Chautauquas and Lyceums and TED Talks, oh my!

We are aiming with Mobilized to create a vibrant forum for ideas.  “Big deal”, you might say, there are already places for that.

Well, you’re not wrong.  There was, in the earliest days of the web, a loose and wild forum called The Well.  The great and powerful Google had as it’s mission the goal of “bringing all the knowledge of the world to every person”… before it pivoted to a new goal of just making money off of what it knows about us.  That change was a real pity.  There have been sites such as Wiser Earth, which aimed to be a global directory of people and non-profit organizations so that collaboration could happen on a larger scale than ever before.  It lasted about two years, sadly; not long enough to create a legacy.  Huffington Post had a good run in its’ early days, sharing ideas widely and helping to boost its’ contributors in the public’s mind.

What’s important to know, is that as of this writing, there is not really a widely recognized forum online or in ‘meat-space’.  There are print publications such as YES! magazine, Tikkun, The Sun Magazine, and The Utne Reader, all of which which reach a population of hundreds thousands.  Great, but their reach could be even more broad, in my humble opinion.  Within social media sites there are plenty of good ‘groups’ but they also don’t reach enough folks outside of their own memberships.

Probably the most popular comparable live events right now are the TED talks, which do serve a valuable purpose.  Sadly, they also tend toward the ‘Gee-Whiz‘ and the ‘Shiny New Buzzword‘ in their contents.  Mobilized really wants to focus on the proven, the existing, and the hidden.  There are already, all over, groups doing wonderful work, but too many of them are laboring in obscurity.

So, how do we do that?  Well to begin with, we’re not trying to be a technology startup.  There is no secret sauce, no fancy algorithm at work here.  Almost all the underlying code behind Mobilized is made with off-the-shelf parts, such as WordPress.  There is zero reason to re-invent the wheel, and frankly the notion that one must do so has tripped up several earlier attempts at building a successful progressive community.  We take the approach of using the tools at hand to build our house.

Secondly, we are going into the future with an eye firmly on the past.  And that leads us to the point of this essay, a look at how America became America.  We can take many lessons from the past.  One of our best ideas as a nation was the Chautauqua movement.   It had it’s heyday from the 1870’s right up until the beginning of World War II.  In part, it helped spawn a Lyceum movement, the Vaudeville traditions in the theater world; and had an effect on the earliest days of the motion-picture industry.  Here’s why it was so popular: the average person, anywhere in the land, could go to a Chautauqua when it came to their town, and engage in spirited discussion with the brightest minds of the day.  It was direct, person-to-person, and offered a mix of local and national ideas and people; presented on a rotating basis.  So ideas could be hashed out and spread rapidly.  And they did.  In no small part due to these two movements, the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age were defeated.  The Great Depression was tackled too, and along the way no less than Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain became huge fans.  No part of society could, or wanted to, ignore the notion that average people could teach other average people.

Mobilized aims to help bring that back into common understanding.  In the present era, there may well be a place for tents and lecturers setting up in farmer’s fields.  There certainly is a crying need for an educational platform that is accessible to the masses.  And now, there exist enough robust tools for us to re-create the ethos of a Chautauqua on the internet.

We, the people, when it really mattered and the stakes were high, collectively taught ourselves how to better ourselves.  Now, in every corner of the world, the stakes are once again pretty high.  It is time for a new Chautauqua movement, and this one will be truly global.  So step right up, come on inside our virtual tent.  Welcome to the show.



Table Stakes (And the Big Picture)

The Big Picture:  So many obstacles exist to true progress that most days many activists I know want to bang their head against a wall, or give up, or worse.  But it’s not so bad as all that, and in fact we have some advantages that were not even options for change-makers of generations ago.  Let’s begin by running some ‘cocktail napkin’ numbers, to make sense of the last few months in politics.

