The Xenobot Future Is Coming—Start Planning Now (wired.com)

“…the ability to recode cells, de-extinct species, and create new life forms will come with ethical, philosophical, and political challenges”

https://www.wired.com/story/synthetic-biology-plan/

With CRISPR, the molecular scissors technology ,we are gaining not only read, but WRITE access to our genetic data. Writing code will no longer be limited to computers (and electronic health records), but into living organisms. Are we ready? The technology is racing ahead of our ability to think about and deploy it for the good of all.

Can Learning Machines Unlearn? (wired.com)

https://www.wired.com/story/machines-can-learn-can-they-unlearn/

How much data?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. In our recent work designing predictive algorithms using linear regressions and neural networks, and similar approaches, we’ve discussed the use of EHR (electronic health record) data, and have had some success using such algorithms to reduce deaths from sepsis (blog post from 10/6/2021).

One of many problems, is “how much data?” And it has been interesting to work with our data science colleagues on creating a model, and then carefully slimming it down so that our models can run on smaller data sets, more efficiently, more quickly, with less computing power.

Forgetting?

A related problem is “when do we need to forget?” EHR data ages, the way clinicians record findings can change. Our understanding of diseases change. The diseases themselves change. (Delta variant, anyone?)

Will our models perform worse if we use data that is too old? Will they perform better because we gave them more history? Do our models have an “expiration date?”

The Wired.com article above talks about having to remove data that was perhaps illegally acquired, or perhaps after a lawsuit, MUST be removed from a database that powers an algorithm.

Humans need to forget. What about algorithms?

Isn’t human memory about selective attention, selective use of memory? Wouldn’t a human’s perfect memory be the enemy of efficient and effective thinking? I’ve read that recalling a memory slightly changes the memory. Why do we work this way? Is that better for us?

Is there a lesson here for what we are building in silico?

CMIO’s take? As we build predictive analytics, working toward a “thinking machine”, consider: what DON’T we know about memory and forgetting? Are we missing something fundamental in how our minds work as we build silicon images of ourselves? What are you doing in this area? Let me know.

A picture of change (and inspiration for informatics. NYTimes)

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art via NYTimes: a Japanese Print to teach us about the modern world

The artistry in our journalism can be remarkable. Spend a few minutes zooming in and out of this Japanese print with Mr. Farago. It is inspiring and completely engrossing.

From an informatics perspective, can we take an EHR screenshot, and zoom in and out as entertainingly? Could we =gasp= make learning about EHR’s as engaging as an art exhibit?

James Webb telescope: astounding science and engineering (wired)

Zero Kelvin! Lagrange Points! Infrared parabolas! Light years and Time Travel! wtf?! We are living in the future.

https://www.wired.com/story/the-james-webb-space-telescope-is-in-position-now-its-booting-up/

If you have not been following the journey of the James Webb telescope, here is your chance to catch up. TL;DR: it is going well and in a few months we can look forward to astounding images from further away than ever before, and from further back in time than ever before. I can’t wait. Read the nice summary article from Wired.com, above.

Why to-do lists don’t work (Wired.com)

from wired.com

https://www.wired.com/story/to-do-apps-failed-productivity-tools/

Ah, yes, the eternal search for more productivity by downloading apps and other tools that “promise to boost your productivity!” How could you not? These (mostly) free apps and click-bait make it sound super-easy!

Click-bait

Use our checklist app! This is just like “Getting things done, but modern!” Try our technique; just $14.99 for the book that explains our system! Never be unproductive again!

Sure.

Read the article. Yes, it is on the longer side, and it will be 10 minutes you won’t be getting something done.

But, you’re already here wasting time reading my blog. Whatever you were trying to get done, you were already unproductive. Sorry.

Here’s the crux of the article…

Clive Thompson says it much better than I will, so go read his article above in Wired.com. I’ll just say: apps won’t create more time, and our present selves overpromise what our future selves might be willing to do. You are your own worst enemy.

