Monday, January 30, 2012

The science of antiaging

Science reporter Jennifer Couzin-Frankel hosted an open public Science Live chat with antiaging experts Jay Olshansky, a professor at the University of Illinois, and Aubrey de Grey, a biomedical gerontologist based in Cambridge, U.K. and chief science officer of SENS Foundation.

The objective: take an entirely new look at aging. Some interesting excerpts:

Jay Olshansky

The goal of research in this area in my view is not to extend life. The goal is to extend healthy life. If we live longer, I consider that a bonus. However, I would encourage you to be asking the same question of those now working to combat heart disease, cancer, and stroke, and those who experience these conditions. Why we we all want to live longer? I believe what we are talking about here are interventions that enable us to live our lives healthy for as long as possible.

There have been some reductions in death rates at older ages as you know, but these are for more difficult to achieve than reductions in death rates at younger ages that occurred in the past. I see no reason why life expectancy at age 85 cannot increase — it’s just that the gains in life expectancy must be small because the overall risk of death that these later ages is extremely high. The longer we live, the harder it is to generate increases in life expectancy — especially at older ages.

Aubrey de Grey

We age simply because the human body is a machine, and it accumulates damage as a normal side-effect of its operation, just as simple man-made machines do. We live longer than most mammals because we have more comprehensive in-built repair and maintenance machinery than they do.

So in a sense, yes, there is a proven way to delay aging: we know that we will do that if we develop medicine that sufficiently comprehensively repairs the damage of aging, just as we can keep cars or houses in good condition well beyond their “warranty period” by that same method. What we don’t yet have, of course, is actual implementation of that repair medicine — but we’re getting there.

Aubrey de Grey: None of my colleagues ever provides actual scientific reasons for disputing my claim that regenerative medicine is likely, even while still quite imperfect; to deliver “longevity escape velocity” leading to indefinite longevity; they just don’t like to admit it. Well, I prefer to tell the truth, even if it may be politically uncomfortable; I’m sure that in the long run it will hasten these therapies’ development.

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What it’ll take to go exascale

The next generation of powerful supercomputers will be used to design high-efficiency engines tailored to burn biofuels, reveal the causes of supernova explosions, track the atomic workings of catalysts in real time, and study how persistent radiation damage might affect the metal casing surrounding nuclear weapons.

Those uses require supercomputers more powerful than any yet designed: These “exascale” computers would be capable of carrying out 1018 floating point operations per second, or an exaflop. That’s nearly 100 times more powerful than today’s biggest supercomputer, Japan’s “K computer,” which achieves 11.3 petaflops (1015 flops).


The largest supercomputers today use about 10 megawatts (MW) of power, enough to power 10,000 homes. If the current trend of power use continues, an exascale supercomputer would require 200 MW, which would take a nuclear power reactor to run it. Solutions: energy-efficient graphical processing units (GPUs), which are very fast at certain types of calculations; and “many-core” chips, each containing potentially hundreds of CPU and GPU cores, allowing them to assign different calculations to specialized processors.


Chip storage density cannot economically keep up with the performance gains of processors. Potential solutions: 3D chips and stack memory chips atop processors to minimize the distance bits need to travel.


Modern processors compute with stunning accuracy, but they aren’t perfect. The average processor will produce one error per year, as a thermal fluctuation or a random electrical spike flips a bit of data from one value to another. No good solutions are in the works.

Software applications

DOE is funding three “co-design” centers, multi-institution cooperatives led by researchers at Los Alamos, Argonne, and Sandia national laboratories. The centers bring together scientific users who write the software code and hardware makers to design complex software and computer architectures that work in the fastest and most energy-efficient manner.


DOE officials estimated that creating an exascale computer would cost $3 billion to $4 billion over 10 years. That amount would pay for one exascale computer for classified defense work, one for nonclassified work, and two 100-petaflops machines to work out some of the technology along the way. Funding has not yet been approved.

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Scientists create femtosecond atomic X-ray laser

Lawrence Livermore Lab (LLNL) scientists and international collaborators have created the shortest, purest X-ray laser pulses ever achieved, fulfilling a 45-year-old prediction and ultimately opening the door to new medicines, devices and materials.

The researchers aimed radiation from the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), located at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), at a cell containingneon gas, setting off an avalanche of femtosecond-duration
X-ray emissions to create a new “atomic X-ray laser” in the kiloelectronvolt energy regime.

“X-rays give us a penetrating view into the world of atoms and molecules,” said physicist Nina Rohringer, a former LLNL postdoc, now a group leader at Max Planck Society’s Advanced Study Group. She collaborated with researchers from SLAC, LLNL and Colorado State University.

The new laser fulfills a 1967 prediction, which proposed that X-ray lasers could be made by first removing inner electrons from atoms and then inducing electrons to fall from higher to lower energy levels, releasing a single color of light in the process. But until 2009, when LCLS turned on, no X-ray sources were powerful enough to create this type of laser.

To make the atomic X-ray laser, LCLS’s powerful X-ray pulses — each a billion times brighter than any available before — knocked electrons out of the inner shells of many of the neon atoms. When other electrons fell in to fill the holes, about one in 50 atoms responded by emitting a “hard X-ray,” which has a very short wavelength (1.46 nanometers). Those X-rays then stimulated neighboring neon atoms to emit more X-rays, creating a domino effect that amplified the laser light 200 million times.

It may be useful for high-resolution spectroscopy and nonlinear X-ray studies.

In the future, Rohringer says she will try to create even shorter-pulse, higher-energy atomic X-ray lasers using oxygen, nitrogen or sulfur gases.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Steve Jobs is beyond extraordinary and almost irreplaceable. Underestimating Bill Gates though is absolutely suicidal. 

