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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Evolution
Posted: December 13, 2019 at 2:06 pm
Once again, as we wind down another year, weve invited Ella Beaudoin and Briana Pobiner from the Smithsonians National Museum of Natural History to update us on what is new in the area of human evolution. Read on to see why it is our pleasure to showcase these authors insights year after year. JMO
By Ella Beaudoin, BA, and Briana Pobiner, PhD, Human Origins Program, Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History
It almost seems like every year is a new, incredible year for human evolution discoveries! There was no exception in 2019, keeping human evolution researchers (and students) on their toes. This years blog post is going to focus on discoveries that give us a new twist on old ideas from previously unknown hominin species to other evidence that sheds new light on old questions. If you want to learn more about our favorite discoveries from previous years, read our 2017 and 2018 blog posts.
1) The human family tree gets another branch: Homo luzonensis
Whereas the march of progress an iconic image of human evolution moving from chimp to upright human is a common image when it comes to human evolution, it reinforces a few misconceptions. One is that there was a simple progression from more primitive forms to more advanced forms, with modern humans at the pinnacle of evolution; another is that there was only one species or type of early human around at any one time. Nope! The best way to understand evolution is to imagine a short tree or bush: the leaves at the top outside edges of the tree are those lineages that have evolved from earlier lineages and are still around today (like modern humans and other living primates), and all of the branches lower down, that twist and turn and end without leaves, are extinct species. Some of these branches are part of the same overall branch that led to us, so they are our ancestors. Others are branches near ours which end before they reach the top of the tree; theyre essentially our evolutionary cousins.
Now enter Homo luzonensis, fossil remains of at least two adults and one child of a new hominin species found in Callao Cave on the island of Luzon in the Philippines dated to between 50,000-67,000 years old. This discovery was announced in April of this year by a team led by Florent Dtroit from the Muse de lHomme in Paris, France, and its exciting not just because its a new species, but because of how it changes our earlier understanding of the first hominin migrations out of Africa and into Asia. Homo luzonensis was around at the same time as Neanderthals, Denisovans, Homo floresiensis, and our own species, Homo sapiens, but it displays a unique mosaic of physical characteristics unlike any of these other hominins. Some of its features look very ancient for instance, the small size and simplified crowns of its molars and the 3D shape and curvature of its finger and toe bones look most similar to australopiths whereas other features of its teeth are more similar to Paranthropus, Homo erectus, and even Homo sapiens! Since its hands and feet have features that are even more ancient than those of Homo erectus, does this mean that its ancestor is an even earlier hominin that migrated out of Africa? Only the discovery of more fossils will answer this question. This question of whether an even more ancient species than Homo erectus migrated out of Africa was raised with the discovery of Homo floresiensis in 2004 (as this species also has some anatomical features similar to early species of Homo), and this question seems even less settled now with the discovery of another late-surviving island-dwelling species outside of Africa.
2) Australopithecus anamensis gets a face
Another really exciting fossil find from this year was not a new species, but a new body part of a previously known species: Australopithecus anamensis. First named in 1995, this species was known from teeth, jaws, and some postcranial bones from the sites of Allia Bay and Kanapoi in northern Kenya dated to between about 4.2 and 3.9 million years ago. But in September of this year, a team led by the Cleveland Museum of Natural Historys Yohannes Hailie-Selassie made a stunning announcement: they had found a nearly complete 3.8 million year old Australopithecus anamensis skull, MRD-VP-1/1, at the site of Woronso-Mille in Ethiopia. This extremely well-preserved skull meant that researchers could finally characterize the face of the earliest known species of Australopithecus. Furthermore, the age of the MRD cranium indicates that A. anamensis overlapped in time with A. afarensis, the species that the well-known fossil partial skeleton nicknamed Lucy belongs to. Why is that important? Until this year, most researchers had thought that A. anamensis gradually evolved into A. afarensis, with no overlap in time. While Hailie-Selassies research team say this could still be the case, they think instead its more likely to have occurred through a speciation event, in which a small group of genetically isolated A. anamensis rather than the entire species A. anamensis evolved into A. afarensis, which then lived side by side for at least 100,000 years.
3) DNA of diverse Denisovans
Aside from the discovery of fossil remains of an entirely new species, or the discovery of previously unknown skeletal elements of other species, ancient DNA is among the most cutting-edge tools that paleoanthropologists have to investigate our origins. In fact, in 2010, ancient mitochondrial DNA was extracted from the 30,000-50,000 year old fossil finger bone of a young woman from Denisova Cave in Siberia, where both modern human and Neanderthal fossils had been discovered. But she was neither human nor Neanderthal she was from an extinct population which before then had been unknown to scientists. Though their still fragmentary fossil record has meant that scientists have not designated them as a new species, they are called Denisovans after the place where their remains were first discovered. Scientists have since determined that Denisovans interbred with both modern humans and Neanderthals.
In April of this year, a new study of 161 modern human genomes from 14 island groups in Island Southeast Asia and New Guinea region led by Murray Cox of Massey University in New Zealand was published. The results indicate that modern humans interbred with at least three Denisovan groups that were geographically isolated from each other in deep time. One of these Denisovan lineages is found in East Asians, whose DNA indicates a close relationship to the fossil remains found in Denisova Cave. The other two Denisovan lineages diverged from each other around 363,000 years ago and split off from the first lineage about 283,000 years ago. Traces of one of these two lineages is mainly found in modern Papuans, while the other is found in people over a much larger area of Asia and Oceania. The implication? Denisovans are actually three different groups, with more genetic diversity in less than a dozen bones that currently comprise their entire fossil sample than in the >7.7 billion modern humans alive today.
4) Necklace-wearing Neanderthals
Early depictions of Neanderthals, our short, stocky now-extinct relatives who were built for the cold and lived in Europe and western Asia between about 400,000 and 40,000 years ago, portrayed them as brutish and unintelligent but subsequent research indicated they were accomplished hunters who made complex tools, buried their dead, and may have taken care of the sick and injured. But were they capable of creating symbolic culture, like the early modern humans who ventured into Neanderthal territory in Europe and left behind a swath of cave paintings and cultural artifacts that could be considered art? In November of this year, a research team led by Antonio Rodrguez-Hidalgo from the Institute of Evolution in Africa (IDEA) in Madrid swooped in with an answer. They studied imperial eagle talons from Cova Foradada Cave in Calafell, Spain and concluded that since theres hardly any meat on eagle feet, the cut marks on these talons must mean that the Neanderthals were using them as jewelry! While a handful of previous examples of Neanderthals making necklaces from the bones of birds of prey have been found, this is the first evidence of the use of personal ornaments among Iberian Neanderthals, and at 44,000 years ago, among the most recent evidence of this behavior in Neanderthals in general. This discovery revisits questions about Neanderthal self-expression, community identity, cultural complexity, and how they signaled their social affiliation to outside groups.
5) Bendy-backed bipedal apes
Bipedalism was one of the earliest hominin traits to evolve. But among primates, is bipedalism unique to hominins? In November of this year, a team led by Carol Ward from the University of Missouri reported on their study of a recently discovered 10 million year old pelvis of a medium dog-sized fossil ape species Rudapithecus hungaricus from Rudabnya, Hungary. After using 3-D modeling techniques to digitally fill in missing parts of the pelvis, they determined that it probably moved around in tree branches like modern apes do, climbing with its arms and holding its body upright. But this species had a much more flexible torso than any of todays living apes, who have short lower back and longer pelves and it might have been able to stand upright when it was on the ground, like modern and ancient humans. This suggests that a Rudapithecus body plan might be a better model for the body plan our earliest ancestors than the body plan of modern apes who have all been evolving for just as long as we have.
6) Ape teeth, ancient proteins, and orangutan relatives: Gigantopithecus!
