• Notes & News: 2021 Calendar & More - December 10, 2020

    December 04, 2020

    TTI/Vanguard Notes & News: 2021 Calendar & More; December 10, 2020

    [next] 2020 has just one more session left. Please join us on Tuesday, December 8 for:

    George Church, Harvard University: Synthetic Biology, Aging Reversal, Machine Learning
    Julie Hanna, Kiva & Alphabet: From Moonshots to Blockchain to Sustainability
    John C. Mallery, MIT: Strategies and Tactics for Cyber Defense
    Ethan Rublee, farm-ng: Open Software for Tractors & Emerging Agro Innovations

    The first quarter of 2021 is already packed, thanks to Nancy Kleinrock.  Israel, New Zealand, and Germany will be the first stops on a global start-up series that she pioneered amidst decreased travel and increased desire for global connections.

  • 2021 Conference and Virtual Event Calendar

    December 03, 2020

    Israel Startup Forum

    January 26, 2021♦ Virtual

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    New Zealand Startup Forum

    February 9, 2021♦ Virtual

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    Germany Startup Forum

    February 23, 2021♦ Virtual

  • TTI/Vanguard: Happy Thanksgiving! Newsletter Nov 20, 2020

    November 20, 2020

    Did you enjoy Tuesday’s sessions as much as we did? From Jerry Kaplan’s contrarian take on AI’s impact on jobs to Monica Lam’s ambitious AI assistant program (plus plenty of stuff in between!), the day was a home run. Relive the magic or experience it for the very first time - videos will be posted today, Highlights will follow early next week. Hans Peter Brondmo, Chief Robot Whisperer at the Everyday Robot Project, X (formerly Google[x]) will kick off our next session on December 1st. Register today! 

    Mark your calendars! In addition to the two upcoming sessions of [next] on Dec 1 and 8, we’re excited to announce a series of international startup forums for early 2021: Jan 26, Israel; Feb 9, New Zealand; Feb 23, Germany. All will take place at 1 pm EST; stay tuned for further details.

    There has been quite the spate of encouraging news on the vaccine front this week: Pfizer–BioNTech was first to report (and then update) positive early COVID-19 vaccine trial results; Moderna’s are equally rosy, plus this Operation Warp Speed-backed entrant requires merely refrigeration, not a deep freeze, and that’s a big deal when it comes to distribution (Ellen Levy and Phil Levy, virtual meeting, Apr 2020; Mark Tibbitt, San Francisco, Dec 2016).

  • Newsletter: Bats, Birds & Bias - November 13, 2020

    November 13, 2020

    [next] kicked off onTuesday with a knock-out round of speakers. And the hits will keep coming this Tuesday with Jerry Kaplan, Nick Melosh,Noemi Bonessio, Manu Prakash, Jeanette Garcia, and  Monica Lam. We emphasized transportation on the 10th and you’ll see some extra doses of material sciences on the 17th - but we’ve carefully worked each session to have something for everyone.

    Stay tuned for our first batch of videos and Highlights in the archives and please see our agenda and registration.

  • November 6, 2020 Newlsetter: TTI/Vanguard: Drink to your (and the planet's) health

    November 06, 2020

    [next] begins on Tuesday. Please see our agenda and registration. The first session (topics and speakers below) kicks off on November 10th:

    Techno-Political Responses to the Pandemic
    Milana Trounce, MD, Faculty Mentor, Stanford Global Catastrophic Risk Initiative, Stanford

    Future of Urban Transportation: A Fireside Chat
    Tony Fadell, Member of original iPhone Team, Inventor of the iPod and Co-Founder of Nest
    John Markoff, former New York Times technology reporter and author Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots


  • All Treats, No Tricks

    October 30, 2020

    November promises to be action-packed and unpredictable because [next] is upon us: agenda and registration. Beginning on November 10 and running until December 8, you’ll hear from names you know such as George Church, Tony Fadell, Gill Pratt, Jerry Kaplan—and a slew of others whose names you will not forget! 

    Did you join us for our virtual field trip to the New Jersey Institute of Technology on Tuesday? TTI/V staffer Nancy Kleinrock and longtime community member David Bader exceeded our highest expectations. If you missed the event, please visit the video link and presentations in our archive. Kelly Baughman can help you access all the treats. 

    (Speaking of field trips, stay tuned for our 2021 calendar which includes armchair visits to technology hubs around the world, such as Berlin, New Zealand, Israel, and more. We may all still be safe at home, but that hasn’t slowed our quest for the most cutting-edge technologies and research.)

