31 July 2008

Sporn ~ The Latest Disgusting Internet Craze ;-)

CNN breaks the shocking news that Video game's user content spawns naughty Web 'Sporn'. SimCity creator Will Wright's latest video game, Spore, allows users to craft and guide the evolution of unique animated creatures and complex civilizations. But to the outrage of religious zealots, defenders of internet virtues, and fundamentalist philanthropes everywhere, creature-crazy sicko videogamers are creating...
...two-legged dancing testicles, a "giant breast monster" and a four-legged, "phallic fornication machine," for starters. These naughty -- some would say obscene -- creations have spawned an Internet meme, nicknamed "Sporn" -- short for "Spore" porn... The creatures are not just static. Users can create animated scenarios for the characters to engage in, some of which include sexually graphic acts. When EA got word of the "Sporn" creations, it began working with YouTube to pull them down. Players who repeatedly upload "offensive content" are warned, suspended and eventually banned.
This clearly signals the end of civilization as we know it.

28 July 2008

Shawn Frayne @ IDDS ~ Inventor of SoDis Water Disinfection Bag & Windbelt Power Generator

I just saw MIT alum and Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award winner Shawn Frayne at the International Development Design Summit (IDDS) at MIT. Shawn was in Amy Smith's first D-Lab class -- the Haiti Class -- and has been inspired to invent solutions to developing country challenges ever since. Today he showed off both his SoDis Bag invention for solar water disinfection as well as his Windbelt turbine-less wind power machine. Here's a little video snippet showing how the Windbelt works... He's commercializing the Windbelt via startup company Humdinger Wind Energy. SoDis he's partly licensed to an inflatable packaging business in rich country markets and cross-funding developing country applications. Shawn also emphasized the emerging and growing category of Confluence Technologies, inventions which are relevant in both rich and developing countries. These are not merely Appropriate Technologies but Everywhere Technologies!

27 July 2008

Recommended Readings 080727 ~ On Aging, Dirty Words, Displays, Security, Dorms, Schools, Africa, Contraception, Tourism, Peacekeeping, the Future...

A few more tasty news morsels this week...

26 July 2008

Randy Pausch ~ R.I.P.

Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch spoke about Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams at CMU on September 18, 2007. I'm sad to say he gave this talk knowing he had terminal cancer and only months to live and, indeed, he passed away yesterday. I most highly recommend you watch his Last Lecture for yourself... Be sure to also read Jeffrey Zaslow's WSJ articles, both from last September, A Beloved Professor Delivers The Lecture of a Lifetime, and this weekend, Professor Aimed 'Last Lecture' At His Children... and Inspired Millions.

24 July 2008

Leopard vs Croc ~ Battle Royale at the Nature Reserve!

Thanks to the eagle-eyed Paul Hsieh from GeekPress and friends at Cynical-C for spotting these amazing photos by Hal Brindley of a natural battle royale published in the Telegraph... Plus check out the video-ized version of all the photos at halbrindley.com who tells the whole surreal story of his Best Day Ever!

23 July 2008

Dr Vivek Murthy of B & W and Epernicus.com on HighTechFever

I interviewed Vivek Murthy, an attending physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and co-founder of the scientist's social networking site Epernicus.com, on my HighTechFever TV show today. Epernicus helps solve a key challenge in science: how to find the right people with the right expertise in one's larger network right now. Few existing social networks capture information that is relevant to scientists, and those that do make it far too hard to find specific skills and expertise. Epernicus targets such problems directly. Some 2-3000 people have signed up so far, with more daily.

22 July 2008

My Next 40 Years ~ Maximizing Progress Towards Liberty, Prosperity, and Vitality for ALL

Just to give you an aesthetic indication of what four decades looks like, here is yours truly as a youthful builder on the beach in California... ...and here relatively recently in Massachusetts next to the Media Lab with our MIT Great Dome in the distance... Key question now: What to do for my Next 40 Years? Well, I want to be relentlessly Maximizing Progress towards a first-world, world-wide by 2050. That means achieving political Liberty, economic Prosperty, and cultural Vitality for everyone on Planet Earth. A BHAG, but not impossible. Let's get to it -- join me!

