Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Foreign Competition and Job Loss

Link to the abstract:

"In any dynamic economy, there is a risk of job loss. Job loss resulting from foreign rather than domestic competition has come under intense scrutiny recently with Britain’s exit from the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. While economists generally conclude that trade is broadly enriching, recent works have brought attention to the costs of trade to workers and communities. At the individual level, I find that the risk of layoff and unemployment to workers in trade-exposed sectors is comparable — or even lower — than the risk to workers in non-traded sectors and that these risks have not increased during the period of more intense competition with Chinese imports. At the community level, Autor, Dorn and Hanson (2013) find that local areas have experienced slower job and wage growth and higher unemployment because of import competition with China. Upon analyzing their data, I conclude that their results are biased by the weaker macroeconomic performance of 2000-2007 relative to the 1990s. When I analyze inter-local area economic changes — rather analyzing changes within and across areas — I fail to reject the null hypotheses that import competition has no effect on wage or employment growth, except within the manufacturing sector during the most recent period, or that it has no effect on many other outcomes, including labor force participation, intergenerational mobility, and mortality. During each period, import competition actually predicts an increase in average wages for manufacturing workers, as well as non-manufacturing during the 1990s period, and import competition predicts a shift toward college educated non-manufacturing jobs in the second period. I conclude that foreign competition does not appear to elevate the risk of job loss to a greater extent than domestic competition, and people living in the communities most exposed to foreign competition are no worse off on average."

Monday, February 27, 2017

Honda's ARC Production Line

A Paragraph to Ponder

From New Geography:

"Once a national and global leader in infrastructure, according to a report last year by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, California now spends the least percentage of its state budget on infrastructure of any state. In the critical Sacramento-San Francisco Delta, an ancient levee and dike system is decaying, and ever more stringent environmental regulations limit key state and federal water facility operations. To be sure, Brown [Governor Jerry Brown] has supported a “water fix” — a dual tunnel through the Delta — to address some of these problems, but his efforts have only produced a mountain of paper, rather than real-world improvements. In terms of preparing for the future, California’s current penchant for endless studies and environmental hand-wringing is fostering pre-Katrina Louisiana conditions, rather than the forward-looking capital investments previously the state’s hallmark."

The Need for Hungry-Minded Engineers

From Dan Wang and his review of Tyler Cowen's Complacent Class:

"I would like for everyone to be “hungry-minded,” in which one realizes that there is so much to know. A hungry-minded person senses that he is expert in so few areas of knowledge; that terrible gaps plague even his supposed areas of expertise; that there are important areas of knowledge of whose existence he is barely even aware; and that he should be fixing these deficiencies, now and ravenously. My favorite people to talk to are those who look for new experiences, think about them in an analytic way, and are eager to share their thoughts."

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Engineers of FAIR

IKEA as a Case Study on Globalization

Five Thirty Eight has an interesting post on the economics of IKEA's furniture.  From the article:
"The Poäng’s midcentury-modern forebear was the Finnish designer Alvar Aalto’s 1939 creation called simply armchair 406, which had its own bent-birch frame, swooping arms and thin tan upholstery. The Poäng’s design was first sold decades later, in 1978, after a collaboration between Lars Engman and Noboru Nakamura. Nakamura, in a company brochure celebrating his chair’s 40th anniversary, said that even though trends and fashion influence what he designs, “all products should have a timeless value.”
But it’s less the fashion trends than the resulting furniture economics that make this particular history interesting. Versions of the Aalto sell online for over $4,000. The Poäng debuted at a fraction of the price of the Aalto, and now, after a steep price decline, the Poäng sells at a fraction of its original price. Furniture has generally gotten cheaper relative to other goods over the years — likely due to effects of globalization — but this chair’s trend stands out. In the early 1990s, the chair couldn’t be had for less than $300, adjusted for inflation. Today, it’s $79. (The average piece of $300 dollar furniture in 1990 would cost about $151 today, per the consumer price index for furniture and bedding.)"

Here's Why Self-Driving Cars May Never Really Be Self-Driving

Here's Why Self-Driving Cars May Never Really Be Self-Driving: Researchers are exploring unpredictable issues with autonomous car technology that might be solved with embedded software to avoid accidents.

