Tag Archives: at-work/innovation

Banking, Cash, and the Future of Money

Post Syndicated from Steven Cherry original https://spectrum.ieee.org/podcast/at-work/innovation/banking-cash-and-the-future-of-money

Steven Cherry Hi this Steven Cherry for Radio Spectrum.

We’re used to the idea of gold and silver being used as money, but in the in the 1600s, Sweden didn’t have a lot of gold and silver—not enough to sustain its economy. The Swedes had a lot of copper, though, so that’s what they used for their money. Copper isn’t really great for the job—it’s not nearly scarce enough—so Swedish coins were big—the largest denomination weighed fortythree pounds and people carried them to market on their backs. So the Swedes created a bank that gave people paper money in exchange for giant copper coins.

The Swedes weren’t the first to create paper money—they missed that mark by about several hundred years. Nor will they likely be the first to get rid of paper money, though they may have the lead in that race. A few years ago, banks there started to refuse cash deposits and to allow cash withdrawals, until a law was passed requiring them to do so.

A new book about the history and future of money has just come out, imaginatively titled, Money. It’s not specifically about Sweden—in fact, those are the only two times Sweden comes up. It’s about money itself, and how it has changed wildly across time and geography—from Greek city-states in 600 B.C. to China in the eighth century and Kublai Khan in the thirteenth, to Amsterdam in the seventeenth, Paris during the Enlightenment, and the U.S. in the nineteenth century and cyberspace in the twenty-first.

It’s a wild ride that the world is still in the middle of, and it’s told in a thoroughly researched but thoroughly entertaining, and I mean laugh-out-loud entertaining, literally—I had to finish the book last night downstairs on the couch—told as a series of stories by one of radio’s great storytellers. Jacob Goldstein was a newspaper reporter before joining National Public Radio’s popular show, Planet Money, which he currently co-hosts, and he’s the author of the destined-to-be popular tome, Money, newly minted by Hachette Books. And he’s my guest today. He joins us via Skype.

Jacob, welcome to the podcast.

Jacob Goldstein Thanks so much for having me. And thank you for that very kind and generous introduction.

Steven Cherry Jacob wasn’t fair to the title of the book, and I wasn’t entirely fair—

Jacob Goldstein I didn’t want to be petty, but that thought crossed my mind—.

Steven Cherry —and I wasn’t entirely fair about what the book is about. The full title is Money: The True Story of a Made Up Thing, which hints at what I take your book’s thesis to be: Money is whatever we trust for the exchange of goods and services. Money is whatever we trust to be money.

Jacob Goldstein That’s right. And, you know, I’m not sure like on one level, I worry that that’s a little bit obvious. But I do think there is this thing that happens. And it was quite striking to me as I was doing the research for the book. And that is in whatever period people are living in, whatever monetary regime, they—we—seem to think that whatever we’re doing as money, whatever we’re using for money, however we’re doing money, is like some kind of natural law. It’s like the way money must be is the way we’re doing it now. And everything else is just crazy or weird. And the point I was trying to make in the subtitle of the book is That is not so. Right? We are constantly inventing and reinventing money. And, you know, it has changed many times in the past and it will continue to change in the future.

Steven Cherry We can’t tell the whole story of money here in 20 or 30 minutes. But let’s touch on the history in order to understand some of the things you say about its future. You say that it’s easy to think of money as growing out of a barter economy, but there has never been a barter economy. We went straight from more or less self-sufficiency, maybe augmented by status-seeking gifting, to empowering cowrie shells and other things as a way to store value over time—a kind of proto-money.

Jacob Goldstein Yes. So the piece about barter is really to refute this kind of standard historical story of money. For a long time the set-piece story about the origin of money was it’s very inconvenient to barter, right, because for you and I to trade—to do business with each other, whatever—you have to have what I want and I have to have what you want. But if we could just have some intermediate thing—some piece of silver, a dollar bill—that would solve the problem. Which is a very tidy story. But anthropologists in the 20th century started raising their hands and saying, sorry, economists, it just doesn’t appear that the world works that way. And what they described instead is a much more, I don’t know if organic is the right word, a much more social kind of construction of money where you have lots of small nonindustrial societies with lots of rules about giving and getting. And what you have to give somebody’s family if you’re going to marry them or somebody’s family if you killed somebody in their family. And those kinds of norms really seem to be the roots of money.

Steven Cherry You look at the history of the world, the beginnings of money, and kind of summarized things by saying the first writers weren’t poets, they were accountants, which as a writer, I find a sobering thought and you must too.

Jacob Goldstein I mean, I respect accountants. I feel like they do something very useful. Let’s not be too highfalutin.

I respect accountants, like, I respect them more now that, you know, now that I’ve written the book. That period that is Mesopotamia, essentially the classic cradle of civilization several thousand years ago, and what happened there, apparently, obviously, it’s a long time ago…. But what seems to have happened there is people initially would give each other like a clay sort of ball with maybe a cone in it or a ball, a sphere in it as like an IOU. So I would give you a clay ball with a cone in it. And that would mean, I don’t know, I owe you six sheep. And then from there, people were like, wait a minute, maybe we don’t have to put a little cone inside the ball. What if we just pressed it into the clay on the outside? And the notion is that, that is proto-writing. And then these cities start to spring up, the civilization gets more complex, and you get this essentially class of accountants who are working at the temple—which is kind of like a temple/city-hall—and they develop Cuneiform. They develop the first kind of writing, which is making marks in clay tablets, basically to keep the ledgers of the temple of the city-state.

Steven Cherry In the 5000-year history of money, the gold standard takes up three percent of that time. But it’s a pretty important century and a half and it still influences how we think of money. So maybe tell us how it began.

Jacob Goldstein I think you’re right. I think it does. Gold and silver were money for quite a long time, for thousands of years. But when economists use the phrase the gold standard, then in this very particular period of time from, what, 1830-ish, give or take a few years, to basically the 1930s—that century-ish.

And what happened was, it started in Britain, which was the most important economy of the world. And lots of countries had sort of used gold and silver and kind of gone back-and-forth. And it’s hard to have two different metals as money because their values can change. So Britain feels like, all right, we’re just going to be on the gold standard. And because Britain was so important, lots of people followed them. The 19th century, as it progressed, was this first great wave of globalization. Lots of other countries followed onto the gold standard. And so that by the end of the 19th century, most of the major economies of the world were on this kind of uniform gold standard.

Steven Cherry Yeah, I said a century and a half because we officially went off the gold standard in the 1970s, but it was really barely more than a century: Even before we officially went off the gold standard, you say FDR, in 1933, for all intents and purposes, took us off it.

Yes, the depression was really the big turn. And I think, you know, just this year, 1933 is an incredibly momentous year in the history of money. So what’s happening is, the Depression, obviously. And people didn’t realize it at the time—and I feel like the vernacular version of the story doesn’t really include this fact—but a core problem with the depression, maybe the core problem with the depression, was the gold standard. And that—among economists now—is not controversial. That’s what everybody thinks. And what happened was, you know, there was this crash in 1929 of the stock market and the economy started to plunge.

And, you know, now what happens when there’s a crash and the economy starts to plunge, is the Federal Reserve, the central bank, can essentially create more money and make it easier for people who are in debt to stay afloat—make it easier for businesses that are in trouble to stay open. But that was not the case then. It was, under the gold standard, the Federal Reserve wound up doing essentially the opposite. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates, which took up a bad crash and turned it into the Great Depression. And that sent prices falling and banks collapsing.

