AI News, When Innovating, Go Slow
When Innovating, Go Slow
Advertisement Photo: Gandee Vasan/Getty Images The tangled history of innovation reveals a peculiar lesson: Slow is often better than fast.
Austrian-American economist and political scientist Joseph Schumpeter, who first recognized the importance of innovation for economic growth, famously described innovation as coming in “gales,” sweeping aside all that came before.
And the wise adaptation of advances in technoscience—in the design, engineering, and management of large knowledge-based systems that deliver energy, information, transportation, security, food, and health—takes time.
Regulations and litigation aimed at preventing harmful outcomes from new medical therapies and health interventions invariably slow the pace of change in health care.
Yet when scaled across nations as large as the United States or China, the widespread adoption of biofuels would greatly increase the price of food [PDF], as well as the amount of land needed to grow it, erasing any environmental gains we might make from abandoning gasoline.
Drones or robot-controlled aerial vehicles, for instance, seem to have emerged suddenly, with pundits, politicians, and ordinary citizens now wondering how their use will change not only the way war is waged but every aspect of our lives.
AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs
Key Findings The vast majority of respondents to the 2014 Future of the Internet canvassing anticipate that robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025, with huge implications for a range of industries such as health care, transport and logistics, customer service, and home maintenance.
I don't think the human race can retire en masse by 2025.” Argument #2: Advances in technology create new jobs and industries even as they displace some of the older ones Ben Shneiderman, professor of computer science at the University of Maryland, wrote, “Robots and AI make compelling stories for journalists, but they are a false vision of the major economic changes.
The human’s ability to detect unexpected circumstances, and take action overriding automatic driving will be needed as long and individually owned ‘cars’ are on the road.” Pamela Rutledge, PhD and director of the Media Psychology Research Center, responded, “There will be many things that machines can’t do, such as services that require thinking, creativity, synthesizing, problem-solving, and innovating…Advances in AI and robotics allow people to cognitively offload repetitive tasks and invest their attention and energy in things where humans can make a difference.
There will be greater differentiation between what AI does and what humans do, but also much more realization that AI will not be able to engage the critical tasks that humans do.” Argument #4: The technology will not advance enough in the next decade to substantially impact the job market Another group of experts feels that the impact on employment is likely to be minimal for the simple reason that 10 years is too short a timeframe for automation to move substantially beyond the factory floor.
But there are only 12 years to 2025, some of these technologies will take a long time to deploy in significant scale… We’ve been living a relatively slow but certain progress in these fields from the 1960s.” Christopher Wilkinson, a retired European Union official, board member for EURid.eu, and Internet Society leader said, “The vast majority of the population will be untouched by these technologies for the foreseeable future.
Glenn Edens, a director of research in networking, security, and distributed systems within the Computer Science Laboratory at PARC, a Xerox Company, wrote, “There are significant technical and policy issues yet to resolve, however there is a relentless march on the part of commercial interests (businesses) to increase productivity so if the technical advances are reliable and have a positive ROI then there is a risk that workers will be displaced.
The race between automation and human work is won by automation, and as long as we need fiat currency to pay the rent/mortgage, humans will fall out of the system in droves as this shift takes place…The safe zones are services that require local human effort (gardening, painting, babysitting), distant human effort (editing, coaching, coordinating), and high-level thinking/relationship building.
The situation is exacerbated by total failure of the economics community to address to any serious degree sustainability issues that are destroying the modern ‘consumerist’ model and undermining the early 20th century notion of ‘a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.’ There is great pain down the road for everyone as new realities are addressed.
The short answer is that if the job is one where that question cannot be answered positively, that job is not likely to exist.” Tom Standage, digital editor for The Economist, makes the point that the next wave of technology is likely to have a more profound impact than those that came before it: “Previous technological revolutions happened much more slowly, so people had longer to retrain, and [also] moved people from one kind of unskilled work to another.
Argument #2: The consequences for income inequality will be profound For those who expect AI and robotics to significantly displace human employment, these displacements seem certain to lead to an increase in income inequality, a continued hollowing out of the middle class, and even riots, social unrest, and/or the creation of a permanent, unemployable “underclass”.