21 July 2008

Freedom of Speech ~ Including Sarcasm, Irony, Cynicism, Obscenity, Profanity, et al

It's a most wonderful thing to live in a modern and civilized enlightenment society which values -- and protects -- freedom of speech because there are, unfortunately, more than a few backwards and swinish theocratic hellholes on Planet Earth today -- members of the United Nations, appallingly enough -- where people are oppressed, assaulted, and even killed for questioning received revelations and daring to draw even kindly caricatures, such as these... ...as evidenced by the aftermath to the Danish portraits of the prophet.

Ending of an Institution ~ Off To the Grad Student Ghetto...

This is not a public advertisement... The Muddy's sister organization, the Thirsty Ear Pub, has been forced to close for good this week in its current location because unwise MIT higher-powers have chosen to sequester all new graduate student housing into an isolated ghetto in the styx to the northwest of campus. But fear not, MIT-folk can continue to get quenched when the New Thirsty re-opens end of August in the New Ashdown.

20 July 2008

One Giant Leap for Mankind!

Apollo 11. Still amazing.

Recommended Readings 080720 ~ On Mobiles, Malaria, Africa, Asia, Canines, Collaboration, Platforms, Charisma, Overspending, Age, Trust...

Some readable morsels this week...

Feynman on Finding Things Out

Thanks to Cynical-C for spotlighting Richard Feynman's The Pleasure of Finding Things Out videos...

18 July 2008

The End ~ Portraits of Pre-and-Post Mortem

I'm very moved by this series of portraits by German photographer Walter Schels and his partner Beate Lakotta who "recorded the poignant and revealing interviews with the subjects in their final days." As the UK Guardian story, This is the end, indicates, these photos are of "people before and on the day they died".

16 July 2008

David Grosof ~ OptiOpia Affordable Eyecare

I interviewed David Grosof, co-founder and President of OptiOpia -- the affordable eyecare company -- on my MaximizingProgress.tv (aka HighTechFever TV) show tonight. This business was born at MIT through the impassioned work of genius inventor-engineer Saul Griffith -- OptiOpia co-founder and Chairman, then at the MIT Media Lab -- who realized there needed to be a better way to both capture the correct prescription and craft the correct lens to create inexpensive, everyday eyeglasses for the nearly one billion people worldwide who need such glasses but either can't afford them or can't get a supply. Saul built prototype systems, won the HBS business plan contest, and most recently embarked on the OptiOpia venture to spread the best solution. After his own doctoral studies in neuroscience and clinical research career in vision ailments, David originally met Saul while attending the MIT Sloan MBA program and subsequently joined forces to drive the widespread distribution of what they describe as:
Affordable Technology for Eyecare: (1) a low-cost auto-refractor to get the right prescription and (2) a lens molder for on-the-spot on-demand lens manufacture.
This is an excellent example of a developmental entrepreneurship venture addressing one of the key global consumer health gigachallenges!

Urban Innovations ~ Towards Green, Clean, Intense, Smart, Responsive Vital Cities!

