Next Cryptocurrency? Pizza

Pythagoras Pizza serves artisanal pizza on a unique sourdough crust that has been aged and baked twice to give it more character. Its San Francisco fan base is very fond of their offerings, but that’s not where Pythagoras plans to make a bold impact – they will offer “tokenization,” a Bitcoin-type cryptocurrency to its staff and clients.

If Pythagoras and other businesses want to create a currency or reward system using this technology, it could be a bold idea that will leave a resounding impact on business and commerce…

Pythagoras’s CEO Evan Kuo is no stranger to the startup scene, having been part of several startup companies in the past. In fact, this is what motivated him to change the way stocks and company growth are measured. He plans to use the same blockchain technology Bitcoin is known for in order to create a new digital currency he named “fragments.” Employees who make and deliver pizzas, as well as loyal customers who refer their friends, get fragments instead of the usual points people earn in a regular loyalty reward program.

Through this tokenization, fragments are accumulated and tallied in favor of the employee or customer. Later on, they can be considered as shares of stock; the value can rise and fall depending on how Pythagoras performs in the market.

Kuo laid down his plans for Pythagoras and his Bitcoin derivative in a proposal he likens to the American Dream. The Business Insider interviewed him about this bold idea, and Kuo explained he wants employees to share in the growth of his company. However, unlike stocks in Silicon Valley companies, the fragments don’t really give employees ownership of the Pythagoras Pizza. They are also not allowed to make corporate and planning decisions.

Not Another Cryptocurrency Imitation

Bitcoin has become a popular cryptocurrency over the years. Its blockchain technology allowed it to become an effective means of exchanging money. It is used for payment and is now considered as a form of investment. Because of its popularity, there have been several imitations of Bitcoin, using the same blockchain technology.

Pizza with Bitcoin Pepperoni

Burger King, for one, announced its version of the Bitcoin, called the WhopperCoin. This is a customer rewards program of the popular burger chain, but is currently only available in Russia.

Tokenization, conversely, is used to switch out sensitive data such as a credit or debit card number with random numbers in the same format. It’s not the same as encryption because encrypted numbers can be decrypted or cracked with the right key code. Tokenization can be considered as a higher form of security, because it uses an undecipherable token, and the data can be later stored in secure cloud-based data vault.

The tokens stand in for the actual set of numbers. There’s no need to decrypt because there is no mathematical relationship between the token and the original numbers. To regain access to the original set of numbers, the numbers need to be “de-tokenized.”

The goal of tokenization is to thwart credit card theft and personal financial attacks. The key here is limiting the usable information thieves may have access to. When credit card numbers or bank accounts are tokenized, they become practically useless to everyone else. It basically leaves nothing to steal, and this is what makes the system effective.

If Pythagoras and other businesses want to create a currency or reward system using this technology, it could be a bold idea that will leave a resounding impact on business and commerce – but only when the technology is perfected and all the kinks have been ironed out.

Still, it’s something new and unique and could be something to look forward to with each box of pizza you order.

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3D Printed Bones Change Medical Field

One of the promises of 3D printing technology is for the customized creation of body parts. Making custom part replacement for important organs would be a bold action and a big breakthrough. However, for now, internal organs are still out of the question. What has been happening lately are a few instances of bone replacements.

During the 20th century, the use of prosthetic devices has gained ground, and has included artificial hips, knees, and others.

Bone is a prime candidate for 3D printing as the materials currently available have almost the same qualities as bone. It is also possible to create a 3D model of the bone based on patient scans and x-rays. There are other considerations besides just making the implant or replacement.

Dr. Gaurav Gupta, assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, has conducted the successful implant of a portion of the skull. The patient was Christopher Cahill of New Brunswick, NJ. Gupta operated on Cahill to reduce a life-threatening swelling on the frontal lobe. Unfortunately, a portion of the skull could no longer be used due to infection. This was replaced by a 3D printed plastic portion created with the use of CT scans.

