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Elon Musk, His New Company, and Science

Elon Musk, His New Company, and Science Featured

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has founded a new company called Neuralink Corp. According to the Wall Street Journal Neuralink will be pursuing what Musk has previously called “neural lace” technology, which consists of implanting tiny brain electrodes that could one day upload and download our thoughts. This type of technology has been fantasized about for some time and has actually been under development with recent breakthrough in research.

 

In The Culture science fiction series, written by Scottish author Iain M. Banks, humanoids install devices on their brains called a “neural lace.” A mesh that grows with your brain, it’s essentially a wireless brain-computer interface. And now a new kind of flexible circuit has made this science fiction type of future a reality. Implanted via injection, a grid of wires only a few millimeters across can be incorporated with living neurons and listen in to their activity, offering a way for electronics to interface with your brain. Charles Lieber, a nanotechnologist at Harvard University and co-author of a study describing the device in Nature Nanotechnology says that they’re trying to blur the distinction between electronic circuits and a living system. Sounds right up Mr. Musk’s alley.

Lieber’s idea is to create a conductive brain interface that mirrors the fine details of the brain itself. As neurons connect with each other in a network that has open spaces where proteins and fluids pass through, the crosshatches in the bendable mesh electronics leave room for neurons to fit in. Electronic brain interfaces like these could someday be crucial for people with neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s.

Musk brought up the idea of using this kind of technology at Recode’s Code Conference in 2016 saying that this would be a digital layer located above the cortex and built right into the brain. This would intertwine computers with the human brain. We have already augmented our capabilities with technology like mobile phones and other devices, all connected to the internet and software services in the cloud. I have the whole internet in the palm of my hand.

The thinking behind Neuralink would take this one step further and provide a brain-computer interface in a way that would truly begin to meld human and machine. Elon Musk believes this is an imperative before AI eats the world. His focus certainly seems to be around enhancing capabilities to create humans with super powers, while the researchers are more looking to help with medical conditions and correct deficiencies. Either way, the notion of a brain-computer interface is attractive and would potentially allow an AI layer over my cerebral cortex and could even allow at some point my consciousness to be uploaded to the cloud.

Ray Kurzweil, Chief Scientist at Google, famously believes that this will be possible by 2045. During his speech at the Global Futures 2045 International Congress in New York, June 2013 Kurzweil said:

“Based on conservative estimates of the amount of computation you need to functionally simulate a human brain, we’ll be able to expand the scope of our intelligence a billion-fold.”

In Kurweil’s book, The Singularity Is Near, he plots this development and journey towards singularity in a graph. I don’t think that Elon Musk is necessarily trying to hasten the advent of the singularity, but it does seem that he is closely aligned to Ray’s thinking.

Original Article at Energynews Nigeria

Related items

  • Are electricity tariffs in Nigeria really the lowest in Africa?

    When the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard ran a report in June 2014 headlined, “Power supply: Nigeria electricity tariff, lowest in Africa,” an Africa Check reader asked us to look into the claim.

     

    The snappy headline diverged slightly from the content of the story, which stated that, despite recent hikes, Nigeria still had “one of the lowest electricity tariffs in Africa”. The story quoted an analyst claiming that: “countries like Liberia, Bukina Faso, Senegal, Mali, among others, have higher electricity tariffs than Nigeria”.So does Nigeria have the lowest or “one of the lowest” electricity tariffs in Africa? And is it useful to compare electricity tariffs across Africa?

    What data was the claim based on?

    The analyst quoted in the Vanguard’s article, Oludare Oduale, told Africa Check (then) that his claims were based on a 2005 comparative chart from a website called the Encyclopedia of Nations. That comparison showed that out of 22 African countries, Nigeria had the third lowest electricity tariff on the continent. However, that data – if it was accurate –  is over a decade out of date. A more recent study, published by The World Bank in 2011, compared tariffs in 27 sub-Saharan African countries between 2004 and 2008. It found a huge range in the residential prices applied across the continent but does show Nigeria to be among the lowest for residential, commercial and industrial tariffs.

