Anarchy and Order

On February 20, 2015 Grady Booch, an IBM Fellow spoke on the topic of computers and government, or rather, “Anarchy and Order” at the Computer History Museum. #CHM
  • When I drive and hit a pothole, I reflect and appreciate that governments can make roads. We have an Interstate network of roads due to the U.S. government. With respect to potholes and computers, there is now an app for reporting potholes.
  • What are governments good for? They help ensure safety and happiness. To do this, they tax us, protect us, communicate and monitor us.
  • Governments provide weather prediction, have libraries with computers where the homeless can research homeless resources on the web.
  • Governments monitor earthquakes and make predictions of tsunami. Interestingly enough, tweets about earthquakes actually happen faster than remote seismic sites detect them.
  • Governments track diseases and outbreaks.
  • In 1955, the IBM 650 was the first computer used to process tax returns. Today, our tax code is implemented in IBM 360 assembly code. When you update the tax code, you have to make changes to this code.
  • At data.gov there are open datasets. You can use them to identify where gas lines and transformers are located. This is useful information to someone who wants to disrupt things. For example, if you cut off the power to the one plant that makes ammonia at a critical time, it would delay the fertilizer plants, and in turn delay farmers planting their crops.
  • Just in time logistics are very fragile.
  • In India which has 1.4 billion people, the census takes a photo, fingerprint and issues a unique number to everyone. Their government employees have biometric scanner on their office doors that they have to checkin and out at work.
  • By law, the U.S. census data is anonymous and private for 72 years. Census questions reflect the bias of the time, how many slaves, how many white males, can you read or write?
  • We have always had a big data problem—having more data than you know what to currently do with.
  • We frequently forget that correlation is not causation.
  • An abuse of census data is when we used it to intern U.S. citizens that were Japanese in World War II.
  • NORA—Non-Obvious Relationship Awareness was invented by Jeff Jonas, the founder of System Research and Development. As an example, their software can alert casino security that the dealer at table 11 once shared a phone number with the guy winning big at that same table. It does this by using metadata.
  • The important point is that metadata is data. For a tweet, if you know who and when a tweet was sent, and who read it, it gives you a lot of information. This is the mechanism that the FBI used when a woman complained about a cyberstalker and discovered a relationship that she was having with a general.
  • This same technique was used by the East German STATSI. When the government collects and processes metadata, it expands their power.
  • President Lincoln required that all the telegraph operators in Washington DC be located in a single office adjacent to the White House. It allowed him to monitor al commerce and social communications and watch what was happening.
  • Email is a recent development—President Clinton was the first president to send an email.
  • The Great Firewall of China is constantly attempting to squash various terms. For example, the words snow, lion and flag means Tibet.
  • The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.
  • Anonymous members wear Guy Fawkes masks (the best-known member of the Gunpowder Plot, which attempted to blow up the House of Lords in London in 1605). They are known for opposing Internet censorship and control.
  • Grady Booch believes that it is good for the NSA to collect data, but it is bad that there are no checks and balances on its activities.
  • While many nations have a right for mail to be private, in the U.S. it has been done by law and court decisions. We have not yet established where data can live, the extent of copyright and Intellectual Property. When anyone can own a 3D printer, what is fair use of it? This is a case of technology outpacing our laws.

