Lab Notes The Faith Lab Newsletter
As the technology-driven state of the world today increases in interconnectedness
and the digitization of cultures, economies, businesses and media, St. James Faith Lab
will let you know what we’re thinking, doing, and reading about the future of technology,
artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning, big data, voice recognition, and more. We believe
transparency, authenticity, trustworthiness, and accountability of decision-making that
relies on emerging technologies is vital to our future and social good.
Renewable energy has a long history of derision and scorn from proponents of more traditional generation methods. However, the potential effectiveness of renewable energy in building a much cleaner world and heading off the worst effects of climate change is backed by a growing body of international research. Research shows it’s both feasible and affordable, thanks to innovation and mass-production capabilities that have already made wind and solar power installations cheaper than most fossil-fueled power plants. The keys to decarbonization and the drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are well established: promoting renewable
energy and making it the fuel of the future; increasing electrification, all while increasing efficiency, to come out the other end with lower overall power consumption. It’s easier said than done, but AI and computer simulations are helping to bring this shift into reality. Our featured video this month is on how molten-salt reactors could be used not only for regular electricity production but for energy storage as well (these reactors also eliminate some of the problems inherent in cooling previous-generation reactors). We revisit Bill Gates’ book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster” for our book recommendation this month. Our tech editor Arnold Schuchter this month asks “How do we get to the post–nuclear-energy future?” if reactors such as California’s Diablo Canyon are taken offline in the coming years—what will replace those megawatts of power?
Fifth-generation wireless (5G) entices with the offer of anytime, anywhere connectivity that works 20 times faster than current speeds, thereby opening doors to a wide variety of new services that could transform modern society. Heralded as potentially the world’s next technological breakthrough, the economic benefits could be very significant: creating all kinds of jobs, contributing a noticeable growth in GDP, and supporting countless multiplier effects for manufacturing, retail, automotive, transportation, telemedicine, and more. Our featured video this month is on
how 5G works and what it delivers to its users. Our technology editor, Arnold Schuchter, explore the efforts that both private and public-sector organizations are doing to foster digital equity—the ability of all sectors of society to be able to go online at broadband speeds. Currently, many Americans can't afford broadband internet (or even Internet) service at home. Is it possible to change that? With these public and private initiatives, we can.
The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack earlier this spring was the most-recent visible victim of a new digital pandemic. Ransoms paid to cybercriminals ends up accounting for only half the cost of a successful ransomware attck—there’s also the cost of all of the working hours required to restore systems, clean up collateral damage, and strengthen cybersecurity. We look at a video this month about how to strengthen your cybersecurity at home—something we all should take a look at. Then, technology editor Arnold Schuchter looks at how we can prevent
such ransomware attacks, like the Colonial Pipeline one, from becoming the new “cybernormal.” Businesses, government, and academia are collaborating to prevent it, and cybersecurity firms such as SpecTrust are ramping up their efforts to combat this digital scourge for businesses (but attention should be paid to helping the public not to be victimized by cybercriminals, as well).
The unexpected Arctic blast from early 2021’s massive winter storm that affected large parts of the central and eastern U.S., dubbed “Winter Storm Uri” by the media, hit the state of Texas especially hard in terms of loss of life, infrastructure failures, damage to homes, and business interruptions. Impacts from the storm paint a sobering picture for today and the future. Nearly every segment of the state’s infrastructure system was impacted. Uri caused the state’s deregulated power generation system to fail. But the deregulation story in Texas is much more complex and revealing. Our
recommended book this month is How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, by philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Finally, technology editor Arnold Schuchter looks at the work being done by the Houston Advanced Research Center, or HARC, in warning of “green swan”-type events, which are “unexpected environmental catastrophe[s] connected with global warming that triggers crises with consequences.”
Many of us have heard of “social-media influencers.” Influencers are the marketing term for people who have gained enough of a following on one or more social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, etc.) to be seen as viable marketing channels. Whereas previously marketers were limited to working with celebrities for endorsements, influencers can target much more specific audiences for less cost than a Hollywood superstar. Our recommended movie this month is HBO’s “Fake Famous” documentary, and our book this month is Justine Bateman’s Fame: The Hijacking of Reality,
where the actor writes a “visceral, intimate look at the experience of fame.” Finally, technology editor Arnold Schuchter examines the role of religious influencers, such as Kanye West and Justin Bieber, in popular culture.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to become one of (if not the) most significant scientific advancements in our history as a species. The ethical, moral, and tangible impact of the creation and eventual proliferation of AI is nothing short of staggering, and will completely upend our lives, and those of our children. But what are the ethical and moral implications of this, and how can we ensure that AI works within our moral framework? As a starting point, we have assembled a list of the 10 Commandments of AI, with the ultimate goal of discussing and arriving at a clear set of guidelines for
researchers and programmers dedicated to the development of Artificial Intelligence. This month we also look at Fareed Zakaria’s new book, “Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World,” invite you to enjoy the movie “Superintelligence,” and Arnold Schuchter returns with his analysis of AI, cyberattacks, and pandemic interventions.
