Those who attended TTI/Vanguard’s regional meeting in Cincinnati (Apr 2019) saw how TTI/V member firm Kroger implements technology inside its stores. As it turns out, out-of-store tech initiatives are also underway. By partnering with British online grocer Ocado, Kroger is expanding into the world of highly automated warehouse-based food-specific retail and delivery.
We’ll hear about plenty of applications for blockchain at this year’s Washington, DC meeting, being held Sep 11–13. And here is yet one more: blockchain in the voting booth (err, on the smartphone). Officials in Utah are testing methods to allow voters to vote via app. (Avi Rubin, Austin, Feb 2004)
A new job category that will appeal to an elite class of story-telling nerds is opening up, with France establishing a red team of science fiction writers to be tasked with imagining how terrorist organizations or adversarial nations could use advanced technology against the country or its allies and advising the military. (Andrew Maynard, San Francisco, Dec 2018; Cory Doctorow, London, Jul 2010; Vernor Vinge, San Jose, Feb 2012, and Philadelphia Jul 1997; John Underkoffler, Los Angeles, Feb 2011, and Geneva, Feb 2002; Bruce Sterling, Brussels, Jul 2002, and Irving, Jul 1996; Douglas Adams, San Jose, Sep 2000)
And that is not the only employment option for such folks, with the gig economy expanding to include the need for D&D dungeon masters for hire.
California rolled out the “BOT Bill” making it illegal for any electronic information shared by a bot not to be labeled as such. Skeptics question the implementation and effectiveness of the bill, but broad agreement remains that the distribution and proliferation of misinformation remains widespread and dangerous. (Douglas Guilbeault, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017)
Speaking of Guilbeault, this week at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, he and coauthors Andrea Baronchelli and Damon Centola received the Computational Modeling Prize for their paper “The social network dynamics of category formation.”
And, speaking of misinformation, the Central Intelligence Agency is notoriously tight lipped, but former-CIA Yael Eisenstat recently spoke candidly about her short stint at Facebook. In a pull-no-punches interview, Eisenstat shared how social media companies are not doing enough to solve a problem they engineered themselves. (Judith Estrin, Berkeley, Mar 2019; Robert McNamee and Jonathan Taplin, Los Angeles, Mar 2018)
Access to clean drinking water is a problem that is only going to get worse as the effects of global warming continue to rage. Researchers at Australia’s Monash University are making strides with a solar-powered desalination plant that relies on a carbon nanotube-based filter. (Dean Kamen, Jersey City, Oct 2009; Gary Atkinson, London, Jul 2014)
In a case of implicit bias, even as progress in precision medicine advances, the datasets it relies on are unrepresentatively skewed toward people of white European ancestry. (Julie Ancis, Washington, D.C, Sep 2017; Amitabh Chandra, Washington, D.C., Sep 2018)
From the lab that developed the game to crowdsource protein-folding knowledge—FoldIt (Seth Cooper, Chicago, May 2011; Pietro Michelucci, Austin, Feb 2016)—comes a designer protein, dubbed LOCKR (latching orthogonal cage key pRotein), that serves as an on/off switch for cell processes. This article summarizes the work in University of Washington’s David Baker’s lab: “The protein is a cage of six helical sub-structures. Five of the helixes are tightly bound together. The sixth sits looser, like a tooth ready to be yanked out. When you add the key it basically binds to the site where the sixth helix, which we call the latch, is bound. That binding displaces the latch. In other words, in the presence of the key molecule, that sixth helix pops open, exposing an active site. What exists at that site can be tailored to fit a specific need.”
Also tapping into the power of crowdsourcing is Memry Labs founder Rohan Seth, whose infant daughter suffers from a debilitating genetic mutation. Recognizing the power of antisense oligonucleotides to “silence the mutation at the source,” he believes collective action (Pietro Michelucci, Austin, Feb 2016) has the power to sidestep the economic constraints of conventional pharma (Amitabh Chandra, Washington, D.C., Sep 2018).
"We look at science as something very elite, which only a few people can learn. That's just not true. You just have to start early and give kids a foundation. Kids live up, or down, to expectations."
—Mae Jemison (first black woman in space)