Much has been made of Caloric Restriction (CR) and how it is the one true life-extension strategy currently available. In countless articles and videos it has been given much attention and there are a bunch of folks whose stomachs are growling as we speak that will be disappointed to learn that this strategy may be flawed.
A new study by Raj Sohal and Michael Forster recapped on EurekAlert! shows that CR is essentially only effective when "an animal eats more than it can burn off." The problem it seems is that it really only works for obese mice and has little or no benefit for those who aren't.
The study looked at two different genetically altered strains of mice - basically a fat mouse and a skinny mouse (I think this may have sitcom potential). The takeaway was that calorie restriction helped the mouse that had been programmed to double its weight over its lifespan while it did not extend the life of the skinny mouse. In fact, when CR is started later in life they found that it actually shortened the lifespans of leaner test subjects. The authors noted that previous studies have also demonstrated that wild mice experience minimal life-extension benefits from CR.
GE announced recently that they were partnering with the Transformational Medical Technology Initiative to develop the Biotic Man, a "physiologically based virtual human." The collaboration has the backing of the U.S. Dept. of Defense.
The Biotic Man will be based on computer modeling and has the potential to speed up the drug design process significantly. The project is aimed at providing a quicker response to biological threats on the battlefield and will advance the GE Physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic software tool. The tool employs computational models to measure drug response in the body far in advance of clinical trials.
One of the most exciting things about the promise of the Obama administration is their commitment to employing interactive communication technologies in an effort to better their stewardship of the country.
It was the utilization of these tools that spurred him to victory in a daunting primary process and pushed him to a convincing win in the general election. At a simple level, what he really did was engage anyone he could in conversation. That is the hallmark principle of web 2.0 and also of a good politician. I think this concept is at the center of why people (a whopping 79% approve of his handling of the transition) are so optimistic about what type of leader he may be. While it's true that we are in the midst of very difficult times and that will prod more folks into being open to and hopeful that Obama may lead us out of here, I think it is his continued commitment to conversation and engagement that offers the most potential upside.
A couple of weeks ago I pointed out a new trend that was exemplified by the creation process of the Twitter application Twittority. Where big social media influence blogs like Tech Crunch, Mashable and others have the power to effect what gets created by defining a pain point. This trend was further confirmed a couple of days ago when Rachel Cunliffe's post on Mashable predicted ways in which Twitter would evolve over 2009. In pretty much the same time frame as the Twittority example (overnight), Dan Zarella designed a solution app in response to one those predictions.
Mashable was quick to recognize this effort and tout their status as a product cycle influencer the following day.
The power of web 2.0 is on full display here. The conversation aggregating nature of influence blogs is a major driver and the incipient response of hackers augurs enormous potential. This growing community of "first responders" are enabled by a developing toolkit that facilitates quick and inexpensive solutions.
The University of Michigan announced recently that they had made artificial bone marrow that can continuously make red and white blood cells. According to Nicholas Kotov, the PI of the lab, it uses 3D scaffolding that mimics the tissues that support bone marrow in the body.
In addition to possibly providing an inexhaustible source of blood for transfusions, which in and of itself would be great, it has the potential to simplify the pharmaceutical drug-testing process. As the world of discovery speeds up, the process of safely testing and bringing to market drugs and treatments in less than the standard 7-10 years is a difficult obstacle to overcome and one which is in great demand.
2009 promises to be a big year on the media landscape as next stage public adoption of online product will spur tremendous growth. Here are 5 things to watch for:
- Tweet! Twitter explodes and joins the parade - MySpace --> YouTube --> Facebook --> Twitter - as an elite meme that everybody has heard of. In the process it requisitely transforms into a corporate tool and attracts an older demographic cohort.
- Online Advertising Hangs Tough Despite all of the end times rhetoric, online advertising actually increases 10%. The efficiency of the web is wreaking havoc on traditional media. Companies still need to advertise their products and eyeballs are continuing to flock to the web. Bang for the buck and big metrics make web media undeniably compelling.
- The Future Gets Hot The present stinks and people will turn their attention elsewhere. While many will pine for a return to the past they will be forced to look ahead. The doom and gloom of the economic meltdown and global warming combined with the incredible pace of technological change provide a fertile backdrop for projection. ABC's 2100, Discovery's 2057 and plenty of content about the next decade will push this meme to the forefront. Sweet.
I mentioned in my post yesterday that we were moving towards a time when the powers that be that influence tech Zeitgeist are seeing their reach and effect increase in a profound fashion. One manifestation of this can be seen in the nimble teams of developers that are and will assemble to make a proposed or roughly designed product or prototype quickly. This coincides closely with the trend towards DIY and making. In this post by leading gadget blog Gizmodo, they lay out a mock-up of a next generation Iphone. The Dream IPhone Pro basically combines the features people would like to see most in today's personal communicators - a Blackberry style qwerty keyboard combined with the full size touch screen beauty and facility of the Iphone (plus a couple of other requisite additions such as wholesale improvement of camera/video). It's a pretty simple idea and one that would satisfy a lot of folks (me included). As a result, there are probably a bunch of people tearing apart Iphones, Blackberry's and Nokias as we speak trying to create a hack.