Several recent interesting advances in the realm of green, livable, ecologically-savvy, smart and vital cities! The WSJ's Ana Campoy points out that With Gas Over $4, Cities Explore Whether It's Smart to Be Dense specifically looking at Sacramento, CA's blueprint for growth. See the Before-After images, including these examples... and the related video... And Steven Erlanger in the NYTimes spotlights that A New Fashion Catches On in Paris: Cheap Bicycle Rentals as I've noted before. In San Francisco, CA, if you Can’t Find a Parking Spot? Check Smartphone writes John Markoff in the NYTimes. But all is not smooth sailing. Boston, for instance, just can't get its act together. Noah Bierman writes in the Globe that Open road tolling stalled, not installed about slow technology upgrades and ongoing inefficiencies. Noah also writes that the endless, infamous Big Dig is now covered by -- what a surprise -- Not-So-Green Acres, and is a pretty barren and dreadfully misdesigned place. And continuing as the bearer of bad Boston news, Noah writes about the Summer of discontent on Red Line, which the MBTA officialdom can't seem to maintain, fix, or run properly. Tactically speaking, we today live in a pretty shitty city. On the other hand, bold thinkers are imagining really dramatic greening of future cities as Bina Venkataraman writes in the NYTimes story entitled Country, the City Version: Farms in the Sky Gain New Interest. Thanks to Cory Kidd, now based in Hong Kong, for pointing me to this delighter as well as an earlier piece on vertical hog farms! There's a great slide-show of Towers of Food design variants by Dickson Despommier, a professor at Columbia University and his students, including these samples... On the commercial side of things, I've been really impressed with the public pronouncements of United Technologies or UTC, the group which makes Otis elevators, Carrier air conditioners, and an array of power, fire, security and other systems crucial to city living. UTC Chairman George David, in a recent advertisement in the WSJ, wrote about Why do we have cities? and on the basis of this intellectual-historical survey, positioned the strategy and vision for UTC. Fantastic! Read for yourself this and the rest of their Leadership Series of adverts...

14 July 2008

Neurotechnology @ MIT & Beyond ~ An Enormous Emerging Research & Venture Domain

I've written before about the promise of Neurotechnology broadly -- the advances through neuroscience and neuroengineering of our ability to diagnose and treat mind, brain, and nervous system ailments of all types. Here at MIT, various colleagues and I are adding our piece, including with Chuck Eesley co-organizing Neurotech@MIT gathering this Tuesday night July 15th 2008, from 7-9pm. This informal evening of drinks, brainstorming, and conversation with fellow inventive and entrepreneurial friends will be at the Royal East over dinner. The Royal East Restaurant is at 792 Main St. Cambridge, MA. We each chip in to split the cost. Plus check out our MIT Neurotech blog.

This Fall 2008, together with Ed Boyden and Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, I'm co-teaching Neurotechnology Ventures, an Institute-wide elective projects-course at MIT on the challenges of envisioning, planning, and building startups to bring neuroengineering innovations to the world... The whole arena of Neurotechnology is blossoming. Further anecdotal evidence includes the recent Rice Business Plan Contest where over 10% of all 36 semi-finalists were Neurotech-related.

13 July 2008

Recommended Readings 080713 ~ On Risk, Kids, Rehab, Toys, Competition, Hybrids, Rights, Robots, Animals, Co-Existence, Cruelty, Jeddah Boyz & Girlz...

