30 September 2008

SELCO's Hande @ MIT ~ Energy for the Poor

MIT's Energy Initiative is hosting SELCO founder Harish Hande on Tues October 7th 4:15p-5:45p in 66-110 to speak about providing Energy Services for the Poor.
The poor in the world pay more for energy services, which are often unreliable and from unsustainable sources. There are ways to provide the poor with energy services from sustainable energy sources using innovative combinations of technology and finance. Renewable energies, such as solar, can provide solutions for a better environment and help to alleviate poverty.

29 September 2008

Fundamentally Irresponsible vs. The Pontificator

Beyond the Big O vs. Mighty M fight for the Presidency, US citizens are laden with a collateral choice between Fundamentally Irresponsible Ms Ditzy P vs. Pontification Incarnate Joe Blah-Blah-Blah. Wow. This is what the political "process" graces us all with. How awful. Something is seriously wrong with democracy when such "talent" rises to positions of potential leadership. There must be a better way.

Don't Panic! ~ Hitchhiker's Guide to Stockmarkets

A little historical stockmarket context courtesy Professor Charles Kindleberger, the Douglas Adams of academic economics...

28 September 2008

Learning to Hunt ~ DIY Education of Cheetah Cubs

The Daily Mail has an amazing photo essay by wildlife photographer Andy Rouse showing a cheetah mother demo'ing to her cubs how to hunt and kill.

New Barbary Coast ~ Send In The Marines, Again

Today's Somalia is like the Barbary Coast of two centuries ago -- lawless, immoral, and infested with pirates who prey like parasites on other people. The answer then -- and now -- was to send in the Marines and exterminate the vermin. They are the enemies of humanity. The Navy should surround them and make it clear there are two choices:
  1. Leave peacefully -- now -- and live. Or
  2. Resist and die.

26 September 2008

Religulous ~ Spotlighting the Ridiculous and Crazy

Bill Maher's new movie Religulous opens next week. He explores the ridiculous and crazy and even frightening beliefs of billions of people. Here's Bill's interview with Larry King. See the movie trailer...

Populous China ~ Map of Provinces as Countries

Thanks to Paul from GeekPress for spotting this China Map...

Crab Hitches Ride ;-)

Jet Man! ~ Yves Rossy Succeeds Flying Channel!

Swiss Jet Man Yves Rossy succeeded in flying the English Channel between Calais and Dover! Check out the video on BBC of this feat!

Village Phone ~ Ruud Elmendorp on MTN Uganda

Interesting video-essay on the dynamics of MTN Uganda's Village Phone businesses by Rocketboom's Ruud Elmendorp...

25 September 2008

Mock the Vote ~ Spoofing the Demoblicans !-)

And don't miss Spoofing the Republicrats as well;-)

Linked Planet ~ Global Air Traffic Over 24 Hours

Swiss team simulates 24 hours of world travel...

Creationism ~ The Wisdom of Desert Goat Herders


Alum Companies ClickDiagnostics and SaafWater in MIT Development Ventures Seminar

We had two special MIT alum guest businesses visiting our Development Ventures class today, ClickDiagnostics and SaafWater.
  • ClickDiagnostics is a health services business enabling remote telemedicine via mobiles in the South Asian and African markets. Co-Founder Mridul Chowdhury and colleagues described how their 2008 MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition D-Track winning company was born out of our Development Ventures seminar in 2007 and how things have progressed since.
  • SaafWater is a utility service supplying affordable clean water solutions to the South Asian urban market, starting in Pakistan. Co-Founder Sarah Bird described how this venture was born in collaboration with Amy Smith of MIT's D-Lab and went on to win Runner-Up prize in the 2007 MIT $100K D-Track. Sarah described raising seed funds and learning how to build a direct sales distribution network starting in several neighborhoods of Karachi.
Very good to see these young for-profit development-oriented firms blossoming in their respective sectors!

24 September 2008

Egyptian Naguib Sawiris on Charlie Rose!

