FiRe 2016 in Review, Part I
ed., Sally Anderson
Our 14th year of FiRe, held for the second year amid the peaks of the Wasatch Range of the Rockies, included new and ongoing friends from possibly our most varied - even disparate - areas yet, both geographically and by industry. And yet there seemed to be more shared interests and communal purpose than ever.
We came from 22 states in the US and 10 countries outside the US. Or 11, if being of another species counts as a "foreign land." But we like to think that is less and less the case with each passing year, in part because of the work we do here.
From flow economics to pattern computing, Earth and ocean flows to 3-D modeling, autonomous cars to inter-species communication, it's a lot to wrap one's head around. Invariably, even the most driven attendee misses a session or two; and many more SNS members haven't yet had the benefit of attending, or weren't able to rejoin us this year.
To fill in the blanks and keep the fires burning - because, after all, that's how change happens - we arranged for all sessions and breakouts to be covered by a tag team of bloggers.
At the head of this effort was Lead FiRe Event Blogger and Blog Manager Arunabh Sanpathy, who not only blogged nonstop, but also taught, guided, and scheduled the rest of the volunteer team. At his side, as their very active MBA schedules and other FiRe duties allowed, were our four University of Utah FiReFellows, with deep thanks to Zions Banks for its sponsorship support of this valuable program: Shelby Cate, Melissa Dymock, Nick Fritz, and Chance Murray. Further invaluable support and enthusiasm for chronicling history in the making was provided by Evan Anderson, Cheryl Evans, and Berit Anderson.
The original blog posts have been re-edited and in some cases expanded for publication here, including added audio, photos, and speaker bios for each session, and other media links known at the time of publication. Please contact me directly at email@example.com to correct any errors or to suggest additions for next week's "SNS: FiRe 2016 in Review, Part II."
In the posts below, "official" FiRe Agenda titles are followed by the bloggers' personalized titles, when different. Speaker Bio links lead to SNS iNews profiles, where you'll also find any available related news articles featuring that speaker or his or her company.
Reminder to FiRe attendees: You can contact fellow participants (email addresses aren't exposed) via the FiRe Mailroom tab at the top of the homepage at www.futureinreview.com. This benefit is available to registered FiRe attendees only.
Like FiRe itself, this review took many hands to craft. Thank you to each of you, for taking a chance, for finding optimism, for sharing your efforts, and for your daily contributions. - Sally Anderson
"Lt. Governor Spencer Cox opens FiRe conference in Park City, Utah"
by Shelby Cate
The 14th annual Future in Review conference opened with SNS Programs Director Sharon Anderson Morris giving a warm introduction to special guest Lt. Governor Spencer Cox. Morris spoke about Cox's support for the FiRe conference and for technology in Utah. This is Cox's second year opening the conference.
Cox began by addressing Utah's successes in technology, saying that the Utah economy is "growing robustly, at twice the national average," largely due to innovators and entrepreneurs such as those present at FiRe.
He also touched on current political problems, noting that while it's "easiest [just] to talk about the problems" he is hopeful about the ability of technology to transcend them. He addressed the importance of being charitable toward people who are left behind in a changing economy, and of the responsibility industry should take for the environment it creates.
"Technology has the ability to change our world and change our lives, and you are at the forefront for that," Cox told the audience of mostly business and industry leaders. "But I also believe that technology has a responsibility, and it's not just watching cat videos - although that is critical," he joked.
The Lt. Governor concluded by thanking the crowd for their hard work and future contributions. "We need a lot of 'moon shots' right now, and we're counting on you to do it," he said.
"The most important talk ever given"
Signaling the official start of FiRe, Sharon Anderson Morris introduced Mark Anderson, CEO of SNS and the Future in Review Conference Corp., prior to the evening's Opening Night presentation by Bill Janeway.
Mark Anderson opened by touching on this year's FiRe theme, "The Power of Flows," saying that the ideas of flow and interaction are fundamental drivers of the world, and with them, we can describe Everything.
SNS looks for patterns in all industries and helps companies avoid pitfalls, Anderson added, saying he has often been asked if there was a more fundamental level of pattern connections that he was seeing in his analysis. He had always answered No - until now.
Paraphrasing the poet Dylan Thomas, he said: "We knew everything about patterns, except why. Now, I think we've found it."
Anderson said that when he discovered the idea of flows, he asked many of the global experts coming to FiRe if flows could explain their understanding of the world, and they concurred. Noting that language determines our perception of the world, and that math is a language, he predicted that flows and interaction will change language, change math, and change perception.
"Through the lens of Flow and Interactions, we will now be able to describe and study the world in its own terms," he said. "Our language will become a mirror of the world."
Photo © 2016 Sally Anderson
"The destructive creation of flows"
The rising flow of goods, people, and capital have led to industrial and technological developments throughout the world. However, flows left unattended or without buffers can be enormously destructive, contended economist Bill Janeway in his Opening Night presentation.
Governments worldwide have experienced increases in the magnitude of flows, and they now face a political trilemma. They can choose to have only two of the three aims of deep economic integration, national autonomy, and democratic policies.
Over the past two decades, the flow of goods, capital, and people has increased dramatically, largely improving commerce and quality of life worldwide. Accompanying this globalization of flows are risks derived from instability inherent with flows. As an example, Janeway mentioned the rise of capital flows in the years leading up to the great recession and the inherent financial instability of such flows.
One of the consequences of dealing with flows is the tradeoff between efficiency and stability. Janeway stated that as the efficiency and magnitude of flows rises, so does the level of instability. Conversely, as stability rises, the level of efficiency and flows decreases. In this context, there needs to be a buffer within flows to create such stability.
