We are creating and using record numbers of industrial and agricultural chemicals every year, with little understanding of their side-effects on biological systems. Dr. James “Ben” Brown, Department Head of Molecular Ecosystems Biology at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory explored the unintended but increasingly noticeable consequences of the wide use of these industrial compounds. The session was hosted by David Morris.
The infrastructure currently being used to determine toxicity of new chemicals is sorely lacking, and the subsequent regulation is inadequate.
“We regulate against known compounds,” Brown said. “We don’t have standards for unknown compounds.”
Out of the approximately 100,000 industrial compounds in use across the world today, only around 7 percent have known toxicity profiles. Carbon nanotubes are an example of such a compound. They can be bought inexpensively on the open market. When inhaled, 40 percent of the nanotubes remain in the lungs and cause necrotic lesions.
Another facet of the problem is the process used to determine the toxicity for that 7 percent. The current testing process takes approximately 5 years and $1.5 million per compound to determine toxicity in rodents. A series of “interspecies correction factors” is then applied to determine unhealthy doses in humans. These factors are largely just educated guesses. This scaling creates an over-regulation problem, whereby certain chemicals are billed “toxic” at levels far below their actual toxicity threshold.
To solve these problems, Brown and his team are proposing that prospective toxicology testing may create relevant timescales and more significant interspecies applicability. The idea is that testing can be done across a variety of organisms that represent a broad spectrum of the phylogenetic tree, and are therefore applicable across the entirety of the tree of life.
On a smaller scale, molecular ecosystem biology is attempting to understand how gene regulatory transduce, respond to and ultimately influence both populations and ecologies. In this way, Dr. Brown is trying to replicate very complex microbial systems, like those that exist in acre plots of farmland, in order to better isolate the chemical variable in toxicity testing. If microbial variables can be eliminated from the toxicity testing of chemicals in plants, we could have a much better understanding of the actual effect of the chemical(s) in question.
The Environmental Consortium is just one organization that is advocating internationally for the need for this testing. Using these methods on a large scale would help to dramatically reduce the harm caused by chemical compounds at all levels of the tree of life, from microbe to biome.
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) wants to take you from Denver to Las Vegas in less than an hour, and D.C. to New York in 30 minutes. Bibop Gresta, chairman of (HTT), took to the stage Thursday at the FiRe conference to educate and update attendees on the company’s current status and future vision.
This world-changing technology utilizes an above or below ground tunnel. The tunnel carries capsules, powered by a series of magnets, which start to levitate at 20 mph and can reach speeds up to 760 mph.
Gresta said that to create this new industry, HTT is trying to build on what’s been done before rather than starting everything new.
“The risk to reinvent something is too high,” he said, “we can’t afford it.”
Hyperloop minimizes new infrastructure by developing ways to pair the system with highways and railroads already in place.
Sharon Anderson Morris, SNS program director and host of the panel, said, “Nobody has a budget to do it because it’s never been done before.”
He said they plan on having agreements in place with countries to begin testing within 34 months. The main tech and design is there, and they are ready to build. This new technology doesn’t require government subsidies, because the company is energy net-positive.
Gresta spoke about the effects of creating a disruptive technology.
“We want to make it in a way that is not disruptive to anything else,” he said. “We want to contribute to countries, not destroy industries.”
During the interview, Gresta showed a video that he said they don’t show to anyone, but did because “FiRe is a special place with brilliant minds.” The video depicted some actual testing of the technology.
The company was presented with an award for Company of the Year from Future in Review.
To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit StratNews.com.
What is the path forward for health care in the US, when the complexity has grown exponentially? Larry Smarr hosted Glenn Snyder, Medical Technology Segment Leader and Michael E. Raynor, Director, Monitor, both of Deloitte, to talk about this and other issues facing the healthcare system.
According to Snyder, technology will likely help drive the simplification and more precise targeting of patients.
“There are a lot of situations where a patient is diagnosed with the specific condition, but the standard treatment doesn’t work for them” said Snyder.
With increased data collection, as well as rising interest in personalized medicine, it’s becoming possible to parse out how individuals will respond to treatment.
Raynor agreed, noting that even if the diagnosis is the same, a disease will be uniquely manifested in each individual and may need different treatment. He said that with technology, “we are getting to the point that we can take individualized medicine seriously.”
One of the concerns, however, is the regulatory environment. Both Snyder and Raynor agreed it was a significant problem, but according to Snyder “there are some promising developments in the US” including the MACRA legislation passed earlier this year. The legislation is intended to shift physician incentives towards quality rather than the current fee for service system. Snyder also noted there there is a growing “willingness to experiment, collect data and figure out what works,” which may help drive systemic change.
All three panelists agreed that the key to relieving the burden on the healthcare system is by preventing people from getting sick in the first place.