Term of the Week - Penny Plan

From City Lab:

"Last week, the Senate confirmed Mick Mulvaney, a House representative from South Carolina, to serve as the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney is a notable supporter of Trump’s so-called “penny plan,” a campaign pledge to slash non-defense discretionary spending by 1 percent of prior year levels for every year over a decade. By 2026, the penny plan would result in domestic spending at 37 percent below the level in 2010. “Cuts of these magnitudes would have devastating effects on tens of millions of less-fortunate families and on an array of basic services that middle-income Americans, as well, rely on,” writes CBBP’s Robert Greenstein."

Collaborative Robots

The Dynamic Group is a good example of a firm that represents the future - - robots and humans working in collaborative environments.  The future is coming - - firms and project teams that think less about robots and automation as taking work away from humans and more about the work they can do together.

TVision Insights

Saturday, February 25, 2017

First 3D Printed Bridge

The Trump Wall Schedule

From Fox News - - the solicitation and response schedule seems . . . nutty.  It is my understanding the wall has yet to be funded by Congress.
"President Trump’s administration on Friday made its first tangible step towards developing and implementing one of the president’s chief campaign promises: to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.
Bloomberg reported that the administration issued a preliminary request for proposals to contractors. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it plans to start awarding contracts by mid-April.
The agency said it will request bids on or around March 6 and that companies would have to submit "concept papers" to design and build prototypes by March 10.
The field of candidates will be narrowed by March 20, and finalists must submit offers with their proposed costs by March 24."

America's Largest Exporting Cities

Export volume and intensity of U.S. metropolitan areas, 2015Export volume and intensity of U.S. metropolitan areas, 2015Export volume and intensity of U.S. metropolitan areas, 2015

Flowless - Connecting Water to the IoT

What Great Managers Do

Concentrate on Being a Matcher

"Economist Tyler Cowen says a big part of thriving in the future will come down to attitude.
"Matchers gain, strivers lose," he writes in a new book, "The Complacent Class."
Matchers, aka enthusiasts, are people who are motivated by personal interests, whether that's record collecting, hiking, cooking, or obsessing about "Game of Thrones." "The enthusiasts are not trying to come out ahead of everyone else; rather, they seek to have some of their niche preferences fulfilled for the sake of their own internally directed happiness," Cowen writes.
Strivers, on the other hand, are motivated by beating others. "These are the people who strive to have the biggest office, bed the most mates, earn the most money, or climb whatever the relevant status ladder might be," Cowen writes.
It's not hard to see how recent trends have favored matchers. This group has benefitted from technology — from Tinder to Spotify to Google — that makes it easier for them to pursue their interests and find other people who share them. Meanwhile, strivers are suffering, faced with more competition than ever and a greater awareness of how many people around the world are beating them."

MIcrosoft Hololens

The engineering applications are limitless - -

The Math Behind Hidden Figures

Gates on a Robot Tax

A Paragraph to Ponder

From the New York Times today - Big Question for Economy: How Much Room Is There to Grow? by Neil Irwin:

""A third to a half of the people on the sidelines, it wouldn't take much to employ tomorrow," said Stefani Pashman, chief executive of Partner4Work, a work force development group in the Pittsburgh area.  "The other half are much tougher to employ," often facing challenges from drug use, criminal records and transience."

Why Last Week was a Good Week

From Economist Tyler Cowen - - 

"The Border Tax plan appears to be dead or on life support.  Flynn is gone and replaced by the apparently excellent McMaster.  There is talk (fact?) again of Kevin Hassett as CEA chair — a great idea — and Russia seems increasingly disillusioned with our president, also a nicer place to be."

The Classroom Edition of The Martian

The Martian: Classroom Edition by Andy Weir

Friday, February 24, 2017

Engineering Trump's European Wall

From CNN.

Awards to IoT Innovation Projects

SMEs awarded £50,000 to solve London problems including noise and safe cycling using IoT - IoT Now - How to run an IoT enabled business: Six small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from across the UK have been awarded a share of £50,000 (€58,000) funding by Future Cities Catapult, the UK Go

Regulation of the Day

Who Makes a Better Doctor?

‘Replace male doctors with female ones and save at least 32,000 lives each year’?: Critically examines a high profile article claiming replacing men with women doctors would save 32,000 lives a year.

