When I was a child growing up in California, one of the things that my parents, and especially my father, was very strict about was the fact that I was never to have any white refined sugar nor drink tap water. However, at Sunday school, I would sneak in a doughnut or two from the refreshments, but I always abided by the water rule. Although California supposedy has one of the most sanitary sources of water in the US, my father was rather distrustful of water sources, and we regularly had bottled spring water delivered, and a bottle of spring water in our bag at all times when going outside our homes. To this day, I admit, I cannot remember a time when I ever had tap water. In fact, the only instance I can remember having drank tap water was by accident, at a wine bar in Santa Monica, where the most vile tasting, foul smelling refrigerated water was given to me, and my body immediately cringed from the odd metallic taste.
Although friends in both Berkeley and New York City say their tap water is the best in the country, I have never drunk the tap water in New York either, whilst I had been an undergraduate there. I recall in the dormitories my sophomore year that a flatmate told me that sometimes when one turned on the faucet that the water would run brownish-red, but after awhile it turned clear and that it was drinkable. She was one of the most brilliant minds who had been the product of Choate, one of the best private prep schools in the nation, and I came from a modest public high school, but instinctively, I knew not to drink water that was initially "brownish-red" but would turn clear. No thanks. I had a supply of bottled water delivered to my room.
I discovered later that the water pipes in the United States are most often made of lead. My father's instincts had been right all along. In fact, what is surprising is that it is not illegal for water pipes in the United States to be made of lead. In the 1920s, Americans recognised that lead in water pipes was a source of massive lead poisoning in the 1800s, and rallied for the end of its use. However, the lead industries carried out a massive campaign in favour of the use of lead pipes:
Lead pipes for carrying drinking water were well recognized as a cause of lead poisoning by the late 1800s in the United States. By the 1920s, many cities and towns were prohibiting or restricting their use. To combat this trend, the lead industry carried out a prolonged and effective campaign to promote the use of lead pipes. Led by the Lead Industries Association (LIA), representatives were sent to speak with plumbers’ organizations, local water authorities, architects, and federal officials. The LIA also published numerous articles and books that extolled the advantages of lead over other materials and gave practical advice on the installation and repair of lead pipes. The LIA’s activities over several decades therefore contributed to the present-day public health and economic cost of lead water pipes.
However, all homes and buildings in the US built before 1980 all still have lead pipes and many US major cities have 100% lead piping, including New York City:
Nearly all homes built prior to the 1980s still have lead solder connecting copper pipes.
In England, lead piping for water is illegal and has been illegal since 1970 but lead piping still exists in older properties:
"However before 1970, many smaller water pipes were made from lead. Although lead pipes have not been permitted for this purpose for four decades, in older properties it remains possible that part, or all, of the underground service pipe connecting the water main in the street to your kitchen tap may be made from lead. It is also possible that some original lead plumbing remains within older properties especially if the kitchen has not been modernised."
Lead poisoning has rather obvious implications: "The health risks relate to the way lead can build up in the body. Those at particular risk are infants and children because lead can have an adverse impact on mental development. Lead may also be factor in behavioural problems."
I wonder though if there is a correlation to lead poisoning and other common problems such as ADHD, autism, Parkinson's Disease, cancer, and other diseases that are prevalent in our society?
The single most important resource that has changed our lives was the access to clean water. Access to clean water was reserved for the upper classes in Victorian England, and even then, it wasn't very sanitary. Epidemics, plagues, illnesses such as cholera and the black plague were the direct result of people not having access to clean drinking water. People cannot go for longer than 2 days without water before they die, hence why it is important to drink clean water everyday, up to 7-10 cups. Water is what the human body needs to clean out toxins, renew cells and give us energy. Countries without access to clean water often have an early infant mortality rate.
Access to clean water is still one of the most important inventions of our society.