    Yesterday, on the 51st anniversary of the dawn of the Internet, the website of Len Kleinrock’s UCLA Connection Lab went live. The Lab, which is situated just down the hall from where the first ARPANET connection emanated, supports advanced research in technologies at the forefront of all things regarding connectivity: networks, wireless, security, cryptography, blockchain, advanced network protocol design, and distributed systems. Connect with the Connection Lab through Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

    Economist Mariana Mazzucato provides a bit of speculative fiction depicting life in 2023—a picture that is likely rosier than what will actually come about from the literal snafu that is 2020. Of course, what she sees as a utopian vision includes losers as well as winners. So, depending on your industry or outlook, it might strike you as a Halloween-worthy horror story, instead. 

    Even if Mazzucato’s future doesn’t play out in full, researchers at the University of Surrey are using structural health and functionality monitoring data to influence proactive infrastructure decision making to render transport networks more robust to natural disasters. (Jennifer Mathieu, McLean, Sep 2017) 

    Marko Papic (San Francisco, Dec 2019; virtual, Sep 2020) recently warned us of a global decoupling in technology, especially amidst trade tensions with China. And here it comes: The Chinese leadership is meeting to develop the nation’s 14th Five Year Plan, a top-down blueprint for the nation’s activities and direction. Although still a behind-closed-doors discussion, this year’s deliberations appear to point significantly toward Chinese self-reliance, both for chip development and production and for general consumerisms. (Perspectives on China, workshop, Philadelphia, Apr 2006)

    In an Americanized echo of the Arab Spring (Revolutions conference, Washington, D.C., May 2012), Portland (OR)-based activists are using Google’s TensorFlow to perform facial recognition to deanonymize police officers, even when they wear masks. (Andrew Bud, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017) 

    An interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Kansas reports that it’s not whether people trust in other people or in artificial-intelligence systems; instead, those with a trusting affect toward other people are easier to convince to view AI as yet another trustworthy team member. (Julie Ancis and Senjuti Basu Roy, NJIT field trip, Oct 2020) 

    Bristol Myers Squibb is underwriting work by inistro, which is applying machine learning to the development of induced pluripotent stem cell-derived disease models as well as candidates for drug discovery for two debilitating diseases: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). (Jamie Heywood, Jersey City, Oct 2009; Sean Scott, Boston, Sep 2007)

    Gary Marcus (San Francisco, Dec 2019; Brooklyn, Jun 2018; San Diego, Feb 2015; Boston, Apr 2014) and Rodney Brooks (Atlanta, Dec 2004) have raised a pile of Series A cash for their cognitive-engine startup Robust.AI.

    A doctoral student at the University of Waterloo provides a k-nearest neighbors-based proof of concept of an AI model derived from “less than one”-shot (LO-shot) learning, which requires tiny training sets by pre-compressing a conventional (i.e., giant) training set into one with just a handful of examples that are highly distilled and with carefully engineered so-called soft labels. “With two points, you can separate 1000 classes or 10K classes or 1M classes,” says the researcher. 

    TTI/Vanguard is bicoastal (is the new word “distributed”?), but the group was born and bred in Santa Monica. So congratulations to the Los Angeles Dodgers!

    “If liberty and equality, as is thought by some are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.”—Aristotle

  • October 23, 2020 -NEWSLETTER: Collaboration everywhere!

    October 23, 2020

    [next] registration is open for members. Do not miss big name speakers such as Tony Fadell, Sebastian Thrun, George Church and others. We’ll also explore cutting-edge topics such as socio-political-techno responses to the pandemic, autonomy and privacy, the chemistry of quantum computing, wastewater as a forensic tool and so much more! We kick off with a virtual field trip to the New Jersey Institute of Technology this Tuesday, October 27.

    Members do have to register separately for the visit to NJIT and [next]
    NJIT virtual field trip
    agenda and registration
    [next] conference agenda and registration

    Thank you so much for all of the compliments we have already received for these two upcoming events. Let's give credit where credit is due. Longtime TTIV community member David Bader and our own incomparable Nancy Kleinrock designed Tuesday's visit to NJIT. Legendary journalists (amongst other things) John Markoff (former New York Times) and Gregg Zachary (former Wall Street Journal) built the [next] agenda. Hats off and thank you for a yeoman job by all. 


  • Newsletter Oct 16, 2020: From Machine Learning to Moths

    October 16, 2020

    Are you as excited as we are for our upcoming meetings? We hope so! Next up is a virtual field trip to the New Jersey Institute of Technology on October 27; check out the agenda and register. And before we know it, it will be time for the four Tuesdays of the virtual [next] conference (agenda; registration).