Understanding Border Adjustment Tax Plans

Our Uncomfortable Future - Police Retireees vs. Practicing Civil Engineers

From the Dallas Morning News - - report on the scenario that would refund the City of Dallas pension plan with cuts in DART operations and capital investments.  I fear this is the future in locales with a public pension crisis (which is numerous locations) - - paying for the past by cutting investment in the future.

"Griggs' aim is to ask voters in November to make the choice between using money for DART's future or for public safety workers' retirements.
DART, of course, never thought it would be part of the pension mess. Agency spokesman Morgan Lyons said such a move is "potentially devastating for transit operations." 
Lyons said DART officials would have to consider cuts to train and bus service and perhaps even reconsider their ambitions to simultaneously build a second downtown Dallas rail line, a streetcar and a new suburban rail line to DFW International Airport."

Do We Understand the Numbers Behind Transit Ridership?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Random Attacks on Engineers

"A Kansas man allegedly shot two Indian-American men and a bystander after yelling anti-immigrant slurs Wednesday night.
Adam Purinton, 51, allegedly opened fire on the two Indian-American engineers in an Olathe, Kansas, bar, in an incident Kansas police say was premeditated. Purinton then left the bar and traveled to a nearby Applebee’s in Clinton, Missouri, where he allegedly remarked that he had shot two Middle Eastern men, and that he needed a place to hide.
Purinton confronted the men while drinking at Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe around 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday. “Get out of my country,” Purinton allegedly told the two Indian-American men, according to at least one witness. Others told the Kansas City Star that he had been making racial slurs before he allegedly shot and killed Srinivas Kuchibhotla and injured Alok Madasani, who worked with Kuchibhotla at Garmin International. A bystander, Ian Grillot, attempted to intervene, and was shot non-fatally in the hand and shoulder."

Is Trump Planning a Canadian Style FAA?

Texans Don't Like Border Walls and Bullet Trains for the Same Reasons

Civil Engineering and the Municipal Bond Dependency Problem

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

BNSF and the Pathfinder Program

Morgan Stanley On the Future of the Car

Skagit River Bridge Replacement

I-5 Skagit River Bridge Collapse Review | Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities | Vol 30, No 6

I-5 Skagit River Bridge Collapse Review | Journal of Performance of Constructed Facilities | Vol 30, No 6

Trump versus the Markets

From Fortune:

"Trump has a totally different vision. In his mind, the plan will create a virtuous cycle of investment and durable growth. Companies will spend heavily on capital investment, and as they expand, pull millions of working-age folks who've quit the labor force back into offices and factories. The surge in capex will raise productivity through purchases of efficient machinery, and innovative technology that makes supply chains more efficient. That combination would cause production and the labor force to expand in tandem with demand for both products and workers, thus holding real prices in check. It's obvious, however, that both investors and the Fed think that a surge is prices is far more likely than the supply side revolution that Trump promises. The evidence is the rate rise that's already occurred as a harbinger of inflation to come. If a surge in the labor and output doesn't occur, the spike in growth will fade quickly. "You're juicing the economy for a short period," says Ashworth, "but it can't grow at 3% without high inflation because productivity and labor can't keep up. You run up against hard constraints." In that scenario, the Fed is forced to raise rates even further to stanch inflation, causing a recession. "We haven't repealed the business cycle," says Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae. "This is already one of the longest expansions on record.""

Another Sign of Blade Runner 2049

From the New Yorker by Kelly Clancy - A Computer to Rival the Brain:

"Building on decades of work by Mead and others, engineers have been racing to roll out the first so-called neuromorphic chips for consumer use. Kwabena Boahen’s research group at Stanford unveiled its low-power Neurogrid chip in 2014, and Qualcomm has announced that its brain-inspired Zeroth processor will reach the market in 2018. Another model, I.B.M.’s TrueNorth, only recently moved from digital prototype to usable product. It consists of a million silicon neurons, tiny cores that communicate directly with one another using synapse-like connections. Here, the medium is the message; each neuron is both program and processing unit. The sensory data that the chip receives, rather than marching along single file, fan out through its synaptic networks. TrueNorth ultimately arrives at a decision—say, classifying the emotional timbre of its user’s voice—by group vote, as a choir of individual singers might strike on a harmony. I.B.M. claims the chip is useful in real-time pattern recognition, as for speech processing or image classification. But the biggest advance is its energy efficiency: it uses twenty milliwatts per square centimetre, more than a thousand times less than a traditional chip."