Speaking of fossil apesour last discovery for this year features an ape fossil, ancient proteins, and a link to living orangutans. In November of this year, a team led by Frido Welker from the University of Copenhagen published a paper on their analysis of proteome (ancient protein) sequences they retrieved from a 1.9 million year old Gigantopithecus blacki molar from Chuifeng Cave, China. They concluded that the enormous Gigantopithecus blacki, which probably stood nearly 10 feet tall and weighed over a thousand pounds (although it is only known from teeth and lower jaws), is most closely related to living orangutans with whom it shared a common ancestor between about 1210 million years ago. One of the most exciting things about this research is that up until now, the oldest genetic material (namely, DNA) from subtropical areas like where Gigantopithecus blacki lived in Asia has only been about 10,000 years old. The fact that this team was able to retrieve ancient proteins from nearly two-million-year-old fossils in China makes us optimistic about the possibility of doing the same with hominin fossils in the future!
Ella Beaudoin is a Paleolithic archaeologist whose research interests span from cultural adaption and resistance to colonialism, to early hominin cultural evolution and landscape use. She has conducted fieldwork in the US, Kenya, and South Africa. She was previously a student at American University and staff member of the Koobi Fora Field School. She joined the Smithsonian in 2017.
Briana Pobiner is a paleoanthropologist whose research centers on the evolution of human diet (with a focus on meat-eating), but has included topics as diverse as human cannibalism and chimpanzee carnivory. She has done fieldwork in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and Indonesia. Since joining the Smithsonian in 2005 to help put together the Hall of Human Origins, in addition to continuing her active field, laboratory, and experimental research programs, she also leads the Human Origins Programs education and outreach efforts and is an Associate Research Professor of Anthropology at the George Washington University.
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Posted: at 2:06 pm
Take A Daytrip and Russ Chell in the studio. L-R: Russ Chell, David Biral, Denzel Baptiste. (Photo ... [+] by Shutherspeed)
We culture. Rap is the new rock n roll. We the rock stars. -Kanye West
The shape of things
Right before Thanksgiving, New York Times pop music critic Jon Caramanica released an article titled, Rappers Are Singers Now. Thank Drake. Caramanica begins in 2009, contrasting the Jay-Z and Alicia Keys collab Empire State of Mind and hip-hops two-plus decades of rapper-singer collaborations with the release of Drakes debut mixtape, So Far Gone.
He says the mixtape marked the arrival of a new path: singing as rapping, rapping as singing, singing and rapping all woven together into one holistic whole. Drake exploded the notion that those component parts had to be delivered by two different people, and also deconstructed what was expected from each of them. His hip-hop was fluid, not dogmatic.
As concisely well-framed as the argument was, it wasnt without criticism. On Twitter, many of the 700+ commenters noted the dismissal of not only seminal works like 808s & Heartbreak  and Rappa Ternt Sanga  but also specific artists who had similar stylings.
Even filmmaker Ava DuVernay took time for a wordless chastisement:
Simplifying hip hops evolution to a general no one was doing this, then Drake showed up makes for a better story. Its how we create legends. We eliminate other contributors and exaggerate the totality of an individual entitys impact. In most biopics that claim to be the true story of somethingwhether its Facebook, the Oakland Athletics, NASA launches, or Chernobyltheres always one character who is the composite of many. Fact + Fiction = Legend. And if theres one thing historys taught us: legends are popular, powerful, and they endure. They play a critical role in shaping culture.
Despite the criticisms, Caramanicas legend of Drake does help streamline a decades worth of confluence, allowing us some perspective on a significant stylistic shift in hip hop. It also brings to mind the powerful fact that hip hop continues to be an evolutionary force, never stagnant.
What legend will emerge in the next decade? Early signs point to production, specifically the collision of hip hops historic practices with an influx of live instrumentation.
Evolve, then evolve more
A single person playing piano and singing, no matter how energetic they are, probably wont be classified as a rock musician. Not until you add in drums, bass, and the licks of a guitar.
Jazz music is created through polyrhythms and notes pitched non-standard. A heavy dose of brass instrumentstrumpets, saxophones, and trombonescreates a big swing sound. While the dominance of guitar, bass, and keys yields blues.
One of the great secrets about hip hop is that its not defined by instrumentation and tone the way other popular music genres are. What makes the average listener go, Oh, this is hip hop, is when they hear rapping. That could be rapping over a sample. Over an original production of synths and computer-created bass lines. Or, anything, really. And thats what makes hip hop so special. You can rap on top of whatever you want. From country music to rock to classical to turntable creations to utter and complete silence.
Because of this seeming infinite degree of adaptivity, the soundscape of hip hop has changed greatly in the last 50 years. In the 70s, it was DJ-driven and drew from Jamaican and disco soundscapes. The 80s introduced paradigm-shifting equipmentprogrammable drum machines and improvements in sampling processes meant songs became far more dynamic and layered. Mix in popular influences from rock and the plethora of stories rappers had to tell, and hip hop had all the ingredients necessary for mainstream ascendency.
The 90s showcased the impact of geography on style. East Coast vs. West Coast approaches. Those measured against the sound out of Atlanta. Out of Houston. Out of Chicago. New Orleans.
The 2000s replaced the dominant alpha male attitude of 2pac and Biggie with the creative-kid energy of Kanye West and OutKast. This was reflected in the change in sound from the biggest rapper of the decade, Jay-Z, and his transition from Biggies protg to Kanyes benefactor. Just compare Jays 2001 album, The Dynasty, to 2009s The Blueprint 3. The former emphasizes sparse beats that rely on one or two key elements, maximizing the presence of the rapper. While the latters loud, layered, and dreamy, and the rapper has to fit themself into the composition.
In the 2010s, hip hop has been pandoras box. The digital age means that if you have a computer: you can produce, record, and internationally release music. Websites like Datpiff and SoundCloud have made entire careers, as its allowed artists with no industry connections to build audiences. They level up to popularity on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube. Then its a record deal and worldwide acclaim. One day youre Austin Richard Post. The next youre Post Malone.
A consequence of this democratization has been a boom in hip hops diversity. Its the age of the hybrid. Scroll through Billboards Hot Rap Songs chart and it feels like no two joints are alike. Roxanne by Arizona Zervas is very different from Truth Hurts by Lizzo. Neither of those are like BOP by DaBaby. And none are similar to Lil Nas Xs Panini.
Lil Nas Xs career started with a controversy about classification.
If you listened to the radio at all in 2019, odds are you heard the song Old Town Road. The track released in December of 2018 and grew in prominence. Nas X explained to TIME: I promoted the song as a meme for months until it caught on to TikTok and it became way bigger....I should be paying TikTok. They really boosted the song. It was getting to the point that it was almost stagnant. When TikTok hit it, almost every day since that, the streams have been up.
Old Town Road, thanks to the breakthrough on TikTok, simultaneously appeared on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, and Hot Country Songs charts.
The controversy occurred when Billboard announced upon review, it was determined that Old Town Road by Lil Nas X does not currently merit inclusion on Billboards country charts. When determining genres, a few factors are examined, but first and foremost is musical composition. While Old Town Road incorporates references to country and cowboy imagery, it does not embrace enough elements of todays country music to chart in its current version.
When TIME asked Nas X about it, he said, The song is country trap. Its not one, its not the other. Its both. It should be on both.
As we head into the next decade of hip hop, classification will be a crucial part of the conversation. The music is bound to continue to amalgamate aspects of other genres, extending its borders each and every time. For example, just look at the New York City-based production duo Take A Daytrip.
Take A Daytrip is the working name of David Biral and Denzel Baptiste. The Big Bang of their mainstream career occurred in 2017, when a studio session with Sheck Wes and 16yrold led to the creation of Mo Bamba. A year later, Mo Bamba, much like Old Town Road, broke out in a big way, eventually landing on the Billboard Hot 100. Its crossed the 3 million equivalent units sold threshold, earning a 3x-Platinum certification from the RIAA.
Launched into significance, Baptiste and Biral have capitalized on their opportunity, producing other recent hits like Juice WRLDs Legends, the Vince Staples track Home for the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie, Big Seans Single Again, and a pair of collaborations with Lil Nas X.
