Three Questions for J. Craig Venter

31. July 2014

Date: 31-07-2014
Source: Technology Review

Gene research and Silicon Valley-style computing are starting to merge.

WHY IT MATTERS: The number of human genomes being sequenced is increasing exponentially.

Venter CCGenome scientist and entrepreneur J. Craig Venter is best known for being the first person to sequence his own genome, back in 2001.

This year, he started a new company, Human Longevity, which intends to sequence one million human genomes by 2020, and ultimately offer Web-based programs to help people store and understand their genetic data.

Venter says that he’s sequenced 500 people’s genomes so far, and that volunteers are starting to also undergo a battery of tests measuring their strength, brain size, how much blood their hearts pump, and, says Venter, “just about everything that can be measured about a person, without cutting them open.” This information will be fed into a database that can be used to discover links between genes and these traits, as well as disease.

But that’s going to require some massive data crunching. To get these skills, Venter recruited Franz Och, the machine-learning specialist leading Google Translate. Now Och will apply similar methods to studying genomes in a data science and software shop that Venter is establishing in Mountain View, California.

The hire comes just as Google itself has launched a similar-sounding effort to start collecting biomedical data. Venter calls Google’s plans for a biomedical database “a baby step, a much smaller version of what we are doing.”

What’s clear is that genome research and data science are coming together in new ways, and at a much larger scale than ever before. We asked Venter why. Read the rest of this entry »

“Wir reden über Schönheit und Sinn”

27. July 2014

Date: 27-07-2014
Source: DIE ZEIT

Der Potsdamer Unternehmensphilosoph Bernhard von Mutius über den kreativen Umgang mit der Digitalrevolution. EIN INTERVIEW VON UWE JEAN HEUSERvon Mutius

DIE ZEIT: Wie stellen wir uns am besten der Roboterrevolution?

Bernhard von Mutius: Digitale Maschinen werden uns zweifellos Arbeit wegnehmen. Die Frage ist nur, welche. Was also ist das Menschliche an den Mensch-Maschine-Kopplungen, die zunehmend die Wirtschaft bestimmen? Eines ist klar: Wenn wir menschliche Intelligenz nur als berechnete Rationalität sehen, werden die Maschinen uns viel mehr wegnehmen als nötig und den Menschen auch da ersetzen, wo er eigentlich unersetzbar ist.

ZEIT: Das heißt, wie wir auf uns schauen, bestimmt die Zukunft der Arbeit?

Von Mutius: Auf uns, auf die Maschinen, auf die Verbindung. Wir müssen uns mit der Frage befassen, was menschliche Intelligenz auszeichnet. Da reden wir über Kreativität, über schöpferisches Denken und Handeln, über Intuition, Mitgefühl, Schönheit und Sinn. Diese Themen gewinnen in Unternehmen längst an Bedeutung.

ZEIT: Wie sollen Unternehmen darauf reagieren?

Von Mutius: Wir brauchen eine Art Zweisprachigkeit. Einerseits müssen wir die Programme der Computer besser verstehen, auf der anderen Seite das Chaotische, das sich gerade nicht in Wiederholungen abbilden lässt – also das wahrhaft Individuelle. Wenn es in dieser digitalen Revolution einen Sinn gibt, dann dass dem Einzelnen eine ganz neue Bedeutung zukommt. Erstmals können wir in der Massenproduktion die Bedürfnisse des Einzelnen erfüllen.

ZEIT: Geht das konkreter? Read the rest of this entry »

Job Hunting in the Network Age

20. July 2014

Date: 20-07-2014
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Hoffman CCThe LinkedIn founder says you are no longer in charge of your résumé in an interconnected online world, but neither is your boss.

For a stretch of asphalt that has seen trillions of dollars of wealth creation, Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, Calif., the Main Street of venture capital, is rather unassuming. A few bikers heading for the fog-covered hills, a Tesla passing a Prius, low-slung office buildings. One building houses Greylock Partners, where I sit in a conference room with entrepreneur Reid Hoffman, who has been in the middle of this wealth creation and now sees some of its destruction coming soon. “If companies haven’t embraced that they are operating in a networked age,” he says, “then they will probably be on their way to not surviving.”