The procedure also required additional skin to cover the implant. This was created with the help of Dr. Tushar Patel, a partner at The Plastic Surgery Center located in Shrewsbury. Dr. Patel is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, who inserted the excess skin as a tissue expander in Cahill’s surgery.

3D Printed Skulls Change the Medical Landscape

In choosing to use a 3D printed device, Dr. Gupta turned to DeputSyntheses CMS for the cranial skull implant. The material chosen was made from polyetheretherketone (PEEK), which was biologically compatible with skull material, it also was strong and stable. Earlier operations of this kind used metal mesh to replace the portion of skull, however that was not as strong nor as precise as 3D printed PEEK.

The operation shows the promise of 3D printing in replacing bone. One advantage of 3D printing is that a variety of materials can be used. Potentially, different materials could be used for different purposes, organs or body parts. For instance, skin cells or stem cells could be grown and printed layer by layer to replace human skin.

The Cahill case is not the only 3D printing solution currently underway. In China a 3D printed prosthetic was placed onto a woman’s neck to replace 5 spinal vertebrae. This was the first time that vertebrae were replaced by 3D printed parts.

However, 3d printing body parts should not be viewed as a silver bullet or a magical new substance. It requires a lot of customization to make it work. No single solution will work for everyone. 3D printing solutions must be done on a case-to-case basis. A one-part technology, one-part technique will not work in all situations, solutions need to be tailored for each patient.

The potential for 3D printing is enormous. The process itself is only now coming into the mainstream. Dr. Gupta notes that mankind’s evolution has taken thousands of years, but during the 20th century, the use of prosthetic devices has gained ground, and has included artificial hips, knees, and others. He also noted that the merging of human tissue with devices can make life more comfortable and allows people to live longer.

3D printing offers new frontiers for surgeons in a variety of fields. Clearly this technology is on the cusp and will soon be far more widespread, with bold impact throughout the world.

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Where Cars Fly, So Do Questions

Flying cars are no longer just stars of science fiction. Movies, “Back to the Future” and “Bladerunner” both featured flying cars as normal means of transportation. The most famous of all though was regularly seen in the Jetsons cartoon TV show, where each episode opened with father George Jetson landing his rover on the family’s personal carpad.

Besides the space and personnel issues of running each carfield, there is also the problem of air traffic control

The flying car that is currently under development may not look like the flying cars of movies. One thing is certain though: judging by the current pace of development, flying vehicles are coming sooner than expected. They are also bringing a whole new set of logistical and infrastructure issues no one has addressed publicly.

The flying “vehicles” that can handle passengers that are closest to production stage today are all based on a the helicopter as a model. Their developers are pursuing an electric motor, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) model. As the name suggests, these vehicles wouldn’t need a runway, but they also couldn’t navigate a street, so they will never be considered flying cars.

The true flying cars under development will need a runway. Not all of them are meant to take off like an airplane, there are a few that turn to gyrocopters. However, even gyrocopters need enough space to roll into flight.

Driveways to Runways

Picture the mechanics involved in a takeoff and landing. A regular car drives to the runway, transforms into a plane, and then takes off like a plane. When landing, the vehicle has to land on a runway suitable for a plane (of sufficient length and width), where it would roll to a landing, transform and then be driven off like a regular ground vehicle on wheels.

Runways could be privately owned but they would be expensive. Most people would have to make do with a public runway. That means there would need to be a traffic control system of some type (human or machine) and rules to govern its operation.

Besides the space and personnel issues of running each carfield, there is also the problem of air traffic control. Current air traffic controllers are already overworked with the volume of regular air traffic. They cannot take the additional burden of watching over flying cars.

Once in the air, where will these vehicles fly? There are commercial “lanes” of traffic that pilots use to safely keep their large and easily seen vehicles from collisions. Thankfully, by the time flying car technology has evolved enough to get the vehicle airborne, the artificial intelligence units inside them should be advanced enough to handle piloting in whatever invisible lane at whatever invisible altitude is assigned to cars.