Biral told Forbes: I was classically trained for about seven, eight years. Jazz trained for about four years. You play drums in church, keys in church. We both come from very musical backgrounds....My parents made efforts to keep me at the piano every day, to practice my scales and things like that.
Baptiste told DJ Booth: I started making music growing up in the church. I would go on YouTube and watch tutorials about making other producers beats. I used that as my submission to NYU for production and engineering. Then I went to NYU and met David [Biral], who had already been DJing, and wed already both played in jazz bands.
Take A Daytrip often merges the digital with the tangible. Where the familiar image of a music producer is at the boards, chopping, cutting, twisting mysterious knob after mysterious knobyou can find Baptiste and Biral with a guitar, at the keys.
Baptiste: In terms of hip hop, specifically in this era where most things are played-in through MIDI [Musical Instrument Digital Interface] and just completely existing on the computer and quantizedthere's a level of perfection that you wont be able to achieve with the guitar. Using the guitar, instead, youll never have things line up 100%. Because of the strings and the tuning on it, and its played by hand. So even in quantizing, it wont make it absolutely perfect. But I think that imperfection, especially when its a live guitar and not a MIDI guitar, just has a human element thats not super prevalent in this era of hip hop.
I think most of the time when were working with other producers, they like that we play instruments because a lot of people in the hip hop space dont. I feel like our approach is a combination of roles. In hip hop right now its kind of like two different types of producers collaborating. Itll be an instrumentalist who plays things in and creates a sample. Or several people play together and create a sample. Then the other producer curates which samples to choose and finishes that idea and brings it to the artists. Were combining those two, doing both sides, and then adding in other people to the production process.
Biral: For us, finding that one sound that sticks out is sometimes just 90% of the record. You think about Mo Bamba, you think about that dah-dah-dah dah-dah. You think about Panini, its buh-duh-dum, buh-duh-dum, buh-duh-dum, and that whistle sound at the beginning. So every single time we create something new were trying to fuck with sounds or affect them in different ways and make everything as unique as possible. Were creating almost like a band, but every single piece thats coming in, were able to edit afterwards and kind of re-sample, and fucking around with it. So even when Russ is giving us things to work with or any other collaborators, we might go in after the fact and affect something they did.
The Russ referred to by Biral is Russ Chell, a musician and producer who is part of Daytrips No Idle collective. Chell had been a stage presence in his own right, playing lead guitar for years in a rock band born in Brooklyn called The Skins. In the summer fo 2019, Guitar Magazine wrote about him, with the headline, Russ Chell Is Bridging The Worlds Of Rock And Rap.
Fittingly, that article began with these words by author Karen Gwee: Its 2019, and genres are more porous than ever before.
Chell: When I was really young, I went to this thing called School of Rock, which is nationwide now. It was an after school music program. But its become very corporatized. But when I was going to it, there were like 10 schools, if that. And there was one 20-minutes from where I lived. One in Philly. One in New York. And it was run by this dude, Paul Green. I thought a lot about live performance and whatnot. When I was old enough, I got a job there, teaching.
It shaped the early part of my music career. When you go from being a live performer into production, theres not many similarities other than understanding that, Okay, this song needs to translate live, somehow. I guess I had a good feel for that because I played in bands for so long. Thats all I did for three or four years. Thats actually how I met Daytrip, is through the band because they ended up producing our first major label project.
When I first started working with Daytrip, they said, Literally, just do anything. Like, whatever you want and we can try to make beats out of it. And thats such a change of pace from being in a pop rock act where everything has to be so prim and proper, this type of specific way, very constraining. And thats the whole fun of hip hop. Thats always run through hip hop. Like with sampling, just taking from different genres and making it a completely new thing. But I think right now its even more extreme in the sense that people are bending and bending and bending and doing whatever they want, making cool music.
Biral: A lot of the types of melodies and influences that are coming from these new rappers tie back to bands like Green Day and Blink 182 and things like that. And a lot of these guys are late teenagers and early twenties. So it does make sense where some of their influences are coming from, especially that day and age of music when they were growing up, where music was starting to become a little more open, in terms of people discovering more than something that might only be stereotyped to their neighborhoods or their environments. I think were really seeing the outbreak of that.
Theres definitely an interesting thing going on with the musicality in rap music where its more than just an eight-bar loop. Its about how you introduce as many cool things as possible in a tasteful way. You have Old Town Road literally become the biggest song in the history of music, and its a black kid from Atlanta who also grew up on hip hop.
Epilogue: a sign of whats to come?
The Grammys nominated Lil Nas Xs debut EP, 7, for album of the year.
Overall, Take A Daytrip received four Grammy nominations: 7 (album of the year), The Lost Boy (best rap album), Panini (best rap/sung performance), and Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse Soundtrack (best compilation soundtrack for visual media).
Russ Chell received two nominations having worked with Daytrip on 7 and The Lost Boy.
Take A Daytrip: Instagram, Twitter
Russ Chell: Instagram
*unless otherwise noted, all quotes from Take A Daytrip and Russ Chell come from interviews conducted by the author
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Posted: at 2:06 pm
This is a collection of additional insights from industry leaders toPart 5of an eight-part series featuring conversations from theLeadership in the Age of Personalization Summit.
Leadership in the Age of Personalization
The age of standardization is giving way to the age of personalization. The balance of power has shifted and organizations and their leaders know it. They just dont know what do to about it.
RBC Capital Markets financial analyst Nik Modi warned us in Part 5 that companies are not prepared for what is about to hit them in terms of personalization capabilities. In this article Ill share some reactions to that piece.
Corporations are not ready for the necessary evolution because theyre stuck in substitution. They're still trying to standardize everyone their employees, their patients, their customers, everyone. Theyre still trying to maintain control. Theyre still trying to fight that shift in the balance of power.
Our ability to lead in todays age of personalization is moving backward not forward.
Whats interesting is that Modi has been giving us this warning for years now. Here is an article from 2015 with a similar call for leaders to have the courage to see and adapt to a new reality at that time, he talked about the reality of the Cultural Demographic Shift.
Personalization spooks standardization and when threatened standardization fights back hard.
I get it. Its hard to let go of the old, comfortable and usual ways of doing things. But until organizations and their leaders let go, their employees will continue to do the work theyre being asked to do without believing in any of it. Consumers and clients will continue to be in search of alternative products, brands and service offerings to satisfy what they really want and need.
We continue to create cultures that weaken human dignity and slow progress down.
Knowing somethings right isnt enough to start doing what right and knowing something is wrong isnt enough to stop doing it.
We must see how were holding onto standardization, understand why it doesnt work, and learn to let go of those parts of it that fail us and continue to slow progress down.
On that note, in todays age of personalization, we want to invigorate a shared mission by elevating individual contribution. So I have invited leaders across industries to expand the conversation beyond the summit itself by providing additional reflections throughout this series of articles.
Here are a series of reactions and insights from industry leaders regarding Part 5, Wall Street Alert: Companies Are Not Prepared For What Is About To Hit Them
Annette M. Walker, President of City of Hope Orange County
The prospect of going out to lunch with a group and having your plate designed for your DNA and genetic code may sound impossible but it is already a reality. Consumers will find these capabilities appealing and over time will abandon products and services that dont address their preferences. That, however, pales in comparison to what is happening in cancer care, where we are on a bullet train to personalization. At City of Hope, our world-renowned scientists are making breakthroughs in cancer care that are tailored around the individuals genetics and the mutations causing the cancer. Our vision for personalized precision medicine is: All patients are unique and so is their cancer. Were harnessing genomic-driven insights, clinical expertise, and advanced analytics to pioneer prevention and treatment plans. This approach suggests that all future cancer care will be uniquely tailored to each patient, significantly improving survival, outcomes and resource utilization.
This bold vision requires leaders who have the foresight, courage and the tenacity to move into new frontiers with speed and focus. It means redirecting resources to new technology, expanding testing and data capabilities and development of the intellectual capital, both discovery and people, who are skilled in these areas. Organizations cant dabble this is an all-in commitment.