And so Roosevelt gets elected in ’32, takes office in ’33, and he, against the advice of almost all of his advisors who tell him that going off the gold standard will mean, quote, “the end of Western civilization,” basically goes off the gold standard. He says, you know, the key rule under the gold standard is a dollar is worth a fixed amount of gold or a fixed amount of gold is worth a dollar. It was like 20 dollars and change got you an ounce of gold. And that had been the case decade after decade. He’s like, we’re not going to do that. We’re not going to do that. A dollar is going to get you less gold than it used to. And that is why I say and most people say he was really the one who took us off the gold standard. And I should say ’33, when he did that, was when the Depression started to get better. Now, clearly, it didn’t get all better until WWII, but very clearly the turn things are going down before then and they start going up after them. And it’s true in many countries, as each country goes off the gold standard you see each country starting to get better from the depths of the Depression. Now, for a few decades after that, to your point, it was true that ordinary people could no longer exchange dollars for a fixed amount of gold, but other countries could change their currency for dollars and then other countries could change dollars for a fixed amount of gold. But that was basically a formality. And Nixon ended that formality in ’70 or ’71.

Steven Cherry One of the great things about your book is, I thought I knew the story of the gold standard and William Jennings Bryan and the Cross of Gold, and you tell that story, too. But then you come along with something really interesting and crazy, like the story of Irving Fisher, who you describe as a Yale economist, a health food zealot, a Prohibitionist, and a fitness guru who filled a floor of his New Haven mansion with exercise equipment. It turns out when he wasn’t exercising and making his hapless employees join him, he devoted much of his life to trying to untie our idea of money to gold and instead to something a little bit more like the Consumer Price Index? Tell us about the money illusion.

Jacob Goldstein Sure. I’m glad you like Irving Fisher. I love Irving Fisher. You know, I had been covering economics for, I don’t know, 10 years. When I wrote this book and I didn’t really know about Fisher. I feel like he has largely been forgotten, in part because in 1929 he said the stock market was on a permanently high plateau, like, two weeks before the market crash. So bad investing advice, but great economist. OK, the money illusion. So the money illusion was this idea that he articulated that is really very resonant today. And the basic idea of the money illusion is we get confused by inflation and deflation. So a simple example is, you know, if you if your parents say they bought their house, whatever, 40 years ago and they paid $100,000 for it and they sold it this year and they got $400,000 for it, they might think, great, I made, you know, $300,000. I made 4x my investment—I did great on that house. In fact, they are wrong—because of inflation. Right? Because $400,000 today buys you less than $100,000 bought 40 or 50 years ago. It may be semi-obvious in that case, but that kind of misunderstanding creates a lot of problems. It was one of the problems in the Depression, when you had deflation, when you had prices falling by like 30 percent. And it’s very hard for people to take like a wage cut of 30 percent, even though the stuff they buy gets 30 percent cheaper. So they end up—businesses end up laying off workers. So this idea that we are confused by inflation and deflation is really important. And it is, frankly, a big part of the reason that the Federal Reserve today tries to maintain this low, steady, two-percent rate of inflation.

Steven Cherry You describe the travails of the euro. How it miraculously worked for a while and how it stopped miraculously working. It seems it failed in some of the same way as the gold standard itself, even though everyone was off it.

Jacob Goldstein Yeah, that’s really insightful. That is correct. And in some ways, it is, in fact, quite similar. One of the fundamental features of the international gold standard that, you know, high 19th-century gold standard was because each currency was fixed to a set amount of gold. It also meant that each currency’s relationship to every other currency was the same. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but if one dollar get to four pounds today, one dollar will get you four pounds forever. Everything is in the same relationship. And the euro effectively did that to all of the countries in Europe.

It meant that the money in Greece was the same value as the money in Germany as the money in Italy, as the money in France. And that is okay when everybody is doing fine—or badly. But when the economies diverge, when, say, Germany is doing great and Greece is doing really badly, that is actually quite bad. You know, when the currencies are separate and they diverge, then Greece, if it had its own drachma, can say, oh, we need to wait, we need to put some more money in the system. We need to make it easier for people to borrow, so that, you know, we can get unemployment down. Business will invest and hire. But when Greece gave up the drachma and joined the euro, they lost the ability to do that. And so in the same way that under the gold standard, all these countries are linked together, under the euro, all these countries are linked together.

Steven Cherry You point out that America is a confederation of states, but we don’t treat Arizona the same way the Europeans treated Greece. And in fact, this was anticipated. The chancellor of Germany at the time said we need to either be politically unified as well as fiscally, or neither.

Jacob Goldstein That’s right. And I think that is still an open question. I mean, I think in the long run for the euro to survive. Europe, the eurozone needs to become more like a United States of Europe. And interestingly, they do seem slowly to be moving in that direction. This year in response to the pandemic and the economic crisis that went with it, the E.U. authorized borrowing at the EU level. A lot of money. So that is a new thing. And that is more like being a single country. Like in the US, the federal government borrows trillions of dollars and sends that money to people in Arizona and in Florida and in Maine. And that is now what the European Union in a smaller way is starting to do. So they do seem to be moving in that direction. And it does seem like in the long run, they either got to be a lot more like one country or give up on sharing a currency.

Steven Cherry The first time I saw a millennial pay for a cup of coffee with a credit card, I was shocked, but now I do it myself.

Jacob Goldstein Do you mean the phone—use the phone? It’s pretty good.

Steven Cherry That that day is coming.

Jacob Goldstein Okay.

Steven Cherry I mentioned, early on, the Swedes working their way toward ending cash and they’re not alone. Is that something you foresee?

Jacob Goldstein I mean, it seems like in the long run it will happen, right? I don’t think I have super insight into what’s going to happen, but it certainly seems directionally like that is the way we’re going. One interesting countervailing trend is the fact that more and more paper money is going out into the world. Even if you account for the growth of the economy, the amount of paper dollars in the world is growing faster than the economy.

Now, there is a gap between what we do in our everyday lives, which is pay for a cup of coffee with a credit card or our iPhone and what’s going on with paper money. A lot of that paper money is hundred-dollar bills. There are more hundred-dollar bills than one-dollar bills. You know, there’s like, 40 hundred-dollar bills for every man, woman, and child in America. And pretty clearly, a lot of that is just crime.

Paper money is really good for crime or tax evasion, which is crime. Some of it is, you know, people in other countries where the banks are not stable, the currency is not stable, they’re holding hundreds. So that is not a crime. This economist, Ken Rogoff, has said we should get rid of big bills, but I don’t know. I mean, sure, in the long run, I suppose cash will go away.

You know, there are a lot of people who don’t have bank accounts. And so, you know, a standard refrain is the end of cash would be bad for those people. And that is true. But it’s also worth pointing out that it is bad for them now not to have a bank account. If you don’t have a bank account, you tend to get screwed. You have to carry cash on you, which is not safe. You have to go to a check-cashing store. You have to pay a high fee. So like the problem of people not having bank accounts gets lumped into the problem of not having cash. But that’s a problem in either world and it’s a problem. You know, the government could solve that by giving people bank accounts or debit cards. So that seems like a solvable problem that’s often lumped in with the end of the cash. It seems worth solving on its own.

Steven Cherry Well, people want the post office to go back to acting a little bit like a bank. And that seems like a good idea to me.

Jacob Goldstein Yes. And it seems like a reasonable role for the government, frankly. Money is very much a government thing—certainly now, but really always. And giving people a way, today, when even people who don’t have a bank account have a smartphone, it seems like a very solvable problem.

The Hoover Institution seems about as mainstream conservative as it gets. But you quote, an economist affiliated with it is calling banks—and we mean ordinary banks like Wells Fargo and Ulster Savings of Kingston, New York, which holds many mortgage—huge crony capitalist nightmares. Our banks, huge crony capitalist nightmares. And more to the point. Can you imagine a world without banks?

Jacob Goldstein As a reporter, I’m not going to weigh in on whether they are huge crony capitalists nightmares. But to your point, it is striking that—that is John Cochrane, who is a very, very pro free market, classic style economist who told me that. And, you know, the reason he said that is banks—well, banks do this very special thing in the economy. They create money, right?