  • There are at least 330 million Americans right now.  Of those, ⅔ were able to vote in 2020.  That’s @218 million potential voters.
  • We had @144 million actual voters in the 2020 fall election.
  • Of those voters, @72 million chose Trump.
  • So here’s the real math: 2/3 of the total population of America can vote.  Of those, only 2/3 did vote in 2020.  Of those, 1/2 voted for Trump.  So that’s actually only about 20% of the whole who support him and his nefarious views.  That makes our job far easier – there are not nearly as many ‘hearts and minds’ we need to reach in this nation, as it may appear on the surface. 

For the Record: As noted in previous essays, there are always obstacles, and there are never enough dedicated folks, seemingly, to get the job done.  Yet over and over throughout the last 15,000 years, change has come to societies and the long arc has actually been in a direction of more justice, more fairness, and less oppression.  So clearly we simply need to keep on doing our work, and fret less about the long term.

Our mass media has done a bang-up job of making nearly everyone feel isolated, powerless, and flawed.  These are of course lies, and you should go right ahead and ignore the mass media.  The problems we face are merely the ‘table stakes’, and we can surely play our hand into a winning one.  We surely do NOT have to overcome half of the entire population wanting to calcify society as it was in the 1950’s.  Far from it.  But don’t take it from me, let’s go to one of our great recent philosophers…

What they’re saying: “One of the basic ideas of our culture is that people are fundamentally no good, that people are greedy, cruel, and vicious to the core: That is our nature, so get used to if, folks.  Get as much as you can, then get really good locks for your doors.  

I want to change that basic attitude.  Not only is the world a sacred place, but we belong in it.  We’re not alien monsters here.  We should stop perceiving ourselves in that way and begin to reevaluate our place in the greater community.  The view of this culture is that we are vicious beings, but still infinitely better than every other creature on this planet.  They are worthless beings we can kill off at will. 

I’m proposing that we all belong to a community of life.  We are no better or worse than other creatures.  We have to begin to think of ourselves as members of the world community, rather than as rulers of the planet.” – Daniel Quinn, interviewed by W. Bradford Swift in The Sun Magazine, December 1997 

Next steps: There is a shift coming.  I once thought it would be in a far distant future, but now I see that folks are agitating for it in nearly every city on the planet.  Reactionary leaders, cowed by fear and distaste for sharing their imaginary power, are doing rather a lot to crush / co-opt / belittle these forces.  That’s a pity but also should be encouraging to you – the fact that they can no longer ignore these efforts is in itself a telling victory for the progressives.  The shift can happen soon, within a generation or less, if we press our advantage. 


Go deeper: links and sources

Elsewhere on this site, I have posted many book reviews and other links, naturally I encourage you to study them in your free time.  

I do get a bit of heat since most of those recommendations are from the 20th century.  Well in fact I do keep current, it’s merely that I’m trying to work in order, and there is much to share.  However, this book is allowed to jump the line: Soft Landing, by Don Shepherd.  (2020, published by SaveTheWorld, Inc.)

Soft Landing lays out 3 major ways we can tell when the shift will have truly occurred – If we have succeeded in providing for the basic needs of every person on the planet, if we have stopped cutting down our forests and destroying the planet’s ecosystems, and if we have reversed our polluting ways.  In clear and amiable ways, he goes into some detail for doing so.  As well, (much ignored but crucial to overcoming our obstacles), the last ⅓ of the book goes into the current mess of our planet-wide financial system, and how we can ‘un-rig’ it in a reasonable time frame.  I do believe it is as if this fellow read his Quinn, Derrick Jensen and his Naomi Klein texts, and tried mightily to synthesize a readable and accessible version that won’t scare away the curious and the motivated-but-uneducated.  In that, I feel he has succeeded.  

And if you will indulge me, here’s another from that distant time of 2001… After Dachau by Daniel Quinn, (Context Books).  Since I quoted him above, it seems okay to mention one of his fiction tales.  In it, we see how life would be if society had indeed calcified in about 1956, and also no other cultures were allowed to exist.  Spoiler alert – it’s not pretty.  Also, it doesn’t get to be the last word.  As he always did in his fiction and non fiction works, the seeds of hope sprouted against the greatest odds.  We too, are about to see those seeds sprouting.  