Our true North Star is the eradication of cancer and the alleviation of the suffering that comes with this diagnosis. Personalized precision medicine is our next frontier, not only for treatment but for the early detection and prevention capabilities it promises. This mission is very personal to all of us. One in three of us will get cancer, and 100% of us knows and loves someone who currently has or has had it. I invite all of you to join us in our efforts to use personalized precision medicine to speed tomorrows discoveries to the people who need them today.
Two important declarations to place on the walls of your conference rooms and discuss every day:
Brian Garish, President of Banfield Pet Hospital
I couldnt agree more with Nik Modis perspective around culture when he stated, Do your organizational values and culture properly mirror the expectations of your consumer-employees? Because at the end of the day, all of your employees are consumers and they have a certain level of expectation as a consumer, which theyre now bleeding into the workplace.
You control culture no matter what your position is in the organization.I try my best each day to empower people to make changes and act like owners regardless of where they sit in the organization. Offering hope, help and optimism are more powerful than any education or knowledge.Keeping people motivated and engaged is what creates a high-performing organization, better serving your team and clients.
Doing so requires everyone being grounded in a shared purpose that not only gets people to work every day but empowers their work to make a positive impact on society. At Banfield, we exist to make a better world for our associates, pets and clients. Today in the United States, there are millions of pets that dont receive routine veterinary care. When I speak with our associates, we talk about how we can help solve that problem and how were optimistic about a future where healthcare is available to every pet. You can have the most qualified workforce but if your people arent motivated by the same mission and arent provided the support to make a difference, you wont make long-term impact.
The balance of power shift from standardization to personalization is all centered around satisfying expectations. In the past, the expectations were defined by the business. Today, expectations are being defined by the individual. The individual needs much more especially during a time when the business wants much more from the individual. Organizational cultures are unsustainable if there doesnt exist a healthy balance between these two sides.
But unlike in the past, the business doesnt have the leverage anymore. Why? Because if people cant align their own personal beliefs and values with that of the business, theyll leave. Organizations must respect the influence of the individual and their unique needs first, if they are to achieve and exceed their business goals. Remember that organizational cultures can only be carried out and sustained over time by people, not processes. Thats why culture is a much wiser investment than the organizations strategy. And if people arent connected to or if they do not feel as if they are influencing and/or contributing to the strategy, their performance will quickly begin to wane. And with top talent hard to come by, stop thinking you can easily replace people with others whose individual needs are equally demanding.
The old days of the business being fully in control are over.
Kristin Gwinner, Chief Human Resources Officer, Chicos
To Nik Modis point, organizations need to be looking forward to the consumer wants and needs just as much the associates wants and needs. At Chicos FAS, Inc. our associates and customer relationships mean a lot to our overall success. In fact, we did something unique this year that has changed our mindset around what is possible: actively listening to our associates ideas and unlocking their unique talents of our workforce to elevate our overall performance in the marketplace. We did two things:
Points 1 and 2 led us to expand these immerse activities to include our board members and officers.
In todays age of personalization, you must touch the business just as much as you lead it. And this begins with your employees, regardless of hierarchy or rank. Because your employees are customers too, they have opinions. And if they are customers of your organizations products or services, then they will have a lot to share because they care. But this only happens when you can create an environment where no one is judged. An inclusive organization invites employees to share their ideas and ideals recognizing employee input as more valuable than any focus group you pay for especially if employees feel that their contributions are more valuable than the organizations mission.
Whats my point? If your employees dont feel genuinely connected to their work, they wont feel connected to the products and services they are getting paid to support. Sounds unrealistic, but have you ever asked your employees if they are a loyal customer of your products or services?
A couple of years ago, I facilitated a senior executive meeting for an automotive company. Prior to the meeting, I drove through the parking lot to see how many cars represented the brand whose name was on the building. When I asked the executives how many employees drove a car to work that represented the organizations brand, there was a uncomfortable pause. And then one person said, 40% and another 60% and then another 55%. When I told them that my unofficial parking lot survey suggested about 25% there was silence and then the debate started.
Why was there a debate? Why didnt they have a better pulse? Did they ever ask? No. They just paid millions to a marketing agency to conduct focus groups rather than conduct a forum for their employees to share their perspectives.
Perhaps we are beginning to understand what standardization fails in a world of personalization.
As you reflect upon ways to get out in front of the change through a personalization mindset, before too much standardization put your organization in a position that allows the marketplace to pass you, ask yourself, your team, and your organization the following questions:
Take a moment to discuss with your leaders, employees and the customers you serve to explore and address these questions. As you do, you will begin to see the power of respecting the need for leadership in the age of personalization. Youll see what others dont, do what others wont, and keep pushing when prudence says quit.
What is your readiness to lead in the age of personalization? Click here to find out.
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Posted: at 2:06 pm
We live in a time when science and technology are having an impact on our society in more and more ways. And the decisions that shape how these new fields of knowledge develop ultimately affect all of us.
When I studied biology in high school, I didnt learn about DNA for a very simple reason. The work of Francis Crick, James Watson, Rosalind Franklin and others who unlocked the structure of the basic code of life was still years away. The idea of engineering human beings? Well, that was firmly the stuff of science fiction, like Aldous Huxleys dystopian novel Brave New World (published a year after my birth). It seemed as likely as, say, going to the moon.
There are a few inferences you can make from this framing of my life. One is that I have been on the planet for a while. The other is the speed of change in what we know about what life is, and how we can control it, has accelerated at a rapid rate. Now we as a species are on the precipice of being able to manipulate the very building blocks of human evolution, not to mention wield unpredictable change on the greater world around us. Even as I commit that thought to paper, I pause in awe at its implications.
I have lived through eventful times and my job as a journalist has been to chronicle wars, presidents and sweeping social movements such as civil rights. I have seen a world in flux, but when I try to peer into the future I come to the conclusion that this story of humankinds ability to understand life on its most intimate level and be able to tinker with it for our benefit or detriment is likely to be the biggest one I will ever cover.
We are living in one of the greatest epochs of human exploration and it will shape our world as profoundly as the age of the transoceanic explorers. It is just that the beachheads on which we are landing and the continents we are mapping comprise a world far too small to see with the naked eye. Some of it is even invisible to our most powerful microscopes.
This brings me to a term that has become a big part of my life over the last few years: Crispr. Perhaps you know of it. Perhaps you dont. When I first heard of it, I thought it might be a new brand of toaster. I now know its an extremely powerful tool for editing genes in seemingly any organism on Earth, including humans. Scientists doing basic research have been uncovering the mechanisms of life for decades. They have been creating tools for modifying individual genes but Crispr is one of those revolutions where what researchers thought might be possible in the distant horizon is suddenly available now. Its cheap, its relatively simple and its remarkably precise.
I immediately knew that this was a story that needed telling. Human Nature, the resulting film full disclosure, I am executive producer came out of our conversations with scientists. They tend not to be the type of people who hype things but when they talk about Crispr you can feel the urgency in their voices. This is something you need to know about. All of you. If you are worried about your health or the health of your children. If you are concerned about how we might need to engineer our planet in the face of the climate crisis. If you are in finance, law or the world of tech. This will shape all of it.
And as we grapple with the unintended consequences of the internet and social media, as we try to make progress against a heating planet, I humbly submit that we as a species tend not to be good at thinking through where we are going until a crisis is already upon us. I fervently hope with Crispr that we can start the conversation sooner. That we can start it now. Thats why we made the film.
To be clear, we are probably a long way from designing babies to be more intelligent or more musically inclined. Life is just too complex for that, at least right now. More immediately, there is so much about this technology that is very exciting. As someone who remembers a time when my classmates were struck down with childhood diseases for which we now have vaccines, I know science can have profound applications for human health. Crispr could cure genetic diseases such as sickle cell and Huntingtons. It is being tested against cancers and HIV. It could also potentially be used to make crops more drought-resistant or food more nutritious.