There will be a labor market in the service sector for non-routine tasks that can be performed interchangeably by just about anyone—and these will not pay a living wage—and there will be some new opportunities created for complex non-routine work, but the gains at this top of the labor market will not be offset by losses in the middle and gains of terrible jobs at the bottom.
Autonomous robots and systems could impact up to 50% of jobs, according to recent analysis by Frey and Osborne at Oxford, leaving only jobs that require the ‘application of heuristics’ or creativity…An increasing proportion of the world’s population will be outside of the world of work—either living on the dole, or benefiting from the dramatically decreased costs of goods to eke out a subsistence lifestyle.
The central question of 2025 will be: What are people for in a world that does not need their labor, and where only a minority are needed to guide the 'bot-based economy?” Nilofer Merchant, author of a book on new forms of advantage, wrote, “Just today, the guy who drives the service car I take to go to the airport [said that he] does this job because his last blue-collar job disappeared from automation.
I’m reminded of the line from Henry Ford, who understood he does no good to his business if his own people can’t afford to buy the car.” Alex Howard, a writer and editor based in Washington, D.C., said, “I expect that automation and AI will have had a substantial impact on white-collar jobs, particularly back-office functions in clinics, in law firms, like medical secretaries, transcriptionists, or paralegals.
And education systems in the U.S. and much of the rest of the world are still sitting students in rows and columns, teaching them to keep quiet and memorize what is told to them, preparing them for life in a 20th century factory.” Bryan Alexander, technology consultant, futurist, and senior fellow at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education, wrote, “The education system is not well positioned to transform itself to help shape graduates who can ‘race against the machines.’ Not in time, and not at scale.
Robots will assist humans in tasks thus allowing humans to use their intelligence in new ways, freeing us up from menial tasks.” Francois-Dominique Armingaud, retired computer software engineer from IBM and now giving security courses to major engineering schools, responded, “The main purpose of progress now is to allow people to spend more life with their loved ones instead of spoiling it with overtime while others are struggling in order to access work.” Possibility #2: It will free us from the industrial age notion of what a “job” is A
Think outside the job.” Bob Frankston, an Internet pioneer and technology innovator whose work helped allow people to have control of the networking (internet) within their homes, wrote, “We’ll need to evolve the concept of a job as a means of wealth distribution as we did in response to the invention of the sewing machine displacing seamstressing as welfare.” Jim Hendler, an architect of the evolution of the World Wide Web and professor of computer science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, wrote, “The notion of work as a necessity for life cannot be sustained if the great bulk of manufacturing and such moves to machines—but humans will adapt by finding new models of payment as they did in the industrial revolution (after much upheaval).” Tim Bray, an active participant in the IETF and technology industry veteran, wrote, “It seems inevitable to me that the proportion of the population that needs to engage in traditional full-time employment, in order to keep us fed, supplied, healthy, and safe, will decrease.
Kevin Carson, a senior fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society and contributor to the P2P Foundation blog, wrote, “I believe the concept of ‘jobs’ and ‘employment’ will be far less meaningful, because the main direction of technological advance is toward cheap production tools (e.g., desktop information processing tools or open-source CNC garage machine tools) that undermine the material basis of the wage system.
The real change will not be the stereotypical model of ‘technological unemployment,’ with robots displacing workers in the factories, but increased employment in small shops, increased project-based work on the construction industry model, and increased provisioning in the informal and household economies and production for gift, sharing, and barter.” Tony Siesfeld, director of the Monitor Institute, wrote, “I anticipate that there will be a backlash and we’ll see a continued growth of artisanal products and small-scale [efforts], done myself or with a small group of others, that reject robotics and digital technology.” A
In the long run this trend will actually push toward the re-localization and re-humanization of the economy, with the 19th- and 20th-century economies of scale exploited where they make sense (cheap, identical, disposable goods), and human-oriented techniques (both older and newer) increasingly accounting for goods and services that are valuable, customized, or long-lasting.” Point of agreement: Technology is not destiny … we control the future we will inhabit In the end, a number of these experts took pains to note that none of these potential outcomes—from the most utopian to most dystopian—are etched in stone.