Mastering the Pixel: 25 Years of Photoshop

On February 19, 2015, the Computer History Museum celebrated the 25th anniversary of Photoshop by discussing the early history of a program that has become an industry standard for photographers and the prepress indusry. #CHMPIXEL.
  • Photoshop has been #1 in its software category for the past 25 years. It has become a verb. You can walk into any bookstore and find multiple books devoted to Photoshop, if not an entire shelf.
  • Photoshop came to the market as color scanners, digital photos and large memories started to become available. It happened at the cusp as graphic arts migrated to the computer.
  • Photoshop was initially positioned for prepress / desktop publishing, then became adopted by photographers as a digital darkroom.
  • John Knoll was working at ILM (Industrial Light and Magic). He had started out building models, did some motion control at USC, then was hired by the computer graphics department at ILM. While they had just sold Pixar, they still had one of its $120K workstations. It seemed magical in how it could be used to sharpen an image—it changed everything. John started to do ray tracing on a Mac IIfx.
  • Tom Knoll was at the University of Michigan where he was working on his Ph.D. in computer vision. He showed John how he had developed a command line program on his Mac that would allow various image manipulations to be done. John suggested having a visual interface instead. They first called the program Display, then changed the name to Image Pro, only to discover that there was an Apollo workstation program with the same name.
  • At this point, John had put his thesis on hold. As Tom put it, the opportunity to do this will never happen again.
  • They started showing the program to various companies in an attempt for their company to be bought. They tried to use the name Photo Lab, only for Electronic Arts to already have software by that name. A customer suggested the name Photoshop, so they went with that, figuring that they would think of a better name later on.
  • When they came to Adobe, John Warnock immediately said, “I want it.” He believed that desktop publishing would take off when there was a way to get images incorporated into a page.
  • Gamma levels were the first important new feature to be added to Photoshop. It allowed you to adjust an image to have true black and white levels.
  • John Knoll was in essence a power user who was continually pushing hard on Photoshop to be able to do film production art, working with blue screen and compositing images.
  • The next major feature was layers that was added in Photoshop 3.0. (An image was showed of Times Square where the various Photoshop developers had been composited in. The image had 700,000 layers!)
  • Photoshop created an ecosystem for plug-ins. There is no one way to do something in Photoshop. Frequently there are numerous, if not hundreds of ways to do something.
  • The next major feature was in 2002 when Photoshop was able to import RAW images. Many of the Photoshop developers were avid photographers. They reverse engineered the RAW formats of various cameras. It was a case of eating your own dog food.
  • Photoshop was life changing. An early slogan was “you can dream in color.”
  • What does the future hold for Photoshop? They are working on a mobile version of it.
  • Russell Brown was dressed as a Shakespearean character to promote the ADIM conference that is being held in Carmel in April. He is currently the senior creative director at Adobe, but he has acted to evangelize Photoshop since its very beginning.
  • Also in attendance was Steve Guttman, the original product manager for Photoshop, who eventually managed all of Adobe’s Macintosh applications.

