“Grave concerns over the state of the Internet came into sharp focus Tuesday at Techonomy 2017, as session panelists talked about the beleaguered network’s effects on our political systems, cybersecurity, laws and regulations, economies and markets–and ultimately, on global society.”
In an early morning session Ed Butler, Senior Broadcast Journalist for the BBCinterviewed Berit Anderson, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Scout.ai, regarding the potential for computational propaganda. The session quickly turned to the specific example of Russia and their influence on the 2016 US presidential election.
“Their (Russia’s) goal is to undermine NATO and democracy, and the best way to do that is by making America look like a hot mess,” she said.
Anderson started out by talking about Facebook and the research that her company, Scout.ai has done on their newsfeed algorithms. Anderson claims that her team has reverse engineered the process, and that two single engineers with cleverly written code would be able to change the news feed algorithms without anyone else in Facebook knowing.
Anderson explained that these newsfeed algorithms, along with SEO manipulation, Facebook political dark ads, and fake Facebook and Twitter accounts make up the sophisticated Russian manipulation of American voters. Each of these tools is used differently to influence the way Americans think and vote. Anderson shared that Russia has used their Facebook and Twitter bots to influence multiple democratic events over the last few years. A group called Cambridge Analytica discovered that the same group of bots was activated and deactivated between the Arab Spring, the Brexit campaign, and the US presidential election.
Anderson pointed out that Russia takes exceptionally divisive issues and feed each side material in order to split the voters even further. They could even have had the capability of singling out specific zip codes in swing states and swing districts. Anderson called Russia’s strategy “pretty smart.”
To finish the session, Butler wondered what, if anything, these social media platforms are doing in order to stop what is happening. Anderson replied that Facebook has made small attempts to make political advertising more transparent but that Facebook and Twitter have overall been very unresponsive to the situation.
The panel began with Waite stating that so often we see investment dollars being put only into tech companies. He noted the enormous economic opportunities that there are with additive manufacturing. The fusion of technology with manufacturing will create major growth in the industry. He shared that 3D printing is expected to be a 20 billion dollars industry by 2020. By 2025 it is expected to have grown to 100–150 billion dollars.
“Humans think linearly, technology thinks exponentially, and that is where things get interesting,” said Waite.
Waite looked to Vafiadis for an explanation of some of the things his budding 3D printing company Titomic is doing. Vafiadis explained the cold fusion technique they are using to create better metal, 3D printed parts in a faster and cheaper way. He also told of a new material he recently held that acts like titanium but is more malleable and doesn’t react to heat and cold.
Waite turned the conversation to how materials themselves will become technology and invited Fox to tell how his company, LINK3D, is the embodiment of that. Fox spoke of how metallurgists are creating new materials, allowing for design without borders. He mentioned how technology typically makes our lives better and cited the improved environmental impact that additive manufacturing will have as an example of that.
“You can recycle almost 99% of the materials used in industrial 3D printing these days,” said Fox.
Rudderham finished up the panel by commenting on the changes that 3D printing could bring into the automotive industry. He explained that tooling costs to make changes to car designs require an long run time of any product in order to recoup the investment. With additive manufacturing, you can change designs with a tiny amount of cost.
“You could even get into mass customization,” said Rudderham.
The second panel on the final day of the Future in Review 2017 conference consisted of Gahl Berkooz, Chief Data and Analytics Officer at Acorns, and Murray Cantor, Author and former IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO of Aptage. The panel was moderated by Robert Anderson, chairman and CEO of HEVT LLC and discussed fintech and the future of analytics.
According to Berkooz, Fintech is defined by its disruption of current financial institutions including banks, and their high fee based revenue models. These institutions have traditionally favored wealthy individuals, with many services and offerings only making sense or available to those belonging to the highest income bracket. Approximately 70% of Americans have less than $1000 in savings. The value proposition of Acorns, Berkooz explained is automatic enablement of savings and investment removing the transactional fees. Removing the transactional fees enables consumers with lower income to make investments. Berkooz also mentioned his company Acorns is not the only form of disruption arising in financial services. Fintech startups offering robo-advising and low-cost trading are also disrupting industry by providing services previously unavailable to a broader, lower-income market.