When banks make loans, they are actually creating money. And that is this public function. How much money there is matters to everybody—creating money is this kind of public thing. They’re able to do it because the government, you know, guarantees are deposits at the bank. And the Federal Reserve, which is part of the government, promises—that’s a standing promise—that it will lend money to banks in a crisis. And in exchange for those guarantees, banks are very heavily regulated by the government. You would say not always regulated well; some people say not always regulated enough; but they are heavily regulated. So that is what the conservative economist is talking about when he describes it as a huge crony capitalist nightmare. It is this web, this close linkage between the government and the banks.

And to your question about a future without banks, I mean, the reason you basically need to—or at least the reason we have decided to—have that linkage is: Banks are fundamentally unstable. And that’s not because they’re evil or anything like that. It’s just the basic structure of the most plain-vanilla Main Street bank is, you have your money there on deposit that you can take out all of it at any moment. But also that money is loaned out to somebody to buy their house. Your mortgage rate is there that you don’t have to pay back for 30 years.

And so the nature of any bank is if everybody with a deposit goes and ask for their money back at any time, the bank doesn’t have it. And that is a big problem. And so the way we have solved it is by creating this whole web, this old crony capitalist thing, in the words of this economist and what he has suggested and what a lot of economists going back to Irving Fisher, who you mentioned before, suggested all the way back in the Depression was: Why do we have to do it this way? Why do we have to have this fundamental problem that we do all this work to solve? What if we just stopped, started from scratch and imagined a different world? So the problem is that banks are doing these two different things. They’re holding our money, they’re letting us get direct deposit, letting us pay our bills online. That’s one thing they’re doing. Then the other thing they’re doing is they’re making these loans that people may or may not pay back. Not everybody pays back a loan. There’s fundamental risk in lending. And there are moments when lots of people don’t pay back their loans. And that’s when we have financial crises. Why not separate those two things? So on the one hand, you would have a money warehouse, call it, where you would deposit your money, you get your direct deposit there, you pay your bills there—the basic things we do with the bank day-to-day, your checking account. Now, you might pay a fee for that because they’re providing a service. Fair. Fine.

And then you would have another kind of thing, another kind of company that is making loans. But that money is coming from people who, (a), know they might lose it and (b), cannot demand it back at any time, which is basically like, we have bond mutual funds today, and that’s basically how they work. You invest your money and the bond fund essentially is lending out your money and you can, in that case, ask for it back. But, you know, you might lose money if the people who borrow don’t pay back the money, you will lose money. The government doesn’t have to come in and bail you out. So, like, that idea actually seems quite reasonable to me and it would solve a lot of problems.

Now, politically, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen anytime soon. But you could imagine if there were another financial crisis, another big bank bailout, it is the kind of big change that we’ve seen before and it’s imaginable to me.

Another thing that might be politically undoable involves your final question about the future of money in the book, which involves something called modern monetary theory—yet another way in which money might evolve. What is modern monetary theory?

So modern monetary theory is a set of ideas about how money works. That has become popular with a small group of economists who tend to be associated with the political left. Stephanie Kelton is maybe the most prominent and she was an adviser to Bernie Sanders a few years ago. And their basic idea is this. We have been too worried about the government running deficits. They don’t say you can always run deficits, but they say there are a lot of times when we would be better off if the government just spent more money. To, you know, get people working. Get the economy going. And the standard response to that in traditional economics has been, well, if that happens, interest rates are going to go up. Inflation is going to go up. And that is going to be bad.

And what the modern-monetary-theory theorists say is, well, if inflation goes up, what we can do is we can raise taxes. We should keep spending and keep spending, keep helping people, keep doing stuff in the economy and wait for inflation to actually go up. And to be fair, they say there’s different things you can do. But one of the important things they say you should do when inflation goes up is raise taxes because raising taxes takes money back out of the economy. And it is a way to fight inflation.

They also say attach to their set of ideas. We should have a jobs guarantee. The government should offer everybody a job. So those are the basic pieces. The government should be more willing to run deficits. The government should offer a jobs guarantee. And one of the key ways you can fight inflation is raise taxes.

Steven Cherry As I read the book there seems to be a sort of historical line that can be drawn from Irving Fisher, the money-illusion fitness-nut guy to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who seems to be an endorser of modern monetary theory—and by the way, who happens to be my mother’s congresswoman. Is that fair to say?

Jacob Goldstein I like all the Queens shout-outs.

Steven Cherry Is that fair to say? And what is that historical line?

Jacob Goldstein Well, let me think about that. Certainly an easier line, a more obvious line for me, is from Irving Fisher to … whoever … Jerome Powell, Janet Yellen—to the people, to the modern chairmen and -women of the Fed. Irving Fisher solution to the money problem and to the gold standard was we should manage the dollar not based on gold, but just based on how much the stuff everybody buys costs. What we want is for prices to be basically stable. And that is essentially the way the Fed works now. So that to me is the clearer line. I think to draw a line from him to modern monetary theory is a bit more of a stretch. I mean, if you zoomed out more, you could say, well, in both cases they’re saying, look, the way we do money now is wrong, is suboptimal, and we could be doing this better. So I think at an abstract level, there’s that connection. But I think, practically speaking, he’s pretty close to the way money, in fact, works now.

Steven Cherry You seem sympathetic to Fisher’s ideas and maybe modern monetary theory, but you also write in the book for modern money to work—to have banks and a stock market and a central bank—there needs to be tension. Investors and bankers and activists and government officials all need to be arguing over who gets to do what and when. Does modern monetary theory eliminate too much of that tension?

Jacob Goldstein It may I mean, you know, one of the things working on the book has done for me is it’s made me humble in terms of trying to be prescriptive or predictive. I’m able to think about different things and talk about them. But, you see time and again, really smart people who know a lot being just wrong about the world, about the present, about the future. So, I mean, one thing I will say about modern monetary theory is just in terms of the political realities, the notion that Congress will raise taxes to fight inflation seems like a thing that might not happen. And there is an argument that, well, you wouldn’t have to have Congress vote every time. Congress could create an automatic mechanism that is out of their hands. But still, people know when their taxes go up and they tend not to like it. And so, one place to look at and think about with modern monetary theory is that particular crux—do you really think Congress will set up a system that will automatically raise taxes to fight inflation when necessary?

Steven Cherry In the fall of 1933, President Roosevelt wrote in a letter to a Harvard economist, “You place a former artificial gold standard among nations above human suffering and the crying needs of your own country.” You say in the book, the most important word in that sentence is “artificial.” And I was reminded of something you wrote earlier in the book: “The Incas had rivers full of gold and mountains full of silver. And they used gold and silver for art and for worship. But they never invented money because it was a fiction they had no use for.” The most important words in that sentence are “fiction” and “use.” Money is a useful fiction—maybe the most useful fiction we have because it shares with some other primordial fictions the same character. I’m thinking of love and faith. And that character is trust. Is that the basis of all of this?

Jacob Goldstein I think so. I mean, certainly today, when we have fiat money, money that is backed by nothing, the dollar is only backed by our trust in the United States government, the United States economy. It’s this notion that our country as an entity, as a political entity, which obviously is another kind of fiction, will persist. And function. So it’s more obvious today, but I think even if you look back to a time when people are using, say, gold itself or silver itself as money, the gold- or silverness of the thing is not the money part. The part that makes it money—his thing we know we will be able to exchange for other things—is trust that other people will also think it’s money. It’s money if everybody thinks it’s money. And if everybody doesn’t think it’s money, it’s not money.

Steven Cherry Jacob, your book is a highly useful—and as I said, wildly entertaining—nonfiction. And I thank you for writing it and for joining us today.

Jacob Goldstein It’s very kind of you to say. I really had fun.