The first year I lived in London, I was staying at a graduate dormitory at the University of London in Paddington, and one day, I noticed all the faucets were churning out blue-greenish liquid- pure chlorine. When I told the management about it, they were quite adamant that the water was drinkable. Of course, no one in their right mind would ever drink blue-green water. Everyday, I would carry two large bottles of Evian from Sainsbury's to my room to use for tea. I would probably drink the entire contents of the water in a 24 hour period. One I kept in my room for tea, the other I carried with me to my classes at UCL. Later that year, I moved to Hoxton Square near Old Street, and I would similarly be seen, carrying two large bottles of water to my flat everyday. Some of my other classmates found it rather curious that I would buy my water and would protest: "the water here is perfectly fine", "you're wasting your money on water", "bottled water is a scam" etc. However, I was very adamant only to drink spring water with 0.00 levels of fluoride and chlorine.
More than 156 years before in the same area, in 1849, there was a bereft of water sources in London:
"I am sure that I do not exaggerate the sanitary importance of water, when I affirm that its unrestricted supply is the first essential of decency, of comfort, and of health; that no civilization of the poorer classes can exist without it; and that any limitation to its use in the metropolis is a barrier, which must maintain thousands in a state of the most unwholesome filth and degradation. In the City of London the supply of water is but a fraction of what it should be. Thousands of the population have no supply of it to the houses where they dwell. For their possession of this first necessary of social life, such persons wholly depend on their power of attending at some fixed hour of the day, pail in hand, beside the nearest standcock; where, with their neighbours, they wait their turn—sometimes not without a struggle, during the tedious dribbling of a single small pipe." -Dr John Simon, City Medical Reports, 1849
In Victorian England, everyone had to wait their turn at a certain time of the day to fetch water from tap sources that were located around the city. The water was sometimes often mixed with organic matter (eg, feces) from sewage systems which lead to epidemics around the nation. Infant mortality rate was high, and the average life expectancy of children were age 5. Human waste was pushed into the Thames river, creating a stench all throughout London, and often the pipes that carried the water were made of lead, leading to massive lead poisoning of the population, perhaps symptomatic of "consumption", a mysterious disease of the era in which people would slowly die of the common flu, their bodies unable to fight the disease from possible lead poisoning. Many artists of the day died from consumption, from Katharine Mansfield to D.H. Lawrence. It is interesting to reflect in retrospect that all the plagues and epidemics of Victorian England were the direct result of not having access to clean water.
Access to clean water irrevocably changed our lives. It was not really the advent of modern pharmaceuticals, vaccines or the medical industries that lowered the infant mortality rate, but rather, the access to clean water.
"In 1867 there was a serious outbreak of Asiatic cholera in London, and my father determined to have the water of the celebrated spring analysed. There were loud protests at this: - what, analyse the finest drinking-water in England! My father, however, persisted, and the result of the analysis was that our incomparable drinking - water was found to contain thirty per cent of organic matter. The analyst reported that fifteen per cent of the water must be pure sewage. My father had the spring sealed and bricked up at once, but it is marvel that we had not poisoned every single inhabitant of the Mayfair district years before."
-Frederick Spencer Hamilton, The Days Before Yesterday, 1930
However, despite the lack of clean water, two researchers wrote an interesting paper detailing the health of the people during the Victorian Era, and came up with the conclusion that the surviving Victorians were in fact, healthier than today's population due to their diet, which primarily consisted of fruits and vegetables, and their rate of high exercise (up to 50-70 hours of physical activity per week).
"Due to the high levels of physical activity routinely undertaken by the Victorian working classes, calorific requirements ranged between 150 and 200% of today’s historically low values. Almost all work involved moderate to heavy physical labour, and often included that involved in getting to work. Seasonal and other low-paid workers often had to walk up to six miles per day...Men worked on average 9–10 hours/day, for 5.5 to 6 days a week, giving a range from 50 to 60 hours of physical activity per week. Factoring in the walk to and from work increases the range of total hours of work-related physical activity up to 55 to 70 hours per week. Women’s expenditure of effort was similarly large. Married women had also domestic chores in their own homes after work, and in addition, their daily dress up to the 1890s at least."