A bunch of interesting stand-alone items this week...
  • Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein writes in the Sunday Globe IDEAS section about Throwing precaution to the wind: Why the 'safe' choice can be dangerous about the influential but incoherent and even risky Precautionary Principle. (Anyone curious about digging into this further might want to read about the Proactionary Principle, the opposition to Precautionary.)
  • Rosemary Bennett, Social Affairs Correspondent to the Times, writes Children need risk to thrive as adults, says Dragons’ Den judge Simon Woodroffe, asserting that the "obsessive “safety-first” culture in schools will rob Britain of the next generation of entrepreneurs just when the country needs them most..."
  • Mark Baard in the Globe's Personal Tech section writes of a great collaboration -- Brown, RISD students create toys for kids with cerebral palsy -- part of the Toys and Technology for Rehabilitation program in Providence, RI.
  • Nearly two years ago, Professor Seymour Papert was traumatically brain-injured while visiting Vietnam. Linda Matchan in the Globe writes In Search of a Beautiful Mind about Seymour's vital struggle to recover. (It sickens and disgusts me that MIT "has refused to help pay for his home care" so I too am contributing to the Seymour Papert Recovery Fund and furthermore hope his case helps contribute to our understanding of neurorehabilitation and neurotherapeutics more generally.)
  • Gerrit Wiesman writes in the FT Entrepreneurship column on Bike power without pedals about the Mertens' business Kokua and their prime-product, Like-a-Bike, a pedal-less two-wheeler for toddlers. Theirs was such a great idea that everyone copied it, something simultaneously flattering and economically deadly.
  • Rhys Blakely in the Times writes from Bombay, India that the Mobile phone rings end of letter writers, another story of competitive pressures squeezing out the vintage trades. Or at least some such trades, since India's professional ear cleaners still find work.
  • Given the hype about hybrid autos, it's certainly a rude shock when customers discover, as Jonathan Soble and Bernand Simon write in the FT, that Patience is a virtue when Prius battery supply chains go flat. It seems ramping up manufacturing capacity is at least as difficult as accurately forecasting demand.
  • WIRED has a nice set of articles about The Petabyte Age, in which massive numbers of sensors, processors, data bits, and networks make everything we do massively different.
  • Donald McNeil Jr of the NYTimes surveys the implications and consequences When Human Rights Extend to Nonhumans. Inquires he: "Should apes be treated like people? Which apes? Which people?"
  • Curiously enough, Adam Liptak, also of the NYTimes, covers the latest analysis of whether McCain is even eligible to be elected President. It would seem that the rights of "natural-born citizenship" do not extend to those with the misfortune of being born outside of the USA. Could Obama actually win solely by virtue of this legal technicality?! Seems to me the Supreme Court will have enough on its hands deciding which human rights should be extended to fellow humans, nevermind monkeys.
  • Technovelgy inquires: Do People Prefer Humanoid Robots? Short answer: Yes.
  • BBC inquires: Does Baby Panda Prefer Panda or Cat Mother? Short answer: Cat.
  • It's amazing to read that Holocaust siblings meet after 66 years. Matthew Chance of CNN writes their story of separation and now finally reunion. Watch for yourself their great joy! (And a salute to the tireless volunteer Red Cross wonder-workers who sleuth these families together!)
  • Across another line of separation, BBC shares with us the Third Letters between Anav Silverman, a young Israeli woman who works in Sderot and Mona Yousef, a young Palestinian woman living in northern Gaza. May such personal links accumulate into ever larger and stronger and more vibrant bridges between peoples who may well discover they need not be separated.
  • The Economist writes that Iranian Ahmad Batebi need be Silent No More about his suffering under the cruel and unwise regime back home.
  • Across the Gulf in Saudi Arabia, in the meantime, the BBC's Crispin Thorold interviews the Jeddah Boyz, as you too can see in Saudi drivers pimp their rides. There aren't any Jeddah Girlz, however, because even though Saudi women want right to drive, they live in the only country on Planet Earth which prohibits it.

12 July 2008

Map of US Freight Flowing Thru Texas

This cool US map shows lines of freight moving in through just Texas, with line width indicating volume... All part of a larger discussion about a Trans-Texas Corridor, a transport & logistics gigaproject.

Asimov on the Future of Humanity ~ Some Sort of Federal World Government

Here SF giant, prolific author (including of the Foundation and Robot series), and renowned secular humanist, Isaac Asimov, describes the challenges facing all of humanity, including the Greenhouse Effect... ...followed by his proposed solution, "some sort of federal world government" enabled by "both the carrot and the stick" here in Part II.

Cat Meets Dog ~ Hazards of Trans-Species Play;-)

This is no doubt morally wrong according to some theology...

11 July 2008

Bridging MENACA & EU ~ Trans-Med Initiatives...

The Economist writes The Med’s moment comes: Globalisation is bringing a wave of money to the Mediterranean. This is an exciting development connecting the Old Europe-centric EU to the blossoming emerging markets of the MENACA region from Morocco to the Middle East and beyond... Curiously, this begins to finally return us to the common market and connected community of the Romans some two thousand years ago...

10 July 2008

If I Ran Iran, I Wouldn't Fake This Photo ;-)

The idiots in charge of propaganda in the Islamic Republic of Iran tried to pull a fast-one on the world media by photoshopping their rocket launch to make it look more doomly. Check out the expose on Geekologie and in the NYTimes and on BBC...