Issues in Science and Technology
The rationale for federal support for basic research is well established, but the best policy for implementing this principle remains open to debate.
wrote that once one starts thinking about long-run growth and economic development, “it is hard to think about anything else.” Although I don’t think I would go quite that far, it is certainly true that relatively small diferences in rates of economic growth, maintained over a sustained period, can have enormous implications for material living standards.
A growth rate of output per person of 2.5% per year doubles average living standards in 28 years—about one generation—whereas output per person growing at what seems a modestly slower rate of 1.5% a year leads to a doubling in average living standards in about 47 years—roughly two generations.
Of course, factors other than aggregate economic growth contribute to changes in living standards for different segments of the population, including shifts in relative wages and in rates of labor market participation.
Over long spans of time, economic growth and the associated improvements in living standards reflect a number of determinants, including increases in workers’ skills, rates of saving and capital accumulation, and institutional factors ranging from the flexibility of markets to the quality of the legal and regulatory frameworks.
In addition, recent research has highlighted the important role played by intangible capital, such as the knowledge embodied in the workforce, business plans and practices, and brand names.
Innovation has not only led to new products and more-efficient production methods, but it has also induced dramatic changes in how businesses are organized and managed, highlighting the connections between new ideas and methods and the organizational structure needed to implement them.
The argument, which applies particularly strongly to basic or fundamental research, is that the full economic value of a scientific advance is unlikely to accrue to its discoverer, especially if the new knowledge can be replicated or disseminated at low cost.
If many people are able to exploit, or otherwise benefit from, research done by others, then the total or social return to research may be higher on average than the private return to those who bear the costs and risks of innovation.
In the United States, however, we have seen many examples—in some cases extending back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries—of federal research initiatives and government support enabling the emergence of new technologies in areas that include agriculture, chemicals, health care, and information technology.
Two other examples of innovations that received critical federal support are gene splicing—federal R&D underwrote the techniques that opened up the field of genetic engineering—and the lithium-ion battery, which was developed by federally sponsored materials research in the 1980s.
And recent research on the government’s so-called War on Cancer, initiated by President Nixon in 1971, finds that the effort has produced a very high social rate of return, notwithstanding its failure to achieve its original ambitious goal of eradicating the disease.
Contrary to the notion that highly trained and talented immigrants displace native-born workers in the labor market, scientists and other highly trained professionals who come to the United States tend to enhance the productivity and employment opportunities of those already here.
These two trends—the declines in the share of basic research and in the federal share of R&D spending—are related, as government R&D spending tends to be more heavily weighted toward basic research and science.
R&D has become increasingly international, thanks to improved communication and dissemination of research results, the spread of scientific and engineering talent around the world, and the transfer of technologies through trade, foreign direct investment, and the activities of multinational corporations.
Reflecting the increased research activity in emerging market economies, the share of world R&D expenditures by member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, which mostly comprises advanced economies, has fallen relative to nonmember nations, which tend to be less developed.
To the extent that countries gain from leadership in technologically vibrant industries or from local spillovers arising from inventive activity, the case for government support of R&D within a given country is stronger.
A number of potential tools exist, including direct funding of government research facilities, grants to university or private-sector researchers, contracts for specific projects, and tax incentives.
Direct government support or conduct of the research may make the most sense if the project is highly focused and large-scale, possibly involving the need for coordination of the work of many researchers and subject to relatively tight time frames.
Some critics believe that funding agencies have been too cautious, focusing on a limited number of low-risk projects and targeting funding to more-established scientists at the expense of researchers who are less established or less conventional in their approaches.
The challenge to policymakers is to encourage experimentation and a greater diversity of approaches while simultaneously ensuring that an effective peer-review process is in place to guide funding toward high-quality science.
Although the system of higher education in the United States remains among the finest in the world, numerous concerns have been raised about this country’s ability to ensure adequate supplies of highly skilled workers.
Surveys of student intentions in the United States consistently show that the number of students who seek to major in science and engineering exceeds the number accommodated by a wide margin, and waitlists to enroll in technical courses have trended up relative to those in other fields, as has the time required to graduate with a science or engineering degree.
Moreover, although the relative wages of science and engineering graduates have increased significantly over the past few decades, the share of undergraduate degrees awarded in science and engineering has been roughly stable.