Finally, we go out on a high note: the incomparable singer John McCutcheon and his story song “Well may the world go.”  Enjoy.  

“It’s not about eliminating anyone, it’s about welcoming people in!”


Digital Health Leaders: Biomed Confab Brings Out The Best In Israeli MedTech Innovation

Israel’s Mixiii-Biomed, the prestigious three-day life science and biomed conference now in its 17th year, attracted over 6,000 healthcare professionals, scientists, engineers, and investors from 45 countries this week, highlighting industry trends and looking at the future of the world’s digital health industry, as well as biotech and medical devices.

By Simona Shemer, NoCamels  

Israel’s Mixiii-Biomed, the prestigious three-day life science and biomed conference now in its 17th year, attracted over 6,000 healthcare professionals, scientists, engineers, and investors from 45 countries this week, highlighting industry trends and looking at the future of the world’s digital health industry, as well as biotech and medical devices.

It was also an opportunity for the  participants to experience Israel’s life science-focused tech and innovation firsthand as well as encourage Israeli academic institutions, research facilities, and health-and-science-focused startups to connect and collaborate with international health industry leaders. The event also featured an exhibition showcasing 45 startups developing medical devices, drug delivery systems, nanotechnology, and biomed and pharmaceutical products. The exhibition was sponsored by the Israel Innovation Authority, the support arm of the Israeli government in the national development of industrial R&D.

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Among the 45 startups chosen, out of dozens, according to conference organizers, companies that generated conversation included Consis Medical, an “early-stage medical device company, devoted for the development of novel, single-use and self-propelled endoscopes,” Raziel Therapeutics, a Jerusalem-based startup that has developed a new localized injection that melts fat cells, and Bubble, a platform that eases menopausal symptoms in women like hot flashes and night sweats through an immersive virtual reality experience.

A panel of of judges, which included Israeli industry leaders like Dr. Ami Applebaum, chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority and chief scientist of the Israel Ministry of Economy, Anya Eldan, as well as vice president of the  Israel Innovation Authority’s startup division, Karin Mayer Rubinstein, chose 10 of the companies for a startup competition, where they presented their concepts to the crowd and the panel of Israeli industry leaders.

The competing companies were Alpha Tau Medical, a solid cancer tumor treatment company, wearable brain sensor firm Neurosteer, eye-tracking device company NovaSight, blood count device maker PixCell Medical, MRI software company Brainvivo, artificial cornea developer CorNeat Vision, temperature stabilizer TempraMed Israel, motor restoration medical device company E-Motion Medical, eating behavior monitor Barimote, and microgravity services company SpacePharma.

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Dr. Ami Appelbaum, chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority (l) and Dr. Irit Yaniv of Accelmed stand with winner Dr. Gilad Litvin chief medical Officer for CorNeat Vision. Photo via Alexander Elman

he judges chose PixCell Medical and CorNeat Vision were the winning companies, which Applebaum said “exemplify differentiated technology and solid global strategy, serving as a beacon of excellence for the well-being of humanity.”

Israel Innovation Authority CEO highlights Israel’s digital health plan 

Aharon Aharon, the Israel Innovation Authority’s CEO opened the second day of the conference by presenting Israel’s prowess in healthcare and innovation as well as reaffirming the Israeli government’s commitment to promote digital health through a new initiative set to pour $275 million into the local digital healthcare industry.

The plan, approved by the Israeli cabinet, was first announced in March by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland in January. Netanyahu said at the time that Israel would partner with multinational software company SAP over the next five years for a program to digitize the personal health records of Israeli citizens, and is designed to develop personalized and preventive medicine with the use of AI and machine learning tools for more tailored diagnoses and treatment.

Aharon said digital healthcare is now considered “the main growth engine of the Israeli economy,” and that Israel’s global leadership in information and communication technology (ICT) give it an edge to transform the industry in a groundbreaking way.