The 47-year-old knows networks. Mr. Hoffman built his reputation by founding the business social-networking platform LinkedIn and serving as chief operating officer of the e-commerce site PayPal, both billion-dollar powerhouses. He was an early investor in YouTube, Yelp, Flickr, Zynga and, oh yes, Facebook.

He has a theory on what makes ventures work: understanding that information is no longer isolated but instantly connected to everything else. Call it the move from the information age to the network age. Mr. Hoffman thinks that the transformation is just getting started and will take out anyone who stands in the way. Read the rest of this entry »

Microsoft CEO: ‘Until we really change culturally, no renewal happens’

15. July 2014

Date: 15-07-2014
Source: Fortune

NadellaMicrosoft chief executive Satya Nadella

The technology giant needs to fight for mobile market share. It needs to extend Windows to all sorts of devices. But none of it will happen without culture change.

Microsoft must change.

Microsoft should focus on its core—and Xbox isn’t it.

Microsoft has to differentiate itself in the marketplace, and productivity is the way to do it.

Microsoft could really do a better job marketing itself.

Microsoft ought to find a way to make Windows as identifiable with wearable technology as it is with the personal computer.

Microsoft needs to be mobile.

Satya Nadella, the chief executive of the Redmond, Wash.-based company, took to the stage here at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference to reiterate the strategy that he outlined in a memo sent to his 127,104 employees last week and otherwise show that he had control of a company that has been criticized as clumsy and directionless. Read the rest of this entry »

Illah Nourbakhsh on the Future of Robotics

9. July 2014

Date: 09-07-2014Strelka
Source: The Wall Street Journal

The Carnegie Mellon Professor Says Robots Will Fuse the Physical and Digital Worlds Into One

Dr. Nourbakhsh is a professor of robotics and director of the Create Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, and the author of “Robot Futures.”

Sunday, April 1, 2035. You are house-hunting, driving to an open house showing to meet the owners, and now your car is speaking Esperanto, thanks to your daughter’s April Fools’ antics. Eventually you convince the car to return to your native tongue, and it queries whether you want your usual morning Starbucks cappuccino delivered to your destination. You arrive, jump out, and a Starbot punctually lands to deliver its coffee payload. Consulting the shared family calendar, the car requests permission to leave and fetch your daughter from soccer.

A Realtor bot trundles out to warmly greet you and connects you via telepresence to the homeowners, who are still in Florida. Together, you and the robot-embodied owners tour the apartment. The bot offers to arrange and project your home furnishings into each room, remapping furniture locations and adding several retro 1990s table lamps made available for single-command purchasing. The lamps seem strangely familiar, and you realize why—you glanced at them in a digital storefront last week. The robo-advert must have tracked your gaze direction and, ever since, you have seen digital versions of the lamps cropping up everywhere. The telepresence patch that the owners are using is probably free, sponsored by product placement. By the end of the tour, you’ve decided against the apartment, but you buy the lamp, asking for in-home delivery. It will be 3D-printed on-demand, installed and turned on, waiting for your return home.

The robots are coming. But they won’t all be shiny, Apple-designed C-3PO look-alikes with middle-aged Siri brains. I believe the robot invasion will be a hodgepodge affair, with legs, propellers and wheels; robots that run the gamut from embodied android forms to robotic technologies hidden in the woodwork of our homes. Read the rest of this entry »

Google’s founders on the future of health, transport – and robots

9. July 2014

In a rare dual interview, Larry Page and Sergey Brin reveal that a young Google could have sold out to Excite, and explain how computers will enable us all to work less

google founders
Google’s founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page discuss self-driving cars, robots, health and relationships. Photograph: Paul Sakuma/AP

When Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, sat down for a rare frank and open chat with the veteran technology venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, they admitted, among other things, that Google is interested in healthcare but scared of its intense regulation.

Page and Brin displayed their quite different personalities: Brin the maverick and head of Google X – who attempted to kite-board his way to the interview – and Page the business-focused executive now CEO.