But who and how will we regulate the rogues who decide that being on time for their 9am meeting is more important than you being on time for yours? We’ve talked before about building a “Rules of the Sky” for drones, but now we’re adding a human to the equation. Will we require human drivers to pass flight school and maintain a certain minimum flight time the same as we do for pilots?

Possible Problems on Noise Pollution

Another big concern of any vehicle flying low over residential areas is the noise. Battery operation is nearly silent, so engine noise is not likely to be high, but these vehicles will generate noise with their propellers, potentially a lot of noise.

Even if they are regulated to the same standards as light airplanes, they will be landing in non-traditional areas (neighborhoods) that are not apt to be tolerant of aircraft “existing allowable noise levels.” Judging by the amount of dissension over current helicopter noise levels in some major cities, there will undoubtedly be public outcry for lower noise levels through regulation or other pressure on flying car developers.

There are at least five different companies worldwide working on flying cars (not VTOLs). At least four of them already have prototypes. One company assures flying cars buyers that they do not need a license to fly because their vehicle is designated as a light plane due to the use of a parachute for a wing. Another says you can be licensed as a Sport Pilot to drive and fly their model in just 20 hours.

Today, the flying car is stuck somewhere between being a bold idea and a bold action. It is no longer a question of if, but when will these vehicles take to the road and the air. When they do, there will be a lot of them vying for space and attention at the same time. That means we have very little runway left for asking, and answering, down-to-earth questions like the ones above.

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Makati increases budget for Free Medicines Program to P900 Million

The city government of Makati has increased this year’s budget for its Free Medicines Program from P600 million to P900 million to help defray the cost of medications needed by the beneficiaries of its Makati Health Plus (MHP) Program, better known as Yellow Card.

Launched in 2013 with an initial budget of P59 million, Makati’s “Libreng Gamot Para sa Mamamayan” currently benefits more than 230,000 patients which include senior citizens, persons with disability (PWD), city government employees, and other active MHP members.

Makati Mayor Abby Binay asked the Makati City Council to increase the budget for the program to ensure that it would be sustained with adequate funds throughout the year.

“We want our beloved Makatizens to worry less about expenses for maintenance medicines so they could enjoy a better quality of life,” Mayor Abby said.

The City Council approved the budget increase for the program through City Ordinance No. 2017-059 passed last April 26.

The program covers medicines for hypertension, diabetes mellitus, cardio-vascular diseases, dyslipidemia, enlarged prostate, gout, cough and colds, sexually transmitted infections, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, seizure disorder, allergy, ulcer, vertigo, and gastro-intestinal problems, and more. It also provides free multivitamins for children, adults and pregnant patients, as well as oral and injectable contraceptives.

The Makati Health Department (MHD) reports that the program has a total of 232,672 beneficiaries to date. These include 42,335 senior citizens and 171 PWDs, while the rest are other city residents, city government employees and selected national government workers based in Makati.

This July, the Makati Action Center (MAC) has made door-to-door deliveries of free maintenance medicines and vitamins worth around P7.2 million to some 4,099 senior citizens aged 70 years and older and bed-ridden beneficiaries identified by the MHD to be qualified for the special service.

Under the program, senior citizens aged 70 and above are entitled to receive the full dose of their monthly prescription of maintenance medicines.

To avail of the free medicines, registered members need to present a valid prescription issued to them by medical personnel from Ospital ng Makati (OsMak), Makati City Hall Employees’ Clinic, as well as any of the barangay health centers in the city.

The authorized distributor, Planet Drugstore, has eight outlets in strategic locations catering to their respective clusters.

More than free medicines and vitamins, Yellow Card beneficiaries enjoy free outpatient consultations and subsidized hospitalization for emergency and in-patient care at the premiere city-run Ospital ng Makati. Primary health care is also being provided by the city’s 26 barangay health centers, while its three lying-in clinics provide subsidized services for normal deliveries.

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Makati fast tracks free public WiFi system, other digital PPP projects; Mayor Abby signs contracts with private sector partners

In its bid to become a fully digital and technology-embracing Smart City, the City Government of Makati today entered into public private partnership (PPP) contracts with private sector partners for five landmark digital projects.

