Looking Further

By Nick Fritz

Eliot Peper is a former venture capitalist, strategist and currently a science fiction author of books like “Cumulous” and “Neon Fever Dreams.” In this session, Berit Anderson, CEO of Scout, discussed the real world inspirations for Peper’s books and his motivation to become an author.

The discussion began with an explanation of Peper’s uncommon background and transition to being an author. Peper realized from his time in venture capital that there is a locus of human drama in that world that nobody was writing about. He felt Big type A personalities, high stakes deals, fortunes won and lost, and potentially world changing technologies make for juicy writing.

“This is the book that I wanted to read, but nobody had written it,” he said. “So I did.”

The discussion turned to the book “Cumulous,” set is a dystopian future world where a giant tech company governs the world. This tech company, although well meaning, has inadvertently created ubiquitous surveillance and crippling economic disparity. The theme of the book was inspired by the incredibly powerful social networking and software applications that are now being created more quickly than ever before. Further, it includes the suggestion that there may be very serious but unintended negative social externalities in this software age.

Digging into that idea of externalities, Anderson asked Peper about the negative externalities that he sees playing out over the next 15 years. His answer was primarily geopolitical. He said that information has reduced the usefulness of national borders and has increased the porosity of these borders with respect to information flow, economics, and crime. Traditional governments are not well equipped to deal with this border porosity, and as a consequence private companies are stepping in to fill these skill gaps in areas where governments typically operate. He gave the example of Google’s Jigsaw, which is working in online crime prevention, radicalization, disruption, and protection of human rights, all functions typically filled by government entities.

The interview ended with a discussion about Mars as another example of a private firm working in the traditional government sector. Peper spoke about the motivation for Mars colonization not only a as hedge against Earth, but also an intentional wake up call to think seriously about taking care of the Earth and to think disruptively about solutions.

Following this discussion, it becomes clear that Peper’s transition from tech venture capitalist to science fiction is actually not much of a leap. In a world where the nature of international borders is changing through technology and a private company is planning to colonize Mars in the next ten years, Peper’s science fiction may not read much differently from the perspective of his former investment opportunities.

To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit StratNews.com or our Medium blog.

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A vision for the Congo

By Arunabh Satpathy

The second breakout session on day three of the Future in Review 2016 conference was focused exclusively on Presidential candidate in the Democratic Republic of Congo(DRC) Emmanuel Weyi and the massive problems – political, social, and technological – that he faces in getting his country to “leapfrog” others into the 21st century.

The panel was moderated by Weyi and Bruce Dines, VP, Liberty Global, and was attended by a combination of curious learners, educators, computer scientists, and entrepreneurs various cautious and optimistic about the DRC’s future.

Dines spoke of access to education, and the opportunities for disruption in the DRC, particularlyt in telecommunications, which would become the two major themes of the session.

“There’s an opportunity to leapfrog not only in terms of technology but also in terms of systems and processes,” said Dines.

Attendee Nelson Heller mentioned the success of some technology in Africa, and how it faces resistance. One educator mentioned her experience in trying to introduce computer education in the United States, and the analogous resistance she faced among parents.

The responses to the issues in education dovetailed around experiments in self learning for children, and identifying pain points of parents and specifically attacking them.

The other large theme of the session was telecommunications. Weyi spoke as telecommunications as one of his priorities, with special emphasis on 3G connectivity.

Narrating a person experience, he spoke of his days in a mining company where he had to wait for upto 2 days to speak with his employees, as he was in rural areas.

Leapfrogging was brought up again, particularly by computer scientist Dallas Beddingfield. The discussion shifted to tech companies and their attempts to connect the world cheaply. Google’s and Facebook’s internet initiatives were mentioned as solutions.

The political realities of Weyi’s path were also acknowledged, including the Belgian system based election process in the DRC, where a primary system similar to the USA is followed by a runoff in case a candidate doesn’t get 50 percent votes.

This led to a discussion about Weyi’s motivations for visiting the US. He said his vision of the DRC involves tech, and the US is the center of it.  

“In the politics, there are two layers,” Weyi said. “The layer that everyone sees, and the one that no one sees.”

He said his visits to US politicians and tech centers was his attempt to capitalize on the second layer, build connections, and create demand for his vision of the Congo.

The final theme in the session was the environmental costs of rapid development. Weyi acknowledged that that the DRC has the second largest forest in the world after the Amazon, and the second greatest amount of biodiversity in the world. He lamented that some of this was threatened by Chinese logging activities.  

On the question of co-opting locals into the task of protecting the environment, Dines mentioned his work in the nature conservation and working to include local tribal populations into eco-tourism models. He cited the example of the Masai, who earlier fought over land, but now work together to benefit both tourists and the tribes. Weyi agreed and spoke of the need to bring people into the fold.

