This Revolution needs a Revolution

Yesterday I went with my wife and son to visit the Victoria & Albert’s Museum exhibition You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970. The aim of the exhibition was quite clear:

How have the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 1960s changed the way we live today and think about the future?

I was very much looking forward to visiting the exhibition. It is SO timely, and SO needed, I thought.

After visiting it, I left enraged. Why? After all, it was very well “put together”, full of artifacts and information, with a fancy sound system, and beautifully arranged and orchestrated.

ORGANIZED

More importantly, it was not a nostalgic attempt at regurgitating old revolutionary slogans.

What enraged me is how co-opted the whole collection felt. How all those efforts and sacrifices, how all that energy and suffering from past revolutionaries, has been assimilated by the system.

From the ® Registered slogans to the “no photographs” signs at the entrance (to which I, OF COURSE, paid no attention to whatsoever):

® slogan!

To the texts denouncing powerful corporations and states controlling Western media making it difficult to broadcast alternative opinions. You don’t say??!! How about adding “even museums”?

You don't say??!!

Of course, the whole thing had a watered down flavor, “ready for the masses to consume it” (at over£17 or over $20 per ticket). Not just because of the large dedicated-store (“Exit through the gift store” as Banksy brilliantly highlighted), where many appealing objects were for sale for nostalgics and revolutionary wannabes.

Interesting mash up poster

But also for the paternalistic tone of the whole exhibition, surgically isolating issues (identity, sexuality, peace, music, fashion…), even (correctly) including the new contemporary totemic theological substitute: technology.

Origins of Personal Computers

I was very happy and proud to tell my son that his grandmother was in Paris throwing cobblestones to the police in the student revolts of 1969; that his grandfather took me, when I was a little kid, to see a forbidden theater play during Spain’s democratic transition, fearing the secret police repression; that I participated as a kid in discussions with adults about anarchism and communism, when both were outlawed in Spain; and that I have participated in some of the revolutions and protests that came in the decades after that.

I’m not angry because they took “my” revolutions and repackaged them for easy digestion by accommodating masses. That was foreseeable, and an obvious result of the reigning empire of consumerist capitalism.

I’m not even nostalgically refusing to accept that times have changed.

What really annoyed me and made me angry was the lack of reference to a combative present, to the continuation of the struggle.

The fact that they showed, at the end of the exhibition “How have the finished and unfinished revolutions of the late 1960s changed the way we live today” but completely left out “and think about the future” is what enraged me. Particularly as Trump is president in the USA, May PM in GB, the PP rule Spain, the far right advances in France…

We need to remember that the fight is not over, that fascism is not only back, but stronger and more powerful than ever. We, all of us, and the institutions that serve us, including museums, have a duty to promote thoughtful debate around ethics and values, and fiercely protest and fight through self-organisation, unity, and collaboration. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to those who fought for us in the past, we owe it to those who will come after us.

If the urban bourgeoisie wants to be the first to fall under the boot of the oppressors again, so be it. If proto and pseudo-intellectuals endlessly self-delude themselves into thinking that our democracies and institutions will save us from authoritarian demagogues, fascist megalomaniacs, and our own blind pursuit of endless consumerism, so be it. In the meantime, I will be teaching my children about the struggle and participating in the smartest and most effective way I can.

My EU policy recommendation published: “Hacking Policy. Exploring Innovative Ways to Advance Policy Reform”

Under the title “Hacking Policy. Exploring Innovative Ways to Advance Policy ReformStartupEurope has published a report listing the Policy Recommendations that came out of the Policy Hackathon in San Francisco, where my team won the competition.

Download it here.

Spare time fun: protein structure analysis of mutations causing inheritable diseases

Most people I know would not consider protein structure analysis of mutations causing inheritable diseases “spare time fun”. Then again, most people I know don’t think I am like most people they know.

This week I’m a “single-dad”, since my wife is traveling. So my spare time right now is almost non existent. Nevertheless, the thought of mutating a Proline into a Glycine at position 22 intrigued me, so I spent a few minutes simulating it. Here is what I found out:

Method

The 3D-structure of my protein of interest was obtained from the UniProt database using Reprof. The structural information was obtained from the analysis of PDB: 3NIR. Annotations were obtained from UniProt entry CRAM_CRAAB.

Amino Acids

I was interested in the mutation of a Proline into a Glycine at position 22.

The figure below shows the schematic structures of the original (left) and the mutant (right) amino acid. The backbone, which is the same for each amino acid, is colored red. The side chain, unique for each amino acid, is colored black.

 mutates into 

Each amino acid has its own specific size, charge, and hydrophobicity-value. The original wild-type residue and newly introduced mutant residue differ in these properties: the mutant residue is smaller than the wild-type residue, while the wild-type residue is more hydrophobic than the mutant residue.

Variants

A mutation to “S” was found at this position, which differs from the mutation I was simulating. The effect of this variant is annotated as: In isoform SI.

