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Preview: Peter O'Kelly's Reality Check

Peter O'Kelly's Reality Check



Better living through collaboration and conceptual modeling



Updated: 2017-10-23T09:22:21.849-04:00

 



The Future Needs an Upgrade – Handelsblatt Global

2017-10-23T09:22:21.882-04:00

From a wide-ranging Yuval Noah Harari interview

"We implement new technologies very quickly into our lives. Should there be more political discussion about this?

Yes. The political system in much of the world is broken, unable to produce meaningful visions for the future. Beyond the day-to-day management of the country, the political system needs to look 20, 30 years into the future and produce a vision of where we want to go, then to try to implement this vision. In the 20th century you had great visions for the fate of humankind – not all of them good – but they were certainly very ambitious. You had the communist vision, the fascist vision and the liberal vision; politics was a battleground between the great visions of the future.

Because we stumble from one crisis to the next, and politicians struggle just to manage day to day.

The only visions are nostalgic, like Trump’s “Make America Great Again.” The only place you get meaningful visions of the future is in the private sector, from people in places like Silicon Valley. And it’s very good, I think, that people like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are thinking seriously about what technology will do to the future of humankind. But it’s very bad that almost no politicians care about these issues, even though artificial intelligence and bioengineering are going to change the world even more than steam engines and trains and radios."
The Future Needs an Upgrade – Handelsblatt Global



Apple Pay now in 20 markets, nabs 90% of all mobile contactless transactions where active | TechCrunch

2017-10-23T08:47:10.325-04:00

Check the full article for some Apple Pay Cash details; tangentially, see ‘Pay with Google’ arrives to speed up checkout (The Verge)

"While we are going to have to wait a little longer for Apple to launch payments in iMessage, this weekend, Jennifer Bailey, Apple’s VP of Apple Pay, announced a series of other milestones for the digital wallet and payments service that competes against the likes of Android Pay from Google, Samsung’s wallet and others efforts from retailers and banks.

The advances point to how Apple wants to steal a march when it comes to using phones as a proxy for a card or cash, and there is some anecdotal evidence that it’s working: merchants and others who have partnered with Apple say that Apple Pay is accounting for 90 percent of all mobile contactless transactions globally in markets where it’s available."
Apple Pay now in 20 markets, nabs 90% of all mobile contactless transactions where active | TechCrunch



Andy Rubin's Essential Phone gets $200 price cut - CNET

2017-10-23T08:05:33.994-04:00

File under "Future collector's item"

"The heavily hyped, Andy Rubin-backed Essential phone launched late in August. Now, two months later, its price has been cut from $699 to $499.

The news was announced in a Sunday blog post by company president Niccolo de Masi. He said the price cut comes in lieu of the company spending money on an expensive marketing campaign.

"We could have created a massive TV campaign to capture your attention," Masi wrote, "but we think making it easier for people to get their hands on our first products is a better way to get to know us.""
Andy Rubin's Essential Phone gets $200 price cut - CNET



What can Leonardo da Vinci teach us about tech? - Recode

2017-10-23T07:32:03.163-04:00

On a related note, see E.O. Wilson’s New Book, “The Origins of Creativity,” Examines the Relationship Between the Humanities and the Sciences (E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation)

"For the past decade and a half, Walter Isaacson has been writing about a big idea: “What is creativity and how do we achieve it?” He says his new book, “Leonardo da Vinci,” is both a biography of the Renaissance artist/inventor a culmination of what he learned writing about people like Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs.

“If you can stand at that intersection between the arts and sciences, or between beauty and engineering, that’s where you’ll be the most creative,” Isaacson said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher.