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All sorts of computers and devices talking to us and all of us is not avoidable as long Earth breathes. 

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Eric Schmidt: “…Google is the largest systematic innovator at scale I know of…”

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Some are overwhelmed, some doubt, some in shock, some blind. BUT ARE WE LIVING WITHIN A COMPUTER NETWORK SIMULATION?

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Which one is more guilty and responsible for the advent of transbiologicals: a) Commerce, or b) Geopolitics?

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In what the I.T. function / responsibility will be replaced by the mandates of Strong Artificial Intelligence?

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Most seriously, the story is along these lines: You start inputting biological intelligence in order to output transbiological intelligence to every curvature in cosmos.

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There is zero manufacturing might with an absence of technically-minded incumbents.

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A powerful economy and exporter outsources its manufacturing MIGHT overseas to collapse its finance and stay managerially in fashion?

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Population of robotic devices worldwide as stern progression of Strong Artificial Intelligence is hyper-geometrically growing.

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Businesses & executives have long sought for a paperless enterprise & work. Given robotic devices gargantuan spike, Is it sought after a humanless world?

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The dramatic and subtle dynamic forces that ever-overhaul the future TODAY are never unscientific.

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 “…A powerful economy and exporter outsources its manufacturing in order to collapse its finance might and stay managerially in fashion?...”

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yes, technology adoption can give you an instrumental advantage as long as you fully understand the extremely nonlinear and counter-intuitive and fluid progression of the dynamic forces that expel tendencies and trends in order to ultimately ever-retool and re-overhaul the so-called present and the future.

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Probing the brain’s mysteries

Researchers at the Human Connectome Project, the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle and other centers are beginning to chart the brain’s major circuits.

The Human Connectome Project is a five-year, $40 million effort funded by the National Institutes of Health. Researchers at 11 institutions are mapping the largest conduits among brain regions by combining four imaging techniques, including a new method called diffusion magnetic-resonance imaging that allows researchers for the first time to accurately map the white matter of nerve fibers.

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Could lab-grown meat soon be the solution to the world’s food crisis?

Scientists are producing small quantities of “cultured meat” in research laboratories. Mark Post of Maastricht University, one of the pioneers in the field, claims he will be able to produce a cultured burger by the end of the year.

Instead of getting meat from animals raised in pastures, he wants to grow steaks in lab conditions, directly from muscle stem cells. If successful, the technology will transform the way we produce food. “We want to turn meat production from a farming process to a factory process,” he explained.

Prof Post is using cells called myosatellites, a form of muscle stem cell that is normally used by the body to repair damaged muscle. Myosatellite cells can be extracted from a mature animal without killing it and have numerous advantages.

Cultured meat — also known as in vitro meat or lab-grown meat — draws on the science of stem cell technology used in medicine. Stem cells are extracted from a pig, say, and converted to pig muscle cells. These muscle cells are then cultured on a scaffold with nutrients and essential vitamins and grown to desired quantities.

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Mind-altering drugs research call from Prof David Nutt

Former U.K. government drugs adviser Prof. David Nutt of Imperial College London has said that “overwhelming” regulations should be relaxed to enable researchers to experiment on mind-altering drugs.

Nutt told BBC News that magic mushrooms, LSD, ecstasy, cannabis, and mephedrone all have potential therapeutic applications, but were not being studied because of the restrictions placed on researching illegal drugs.

Nutt was fired by the home secretary from his government advisory role three years ago for saying that ecstasy and LSD were less harmful than alcohol.

He says his new research indicated that there were no “untoward effects” from taking magic mushrooms and that it should not be illegal to possess them.

He said the harm from illegal drugs could be equal to
harm in other parts of life, such as horse-riding, hence his invented term “equasy” or “equine addiction syndrome.”

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Faster three-processor 3D chips

EPFL scientists are developing an industry-ready prototype of a 3D chip and high-performance, reliable manufacturing method intended to reduce interconnect length (distance between chip circuits) and speed up data exchange.

The chip comprises three or more processors stacked vertically and connected together — resulting in increased speed and multitasking, more memory and calculating power, better functionality, and wireless connectivity.

The processors are connected vertically by several hundred very thin copper microtubes. These wires pass through tiny openings, called Through-Silicon-Vias (TSV), made in the core of the silicon layer of each chip.

The team had to overcome a number of difficulties, such as the fragility of the copper connections and supports because they are miniaturized to such an extreme degree (about 50 microns in thickness).

The technology will initially be made available to academic research teams for further development, before being commercialized.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New automated tomography imaging process speeds up whole-brain mapping

Serial Two-Photon Tomography (STP tomography), a new technology developed by neuroscientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) and MIT, significantly speeds up the process of acquiring highly detailed anatomical images of whole brains. Until now, the process has been painstakingly slow and available only to a handful of highly specialized research teams.

“The new technology should greatly facilitate the systematic study of neuroanatomy in mouse models of human brain disorders such as schizophrenia and autism,” says CSHL Assoc. Prof. Pavel Osten.

Tomography refers to any process (including the familiar CAT and PET scans used in medical diagnostics) that images an object section by section, by shooting penetrating waves through it.  Computers then produce a 3D rendering (of the brain, in this case). Two-photon imaging is used in biology laboratories in conjunction with fluorescent biomarkers to illuminate specific cell types or other anatomical features. The two-photon method allows deeper optical penetration into the tissue being sampled than conventional confocal microscopy.

