TTI/Vanguard: Happy Thanksgiving! Newsletter Nov 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).

Case in point: The phase-3 trial of TTI/V member Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine trial (developed in conjunction with Janssen Pharmaceutical) has resumed, with a familiar face as a volunteer participant: Meredith Perry (San Francisco, Dec 2017). Follow her progress on . Or join a trial yourself by visiting

Whatever the temperature requirements, longtime member Fed-Ex is ready, willing, and able to deliver the vaccine to everywhere that it will need to be, which of course is essentially everywhere. Blockchain technology, done right, is expected to play a crucial role in tracking the safety and security of the distribution process on a per-dose basis. (Rafail Ostrovsky, Washington, D.C., Sep 2019; Mike O’Neill, San Francisco, Feb 2017)

Italy’s National Cancer Institute is reporting—based on a lung cancer screening trial—that, despite the nation’s first COVID case being officially detected on Feb 21, 2020, the virus could have been circulating among humans there as early as the prior September.

In the meantime, all this staying-at-home stuff that we—and our children—have been doing this year is raising demand for furniture systems that make better use of living space. (Donna Flynn and Sara Armbruster, Washington, D.C., Sep 2015)

A paper published by Google researchers explores the failures of the practical implementation of the standard machine learning pipeline, which relies on an independent and identically distributed evaluation procedure. Gary Marcus (San Francisco, Dec 2019; Brooklyn, Jun 2018; San Diego, Feb 2015; Boston, Apr 2014) says that the analysis confirms the central claims of his own 2018 study of deep learning, namely that machine learning often generalizes poorly, extrapolation beyond training data is key, and that there exists an urgent need for better ways of adding in domain expertise.

With combustion engine design as its initial test case, researchers at Argonne National Laboratory’s energy systems division report the success of their patent-pending ActivO machine learning design optimization tool, which adaptively explores the design space and hones in on regions most likely to contain the global optimum and thereby conserves computational resources. (Scott Clark, Austin, Feb 2016)

If you are going to read one fish story this week, let it be this one. The Amazon’s arapaima has a toothed tongue and scales that have been compared to bullet-proof vests. What’s more is that it is also tasty, which led to overfishing. A local community teamed with ecologists and conversation groups to rout illegal fishing from the area—and to create environmentally and economically sustainable industry in the area.

Orbit Fab (Daniel Faber, San Francisco, Dec 2019) has contracted with Spaceflight, Inc., to launch its first fuel tanker aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 as soon as next summer.

Speaking of satellites, fuel, and environmental sustainability, the Canadian firm GHGSat is using satellites to detect ground-based methane leaks from space. Two competitors, Bluefield Technologies and the Environmental Defense Fund, will be (literally) launching their own observation systems soon. (Anne Miglarese, Vienna, Jul 2013)

We wish all of you a happy and safe (American) Thanksgiving!  The newsletter (along with the team!) will be taking a much-needed Thanksgiving vacation next week.

You just pull back for hundreds of miles using satellite imagery, and all of a sudden this invisible world becomes visible.— Sarah Parcak