There was a bit of hubbub in the socialmediasphere about Loic Le Meur's complaint that there was no way to filter Twitter posts by authority, or the number of users suscribing to a particular person's feed. Le Meur's beef was that he and other attendees of his conference had a problem - they couldn't sift through the deluge of Tweets about and from people attending their event to find the signal they were looking for. While signal clarity and information overload is a problem (which I will save for a later post) - what I found most interesting is that less than a day after complaining about the problem, an ambitious group of programmers dug in and created a basic product that addressed this problem.
This is something we will see much more frequently going forward.
TechCrunch and other sites that are leaders in authority and Zeitgeist have the ability to drive conversation, memes and ultimately influence production itself. And the collaborative tools that they make a living reporting on are empowering people to come together quickly and solve problems. This compressed market process is likely to accelerate rapidly in an economy where there are a lot of free agents (read un or under-employed folks) with time, expertise and awareness of these platforms and painpoints. By addressing a zeitgeist problem quickly you have the opportunity to garner a great deal of attention from the community, which can result in elevation of personal brands, team and give the solution you've created a chance to get quick adoption and possibly immediate financial backing.
I can feel my relationship with nature changing. The other day a big ass bumble bee was hovering around my face for a prolonged period of time. I mean we were having a stare down. I’m relatively sure that it was a real bee, but it spent an unusual amount of time right in my face – flew away and then back several times. It felt like there was some intelligence and intention behind it’s activities. Like it was gathering information.
Now before you label me as paranoid (at least wait until the end of the post), consider all of the increased surveillance activity that we know is going on and think about what we might not (take Bob Woodward’s cryptic interview reference from last week as an example).
Advances in robotics, miniturization and cost reduction in video cameras are transforming the economics and viability of surveillance. The increasing number and granularity of commercial satellite technology platforms, aerial drones, advances in facial recognition and image processing are increasingly enabling visual quantification of everything that happens in outdoor space. This is a trend that will only accelerate, driven primarily by security threats and the increase in destructive capabilities of small groups of people and individuals.
For large metropolitan cities, there really is no choice in the matter. London has already embraced extensive monitoring of public spaces and New York City has undertaken an ambitious project which includes the Ring of Steel. Though interfaces like Google Maps and Google Street View are currently static, they will eventually become real-time as the world moves towards becoming an unscripted 24-7 reality tv program.
So how do I know if that bee was real or surveillance. Well, short of swatting it and finding out for sure, I don’t. But I do believe that pretty soon these will be just another weapon in an increasingly large arsenal of behavior mapping and large scale societal surveillance.
Congratulations to best selling futurist and Future Blogger contributor Jack Uldrich who finished second in his bid for the Minnesota Independent Party nomination for U.S. Senate. Given his late entry into a 7 competitor field that included winner Dean Barkley, who served a short stint in the U.S. Senate as Paul Wellstone’s replacement in 2002, it was a very admirable effort. Barkley was also the endorsee of former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, whose gubernatorial campaign he successfully managed in 1998. Jack easily finished ahead of the Independent party’s endorsed candidate and the rest of the field on his way to capturing 12.4 percent of the vote.
I caught up with Jack today to get his quick take on the role of foresight in the political process.
JH: What kind of response did you get as a futurist running for office?
JU: It didn’t help or hurt. I actually changed the description of what I do to ‘Business Technology Forecaster” to make it more accessible. People’s perceptions of futurists are sometimes more pie-in-the-sky than pragmatic, though in the long run, the impact of accelerating change will necessitate that we all become futurists.
JH: What role do you think foresight should play in politics?
JU: It’s absolutely critical. Look at all the big issues: energy, the economy, climate change, healthcare, social security – they’re all being dramatically impacted by accelerating technological change. Take energy for example – there are so many technologies that will be available sooner than people think that you can’t have a rational conversation without factoring these in. Social Security is another big issue. We have a 10 trillion dollar debt, but a 70 trillion dollar commitment to prepare for in the future. Given the life extension technologies on the horizon, even this number will rise significantly.
JH: How will the impact of foresight in politics evolve over the next four years?
JU: Washington needs to begin addressing these issues now. If they don’t, these issues will be hoisted upon them very quickly. Like an 800lb brick.
JH: How do you feel now coming off the campaign?
JU: I’m glad to have gone through the process, learned a lot and am very thankful to my supporters. I’m disappointed to not have the chance to face-off against Al Franken and Norm Coleman, as I feel that I could have elevated the conversation in a number of critical ways.