STP tomography achieves high-throughput fluorescence imaging of whole mouse brains via robotic integration of the two fundamental steps — tissue sectioning and fluorescence imaging. At 10x magnification of brain tissue samples, the researchers were able to achieve fast imaging at a resolution sufficient to visualize the distribution and morphology of green-fluorescent protein-labeled neurons, including their dendrites and axons, Osten reports.

A full set of data, including final images, could be obtained by the team in 6.5 to 8.5 hours per brain, depending on the resolution.  These sets each were comprised of 260 top-to-bottom (coronal) slices of mouse brain tissue, which were assembled by computer into 3D renderings capable of a wide range of “warping” to reveal hidden structures and features.

“The technology is a practical one that can be used for scanning at various levels of resolution, ranging from 1 to 2 microns to less than a micron,” Osten says.  Scans at the highest resolution level take about 24 hours to collect.  This makes possible an impressive saving of time, Osten says, compared to methods that are now in use, which would take an experienced technician about a week to collect a set of whole-brain images at high resolution.

“What is most exciting about this tool is its application in the study of mouse models of human illness, which we are already doing in my lab,” Osten says.  “We are focusing on making comparisons between different mouse models of schizophrenia and autism.  Many susceptibility genes have been identified in both disorders. Dr. Alea Mills at CSHL has published a mouse model of one genetic aberration in autism — a region on chromosome 16 — and soon we will have tens of models, each showing a different aberration.”

The researchers  conclude that STP tomography is sufficiently mature to be used in whole-brain mapping efforts such as the ongoing Allen Mouse Brain Atlas project. “We will want to compare these mice, and that is essentially why we designed STP tomography — to automate and standardize the process of collecting whole-brain images in which different cell-types or circuit tracings have been performed.  This makes possible comparisons across different mouse models in an unbiased fashion.”

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How stem cell implants help heal traumatic brain injury

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston simulated the impact of trauma on human neurons to identify key molecular mechanisms by which implanted human neural stem cells — stem cells that are in the process of developing into neurons but have not yet taken their final form — aid recovery from traumatic injury to neurons.

Traumatic axonal injury involves damage to axons and dendrites, the filaments that extend out from the bodies of the neurons. The damage continues after the initial trauma, since the axons and dendrites respond to injury by withdrawing back to the bodies of the neurons.

“Axons and dendrites are the basis of neuron-to-neuron communication, and when they are lost, neuron function is lost,” said UTMB professor Ping Wu. “In this study, we found that our stem cell transplantation both prevents further axonal injury and promotes axonal regrowth, through a number of previously unknown molecular mechanisms.”

The UTMB researchers  determined previously that their neural stem cells secreted a substance called glial derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), which seemed to help injured rat brains recover from injury. They used proteomic techniques to compare injured rat brains with injured rat brains into which neural stem cells had been transplanted.

“We identified about 400 proteins that respond differently after injury and after grafting with neural stem cells,” Wu said. “When we grouped them using a state-of-the-art Internet database, we found that a group of cytoskeleton proteins was being changed, and in particular one called alpha-smooth muscle actin, which had never been reported in the neurons before.”

Because so many of the proteins that changed were related to axonal structure and function, the UTMB scientists then focused on traumatic axonal injury. Initially working with rats, they confirmed that axons and dendrites suffered damage from trauma; implanted neural stem cells reduced this harm, as well as lowering levels of alpha-smooth muscle actin inside neurons that were raised after trauma.

The researchers also placed human neurons on a flexible membrane that was then suddenly distended with a precisely calibrated puff of gas. Their goal was to simulate the sudden compression and stretching forces exerted on brain cells by a blow to the head.

Initial results from this “rapid stretch injury model” matched those seen in rat experiments, with GDNF protecting axons and dendrites from additional damage in the period after trauma and significantly reducing alpha-smooth muscle actin levels boosted by the simulated injury. In addition, they found evidence linking alpha-smooth muscle actin with RhoA, a small protein that blocks axonal growth after injury. They also found that one component of a protein known as calcineurin interacted with GDNF to protect axons and dendrites in the RSI model.

“We’re quite excited about these discoveries, because they’re highly novel — we now know much more about how GDNF protects axons and dendrites from further injury and promotes their re-growth after trauma,” Wu said.  “This kind of detailed study is essential to developing safe and effective therapies for traumatic brain injury.”

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Metamaterials generate gecko-like adhesive force

Physicists predict that metamaterials ought to generate an entirely new kind of force that can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch, Technology Review Physics arXiv Blog reports.

John Zhang and colleagues at the University of Southampton predict that a powerful optical force can exist between a metal or dielectric plate and a metamaterial, a substance with optical properties that have been engineered to control light in specific ways.

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The Robots of CES

Meet a cycling android, a remote-controlled orb, and other robotic curiosities from last week’s Consumer Electronics Show.

Murata Boy, made by Japanese electronics manufacturer muRata, was built to showcase the company’s sensors and other technologies.

The cycling robot stands 50 centimeters high and can stay balanced on the bike even when it’s stationary, thanks to the flywheel in its chest; input from gyroscopes and accelerometers provide it with a sense of balance.

The robot can recover if given a light shove, can ride up a 25-degree slope, and can go backward. The most recent version of Murata Boy showcases its maker’s energy-efficient technologies—it can be charged wirelessly and enter an efficient sleep mode.

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Mapping the Earth in 3D

Earth observation satellites have completely mapped the entire land surface of Earth for the first time in a German Aerospace Center (DLR) project designed to create the world’s first single-source, high-precision, 3D digital-elevation model of Earth .

The radar systems on two satellites views the ground from two different points in space, achieving depth perception in a manner similar to binocular vision in humans. By mid-2013, the satellites will have imaged the complete land surface area of Earth, roughly 150 million square kilometers, several times.

