A Blog by Jonathan Low


Mar 25, 2019

Microsoft Introduces First Prototype For Storing Data In DNA Strands

The growing interconnectivity between biology, chemistry and technology may be one of the most significant new developments in all three of those fields, as well as for the economy. JL

Scientific Reports provides an abstract via MIT Technology Review:

Microsoft has been working toward a photocopier-size device that would replace data centers by storing files, movies, and documents in DNA strands, which can pack in information at mind-boggling density. All the information stored in a warehouse-size data center would fit into a set of Yahztee dice, were it written in DNA. The National Intelligence Agency’s IARPA program is getting ready to hand out tens of millions toward radical new molecular information storage schemes.

How Eating Habits Change After Delivery Robots Are Provided

More people eat breakfast! JL

Peter Holley reports in the Washington Post:

88% of college students skip breakfast, primarily because of lack of time, but that number is starting to turn (after) delivery robots arrive. Students are prolific users of food delivery apps and place a high value on convenience and having access to multiple options when they dine. During the morning hours, there is more emphasis on speed than any other part of the day. "During the week, people generally want quicker. They get to work, they have an hour at lunch." This follows a similar pattern seen at corporate campuses where delivery robots were added.

Death By 1,000 Clicks: How and Why Did Electronic Health Records Go So Wrong?

A digitized system that was supposed to prevent a public health crisis may have sparked one.

From doctor burnout from filling out endless online forms to mistaken entries leading to patient health problems, the issue is not so much the technology, but the fact that the designers and implementers appear to have forgotten a basic truth: to work, such transformations require coordination, collaboration and human factor engineering. JL

Erika Fry and Fred Schulte report in Fortune:

The U.S. government claimed that turning American medical charts into electronic records would make health care better, safer, and cheaper. Ten years and $36 billion later, the system is an unholy mess. “Providers developed their own systems that may or may not even have worked well for them, but we didn’t think about how all these systems connect with one another. That was the real missing piece.” 78% of doctors suffer symptoms of burnout. Much of the blame (is) on “the growth in poorly designed digital health records … that [have] required physicians spend more time on tasks that don’t directly benefit patients.”

Why Not Appoint An Algorithm To Your Corporate Board?

Think of the saving in not having to give it stock or options on top of not having to schedule meetings at strategically important but expensive places like Hawaii or Paris? JL

Will Pugh reports in Slate:

Not to say the high-level supervision that human directors provide isn’t important. But if a company were to supplement with supervision from A.I. (it) could independently monitor goals and balance competing interests. Technology could help human board members transition from high-level supervisors to micromanagers. Machine learning is ideal when you need to find hidden patterns in troves of data. An A.I. director could consume huge amounts of information about the company and the business environment to make decisions. If machine learning algorithms can reveal their internal logic, analyze and communicate well, they may do a better job by helping humans focus on the right details by filtering out noise in data.

Walmart Launches Personal Delivery Service To Battle Amazon - And Gather AI

The goal is to build a database of customer demands and interactions which will eventually enable the algorithm to anticipate and fill needs faster, becoming even more useful than Amazon Prime.

The strategy is to get ahead of Amazon rather than react. JL

Sarah Nassauer reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Walmart is using Jetblack’s army of human agents to train an artificial intelligence system that could someday power an automated personal-shopping service, preparing Walmart for a time when the search bar disappears and more shopping is done through voice-activated devices. The system is learning which follow up questions to ask.Jetblack’s goal is that, through these interactions, the computer algorithm will learn to respond to requests with humanlike nuance but machine efficiency.

How Digital Leadership Is(n't) Different

In an economy in which every business is now a technology business, the difference between business leadership and digital leadership is disappearing.

The core managerial requirements that led to success in the past - intelligence, knowledge, experience, adaptability, open-mindedness, inquisitiveness - remain important, specifically because the economy has become so fluid.

What is different is the preeminence of technological factors influencing the way decisions are made and how they determine outcomes. Successful organizations recognize that to optimize their performance, the key is not slapping the word digital on a strategy or just buying more new software and machines to run it, but to supply a willingness to change and the resources to make it happen. JL

Gerald Kane and colleagues report in MIT Sloan Management Review:

Leaders become so focused on the technology they forget they are engaged in these efforts to improve the way their company does business. When executives delegate responsibility for digital business to technologists, it is a recipe for near-certain failure. Technology is only as valuable as the new business strategies and practices it enables. Leaders need to have digital literacy, as opposed to hard-core technical skills (but) must be open-minded, adaptable, and innovative. It helps respond to a fluid environment and change course if the technology and markets evolve in unanticipated ways.

Mar 24, 2019

Designer Babies and Their Babies: How AI and Genomics Will Impact Reproduction

And we can all imagine how well that will turn out.

"Paging Dr. Frankenstein..." JL

Vanessa Ramirez reports in Singularity Hub:

“Readable, writable, and hackable, human beings are recognizing that we are another form of information technology, and just like our IT has entered this exponential curve of discovery, we will have that with ourselves. And it’s intersecting with the AI revolution.” Getting a standardized set of rules for our biology and, even outsmarting our biology will require genomic data. Lots of it. Multiple countries already starting to produce this data. the most serious application of genomic knowledge will be embryo selection. It’s a slippery slope from gene editing and embryo-mating to a  race to build the perfect humans.