Kiss The Future: Instant Learning

Scientists say they’re getting closer to Matrix-style instant learning
What price effortless learning? In a paper published in the latest issue of Science, neuroscientists say they’ve developed a novel method of learning, that can cause long-lasting improvement in tasks that demand a high level of visual performance.

And while the so-called neurofeedback method could one day be used to teach you kung fu, or to aid spinal-injury patients on the road to rehabilitation, evidence also suggests the technology could be used to target people without their knowledge, opening doors to numerous important ethical questions.
According to a press release from the National Science Foundation:

New research published today in the journal Science suggests it may be possible to use brain technology to learn to play a piano, reduce mental stress or hit a curve ball with little or no conscious effort. It’s the kind of thing seen in Hollywood’s “Matrix” franchise.

Experiments conducted at Boston University (BU) and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, recently demonstrated that through a person’s visual cortex, researchers could use decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to induce brain activity patterns to match a previously known target state and thereby improve performance on visual tasks.

Think of a person watching a computer screen and having his or her brain patterns modified to match those of a high-performing athlete or modified to recuperate from an accident or disease. Though preliminary, researchers say such possibilities may exist in the future.

But here’s the bit that’s really interesting (and also pretty creepy): the researchers found that this novel learning approach worked even when test subjects weren’t aware of what they were learning:

“The most surprising thing in this study is that mere inductions of neural activation patterns…led to visual performance improvement…without presenting the feature or subjects’ awareness of what was to be learned,” said lead researcher Takeo Watanabe. He continues:

We found that subjects were not aware of what was to be learned while behavioral data obtained before and after the neurofeedback training showed that subjects’ visual performance improved specifically for the target orientation, which was used in the neurofeedback training.

Is this research mind-blowing and exciting? Absolutely. I mean come on — automated learning? Yes. Sign me up. But according to research co-author Mitsuo Kawato, the neurofeedback mechanism could just as soon be used for purposes of hypnosis or covert mind control. And that… I’m not so keen on.

“We have to be careful,” he explains, “so that this method is not used in an unethical way.” [Science via NSF]


The Apple of My Eye

It is only fitting I pay my own respects to Steve Jobs by showing his unveiling of the very first personal Macintosh computer, especially as I am using one of its descendants as I write. It’s quite the moment.

Island Living: The New Utopia

Paypal co-founder and billionaire Peter Thiel, who is currently the Seasteading Institute’s “most generous funder has his mind on on expanding his empire. His initiative constitutes a bold move towards creating floating autonomous states. The initiative is inspired by the idea of creating cities that are free from political agendas and social construction. These “floating cities will allow the next generation of pioneers to peacefully test new ideas for government,” says the Seasteading Institute. “The most successful can then inspire change in governments around the world.” Utopian indeed.

Daphne Guiness: Life as Stage…F.I.T. Exhibit

The Honorable Daphne Suzanne Diana Joan Guinness was born in 1967, the daughter of brewery heir, Jonathan Guinness, Lord Moyne, and French beauty, Suzanne Lisney. Her paternal grandmother was Diana Mitford, one of the legendary Mitford sisters. In 1987, at the age of nineteen, Daphne married Spyros Niarchos. After her divorce in 1999, Daphne resumed her maiden name, and over the past decade has emerged on the world’s stage an extraordinary fashion creature.
If anyone has the ultimate wardrobe, it is Ms. Guiness. She obtained ALL of Isabella Blow’s pieces and also has pieces by the late, great Alexander McQueen. The high priestess of high (very high) fashion.
Daphne Guinness
Special Exhibitions Gallery
September 16 through January 7, 2012

Internet: Circa 1969 A brave new world.

How our imaginations must have been stretched at the thought of such sci-fi communication and convenience. We simply don’t realize what a strain normal life must have been like (kidding of course). Here is an excerpt from a flight-of-fancy documentary. It’s pretty accurate! Watching this video on our new fangled computers is all very back to the future…


Mick Webb

The SEED Project is developing a method to convert unused shipping containers into sustain...