The high-resolution radar data will be be used to address questions of land usage and vegetation, hydrology, geology and glaciology, information about the height of the snowline or the change in ice masses of the two polar regions, and geological maps of regions subject to volcanic and/or earthquake activity. The speed of ships or road vehicles can be measured, as can changes in the natural world. The work performed by these two radar satellites is also valuable for agriculture.

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Cracking open the scientific process

Peer review can take months, journal subscriptions can be prohibitively costly, and a handful of gatekeepers limit the flow of information. It is an ideal system for sharing knowledge, said the quantum physicist Michael Nielsen, Ph.D.,  only “if you’re stuck with 17th century technology.”

Dr. Nielsen, who left a successful science career to write Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science, and other advocates for “open science” say science can accomplish much more, much faster, in an environment of friction-free collaboration over the Internet.

Open-access archives and journals like arXiv and the Public Library of Science (PLoS) have sprung up in recent years. And a social networking site called ResearchGate — where scientists can answer one another’s questions, share papers and find collaborators — is rapidly gaining popularity.

On Thursday, researchers will hold the sixth annual ScienceOnline conference.

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Friday, January 13, 2012



We are in for a very exciting year ahead. 2012 is a year where many competing trends will collide, and through those collisions we will see new pathways emerge.

At the same time, many new trends are forming, some with enough steam to form entirely new movements, others that will run their course and splinter into other emerging ways of doing business.

The “new normal” is quickly becoming the “nothing normal,” and our daily routines, the things we use to maintain our own sanity, will need to morph and change if we hope to stay competitive in the emerging job market and even stay current in our own social circles.

With this in mine, I’d like to take you on a journey into some of the trends I’ll be watching in 2012 as the tectonic plates of change inch their way into new positions. Here is the first half of the 28 major trends to watch in 2012 and beyond.

1.) Retail 2.0 – People still like getting out of the house and being around other people, but the retail world hasn’t quite figured out what people are looking for. New ways of thinking about Retail 2.0 will form around phrases like “experiential entertainment,” “active engagement,” and “interaction with experts.”

Some of the major expenses involved in traditional retail have been maintaining inventories and shelf space. Look for a new breed of retails shops that carry no inventory, only product demonstration stations with the ability to order on the spot (and receive a discount). Most will be pay-to-play product placement stations with experts on hand to answer questions. Tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft will be paving the way for these kinds of storefronts. I’ll be writing more on this topic in the weeks ahead. Other thoughts on this topic here.

2.) Crowdfunding – Even though some sites like Kickstarter and Quirky have been getting traction in this space, Congress’ recent effort to pass official Crowdfunding legislation will unleash an entirely new Pandora’s box full of options for entrepreneurs hoping to launch their latest ventures. Many startups are waiting on the sidelines for this new option to kick in, so look for a surge of activity to take place as an entirely new finance industry begins to take shape.

3.) The Persistent “Big Lie” Opportunity – Throughout history we have seen any number of cultural truisms spring to life that were simply not true. If something is repeated enough times, society will begin to believe it. With our ability to post and repost a novel concept, new cultural memes can be formed virtually over night. Yet at the same time, our attempts to debunk any myth with over a million mentions online often runs into a murky wall of ambivalence. For this reason, even though they have been scientifically disproven, “big lies” such as these will persist:
•    “In the future everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame”
•    “You only use 10% of your brain”
•    “The Internet is making us dumber”
•    “The more you sweat, the more calories you burn”
•    “Listening to classical music turns babies into geniuses”
•    “Alcohol kills brain cells”
•    “Being skinny means you’re fit and healthy
•    “Your IQ is fixed and stays the same throughout your life

If you thought some of the statements above were true, you’re not alone. Many of us still do even though they have been proven false. Look for a new breed of services to appear that will offer solutions for globally debunking the persistent “big lies.”

4.) Emerging Data Marketplace – The data that you currently own can become far more valuable when you mix it with other data. As an example, if you add weather conditions to your customer data, chances are you will find some connection between weather patterns and your customers’ purchasing habits.

Acquiring datasets such as these is presently very time consuming, expensive, and generally a pain to do. Look for emerging big data marketplaces, such as Microsoft’s Azure, that will come complete with directories of the available datasets, along with counselors who can help coach you through the maze.

5.) Smartphone Peripherals – The whole mobile apps revolution began in March of 2008 when Steve Jobs announced the software developer’s kit for the Apple iPhone. When Apple’s App Store officially opened on July 11, 2008, there were a whopping 552 apps to choose from. Over 60 million apps were downloaded within the first 3 days and tech companies around the world began to sense a market shift, and we now have well over a million apps to choose from.

While apps have been getting tons of attention, the piece getting very little is the exploding field of smartphone peripherals that extend our current communication systems far beyond simple person-to-person communications. Virtual every object we come into contact with has the potential for being controlled by our smartphone, and interface designers are working overtime to make this happen.

Look for literally thousands of new peripheral devices to hit the market over the coming year or two.

6.) The Coming Age of Micro-Incomers –, or “Twitch,” as it’s called by founder Justin Kan, was built as a way to make professional video gamers more mainstream. It has a partner program similar to YouTube, where the most popular gamers can make money by running commercials during their live streams. Yes, people can actually make money by playing games.
While most of them will not make full-time incomes, they will find it relatively easy to become part of the emerging “micro-incomer” crowd. Here are a few other ways people can make partial and even full-time incomes online:

•    Sell stuff on eBay or Craig’s List
•    Sell photos to stock photo sites
•    Amazon’s Mechanical Turk
•    Transcribing audio files
•    Become a virtual assistant
•    Interview people and sell the interview
•    Enter online competitions
•    Write articles on

None of these are get-rich-quick schemes, but they can make all the difference between getting by and being destitute. Look for training centers to emerge with a “micro-incomers” kind of focus.

