Category Archives: Science

A Nobel laureate explains why we get the bad economic policies we deserve

BOOK REVIEW

Economics for the Common Good, Author: Jean Tirole.

By Eshe Nelson – The relationship between economics and politics is starting to unravel. Over the past year, many have sought to explain Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, and the rise of far-right and far-left politics in Europe using economic arguments. But it’s becoming clear that economics alone does not explain the situation. If the questions at the root of public life are no longer answered by the famous political dictum, “It’s the economy, stupid,” where does that leave economists?

First we have to make sure people respect intellectuals. For that, the intellectuals have to do the right thing. Then, you have to limit frustrations. People who voted for Trump, or Brexit, or Le Pen and Mélenchon in France are by and large very concerned about their future with robots, with rising debts, with inequality and unemployment. We have neglected some people, the losers of globalization, and we have a society that’s more and more unequal. It might get worse, unfortunately, with new technology.

When people are afraid or upset, they also tend to dismiss their current governments and the experts. They want a big change, which is often supplied by populists who offer fairytales and the wrong policies. People are trying to grab something that will give them hope.

.. No, we are not moving in the right direction. more>

Updates from Georgia Tech

Imaging Technique Unlocks the Secrets of 17th Century Artists
By John Toon – The secrets of 17th century artists can now be revealed, thanks to 21st century signal processing. Using modern high-speed scanners and the advanced signal processing techniques, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are peering through layers of pigment to see how painters prepared their canvasses, applied undercoats, and built up layer upon layer of paint to produce their masterpieces.

The images they produce using the terahertz scanners and the processing technique – which was mainly developed for petroleum exploration – provide an unprecedented look at how artists did their work three centuries ago. The level of detail produced by this terahertz reflectometry technique could help art conservators spot previous restorations of paintings, highlight potential damage – and assist in authenticating the old works.

Beyond old art, the nondestructive technique also has potential applications for detecting skin cancer, ensuring proper adhesion of turbine blade coatings and measuring the thickness of automotive paints.

Without the signal processing, researchers might only be able to identify layers 100 to 150 microns thick. But using the advanced processing, they can distinguish layers just 20 microns thick. Paintings done before the 18th century have been challenging to study because their paint layers tend to be thin, Citrin said. Individual pigments cannot be resolved by the technique, though the researchers hope to be able to obtain that information in the future. more>

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The Costly Zero Sum Game That’s Fueling The Skills Gap

By Jake Schwartz – Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates suggest, for example, that there will be 1 million more computing jobs than applicants to fill them by 2020.

Of course, the skills gap is about more than just supply and demand. It stems from what economists call “friction,” exacerbated by megatrends like the shrinking shelf life of skills and persistent equity gaps in K-12 and higher education systems struggling to keep up with the pace of change. But it also reflects decades of self-inflicted wounds within corporate America.

I’ve observed three troubling drivers of the economic friction fueling the skills gap:

  1. a surprising lack of visibility and long-term planning around concrete skill and talent needs within the enterprise;
  2. incredible inertia around and adherence to old-school hiring practices that perpetuate growing equity gaps through a search for new skills in conventional places; and
  3. a tendency to misplace hope that our higher education and workforce development systems can somehow “solve” the problem with minimal corporate involvement or responsibility.

Imagine the possibilities if just a fraction of that spending was allocated to investments in re-skilling existing workers.

And yet, corporate training fads, from an obsession with online training (it’s cheaper), to a belief that all employees should spend their off-hours being “self-guided learners,” only exacerbate the delta between average investments in talent acquisition ($20,000 to $40,000 per head) and corporate training ($1,000 per person per year). more>

Updates from GE

Matrix Reimagined: Brand New GE Startup Is Developing Novel Ways To Draw Blood
Ny Tomas Kellner – Drawbridge, a new business founded by GE Ventures, is building an easy-to-use blood collection device that could be used anywhere — at a clinic in San Francisco, in a remote village in Borneo or potentially even at home. Users will be able to apply the device to the upper arm and activate it. It will then store and stabilize the sample in a special cartridge.

