promoting vegan anarchism – “veganarchism” – by cooking up delicious vegan food. The term “veganarchist” was coined by the New York-based anarchist Brian Dominick in his 1997 essay, Animal Liberation and Social Revolution. In it, he writes that veganism is inherently intertwined with anti-fascism, human rights activism and anti-capitalism. “The role of the revolutionist is simple,” Dominick writes. “Make your life into a miniature model of the alternative, revolutionary society you envision. You are a microcosm of the world around you, and even the most basic among your actions affect the social context of which you are a part. Make those effects positive and radical in their nature.”
The American Dream Is Alive in China – (Palladium – October 11, 2019)
As China cashes out years of economic development into discrete improvements to people’s daily lives, in some ways, life in China is starting to seem better than life in the U.S. No longer as characterized by bad pollution and visible poverty, China of the late 2010s feels clean, modern, and nice. China is changing in a deep and visceral way, and it is changing fast , in a way that is almost incomprehensible without seeing it in person. In contrast to America’s stagnation, China’s culture, self-concept, and morale are being transformed at a rapid pace—mostly for the better. When I visited China in the 2000s and early 2010s, there was a general sense that “now is the time to put your head down and work hard to support the economy.” Now, the feeling has become “start learning how to enjoy life and take pride in the results of everyone’s hard work.” For myself, the changes that were most astonishing between my trip to China in mid-2017, and my subsequent trip just eight months later, were the visible changes in human behavior at scale. By early 2018, people had almost entirely stopped paying in cash, regardless of whether they were buying designer products at a mall in Shanghai, or vegetables at the local farmer’s market. Instead, they were almost exclusively using Wechat Pay or Alipay on their phones. The hordes of dingy private bikes that once clogged the streets were gone, having been almost entirely replaced in some cities with cheerfully colored, app-based bikes that were inexpensive to rent. People were also much less afraid of petty theft and told me they felt increasingly safe. Why? Because the government can now often find and retrieve your stolen phone, since it has video cameras monitoring every public move—for better or worse. Given recent discord and stagnation in American life, it can be hard to imagine what China feels like right now. In many ways, China in the 2010s reminds me of what I’ve read of America in the 1950s: the country is powerful, economic development is booming, and people are optimistic about the future. (Editor’s note: The American dream of consumerism is alive in China. The American dream of freedom is fighting for its life in Hong Kong.)
LIFE STYLE/SOCIAL TRENDS AND VALUES
The Company That Branded Your Millennial Life Is Pivoting To Burnout – (BuzzFeed – October 28, 2019)
This article is about a trend-setting, millennial-pleasing marketing company that realizes that new, hot trend is offering ways to beat millennial “burnout”. Ok, fine. Whatever. But why would you want to read it? Because it’s about more than that. Because it’s about a set of core values being (re)discovered and embraced by a marketing company – and a generation – that you may not be all that familiar with. Pattern (the name of the company) probably isn’t the “median millennial workplace”; instead, it just might be at the leading edge of the wave. It’s a long article, but give it a try; you might be surprised – and encouraged.
From Tinder to Venmo: These 25 Apps Changed Everything – (CNet – November 10, 2019)
In the last decade, apps (and by association, smartphones) have become an essential part of our lives. Since the iOS App Store and Google Play launched in 2008 with what seemed like mostly novelty titles, they’ve grown to include millions of apps that help us communicate, meet new people, listen to music and kill pigs with birds. OK, sometimes we still use our phones to make calls, but apps are so popular there are now apps that tell you how much time you spend using apps on your phone. This list is crowdsourced from every CNET editor and then curated further from there. Depending on how you use your cell phone and your age, you may be familiar with most of these – or only a few. The article includes a description of each app and explains why it was included in the list.