7.) Data Visualization Trends – “I remember seeing a terrific video on wireless power but cannot seem to find it no matter what I do.” Mental faux pax like this are all too common.

For most of us, it’s very difficult to image what information looks like, and when we save a file somewhere, its very often very difficult for us to find it again. Data visualization has been a problem plaguing the online world for years and will become even more pronounced as we move further into the cloud.

Data visualization provides tools for two primary functions – explanation and exploration. While business people might think of visualization as the end result, scientists also using forms of visualization to formulate questions, and for discovering new features of a dataset. More importantly, our ability to find and work with data needs to be so easy that average everyday people can work with it. Look for a few critical new offerings in this area to revolutionize how we store and retrieve the information that will operate and manage our future selves.

8.) Regionalization of the Internet – In the 1990s the Internet was greeted as the New New Thing: It would erase national borders, give rise to communal societies that invented their own rules, and undermine the power of governments. But not so fast!
Even though the Internet began as a utopian dream of a unified world without government intervention, today’s Internet is moving towards the opposite end of the spectrum. In many cases, Internet companies not only welcome governmental restrictions; they are being used as agents of government policy.

The future Internet will see a move towards even more border sensitivity, with hyper-location based services to both improve relevancy of the user experience, and also put themselves in good standing for regional business and government contracts.

9.) The End of an Era – Faster than Ever – When Dell announced it would no longer be selling netbook computers, it foretold the end of an era. The cute little laptops surged in popularity and came crashing back to earth in a timeframe best measured in months, not decades. Tablet computers, starting with the Apple iPad, made them instantly obsolete.
Our increased awareness of what’s hot and what’s not gives us instant ability to turn our backs on “the old” and to begin embracing “the new.” When Netflix announce they were changing their business model, they instantly got the cold shoulder and had to reverse course. RIM’s Blackberries, once the hottest product in the connected business marketplace, got blindsided by the iPhone and Android and has been plummeting ever since.

The speed with which new companies can emerge, is also the speed with which they can become dismantled. Today’s hotness can become tomorrow’s coldness in a matter of months. So take a close look at the top 100 emerging new companies and know that less than 20% will still be around five years from now. (By the way, I just made that statistic up. Soon to be another one of the Big Lies.)

10.) Poor Lifestyles Hurting Long-term Health – In the past three or so decades, women have increased their calorie intake by 22% and men by 10%, with carbohydrates and sugar-sweetened beverages being major sources of the unnecessary calories.
The inevitable result is that more than two-thirds of U.S. adults and about one-third of children are over the ideal body weight, with the extra layers of fat putting a major strain on people’s hearts. The trend is particularly concerning in children. Today, about 20% of U.S. kids are obese, compared with just 4% thirty years ago.

Neither adults nor children are exercising enough and about 21% of men and 18% of women still smoke. About 20% of high school students also have taken up the smoking habit. This means that 94% of U.S. adults, and that’s almost everyone, have heightened risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

However, as always, every problem creates an opportunity, and every one of the identifiable risk factors will become a focal point of activity until each of the problems has become a thing of the past.

11.) Reversing the Obesity Trends – New research documents a 5.5% drop in the number of obese kids in K-8 classes in New York City’s public schools from 2006-2007 to 2010-1011.

It’s no secret that reversing the childhood obesity epidemic in the U.S. will require a long-term effort. Since 1970, the rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. has tripled. There have been hints that these rates were leveling off in New York City in recent years, but the new study reports an actual decrease. The bad part is that no one knows exactly why it’s happening.

Look for a trend where researchers flock to every new community that shows progress, to uncover the clues. Also look for the answers to be different than what “the experts” have been telling us in the past.

12.) Fast-Niche Online Universities – We are seeing more and more niche professions without a clear path for getting there. At least not through any traditional University programs. These include everything from social networking experts, to product evangelists, to drone operators, to business colony managers.

Through projects like Khan Academy, MIT OpenCourseWare, and iTunesU, the Internet has made it easier for anyone to be a student. Now it’s also making it easier for anyone to become a teacher. Several platforms have launched within the last couple years that democratize teaching.

Online universities such as Udemy, Learnable, Tildee, Skillshare, and Sophia are beginning to capture market share. Look for large associations and businesses, as the early adopters, to start creating their own path-to-profession courseware to fill the demand for rebooting skills in a short timeframe.

13.) Teaching Entrepreneurship and the Rise of the Accelerator – Can you teach entrepreneurship? People like Eric Ries, author of “The Lean Startup,” think so. He also thinks that entrepreneurship must be taught to far more people if the American economy is to successfully pivot towards a post-manufacturing era.

But as people who have started a business know, is very difficult to teach the emotional side of business, and startups invariably become extremely emotional at one time or another. And the only good counseling for a person going through the trials of getting a business off the ground are other well-seasoned entrepreneurs. That’s why accelerators like Techstars and Y-Combinator have been gaining so much attention.

With their rapid incubation processes, Techstars and Y-Combinator have quickly becoming a natural farm club for VCs in the high tech arena. Look for a variety of other vertical niche accelerators, in fields like healthcare, education, finance, and other sectors, to materialize.

14.) Information Doesn’t Want to be Free – In 1984 at a Hackers Conference, Silicon Valley futurist Stuart Brand was the first to use the phrase “Information wants to be free” in response to a point made by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak but continued, “On the other hand, information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life.”