Drawbridge, a new business founded by GE Ventures, is building an easy-to-use blood collection device that could be used anywhere — at a clinic in San Francisco, in a remote village in Borneo or potentially even at home. Users will be able to apply the device to the upper arm and activate it. It will then store and stabilize the sample in a special cartridge.

The playing field is huge. The global blood collection market stands at $7 billion, and health professionals in the U.S. alone draw more than 1 billion blood samples every year. Handling blood is also an important factor in treating patients — blood test results reportedly influence 70 percent of clinical decisions.

The blood stabilization technology inside the device, a high-tech paper-like material known as “the matrix,” was originally developed by scientists at GE Global Research, leveraging knowledge and expertise from the GE Healthcare team.

The collection device will draw a small amount of blood and channel it onto the matrix, which stores the sample for later extraction and testing. The matrix also stabilizes the collected blood sample and eliminates the need to refrigerate it, which will simplify transporting it to the lab.

When GE Ventures learned about the technology, Stack and her colleagues thought they could build a business around it, as they did with other companies they’ve launched. more>

Humanity’s fight against climate change is failing. One technology can change that.

By Akshat Rathi – The optimism surrounding renewable energy masks some harsh realities. Despite decades of progress, about 80% of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels—the same as in the 1970s. Since then, we’ve kept adding renewable capacity, but it hasn’t outpaced the growth of the world’s population and its demand for energy.

Today, about 30% of total world energy (and 40% of the world’s electricity) is supplied by coal, which emits more carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced than nearly any other fuel source.

The hugely valuable oil and gas industries, accounting for 33% and 24% of total world energy use, respectively, are also entrenched. “Based on what we know now, we would need major technological breakthroughs or weak world growth, including for large emerging and developing economies, for oil demand to peak in the next 20 years,” says Gian Maria Milesi-Ferretti of the International Monetary Fund. Despite the growth in electric vehicles, most oil companies agree that peak oil is “not in sight.”

If you’re still not convinced, consider this: there are a handful of industries essential to the modern way of life that generate large amounts of carbon dioxide as a side product of the chemistry of their manufacturing process. These carbon-intensive industries—including cement, steel, and ethanol—produce about 20% of all global emissions.

If we want to keep using these products and reach zero emissions, the only option is to have these industries deploy carbon capture. more>

Updates from GE

Love At First Touch: Brazilian Doctor Uses 3D Printing To Help Blind Parents Feel Baby’s Ultrasound
By Erica Firmo – When Ana Paula Silveira got pregnant, she and her husband, Alvaro Zermiani, dreamed about seeing the face of their child during her first ultrasound exam. But weeks later, they got to feel it instead.

Both Ana Paula and Alvaro, who live in São Paulo, Brazil, are legally blind. Their son, Davi Lucas, was strong and healthy, but there was no way their eyes could see the first grainy glimpses of their baby on the ultrasound monitor.

They decided to take a different path. The couple made a trip to the office of Dr. Heron Werner, a gynecologist and obstetrician working at the DASA clinic in Rio de Janeiro. He agreed to follow Ana Paula through her pregnancy.

Dr. Werner uses a 3D printer to make lifelike models from images obtained by a GE ultrasound machine. “From the moment we got to the high-quality ultrasound exam, through the possibility of 3D printing it, I realized that it could also serve to enhance the prenatal experience of visually impaired pregnant women,” Dr. Werner says. more>

Why The World Is Getting Better And Why Hardly Anyone Knows It

By Steve Denning – Read the news and you can see that the world is going to hell in hand-basket—and fast! Terrorism, nuclear weapons, economic stagnation, social unrest, autocratic leaders, structural unemployment, deskilling, growing hopelessness, the opioid epidemic, increasing inequality, xenophobia, economic migrations, recessions, financial bubbles and crashes, recessions, depressions—the list goes on.

