Worthwhile Reading – Science and Technology Edition

It seems that octopuses have the ability to edit their RNA dynamically.

An interesting piece on FDA regulation and medical device innovation.

Zymergen has automated part of the drug discovery process via a combination of robotics and machine learning.

Was big data analytics (more specifically, excess faith in same) a major cause of Hillary Clinton’s electoral loss?

Is there an artificial intelligence misinformation epidemic?

Cotton spinning – a quintessential technology of the Industrial Revolution – returns to England.

But to what degree will spinning, as well as weaving, cutting, and sewing, be replaced by 3d printing of clothing?

James L Taylor Manufacturing, a 106-year-old company making clamps and other woodworking tools sold to producers of furniture, flooring, and cabinets, recently introduced a robotic nester…it replaces the work of a human nester who “snatches boards coming off a conveyer belt in random lengths, hastily rearranges them so that each row of one to five pieces is so long, and bundles the rows into a stack.” One mill in Mississippi placed an urgent order for 3 of these (at $115K each) with the explanation: “I have eight nesters and four of them just called in sick.”

What is especially interesting about this is that the robotics system was not developed by hiring consultants from MIT or Silicon Valley; the company’s chief engineer (also part-owner of the company) designed the machine himself and wrote the 7000 lines of C++ code to run it.  Reminds me of the cucumber sorting machine developed by a Japanese guy to help out on his parents’ cucumber farm..although that system was developed for the family’s own use rather than as a saleable product as with the robotic nester.

6 thoughts on “Worthwhile Reading – Science and Technology Edition”

  1. The nesting machine article hit home. I hope I am around long enough to be able to let some of my warehouse workers/drivers go and have a robot/self driving vehicle do that work. 24/7 work, no “sick” days, and no workers comp. What a dream.

  2. I think it’s too late to loosen up on medical device regulation in the US. India and China have been doing contract manufacturing for US device manufacturers for decades now and are building up their expertise. Those markets are really big so it’s likely that firms in those two countries will have the perfect combination of looser regulations and high non-governmental demand for innovative devices. And why would they care if US regulatory agencies approved, since their own markets would allow profitability?

    The US medical device market will probably go the way of France’s. Back in the 50s and 60s France was a hotbed of drug and device innovation. But increasingly niggardly government reimbursement for drugs and devices drove the best and brightest out of the industry by the 1980s.

  3. “An interesting piece on FDA regulation and medical device innovation.”

    Yes, we are still dealing with the Thalidomide Syndrome. The FDA is risk averse plus health care is deemed too expensive, which includes anything, even innovation.

    I was involved in a couple of medical device projects when I was still in practice. Laparoscopic cholecystectomy was just becoming possible. I was one of the first surgeons to do it in California and we had companies coming to us to test new devices. They were all small with a couple of devices they were working on.

    Obamacare also included a devastating tax on gross receipts that would kill off small companies that had not made a profit.

    I was an enthusiast for Electronic Medical Records. The Obama people included it in the Obamacare package and added a penalty if you did not adopt it. The result has been a disaster. The different EHR systems look to be low bidder products designed with no provider input. I know doctors who have retired rather than put up with them. A friend of mine told me he spent 2 to 3 hours after office hours entering data each day. He retired shortly after that.

    One example of the cluelessness. One system requires that a diagnosis be entered before any data can be entered. If the workup later concludes that a different diagnosis is correct (almost a given in medical practice) the original wrong diagnosis cannot be deleted.

    I have quit teaching largely because of the clumsy EHR that interferes with teaching, What is happening now is that medical groups are hiring medical “scribes” to enter the text when the physician takes the history or does the exam. So much for labor saving devices.

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