FiRe 2017: Some bodies like it hot

By Ahrash Poursaid

From left to right: Mike Winder, Ben Smarr

Things got heated at one of panels during the FiReconference between Representative Mike Winder and Benjamin Smarr of UC Berkeley. The two spoke about Smarr’s research in looking into studying the temperature of the human body for a new form of preventative medicine.

“The body is difficult to study”, said Smarr talking about the complexities of the physiology and his fascination behind it.

He mentioned his interest in trying to understand how something he consumed and now residing in his stomach changes and how it will affect him. He spoke about pattern recognition within the body and how it can lead into prediction of actions or conditions.

Smarr showed the audience a month-long time lapse of body temperature recordings of mice from day to night.

“I look at body temperature across time,” said Smarr.

Every different color pixel transcribes a different state the mice were in ranging from waking up, eating and eventually falling asleep. These were not the only bodily functions that can be seen from this image.

“I can detect pregnancy by looking at body temperature at 100% of accuracy after inception”, said Smarr. “Body temperature changes in a way that we can predict if the pregnancy will be healthy or with problems with 95% accuracy in the first day.”

Smarr made a note that this technology can be used elsewhere other than detecting pregnancies but especially in how well students will perform in schools.

“There are striking predictors from body temperature recording on how students will perform in their classes based on the stability of their sleep,” he said. “I want to walk into a room and the room recognizes me by my body signatures.”

He also looked forward into a future where biological signatures improve our understanding of ourselves.

“We are going to end up in a smart world,” he said.

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FiRe 2017: Breakout session: You Can’t Hide From This Report Card!

By Ethan Annis

A cozy breakout session involving Anupama Vaid from Parent Square, moderated by David Engle from SNS Project Inkwell, explained how Parent Square is changing the way that schools and teachers interact with students and parents. The data provided by this system gives administrators the ability to make adjustments in order to better reach their unique demographic to help increase the learning that happens in their schools.

The discussion started out with a brief history of the education system and Engle described the very slow moving industry that needs the barnacles removed in order to make improvements. He mentioned the system has been the same for many years and requires patience to implement changes.

The discussion continued to go over a few of the problems and obstacles that tend to present themselves to the education industry. How do you account for schools where there is too much interaction with parents? How do you get your system to stick when schools typically swap our curriculums and programs as often as they swap out administration?

Parent Square provides the answers through a very friendly user interface, as well as a highly customizable system. If the parents are too involved, the schools can pare things back. If schools are quick to turn over their programs, the loyal parents call for the system again.

The benefits of Parent Square were also discussed, including the digital literacy growth that will come to low income families from having a reason to use the computer. When parents have a reason to interact with technology, their understanding grows. It was mentioned that this helps provide valuable education to parents in low income families as well.

Vaid finished by commenting on the bright future of her company.

“It’s exciting times for us and as we’re growing, it’s like the possibilities are endless,” she said.

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FiRe 2017: Cheating on Moore to Get More

By Rainey Cornaby

The third session of the third day of the FiRe conference consisted of a panel of Nick Pandher, Director of Market Development of AMD, and Robert Patti, VP of Hardware at KnuEdge. This session was titled “The Chips That Drive it All,” was moderated by James Reinders, Systems Architect from Coventry Computer, and discussed the present and future of chip design.

Moore’s Law is over, or at a minimum compressed. This is a challenge for chip engineers. Scaling is still being done but more money and resources are being spent per additional transistor. This transition has led to more emphasis placed on chip performance. In part for this reason, the current landscape of chip and architecture design has been referred to as as the Golden Age.

“For a computer architect I don’t think there’s ever been a more exciting time,” said Reinders.

He spoke to his experience working on some of the most significant supercomputers of the past and explained projects today are eons beyond those capabilities.

Patti explained that we are at a fundamental turning point with the compression of Moore’s law. As the rate of increased ability to put transistors onto a chip slows, it creates a more even playing field for new entrants into chip manufacturing. According to Pandher and Patti, it also means new techniques are required to improve computing.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one method to usher in improvement. Patti explained that instead of using traditional methods to build a new machine and improve based on transistor which attains 5–7% system improvement, more substantial system gains can be achieved through implementation of AI.

“We are planting seeds and these are very primitive, we will get to machine learning squared,” Patti said.