And yet the facts show otherwise. In a powerful study entitled “The short history of global living conditions and why it matters that we know it” by Max Roser, an economist at the University of Oxford and the founder of Our World in Data, we learn that on virtually all of the key dimensions of human material well-being—poverty, literacy, health, freedom, and education—the world is an extraordinarily better place than it was just a couple of centuries ago.

  1. Poverty – 1950 75% of the world were still living in extreme poverty. But today, those living in extreme poverty are now less than 10%.
  2. Literacy – world population that is literate over the last 2 centuries has gone from a tiny elite to a world where 8 out of 10 people can read and write.
  3. Health – In 1800, more than 40% of the world’s newborns died before the age of five. Now only a tiny fraction die before the age of five.
  4. Freedom – In the 19th Century almost everyone lived in autocratically ruled countries. Today more than half the global population lives in a democracy.
  5. Population – Global life expectancy doubled just over the last hundred years.
  6. Education – All these gains were enabled by improvements in knowledge and education. There will never be more children on the planet than today.

more>

Updates from GE

By Maggie Sieger – When Hong Kong started planning a road tunnel 50 meters (164 feet) below sea level in 2012, local engineers had to find a way to keep the cutters in the massive boring shield in shape and the blades sharp enough to cut stone. Workers would squeeze between the shield, which is 17 meters in diameter, and the living rock to inspect the business end of the machine — a tight spot the Hong Kong team wanted to avoid as much as possible.

The founders of OC Robotics, a U.K.-based builder of “snake arm” robots, thought they could help. They suggested replacing the human inspectors entirely with OC’s innovative machines that can thread their 6-foot-long mechanical limbs into tight spots.

Today, an OC robot not only inspects the shield but also cleans it with a high-pressure water jet and measures the sharpness of the cutting surface with a laser. “This is faster and easier, and it keeps people safe,” says Andrew Graham, OC Robotics co-founder.

The robot’s dexterity and skills so impressed engineers from GE Aviation that they acquired OC Robotics last summer. The company believes snake-arm robots will be useful for jet engine maintenance, allowing workers to do as much work with the engine still on the wing as possible. That’s because removing an engine not only takes time, but also could take a plane out of service for days, impacting an airline’s bottom line. more>

The decentralized economy is inevitable. Cities now need to prepare for impact

By Sarah Wray – Bettina Warburg explained that throughout history, we have created “middlemen” to deal with uncertainty about trade – who are we dealing with, how do we know we are getting what we were promised, and what if we don’t receive the goods? These middlemen include banks, corporations and government entities, as well as online platform marketplaces like Amazon, eBay and Alibaba.

Now for the first time, she said, we can lower this uncertainty using technology alone – blockchain, meaning no middlemen are required.

Blockchain unlocks the idea of a “network state … which you can think of as shared reality. Blockchain is in some ways giving us an autonomous network state — the ability to manage all that information and make choices on it by transacting it without middlemen,” she said.

“It’s a matter of urgency that public services, and the leadership of those public services, is able to anticipate technology and the disrupted business models it creates; and that it can respond to that by setting out the key demands. We cannot find ourselves in situations again where we have to regulate after the event. That is government not doing its job properly,” commented Andrew Collinge. more>

How Technology Is Leading Us Into the Imagination Age

By Raya Bidshahri – Initially coined by Rita J. King, the imagination age is a theoretical period beyond the information age where creativity and imagination will become the primary creators of economic value. This is driven by technological trends like virtual reality and the rise of digital platforms like YouTube, all of which increase demand for user-generated content and creativity. It is also driven by automation, which will take away a lot of monotonous and routine jobs, leaving more higher-ordered and creative jobs.

Technological trends are giving rise to what many thought leaders refer to as the “imagination economy.” This is defined as “an economy where intuitive and creative thinking create economic value, after logical and rational thinking has been outsourced to other economies.”

One of the tragedies of traditional education is that it was designed for the industrial age.

But now we’re not only living in the information age, we’re already moving on to the imagination age. Most traditional schools have failed to keep up with the effects of exponential growth on our world. Instead of putting an emphasis on grades or content knowledge, we need to start putting an emphasis on 21st-century survival skills. more>