The dynamic duo have been together for 16 years, and described their relationship as a bit like an old married couple. “You don’t get agitated about one little thing or another,” said Brin. “We work through it.”

Google almost sold to Excite

Before the company had really started becoming the dominant search engine and the portal to the web, Google almost sold itself to a search engine company called Excite. Read the rest of this entry »

What Every Company Should Know About Agile Software Development

8. July 2014

Date: 08-07-2014
Source: Technology Review

Does your company make medical devices? How about cars? Or appliances? Or mobile applications? Do you have an external website?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then your company is a software company. As more and more businesses enter this category, the adoption of agile software development practices is becoming mainstream—and not just in the high-tech sector. Across industries, businesses are realizing that, even if their only foray into software is a corporate website, that software is the organization’s public face—and increasingly so, in this digital age of ours. Best to make a good first impression.

Agile software development is no longer a “bleeding-edge” approach. Nor does it mean that a bunch of rogue coders are riding roughshod over the roadmaps, timelines, and standards that are very real for businesses. In fact, the agile software approach requires a cultural embrace and commitment from the corner office all the way to the smallest cubicle.

Agile’s value is well-documented. The approach has helped teams at both large enterprises and small startups deliver high-quality software—on time—for more than a decade. If your organization is not already employing agile software development practices, now is the time to adopt them to maintain a competitive edge and deliver the best possible products to customers.

Why Waterfall Falls Down Read the rest of this entry »

The latest big idea in management deserves some scepticism

4. July 2014

Date: 03-07-2014
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter
Subject: The holes in holacracy

EVERY so often a company emerges from the herd to be lauded as the embodiment of leading-edge management thinking. Think of Toyota and its lean manufacturing system, say, or GE and Six Sigma excellence. The latest candidate for apotheosis is Zappos, an online vendor of shoes and clothes (owned by Amazon), which believes that happy workers breed happy customers. Tony Hsieh, its boss, said last year that he will turn the firm into a “holacracy”, replacing its hierarchy with a more democratic system of overlapping, self-organising teams. Until Zappos embraced it, no big company had taken holacracy seriously. Indeed, not all of Zappos’ 1,500-strong workforce are convinced that it can work.

The idea was invented in 2007 by Brian Robertson, a software engineer then in his late twenties. Holacracy’s “constitution” is now on version 4.0, having been adjusted after feedback from the 200 or so mostly small firms that have adopted it. Mr Robertson was inspired in part by a description of holarchy in a 1967 book, “The Ghost in the Machine”, by Arthur Koestler, a Hungarian-British intellectual. Koestler argued that the brain is made up of holons that are autonomous and self-determining yet also fundamentally dependent on the brain as a whole. In a similar spirit, Mr Robertson says that the whole that is a firm should consist of overlapping “circles”, each a team of employees who have come together spontaneously around a specific task. Read the rest of this entry »

How a little open source project came to dominate big data

1. July 2014

Date: 01-07-2014
Source: Fortune

It began as a nagging technical problem that needed solving. Now, it’s driving a market that’s expected to be worth $50.2 billion by 2020.

There are countless open source projects with crazy names in the software world today, but the vast majority of them never make it onto enterprises’ collective radar. Hadoop is an exception of pachydermic proportions.

Named after a child’s toy elephant, Hadoop is now powering big data applications at companies such as Yahoo and Facebook; more than half of the Fortune 50 use it, providers say.

The software’s “refreshingly unique approach to data management is transforming how companies store, process, analyze and share big data,” according to Forrester analyst Mike Gualtieri. “Forrester believes that Hadoop will become must-have infrastructure for large enterprises.”

Globally, the Hadoop market was valued at $1.5 billion in 2012; by 2020, it is expected to reach $50.2 billion.

It’s not often a grassroots open source project becomes a de facto standard in industry. So how did it happen?

‘A market that was in desperate need’

“Hadoop was a happy coincidence of a fundamentally differentiated technology, a permissively licensed open source codebase and a market that was in desperate need of a solution for exploding volumes of data,” said RedMonk cofounder and principal analyst Stephen O’Grady. “Its success in that respect is no surprise.” Read the rest of this entry »