iPhone=moins de chewing-gum; peinture blanche fait mieux que la clim; assassinat assisté par IA; no internet, no 9/11, & more!

Bonjour à vous,

Vous recevez la newsletter Parlons Futur : une fois par semaine au plus, une sélection de news résumées en bullet points sur des sujets tech, science, éco pour mieux appréhender le futur.

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(Je m'appelle Thomas, plus d'infos sur moi en bas d'email)

Voici donc ma sélection de la semaine !

L’apéro

  • Parlons passé : an asteroid destroyed a Middle Bronze Age city in the Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea in about 1650 BC with an explosion 1000x the strength of the one that destroyed Hiroshima. This event may have become the destruction of Sodom in Genesis (source)

  • Les Etats-Unis ambitionnent de faire passer l'énergie solaire de 4% de leur bouquet énergétique aujourd'hui à 40% en 2035 (NYT)

  • Plus blanc que blanc : The whitest paint in the world has been created in a lab at Purdue University, a paint so white that it could eventually reduce or even eliminate the need for air conditioning, scientists say. (source)

    • The paint reflects 98.1% of solar radiation while also emitting infrared heat.

    • Because the paint absorbs less heat from the sun than it emits, a surface coated with this paint is cooled below the surrounding temperature without consuming power.

    • Using this new paint to cover a roof area of about 1,000 square feet could result in a cooling power of 10 kilowatts. “That’s more powerful than the air conditioners used by most houses

  • L'Amérique va-t-elle se retirer du monde ? Pas si vite précise The Economist : "With 9m citizens abroad, 39m jobs supported by trade and $33trn of foreign assets, it has a strong interest in an open world."

  • Le saviez-vous ? : Il a fallu 359 ans à la papauté pour révoquer la condamnation faite à l'encontre de Galilée qui expliquait que c'était la Terre qui tournait autour du soleil et non l'inverse

    • on peut se gausser du temps de réaction du Vatican, mais cette inertie semble aussi consubstantielle à sa longévité, c'est une des l'institutions les plus anciennes au monde encore active, sinon la plus ancienne (concept lié : le Lindy Effect, which says that the longer something lasts, the longer it can be expected to last)

  • Le saviez-vous ? : Les ventes de chewing-gum ont chuté de 15% aux Etats-Unis en 2007 à cause de...l'iPhone ! "In the decade from 2007, American chewing gum sales fell 15% – just as 220 million American adults bought their first smartphones. This was no coincidence. When people got into a shop's queue, they would once have spent the time browsing the goodies for sale at the counter – and gum was the obvious choice. Suddenly, they were spending that time playing with their phones. So gum sales plummeted. Nobody saw that one coming." (les 2 anecdotes précédentes viennent de cet article)

À table !

Singapour déploie des robots policiers qui peuvent interpeller les passants...mais ce n'est pas encore Robocop (source)

  • Il s'agit en fait d'un robot sur roue un peu pataud muni de caméras à 360° et télécommandé par des opérateurs qui peuvent interpeller à distance des passants

  • Un peu d'IA quand même : "Data from Xavier's cameras feeds into AI video analytics software, the agency said. "Once Xavier detects any "undesirable social behaviours" ( people smoking in public, flouting COVID-19 rules, etc.), it will trigger real-time alerts to the command and control centre"

  • Voir le "robot" en action sur youtube


C'est fait, le premier vol "privé" en orbite est un succès !

  • Bon, c'est la troisième fois que la capsule Dragon emporte des êtres humains en orbite, c'est du déjà-vu d'une certaine manière, mais ça reste impressionnant.

  • Voilà la vidéo où ils découvrent la vue depuis la "coupole" pour la première fois. Et une autre vidéo de cette vue plus large, qui a dû susciter à coup sûr “the overview effect” (a cognitive shift in awareness reported by some astronauts during spaceflight, often while viewing the Earth from outer space)

  • Apparemment ils ont eu un problème de toilettes bouchées, toilettes rudimentaires par aspiration et séparées de la cabine par...un rideau 😲

  • Capsule qui apparaît au final très exiguë pour 4 personnes...pour 3 jours. 3 jours, je ne sais pas vous, mais ça paraît vraiment long dans ces conditions, passé l'émerveillement des premières 24 heures ?

  • Cela va prendre peut-être 20 ans ou plus, mais ce siècle on finira par avoir des stations spatiales de grande dimension et tournant sur elle-même pour produire de la gravité artificielle, où l'on pourra dormir, manger et aller aux toilettes normalement, tout en profitant de la vue unique et de la microgravité dans les étages plus proches du centre de rotation. Voyez à ce titre le projet de Voyager Station porté par Orbital Assembly que j'ai pu accompagner dans leur communication.