The treatment of water systems was first developed by a British doctor, Dr. John Snow, who used chlorine in an attempt to disinfect the Broad Street Pump water supply in London, which he identified as a cause of a cholera outbreak due to sewage contamination in 1854 and a German chemist, Mortiz Traube, who used chlorine to use on a plant scale basis for drinking water disinfection in Hamburg, Germany.
In 1897, Maidstone, England was the first in the world to have its entire water supply treated with chlorine.
Starting in 1900s, within 20-30 years, all epidemics of waterbourne diseases had been eliminated with drink water filtration and chlorination systems within Europe and the US.
Today, we are living in an era with superior water purification systems, such as reverse osmosis and deionizers that removes sediment, chlorine lead and fluoride from drinking supplies, in addition to an activated carbon absorption block filter that removes tastes and odors from drinking water. However, these purification systems still only remove about 94-96% of chlorine, lead and fluoride and I still find that the water I like best is the natural springs in Matterhorn, Switzerland, and bottled spring water such as Evian and 365 Whole Foods water.
We are even living in an era in which we can artificially create water:
Scientists working for the Abu Dhabi government created more than 50 rainstorms in Al Ain in July and August of 2010, during the peak of the emirate’s summer months.
If we think about it, water is one of the most important resources we have developed in the last 100 years.
Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.
By Sierra Choi
On my tech geek wish list this year is the holographic phone. Takee's holographic 3D phone was released for consumers last year and won the CES Innovations prize earlier this year in January.
According to reviews online, the phone itself is just like any other average phone, but the holographic images are superb. However, the holographic images can only be seen by the user and I became curious about exactly how it worked. The promotional materials from Takee says it uses 4 cameras to determine the location of the user's eyes to transmit images. However, I decided to take a look into its patents to see exactly what the phone actually does.
What I discovered was that the Takee holographic phone holds patents in aerial induction. In simple terms: the ability for touch-air control as opposed to touch screen. The cameras determine the relative positioning of the user and creates a user-touch interface parallel to the screen, thus being able to select objects in the air. Last year they received a patent for an aerial induction device with 4 points (the current consumer release Takee phone), however, this year, they were granted a patent for an aerial induction device with 6 points.
However, where did their holographic imaging system come from? And why was it only available to be seen by the user, but not by users surrounding the user and why weren't these holographic images able to be recorded by a video camera?
Looking more into its patents, I discovered that the holographic interaction device based on signal method was a patent held by Estar Display Tech Co. (the parent company of Takee).
CN104679238 (A) - Holographic interaction device and method based on signal transmission
Inventor(s): LIU MEIHONG; CHEN YIHUA
Applicant(s): SHENZHEN ESTAR DISPLAYTECH CO
Classification:- international:G06F3/01- cooperative:
Application number: CN20141842580 20141229
Priority number(s): CN20141842580 20141229
The invention discloses a holographic interaction device and method based on signal transmission. The device comprises a display screen, at least three signal transmitters, a processor and a controller, wherein the signal transmitters are disposed on the display screen and are not located on the same straight line, and each signal transmitter is used for transmitting a signal with corresponding identification; the display screen is used for projecting a holographic three-dimensional image to an interaction area; the controller is used for reflecting the signals transmitted by the signal transmitters when moving in the interaction area; the signal transmitters are further used for acquiring the distance information between the signal transmitters and the controller by receiving the signals reflected by the controller; the processor is used for acquiring the spatial position information of the controller in the interaction area according to the positions of the signal transmitters on the display screen and the determined distance information so as to correspondingly control the holographic three-dimensional image projected by the display screen to the interaction area. By the device, the holographic image of the interaction area can be operated through the positions of the controller, and holographic interaction is achieved.