Drone Wars

The Midwest, Redefined

From NewGeography - The Midwest, Redefined

23 Ways to Use Alexa in Your Office

Good Update on Battery Technology

Is AI the Future of Growth?

A new report from Accenture and Frontier Economics.  Can AI help to double our economic growth rate by 2035?

Highly Recommended for Engineers - MIT Essential Knowledge Series

Machine Learning

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rise of the Robots in West Virginia

From a report by Brookings:

"In the next decade, the coal mining industry will likely lose even more jobs to automation. According to a report  from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in Winnipeg, Canada, the mining industry is primed for automation. It is highly capital intensive, pays relatively well, and buys expensive equipment. The industry has already adopted various automated technologies, including autonomous haul trucks and loaders; autonomous long-distance haul trains; semi-autonomous crushers, rock breakers, and shovel swings; automated drilling and tunnel-boring systems; automated long-wall plough and shearers; autonomous equipment monitoring; and GIS and GPS technologies. All of these technologies are already in use, and their deployment will be ramped up in the next 10–15 years."

Should a Terminator (T-800) be Taxed Like Humans?

What Bill Gates is thinking - - 

“Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, Social  Security tax, all those things,” he said. “If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d  think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”


Would an Infrastructure Investment Plan Help the Forgotten-Men Index?

Has America Turned Against (Engineering) Experts?

Tom Nichols has a troubling article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs - How America Lost Faith in Expertise: And Why That's a Giant Problem.  The P.E. behind (and the Dr. before) my name puts me squarely in the cross hairs of the anti-expert movement.  To quote Nichols, "We are moving toward a Google-fueled, Wikipedia based collapse of any division between professionals and laypeople." Make no mistake, engineers are in the same professional expert category reserved for doctors, lawyers, and teachers.

From the closing of the article:

"Experts need to remember, always, that they are the servants of a democratic society and a republican government.  Their citizen masters, however, must equip themselves not just with education but also with the kind of civic virtue that keeps them involved in the running of their own country.  Laypeople cannot do with experts, and they must accept this reality without rancor.  Experts, likewise, must accept that they get a hearing, not a veto, and that their advice will not always to taken.  At this point, the bonds tying the system together are dangerously frayed.  Unless some sort of trust and mutual respect can be restored, public discourse will be polluted by unearned respect for unfounded opinions.  And in such an environment, anything and everything becomes possible, including the end of democracy and republican government itself."

Engineering In Our Miserable 21st Century

From Commentary - - hard to argue with the facts that suggest this century is off to a bad start.  
"In our era of no more than indifferent economic growth, 21st–century America has somehow managed to produce markedly more wealth for its wealthholders even as it provided markedly less work for its workers. And trends for paid hours of work look even worse than the work rates themselves. Between 2000 and 2015, according to the BEA, total paid hours of work in America increased by just 4 percent (as against a 35 percent increase for 1985–2000, the 15-year period immediately preceding this one). Over the 2000–2015 period, however, the adult civilian population rose by almost 18 percent—meaning that paid hours of work per adult civilian have plummeted by a shocking 12 percent thus far in our new American century.
This is the terrible contradiction of economic life in what we might call America’s Second Gilded Age (2000—). It is a paradox that may help us understand a number of overarching features of our new century. These include the consistent findings that public trust in almost all U.S. institutions has sharply declined since 2000, even as growing majorities hold that America is “heading in the wrong direction.” It provides an immediate answer to why overwhelming majorities of respondents in public-opinion surveys continue to tell pollsters, year after year, that our ever-richer America is still stuck in the middle of a recession. The mounting economic woes of the “little people” may not have been generally recognized by those inside the bubble, or even by many bubble inhabitants who claimed to be economic specialists—but they proved to be potent fuel for the populist fire that raged through American politics in 2016."

A Paragraph to Ponder

From the David Brooks column in the New York Times:
"Slow growth strains everything else — meaning less opportunity, less optimism and more of the sort of zero-sum, grab-what-you-can thinking that Donald Trump specializes in. The slowdown has devastated American workers. Between 1985 and 2000, the total hours of paid work in America increased by 35 percent. Over the next 15 years, they increased by only 4 percent.
For every one American man aged 25 to 55 looking for work, there are three who have dropped out of the labor force. If Americans were working at the same rates they were when this century started, over 10 million more people would have jobs. As Eberstadt puts it, “The plain fact is that 21st-century America has witnessed a dreadful collapse of work.”"