  • Cette mission privée Inspiration4, en contribuant à financer SpaceX et ses lanceurs révolutionnaires, aide à son niveau à faire advenir un peu plus vite que sinon cette vision ultime d'un tourisme spatial confortable et accessible !


Pendant ce temps-là, à bord de la station chinoise, on a beaucoup plus de confort ! (source)

  • The photo shows Hongbo’s sleeping quarters, a large section of the side of the Tianhe core module of China’s brand new Tiangong space station. The astronaut appears to have stuck manuals, headphones, and photos of his family to the walls of his spacious bunk, and there’s even a private window for him to watch the view outside.

  • it looks like Hongbo gets a bed about the size of a twin mattress, along with tons of overhead space, and each crew member on the Tiangong station gets their own separate living quarters.

  • That’s actually a lot bigger than the cramped sleeping quarters on board the International Space Station, where astronauts were forced to “sleep kind of together, wherever,” according to veteran NASA astronaut Scott Kelly

  • that Chinese module is also only the first module of much larger plans for the station. Even at full size, though, the Chinese station will still only be a fraction of the size of the ISS

  • La Chine rattrape son retard à grande vitesse dans l'espace, après avoir ramené en décembre dernier un échantillon de la lune et après avoir posé (en mai dernier) et fait rouler un rover sur Mars du premier coup, deux véritables exploits !

  • La Chine aurait aussi démarré une étude de faisabilité pour une station d'1km de long !

  • Gageons que cette concurrence entre Chine et USA sera saine pour le coup et conduira à des exploits spatiaux toujours plus inspirants pour le reste de l'humanité !


Le mythe des Terres Rares (Rare Earths) (source)

  • Despite their name, rare earths aren't all that rare. The byproducts of other metals refining and production (such as lead (plomb)) and if anything, the production process takes a lot of time and effort. Chinese state policy of subsidizing industry (and caring absolutely not one whit about environmental impacts) allowed the Chinese to become leaders in rare earths metals processing at a truly global scale. And the rest of the world has largely been happy to outsource their needs to subsidized Chinese production.

  • This isn't to say that the Chinese couldn't--and haven't--attempted some shenanigans (manigances). But manufacturing states dependent on Chinese production have been steadily building up strategic reserves, and countries like the United States, Australia, and Malaysia have been increasing investments into processing capacity. There will be a ramp up process, six to twelve months at most. Some supply tightness, but nothing insurmountable. Definitely not something worth keeping you up at night. 


Le New York Times confirme : "Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated by an AI-assisted sniper rifle remotely controlled by Israeli operatives"

  • An AI was developed in order to compensate for Fakhrizadeh’s car movement, the shake of the machine-gun-mounted truck and the 1.6 second delay between the camera and what the operator saw.

  • A facial recognition software was also employed to help ensure that only the Iranian scientist would be targeted by the rifle — sparing his wife’s life in the process.

  • The gun along with its advanced robotic apparatus weighed roughly a ton, according to the NYT. Israeli operatives smuggled the weapon and its parts piecemeal into Iran before reassembling it

  • The entire system was then fitted into the bed of a pickup truck that contained multiple cameras in order to give Israeli operatives a full picture view of the surroundings.

  • The entire operation took less than a minute. Fifteen bullets were fired.

  • The souped-up, remote-controlled machine gun now joins the combat drone in the arsenal of high-tech weapons for remote targeted killing. But unlike a drone, the robotic machine gun draws no attention in the sky, where a drone could be shot down, and can be situated anywhere, qualities likely to reshape the worlds of security and espionage.


Stuart Russell, computer-science professor at UC Berkeley : a swarm of 10,000 drones that could wipe out half a city could theoretically cost as little as $10 million (source)

  • “The capabilities of autonomous weapons will be limited more by the laws of physics—for example, by constraints on range, speed, and payload—than by any deficiencies in the AI systems that control them."

  • "One can expect platforms deployed in the millions, the agility and lethality of which will leave humans utterly defenseless.”