"Buffers, reservoirs, et cetera, are places where flows can accumulate and enable people to make decisions," Janeway said.
Otherwise, flows will continue to expand and accelerate toward collapse. Stocks, inventories, and so forth, though oftentimes viewed as inefficient within capital markets, play a critical role in providing stability to markets worldwide. Without them, nations are faced with reconstructing their economies and people's trust via a long, arduous effort.
Janeway further elaborated his point by mentioning the current decision regarding the flow of CO2 emissions. As the flow of emissions continues to rise, the evidence of climate change becomes more and more clear. Unless we decouple the flow and create a dam, the flow will overwhelm human capacities.
One possible solution is graphene, an allotrope of carbon 100 times stronger than the strongest steel capable of efficiently conducting heat and electricity. Drawing upon historical precedence, Janeway pointed out that the US has always taken a new material, such as aluminum or silicon, to market and made it the status quo. Graphene is projected to grow in demand exponentially over the next decade.
"Graphene has unique qualities that can potentially slow the destructive flow of CO2 emissions," Janeway said.
To see all of Kris Krüg's photos from FiRe 2016's Opening Night,
"Mark Anderson introduces 'flow and interaction' as a theory of change"
by Shelby Cate
Mark Anderson kicked off Day 2 of FiRe 2016 by elaborating on his idea that flows can be used to describe a wide variety of macro and micro trends.
He said that the two fundamentals of flow and interaction with other external forces can be used to describe Everything. He applies this idea to both animate and inanimate flows.
"There was a time when there was no life on Earth, and things were still changing," said Anderson. He noted that flows have long shaped coastlines, but flow can also be found in a leaf and other living things.
"What is this 'life' thing all about?" Anderson posed. "It's a very efficient organization of flows and interactions."
This introduction opens the way for many of the next two days of conversation regarding how the concept of flow applies to a broad variety of subjects, from biology to economics, computing, bioacoustics, and much more.
"People have imagined the geological cycle and the water cycle and so on, but they are basically change," Anderson said. "Change is what flows all."
Leading into ...
"Data visualization panel displays arrays of data flows"
Blood, airflow patterns, and Facebook all have flows that can be mapped and visualized. At the Future in Review conference, Chris Johnson, Bei Wang Phillips, and Alexander Lex opened Wednesday morning's first session by showing an array of data flows in visual form.
Johnson, the director of the University of Utah's SCI Institute, said flows are everywhere in nature, from the living body to the social world. With intricate and colorful 3D representations, he presented visualizations of jet fuel on fire, a spiral galaxy with billions of stars flowing, and even Tweets from the recent uprising in Turkey.
The purpose of understanding these flows is to learn how they work normally, so that we can recognize aberrations. One aspect Johnson researches is the electrical flows in the heart. He showed a simulation of one beat of a heart over a second's time. He also maps the brain; by modeling the brain, an epileptic seizure can be visualized. Once that is understood, it becomes possible to treat it.
Bei Wang Phillips, an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at SCI, continued by going into more detail on why visualization is so critical to understanding data flows. "The main point is to make it visible and make it more interpretable," she said.
Flows like wind have hidden patterns that require visualization to be understood. Phillips showed detailed visuals of the ocean currents of the world and hurricanes. At SCI, they look at the source, the sync, and the saddle - which are the features of the flow - and map the stability points of the flows and the noise.
Alexander Lex, also an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at SCI, spoke on the difficulty of mapping only data points when dealing with big data. He compared the resulting graphs to hairballs: "hairballs" convey size, but not much else. "You cannot show big data; you have to take it and parse it down to be something discernible to the human eye," said Lex.
To show a better way of breaking down big data, he demonstrated the use of a query interface, which allows users to drill down on the data into various flows. "Data analysis is this combination of computation, visualization, and human interaction with the data," Lex said.
"Necessity is the mother of flow"
In a freewheeling conversation, FiRe founder and CEO Mark Anderson and physicist and computer scientist Larry Smarr laid out a vision for computing that breaks free from current paradigms. According to Smarr, the dominant and static Von Neumann computing architecture is poised to be replaced by "flow computing," in which large datasets are parsed in real time to extract nuggets of useful information.
Smarr gave a few examples of how flow computing is taking over with big datasets. First was the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile, which photographs most of the observable universe and processes the captures at 40,000 megabits per second.
"It turns the universe into a video stream," Smarr said. "That's a level of flow that literally turns the universe into a movie."
One of the other central assertions of the discussion was that flow computing is akin to how the human brain works. Drawing upon the way the human eye reduces the photons of light we receive into readable information, Smarr said that the human brain experiences a "pattern-recognized flow stream every moment of every day."
Anderson responded by emphasizing the "data triage" aspect of human experience. Data triage is the central aspect of flow computing, in which large amounts of information are watched for relevant patterns, with the rest being rejected. "We are not seeing the world," Anderson said. "We're seeing what we need to see."
Another example Smarr gave of the emerging flow computing paradigm was of General Electric's "industrial Internet," which may be defined as the integration of complex machinery with sensors to gather data continuously. In GE's case, Smarr said, the industrial Internet is generating 10 petabytes a day. This kind of data means that patterns can be analyzed, and predictions about faults will be made accurately, because behavior can be measured with great fidelity. "Machines will never stop," he said. "They will never break."
Smarr further developed the idea by mentioning that fitness trackers like the Fitbit and the Apple Watch distributed across approximately 100 million people could lead to a "true healthcare maintenance system" based on predictive analytics.
Finally, defining the flow computing paradigm, Smarr called it "a set of specialized architectures for computer chips that are designed for real time flows that never stop."