“‘Patient’ implies they’re sick, but you want to treat the citizen so they don’t become a patient,” said Smarr.
He continued by asserting that chemotherapy clinics that are at full capacity, and that if cancer were prevented or detected earlier, less chemotherapy treatment would be needed.
“Whether it’s choosing a healthy lifestyle or if you have a chronic disease that you need to take a specific medication–compliance is our biggest issue,” said Snyder.
However, he was also hopeful that technology can provide some solutions to compliance by precisely targeting and messaging patients based on their individual tendencies.
“Reasons for lack of compliance are very different depending on the people,” he said. “There are different archetypes. For some it’s because of money, for others it’s because of memory. So we can get to be really targeted on how we influence behavior.” he said. To discover more or read other articles from the conference, visit StratNews.com or our Medium blog.
The fourth breakout session on day two of the Future in Review 2016 conference was titled “Documentaries That Change the World: Meet the Directors,” where moderator Sharon Anderson Morris introduced the audience to series of high impact directors and films. The discussion dovetailed around the films and the motivations of the filmmakers.
Chris Hegedus, director of animal rights documentary “Unlocking the Cage” started with discussing her 2001 movie Startup.com. She described entrepreneurs “going into the wild west” of ideas and coming our rich. It follows the boom and bust cycle of the startup bubble around the turn of the century.
It was followed by a trailer of “Unlocking the Cage,” the story of lawyer Stephen Wise’s attempts to grant animals greater rights through a sustained litigation strategy.
“Unlocking the Cage was an exceptionally special film for me,” Hegedus said.
She said that she hoped that the audience of the film also treated animals with respect and kindness. Further, she emphasized the importance of spreading the message further and mentioned the her team’s attempts to get into 250 law schools around the country.
The second film showcased was “The Ivory Game,” produced by Paul Allen’s Vulcan Productions. Director Ted Richane explained how the film was part of Allen’s three-pronged vision of philanthropy, including collecting data, pushing legislation, and storytelling. He also said that the film approached the ivory trade from a different angle that doesn’t involve the supply of animals in Africa.
“There’s a lot of films out there about elephants,” he said. “This…looks at the ivory market and the trade.”
He also said that the consequences of the ivory trade go beyond dead elephants.
“We need to make sure people understand that it’s not just a numbers issue,” he said. “When an elephant is lost from the herd, it has an emotional impact to the other elephants in the herd.”
“Unlocking the Cage” is a Netflix Original, and releases on November 4th.
The third film showcased was “Sniffing Out Cancer,” a documentary about the research showing that dogs are excellent pre-screening agents for up to 11 cancers. Director Adriana LaCorte spoke of her background in reality television, and wanting to do something meatier, especially after multiple close personal deaths.
“These dogs are showing 98 -99 percent accuracy,” said LaCorte. “Maybe these dogs are the best cancer detection device.”
As the film is low-budget, LaCorte asked for help finishing the film. She also said she wants more doctors to see the numbers and see all the research has been done, and felt confident that people will get behind this very early stage, non-invasive, pain-free method of pre-screening.
Geralyn Dreyfous, Co-Founder, Impact Partners Film Fund, Founder, Utah Film Center, and SNS Ambassador for Documentary Films spoke about the unique challenges that come with making high impact films, and her motivations.
“Films are the lingua franca of our era,” she said.
Mentioning the three to five year length of production and costs of beyond a million dollars, she
debunked the myth that having access to technology is enough. Connecting filmmaking with philanthropy, she spoke about the various methods of financing, like grants and private equity.
“People are starting to understand that in philanthropy, ideas are disruptive,” she said.
Global climate change is typically discussed with a doom-and-gloom sentiment. Carbon dioxide concentration is higher than it ever has been.
“Limiting the carbon dioxide levels to near current levels would be a major miracle, and would require a herculean effort,” said Larry Smarr, Director at Calit2.
Mark Anderson, founder and CEO of the Future in Review conference emphasized the need for action. Anderson is leading a consortium to develop real solutions for global climate change.
“There has to be a multi-phased response, followed by a final solution that will be implemented within 20-30 years,” said Mark Anderson, founder and CEO of the Future in Review conference. “Once we find the interim solution, then we need to figure out how to make it, and after that, how to market it. With such a new product, we’ll have to create an entirely new market.”
Carbon is a building material with applications throughout our natural environment. The challenge is how to reduce carbon dioxide into a material we can use. Graphene, a reduced form of carbon with a high degree of structural integrity, is a likely material.
“It’s scalable, economical, and recyclable,” said Jon Myers, founder of Graphene Technologies & NovaMetallix.
Ray Gibbs, CEO at Haydale Plc, expounded on current applications of graphene, including uses in vehicles as well as products manufactured by large companies such as Huntsman Chemical.