    ‘A pointless exercise’

    spokesman for South Africa’s electricity utility Eskom, told Africa Check that attempting to compare and rank electricity tariffs across African was a “pointless exercise”.And, according to Etzinger, having the “lowest electricity tariff in Africa” may not be something to brag about. “Countries which charge more for electricity usually have proper billing management, well maintained infrastructure and are able to provide a reliable service,” he explained.“You can’t compare the experience of the average South African home with the average Nigerian home. They are completely different.”

    Tariffs devoid of context

    The 2011 study published by the World Bank, revealed that for average residential consumption levels of 100 kilowatt hours per month Nigeria’s tariff was 3.4 US cents/kWh and South Africa’s tariff was 3.6 US cents/kWh. However, a ranking based on tariffs provides no insight into the energy sector, the quantity of power produced or its quality.

    In 2011, South Africa’s population was estimated at 52 million and 85% of people had access to electricity, according to the latest census. There has been controversy overestimates regarding the size of Nigeria’s population. But the most reliable estimates, which cross-referenced numerous population estimates, placed the country’s population at just over 134 million in 2006. The World Bank estimates that only 48% of Nigerians have access to electricity. A cheap electricity tariff isn’t much consolation to half of Nigeria’s citizens who don’t have access to electricity.

    If you use South Africa and Nigeria as examples, there are also stark differences in the ability of the two countries to meet their electricity demands. On 7 July 2014, Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force on Power estimated that electricity demand in Nigeria stood at 12,800 MW, while the country was only able to produce 3,400 MW. The task force was set up in June 2010 by President Goodluck Jonathan to drive reform of the country’s power sector.

    In comparison, according to Eskom, South Africa’s electricity demand on 7 July 2014 stood at 33,604 MW and its capacity at 36,000 MW. Although the countries’ tariffs are similar, Nigeria’s population is nearly three times that of South Africa but it is only able to produce a tenth of its electricity supply and is unable to meet demand.

    Tariffs are too low to cover costs

    Nigeria’s tariffs have historically been too low to cover the basic operating costs of producing the country’s electricity.Nigeria’s Presidential Task Force on Power noted that ‘the revenues generated by very low electricity tariffs could not even cover the cost of producing and supplying power”.

    In 2009, Prasad Tallapragada, a senior energy specialist and team leader in the World Bank’s Nigeria Energy Programme, noted that Nigeria had one of the lowest electricity tariffs in the world. The tariff of about 4.3 US cents/KWh had remained constant since 2002.But the low tariff, together with an absence of proper metering and low collection rates, meant that basic operating costs were not met. As a result, according to Tallapragada, there was a yearly revenue gap that was historically filled by government transfers.

    When the lights go out

    Lack of generating capacity, blackouts and voltage variations have resulted in many residential and commercial customers in Nigeria resorting to producing their own power with private generators.In 2011, self-generation was estimated to produce between 4,000 and 8,000 MW. Even the conservative, outdated estimated of 4,000 MW in 2011 is more than Nigeria’s current grid supply of 3,400 MW.

    2011 World Bank survey of 3,000 Nigerian business revealed that the biggest problem they reported was the unreliable power supply. Businesses reported that they experienced average power outages of 8 hours per day. 88% of retail and manufacturing businesses survey reported owning private generators. And the manufacturing businesses surveyed reported that approximately 69% of their total electricity usage was produced by private generators. The expenses incurred running private generators cost the average business the equivalent of more than 4% of their sales.

    Individuals lucky enough to be on the grid are also used to being plunged into darkness. The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) earned itself the moniker “Please Have Candles Nearby”.Many houses also use generators, though it is hard to judge how much those cost individuals to run. “The cost on an individual basis fluctuates based on the size of the generator, loading at any given time, and the fuel source (petrol is subsidised in Nigeria, diesel is not), age and mechanical state of the generator,” says Erik Fernstrom, lead energy specialist for Africa at the World Bank. “We therefore usually use a range of 30-50 US cents / kWh for smaller units as a broad estimate.”