CONTACT AND THE EXPLORATION OF SPACE
Canso Spaceport Partners with U.S. Company to Recycle Rockets in Space – (Canadian Broadcasting – November 3, 2019)
The company planning to build a rocket-launching facility on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore has partnered with a U.S. company to try to reuse parts of its rockets in space. Maritime Launch Services and Houston-based Nanoracks have signed an agreement to work on repurposing the upper stages of MLS’s rockets — the parts of the vehicle that contained fuel and are released as it climbs into orbit. With the help of NASA funding, Nanoracks has been studying ways to recycle space junk to create what it calls “outposts” throughout the solar system, including hotels, research parks, fuel depots and storage centers. “There’s lots of things that you can be doing with the upper stages and our core belief at Nanoracks is you don’t waste something in space — it’s too precious,” said Jeffrey Manber, the company’s CEO. The company is still in the beginning stages of figuring out how to repurpose material, but it is looking at using robots that “look like a hand or a snake” to cut and weld in space. Nanoracks said building outposts in space rather than constructing them in modules on the ground and then launching them into space is more affordable and less risky. The company plans to use Cyclone 4M rockets, designed by Ukrainian company Yuzhnoye and manufactured by Yuzhmash. right now, the upper stages of the Cyclone 4M would not likely be usable for human purposes such as hotels because “we’re not sure it would be safe for humans” due to the type of fuel that’s used. Yuzhnoye is working on developing “green” fuels, Manber said, but the Cyclone 4M could be used for other purposes such as building a fuel depot for journeys to Mars.
NASA’s Charge-dissipating Paint Provides a Potential Solution to a Dusty Problem – (Digital Trends – November 9, 2019)
One challenge of lunar landings is something so small you might not even think about it — moon dust. Despite — or perhaps because of — its tiny size, the fine dust that covers the moon’s surface causes a range of technical problems from gumming up electronics to sticking to absolutely everything. It is even potentially harmful to the health of astronauts. The moon’s dust problem is partly caused by plasma, as it is the ultraviolet radiation from the Sun which positively charges each dust particle and makes them stick to everything. So it occurred to the researchers that their technique could be applied to moon rovers and spacesuits as well. Now, NASA has come up with a solution that could help alleviate the dust problem. It has developed a new coating for use on satellite components, using a technology called atomic layer deposition to apply an extremely thin layer of indium tin oxide, which dissipates electrical charges, onto dry paint pigments. Then, the paint can be applied to satellite components to protect them from the build-up of electrical charges. To test the coating, painted wafers are being bombarded with plasma aboard the International Space Station to see how they hold up.
Rural Americans Can’t Catch a Break – (Axios – November 8, 2019)
Preventable diseases are deadlier in rural America than in urban areas, a new CDC report says. More than 46 million Americans live in rural areas, and the system often works against them in nearly every dimension of care. Percentages of preventable deaths in rural areas either mildly decreased between 2010-2017 or got worse, while urban counties saw significant decreases across the board. Rural Americans tend to be older and sicker, with higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and obesity. Preventable deaths from cancer have gone down overall. Still, nearly two-thirds of deaths from unintentional injury in the most rural counties were potentially preventable in 2017. See also: Rural America’s Doctor Crisis. For example, physician Ed Garner is the only doctor serving 11,000 square miles in West Texas. And this isn’t unusual. Rural America often has high health care needs but is increasingly faced with limited health care services.
NEW TOOLS/NEW PROCESSES
Scientists Demonstrate Direct Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans – (Scientific American – October 29, 2019)
In a new study, technology replaces language as a means of communicating by directly linking the activity of human brains. Electrical activity from the brains of a pair of human subjects was transmitted to the brain of a third individual in the form of magnetic signals, which conveyed an instruction to perform a task in a particular manner. This study opens the door to extraordinary new means of human collaboration while, at the same time, blurring fundamental notions about individual identity and autonomy in disconcerting ways. In his book Beyond Boundaries one of the leaders in the field, Miguel Nicolelis, described the merging of human brain activity as the future of humanity, the next stage in our species’ evolution. He has already conducted a study in which he linked together the brains of several rats using complex implanted electrodes known as brain-to-brain interfaces. Nicolelis and his co-authors described this achievement as the first “organic computer” with living brains tethered together as if they were so many microprocessors. The animals in this network learned to synchronize the electrical activity of their nerve cells to the same extent as those in a single brain. The networked brains were tested for things such as their ability to discriminate between two different patterns of electrical stimuli, and they routinely outperformed individual animals. If networked rat brains are “smarter” than a single animal, imagine the capabilities of a biological supercomputer of networked human brains. The new research non-invasively linked together the brain activity of a small network of humans. Three individuals sitting in separate rooms collaborated to correctly orient a block so that it could fill a gap between other blocks in a video game. The collaboration achieved here is still very rudimentary (experimental design explained in the article), but the potentials it points to are extraordinary. Meanwhile the tools for more invasive—and perhaps more efficient—brain interfacing are developing rapidly. Elon Musk recently announced the development of a robotically implantable brain-computer interfaces (BCI) containing 3,000 electrodes to provide extensive interaction between computers and nerve cells in the brain. While impressive in scope and sophistication, these efforts are dwarfed by government plans. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been leading engineering efforts to develop an implantable neural interface capable of engaging one million nerve cells simultaneously. While these BCIs are not being developed specifically for brain–to-brain interfacing, it is not difficult to imagine that they could be recruited for such purposes.