    Microsoft is evolving its Office suite to make documents accessible. Is the updated image-captioning algorithm more accurate than human captioners, as the company claims? We’ll see. But it performs very well in its limited context testing.. Once this captioning feature of Microsoft’s Seeing AI accessibility app—which is widely used by people with vision impairment—becomes incorporated into Office, Outlook, and PowerPoint, alt text could be auto-generated, removing the burden from content creators. (Larry Zitnick, Philadelphia, Jul 2015)

    That is not to say that machine learning always gets it right. A case in point is the ability to spoof camera-based autopilot systems, including Tesla’s and Mobileye’s, into taking sudden evasive action by simply projecting momentary images on or alongside roadways—images too fleeting for the human driver to notice, such as of a phantom pedestrian, a spurious stop sign, or incorrect speed limit sign. Hacking into a roadside billboard and interjecting a few bogus frames also does the trick. (George Hotz, Berkeley, Mar 2019)

    Tying together Microsoft and nefarious hackers—but in a good way—the firm has secured a court order to take control of the world’s largest botnet, Trickbot, to proactively limit the potential for the Russia-linked criminals who run it to invoke election-related ransomware attacks. The U.S. military’s Cyber Command has also taken recent action to disrupt Trickbot. (Steve Grobman, San Francisco, May 2016)

    Score one for the white hats in the realm of deepfakes: Stanford and UC Berkeley researchers have developed an AI-based approach to detecting lip-sync technology by sleuthing out inconsistencies among the mouth formations—visemes—used during speech. When trained on Barack Obama speeches, the AI not only detected deepfakes of him with 90% accuracy, but also deepfakes of others with 80% accuracy. Let the games - specifically the continual game of one-ups-man-ship - begin. How about we make readers the ultimate weapon in this war by improving media literacy? (Sirer Irmak, Los Angeles, Mar 2018; Doug Emlen, Washington, D.C., Sep 2016)

    Maybe people are learning, as evidenced by a RAND study showing that people are less likely to “like” a story they see on Facebook after learning that it is part of a Russian propaganda campaign. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless. (Judith Estrin, Berkeley, Mar 2019)

    Researchers at Phang University of Science and Technology in South Korea have applied deep learning to the development of novel materials for storage media. They computationally discovered an oxygen octahedral rotation variant of the nonpolar perovskite oxide CaTiO3 that could evince the ferroelectricity to underpin digital storage. The trick was to do deep learning across picometer-scale variations of the native perovskite, and to use the output as the basis for designing materials with novel properties. “It could be an advanced approach for materials analysis that can help to understand the mechanism for creating new materials with unique physical phenomena,” says project lead. (Garth Gibson, Washington, D.C., Apr 2013)

    Moth versus drone? A moth with an attached sub-100-mg sensor, using a magnetic pin and Bluetooth-based communication, that generates a magnetic field to pop out the pin when the moth flies over the desired location. Deployment of multiple sensors would create a distributed environmental-monitoring network. Why use moths as the conveyance? “[They can] traverse through narrow spaces better than any drone and sustain much longer flights,” says the University of Washington researcher. (Ian Glenn, Brooklyn, Jul 2016)

    Well, that was brief: China’s experiment with letting its citizens have legal, yet limited, access to Western social media sites—including YouTube, Facebook, and Google—lasted just a day. Chinese cybersecurity firm Qihoo 360 launched the Tuber Android app last Friday, only to remove it Saturday after roughly 5M downloads. Although the short-lived experiment could be touted as a positive instance of China opening up, the app’s terms of service included all manner of privacy constraints, including access to a user’s real identity and location, and reporting undesirable activities to the authorities. (Brewster Kahle, San Francisco, May 2016; Stephen Wicker and Daniel Gillmor, Washington, D.C., Sep 2018; Calvin Chin, Singapore, Jul 2009)


    “To keep China in business, the government has to allow some exceptions to its control efforts—even knowing that many citizens will exploit resulting loopholes.”—James Fallows

  • November Barnstormer is Coming. Oct 9, 2020 Newsletter

    October 09, 2020

    Everyone knows about the fiercely anticipated, unprecedented, controversial, groundbreaking event coming up in November. We are talking about TTI/Vanguard’s [next] 2020 conference, of course.  Beginning on November 10th and running until December 8th, you’ll hear from well-known speakers such as George Church, Tony Fadell, Gill Pratt, Jerry Kaplan - and a slew of others. Members should register now to join us!

