Alex focuses on the programmatic content, direction and audience for all of Techonomy’s conferences, working to build and enhance timely, forward-thinking dialogue. He works with Techonomy’s partnership and community teams to add value and long-term return for program supporters and participants. Prior to joining the Techonomy team, Alex was the CEO of Jamestown Exploration, a strategic communications consultancy specializing in concept-exploration, -engineering and -implementation projects. Before that, he was the Director of Development and Journal editor for the Computerworld Honors Foundation, where he worked closely with Simone Ross. He and his wife are the proud parents of a five-year-old boy who knows everything.
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It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Facebook?!
Facebook’s plan to provide Internet access to the roughly 10 percent of the Earth’s population that lives too far from cell towers or landlines to get online is moving forward. Or, more accurately, upward. The company released more details last week about how exactly they’re hoping to make the plan a reality. One key component: drones, solar-powered and with the wingspan of a Boeing 737, nearly 100 feet from wingtip to wingtip.
By Alex CudabackAug 5, 2015
Build It and They Will Drive
The University of Michigan and nearly 50 industry partners including Ford, General Motors, Qualcomm, State Farm Insurance, Toyota, Verizon, and others are betting that if you build it, self-driving cars will come. That take on the classic line from Field of Dreams applies to a gigantic new facility for proving, testing, and promoting such cars. Or, as the facility’s creators put it on their website, “the foundations of a commercially viable ecosystem of connected and automated vehicles for moving people and goods.” The new 32-acre facility, called Mcity, opened this week in Ann Arbor and will serve as an auto industry ecosystem for use by anyone researching autonomous vehicles.
By Alex CudabackJul 24, 2015
The Hardest Thing to Do in Sport
The human brain and big data; our understanding and application of both are growing in scope and impact thanks to the increasing potential and power of tech. One of the areas they’re increasingly coming together, however, might surprise you. Jordan Muraskin and Jason Sherwin are two of a growing group bringing the science of mental analytics to professional sports and, more precisely, baseball. Over the years, managers, players, and front-office personnel have collected reams of information on hitters and pitchers, trying to mix together the secret sauce that would solve this vexing conundrum.
By Alex CudabackJul 16, 2015
Government Infecting Itself with Entrepreneurial Spirit
One of the many phrases with which we’ve all become familiar, certainly if we live or spend any time around Washington, is that government needs to operate more like a business. And while that’s an overly simplistic aphorism that doesn’t take into account any number of things (are you familiar with the failure rate for most new businesses?!), most of the people who attended our first Techonomy Policy event last month in DC would agree that there are certainly any number of lessons government can learn from its corporate brethren. Enter the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) program. Started in 2012 by then-CTO of HHS, Todd Park, the program recruits external talent to partner with internal HHS teams on high-priority projects for about a year.
By Alex CudabackJul 1, 2015
Say It Ain’t So, Joe: Has Hacking Come to the Nation’s Pastime?
On Tuesday, The New York Times first reported that the FBI and the Justice Department are involved in a formal investigation of the St. Louis Cardinals’ front office, members of whom had been accused of hacking a Houston Astros’ internal database. The Cardinals (with 11 World Series titles, second only to the New York Yankees) are by most considered a model MLB franchise. The notion that they’d be involved in something as nefarious as cyberhacking an opponent to gain a competitive advantage seems unsavory to many; the notion they’d be hacking an opponent with as downtrodden a history as the Houston Astros seems ironic to many others. But times, as they say, are a-changing and baseball teams (and individuals) have long balanced the tightrope between bending the rules and breaking them.
By Alex CudabackJun 18, 2015
FCC Chairman Looks to Close Digital Divide by Expanding Lifeline Program
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has circulated a proposal within the Commission to dramatically expand the $1.7 billion Lifeline subsidy program designed to ensure all Americans have access to advanced telecommunications services. Lifeline was created in 1985 by the Reagan administration to subsidize landline phone service; in 2008 it was expanded to include cellphones. To qualify for the subsidy a household must, “have an income at or below 135 percent of the federal poverty line, or must participate in a program like Medicaid or food stamps,” according to a recent article in The New York Times.
By Alex CudabackMay 29, 2015
National Academy of Sciences Wades into CRISPR-Cas9 Debate
In response to growing concerns about the potential application of CRISPR-Cas9 technology, the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine are convening an international summit this fall to “explore the scientific, ethical, and policy issues associated with human gene-editing research." If you think of a genome as a manuscript, full of extraneous, unnecessary, sometimes flat-out harmful material, the CRISPR-Cas9 technique can be likened to an incredibly useful editing tool. In biological circles, the conversation is heated. Some see remarkable opportunities to prevent the kinds of genetic diseases that impact millions of people a year, things like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, hemophilia, and more. Others see yet another Pandora’s box that could lead to things like designer babies or the unintended genetic mutations that lead to unimaginable consequences.