The conversation soon shifted to artificial intelligence(AI), Data Science, and the future of analytics. Berkooz discussed the monumental impact these fields will see due to massive data collection, large compute power, and changing consumer expectations for personalization .
“We are just at the beginning of a golden age of data,” said Berkooz.
Data Science is also being approached in new ways. When speaking to the trends in data science and analytics Cantor explained a shift is occurring towards small datasets. He used the example of the growing trend of data utilization in project management with small teams. Cantor emphasized the importance AI is beginning to play in this solution due to the inherent challenges surrounding smaller sets of data and incorporating information from various datasets.
There are, however, still systemic obstacles to developing these fields. Berkooz and Cantor agreed Data Science and AI are unique fields in which academia severely lags industry. Both agreed the fields would greatly benefit from more open-ended exploration and study as opposed to the objective focused development currently happening in industry. Cantor elaborated to say development of AI and data dependent systems are “very adhoc right now.”
There also remain many unanswered questions and challenges involved with AI implementation. How do you measure the intelligence quotient of an AI system? According to Cantor, there is currently no answer to this question.
“We need some way of knowing which AI’s are better than others, and which are better suited to solve which problems. “ said Cantor
Though not all questions have been answered nor best practices established, both men were optimistic regarding near future application and abilities of systems with respect to risk assessment and management, and personalization of content. They stressed solutions are already coming and they will involve a synthesis of human and machine work.
In an arresting afternoon session on day 3 of the Future in Review conference, Cynthia Figge, CEO and Co founder, CSRHub moderated a panel consisting of representatives of companies that could complete Mark Anderson’s carbon trifecta. Will Perego, Founder and CEO, 24-Hour Solar Roof, Mark Godsy, CEO, Exro Technologies, and Ray Gibbs, CEO, Haydale came together to offer their perspectives on building Elon Musk’s vision of a sustainable energy future.
Figge set up the session by defining the three parts of the Carbon Trifecta: carbon capture, especially via direct air capture, processing CO2 into useful carbon based materials like graphene, carbon based polymers etc., and 3D printing.
To contextualize the companies’ work, Figge asked the representatives what their companies do and how it applies to the Trifecta.
Pereo started by speaking of his passion about real estate and sustainability and how clean energy was the next logical step. He also spoke of his fortune in being at a time and place where his aspirations could be realized and how those not at the right place should be helped.
“It dawned on me that we are lucky to be in a country in the United States,” he said. “If there is anything that I can do to bring some of our wealth to them [billion people without electricity], it would be an incredible experience.”
Godsy took a more statistics driven description of Exro’s future. He underlined the need for sustainable energy, because each year, human are putting in 36 million tons of CO2 into the air. Even signatories to the Paris Climate Accord, he said, fall short.
In a more direct rejoinder to the responses, Figge further drilled into the problem of scalability, asking how the companies aimed to scale.
Perego said that solar is growing exponentially, and how he envisions 50 percent market penetration in approximately 20 years. Already, he said, solar is the cheapest energy source in several states, so as more people switch to solar, a virtuous cycle will establish itself wherein existing utilities’ prices will go up.
Godsy told a story in the Bahamas, where he met an electric engineer whose eyes welled up at the mention of Exro’s vision of using tidal energy to generate power.
“Ever since I was a boy, I dreamed of these waves will power our island,” said Godsy, quoting the engineers.
Gibbs chimed in by talking about the size of the composites market.
“Composite materials market is 100 billion dollar market,” he said.
He spoke further of the energy savings that could be made if composites were replaced with nanomaterials and the savings that could be made by using graphene, which is a great head dissipator.
Asking about what the companies were doing right now, Figge quizzed the companies on what they were doing currently and if any new products were coming up.