Anderson wrapped up the session by turning the current hot topic of the "Internet of Things" on its head: "If you put a trillion sensors out there, there are a trillion streams of information flowing back. The problem isn't the Internet of Things. The real problem from a technology is the Internet of Flows."
"Bridging the gap between innovation and economic growth"
National GDP and national business models are a derivative of the business models of individual companies within the economy. Bill Ribaudo, managing partner of the Technology, Media and Telecommunications Industry at Deloitte & Touche; SNS CEO Mark Anderson; and Evan Anderson, Director of Research at INVNT/IP, elaborated on how types of business models correlate with national economic growth throughout the world.
Over the past 40 years, the line between industries has blurred. For example, traditional combustion engines in vehicles have evolved into electronic motors, blurring the line between combustion and computers. Ribaudo suggested four primary categories of industries in the 21st century:
Each of these categories has the potential to sustain growth within national economies. However, the magnitude of growth for each is unique. Technology creators and network orchestrators have growth potential between 4x and 8x, while asset builders and service providers have growth potential of only 1x to 2x.
Evan Anderson provided supporting research for Ribaudo's claim. Anderson's team has compiled data that correlates innovation metrics with national GDP, yielding an index of countries positioned for high to low rates of growth. Among the highest-ranking countries are Switzerland, the United States, and the Netherlands. Among the lowest are Mexico, Indonesia, and India.
"The data correlates well with Deloitte's multiplier thesis," said Anderson, "suggesting that economies focusing on multiplier industries- technology creation and network orchestration - have greater innovation per-capita GDP."
The implication for policymakers is that when faced with budget allocation decisions, one should consider the multiplier effect of the industries into which capital is flowing.
"We're in an age of technology we've never been in before," added Mark Anderson. "By acquiring intellectual property rather than developing it, companies and nations are losing the longer-term, exponential growth that is within reach."
"Detecting bio-flows for predictive health"
Data-flow patterns within the body, detected via common biomarkers, hold potentially accessible information regarding future health conditions, argues Benjamin Smarr, National Institutes of Health (NIH) postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.
Smarr introduced pioneering research regarding circadian rhythms and the flow of information that he believes may transform the medical industry. "If you think about your body as the world," Smarr said, "and all the parts of your body are providing flows to each other, you can analyze the body in a similar way as to other more mainstream data flows."
His research suggests that biological flows have a specific wavelength that, if measured and analyzed, can predict specific health conditions in the future.
In his lab at UC Berkeley, Smarr has been measuring body temperature in mice to predict successful pregnancies. When mating mice for lab tests, Smarr joked, the current process entails "pairing the mice, turning on some jazz music, and waiting for biology to happen." To determine whether a pregnancy is legitimate, the mouse is then weighed after two weeks of a three-week term, and if the weight is higher than the average weight of a mouse, then the pregnancy is deemed successful, and offspring may be born within a week.
Smarr's research, on the other hand, allows him to predict pregnancies within eight to twelve hours after mating. Using body temperature as a biomarker, he analyzes a flow of data to be able to predict with 100% accuracy whether a mouse will come to full term.
"This has significant implications for the medical industry," he said. "If we can understand how the internal systems are impacting temperature, then we can potentially access a database of information through a single biomarker."
The implications of these findings are significant. As we begin to find correlations between patterns in biomarkers and diseases, illnesses, et cetera, we can begin to prescribe remedies before symptoms are even detected. "We can begin to answer the question, 'Am I going to get cancer later in life?' because we can detect certain flows within the body now," said Smarr.
"Listening to the flow of circadian rhythms"
by Shelby Cate
We have known for a long time that shift workers develop health problems, that eating at night is bad for us, and that jet lag isn't fun. According to Benjamin Smarr, an NIH postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley, these behaviors all have temporal effects on circadian rhythms in common. BBC host Ed Butler interviewed Smarr about his research and the idea of flows - this year's over-arching theme at FiRe - which Smarr says fits "incredibly well" into how he thinks about biology.
Smarr explained that circadian rhythms are the flow of metabolites, hormones, and other biomarkers that transmit information between organs in the body. These flows follow temporal patterns across days, years, and social behaviors. For Smarr, the important questions are: "Where am I in the flow of information in my body?" and "How can that information be utilized?"
Smarr is particularly interested in monitoring body-temperature changes, because temperature is both easy to measure and it is influenced by many different regulatory metabolites that interact, such as insulin, estrogen, and cortisol. Traditional tests, like those from a blood draw, give a snapshot of biomarkers at a point in time without any information on temporal changes.
"It's not which biomarker, but it's understanding that time really matters in biology," he said - "not just looking at the biomarker, but looking at the flow over time."
Smarr believes that the applications of understanding circadian rhythms will extend beyond just health applications into such fields as mental optimization which could be applied to education. He drew an analogy between understanding flows in metabolites and listening to music.
"I could ask 'What is the amplitude of radio waves in this room?' and I could measure it a couple of times a day, and that would tell me something," he said. "But I could do that until I die without realizing I'm listening to music."
"Market design, not marketing"
by Nick Fritz
Market design has existed in elementary forms since the early 1980s. Since then, over $200B has been invested in market design technologies. This begs the question, Why haven't we heard about market design? And why aren't we any good at it? The answer may be that we are just now attaining the computing power required to really study market dynamics and consumer behavior, according to a panel composed of R. Preston McAfee, Chief Economist and VP of Microsoft; Michael Schwarz, Chief Scientist for Waze, Google; and Pai-Ling Yin, Associate Professor of Clinical Entrepreneurship at Marshall School of Business, USC.