Steven Cherry We’ve been speaking with Jacob Goldstein, author of a new book just released: “Money: The True Story of a Made Up Thing,” about the past, present, and future of this most important made-up thing.

This interview was recorded September 2, 2020. Our audio engineering was by Gotham Podcast Studio in New York. Our music is by Chad Crouch. My thanks to the folks at Hachette for helping this along.

Radio Spectrum is brought to you by IEEE Spectrum, the magazine of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

For Radio Spectrum, I’m Steven Cherry.

Additional Resources:

The Last Days of Cash: How E-Money Technology Is Plugging Us into the Digital Economy (IEEE Spectrum special report on the future of money)

/static/future-of-money

The Murderer, The Boy King, And The Invention Of Modern Finance (Planet Money podcast)

https://www.npr.org/2020/09/04/909876702/the-murderer-the-boy-king-and-the-invention-of-modern-finance

The Economist Who Believes the Government Should Just Print More Money (New Yorker profile of Stephanie Kelton)

https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-economist-who-believes-the-government-should-just-print-more-money

Note: Transcripts are created for the convenience of our readers and listeners. The authoritative record of IEEE Spectrum’s audio programming is the audio version.

We welcome your comments on Twitter (@RadioSpectrum1 and @IEEESpectrum) and Facebook.

It Will Take More Than Antitrust Enforcement To Light Innovation’s Fire

Post Syndicated from Tekla S. Perry original https://spectrum.ieee.org/view-from-the-valley/at-work/innovation/it-will-take-more-than-antitrust-enforcement-to-light-innovations-fire

What are the key technology policy issues that will face the next U.S. President and Congress? How about fixing a crumbling innovation system and saving democracy?

That was the gist of a discussion among four technology and policy experts convened over Zoom by the Computer History Museum earlier this week.

U.S. innovation isn’t on a path heading in the right direction, the panelists warned, and big changes are needed.

Considering the U.S.’s ability to create and deploy innovative technology, Mariana Mazzucato, a professor in the economics of innovation and public value at University College, London, said that the U.S. government has moved away from the “glorious decades,” when the public and private sectors worked together on ambitious, mission oriented projects that spanned broad areas including basic research, applied research, and procurement policy. Now, she says, the federal government only sees its role as “fixing market failures.”

“China is learning the lessons of what worked in the U.S. at the same time that the U.S. is unlearning the lessons,” Mazzucato said, pointing to China’s commitment to investing in greening its economy. This, she said, is the kind of “patient, long-term finance” that companies need—and that the U.S. doesn’t have right now. “The Death Valley phase [of a startup] can last 15 years,” she said, “while VCs want five year exits. China has that long term finance.”

Judy Estrin, CEO of JLabs and former CTO of Cisco, concurred. “Our tax policy has been backwards. R&D tax credits don’t incentivize research, they incentivize short term development,” she said. And look at “long term capital gains—a year is not long term.”

What should that ambitious, mission-oriented project be? Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of the think tank New America, said: “We could see a national mission to radically decrease health inequities. The space race triggered the science age, Covid and the problems it spotlights” could bring on “the health age.”

Pushing towards a green economy could be another option, though, Slaughter said, the two aren’t unrelated. “Much of what we could do to create a green economy would help health.”

Estrin warned the group that technology by itself isn’t the answer, and called for bringing in experts from social sciences and the humanities. “We shouldn’t go after these moonshots by saying we are just going to throw technology at them, in the same way that you don’t solve a pandemic with just technology; public health is driving it, not just science. As we look at these moonshots, we need to have tech at the table but not dominating the table. [Tech] contributed to the problem, so as we contribute to the solution, let’s broaden the table.”

Antitrust in the Spotlight

Tech industry regulation and, in particular, antitrust law was in the spotlight the day of the Computer History Museum event, with the U.S. House of Representative’s antitrust subcommittee this month just releasing the majority report from its 16-month-long investigation into competition in digital markets. The report concluded that the tech behemoths—Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google—are behaving in anticompetitive ways, to the detriment of innovation.   The panelists considered whether updating antitrust law—and enforcing it to stop anticompetitive behavior—would spark innovation.  

“Antitrust is a serious issue, but it’s not a silver bullet,” said U.S. Representative Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). “There are issues in terms of mergers, in platforms tying their own services, and in wanting platforms to have portability of data and interoperability with other platforms. There is a way of having thoughtful antitrust regulation that will preserve economies of scale, that won’t break up companies without a rationale, but will increase competition and the possibilities for new entrants. But people who think that if we have better antitrust enforcement we will have a better innovation economy…it’s just one part” of what needs to happen.

Slaughter expressed doubts about just how important those economies of scale really are. “Platform companies say ‘You can’t break us up because we have to be this big to compete with Huawei and Alibaba, and we need a lot of data’” to develop artificial intelligence, she said.

“That may not be true even on its face—AI might not need that much data. But even if it is true, are we not willing to regulate our own industry just because Chinese companies will be bigger?”

Perhaps more urgent than dealing with antitrust issues for the U.S. government is for the U.S. to figure out exactly what it wants the Internet to be. Said Slaughter: “China has the authoritarian Internet, Europe has the highly regulated democratic Internet,” but the U.S. has “the Wild West or nothing. We need to think about what are a person’s digital rights, and how can you use technology consistent with non-authoritarian uses. We need a vision of an open internet that is rights-regarding.”

Education, Immigration, and Healthcare Policies All Impact Innovation

Lighting a fire under innovation in the U.S. will take a lot more than setting a goal, fixing the incentives for investment, cracking down on anticompetitive behavior, and sorting out digital rights.

“It’s broader than that,” Slaughter said. The U.S. “needs to invest in education, to have a workable immigration situation, invest in equity, and to have [universal] health insurance.”

On education, she said, “We have the talent we need, but we are not educating the talent adequately. We are educating a small segment, but there is a mass of talent we need to be educating.”

The need to fix our immigration system, she indicated, is obvious. “It’s not just Silicon Valley and importing India’s best engineers, it is the ability to have a whole clash of cultures and ways of thinking. We’ve always innovated with many of our immigrant citizens leading the way.”

 “The equity piece,” she said, goes back to talent. “Unless we are using all of our talent, we aren’t going to lead globally.”

The issue of healthcare, she suggested, is connected to the ability of innovators to take risks. “The work on risk-taking shows that you need at least minimal security. Our innovators are people who, if they fall on their faces, will only fall so far; they won’t end up on the street without health insurance. One of the best things Obama did for Silicon Valley was to extend kids to age 26 on their parents’ health insurance. [Now] they have four years after graduating college to take risks,” even to try starting companies.

Innovating Without Breaking Democracy

Of course, fixing innovation isn’t much good if that innovation breaks democracy. Technology needs to be good for society, not bad, the panelists warned. And getting that to happen will take a significant shift in how Silicon Valley does business. Explained Estrin:

“Given our dependence on digital technology, we have to stop thinking about just encouraging technology, but think about how we change power dynamic. How technology is wielded today is unbalanced. They—the industry, the platforms—have too much power. We need to figure out how to achieve a better balance between technology and humanity. This isn’t easy, but until we do this, we will be playing catchup.

“In addition to mitigating the devastating impacts of today’s platforms on democracy and public health we have to think about new technologies, about what governs our life in virtual worlds, about whose values are driving our future.”

Estrin went on to talk about an inherent danger in today’s tech culture.

“There is a worship of dominance and disruption that is incentivizing problematic behaviors,” She said. “Look at the common mantras: ‘Scale fast/fail fast’ creates a winner take all environment. ‘Move fast and break things’ [implies that] disruption is good without regard for the consequences. Some things can’t be fixed later—like democracy. ‘Make everything frictionless’ [is another, but] the right type of friction is critical to a functioning society.”

She admitted that changing the culture to one that considers disruption thoughtfully, that steps back and considers the possible harm a technology could do to the world or society, won’t be easy.

