Dethroning the King of LA / The Ebb of Car Culture

Technology, Entrepreneurship, Society, Art

Writing Coach, Nic Nelson IMN Mentor, Strategic and Ideational Leadership
Writing Coach, Nic Nelson
IMN Mentor, Strategic and Ideational Leadership

Los Angeles, California is known around the world as a place where the car is king. It is a bellwether city when it comes to automobile culture and traffic management. And on August 11, 2015, the Los Angeles City Council approved a controversial plan to begin removing, rather than adding, traffic lanes to the city’s most important thoroughfares.


Los Angeles has led the way worldwide in creative traffic management engineering for more than half a century. It was the first major city to be geographically and structurally determined by the capabilities of automobiles. Los Angeles’ first automobiles were designed and built there as early as 1897. Detroit soon took over as the heart of automotive manufacturing, but Los Angeles remained the heart of automotive passion and expression from the Roaring Twenties to the present day.

Yet the automobile was never without its challengers. From streetcars and bicycles in the late 1800s to CicLAvia-Ver-Latorre-Flickr_0residential canals, monorail, elevated trains, subways, and regular commuter rail in all the decades since, other forms of transportation have competed passionately against the automobile, and have either been utterly defeated or won very limited successes.

Automobile enthusiasts among urban planners have often pointed to Los Angeles as their inspiration for how a modern megacity can competently handle heavy automobile traffic. If Los Angeles gives up that dream, will another world-class city take its place as the heartbeat of the automobile-centric lifestyle? Or might this signal the beginning of the end of automobile-centric urban planning?


“The Roaring Twenties… set Los Angeles on an irreversible path as a city dominated by the automobile. L.A.’s population of about 600,000 at the start of the 1920s more than doubled during the decade. The city’s cars would see an even greater increase, from 161,846 cars registered in L.A. County in 1920 to 806,264 registered in 1930. In 1920 Los Angeles had about 170 gas stations. By 1930 there were over 1,500.”

“The approved plan places a high priority on traffic safety, including making Vision Zero official citywide policy. L.A. is now committed to ‘decrease transportation-related fatality rate to zero by 2035.’ Public testimony was limited to 20 minutes, and was heavily in favor of plan approval.”

“We’ve been building for the car for about half a century now [in Los Angeles, a whole century!], so it’s understandable that old habits die hard. But the evidence is growing that traffic does indeed disappear and that reallocating road space will lead not to commuter chaos but rather to better conditions for those on foot and on bikes. Research has established the theory of disappearing traffic. Now leading cities around the world are beginning to test it.”


On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life. Edited by Amy Walker; quoted article by Bonnie Fenton. Published by New World Library, Novato California (2011) p.349-354.

Social Media on Your Walls

Technology, Entrepreneurship, Society, Art

Immersive, three dimensional, virtual reality comes to social networks and into your home.

My son, Lucas, and I got the chance to try Oculus Rift — a headset that immerses you into a 3-dimensional virtual space — before it hit the market. Besides feeling a bit of motion sickness, I had the feeling I had seen the future. Now things have gone to the next level.

Here’s a short video that demonstrates how oculus rift can make your entire room a virtual reality space.

Remember the fictional holodeck, the virtual reality space on the Starship Enterprise? Well once again, science fiction takes a step closer to reality. Oculus Rift has obvious benefits for gamers but, since we’re comparing reality to science fiction, prepare for the powers of the dark side, the inhumane porn industry , to lead the way.

What impressed me the most is the nonchalant way the writers of these pieces talk about the porn industry as if it were just a normal (acceptable?) part of society.

It would be so easy to get excited about this new technology if it didn’t portend a future of young men lost in a dehumanizing world of virtual sex. The battle for the future minds, wills, and lives of the young is further endangered by a society that is the 21st century blossoming of the 1960’s “me generation” with its progressive dogmas characterized by the proverbs, “who are you to judge others?” and “if it feels good do it.”

There will always be those who earn their living by exploiting the vices of others. But we are now living in a culture without virtue, a culture that speaks of those who prey on the weaknesses of the young and the vulnerable as if they’re just nice guys in the neighborhood. Culture is becoming partner to the predators. As a balancing factor, not everyone is convinced that 3-D VR will be successful. But eventually VR will be a part of the human experience.

“If you think you’re impressed now, just wait till the boys over at PornHub get ahold of this technology.”


What is MAKERS OF FIRE about?