John Perry Barlow, lyricist for the Grateful Dead, keyed in on the first half of the phrase, “Information wants to be free” in a keynote speech at an Open Source Internet Symposium in 1992. This set the stage for an entirely new era of free-thinking “free” advocates. This became another one of society’s “big lies.”

There is always a cost to “free.” While it may not extract a payment from your bank account, there is always a “time” cost involved. Without some amount of friction, the volume of information you have to sift through skyrockets and even with good search technology, your time-costs climb dramatically.

The days of “free” thinking are numbered. Look for this mindset to shift over the coming years.

Understanding trends is more of an art form than an exact science. But for those who can read the tealeaves, and make bold moves, leveraging trends can give them a serious competitive advantage.

As an example, LinkedIn just posted its annual list of top buzzwords, the ones most commonly used on their members’ professional profiles. The top word people in the U.S. use to describe themselves on LinkedIn is “Creative.” Last year “Creative” didn’t even make it into the top ten, where “Extensive Experience” topped the list.

And it’s not just the U.S. This was the most used word in Britain, Canada, Netherlands, and Germany. So what business decisions will you make that tie into people’s recast dreams of being “creative?”
Obviously, trends don’t happen in one-year cycles. They are constantly evolving, and all of the content below is, in one way or another, already happening. Last week we began our journey with trends 1-14 of the “28 Major Trends,” and this week we will finish it. Here are trends 15 – 28.

15.) Exploding Smartphone Industry – With a global population exceeding 7 billion people, we have seen the mobile phone industry mushroom to include over 5 billion members. Smartphones remain a small subset, owned by around 10% of all those with mobile phones. But not for much longer. We are about to see virtually all communication devices replaced with smartphones over the coming decade.

Leading the charge is Google with over 700,000 Android devices being activated daily. Over the past year, Google activated more than 255 million devices compared to 105 million Apple activations. Admittedly this isn’t a true apples-to-apples comparison (no pun intended) because Google doesn’t make their own phones and Apple does.

As smartphones and other devices evolve in this exploding market, look for a near-term push into near-field communications, 4G, and flexible bendable devices.

Critical to the growth of this mobile device market is the global supply of rare earth metals, which China currently controls 95% of known reserves. Looking out for its own self-interests, Chinas has been ratcheting down exports of these metals by 12% per year for the past 5 years. Their reluctance to export enough to meet global demand has touched off a world-wide hunt for new sources with promising finds being uncovered in Canada, Argentina, South Korea, and California. Look for several new mines to come online in coming years and China’s stranglehold on the industry to plummet.

16.) Hyper-Local Urban Farming Going Underground – A few years ago, a study by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University reported that between 1980 and 2001, the distance food traveled from farm-to-table increased 25%, ranging from 1,500 to 3,000 miles. Since then we have seen a strong push to localize and even hyper-localize the growing of food supplies.
The drive to make all food supplies local has touched off a number of battles to rewrite municipal codes to accommodate everything from rooftop gardens, to backyard cows and chickens, to aquaponic and aquaculture projects, to experimental vertical farms. The next shift with see crops grown underground.

Dutch-based PlantLab recently announced it has figured out how to triple plant yield in a sunless, rainless environment housed in their underground research facilities. PlantLab uses artificial light and only 10% of the water typically needed. Using the correct spectrum from their LED lighting system has increased photosynthesis efficiency to 12-15% percent from sunlight’s 9% range.

By keeping the plants in a contained environment, PlantLab can also recycle evaporated water, which helps them grow crops using just one-tenth the water needed in traditional greenhouses. As an addition bonus, pesticides are no longer necessary. Production facilities can be built almost anywhere – from the deserts of Sahara to the icy plains of the Artic.

17.) The Gamification of Business – Currently a huge buzzword in techy circles, gamification is moving mainstream. Simply defined, gamification involves applying game techniques such as leveling, rewards and competition, to any human experience.
Many limit their thinking about gamification to mobile apps but it has far broader implications. Imbedded game features such as leaderboards, achievements, and skill-based learning are becoming common in day-to-day business processes, driving adoption, performance and engagement.

One recent example is the Nike campaign to gamify the process of personal training. People who visit the site, enter details of their running times and the routes they were on, and compete for prizes with others around the world.

Another example is the geo-location service Foursquare provides which encourages people to use its check-in technology by giving them an incentive, when they checked in to a certain venue. Many restaurants have picked up on this and offer free cupcakes or desserts to customers who talk about their experience on Foursquare and other social networks.

It’s all about adding fun to the daily tedium of living. Look for gamification to start making major inroads into college offerings as well as non-traditional K-12 educational programs.

18.) Going Cashless – Signs of our emerging cashless society has been popping-up in small doses since 2005. And while 2012 may not be the year that consumers instantly go cashless, it will be the year that major players like Google and MasterCard roll out their cashless initiatives around the world.

For consumers, the initial attraction will be convenience, but eventually mobile payments will create an entirely new data-driven eco-system of rewards, purchase history, daily-deals and more. Key to this movement will be Near Field Communication (NFC), a technology that allows for encrypted data to be exchanged between two devices in close proximity (”near field”) to each other.

Here are a few of the changes happening in this market over the past few months:
•    In October 2011, the Google Wallet, a free, NFC-enabled mobile payment system became operational at select retailers across the US. Licensing MasterCard’s PayPass technology, shoppers simply tap their mobile device on special terminals at points-of-sale to pay instantly.
•    In June 2011, PayPal demonstrated its own mobile payment app for Android devices.
•    Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s latest venture, Square, is an electronic payments service which enables users to accept credit card payments by using a portable card-reader device that plugs in to iPhone, iPad or Android devices. Both the Square card-reader and app are free, although there is a 2.75% charge for each payment made. In November 2011, Richard Branson and Visa became investors in Square.
•    In June 2011, Sweedish-based iZettle was launched to enable consumers to accept anywhere-anytime credit card payments. The iZettle app works with iPhones and iPads. Bills can also be paid or money transferred using this service.

