The Role Of Technology In The Evolution Of Communication

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For as long as humans have been on this planet, we’ve invented forms of communication—from smoke signals and messenger pigeons to the telephone and email—that have constantly evolved how we interact with each other.

One of the biggest developments in communication came in 1831 when the electric telegraph was invented. While post existed as a form of communication before this date, it was electrical engineering in the 19th century which had a revolutionary impact.

Now, digital methods have superseded almost all other forms of communication, especially in business. I can’t remember the last time I hand wrote a letter, rather than an email at work, even my signature is digital these days. Picking up the phone is a rare occurrence too—instead, I FaceTime, Zoom, or join a Google Hangout.

When I look back at how communication has advanced over the years, it really is quite incredible…

The Telephone 

In 1849, the telephone was invented and within 50 years it was an essential item for homes and offices, but tethering impacted the flexibility and privacy of the device. Then, came the mobile phone. In 1973, Motorola created a mobile phone which kick-started a chain of developments that transformed communication forever.

Early smartphones were primarily aimed towards the enterprise market, bridging the gap between telephones and personal digital assistants (PDAs), but they were bulky and had short battery lives. By 1996, Nokia was releasing phones with QWERTY keyboards and by 2010, the majority of Android phones were touchscreen-only.

In 2007, Steve Jobs revealed the first iPhone to the world and Apple paved the way for the aesthetics of modern smartphones. Before the iPhone, “flip phones”, and phones with a split keyboard and screen were the norm. A year later, a central application store with an initial 500 downloadable ‘apps’ was launched. Currently, there are over two million apps available in the Apple App Store.

Since the mid-1990s, the Internet has had a revolutionary impact on communication, including the rise of near-instant communication by electronic mail, instant messaging, voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone calls, two-way interactive video calls, discussion forums, blogs, and social networking.

The internet has made communication easier and faster, it’s allowed us to stay in contact with people regardless of time and location. It’s accelerated the pace of business and widened the possibilities within the enterprise space. It’s allowed people to find their voice and express themselves through social media, YouTube and memes. The internet has connected and divided us like nothing before.

As a byproduct of the World Wide Web, email was introduced to the world in 1991 (although it had been operating years before) and it has vastly changed our lives—whether for better or worse depends on your viewpoint. The first users of the messaging platform were educational systems and the military who used email to exchange information. In 2018, there were more than 3.8 billion email users—that’s more than half the planet. By 2022, it’s expected that we will be sending 333 billion personal and business emails each day.

While email is invaluable and we can’t imagine a world without it, there are tools that are springing up that are giving email a run for its money. Take Slack (an acronym for “Searchable Log of All Communication and Knowledge”) for example, the company which launched in 2014 has often been described as an email killer.

However, while Slack has become the most popular chat and productivity tool in the world used by 10 million people every day, email is still going strong. In recognition of this, Slack’s upgrades have ensured that people who still rely heavily on email are not excluded from collaboratory work.

Wearable Technology 

The first instance of wearable technology was a handsfree mobile headset launched in 1999, which became a piece of tech synonymous with city workers. It gave businesspeople the ability to answer calls on the go, most importantly, while driving.

Ten years ago, the idea that you could make a video call from an item other than a phone would have been a sci-fi dream. Now, with smartwatches, audio sunglasses, and other emerging wearable technology, these capabilities are a part of our daily lives.

Virtual Reality (VR) 

The next generation of VR has only been around since 2016, but it’s already shaking up communications. The beauty of VR—presence—means you can connect to someone in the same space at the same time, without the time sink and cost of travel, even if participants are on different continents.

VR also helps to facilitate better communication. In a typical discussion, a lot of information is non-verbal communication which can be transcribed in VR. Voice tone, hesitations, head and hand movements greatly improve the understanding of the participants’ emotions and intents. Plus in VR, all distractions are removed and people can be fully focused on what is happening around them.