Aside from tragic loss of life and incomprehensible destruction, events like last week’s devastating earthquake in Haiti create a myriad of problems in their wake, not least of which is homelessness. With over 30 million shipping containers the world over currently lying dormant, a team of researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina are working to help solve the issue of accommodation in disaster affected areas by developing a method to convert the unused containers into sustainable emergency housing.

The team at Clemson University, operating under the SEED Project banner, were originally inspired by the hurricanes in recent years in the Caribbean and US. As shipping containers are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions and exceed structural code all over the world, their “unibody” construction means they can be equally useful in seismic zones. Currently Caribbean countries have a large surplus of unused shipping containers due to imports far outweighing exports.

While they have been used in past as boutique relocatable homes and even portable restaurants, the SEED Project aims to use shipping containers to provide safe emergency housing for people displaced by natural disaster as quickly as possible. Historically, in many cases people affected by disaster do not return to their land for years, sometimes never. The SEED Project seeks to see people re-housed in a modified on-site container in as little as three weeks. The idea is to use local skills, labor and materials, with the container eventually becoming a sustainable permanent living space.

Making use of discarded shipping containers in this manner also addresses the global issue of recycling, and the team is focusing on another industrial surplus as well – 55 gallon steel drums. It is looking to use these to create a “starter garden” on top of a converted shipping container to grow food crops and the like should the ground below be contaminated. Water can then be filtered through the drums for use in a water pod that includes shower, sink and composting toilet.

5 Forecasts and 7 Predictions For 2010-2020 That Shape Innovation

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum

What lies ahead, now that America’s Lost Decade and Asia’s Best Decade are behind us? I just returned from a month in Singapore, China and Korea and, for the first time in a dozen years, I’m not going to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. So you can tell what frame of mind I am in.

I believe 5 Big Trends will shape the future decade. The 5 trends are:

1- Rise and Fall of Nations (US and Europe falling, Asia rising).

2- Rise and Fall of Generations (Boomers falling, Gen Y rising).

3- Behavioral Modification of Organizations (social media-ization of businesse, health, education, politics).

4- Urbanization of world’s population.

5- Global warming (winners and losers in the restructuring of the global economy).

Within this context of 5 Big Trends, here are 7 specific forecasts.

1- Peak Globalization:

Just as the world globalized in the second half of the 19th century, only to return to nationalism in the first half of the 20th, so too will we see a strong backlash against globalization in the decade ahead. Over the past 10 years, the expansion of the middle class in China and India has been matched by the immisseration of the middle class in the US. Corporation profits have gone to CEOs, top managers, and the financial elite, not employees or workers. In the near future, they get angry and demand a greater share of the pie.

Top corporations and financial institutions of Europe and America have also de-coupled from their nation-states to become global, putting personal and shareholder interests above national interests. As China, India, Korea, India, Japan and other countries pursue strictly national strategies, Western governments and publics increasingly counter with theirs.

Finally, the Boeing 787 fiasco highlights the problems with extreme outsourcing of complex systems. As Boeing has moved to insource and control the 787, so too other US and European companies follow.

2- Radical Remodeling:

The social media form of organization found in Facebook and Twitter spread to business, healthcare, education and, politics. This is Gen Y’s technology platform and the 16-27 year-old demographic cohort take social media with it as it takes power and moves through it’s life cycle.

Design Thinking, behavioral economics, social media, social business, and new military strategy flow into a new paradigm of organization, process and action. A culture-centric, behavior-focussed model replaces the current rationalistic, math-basaed, theoretical economic model. Bye-bye to the Chicago school of economics. Hello Harvard.

The valuation of “friendships” and relationships in general begins to replace the value of transactions in the economy. Personal networks will increasingly determine wealth.

New consultancies spread the word in business culture and healthcare.

The Ford Foundation sponsors a complete overhaul of the MBA curriculum to reskill business school graduates, with a special focus on ethnography, sociology and design thinking.