At the core of Isaacson’s book are da Vinci’s notebooks, which were crammed with ideas about a wide range of topics: Math problems, chemistry formulas, theatrical set designs, inventions and rough sketches of now-famous paintings like The Last Supper. The author said it’s important to not think of da Vinci as “just” an artist."
What can Leonardo da Vinci teach us about tech? - Recode



Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries for Scarce A.I. Talent - The New York Times

2017-10-23T07:00:15.130-04:00

Winter is over

"Tech’s biggest companies are placing huge bets on artificial intelligence, banking on things ranging from face-scanning smartphones and conversational coffee-table gadgets to computerized health care and autonomous vehicles. As they chase this future, they are doling out salaries that are startling even in an industry that has never been shy about lavishing a fortune on its top talent.

Typical A.I. specialists, including both Ph.D.s fresh out of school and people with less education and just a few years of experience, can be paid from $300,000 to $500,000 a year or more in salary and company stock, according to nine people who work for major tech companies or have entertained job offers from them. All of them requested anonymity because they did not want to damage their professional prospects."
Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries for Scarce A.I. Talent - The New York Times



Tesla Plant in China May Be a First - The New York Times

2017-10-23T09:11:23.867-04:00

Interesting times for Tesla; meanwhile, the Trump administration strives to make the future safe for coal -- see Trump’s electricity shakeup (Axios) for an update
"China already has the world’s largest market for electric cars. Their dominance is a byproduct of the government’s extensive subsidies, part of a broader plan to shift the country away from gasoline-powered cars. The shift would not only curb pollution but also reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil. LMC Automotive, a global consulting firm, estimates that 295,000 battery-electric cars will be sold this year in China, compared with 287,000 in the rest of the world combined.

The gap may widen. LMC predicts that China’s total will nearly triple in the next two years, while the rest of the world’s will merely double. That is because, in part, Chinese government regulations will require automakers starting in 2019 to sell ever-increasing numbers of electric cars and plug-in hybrids if they want to keep selling gasoline cars. China has also begun research on imposing a rule to ban the sale of internal combustion cars someday."
Tesla Plant in China May Be a First - The New York Times



Coda is a next-generation spreadsheet designed to make Excel a thing of the past - The Verge

2017-10-20T07:54:24.927-04:00

Tangentially, see Tech pioneers celebrate National Spreadsheet Day (Accounting Today)
"The ability to link documents together, infused with live data that updates automatically, has led Uber to use Coda like a wiki in some cases. In others, engineers build complex views of databases that showcase data with a high degree of granularity, while the marketing team relies on a summary document that only displays key numbers. 
Of course, Coda isn’t the first company to attempt a reinvention of Microsoft Office. Smartsheet, which launched in 2006, has 70,000 businesses using its collaborative, cloud-based spreadsheets. Quip, which was founded in 2012, sold its combined word processor and spreadsheet to Salesforce for $750 million last year. But neither of those apps has become a breakout hit in the fashion of other modern workplace tools, such as Slack or Trello."
Coda is a next-generation spreadsheet designed to make Excel a thing of the past - The Verge



Elon Musk’s East Coast Hyperloop will launch digging in Maryland, state and company say - The Washington Post

2017-10-20T07:35:41.848-04:00

In other billionaire adventures, see Rocket tests and wind farms. Jeff Bezos had more on his mind today than just who wants to host an Amazon HQ (The Washington Post) and Jeff Bezos christened Amazon’s largest wind farm while 300 feet in the air (Recode)
"The Maryland Department of Transportation has given conditional approval to Musk’s firm to dig miles of tunnel under state roads to be used for the privately funded project, Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said.

“It’s called a utility permit. That’s all they need to do the digging,” Mayer said. “It’s a private company, privately financed. The costs to the state will be extremely limited, if anything at all. The state has been working with them for multiple months on the permit process.”

The digging will start near Fort Meade, in Anne Arundel County, Mayer said. About 10 miles of tunnel will be under the state-owned portion of MD 295, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, he said."
Elon Musk’s East Coast Hyperloop will launch digging in Maryland, state and company say - The Washington Post



MongoDB finishes up 34% in database IPO | TechCrunch

2017-10-20T08:16:25.322-04:00

Irrational exuberance, NoSQL document database edition; also see MongoDB's successful IPO reflects its differences with traditional open source (ZDNet)
"New York-based MongoDB went public on the Nasdaq on Thursday, finishing the day at $32.07, up 34 percent above its IPO price of $24. This is also above the proposed range of $20 to $22, which had been increased from $18 to $20.