“It is hard to find technologists who are free of the tech utopian mindset,” Estrin said.  As engineers, “we are trained to think about the good.” But, she said, we “need a counter perspective while still understanding details of the technology…. We need to think about how [we can] augment organizations that exist or create new organizations that can provide this understanding, that can educate individuals, that are not just going to take us down the same path.”

Satellite Mission Planning – the R&S®SLP Satellite Link Planner and the R&S®CSM Communication System Monitoring

Post Syndicated from IEEE Spectrum Recent Content full text original https://spectrum.ieee.org/webinar/satellite_mission_planning_the_r_s

Planning of satellite communication links or even whole networks is a very demanding task. In the first part of this webinar, we will present our software for satellite link planning that supports the user in a convenient way but takes into the account all relevant sources of impact. In the second part of the webinar, we will demonstrate our solution for monitoring satellite networks, either at one site or distributed worldwide. In addition, we will put focus on the identification of interference coming from unwanted satellite signals or terrestrial sources. We will also show how to make interfering signals that lie underneath the wanted satellite carrier visible.

Attendees of the webinar will learn about:

• The sources of impact affecting satellite links

• How to plan satellite links or whole satellite networks

• The best way to monitor your satellite connections automated and reliably

• How to detect and identify interferences

Virtual Automotive Tech Days

Post Syndicated from IEEE Spectrum Recent Content full text original https://spectrum.ieee.org/whitepaper/virtual_automotive_tech_days

Key Auto

Learn about automotive design, test and measurement tips anytime, anywhere. Join our experts as they cover the latest topics including: Delivering Quiet Power to Automotive Electronics and Challenges and Solutions of Advanced Automotive Radar System Design. Explore these topics and more at your convenience.

Engineering the 5G World Just Got Easier

Post Syndicated from IEEE Spectrum Recent Content full text original https://spectrum.ieee.org/whitepaper/engineering_the_5g_world_just_got_easier

Keysight Ebook

When it comes to 5G, Keysight wrote the book.

Engineering the 5G World provides the information you need to master the complexities of 5G and bring your products to market successfully. Whether you’re designing chipsets, components, devices, or base stations or bringing 5G networks online, we’ve got you covered.

Download your complimentary copy.

Remote Threats: Insider Risk and the Remote Work Paradigm

Post Syndicated from IEEE Spectrum Recent Content full text original https://spectrum.ieee.org/webinar/remote_threats_insider_risk_and_the_remote_work_paradigm

It’s a new world for businesses everywhere. For small and medium sized companies who thrive on in-person relationships and customer interaction, it’s a difficult transition to an all remote- stay at home workforce. That’s on top of whether your business model can sustain some level of operation, revenue generation, and customer retention.

For those companies who can continue to operate at some level, the current environment creates numerous opportunities for a bad actor to exploit your employees, or for a bad employee to steal from your company. Join us in this webinar to discuss strategies that will help protect your company now by learning the indicators professionals look for in potential problem employees and review the motivations that drive employees to cross the line. You will be equipped with strategies and questions you should ask your leadership to better protect you company in these unprecedented times.  

How Violence and Segregation Destroyed African American Innovation

Post Syndicated from Samuel K. Moore original https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/at-work/innovation/how-violence-and-segregation-destroyed-african-american-innovation

In 2014, economist Lisa D. Cook reported research that illuminated something fundamental about innovation: No matter how well your IP laws are written, innovation won’t happen without security and the rule of law. To prove that she showed how segregation laws, lynchings, and state-supported violence suppressed African American invention during the 20th Century. By tracking the patent filings of African American inventors from 1870-1940, Cook showed that acts of violence have a measurable impact on innovation. IEEE Spectrum spoke to the Michigan State University professor of economics and international relations on 2 July 2020.

IEEE Spectrum: What led you to investigate the effects of violence and segregation on African American innovation?

Lisa D. Cook: I wrote my dissertation on Russia and the Russian economy. This was in the 1990s, and it was a bit of a dangerous place. There was a question that always came up when I was talking to entrepreneurs there: “Why can’t we get invention and innovation in Russia?”

They were asking a legitimate question, because they already had IP laws on the books. They were much different from the laws in the Soviet period, which weren’t very strong. They were just wondering why invention wasn’t happening at the pace they thought it should be happening. So I said to them, “Well, you’ve got to have things like the rule of law. You’ve got to have personal security.”

At the time, I didn’t have any sort of empirical evidence that could show this. The conventional wisdom in the economics of innovation literature then was that if you have these strong IP laws, that would be sufficient to provide an incentive for patenting. I found that naïve.

So I wondered if there might be a historical experiment that might show this. One that would have an IP regime that stayed the same for some inventors but have other inventors subject to some sort of shock that had to do with violence or lack of rule of law. And I thought, “Well, that describes the United States. So maybe we can find this experiment in U.S. history.” You have a control and a treatment group. And the African Americans were going to be the treatment group.

IEEE Spectrum: How did you actually figure out which inventors were African American during your 1870-1940 study period, given that patent applications don’t list race?

Lisa D. Cook: I thought that was going to be easy, because there’s this emerging literature on Black names in economics. So I thought I could use the same techniques that my colleagues used at the time. I tried that. Then using census data, I came up with the first-ever list of historical black names. And it was of limited use. It barely identified anybody among the African American inventors.

So I had to try a new method. And that was finding all of the directories of scientists, engineers, and potential inventors that I could. In doing so, I found the survey of Henry Baker, the African American patent examiner in the early 1900s, who conducted surveys of patent agents and patent attorneys in 1900 and 1913.

That was very useful as a start. But it wasn’t perfect. So I had to extend it backwards and forwards and check everything, as well. I also checked things like obituaries, because one thing that I knew from all these directories that I was collecting was that they biased the sample towards famous people. So I thought I might get some equalization by just checking newspapers and checking obituaries. And I was able to recover some that way.

IEEE Spectrum: That sounds like a ton of work.

Lisa D. Cook: It was.

IEEE Spectrum: Would you briefly explain the key results?

Lisa D. Cook: The main results over the period are, first, that violence has an impact on all patenting. It has a significant and negative impact on Black patenting. So those who were targeted are going to be disproportionately affected by lynchings, riots, and segregation laws. 

Second, the most valuable patents are the most affected by violence. And that’s not good news if you’re extrapolating this to an economy.

The next group of results would suggest that if White inventors had been subjected to the same type of violence, economic growth would have been a lot slower. Why? Because business investment would have been lower, and business investment is a key component of GDP. So we would have had fewer inventions and fewer patented inventions and therefore less business investment and therefore less growth.

IEEE Spectrum: Electrical patents were particularly affected. Why?

Lisa D. Cook: I separated patents into types of technological categories to see if one category was more affected by violence than others. And we did see that violence disproportionately affected—for that period—electrical patents, which would have been some of the most valuable.

You can imagine how that would be true: You really had to be up on the latest inventions and the latest patents to be able to be productive, to add an increment to the stock of knowledge. Electrical patents, at the time, would probably have taken more collaboration with other inventors and more trips to the patent attorney. And that was something that was cut off as a result of Plessy v. Ferguson [the disastrous 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legitimized anti-Black laws passed by U.S. state legislatures beginning in the late 19th century]. You can imagine that if an inventor no longer had access to, for example, the main library, where patent registries and information about new inventions were and where inventors could gather, that would be detrimental to the free flow of information. If commercial business districts were segregated—there were no patent attorneys who were African Americans until the 1970s—that meant that you really didn’t have access to someone who could file and protect your invention.

IEEE Spectrum: What key events impacted African American innovation?

Lisa D. Cook: Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 was a big one. 1899 was the peak for African American invention, and even using 2010 data [PDF} it was still the peak per capita for African American invention.