One of these is the Fiber Optic Loop project which will establish a public WiFi system providing free WiFi connection to Makati residents. The project is targeted for completion in 27 barangays, excluding the six villages, by the end of December this year.

Another PPP contract scheduled for completion within the year involves the installation of mobile signal boosters to strengthen cellular and internet connectivity for the benefit of residents and transients in the city.

Makati Mayor Abby Binay led the signing of the contracts which are expected to fast track the implementation of key programs aimed at expanding access to digital technology all over the city.

The mayor said the contract signing signifies the city’s commitment to provide the best features of today’s advanced technology to the city’s residents, guests, and business partners. She added that these projects will serve as the cornerstone of Makati’s goal to become a true “Smart City”.

“These five projects are just the first of many digital transformation programs which will further improve the technology we already have in Makati. We are tapping industry leaders from the private sector to speed up the implementation of these projects,” Mayor Abby said.

The mayor said the city government and its partners have laid out plans that will ensure that the projects will really make a difference in the daily lives of Makatizens.

The contract signing took place at the Lakan Tagkan Conference Room at Makati City Hall Building I between Makati City officials headed by Mayor Abby and representatives of the private companies.

The five digital PPP projects launched are the following: Fiber Optic Loop connecting Makati City e-Government; Makatizen card promoting e-currency and online payment; Mobile signal boosters to strengthen cellular and internet connectivity; City-wide towing, impounding and clamping that will allow online payment; and e-Payment at Jollijeeps using the Makatizen card.

The Fiber Optic Loop project will be accomplished in partnership with Converge Information and Communications Technology Solutions, Inc and Neo Tech Asia Distribution, Inc. Also known as the Makati City Public Wi-Fi System, it relies heavily on a Fiber Optic Cable Infrastructure to deliver managed Internet Services to Makati’s constituents.

The said project aims to accelerate the City Government’s efforts in enhancing internet accessibility for its constituents to boost their economic, social and educational opportunities. It also intends to enhance the delivery of frontline services and transactions, improve internal and government processes to ensure greater transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in its operations, and allow easier and wider public access to government information and services.

The private contractor will complete installation of the fiber optic cable in and around Makati City, as well as provide the internet bandwidth that will be required in connection with the MyMakati Wi-Fi service. The free internet service will be available to students, guests, and transients for a fixed period every day.

Following its initial launch last May 30 with partners G-xchange and iBayad Online Ventures, Inc., the Makatizen Universal Card System will now be rolled out to the city’s 33 barangays to provide over 500,000 residents better access to city government services. Along with city government employees, residents can receive cash allowances, stipends, and other cash benefits using their Makatizen Card. They can also use their cards to pay fees and taxes, as well as for personal remittances and other financial transactions.

The city government has also teamed up with Aim Technologies Inc and Market Research Knowledge Technology, Inc. for the project on Mobile signal boosters to strengthen cellular and internet connectivity, which will make use of existing Makati City-owned lamp posts and structures for installing and maintaining telecommunications equipment and public information structures. It aims to provide better cellular phone service and public information messages to residents and transients.

Through its partnership with Tokagawa Global Corporation, the city government aims to ease daily heavy traffic caused by illegally parked vehicles, stalled vehicles and those involved in vehicular accidents. The private proponent shall provide all the towing vehicles and accessories, clamping materials, impounding area and manpower at no cost to the city. The digital aspect of the program includes provisions for online payment of fees and penalties for the convenience of drivers and vehicle owners.

Meanwhile, the city government has revitalized its existing partnership with Metro Stores for the provision of additional “Jollijeep” food stalls or mobile canteens as an alternative to sidewalk vendors and the acceptance of e-payment using the Makatizen Card. The private contractor will monitor and manage the new and improved mobile food stalls to ensure their strict compliance with City Ordinance 2002-007 with respect to sanitation, safety and functionality.

The Makatizen Card was the city’s first digital PPP project and affirmed Mayor Abby’s belief that PPPs are the best way to bring about digital transformation in Makati and other localities. She had said earlier that Makati recognizes the indispensable role of such a partnership in revolutionizing the way government serves its people.