Makers of Fire provokes readers to ignite change through their own creativity by using the analogy of Making Fire.

In order for fire to happen, three ingredients must be present:

  • fuel
  • oxygen
  • heat

In order to create a “burning event,” we must be

  • (1) fully present in the moment

Exponential change characterizes our world. Being fully present  includes developing an awareness of the “weak signals” of change that are all around us as well as the events and trends that are shaping our present world. This is the Fuel.

  • (2) shapers of meaning

People are shaped by stories. Shaping meaning means telling the story of the human journey in ways that capture the 21st century imagination.  We must engaged and expand our ability to think about the future. This is Oxygen.

  • (3) step into the fray

Creating the future doesn’t begin with a plan. It begins with a dream. But dreams must become acts through which we step between the Fuel of culture and the Oxygen of meaning and ignite a spark of change. This is Heat.

When you bring these three ingredients together, you become a Maker of Fire.

The book is divided in three sections: Fuel, Oxygen, and Heat.

Fuel turns its attention on our rapidly changing 21st century culture. It touches on the trends and events that are shaping our world. But not for the purpose of trend spotting or forecasting. Instead, Fuel focuses on our orientation towards futurity and towards our ever changing present moment.

Oxygen focuses on a timeless element of the human heart: our search for meaning. This second section explores the ways both theists and atheists, mystics and materialists, are tied together in a search for meaning in life. This is the human religion.

Heat gets practical. This is where dreams become deeds, genies come out of bottles, the imagined materializes into the experienced. This is where you apply your genius, creativity, and initiative to the Fuel of culture that settles like tinder at our feet and the Oxygen of meanings that swirl around us all. This is where you become a maker of fire.

The book is about the spirituality of leading from the future, a much needed corrective for those focused on the past and much desired perspective for those trying to be more engaged with the present.

The book is now available on amazon in both print and digital formats.


  Learning to play a musical instrument impacts on other abilities, including speech perception, understanding emotions in the voice, and handling multiple tasks simultaneously.

TESA  Technology/Entrepreneurship/Society/Arts

FINDING  This is a new area of scientific study and focuses on the benefits of music in the lives of children in education.  The findings are helping researchers identify the underlying mechanism which sees enhancement of language, reading, and math skills.

More than simply seeing the auditory system improved the findings are asking questions about whether music training trains a child’s executive functioning skills, leading to improvement of academic skills.  The studies compared the brain activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain – where executive functioning takes place – in children musically trained and not.

More research will clarify which enhances which: musical enhancement enhancing executive functioning, or vice versa, but early implications are towards the former.

IMPLICATIONS Neuropsychologist Ani Patel has developed the OPERA hypothesis which suggests:

O = there’s an overlap between the networks of the brain that are involved with music and other day-to-day cognitive functions such as language, memory, and attention:
P = the precision in tuning an instrument is very important:
E-R-A = are emotionrepetition, and attention – three things known to promote brain plasticity.

As music places higher demands on the brain it seems music enhances these other networks and their abilities.

The conversation I mentioned at the beginning, fascinated, opening up different literacies, but it seems music – which we love around the world – opens up the possibilities of enhancing all forms of intelligence and literacy.


“Music addresses some of the behaviors and skills that are necessary for academic success.  Since we started implementing El Sistema, the Venezuelan music program, as well as project-based learning, our test scores have increased dramatically.”  (Diana Lam;  Conservatory Lab Charter School, Boston)

“So this idea, that music sometimes places higher demands on the brain, on some of the same shared networks that we use for other abilities, allows the music to actually enhance those networks, and those abilities benefit.” (Associate Professor of Psychology Ani Patel; Tufts University)


Wbur’s Common Health (July 17):

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THE DOCTOR IS IN — Virtual humans help us be more honest


Some first research exploring how people are more honest and less embarrassed when sharing very personal details with a virtual Human than they are with the real thing. There is the promise of help for people struggling with serious mental anguish, including post-traumatic stress. 


TESA  Technology/Entrepreneurship/Society/Arts


Research carried out by the University of Southern California is the first of its kind and shows a willingness on the part of patients to divulge even very embarrassing information if they believe there is no human involved.

Subjects recruited through Craigslist aged between eighteen and sixty five were evaluated using SimSensei, a virtual human application able to pick up signals of depression and anxiety through both real-time sensing and non-verbal behaviours.