Market design is to economics what physics is to engineering: the set of underlying principles that explains, and allows us to predict, (market) behavior. Market design seeks to tweak the mechanics of markets in order to best take advantage of market forces and ultimately create efficient markets quickly.
A traditional example of market design is the algorithm that matches medical residents with residency positions based on sets of preferences from each group. The residency-matching market design works well because it is relatively simple and occurs in a relatively isolated space, with few variables. How do we conduct this same process in more complicated marketplaces? According to the panel, big data holds a clue.
McAfee stated that we are on the verge of a revolutionary period in market design. Data from mobile apps is on the frontier of market design which is just now being explored. The huge amounts of data coming in from mobile-app users may be very useful in determining and predicting consumer behavior.
One of the challenges with this huge amount of data is triage - i.e., determining which data is valuable and which isn't. According to McAfee, there are essentially three types of data:
o Data that depreciates in value very quickly - for example, day-to-day browser history.
o Data that requires large sample sizes to reveal its value, but is valuable over time - for example, a consumer searching for ski resort vacations every autumn.
o Data that is immediately and durably valuable - for example, a professional skier's enduring interest in skiing products at any time.
Yin thinks that current entrepreneurs in the tech space are best positioned to harness the value of this data because they are able to build in a culture of valuing data from the beginning. One example is a firm called LotaData, which collects vast quantities of data from its customers' mobile-app platforms and aggregates it to reveal consumer trends across communities of users.
However, the panel agreed, valuing data is a difficult problem. How do we value data in a world where some data depreciates in value very quickly and other data is only useful once it reaches a critical scale? The problem has not yet been solved, but the solution will likely drive the future of market design.
"Starting fires, Part I"
by Shelby Cate
The first half of this year's 11 FiReStarter companies - "Companies Improving the World" - were introduced and briefly interviewed by Ed Butler ahead of Wednesday evening's FiReStarter Reception.
CEO and CSO Don Straus introduced First Light Biosciences, which had its start with his concern with the rise of superbugs and antibiotics resistance. Straus saw a need for a rapid test for infection instead of the standard Petri dish growth method, which can take up to four days. First Light's test will take four hours, use any type of biological sample, and detect a broad variety of pathogens and toxins beyond just bacteria, all done with a cheap digital camera. "Unless we do something, we may be approaching a post-antibiotic world," said Straus, as antibiotic resistance is progressing more quickly than we are developing new drugs. First Light Biosciences anticipates being on the market in approximately two years.
Oren Gilad is the CEO of Atrin Pharmaceuticals, which has developed a highly targeted anti-cancer drug with none of the side effects of chemotherapy. Atrin has tested its drug in vivo with ovarian, colon, and pancreatic cancer in addition to several others that are still being tested in vitro, including prostate cancer. It has had several promising trials in humans and anticipates being on the market in about a year. "The drug is working beautifully," said Gilad. "It's very specific to the target and doesn't touch any other proteins."
Founder and CEO Chris Hanson describes his company, Aromyx, as developing a method to digitize taste and smell. It is a simple, plate-based method for companies to measure taste and smell, especially in the food-and-beverage industry. "We think finally being able to measure a taste or a smell will allow these industries to automate a lot of their processes," said Hanson. [The Aromyx product was originally conceived as a means to reduce fatalities and injuries to IED-sniffing dogs.]
Kineta, based out of Seattle, was introduced by COO and President Rob Hedequist. It works in the translational drug development space to streamline taking drugs from the development stage through to safety studies and eventually onto the market. Hedequist touched on several ongoing and upcoming projects, including a non-opioid, non-addictive treatment for chronic pain and a new NIH grant to work on a treatment for the Zika virus. "We have built a robust platform," said Hedequist.
Draper, Utah-based company HZO was introduced by CEO Michael Bartholomeusz. HZO has developed a "robust, scalable, and economically viable" method for protecting electronics from the environment, from the inside-out, particularly waterproofing. It is working with several large electronics companies, including Motorola, and Bartholomeusz said that this is the "final frontier in technology development."
Hyperloop Transportation Technologies was introduced by Chairman and COO Bibop Gresta. Hyperloop is realizing of Elon Musk's concept of high-speed transportation of goods and people through tubes similar to those used in drive-through banking. The company hopes to begin construction in the US in the near future, but is open to other markets as well. "We are super proud to be an American company," Gresta said. "We want to fix transportation here at home."
"Whalesong and higher intelligence"
In a discussion about whether humans are the most intelligent species or whether other big-brained animals, such as whales, surpass us, whale expert Roger Payne, Founder and President of Ocean Alliance, said assuming that humans are the smartest species is a mistake made "constantly and at our peril."
Christopher Clark, Imogene Johnson Senior Scientist at Cornell University, said he first became entranced by the songs of whales in 1972, when his friend Payne documented his findings that the songs of fin whales and blue whales could cross an ocean. [See link to Payne's "Songs of the Humpback Whale" below.] Twenty years later, after the fall of the USSR, the US Navy allowed him use of its sound surveillance to listen for whales.
Clark said he could hear blue whales in the Virgin Islands from 3,000 miles away. "This animal was illuminating the ocean," he said. They tracked the large mammals and heard one school sing a chorus for four months. The problem today, according to Clark, is that noise from modern watercraft is drowning out their songs.
With the noise of a ship, the animal loses all ability to hear and be heard. Clark displayed an animation of the effect of ocean liners when sailing through Glacier Bay National Park. He used this animation to educate park officials in a way that data never could. Even well-intentioned eco-tourism adds to the problem. Ships and powered boats in the Pacific Northwest carrying tourists eager to see whales increase their food requirements through harassment and decrease their sonar efficiency - and therefore their ability to forage.