On the other hand, we are walking closer to a world Aldous Huxley foresaw. What does it mean to be human? Where should we draw the boundaries beyond which we dare not cross? The inspiring researchers we talked to for the film know that the ethical and moral questions this technology raises are not for them to decide. Science has given us the tools, but not the answers. This is up to us, all of us. We need to be informed. We need to be honest with whats real and whats not. And we need to add our voices to a global conversation. Thats part of our responsibility as humans living on Earth today.
Dan Rather is one of the USs most feted journalists. He anchored CBS Evening News for 24 years
Human Nature is in UK cinemas now before a university town tour in the new year, wondercollaborative.org/human-nature-documentary-film/#screenings . It will be shown on BBC Storyville in spring/summer 2020
Pokemon Sword and Shield evolution items: All the items you can use to evolve Pokemon in Galar – GamesRadar
Posted: at 2:05 pm
There's a lot of Pokemon Sword and Shield evolution items you can use to evolve all sorts of Pokemon in the game, and understanding what each of them does is crucial to completing the Pokedex. From the Razor Claw and the Sun Stone to the Protector and Reaper Cloth, all manner of Pokemon require special items to evolve. We've got the low down for every single one right here, including all of the different stones in Pokemon Sword and Shield.
If you're looking to evolve a female Snorunt or male Kirlia, you'll want to get your hands on a Pokemon Sword and Shield Dawn Stone.
The Pokemon Sword and Shield Dusk Stone can be used to evolve both Lampent and Doublade into Chandelure and Aegislash respectively, and we know where to get them.
A classic, the Pokemon Sword and Shield Fire Stone evolves three Gen 1 Pokemon; Vulpix, Growlithe, and Eevee.
You can evolve Eevee into Glaceon and Galarian Darumaka into Galarian Darmanitan with a Pokemon Sword and Shield Ice Stone.
Get your hands on a Pokemon Sword and Shield Leaf Stone to evolve Nuzleaf, Gloom, and Eevee (into Leafeon).
Another classic first discovered in the series in Mt. Moon, the Pokemon Sword and Shield Moon Stone can be used to evolve Clefairy into Clefable and Munna into Musharna.
Ooh, shiny! The Pokemon Sword and Shield Shiny Stone will evolve Minccino, Roselia, and Togetic.
Gloom gets another evolution in the form of Bellossom with the Pokemon Sword and Shield Sun Stone, and you can also evolve Cottonee and Helioptile.
Use the Pokemon Sword and Shield Thunder Stone to evolve everyone's favourite mouse, Pikachu, along with Eevee (into Jolteon) and Charjabug.
The Pokemon Sword and Shield Water Stone can be used to evolve Lombre into Ludicolo, Shellder into Cloyster, and Eevee into Vaporeon.
On to non-stone evolution items now, and the Pokemon Sword and Shield Metal Coat is what you need to evolve Onix into Steelix.
If you want to evolve Pokemon Sword and Shield Feebas into Milotic, you'll need to get your hands on a Prism Scale and trade it.
The Pokemon Sword and Shield Protector is used to evolve Rhydon into Rhyperior, but only when you trade it while it's holding one.
The ominously named Pokemon Sword and Shield Reaper Cloth will evolve Dusclops into Dusknoir when traded.
Get your hands on a Pokemon Sword and Shield Sachet and you'll be able to evolve Spritzee into Aromatisse when it's traded.
To evolve Swirlix into Slurpuff, you'll need to trade it while it's holding a Pokemon Sword and Shield Whipped Dream.
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Posted: at 2:05 pm
Kolter Homes a leader in developing next-generation, highly-amenitized, master-planned active adult communities in the Southeastern U.S. continues to evolve its active adult product to meet the changes and needs of the 55+ market. When Cresswind Georgia at Twin Lakes, located in Hoschton, Georgia, opens for sales in spring 2020, homebuyers will experience the next evolution in homes, amenities, landscaping and lifestyle.
"When the active adult market started in the 1940s and 1950s, it wasn't at all lifestyle-focused," Kolter Homes President Robert Rademacher said. "The main focus was to get out of the big house. Homes typically included two bedrooms, a dining room and living room, and they were more cut up as far as the flow from room-to-room."
As the active adult market has evolved, propelled by the Boomers, homes and clubhouses evolved with it. Over the past 20 years, home plans have changed drastically. Both the living room and formal dining room have become ideas of the past. Homes have become more open concept. Whoever is doing the cooking doesn't want to be cut off from the family during holidays and family gatherings.
"When designing homes, we pay attention to everything including the shortest distance from the garage to the kitchen," Rademacher said.
Additionally, today's active adult doesn't want lawn work, they want to travel. They aren't focused on a big lawn, but instead, they are focused on the rear of the home where they can have privacy on a covered patio or porch to entertain family and friends.
Cresswind plans offer the ability to add an 8- to 16-foot covered porch on the back of the home. Having a big front porch was a 1960s and 1970s concept, and now homebuyers would rather spend the money on outdoor living with privacy.
"Meeting your neighbors and seeing everyone is done at the clubhouse now," Rademacher said. "We include streetlights and wide sidewalks in our communities to encourage and support walkability."
Storage space is another popular necessity for homes. By including plenty of flexible space, such as garage extensions or a bonus loft, buyers gain choices on how to make the home live for them. For example, having permanent storage space is important.
"At some point in life, you don't want to crawl through a hole in the ceiling to get to the attic and the decorations that are stored there," Rademacher said.
As a solution to this, Cresswind communities offer bonus lofts with permanent staircases. These lofts can be used in a variety of ways, for storage, as a finished secondary bedroom or even as a craft space that is out of the way. Loft areas offer expandability and an area that you don't have to clean every day.
"A loft is an inexpensive way to expand a house to meet our buyers' needs, without going into a huge second story," Rademacher said. "This meets their needs and keeps the price of the house down."
In Georgia, homebuyers can often add a basement, and this offers additional flexibility. Whether they want to add a complete guest quarter and still have a ton of space left over for storage, a living room with a guest room or an entertainment room, buyers like the options and flexibility that are available.
According to Rademacher, active adults do not always need or want a large home. In response, Kolter is introducing a new collection of homes for Cresswind Georgia at Twin Lakes to cater to a new group of homebuyers. These 30-foot-wide homes will be situated on 40-foot homesites and mixed in among the bigger homes and lots.
The lifestyle component of active adult communities has become more important and more dynamic. Where bocce ball and horseshoe pits used to be the craze, today's clubhouses are more like a cruise ship on land with programmed activities, clubs and plenty of amenities. Kolter Homes employs a full-time Director of Lifestyle, Mark LaClaire, who focuses on the residents' experience, as well as furthering the amenity-rich environments and award-winning quality of all Kolter lifestyle facilities, programs, staff and operations.
Pickleball has become the hot amenity at active adult communities, and Cresswind Georgia at Twin Lakes will be one of the largest facilities available.
"It is very fast growing and has been so successful that we are offering a lot of courts," Rademacher said. "This means there will be less wait time on the courts, and we can work to attract national tournaments to Atlanta.
"People like pickleball because it is more social, there are fewer injuries and pretty much everyone can play this sport. It is a great exercise option," Rademacher concluded.
Clubhouses have also become more flexible than ever. At Cresswind, clubhouses are expansive spaces with tons of flexibility for multiple activities.
"Where previously we had an aerobics room, craft room, fitness room, pools inside and out, we now build much larger fitness centers and create the maximum amount of open space as possible allowing the absolute most use of the space," Rademacher said. "For instance, we might host a big concert Saturday night and then Sunday pull in dividers for six or eight clubs to meet. We can give people the space they want and serve a multitude of functions."
Amenities also include event lawns, indoor and outdoor pools and more. At all Cresswind communities, close attention is paid to the grooming and landscaping throughout. Homebuyers might not realize it at first because it just looks right, but the communities always look terrific because the landscaping is generous and well maintained.
By comparison, it is easy to see the fantastic evolution that active adult communities have made over the years. To learn more about the unbeatable active adult lifestyle coming soon to Cresswind Georgia at Twin Lakes, visit http://www.KolterHomes.com/new-homes/active-adult-community-cresswind-georgia.