According to Aharon, the Israeli government is looking to contribute $15 million to health regulation, $70 million to encourage more R&D in the field, $10 million to human capital, and $180 million to health and research infrastructures. He emphasized the government-based incentives for Israeli researchers abroad to return to the country, as well as biotech and tech incubators, and other well-funded funded programs.

Aharon said that one reason Israel has an advantage in the digital health arena is that it holds electronic medical records for 98 percent of the population and gives researchers access to a wealth of usable data for R&D purposes. While this has raised some privacy concerns, the government believes its overall projects, which include the establishment of a national center for genetic screening, and advancing joint projects between the Israeli health system and world health systems, among other plans, will be beneficial.

Aharon Aharon, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority shares information on the Israeli life sciences industry.

“This $275 million government initiative will further strengthen Israel’s leadership in the $6 trillion global digital health industry, leveraging Israel’s technological prowess in big data analytics, AI, and machine learning to develop efficient and personalized medicine,” he tells NoCamels in an email. “This change will shift the entire healthcare industry towards medicine that focuses on prevention and personalized cures.”

The Israel Innovation Authority, he says, “will leverage this government digital health initiative and ICT capabilities together with Israel’s local, world-renowned scientific research talent to bring anchor pharma companies to Israel and facilitate therapeutic and diagnostic capabilities.”

Aharon also praised the country’s “strong scientific capabilities,” pointing to Israel having more PhDs per capita than any other nation in the world, ranking 3rd in the world with intellectual properties (inventions, literary and artistic works; and symbols, names and images used in commerce) per capita, and with 33 percent of all Israeli scientists in the life sciences field.

Speakers highlight Israel’s digital healthcare innovation

The conference had a large number of international and local speakers whose talks, presentations, and panels were divided into nine tracks that focused on digital health, IoT, and big data in medicine; next-generation oncology treatments; brain health; personalized diagnostics and treatments; fighting rare genetic diseases using novel therapeutic approaches; nanomedicine and its role in new medical therapeutics; academic research to industry; cutting-edge medical device technologies; and novel clinical trial designs and technologies to accelerate drug development.

Many of these speakers, while highlighting their own research and company achievements, also referred to the incredible innovation coming out of Israel’s healthcare industry.

Bruce Rosengard, vice president of global external innovation and medical devices at US multinational pharma and packaged goods giant  Johnson & Johnson made sure to commend Israel’s MedTech, saying, “There’s more innovation here in medical devices than anywhere on the planet.”

Israel’s digital healthcare industry had much to celebrate during the three-day event. Ahead of the conference, organizers released numbers about the industry which noted that the industry had a “compounded annual growth (CAGR) of 10 percent from 2008 to 2017.”

The 1,200 Israeli life science companies currently in existence raised a $1.2 billion in VC funds in 2017, with over 135 investment deals, according to the report, marking a whopping 41 percent increase compared to 2016. This was due in part to two significant exits — the acquisition of clinical-stage pharmaceutical company NeuroDerm by Mitsubishi Tanabe for $1.1 billion, and the acquisition of heart valve tech maker Valtech by Edwards Lifesciences for $1 million with an upfront payment of $340 million. In 2016, Israel raised $850 million in 137 deals.

The report also highlighted growing trends in the industry, which Aharon emphasized in his presentation, including big data, the influence of AI on medical diagnosis, personalized medicine and more.

Source: No Camels

OrCam’s Revolutionary Tech Opens A Whole New World For The Visually Impaired

By Simona Shemer, NoCamels   Sign up for Mobilized and help tell a better story.
Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram, the founders of Mobileye, one of Israel’s biggest companies acquired by Intel for $15.3 billion for its groundbreaking vision-based driver-assistance system, have also been advancing another vision-based assistive product, which Aviramtold Reutersearlier this year “has the potential to be even bigger.”