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300,000 Makatizen Cards up for distribution to residents, City Hall employees by yearend


Makati Mayor Abby Binay announced on Wednesday that the city government aims to distribute the all-in-one Makatizen Card to around 300,000 residents, students and city government employees by the end of the year.

Speaking before other local chief executives and members of the business sector at the 5th Regional Competitiveness Summit and Awards Ceremony held at the Philippine International Convention Center, the mayor revealed that the cutting-edge program is now being rolled out to the city’s 33 barangays.

“To date, the registration of city government employees and eligible Makati-based national government workers is well underway. We have also started to roll out the Makatizen Universal Card System to the city’s 33 barangays with the goal of registering around 300,000 residents by the end of the year,” Mayor Abby said.

The mayor presented the features, advantages, and benefits of Makati’s unified ID card to local chief executives and key officials from 1,487 cities and municipalities from all over the country.

“The Makatizen Card project represents this year’s theme: Technology and Innovation is Key to Competitiveness. It is not only a financially inclusive eco system that creates a digitally connected citizenry, it also takes the government – including all its services and processes, online,” Mayor Abby said.

The Makatizen Card is a public private partnership (PPP) between Makati and G-xchange and iBayad Online Ventures, Inc. It is a comprehensive universal card system which offers residents, students and city government employees expanded and improved access to government services.

The card allows recipients to receive cash allowances, stipends, and other cash benefits, including those provided under the Makati Health Program (Yellow Card), Senior Citizens program (Blu Card), PWD card and Solo Parent Card among others.

“Aside from making day-to-day tasks much more convenient for Makatizens, the project also allows greater transparency in the implementation of the city’s various social welfare programs, thereby ensuring that the right people receive the right benefits in the most efficient way,” the Mayor explained.

The Makatizen Card can also be used to pay fees and taxes, personal remittances and other financial transactions. More importantly, the magnetic strip contains vital information about bearer: his address, gender, blood type, as well as emergency contact numbers. The card is also equipped with a Near-Field Communication feature which will allow city offices equipped with iBayad machine readers to verify the identity of residents and employees with just a single tap.

Mayor Abby presented her actual Makatizen Card to the audience and shared that she had used it to pay for her water bill in the wee hours of the morning, without having to wait in line or wait for regular business hours. She also noted that using the Makatizen Card as a payment option for city government employees will reduce the mountain of paperwork that accompanies doing the payroll.

She also mentioned other notable digital PPP programs. The Fiber Optic Loop project, for one, will establish a public WiFi system providing free fiber optic WiFi connection to Makati residents. The project is targeted for completion in 27 barangays, excluding the six villages, by the end of December this year.

The National Competitiveness Council (NCC) had invited Mayor Abby to present the Makatizen Card Program and the city’s digital transformation platform at the summit, following a similar presentation she made at the 5th Annual Ease of Doing Business Summit held last June 28.

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Private Research Funding: Masayoshi Son Makes History

Tech mogul, Masayoshi Son, has been making waves with his bold vision for the future. Like Elon Musk and other forward-thinkers, he’s designing and investing in a new world; one where people live to be 200 years old, communication is done telepathically and wired via information networks.

Son claims that he has a 300-year plan for Softbank.

Son is putting serious money in research, most especially in robotics, artificial intelligence, as well as the Internet of Things (IoT). Reports say he has more targets lined up, with the intention of being at the forefront of leading emerging sectors.

Is he a mad genius? Perhaps, but when you’re throwing around billions, everyone pays attention.

The SoftBank Vision Fund

The Softbank Vision Fund is the biggest tech investment fund ever assembled. Much of the funding came from Softbank’s own coffers, but additional funding was provided by financial giants from Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Son’s intention is to use the fund to create a tech zaibatsu where companies are inter-related via cross-ownership. A zaibatsu is a group of companies with interlocking boards that work cooperatively.