Mark Anderson, who is also the Founder of the Orca Citizens Relief Alliance, added that the leading cause of death in these whale pods is starvation. "They're dying because they're cute," he said. Instead, "let's save them because they're brilliant." The Orca Relief Citizens Alliance, founded and funded by SNS and FiRe members, is now proposing a new Whale Protection Zone to stop the starvation and save this population.
Benjamin Smarr, a postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley, talked about why it's so important to save and study these creatures. The brain, he said, is highly specialized architecture for very specific tasks, making it much more powerful than a computer. By studying the brain, we can discover how it does things. Knowing this can aid in quantifying a brain's neurological architecture and its capability. To build higher processing systems, this understanding is highly important. "These whales are doing things, and we have no idea how," Smarr said.
Smarr and Anderson launched a new Biocomputer initiative that will use objective structural comparisons between the top 20 brains (by weight) on the planet. They will crowdsource the scientific data, and Anderson suggested that one result might be that computer and chip designers may opt to start mimicking more advanced brains than those of humans.
To see all of Kris Krüg's photos from Wednesday morning, Sept. 28,
"The theft of nations"
This late afternoon session provided confirmation of a lot of previously rumored information about massive, sophisticated, and coordinated intellectual property (IP) theft flowing from some specific countries to others.
Evan Anderson started by pointing out that INVNT/IP [Inventing Nations Versus Nation-sponsored Theft of IP], the company for which he serves as Research Director, has a database of IP flows going back to 2001, originating from geotagged data points logging publicly disclosed thefts. "The asset of innovation is intellectual property," he said.
Kevin Montgomery, CEO of Collaborate.org, visualized these flows by uploading them to his company's data aggregating platform. The resulting data was displayed on a globe motif, with animated arrows flowing from the IP's origin country to the destination country. Red arrows referred to public thefts, and purple to known but publicly undisclosed thefts, with black being projected and unknown threats.
Anderson's research has revealed that 90% of intellectual property theft is not known by the victims. This problem is further compounded by the fact that companies that do disclose IP theft are punished by the system; out of 10% of theft found and understood by its victims, only 10% is publicly disclosed.
The IP "theft map" showed the vast majority of data flowing from North America to Moscow and 13 cities in China, with the latter dominating, with 96% of cases, according to Verizon. There are also large flows from India to China and from continental Europe to the United Kingdom.
The discussion was then steered toward methods of stealing. Anderson suggested that the Russians might be better at hiding thefts than the Chinese, who are far more blatant. He also emphasized that while cybertheft is growing, older forms of industrial espionage, such as insider spies and physical thefts, are still prevalent.
He mentioned a "classic smash and grab job" from China, in which employees of Huawei visited a T-Mobile office in Seattle as visiting researchers. They stole machines from the lab, faked keycards to admit more people into the lab than allowed, and were caught on camera live-streaming video to China while measuring the devices.
However, the panel concluded that the era of blatant stealing may be ending. "They are getting better at concealing what they are doing," said Anderson. "They are better at wiping their footprints."
Referring to the general lack of enforcement, Anderson said victim companies often don't get into the "deep and expensive" process of ensuring security because of cost and the possibility of going up against the monetary might of a nation-state.
Sleeper cells dedicated to espionage, with students infiltrating companies, were also mentioned. As one example, Montgomery said that he receives lots of emails from Chinese postdoctoral students offering to work for free.
The magnitude of wealth transfer was also touched upon, with Anderson saying, "It's almost impossible to quantify, but when we try, it's horrifying. You're talking in the trillions."
Though possible solutions were brought up, challenges were also acknowledged by the panel. "It's been difficult since the Snowden days for companies to trust the government," said Anderson.
He called for countries to build economic disincentives into the system, "because it is an economic problem," adding: "As soon as we make it not worth it, that's when we'll start seeing real change." He said that a world of private company vigilante-ism would likely create serious problems. "The world that we want to see at INVNT/IP doesn't necessitate that kind of action," he said. "We want a world in which private companies do not become vigilantes and start zapping networks all around the world."
Companies need to pay closer scrutiny to their security and especially build up active defenses. "The firewall doesn't cut it ... we need active monitoring teams," concluded Anderson, saying that his personal favorite solution set was misinformation, with companies "creating fake IP that's garbage, that will mislead a thief into doing years of R&D in a completely garbage direction."
by Nick Fritz
Through time, human understanding of the universe has grown increasingly sophisticated. The intervention of the gods is no longer a scientific causal explanation of the world and what is happening in it; the Enlightenment changed that. Further, no longer do we believe in the clockwork universe, whereby all things can be predicted with certainty if we understand the mechanisms by which they work.
In this late afternoon panel with Mark Anderson, mathematician and Aptage CEO Murray Cantor, and Brad Holtz, Chief Nexus Officer of Coventry Computer, our current understanding of the universe was explored through the lens of a number of examples from disparate fields.
We currently understand the universe to be an unpredictable system in which true predictions are not possible, but some level of statistical probability may be understood. In this model, tiny variations in conditions can dramatically affect outcomes.
Cantor offered John Conway's "Game of Life" as an example of this phenomenon. By very slightly altering the initial conditions of the model, a dramatic difference in outcome can be observed.
Holtz offered the example of fractals. Fractals are observed as mathematical models that produce patterns which recur at progressively smaller scales. Upon "zooming in" on these fractals by a factor of 10^40, tiny variations in conditions can produce very dramatic results.