Microsoft Japan Says 4-Day Workweek Boosted Workers’ Productivity By 40% – (NPR – November 4, 2019)
Workers at Microsoft Japan enjoyed an enviable perk this summer: working four days a week, enjoying a three-day weekend — and getting their normal, five-day paycheck. The result, the company says, was a productivity boost of 40%. Microsoft Japan says it became more efficient in several areas, including lower electricity costs, which fell by 23%. And as its workers took five Fridays off in August, they printed nearly 60% fewer pages. Because of the shorter workweek, the company also put its meetings on a diet. The standard duration for a meeting was slashed from 60 minutes to 30 — an approach that was adopted for nearly half of all meetings. In a related cut, standard attendance at those sessions was capped at five employees. In a blog post announcing the plan in July, Microsoft Japan said there was often no reason for meetings to run an hour, or to tie up multiple people from the same team. Four-day workweeks made headlines around the world in the spring of 2018, when Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand trust management company, announced a 20% gain in employee productivity and a 45% increase in employee work-life balance after a trial of paying people their regular salary for working four days. Last October, the company made the policy permanent. The Microsoft trial roughly doubled Perpetual Guardian’s productivity gain. But for now at least, the company isn’t saying whether it will test the four-day workweek policy in other locations or consider making it permanent. While employers could now be more likely to experiment by shortening their own workweeks, workplace analyst and author Dan Schawbel says that for the time being, employees are more likely to focus on a more common workplace perk: flexibility. “Younger people actually choose work flexibility over health care coverage, even though that expense in America is pretty high,” Schawbel says. In the U.S., Schawbel sees schedule flexibility and a four-day week as two ways for employers to ease what he calls an ongoing burnout crisis.
AI Will Now Watch for Fraudsters on the World’s Largest Stock Exchange – (Technology Review – November 7, 2019)
The Nasdaq stock market is an attractive target for fraudsters. As the world’s largest stock exchange by volume, it must be constantly monitored for attempts to illicitly beat the system. These can include manipulations to inflate a stock’s closing price; churning (rapidly buying and selling stocks) to give the false impression of a lot of activity; and spoofing (placing a large buy or sell order with no intention of actually executing) to create artificially high demand. That monitoring is now being aided by artificial intelligence. A new deep-learning system is working in tandem with human analysts to keep watch over roughly 17.5 million trades per day. The system augments an existing software surveillance system that uses statistics and rules to flag any signs of market abuse. In the US equity market, for example, the old system issued around 1,000 alerts per day for human analysts to investigate. Only a fraction of these cases would subsequently be confirmed as fraud and result in heavy fines. The new system will be more accurate at identifying patterns of abuse, reducing the burden on human analysts. It will also be better at detecting more complex patterns of abuse, particularly spoofing, which Nasdaq believes will become increasingly common. If the system is a success, the company plans to roll it out globally. Nasdaq also operates 29 total markets across North America and Europe and provides market surveillance technologies to 59 other marketplaces, 19 regulators, and over 160 banks and brokers.
Big Business Is Overcharging You $5,000 a Year – (New York Times – November 10, 2019)
French customers pay about 90 Euros (or $100) a month in the Paris suburbs for a combination of broadband access, cable television and two mobile phones. A similar package in the United States usually costs more than twice as much. Thomas Philippon has a PhD in economics from M.I.T. and figuring out why that cost difference exists has become a core part of his academic research. He offers his answer in a fascinating new book, The Great Reversal: How America Gave Up on Free Markets. In one industry after another, he writes, a few companies have grown so large that they have the power to keep prices high and wages low. It’s great for those corporations — and bad for almost everyone else. The airline industry is dominated by four large carriers. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are growing ever larger. One or two hospital systems control many local markets. Home Depot and Lowe’s have displaced local hardware stores. Regional pharmacy chains like Eckerd and Happy Harry’s have been swallowed by national giants. Other researchers have also documented rising corporate concentration. Philippon’s biggest contribution is to explain that it isn’t some natural result of globalization and technological innovation. If it were, the trends would be similar around the world. But they’re not. Big companies have become only slightly larger in Europe this century — rather than much larger, as in the United States. The consolidation of corporate America has become severe enough to have macroeconomic effects. Profits have surged, and wages have stagnated. Investment in new factories and products has also stagnated, because many companies don’t need to innovate to keep profits high. Philippon estimates that the new era of oligopoly costs the typical American household more than $5,000 a year.