Patti emphasized that right now, platforms are being developed which will move technology to the capability of improving itself. He and Pandher further explained that individuals are taking advantage of hardware in ways not anticipated.

“Looking back, people were taking graphics processor and repurposing that to do compute,” said Patti. “We will see similar repurposing and innovation now.”

The potential of novel packaging, 2.5 and 3 dimensional integration, novel chip materials and photonics in chip and system improvement were also mentioned as ways to cheat Moore’s Law improvements.

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FiRe 2017: Bringing about the End of Disease

By Ahrash Poursaid

Dr. Leroy Hood speaking at the Future in Review XV conference

Imagining a world without chronic illness and disease sounds like a fairytale or science fiction but according to Dr. Leroy Hood, President and Co-Founder of Institute for Systems Biology and CFO of Providence Health & Services, it is an achievable feat in the next decade.

Dr. Hood spoke about an initiative that would progress healthcare by improving quality of care, predict and prevent disease, reduce costs, and reduce time spent in the hospital by patients, known as “scientific welfare.”

During his keynote speech at the Future in Review (FiRe) conference in Park City, Utah, Dr. Hood pointed out how the importance of understanding wellness and disease within each patient could help discover the transitions between the two states. Doing so could lead ways to reverse these states and become preventative medicine.

“In 5 to 10 years we will have the ability to reverse Alzheimer’s,” he said.

Dr. Hood emphasized that cloud computing has become a big part of everyday life and is making a significant impact in healthcare. Data clouds are generated to create “actionable abilities” to improve wellness and prevent disease among patients. This lead Dr. Hood to develop the P4 medicine system: Predictive, Prevention, Personalization and Participatory. The focus of this movement is in progressing patient wellness rather than just treating diseases.

“Healthcare is not just about disease but wellness as well,” said Dr. Hood.

According to him, creating personalized wellness programs for patients is the biggest step in progressing healthcare. Using genomic sequencing, clinicians can find methods to prevent disease by altering the patient’s wellness.

“Only 50% of kids born in this calendar year are expected to live to 100,” he said. This is an alarming figure and not improving wellness this statistic will remain the same. Wellness is a lifetime journey and is different for everyone but if done properly following the 4 P’s and using the innovative predictive methods, people will be able to live longer and healthier lives.

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FiRe 2017: Thinking in the Century Scale

By Charly Kuecks

SNS Founder Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson, the founder of Strategic News Service, raised a question in his opening address to Future in Review XV (FiRe XV) conference in Deer Valley, Utah. “Are things as bad as they feel?” he said. In a world with ecommerce gone crazy, acute privacy concerns, and complex security challenges, it was a reasonable question to pose, even to a room full of optimists.

Anderson posited that when it comes to the accelerating pace of change, it’s not about the century, it’s about the scale. He remarked that the term “innovation” is overused to the point of becoming a buzzword. Instead, he began at the level of the concrete: What happens when we move beyond an oil dependent economy? Why are we seeing so many new century-scale changes all at once? In a world in which population has grown from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7.6 billion today, we need to adopt systems-level thinking.

Anderson said that our plugged-in society bombards us with as much alarming news as we can seek out. However, he believes that compared to a century ago, there is a need for systems-level understanding that transcends mere survival. Anderson said that this means thinking beyond one’s egocentric view.

Anderson also reflected on how the FiRe conference itself has scaled in the past 15 years. He said he believes this is the conference’s pivot moment. FiRe is headed forwards, not backwards. “We’re now enablers as well as creators,” he said. He also encouraged the audience to go beyond listening to “get off your butt and do it”.

Anderson views the evolution of the conference as a way to address challenges, such as urban wildfires and actionable climate change solutions that aren’t being addressed elsewhere.

FiRe XV promises to be exciting, according to Anderson, addressing timely issues such as intellectual property theft and multilateral treaties. He highlighted some of FiRe XV’s standout sessions on the agenda including the Undiagnosed initiative of Katia Moritz. The Earth Energy Monitoring System (E2MS), and new books on Flow Interaction and The Pattern Future are other cutting-edge projects developed and showcased at Future in Review.

So, are things really that bad? Anderson said we may have the “luxury” of knowing about every bad turn the world takes the moment it happens, but compared to the challenges of the twentieth century like the two World Wars and the Great Depression, we have it pretty great. World poverty has dropped significantly, and breakthroughs every day in science and technology promise to improve quality of life across the world.