Gut Feeling—Ventures into the Microbiome

The Vlab event on Gut Felling—Ventures into the Microbiome, was held on February 17, 2015 at the Stanford Graduate Business School. Mark Bunger, senior research director at Lux Research provided an overview of the microbiome market:
  • The human genome has 8,000 genes. The microbiome has 800,000 genes. There are orders of magnitude more data and complexity. To understand it, we need to be able to work with different areas of science.
  • The microbiome is an ecosystem of bacteria found in the gut, skin and other parts of the body. There are hundreds of thousands of different bacteria in the microbiome. Major bacteria phyla are: firmicutes, bacteroidetes, fusobacteria, actinobacteria, cyanobacteria, proteobacteria.
  • Imbalances in the microbiome are associated with inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 and 2 diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndromes, and necrotizing enterocolitis. Additional diseases that are influenced by these imbalances are liver disease, colorectal and colon cancer, mental health (cognitive dysfunction, autism), and asthma.
  • The Human Microbiome Project is a $173M NIH project that extensively characterized the microbial communities to create a baseline database between 2007 and 2012.
  • The MetaHIT: Metagenomics of the Human Intestinal Tract was a $28M project financed in part by the European Commission to sequence the first gut metagenome that ran between 2008 and 2011.
  • There are numerous country specific studies financed by France, Canada, Korea, Australia, China, Japan, and Singapore.
  • There has been an exponential increase in research publications on the gut microbiome (2014-1750 papers, 2013-1250 papers , 2012-1000 papers)and microbiome (2014-4500 papers, 2013-3250 papers, 2012-2500 papers)
  • There are numerous startups forming a microbiome industry. They include: Enterologics, Osel, Second Genome, SeresHealth, Micropharma, Metabiomics, Vedanta Biosciences, MicroBiome Therapeutics, Prebiotin, Enterome Bioscience, GT Biologics, ViThera Laboratories, uBiome, Metabogen, and Whole Biome.
  • There have been several significant investments in microbiome startups. Examples are: Nestle Health Science made a $74.5M series D in Seres Health for Phase 3 trials of microbiome-based drugs against C. difficile. Vedanta Biosciences licensed an inflammatory bowel disease drug to Janssen Biotech for up to $241M. Second Genome advanced SGM-1019 to a phase 1 clinical trial for treatment of Crohn’s disease. OptiBiotix Health and Dutch NIZO launched JV to commercialize probiotic yogurt. 4D Pharma raised $51M to bring two bacteria based therapies against inflammatory bowel disease and pediatric Crohn’s disease into clinical studies in Q2 2015.
Colleen Cutcliffe, the co-founder of Whole Biome, provided an overview of how they got going in the market and obtained their initial financing:
  • She called the founder of PacBio and asked how to raise $5M. Was told she needed a business plan. They initially positioned themselves as a service company. We were told VCs don’t like service companies. So we became a platform company and got a similar response. We repositioned ourself as a diagnostics company, but were told that they don’t make a lot of money. We ended up going full circle and became a services company. We brought in $500K our first year by getting our customers to finance us. The fundamental problem is that nobody knows how to make money in this space. The quality of data is what it is all about.
  • Karim Dabbagh is the chief scientific officer of Second Genome. He joined them in August 2014. He is interested in environmental triggers, bacteria, human tissue genetics.
  • Jackie Papkoff is the Vice President of Johnson & Johnson Innovation. They have locations in Menlo Park, Boston, London and Shanghai. They are working with Second Genome. How do you demonstrate that a microbiome treatment used as a drug is safe and effective? The FDA wants certainty. We need to understand the biological risks of novel therapeutics.
  • Doug Crawford is the Associate Director of QB3 and the Managing Director of Mission Bay Capital.
  • There is a lot of pseudo-science in probiotics. There is a move for probiotics to become more honest, and be able to cite the actual benefits.
  • Personalized medicine. How to improve your mood, temper, and diseases through the microbiome. It is an organ of the body. We will start to prescribe the right food to personalize health. It will enable new drug target therapies. It is the start of unraveling the onion that is the human body.
  • People are big fat liars when it comes to journals and logs about what they ate.
  • When we assemble knowledge of pets, diet, exercise, sleep, hydration, your personal genome and microbiome, we will be able to extract patterns that lead to health.
  • Nest should make a toilet that automatically assays your poop!
  • Startups are a triumph of evolution over intelligent design, there is a lot of iteration.
  • Fecal transplants are the wild, wild West. We have no idea of what is happening. We don’t know the mechanism of how things work. In order to do something novel and interesting, you need to understand the science.
  • The patent office has ruled that you can’t patent naturally occurring bacteria. You can put a lot of work into understanding how various bacteria work in the microbiome, but you won’t be able to patent the existing bacteria.