09 July 2008

Nol Browne of Fraunhofer-MIT on HighTechFever

I interviewed MIT Sloan alumnus and MIT Energy Conference Founder Nolan Browne on my HighTechFever TV show tonight, discussing his latest role as Managing Director of the emergent Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems with MIT. The glorious potential of all things Solar & Sustainable should be enough to inspire us here, but I personally am especially motivated by the key faculty, researchers, and other talent in this sector at the Institute. Among the exciting things the Center are up to include: Creating best-of-breed energy-efficient structures and building technologies, reducing the installed cost of solar by one-third, creating a rapid-prototyping laboratory to accelerate research, development and commercialization of energy efficient devices.

08 July 2008

Alex d'Arbeloff ~ R.I.P.

Alex d'Arbeloff, MIT alumnus, co-founder of Teradyne, high-tech venture investor, and former Chairman of the MIT Corporation, just passed away. I'm very sad to say we have lost a giant of generosity. I got to know Alex mostly from our work creating and running the MIT Chairman's Salon (with Dianne Goldin, Robert Wickham, et al) and also through his active engagement in so many aspects of Entrepreneurship @ MIT. Alex and Brit, his MIT alumna (and fellow entrepreneur) wife, have been extraordinarily philanthropic supporters of key things at the Institute, from professorships to special initiative funds to physical campus developments. May his venturesome spirit endure through these great gifts and through the dozens -- indeed hundreds -- of entrepreneurs he personally inspired, financed, and otherwise empowered!

The Human Mirror !-)

Yet another delighter spotted by GeekPress impresario Paul Hsieh on Neatorama: the Human Mirror! Improv Everywhere orchestrated a dozen twins to converge and parallel one another on the NYC subway and cause a scene...

Slum Life in Sierra Leone ~ Another Entry in the Kroo Bay Diary

The BBC today published the latest entry in the diary compiled by the nurses and staff (pictured) at a clinic in Kroo Bay, a slum area of Freetown, Sierra Leone. The photo gallery gives further evidence of local life and their exceedingly challenging circumstances. We urgently need to accelerate prosperity so as to render all such scenes and slums everywhere a thing of the past. And let's also celebrate and revere the dedication and vitality of people -- such as these courageous clinicians -- who persevere beyond the problems of the present while caring for and aiding their fellow citizens.

Augustine's Laws ~ Concentration of Productivity

Engineer-businessman Norman Augustine's book Augustine's Laws is one of the greatest compilations of business wisdom ever. My favorite, perhaps, is this delighter where he visualizes the disproportionate impact of a few producers on overall output...

07 July 2008

News from the 'Tute!

Couple MIT stories of note...MIT Architecture Professor Larry Sass Puts up a prefab at MoMA as "one of five architects featured in a major show this summer at the Museum of Modern Art titled "Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling," which focuses on the importance of prefabricated and sustainable housing." I've spotlighted Larry before because his ideas can transform the enormous construction sector dramatically.

CNN's Lara Farrar writes Snails inspire design for state-of-the-art robots about MIT Mech E Professor Anette Hosoi's research into the slimey crawlers who can traverse the most remarkable surfaces and orientations. (See also this video of Stanford's StickyBot!-)

MIT alumnus, head of the Venture Mentoring Service, and BOSE Corporation co-founder Sherwin Greenblatt has been tapped as interim CEO of the Alumni Association following Beth Garvin's move to RISD.

06 July 2008

Recommended Readings... 080706

A few interesting items...

GSM World Coverage

Use your GSM phone on one of the 800-plus networks in some 200 countries worldwide...

05 July 2008

Vintage Olympian ~ The Phenomenal Dara Torres!

Olympians are already on a different plane by virtue of their intensity, endurance, and otherwise fanatical and laser focus on premier performance! They occupy a world-apart, a realm most of us cannot probably imagine and certainly not likely approach. There are a number of compelling outlier individuals in the arena of Olympus, but none so inspiring as the American star swimmer Dara Torres, now a five-time Olympic aquarian! This beautiful 41-year old sportswoman supermom (portrayed here with daughter Tessa) has just qualified for and will compete at Beijing 2008!

Accelerating Progress ~ Global Evidence

Emeka Okafor -- crafter of Africa Unchained -- spotlights this glorious graphic about accelerating industrialization...