In fact, MeetinVR claims that there is a 25% increase in attention span when meeting in virtual reality compared to video conferencing. In addition, research suggests we retain more information and can better apply what we have learned after participating in virtual reality. 3D is a natural communication language overcoming linguistic barriers as well as technical jargon.

5G

5G, the 5th generation of mobile network, promises much faster data download and upload speeds, wider coverage, and more stable connections. These benefits will bring about significant improvements in communication. Instantaneous communication will be possible and those patchy frustrating video calls will be a thing of the past.

The average 4G transmission speed currently available for our smartphones is around the 21 Mbps mark. 5G will be 100 to 1000 times faster. The Consumer Technology Association notes that at this speed, you could download a two-hour movie in just 3.6 seconds, versus 6 minutes on 4G or 26 hours on 3G. The impact of 5G will go far beyond our smartphones as it will allow millions of devices to be connected simultaneously.

Looking ahead, there is already buzz about 6G. Although it’s still in basic research and around 15-20 years away, it’s interesting from an innovation point of view. 6G will form the framework of the connected utopia we aspire towards, and with it will come untold improvements in the speed and consistency of our communication.

I am the CEO and Founder of REWIND, an Emmy nominated immersive content studio that fuses bleeding-edge technology with award-winning creative storytelling.

Source: The Role Of Technology In The Evolution Of Communication

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Eco-friendly Plastics Made From Sugars Boast “Unprecedented” Properties

The search for sustainable alternatives to common plastics has researchers investigating how their building blocks can be sourced from places other than petroleum, and for scientists behind a promising new study, this has led them straight to the sweet stuff.

The team has produced a new form of plastic with “unprecedented” mechanical properties that are maintained throughout standard recycling processes, and managed to do so using sugar-derived materials as the starting point.

The breakthrough comes from scientists at the University of Birmingham in the UK and Duke University in the US, who in their pursuit of more sustainable plastics turned to sugar alcohols. These organic compounds carry a similar chemical structure to the sugars they’re derived from, which the scientists found can bring some unique benefits to the production of plastic.

The two compounds in question are isoidide and isomannide, which both feature rigid rings of atoms that the scientists were able to use as building blocks for a new family of polymers. The polymer based on isoidide featured a stiffness and malleability like that of typical plastics, and strength comparable to high-grade engineering plastics.

The polymer made from isomannide, meanwhile, had similar strength and toughness, but with a high degree of elasticity that allowed it to recover its shape after deformation. The characteristics of both were maintained after being subjected to the common recycling methods of pulverization and thermal processing.

The team used computer modeling to study how the unique spatial arrangement of atoms within the compounds afford them these different properties, a discipline known as stereochemistry. As a next step, the scientists created plastics using both building blocks, which enabled them to tune the mechanical properties and degradation rates, independently of one another.

This raises the prospect of creating sustainable plastics with desired degradation rates, without impacting on their mechanical performance. Our findings really demonstrate how stereochemistry can be used as a central theme to design sustainable materials with what truly are unprecedented mechanical properties,” said Duke University professor Dr Matthew Becker.

The team has filed a patent application for the technology and is on the hunt for industrial partners to help commercialize it. The hope is that the sugar-based plastics can offer a more sustainable option not just in terms of production, but also their disposal, with petroleum-based plastics sometimes taking centuries to break down.

By: Nick Lavars

Nick has been writing and editing at New Atlas for over six years, where he has covered everything from distant space probes to self-driving cars to oddball animal science. He previously spent time at The Conversation, Mashable and The Santiago Times, earning a Masters degree in communications from Melbourne’s RMIT University along the way.

Source: Eco-friendly plastics made from sugars boast “unprecedented” properties

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The Controversial Plan To Vacuum Carbon Out Of The Atmosphere

In its 2018 report, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that our current efforts just to lower carbon emissions aren’t enough. To prevent the worst of climate change, the world needs to remove carbon from the atmosphere in large quantities.