The IPO netted $192 million for the company and valued it at about $1.18 billion. By the end of the day’s trading, the market cap was about $1.6 billion, the same as the reported $1.6 billion valuation from its financing round over two years ago.

MongoDB previously raised more than $300 million in equity financing dating back to 2008. Sequoia Capital, Flybridge Capital and Union Square Ventures hold the largest stakes."
MongoDB finishes up 34% in database IPO | TechCrunch



Walmart looks to see if virtual shopping is better than the real thing - The Washington Post

2017-10-20T07:15:30.907-04:00

Check the full article for some VR shopping scenarios

"The technology has yet to catch on with the mainstream, so such concepts are still in the gee-whiz stage with no guarantee of boosting sales. But this summer, the company put out an open call for technology firms, venture capitalists and other entrepreneurs to submit their ideas. A panel of five judges — including Arianna Huffington, founder of Thrive Global; and Marc Lore, head of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce operations — whittled the 200 applicants to five winners. They then spent about two months at Walmart’s technology incubator, called Store No 8, coming up with new shopping-centric applications for virtual reality.

Walmart has been experimenting with virtual reality to help train its employees for busy shopping days like Black Friday. It is also testing a program that would allow delivery drivers to walk into customers’ homes and deliver groceries straight to their refrigerators."
Walmart looks to see if virtual shopping is better than the real thing - The Washington Post



McCain's latest surprise: regulate Facebook - Axios

2017-10-19T07:44:26.987-04:00

Check the full post for a preview of the act

"Sen. John McCain knows his time in the public eye is short, so his big statements in recent weeks are especially resonant. Today, McCain will join with two Democrats — Sens. Mark Warner (Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) — to give bipartisan imprimatur to the first of the "Facebook bills," responding to last year's election interference.

Axios has a sneak peek at provisions of the Honest Ads Act, which would increase disclosure requirements for online political ads like the ones Russians surreptitiously bought, putting the rules on par with those for radio and TV ads.

Why it matters: This is the first in a wave of legislative and regulatory proposals we can expect in response to the disclosures that Russian agents used tech platforms to meddle in the 2016 election."
McCain's latest surprise: regulate Facebook - Axios



Michael Flynn, Nicki Minaj shared content from this Tennessee GOP account. But it wasn’t real. It was Russian. - The Washington Post

2017-10-19T07:16:49.568-04:00

Later in the article: "Bots and trolls are most effective, experts say, when they find ways to interact online with actual people — and especially those with large followings." Also see Twitter Was Warned Repeatedly About This Fake Account Run By A Russian Troll Farm And Refused To Take It Down (BuzzFeed)
"Russian operatives used a fake Twitter account that claimed to speak for Tennessee Republicans to persuade American politicians, celebrities and journalists to share select content with their own massive lists of followers, two people familiar with the matter said.

The list of prominent people who tweeted out links from the account, @Ten_GOP, which Twitter shut down in August, includes political figures such as Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, celebrities such as Nicki Minaj and James Woods, and media personalities such as Ann Coulter and Chris Hayes."
Michael Flynn, Nicki Minaj shared content from this Tennessee GOP account. But it wasn’t real. It was Russian. - The Washington Post



DeepMind's Superpowerful AI Sets Its Sights on Drug Discovery - Bloomberg

2017-10-19T07:19:21.185-04:00

Also see Google’s A.I. Has Made Some Pretty Huge Leaps This Week (Slate) and AlphaGo Zero Shows Machines Can Become Superhuman Without Any Help (MIT Technology Review)
"AlphaGo Zero used one-twelfth of the computing power of the version that beat 18-time world champion Go player Lee Sedol in 2016. It ran on just four Tensor Processing Units (TPUs), chipsets optimized for machine learning that Google has created for its data centers, compared with 48 on the previous version of AlphaGo.