Perego started by saying that 24-Hour should have a fully functioning unit by years end. The next year, a product for flash charge batteries is coming up. Finally, he expressed the need for the company to allow for neighbors to trade their renewable electricity among themselves.
Godsy said that Exro’s business plan is a combination of chess and dominoes. Three prototypes are being created internally, and four technical areas are being commercialized: generators (propulsion systems for drones), motors (confidential), reversible machine for bicycles, and the wind initiative. He shared his vision of seeing their technology in at least half a billion machines.
Gibbs started by mentioning an element of waste often overlooked. He said the oil and gas industry has leaky pipes, which are huge polluters, saying that the repair bill for a Saudi company is a billion dollars a year. He said that many problems could be solved using silicon carbide.
Figge ended the session by asking what the financial models for the developing world are.
Perego started by pushing for a pay-as-you-go model, giving the example of building a center with a 24-Hour Solar Roof for electricity and water and how time and money could be saved.
Godsy said that there’s abundant energy that could power the entire country with tidal forces. He said that they hope to be an important player so as to have people have access to things.
Gibbs ended on a driven note, when speaking about the need for water.
“It’s criminal that people in developing countries don’t have access to water,” he said.
Katia Moritz, filmmaker and psychologist led a breakout session continuing the discussion about her upcoming film “Undiagnosed” at the FiRe conference on patients with terminal disease. The session was collaborative with all the participating members.
Moritz began the panel discussing further about Alex, the eleven year old boy who suffers from seizures, and the importance on the focus of undiagnosed patients. Moritz mentioned that Alex and his mother were planning on making an appearance to the conference but unfortunately this was not the case because Alex was in the ICU due to respiratory complications.
This fear of the unknown can be paralyzing for parents taking care of their children with terminal disease. Not knowing how to take care of their children or how much longer time to live they may have can be strenuous on these parents.
Hospice care can be a challenge not just on the patients but on the families as well. Many of the patients go into hospice not knowing what disease/condition they have or how much longer they have to live. They end up leaving and going into regular hospitals or some cases leave in general.
Moritz quoted Jeff Lowe, an avid climber who has been in and out of hospice care, who said that every time he moved his ice pick while climbing, it was more terrifying than worrying about when he may die sitting in hospice.
“Being sick is the furthest you can be from dying,” said Moritz and “These people try to live the most normal life they can”.
Moritz said patients in hospice care can be a strain on the families because they prepare to lose a loved one and many cases the patient does not die.
The talk turned to talk about supporting the supporters and one of the audience members, Diane Tober, Assistant Professor at UCSF asked Moritz what can be done about the stresses on caregivers.
When it comes to taking care of the patients and their supporters, Moritz compared it to “war triage, [they] have to choose a path to focus on.” Moritz expressed her passion about helping these parents, but claimed she and her team initially need to focus on the patients and provide them the required care.
Moritz ended the session on an optimistic note.
“New technologies plus collaboration equals hope”, she said.
Ed Butler of the BBC interviewed Bill Ribaudo, the managing partner of Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory’s Digital Risk Venture Portfolio. In a session titled “Investors Redefine Value: Impact on Public Policy and Education Content,” Ribaudo outlined his theory of four business models. He discussed how these models differ in both how they’re valued on public markets and how they affect the trajectory of the nations that adopt them.
Ribaudo shared the following framework, which formed the basis of his analysis. It is illustrated in the image below.
Ribaudo and his colleagues collected 40 years’ worth of data on the performance of S&P companies.
They grouped the first two business models, Asset Builders and Service Providers, into industrial and backward-looking models. They grouped the latter two, Technology Creators and Network Orchestrators, into information-driven models, which Ribaudo said were the types of businesses most likely to have success in the future, given that they create much more value for their stakeholders.
Ribaudo thought of the business model evolution in terms of revolutions, namely, the industrial, services, information, and network revolutions.