The idea of removing it from the air at any kind of scale requires the proper technology, money, political cooperation, all of which pose unique—and seemingly insurmountable—challenges.

On Friday’s episode of What Next: TBD, I spoke with Clive Thompson, journalist and author of Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World, about the race to suck carbon out of the air. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Lizzie O’Leary: You recently wrote a story, which ran in Mother Jones, about direct air carbon capture, a new technology that might be helpful in addressing the climate crisis. What is DAC?

Clive Thompson: Direct air carbon capture is basically the art and science of extracting CO2 from the air. You create a machine that uses a chemical process to bind CO2 and turn it into something that you can then store somewhere. Maybe you shove it really deep in the ground so it’s gone, maybe you turn it into something else that you can use.

Who is actually making the DAC technology?

So at the high end, you have a company like Carbon Engineering, which is up in Canada. And the way it works is that they have a big machine that’s the size of a building, with a huge fan on top of it that sucks air in and blows it down into a pool of liquid sorbent.

Then it reacts. Once there’s lots of CO2 in the sorbent, they use a process that requires temperatures of hundreds and hundreds of degrees to turn it into CO2 that can be stored as a pressurized gas. The downside is that a lot of energy is needed to run that machine. That’s one model.

What’s the other model?

The other model is to have much smaller machines that you could tuck anywhere that use a lot less energy, which is great, but they also don’t suck quite as much CO2 out of the air. Klaus Lackner [a professor at Arizona State University] created a tree of these discs that stands 30 feet high, and the wind just blows air past it.

That reacts with the sorbent inside these discs, and then once every hour or so when the discs are full of CO2, it collapses down almost like an umbrella, and squeezes it out with a little bit of heat. They’re so low-energy that he imagines you might need tens of millions of them, but you could put them literally anywhere.

Direct air capture sounds very sci-fi. When we’re thinking about it in the public policy arena, it seems like there are two big questions: What would it take scientifically to do this at scale, and what would it take practically and politically?

What you’d need to really do this is an almost wartime mobilization of resources. And, there are lots and lots of choke points. You’d need tons of that sorbent chemical. You’d need to figure out a lot of issues: Where do you put all that carbon? What do you do with that stuff? But could you get it out of the sky, could you do that at scale? Yes. I think you could.

On a practical level, even saying there was the global will for this, it seems like there are three big structural hurdles: cost, transportation and storage. How much does it cost to do this?

The estimate that I most often heard is that right now the cheapest they can do is about $500 per ton of CO2. Everyone who looks at this field basically says that that is way too much. That is way too expensive to be able to do what we need to do. Because the IPCC was talking about removing 10 gigatons a year, which is billions of tons. So at 500 per ton, you’re talking about trillions and trillions of dollars.

So, what price does it need to get to? No one really knows. But if it were around $100 per ton, then there starts to be a more of a market for this stuff. If you got it down to $50 or $10 a ton, then you’re really talking.

There’s another issue besides cost. How can you move the carbon dioxide once you’ve got it?

These machines could be anywhere. They could be in Boston, they could be out in the desert in Arizona, they could be all over the place, and you need to have a pipeline. And piping CO2 is really not easy because it is a highly pressurized gas.

If you have a leak, it’s really bad stuff. It erupts with high pressure, it is an asphyxiating gas so it would kill people, and worse of all it hangs low to the ground. It’s heavier than air if it’s in a dense quantity.

You’re not really selling direct air capture to me here.

Let me make it a little bit worse by pointing out that traditionally pipelines get run through Indigenous lands. So yeah, am I selling it? No. My goal with this story was to paint a very realistic picture of the enormous opportunity but the enormous challenge here.

I’m not saying it would be impossible to do that, and if it became like “we have no other option,” then I guess we would bite the bullet and figure it out. But it’s something you’d want to really think hard and plan for if you’re going to do it, which is a good reason to think about the problems now.

