We've had icy blasts across the UK this week. So to keep my British readers warm (and anyone else who just wants to relax indoors), there are a few more nuggets than normal this week.
Dept of podcasts 🎧
Coming back to Earth, I felt like I'd been awakened by the view that I had out of my Soyuz capsule and the Space Station. I thought, "Everyone is sleepwalking." I wanted to shake them up and say: "Wake up! Look at this world; look at what we're doing to it: we're missing the big picture!"
I had an amazing conversation with Anousheh Ansari, the first female space explorer, the first Iranian astronaut in space, currently the CEO of X Prize. Anousheh takes us through her time at the International Space Station, her current work on fostering space technology innovation, and her mission as the CEO of X Prize Foundation to empower younger generations to contribute to solving some of the greatest challenges we're facing.
Subscribe and listen to the Exponential View podcast here:
iTunes | Soundcloud | Spotify | Stitcher | Overcast | Breaker
Dept of the near future
🌡️ The Fourth National Climate Assessment was released. Global average temperatures have increased by about 1°C between 1901 and 2016, with recent accelerations. I recommend playing with the interactive chart in fig 2.1 here. The report is stark: "The impacts of climate change are already being felt in across the country...changes in extreme events are expected to increasingly disrupt and damage critical infrastructure and property, labor productivity, and the vitality of our communities..” Eric Holthaus's summary is good. Also, this from Bloomberg focuses on large-scale extra-coastal migration likely needed in the US due to climate change. (See also, visual: the Earth has been hotter the average 406 months in a row.)
💭 How technology will transform humanity, according to five leading thinkers. (Beautiful conversation.)
⛓️ Edward Snowden superbly explains the what and why of blockchain. And as the cryptocurrency market melts down, Gigi Levy-Weiss argues that far from being over, the blockchain market is just starting to mature. As one example, see two posts from Trent McConaghy this week on enabling the Web3 Data economy & what his Ocean Protocol will do for data scientists. (As the market collapses, the hashrate on the bitcoin network is plummeting, as crypto miners incentives dissipate. Some are even throwing out their equipment at industrial scale, according to this fascinating thread with eye-opening video.)
💯 Facebook & the innovator's dilemma. Emily Bell on Facebook's failure to grow up to its role in the publishing industry:
Because Facebook still sees itself as an engineering company, its internal organization is not attuned to the daily risks of publishing. The crisis at Facebook resides in its backward-looking attitude to technology; seeing it is a neutral vector for commerce rather than a potent cultural intervention.
(See also: Zuckerberg's empire could be the first to fall because its citizens simply logged out, writes Max Read. In the meantime, new reports arise human trafficking going unchecked on the platform because of lax content monitoring. Sheryl Sandberg offers pabulum: Facebook "stands firmly against hate.")
🌽 Doing more with less needs to become the new adage of the global food industry in order to feed 10 billion people by 2050, sustainably. It's a necessary shift: if current industry practices stayed the same, by 2050 we would see 65% increase in irrigation, 67% increase in the use of land, and 87% increase in greenhouse emissions. As outlined in this Citi report, where I have only skimmed the first 30 pages. (I'll be discussing economic models for sustainably supporting 10bn people with Kate Raworth on the EV podcast next week.)
⚖️ A lawyer and philosopher Mireille Hildebrand introduces the concept of 'legal protection by design' to constrain the impacts of hidden design choices on users and to make the "calculations, predictions and pre-emptions [of data-driven systems] both testable and contestable." The law alone can fail to save us from unstable and unknown affordances of emerging technologies. (Technical academic paper but thought-provoking from Dec 2017. Made me think of Lessig's classic essay, Code is Law, from nearly two decades ago.)
Dept of appreciation
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Dept of transport
🔎 Inside Uber's self-driving car fiasco.
It is time for firms to pool self-driving data to accelerate the deployment of autonomous vehicles.