In essence, the holographic images are produced via auditory signals that are sent to the neocortex of the user's brain. This patent is based upon another patent that was developed by the Sony Corporation in 2000:
Method and system for forming an acoustic signal from neural timing difference data
US 6584357 B1
ABSTRACT: A non-invasive system and process for converting sensory data, e.g., visual, audio, taste, smell or touch, to neural firing time differences in a human brain and using acoustic signals to generate the neural firing time differences. Data related to neural firing time differences, the acoustic signals, and a user's response map may be stored in memory. The user's response map may be used to more accurately map the calculated neural firing time differences to the correct neural locations.
Publication number US6584357 B1
Publication type Grant
Application number US 09/690,786
Publication date Jun 24, 2003
Filing date Oct 17, 2000
Priority date Oct 17, 2000
Also published as US6889085, US7542805, US20030195584,US20050197679
Inventors Thomas P. Dawson
Original Assignee Sony Corporation, Sony Electronics, Inc.
In Summary: WHAT IT DOES
1. non-invasively projecting a first acoustic signal into the brain, the first acoustic signal affecting a neural firing time at a first neural location in the brain;
2. storing a user sensory response and data related to the first acoustic signal in a memory;
3. non-invasively projecting a second acoustic signal into the brain; and
4. storing a user sensory response and data related to the second acoustic signal in the memory.
This Sony patent is quite remarkable as now sensory information, such as sight, smell, touch, hearing can now be transmitted remotely via acoustic signals directly into the brain. Wouldn't it be great if we could smell and touch things as we are browsing the internet? Certainly this has a lot of potential for eCommerce, in addition to other areas.
In summary, the Takee holographic phone uses holographic imaging via auditory signaling into the neocortex of the user brain that had been first developed by Sony, so that only the user can see the images that are being projected. Then via its aerial induction interaction device, the user can select items via touch in the air (touch-air). In theory, the 4-6 cameras on the Takee phone determine the positioning of your touch-air area, but they are not really necessary to visualise the holographic images- as that is achieved via auditory signaling directly into the neocortex of the user's brain.
Although the Takee phone has been released for consumer usage last year, I can already see that there might be some obstacles for the release of this phone into the US consumer market as the US has numerous legal regulations and not certain if the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) would grant permission by phone manufacturers to send signals directly into user brains, despite the fact that other similar uses of analogous technology such as thermoacoustic signaling is used in medical devices to create 3D images of people's organs (eg, ultrasound etc).
In any case, this is an interesting sector to watch, and to be honest, although I just ordered my first smartwatch from Sweden, I am not really a fan of wearable tech, as I don't like electronic devices or electronic jewellery or any wearable tech close or in direct contact with my body (eg, Google Glass, Oculus VR helmet) but I do like the fact with this Takee phone that there is a movement away from touch-screen to touch-air, and perhaps their next generation of phones will utilise more of the Sony auditory signaling technology to transmit music and sounds in which I wouldn't need headphones to be able to hear music.
But of course, this technology will best be utilised for blind and deaf persons, and as the inventor Thomas P. Dawson (Sony Corp) wrote:
Another advantage of the system is that no invasive surgery is needed to assist a person, such as a blind or deaf person, to experience live or recorded images or sounds. - Thomas P. Dawson
Welcome, brave new world.
By Sierra Choi
Last week, I was at an AI Conference in Seoul, South Korea and I must say that it was a refreshing change from the usual conferences I attend where there is a critical mass of thousands of people who are moving around and about. Instead, it was a more of an intimate affair, with a small, closely-knit group of people, and I very much enjoyed all the diverse presentations ranging from fighting cybercrime within financial institutions to blockchain technology in bitcoin to setting legal precedents in law utilising AI to dissecting arguments in technological unemployment to even making analogous connections with Buddhism and AI robots.