These same principles are demonstrated in genetics. Cantor said that although most living things have very similar DNA patterns, tiny variations in those proteins can produce wildly different organisms. "Anything that changes in time - these are the fundamental laws that apply," he said.
Anderson said the key to understanding the nature of these systems is understanding the flow and interaction between variables to help determine patterns. He gave Lorenz's Butterfly as an example, emphasizing that if we only look at the change on one axis of the model, there appears to be little to no discernible pattern.
However, simultaneously examining the change across all three axes of motion leads to a pattern emerging, giving us a chance of predicting where the particle being observed might be at any point in time. Holtz explained this method further, saying, "Just because there isn't certainty doesn't mean there isn't structure."
These models, although relatively simple, give rise to enormous complexity. The panel concluded that only once we begin to understand the flow and interactivity in the system can we begin to predict system behavior.
"A challenge to build a system to measure the Earth's energy flow"
In this Wednesday afternoon session, host Mark Anderson issued a team challenge to design a computer that can measure the Earth's energy flow. Team members were selected by Anderson for their high intelligence and known capabilities, in the annual FiRe tradition known as the CTO Design Challenge; it is expected that they will add new members as FiRe progresses.
Larry Smarr and Ty Carlson join Anderson as judges who will assess the team's results on the last day of FiRe.
In addition to building a system to measure the energy flow of the Earth, the participants have been charged with building a computer system that can measure all flows. According to Anderson, the system needs to be robust, reliable, scalable, fast, and inexpensive. The information should be real-time, accurate, and truthful.
Faced with this huge challenge, the team questioned how "inexpensive" was defined. Smarr reassured them by saying that if, for instance, they needed a $100 million component, the judges would determine whether there's a cheaper alternative or if it can be acquired.
Smarr challenged the team to have a breadboard that would indicate whether the system is possible and buildable within a year.
"The ocean is deep and the sky is high," said Carlson.
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 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 present as panel members.
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 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 be micro-targeted down to individuals based on their specific needs. These sorts 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 that is adapting well. Seemingly overnight, it transformed from a hardware company into a software company, and it is now collecting enormous amounts of data on its 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.
One thing that cloud computing allows is collaborative filtering, whereby datasets 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 his or her 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 likely 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.
"Boiling the IP frog"
As its title suggests, this session, hosted by Venafi CEO Jeff Hudson, was focused on finding solutions to the problem of intellectual property (IP) theft. The panel was composed of Evan Anderson, INVNT/IP Director of Research; Richard Marshall, CEO of X-SES Consultants; and Dan McGahn, president and CEO of American Superconductor.
The session began with a recent clip from 60 Minutes showcasing the findings of an INVNT/IP report on China's government-sponsored theft of American IP - "Theft Nation," written by Anderson - as well as the cautionary tale of McGahn's company, which suffered serious damage due to IP theft, despite its best advance 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 anesthetic 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 past experience as an attorney in the Office of General Counsel at NSA, Marshall gave historical context to the distinction between individuals stealing IP (like the US model in the early years of its existence) and nation-state-sponsored theft, such as China's methods today. Evoking the metaphor of a frog slowly boiling to death without realizing the water is gradually getting hotter, he made 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.
Marshall was perhaps the most strident member of the panel in terms of apportioning blame to specific actors, from the US government to universities and the companies facing threats.
McGahn narrated the story of his company's IP being stolen despite having taken many advance measures to protect it. After the Chinese had hired about 800 engineers, tried to copy the technology, and failed, they bribed a European employee of American Superconductor up to $2 million to transfer unencrypted files containing IP secrets. "We literally became the poster child of IP abuse," said McGahn. The employee was ultimately fired and jailed.
McGahn further stated that many companies are unaware that they are being violated, and unaware of the extent to which they are being violated. He 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 US companies are able to defend themselves, even large companies are relatively weak compared with countries. He offered that the solution may lie in public-private partnerships.
Marshall initially disagreed, "respectfully, and in a nuanced way," with both Anderson and McGahn on this point, saying that efforts to build public-private partnerships had been in vain. He laid greater emphasis on companies protecting their own IP, saying that the government intelligence services have separate and specialized functions, while reaffirming that some government intervention was necessary.
McGahn expressed the desire that the government stand up directly to China, his company having made its best efforts and still without a result of safety: "We did everything and beyond what anybody should [expect to have to] do."
In the end, the panel agreed that a multi-pronged effort, including consequences for nation-states stealing secrets, along with government intervention, would be most efficacious in gaining a fighting chance against the problem.
"Starting fires, Part II"
by Shelby Cate
The second half of this year's FiReStarter cohort was introduced and briefly interviewed by Ed Butler in an afternoon session, ahead of the evening's FiReStarter Reception.
Soroush Nazarpour, President and CEO of NanoXplore, spoke about his company's expanding use of graphene, a new and advanced material useable for a variety of applications.
"We are now active in two markets: plastics and lithium ion batteries," said Nazarpour. Graphene is incorporated into plastics for transportation, electronic packaging, structural material applications, and in the cathodes and anodes in lithium ion batteries. Nazarpour sees a bright future for the company, noting that it had "been around for about four years, and we increase revenue by five-fold every year."
Caitlin Cameron, Chair and CEO of OtoNexus Medical Technologies Inc., spoke about her company's product, an ultrasound-based medical device for the accurate diagnosis of middle-ear infections. Ultrasound is used to detect the viscosity of the fluid in the middle ear to diagnosis infection, which occurs in 93% percent of children and may recur up to a dozen times. Cameron said that middle-ear infections are the "number one reason for antibiotics in kids, for surgery in kids, but studies have repeatedly shown doctors get it wrong 50% of the time," and that her product can change that.