    Conclusion – Nigerian power may be cheap, but is also very unreliable

    Nigeria may have one of the lowest electricity tariffs in Africa – but it’s not something to be proud of. Comparisons based solely on electricity tariffs are devoid of insightful context.Access to electricity in Nigeria remains low and the country is unable to produce enough electricity to meet demand. The low tariffs may actually be hampering the upgrading of the system. Historically, electricity tariffs have been so low that they are not sufficient to cover the operating costs of producing the electricity. And the low tariffs are little comfort to individuals and business that regularly have to fork out extra money to keep their private generators running when the lights go out.

    original article at Energynews Nigeria

  • NLNG: Facts and Figures 2017

    The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG), Tony Attah, Wednesday 19, 2017 in Lagos, publicly presented the company’s Facts and Figures on NLNG 2017 publication, a compendium of the NLNG business.

     

    The publication was presented in the presence of the company’s Deputy Managing Director, Sadeeq Mai-Bornu; General Manager, External Relations, Kudo Eresia-Eke and Finance General Manager, Solomon Folaranmi.

    Attah said during his presentation that Nigeria has the makings of a top quartile gas producing country, with potential to develop into a global gas powerhouse and increase its LNG market share. He added that the right business environment needed to exist for that transformation to come about.

    The Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) Fiscal Incentives Guarantees and Assurances Act (NLNG Act) allowed investments to flow into the country. It provided investors the confidence that any agreement entered into would be respected and preserved. To amend the Act will not help Nigeria in developing its vast gas resources, NLNG and its hopes for expansion. It will erode investors’ confidence that the Act provided in the first place.

    Attah remarked that identified opportunities like the expansion of NLNG’s Bonny Island Plant with Trains 7 and 8 could be a catalyst to unleashing the country’s gas potentials. He said it was time for Nigeria to use gas to spur industrial and economic transformation.

    He however, warned that some challenges may slow down progress towards achieving the country’s dreams, citing the proposed amendment of the Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG) Fiscal Incentives, Guarantees and Assurances Act (NLNG Act) by the House of Representatives as a potential show-stopper.

    “If the amendment is passed, the NLNG expansion project will be jeopardised and Nigeria will lose investments of US$ 1-3 billion annually in the Upstream to enable NLNG maintain current production capacity and gas developments. It means an immediate loss of foreign investment totalling US$25 billion in respect of Train 7 and 8 investments. Another impact will be the potential loss of about 18,000 jobs required for the construction activities of the Trains.

    “An amendment or change in the NLNG Act portrays Nigeria as a promise-breaker and untrustworthy, damaging the country’s reputation and hamstringing its ability to attract foreign investment,” he pointed out.

    Citing the Qatari example, Attah said “Qatar started to ship LNG in 1997, two years before Nigeria. But you have to be awed by what the country has achieved since then. Today, oil and gas, and principally LNG is the foundation of Qatar’s economy; and account for more than 70% of total government revenue, and more than 60% of GDP, as well as roughly 85% of export earnings. Qatar has LNG capacity of about 77MTPA, and generates revenues of about $91 billion per year. Gas was the catalyst for transformation of a small emirate to a global economic powerhouse. This will give you a feeling of what can happen when you focus on gas.”

    Reporting on NLNG’s scorecard since the inception of production, he said: “NLNG is a success story that we need to sustain. It is the fourth largest LNG plant in the world. It has generated $90 billion in revenues as well as paid $5.5 billion in taxes. The company has generated $13 billion for the Federal Government through feedgas purchases and $15 billion in dividends. While monetising the country’s gas resources, the company contributed to reducing gas flaring from 65% to less than 20%.