    Should the US government break up Google, Apple, Facebook or Amazon? Benedict Evans (San Francisco, Dec 2015) has a nuanced answer that addresses how the Tech Big Four are not only different from each other - but also from historical examples such as Standard Oil and AT&T. He even draws comparisons to Microsoft’s antitrust efforts which, of course, scored a different outcome.

    If you like tech history, check out this film, hoping to raise funds on Kickstarter. It covers a theme long addressed at TTI/V - how the magic of research and innovation is long gone, driven to the ground by an obsession with short-term ROI. You’ll likely recognize Alan Kay in the clip provided. (Alan Kay and Len Kleinrock, regional meetings, Summer 2015)

    When a driver sits behind the wheel, the general goal is to get from here to there safely, despite a continual stream of distractions. In contrast, an autonomous-driving algorithm predicts an optimum path and sticks to it. Researchers at the Delft University of Technology’s Dept of Cognitive Robotics are building models to better reflect a human sense of risk (e.g., okay to risk enjoying the landscape when the road is bordered by grass but not when driving along a cliff edge). The goal is less to make autonomous cars better anticipate the behavior of human drivers. (Simon Tong, Brooklyn, Jun 2018)

    In energy-harvesting news (Canan Dagdeviren, Washington, D.C, Sep 2018), with an eye toward generating an alternative to low-power batteries, researchers at the University of Arkansas have demonstrated the ability to extract a current from the room-temperature Brownian motion within graphene using a two-diode circuit.

    Continuing the materials science–energy theme, researchers at the University of Quebec’s INRS are building a low-cost membraneless fuel cell to power portable electronic devices. The proof-of-concept prototype features selective electrodes in the cathode compartment that remain inactive to alcohol but sensitive to electricity-generating oxygen molecules extracted from the air. (Lanny Schmidt, Montreal, Apr 2004)

    Remember that Dr. Seuss story about the pale green pants with nobody inside them? Perhaps those trousers served as inspiration to Yale materials scientist Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio, who has created a robotic—yet comfortable—fabric, complete with actuation, fibers of variable stiffness, and sensing. Shape-memory alloys invoke actuation (e.g., bending), fiber stiffness is modified through temperature changes, and sensors painted onto the fabric with conductive ink detect those variations. This robotic fabric is being considered as a candidate for assistive clothing, self-deploying tents, and robotic parachutes. (Field trip SRI, Feb 2017; Stephen Jacobson, Atlanta, Dec 2004)

    Meanwhile, at the University of Cambridge, when sensors consisting of silver and/or semiconducting fibers of single-micron thickness were 3-D printed onto facemasks, they successfully detected how moisture penetrates masks of different types: straight through surgical masks, but around the edges of N95 face coverings.

    A multinational team of researchers are using the CRISPR/Cas9 pathway (Eric Kmiec, virtual conference, Sep 2020; George Church, Boston, Jun 2015) to reduce the percentage of lignin in poplar trees, making them better precursors for a variety of bio-based products, even while retaining their growth efficiency. The strategy could also be used as an efficient agricultural tool to engineer traits in other crops.

    And congratulations to newly minted Nobel laureates Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for their development of CRISPR/Cas9 as a scientific gene-editing tool.

    We are all in on anything that makes science more accessible. The French public scientific research organization CEA is making its browser-based Quantum Prisoner videogame available in English. According to the CEA, “[The game’s] only aim is to disseminate scientific and technical culture—and make science (even more) fun!”

    Without adjustments to our economic system and regulatory policies, we may be in for an extended period of social turmoil.-- Jerry Kaplan

  • TTI/Vanguard: Slow news day?

    October 02, 2020

    Many thanks to the collection of speakers who made The Game Has Changed: 2020 virtual conference inspiring and thought-provoking for all who joined us. Highlights, videos, and presentations for all four installments are available in the TTI/Vanguard archive. Next up is a virtual field trip to the New Jersey Institute of Technology on October 27; look here for the agenda and to register. And before we know it, it will be time for the four Tuesdays of the virtual [next] conference (agenda; registration). A variety of virtual field trips are in the works for early 2021—stay tuned for details.

    The biggest news of the day, President and First Lady Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnoses, have spurred the Washington Post to assess the development from a technology viewpoint, in part citing a “nuclear information bomb” exploding on social media, according to former FBI special agent Clint Watts. (upcoming NJIT field trip talk by Cody Buntain and Julie Ancis, Oct 2020; Renee DiResta, San Francisco, Dec 2019; Jonathan Taplin, Boston, Apr 2017)

    We wish the United States President, First Lady and all of those impacted a speedy recovery.