shift 2020 Brain Food Newsletter #2

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Welcome to the second weekly shift 2020 Brain Food newsletter including links and insights on the technological changes impacting business and society.

Thanks to all for your comments and feedback on this newsletter launch of last week. You can reply to this mail to send your feedback, tips & links to add, or to discuss and improve this newsletter.

So, here we go again. Enjoy!


A lot of positive reactions came in last week on the Internet of Things topic, definitely an area that many subscribers are active in.

One of the best inputs came from David Marutiak, suggesting to add a third category to the IoT taxonomy, capturing the ever spreading CCTV/Traffic Cams/Wearable Public Safety Cams/Police Car Cams segments. Added. Thanks, David.

Additionally, you can read the following articles on this topic:
– What exactly is this Internet of Things? (via Benedict Evans)
– How the internet of things will change your life by Sonita Lontoh.

Robotics / AI

“Will Robots Eat our Jobs” has been a very popular headline in the media recently. And they keep coming and intriguing us, humans.

Best article this week came from my old pal in Madrid, Enrique Dans: What do robots and basic income have in common?

Last week, a group of leading technologists, economists, and investors proposed a new approach to help us adapt to new technologies. This is a  great first step urging governments and business leaders to start reflecting on this ever increasing urgency to societal disruption.

“We are in the early stages of an era of great technological change. Digital innovations are remaking our industries, economy, and society just as steam, electricity, and internal combustion did before them. Like their predecessors, computers and their kin are engines of great prosperity. Progress with hardware, software, and networks is improving our lives in countless ways and creating immense value. To take just a few examples, advances in artificial intelligence are helping doctors diagnose disease; new sensors are making it possible to drive cars more safely; digitization is delivering knowledge and entertainment more widely than ever; and mobile networks are interconnecting the planet’s population for the first time ever. The digital revolution is the best economic news on the planet.

Previous surges brought with them greatly increased demand for labor and sustained job and wage growth. This time around, the evidence is causing some people to wonder if things are different. Or, to paraphrase many recent headlines, will robots eat our jobs? We think this is the wrong question, because it assumes that we are powerless to alter or shape the effects of technological change on labor. We reject this idea. Instead, we believe that there’s a great deal we can do to improve prospects for everyone.”

Read all about it here including a Set of Public Policy Recommendations and a Research Agenda for the Digital Economy.

Meanwhile in Europe, what’s happening with this?

Other noteworthy reads on the same topic:

– The Good, The Bad and The Robot: Experts Are Trying to Make Machines Be “Moral”
Algorithms of the Mind (What Machine Learning Teaches Us About Ourselves)
– “Inside Google’s Super-Brain“, an interview with Deepmind’s Demis Hassabis by David Rowan in the July edition of Wired (printed edition).


To follow…
One of the most promising startups in drones technology: Airware, Silicon Valley’s most heavily venture backed drone startup. Airware’s operating system, known as its Aerial Information Platform (AIP) combines hardware, software, and cloud services to enable enterprises to safely operate drones at scale. Think how to check on gas pipelines, survey farm land, inspect cell towers, patrol property, or do search & rescue.


How Well Can You Hear Audio Quality? (via @jowyang)

“Recently, the rapper Jay Z relaunched the subscription streaming music service Tidal, which includes the option to listen to high-definition audio for $19.99 per month. Tidal’s HiFi, with its uncompressed audio files, promises a better listening experience than any other streaming service on the market.

Many listeners cannot hear the difference between uncompressed audio files and MP3s, but when it comes to audio quality, the size of the file isn’t (ahem) everything. There are plenty of other ingredients to consider, from the quality of your headphones to the size of the room you’re sitting in to, well, your own ears.

Can you hear the difference? Take this quiz to find out. One hint: Turn your volume up.”

It’s real fun and interesting audio test for anyone trying to discuss the importance of high quality audio files vs. mp3. FYI I got only 2 out of 6. Must be the age or the bad quality of my headphones 😉 aims to make demography – the study of human populations – accessible to a wider audience. It’s a project by Wolfgang Fengler, Lead Economist in Trade and Competitiveness at World Bank – together with K.C. Samir and Benedikt Groß.

My result: “We estimate that you will live until 5 Jun, 2039 if you were an average world citizen. Whereas in United Kingdom it would be until 18 Sep, 2044.”

WOW! This simple data tool makes you think how long on average we have left to live but more important is the thought the impact of location can have on our life expectancy.

That is why the technology transformations in the health sector are one of my main interests, it’s one of the biggest innovation area’s this coming decade. It also shows us how technology can transcend borders and provide solutions globally, after all half of the world’s population will be connected to the mobile internet by 2020.


Health goes Nano: Medical Microbots Take a Fantastic Voyage Into Reality or how engineers explore ways to take robotics to the limits of size and function.

