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October 29 2014

“We’re Hoping to Build the Tricorder” — Backchannel — Medium

We began to realize that this idea of nanotechnology, miniature electronics, and continuous measurements of biological parameters were all possible. So instead going to the doctor who says, “Let me draw blood and in three days I’ll call you if there’s anything wrong,” the doctor can can look and say, “Oh, I just checked all your blood over this last year, and it looks like your kidneys are good, your liver is good, I don’t see any indication of oncologic cells, pretty good, thanks.” We use Star Trek as our guiding force around Google because there used to be a computer called Tricorder —you’d talk to it and it would answer any question. That’s what we’re really looking for at Google X. We want to have a Tricorder where Dr. McCoy will wave this thing and say “Oh, you’re suffering from Valerian death fever.” And he’d then give some shot in a person’s neck and they’d immediately get better. We won’t do the shots—our partners will do the shots. But we’re hoping to build the Tricorder.

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Women in Britain love their beauty and technology. Some recent findings from a new business presentation that can go out in the wild. 

The Three Breakthroughs That Have Finally Unleashed AI on the World | WIRED

The advent of AI didn’t diminish the performance of purely human chess players. Quite the opposite. Cheap, supersmart chess programs inspired more people than ever to play chess, at more tournaments than ever, and the players got better than ever. There are more than twice as many grand masters now as there were when Deep Blue first beat Kasparov. The top-ranked human chess player today, Magnus Carlsen, trained with AIs and has been deemed the most computer-like of all human chess players. He also has the highest human grand master rating of all time.

October 28 2014

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Other media ask you to evaluate and observe the decisions of the main character. Mass Effect enables you to believe the world in which the story is told, to cast the major characters and to participate in the decisions and face the consequences of character choices. In short, one cannot help but become deeply invested in the universe and narrative Mass Effect builds.

(via Why Mass Effect is the Most Important Science Fiction Universe of Our Generation)

I was never — and maybe this is a character flaw — the type of person who is going to take one idea and beat it to death,” she said. “Part of that is that I have so many ideas. If whatever it is I’m excited about now doesn’t happen, it doesn’t matter, because there’s always the next possibility.
What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set? -

October 25 2014

Today, three factors of production have become cheaper—information, connectivity, and computing power—affecting any cost curves in which those factors are involved. This can’t help but have disruptive effects. Many incumbents—aka pre-Internet companies—built their businesses based on assumptions of scarcity: scarce information, scarce distribution resources and market reach, or scarce choice and shelf space. Now, though, these factors are abundant, lowering or eliminating barriers to entry and making entire industries ripe for change
— Eric Schmidt, “How Google Works.”

October 21 2014

Never, ever confuse what happens on a runway with fashion,” Mr. de la Renta once said. “A runway is spectacle. It’s only fashion when a woman puts it on. Being well dressed hasn’t much to do with having good clothes. It’s a question of good balance and good common sense.
— Oscar de la Renta

October 20 2014

Living Systems and The Information First Company

Corporations – which by US law enjoy the status of personhood – act much like organisms in biological systems. Some are fitter than others, and every so often you see  punctuated equilibrium – a quick reset of the ecological landscape. Further, it struck me that we’re in the midst of such a phase shift as we become information. 

Most corporations are organized to maximize their use of energy and matter, because those are the most expensive parts of their businesses. Digital companies, on the other hand,  place information at the center of their business.

Put another way,  they are “information first” companies .  They map the flows of information in a market, and organize themselves so as to exploit or leverage those information flows, even if the flows are “ potential information ” – information used in a new way, a manner which may be more efficient, productive, or valuable. Put information first, and let that determine how best to organize energy and matter. Industrial era-companies, on the other hand, value their hard assets first (energy, matter), and only view  information  as a way to organize or protect those assets.

October 18 2014

In his words: Marc Andreessen on big data, bitcoin and upending the world of finance - The Washington Post

“For five years, many of the world’s best mathematicians and computer scientists have been studying bitcoin and trying to figure out what’s wrong with it. They haven’t found anything yet. Every critique people have of bitcoin, so far, can either be answered with, ‘The designer anticipated it and has a solution built into the system,’ or, ‘There’s a service that can be built on top to address the problem.’ That’s the magic of why everyone out here is so excited about it.”