Conservation

The wild-type residue is not conserved at this position. Another residue type was observed more often at this position in other homologous sequences. This means that other homologous proteins exist with that other residue type than with the wild-type residue in my protein sequence, but the other residue type is not similar to my mutant residue. Therefore, the mutation is possibly damaging.

Domains

This residue is part of an interpro domain named: Thionin IPR001010

The mutated residue is located on the surface of a domain with unknown function. The residue was not found to be in contact with other domains of which the function is known within the used structure. However, contact with other molecules or domains is still possible and might be affected by this mutation.

Amino Acid Properties

The wild-type and mutant amino acids differ in size. The mutant residue is smaller than the wild-type residue. This will cause a possible loss of external interactions.

The hydrophobicity of the wild-type and mutant residue differs. The mutation might cause loss of hydrophobic interactions with other molecules on the surface of the protein.

Images

Overview of the protein in ribbon-presentation. The protein is coloured by element; α-helix=blue, β-strand = red, turn=green, and random coil=cyan.

Overview of the protein in ribbon-presentation. The protein is coloured grey, the side chain of the mutated residue is coloured magenta and shown as small balls.

Close-up of the mutation. The protein is coloured grey, the side chains of both the wild-type and the mutant residue are shown and coloured green and red respectively.

Close-up of the mutation (seen from a slightly different angle). The protein is coloured grey, the side chains of both the wild-type and the mutant residue are shown and coloured green and red (not show from this angle) respectively.

Close-up of the mutation (seen from a slightly different angle). The protein is coloured grey, the side chains of both the wild-type and the mutant residue are shown and coloured green and red respectively.

Movies

Close-up of the mutation. Both the wild-type and mutant side chain are shown in green and red respectively. The rest of the protein is show in grey.

Close-up of the mutation, same colours as animation 1. The animation shows alternating the wild-type side chain and the mutant side chain.

Citation

Protein structure analysis of mutations causing inheritable diseases. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2105-11-548. PubMed: 21059217.

I won the Anti-Patents Policy Hackathon


On September 13, Mind the Bridge hosted a policy hackathon sponsored by Dell at the MTB Innovation Center in San Francisco. The Dell PolicyHack™ brought together entrepreneurs and U.S./EU policy experts to solve policy challenges. The goal is to productively brainstorm and to provide top-line thinking that can inspire and serve as basis to develop and implement full policies.

My team was formed by:

  • Sara R. Klucking (Section Chief, Innovation & Programs, Office of Science and Technology Cooperation, US Department of State)
  • Bogdan Ceobanu (Policy Officer, Startups & Innovation, European Commission)
  • David Hodgson (CEO, Hummingbird Labs)
  • me

The five teams had 75 minutes to come up with a policy solution to issue areas that impact entrepreneurs. Each team was then be given five minutes to pitch their solution to the panel of judges formed by:

  • Pēteris Zilgalvis (Head of Unit, Startups and Innovation, European Commission)
  • John Zysman (Professor Emeritus, Political Science, UC Berkeley)
  • Burton Lee (European Entrepreneurship, Stanford University)
  • Richard Boly (Principal, Beaurichly Llp)
  • Alberto Onetti (Chairman, Mind the Bridge and Startup Europe Partnership).

Master of ceremony was Kristen Mattern (Senior Government Affairs Manager, Dell). The issue areas were: funding, trade, migration, patents, and privacy. Obviously, I chose patents.

When I started telling my team my ideas about patents (basically, how to effectively end the system, since it is so broken and dysfunctional, and what would happen), they thought I was out of my mind. But I ended up convincing them with evidence. So finally my proposals were the ones I presented . We were supposed to present as a group, but Sara and David fled right before we were up for the presentation, and Bogdan “let me do the talking” and the answering of questions.

Although the other teams did a great job, my team won!

The award: to have my ideas written in a paper that will be presented to the European Commission as “expert policy advice”.

It’s ironic: over a decade after I was lobbying against software patents in the European Commission in Brussels, having Microsoft’s lobbyist as my main adversaries, now the European Commission takes my anti-patents ideas as expert advice, and Microsoft is my free-software company’s main partner. I guess time puts everything in its place.

That’s how you hack the system from inside.

Although I never believed that was the way to real and meaningful change, at least now I can say “been there, done that”.

Re-designing a NASA interface

interface

I am interested in many things. One of the main ones is technology. And within technology, software development to view telemetry data in different ways, within the same application.

Answering NASA’s call to help contribute to the exploration of the solar system, I got access to their next-generation mission control framework being developed at the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley being used for mission planning and operations in the lead up to the Resource Prospector mission, and at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to view data from the Curiosity Rover.

Although I do not have much “spare time”, I have been tinkering with composing and modifying screen layouts, bringing together various telemetry objects and other object types in a single screen, following some basic design principles, as outlined in a book I have read recently: Designing for Emerging Technologies – UX for Genomics, Robotics and the IoT, by Jonathan Follett (Editor) published by O’Reilly.

