Category Archives: Technology

The next energy revolution: The promise and peril of high-tech innovation

By David Victor and Kassia Yanosek – The technology revolution has transformed one industry after another, from retail to manufacturing to transportation. Its most far-reaching effects, however, may be playing out in the unlikeliest of places: the traditional industries of oil, gas, and electricity.

Today, smarter management of complex systems, data analytics, and automation are remaking the industry once again, boosting the productivity and flexibility of energy companies. These changes have begun to transform not only the industries that produce commodities such as oil and gas but also the ways in which companies generate and deliver electric power. A new electricity industry is emerging—one that is more decentralized and consumer-friendly, and able to integrate many different sources of power into highly reliable power grids. In the coming years, these trends are likely to keep energy cheap and plentiful, responsive to market conditions, and more efficient than ever.

But this transition will not be straightforward. It could destabilize countries whose economies depend on revenue from traditional energy sources, such as Russia, the big producers of the Persian Gulf, and Venezuela. It could hurt lower-skilled workers, whose jobs are vulnerable to automation. And cheap fossil fuels will make it harder to achieve the deep cuts in emissions needed to halt global warming. more>

The future is emotional

By Livia Gershon – The truth is, only a tiny percentage of people in the post-industrial world will ever end up working in software engineering, biotechnology or advanced manufacturing. Just as the behemoth machines of the industrial revolution made physical strength less necessary for humans, the information revolution frees us to complement, rather than compete with, the technical competence of computers.

Many of the most important jobs of the future will require soft skills, not advanced algebra.

Back in 1983, the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild coined the term ‘emotional labor’ to describe the processes involved in managing the emotional demands of work. She explored the techniques that flight attendants used to maintain the friendly demeanors their airline demanded in the face of abusive customers: taking deep breaths, silently reminding themselves to stay cool, or building empathy for the nasty passenger.

A growing real-world demand for workers with empathy and a talent for making other people feel at ease requires a serious shift in perspective. It means moving away from our singular focus on academic performance as the road to success. It means giving more respect, and better pay, to workers too often generically dismissed as ‘unskilled labor’. And, it means valuing skills more often found among working-class women than highly educated men. more>

Connecting People to Prosperity in the Exponential Age

By Vanessa Bates Ramirez – “Our assumptions about how economies function no longer seem to hold true entirely because of exponential technology.”

This claim came from entrepreneur and Singularity University faculty member, Amin Toufani.

In what he calls exponential economics or “exonomics,” Toufani breaks the tech-driven changes happening in the modern economy into seven pillars: people, property, production, price, power, policy, and prosperity.

Toufani pointed out that exonomics’ ultimate goal is to connect people and prosperity.

“Technology is empowering all of us, and people seem to be doing what companies used to do and companies seem to be doing what governments used to do,” Toufani said.

The democratizing effect of information technology is enabling small teams to have an outsized impact. He showed a graph of collaboration app Slack’s user growth, and it’s practically a vertical line. A few years old, Slack reaches millions of users, many of whom pay for the service, and was recently valued upwards of $9 billion.

The kicker? Slack was created by a team of 12 software developers. And it’s far from the only such example. more>

Will robots make job training (and workers) obsolete?

By Harry J. Holzer – Automation eliminates the number of workers needed per unit of good or service produced. By reducing unit costs it raises productivity and, in a competitive market, product prices should decline. All else equal, this will raise consumer demand for the good or service in question.

Whether or not this rise in product demand is sufficiently large to raise overall employment for the product depends on whether the fall in workers needed per unit of production is proportionately lesser or greater than the rise in the numbers of units demanded; if lesser, than product demand will rise.

Labor economists believe that workers mostly pay for general skill development (often in the form of lower wages, when the training occurs on the job), while employers are willing to share more in the costs of developing worker skills more specific to their needs.6 A shift away from specific towards more general skill training will thus involve a shift of the costs of training away from employers towards workers (or the public), and less sharing of any risks involved in whether the market rewards those skills over time.

Some workers whose tasks can mostly be performed by machines will be displaced, while demand is enhanced for others who can work along with the new machines—perhaps as technicians or engineers but also in a range of newer tasks that the machines cannot perform, including more complex analysis or social interactions with customers and coworkers. more>

Updates from Adobe

Make It Impactful: Optimizing Images with Lightroom
Adobe – Lightroom allows you to sort photos by multiple criteria—including file name, date, rating, and color label. KATIE Orlinsky likes to sort and cull photos quickly, applying ratings and colors to her photos using key commands (1 to 5 are ratings; 6 to 9 are colors).