The aim is to see whether such technology can be of help to real people. The virtual human Ellie would ask questions, feedback, and express empathetic listening, thereby developing rapport and not judging – two important things when it comes to disclosing personal information important to the beginning of diagnosis and therapy.


Whilst the researchers point out this is not a replacement to real people offering the necessary care and support, but a way of opening up the process with more important and critical information being available sooner.

I find it fascinating how people can be more honest to a virtual human and wonder about how this will not only be something which helps more serious mental conditions but also those carried around by people which inhibit them from flourishing in their lives.



“The study provides the first empirical evidence that virtual humans can increase a patient’s willingness to disclose personal information in a clinical setting. It also presents compelling reasons for doctors to start using virtual humans as medical screeners. The honest answers acquired by a virtual human could help doctors diagnose and treat their patients more appropriately.” (Tanya Abrams – USC)

“One participant who thought the virtual human was automated said the experience was “way better than talking to a person. I don’t really feel comfortable talking about personal stuff to other people”.” (Tanya Abrams – USC)

Tweet: The Doctor is in — meet Ellie, your virtual therapist. Trend spotting @theimn @geoffreybaines


Futurity: 21st July 2014

Original article

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The World’s First Affectionate Robot


Technology, Entrepreneurship, Society, Art


On June 5, 2014 Softbank Chairman and CEO, Masayoshi Son, introduced the first affectionate robot to the world. Built in partnership with Aldebaran Robotics SAS, “Pepper’s” human like qualities are driven by an “emotional engine” and a cloud-based AI. It is Softbank’s intention to install affectionate robots in several of its retail location in Japan. Pepper will be available to the Japanese consumer by 2015.


Human like robots are not a new idea. People have been imagining them for much of the past century. What makes this finding significant is that for the first time, affectionate robots are being introduced to the consumer market. No longer limited to the realm of science fiction novels and movies. These are not robots that take the place of human manual labour. Rather, robots that could soon replace human warmth and human contact. They are lauded as being able to replace a “babysitter, nurse, and emergency medical worker.” And they have the ability to improve their emotional intuition and response. The more they experience, the more they will learn…and evolve. Machines with emotional intelligence.

What will an AI that has been given 25-30 years of life experience look like? Sound like? Act like? Feel like? Could this be the beginning of the beginning of sentient machines? And how ubiquitous will these affectionate robots be in 2045?


“It’s either a technological breakthrough or the most terrifying robot advancement I’ve ever heard of.” -Lance Ulanoff, Chief Correspondent and Editor-at-Large of Mashable.


New subatomic particle, the “tetraquark,” constitutes an entirely new form of matter

Technology, Entrepreneurship, Society, Arts

FINDING: Once again, there is much more going on in the universe than we thought we knew. Quarks combine in twos and threes to create protons and neutrons, which were formerly believed to be the basic building blocks of all matter. Confirming the existence of four-quark atomic particles opens the door to all sorts of new kinds of matter that might behave in all sorts of strange ways. If the “purely hypothetical” tetraquark is real, and we now know how to make one, “pentaquarks” and “hexaquarks” have moved from being “fanciful imaginations” to being acceptable topics for supercollider research.

IMPLICATIONS: So far, the only implications are philosophical. But the philosophical implications are profound. Over and over again, humanity’s scientific community has conveyed the impression that it has reached certain limits of knowledge about the world we live in: This is the smallest possible particle, and these are the only ways it behaves… This is the size of the universeThis is the age of the universeThe speed of light never changes… and each time those truths were made “doctrine,” the scientific community has had to eat humble pie.

Well, humanity’s scientific community apparently got used to eating that pie, because it now holds even its basic tenets with a gentle grip. We now know the universe still holds a great many secrets, none of them boring or simplistic! And most of them will be beautiful if we behold them in the right perspective.

Even though last week’s discovery makes all current physics textbooks obsolete, it has been welcomed by physicists as another reason for wonder and awe, another motive to keep exploring even those crannies of creation we thought we had all figured out.

Has humanity’s scientific community arrived at the same spot as its religious community, seeing all creation as wondrous, awe-inspiring, and always full of surprises? If so, what does this imply about its Creator?


The newly nabbed Z(4430) is one of a handful of suspected tetraquarks that have been found in recent years… the particle’s existence was questioned after the BaBar detector at the SLAC accelerator in Menlo Park, California, subsequently failed to find it.