    “In addition, NLNG has contributed significantly to the domestic LPG industry, supplying some 40% of cooking gas to Nigerian homes and businesses. This intervention continues as part of strategies and initiatives aimed at deepening the availability and usage of cooking gas in the country.

    “In the Niger Delta, NLNG committed more than $200 million to corporate social responsibility projects in the Niger Delta especially in the areas of capacity building and infrastructure development. We are also ready to commit some N60 billion to see the Bonny-Bodo road come into reality and commit N3 billion annually for the next 25 years to transform Bonny into a Dubai of sorts. All these are achieved with a management staff entirely made up of Nigerians and a workforce which is 95% indigenous. But all of these achievements are in jeopardy with the proposed amendment by the House. he said.

    NLNG is owned by four shareholders, namely, the Federal Government of Nigeria, represented by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC (49%), Shell Gas BV, SGBV, (25.6%), Total LNG Nigeria Limited (15%), and Eni International (N.A,) N. V. S. a. r. l (10.4%).

    original article at Energynews Nigeria

  • Nigeria On Track To Expand Oil Output

    As OPEC discusses a six-month extension of the oil production cut agreement that it struck in November, Nigeria plans to continue ramping up its own output.

     

    The country, which is exempt from the agreement because its market share was severely affected by militant activity in the Niger Delta, is planning to complete repair work on the Forcados pipeline and maintenance at the Bonga field by July. Following these, crude oil production should rise to 2.2 million barrels daily, from 1.27 million bpd in March. Last month’s figure was affected by maintenance at Bonga, which produces 225,000 bpd.

    Nigeria’s Oil Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu told Bloomberg in an interview that he hoped the other OPEC members agreed on an extension, so international benchmark prices could remain above $50 a barrel. Nigeria will join the market rebalancing efforts as soon as it returns to the daily production rate from before the string of militant attacks that crippled its oil industry over the last two years.

    It has now been three months without bombings and repairs at the Forcados terminal, which was a preferred target for the militants, are apparently proceeding as planned. Back in February, the Oil Ministry said Forcados, which processes some 250,000 bpd of the same name crude blend, could be back online within weeks, but that turned out to be too optimistic. The Niger Delta Avengers last bombed Forcados in early February.

    With rising crude production and improving oil revenues, Nigeria earlier this week announced it will make the first payment under a $5.1-billion debt deal with five international oil companies by the end of April.

    In exchange for the payments, the companies, including Shell, Chevron, Total, Eni, and Exxon, are supposed to increase their investments in Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. The five majors account for 80 percent of Nigeria’s oil extraction through joint ventures with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. The debt was incurred as a result of NNPC’s inability to hold up its end of the bargain with regard to investments to be made by the joint ventures.

    original article at Energynews Nigeria

  • American Jobs Are Headed to Mexico Once Again
    • Twitter blasts can’t reverse the pull of global competition
    • ‘It still makes sense to go forward with their business plans’

    After Donald Trump’s election, the flow of manufacturers setting up shop south of the border dwindled to a trickle. Ford Motor Co. and Carrier Corp., caught in Trump’s Twitter crosshairs, scrapped plans to move jobs to Mexico in two very public examples of the slowdown.

     

    But now the pace is picking back up. Illinois Tool Works Inc. will close an auto-parts plant in Mazon, Illinois, this month and head to Ciudad Juarez. Triumph Group Inc. is reducing the Spokane, Washington, workforce that makes fiber-composite parts for Boeing Co. aircraft and moving production to Zacatecas and Baja California. TE Connectivity Ltd. is shuttering a pressure-sensor plant in Pennsauken, New Jersey, in favor of a facility in Hermosillo.

    While Trump hasn’t stopped pounding his America First bully pulpit, and the future of Nafta remains uncertain, “there’s cautious optimism and a hopeful attitude that cooler heads will prevail in Washington,” said Ross Baldwin, chief executive officer of Tacna Services Inc., which facilitates relocations.