The product is so highly regarded, in fact, that the company,OrCam, was valued at $1 billion in February, after completing a $30.4 million funding round that brought its total amount raised to $130.4 million. All this for a portable, finger-sized device that can be discreetly clipped to eyeglasses or sunglasses. There have been several versions of the device, with MyEye first making its debut in 2011 and MyEye 2.0 launched last year.

It’s a game-changer for the visually-impaired who want to be able to freely move about with everyday tasks without calling attention to themselves, says OrCam Director of Media and Communications Rafi Fischer.


The Jerusalem-based company is “return[ing] independence to the user,” Fischer tells NoCamels.

OrCam’s Rafi Fischer models MyEye 2.0

“This is the world’s most advanced artificial vision device for people who are blind, partially sighted and have reading difficulties,” he adds.

Besides being noted as a revolutionary vision technology by industry leaders, investors, media, and product users, the company was also named a CES Innovation Awards Honoree for Accessible Tech at the prestigious international Consumer Electronics Show in January. It was also the 2018 online winner for theLast Gadget Standing competitionat that trade show.

OrCam debuted the second-generation MyEye 2.0 in December 2017, after compressing the original MyEye, which was the size of a smartphone and came with a wire, head unit, and base unit, into a small, compact, self-contained device. The newer device has a camera in the front and a speaker in the back. After attaching it with a magnet to the side of a user’s glasses, the AI-powered device incorporates pioneering computer vision and machine learning to read printed text from books, newspapers, product labels, and restaurant menus. The device is gesture-motivated, says Fischer, so the user only has to point to the piece of text to activate the device or hold their hand out to stop the audio of the reading.

“This is the only assistive technology device in the world that responds to intuitive gestures,” Fischer says, but if you don’t use the hand gesture to stop the text, “you can put the text down, walk away, and OrCam will still be reading.”

With its optical character reading technology and artificial vision software, MyEye 2.0 is able to undertake text as well as facial recognition. Speech recognition is a future functionality of the device, which is currently under development, according to the company.

OrCam’s R&D division has also established a unique and innovative facial recognition algorithm that can distinguish faces when programmed by the user. In other words, Fischer explains, distinguishing a man, woman, or child is part of the machine learning capabilities of the product. It recognizes the person who is standing in front of the device when prompted by the user. The user simply has to look at that person, tap the device so that it can take a picture of the person, say the person’s name, and the next time he stands near the person, the device will conjure up the image and also recognize him. Users can program up to 100 faces into the device.

All the information that is programmed into the MyEye device stays in the device. Everything is offline, Fischer explains, and nothing is transferred to cloud storage to be processed, so there are no data privacy issues.

One of the newest features of this MyEye upgrade is that it can recognize products based on scanning US barcodes to help users perform shopping tasks. The device has a preloaded barcode database that has hundreds of thousands of barcodes. Also, up to 150 of the user’s favorite products, from supermarkets to credit cards, may be stored in a process similar to storing faces.

Other unique functions include color identification and telling time by lifting your wrist as if you are looking at your watch, even if you are not wearing one. The intuitive text-to-speech device, which takes words off a computer screen or page and converts them to audio is available in 25 countries and in 15 languages.

The product, which goes for about $4,500 in the US — “the price of a mid-range hearing aid,” Fischer says — comes with a head unit and charger has a volume that can be adjusted so that only the user can hear it.

The founders of OrCam: Amnon Shashua and Ziv Aviram.

“People tell us that ‘if it’s going to look ridiculous, I’m not going to wear it. I’m already disadvantaged. I’m not going to also look like a fool,’” Dr. Yonatan Wexler, OrCam’s executive vice president of research and development, told NoCamels last year.

According to the company, Israelis who are registered as legally blind can receive a government subsidy of up to one-half of the cost.

“The technology is endless,” CEO Aviram told Reuters in February after MyEye 2.0 was first launched.

The company soon expects to expand into a market for those suffering from dyslexia or fatigue while reading.

Source: No Camels

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