Composer & Cellist Philip Sheppard

The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA on January 29, 2015 featured a talk by Philip Sheppard, a cello players who has composed for over 25 films and theatrical performances such as the Beijing Olympics closing ceremony and Cirque du Soleil. He was interviewed by Will Travis. #CHPSHEPPARD
  • Philip started the talk by playing two cello numbers. The first was the theme from Game of Thrones and the second was a 10/8 time piece that he plays with bands. It was incredible the range of sounds he was able to obtain from his cello!
  • Philip grew up in a musical family. His mother taught violin and his older brother played the violin as well. As a young child, he decided he wanted to play something bigger. He started at 3-1/2, playing a small cello—actually a violin with a spike on its end, and he sat on a waste can as he played.
  • The headmistress in his kindergarten played the cello and started teaching him.
  • Philip can’t compose at the computer. He works with a pencil and lightbox. However he has a room filled with technology.
  • He studied piano for nine years but can’t play it.
  • He has a Stradivarius cello that was built in 1692. It is a nightmare to travel with. On an airplane, he has to book a seat next to him for it.
  • How did he do his score for a piece relating to the Moon? He started with a map of the Moon, looking at all the different names of craters. He thought about astronauts as being on the frontier.
  • Cello design has been frozen since the 1700s, whereas laptop technology is still rapidly evolving. Musical composition hasn’t changed since that time, the notation has hasn’t changed, whereas computer code and languages are still rapidly evolving.
  • Philip played his Wave composition. Interestingly enough, his score curved and bent like it was a wave. He even made sounds on the cello that sounded like a seagull during parts of his performance.
  • He has four kids. He turns off his cellphone when he enters his “playroom.” His 8-year old son listens to a recent composition, then says, “it isn’t funky enough.” His oldest daughter is in a garage band. Philip borrowed one of her tunes and used it a composition for a British soap opera. She heard her tune, asked if he got it from her, and was he getting royalties for it? As a result she got a cellphone of her own and the royalties pay the monthly service charge for it.
  • You may have swallowed a dictionary, but can you tell a joke that will make me laugh?
  • There is a lot of similarity between learning language and music.
  • Handel was a servant, composing music upon request.
  • In composing for film, you deal with constant demands like the director wanting the score tomorrow.
  • Compose Yourself is a game that ThinkFun will be releasing in 2015. You can think of it as a deck of cards with thousands of generic tunes. It will help children be inspired.
  • Musical instruments have feedback response. I’ve exploited this in doing a deconstruction of all the different sounds that a cello can make.
  • Thought I had 14 months to do the Olympics composition, but it turned out I only had 2 months to do an arrangement of all the national anthems in the world.

Providing More with Less—Arnold Milstein M.D.

The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University held a seminar on January 29, 2015. The speaker was Arnold Milstein, MD, a Professor of Medicine at Stanford. He leads a globally unique Stanford effort to improve the affordability of excellent health care at nationwide-wide scale. His topic was Providing More with Less. #CASBS
  • Health care is competing with alternative uses of money such as K-12 education and research
  • Ideally we would like to increase the rate at which quality is improving in healthcare. Currently it is improving about 1% per year.
  • We would like to reduce healthcare spending by 30%. Currently we are spending 6% GDP for healthcare and a 30% reduction would take it to 4%.
  • We would like to have healthcare costs tracks the GDP. This requires a 2.5% improvement in productivity per year.
  • Two approaches currently being taken are (1) change how Medicare pays doctors by putting priority on actions that prevent health crisis, and (2) a Cadillac tax that gradually removes the tax deductions given to health care costs.
  • Andy Grove wrote an article for the American Medical Association. In it, he states that doctors need to learn best practices faster, and increase the rate at which knowledge turns.
  • Arnold Milstein showed a scatter chart with the quality of care on the vertical axis and the cost per patient per year on the horizontal axis, for hundreds of different healthcare providers.
  • Arnold’s group interviewed the groups having the best quality at the lowest cost per patient—the upper left quadrant of the graph.
  • They found three characteristics of these groups: (1) The primary doctor had a deeper relationship with their patients, (2) The primary doctor had an expanded width of responsibility; they coordinated overall care for the patient, (3) The primary doctor obtained leverage by use of a team of nurses, aides and specialists.
  • These groups achieved 14% better quality and spent 20% less on costs per patient.
  • Arnold’s group is now working on validation and learning next steps.
  • In another experiment, they examined having a second team of doctors and specialists that did double checking of sick patients. They found that this resulted in a 25% decrease in ICU mortality, a 15% reduction in hospital mortality, and a reduction of ICU and hospital LOS by 15%.
  • When you consider that ICU mortality is typically 20%, a 25% reduction results in 15% mortality. ICUs are very expensive, they account for 1% GDP healthcare costs.
  • Why does this work? It turns out that it is hard to continuously monitor patients. It really helps to have a second set of eyes.
  • The result is better, cheaper care.
  • In the past did positive outlier research, currently studying C+ players. We would like to study the worst of the worst, but the limitations on how we obtained the data wouldn’t allow us to study these locations.
  • An area that we are currently investigating is chronic pain management.