The other level of this story that takes it to another bananas head-scratching place is that it seems from your reporting that the only players who could afford to do this, who have a really vested interest in doing this, are Big Oil companies.

Yeah.
This is the issue that really alarms a lot of environmentalists about direct air capture. Nearly all of the projects that I’ve been telling you about here are all being developed hand in glove with oil and gas companies, fossil fuel companies. Why is that? Well, the people who understand how to build things at scale that have to do with energy and how to move gases around are the oil and gas companies. They’ve got decades of experience in this. So they’re the first obvious partners.

What do you do with that CO2 when you’ve captured it? We talked about shoving it in the ground to get rid of it. The problem is that in the short run—and by the short run I mean a decade or more—there’s really no one who’s planning to shove that in the ground. What all of these projects are doing is working with oil and gas companies to do something that creates a market for the reuse of that CO2.

There is a market right now for CO2, but it’s niche. There’s a company in Texas, for example, that uses it to get the last drops of oil and gas out of nearly empty wells.  It’s something other companies might adopt. And that brings us back to this question of environmentalists having to work with or rely on oil companies. Are some environmentalists able to say, “OK, this involves a deal with the devil but it gets us there”? Or is it just like, “No, that’s a nonstarter”?

Environmentalists are divided on this. Many of the environmentalists, I would say the majority of them, said to me, “We think this is a costly distraction. We think that all the money being put into developing direct air capture should just be put into scaling out renewables dramatically right now.

Innovating on that front. That is how we decarbonize. We do it by just rapidly throwing everything we can at this. And we seal the oil and gas companies out of this process because they are just bad news.” These environmentalists argue that oil and gas companies just want this tech to exist as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Because it helps them reduce their net emissions?

Yeah. It would become this way of saying, “Hey, we’re net neutral! We’re creating lots more emissions by selling lots of oil and gas, but we’re also shoving it in the ground.” Or even worse, they’ll develop this technology a little bit, but never get serious enough about it. This is what’s known as the moral hazard argument.

If you start developing the technology, it takes the pressure off of society to decarbonize its energy production. If you think that there is a magic solution coming 10 or 20 years from now, then yeah, maybe it’s OK to keep burning oil and gas and maybe we don’t need to aggressively roll out solar and renewables.

The thing about direct air capture that is so fascinating is how complicated it is. Not in terms of the tech, but in terms of the moral and ethical equations around it.

Among other things, direct air capture would allow for a certain level of environmental and economic justice insofar as we’re now in a situation where parts of the Global South are rapidly trying to expand their economies, and to do that you need lots and lots of cheap energy right now.

Those societies want to do what we did, which is to burn lots of oil and gas to get themselves as prosperous as possible as quickly as possible. So the progressive argument is that maybe it’s up to the developed countries that made this mess to work on direct air capture and clean up the problem for the countries that we have trod all over in the last 50 or 100 years.

Would doing direct air capture on a global scale be an admission of defeat?

Yeah, absolutely. It would be a complete admission of defeat insofar as it would be us saying to ourselves, “We couldn’t change the way we lived.” For decades we were unwilling to do that. We knew in the ’90s that we needed to work on decarbonizing the economy as rapidly as possible and rolling out renewables and we didn’t do it.

We didn’t push for it. To the extent that a lot of citizens did push hard for it, they faced ferocious opposition from oil and gas companies and from many politicians who were absolutely in their pockets.

What do we know about how the oil companies are approaching these projects?

Several people said to me that one of the reasons why they are dubious of the motives of oil and gas companies is that none of them are really reorienting their spending habits around it. They’ve got R&D projects, but things only really change when you see what they do with their annual budgets. And with their annual budgets they’re still just drilling for oil.

Some people have said that the only way that we’re going to roll out million and millions of direct air capture machines and make it really cheap is if for the next 10 or 20 years we actually turn the CO2 back into liquid fuel and burn it again. When I say to them, “That sounds circular. Isn’t the point to get it out of the air and into the ground?” They’re like, “Well yes, but think of it this way.

