Blog Post #379:  Can I have the next dance Sophia?

Blog Post #379:  Can I have the next dance Sophia?

Taken from: https://www.facebook.com/WTFuture/videos/watch-sophia-the-robot-take/388472918288251/

So here is Sophia – a humanoid robot.  I can beat her in a race (she only goes about 0.6 miles an hour – hey – I can get a mile in about 15 minutes – or 4 miles an hour).  She can do some dance steps – smile (the links says about 60 facial expressions). Her speech is somewhat limited – some scripted responses and some artificial intelligence (AI).  

(Do watch the video – it is about a minute long).

Sure this is a prototype = but how soon before we get C3PO?  (R2D2 wouldn’t be quite as interesting).

Do you want a robotic helper around the house?  Is this the future?

Hmmm … I’m guessing my wife might like a robot better than me – doesn’t eat anything, just plug the robot in at night, give simple directions, doesn’t sleep, obeys directives, doesn’t argue – hey I can be replaced!!!

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #378:  Amazing Grace: I once was blind, but now I see

Blog Post #378:  Amazing Grace: I once was blind, but now I see

Taken from: http://theconversation.com/curing-blindness-with-stem-cells-heres-the-latest-science-92412

How about that – the blind can see; the deaf can hear; the lame can walk!!  Okay, this article is about being blind – and the hope of using stem cells. Two comments first – it is not immediate; and it will probably be expensive (at least at first).

The article says:

“In 2006, Nature published a paper describing how stem cells could be used to restore sight in blind mice. This study, and similar subsequent studies, created a lot of excitement about the potential of stem cells to cure blindness in humans. Fast forward 12 years and we still don’t seem to be quite there – one notable human clinical trial in Japan was stopped in 2015 due to a risk of tumour development in a patient’s eye. So are we any closer to using stem cell therapies to treat blindness, or will we always be “ten years away”?

The retina is an important tissue at the back of the eye that senses light and sends visual information to the brain. Eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration are characterised by damage to retina cells, which can eventually lead to vision loss and blindness. Scientists hope to find a way to replace or preserve damaged retina cells in order to treat these eye diseases.”

“Stem cells might be useful for this because they can be triggered to turn into any type of cell. In 2010 scientists successfully guided stem cells into becoming retina cells in a laboratory. It is hoped that these cells could later be delivered into the diseased eye to replace or preserve damaged retina cells.”

So, good news – although not quite today.  There are risks of rejection. The best risks are from stem cells from the individual; but that might not be possible – and stem cells from donors require additional medications to handle possible rejection.

But – it still is exciting!!!

Bruce

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Blog Post #377:  55 Hours without Coal!!

Blog Post #377:  55 Hours without Coal!!

Taken from: https://www.cnet.com/news/uk-goes-55-hours-without-coal-power-breaks-historical-record/

I have written about our use of fossil fuel (including coal).  This article says that England (aka the United Kingdom) set a new record of 55 hours without using coal power.  

The article states: “The UK is becoming a force to be reckoned with in sustainable energy use, and currently ranks sixth on the World Bank’s sustainable energy scorecard (behind Denmark, Canada, the US, Netherlands and Germany).

The UK’s renewable energy mix consists largely of wind and solar generation — in 2017, Britain’s wind farms generated more electricity than coal power plants for more than 75 percent of the year. According to recent government figures (PDF), the reduction in coal use was responsible for a 3 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2016.”

Scientists tell us there is a link between fossil fuel usage and global warming.  That global warming is affected by greenhouse gas emissions (so less coal usage, less emissions).  

If the UK can reduce coal usage (to even a new record of over 2 days without coal; others countries can do the same.  Can the United States do this? Can we use more wind, solar, renewable fuels (like ethanol); hydro power?

Growth in wind power is up in the United States; solar power is up; but political factors can affect energy usage as well.  

Bruce

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Blog Post #376:  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

Blog Post #376:  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

On July 4th, 1776 the Constitutional Congress officially approved the “Declaration of Independence”.  This was a daring assertion on the part of thirteen very different colonies across an ocean from the ‘home’ country that they should be independent – free of the political constraints of that mother country.  