And, contrary to the notion that highly trained and talented immigrants displace native-born workers in the labor market, scientists and other highly trained professionals who come to the United States tend to enhance the productivity and employment opportunities of those already here, reflecting gains from interaction and cooperation and from the development of critical masses of researchers in technical areas.
As I noted, ensuring a sufficient supply of individuals with science and engineering skills is important for promoting innovation, and this need raises questions about education policy as well as immigration policy.
Innovation 2050 - A Digital Future for the Infrastructure Industry
Drones flying overhead will scan the site constantly, inspecting the work and using the data collected to predict and solve problems before they arise, sending instructions to robotic cranes and diggers and automated builders with no need for human involvement.
From automated tills in supermarkets, to autonomous vehicles on roads and voice-activated technologies in our homes, digital technologies are changing the way we work, shop, travel and relax, how we interact with the world around us and how we think about, commission and build our infrastructure.
Adopting and mainstreaming digital and other new technologies, such as advances in robotics and artificial intelligence, will be a game-changer for the industry, speeding up the otherwise slow-and-steady modernisation of the sector, and providing answers to the challenges and opportunities we face.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the form of 3D digital representation of projects overlaid with 4D detail on scheduling and cost, together with augmented and virtual reality technology enables seamless interaction between offices and sites facilitating a “build right first time” approach.
We are already using intelligent transportation systems (ITS) in the form of sensors embedded in traffic lights, car parks, roads and bridges to regulate traffic flows and smart buildings, with lighting which dims or switches itself off in areas where no one is moving.
In the future, the Internet of Things will power smart buildings built with new, self-healing, energy generating or breathable materials, in smart cities which are able to model the future and adapt instantly to changing circumstances;
construction will get faster, with the advent of 3D printing of bespoke components and even entire buildings, and 4D printing where self-transforming objects respond to changes in heat, sound or moisture levels to change shape;
This will require large infrastructure and construction companies to increasingly balance their existing offer with innovating and nurturing new ideas, something which many large organisations with standardised, controlled processes often struggle to do succesfully1.
The construction and infrastructure industry must become more agile – Tier 1 contractors will need to become disruptors: The business landscape will become less defined and predictable and there will be more cross-industry competition as companies try new models and products and develop multiple fields of expertise.
Infrastructure companies will need to balance the benefits of increasing the amount of data they collect, with privacy concerns: Demands for regulation around privacy are likely to escalate, and infrastructure companies embedding sensors will need to ensure that they respond to the privacy challenge by ensuring the highest levels of encryption and anonymisation.
The infrastructure and construction industry will also have to improve its image and to explain the wide range of exciting and challenging roles available, in order to attract the skilled individuals it needs to undertake its digital transformation.
Customers must encourage and support innovation: Customers must demonstrate courage and help companies adopt new technology by, for example, examining the incentives, both regulated and non-regulated, that govern infrastructure networks, in order to address the fact that they often promote low risk behaviour and impact on procurement processes.
Barriers to developing and accepting innovative ideas must also be challenged and regulators and other key players should be encouraged to facilitate innovation, while those companies which pioneer innovative new ways to drive efficiency while maintaining quality should be drawn out for reward.
Regulatory systems must be ready for the change: To be able to embrace new technologies as they emerge, countries around the world need to be ready with the various regulatory frameworks required and infrastructure and construction companies need to ensure that they have the skills, knowledge and systems in place to build the associated infrastructure.
Infrastructure owners and designers, regulators and policy makers will need to ensure energy systems are ready for the digital revolution: Infrastructure design will need to take account of climate projections and impacts as the number of sensors in the world increases exponentially, putting pressure on energy systems.
To play their part in this, regulators and policy makers will themselves need to upskill and ensure that they are providing frameworks which allow industry and digital solutions to flourish, while incentivising the development of new energy solutions and ensuring that resources are not irrevocably depleted.
Infrastructure companies must be prepared to process and use huge amounts of data: For the construction and infrastructure industry, aggregating and making sense of significantly increased volumes of data being continuously generated by a wide range of sources will require new software and algorithms, skilled data analysts, better information management and insight and the creation of mega databases which understand every part of the built environment.
Balfour Beatty believes that technology offers the chance to reshape the industry and help it to step up and address some of these challenges, turning them instead into opportunities in the following ways: Addressing skills shortages Infrastructure investment has a well-documented economic multiplier effect3 and significant, large-scale projects are likely to continue to be commissioned to help rebalance and boost economies around the world.