“Whose pictures are on the covers of magazines?,” Ribuado said.
He illustrated how this answer has changed, from Carnegie and Rockefeller at the turn of the twentieth century, to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates a century later, up through thirtysomething tech billionaires today.
This means that over time, successful businesses leverage different assets, moving from purely physical assets, to human and physical assets, and finally to value based on interactions.
He elaborated on ridesharing as a service that has been ripe for disruption, leading to legal and philosophical disputes between more-established taxi services and app-based ridesharing services. Ribaudo believes that not only is technological change inevitable, but also that it leads to much higher growth in the nations that support such change.
Ribaudo said, “Value has shifted from owning factories and producing stuff to controlling eyeballs.” With over ninety percent of business education at top institutions focused on teaching old-school industries, Ribaudo believes that there is a lot of room for disruption in training the next generation of business leaders to move their firms towards more valuable investments.
He compared the participants’ impromptu discussions in the hallways to the Rebel Alliance camps gathered around campfires in the “Star Wars” film franchise.
Anderson discussed a mechanism of how to put technologically rebellious ideas into practice through the following framework, which he termed a “mantra:”
In the post-information age, all economic sectors are driven by tech.
All data is Big Data.
Artificial intelligence is the key to all Big Data analysis.
Pattern recognition is the key to this analysis.
Flow and interaction are the drivers of patterns.
Patterns of flow and interaction are the key to knowledge.
Pattern computing is the future of design.
Anderson invited the audience to check out the SNS-supported books, the most recent of which is “The Universal Powers of Flow and Interaction,” available for purchase online. The session ended with a call by student intern Hannah Littell to join FiReFilms, the documentary film arm of FiRe.
In closing, Anderson made an optimistic reference to both FiRe’s participants and the “Star Wars” heroes.
Ed Butler of the BBC hosted a panel titled “FiReStarters I: Five Companies Improving the World,” where he interviewed four FiRestarter companies (HALE.life was missing). Across a wide variety of disciplines, these CEOs are pushing the envelope of innovation and truly embody FiRe XV’s theme of breaking through on a century scale.
24-Hour Solar Roof builds roofs out of solar panels, rather than layering the panels on top of other roofing materials. This eliminates waste while providing 24/7 electricity.
Perego’s company’s mission is to provide everyone in the world electricity and fresh drinking water directly from their roofs, so no one has to worry about a blackout ever again. It’s easy to see how this tech is timely, in light of devastating power outages in Puerto Rico among other places.
The panel system made by 24-Hour Solar Roof circulates the heat captured by the sun and provides hot water by using a different type of A/C system. It reuses rain water instead of using electricity. As an atmospheric water generator, it extracts the humidity from the outside air.
Perego discussed financial models for developed and developing countries. In the United States, consumers’ costs for traditional solar panels vs. 24-Hour Solar are very similar. In developing countries, there are no upfront costs for installation. A use case Perego discussed was to build a solar roofed community center where residents can eliminate travel time to charge electronics and hassles to acquire drinking water.
With traditional solar panels, over 85% of energy is wasted. 24-Hour Solar Roof’s panels provide security for both electrical power and water, two vital building blocks to health and development. By installing a solar roof, consumers can reduce 80% of their energy consumption.
Aptage leverages artificial intelligence for project management, to predict the outcomes of projects, and to give advice on decisions. If you are a project manager with a deadline 3 months out, and you knew it was at 60% risk of failure, what would you do differently? Aptage has developed a risk language that displays these risks using visualizations.
Heintz claims that the human mind is not good at assessing risk. He points to the Big Dig in Boston, which is estimated to cost up to $22 billion, including interest. One of the key contributors to this failure was the project managers not knowing things were going off track.
Heintz quoted Nobel winning behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman, from his book “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”
“Even statisticians are not good intuitive statisticians,” he said.
Aptage provides burndown charts to help project managers overcome the challenges inherent in any risky long-term project and make the statistical risk of missing deadlines more intuitive.