It was a shadow of what we have today.  These thirteen colonies send representatives to Philadelphia to draft some sort of resolution.  They didn’t take Amtrak, or fly into PHL. They didn’t drive their cars. They rode horses – or in carriages pulled by horses.  They came from the north – as far as New Hampshire, Boston, upstate New York; and the south – as far as Georgia and South Carolina.  From Boston to Philadelphia is over 300 miles. A traveler might make forty miles a day (walking speed of about 4 miles an hour for 10 hours).  So such a trip might take eight days – eight days on a horse – in rain, cold, heat.  

Back to Declaration of Independence – it states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. “

Let’s think of those three words:

Life – we have the right to life.  We should be able to live – without fear of government involvement.  

Liberty – we have the right to be free.  We should be able to move around the country; to take jobs wherever we can be hired.  (My friend and colleague from one of the former Soviet Belarus doesn’t not have this freedom.  He can’t move from City A to City B within his country (not quite right – he can move from A to B – but at his expense.  If he stays in A, he gets an apartment, a salary and a job. In B, it is all out of his pocket (and unaffordable).

The Pursuit of Happiness.  Note – this isn’t a guarantee of ‘happiness’ – but to pursue happiness.  To me, happiness is a mental thing. We can decide to be happy or not. We get to choose happiness.  

Philippians 4: 4-7 says “ Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Let us not be anxious about anything – but adjust your attitude – and allow the peace of God to surround us!!!

So, let us have life, liberty – and pursue that choice that leads to happiness this July 4th.

Bruce

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Blog Post #375:  Be careful this July 4th

Blog Post #375:  Be careful this July 4th

Taken from: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Seasonal-fires/Fireworks

I’m writing this on July 3rd.  Tomorrow is the big American Holiday – Independence Day – The Fourth of July!!  It is summer, it will be hot (or hotter) in most parts of the United States. Communities and organizations will shoot off fireworks.  And … people will also shoot off fireworks.

(Aside – joke- Q:  Does Canada have the fourth of July?  A: No. Their calendars go from the third to the fifth!!)

In Central Texas shooting off most fireworks in cities and towns is illegal.  Small items like snakes / glowworms; smoke ‘bombs’; wire sparkler and trick noisemakers are listed as accepted on my city’s website: https://www.leandertx.gov/fire/page/fireworks-leander

But, outside the city limits there are numerous places that sell fireworks (limited season in Texas and some other states); and they are legal to shoot off outside of city boundaries.

The article / website says:

  • Fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and an average of $43 million in direct property damage.  
  • In 2017, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 12,900 people for fireworks related injuries; 54% of those injuries were to the extremities and 36% were to the head. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for more than one-third (36%) of the estimated 2017 injuries. These injury estimates were obtained or derived from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 2015 Fireworks Annual Report by Yongling Tu.

Growing up, we had sparklers and went someplace to see fireworks. The local baseball team had fireworks after their evening baseball game.  Later in the summer when the area regional fair was held, there were fireworks at that location. (I remember parking and watching the fireworks when the wind took the ashes away and on to our car).  But even then, this wasn’t perfect. Also from the National Fire Prevention Association is the information that wire sparklers can reach 1,200 degrees!! (That is HOT).

 

So, be safe this Independence Day – remember how our country got started but follow the rules and regulations for your area – and enjoy this All-American Holiday!!

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Blog Post #374:  One more in the Amazon tool kit

Blog Post #374:  One more in the Amazon tool kit

Taken from: https://www.axios.com/amazon-acquire-pillpack-health-care-startup-prescriptions-ba3e1eae-57f3-4971-98e3-02e90e0c34db.html

The retail world as we knew it – has changed.  While malls are still important; Walmart and big box stores are important.  And, online shopping has changed the landscape even more.

Of course, Amazon – is the big dog in the online area.

This article says:

“Amazon has agreed to acquire Boston-based online pharmacy PillPack, which had previously been in takeover talks with Walmart.

“Our thought bubble, via Axios tech editor Scott Rosenberg: Amazon’s entry into the prescription market is a natural follow-on to its move (with Warren Buffett and JP Morgan Chase) into the broader healthcare field. But while that high-profile effort seems to be aimed, at least for now, at its own workforce, this acquisition is more likely to make big waves sooner in the competitive and huge drug market.

“The deal with PillPack could disrupt the U.S. drugstore business. The online pharmacy offers pre-sorted doses of medications precisely timed with home delivery.