Scholars of constitutional law explain that the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court rulings took two or three years to produce effects, for rulemaking to happen, and for laws to be passed. What we did see was a proliferation of laws after Plessy v. Ferguson in states, especially outside of the south, and that’s where patenting was happening. So I think it was largely Plessy v. Ferguson that led to this huge drop in patenting by African Americans that hasn’t yet recovered.

Blatant violence also had an effect. Before I did anything, I had looked at the time series of patents and I’d noticed several dips. One was 1899, and another one was in 1921. The first thing I did, being an economist of innovation, was try to see if the patent laws changed or if patents became more expensive. But the only thing I came up with was the Tulsa massacre. [In May and June 1921, a White mob attacked and destroyed a relatively wealthy African-American neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Many in the mob had been deputized and armed by government officials, and the attack included aerial bombardment.] The local, state, and federal government failed African Americans so much in Tulsa that it had a sizeable effect on all African Americans. They felt terrorized at the time, and there was nobody who had their backs. So I think that that’s why 1921 stood out in the data, and I think there’s evidence to support that.

IEEE Spectrum:  How much potential innovation was lost during that period, and how did you figure that out?

Lisa D. Cook: I extrapolated the trajectory from the pre-1900 trend and found that in the absence of violence and segregation, there should’ve been roughly 1100 patents at the time. That would’ve been the output of a mid-sized European country then. But what I found was 726 patents.

IEEE Spectrum: What does your research say generally about violence and innovation?

Lisa D. Cook: In the 2014 paper, what I did was to predict which lynchings (of a series of lynchings) would have the greatest impact on patenting, and it’s the first one. So that’s the one that you want to try to prevent. There are ways to do this, such as not letting white supremacist groups get out of control.

I think we don’t think enough about the conditions that inventors need to be productive, such that there can be a free flow of ideas. I think we put too much weight on the actual laws in place and not the environment in which they are operating. We have direct evidence that the conditions in which one is operating can make a huge difference, whether you’re adding to the stock of knowledge broadly or the stock of knowledge related to science and innovation.

IEEE Spectrum: What is holding back black entrepreneurship now?

Lisa D. Cook: I think that one of the big things that is holding back African American participation and women’s participation is workplace climate, frankly. There are three stages of innovation—education; training as an inventor, working in a lab, for example; and then the third phase, commercialization of the invention. There are well-known problems associated with workplace climate in each. There is systemic racism at every stage.

With respect to entrepreneurship at the very end, what I found in doing my research interviews is that networks matter a lot more than we have researched in economics. It is social networks, all types of networks that require engagement—like having an internship at an investment bank, or being a member of a golf club—that are needed to get inventions commercialized. Those networks result in introductions for venture capital funding, for example. And African Americans and women are often kept out of those networks. So it’s unsurprising that 1 percent of founders who received VC funding are Black.

To Probe Further:

For more on Cook’s work on violence and innovation, listen to her 11 February 2019 interview with National Public Radio’s Cardiff Garcia “How Violence Limits Economic Activity.” And read her chapter “The Innovation Gap in Pink and Black,” in Does America Need More Innovators? MIT Press, 2019.

For more about race and the process of innovation see “The implications of U.S. gender and racial disparities in income and wealth inequality at each stage of the innovation process,” (with Jan Gerson), WashingtonCenter for Equitable Growth Policy Brief, July 2019.

Meet the 5G Network Digital Twin

Post Syndicated from IEEE Spectrum Recent Content full text original https://spectrum.ieee.org/webinar/meet_the_5g_network_digital_twin

As 5G continues to evolve, attempting to design, deploy, and optimize networks and environments becomes a complex and costly challenge. Future digital industries such as automotive, manufacturing and defense need more than a constrained live network as they look to reduce the millions of miles of driving required to prove the connected autonomous vehicle, efficiently assess the mission critical optimizations required in manufacturing environments, or research how commercial networking technologies can benefit future battlefield and supply chain engagements.

Meet the 5G Network Digital Twin: an emulated end-to-end software replica of the physical network working in parallel to allow continuous assessments, predictions and recommendations to efficiently and proactively model, validate and assure the living network and associated services. This webinar will explore the role of the 5G Network Digital Twin and share learnings from academia, defense, automotive and industry 4.0, who are working on the future of a connected world.

Skin Cream Provides Special Ingredient for Non-Flammable Electrolyte in Li-ion Batteries

Post Syndicated from Dexter Johnson original https://spectrum.ieee.org/at-work/innovation/skin_cream_provides_special_ingredient_for_non_flammable_electrolyte_in_li_ion_batters

Professor Lu (right) and Ph.D. candidate Jing Xie (left) present molecular crowding electrolyte and battery prototype.

Professor Lu (right) and Ph.D. candidate Jing Xie (left) present molecular crowding electrolyte and battery prototype.    

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries have proven themselves to be one of the most dependable energy storage technologies at our disposal. Unfortunately, they have a rather pronounced Achilles Heel: a non-aqueous electrolyte that is fairly combustible and as a result poses a significant fire hazard.

The stories of battery fires in Tesla cars, or the estimate from the Federal Aviation Administration that a fire in a Li-ion battery grounds a flight every 10 days, serve as testaments to what a serious issue this hazard has become.

In a very big step towards solving this problem once and for all, researchers at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) have developed a non-flammable, eco-friendly and low-cost aqueous electrolyte based on a skin cream ingredient that can still provide high energy density unlike previous aqueous-based electrolytes.

“If one wants to fully eliminate the fire issue in batteries, using a water-based electrolyte is the most effective strategy,” explained Prof. Yi-Chun Lu, who led the research at CUHK. “When we developed our project, our aim was to develop a water-based electrolyte that delivered high voltage while maintaining a low cost and remained environmentally friendly.”

In the video below, you can see how the aqueous electrolyte is produced and see how non-flammable it is compared to electrolytes currently used in Li-ion batteries.

Non-aqueous electrolytes are ubiquitous in the Li-ion batteries of today for one simple reason: they deliver high energy density (100-400 watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/Kg)). As alternatives to non-aqueous electrolytes, researchers have begun to use highly concentrated salts in aqueous electrolytes to try and reach the energy density of non-aqueous electrolytes. However, these high-salt aqueous electrolytes create a battery chemistry that is highly toxic as well as leading to a relatively expensive battery to produce.

“While aqueous electrolytes have been used for many years, existing water-based electrolytes sacrifice voltage window or increase cost and toxicity in exchange for safety,” said Yi-Chun Lu.

In looking for a solution to this issue, Yi-Chun Lu and her team at CUHK turned to nature to leverage something known as “molecular crowding” for an inexpensive and eco-friendly alternative. Molecular crowding is a phenomenon that occurs inside living cells in which molecular crowding agents significantly suppress water activity by changing the hydrogen-bonding structure inside the cells.

In their research described in the journal Nature Materials, Yi-Chun Lu and her team employed a polymer often used in skin creams to serve as the crowding agent. This crowding agent decreases the water activity and thereby enables a wide electrolyte voltage window with low salt concentrations. (An electrolyte voltage window is the voltage gap between the positive and negative side of the battery, and, in this case, is 3.2V).

While this electrolyte can be used with any kind of electrode materials that are within its electrolyte voltage window, it cannot currently work with electrode materials that fall outside its voltage window.

This limitation on the choice of electrode materials meant that the prototype was only able to achieve 75-110 Wh/kg, which remains still below the energy density of typical Li-ion batteries that range between 100-400 Wh/kg.

This limitation can be overcome, according to Yi-Chun Lu, by increasing the voltage window to enable electrodes that sit at an even lower potential such as lithium metal.

“We have demonstrated this possibility by using gel coating in our new electrolyte to achieve a 4.0V battery using a lithium anode,” said Yi-Chun Lu. “With proper improvements of the electrode and electrolyte, the energy density possible for this class of electrolyte should be the same as typical non-aqueous electrolyte, say between 200 to 260 Wh/Kg.”