An Oncologist Asks When It’s Time to Say ‘Enough’ – (New York Times – October 15, 2019)
Azra Raza is an oncologist at Columbia University and author of The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last. In it, she asks hard questions: “Why are we so afraid to tell the stories of the majority who die? Why keep promoting the positive anecdote? Why all this mollycoddling?” She says the time has come to think about the “ghastly toxicities of therapies” that often achieve so little. And she intersperses an impassioned argument about the ineffectiveness of current cancer medicine — at least for most patients with metastatic disease — with descriptions of the suffering of her husband and some of her patients (who are identified by first name, with photographs). By describing this suffering, Raza says, she hopes to jolt people into looking for a new paradigm in the so-called war on cancer. Raza suggests the first cancer cell that gives rise to a tumor is like a grain of sand that precipitates the collapse of a sand pile. Research, she says, should concentrate on finding these early changes, before an actual tumor develops. There is research going on along these lines, but Raza argues that its funding is insufficient compared with the resources being poured into new drug development. A “quantum leap” is required, and this will involve “genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics; indeed, panomics.” It will also involve smart bras and special toilets — real-life technologies in various stages of development.
We’re Incentivizing Bad Science – (Scientific American – October 29, 2019)
Professional science has evolved such that scientists are frequently incentivized to publish as many papers as they can and those who published many papers (but of poor scientific rigor) are rewarded over those who publish fewer papers of higher rigor. Once published, the innovators of novel science often move onto the next new innovation, and because of publication bias and the “file drawer effect,” we never hear about it if their findings fail in the hands of others. Reputations for good work affect scientists as much as anyone else, but one or two “real” advances by a researcher will erase any downside to even a litany of other findings that disappeared into the trash pile of time since no one else can reproduce them. Indeed, in a now famous report from Bayer Pharmaceuticals, 65% of published scientific findings were not reproducible by Bayer scientists when they tried to use them for drug development. This is not necessarily an issue of scientific fraud or misconduct where scientists invent data or purposefully lie; the data are real and were really observed. However, the fiercely competitive environment leads to a haste to publish and a larger number of less rigorous papers results. The very laudable goal of “open access journals” is to make sure that the public has free access to the scientific data that its tax dollars are used to generate. However, open access journals charge the authors of articles a substantial fee to publish, in order to make up for the dollars lost from not requiring subscriptions. So, instead of making more money the more copies of the journal they sell, open access journals make more money as a function of how many articles they accept. And authors are willing to pay more to get their articles published in more prestigious journals. So, the more exciting the findings a journal publishes, the more references, the higher the impact the journal, the more submissions they get, the more money they make. Unless and until leadership is taken at a structural and societal level to alter the present incentive structure, the current environment will continue to encourage and promote wasting of resources, squandering of research efforts and delaying of progress.
FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH – articles off the beaten track which may – or may not – have predictive value.
This $46,000 Snow Crab Is the Most Expensive in the World – (CNBC – November 8, 2019)
A single snow crab recently sold for $46,000 (or 5 million yen) at an auction in Tottori, Japan. Nicknamed “five shining star” for its impressive shape and thick legs, the 2.7-pound crab was purchased by Tetsuji Hamashita, president of a Japanese fishery wholesaler. “I know it’s extreme. But it’s the custom,” Hamashita said about his purchase. Last year, a snow crab sold for $18,000, which set the world record. Hamashita said he had expected the price would be around 3 million yen or $27,000. The reason why the crab was so expensive has to do with the timing of the sale. In Japan, it’s considered a status symbol to buy the first and best crab caught on the first day of crab fishing season, which was Nov. 6. Snow crab season only runs for four months in Japan, from November to early March, which makes it even more of a seasonal delicacy. The prized crab will go to a restaurant in Tokyo’s Ginza neighborhood.
JUST FOR FUN
Apple Highlights Best Photos Shot on iPhone around the World – (Apple.com – February 26, 2019)
iPhone photographers around the world shared their best photos for the “Shot on iPhone Challenge”, capturing remarkable moments. The top 10 winners came from Singapore, Germany, Belarus, Israel and the US.
A FINAL QUOTE
Each man should frame life so that at some future hour fact and his dreaming meet. – Victor Hugo
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