“Many of these devices are still little more than laboratory curiosities, but others are being tested in animals. And some engineers are confident that tiny, untethered instruments will one day be used in medicine…With the right design, researchers say, a microrobot—or a swarm of them—could deliver a highly targeted dose of drugs or radioactive seeds, clear a blood clot, perform a tissue biopsy, or even build a scaffold on which new cells could grow.”

And check out SimPrints, one of the many talented startups I got to know atIdeaspace in Cambridge:

SimPrints is a non profit tech company committed to improving the lives of the poor. Accurately linking people to their digital records is a critical bottleneck in the delivery of mobile services in healthcare, microfinance, and aid distribution. The young team is building a mobile biometric scanner and open-source software to empower the mobile tools used by researchers, NGOs and governments around the world.


Google’s Project Jacquard makes it possible to weave touch and gesture interactivity into any textile using standard, industrial looms. Everyday objects such as clothes and furniture can be transformed into interactive surfaces.


The $10 Hedge Fund Supercomputer That’s Sweeping Wall Street

Sophisticated hedge funds like Renaissance Technologies and tech giants like Google Inc. have been deploying AI and its subset, machine learning, for years. Now data shops like Ufora, founded in 2011 by Braxton McKee, are leveraging cloud power to help hedge funds and other financial players run complex, big-data computer models. The results are startling.

VCs themselves disrupted: Trends Show Crowdfunding To Surpass VC In 2016

By 2016 the crowdfunding industry is on track to account for more funding than venture capital, according to a recent report by Massolution. Just five years ago there was a relatively small market of early adopters crowdfunding online to the tune of a reported $880 million in 2010. Fast forward to today and we saw $16 billion crowdfunded in 2014, with 2015 estimated to grow to over $34 billion.

In comparison, the VC industry invests an average of $30 billion each year.

Meanwhile, the crowdfunding industry is doubling or more, every year, and is spread across several types of funding models including rewards, donation, equity, and debt/lending. And now under new laws enacted in 2013, equity crowdfunding has sprung forth as the newest category of crowdfunding and is further accelerating this growth and disruption.

2 forces transforming the financial services industry

Steadily and indisputably, the financial services industry – with which we all interact, whether as borrowers, savers, investors, or regulators – has embarked on a multiyear transformation. This process, slow at first, has been driven by the combined impact of two sets of durable forces.

On one hand, top-down factors – regulatory change, unusual pricing, and what Nouriel Roubini has cleverly termed the “liquidity paradox” – are at work. Then there are disruptive influences that percolate up from below: changing customer preferences and, even more important, outside visionaries seeking to transform and modernize the industry.


This topic is sizzling hot if you hadn’t noticed.

The Global Apollo Programme wants to jump-start research into cracking the biggest technological obstacle to widespread adoption of solar and wind energy: how to store and distribute it so it can be used as and when needed, rather than consumed immediately as at present.

This week’s G-7 meeting at Schloss Elmau in the Bavarian Alps marked a major breakthrough in climate-change policy. The seven largest high-income economies (the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Canada) made the revolutionary decision to decarbonize their economies during this century.

Of course, the G-7 declaration is only a declaration, and it does not yet include the commitments of many of the world’s largest CO2-emitting countries, including China, India, and Russia. Yet it is a crucial step that will greatly encourage other countries to participate in deep decarbonization as well.

To avoid irreparable damage, governments of the world have agreed to limit the world’s rise in temperature to 2 ̊C. This means an absolute limit on the total accumulated CO2 that can be produced. On present trends that limit will be breached by 2035.

So we must urgently reduce our annual output of CO2.

On the technology side, things start moving in the right direction as well: Tesla launched its Powerwall in April, Apple invested a massive $850 million investment in a California solar farm earlier this year — one that will generate enough electricity to power virtually all of its operations in the Golden State. Now Mercedes-Benz takes on Tesla with a home battery of its own as well.

New markets, new profits. The market is finally ripe for the big players to enter the competitive arena and that’s a great thing for all of us, we all win.

Interesting read as well is Beyond capitalism and socialism: could a new economic approach save the planet? by Jo Confino in The Guardian.

One of my next upcoming speaking gigs is at the Cambridge’s Technology Ventures Conference (26/6) where I’ll speak on “Sustainability: The Soul of Technology”. If you know about any interesting project or startup in the area’s of how innovation and entrepreneurship can save resources to boost growth, enhance global welfare, and enable a sustainable future, please contact me. I’m happy to include any relevant project in my presentation and in this newsletter.

That’s it for this week.

Feel free to pass this newsletter around to your friends and colleagues interested. You can subscribe (or unsubscribe) here.

Be kind to yourself and your loved ones.

Have a great weekend and rest of the week!


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