“We have created our own tools,” said Anderson, “we have found with them new truths.” He encouraged the audience to use these discoveries to forge new solutions, in a drive to achieve real and beneficial change.

Anderson inspired the audience by saying, “the future is ours to create.” In answer to his rhetorical question, he spoke directly to the audience.

“There’s never been a better time to be alive,” he said.

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FiRe 2017: Fish Eyeballs Make Complex Computers

By Ethan Annis

Mark Anderson and Bryan William Jones discussing the Eye-Brain machine

In a session titled “The Eye Brain Machine: Computing’s Next Model,” Bryan Jones and Mark Anderson used the retina as a model to understand how a computer chip of the future might process and relay information.

The session began with Jones comparing the retina to a processor of information flow from the outside world to the brain. During development, the eyes form as stocks off of the brain and eventually form into our eyeballs. At the back of the eyeball we find the retina, brain tissue that connects the brain and the eye.

“It becomes a highly specialized device that then feeds into the brain,” Jones said.

A point that came up in the panel was that humans’ mammalian retinas are much simpler than many organisms on earth, including many reptiles and birds. The human retina has roughly 70–100 neuron types and a goldfish has around 250.

The conversation turned to how this retina information compares to computing.

“We started with the raw anatomy and now we’re interested in the network analysis,” said Jones. “The hard part is we have been doing this for 150 years and it is not easy”

A questioner during the session

This point was illustrated by the fact that there are 9X10¹⁴⁷³ potential nerve connections in the retina. He put that into perspective, saying that there are only 1X10⁸⁰ atoms in the universe by comparison.

Anderson commented how difficult it will be to develop a brain inspired computer chip. Jones mentioned it might be more accurate to say we are developing a neurally informed chip rather than a neurally inspired chip.

Jones wrapped up the session by talking about the potential for information processing if we can understand better how the retina processes such a large amount of visual information so quickly.

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FiRe 2017: Introduction to Day 2

By Arunabh Satpathy

In a series of short opening remarks to day 2 of the Future in Review conference at Park City, Utah, Strategic News Service founder Mark Anderson emphasized the importance of thinking at a high level at a time of rapid change.

“It seems as though at a time of great change, systems level thinking is the right answer,” he said.

In introducing upcoming sessions on visualization, the eye-brain machine, and pictorial supercomputing, Anderson suggested pictures as a way of solving problems. He spoke of the need to refer to our brain’s way to looking at things i.e. through pictures.

He also looked ahead to the upcoming CTO challenge, asking them to engage with a whole new paradigm of computing, calling it the conclusion of a “multi-year effort.”

He ended the 10-minute introduction by segueing into Chris Johnson and Valerio Pascucci’s data visualization panel.

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FiRe 2017: Pictorial Processing Beyond the Exascale

By Ahrash Poursaid

Larry Smarr and Mark Anderson talking about pictorial supercomputing

Reverse engineering the human brain to further delve into the understanding of its functionality and the human psyche is a complex task and seems impossible but we are close to accomplishing it, according to Larry Smarr, founding director of California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

“The brain is our biologically evolved computer systems”, Smarr said during a panel at the Future in Review (FiRe) conference in Park City, Utah. He said that to mimic it, exascale computing is required, which is 1 million teraflops faster than a smartphone.

“Exascale simulates 100% of the complexity of the human brain in real-time”, said Smarr. He elaborated the capabilities of machine learning and to track the neural networks within the brain.

“With the incredible speed of digital computers, a human being cannot keep up with this prodigious flow of data.” said Smarr.

He emphasized that for the human brain to keep up the digital information, it needs to be put through a visualization device such as an oscilloscope for the eye-brain system will be able to interface with the natural world.

The advances in the field have allowed AI to learn voice recognition. The use of Tensor Processing Units (TPU) has become an integral part of this world and provides the capability for machines to learn and recognize the different voices of a family and sync the calendar accordingly to each member.

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FiRe 2017: Acquihires, Internal Culture, and Activism: What Happened at Yahoo

Ed Butler interviewing Ken Goldman

By Arunabh Satpathy

Bringing in up-close and personal view of the goings on inside Yahoo, ex-CFO Ken Goldman and current President of Hillspire told the audience about the kaleidoscope of reasons for Yahoo’s misfortunes, while being hosted by Ed Butler, Presenter and Senior Broadcast Journalist, BBC.