Now the LHCb experiment… has analysed 10 times as much data… and says it has found as many as 4000 of the particles.

Gathering more data on how this particle decays could help shed light on whether it is a tetraquark or something else. And that could help researchers get to grips with how matter behaves at the most basic scales. Could quarks bind together in even larger groups, for example? Previous hints of five-quark groupings, called pentaquarks, have mostly disappeared in recent years, but they have not been fully ruled out, says Karliner.

“What determines who can bind together and who can’t?” he asks. “It’s completely uncharted territory.”

There has been some experimental hints of tetraquarks, but this latest result is the strongest evidence of 4 quarks forming a color-neutral particle.  This means that quarks can combine in much more complex ways than we originally expected, and this has implications for the internal structure of neutron stars.


The Universes and The Earths

TOPIC:  Earth meet your cousin, Keplar-186f.

FINDING:  Finally, using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the first Earth-sized planet, Keplar-186f, in the Golidlocks zone, the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars other than our sun.

IMPLICATIONS:  For some, like Adrienne LeFrance of The Atlantic who writes in her article, This Is Big: Scientists Just Found Earth’s First Cousin, “Today we know that Earth is special. What we don’t know is how long we’ll be able to say that.”

For others, like myself who not only expect to find innumerable earth-sized planets but also signs of life, the discovery does not make the earth any more or less special. What it does do is continue to open the doors of possibility. This discovery takes us another baby step closer to the possibility of other life in the universe. Imagine, a cosmos with multiple stories of its genesis. God, I love this universe.

When God began creating the Universes and the Earths….


“We know of just one planet where life exists — Earth. When we search for life outside our solar system we focus on finding planets with characteristics that mimic that of Earth,” said Elisa Quintana, research scientist at the SETI Institute at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and lead author of the paper published today in the journal Science. “Finding a habitable zone planet comparable to Earth in size is a major step forward.”



The Atlantic


Geoffrey Baines Edinburgh, Scotland March 21, 2014
Submitted, March 21, 2014
Geoffrey Baines
Edinburgh, Scotland

Technology, Entrepreneurship, Society, Art

Peter Diamandis and TED’s Chris Anderson have announced an amazing XPrize to move Artificial Intelligence forward.  The challenge: “Can an A.I. give a TED talk so powerful and compelling that it commands a standing ovation?”

In the last four years, IBM’s Watson and Google’s Deep Learning have pushed forward AI’s evolution. Now, the XPrize promises to give the truest indication of just how human A.I. is really becoming.

There is also an opportunity to be involved in the project.  Peter Diamandis invites his Abundance 360 members to be part of the action: “Because the design of this XPRIZE isn’t easy or obvious, I’m turning to you, my Abundance & Bold community, for help and input. For example: How long should the A.I.’s TED talk be? How should the subject be chosen? How should the competition be judged? Should the A.I. be a physical robot that walks (or rolls) on stage or just a voice?”

I think I might just join in.

“We’re currently agnostic as to how the talk is presented. Could be a robot walking onto the stage, an avatar or Scarlett Johansson’s sexy disembodied voice. And the ‘standing O’ criterion is intended as a powerful symbol for the standard a talk should aspire to.” (Chris Anderson)

Email from Abundance 360, but you can also check in here:


Do You Have 2, 3, or 4 Parents?

TESA: Technology/Entrepreneurship/Society/Arts

Tim Skaar Boston, Mass
Tim Skaar
Boston, Mass

Scientists are seeking FDA approval for mitochondrial DNA transplantation in Human eggs. A woman, who may have eggs that show a disorder, can have mitochondrial DNA transplanted from a donor egg.

The “damaged” DNA is removed from the woman’s egg, and new health DNA is inserted from the donated egg. The result once this egg is fertilized is a fetus, and ultimately an infant with 3 genetic parents. This has been successfully accomplished in monkeys, and human eggs, and approval is being sought in both the US and UK to bring a transplanted and fertilized egg to full term.

The possible implications are endless. Is this a first step on the journey to designer babies? Might this lead to the elimination of certain disorders from the planet? Once these new combinations are introduced into the human gene pool, what unknown consequences might arise?


“Up till now, all babies have had two genetic parents. That could soon change.”

“We have developed a technique that would allow a woman to have a child that is not affected by this disease, and yet the child would be related to her genetically,” Dieter Egli of the New York Stem Cell Foundation told NPR in October.”