Google CEO Larry Page sees himself as the next great visionary, following in the footsteps of Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison, as he attempts to rewrite the rules for major industries by pushing initiatives like driverless vehicles, wireless power, and a cashless society. With our hero-based culture, look for Larry Page to emerge as the heart and soul of the movement to turn virtually every electronic device into a payment device.

19.) Ending the Dream of Home Ownership – If you had to choose between starting your own company, traveling around the world, or owning your own home, which would you choose?

Attitudes among Gen X and Gen Y are increasingly shifting towards creating a full life experience rather than settling down and building a nest egg.

Home ownership in the U.S. dropped to 66.9% last year from a high of 70% in 2005, and some are forecasting it will drop as low as 62%, a level not seen since the Census began tracking this data in 1963, as the hurdles to owning a home increase.

Naturally, this begs the question: Is a 62% home ownership rate so bad? It’s still far higher than in most European countries. And, more importantly, why is it assumed we need to own our own homes?

Trillions of dollars have been spent propping up the American Dream of owning our own home. But the dream is shifting, so look for Congress to quit spending money on it. Instead, look for new experimental approached for redefining the relationship between people and the places they’re living in. The stage has been set, it only a matter of time before a new paradigm unfolds.

20.) Accomplishment-Based Education - Writing a book, receiving a patent, or starting a business are all symbols of achievement in today’s world. But being the author of a book that sells 10,000 copies, or inventing a product that 100,000 people buy, or building a business that grosses over $1 million in annual sales are all significant accomplishments that are far more meaningful than their symbolic starting points.
Much of what happens in today’s colleges and universities is based on “symbols of achievement,” not actual accomplishments.

Students that enter a classroom will typically find themselves immersed in an academic competition, a competition that pits students against each other to produce results that best match the teacher’s expectations. Only rarely will the work product of a student in a classroom rise to any notable level of significance. Completing a class is nothing more than a symbol of achievement.

Look for this to change quickly as the tools for creating and managing “accomplishments” remotely become more pervasive.

21.) Driverless Cars and Autonomous Vehicles – The next revolution in transportation will be here soon, and it won’t be streetcars, monorails, Segway’s, or electric vehicles. It will be self-driving cars, and the adoption of this technology will change virtually everything in the field of transportation planning.

The idea of jumping into a vehicle and having it shuttle you to your destination without anyone “driving” it may sound like pure fantasy to some, but it’s far closer than most of us think.

•    Google’s self-driving car project has already racked up over 200,000 driverless miles on highways. Google reports these cars have required intervention by a human co-pilot only about once every 1,000 miles and the goal is to reduce this rate to once in 1,000,000 miles.
•    In 2010 VisLab ran VIAC (VisLab Intercontinental Autonomous Challenge), a 13,000 km test run of autonomous vehicles. In this competition, 4 driverless electric vans successfully drove from Italy to China, arriving at the Shanghai Expo on October 28, 2010. This was the first intercontinental trip ever completed by an autonomous vehicle.
•    Many car companies including General Motors, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, and Volvo have begun early testing of driverless car systems.
•    General Motors has stated that they will have a driverless model ready for final testing by 2015, going on sale officially in 2018.

Even though car companies are making plans for the transition, planning departments are not. Most local and regional transportation departments are working with models that assume 20 years from now transportation systems will be basically the same, with only slight variations around the edges.

Driverless cars will be far safer. Human-based foibles like speeding, inattention, inexperience, impairment and fatigue all contribute to road accidents. Driverless cars will remove the human variable from the system. Along with fewer accidents will come the eventual elimination of traffic cops, traffic courts, stoplights, and parking lots.
Look for rapid advancement in this area and for Google to make a play to design an Android-like operating system for all driverless cars.

22.) The Drone Side of Life - Sometime over the coming months you can expect to see a version of the following help wanted ad:

“Help Wanted: Full-time aerial drone pilots needed to help manager our growing fleet of surveillance, delivery, and communication drones. We are also looking for drone repair techs, drone dispatchers, and drone salesmen.”

In 2010 the U.S. Military spent $4.5 billion on drones, increasing to $4.8 billion in 2011.
With this kind of focused spending, military drone technology has improved dramatically over the past decade. But as a technology, future drones will go well beyond military uses. The stage is being set for thousands of everyday uses in business and industry all over the world.

With basic drone hardware being matched up with smartphones, and the bottom-up design capabilities of app developers around the world, drones will quickly move from the realm of personal toys to functional necessities that we interact with on a daily basis.
For those of you looking to switch careers, the drone marketplace will create one of the hot new industries of the future.

23.) The Coming Transparency Wars – Can you feel the layers being lifted? Transparency is entering our lives in unusual ways and much like having individual veils lifted from a multi-veiled garment; we are now able to see the world around us with far greater clarity.

Recently, several misguided thinkers have proposed the notion that the more transparent our society becomes, the better off we’ll be. Using the logic that a self-watching society will be a safer one, they advocate for radical transparency. This is simply not true. And the privacy advocates will not let it happen.

The greatest danger of too much transparency is that we will become consumed by watching each other, and somewhere along the way, we will lose sight of the big picture. Each day will be filled with constant drama as we exhaust ourselves trying to right every wrong, and solve every problem.

