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Innovation Watch Newsletter - Issue 10.

12 - June 4, 2011

ISSN: 1712-9834

Selected news items from postings to Innovation Watch in the last two weeks... researchers assemble complex biochemical circuits from DNA parts... scientists watch words forming in the brain... the internet of things puts everything on the web... researchers create a chip that prints synthetic DNA ten times faster... Moody's may downgrade major US banks... Moody's puts the United States credit rating under review... authors argue that priorities in the US medical system will have to change... the proportion of American home owners declines to 1998 levels... the US declares its right to retaliate militarily if under cyberattack... a new study shows why countries have cultural differences... scientists plan flying turbines to generate energy from high-altitude winds... Japanese scientists plan to beam energy back to the Earth from solar panels on the moon... China faces a shrinking workforce as its working age population declines in the next five years... food prices are expected to double in the next two decades... More great resources ... the book, A Fine Line: How Design Strategies Are Shaping the Future of Business, by Harmut Esslinger... a link to Chris Arkenberg's URBEINGRECORDED website... the audio clip of a BBC program on soaring commodity proces... a post by Matt Rosoff on Google, Facebook, and the evolving web... David Forrest Innovation Watch

David Forrest advises organizations on emerging trends, and helps to develop strategies for a radically different future


Top Stories: Largest Biochemical Circuit Built Out of Small Synthetic DNA Molecules (PhysOrg) - In many ways, life is like a computer. An organism's genome is the software that tells the cellular and molecular machinery -- the hardware -- what to do. But instead of electronic circuitry, life relies on biochemical circuitry -- complex networks of reactions and pathways that enable organisms to function. Now, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have built the most complex biochemical circuit ever created from scratch, made with DNA-based devices in a test tube that are analogous to the electronic transistors on a computer chip. The Scientists Who Really Can Read Your Mind: Research Finds How Words Are Formed in the Brain (Daily Mail) - The researchers have found a way to peer into the deepest recesses of the brain in order to watch words forming. Using electrodes they found the area of the brain that is involved in creating the 40 or so sounds that form the English language. They then discovered that each of these sounds has its own signal which they believe could eventually allow a computer programme to read what people want to say by the power of their thoughts.

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Top Stories: Internet of Things Blurs the Line Between Bits and Atoms (BBC) - Imagine googling your home to find your child's lost toy. Or remotely turning on the tumble dryer for yet another cycle -- after it has texted you that the clothes were still damp. Or your plant tweeting you to be watered. It might have been sci-fi just a decade ago, but with the internet forcing its way into every aspect of our lives, cyberspace is leaking out into the real world. In the past few months, companies ranging from giants such as Google to small startups have been touting the possibility of interconnecting people and objects -- lightbulbs, fridges, cars, buildings -- to create an internet of things. Need Superfast, Cheap DNA? Try the 'Printer' (MSNBC) - If the printing press changed history by bringing the written word to the masses, just imagine what shake-ups a fast, reliable DNA printer could cause. A team of Duke University researchers hope to find out by playing Gutenberg to the synthetic biology set. The researchers have created a special chip that prints out DNA almost 10 times faster, and with far smaller machinery and less human work, than conventional methods. Creating and copying novel pieces of DNA quickly and inexpensively could have broad implications in the production and screening of new drugs, as well as replacing current technologies for genetic cloning, the researchers said.

Top Stories: Moody's Considers Downgrade of Major Banks Due to DoddFrank (Huffington Post) – Moody's Investors Service said it may downgrade the debt ratings of Bank of America Corp, Citigroup Inc and Wells Fargo & Co, citing concerns about waning political willingness to offer support for the largest U.S. banks. The ratings agency said it placed the deposit, senior debt and senior subordinated debt ratings of the three banks under review for possible downgrades. Lower ratings can translate into higher borrowing costs, which can have a big impact on a bank's bottom line. Moody's: Small But Rising Risk Of Short-Lived U.S. Default (Huffington Post) - Moody's Investors Service said there is a very small but rising risk of a short-lived default by the United States if there is no increase in the statutory debt limit in coming weeks. In a statement, Moody's said it would put the Aaa U.S. rating on review for a possible downgrade if lawmakers in Washington do not make substantive progress in budget talks by the middle of July.

Top Stories: What Can We Do About Death? Reinventing the American Medical System (Medical Xpress) - In a feature article in The New Republic, Daniel Callahan and Sherwin Nuland propose a radical reinvention of the American medical system requiring new ways of thinking about living, aging, and dying. They argue that a sustainable -- and more humane -- medical system in the U.S. will have to reprioritize to emphasize public health and prevention for the young, and care not cure for the elderly. Troubled US Market Creates Generation of Renters (New Zealand Herald) - A growing number of Americans can't afford a home or don't want to own one, a trend that's spawning a generation of renters and a rise in apartment construction. Many of the new renters are former owners who lost homes to foreclosure or bankruptcy. For others who could afford one, a home now feels too costly, too risky or unlikely to appreciate enough to make it a worthwhile investment. The proportion of US households that own homes is at its lowest point since 1998.