Balfour Beatty believes that continued investment in new technologies will help address these skills shortages, by helping to change outdated perceptions of the industry, enabling us to attract a more diverse, skilled labour force.
Increasing use of robots and automation will also mean that the industry becomes more productive, creating new roles for skilled workers in cutting-edge areas, while reducing the need for those undertaking repetitive, manual tasks6 such as bricklaying, lessening long term health risks.
Similarly, moving to off-site construction techniques such as precasting, prefabricating and preassembly has the potential to address the shortage of skilled labour while also maximising efficiency, consistency and precision and improving health and safety.
Balfour Beatty’s view is that new technologies, techniques and materials will enable us to improve both our offer to the customer in terms of both the design and construction phase and the life-cycle costs and performance of the infrastructure we build, over the long-term.
This enables them to experience the structure as if it had already been built and understand what the structure will look like before it has been finalised, so they can give more detailed and accurate feedback on the proposals before construction has begun resulting in an end product which matches, as closely as possible, the customer’s requirements.
Drones can contribute to this improved customer offer, enabling detailed virtual reality walk-throughs of remote sites and ensuring decision-making based on the latest and most accurate information, by collecting high-resolution images for input into PC or cloud-based photogrammetry systems to produce 3D models and point clouds.
Balfour Beatty believes that customers need to demonstrate courage here and help companies adopt new technology by, for example, examining the incentives, both regulated and non-regulated, that govern infrastructure networks, in order to address the fact that they often promote low risk behaviour and impact on procurement processes.
Barriers to developing and accepting innovative ideas must also be challenged and regulators and other key players should be encouraged to facilitate innovation, while those companies which pioneer innovative new ways to drive efficiency while maintaining quality should be drawn out for reward.
However, process digitization means moving away from paper and toward cloud-based, real-time sharing of information which integrates all elements of a project to ensure that everyone involved has access to the latest information, facilitate collaboration and improve outcomes.
AR in particular will increasingly mean that people can be taken into an environment where they can work collaboratively with remote colleagues, show them what they are seeing and share their experiences as if they are physically there themselves, enabling problems to be solved more efficiently and cutting travel costs and the number of people required on-site.
Improved health, safety and quality The imperative to constantly improve health and safety and the need to deliver high quality infrastructure demand that the industry continues to innovate and embrace new ideas.
Equipment with embedded sensors will also increasingly enable updates to be sent alerting teams to the fact that they need maintaining or repairing, reducing the need for “find-and-fix” in dangerous environments and therefore lessening health and safety impacts and time delays.
Featuring different real world scenarios the virtual experience gives workers the opportunity to experience live and potentially dangerous site environments, understand the space of the build, work out where heavy equipment should be placed and game plan how complex elements of the scheme can be best undertaken, from the safety of an office or training room and without the need for lengthy manuals, training sessions or specialist personnel.
The ability to properly plan a large-scale construction project, where, for example, a hundred cement trucks need to access a site at the same time, by game-planning it in a virtual environment can reduce project overruns, cut costs and increase margins.
To assist us in this aim, Balfour Beatty is looking forward to the development of new building materials which work more in harmony with the environment, have a lower carbon footprint and are more durable, meaning less wastage and less frequent replacement or upgrading, for example, insulating gels which are also transparent and can be used on buildings with large numbers of windows.
Infrastructure and construction companies are therefore likely to become ever more focussed on horizon-scanning and innovation in the future, looking for new ways to build competitive strengths and enable the development of new products and services.
Companies such as Balfour Beatty will therefore need to become more agile and consider their business models, potentially changing their portfolios of products and services in order to provide a personalised, next-generation offer, meet the needs of their customers and secure their market position.
Large infrastructure and construction companies are likely to focus more on systems integration rather than a more traditional offer, as commissioners look to cut out the middle-man, seeking out smaller disruptors directly and designing new payment and incentive mechanisms for example.
The sector will increase its use of data analytics to better understand customers and meet their needs, and will work more with startups to develop new solutions, new market capacity and provide solutions to problems that do not yet exist.
