The Inevitable happened…in a hurry


Om Malik

The 2001 downturn turned telecom and cable giants into the Internet’s gatekeepers. Microsoft emerged victorious with its Internet Explorer. During the 2008 financial crisis, when cash was king, the big banks — JP Morgan Chase, for example — became more prominent and more pervasive. In a similar fashion, the present pandemic is making big tech bigger. And it is not just that their coffers are overflowing. They suddenly have a much larger and more receptive audience…

Over the past few months, we have experienced the mainstreaming of technology-enabled behavior previously thought of as being on the fringe. Shopping for groceries online and having them delivered, for example, was something of coastal luxury. Now, it has been experienced and used by millions across the country. Instacart has boasted of hiring another 250,000 shoppers. Amazon is hiring an additional 175,000 delivery people. Food-on-demand services are going through a boom like none other — Doordash saw its revenues jump over 20% in March. Uber Eats is saving Uber’s bacon. There is no reason to expect these new behaviors to change.

In a conversation this week, Wired editor Nicholas Thompson marveled at the growth in telemedicine and online education, two technologies (for lack of a better term) that have been around for so long that we often overlook them. Khan Academy has seen 20 times as many registrations. The Silicon Valley investors who viewed remote work and the distributed company as a net negative, and penalized companies that didn’t have a physical presence in their backyard, are now “work from home” gurus…

Together with data, cloud, and automation — companies are going to be looking at a more resilient future, one that sits on top of a network. It is not as if they had a choice. COVID-19 has exposed one harsh truth: digital channels are more flexible and faster to adapt to change than physical channels. And now, the world is almost entirely running on the network. This affirms my long-held beliefs. It is a testament to the inevitability of the Internet, which I wrote about in 2008 — and again in 2013.

And as the thoughtful and farsighted Om Malik said at the end of this article, “Now, the inevitable has happened.”

Dr Anthony Fauci on the New Rules of Living

…If [people], if they’re worried about the immune system and the relationship to COVID-19, and namely what’s going on right now, I would just click on the CDC website, cdc.gov, and then from there, you go to coronavirus.gov. And they could tell you all about the things that are relevant. Like why some people, like the elderly, and certain people who have underlying conditions that weaken their immune system, why they not only get infected the way everybody does, but they really have a poor outcome because their body is not able to fight off the virus very well. If you look at what’s going on in our own country and globally, generally, the people who really, really get into trouble are people who have underlying conditions…

…How confident are you that face masks, cloth masks like a bandanna, are enough when I go out to the grocery store?

It is certainly better than not having it on. Is it 100% protective against a droplet that someone might sneeze or cough, or even some aerosol? Of course not. However, in reality, if you can stay six feet from someone, at all times, the virus very, very unlikely would travel that far to you. But in the real world that we live in, when you go to a pharmacy or you go to a grocery store, the chances of you always being six feet from someone are just unlikely, which is the reason why the recommendation of, although it isn’t perfect, wear something that is a cloth…

Google and Apple are saying they’re going to develop technology to trace this via mobile phone. Do you think that’s a good idea?

…One of the sticky, sticky issues about that is that there is a lot of pushback in this country to get someone or some organization — to have by GPS somebody know where you were and when you were there. Even though from a purely public health standpoint, that makes sense. You know, you could look at somebody’s cell phone, and say, “You were next to these 25 people over the last 24 hours.” Boy, I gotta tell you the civil liberties-type pushback on that would be considerable. Even though from a pure public health standpoint, it absolutely makes sense.

There are many more questions, well-asked and answered, in the article. Definitely a worthwhile read.

Just to address the last question I included in this post…the Apple/Google contact tracking software won’t tell you or anyone else who those 25 people were you stood next to. The anonymizing process tells you that you were near a certain number of folks who exhibit symptoms, probably where. More detailed information would only be passed along to public health agencies IF those individuals opt in to allow that.

I understand the questions about civil liberties many folks will have. Once I became an activist against racism and bigotry, the whole range of progressive issues guaranteed I would be subject to scrutiny from the Big Brother factions in our government. I would have given this greater consideration…and still have chosen public health and safety as the greater good. But, I haven’t had to worry about that since about 1960. :-]

Scientists Linked Artificial and Biological Neurons in a Network…And It Worked

Scientists have linked up two silicon-based artificial neurons with a biological one across multiple countries into a fully-functional network. Using standard internet protocols, they established a chain of communication whereby an artificial neuron controls a living, biological one, and passes on the info to another artificial one…

…Neuromorphic computing is one path towards the future of extremely powerful, low energy consumption artificial neural network-based computing—in hardware—that could in theory better link up with the brain. Because the chips “speak” the brain’s language, in theory they could become neuroprosthesis hubs far more advanced and “natural” than anything currently possible.

This month, an international team put all of those ingredients together, turning theory into reality.

The three labs, scattered across Padova, Italy, Zurich, Switzerland, and Southampton, England, collaborated to create a fully self-controlled, hybrid artificial-biological neural network that communicated using biological principles, but over the internet.