My HighTechFever.tv guest Sherife Abdel Messih strongly recommended to me this Charlie Rose interview with businessman Naguib Sawiris. After watching it, I now strongly recommend it to you. Mr Sawiris is refreshingly straightforward and right-thinking and quite humorous. And his monologue on why the United States is great should be given out as a civic lesson:
[Starting at 22:45] The United States is greatest country on Earth. It's a country where there is the rule of law and order... it's a country where the president cannot jail anybody. It's a country where if you change your religion you don't get lynched. It's a country which fought always for the rights of others. When the Muslims were being slaughtered in Yugoslavia, [the US are] the ones that moved, not the Islamic world. It's a country that's always stood up for what's right and against what's wrong. It's offered opportunities for everybody, every immigrant in the world... it's unbiased... it's fair... The people are charitable, helpful, kind, easy going... open.
And he wants to convert the North Koreans to capitalism! Watch for yourself...

SPARK's Sherife Abdel Messih on HighTechFever

Tonight I hosted Sherife Abdel Messih, founder of SPARK! on HighTechFever.tv where he shared his experience running a summer camp for talented high school students. This past summer's SPARK! Camp is one part of Sherife's larger vision for developing an innovative talent pipeline in Egypt! Read more...

Who Says Scientists Have No Sense of Humor ?-)

Reading about the NSF's six-year, $19.2M grant to MIT's Center for Materials Science and Engineering (CMSE) cracked me up! Among the initiatives funded are delighters like "Mechanomutable Heteronanomaterials [to] develop new dynamically tunable multicomponent heterogeneous nanostructured systems with an emphasis on mechanical behavior." Whoa, that sounds right up there on the techno-lingo-meter with the Retro Encabulator! And surely some overworked grad student came up with the last project on the funding list, "New States of Frustrated and Correlated Materials";-) For more humorous scientific delight, come by the IgNobel Prize Ceremony on October 2nd, 2008 and see real Nobelists like these...

23 September 2008

NeuroVista's Dan DiLorenzo in Neurotech Ventures

It was excellent to have NeuroVista founder Dr Dan DiLorenzo speak tonight in our MIT Neurotechnology Ventures class on The War Story Behind a Venture to Revolutionize Epilepsy Treatment. Dan first got interested in control systems and robotics in Junior High and ended up at MIT working on neurostimulation and rehabilitation. Six degrees later, he had won the Lemelson-MIT Inventor Prize, created his first commerical product, Sleep-Dry, to help kids avoid bedwetting, and begun patenting his product and method ideas for neuro-solutions. By 2003 he and team won second place in MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition (then merely $50K!) for their NeuroBionics idea. Two name changes (and ~$40M in VC financing) later, the NeuroVista business is blossoming. And Dan has started his next venture, DiLorenzo Biomedical!

22 September 2008

Hope & Prosperity ~ Paul Collier on Accelerating African Economic Convergence

Oxford economist Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion -- (reviewed in the NYTimes column The Least Among Us by Harvard historian Niall Ferguson) -- has an insightful OpEd piece in the NYTimes today titled A Measure of Hope about the need for sustained and rapid action to tackle global poverty. Collier notes...
Our top priority should be to provide credible hope where it has been lacking. The African countries in the bottom billion have missed out on the prolonged period of global growth that the rest of the world has experienced. The United Nations’ goal should not be to help the poor in fast-growing and middle-income countries; it should do its utmost to help the bottom billion to catch up.

[But the] Millennium Development Goals [...] are devoid of strategy; their only remedy is more aid. I am not hostile to aid. I think we should increase it, though given the looming recession in Europe and North America, I doubt we will. But other policies on governance, agriculture, security and trade could be used to potent effect. International coordination is needed more than ever. For all its manifest limitations, the United Nations must work. International coordination has been, indeed, the great achievement of the Millennium Development Goals; all the major donor countries have bought into them.