Drawing on his 40-year long career as a person in the financial field and as a CFO, he praised ex-CEO Marissa Mayer and how she was respected within the company because of her engineering background, unlike the previous 5 CEO’s. However, Goldman also lamented several issues that led to Yahoo’s current condition, like external activism and internal culture.

“The reality is that the culture was really tough,” he said. “It wasn’t conducive to what was going on in the [Silicon] Valley.”

As an example, he said that employees didn’t have smartphones within the company and said that Yahoo had a “non-internet culture.”

Another issue he mentioned was difficulties in hiring, because people wouldn’t want to join the beleaguered company. He said that the mobile engineering group only had 25 people in it. Goldman said that the company tried to “acquihire” employees, which led to a number of good people coming on the company.

However, the acquisitions came with their own set of difficulties. While saying that most acquisitions were successful, he pointed to Tumblr as a notable failure, calling it “challenging.” He drew attention to the nature of the content on Tumblr, which proved difficult to monetize.

Butler bought up the inevitable topic of the Yahoo hack, to which Goldman replied that while lawsuits are inevitable with large companies, he was “cordoned off” as the issue was mainly a cyber security issue. When quizzed on whether the hack affected morale, he disagreed, saying that the lack of morale came more from the uncertain future of the company regarding its business failures.

On the issue of activism, Goldman was critical of certain types of activists. He said that while some activists are constructive, some focus too much on firing the CEO, cutting costs, and selling the company. He said that the activism also harms companies at a business level, pointing out that public companies have two classes of stock because they don’t want to deal with activists. He also mentioned that said activism is the biggest reason fewer companies are going private or are choosing to stay private.

In reflecting on past mistakes, Goldman said that public and investor relations could have been better handled.

“We let the storyline be told by others,” he said.

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FiRe 2017: Venture capitalists forecast the seas of change

Venture capitalists forecast the future of investing

by Rainey Cornaby

The session title “The Next Wave of Venture Investing” consisted of a panel of Mark Gorenberg, Managing Director of Zetta Venture PartnersYanev SuissaSineWave Ventures General Partner, and Dafina Toncheva, Partner at US Venture Partners. The panel was hosted by Ray Rothrock, CEO of RedSeal and former Venrock Partners and brought up themes of consumer trust and security.

Panelists discussed the investment trend of increased emphasis on cybersecurity and its importance now and in the near future. Currently, cyber security is a major focus of investment, but 10–15 years ago, there was only a handful of venture capital firms investing in cyber security. Toncheva referenced recent incidents, such as the Equifax hack, and possible governmental hacks perpetrated by North Korea, and their impact on making cyber and information security salient to the public. She emphasized the importance of the issue, stating hacks are “economically devastating, politically devastating, and a matter of national security.”

The issue of hacking and cyber security, extends beyond how it is currently considered, and is continually evolving alongside other technologies. Toncheva described multiple demonstrations relating to the future of security concerns, one involving scientists remotely hacking and controlling a pacemaker, and another in which scientists transmitted a computer virus by inserting genetic code into a cell, and then executing the program as the computer sequenced the DNA.

The conversation then moved to the topic of trust in technology. Gorenberg stated as a society, we are not held back by technological capabilities we are held back by what risks we are willing to take. Adoption and lack of user and institutional trust is the limiting factor, but companies are willing to adopt technological solutions incrementally when they see revenue generation or cost savings. He illustrated this with the example of a company capable of predicting patient kidney failure six months in the future. Hospitals were reluctant to adopt the technology as a diagnostic tool but have implemented it as a triaging aid.

Gorenberg explained institutional trust and adoption occur incrementally. Toncheva elaborated on increased adoption and trust, suggesting younger generations will usher in a sea of change. She stated they will rebel and support the use of new technologies because of their comparatively high comfort and familiarity with them.

Despite consumer slowed technological adoption and increased security risks, panelists were primarily optimistic about the future of investments and technology trends. Predictions forecasted a coming wave of positive technological changes in healthcare, artificial intelligence, automation, DNA storage, synthetic biology, and the health of the planet. Suissa expressed cynicism about some of the implications of forthcoming technology improvements.

“There will be negative and positive externalities,” Suissa said.

He emphasized many questions are sure to arise regarding responsibility, ownership, and where morality ultimately will fall.

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