The democratization of internet connectivity; how Starlink will change the internet; Elon Musk; and why the values of a society should shape the uses of technology to foster democratization and government transparency, not the other way around
The impact of a universally accessible internet, as envisioned by satellite service Starlink (and others) cannot be overstated. Most consumers in the U.S. are completely dependent on their local ISP, who on their end have to make decisions answerable to their shareholders and owners (thus often neglecting rural areas). Some cities have constructed their own ISPs, but those are few and far between. A vast infrastructure that is available to all regardless of population density could solve many of these problems all at once. SpaceX’s Starlink service could be a great help. We link to a short
YouTube video that explains how this system will work. Our recommended book this month is Ashlee Vance’s 2015 biography of serial inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk, called Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. Our technology editor, Arnold Schuchter, in “Arnold’s Analysis,” looks at the democratization of technology, and says that “the values of a society should shape the uses of technology to foster democratization and government transparency, not the other way around.”
The 2020 Presidential elections could be decided by vast data gathering efforts by both parties that have harnessed the dangerous capabilities of communication tools powered by artificial intelligence. AI, along with things like chatbots, individual candidates’ apps, and microtargeting, are all part of the electoral arsenal aimed at shaping voters’ opinions of each candidate. In our featured video, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie explains just how subtle the impact of AI permeating our information landscape gets, drawing on a real-world example of digital news coverage
of the Notre Dame cathedral fire. Wylie is also the author of our featured book this month, Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America, makes it clear that our increasing reliance on technology and the Internet has opened a window for mathematicians and data researchers to gaze through into our lives. Using the data they are constantly collecting about where we travel, shop, what we buy, and what interests us, they can predict our daily habits and make us more vulnerable to political influence and manipulation. And our technology editor Arnold Schuchter looks at how microtargeting is being used more and more in elections.
A couple of years ago, Moderna Therapeutics unveiled its idea to use messenger RNA (mRNA), which the body uses to convert DNA instructions into proteins, as a way of putting a drug factory inside each one of us? But that's tricky—randomly inject mRNA, and your immune system might think it's a foreign invader, like a virus. Researchers at Moderna and other companies have been working around that, and have come up with new “biologics,” including a new vaccine candidate against the novel coronavirus. Our recommended book this month is The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics,
and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease by Meredith Wadman. Her revelations about the birth of the biotech industry and its entrepreneurs, scientists and doctors in the early 1960s and together with the birth of vaccines against rubella and other childhood diseases should give us all hope and inspiration in 2020. Our Tech Editor Arnold Schuchter gives us some insight into how a proposed vaccine against the novel coronavirus would work.
COVID-19 has certainly upended routine doctor visits in the past few months; although they are returning in some areas, in other places they have been replaced by phone or video consultations with one’s doctors. We look at how this is changing American healthcare, and how recent regulatory changes have made this possible (until the pandemic some regulations didn’t allow for remote healthcare). Our tech editor Arnold
Schuchter looks at the role that data collecting plays in the fight against COVID-19. The recommended book this month is The Truth about Telehealth; in it, author Larry Jones explains why and how all components of the healthcare industry in the U.S. and the world failed to take advantage of the revolution in telecommunications. And a YouTube video provides a look at telehealth and telemedicine, noting that although COVID-19 has put it front and center today, its advantages have been apparent for some time.
June’s Faith Lab newsletter looks at how personalized learning can shape the future of education. Gone will be the days of cookie-cutter lesson plans, and a one-size-fits-all mentality of directing a student’s education. Leveraging AI and other tools, educators will be able to customize learning for each student's strengths, needs, skills and interests. Our recommended book this month is My Vanishing Country
by Bakari Sellers, a testament to what education can contribute to countering discrimination in every facet of American life. And tech editor Arnold Schuchter discusses the ways to build a nutritional safety net for our country’s children, as well as takes a look at protecting educational jobs and the threat of COVID-19 on the underserved and people of color.
St. James Faith Lab newsletter for May delves into the issue of the moment—the worldwide effort to control the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The big concept for containing the virus is contract tracing—a way of locating, notifying, and testing people who have come into contact with those who have been infected. We look at a book that gives some historical perspective on the 1918 “Spanish” flu epidemic, and
Singapore’s contact-tracing app. And Arnold Schuchter analyzes how various governments around the world have been dealing with the virus.
EARTH DAY 2020
This issue of the St. James Faith Lab newsletter devotes its issue to the theme of sustainability—how do we nurture and protect this fragile earth, our island home? Indeed, people are talking less about mitigation and more about adaptation—it’s not just about reducing rising carbon levels in the atmosphere, but how do we fundamentally change our society so that we ask that “how does this benefit the planet” question first in all that we do?
Our book recommendation is The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis, by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac. The book includes 10 concrete actions that each of us can take in order to create a better future for everyone on planet earth. The book includes both the big picture and the nitty-gritty of climate change. The authors advocate a brand of positive thinking that is realistic and practical. In this month’s Arnold’s Analysis” column, our wise sage Arnold Schuchter—a former city planner himself—shares his viewpoint that city planning needs to become not only high-tech, but data-rich; the more planners know about energy and building use, and traffic patterns, for instance, the easier it will be to enable cities to “go green.”