  • Stuart Russel est cité ici dans une tribune de Kai-Fu Lee, investisseur taiwanais vivant depuis longtemps en Chine, expert en IA, et auteur en 2018 du bestseller AI Superpowers (dont voici mon résumé)

  • Kai-Fu Lee explique dans sa tribune que les 3 solutions proposées à ce jour pour encadrer le développement des armes autonomes semblent vaines : 1. les bannir et 2. les réguler (comment le faire compte tenu de la rivalité et absence de confiance entre USA, Chine et Russie?), 3. "keep a human in the loop" (mais encore une fois comment l'imposer ? surtout sachant que sans personne dans la boucle une arme autonome sera plus rapide et plus "efficace")

  • Le Journal du Net avait publié la tribune que j’avais écrite sur ce sujet en 2018, Débat sur les armes autonomes : la liste des arguments pour et contre, elle reste parfaitement d'actualité


Cette voiture solaire conçue par des étudiants peut faire 730km en une journée après avoir pris le soleil à l'arrêt pendant 2-3 jours (article, site du projet)

  • The Stella Vita can go 730 kilometers on a sunny day, assuming none of the amenities inside are used.

  • Inside the vehicle, amenities include a bed, a small fridge, a toilet, a couch, and a small cooking area, all of which can run on solar power. Drivers can also charge their gadgets.

  • Obviously, taking a shower, making coffee, or charging a laptop will eat into the Stella Vita’s drive time.

  • The vehicle's infotainment system informs drivers of their energy consumption so they can make decisions about their usage. “You have to choose how you use your energy."

  • The panels can fold outward to increase their surface area to as much as 17.5m2

  • Students from the Netherlands will take their new solar ride 3,000 km to Spain to spark interest in solar vehicles.

  • Un autre projet néerlandais, Lightyear, propose aussi un véhicule à l'allure plus traditionnelle, avec une couverture en panneaux solaires moindre (5m2) mais pouvant néanmoins prolonger utilement la durée de vie de la batterie (up to 70km of range per day of sun exposure). Cet avantage, couplé au meilleur aérodynamisme qui soit pour un tel modèle de voiture, des matériaux plus légers, et autres technologies de pointe ("most efficient inverters" entre autres) ont permis d'établir un record :

    • une démo en juillet dernier a prouvé que leur voiture était ainsi presque deux fois plus efficace qu'une voiture électrique classique en termes de nombre de km parcouru pour une quantité d'énergie donnée au départ ! (voir la vidéo de 3min de la démo)


Analyse intéressante : l'attaque du 11 septembre 2001 et sa réponse sécuritaire devraient toutes deux beaucoup à l'essor d'internet (Noah Smith, chroniqueur de Bloomberg, sur son blog perso)

  • September 11th, 2001 changed a lot of things in the world. Besides the aforementioned wars, it initiated the creation of the modern digitally enabled security state — everything from Snowden to China’s totalitarian efforts in Xinjiang grew out of the time that a few angry people with only the barest minimum of state backing managed to destroy the heart of the greatest city of the most powerful country on Earth.

  • But any serious consideration of why and how both 9/11 and the post-9/11 security state came to be must acknowledge that these changes were probably inevitable. Both the attacks and the response were due to the rise of the internet.

  • The internet enables much quicker and more comprehensive information sharing that fundamentally increases the capabilities of non-state actors like al Qaeda. Terrorists can spread their ideology online, coordinate their operations electronically, and learn detailed methods for creating maximum destruction. Internet-enabled finance, too, is crucial for funding these groups. And the internet offers would-be terrorists a wealth of information about their intended targets.

  • 9/11 made this plain, but had 9/11 never happened, these technological facts would still have been true. Oklahoma City, the Tokyo gas attack, and many many other attacks around the world show that there was no dearth of desire for mayhem even without the motivating force of radical Islam. Eventually somebody was going to use the internet to conduct a spectacular terrorist attack, and governments and societies were going to realize how vulnerable new technologies had made them.

  • And at the same time, the internet has enabled surveillance of a finely crafted type that the totalitarians of the 20th century could only dream of. Hitler couldn’t track Anne Frank’s phone, nor Stalin scan Solzhenitsyn’s metadata. It remains to be seen whether digital totalitarianism will be gentler than the industrial-age variety (because it can afford to be) or far more cruel and insane (because it can be). But it’s clear that we’re going to find out, and we were always going to find out, given that states like China were always going to find ways to use the tools the internet gave them. And “free” societies like the U.S. and Europe were always going to use the tools of digital surveillance as the inevitable counter to the problem of non-state terrorism.

  • In other words, 9/11 was the cyberpunk terrorism-and-surveillance dystopia we ended up getting, but we were always going to get one. The notion that Bin Laden defeated the West by goading it into abandoning some of its freedoms neglects the overwhelming likelihood that this would soon have happened anyway.


La plus grande usine de séquestration du carbone prélevé dans l'air ambiant entre en service en Islande et est déjà presque sold-out sur sa durée de vie (source)

  • The World’s Largest Direct Air Capture (DAC) Plant Is Now Pulling CO2 From the Air in Iceland

  • the captured carbon is liquefied then pumped underground into basalt caverns. Over time (less than two years, according to Carbfix’s website), it turns to stone.

