TTI/Vanguard: We Need You; Remember to Renew! Aug 7, 2020 Newsletter

Note from Lisa Yao: The members of this community are our raison d'etre. The collective wisdom in the room (even if it’s the Zoom room these days!) is treasured and irreplaceable. And we intend to keep this community together—virtual, physical, any way that we can. It is doable; we’ve weathered storms before. But this particular storm is going to require a whole new level of commitment, creativity, and sheer chutzpah from all our stakeholders. We can do it, but we have to do it together. Our organization will only endure with our beloved members.

Speaking of our organization, have you registered for our September meeting yet?

Enterra Solutions’ Stephen DeAngelis (Washington, D.C., Sep 2015; Regional Meetings, e.g., Chicago, Oct 2014) has summarized the challenges and potential advances laid out by McKinsey Global Institute when implementing an AI strategy. His advice: “Cognitive technologies can have a powerful impact on the success of a business. Often, however, taking a ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach is the best way to approach digital transformation.”

Our East Coast friends saw some additional WFH challenges this week amidst power, water and connectivity outages. We’ll address plenty of the Future of Work in our 2021 schedule. Note to selves: Find the best speaker in the world on weather mitigation.

We'll also keep the steady AI news coming. Eric Schmidt (San Jose, Sep 2000) recently stressed the need to incorporate AI into American national security. TTI/V clients already know this but it is good to see broader support.

Similarly, Microsoft has been in the business of advancing machine learning and AI for decades (Eric Horvitz, Seattle, Dec 2006, and Sep 2001). Its intended acquisition of TikTok, with its huge data trove of videos, is likely a furtherance of this mission.

Every technological innovation has people behind it; and every such person comes with a personal story. Here’s one about one of the TTI/V-member JPL researchers behind the Perseverance Mars rover, and her husband, who is also on the rover team.

Filecoin is currently piloting a distributed storage system, which will run on its Interplanetary File System. You can get in on the ground level by participating during the current testing period or await the expected release in September. (Peter Van Valkenburgh, San Francisco, Dec 2017; Reid Williams, Boston, Apr 2017; Brewster Kahle, San Francisco, May 2016)

In other blockchain news—Avalanche, by Ava Labs, a startup out of Cornell University—uses a novel consensus protocol to perform transactions in less than one second, overcoming the signature time lag associated with distributed-ledger systems. Currently, it supports its own cryptocurrency, AVAX, as well as Ethereum, and strives to “democratize financial markets and bridge all blockchain platforms together into one interoperable ecosystem.” (Vitalik Buterin, Philadelphia, Jul 2015)

We all know that the gut microbiome affects health (Jessica Richman, Austin, Feb 2016; Larry Smarr, San Jose, Feb 2012). A study by researchers at Hebrew University has demonstrated that a protein (p53) serves as a tumor suppressant in the low-flora, small intestine instead behaves oncogenically in the large intestine, which is rife with gut bacteria.

With over 90% efficiency, a copper-based catalyst in the presence of an electric field selectively converts carbon dioxide and water into ethanol. (Xiangkun “Elvis” Cao, Berkeley, Mar 2019)

In an entirely separate use of CO2, Penn State researchers have found that the addition of carbon dioxide to the polluting acid mine drainage resulting from coal mining enables more efficient extraction of rare earth minerals from the contents of retention ponds than do prevailing treatment methods.

Another ratcheting up of the facial recognition wars: In what they call image cloaking, University of Chicago researchers introduce invisible-to-the-eye pixel alterations to photos that stymie image-matching algorithms. (Sirer Irmak, Marina Del Rey, Mar 2018)

Coastal flooding is an increasing problem for a significant fraction of the world’s population (Jennifer Mathieu, Regional Meeting, MITRE, McLean, Sep 2017; Michael Mastrandrea and Noah Diffenbaugh, San Francisco, Dec 2014), including those living in the San Francisco Bay Area. The negative effects of waterfront inundation have a way of seeping into higher ground, including severely lengthening commute times for people living outside the floodplain, as  Stanford University researchers have modeled. On the bright side, only a fraction of commuters—including those from most-slowed-down Marin County—are on the roadway these days. Maybe they should take the ferry, instead (Charles Bogue and Jay Gardner, San Francisco, May 2016).

O tempora, o mores!—Cicero