We are all terminally human and have very limited ability to improve who we are simply because someone else may be watching. However, drawing the correct dividing line between privacy and transparency will not come easy. This will continue to be a volatile battleground for many years to come. More details here and here.

24.) Dismantling the Justice System - In a country that claims to be the land of the free, the number of people under the control of the U.S. corrections system has exploded over the last 25 years to more than 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 U.S. adults, according to a report by the Pew Center on the States. The actual number of people behind bars rose to 2.3 million, nearly five times more than the world’s average.

A new study by the University of North Carolina now shows a shocking 30% of all young people get arrested at least once by age 23.

People who enter prison cannot lead productive lives. Removing too many from wage-earning positions, turning them into wards of the state, is a recipe for economic disaster.
We are seeing some experimentation and improvements around the edges but so far nothing major. Even with its massive inertia to maintain the status quo, public tolerance has reached its limit for this kind of needless expenditure and constant friction between the government and its citizens.

Look for this to become one of the long-term movements splintering away from the Occupy Wall Street crowd. Ironically, the biggest changes in this area will happen when driverless cars start eliminating the need for street cops.
25.) Going Waitless – In our highly competitive business and social environments, we have a need to be active and engaged at all times. And waiting in line, for virtually anything, becomes irritating.

For this reason, Los Angeles-based QLess Inc. has devised a text-messaging service to help eliminate the wait.

The department of motor vehicles seems to be the epitome of mind-numbingly long wait times and Johnson County, Kansas was one of the first to implement QLess to alerts customers when it was their turn.
With this type of service, people don’t have to be present as the grueling minutes click away. Many customers now go grocery shopping, while waiting in a virtual line, or come in closer to their estimated appointment time.

Since implementing the system three years ago, customers no longer camp out on the floor and spend far less time complaining.

Look for wait-less systems to spring to life in doctor offices, auto service shops, pharmacies, Disneyland, and virtually every place in society where the wait needs to dissipate.

26.) Power of 10 Interface - The distance between information and our brain is getting shorter.

Twenty years ago if you had access to a large information base, such as the Library of Congress, and someone asked you a series of questions, your task would have been to pour through the racks of books to come up with the answers. The time involved could have easily have been 10 hours per question.

Today, if we are faced with uncovering answers from a digital Library of Congress, using keyboards and computer screens, the time-to-answer process can easily be reduced to as little as 10 minutes.

The next iteration of our information-to-brain interface will give us the power to find answers in as little as 10 seconds. Look for major advancements in “smart contacts” in the coming months to help close the gap towards the 10-second goal.

27.) Emergence of Food Printers - 3D printing is a form of object creation technology where the shape of the objects are formed through a process of building up layers of material until all of the details are in place – a relatively slow process often requiring hours to complete.

Three-dimensional printing makes it as cheap to create single items as it is to produce thousands of items and thus undermines traditional economies of scale. It may have as profound an impact on the world as the coming of the factory did during the Henry Ford era.

Marcelo Coelho and Amit Zoran, a couple ingenious minds at MIT working on the Cornucopias Project, have created a very visual way for us to imagine next generation food that will come from similar 3D printers. Each of their designs proposes an advanced way of mixing ingredients, forming new compounds, and building a layer-by-layer aesthetically pleasing menu item with perfect texture and shape.

Look for continuing progress in the area of 3D food printers, even though the Jetson’s style food synthesizers may still be a few years off.

28.) The Self-Health Movement – No one cares more about your health than you do. So it was only a matter of time until someone invented the self-diagnostic tools, self-monitoring devices, and self-analysis systems to put “self” into the center of the healthcare equation.

Apple’s App Store currently offers 9,000 mobile health apps, along with 1,500 cardio fitness apps, over 1,300 diet apps, more than 1,000 stress and relaxation apps, and over 650 women’s health apps.

But apps are only part of the equation. Peripheral devices are setting the stage for the true self-revolution:

•    All Apples stores now carry the Withings’ Blood Pressure Monitor, a peripheral device that plugs into the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch and takes the user’s blood pressure. Data can be sent directly to a doctor or saved (confidentially) to the cloud.
•    Lifelens has created a smartphone app to diagnose malaria. The app can magnify a drop of blood (captured via a simple finger prick) and identify whether malarial parasites are present.
•    In October 2011, Ford demonstrated three SYNC apps offering in-car health monitoring for drivers to track chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and hay fever.
•    Also in October 2011, AT&T announced it will begin selling clothes embedded with health monitors, able to track the wearer’s vital signs – heart rate and body temperature – and upload them to a dedicated website.
•    The X Prize Foundation is co-sponsoring a $10 million prize for the best mobile device allowing consumers to diagnose their own diseases.

Every new peripheral device will create a market for hundreds of new apps, and we haven’t even scratched the surface of what will seem like a massive influx of brilliant new peripherals over the coming months. Healthcare industry execs should be nervous.


I will end with a few comments about the new systems that will be needed to tie all of these trends together.

We are currently out of balance between backward-looking problem-solving and forward-looking accomplishments. Forward accomplishments help erase past problems. They solve problems in a different way. We need more forward-looking accomplishments, and our greatest undertakings in the future will come in this area.
This need for future accomplishments will also dictate a need for new and better systems to regulate, manage, and leverage the activities surrounding them. These systems will need to be global in nature, and over time, a few will emerge to challenge the power of nations. National systems are already putting the brakes on emerging global systems, but it will only serve as a short-term delay of the inevitable.
The era of global systems is coming very soon.

By Futurist Thomas Frey
Author of “Communicating with the Future” – the book that changes everything

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