*See an SR Homes specialist for complete details.
This post is an advertorial piece contributed by a Patch Community Partner, a local sponsor. The views expressed in this post are the author's own.
For more about Community Partner, click here.
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Posted: at 2:05 pm
After years with little in the way of technological improvements, momentum is finally building behind several projects that could reshape primary capital markets. These systems will undergo their first tests in the SSA market. Intriguingly, the winner could come from either the public or private sectors. Burhan Khadbai reports
Innovation in the debt capital markets begins with public sector borrowers. The digitalisation of the bond market is no exception. Sovereigns, supranationals and agencies are kick-starting initiatives to transform the processes of issuing bonds.
One of the most ambitious project is the European Distribution of Debt Instruments (Eddi), which aims to create a one-stop shop synchronised platform for selling euro bonds and handling everything from bookbuilding to settlement.
The European Central Bank is developing Eddi, in conjunction with five of the best-known borrowers in the euro public sector bond market the European Stability Mechanism, the European Investment Bank, KfW, Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten and the Council of Europe Development Bank.
Kalin Anev Janse, chief financial officer at the ESM in Luxembourg, is a key supporter of the Eddi project, believing there is a big opportunity for a homegrown solution to catapult Europes debt capital markets into the digital age.
The biggest problem is that there is no pan-European, neutral and harmonised channel for the issuance and distribution of euro debt, he says. Instead, there is a considerable amount of fragmentation. Eddi would help overcome this problem.
Eddi aims to cover both ends of a debt transaction. The pre-issuance component would offer functions to support an upcoming debt issue through the creation of an order book, the collection of orders and the allocation.
Once allocations are decided, participating central securities depositories (CSDs) would distribute the bonds simultaneously using the ECBs TARGET-2 Securities settlement infrastructure.
Eddis post-trade component is its unique selling point. Unlike the dollar bond market, in which the majority of bonds are settled through one system the US Federal Reserves Fedwire there is no single mechanism in the eurozone bond market.
Another unique feature of Eddi is that it is creating the first public sector-backed debt issuance platform.
We are not commercially-driven, says Janse. Eddi is a public non-profit initiative. It comes closest to a fair and neutral set up, led by the ECB and eurosystem, with European data on government and SSA debt in European hands. When and if this is developed, it will be truly disruptive as a technology, which will be beneficial for all the stakeholders in European bond transactions, for the euro and the CMU [Capital Markets Union].
However, a number of concerns have been raised with Eddi.
In response to the ECBs market consultation on Eddi, the International Capital Markets Association identified 12 issues, including a perceived conflict of interest with the ECB running Eddi, with the central bank being the largest holder of euro bonds.
The big question is whether the perceived benefits of Eddi, post-trade and pre-trade, are worth the likely cost and disruption for market participants, says Leland Goss, ICMAs general counsel in London.
Investment banks also voiced their criticisms of Eddi, saying that the private sector already has solutions to the problems in the primary bond market and that Eddi should instead focus on the post-trade aspects.
The ECBs governing council is expected to make a decision on whether to approve Eddi in 2020.
Private sector platforms
One private sector initiative that is being developed is agora, which is creating an end-to-end digital platform to cover the entire life of a bond from the pre-mandate stage, through execution, pricing and primary settlement until final redemption.
Agora, co-founded by bond market veteran Charlie Berman, aims to connect issuers, arrangers and multiple service providers such as custodians, central securities depositories and paying agents to a single channel. This will enable them to share and distribute information during the process of issuing a bond using digital ledger technology.
I joined Salomon just after they joint led the first global bond in late 1989, which was for the World Bank, says Berman, chief executive of agora. The structure was heavily driven by the issuer and I would argue that was the last time we had a significant change in the nuts and bolts of how bonds get done. It took until the mid-1990s before this huge innovation was generally accepted and adopted.
About 18 months ago, I started to seriously think about how distributed ledger technology could be applied and make a meaningful impact on capital markets. Few front office people have had the time to immerse themselves and understand what the new tech can do. The response I have got from the Street was amazing and very positive.
Berman says, when mapping out the process of issuing a bond, he found the market is composed of a series of linked deep subject matter experts performing critical and interdependent functions.
Many of the functions are enshrined in statutes and extremely heavily regulated, he says. Its pretty pointless to try and introduce tech that bypasses the incumbents but cant then be utilised. Our approach is to work with the existing stakeholders to develop solutions that they need and will embrace and adopt.
In November, agora closed its initial seed funding round with contributions from a small group of individuals, including Michael Spencer, the founder and former CEO of interdealer broker Icap, which later became Nex Group.
The timeline for launch is weeks and months, rather than months and years, says Berman. We are starting with SSAs as thats where innovation begins, closely followed by banks as issuers and ultimately even less frequent issuers will benefit from the improvements.
The private markets too are ripe for digital innovation. DZ Bank launched Ingen, a medium term note (MTN) platform in 2019.
At the heart of InGen we have a database that we make available to investors to search through around 400,000 structured private placement opportunities from over 200 issuers in euros and dollars, says Friedrich Luithlen, head of debt capital markets at DZ Bank in Frankfurt.
So for example, an investor hooked to the system can input that theyre looking for a triple-A product in euros, an SSA or covered bond for x amount with a specified schedule including call rights.
He adds: Then it takes half a second to bring up the top 20 picks within that criteria based on the highest yields. We have currently 30 institutional investors on board who are using the system actively. There has been nice traffic since we launched in the summer.
Trades cannot be completed on the platform, so investors are still required to call DZs sales team.
DZ is also a partner in the European private placement facility (EPPF), which in 2019 was used to place the first smart n-bond for Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten in a move that was seen as a step towards a functioning pan-European private placement market.
The 10m three year bond pays a coupon digitally, without the exchange of paper. All documentation on the new system is fully machine-readable and standardised.
It was the first electronically settled NSV [Namensschuldverschreibung], says Bart van Dooren, head of funding and investor relations at BNG in The Hague It makes life easier on the documentation side.
Using EPPFs platform, issues are given an Isin code like any other security. This means some investors, who previously could not buy NSVs (or Schuldscheine) owing to regulations around purchasing loans, are now able to participate.
The market will largely be used for well-rated western European borrowers, according to people familiar with the strategy.
New role for banks
As the bond market goes through a digital evolution, investment banks will find their roles redefined.
The primary market has, relative to other parts of finance, remained a fairly manual process with some speculation that it is ripe for a digital transformation, says Goss. So the elephant in the room is whether there will be at some point a disintermediation of banks from the new issue process. However, the view from at least some frequent official borrowers is that for the foreseeable future there is a desire to have bank syndicates as they provide a valued range of services.
Issuers need the expertise from banks, says Luithlen. That is delivered through the syndication process. What we as syndicates are providing is greater execution certainty amid the political uncertainty from Brexit, trade wars, etc. We further bring critical flow knowledge from secondary markets and our discussions with investors to the table. Finally, we put our own skin in the game and help trades across the line if the market is underwhelming on a given day.
BNGs van Dooren agrees on the importance of investment banks in the syndication process.
We are based in Hague and dont have branches all over the globe to collect feedback from investors such as those in Asia to see what theyre after, whether thats 10 year euros or two year dollars, he says. This is information we get from investment banks and therefore the role of syndicates is important. GC
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Human Ancestors May Have Evolved the Physical Ability to Speak More Than 25 Million Years Ago – Smithsonian
Posted: at 2:05 pm
Speech is part of what makes us uniquely human, but what if our ancestors had the ability to speak millions of years before Homo sapiens even existed?
Some scientists have theorized that it only became physically possible to speak a wide range of essential vowel sounds when our vocal anatomy changed with the rise of Homo sapiens some 300,000 years ago. This theoretical timeline means that language, where the brain associates words with objects or concepts and arranges them in complex sentences, would have been a relatively recent phenomenon, developing with or after our ability to speak a diverse array of sounds.