ORIG3N, a regenerative-medicine biotechnology company, was introduced by CEO Robin Y. Smith. ORIG3N is able to reprogram blood cells into pluripotent stem cells and trigger them to grow into different types of cells, such as heart cells, as one example, which can then be grown on a plate and studied to learn about the heart of the blood donor. ORIG3N has collected a large bank of donor samples which can be used as normal controls, and is larger than all other similar banks combined, said Smith. The company is currently selling personalized genetic tests directly to consumers based on lifestyle, such as fitness assessments.
Talbot Jaeger, Founder and Chief Technologist of NovaWurks, wants to democratize the space industry. The company has created a mass-produced product that can be used to build spacecraft on the order of the cost of a car rather than in the billion-dollar range. "We're trying to enable the next generation of dreamers," Jaeger said. The NovaWurks product intends to be a Lego-like building block that can scale as projects are successful.
Metabolon President and CEO John Ryals discussed his company's ability to study metabolomics through its technology, which can detect hundreds of biomarkers from a single biological sample. Metabolon has collaborated in over 5,000 research studies, resulting in more than 550 peer-reviewed publications.
At FiRe, the company announced a new test of about 65 inherited metabolic disorders that could shorten into a few weeks a diagnosis that usually takes months. Ryals also sees applications for many other diseases, including diabetes. "We think this will really change the way people look at their health," he said. "It's a major step to prevention."
"The CTO Challenge team begins work on a flow computer system"
Only a few hours after being issued a challenge by SNS CEO Mark Anderson to build the first flow computing system and measure the Earth's energy flows, this year's CTO Design Challenge 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 in order to build the system, among which were: 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?
Mark Mahan, President of MMCO, said the first problem is putting together the general-purpose architecture of the system, and 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 the moderators 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 of Molecular Ecosystems Biology at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said they could make some assumptions. First, that there are couplings, and we don't know the coupling. Second, that 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 project continues on Thursday.
"Kids' education: It takes a village"
by Cheryl Evans
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 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 local communities. Engle stressed the need to develop an environment conducive to raising "young people that can be citizens - agents 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, and more 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.
Prensky has led panel discussions with kids from around the world. "Their #1 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?"
"Why you shouldn't hold sensitive business meetings
in hotels with Chinese ownership"
A couple of years ago, a Chinese firm bought the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City, which had historically played host to sensitive business and government meetings. Soon thereafter, President Obama and the US State Department stopped using the Waldorf for these types of meetings.
"For a long time, China has been known to bug hotel rooms domestically," Evan Anderson said to the group of technologists, security experts, and business execs gathered at a FiRe breakout session Wednesday afternoon. He was there to discuss his research on INVNT/IP's Operation BedBug, an initiative to track the ownership of global hotels owned by Chinese firms.
Anderson is the author of "Theft Nation," a report detailing nation-sponsored theft of intellectual property by the Chinese government and government-sponsored Chinese firms. "Theft Nation" was featured in what would become the most-watched investigative episode of 60 Minutes in the show's history. (Full disclosure: Evan Anderson is also my brother.)
On Wednesday afternoon, Anderson reiterated China's extensive recent history of bugging hotel rooms within its own borders to intercept and steal international IP. Due to instability in the Chinese economy, Chinese citizens have begun moving assets out of the yuan and into US-based real estate and other investments. Many of those are US-based hotels, which Anderson is cataloging as part of his work with INVNT/IP.
"There are thousands of hotels owned by the Chinese government or government-affiliated firms worldwide," Anderson said.
He noted that once Chinese government and nation-sponsored firms purchase these hotel properties, they often remodel and update hotel IT systems, creating a convenient opportunity to install Chinese-owned IT. These systems often come with back doors operated by the Chinese companies that produce it. "I wouldn't host a major meeting at a location owned by the Chinese government or its affiliates," Anderson said.
One small-business owner who regularly conducts business in China talked about his own experience trying to avoid theft of his IP. "You're talking about a country that spends more on internal security than it does on its own military," he said. "I run a technology company, and I don't have problems in any other countries."
He spoke of his frustrations with finding recourse to his company's troubles. "We've gone to the FBI, we've gone to local authorities, and there doesn't seem to be a good forum other than you guys for helping people like me out," he said.
"You are going to be breached. It is going to happen," said an executive of a major international firm. "We spend the most effort remediating."
Executives at the session also shared best practices for operating securely in China - using strategies like Virtual Private Networks and sandboxing to isolate risk and not buying any hardware in China, among many other suggestions. They noted that even Chinese tax reporting software is bugged and should be operated on a siloed machine not connected to any company networks.
One business executive talked about watching devices purchased in China send data back to Chinese servers through his company's firewall. "We can turn devices on and they start talking," he said.
"You're in the lion's den, so it's not ever going to be bulletproof," noted another attendee.
There are legal protections against bugging and wiretapping, but many nations have laws protecting foreign sovereignty that make it very difficult to prosecute internationally. What penalties do exist are tiny in the grand scope of things. "It's like $5 million," explained one security expert. "Who cares?"
A major point of discussion was what to do about nation-sponsored theft. Any counter-effort will require major security efforts on the part of US firms, along with a concerted national policy approach.
One security expert talked about watching huge US companies with Chinese business interests, such as Facebook, lobbying for positions that would actually contribute to China's nation-sponsored theft. Strangely enough, because these positions would improve these companies' ability to do business in China and therefore the short-term financial outlook for their shareholders, these companies actually have a fiduciary responsibility to pursue these policies.