Every to-do list is a midlife crisis of unfulfilled promise. Winnowing away things you’ll never do in a weekly review is crucial, yet we dread it for what it says about the boundaries of existence. Our fragile psyches find it easier to build up a list of shame, freak out, and flee.

Clive Thompson in wired.com

Sigh.

Here’s my take: pomodoro or nothing

My take on the whole productivity thing? Pomodoro technique. I wrote about it in a this blog in 2017 and I still use it as my primary productivity tool. Any time I have protected time in my schedule, as little as 30 minutes, but better if it is a 2 hours or longer, I break out my Focus Keeper app, a pencil and yellow pad to park distracting ideas, and get down to serious business.

CMIO’s take? Here! Try my app! Here’s my idea, behind my paywall! Kidding. Pomodoro technique guys. Let’s get to work. (ironic – see what I just did there?)

What do sharks have to do with Tesla (valves)?

from wired.com

https://www.wired.com/story/3d-imaging-shows-shark-guts-work-like-nikola-tesla-water-valve/

I only know Nikola Tesla from his competition with Edison over electrification. However, Tesla, like Edison was an inveterate inventor. In this article, scientists recently deconstructed the gastrointestinal system of sharks, and found that they resemble Tesla valves.

What is that, you say? It has nothing to do with anything you think you know about Tesla. And it is a fascinating read. Here is a taste (video) of a Tesla valve system, illustrated with flames.

CMIO’s take? Super cool! But, what does this have to do with informatics, you say? I leave that for you to puzzle out. 🙂

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads.”

https://www.wired.com/story/plaintext-time-to-talk-about-facebook-research/

This article above is a disturbing, quick take on Facebook research and the lack of transparency in what is being done, from a researcher who recently quit working there, and left this quote behind.

Chilling, the use of data by social media titans with a critical lack of oversight. The Cambridge Analytica – Facebook scandal, it seems, has not mitigated the giant’s appetite to turn their data about you, against you.

The other quote that disturbs me about this is: “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.” I’m not sure how to attribute this quote, and some dispute the accuracy of its pithy claims, but it does make you stop and think.

And if you are as disturbed as I am, maybe you’ll make some changes in the way you use Facebook. For example, I have:

  • Removed the Facebook app from my phone. It is a power hog, and I am uncertain how much it tracks me and my activity. Instead, I the Safari browser to log in to Facebook when I want to and then quit the page when I’m done (unlike the app that can be on all the time in the background).
  • Cut back my personal posts by 95% or more to Facebook. Instead, I write wordpress.com blogs and cross-post them to various platforms.
  • Spend 95% less time browsing Facebook posts (and ads) by deciding to be more of a content creator than consumer (see above). I’m only browsing about once a week or so.
  • I considered deleting my Facebook account entirely, and I may still take that step, however, the network effects of connecting with so many family and friends, is, as all of you know, very seductive and difficult to sever.
  • Also, I now use DuckDuckGo as my default phone search engine, and as a plug-in to Google Chrome, so that it will purge my search history and so that Google, Facebook and others (when I use their website through DuckDuckGo’s filters and blockers) are prevented from placing and tracking cookies without my knowledge.

CMIO’s take? I’m certain I’m still leaking a data online, but I’m trying hard to throttle my bit-torrent down to a bit-drip. And I’ll keep looking for ways to take control back from the big guys (Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple). What efforts are you making to protect your current and future privacy?

This video about storytelling will change your life

I have followed Andy Goodman’s work (he teaches storytelling to nonprofit organizations), and have learned so much about how to be effective at my own work.

It is nearly an hour long, and who has an hour? You do, if you know what is good for you.

But, I know you’re busy, so, if nothing else, watch at 10:30 minutes for 7 minutes. It will be the best 7 minutes.

Then, since you’ll be hooked by then, watch the whole thing. You won’t regret it.

No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.

Daniel Kahneman, in Thinking, Fast and Slow

CMIO’s take? Storytelling by masters like this change lives. He did mine.

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