04 July 2008

Liberty ~ The Ceaseless Struggle Continues

http://www.allsparkfireworks.com/blog/tag/statue-of-liberty/On the 4th of July Americans celebrate the Declaration of Independence, a remarkable pact by citizen-statesmen rebelling against a domineering imperialist power! But it is worth remembering that the struggle for Liberty is never-ending both here in the US and worldwide. And that governments which at one point might be reasonably good can too easily become bloated, corrupt, oppressive, and violent, run by pandering partisan politicos, despots and republicrats alike, including those who misrule under the rubric of "democracy" by appealing to the vices of those allowed to vote, who tax-and-spend, redistribute what is not theirs, serve up bread & circuses, and who fundamentally fail to execute on basic civic duties -- e.g. protection of sacrosanct individual rights, security from crime and kidnapping, defense from invasion and oppression, rule-of-law, working courts, anti-corruption, transparency, fiscal frugality, etc.

John Hancock and his fellow 55 signers of the Declaration fought for inalienable individual rights and limited government and against government-imposed limits on personal action, taxation without representation, military adventurism, limits on immigration, illegal seizures of persons and property, and more -- each mentioned by line-item in the Declaration itself. We should remember that these righteous 56 suffered terribly for their boldness and always keep in mind the core principles which their actions bequeathed us. Because the regrettable facts are that today the USA...
  • Has a vast array of anti-liberty laws against personal choice -- e.g. zoning laws, licensing laws, rent-controls, employment and labor laws, anti-discrimination ordinances, marriage-limits laws, endless prohibitions on the production, distribution, and/or consumption of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, porn, prostitution, nudity, swear-words, most of the personal "sins", etc.
  • Taxes people onerously at all levels, including endless stealth taxes on non-voting corporations, hidden fees, unfunded mandates, impenetrable tax codes, extortionist enforcements, sin taxes, property taxes, death taxes, income taxes, asset taxes, production taxes, consumption taxes, "excess-profit" taxes, etc.
  • Engages in outrageously expensive foreign wars either illegally or incompetently or both.
  • Prevents free in-migration and open movement of people through barbaric walls and quotas and constraints.
  • Seizes property and/or children of people deemed immoral-illegal or merely in the way -- e.g. Waco, Zion Ranch, DC property owners, etc -- and worse. The list, I'm afraid, just goes on and on.
The saddest thing is that while all these pernicious practices show how far this country has strayed away from the glorious freedom-philosophy of Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Hancock, and other founding fathers, most other countries in the world today are even worse! There is a lot of work to be done. The cause of Liberty globally is great, but the struggle for it must never cease and surrender is not an option!

P.S. One recent small but heartwarming victory in the worldwide fight for Liberty is Operation Jaque, the daring and audacious rescue by Colombian forces of Íngrid Betancourt and 14 others kidnapped and long held hostage by the vicious FARC, a band of Marxist-Leninist guerrilla-terrorist rabble. See the as-it-happened video on BBC!

Singularity Economics ~ Hanson on the Transformations of Humanity

Sam Koritz of Progress Daily spotted this remarkable World Product vs Time chart (below) by Bradford DeLong in a recent IEEE Spectrum article by Robin Hanson entitled Economics of the Singularity, all about societal discontinuities, transformative technologies, revolutionary speedups in economic growth, and more. Highly recommended.

Maps of War ~ 5,000 Years of Fighting...

02 July 2008

Ovidiu Bujorean of MIT Sloan & Rudyard Partners on HighTechFever

I interviewed Ovidiu Bujorean on my HighTechFever TV show tonight. Ovi's worn many hats over the years, from his collegiate leadership experiences back in Romania, to more recent scholarly roles at Harvard's KSG and MIT Sloan School of Management (where he served as TA to my Nuts & Bolts of Business Plans course with Joe Hadzima and Yonald Chery), to co-founding Neuron Global, to advising and serving as board member of iCube, the Romanian innovation incubator. Most recently he's joined Rudyard Partners in a consumer technology venture investment capacity. I was especially pleased to solicit his advice on how to maximally build up a network of advisors, mentors, financiers and other supporters in business. This guy is the consumate connector!