But a comprehensive study analyzing several decades of research, from primate vocalization to vocal tract acoustic modeling, suggests the idea that only Homo sapiens could physically talk may miss the mark when it comes to our ancestors first speechby a staggering 27 million years or more.
Linguist Thomas Sawallis of the University of Alabama and colleagues stress that functional human speech is rooted in the ability to form contrasting vowel sounds. These critical sounds are all that differentiates entirely unrelated words like "bat," "bought," "but" and "bet." Building a language without the variety of these contrasting vowel sounds would be nearly impossible. The research teams new study in Science Advances concludes that early human ancestors, long before even the evolution of the genus Homo, actually did have the anatomical ability to make such sounds.
When, over all those millions of years, human ancestors developed the cognitive ability to use speech to converse with each other remains an open question.
What were saying is not that anyone had language any earlier, Sawallis says. Were saying that the ability to make contrasting vowel qualities dates back at least to our last common ancestor with Old World monkeys like macaques and baboons. That means the speech system had at least 100 times longer to evolve than we thought.
The study explores the origins and abilities of speech with an eye toward the physical processes that primates use to produce sounds. Speech involves the biology of using your vocal tracts and your lips. Messing around with that as a muscular production, and getting a sound out that can get into somebody elses ear that can identify what was intended as soundsthats speech, Sawallis says.
A long-popular theory of the development of the larynx, first advanced in the 1960s, held that an evolutionary shift in throat structure was what enabled modern humans, and only modern humans, to begin speaking. The human larynx is much lower, relative to cervical vertebrae, than that of our ancestors and other primates. The descent of the larynx, the theory held, was what elongated our vocal tract and enabled modern humans to begin making the contrasting vowel sounds that were the early building blocks of language. The question is whether thats the key to allowing a full, usable set of contrasting vowels, Sawallis says. Thats what we have, we believe, definitely disproven with the research thats led up to this article.
The team reviewed several studies of primate vocalization and communication, and they used data from earlier research to model speech sounds. Several lines of research suggested the same conclusionhumans arent alone in their ability to make these sounds, so the idea that our unique anatomy enabled them doesnt appear to hold water.
Cognitive scientist Tecumseh Fitch and colleagues in 2016 used X-ray videos to study the vocal tracts of living macaques and found that monkey vocal tracts are speech ready. Our findings imply that the evolution of human speech capabilities required neural changes rather than modifications of vocal anatomy. Macaques have a speech-ready vocal tract but lack a speech-ready brain to control it, the study authors wrote in Science Advances.
In a 2017 study, a team led by speech and cognition researcher Louis-Jean Bo of Universit Grenoble Alpes in France, also lead author of the new study, came to the same conclusion as the macaque study. By analyzing over 1,300 naturally produced vocalizations from a baboon troop, they determined that the primates could make contrasting proto-vowel sounds.
Some animals, including birds and even elephants, can mimic human voice sounds by using an entirely different anatomy. These amazing mimics illustrate how cautious scientists must be in assigning sounds or speech to specific places in the evolutionary journey of human languages.
Of course, vocalization involves vowel production and of course, vocalization is a vital evolutionary precursor to speech, says paleoanthropologist Rick Potts of Smithsonians Human Origins Program, in an email. The greatest danger is equating how other primates and mammals produce vowels as part of their vocalizations with the evolutionary basis for speech.
While anatomy of the larynx and vocal tract help make speech physically possible, they arent all thats required. The brain must also be capable of controlling the production and the hearing of human speech sounds. In fact, recent research suggests that while living primates can have a wide vocal rangeat least 38 different calls in the case of the bonobothey simply dont have the brainpower to develop language.
The fact that a monkey vocal tract could produce speech (with a human like brain in control) does not mean that they did. It just shows that the vocal tract is not the bottle-neck, says University of Vienna biologist and cognitive scientist Tecumseh Fitch in an email.
Where, when, and in which human ancestor species a language-ready brain developed is a complicated and fascinating field for further research. By studying the way our primate relatives like chimpanzees use their hands naturally, and can learn human signs, some scientists suspect that language developed first through gestures and was later made much more efficient through speech.
Other researchers are searching backward in time for evidence of a cognitive leap forward which produced complex thought and, in turn, speech language abilities able to express those thoughts to othersperhaps with speech and language co-evolving at the same time.
Language doesnt leave fossil evidence, but more enduring examples of how our ancestors used their brains, like tool-making techniques, might be used as proxies to better understand when ancient humans started using complex symbolsvisual or vocalto communicate with one another.
For example, some brain studies show that language uses similar parts of the brain as toolmaking, and suggest that by the time the earliest advanced stone tools emerged 2 million years ago, their makers might have had the ability to talk to each other. Some kind of cognitive advance in human prehistory could have launched both skills.
Sawallis says that the search for such advances in brain power can be greatly expanded, millions of years back in time, now that its been shown that the physical ability for speech has existed for so long. You might think of the brain as a driver and the vocal tract as a vehicle, he says. Theres no amount of computing power that can make the Wright Flyer supersonic. The physics of the object define what that object can do in the world. So what were talking about is not the neurological component that drives the vocal tract, were just talking about the physics of the vocal tract.
How long did it take for our ancestors to find the voices they were equipped with all along? The question is a fascinating one, but unfortunately their bones and stones remain silent.
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Posted: at 2:05 pm
In "The Mixer," Michael Cox tells the story of Manchester United winger Andrei Kanchelskis (1991-95) muttering "English football is s---" as he stormed off the practice field, protesting what he felt were pointless crossing drills. Kanchelskis wasn't wrong. In the years following the Heysel ban, as English teams were reintegrated into European football competitions, it had quickly become clear that English football was stuck in the dark ages. No team advanced beyond the second round of the European Cup from 1991 to '93, and when the competition became the UEFA Champions League and introduced group play, nobody made it out of the group stage in 1994 or 1995.
While the game was evolving into something more controlled and creative in other parts of Europe, English football was still pretty reliant on long-bomb passing, hopeful crosses and hard tackles.
Alex Ferguson, Kanchelskis' manager at the time of "s---," took these failures to heart. Long considered a "man-manager" (the soccer way of saying "players' coach") more than a master tactician, his biggest strength ended up becoming his adaptability. He brought more creativity to the club and he expanded his tactical repertoire. Both he and United evolved. They not only dominated the Premier League (eight titles between 1993 and 2003), but in 1997, they broke through to the Champions League semifinals. Two years later, they won the whole thing.
United served as a bellwether of sorts for the rest of the Premier League, giving other clubs a template from which to work, and the combination of tactical awareness and increasing money from TV rights -- which allowed top clubs to import choice playing and coaching talent from all over the globe -- would turn the league into a juggernaut. Liverpool won the Champions League, with Chelsea reaching the semifinals, in 2005. Arsenal made the finals in 2006, and three English teams made at least the semifinals in 2007, 2008 and 2009. United won its second title in 2008.
But innovation never stops. It is a constant race to stay ahead. Ferguson was kept from two more European crowns by Pep Guardiola and Barcelona in 2009 and 2011, and by the end of Ferguson's United tenure in 2013, the Premier League had again lost its edge. From 2010 to '13, English teams made only two combined semifinal appearances (United lost in the 2011 finals, Chelsea won an unlikely title in 2012) and in 2013, no team made it out of the Round of 16. Ferguson's retirement left a void not only for United but also for this rich but increasingly directionless league.
It was somewhat symbolic that Barcelona was the team to hold Man United back. Those Barca teams, along with the Spain squads (loaded with Barca players) that won Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, did more to redefine the game of soccer than any in recent times. Barca showed the world the platonic ideal of an ultra-patient, possession-first, kill-the-body-and-the-head-will-follow squad. By the time of Ferguson's retirement, Guardiola had left Barcelona and was preparing for three seasons at Bayern Munich. And by the time Guardiola came to England to coach Manchester City in 2016, the league's re-evolution had taken hold.
It has only picked up speed since.