Testing the compatibility of the electrolyte with more electrode materials is the focus of ongoing research and one of the engineering challenges in bridging the technology from a lab prototype to commercial production. The researchers will also be increasing the number of times they have charged and discharged their batteries (known as cycles) from 300 cycles to 500 while they improve the electrolyte with a higher voltage window.

In terms of commercializing the technology, the CUHK team has not yet collaborated with commercial battery manufacturers in the development of their prototype, but they are now seeking industrial partners. In the meantime, they have filed for a US patent on the electrolyte.

While the research was not done in collaboration with an industrial partner, it was most certainly guided by commercial considerations.

“Low cost, high voltage and high safety are our major strengths,” said Yi-Chun Lu. “We anticipate good markets for this technology in any application that requires ultra-safe batteries.”

Safety in larger battery systems is a more pressing issue than smaller portable electronics, according to Yi-Chun Lu.

Yi-Chun Lu added: “I think this technology will be very attractive for applications like large-scale grid storage (interfacing with solar or wind farm) and electric vehicles (with further development in energy density).”

Virtual Event Center: Millimeter Wave Innovations

Post Syndicated from IEEE Spectrum Recent Content full text original https://spectrum.ieee.org/webinar/virtual_event_center_millimeter_wave_innovations

We can’t shake hands and meet at large events right now. But we can connect, demo, and share our latest innovative tools for mmWave design, simulation, and test. Explore our virtual event center and register for our three-part webinar series June 23-25. Content will also be available on-demand.

See you there.

Keysight Event

How to Prioritize Security Controls for Sensitive AWS Assets

Post Syndicated from IEEE Spectrum Recent Content full text original https://spectrum.ieee.org/webinar/how_to_prioritize_security_controls_for_sensitive_aws_assets

To successfully scale operations, you need an understanding of your sensitive data to maintain the strength of your security posture. That includes where it is located, how that data can be accessed, who has access to it, and that you have the correct configuration. To achieve this, security teams must have the ability to identify and secure sensitive workloads through visibility layers and controls.

Attend this webinar to learn best practices for tracking and protecting your sensitive data in your Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment. You will also discover tools, such as cloud security posture management (CSPM) and data loss prevention (DLP) solutions, that can be leveraged to further boost visibility and control.

To obtain the PDH code to request the PDH certificate, please email [email protected]

A/D Electronic Warfare: Vying for Control of the Electromagnetic Spectrum

Post Syndicated from IEEE Spectrum Recent Content full text original https://spectrum.ieee.org/whitepaper/a_d_electronic_warfar_vying_for_control_of_electromagnetic_spectrum

Electronic Warefare

Threats in the electromagnetic spectrum today can come from virtually anywhere. Download our white paper for insight into the dynamics of the modern electronic warfare environment.

Engineering During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Post Syndicated from Amy Nordrum original https://spectrum.ieee.org/at-work/innovation/engineering-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic

A respiratory virus named SARS-CoV-2 spread from a market in Wuhan, China, to more than 200 countries in just four months. It has infected more than 2.1 million people, causing a disease known as COVID-19 that has already killed 146,000.

The virus’s spread was unprecedented in the lives of most scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs working today—and so was their response. Computer scientists rushed to model the coronavirus’s next move, biotech entrepreneurs pivoted to develop diagnostic tests, and engineers openly shared designs for building inexpensive medical equipment. Auto factories, autonomous shuttles, and supercomputers were repurposed to aid the global coronavirus response.

With new urgency and many people confined at home by government orders, the nature of scientific and engineering work changed in fundamental ways during the pandemic. IEEE Spectrum asked people involved in response efforts to describe that shift in their own words.

Nevan Krogan, principal investigator at the Quantitative Biosciences Institute at University of California, San Francisco:

“Twenty-two of us were of the same mindset to drop everything and focus on finding answers to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been forced to close down our labs and make rapid decisions. This has meant limiting the research to very key personnel, in shifts. We are trying what would be the best possible scenario first: find an already [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]-approved drug that would work against the virus. We are putting so much pressure on some of our equipment to get rapid results that we are running into issues. That said, our scientists are talented at troubleshooting. When it matters most, at a time of global crisis, you see who steps up to the plate.”

Maxeme Tuchman, founder and CEO of Miami-based Caribu, a platform for family video calls:

“As the CEO, my travel and speaking schedule was significantly impacted. But with the exponential increase in demand and the explosive daily use of the Caribu app, I’m glad that I’m more available to the team and my customers. The biggest technical challenge has been managing the growing user base, both in terms of system capacity scaling as well as customer support. Our company is built on very scalable technology, but this exponential growth we’ve seen has tested all of the scaling systems we had in place.”

Zhanfeng Cui, a chemical engineer at the University of Oxford, England, and codeveloper of a rapid test for the coronavirus:

“I dropped almost all other research and focused on the rapid detection of COVID-19. I felt that I must contribute something. As an engineer, solving problems is my duty! Our work started in January 2020 by a group of OSCAR (Oxford Suzhou Centre for Advanced Research) collaborators. They got stuck and could not return to China. We had an interdisciplinary team and research funds readily accessible, so we could respond quickly. Our main challenge has been [getting] access to clinical samples for testing our ideas and devices.”

Ellen Cathrine Andersen, CEO of EpiGuard, based in Oslo, maker of the EpiShuttle patient-isolation system:

“Demand for the EpiShuttle increased 18-fold [in early March]. We have ramped up our production to the maximum. We conduct most of our training over conference calls. The uncertainty regarding lockdown, business, and trade has been challenging. Our EpiShuttle consists of parts originating from all over Europe. We see there is enormous need for better transportation services for contagious patients. We hope and believe that the coronavirus crisis will result in better preparedness at all levels.”

Robert Fischetti, group leader in the X-ray Science Division at the Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source (APS), in Lemont, Ill.:

“The national laboratories were created to tackle problems such as the current pandemic that are too large for any one institution. Since the outbreak, almost all of my time has gone toward helping coordinate activities at the APS related to research on proteins from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Researchers ship their samples to us in cryogenic [vacuum flasks], and we put the samples in an automounter; the researchers remotely control the sample automounter and beamline to collect their data. Researchers using beamlines in this mode have determined structures of 6 of 28 SARS-CoV-2 proteins. The urgent need to help find a cure or vaccine for COVID-19 has brought out the best in everyone.”

Eric Hobbs, CEO of cell-biology company Berkeley Lights, in Emeryville, Calif.:

“Since early February, when COVID-19 became more prevalent, we prioritized helping our customers. Among them are GenScript Biotech Corp. China and Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who are actively screening patient blood samples on our Beacon system to find an antibody-based therapeutic treatment, and the University of Queensland, which is using the system to develop a vaccine component protein. One big lesson we’ve learned is that the technology we have today can really make an enormous difference in responding to pandemics like this one faster and more effectively.”

Jonathan Rothberg, founder of the biotech startup accelerator 4Catalyzer, in Guilford, Conn.:

“At the outbreak of this virus, the 4Catalyzer companies pivoted their resources to support the ‘war effort.’ I assembled a team at [the company] Homodeus and volunteers who are the best molecular biologists, data scientists, programmers, and supply-chain experts. I told them that the Chinese built a hospital in Wuhan in 10 days, so we should be able to develop and deploy a true home test for COVID-19 in that time. The team is working around the clock to accomplish that goal. Everyone is just grabbing an oar and rowing in the same direction.”

This article appears in the May 2020 print issue as “Engineering During a Pandemic.”