Top Stories: US 'to View Major Cyber Attacks as Acts of War' (PhysOrg) The Pentagon said that it would consider all options if the United States were hit by a cyber-attack as it develops the first military guidelines for the age of Internet warfare. President Barack Obama's administration has been formalizing rules on cyberspace amid growing concern about the reach of hackers. Defense contractor Lockheed Martin said it repelled a major cyber-assault a week ago. The White House on May 16 unveiled an international strategy statement on cyber-security which said the United States "will respond to hostile acts in cyberspace as we would to any other threat to our country." Why Do Pivotal Cultural Differences Among Countries Exist? (PhysOrg) - In today's world, conflicts and misunderstandings frequently arise between those who are from more restrictive cultures and those from less restrictive ones. Now, a new international study led by the University of Maryland offers insights that may help bridge such cultural differences. The researcher's findings reveal wide variation in the degree to which various societies impose social norms, enforce conformity and punish anti-social behavior. They also show that the more threats a society has been exposed to, the more likely they are to be a restrictive society, the authors say.

Top Stories: Not Just Blue-Sky Thinking: Flying Turbines Which Harness Power of High-Altitude Winds Could Be a Reality by Middle of the Decade (Daily Mail) - Flying, swooping and floating turbines are being developed to turn high-altitude winds into electricity. Scientists estimate the energy in the jet streams is 100 times the amount needed to power the whole world annually. Cristina Archer, an atmospheric scientist at the California State University in Chico, said there's 'not a doubt anymore' that high-altitude winds will be tapped for power. How the Japanese Plan to Turn the Moon Into a Mirrorball: All of Earth’s Energy ‘To Be Supplied by Lunar Ring of Solar Panels’ (Daily Mail) - It sounds like something out of science fiction - a huge swathe of the moon covered with solar panels to beam captured energy back to Earth. But plans to turn the moon into a gigantic mirrorball manned by robots to provide all the Earth's energy came a step closer to reality today when they were unveiled by Japanese scientists. The ambitious project would result in 13,000 terawatts of continuous solar energy being transmitted back to receiving stations on Earth, either by laser or microwave.

Top Stories: China's Workforce is Expected to Start Shrinking in Next Few Years (Washington Post) - China's large labor force has been central to its rise as an economic power, allowing companies to tap a seemingly endless pool of workers willing to move from their home towns, often live at the factory site and accept comparatively low wages. That era is ending. In a shift that is intensifying the economic competition between China and the United States, China's working-age population has plateaued in size and will begin getting smaller sometime in the next five years, according to demographers and recently released census data. The number of 20-to-24-year-olds, a main source of entry-level and factory labor, is already shrinking. Food Prices Set to Double by 2030, Aid Group Says (MSNBC) - Food prices could double in the next 20 years and demand in 2050 will be 70 percent higher than now, U.K. charity Oxfam said on Tuesday, warning of worsening hunger as the global food economy stumbles close to breakdown. "The food system is pretty well bust in the world," Oxfam Chief Executive Barbara Stocking told reporters, announcing the launch of the Grow campaign as 925 million people go hungry every day. Hunger was increasing due to rising food price inflation and oil price hikes, scrambles for land and water, and creeping climate change.

Just in from the publisher...

A Fine Line: How Design Strategies Are Shaping the Future of Business
by Hartmut Esslinger

A web resource... Chris Arkenberg : URBEINGRECORDED - Chris Arkenberg's blog -"pattern recognition and analysis from the left coast." He has more than 12 years of professional experience in management, quality engineering, product innovation and strategy, forecasting, and competitive intelligence for software, web, and video technologies. He was a visiting researcher at the Institute for the Future, tracking trends in technology, energy, and global systems.

Multimedia... Bubble Trouble? – Part One (BBC) - Across the world the cost of basic commodities is soaring. Endless demand from China is blamed for the record price of copper; flood, fire and drought for boosting the cost of food; and political tension in the Middle East for the sharply-rising price of oil. But are such fundamental forces the whole story? Michael Robinson asks whether investors and speculators are making prices more

volatile and examines the role of the giant traders, banks and companies which now increasingly dominate the world’s commodity markets. (24m) [BBC Documentaries]

Ideas and opinions... Why Google is Like a Fungus and What Facebook Has to Do Next (Business Insider) - Matt Rosoff – "Silicon Valley futurist Paul Saffo has been thinking, talking, and writing about the future of technology for more than two decades. Among other jobs, he serves a managing director at investment research firm Discern Investments, teaches at Stanford, and is on the board of the Long Now Foundation, which challenges society to think of its actions in the context of the next 10,000 years. He's also a regular at Valley events. Last week, we saw him talk on a panel about future trends at the Churchill Club. We caught up with him a few days later and got some great insights into where things are going right now."