The details:

“Pillpack had raised over $110 million in funding, most recently at around a $360 million valuation, from firms like Accel, Accomplice, CRV, Pillar Cos, Astral Capital and Sherpa Capital.

“Not surprisingly, shares of Walgreens and CVS are plunging with the news.

“The transaction will be complete by the end of 2018.”

 

So, here we are – Amazon moving into the online pharmacy; Amazon buying Whole Foods; moving into advanced delivery methods.  Yes, the retail world is changing!!!

What else will happen?

Bruce

 

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Blog Post #373:  Hmmm – how do we teach this?

Blog Post #373:  Hmmm – how do we teach this?

Taken from: https://www.ozy.com/fast-forward/blockchains-next-disruption-business-school-programs/87586

We are rapidly going down the road to electronic currency and crytocurrencies.  The concept of blockchain and bitcoin has gotten a lot of attention recently.

To help out (or not), the definition of bitcoin is: “a type of digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.”  WOW – digital currency; encryption; transfer – and without a central bank.

It seems to be one of the disruptive technologies of the future – and of great interest to me as a Business School Professor for 38 years.  Where do we teach cryptocurrencies? And … what do we teach and how do we teach it? Is it finance, accounting, IT? Interdisciplinary?

To me, that question has an obvious answer – in the MIS / CIS / IT area.  After all this is a technology. Of course, the finance people think that this topic is a financial one.  Accounting wants in on the topic as well. How do you put 2,000 bitcoins on your balance statement and income statement?

Let’s look at the article:

“Business schools and universities are rushing to launch courses on cryptocurrencies and blockchain, as demand for greater understanding of the technologies grows after the crypto boom. But what exactly should be taught and who should teach it? As academics take stock, debate is growing over where the future of cryptocurrency education lies.
Demand from professionals for teaching about cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology that underpins them has increased steadily. More recently, however, there has been an explosion of interest amid turbulent changes in the price of bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, and the hype around it.”

“Business schools and universities are racing to train students in a specialism once seen as inhabiting the nerdy fringes of finance and technology but which has been propelled into the mainstream. It is not just banks, central banks and governments assessing how to use the technologies; other sectors, from logistics to mining, want to understand what it means for them.”

“This is moving much faster than people expected. Business schools will have no choice but to update curricula,” says David Yermack, professor of finance and business transformation at the New York University Stern School of Business. “


Business professors over the years have jumped from old technologies to new ones.  For example, the old pen and pencil general ledgers died years ago as we went to electronic ledgers and electronic accounting.  These are built on databases – so, the IT people say “that is in our area”.

Some have even suggested specialized master’s programs in Blockchain.  In the article we have: ““It wouldn’t surprise me to see some turf wars break out over who owns the blockchain curriculum at business schools.”

And this:

“Academics describe the difficulties of keeping pace with a fast-evolving field. In his latest course, Yermack had to adjust his curriculum to add lessons on the creation of new versions of cryptocurrency known as hard forks, as well as on ICOs. “These topics were all but unheard of a year ago,” he says. “This is much more difficult than teaching a course out of a textbook.”

The author (who only has a basic knowledge of the technology, but who has been working with the ICCP to create a certification exam in blockchain) thinks that this looks too important to miss out on.  So, for only 5 Bitcoins, you can take his 10 hour introductory class into Bitcoin and blockchain technologies!!! (by-the-way – when I was writing this, 5 Bitcoins were worth $29,646.38 USD!!!) Even with one student, I’d come out ahead!!!

Are you ready?

(I’m not quite there)

Bruce

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Blog Post #372:  Yeehaw!!! I’m buying a (made in China or Germany) Harley!!!

Blog Post #372:  Yeehaw!!! I’m buying a (made in China or Germany) Harley!!!

Taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jun/25/harley-davidson-production-us-eu-tariffs-motorcycles

I don’t like to talk about politics – although I do get on the fringe of that topic occasionally.  Today is one of those days – although it really is about economics. In recent days the United States government has announced various tariffs on various items.  This is a controversial matter – beyond my area of expertise.

The article describes how Harley Davidson, the renown maker of motorcycles, had decried the tariffs on imported steel.  Yes, those tariffs will help the United States steel producers to be competitive – so some may argue that is good – to help the steel makers.

But, whether buying American steel or foreign steel, steel will be more expensive –  and that translates to more expensive Harley motorcycles.