Advanced Materials Terms and Acronyms

Post Syndicated from IEEE Spectrum Recent Content full text original https://spectrum.ieee.org/whitepaper/advanced_materials_terms_and_acronyms

Keysight Education

Advanced materials discoveries are revolutionizing the future and enabling technological innovation that benefits society. What are “advanced materials,” and what are some of the terms that are key to research? We have got you covered in this handy glossary of terms and definitions — perfect for sharing with your colleagues or students.

How to Prioritize Security Controls for Situational Swareness in AWS

Post Syndicated from IEEE Spectrum Recent Content full text original https://spectrum.ieee.org/webinar/how_to_prioritize_security_controls_for_situational_awareness_in_aws

Defenders need meaningful situational awareness to safeguard their sensitive data and sustain key operations. By establishing visibility and accountability in Amazon Web Services (AWS), organizations gain situational awareness to detect and discern unusual events in their environment. These insights gains help security operations and defenders make informed decisions on how to respond to and recover from security events.

Attend this webinar to learn how you can systematically and methodically improve your situational awareness. Discover ways to then act upon those insights by leveraging technologies to support threat intelligence, log collection and analysis, incident response, and security orchestration.

Register today to be among the first to receive the associated whitepaper written by Sounil Yu and Josh Thurston.

Crosstalk Analysis of High-Speed Serial Technology with VNAs

Post Syndicated from IEEE Spectrum Recent Content full text original https://spectrum.ieee.org/whitepaper/crosstalk_analysis_of_high_speed_serial_technology_with_vnas

Crosstalk occurs when energy radiated by an aggressor channel is absorbed by a victim channel. The amplitude of the resulting crosstalk noise is inversely proportional to the rise/fall time of the aggressor but can be reduced by channel layout. This whitepaper provides an S-parameter description of crosstalk and then works through the details of crosstalk figures of merit for differential high-speed serial systems from 1 Gb/s all the way to 112 Gb/s (56 Gbaud PAM4).

Quantum Computing: Technology with Limitless Possibilities Looking for Tough Problems to Solve

Post Syndicated from IEEE Spectrum Recent Content full text original https://spectrum.ieee.org/whitepaper/quantum_computing_technology_with_limitless_possibilities_looking_for_tough_problems_to_solve

Quantum Computing is expected to solve problems significantly faster than classical ones. Learn more about the research trends on this technology with limitless possibilities!

Quantum Computing

Back To The Elusive Future

Post Syndicated from Robert W. Lucky original https://spectrum.ieee.org/at-work/innovation/back-to-the-elusive-future

In the January issue, Spectrum’s editors make every effort to bring the coming year’s important technologies to your attention. Some we get right, others less so. Twelve years ago, IEEE Fellow, Marconi Prize winner, and beloved Spectrum columnist Robert W. Lucky wrote about the difficulty of predicting the technological future. We’ve reprinted his wise words here.

Why are we engineers so bad at making predictions?

In countless panel discussions on the future of technology, I’m not sure I ever got anything right. As I look back on technological progress, I experience first retrospective surprise, then surprise that I’m surprised, because it all crept up on me when I wasn’t looking. How can something like Google feel so inevitable and yet be impossible to predict?

I’m filled with wonder at all that we engineers have accomplished, and I take great communal pride in how we’ve changed the world in so many ways. Decades ago I never dreamed we would have satellite navigation, computers in our pockets, the Internet, cellphones, or robots that would explore Mars. How did all this happen, and what are we doing for our next trick?

The software pioneer Alan Kay has said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it, and that’s what we’ve been busy doing. The public understands that we’re creating the future, but they think that we know what we’re doing and that there’s a master plan in there somewhere. However, the world evolves haphazardly, bumbling along in unforeseen directions. Some seemingly great inventions just don’t take hold, while overlooked innovations proliferate, and still others are used in unpredicted ways.

When I joined Bell Labs, so many years ago, there were two great development projects under way that together were to shape the future—the Picturephone and the millimeter waveguide. The waveguide was an empty pipe, about 5 centimeters in diameter, that would carry across the country the 6-megahertz analog signals from those ubiquitous Picturephones.

Needless to say, this was an alternative future that never happened. Our technological landscape is littered with such failed bets. For decades engineers would say that the future of communications was video telephony. Now that we can have it for free, not many people even want it.

The millimeter waveguide never happened either. Out of the blue, optical fiber came along, and that was that. Oh, and analog didn’t last. Gordon Moore made his observation about integrated-circuit progress in the midst of this period, but of course we had a hard time believing it.

Analog switching overstayed its tenure because engineers didn’t quite believe the irresistible economics of Moore’s Law. Most engineers used the Internet in the early years and knew it was growing at an exponential rate. But, no, it would never grow up to be a big, reliable, commercial network.

The irony at Bell Labs is that we had some of the finest engineers in the world then, working on things like the integrated circuit and the Internet—in other words, engineers who were responsible for many of the innovations that upset the very future they and their associates had been working on. This is the way the future often evolves: Looking back, you say, “We should have known” or “We knew, but we didn’t believe.” And at the same time we were ignoring the exponential trends that were all around us, we hyped glamorous technologies like artificial intelligence and neural networks.

Yogi Berra, who should probably be in the National Academy of Sciences as well as the National Baseball Hall of Fame, once said, “It’s tough making predictions, especially about the future.” We aren’t even good at making predictions about the present, let alone the future.

Journalists are sometimes better than engineers about seeing the latent future embedded in the present. I often read articles telling me that there is a trend where a lot of people are doing this or that. I raise my eyebrows in mild surprise. I didn’t realize a lot of people were doing this or that. Perhaps something is afoot, and an amorphous social network is unconsciously shaping the future of technology.

Well, we’ve made a lot of misguided predictions in the past. But we’ve learned from those mistakes. Now we know. The future lies in quantum computers. And electronics will be a thing of the past, since we’ll be using optical processing. All this is just right around the corner. 

Reprinted from IEEE Spectrum, Vol. 45, September 2008.

Top Tech 2020

Post Syndicated from IEEE Spectrum Recent Content full text original https://spectrum.ieee.org/static/top-tech-2020

special report banner


The Return of the Lithium-Metal Battery

XNRGI nears commercialization of its porous silicon lithium-metal battery


Boeing’s Autonomous Fighter Jet Will Fly Over the Australian Outback

Robotic aircraft will accompany human-piloted planes, adding firepower and thwarting enemy attacks


Your Next Salad Will Be Grown by a Robot

California startup FarmWise says robotics and machine learning will make crops tastier and healthier


Bon Voyage for the Autonomous Ship Mayflower

The team behind the unmanned, solar- and wind-powered Mayflower races to launch it in time for the 400th anniversary of its namesake’s journey


Facebook AI Launches Its Deepfake Detection Challenge

At the NeurIPS conference, Facebook asks researchers to build tools to spot deepfake videos


4 Missions Will Search the Martian Atmosphere and Soil for Signs of Life

ExoMars 2020, Mars 2020, HX-1, and Hope will look for biology’s signature


U.S. Consumers Might Get Their First Taste of Transgenic Fish This Year

AquaBounty’s salmon is the world’s first bioengineered animal approved for human consumption


No Job Is Too Small for Compact Geostationary Satellites

Astranis and GapSat will launch GEO smallsats in 2020 to fill gaps in satellite coverage


Caltech’s Brain-Controlled Exoskeleton Will Help Paraplegics Walk

The exoskeleton’s neural connections will enable people with spinal cord injuries to balance and walk without crutches


10 Tantalizing Tech Milestones to Look for in 2020

Bionic limbs, electric planes,  nuclear fusion, and more


Will China Attain Exascale Supercomputing in 2020?

The U.S., China, Japan, and the EU are all striving to hit the next big milestone in supercomputing, but only China has claimed it will do so this year


Panasonic’s Cloud Analytics Will Give Cars a Guardian Angel

Ice 200 meters ahead: The Cirrus system will give drivers individualized warnings