Urban Manufacturing Alliance

Link to their website.

Blockchain Technology: Implications and Opportunities for Professional Engineers

Link to the NSPE white paper.  From the report:

"By contrast, the US system for licensure of professional engineers (Professional Engineering Protocol) with its own model law, is effective in bridging the capitalization gap—i.e., that long period of time between money flowing to a product or structure and the time that project produces revenue. Within this capitalization gap, the engineer’s stamp holds the asset in suspension during the design and construction phases, serving as a proxy for the finished project on the accounting balance sheet. Upon closer comparison, there appears to be significant functional similarities between the mechanics of the Professional Engineering Protocol and the mechanics of Blockchain Protocol for achieving security, consensus among stakeholders, and validation of transactions. Professional engineering licensure has proven effective for over 100 years, but few people are aware of the role that PEs play in an economic system. Today, the institution of professional engineering is struggling for an interface with the digital world."

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What If Microsoft Designed Your Driverless Operating System?

From Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman:
  • Automobiles would frequently crash for no apparent reason.  This would be so common that motorists would simply accept it, restart their car, and continue driving.
  • Occasionally all the car's doors would lock, and motorists could enter their vehicle only by simultaneously lifting the door handle, turning the key, and holding the radio antenna.
  • Vehicles would occasionally shut down completely and refuse to restart, requiring motorists to reinstall their engine.
  • Every time a car company introduced a new model, car buyers would have to relearn to drive because all controls would operate in a new manner.
  • Whenever roadway lines were repainted motorists would need to purchase a new car that could accommodate the new "operating system."
  • Cars could carry only one passenger unless the driver paid extra for a multipassenger license.
  • Oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single, all-purpose "general car fault" warning light.
  • Airbags would ask, "Are you sure?" before deployment.

Another Sign of Blade Runner 2049

Now You Can 'Build Your Own' Bio-Bot: A team of researchers has released a protocol for designing and building "bio-bots" powered by muscle cells and controlled with light and electrical signals.

Should You Have to Pay a Tax If You Replace Workers with Robots?

Integrating Facility Management and IoT

Cavitation and the Risk of Spillway Failure

Link to the report.

Engineering Term of the Week - - Cavitation

Introducing GITA

The Accidents of Driverless Cars

From the excellent Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman:

Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead"At the time this book was written, Google's driverless cars had a total of seventeen minor fender benders and one low-speed collision with a bus.  In the seventeen fender benders,  the culprit was not the not driverless car, but the other human drivers.  On February 14, 2016, however, Google's car had its first significant accident when it "made contact" with the side of a city bus.  Unlike the previous seventeen minor collisions, this accident was the fault of the car's software because it erroneously predicted that if the car rolled forward, the bus would stop.

With the exception of the run-in with the bus, the rest of Google's accidents have happened because, ironically, Google's car drive too well.  A well-programmed autonomous vehicle follows driving rules to the letter, confusing human drivers who tend to be less meticulous behind the wheel, and not always so law-abiding.  The typical accident scenario involves one of Google's obedient driverless cars trying to merge onto a highway or turn right at a busy intersection on a red light.  Impatient human drivers, not understanding the car's precise adherence to speed limits or lane-keeping rules, accidentally run into the driverless car."

The Information Highway Circa 1994

From 1994 by Arthur Ochs Sulzberger after stepping down from the New York Times:

"Far from resembling a modern interstate, it will more likely approach a roadway in India: chaotic , crowded, and swarming with cows."

Black Sage Technologies

Link to their website - - drone tracking system.

A Trump Performance Metric - Lancaster,Ohio

This is another Trump KPI that we should occasionally check on - - the revival of Lancaster, Ohio:

"The median income for a household in the city was $33,321, and the median income for a family was $39,773. Males had a median income of $30,462 versus $23,023 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,648. About 8.7% of families and 10.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.8% of those under age 18 and 8.1% of those age 65 or over."

I just ordered Glass House, the history of the decline of Lancaster, Ohio.

The Best of Pothole Art

Image result for pothole art

Another Sign of Blade Runner 2049

Link to the Cyborg Nest website.