After assigning ratings to her images, Orlinsky isolated only images with a certain rating. Then she put those images in a subfolder (by clicking on the plus sign to the right of Folders and choosing Add Subfolder) and continued reviewing. She finally narrowed her choices down to three and then to one.

GARETH Pon imported Orlinsky’s photo and switched to the Develop module (View > Go To Develop). Before he began making adjustments in the Basic panel, he moved the exposure slider left and right to get a feel for the photo. “Ideally, you want to make sure your image is at a good exposure before you start playing with it and making other adjustments,” he says. more>


Supreme Court Just Ruled That Using Social Media Is a Constitutional Right

By Ephrat Livni – Public space in the digital age has no shape and no physical place. But the Supreme Court is now sorting out what that means for free-speech rights.

On June 19, the justices unanimously held that states can’t broadly limit access to social media because cyberspace “is one of the most important places to exchange views.”

“A fundamental First Amendment principle is that all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. Given the fact that social-media platforms in particular allow for this kind of free communication, and that the constitution protects the right to exchange, more>

This is how Big Oil will die

By Seth Miller – The Keystone XL closed thanks to a confluence of technologies that came together faster than anyone in the oil and gas industry had ever seen. It’s hard to blame them — the transformation of the transportation sector over the last several years has been the biggest, fastest change in the history of human civilization, causing the bankruptcy of blue chip companies like Exxon Mobil and General Motors, and directly impacting over $10 trillion in economic output.

And blame for it can be traced to a beguilingly simple, yet fatal problem: the internal combustion engine has too many moving parts. more>

Updates from Boeing

Boeing – The 737 MAX 10 will be the airlines’ most profitable single-aisle airplane, offering the lowest seat costs ever. Like Boeing’s other 737 MAX models, the MAX 10 incorporates the latest technology CFM International LEAP-1B engines, Advanced Technology winglets, Boeing Sky Interior, large flight deck displays, and other improvements to deliver the highest efficiency, reliability and passenger comfort in the single-aisle market.

The entire 737 MAX family has been designed to offer customers exceptional performance, flexibility and efficiency, with lower per-seat costs and an extended range that will open up new destinations in the single-aisle market.

The 737 MAX is the fastest-selling airplane in Boeing history. The first MAX variant, the 737 MAX 8 has entered commercial service and will followed by the MAX 9, MAX 7 and the MAX 10, which will be introduced in the 2020 time frame. more>

Auto slowdown flashes caution lights for manufacturing employment — and Trump

By Mark Muro – After a good run, warning lights are flashing in the auto industry—and that’s not good for the broader manufacturing sector, for heartland metropolitan areas, or for President Trump.

Here’s the problem: after seven years of strong growth following the 2008 economic crisis and federal bailouts of both General Motors (GM) and Chrysler, auto sector output and employment growth have slowed markedly from record levels. Years of catch-up purchases by car buyers have finally plateaued. Likewise, automakers must economize to invest billions in developing the electric and self-driving cars of tomorrow.

And so the layoffs have begun. more>

Updates from GE

Taking Charge: GE Bundles Batteries With Largest Steam And Gas Turbines
By Bruce Watson – Ever since the days of Thomas Edison, utilities have been working on ways to balance the grid. In the absence of utility-scale batteries that could store and release megawatts on demand — they remain expensive — the most common balancing tools today are “peakers.” These power plants, which burn either oil or natural gas, can quickly ramp up to full power and pick up the slack when renewables drop off. But even the fastest peakers take several minutes to reach full power, forcing operators to run them at minimum load to keep them ready. Idling, the turbines burn fuel, pump out greenhouse gas emissions and accumulate wear.

But engineers working at GE have now come up with a clever compromise that works kind of like a hybrid car: gas turbine peakers and batteries wrapped in a single, efficient package with sophisticated power-management software. “With a hybrid gas turbine, you don’t have to run the turbine at all,” says Brian Gutknecht, chief marketing officer for GE Power. “If power is called for, batteries can provide immediate power. Meanwhile, you can start up the gas turbine.” By the time the batteries run out of power, the turbine will be up and running — powering the grid and recharging the batteries. more>