What we’d be doing is decarbonizing the internal combustion engine.” So, the idea is we can keep on using all these trucks and all these planes and cars that have internal combustion engines, but we would actually have net zero emissions or as low as possible emissions. But, it’s a leap of faith.

Do you have any faith that this is going anywhere?

The only faith I have is the faith that comes from seeing things like solar succeed. One of the reasons why solar got so good is governments gave some subsidies and that took leadership, and that was good. And then that incentivized a marketplace of solar creators to go, “Hey, we can make money with this!”

I definitely feel gloomy all the time because of the lack of political urgency amongst the folks who run things. I also know that sometimes things can be working better than we imagine in different pockets of innovation and marketplaces and policies. But I don’t hold out great hope.

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By: Lizzie O’Leary

Lizzie O’Leary is the host of What Next: TBD, Slate’s show about technology, power, and the future. Previously, she created and hosted Marketplace Weekend. She has reported for CNN, Bloomberg News, and the New York Times Magazine, among others. She is also a contributing writer at the Atlantic.

Source: Can carbon capture solve the climate crisis?

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Nobel Prize Winner Has a Simple Trick to Learn Anything Quickly

The physicist Richard Feynman believed that simplicity was the key to learning. Feynman worked on the Manhattan Project when he was only 20 years old. He went on to win the Nobel Prize in 1965 for his work in quantum electrodynamics, along with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga.

Feynman believed that truth lies in simplicity and that things are easier to learn and retain when they’re simpler. When your knowledge of something is full of complex explanations and terms taken from textbooks, you’re less likely to grasp it.

He’s famously been quoted as saying, “You must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” The goal of learning is to understand the world better. But more often than not, the way we learn doesn’t help us to achieve this.

You end up memorizing something exactly as it’s written in a book or as the teacher explained it to you, so it doesn’t take long for this knowledge to disappear. This is where the Feynman technique comes in.

The idea is to make things simple enough for anyone to understand. In doing this, you can acquire a deep understanding of the topic you’re studying. The Feynman technique has four steps.

1. Choose a topic and start studying it

Feynman’s technique isn’t limited to mathematics or physics. You can apply it to anything.

2. Explain the topic to a child

This step allows you to establish whether you’ve learned what you studied or you just thought you had.Explain the concept in your own words as if you were trying to teach it to a child.

When you try to break things down into simple ideas with plainer vocabulary, you’ll realize whether or not your knowledge of the subject is sufficient. This makes it easy to identify any gaps in your knowledge.

3. Go back to the study material when you get stuck

Only when you can explain the subject in simple terms will you understand it.This means the knowledge will stick with you and not disappear, as it can when you try to memorize something.

Review your notes and study material for anything you still don’t understand.Try to explain it to yourself in an easy way. If it’s too difficult or if you have to use terms from a textbook, then you still haven’t got it.

4. Organize and review

Don’t stop until you can deliver a simple, natural explanation.Go back to steps two and three as many times as you need. It probably won’t take as long as you think.

By: and ,

Source: Nobel Prize Winner Has a Simple Trick to Learn Anything Quickly

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These Industries Added the Most Remote Jobs During the Pandemic, and Talent Is Tight

Listing an open role as work-from-home may sway applicants to apply, but founders will still likely face stiff competition for talent in the fields that have added the most remote positions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since March 2020, the vertical for marketing, media, and design has seen the biggest growth, with a 974 percent increase in remote roles paying six-figure salaries or higher, according to research from Ladders, a career site based in New York City. The data looked at 50,000 North American employers to find which high-paying professional fields have seen the most growth in remote work.

Project and program management is the next fastest-growing, with an 801 percent increase, followed by accounting and finance with a 750 percent increase. Runners-up include human resources and legal (546 percent), technology (521 percent), and engineering and construction (410 percent).

The availability of high-paying remote work across all fields has grown more than 1,000 percent since March 2020. At that time, there were just over 7,000 jobs available, compared with 80,000 today.