Still a “work in progress”, but I hope my contributions help.

Festival of Genomics Boston

June 28 and 29 I attended, along with my friend John Memarian, President & CCO of my company Kanteron Systems, the Festival of Genomics Boston, as a Microsoft Genomics Group partner.

Although the show was small, it was a great opportunity to network with industry and academic experts (from Harvard Professors to Illumina executives) and learn.

From scientific posters to the latest sequencing technologies, from robotic arms to genomics experiments in space, it was great #geekfun.

Ultimate Father’s Day gift: building a Picade with my son

For Father’s Day (we live in London, so we celebrate it today, unlike in Spain which is March 19) my wife gave me the “Ultimate Father’s Day” gift, from TechCamp UK. [Thank you, love!]

It consisted of a workshop with other father-son / father-daughter “teams”, held at the Iron Yard (The Leathermarket – London), where we built a desktop arcade machine in 5 hours (including lunch break), following the directions from Tom and Tom, using the Picade set, setting up and using the Raspberry Pi, custom OS, emulators, ROMs, loudspeakers, power supply, LCD screen, etc:

Not only we had a lot of fun and bonded through the “hard” work (especially getting all those nuts and bolts and cables in their little places!) of putting together the mini arcade machine, but my son also learned a few very valuable lessons, like being patient, not being shy, following directions carefully, and the main one, overcoming adversity: our board had a loose connector, which had to be soldered, and when we finished setting up the arcade… the screen was upside down! It took some thinking and engineering to get it straight up.

To top it all off, we got to take the arcade home, so now, if you will excuse me, I NEED TO install the Super Mario Bros. ROM and mash some buttons old style 😉

Invited to InfoSecurity Europe

Today I was invited to attend InfoSecurity Europe, Europe’s largest Information Security industry event.

As always, it was interesting to have a chance to catch up with this rapidly moving field, and a great opportunity to chat with old friends.

Apart from gimmicks (VR everywhere, car racing and helicopter simulators, giant robots, etc), swag (all kinds of Star Wars and other Sci-Fi related giveaways, from toys to t-shirts) and junk food (from candy to icecream to chips, the booths did not have healthy alternatives, although the food vendors did), the most interesting part of these events is always the talks, specifically the hands-on demos.

This time my favorite was a live car-hacking session. It’s SO easy I feel like… no, I will not go back to the dark side. But it seemed so much fun I might do it as “white hat”!

Invited with my son to Intel Buzz videogame developer workshop

Today I was invited, along with my son, who at 14 has been a videogame developer for years, to attend the Intel Buzz videogame developer workshop. It was not only a lot of fun, but WONDERFUL to attend with him!

Although a small event, it ended up being extremely interesting, with an area to try indie games and new technologies, and a long list of talks and panels, including one-on-ones.

Almost all of the indie games showcased were really good. My favourite was Elise: Unpainted Memories:

The speakers were amazing, like:

  • Ed Fries, Co-founder of the Xbox Project and Microsoft Game Studios
  • Kate Edwards, Executive Director of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA)
  • Oscar Clark, Evangelist for Everyplay & UnityAds, Unity Technologies
  • Penka Kouneva, Game Composer (Prince of Persia, Transformers), leader in Game Audio
    Will Eastcott, CEO and co-founder of PlayCanvas

The talks and technology were really interesting, and the games and technology we tried (like the Rovr) were super cool. But the two main conclusions are: VR is all the rage, and it’s going to be everywhere soon (coming to Chrome for Android in October!), and there were a lot of women attending (which is great, and hopefully a sign that gender equality is finally arriving to the tech industry).

A couple days in Zürich

I spent Wednesday evening and most of Thursday in Zürich.

On Wednesday I had dinner with some business partners; “business as usual”.

But on Thursday, after my business presentation to potential customers, I had the very rare and exclusive opportunity to visit one of the main data centers in Switzerland. Here are some impressive facts about them:

  • they host 1/3 of Swiss banks data
  • internet traffic = 40% of Switzerland’s internet traffic
  • energy bill = 2 million Swiss Franks per annum
  • 2 different energy suppliers from 2 different access points, with preferential oil supply in case of a failure (full reserves for 5 days for the generators)
  • almost 50 telecoms suppliers, from many different countries, providing direct access for their customers worldwide
  • RFIDs paired with 3D fingerprint scanners which measure the fingerprint but also the morphology, pulse and temperature
  • separate isolated room to open packages, to minimize the risk of fire
  • single person magnetic doors
  • temperature, movement, and sound sensors
  • double-gated entrance even to the parking lot!
  • building-within-building construction to avoid physical damage from a truck, explosives, missiles…
  • near the airport for easy access, but out of any flight path to minimize the risk of airline accident

Even most Hollywood movies don’t portray these high-security technology facilities accurately!