    Baldwin has seen the evidence: After business ground to a halt back in November, he’s now juggling two Mexico-bound clients. San Diego-based Tacna helps manage 4,500 workers in Mexico, where factory wages are about a fifth of those in the U.S. That may explain why Mexican manufacturing jobs rose 3.2 percent in January from a year ago as they dropped 0.3 percent in the U.S.

    The renewed exodus shows how difficult it will be for Trump to turn the macroeconomic tide just by jawboning alone. This week, he trumpeted a Ford investment in Michigan plants with a cap-lock fanfare: “JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!” The $1.2 billion will create or retain only 130 positions, though. (While Ford canceled plans in November for a new $1.6 billion facility in Mexico, winning Trump’s praise, it employs more than 7,000 workers in that country.)

    Trump’s plans to renegotiate Nafta and talk of punitive tariffs can’t erase the need to manufacture in lower-cost countries, said Alan Russell, CEO of El Paso, Texas-based Tecma Group., which also helps open and operate factories in Mexico. European companies tap the Czech Republic for low wages and Asia has Vietnam, and the U.S. needs Mexico to remain competitive with labor-intensive products, he said.

    “This isn’t about taking jobs from the U.S. — It’s about saving companies.”

    Russell helped Firstronic LLC open a factory in Juarez in 2014 to make circuit boards for customers including Audi and Tesla Inc. Workers, sporting maroon lab coats and wearing rubber straps on their shoes to ward off static electricity, make about $10 a day running computer-driven machines that insert capacitors and resistors onto green boards and solder them into place.

    The Juarez expansion — and joint ventures in the Czech Republic and China — was a factor in Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Firstronic winning larger contracts from producers of auto parts and medical supplies, said CEO John Sammut. His sales are surging at a 30 percent annual clip.

    Grow and Thrive

    In Spokane, Triumph Group dismissed almost 80 production workers in January and plans to eliminate another 30 jobs by August as it moves work to Mexican plants, said Steve Warren, a local official of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

    “They are being pressured to supply parts as low cost as possible,” he said.

    Tapping cheap labor sometimes isn’t just about lowering costs, but accelerating growth. Large purchasers, including Kongsberg Automotive and Dura Automotive Systems, prefer to deal with a few global suppliers rather than a myriad of local companies.

    “If we were only producing in the U.S., we would lose out on the vast majority of the contract opportunities,” Sammut said. With the increase in business, Firstronic has added revenue and jobs in Grand Rapids, he said.

    Businesses haven’t dismissed a Nafta renegotiation or policies being considered in Washington that might prove costly. A plan by House Republicans to implement a 20 percent border adjustment tax has raised concerns, especially among retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. that import many of their wares. The tax would be applied to sales of imported goods to reduce the U.S. trade deficit, which reached $734 billion in 2016.

    Trump repeated to a joint session of Congress last month his refrain that that he will make it “much, much harder for companies to leave our country.” But his recent stumbles — travel bans blocked by courts and a health-care bill scuttled by his own party — underscore the limitations on presidential power and the difficulty he may have punishing companies or overhauling Nafta.

    At a February conference in El Paso to discuss how Trump’s policies may affect trade, most in the room of plant managers, supply-chain officers and suppliers predicted Nafta would likely be changed but not discarded, and that the changes might not be harmful.

    Whatever happens, Russell said his business fostering Mexican manufacturing will grow this year. The pressure to reduce costs is that relentless.

    “When you dissect the worst-case scenarios, it still makes sense to go forward with their business plans,” he said. “It’s a competitive world.”

    Original Article at Energynews Nigeria

  • The Internet of Things, CIA and a Massive Privacy Problem in a Big Data World by Bernard Marr

    For me, the most shocking revelations to come out of Wikileaks’ release of classified CIA documents relating to the agency’s spying activities has been how the alleged vector of attack has changed to targeting consumer electronic devices.

    Whether it is iPhones, Android devices or Samsung Smart TVs, the spy agency has clearly seen the opportunities provided by the often paper-thin security of many of today’s IoT-connected, smart gadgets.

