Obama on 3D printing and Space Age style research

Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. There’s no reason this can’t happen in other towns. So tonight, I’m announcing the launch of three more of these manufacturing hubs, where businesses will partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs. And I ask this Congress to help create a network of fifteen of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is Made in America. If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas. Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s; developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries ten times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.

Fuckyeah. (Obama in his State of the Union 2013.)

Recent reading (7 links for Feb 5)


San Telmo street art

Irregularly, I post noteworthy articles I recently read. Enjoy!


Kickstarting: A Wi-Fi-Enabled Lamp That Lets You Say Goodnight Across The Globe: FastCo’s take on the Good Night Lamp, a series of connected lamps that helps you send social signals in more ambient way. I’m a big fan of both the product and the team, so I recommend you have a closer look. (Just noticed I first blogged about this in 2007. Time flies!) (link);


Top 10 Lessons Learned at Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Biohacking Conference: A report from the front line of the biohacking and quantified self community. (link)


Shooters: How Video Games Fund Arms Manufacturers: How video games, through licensing fees, help funding arms producers. A very scary thought. – by Simon Parkin (link)


The World is Getting Better. Quickly.: On a more uplifting note, turns out that overall we’re making quite good progress on a global scale towards bettering life conditions for everyone. Some highlights from Bill Gates’ report on the progress of his foundation and their goals. (link)


Dell goes private in $24.4 billion deal, including $2 billion loan from Microsoft: Dell buys back the company shares, ridding itself of the pressure of quarterly earnings reports to shareholders. Impressive, and also something that can serve us as a reminder to always keep thinking about incentives we create for ourselves and our companies. – by Nathan Ingraham (link)


Q: “How much does an app cost?” A: “About as much as a car.”: Neat metaphor-slash-guideline: How much does an app cost? It costs about as much as a car does, it just depends on what you want. “I just want an app and I want it to work” = 1994 Honda Civic = $1-5K. You just want a simple app. Nothing fancy, and you don’t really care who works on it. (link)


EU-Flaggschiff-Initiative: Forscher erhalten Milliardenförderung: Quick overview of the projects that got the EU’s 1b Euro funding for scientific research. How awesome are the two projects that won? Very. How awesome are the ones that didn’t get the funding? Also: very. I’m all for institutional funding of science. (link)

Too Big To Know: The Science that exists at the network level


David Weinberger has written a new book, out just now: Too Big To Know. In The Atlantic, he published an abstract. Here are two brief samples just to give you an idea:


The problem — or at least the change — is that we humans cannot understand systems even as complex as that of a simple cell. It’s not that were awaiting some elegant theory that will snap all the details into place. The theory is well established already: Cellular systems consist of a set of detailed interactions that can be thought of as signals and responses. But those interactions surpass in quantity and complexity the human brains ability to comprehend them.


We have a new form of knowing. This new knowledge requires not just giant computers but a network to connect them, to feed them, and to make their work accessible. It exists at the network level, not in the heads of individual human beings.

I tend to be very careful, bordering on wary, when it comes to US books that have even the slightest touch point with management and business. Too many one trick ponies out there that are just the ticket to the speaker circuit.

However, what David Weinberger delivered here doesn’t seem to be one of those. (In fact, he’d probably pretty appalled that I even put him in the same league with those others, and rightfully so.) I have tremendous respect for him and his thoughts, and both the Cluetrain Manifesto and Small Pieces Loosely Joined were pretty much seminal works that I’ve been working with, and revisiting, ever since they came out.

Too Big To Know seems to fall in that same category. While I’m waiting for the delivery – it won’t be out till Jan 19 in Germany – I can only recommend anyone who might have to do with Big Data or science over the next few years to consider ordering a copy.

U.S. University Tracked 100.000 Cell Phone Users’ Movements


EyesAnother day, another very creepy instance of user tracking: As CNN reports, scientists at Northeastern University used cell phone data to track the whereabouts of 100.000 cell phone users:

Researchers used cell phone towers to track individuals’ locations whenever they made or received phone calls and text messages over six months. In a second set of records, researchers took another 206 cell phones that had tracking devices in them and got records for their locations every two hours over a week’s time period. The study was based on cell phone records from a private company, whose name also was not disclosed.

Not only is this creepy, it’s also most probably illegal (just like the Deutsche Telekom incident): The data came from outside the U.S. because privacy legislation wouldn’t allow it there. (So where the heck did they track, then?)

You can’t just go track citizens’ movements. WTF?

(via ReadWriteWeb)

Re:publica 08 #2


Today is day 3 of re:publica 08, the last day of this year’s installment of this conference. Re:publica is the biggest and most important blogger & social media conference in Germany, organized largely by the Newthinking Team (i.e. the net activists whose most prominent member is probably Markus Beckedahl, author of Netzpolitik.org. Thanks Markus, and all the others who don’t get the same media attention.)

So far, it’s been a great event – the organization worked pretty much smoothly except for minor wireless outages, although of course the most interesting conversations happen in between session, in the lobby, the hallways, the surrounding bars.

Right now I’m sitting in a panel on video in political communication with pretty harmonic panelists (representatives of the Social Democrats, the Green Party, ver.di as well as social media scientist Jan Schmidt).

Turns out everybody agrees that yes, video plays a more and more important role in online election campaigns, but no, it’s not crucial yet. Also, I’m getting the impression that while the strategists know very well what to expect and how to use online media, but this seems rather detached from their constituencies’ new media expertise. Basically, whenever it’s time for an election campaign, the parties get out their new media toolkit and are surprised their voters don’t really care as much as they expected; maybe it’s because in between election campaigns the parties are not very active in social media?

I know of a few projects that look promising, like the Social Democratic Party’s social network meineSPD. (I’m sure there are others as well that I don’t know off the top of my head.) But generally, there’s hardly a political social media scene in Germany, although it’s growing. This is also what political journalists told me when I interviewed them for my M.A. thesis on the relevance of weblogs for political journalism in Germany. Their conclusion: There are no relevant, i.e. quote-worthy, political weblogs in Germany as of now. The journalists explicitly wished for better political weblogs, though.

Hopefully conferences like re:publica can help establish this kind of political blogosphere in Germany.