Hassabis said the company is now planning to apply an algorithm based on AlphaGo Zero to other domains with real-world applications, starting with protein folding. To build drugs against various viruses, researchers need to know how proteins fold. "
DeepMind's Superpowerful AI Sets Its Sights on Drug Discovery - Bloomberg



Everyone’s Mad at Google and Sundar Pichai Has to Fix It - Bloomberg

2017-10-19T06:51:52.699-04:00

From an extensive Google reality check

"If Elon Musk wanted to kvetch directly to Google, he’d probably go directly to his old philosophical sparring partner, Larry Page. Which brings up the main thing that sets Pichai apart from most of his CEO peers. It’s not his humility, diplomacy, or enthusiasm for AI. It’s that he has a boss.
Page always managed to delegate the political and managerial messes that Pichai now has to confront. Page is also largely invisible to the media; his last interview was two years ago. (He declined to speak for this story.) Yet he and Brin still control 51 percent of voting shares in Alphabet. One executive who recently left Google describes Pichai’s role more as a chief operating officer; another equates it with working for a “family company.”"
Everyone’s Mad at Google and Sundar Pichai Has to Fix It - Bloomberg



IBM's Q3 gets boost from z System mainframe; As-a-service annual run rate hits $9.4 billion | ZDNet

2017-10-18T07:33:35.245-04:00

Not enough to prevent IBM's 22nd consecutive quarter of declining revenue, however

"But perhaps the biggest takeaway is that IBM's stronger-than-expected revenue got a boost from an old standby--the mainframe. IBM's latest z System is designed to bolster security and encrypt data in transit. That message is finding a market given the spate of data breaches. Customers were obviously interested as z System revenue was up 64 percent from a year ago.

CEO Ginny Rometty said z System adoption was "enthusiastic." At the heart of IBM Z is an encryption engine that will encrypt data associated with any application, cloud service or database."
IBM's Q3 gets boost from z System mainframe; As-a-service annual run rate hits $9.4 billion | ZDNet



Microsoft claims Windows 10 ARM battery life will be a ‘game-changer’ for laptops - The Verge

2017-10-18T07:28:17.284-04:00

Meanwhile in the waning Wintel world: Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 claims 70% more battery life than MacBook Pros, 45% more pixels (9to5Mac)

"Microsoft first unveiled its plans for ARM-powered Windows laptops last year. The new devices will be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, and will support traditional desktop apps thanks to an emulator in Windows 10. While Qualcomm previously promised laptops before the end of the year, we haven’t heard much about them yet. Asus, HP, and Lenovo are all preparing devices, and it seems like battery life will be a key selling point.

During a Qualcomm summit in Hong Kong this week, Microsoft and Qualcomm dropped some hints at what to expect from new ARM-powered laptops. Trusted Reviews reports that Qualcomm is still committed to getting devices in the market in December, and that Microsoft is promising multi-day battery life. “To be frank, it’s actually beyond our expectations,” says Pete Bernard, a program manager at Microsoft. “We set a high bar for [our developers], and we’re now beyond that. It’s the kind of battery life where I use it on a daily basis. I don’t take my charger with me. I may charge it every couple of days or so. It’s that kind of battery life.”"
Microsoft claims Windows 10 ARM battery life will be a ‘game-changer’ for laptops - The Verge



Google Pixel 2 review: It's biggest problem has nothing to do with the phone - The Washington Post

2017-10-18T07:03:56.259-04:00

Also see Google’s Pixel 2 Smartphone Is a Powerful Extravagance (NYT)

"There’s also one big problem with the Pixel 2 that has nothing to do with the phone itself: It’s relatively hard to get. Google has agreed again to make the Pixel 2 available through just one carrier, Verizon. While consumers can also get the phone unlocked through Google’s own website, it is, generally speaking, a phone that must be sought out. It’s not going to present itself to you in stores or kiosks that aren’t Verizon’s, and that puts it at a disadvantage — particularly among those who want to comparison shop in stores.