The conference was the brainchild of two sisters, Shubha Gokhale, who is an assistant Professor at Hanguk University and Hema Gokhale, who is a former executive from Citigroup in New York.
South Korea has always been at the forefront of AI and their disruptive technologies in IoT and automation have been breaking ground in new innovations. Last year, South Korea was named the most innovative country in Bloomberg's Global Innovation Index by the European Commission with Sweden second, and the United States third in ranking. Once dubbed the most connected country in the world, there is not an area anywhere in South Korea in which one does not have super fast internet access. This was primarily a result of their government investment in fiberoptics in the 1970s, a foresight that has paved the way for an online generation.
David Orban, head of the Network Society, Founder of dotsub and adviser to Singularity University, spoke about anthropomorphising machine morality and the necessity for the decentralisation of government in the creation of communities to prevent social collapse. He also made an important distinction between "education" and "learning", as the former might have connotations from the post-industrial era of education, as a sort of social stature, whereas "learning" he defines as a continual act of discovery. An important part of Singularity University is its focus on action-oriented activities, a kind of "learning" by "doing", whereas traditional methods of education might focus on memorisation, repetition and theory.
There were also some interesting examples of human robotics using lifeomes, and action map learning, which is the building of human behaviour maps to mimic human behaviours. Professor Zhang from Seoul National University spoke about some examples such as the "Aupair" robot, which plays the role of the mom and interacts with the child when the child is home alone, and the Pororobot, which is a robot tutor for children. In addition to the advent of AI humanoid robots that are built to identify and understand the emotions of humans, such as Softbank and Aldebaran Robotics' Pepper the Robot.
Professor Zhang's talk posed the question of Trust: How much can one trust machines if autonomy became a self-generalised goal? Can AI machines override human mistakes in judgement? Of course such questions have long been posed in art and science fiction, in such films as Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, the character of Lieutenant Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, and more recently, the arthouse film, Doomsday Book, directed by Jee-Woon Kim and Pil-Sung Yim in 2012, and even the Channel 4, eight-episodic miniseries, Humans that recently aired over the summer.
Another keynote speaker, David Wood, who is chair of the Futurist Society in London gave some interesting insights into corporate inertia, by giving background information on his work with Symbian and Nokia during the initial launch of smartphones in the mid-late 1990s. In his talk, he described Nokia's (and also, Blackberry/ Palm/ Motorola's) mistake in that they had failed due to a broken ecosystem and also failed because those companies were not good at large scale software and continuous testing of those software. They had suffered from corporate inertia- a combination of pride of being at the top, and a stagnancy derived from keeping the status quo of technology that were at that time, successful.
In addition, the Demi-Moore's Law dictates that disruptive change takes twice as long as Moore's Law actually predicts, and disruptive innovations have to precipitate the dismantling of old technology. To me, this seems in direct conflict with Lean Methodology, in which short-term goals are given precedence over long-term goals, and where projects cannot be in R&D for longer than a few to several months at a time. Peter Thiel has spoken much about the failings of Lean Methodology, and that true innovation may take years in R&D, one example would be Google's Android- which from its initial concept in 2003 to selling 10M units/year in 2010 took 7 years to develop. However, David elaborated that Demi-Moore's Law is not necessarily mutually exclusive with Lean Methodology, and that Lean Methodology often clears away the corporate clutter and the bureaucracy that often accompanies project development.
It used to be that beginning with the Industrial Era, machines replaced human muscular effort in factories, and then throughout the 1970s-1990s, machines replaced human calculation effort, and currently, machines are replacing human creative effort, in that musical compositions and art can even be mimicked by AI. However, now, we are entering a new era in which perhaps, machines can replace human emotion and human relationships. All the AI we have produced thus far have been derivative of binary computing systems. However, if we consider the fact that as humans ourselves, we are "biological machines", it is really a matter of how we can replicate "life", that holds the key to the future of AI and computing, and ultimately, I believe that key is in our DNA.
By Sierra Choi