By Alex CudabackMay 22, 2015
Robots for All
“Most robotics kits are hundreds or even thousands of dollars, so we wanted to give kids who don’t have that kind of money a chance build their own robots,” Ritvik Jayakumar tells Leesburg Today. The really cool part? Jayakumar isn’t a Silicon Valley whiz (yet) or a crowd-funded entrepreneur (yet). He’s one of nine Ashburn, Virginia, middle-school students on “Team Gear UP!” competing at the FIRST Championship taking place this week in St. Louis, Missouri. One of the program’s elements tasked teams to come up with an innovative solution to improve learning around the world, and before the team knew it, the Craft-A-Bot kit was born.
By Alex CudabackApr 23, 2015
When It Comes to Sports Display Screens, Size Matters
The latest arms race in professional sports is taking place not on the field, but above it. Spurred in equal parts by technological advancement, swelling coffers, and growing competition from at-home screens that bring better-than-being-there experiences into living rooms without all the challenge (and expense) of attending a game in-person, professional and collegiate teams are racing to install bigger, brighter, sharper displays that make old-school videoboards look pedestrian by comparison. “We see the living room as our biggest competitor. Our job is to help the venue manager with fresh content,” said Al Kurtenbach, co-founder and chairman of Daktronics, one of the premier display makers in the world.
By Alex CudabackJul 24, 2014
Pentagon to Destroy $1 Billion Worth of Ammunition Because Data Doesn’t Talk
While the Defense Department prepares to rid itself of roughly $1.2 billion worth of bullets and missiles, it has come to the attention of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and members of Congress that some of those munitions might actually still be usable by troops. The problem? According to a GAO report first discussed by USA Today, “the Defense Department’s inventory systems can’t share data effectively.” Not only is data not shared effectively, but simple communication between branches of the military is sometimes so discombobulated that near-Rube-Goldberg measures must sometimes be enacted: email requests from one branch that are emailed to another must sometimes be printed out and then re-entered manually before those requests can even be considered, let alone be implemented.
By Alex CudabackApr 29, 2014
U.S. Intelligence Community Supports Sharper Satellite Images
In the increasingly competitive business of satellite imaging, Colorado-based DigitalGlobe is getting a welcome boost from some powerful friends. U.S. government agencies, particularly those in the intelligence sector, have traditionally worried that allowing private companies such as DigitalGlobe to sell increasingly high-resolution images could undermine one of the government’s key strategic advantages on the geopolitical scene. However, in light of advances made by non-U.S. satellite imaging companies, the intelligence community is now supporting DigitalGlobe’s push to make those higher resolution images publicly available on the open market. Why? Market share and global competitiveness.
By Alex CudabackApr 16, 2014
NYU Scientists Lead Synthetic Chromosome Breakthrough
Another huge milestone has been reached in synthetic biology. Scientists have created a working chromosome and inserted it into a living cell. The cell continued to act normally—what scientists consider a key measure of success. While chromosomes have already been created for bacteria, accomplishing the feat with a brewer's yeast cell, a more complex organism, is a major accomplishment. Jeff Boeke, director of NYU's Institute for System's Genetics and the leader of the research team, was quoted as saying, "We have made of 50,000 changes to the DNA code in the chromosome and our yeast is still alive. That is remarkable… It is the most extensively altered chromosome ever built." The potential efficiencies created by these synthetic strains of yeast open doors to remarkable medical and biofuel opportunities, to name just a couple.
By Alex CudabackMar 28, 2014
Using Software to Program the Building Blocks of Life
“What’s beautiful about software is that it makes complex jobs easy,” opines Andrew Hessel, a distinguished researcher at Autodesk, the software company best known for the design software, AutoCAD. What’s really beautiful about what Hessel and others at Autodesk are working on is what they’re building new design tools for—life itself. Hessel, who spoke at Techonomy’s November conferences in 2011 and 2013, sees the work Autodesk is involved in as a way to create greater access to the burgeoning field of synthetic biology and, along the way, turbocharge fields like energy and food production, manufacturing, and hopefully developing personalized, genetic-level tools for fighting, maybe even curing, things like cancer.
By Alex CudabackMar 27, 2014
Techonomy Tips Our Hat to the Great Pat McGovern
The worlds of technology, business, science, and philanthropy lost a true revolutionary when Patrick J. McGovern passed away on March 19th of this year. McGovern was best known as the founder of International Data Group and its many related interests, including tech magazines, research, and events. He spent much of the past decade and a half promoting and championing research and discovery around the field of neuroscience. In 2000 Pat and his wife, Lore Harp McGovern, made a $350 million commitment to MIT, one of the largest philanthropic contributions in the history of higher education, which led to the formal establishment of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. According to its website, the Institute is, “committed to meeting two great challenges of modern science: understanding how the brain works and discovering new ways to prevent or treat brain disorders.”
By Alex CudabackMar 22, 2014
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