“The world is staying remote post-Covid,” says Ladders’ founder and CEO Marc Cenedella. “Your competitors, your suppliers, and your customers are increasingly comfortable with hiring remote employees in all fields. ‘Work-from-home’ is now a must-have for employers to be competitive.”

Working remotely may require changes in your workplace to be more employee-friendly and productive, Cenedella says. Fewer meetings, better-written communication, occasional in-person meet-ups are just some of the new behaviors and practices he’s seeing from remote employers. “It’s best to be proactive, curious, and open to new ideas as we all figure out what the workplace looks like in 2022 and beyond,” he says.

By: Anna Meyer, Assistant editor, Inc.@annavmeyer

Source: These Industries Added the Most Remote Jobs During the Pandemic, and Talent Is Tight | Inc.com

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Critics:

People who do their jobs from home, freelance or travel for work are increasingly leaving cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco and taking their families — and jobs — to places including Denver and Boise, Idaho, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Here are the top 20 companies, hiring hundreds of remote workers each.

1. Appen

Headquarters: Chatswood, New South Wales, Australia

Industry: Technology (machine learning and artificial intelligence)

Remote jobs: voice coach, linguist, web search evaluator, transcriber

2. Lionbridge

Headquarters: Waltham, Massachusetts

Industry: Software and business (language translation)

Remote jobs: creative designer, social media assessor, project manager, scheduling assistant

3. VIPKid

Headquarters: Beijing, China

Industry: Education

Remote jobs: online English as a second language teacher

4. Liveops

Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona

Industry: Customer service

Remote jobs: customer service representative, licensed insurance agent, health care resource specialist

5. Working Solutions

Headquarters: Dallas, Texas

Industry: Customer service

Remote jobs: sales development representative, travel reservation specialist, corporate travel agent

6. Kelly Services

Headquarters: Troy, Michigan

Industry: Staffing

Remote jobs: data entry operator, administrative assistant, software tester, data analyst

7. EF Education First

Headquarters: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Industry: Education

Remote jobs: language teacher, copywriter, content writer, college counselor, IT coordinator

8. SYKES

Headquarters: Tampa, Florida

Industry: Customer service

Remote jobs: customer support agent, executive assistant, senior director of client management

9. Concentrix

Headquarters: Fremont, California

Industry: Business services

Remote jobs: sales and service representative

10. Williams-Sonoma

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Industry: Retail

Remote jobs: customer service agent, technical designer, copy manager

11. UnitedHealth Group

Headquarters: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Industry: Health care

Remote jobs: product director, medical director, health and wellness coach, call center nurse

12. LanguageLine Solutions

Headquarters: Monterey, California

Industry: Translation

Remote jobs: interpreter, software engineer

13. TTEC

Headquarters: Englewood, Colorado

Industry: Business operations

Remote jobs: Salesforce developer, software engineer, consultant, web developer

14. TranscribeMe

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Industry: Information technology, translation

Remote jobs: transcriptionist

15. Humana

Headquarters: Louisville, Kentucky

Industry: Health care

Remote jobs: sales manager, medical director, business and technology lead, sales executive

16. Cactus Communications

Headquarters: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Industry: Communications

Remote jobs: editor, medical writer, academic research evaluation

17. Transcom

Headquarters: Stockholm, Uppland, Sweden

Industry: Customer service

Remote jobs: technical support representative, payroll administrator, customer service agent

18. BroadPath Healthcare Solutions

Headquarters: Tucon, Arizona

Industry: Health care

Remote jobs: director of service operations, provider service representative, insurance claims processor, data specialist

19. Dell

Headquarters: Round Rock, Texas

Industry: Computer technology

Remote jobs: program manager, account executive, consultant, sales executive

20. Aetna

Headquarters: Hartford, Connecticut

Industry: Health care

Remote jobs: outreach coordinator, content quality reviewer, network relations manager, health coach

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