Overall, Google's infused the Pixel 2 with smart software that complements its no-fuss but high-quality hardware. Google's home court advantage shines through and it has made two of the best phones out there. Those looking for an Android phone that takes full advantage of the operating system will love the Pixel 2 — that is, if you're willing to go out there looking for it."
Google Pixel 2 review: It's biggest problem has nothing to do with the phone - The Washington Post



How the Frightful Five Put Start-Ups in a Lose-Lose Situation - The New York Times

2017-10-18T07:43:00.250-04:00

Compete different; for a different perspective, see Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook will all go away within 50 years, says author (MarketWatch)
"So if you’re worried about the power of the Frightful Five — Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft — just look at how IBM, Hewlett-Packard or monopoly-era Microsoft fell to earth. They were all victims of “creative destruction,” of an “innovator’s dilemma,” the theories that bolster Silicon Valley’s vision of itself as a roiling sea of pathbreaking upstarts, where the very thing that made you big also makes you vulnerable.

Well, maybe not this time.

The technology industry is now a playground for giants. Where 10 or 20 years ago we looked to start-ups as a font of future wonders, today the energy and momentum have shifted almost completely to the big guys. In addition to the many platforms they own already, one or more of the Five are on their way to owning artificial intelligence, voice assistants, virtual and augmented reality, robotics, home automation, and every other cool and crazy thing that will rule tomorrow."
How the Frightful Five Put Start-Ups in a Lose-Lose Situation - The New York Times



Facebook acquires anonymous teen compliment app tbh, will let it run | TechCrunch

2017-10-17T07:24:25.802-04:00

Tbd if tbh is part of Facebook's new plan for elections >= 2018...

"Facebook wants tbh to be its next Instagram. Today, Facebook announced it’s acquiring positivity-focused polling startup tbh and will allow it to operate somewhat independently with its own brand.

tbh had scored 5 million downloads and 2.5 million daily active users in the past nine weeks with its app that lets people anonymously answer kind-hearted multiple-choice questions about friends who then receive the poll results as compliments. You see questions like “Best to bring to a party?,” “Their perseverance is admirable?” and “Could see becoming a poet?” with your uploaded contacts on the app as answer choices."
Facebook acquires anonymous teen compliment app tbh, will let it run | TechCrunch



Google created machine-learning software that can program machine-learning software. (Slate)

2017-10-17T07:20:24.541-04:00

On a related note, the cover of the latest issue of the New Yorker:

"The company’s A.I. project, AutoML, has successfully taught machine-learning software how to program machine-learning software. In some cases, the machines programmed better A.I. software than even the Google researchers could design. AutoML ran a test comparing a human-programmed image identification system to a machine-programmed one. The program created by the machine was able to score 43 percent on a task that required it to find objects in a picture. The best that the human-made software could score was 39 percent. Yet the AutoML software can only write programming for relatively basic A.I. tasks at the moment.

The hope is that the software will be able to perform the tedious yet highly complicated tasks that A.I. engineers are loathe to spend their time on—a bit like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice enchanting brooms to fetch water for him. This could theoretically free up engineers to pursue more ambitious projects that would otherwise require an exorbitant amount of time and labor. Researchers predict that advances in this field could accelerate the pace at which A.I. is implemented in other industries, such as health care."
Google created machine-learning software that can program machine-learning software.



Tesla's Former Battery Director Joins Farming Startup Plenty - Bloomberg

2017-10-17T06:59:59.188-04:00

In other tech foodie news, see Kimbal Musk Wants to Feed America, Silicon Valley-Style (NYT)

"Tesla Inc.’s former director of battery technology has joined Plenty Inc. to lead the vertical farming startup’s plan to build indoor growing rooms around the world.