October 16 2014

How Brad Pitt brings out the best in dads -

Men are changing because their power over women is waning. “Gender inequality . . . has been on a declining trend over the past 60 years in most world regions,” says the new How Was Life? report by the OECD. Things have got better especially since the 1980s. Women are catching up with men in age at which they get married, seats in parliament, property rights and education. Even Saudi Arabia, the last country where only men are allowed to vote, has promised to let women vote and run in next year’s local elections.

October 09 2014

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The third great wave: The first two industrial revolutions inflicted plenty of pain but ultimately benefited everyone. The digital one may prove far more divisive

Richer people are generally more likely to have more friends, get married, be in better health, and so on, all of which improve life satisfaction. So rather than isolating the effect of income, which economists tend to do, we need to sprinkle its effects across all the other inputs into life satisfaction. When this sprinkling takes place, the effect of income on life satisfaction is much greater than found previously in the literature because we are picking up its indirect effects as well as the direct effects that come from having a bigger bank balance.
— Happiness by Design - Paul Dolan

October 08 2014

Peter Thiel Is Wrong About the Future - Virginia Postrel @ Bloomberg View

The reason mid-20th-century Americans were optimistic about the future wasn’t that science-fiction writers told cool stories about space travel. Science-fiction glamour in fact worked on only a small slice of the public. (Nobody else in my kindergarten was grabbing for “You Will Go to the Moon.”) People believed the future would be better than the present because they believed the present was better than the past. They constantly heard stories — not speculative, futuristic stories but news stories, fashion stories, real-estate stories, medical stories — that reinforced this belief. They remembered epidemics and rejoiced in vaccines and wonder drugs. They looked back on crowded urban walk-ups and appreciated neat suburban homes. They recalled ironing on sweaty summer days and celebrated air conditioning and wash-and-wear fabrics. They marveled at tiny transistor radios and dreamed of going on airplane trips.

Then the stories changed.

October 07 2014

The world economy: Wealth without workers, workers without wealth - The Economist

"In the coming years the disruption will be felt by more people in more places, for three reasons. First, the rise of machine intelligence means more workers will see their jobs threatened. The effects will be felt further up the skill ladder, as auditors, radiologists and researchers of all sorts begin competing with machines. Technology will enable some doctors or professors to be much more productive, leaving others redundant.

Second, wealth creation in the digital era has so far generated little employment. Entrepreneurs can turn their ideas into firms with huge valuations and hardly any staff. Oculus VR, a maker of virtual-reality headsets with 75 employees, was bought by Facebook earlier this year for $2 billion. With fewer than 50,000 workers each, the giants of the modern tech economy such as Google and Facebook are a small fraction of the size of the 20th century’s industrial behemoths.

Third, these shifts are now evident in emerging economies. Foxconn, long the symbol of China’s manufacturing economy, at one point employed 1.5m workers to assemble electronics for Western markets. Now, as the costs of labour rise and those of automated manufacturing fall, Foxconn is swapping workers for robots. China’s future is more Alibaba than assembly line: the e-commerce company that recently made a spectacular debut on the New York Stock Exchange employs only 20,000 people.”

October 06 2014

Google and Apple - Wearables vs. watch principles


Google wearable principles:

  • Contextually aware
  • Voice enabled
  • Seamless
  • Mobile first


Apple Watch

  • Precise timepiece
  • New intimate way to communicate
  • Comprehensive health & fitness device

(h/t Luke Wroblewski)

October 03 2014

The New York Times needs to rethink its strategy — untargeted mini paywalls aren’t the answer

"From my point of view, there are two related problems with the NYT’s strategy: one is that it is trying to slice its existing content into smaller and smaller pieces, and that runs headlong into the law of diminishing returns, since each piece will generate less and less value because it appeals to fewer people. The second is that it is relying on tiny paywalls — and largely untargeted ones at that — to take up the slack created by the slowdown in its big, one-size-fits-all paywall."

October 02 2014

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Neal Stephenson innovation starvation: We have great ideas for the future.

"In Venn diagram terms, the pool of people with brilliant, world-changing ideas has a very small overlap with the pool of those who are capable of being the CEOs of funded projects. “Now that,” as a tech CEO recently told me, “is a scarce resource.” It is scarce partly because there aren’t many to begin with who have the requisite CEO-like qualities, and it’s made scarcer by competition. I know several such people who would love to jump from their current jobs into exciting startups—but there’s no reason for them to do so, because they’re already making salaries in the mid-six digits, and all they have to do is look mildly restless and their employers will give them a raise to prevent them from jumping ship."

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