3- US-sclerosis:

America becomes increasingly ungovernable and incompetent. Ideological polarization, political corruption (legal lobbying but pay-to-play), growing inequality, globalization of corporate and financial elites, and large-scale social system failures (education, healthcare, intelligence, industry), cut America’s economic, political and military power. The shift to a green economy is slow. The dollar sinks and inflation rises to ease paying for huge government debt.

The US decline reverses by end of the decade, as innovation heralds a renewed economy and Gen Y takes political power, ending the ideological and political stalemate in the country.

4- Return to Big Power Conflict:

The rise and fall of nations generates new Big Power conflict. China challenges the US militarily in Taiwan and nearly succeeds in blinding US naval computer systems.

China and India fight a small-scale border war that is really about controlling water. Pakistan and India engage in conflict.

5- China stalls out:

A huge aging population, soaring inequality and anger at the rich, over-investment in infrastructure, industrial capacity and failure to shift from a producer/exporter to a consumer/importer economy combine to produce a financial crisis in China that ends its 30-year, double-digit growth streak. The decline of the US consumer-of-last-resort is not matched by the rise of Chinese consumption. China becomes “Japanized.” Stuck as the world’s second largest economy, growing but not leading.

Beijing uses nationalism and external conflict to remain in power.

6- India Becomes Global Growth Engine:

A large, young Gen Y population, a vast middle class consumer base, an innovative corporate elite, a large, educated, English-speaking IT industry, a stable government and an ever-closer military alliance with the US push India’s growth rate to double digits, making it the biggest importer of investment and goods from the US and Europe by the end of the decade. Problems remain—corruption, Maoist rebels, inequality.

7- Europe Fades Further:

Benefits from a successful shift to a green economy by many countries are countered by the burdens of paying for a huge aging population. .

Turkey is invited to join the EU by the end of the decade—and turns it down. Working population continues to shrink.

Continued nationalism stops the rise of a strong European government—until the end of the decade when one is actually formed.

That’s it. There will be terrorist events, Middle East changes and scientific/technological breakthroughs that impact our lives. I don’t know that much about thess. I’ve kept the trends and forecasts here to things I do know about—economics, innovation, design, politics, demographics, policy, global.

So here’s to a new decade. It’s going to be exciting—and rough.


As we approach the end of the first decade of the new millennium, let’s consider what life will be like a decade hence. Changes in our lives from technology are moving faster and faster. The telephone took 50 years to reach a quarter of the U.S. population. Search engines, social networks and blogs have done that in just a few years time. Consider that Facebook started as a way for Harvard students to meet each other just six years ago; it now has 350 million users and counting. 

Between now and 2020, the trend will continue, spreading cutting-edge technologies to every corner of the country and beginning to make innovations once consigned to the realm of science fiction real for millions of Americans. Specifically what can we expect? Solar power on steroids, longer lives, the chance to get rid of obesity once and for all, and portable computing devices that start becoming part of your body rather than being held in your hand. 

What will drive all this accelerating change is precisely what has driven it this past half-century: the exponential growth in the power of information technology, which approximately doubles for the same cost every year. When I was an MIT undergraduate in 1965, we all shared a computer that took up half a building and cost tens of millions of dollars. The computer in my pocket today is a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful. That’s a billion-fold increase in the amount of computation per dollar since I was a student. 

That incredible force — information technology that moves faster, then faster, then faster still — will power changes in every imaginable realm over the next decade.

Start with the basics. You’ve no doubt noticed that electronic gadgets are getting smaller and smaller; the iPod Shuffle holds 1,000 songs and weighs 0.38 ounces. Your phone is smaller than it was a few years ago and can do much more. By 2020, memory devices will be integrated into our clothing. And the very idea of a “smart phone” will begin to change. Rather than looking at a tiny screen, our glasses will beam images directly to our retinas, creating a high resolution virtual display that hovers in air.

That virtual display will be able to take over our entire visual field of view, putting us in a three-dimensional full immersion virtual reality environment. We’ll watch movies virtually and read virtual books. A lot of our personal and business meetings will take place in these 3D virtual worlds. The design of new virtual environments will be an art form. We’ll even have ways to touch one another virtually.