“To bring change, you need involvement,” he said. “If you need change, you need to involve people.”

Weyi spoke of his enthusiasm and faith in the youth of Congo, and how the educational infrastructure could be built by companies in exchange for advertising exposure.

The session ended on a cautionary note, by acknowledging the massive difficulties in executing Weyi’s vision.


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Sensing Advanced Data Flows

By Chance Murray

This panel at the FiRe conference brought together experts from different fields like digitizing smells,quantifying underwater sound travel, and discovering seismic explosions. They were brought together by the world of sensors, which is reaching new heights and depths.

“We’re trying to recreate a dog in a device,” said Chris Hanson, Founder and CEO of Aromyx.

Aromyx’s technology digitizes smell and taste by creating sensors that mimic biosensors in the human nose and tongue. The application of such technology is significant. Bomb dogs at security points could be complemented or even replaced by devices employing such technologies.

Noise pollution in the ocean has been on the rise to due increased movement of goods around the world. Roger Payne, Whale Scientist and Founder/President of Ocean Alliance, has been studying the physics of whale songs.

“In an unpolluted ocean, we determined that whale songs can reach as far as 13,000 miles due to the unique physics of such ocean depths,” said Payne.

Current sensors to monitor whale activity, commonly known as “critter cams,” provide only a static view of what whales see. Payne elaborated on a sensory device that would connect to whales and project a camera when sensors indicate another organism is nearby. This device would collect important information about the whales’ habits and environment, and would be powered by ocean currents rotating a small turbine incorporated into the device.  

John Delaney, Professor at the School of Oceanography, University of Washington, elaborated on a sensory device 400 KM off the Oregon coast that measures tectonic plate activity. The device sends 14 minutes of video, every 3 hours of each day. Among the highlights of data flow collected by the device is an underwater volcanic eruption, the audio of which Delaney played for the audience.

“We’ve never heard anything like this before,” said Delaney.

He then introduced a design for a series of sensors to be placed along the Pacific Rim that would provide flows of data regarding tectonic plate activity. The series would span the entire northwestern coast, a comparable technology to what Japan installed not too long ago.

“We can choose to invest in these sensors now, enabling us to capture valuable information about tectonic activity in the coastal region, or choose to incur the cost of reconstruction after a significant earthquake,” said Delaney.

To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit StratNews.com or our Medium blog.

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Promises and perils at the Bleeding Edge of Healthcare

By Shelby Cate

As an industry that is often bemoaned, highly regulated and endlessly complicated, it is difficult to be an entrepreneur in healthcare. BBC’s Ed Butler once again hosted Oren Gilad, Don Straus, Shawn Iadonato, and Caitlin Cameron, the CEO’s of the FiRestarter companies Atrin Pharmaceuticals, First Light Biosciences, Kineta, and OtoNexus Medical, respectively, to discuss their experiences and the future of healthcare innovation.

“It’s certainly a competitive landscape,” said Iadonato. “One thing that has evolved from the pharmaceutical industry is that they’ve largely gotten R&D, they are increasingly reliant on companies like my company, like [Gilad’s] company, to get the most attractive new technologies.”

Cameron sees the same story in the medical device industry.

“They look to young companies like us, but they want the angels and the ventures to take the initial risk,” she said.

Straus wondered the effect this trend has had on new ideas, and said he has seen a lot of good ideas wither and die on the vine because they aren’t developed enough for venture capitalists and angel investors, and yet can’t move forward without development money.

“Right now it feels like we’re on a great wave and things are working,” he said.

But he also said he has had periods of “sitting around waiting for a wave and it feels like maybe nothing is coming.”

Straus, whose company provides rapid diagnosis of infections also touched on the challenges that high profile failures on his industry, such as the recent Theranos bust.

“I talk to angel investors and every other one asks me ‘why are you not Theranos?’” he said. “We’re not Theranos, we have something real.”

According to Iadonato, the challenges of getting capital in pharmaceutical development in particular are that development is high risk, capital intensive, and takes a long time. This is in contrast to many technology ventures that are lower risk, require less investment and have quick development cycles.

Gilad, however, took on a more hopeful perspective, pointing out that there are now venture arms associated with pharmaceutical companies that are on the ground in academic institutions looking for very, very early stage opportunities.

“Capital is needed in the early stages where risk is high,” he said, “but it is out there.”

All four CEOs acknowledged the ups and downs of the being on the bleeding edge of this industry, but also the excitement that comes along with it.

“We’re part of this lunatic group of people that actually feel we can do something good,” said Gilad. “and it’s very fun.”
To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit StratNews.com or our Medium blog.

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Investing in Climate Change

By Chance Murray

The evidence supporting climate change continues to rise, and the implications on environments and economics are too significant to ignore, according to Hans-Peter Plag, Director and Professor, Old Dominion University, Mitigation and Adaptation Research Institute.