The article states: “In a stock market filing, the company said the EU’s reaction to Donald Trump’s steel tariffs, which will add $2,200 to the average cost of a motorcycle exported from the US to Europe, will result in up to $100m of extra charges over the next couple of years.”

Harley Davidson (of course) will not ‘eat’ that extra expense – but pass it on in higher prices for their motorcycles.  

The article adds this: ““Harley-Davidson maintains a strong commitment to US-based manufacturing, which is valued by riders globally,” Harley-Davidson said in the filing.

“Increasing international production to alleviate the EU tariff burden isn’t the company’s preference, but represents the only sustainable option to make its motorcycles accessible to customers in the EU and maintain a viable business in Europe.”

So, what do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #371: The Self-Driving Truck is on it’s way

Blog Post #371: The Self-Driving Truck is on its way

Taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/oct/10/american-trucker-automation-jobs

So, we (in this blog) have talked about self-driving cars in the future.  Yes, I am looking forward to that day and development. I see it as a great help for the elderly who have lost their freedom when their family took away their keys.  If all the world (or at least, all the United States) had self-driving / autonomous vehicles – accidents would drop (these vehicles have been processors and cameras that your favorite photography studio). Who knows – we might even get rid of stop lights sometime in the future!!  (Probably not soon though).

But this article goes to the BIG RIGS – autonomous trucks.

It says:

Google, Uber, Tesla and the major truck manufacturers are looking to a future in which people like Baxter will be replaced – or at the very least downgraded to co-pilots – by automated vehicles that will save billions but will cost millions of jobs. It will be one of the biggest changes to the jobs market  since the invention of the automated loom – challenging the livelihoods of millions across the world.”

The article highlighted one truck stop and the thousand of truckers on the road.

“Every week, a major tech company seems to announce some new development in automated trucking. Next month, the Tesla founder, Elon Musk, will unveil an electric-powered semi that is likely to be semi-autonomous. But most of the truckers I spoke to were not concerned by the rise of the robots. “I don’t think a robot could do my job,” says Ray Rodriguez, 38, who has driven up a batch of cars from Tennessee. “Twenty years from now, maybe.”

“Nor do the managers of the Iowa 80 see ther jobs changing any time soon. “The infrastructure just isn’t there,” says Heather DeBaillie, marketing manager of Iowa 80. Nor does she think that people are ready for autonomous trucks. “Think about the airplane. They could automate an airplane now. So why don’t they have airplanes without pilots?” She also argues that the politics of laying off so many people will not pass muster in Washington”

The article also states: “Trucking is a $700bn industry, in which a third of costs go to compensating drivers, and, he says, if the tech firms can grab a slice of that, they will.”.

Hmm – about ⅓ of 700 billion is over 200 billion.  So, hmmm … if we can get rid of truck drivers – we can save about $200 billion from trucking costs.  That could line somebody’s pockets – or save Americans on almost everything we buy. My groceries will be cheaper as the big refrigerator trucks coming from wherever with fresh produce won’t have to pay a driver.  At this stage, the concept is that you will need somebody in the cab – but they won’t have to drive (but should be alert enough to stop the rig).

Interesting?

Bruce

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Blog Post #370: What? Am I tired? Zzzzzzzzzz

What? Am I tired? Zzzzzzzzzz

Taken from: https://www.ozy.com/acumen/medical-students-only-spend-three-hours-learning-about-sleep/87528

Okay, this is NOT new “news”.  For years we have heard that medical students don’t get enough sleep.  But this study takes that to another level. The health experts (including former medical students) only get three hours of instruction in sleep!!!!  So, that doctor prescribing a sleeping aid; that doctor giving you a physical says “You need more sleep” – only had about three hours (or about 180 minutes) in the classroom learning about sleep.  They probably had more instruction about almost everything else – but, hey, sleep – sure we all know we need more!! (Makes me wonder about how much instruction they get about dealing with stress – other than experiencing it most days in their MD classes!!!).  

I found an article from Harvard Medical School that suggests that lack of sleep and stress are really ‘killers’ – your mood can sour quickly, you can fall asleep at the wheel while driving.

And … yet, those aspiring physicians don’t learn much about lack of sleep or sleep problems in their formal classroom studies!!

Excuse me – writing my blog made me tired – I guess I’ll take a nap!!!

Bruce

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