“There is no simple answer,” added Soroush Nazarpour, President and CEO at NanoXplore.
Applications of graphene and other low carbon emission products must be analyzed on an case-by-case basis across industries. Nazarpour also stated that the economics are such that there is plenty of money to be made for businesses considering applications of graphene in their products.
The panel agreed that despite solutions being identified, there will not be an impact unless we can get buy-in from the world economy, and specifically China.
“The bulk of carbon emissions are generated in China,” said Smarr. “If we are to be successful, we need to look beyond the Wasatch front. We need to look throughout the world.”
Panelists at a Thursday morning session of the FiRe conference discussed how to change the traditional business model using data flows.
“Current business models are fundamentally broken,” Johan Hagel III, Director and Co-chair at Deloitte Center for the Edge said.
He said the return on assets for public companies in U.S. has declined by 75 percent the last several years, a long-sustained erosion with no sign of turning around. However, new models based on flow and data are enabled and available.
“Flows have always been the great enabler of commerce,” said Paul Sallomi, vice-chairman at Global TMT Industry Leader. While the new flows made by technology create vast opportunities, it takes time to develop the tools to take full advantage of them.
“The tech that has become available is making the invisible visible, at scale and at real time,” Hagel said.
While he said the inclination is to use the new tech to make current models faster and cheaper, there’s much more than can be done.
“What we’re talking about here is to push the envelope further into something more transformative,” Sallomi said.
One idea Hagel suggested is the “trusted advisor” business model, where you connect the customer to everyone. Traditionally, this has been available only to the wealthy because you have to know the customer very well to do this. With the data flows, it can go to the mass market, enabling business to say, “I know you better than anyone else and you can trust me to connect you to the resources that will serve you.”
Another model Sallomi suggested is to change the way customers pay for service. The old way is that the customer buys the service and the service is given. The customer may end up paying for unused services. With data flows, he said, customers can pay for usage. Then with monitoring, the service can be enhanced as it’s given.
Hagel added that they could move from paying for usage to paying for value. This would give the customer more value and give the business more incentive to create value. He said that companies could also use data to move beyond prescription to preventive. He used the example of brakes becoming anti-lock and now activated with a sensor.
The fourth breakout session of day 2 at the Future in Review 2016 conference was focused on world-changing films. Moderator Sharon Anderson Morris started the session by describing the beginnings of the FiReFilmas initiative inspired by the film “Slaughtering the Dolphins,” which Morris watched at Sundance in 2009, and the subsequent activism. She spoke of her desire to make compelling, scientifically based films, and the need to spread their word.
The session was attended by Chris Hegedus, director of “Unlocking the Cage,” Pina De Rosa, executive director of “Sniffing Out Cancer,” Adriana LaCorte, director of “Sniffing Out Cancer,” Ted Richane, director of “The Ivory Game,” and Geralyn Dreyfous, co-founder of Impact Partners Film Fund, Founder, Utah Film Center, and SNS Ambassador for Documentary Films among others.
A lot of a discussion took place during introductions, where connections were made between people with common interests. In particular, the screening of the “Sniffing Out Cancer” trailer was met with personal narratives of illness. A clips from “The Ivory Game” and the trailer for “Startup.com” were also shown.
Richane spoke about the characters in his movie and how the film was filmed in Africa and Hong Kong. The clip depicted an attempt to find the right person to infiltrate the Ivory trade without detection, and how the system of trading in Hong Kong is deeply corrupt to the point that even the Chinese government finds it hard to track. One of the Chinese infiltrators is protected in the US and Europe. The film is a Netflix Original, and premiere on November 4th.
“What this film hopefully will do is introduce the fact that this is an international crime issue,” Richane said. “This film hopefully successful tells the story of the market.”
De Rosa spoke of her fascination with using dogs as a very early stage, non-invasive, pain-free method of pre-screening up to eleven cancers. LaCorte mentioned the need for funding the film, as it has been currently filmed on a limited budget.
The trailer showed instances of people’s cancers being detected, and how dogs have been scientifically proven to be a lot more sensitive than invasive medical technology.
Also depicted the central problem of canine detection not being considered “legitimate” in the eyes of the medical community, and how more exposure to the idea is needed.
The predominant current educational model is not resonating with kids, parents, or teachers, and suggestions on improving and disrupting it are everywhere.
David Engle and Marc Prensky are active members of SNS’ Project Inkwell, which focuses on increasing experiential education through the medium of technology in K-12 classrooms worldwide. They both brought many years of experience to the discussion. Engle was part of the Maritime Discovery Schools Initiative focused on a place-based education, incorporating the unique resources of the community throughout the school year. Prensky recently released a book titled Education to Better Their World: Unleashing the Power of 21st Century Kids about developing young people’s capacity to accomplish things that will make their world a better place.