Image result for cyborg nest pictures

The Oak Mirror

Climate Change Migration from Mexico

From the New York Times today by Michael Kimmelman - A Parched and Sinking Capital: Mexico City's Water Crisis Pushes It Toward the Brink - -

"One study predicts that 10 percent of Mexicans ages 15 to 65 could eventually try to emigrate north as a result of rising temperatures, drought and floods, potentially scattering millions of people and heightening already extreme political tensions over immigration."

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Cheering for Team Iguana and the Wonder of Planet Earth II

Questions Regarding Our Self-Driving Future

I attended the Northeast Tarrant County Transportation Summit in Hurst, Texas last Friday.  Around 700 professional and politicians attended the conference.  The theme of the conference was our autonomous transportation future.  Everyone seems to be moving toward a future in which 10% of auto sales by 2030 will be self-driving.

This may happen, but I have serious concerns regarding our autonomous future.  The latest presidential election highlighted the notion that people were voting for a return to the certainties of the 1950s.  This sounds like a 427 cubic inch Mustang made 100% in America with gas prices rolling in at $0.40 per gallon.  People want 1950 and yet we are thinking futuristic 2050.  Squaring self-driving technology with cultural constraints and a political desire to slow things down and invest in stability seems hugely problematic.  This is just one side of the coin.  The other side looks even more problematic.  America is aging and older societies take fewer risks.  What is more riskier than changing our primary mode of transportation that has been somewhat unchanged since 1920?

I love the idea of autonomous vehicles and flying cars - - if we can develop the technology, it will be a huge plus for society.  But we have very strong political, cultural, and demographic headwinds to overcome.

Musk on Boring

A Paragraph to Ponder

From Medium:

"Donald Trump won more than three-quarters of counties with a Cracker Barrel, while winning just 22 percent of counties with a Whole Foods. That 54 percent gap is not an aberration. David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report has found a similar divide going back over two decades."

Trail-Oriented Development

Another Sign of Blade Runner 2049

From Immature Boys to Successful Adult Engineers

From Medium - 10 Habits That Change Boys Into Men.  The STEM professions need greater diversity - - and this has been a successful focus.  But the professions also need better students and practitioners overall.  A focus on the ten recommendations produce better citizens and better engineers.

9. Fall In Love With Learning

Ordinary people seek entertainment. Extraordinary people seek education and learning. We now live in a world where you no longer need to go to college (or high school) to become educated. At your fingertips is an unlimited and ever-increasingly well of information. You can become an expert at anything.
Many of the world’s most successful people attribute their success to a love for learning. They often read one or more books per week. With a few books, you can learn how to build wealth, healthy relationships, and the life of your dreams.
With more information and education, you will make better lifestyle choices. You’ll be less likely to have destructive addictions and make ignorant decisions.
You’ll be more likely to surround yourself with brilliant people, learn new languages and explore the world, come up with solutions to the world’s problems, and have passion and zest for life.
Stop gaming and start reading. The real world awaits. And it’s amazing.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Living Around Floods

County Flood Claims Map

Engineering the World of Psychographics

California Reservoir Update

Brookings on Dam Infrastructure

Big Data Innovation Team Comes to Transportation

Data Mining Gains More Cachet in Construction Sector

Data Mining Gains More Cachet in Construction Sector: Firms, IT vendors and professionals seek buried treasure in volumes of big data for infrastructure projects.

Key question looking into the future - - will big data generate big benefits for the AEC industry?

The Future Is Looking Up - Part 2

From The Guardian - - demonstrates the power and promise (and potential peril) of our genetically modified future.  My thought is far more power than peril.  
"The woolly mammoth vanished from the Earth 4,000 years ago, but now scientists say they are on the brink of resurrecting the ancient beast in a revised form, through an ambitious feat of genetic engineering.
Speaking ahead of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston this week, the scientist leading the “de-extinction” effort said the Harvard team is just two years away from creating a hybrid embryo, in which mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant.
“Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo,” said Prof George Church. “Actually, it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.”"
Image result for picture of wooly mammoth

The Future Is Looking Up - Part 1

A flying car or similar future bodes well for society - -

Thinking About Managing Your Mechanical Employees

TruMpISSION: Impossible - Border Wall | Newgeography.com

Great analysis of the Trump Wall - TruMpISSION: Impossible - Border Wall | Newgeography.com

Seven Fatal Flaws of Innovation

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The High Cost of Economic Transitions

From economist Tyler Cowen:

"By the estimates of Gregory Clark, economic historian at the University of California at Davis, English real wages may have fallen about 10 percent from 1770 to 1810, a 40-year period. Clark also estimates that it took 60 to 70 years of transition, after the onset of industrialization, for English workers to see sustained real wage gains at all.

