Technology News

Technology

There is a lot going on in the world of technology. I look forward to sharing new stories on things I learn about in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, scientific discovery, medical research, healthcare, and much more. However, it is still November, and I cannot resist making some further commentary about the American election system. I’ll then take a breather on that topic for awhile.

Our election system is badly broken. I am a registered voter in Florida and embarrassed how, once again, the state has become a global laughing stock for not being able to count votes. It is actually worse than that. Thousands did not vote for a senator because the ballot design was so confusing, putting the senator selection in lower left of ballot below the ballot instructions. Regardless of the outcomes, the final count will not be totally representative of the voice of the people. The military overseas has learned over the years to not bother voting because they have no confidence their ballots would get to the polls on time and if they do may not be counted. To add insult to injury, the law is requiring some elections to ignore the machine counts and do it over again — by hand. 

The news media loves to make “the call” on winners and losers as early as possible, sometimes hours before the polls have closed. Wouldn’t it be better if we could just wait until the polls closed in all time zones and then, a few minutes later, make all the results available. Is this possible? If we can put a robot on Mars, we can surely count votes nearly instantly, securely, verifiably, and accurately. Need a recount, although it would be unlikely, no problem, it could be done in a few minutes also. All of this, of course, would presume we have a modern, highly secure Internet-based voting system. As Vint Cerf, often referred to as the “Father of the Internet” said on the back cover of Election Attitude – How Internet Voting Leads to a Stronger Democracy, “We can do this.” I would add all we need is the political and technological will.

There is one bright spot on the election scene. West Virginia made the bold move to enable overseas military and ex-pat citizens to vote using mobile devices with finger or face recognition, blockchain technology, and the Internet. The initial trial was in the May primary election for a handful of overseas voters. The proof of concept came out with thumbs up. In the November general election, an expanded trial enabled 144 overseas voters to cast their vote over the Internet from wherever they might be. Secure, private, and verifiable votes came in from 29 countries. Two voters had a problem with the app. This is nothing compared to the thousands who could not get to the polls, did not understand the paper ballot, or signed an early or absentee ballot envelope with a signature which did not exactly match the DMV database. Some people do not like to craft a perfect signature on the outside of a ballot envelope for fear someone could copy it and sign credit card charges or other identity theft acts. This is not voter fraud. It is grappling with a 150-year-old system.


My friend, Bob Fornshell, shared a great video called the Pale Blue Dot with me this week. Watch it below. The short video is narrated by the late Carl Sagan, American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science popularizer. The video starts in outer space at a distance of nearly four billion miles away on Feb. 14,1990. At the time, Voyager 1, had just completed its primary mission and was leaving the Solar System. At the request of Carl Sagan, NASA commanded the spacecraft to turn its camera around and take one last look at Earth across the great expanse of space. The narration you will hear was written by Sagan 27 years ago. Bob’s friend said, “The words are still, and even more, relevant today. If only all on this earth could hear them.” I hope you enjoy the video. YouTube put an advertisement on the front end. You can skip it after a few seconds.

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Internet Voting: Are we there yet?

Mobile Internet Voting

There have already been multiple reports of voters being turned away at polling places due to lack of polling place preparation and other logistical failures. For example, the ABC affiliate in Detroit reported people who arrived at the polling place at Martin Luther King Jr. High School this morning were unable to vote because the voting machines were missing. “Due to miscommunication, the machines had been locked in a closet on the opposite end of the campus that election workers were unable to access.” Lines formed because of broken machines in Atlanta, North Carolina said humidity was preventing its machines from working. The Houston Chronicle reported that multiple polling places across the city are “experiencing technical difficulties with machines, leading to long lines.” One polling place had a line of around 70 people as of 8:00 AM. Florida often makes the headlines but temperatures in some states are near freezing and unbearable for some senior and ill voters. In past elections, leaders have shown up on time but the ballots came hours later because a truck got lost. In some cases fights broke out in the voter line, scaring many away. This is just a small sample of many failures of our 150-year-old system. The list of problems at the polling places is very long as I detailed in my research for Election Attitude – How Internet Voting Leads to a Stronger Democracy.

Mobile Internet voting with blockchain technology can solve this problem. The inhibitor is election officials and politicians who are afraid of the Internet. Their fear is fueled by anti-Internet voting activists. The root of the problem can be understood by considering the following three scenarios:

A. A perfect Internet system. All Windows 95 and other older systems have been eliminated. There are no hackers, no viruses, and no malfunctions. 100% of the population has a perfect device with flawless authentication and they are well versed in how to use them.

B. The voting system using blockchain technology, smart phones, and the Internet. The system would support finger or face identification for authentication. All voting data would be encrypted. Choices on the screen would be clear, expanded text sizes would be available, and audio provided for those who are hearing impaired. Links would provide details about a candidate or an issue being voted on. Not everyone would be required to use the Internet voting systems. For those without a computer or who don’t want to use a computer, they will be able to go to a local polling place or public library to use the computer there. For those who do not want to use one of these computers, they will be able to vote with a paper ballot. Voters using a smart phone or computer can vote multiple times with only their last vote counting. Votes remain private and voters will be able to confirm their vote was counted.

C. Today’s system which is full of problems such as the few listed above. Tens of millions of Americans who are eligible to vote, will not vote for a long list of reasons. Some will be sick on election day, be called away on assignment at the last minute by their employer, not be able to get off of work, intimidated by weather or ours-long lines, and many other reasons. In 2016, 100,000,000 people fell into these categories and were therefore disenfranchised.

Now, consider A, B, and C. The anti-Internet voting activists want to compare scenario B to scenario A, which we will never have. They refuse to compare it to scenario C which disenfranchises huge numbers of voters.