Nutters will be crapping their drawers. Various and sundry members of every mystic order, quasi-or-otherwise-religious denomination that requires an invisible super-being to create stuff…will get out the iron suit of biblical certainty. Defenders of the True Faith, wherever in power, will demand this research be shutdown, closed, sent to Purgatory or prison or both.

Katherine Johnson, mathematician, dies at 101


NASA space scientist, mathematician, Katherine Johnson, circa 1966

NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who helped pave the way for the first American astronaut to successfully orbit the Earth, died Monday morning at the age of 101, according to NASA.

The pivotal roles of Johnson and other African-American women at NASA were highlighted in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures.”…

When John Glenn was preparing for his mission on which he’d become the first American to orbit the Earth, he requested that Johnson personally recheck the calculations made by the new electronic computers.

According to Johnson, Glenn said, “If she says they’re good, then I’m ready to go.”

Remember when. Always remember.

Economic concerns recede — Environmental concerns grow

For the first time in Pew Research Center surveys dating back nearly two decades, nearly as many Americans say protecting the environment should be a top policy priority (64%) as say this about strengthening the economy (67%).

In addition, while a smaller share (52%) rates dealing with global climate change as a top priority, this is 14 percentage points higher than just three years ago. Today, similar shares rate climate change and improving the job situation (49%) as top policy priorities for President Donald Trump and Congress. Three years ago, 68% said jobs were a top priority, compared with just 38% who named climate change…

The issue of climate change highlights the deep partisan divides in views of many public priorities. Dealing with global climate change ranks at the bottom of the list of 18 policy priorities for Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (just 21% call it a top priority). By contrast, climate change is near the top of the list of issues among Democrats and Democratic leaners (78% call it a top priority).

Large majorities of Democrats also place top priority on protecting the environment (85%), reducing health care costs (80%) and improving the educational system (80%). For Republicans, no more than about half rate these issues top priorities. And there is a sizable divide on the importance of addressing gun policy: Democrats are roughly 40 percentage points more likely than Republicans to view this as a top priority for the president and Congress (66% vs. 25%).

No surprises IMHO. All my questions rest on the shoulders of Democrat staff who will run the nitty-gritty of the 2020 Presidential Election campaign. Frankly, I would vote for either of Mayor Pete’s shelter dogs before I’d vote for the Fake President.

A great variety of animals once populated our prairies — they can, again!


Click to enlargeMelanie Wynne

North America’s prairies stretch north from Mexico into Canada, and from the Mississippi River west to the Rocky Mountains. Grasslands also exist in areas farther west, between the Rockies and Pacific coastal ranges.

When Thomas Jefferson approved the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1803, this territory was home to Native Americans and abundant wildlife. Vast, unbroken horizons of contiguous grasslands supported millions of prairie dogs, pronghorn, bison and elk, and thousands of bighorn sheep. Birds were also numerous, including greater prairie-chickens, multiple types of grouse and more than 3 billion passenger pigeons…

That changed as European immigrants moved west over the next hundred years. Market hunting was one cause, but settlers also tilled and poisoned, fertilized and fenced the land, drained aquifers and damaged soils…

Some parts of the North American prairies could support this kind of biodiversity again. The Flint Hills of Kansas and Oklahoma, Nebraska’s Sandhills and Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front all retain areas that have never been plowed, ranging from 1 million to 4 million acres. Public agencies and nonprofit conservation groups are already working in these areas to promote conservation and support grassland ecosystems

The U.S. has a history of protecting its majestic mountains and deserts. But in our view, it has undervalued its biologically rich grasslands. With more support for conservation on the prairies, wildlife of all sizes – big and small – could again thrive on America’s fruited plains.

RTFA – not only for details of how we got here; but, how we might move forward to restoration and a new life for our grasslands.

Remembering Kirk Douglas


Click to enlarge

1950. “Actor Kirk Douglas, half-length portrait, seated in chair, on set during the filming of “Ace in the Hole”, New Mexico.” 35mm color transparency by Charles and Ray Eames.

He was Spartacus, of course. But the great thing about Kirk Douglas living for more than a century – with most of those years spent as a Hollywood icon and cinematic family patriarch – is we got to see him do so much more than just wield sharp weaponry in an epic adventure. (And, man, he had that down.)

Douglas, who died Wednesday at 103, was a tried-and true icon who began his epic run in the mid-1940s with films including “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” and “Mourning Becomes Electra” and who owned the ’50s and ’60s, formed a great partnership with Burt Lancaster and earning three best-actor Oscar nominations (but never won). Douglas worked well into his twilight years, including a starring role opposite son Michael, ex-wife Diana and grandson Cameron in “It Runs in the Family” in 2003.

RTFA. It lists Brian Truitt’s idea of the five essential Kirk Douglas movies. There will more of the same, of course. My own late favorite is “Lonely are the brave”. One of the first hikes I sought out after moving to New Mexico was the Movie Trail in the Sandias. Scene of one of the most critical passages in this quiet, immensely important, film.