If we imagine the contemporary U.S. experiencing similar wage patterns, most of us would expect political trouble, and hardly anyone would call that a successful transition. Yet that may be the track we are on. Median household income is down since 1999, and by some accounts median male wages were higher in 1969 than today. The more pessimistic of those estimates are the subject of contentious debate (are we really adjusting for inflation properly?), but the very fact that the numbers are capable of yielding such gloomy results suggests transition costs are higher than many economists like to think."

AI versus the Human Brain - - A Matter of Watts

From The New Yorker - - it will be interesting to see if the "watt metric" becomes a KPI.

"A.I. owes much of its recent success to biological metaphors. Deep learning, for example, which underlies technologies from Siri to Google Translate, uses several interconnected processing layers, modelled after the neuronal strata that compose the cortex. Still, given that even the most advanced neural networks are run on von Neumann machines, they are computationally intensive and energy-greedy. Last March, AlphaGo, a program created by Google DeepMind, was able to beat a world-champion human player of Go, but only after it had trained on a database of thirty million moves, running on approximately a million watts. (Its opponent’s brain, by contrast, would have been about fifty thousand times more energy-thrifty, consuming twenty watts.) Likewise, several years ago, Google’s brain simulator taught itself to identify cats in YouTube videos using sixteen thousand core processors and all the wattage that came with them. Now companies want to endow our personal devices with intelligence, to let our smartphones recognize our family members, anticipate our moods, and suggest adjustments to our medications. To do so, A.I. will need to move beyond algorithms run on supercomputers and become embodied in silico."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Era of Extreme Weather and the Exhaustion of Emergency Spillways

Cassie - And It Comes in Brown (Just Like the UPS Guy)

Emotion Detection Software

From Chain Store Age - - Is Facial Recognition in Retail Market Research the Next Big Thing?

A Paragraph to Ponder

From Politico:

"The vast quantity of agricultural products that North Dakota exports is a story shared by farm states across the country. American agriculture sent $129 billion worth of goods abroad in fiscal 2016 – more than 20 percent of all the food grown in the United States. That number has more than doubled over the past decade, making agriculture a rare bright spot in the U.S. trade accounts. When President Donald Trump and free-trade critics fret about the United States’ $500 billion trade deficit, it’s often lost that American farmers run a large and growing surplus, and have been since the 1960s. Last year the surplus was $16.6 billion. The USDA projects it will rise to $21.5 billion this year."

The Participatory Aquifer Mapping Project

Link to the project site.

How Richard Longworth Predicted 20 Years Ago That Globalization Would Cause a Social Crisis

From NewGeography - - How Richard Longworth Predicted 20 Years Ago That Globalization Would Cause a Social Crisis

Moving Markets With a Tweet

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Being Assigned a Persona

A highly interesting interview with CIO magazine - - Dan Kieny, CIO of Black & Veatch.  Many great insights and predictions in the article - from the article:
"Let’s say you are a 23 year old who joins Black & Veatch as a junior CAD designer. In the old world, we would tell you, go to this SharePoint site and subscribe to a community of practice. We envision a new workplace where you will be assigned a persona based on your discipline: electrical, mechanical, or civil, for example. That persona will define the apps you will automatically have access to; and the people who are working on the most relevant work to you will be served up like an ad. Read this. Connect to this person. Here is what others in a similar role are working on.  And because all of this is in the cloud, it will continuously update, and can be accessed from any device.
In our next gen workplace, employees will be able to “like” each other’s work. We will be able to spin-up a new office anywhere in the world. Our vision is to move many of our professionals in the company to an asset-less organization scheme where IT doesn’t procure assets for new employees, we give them personas. Our employees will no longer be attached to a particular office with a workforce; they will be attached directly to people and information. On their very first day on the job, we will have them working -- from any device, connected to peers, expertise, tools and applications."