The two led an informative discussion during the Future in Review 2016 conference on the downfalls of the content delivery teaching model versus a model focused on empowering kids to pursue their passions via accomplishment based education programs, as well as the importance of involving the local communities. Engle stressed the need to develop an environment conducive to raising “young people that can be citizens – an agent[sic] for change in the community.”
In many cases, their model begins with teacher training and the emphasis of accomplished based projects to provide a well-rounded model. Engle supported a fifth grade project to clean up a community stream to better preserve and protect the salmon population. This project incorporated the efforts of all of the class members and also enabled the teacher to help the kids understand how biology, chemistry, mathematics, horticulture, etc. can be applied outside of the classroom. This was an opportunity to “bring them real world problems, help them discover a solution and [open their eyes] to the impact they can make,” said Engle.
Prenksy has led panel discussions with kids from around the world.
“Their number one concern was that [they] felt disrespected and not trusted,” he said. “They want to be part of their world – do we take away their agency or do we encourage it?”
Only a few hours after being issued a challenge by Strategic News Service’s CEO to build the first flow computing system and measure the earth’s energy flows, the CTO team got to work.
The first step was to understand the problem. Brad Holtz, CEO of Cyon Research and chief nexus officer of Coventry Computer, proposed a series of questions the team would need to answer to build the system. What is flowing? How is it flowing? What influences the flow? How can we see what coupling is taking place? How do we understand the difference between stable and unstable flows and flows that are changing? These were among the questions asked.
Mark Mahan, consultant to Majiq Inc., said the first problem is putting together the general-purpose architecture of the system, and that most of their successes would be in that area. The second problem is domain specific, meaning the energy flows of the Earth, which they are not experts in.
Once they had the problem, the conversation turned to what they actually needed to create.
“We can assume a pattern computer exists. What do we need to build around that to enable flows at multiple levels?” asked Holtz.
Ben Brown, department head at Molecular Ecosystems Biology, said they could make some assumptions. First, there are couplings and we don’t know the coupling. Second, we have patterns but we don’t know if they’re important.
Holtz emphasized that the first challenge is to create a flow computer system. “We need to not constrain it by the use or the sensor itself.”
The second session of day 2 with a focus on intellectual property(IP) theft was hosted by Jeff Hudson, CEO of Venafi. Its focus wasn’t on revealing the problem, but on considering how to solve it.
The panel consisted of Dan McGahn, President and CEO, American Superconductor, Evan Anderson, INVNT/IP Director of Research, Richard H.L. Marshall, CEO, X-SES Consultants LLC, and Morian Eberhard, Chief Information Security Officer, Zions Bancorp.
The session began with a clip from 60 Minutes, which went through the findings of an INVNT/IP report on China’s government sponsored theft of American IP. The clip also introduced the story of McGahn’s company, which suffered serious damage due to IP theft despite their best efforts.
Anderson spoke on China’s end game with the consistent flow of stolen IP to eventually take over major parts of the global economy. He suggested that relentless development was being used as an anaesthetic by the Chinese government to quell public discontent.
“If you don’t have economic growth and you have an oppressive regime, the people will rise up,” he said.
Drawing on his experience in working as a Department of Defence attorney, Marshall chimed in to give historical context on the distinction between individuals stealing IP(like the US in the early years of its existence), and nation state sponsored theft like China’s methods. Evoking the metaphor of a frog not realizing that it’s in boiling water and dying, he made specific reference to the theft of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 blueprints.
“My professional frustration is that we did not do enough to keep it from happening,” he said.
He was the most strident in the panel in apportioning blame to different actors, from the US government, to universities, and the companies facing threats. McGahn narrated the story of his company’s IP being stolen despite taking many measures to protect it. He said that after the Chinese hired about 800 engineers, tried to copy the technology and failed, they bribed a European employee of his company upto $2 million to transfer unencrypted files containing IP secrets. The employee was fired and jailed. “We literally became the poster child of IP abuse,” said McGahn.
He further stated that many companies are unaware whether they are being violated, and the extent to which they are being violated, and expressed special frustration with government inaction in protecting American companies.
“We’re at war,” he said. “We’re losing badly.”
Anderson stated that while some Americans think that large American companies can defend themselves, they’re relatively weak compared to countries. He further stated that the solution lay in public-private partnerships. Marshall disagreed with Anderson with McGahn, and said that any efforts to build public-private partnerships had been in vain. He laid greater emphasis on companies protecting their own IP, saying that national security agencies had a separate and specialized function, while reaffirming that some government intervention was necessary.
McGahn wanted the government to stand up directly to China.
“We did everything and beyond what anybody should do.”
At the end, the panel agreed upon a multi-pronged effort, including consequences for nation states stealing secrets, and government intervention for a fighting chance against the problem.