Friday, October 30, 2015

Can we just say how much we love the Berkman Center? It’s been the source of many great talks, for example, “E-Commerce Borders in Cyberspace: Legal and Policy Issues,” (Charles Nesson, Boston, May 1999), “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Future,” (Ethan Zuckerman, Miami, July 2005), and “Everything is Miscellaneous: Trees and Tags,” (David Weinberger, San Francisco, Feb 2005). It’s still doing great work, this time with a new tool for monitoring web traffic and tracking outages around the world.}

Algorithms keep getting better and able to take on more and more human work—even, someday, fact-checking, as we saw at the Collaboration meeting (Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia, Philadelphia, Sep 2015). Now MIT researchers are entering their algorithms into data science competitions. If and when their software earns a high Kaggle number (Anthony Goldbloom, Dec 2013), can the Singularity (James Barrat, Boston, Apr 2014) be far behind?

Man-machine collaboration is getting better and better as well. Researchers at Imperial College London have designed a robot arm that used eye movements to paint a picture “while simultaneously eating a croissant and drinking coffee.” While great for all the 20-something multitaskers, it would also enable physically impaired individuals to express themselves (Mick Ebeling, Charlotte, Dec 2010; Helene Mialet, London, Jul 2014; Jamie Heywood, Jersey City, Oct 2009; Sean Scott, Boston, Sep 2007).

And here’s a story for all you history-of-science—or history or science—buffs: A University of Virginia building renovation unearthed Thomas Jefferson’s chemistry lab walled up within the campus’ Rotunda. Unusual for its time, students participated in experiments within the space, rather than simply observing, which was the most one could hope for in science education prior to the Age of Enlightenment.

Do data scientists have unique ethical responsibilities? Past speaker Daniel Tunkelang (Washington, D.C., Apr/May 2013) thinks so. In the meantime, two of Silicon Valley’s biggest names are doubling down on artificial intelligence: Google is increasingly relying on AI-based RankBrain to improve search, while TTI/Vanguard member organization Intel just purchased Saffron to build what it dubs associative memory into its chips.

First the good news: Carnegie Mellon University researchers have succeeded in 3-D printing soft materials that do not collapse under their own weight, making it possible to fabricate tissue with embedded blood vessels (Jennifer Lewis, Miami, Feb 2011). Now the bad news: If you need to receive an implant of such an artificial organ, or if you need any surgery at all, you have a 50/50 chance of suffering a medication error (Mark Maybury, Washington, D.C., Sep/Oct 2014; Craig Feied, Jersey City, Oct 2009; Dan Masys, Washington, D.C., Dec 2005). Perhaps the scariest line from the story: “The rates sound high, but it is in line with other rates of patient harm.” Stay well!

Eben Upton’s Raspberry Pi (Detroit, May 2015; Vienna, Jul 2013) will now be available in customized versions. No word yet on whether strawberry is one of the available flavors.

How neutral is the EU’s just-adopted ’Net neutrality law? This Guardian article sheds some light. (Jeremie Zimmermann, Washington, D.C., May, 2012)

But in a huge win for tinkerers, the Library of Congress has, at least for a limited time, exempted a range of devices a person legally owns from the clutches of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Peter Eckersley, San Francisco, Feb 2010). These include tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, wearables, and cars (K. Venkatesh Prasad, Detroit, May 2015).

With “2G Tuesdays,” Facebook is raising awareness, at least internally, about how the Internet feels for most of the world’s inhabitants: in a word, slow. This is something every developer should keep in mind. (Gordon Castle, Philadelphia, Jul 2015)

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” — Mahatma Gandhi

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.