Son’s strategy is to infuse funds with the leading companies in particular industries. He buys in from 20% to 40% of these companies, effectively becoming the largest shareholder. In contrast, most venture capital companies provide operating funds and minority shares in startups which may or may not bear fruit for several years.

The companies that were bought compose a very diverse mix. It includes ARM Holdings, a processor manufacturer for mobile phones; NVidia, a graphics chip manufacturer also into autonomous vehicles; Didi Chuxing of China and Grab of Southeast Asia, two car sharing companies that are leaders in their respective regions. Softbank has also expressed interest in Zalora, an eCommerce site based in Southeast Asia.

Ultimately, the Softbank Vision Fund is being used to create more opportunities for a diverse portfolio.

Asia Nikkei observes that Softbank, via Son, pushes to acquire the largest and fastest-growing companies in its niche. This calculated move apparently works for Softbank, given that their investments perform 10% to 20% better than comparable funds.

Son was one of the earliest investors into Alibaba, putting in $20 million when the company was still in its infancy. Years later, Son scored a home run as his stocks reached up to $90 billion in value.

With such a massive amount to be invested mainly in the tech and internet niches, Son is inevitably rewriting tech history and making sure that his name is prominently featured in it.

Who is Masayoshi Son, Leading Venture Capitalist?

Masayoshi Son, 59, is not your ordinary tech billionaire. He was a venture capitalist even before the term came into fashion. He once lost almost $70 billion in net worth, all in one day, due to the dot com crash of 2000. In spite of that setback, he is still regarded as one of the most powerful investors in the world.

He is Japanese with Korean parentage and went to the United States to finish high school and enroll in college. At a young age, he already had dreams of how to get rich. He found a way to have a talk with the head of McDonald’s Japan to discuss business. While in college, he transferred from Holy Names University to the University of California, Berkeley and majored in economics while also studying computer science.

Son caught the computer science bug early. After graduating from UC Berkeley, he started a company in California, which he later sold to Kyocera, a Japanese electronics company specializing in industrial ceramics. He also created a translation program, which he later sold to Sharp to compose the Sharp Wizard series of PDAs. This project was a milestone on the road to his first million dollars.

The idea of microchips as a leading edge to technology compelled Son to think of a new invention every day. This motivation is seen in the way he manages Softbank. It also explains the company’s philosophy about acquisition and funding of companies. Unlike with many other venture capitalists and other funding agencies, Softbank funds a significant portion of any one company’s capital. The idea is to allow the company to grow to its full potential. Another factor for this is that Softbank would have a hand in the management and policy of the company. Their relatively large investment gives them ownership and the ability to steer the direction of the companies they invest in.

Son also plans to invest in sharing companies which operate like Uber or AirBnB. Softbank already has a big investment in Alibaba. It is also looking to fund car sharing companies in China and Southeast Asia.

Softbank and Private Science Funding

In May 2017, Son’s Softbank bankrolled a British startup to further their research on large-scale virtual reality projects. The company, called Improbable, was founded by Cambridge University computer graduates. Improbable’s partners believe that large-scale virtual worlds will be the future of computing. They are involved in multiplayer games, but are also building real-life applications for their technology.

Back then, Softbank said virtual reality tech would help them understand world economies, solve complex problems, improve cities, and even go as far as studying diseases.

Softbank giving money to fund private research is not unheard of. Billionaires funding research for scientific or heath causes – not just tech- have been responsible for many advancements and innovations in the last 10 or 15 years.

Yes, American science has been transformed into a private enterprise by people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Masayoshi Son. And it’s a good thing.

The New York Times said private donors have been filling the void after government funding of even the most basic research have been reduced. Labs have closed, scientists have been laid off, and more and more projects are being shut down. This is what has led dozens of billionaires “to reinvent themselves as patrons of social progress through science research.”

The Pressing Need for Private Funding

In some ways, private research funding appears to be a crusade against disease. The goal is to create effective treatments as quickly as possible, to benefit the people of the world. On the other hand, private research funding has gone for a myriad of other activities, including; innovative ships, giant telescopes, private missions to deep space, and even the development of undersea crafts.