Brookings estimates that 9.5 million workers, including drivers and those employed in the mobility sector, will be impacted by autonomous vehicles and other forms of mobility digitalisation.
💰 VW's $50bn injection towards electrification (finally being honest about how much this will cost)
🚕 Daimler and Bosch to launch self-driving taxis in parts of San Jose in 2019.
50% of all trips in Vancouver are taken by walking, biking, and mass transit.
Cyclists spend 40% more time in shops than motorists, a study done in London shows.
Waze-fed predictive analytics helps Las Vegas reduce the number of car crashes by 17%.
Dept of AI
How the Amazon Go store might help eliminate racial biases — "No one cared what I was doing. Is this what it feels like to shop when you're not black? "
🗺️ Two of the best AIs of the world are competing to convince people the Earth is flat, a thread by the engineer who helped build the YouTube recommendation algorithm. (See also, inside a gathering of flat Earth conspiracy believers—mostly mobilised by YouTube.)
AI on the edge #1: The European Space Agency to launch an Earth observation satellite equipped with an AI processor. “The goal is to be able to see deforestation in the morning and be able to tell the officials the same day to send someone to go there immediately instead of notifying them that something happened a month later".
AI on the edge #2: The Information reports that Apple quietly acquired Silk Labs, a company specialized in lightweight AI software for the edge.
How Israeli military's secret research propelled the nation's firms to reach crème de la crème of global computer vision industry.
AI meets quantum computing: "The big advantage of quantum computing is that it allows an exponential increase in the number of dimensions it can process."
💓 A deep neural network learning algorithm outperforms emergency department's conventional algorithm interpreting electrocardiograms: resulting 92.2% vs. 87.2% in finding a major abnormality.
Video: Jess Whittlemore asks: How can AI most improve human decision-making?
Dept of China
Beijing to introduce a social credit system for its 1.3 billion citizens by 2021.
How Chinese internet companies got ahead. Hint: never undermine the power of the state.
🔓 More than half of the world's most popular VPN apps are owned by Chinese companies or linked to China.
Chinese insurer, PingAn, plans to launch "hundreds of thousands" of unstaffed, AI-powered clinics. (See a picture of the drug-dispensing cubicle here.)
Short morsels to appear smart at dinner parties
The case for a low-carb diet.
98 million Indians will suffer from diabetes by 2030, while the global demand for insulin will rise by more than 20%.
Swedish researchers observe an early stage in the bone growth — crystallization; found the process operates based on simple thermodynamics rather than being a biological process.
💊 The first software-only therapeutic cleared by the FDA is now commercially available. (Great detail on the operational aspects of prescribing a digital therapeutic.)
🧠 The evidence mounts that cognitive training apps might be a waste of time.
Coal is becoming uninsurable. 🙌
Is TV nearing its end?
Wombats poop in cubes. Here is how.
👩🏻🎤 Are pop lyrics getting more repetitive? Are pop lyrics getting more repetitive? Are pop lyrics getting more repetitive?
Earlier this summer, Joe Iles from the Disruptive Innovation Festival and the Ellen McArthur Foundation invited me to the beautiful Tate Britain to discuss the future of work. He turned it into a rather engaging 56-minute documentary. We cover everything from what new jobs will look like, the role automation might play, how we'll handle re-skilling, the rise of the gig worker and more.
You can watch it here.
Finally, it was with great sadness that I write that Gerald Huff, an early supporter of this newsletter, passed away a few weeks ago. Gerald had been an active reader. He was generous with his recommendations, expert with his feedback and patient with my rate of learning. We had the opportunity to meet in person at an EV discussion in San Francisco in late 2016.
Gerald was interested in the economic singularity and worked on a novel, Crisis 2038, currently available on Amazon. Our condolences to Gerald's family and friends.
P.S. EV readers are an incredible bunch: scroll down to read what your peers are up to. Hint: includes micro satellites, context-aware AI, and VR.