But they should now be revised so as to focus on the challenge of helping the bottom billion to converge with the rest of mankind -- and on a more realistic timescale. We need not just [the current UN Secretary General-sponsored] “Year of the Bottom Billion,” but several decades.
And I think we can do it: We can -- and, indeed, we must -- truly eliminate the scourge of poverty from our planet by 2050 and to replace it with increasing prosperity and growing hope.

21 September 2008

SF Authors ~ Speculative Fiction Writers Speak!

Charlie Stross... Joe Haldeman... Neil Stephenson... Vernor Vinge... Tom Friedman...

MobiSpray ~ Electric Graffiti by Artist MobiLenin!

I had a most excellent chat just now with uber-mobile phone artist-scholar Jurgen Scheible -- a.k.a. MobiLenin -- co-author of the bestselling Mobile Python book and impresario of the MobileHub prototype development environment in Finland. Jurgen's latest and greatest art+design innovation is MobiSpray, interactive electric graffiti on any surface, anywhere, by anyone with a mobi! Jurgen's core ethos:
To all the creative and innovative people out there: Use your skills, ideas and energy to inspire the world around you!
Check out MobiSpray where you use your mobile phone as paint spray can...

20 September 2008

No Banker Left Behind ~ Socialists 'R' Us

Chatting with Henry Houh over dinner tonight, we observed with not a small amount of cynicism and dismay that the monster "bailout" by taxpayers of the incompetent bankers who managed to get the financial sector in such a mess is, in effect, a No Banker Left Behind act. Saving those supposedly educated and informed financial types from their own stupidity strikes me as a lot less worthy than many other uses of the money. Instead of silver spoon socialism, I'd rather apply the money to more enduring problems. Like hunger, poverty, lack of education, poor healthcare, to name a few.

Kagame @ MIT ~ A Constructive Revolutionary!

It was great to see Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaking at MIT on the Imperative of Science and Technology in Accelerating African and Rwandan Development...

15 September 2008

I.O.U.S.A. ~ Think: "Like Lehman, Only Larger"...

"This is America. We don't do anything till something reaches a crisis." Yikes! Check out this I.O.U.S.A. trailer...

Biden Falls Ill, Resigns; Obama Taps Clinton

Sorry, false alarm. Science Fiction. Or rather, I should say Political Science Fiction;-) Mark my words, however, since Ole Foot'in'Mouth himself, Joe Biden, is thinking about how to gracefully ease out. See for yourself...

13 September 2008

Carbon Weightings ~ Global Accumulations Map

Education in Afghanistan ~ Inspiring Young Minds

The BBC has a photo sequence on schoolchildren in Afghanistan. These kids really want to learn! Lema is from a village in the mountain with a long walk to and from school. She doesn't know what she wants to be in the future, but likes teaching a lot.
Mohammad studies in Sherzad high school. He says most of his schoolmates study in the open air because there are not many rooms in his school which is over-crowded. "I want to study wherever I can, I wish we had rooms but I learn a lot of things every day. I want to be an engineer in the future."

11 September 2008

Progress in Zimbabwe; Retrogression in Russia

Sunlight shines on Morgan Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe after today's announcement of a power-sharing deal, albeit one with Adolf Mugabe, the stunningly disconnected dictator of an increasingly unimpressed people. By contrast, the totally out-of-touch and boorish Czar Vladimir in contemporary Imperialist Russia does not understand that the forced occupation and annexation of sovereign neighboring territory is simply not acceptable in the civilized, modern era. He and Kremlin cronies may imagine themselves back in the era of Czarina Catherine the Great, but the rest of our planet sees them as vicious usurpers and illegitimate interlopers.