Why do they do it?

Public-funded research is slow, politicized, and often unwilling to take risks. These moneyed donors are impatient and want results that they can touch, see, smell, and hear.

Over the years, prominent names in the tech world such as Bill Gates, Lawrence J. Ellison, Eric Schmidt; David H. Koch from oil and chemicals; James Simmons, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have pumped billions of dollars into scientific research.

Son, for his part, is obsessed with the possibility of expanding small and common devices through an Internet connection. He is not only funding research but also the deployment of hundreds of low-orbit satellites so rural areas can enjoy stable and fast internet service.

Softbank is also investing heavily in robotics and autonomous driving. In 2015, Softbank began selling a humanoid called “Pepper”. Recently, however, it acquired Boston Dynamics from Alphabet to boost its robotics venture.

Advancing Science and Medicine with Private Funding

Son also invested in Guardant Health, an American Cancer screening company, that applies machine learning and genomics for the early detection of tumors.

The Japanese tech mogul isn’t alone in his pursuits. In September 2016, the power-couple Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan poured $3 billion into top universities in California. The funding was for biomedical research intended to cure a variety of diseases within a century.

At the same time, Facebook cofounder Sean Parker and Oracle cofounder Larry Ellison promised $250 million and $200 million respectively to fund cancer centers. Eli Broad and Ted Stanley have shelled out $1.4 billion to privately fund psychiatric research.

For these highly successful business people, doling out several hundred million to fund scientific research won’t even make a dent in their portfolio, but it can have huge results in the world of research and science.

Scientific American notes that even in its early stages, science and research were mostly privately funded. During the time of the scientific revolution, it was wealthy men like Henry Cavendish and Antoine Lavoisier who spent time and energy on research and scientific discovery.

Prior to the war years, rich businessmen set up trust funds to spend on research. The Rockefeller and Guggenheim Foundation gave brilliant scientists such as Robert Oppenheimer and Linus Pauling Postdoctoral fellowships that enabled them to study with esteemed masters such as Neils Bohr and Arnold Sommerfeld.

Benefits of Private Capital Research Funding

It would be naïve to think that the billionaires are spending their money on research for purely altruistic reasons. Apart from plain curiosity and the excitement of discovery, personal and business interests also come into play.

Private funding for rare and neurodegenerative diseases are propelled by fear and genetic predisposition. Alphabet Inc CEO Larry Page, for one, suffers from a speaking disorder while Google co-founder Sergey Brin is predisposed to Parkinson’s. The research they are funding will benefit them, yes, but it will also benefit millions of other people.

Another good example is the $70 million that went to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The money was raised by rich parents of children who had the disease. The infusion of funds pushed Vertex Pharmaceutical’s research to develop and perfect the drug Kalydeco. Prior to that, there was no viable treatment for cystic fibrosis. While the medication is still expensive, it now offers hope to families of patients afflicted with the condition.

Private funding research speeds up the process of discovery, testing, trials and creating prototypes which will eventually be released in the market. It keeps scientists and researchers working without fear or worry that their grants could be shut down anytime.

Looking at it critically though, it does appear to throw the balance in favor of billion-dollar capitalists. They get first dibs on promising research and discoveries and have the opportunity to produce and market it. For example, Sean Parker’s institution will fund research studies but claim the right to patents that come from the projects.

Government funded research, on the other hand, pins their hopes on being bought and funded by private companies after the fact. The initial studies and tests are done using public money with the hope of discovering something that is for the greater good.

These noble aspirations, however, often meet head on with the reality that research and development – whether medical or technological – requires deep pockets such as Son’s and other bold visionaries in order to reach the end users.

The US government is inching backward on its commitment to fund basic scientific research due to budget constraints and priorities. If science and medicine rely on public funding alone, it might not be possible to find a cure for HIV or cancer in the near future.

Call it scientific philanthropy, angel investments, or just simply private funding; billionaires like Masayoshi Son are in it for the glory of discovery and the chance to make history. And we will all benefit from their discoveries.

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