Kurt Kelty, who joined Tesla in 2006 and left earlier this year, was one of the longest-serving executives at the carmaker led by Elon Musk. He joins SoftBank Group Corp.-backed Plenty as the senior vice president of operations and market development. Kelty had previously spent more than 14 years at Panasonic Corp."
Tesla's Former Battery Director Joins Farming Startup Plenty - Bloomberg



Facebook Is Looking for Employees With National Security Clearances - Bloomberg

2017-10-17T06:55:35.282-04:00

Tangentially, see As U.S. Confronts Internet’s Disruptions, China Feels Vindicated (NYT)

"Facebook Inc. is looking to hire people who have national security clearances, a move the company thinks is necessary to prevent foreign powers from manipulating future elections through its social network, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Workers with such clearance can access information classified by the U.S. government. Facebook plans to use these people -- and their ability to receive government information about potential threats -- to search more proactively for questionable social media campaigns ahead of elections, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is sensitive. A Facebook spokesman declined to comment."
Facebook Is Looking for Employees With National Security Clearances - Bloomberg



How Valuable Is a Unicorn? Maybe Not as Much as It Claims to Be - The New York Times

2017-10-17T06:51:03.320-04:00

A unicorn reality check

"In Palo Alto, Calif., just down the road from many of the biggest tech companies and the most influential venture capitalists, a professor at Stanford University has quietly been working on a project to crunch the valuation numbers behind some of these private companies.

Ilya A. Strebulaev and another professor working with him, Will Gornall of the University of British Columbia, have come to a startling conclusion: The average unicorn is worth half the headline price tag that is put out after each new valuation."
How Valuable Is a Unicorn? Maybe Not as Much as It Claims to Be - The New York Times



This Guy Says He’s The First Person To Attempt Editing His DNA With CRISPR (BuzzFeed)

2017-10-16T07:30:43.697-04:00

Perhaps wait until this technique is out of beta; on a related note, see An anarchist takes on the drug industry — by teaching patients to make their own meds (STAT)

"“I want to live in a world where people get drunk and instead of giving themselves tattoos, they’re like, ‘I’m drunk, I’m going to CRISPR myself,’” said Zayner, who has a few tattoos of his own, in an interview with BuzzFeed News. “It sounds crazy, but I think that would be a pretty interesting world to live in for sure.”

Under the Food and Drug Administration’s rules, his experimenting appears to be legal — or at least, not illegal. But it’s less clear to what extent, if any, Zayner is responsible for any harm to people who copy him. It’s a gray area that the FDA doesn’t regulate, and may become more pressing as amateur scientists disseminate their experiments, methods, and equipment online."
This Guy Says He’s The First Person To Attempt Editing His DNA With CRISPR



Inside X, Google’s Moonshot Factory - The Atlantic

2017-10-16T07:08:56.584-04:00

From a ~7,000-word Google X profile
"These ideas might sound too random to contain a unifying principle. But they do. Each X idea adheres to a simple three-part formula. First, it must address a huge problem; second, it must propose a radical solution; third, it must employ a relatively feasible technology. In other words, any idea can be a moonshot—unless it’s frivolous, small-bore, or impossible. 
The purpose of X is not to solve Google’s problems; thousands of people are already doing that. Nor is its mission philanthropic. Instead X exists, ultimately, to create world-changing companies that could eventually become the next Google. The enterprise considers more than 100 ideas each year, in areas ranging from clean energy to artificial intelligence. But only a tiny percentage become “projects,” with full-time staff working on them. It’s too soon to know whether many (or any) of these shots will reach the moon: X was formed in 2010, and its projects take years; critics note a shortage of revenue to date. But several projects—most notably Waymo, its self-driving-car company, recently valued at $70 billion by one Wall Street firm—look like they may."
Inside X, Google’s Moonshot Factory - The Atlantic