In particular, the research centers on digital tech use cases for enabling design and construction such as VR, site safety training, virtual mock-ups and parametric decision making through advanced modelling.
Photovoltaic glazing, which can effectively turn whole buildings into solar panels, will also become widely used, while new materials that can respond to a variety of environmental conditions or can reduce carbon emissions from the area around them will become important.
In some cases, the technology behind these new materials has existed for some time, however their use has been limited both by lack of availability at scale in some cases, but, more generally, a reluctance among customers to try new technologies, and among contractors to suggest their use.
New jobs and industries will be created – and some will disappear With self-learning technologies which eliminate the risk of human error and replace humans in repetitive, unskilled roles, traditional industries such as manufacturing are likely to decline, even as new industries emerge.
However, there will be a greater need for more specialist skills and we will begin to see a dramatic increase in competition for “digital natives”, those who grew up in the digital age and are able to combine digital skills with creativity and new ideas.
With companies such as Amazon and Google currently struggling to find enough skilled staff, and the infrastructure industry increasingly seeking to recruit from the same talent pool, we must work to improve the image of the industry and to explain the wide range of exciting and challenging roles in order to attract the skilled individuals we need.
The focus will change from delivering infrastructure which fulfils a single purpose, for example, a bridge spanning a river, and move to how the infrastructure interacts with the wider built environment and the long-term life and performance of assets.
This will be particularly effective where technology combinations are used, for example, drones capturing site data so that real time 3D models can be sent to robots and unmanned machines, from bulldozers to diggers, which will carry out the main demolition and construction work, with a human overseer.
New, disruptive ideas will emerge, for making mass transit faster, safer and less damaging to the environment Beyond autonomous vehicles, which will see vehicles collaborating to allow the creation of safer, faster transport systems with much greater capacity, many believe that we will also see a working Hyperloop – a new method of transportation which relies on electric propulsion and levitation to send pods from city to city at speeds of up to 760 miles per hour, within the next decade.
Balfour Beatty believes that other new, disruptive ideas for making mass transit faster, safer and less damaging to the environment will emerge, providing a response to congestion, cities dominated by vehicles and issues such as noise and air pollution.
To be able to embrace these technologies as they emerge, countries around the world need to be ready with the various regulatory frameworks required and infrastructure and construction companies need to ensure that they have the skills, knowledge and systems in place to build the associated infrastructure.
Direct neural control over devices and vehicles will be accessible to the industry Although it may sound like something out of science fiction, direct neural control already exists in primitive forms, enabling amputees to control prosthetic devices using direct neural signals, for example.
Privacy issues and dangers surrounding sinister uses, such hackers accessing the information needed to control or manipulate the microchipped person or people, would need to be overcome, but the use of potential direct neural control for improving the safety of workers and improving efficiency of construction is significant.
For the industry itself, the main challenge lies in efficiently absorbing new technology and becoming more adept at doing it quickly, however there are also a number of higher-level points which policy makers, regulators and society more broadly will have to respond to.
To play their part in this, regulators and policy makers will themselves need to upskill and ensure that they are providing frameworks which allow industry and digital solutions to flourish, while incentivizing the development of new energy solutions and ensuring that resources are not irrevocably depleted.
For the construction and infrastructure industry, aggregating and making sense of so much data from so many sources will require new software and algorithms, skilled data analysts, better information management and insight and the creation of mega databases which understand every part of the built environment.
the benefits of data will become more heated While smart homes, connected vehicles and so on will offer numerous benefits, they will also increasingly come up against privacy requirements as people begin to question the amount of data all the sensors around the buildings they live and work in are collecting and what it is being used for.
However, increasing the use of digital technologies also increases the risks of cyber-attack, a risk that will continue to grow along with our reliance on technology as we have already seen in 2017 in the May “WannaCry” ransomware that hit 150 countries, the worst attack ever on critical infrastructure.
Large projects and the increasingly global nature of schemes which see suppliers and contractors from a number of different countries collaborating depend on the collating and sharing of large amounts of data about the site, systems and the infrastructure being built.
These attacks also used malware, and left 80,000 customers without power in what was a coordinated attack where operatives were prevented from accessing the systems to restore them, via a variety of means including wiped servers.
- On Thursday, February 20, 2020
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