There are already beginning to be apps available for your iPhone or Android phone that allow you to look at a building and have the display superimpose what stores are inside it; Google Goggles, released last week, is the first free, widely-available version of such software. By 2020 we’ll routinely have pop ups in our visual field of view that give us background about the people and places that we’re looking at.

In other words, your memory will be constantly, instantaneously aided by the information available on the Internet. The two will begin to become indistinguishable.

How about energy? That doesn’t sound like an information technology. Fossil fuels, after all, are an early first industrial revolution, 19th century technology. But we are now applying nanotechnology — the science of essentially reprogramming matter at the level of molecules to create new materials and devices—to the design of renewable energy technologies such as solar energy. As a result, the cost per watt of solar energy is coming down rapidly and the total amount of solar energy is growing exponentially. It has in fact been doubling every two years for the past  20 years and is now only eight doublings away from meeting all of the world’s energy needs.

When I shared this fact with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few weeks ago, he asked, “but is there enough sunlight to double solar energy eight more times?” I responded that we have 10,000 times more sunlight than we need to do this. The prime minister announced an Israeli energy initiative the next day at the Israeli Presidential Conference based on our conversation, setting a 10-year goal to create the technologies to completely replace fossil fuels.

It’s not just the gadgets we carry around and the power we use to fuel our lives that are subject to what I call “the law of accelerating returns.” Health and medicine, which used to be a hit or miss process, has now become an information technology.

We now have the software of life (our genes) and the means of upgrading that software. How long do you go without updating the software on your cell phone? Not long: it does it itself every few days or weeks. Yet we are walking around with obsolete software in our bodies that evolved thousands of years ago. Within 10 years, that will change. 

Already today, there are over a thousand projects to change our genes away from disease and toward health, not just in newborns but in mature individuals. The Human Genome Project, which has catalogued our genetic material, was itself a very good example of the law of accelerating returns; the amount of genetic data that is sequenced has doubled every year and the cost has come down by half every year. We can now design health interventions on computers and test them out on biological simulators. These technologies are doubling in power every year and will be a thousand times more powerful in a decade.

By 2020, we will have the means to program our biology away from disease and aging, and toward significant advances in our ability to treat major diseases such as heart disease and cancer — an approach that will be fully mature by 2030. 

We won’t just be able to lengthen our lives; we’ll be able to improve our lifestyles. By 2020, we will be testing drugs that will turn off the fat insulin receptor gene that tells our fat cells to hold on to every calorie. Holding on to every calorie was a good idea thousands of years ago when our genes evolved in the first place. Today it underlies an epidemic of obesity. By 2030, we will have made major strides in our ability to remain alive and healthy – and young – for very long periods of time. At that time, we’ll be adding more than a year every year to our remaining life expectancy, so the sands of time will start running in instead of running out.

No, it’s not going to be an entirely brave new world. Some things will look pretty similar in 2020. We’ll still drive cars — although they will have the intelligence to avoid many accidents and self-driving cars will at least be experimented with. All-electric cars will be popular. And in cities, don’t expect subways or buses to go away.

But in more and more ways big and small, hang in there and we’ll all get to see the remarkable century ahead.

Kurzweil is former recipient of the MIT-Lemelson prize, the world’s largest for innovation, and in 1999 was awarded the National Medal of Technology. He is the author of the books “The Singularity is Near” and “The Age of Spiritual Machines.”

Customers and designers interact to create 2010’s fashion lines

THE INDEPENDENTFriday, 18 December 2009

A new trend is emerging in the fashion world, likely to influence the way collections are conceived for the year to come: designers are increasingly calling on their followers for help.

Web aficionados Dolce & Gabbana – the Italians have both a gossipy news site,, and an e-commerce – have repeatedly asked fans for feedback on their creations or even for their own design suggestions. Apparently experiencing designer’s block while working on the upcoming ranges, Stefano Gabbana tweeted: “‘I accept suggestions on women’s collection…..(just 2day) :-)))),” and both designers have asked fans about their opinion on shoes for the next range via YouTube.