The Home Version of Augmented Reality

Lake Isabella dam concerns after recent winter storms

Lake Isabella dam concerns after recent winter storms: Although drought conditions are drastically improving, water is quickly filling Lake Isabella, putting more pressure on the dam.

Climate Change and Dam Safety

From the New York Times:

"But California’s most troubled large dam is at Lake Isabella, built in the 1950s on what was thought to be a dormant earthquake fault by the Army Corps of Engineers on the Kern River above Bakersfield. The fault has since been shown to be active, and out of concerns that the dam could fail, the authorities restricted the level of the lake behind it. This week, officials assured nearby residents that despite heavy rains, the lake levels, and the dam itself, remained safe.

But the dam will have to be rebuilt, with a new emergency spillway, at a cost expected to be about half a billion dollars. Construction is expected to start this year and to take at least five years. Isabella is an example of how dam spillways designed more than a half-century ago are now often inadequate, said Blake P. Tullis, a professor of civil engineering at Utah State University who has worked on the design of the new spillway. Climate change is part of the problem, he said, but other factors, like land use changes — more parking lots, for example, mean more runoff into rivers — and better weather data have also played a role. “Now, as you do your statistical analysis, the biggest flood you could predict actually happening is much bigger,” Dr. Tullis said. “People are scrambling a bit, asking how we maintain dam safety.”"

The Smart Contact Lens

The Economics of Roses

Thinking About Dams on Valentine's Day

“But love is much like a dam: if you allow a tiny crack to form through which only a trickle of water can pass, that trickle will quickly bring down the whole structure, and soon no one will be able to control the force of the current. For when those walls come down, then love takes over, and it no longer matters what is possible or impossible; it doesn't even matter whether we can keep the loved one at our side. To love is to lose control.” ― Paulo CoelhoBy the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

A Paragraph to Ponder

From Politico:

"Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, the head of DP World, a UAE-based ports conglomerate that operates in 40 countries, also disputed the assumption that Trump threatens global trade, noting that some 75 percent of the world’s economic growth is in emerging markets. Sulayem has his business down to a science—he rattled off statistics, such as how 1 percent growth in a country means a 3 percent growth in shipping containers. His company is focused on cracking open markets in hard-to-reach places like the interior of Africa, and doesn’t much worry about what the United States is doing."

Monday, February 13, 2017

Size of the Oroville Dam Spillway Sinkhole

Major sinkhole on spillway at Lake Oroville

Augmented Reality Could Be the Next Big Thing for Civil Engineering

Arup In 50 Years

A Water Utility Talks Sustainability

Civil Engineering Is The History Discipline

Spillway Breach Leads to Mass Evacuation in California

Spillway Breach Leads to Mass Evacuation in California: Tens of thousands of residents are ordered to evacuate near Sacramento as dam crisis reaches critical stage.

Private Infrastructure and Public Risk

Our Three Most Challenging Economic Issues

My take - - (1.) Growing fastest than the annualized rates we have achieve over the last eight years, (2.) Rebalancing globalization so as to equalize the benefits between the winners and losers, and (3.) Selling active wear for $1.00 while maintaining viability.

Graph of the Week

Guessing Your Age

More Driverless Means More Drivers?

From SupplyChainDigest.

Thinking About Trade

Predisposed Platforms

From The Economist:
Airbnb’s inventory of 2.3m rooms makes it bigger than the three largest hotel chains—Hilton, Marriott and InterContinental—combined. Incumbents are demanding that online rivals obey rules that constrain everyone else... Airbnb stands accused of reducing the supply of affordable housing in big cities. Uber is said to worsen traffic problems and to weaken public-transport systems by luring away passengers. Facebook and Twitter are accused of enabling the spread of fake and biased news during America’s election. Such services have also become favourite hangouts for bullies and trolls...
It is also becoming exceedingly hard to maintain that platforms are—like telecoms networks—“neutral”. The argument that they do not interfere in the kind of content that is shown was a key rationale for exempting them from liability. But they are starting to resemble regulators themselves, which makes it odder still that they act outside legal limits. Facebook’s algorithms determine what members see in their news feeds. Uber’s software decides what drivers get paid. It is getting easier to police platforms, too, thanks to artificial-intelligence techniques which can recognise and predict patterns of bad user behaviour.