With my right arm in a sling, this blog post was dictated using an iPhone XS Max. I apologize for any typos it made on my behalf.

The Positive Potential of the Internet

The Internet

There has been plenty of bad news about the Internet lately. Big tech spying on us, fake news, etc. I am optimistic these issues will get resolved, although it will take time. Meanwhile, there are a lot of good things happening in the world of the Internet and big tech. On election day we had a lot of disasters from the ancient voting machines, broken procedures, long lines, and a 150-year-old approach to counting the votes. 

Meanwhile the northern European country of Estonia has been using Internet voting for more than ten years. They have shown how an Internet attitude can make voting fast, convenient, private, secure, and verifiable. While the U.S. has pioneered Internet search and social media, Estonia has focused on creating a digital economy with strong digital governance, including voting and most any interaction needed with the government. While we continue to argue about Internet voting, Estonia has been doing it for years without issues. Instead of waiting for hours in a line, Estonian citizens can vote from home or while traveling anywhere in the world. While we wait for weeks to get final voting tabulation, Estonia gets the results almost immediately after the polls close. (Yes, they still have polls and people can vote with a paper ballot if they choose).

Just imagine what the American government of the future might look like if the engineers that brought us the modern web spent a little less time creating web-connected organic juicers and a bit more time redesigning our obsolete paper-obsessed bureaucracy. Estonia offers us a vision of this incredible future.


There is much more coming about how the Internet can streamline our antiquated healthcare system. Amazon, along with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway, has launched a new healthcare company headed by CEO Atul Gawande, one of the top thought leaders in healthcare. Yesterday, Google has stepped into the ring (again) with the hiring of David Feinberg, head of renowned Geisinger Health in Pennsylvania. Feinberg co-authored ProvenCare: How to Deliver Value-Based Healthcare the Geisinger Way, which I also highly recommend. Details are not out yet but, like the Amazon group, Google has a lot of employees, currently about 85,000. The cost and productivity hit from our inefficient and not always effective healthcare system gets the attention of management, financially and morally. If big tech can give us answers and products coordinated among millions of servers on the Internet, can they make a dent in healthcare? I have no doubt. Stay tuned. 

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The New Shoulder

Right Shoulder Prosthesis

Here is the proof of my new shoulder. The new titanium ball is nicely fitted into my humerus, the long bone in the upper arm between the elbow joint and the shoulder. It took a highly skilled surgeon with hammer, saw, and drill to get it there, which explains the pain and long recovery time to get back to normal. You can’t see the socket of the prosthetic ball and socket pair. The socket is plastic and does not show up in the x-ray. The short white line to the right is the screw in the center of socket fastening it to the glenoid. One thing I am sure about: the new ball and socket will be there for the duration. If you want to see the toolkit and parts used to create the new shoulder joint, look here.

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My New Shoulder

Shoulder Joint

All of us are familiar with arthritis, but we may not realize there are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions. Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America, and more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have it. The most common arthritis joint symptoms include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Symptoms can come and go, and they can be mild, moderate or severe. That was the case with my knee, but I finally reached the point where the pain and lack of mobility led me to have it replaced. There are a number of stories about my 2008 knee replacement experience here on the site. One that has the details is here.

Now, ten years later, my shoulders have reached that same stage. After evaluating a number of alternative treatments, I decided to get my right shoulder replaced on October 25 and the left one in April. Rotator cuff repairs and other shoulder surgeries are common, but a total replacement of the shoulder joint is much more complex. A top hip and knee surgeon might do 400 replacements per year. A top shoulder replacement surgeon might do 75 per year. There are not as many cases requiring a total shoulder replacement. I elected to have my replacement done at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut by Dr. Ross Henshaw. Dr. Henshaw went to medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons, his residency and internship at New York Presbyterian Hospital, and a Fellowship in Sports Medicine at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery. I have known Dr. Henshaw for many years and entered the OR with complete confidence that when the propofol wore off I would wake up in the recovery room with a new and perfectly installed shoulder joint.

For my new shoulder, Dr. Henshaw selected the Tonier Aequalis Ascend Flex shoulder joint made by Wright Medical Group N.V., a Netherlands based global medical device company. I suppose many people would not want to know the details but, as I move along toward becoming a bionic person, I want to know what is going into my body. The video here shows an excellent animation of all the titanium components which become part of the new shoulder. When you see the precision engineered components, and considering that the tool boxes and all contents must be sterile, you can see why a joint replacement is so expensive. If you have the stomach for it, you can watch an actual shoulder replacement surgery performed at Stanford University here.

The surgery is incredibly impressive, but an equal part of the total solution is physical therapy. I have known Valory Ramsdell, PT, for 15 years. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut School Of Medicine, and has more than 40 years of experience in physical therapy. Valory is a hands-on therapist. This is really important, especially at the beginning of the therapy program. A final part of the total solution is me, the patient. I have been preparing mentally for months and am dedicated to following the physical therapy program fully. It is no fun and much of it is painful, but I know it is critical to the most effective recovery.

Today is Day 1 of Week 2. Life in an awkward sling and bolster will be no picnic during the weeks ahead. Performing matutinal duties without my dominant right hand is challenging. The pain can be debilitating, but I don’t want to take too much pain medication and be a vegetable in my office chair. We all know interactions with the Mac, iPhone, and iPad can be done via voice. Ultimately, we probably will have no keyboards, but at this stage, I am finding voice recognition to have some shortcomings. It is getting better, but until AI takes a larger role, we will still have to do a lot of editing of what we dictate. 

 

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