    Whereas in the cold war era, agents would, we are told, sneak into hotel rooms and offices undercover, in order to plant bugs and monitoring devices, today there is no need. The connected world offers them ready-built conduits into our homes and vehicles. And judging by the arsenal of hacking tools the CIA has been revealed to have at its disposal, manufacturers’ attempts to secure our privacy have been at best incompetent, and at worst, collaborative.

    Of course, the documents, so far, do not go into a great deal of depth about how widely these intrusive technologies have been deployed. In other words, we know what they can do, but very little about what they have actually done.

    The best case scenario is that these tools all represent technology that has been deployed legally – that is, used when security services have, through the correct channels, established there is a situation which requires them to take action to protect the public.

    But the potential implications go far wider. These tools haven’t all been developed by the CIA themselves – in fact a substantial portion of the leaked information relates to a catalog of software and utilities that have been “collected”. No-one knows who they have been collected from. But what it does show is that the CIA has been aware for some time that the devices we are increasingly filling our homes with are not safe. And rather than act to help manufacturers and software developers shore up those vulnerabilities, they researched how they could best be exploited.

    It’s scary, because there is certainly a lack of understanding about how thoroughly sensors, scanners and cameras cover our lives, and just how powerful, in theory (and it seems practice) their potential for surveillance is.

    The problem might be that it’s simply too big a concern for most people to worry about – we know we aren’t going to sacrifice our smartphones and Internet-enabled TVs, and in coming years we’re probably be buying swarms of autonomous cars and IoT home entertainment and utility devices. Most of us probably rely on the fact that there’s nothing in particular of interest about us for someone to want to spy on us in the first place.

    But this complacency – though understandable – is based on the flawed assumption that whoever has this power – be it the CIA, partner agencies they work with, or anyone who has got access to the same tools – will always be working in our best interests. History tells us that this will far from always be the case, and the CIA actions at the base of the recent revelations again make that point.

    Thanks to Snowden of course, we’ve known for years that intelligence services are engaged in mass-surveillance of the public. These leaks show just how far reaching their capabilities have become, when it comes to extracting data about our lives. And when you consider how this data could be used, together with cutting edge analytics and machine learning – , it goes beyond even what George Orwell imagined in 1984. At least his hidden cameras had to be monitored by humans to determine who should be accused of facecrime or thoughtcrime. 

    Some have sought to downplay the implications of the leaks – suggesting that it has long been known that security services are capable of accessing personal devices and turning them into surveillance tools. This is true – but in my opinion comes dangerously close to “normalizing” the idea that we should accept intrusion into our personal and private lives. Again, the scary implication is not necessarily what the US government is doing now, but what a future government or even a private entity, in the US or elsewhere, could potentially do tomorrow.

    On the other hand, hopefully this will act as a wake-up call. It’s certainly true that Snowden’s 2013 revelations sparked a wave of interest and awareness in encryption – to the point that it became enabled by default in Whatsapp, the world’s most popular messaging application. The installed userbase of the “secure” messaging app Signal also have soared. This reassures me that an ever-growing number of people are becoming aware of privacy issues, and willing to take basic steps to safeguard their data.

    What’s needed now is continued demand from citizens that their governments and security services put their interests first – and that means protecting their rights to privacy and ensuring that these powerful and invasive tools are only used when public safety is at stake. As always, please share your views and thoughts in the comments below.

    Thank you for reading my post. Here at LinkedIn and at Forbes I regularly write about management, technology and Big Data. If you would like to read my future posts then simply join my network here or click 'Follow'. Also feel free to connect on TwitterFacebook or Slideshare

    Also, you might like to know that my brand new book 'Data Strategy: How to Profit from a World of Big Data, Analytics and the Internet of Things' is now available for pre-order.

    And if you want something to read now, then you could check out my my new and free ebook 'Beyond The Big Data Buzz: How Data Is Disrupting Business In Every Industry In The World'.

    Original article at linkedin

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