Top model Coco Rocha, who is currently working on her first clothing line, also didn’t hide her lack of inspiration when she released a video on her Oh so Coco blog, asking her followers to suggest names for the range. The post has so far attracted more than 400 responses – the winning submission has not yet been announced.

Both moves are part of a tendency of designers listening to and interacting with their customers, from made-to-measure (Prada) and customization services (Louis Vuitton) to livestreams of their fashion shows (Alexander McQueen) and open calls for them to star in their advertising campaigns (Calvin Klein).

Social media are naturally playing an important part here, with many brands launching new portals to widen their reach. Burberry, for instance, recently introduced the interactive website,, that lets users upload pictures of how they styled their coats – which in turn is likely to influence Burberry designer Christopher Bailey’s creation process.

iPhone 3GS Supreme – the 3 million dollar mobile phone

The definition of extravagance - the iPhone 3GS Supreme
by Darren Quick

Goldstriker International, a company which specializes in dipping mobile phones in gold and platinum, appears to have snatched the title of world’s most expensive mobile phone from the iPhone 3G King’s Button with the creation of the iPhone 3GS Supreme. Priced at £1.92 million (approx. US$3.14 million) this is one phone you definitely wouldn’t want to leave on a bus…Before you go reaching for your Titanium credit card, you should know the iPhone 3GS Supreme was commissioned by an anonymous Australian businessman from the gold mining industry.
And I thought we had left all of this rotten excess behind!


By David Licona
Puebla, Mexico, is the latest city to offer a taxi service exclusively for women. Intended as a safe means of transport, the thirty-five strong fleet of bright pink Chevys are driven by women only and will not stop for men. For further female appeal, the cabs are equipped with beauty kits, GPS and emergency panic buttons. Pink Taxi de Puebla has privately financed the initiative, according to an AP report. The regional government, which is licensing the service, has trained more than 60 Pink Taxi drivers (aged 25-45) in driving theory and practice, as well as aspects of car maintenance, such as changing tyres.

Despite the best intentions of the scheme, some local women’s rights campaigners claim that the girly vehicles are promoting harmful female stereotypes. Still, they are certainly eye-catching and for women who have experienced harassment by male drivers in the past, the 24-hour service is sure to offer peace of mind. Similar operations have already proved successful in places from London to Teheran. Mexico City proposed it in 2007, but settled instead for female-only buses and subway cars. If this service in Puebla is successful, there are plans to expand to other cities. If your own town doesn’t yet have a fuchsia fleet, now’s the time to launch one.


By Amy Willis
Published: 9:19PM GMT 25 Oct 2009 medicine becomes super advanced, and super expensive, the super rich may evolve into a completely different species from everyone else, according to American futurologist Paul Saffo. He thinks medical technology such as replacement organs, specially tailored drugs, and genetic research tools to alert the moneybags of any possible hereditary health dangers, could all lead to a new class of rich, elite, and longer-living humans.

Mr Saffo, from San Francisco, says in the future people will be able to grow their own replacement organs, take specially tailored drugs, and use genetic research tools to alert them from any possible hereditary health dangers.

He adds that tomorrow’s world will be a fusion of biology and technology, where robots do the chores, cars drive themselves and artificial limbs are better than real ones.

Mr Saffo’s comments reflect claims by American scientist Ray Kurzweil who only a few months ago said immortality was only 20 years away due to the speed of advancements in nanotechnology.

But Mr Saffo says these improvements would only be affordable to the super-rich. And because of this, he says, advancements may lead to a divide between the classes and eventually could lead to the super-rich evolving into a different species entirely, leaving his not-so-rich counterpart behind.

“In the 1980s it was the personal computer – came out of the garage, changed the world. In the 1990s it was the web. The next big device to wander into our lives is robots,” he told the Sunday Times.

“We may find we are absolutely dependent upon these electronic insects and that we don’t even know we are dependent upon them until something breaks.

“I sometimes wonder if the very rich can live, on average, 20 years longer than the poor. That’s 20 more years of earning and saving. Think about wealth and power and the advantages that you pass on to your children.”