The government, the expert said, needs to take action that provides a legal backstop for these companies and releases them from certain fiduciary responsibilities when it would endanger the long-term viability of their business or US IP as a whole.
Even beyond the theft of corporate IP, a large number of students of Chinese nationality have been recruited into IP theft from public research universities. Research universities around the country are increasing their enrollment of international students to cover costs, creating a short-term trade of financial benefit for long-term risk. Experts gathered at Future in Review noted that these practices are giving Chinese-sponsored firms even earlier access, by a factor of five to ten years, to budding US IP.
"Breakout session discusses world-changing films"
Moderator Sharon Anderson Morris started this breakout on world-changing documentary films by describing the beginnings of the SNS FiReFilms initiative, inspired by the [later Academy Award-winning] film The Cove,which she first saw at Sundance in 2009, and the subsequent activism it prompted. She spoke of FiReFilms' desire to support compelling, scientifically based films and of the need to spread their word.
The SRO breakout included Chris Hegedus, Director of Unlocking the Cage (FiRe 2016 Film of the Year); Pina De Rosa, Executive Producer of Sniffing Out Cancer; Adriana LaCorte, Director of Sniffing Out Cancer; Ted Richane, Engagement and Impact Director at Vulcan Productions, representing The Ivory Game; and Geralyn Dreyfous, Co-Founder of Impact Partners Film Fund, and SNS Ambassador for Documentary Films, among others.
A lot of discussion took place during introductions, where connections were made between people with perhaps previously unknown common interests.
Richane introduced The Ivory Game, filmed in Africa and Hong Kong. The clip depicted an attempt to find proper persons 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 featured in the film is protected in the US and Europe. The Ivory Game is a Netflix original and is scheduled to premiere on November 4.
"What this film hopefully will do is introduce the fact that this is an international crime issue," Richane said. "This film hopefully successfully tells the story of the market."
The screening of the trailer for Sniffing Out Cancer - about the high accuracy rate of dogs that are being trained to detect numerous cancers - was met with several shared personal narratives. A clip from The Ivory Game (which will have two private FiReFilms screenings during Sundance) and the trailer for Hegedus' 2001 film Startup.com (available online) were also shown.
Executive Producer Pina De Rosa spoke of her fascination with using dogs as a very early-stage, non-invasive, pain-free method of pre-screening up to 11 cancers. Director Adriana LaCorte mentioned their need for funding, as the film has been currently filmed on a limited budget.
The trailer included interviews with people whose cancers had first been detected by dogs, and how dogs' noses have been scientifically proven to be far more sensitive than invasive medical technology, with accuracy rates of 98% to 99%. Discussion included 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.
To see all of Kris Krüg's photos from Wednesday afternoon and evening, 9.28, go to: http://gallery.futureinreview.com/FiRe-2016/Wednesday-PM/
A selection among many:
"This is the most intelligent place on the planet." - Kevin Montgomery, Founder and CEO, Collaborate.org
"Innovation requires a change in the way we look at the world. FiRe, by providing exposure to bleeding-edge technology applied across disparate domains, provided a refreshing 'intellectual shake.' I filled a notebook with insights and ideas that I plan to mine for the next year." - Paul Higgins, COO, Group NanoXplore Inc.
"It's a great mix of old and new friends, new ideas, future forecasting, and a brain workout." - Andrew Wallis OBE, CEO of Unseen
"One of the smartest conferences I have ever attended. Impressive group of people focused on what matters." - Tim FitzGerald, VP, Digital Transformation, Avnet
"Overly impressed with all of the presentations and the caliber of attendees." - Thomas J. Wadsworth, Business Development and Corporate Incentives Manager, Governor's Office of Economic Development [Utah]
"A brilliant, tight-knit community of innovators crackling with energy and big ideas." - Eliot Peper, Author of Cumulus, Neon Fever Dream, and the Uncommon Series.
"I had very high expectations, and they were met. A great exchange of ideas, many outside my day-to-day focus." - Anonymous
"Future in Review was impressive on so many fronts: the materials presented, the environment created for the exchange of ideas and collaboration, and of course the organization of the event." - John Wells, Host, "Cool Science Radio," KPCW Public Radio
"Amazing people. Amazing conference." - Christoph Drescher MBA, CEO / Founder, DealMatrix
"This year's FiRe was outstanding in all respects. Best selection of experts yet." - Anonymous
"FiRe is a great gathering of minds and ideas. I made useful connections and heard about topics that gave me a new perspective on the next five years of technology." - Jason Preston, Dent Co-Founder
"Fantastic discussions and technologically inspiring!" - Bei Wang Phillips, Assistant Professor in Computer Science, SCI Institute and the School of Computing, University of Utah
"FiRe stands alone as a technology conference that understands the impact of systems sciences to business and society." - James Urquhart, SVP Performance Analytics, SOASTA
"I learn more in these few days at FiRe than is possible to unpack entirely in the following six months. The intellectual nourishment continues beyond the conference itself." - David Engle, Retired Superintendent of Schools, Port Townsend, WA
"The exploration of 'flow' in a variety of contexts was extremely timely. The CTO Challenge was also very enlightening. I really enjoyed being a part of the overall experience." - Anonymous
"The world is all about flows." - Chris Johnson, Director, Scientific Computing and Imaging (SCI) Institute, and Distinguished Professor, School of Computing, University of Utah
And the #1 Testimonial for FiRe 2016 --- is a video:
- Bill Ribaudo, Managing Partner, Technology, Media and Telecommunications Industry, Deloitte & Touche LLP
A selection of Tweets from Tuesday and Wednesday, 9.27 & 9.28. For more (and then some), go to www.twitter.com/#futureinreview.
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