In honor of Black History Month, this month’s St. James Faith Lab newsletter looks at racial (in)equality in the U.S., and notes that one contribution to the problem is the missing and misinterpreted data that federal, private, and nonprofit organizations use in developing their programs. Children will enjoy a video on black scientists and inventors, profiling such luminaries as George Washington Carver, and Madam C.J. Walker. The featured book for February is Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton. Arnold Schuchter returns with another “Arnold’s Analysis” column, in which he looks at the centuries-long struggle for racial justice, and how things like missing data and the definition of what constitutes “full employment” (among others) complicates its solving.
Artificial intelligence is a highly multidisciplinary field—and it’s what our January 2020 issue is all about. Leading U.S. universities and research centers are creating hubs that bring together experts to collaborate on how to use AI to help solve the world’s problems—and to optimize what humans do best. We feature a short YouTube video that explains “What is artificial intelligence?” and our book-of-the-month recommendation is Possible Minds: 25 Ways of Looking at AI, where an extraordinary array of thinkers
and researchers give their insights. The government of Finland offers a free course in learning about AI which is well worth taking. And Arnold Schuchter looks at AI through the lens of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.
This month’s St. James Faith Lab newsletter explores brain-computer interfaces. In our November issue of “Lab Notes,” our team looks at various ways this interface is being developed. Plus, they share their book recommendation, for Plugged In: How Mind-Machine Interfaces Will Transform the World, by a college student who suffered a spinal-cord injury but is now able to walk again. Our Tech for Social Good item looks at a French foundation, Fondation Voir et Entendre, that is looking to restore
sight to visually-impaired people via computer interfaces. Arnold Schuchter is back with another “Arnold’s Analysis” column—a look at the “AI hullabaloo”—what’s real and adding value to an organization, and what‘s just hype?
This month’s St. James Faith Lab newsletter explores the fintech (r)evolution, and how finance startups are changing banks and the financial-services industry. Plus, our Faith Lab team shares their book recommendation, Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age. Arnold Schuchter “Analysis” column looks across the Pond to see the rise of Britain’s new fintech players, “just possibly as a form of British banking industry insurance against Boris’s future buffoonery.”
This month’s St. James Faith Lab newsletter digs into the curse of ransomware, that hacker’s exploit that renders one’s computer files encrypted and unreadable—unless you give them a bunch of bitcoins. Our Faith Lab team, in the September newsletter, looks at past ransomware events and what is being done to prevent them in the future. This month’s book recommendation is Scott E. Augenbaum’s The Secret to Cybersecurity: A Simple Plan to Protect Your Family and Business from Cybercrime. Our Tech for Social Good item this month is Ethical Angel, ‘a remarkable example of ‘social entrepreneurship’: a private-sector platform, financed by angel investors, designed to connect businesses to good causes while creating valuable experiences for employees that enable them to use and develop their skills to make the world a better place for all of us to live.” And “Arnold’s Analysis” returns with more about ransomware—it’s not just about attacks in Bulgaria; Microsoft warned its customers to patch their software to prevent a future ransomware attack.
This month’s St. James Faith Lab newsletter explores blockchain, the new tech architecture transforming data storage. In our August issue of “Lab Notes,” our team looks at what it is and how it will affect your lives. Plus, they share their book recommendation, for Talk to Me: How Voice Computing Will Transform the Way We Live, Work and Think. Arnold Schuchter is back with another “Arnold’s Analysis” column—a message from the TechnoFairyGodmother.
In this issue, we delve into the problems posed by “deepfakes” (altered videos and photograph that distort reality to make it appear that someone is saying or doing something they haven’t), look at one healthcare executive’s proposal to expand data-sharing among electronic health records from different providers, recommend a fascinating book on algorithms, as well as the 2014 film “Ex Machina.” Tech editor Arnold Schuchter introduces us to something most people wouldn't think of as needing smarts, but which now has them: behold, the intelligent toilet! And finally, we share a glossary of technological terms and topics that may be useful to our readers.
This issue looks at disruptors in the world, both past and present; battling social-media extremism and toxic content; a former Google executive starts the Center for Humane Technology; even-better motion-capture technology adds more realism to the new “Avengers” movie; a new book provides a deep dive into the life of those who code our software; the parent company of Google has a lot more than Google to keep track of, and some of its other companies are forces for good; and Technology Editor Arnold Schuchter looks at the rise of tech “unicorns” and how “we are learning that bigger disruptions are not necessarily better in an increasingly connected world.”
In our inaugural issue, the newsletter looks at how “Robots need to get more emotional to be trusted,” how churches are utilizing smart speakers such as the Echo devices, and how smart cities need to bridge the gap between real and virtual worlds to combat the rising tide of loneliness among all age groups. We recommend the CGI-laden adventure movie “Aquaman” (the render farm on that movie must have been immense), and look at two books by futurist Amy Webb: The Signals are Talking and The Big Nine. Finally, our technology editor Arnold Schuchter pens a satirical look at Faithbook, a new social-media platform that looks suspiciously like another well-known social-media platform—or at least what said platform claims to be.