Fouling Our Nest? ~ Daily 911 of US Oil Demand

R.I.P. David Berray and others from the atrocity of 2001, when a band of religious wingnuts chose a particularly cruel way to impose their will directly on several thousand innocents. Thenceforth the Twin Towers of NYC have been viscerally carved in our collective imagination as giant, tangible examples of human constructive ingenuity as well as the physical fragility of humanity in the face of both natural and man-made forces. So when I came across this rather shocking infographic earlier this morning, I thought, my god, can the small nest we call Earth actually absorb the equivalent of a daily 911 of US oil demand? Like with smoking cigarettes, the dirty by-products of our chosen actions can be deadly. And as with many tragedies of the commons, those most negatively affected are often external to those who benefit (and they have no choice in the matter)...

10 September 2008

Prospect Theorist Justin Cook on HighTechFever

I was pleased to interview MIT Sloan alumnus and author of Prospect Theory blog Justin Cook on HighTechFever.tv! Check out an excerpt from our discussion...

Poverty Action ~ Interview with MIT's Esther Duflo

Co-director of MIT's Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), Professor Esther Duflo, answers questions from IHT readers from around the world in this Managing Globalization column. J-PAL's approach to development and poverty research is based on randomized trials to improve the effectiveness of poverty programs by providing clear scientific results that help shape successful policies to better tackle poverty.

04 September 2008

MIT Happenings ~ D-Lab, Development Ventures, IDFair, Campaign, Sustainability@MIT, and more!

Very exciting couple days kicking off the Fall semester here at MIT! Our International Development Innovations colleague Amy Smith's D-Lab intro class kicked off with overflow interest. We're in the thick of planning for the latest International Development Fair a month from now on Friday October 3rd to help build our larger International Development Network here at the Institute and beyond. MIT is launching the Campaign for Students that day too, with Amy keynoting, and engaging students in solving global challenges is central to the campaign agenda. Sandy Pentland and I kicked off our Development Ventures seminar with a full-house of participation drawing students from MIT Sloan, engineering, architecture & planning, and science, both graduate and undergraduate programs, plus substantial cross-registration from Harvard, especially the Kennedy School of Government. Very exciting! And tonight I was delighted to say a few words to the assembled founding core team of the Sustainability@MIT student-initiative. This confluence of historically fragmented and smaller-scale clubs has come together to spotlight and tackle some of the biggest, most pressing problems on our planet.

03 September 2008

02 September 2008

Heartland Robotics ~ Leveraging Laborers for Robofacturing?

Big news in the Boston-metro robocluster: iRobot co-founder and roboguru at MIT, Professor Rodney Brooks has teamed up with Ken Zolot to found Heartland Robotics, an automation enterprise building industrial and workplace robots to boost U.S. competitiveness. See Scott Kirsner's Innovation Economy column this past Sunday, Robots On The Move, in which he mentions Heartland (as well as spotlighting newco's Harvest and NorthEnd). The xconomy.com story IRobot Co-Founder Brooks Leaves to Launch New Robotics Firm Aiming to Revitalize U.S. Workforce quotes Rod Brooks saying...
Heartland Robotics is combining the power of computation—embodied in robots—and the extraordinary intelligence of the American workforce, to rehumanize and revitalize manufacturing.
On the other hand, you could be a skeptic like me who thinks that mass-ufacturing should be automagic -- and robotified -- and people freed from toil and empowered to do primarily custom and creative activities. Or maybe that's what Heartland will do?

01 September 2008

MIT Development Ventures ~ Business vs Poverty

This week Thursday Sept 4th, 2008, we kick off our latest incarnation of Development Ventures, the MIT developmental entrepreneurship seminar on business solutions to the big challenges faced by people in the developing countries. Sandy Pentland and I started this class and our more general program in 2001 and have since had a dozen or so alums go on to found and begin building their ventures! This class is part of the larger D-Lab family of classes on development-design-dissemination and is run in collaboration with the International Development Initiative (IDI) at MIT as well as the NextBillion Network Fall 2008 class NextLab. Stay tuned for the Friday Oct 4th, 2008, International Development Fair at MIT.

Beautiful Planet ~ Why NASA Is Worth It!

Lovely rings, multiple perspectives! Let's move beyond our cradle!