“Currently, emissions from worldwide annual energy usage is comparable to the Lake Toba explosion that occurred nearly 100,000 years ago,” Plag said.

Compared to the former 100,000 years, the past 100 years have had climate metrics change drastically. Carbon Dioxide levels have risen, coastal zones have moved, and water temperatures have risen. Data suggests that a 1 degree celsius increase in global temperature equates to a 25 meter rise in sea level.

The implications of Plag’s research are broad. City planners and environmentalists can take action to ensure coastal zones have adequate infrastructure and are free of waste and pollution that will wash into the ocean. Real estate developers can invest in properties outside exposed coastal zones or utilize mobile components that are capable of adapting to rising sea levels.

“It’s time to divest of exposed coastal areas,” Plag said. “Or, if you build in the coastal zone, invest in mobile infrastructure that can relocate with rising water levels.”

To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit StratNews.com or our Medium blog.


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Invisible to you

By Arunabh Satpathy

Katia Moritz, has been undiagnosed for a long time. The director of the documentary Undiagnosed was motivated by her own illness and those of people like her. She was joined on a panel by Tristan Orpin, EVP of Clinical Genomics, Illumina, John Ryals, CEO of Metabolon, and Robin Y. Smith, CEO of ORIG3N. The session hosted by Doug Jamison, CEO of the Harris & Harris Group.

Upon introducing the panel, Sharon Anderson Morris spoke of “medical refugees” of undiagnosed diseases. The panel started with a clip of the film “Undiagnosed,” displaying the problems with people who have medically unexplained symptoms, and how they are often not treated for medical symptoms.

However, the documentary has quickly led to the formation of the UnDx, a consortium of five tech companies with providers and patients brought together by Moritz.

Moritz spoke of her personal story, and how she was working to give voice to the undiagnosed. She also spoke of the tragedy of not getting valuable data from people who the medical system refuses to treat and could offer something to the world.  

She got in touch with Dr. Isaac Kohani at Harvard and put together a database of undiagnosed.

The companies’ offered their respective products, including genome sequencing by Illumina.

With the gathered data and tech, they decided to continue looking for answers for families.

Moritz also spoke with Jamison, who put her in touch with 5 biotech companies who set up the UnDx Consortium.
“For the first time, all these companies who are working in different areas of biotechonology are working together,” he said.  

A big emphasis of the panel was on the fact that patients, providers, and companies were working together.

The prevailing theme was “new technologies plus collaboration equals hope.”

Taft spoke of his personal experience with a child of a friend with a family being undiagnosed.

There was further discussion of inflection points, including the fact that ,any patients were not diagnosed for five to eight years, and many would never be diagnosed.

To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit StratNews.com or our Medium blog.


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Digitalization, the cloud, and the transformation of the 21st century

By Nick Fritz

The emerging trend of digitalization is blurring the line between the physical and digital world. The dramatic reduction in the cost of data collection, storage and analysis in the last several years has opened the door for this change, and it’s changing the nature of business. Greg Ness guided a discussion panel on the consequences of digitalization on Day 2 of the Future in Review 2016 conference. Preston McAfee, Michael Schwarz, Mark Sunday, Tim Fitzgerald, James Urquhart, and Edy Liongosari were also present as panel members. Their responses have been aggregated below.

So what precisely is digitalization, and what does it mean for large enterprise? Its definition has changed over time. The dramatic reduction in the cost of data services is impacting the way that we conduct business. Furthermore, the dramatic change in connectivity is driving change. This ability to capture data in real time from multiple sources enables us to react in real time. This increased flow of data between the physical and digital world is at the core of digitalization.

This increased flow has the potential to drastically change industries, some perhaps more than others. Potentially there is no limit to which industries can apply this idea. Agriculture is one example, where the monitoring of moisture levels can dramatically reduce water usage and increase relative yields. The mass collection of data will allow for macro-analysis, which can the be micro-targeted down to individuals based on their specific needs. These sort of “personal plans” will permeate many industries. Digitalization will also change the organizational structure of firms. To be used effectively, digitalization efforts will have to be embedded in all functional areas of a business, not siloed in one department. The bottom-line is this: digitalization is happening. Those firms that choose to get in front of the wave will prosper.

This begs the question: Who is working in this space now? General Electric is a great example of a firm who is adapting well. Seemingly overnight they transformed from a hardware company to a software company, and are now collecting enormous amounts of data on their equipment. Another consequence of this flow is cloud computing, which is being used to allow firms to fail fast in innovation. In this environment, the slow movers will be damaged quickly. Perhaps more quickly than ever before. It’s important to remember that although digitalization may spell big changes for the way that companies do business, it’s likely that consumers will not experience life changing effects.