Exro’s technology bridges the gap between hardware and software. They develop electric motor technology found in wind and automotive applications.
This tech enables motors to become self-optimizing: Godsy discussed a computer program that reconfigures a motor dependent on torque.This makes motors more efficient especially in electric vehicles.
Exro has validated their technology by building three prototypes, applicable to motors, generators, and software intelligence
An audience member asked if these optimized motors were adaptable to an elevator, or a subway, or to a hybrid bus? Godsy answered that Exro is “enabling these machines to be intelligent — [they] do have application in all those areas.”
Breakthroughs in material science drive discovery at Exro. Godsy is focused on the possibilities of graphene. When motors themselves improve, Exro’s software leverages those changes, harnessing more energy.
ÉlpisÉremo develops breakthroughs in tissue generation. Ryan is optimistic that this research in the body’s signaling pathways will lead to applications in regenerating the body.
Ryan discussed orchestration of two factors involved in gene over-expression. He claimed the body’s mechanism to turn proteins directly on and off is “like a symphony — [with] lots of moving parts.” By directly affecting gene expression, Ryan’s hopes that “we’re entering a whole new era of medicine.”
ÉlpisÉremo’s scientists were inspired by Tesla’s electric oscillator: they monitored nanomechanical signatures during stem cell development. Ryan played an audio recording of what these oscillations at the molecular level sound like.
Ryan was inspired to co-found ÉlpisÉremo after successfully using a then-experimental stem-cell treatment when his infant son fell ill. By targeting the next wave of epigenetic research, Ryan and his team of research scientists are bypassing traditional stem cell therapies.
Greg Ness introduced the panel consisting of Bob Flores, Philip Lohaus and Dmytro Shymkiv in an afternoon session at the Future in Review conference titled “Ukraine: On the Front Lines of Russia’s Infowar Machine.” Ness summarized the aims of the session as answering three vital questions: Why us Ukraine strategically vital? What is happening at Ukraine today? Where do we go from here?
As for the first question, Shymkiv started of by mentioning a previous panel on China’s infowar strategy. He stated that Russia’s infowar machine wants to disrupt and destroy western presence in Ukraine and also experiment with the kinds of tools can be used to influence behaviors and decision making in the West.
Charles Cleveland(?) mentioned that traditional areas of strength possessed by the United States, including sea, land, air, and space. However, he also mentioned two new fronts where the US is losing: cyberspace and humans who are “easily influenced.”
On the second question, Shymkiv spoke about the systematic dismantling of critical infrastructure in the Ukraine, giving special mention to the whole Ministry of Finance being wiped out and energy grid being disrupted.
“The Russians used tax report software for 400,000 computers extracting financial information and digital signatures,” he said.
He further said that the Russians followed a pattern previously used by the Soviets of “burning” the machines. He said that within the first few hours of the virus, the companies they hacked lost 90 percent of their infrastructure.
Further clarifying Russia’s use fake news, Shymkiv said that when Crimea was annexed, Russia used social media to influence people. Military recruitment was also done by social media. He also said that typically, fake news stories have 40 percent truth, so they look true while being true.
As for the spread of these tactics beyond Ukraine, the panel said that these tactics have also been used in Georgia, Estonia and other places. They drew comparisons with China, in that Russia has developed a military doctrine based on the US’ doctrine’s weaknesses, to which the US has not yet adapted.
Faced with a bleak situation, the panel wasn’t optimistic about things becoming better. Shymkiv mentioned a Russian experiment in the black sea to control GPS. When mentioning quantum computing, the panel agreed that while it would provide an advantage for a short time, it the advantage would eventually be closed by others.
There was a call for the education system to teach kids to understand cyber better. Critical thinking was also highlighted as important, with Finland’s system being hailed for teaching it.
Ness’ question about the efficacy of the current security stack was also met with pessimism. Shymkiv said it was inadequate and said that pattern recognition could have been the only way forward.