Friday, October 23, 2015

On Wednesday, at 4:29 pm, Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett Brown jumped 30 years forward and arrived in our present-day. To mark the occasion, the New York Times took a look at how well “Back to the Future, Part II" depicted our world. It missed smartphones, but otherwise did pretty well, especially in showing ubiquitous, but imperfect, voice-commanded devices. We’ve been following speech recognition and speech synthesis for almost as long, with the first archived talk 22 years old now (Michael O'Malley, San Jose, Jan 1993).

TTI/Vanguard member Coca-Cola makes it a priority to learn from its failures, as discussed in this article, which references another article about CIO and frequent attendee Alan Boehme. Another TTI/V member, IEEE, has just catagorized an entire decade's worth of failure and lessons learned.

For years the TTI/V Advisory Board has toyed with the idea of focusing a conference around the theme of failure—how to learn from it, not how to do it intentionally. Let us know if this, or another topic, appeals to you for a future conference or regional meeting. In the meantime, check out the lineup for 2016.

After wearing it for several months, one TTI/Vanguard staff member thinks the Apple Watch is a terrible fitness monitor, compared to the Basis watch he wore after Marco Della Torre (San Francisco, Dec 2013) told us about it almost two years ago. Whatever you think of Apple’s device, the Swiss are not happy about it. Analysts blame it and other wearables for an 8.5% reduction in Swiss watch exports in Q3.

Another TTI/V staffer, Bryan Fox, is torn about a different product we heard about recently. On one hand, he personally oversaw the development and rollout of our very own app (currently in use at more than 100 Institutional Investor conferences!). On the other hand, he is Slack’s biggest fan (Bill Macaitis, Washington, D.C., Sep 2015). It is too soon to tell if he will lead the charge to ditch our own app and replace it with Slack. But our internal office bookies seem to think that’s where things are heading.

Apple was at the losing end in other news this month, when it was ordered to pay the University of Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation $234 million. Fifteen years ago, Ed Lazowska (Seattle, Sep 2001) talked about the pluses and minuses of university-based patents.

Respondents to a New York Times article, Will You Ever Be Able to Upload Your Brain? include Gary Marcus (Boston, Apr 2014; San Diego, Feb 2015), who answers with a firm “someday, yes.”

Siri co-developer Antoine Blondeau now heads Sentient AI, which has been hard at work on genetic algorithms for smart shopping, ad placement (Claudia Perlich, Pittsburgh, Oct 2012), financial trading (Steven Rubinow, Paris, Jul 2011), disease management (Nagui Halim, Philadelphia, Jul 2015), and more.

What a different world we live in, from when TTI/Vanguard started almost 25 years ago! Where once information about technology was scarce, everyone has gotten into the act, from National Geographic (“How Artificial Intelligence Will Revolutionize Our Lives”) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (“The 2016 Met Gala Theme Is Announced! Fashion in an Age of Technology”). AI will be an underlying theme at two 2016 meetings, February’s Big Understanding and July’s Autonomy.

And the intersection of fashion and technology has been an ongoing story for us as well, notably Cay Bond (“Fashion, Design, and Art,” Amsterdam, July 2000) and Anouk Wipprecht (“Techno-Couture,” Atlanta, Feb 2014). But we never saw this coming: A 3D-printed eco-bikini that “cleans the ocean as you swim.”

Fashion designs can’t be copyrighted, but articles describing scientific research can be and usually are. Would the advancement of knowledge be better served if all researchers were to have free access to scholarly publications? Some think so and are taking matters into their own hands; tragically, it does not always end well (Aaron Swartz, Rome, Jul 2008). (Rebecca MacKinnon, Washington, D.C., May 2012; Cory Doctorow, London, Jul 2010; Peter Eckersley, San Francisco, Feb 2010; Brewster Kahle, San Francisco, Feb 2005; Larry Lessig, Brussels, Jul 2002)

One morning this week, one of us heard a Red-headed Woodpecker pecking away at a tree in her backyard. She often also hears the quiet hoot of an owl. Now she, and you, can listen to the sounds of any of 9000 species, collected in 150K recordings, amounting to more than 10 TB, anytime, anywhere, thanks to free online access to the whole of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macauley Library audio (and video) collection. This is the world’s largest and oldest archive of nature recordings, and it is not restricted to birds. (Ryan Phelan, San Diego, Feb 2015; Michael Gunton, London, Jul 2010; David Hillis, Madrid, Jul 2003; Stewart Brand, Pasadena, Feb 2002)  

George Church’s lab is never idle (Boston, June 2015 regional meeting). The latest news is that they have modified 60 genes in pigs to continue progress toward making porcine organs transplantable into humans.

In other transplant news, Cornell University researchers have developed an artificial heart by 3-D printing with their conformable, biocompatible, polymeric elastomer foam with pores for directed fluid flow (Lawrence Bonassar, San Jose, Feb 2012). It could also be useful for soft robotics and prosthetics; the team is at work on a prosthetic hand (Jon Schull, San Francisco, Dec 2014; Stuart Harshbarger, Santa Monica, Dec 2007). Also showing great potential for future prosthetics is the artificial skin with tactile sensitivity being developed at Stanford.

Two final medical items: Adopting a research approach akin to Melissa Lechner’s with regard to cancer (San Diego, Feb 2015), researchers at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine are teasing out the antibody fingerprint of early Alzheimer’s Disease and designing a blood test for preclinical diagnosis. Also, researchers at Scripps Research Institute have persuaded leukemia cells to transform into leukemia-killing immune cells.

With TTI/V, it is always Back to the Future week!

“The way I see it, if you're gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?.” — Dr. Emmett Brown

The TTI/Vanguard Team

Author: Steven Cherry

Director of TTI/Vanguard, “a unique forum for senior-level executives that links strategic technology planning to business success. In private conferences that are part classroom, part think-tank, and part laboratory, its members—corporate and government leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers, and academics—explore emerging and potentially disruptive technologies.”

Twenty years experience as a technology journalist and editor, at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Founded the award-winning podcast series, Techwise Conversations covering tech news, tech careers and education, and the engineering lifestyle. Teaches an intensive writing class as an adjunct instructor at NYU. Previously taught essay writing and creative writing at The College of New Rochelle.