Something that cloud computing allows is collaborative filtering, whereby data sets and patterns are developed by millions of users but are accessible at a personal level. This is the biggest change for consumers. Cloud computing and mobile connections enable this. Furthermore, machine learning applications in voice, picture, and video digitalization are changing the applications of cloud computing.

One form of digitalization not often mentioned is the digitalization of human assets. Through this process, it will become possible to select an ideal candidate for a job based on their digital profile, or to select the best customer type from a group of potential customers. Additionally, this process may have a “flow” effect, whereby the network created by human digitalization will allow us to seek out particularly useful contacts for a project or position.

This digitalization may drive longitudinal change through the rest of the decade. Thought to text and universal language translation will may be the biggest change makers, probably by the end of the decade. These technologies will change the nature of human interaction and increase the digitalization speed of human assets tremendously. The organizational structure of firms may begin to change as well.

Conway’s Law states that systems developed by organizations tend to mirror the communication practices of that organization. Digitalization will possibly reverse this trend, and organizational structures may begin reflecting the nature of the digital communication protocol.

To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit StratNews.com or our Medium blog.


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Population Flows

By Nick Fritz

Populations, like data, capital, and intellectual property, flows across borders. There are many drivers of population, which vary with time and region. This breakout session, hosted by Mike Winder, explored the nature and drivers of population flows in the 21st century.

Labor is one critical driver of current population flows, as demonstrated by the immigration debate here in the US. However, the nature of work in the future may be fundamentally different than it has been for the last hundred years. Automation is replacing human labor in positions across all industries. This displacement of traditional roles, which required attendance, by new service-based roles, which may be accomplished remotely, will necessarily change the dynamics of population flow with respect to labor.

Other drivers of population flow may be environmental. War, poverty and famine are historically common reasons for human migration. However, in the future, environmental collapse may be a driver of population flow. China, particularly in highly industrialized and populated areas such as Beijing, is already experiencing acute pollution issues that are causing real human suffering.

Populations will continue to flow as they always have. The drivers may be different in the 21st century, and understanding these trends will be critical to unlocking value in the coming hundred years.
To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit StratNews.com or our Medium blog.

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The CTO Challenge Continues

By Melissa Dymock

The CTO Team continued work on Thursday at the FiRe Conference to solve its two challenges: creating a flow computer system and a flow system that measures energy of the Earth in real time.

They met throughout the day in separate teams working on the two sides of the problem. The initial plan for this technology started out with piece of paper on an easel. Thursday’s evening session was about bringing the two teams up to speed on each side’s work and preparing a report of their progress for Friday’s session.

Nathanael Miller, an aerospace engineer at NASA, wanted to tie what they’ve done to the basic flow presented in the keynote of the conference, including friction, stock/capacitance, and attributes of flow.

Brad Holtz, CEO of Cyon Research and chief nexus officer of Coventry Computer said that they created many different views of the structure. They also went through the flow of the structure, and tried to answer the questions of what is in the system and what is not in the system.

Holtz said the flow process will be to authenticate, visualize, and interact with the data.

The working name of the Earth Monitoring System is currently “E2MS.”

To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit StratNews.com.


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HotSpots: Views of the Future

By Nick Fritz

The FiRe conference famously brings many of the brightest minds together to discuss the future of our world. On day 3 of the conference, Ed Butler solicited the opinions of five of those minds to answer a simple question: What is your view of the future? David Engle, Thomas Curran, Mike Winder, Michael Bartholomeusz and Mark Godsy each answered the question in their own way.

Education was the first theme to emerge from the discussion.

“The model for education needs to change and needs to change dramatically,” said David Engle.

He elaborated that the current model is stuck in the industrial age, and reconstructing it would likely be too painful to be practical. The answer is to start a conversation about education by focusing on what we want out of our students and our communities in the 21st century, and creating a new education system from scratch. This model will require a revamping of the current digital infrastructure as a support system and potentially an interface for the students.

Speed is another critical factor that will shape the future. Automating software is rapidly changing the way that we think about computing applications. Additionally, the rapid increase in software development, as catalyzed by open source tools and massive collaboration, is significantly shortening the innovation cycle in the software space.

The convergence between silicon and carbon based organisms will be a crucial event in the near future. One rung in the ladder toward this convergence is the decoupling of silicon organisms from the environment. Technologies such as those offered by HZO are in development and can “coat” sensitive electronic products at the nano level with moisture resistant materials. This advancement in materials is but one sign post on the road to singularity.

The fourth and final theme that emerged from this conversation is the need to accelerate entrepreneurial development. The New FiRe Fund was announced during the session. They exist as an advisory board to entrepreneurs to assist in product development, scaling, and most importantly managerial practices that shift the focus from technology ownership to technology stewardship.
To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit StratNews.com or our Medium blog.

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