  • One of the biggest issues with direct air capture is that it’s expensive, and this facility is no exception. Climeworks co-founder Christoph Gebald estimates it’s currently costing $600 to $800 to remove one metric ton of carbon. Costs would need to drop to around a sixth of this level for the company to make a profit. Gebald thinks Climeworks can get costs down to $200 to $300 per ton by 2030, and half that by 2040.

  • The National Academy of Sciences estimated that once the cost of CO2 extraction gets below $100-150 per ton, the air-captured commodity will be economically competitive with traditionally-sourced oil

  • The other problem that detractors of DAC cite is its energy usage relative to the amount of CO2 it’s capturing. These facilities use a lot of energy, even if that energy they use comes from renewable sources

  • Climeworks and other companies working on DAC technology are optimistic, saying that automation and increases in energy efficiency will drive down costs.

  • La route est encore longue : An IEA report from May of this year stated that to reach the carbon-neutral targets that have been set around the world, almost one billion metric tons of CO2 will need to be captured using DAC every year. Our current total of 9,000 tons per year that all the DAC plants currently collectively capture is just a start.

  • But there appears to be no shortage of customers willing to pay the current, elevated price. Even as the new plant’s fans revved up, roughly two-thirds of its lifetime offering of carbon removals had already been sold. Clients include corporations seeking to offset a portion of their emissions, such as Microsoft, Swiss Re (and The Economist), as well as over 8,000 private individuals. (The Economist)


Altos Labs, la startup qui veut nous faire rajeunir qui a levé le plus de fonds, notamment auprès de Jeff Bezos (MIT Technology Review)

  •  The company is currently luring some of the world’s top scientists to join with big salaries and promises to give them free reign on their anti-aging research.

  • While there are numerous reprogramming startups out there, none of them quite have the backing that Altos Labs boasts now.

  • Altos is pursuing biological reprogramming technology, a way to rejuvenate cells in the lab that some scientists think could be extended to revitalize entire animal bodies, ultimately prolonging human life.

  • Altos is luring university professors by offering sports-star salaries of $1 million a year or more, plus equity, as well as freedom from the hassle of applying for grants. One researcher who confirmed accepting a job offer from Altos, Manuel Serrano of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, in Barcelona, Spain, said the company would pay him five to 10 times what he earns now.

  • Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, a biologist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, is amongst the many scientists coming aboard Altos. He made waves in 2017 when he began research into creating a human/pig chimera. He also has won notoriety for research mixing human and monkey embryos and has predicted that human lifespans could be increased by 50 years.

  • Shinya Yamanaka, a scientist and Nobel Prize winner for his research into aging reversal in cells (aka reprogramming), will also be joining as the chair on Altos scientific advisory board.

  • The reprogramming technique has an indisputable, repeatable, effect in laboratory experiments when applied to individual cells. “You can take a cell from an 80-year old  and, in vitro, reverse the age by 40 years. There is no other technology that can do that,”

  • Altos will also be working with a related technology for measuring the relative age of a cell, or a person. That biological-clock technique, pioneered by Horvath (who is also joining the project), involves measuring the “epigenetic” marks on genes. These molecular features turn genes on and off, but their pattern becomes disorganized as people age.

  • There is also a strong scientific connection between aging clocks and reprogramming, since reprogramming appears to work by remodeling the epigenetic marks in a cell’s genome to an immature or naive state. That means Altos will be working at the leading edge of both causing and measuring rejuvenation.

  • At least initially, Altos will be funding researchers with no immediate expectation for products or revenues. According to one person briefed by Klausner and Milner, the initial output of the company will be “great science.”


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Quelques mots sur le cuistot

  • J'ai écrit plus de 50 articles ces dernières années, à retrouver ici, dont une bonne partie publiés dans des médias comme le Journal du Net (mes chroniques ici), le Huffington Post, L'Express, Les Échos.

  • Je suis CEO et co-fondateur de l'agence digitale KRDS, nous avons des bureaux dans 6 pays entre la France et l'Asie. Je suis basé à Singapour (mon Linkedin), également membre du think tank NXU.

  • Retrouvez-moi sur twitter en cliquant ici : je tweete des faits et infos contre-intuitives, brèves, à consommer sur place (et non pas des liens sans contexte vers des articles interminables), Jacques Attali est un de mes followers par exemple.

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C'est tout pour cette semaine !

Merci, et bon week-end !

Thomas