Here are a few stats for the average Premier League team in different ranges of seasons:
*Direct speed is an Opta measure that defines how quickly you are attempting to advance the ball vertically, presented in meters per second.
The average Premier League team is far more pragmatic than it was a few years ago. There are fewer wasted possessions (and fewer possessions overall), fewer low-percentage shots and fewer low-percentage passes. There are fewer long balls, too, and more commitment to passing triangles and retention. The data was already trending in this direction before Guardiola's arrival, and it went into overdrive after. In short, English teams - in particular, the Big Six (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham) -- have more control over the ball than they used to.
Taking Guardiola's average-skewing City out of the equation, average possession for the five other members of the Big Six only went up from 57% before Fergie's retirement to 58%. Still, while possession itself didn't change, teams' tendencies in possession did: the Big Six Sans City have gone from 503 passes over 103 possessions per 90 minutes before Fergie's retirement to 557 in 97 since. Their percentage of forward passes has dropped, and their direct speed has fallen from 1.8 meters per second to 1.5. (For context, 1.8 would have ranked 10th in 2013 but would rank second today. The league is far less "vertical" now.)
Adapting in this way, and continuing to spend on big talent, helped open the spigot for European wins again. After claiming just two of 16 Champions League semifinal spots from 2014 to '17, Liverpool made the finals in 2018, then Liverpool beat Tottenham in the finals in 2019. (City, though dominant, have fallen short thanks to back-to-back quarterfinal upsets against Premier League rivals: Liverpool in 2018, Spurs last year.)
It's too early to know what to make of this Premier League season; the teams are not yet through half of their 38 games and there's plenty of time for regression to the mean. But things have changed this fall.
Here is the same chart as above, but with 2019-20 data included:
Until this fall, almost any English team attempting to play the possession game like the "big boys" was rewarded with defeat. Over the past five seasons, only 11 teams outside of the Big Six have enjoyed a rate of possession over 50%: Everton (four times), Southampton (three), Bournemouth (two), Leicester City (one) and Swansea City (one). They averaged a ranking of 10.5 in the final league table but never finished ahead of any Big Six teams while doing it.
Granted, no strategy was likely to regularly get you ahead of those six, but a lesser form of the possession game didn't always do much for these teams in the standings. Bournemouth finished 16th in 2016, for instance, and Southampton 17th in 2018. Meanwhile, the 10 most successful non-Big Six clubs of these five seasons (according to average points won per match) included the direct, vertical and 43% possession Leicester squad that won the league in 2016; the 2018-19 Wolves squad that had 46% possession, played bend-don't-break defense and allowed almost no clean shots on goal; and the definitively old-school 2017-18 Burnley team that enjoyed 43% possession, threw bodies in front of every opposing shot and attempted mostly forward passes, take-ons and crosses on offense.
Possession has primarily been the favorite's tactic, not the underdog's. But that has not been the story in 2019-20.
1. There are a few identity crises within the Big Six. I have mostly spoken in this piece about the six richest clubs as a monolith, deploying the same strategy and equally sharing the top six spots in the table among themselves. That, of course, is not how things have played out, especially since Guardiola's second season. The 2017-18 and 2018-19 City squads dominated the Premier League at a level rarely seen, with Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool joining them in an all-time, one-on-one race last spring. Their runaway success appears to have led to identity crises and increased managerial churn at their immediate rivals
Arsenal just fired manager Unai Emery and were, until Monday's win at West Ham, closer to the relegation zone than fifth place. Spurs ran out of gas under manager Mauricio Pochettino and recently handed the reins to former Chelsea and United manager Jose Mourinho. They are seventh. Manchester United finished sixth last season and have had to deploy a solid recent run of form to get back to that level now. City have lost some of their form, too.
It's a bit of a chicken-or-egg situation here. Did slippage from a few big clubs open the door for others, or did familiarity and the rise of certain clubs and tactics speed up the slip? Or is it both? Teams definitely adjust over time no matter what your style: you have to get better at the style to retain the same level of success. Some members of the Big Six most certainly haven't gotten better.
Also, the possession game has been a bit more egalitarian this fall. At 58%, Brendan Rogers' Leicester have the best possession rate for a non-Big Six team since Southampton in 2013-14, while Brighton, Everton and Norwich City are all at 50% or higher. That none of those last three are higher than 12th in the table tells us something about possession's slipping correlation with winning, though Leicester are second heading into the festive period. They're a special case, perhaps reaping the financial dividends sown from Champions League participation and the sale of some star players (N'Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez and Harry Maguire).
Craig Burley thinks Pep Guardiola might have lingering doubts about staying for another rebuild at Manchester City.
2. Teams appear more capable of following the "Beating Man City" blueprint. Guardiola's side look downright mortal in his fourth season. While Liverpool has managed to somehow upgrade last year's form (2.9 points won per match currently), City are 14 points back. Granted, City's "mortal" is most clubs' "fantastic." They are averaging two points per match and have once again advanced to the Champions League last-16 with ease. Still, slippage is slippage.
So what's gone wrong? Offensively, not much of anything. City have scored 44 goals in 16 matches, which projects to 105 for the season. Only one club (2017-18 Manchester City) has scored more. They are taking possession in their opponent's defensive third more than ever, and more sequences of play are leading to shots than ever. While their 65% possession rate is their lowest in three years, it's still the highest in the league.
No, their main problem is in defense, as Premier League opponents appear more capable than ever of exploiting the vulnerabilities of Guardiola's high-line system. They've given up at least two goals in all six league "non-wins" (two draws, four losses), and their 1.19 goals allowed per game belies that of an eighth- or ninth-place team, not a contender. These issues have been twofold. First, despite having more money at their disposal than most nation-states, City have personnel problems. Club icon Vincent Kompany is gone, center-back Aymeric Laporte is out with a long-term knee injury and another center-back, John Stones, missed more than a month with a muscle injury. The closest thing to a steadying presence in the back is Nicolas Otamendi, and he's three years past his peak.
Beyond that, the back line is always going to be the most vulnerable spot for a Guardiola team. Back in his Barca days, he famously said, "Without the ball, we are a disastrous team, a horrible team, so we need the ball."
The keys to beating a Guardiola team are, and have always been, transition opportunities and set pieces, and while opponents are generating only slightly more chances via set pieces, they are advancing the ball far more directly and effectively. Whether opponents have adjusted to take better advantage of this (both in terms of tactics and personnel), or whether City just isn't as good at transition defense, the table has shifted a bit out of their favor.
Let's look at some sequence data. Opta defines sequences as "passages of play which belong to one team and are ended by defensive actions, stoppages in play or a shot." (They differ from possessions in that possessions can make up a series of sequences.)
- Sequences ending in a shot: 6.2 in 2017-18, 6.3 in 2018-19, 7.3 in 2019-20 (to date)- Sequences ending in a shot and featuring fewer than six passes: 5.6 in 2017-18, 5.4 in 2018-19, 6.3 in 2019-20- Sequences featuring only one player: 1.9 in 2017-18, 1.6 in 2018-19, 2.1 in 2019-20- Average sequence time: 12.8 seconds in 2017-18, 12.4 in 2018-19, 11.7 in 2019-20
So what happens now? Is this a shift toward a new, evolved tactical landscape or a brief, confused interlude? For all we know, City buys a couple of A+++ defenders in the upcoming transfer window and never loses again. They still have all the money in the world, after all, and from an expected goals perspective, they have been a bit unlucky: their xG differential is an otherworldly +1.87 per match compared to their current goal differential of +1.56. The universe could right itself pretty quickly.
If nothing else, though, we may have caught a glimpse of what said landscape could resemble.
Is Liverpool the template? They benefit from talent most other clubs won't have: one of the greatest managers in recent history (Jurgen Klopp), a high payroll, and perfect-for-the-system players like tireless ball-recovery masters Sadio Man and Roberto Firmino.
Is Leicester the template? Expected goals suggest their form could regress soon (their goal differential is +1.81 goals per match, but their xG differential is just +0.89), but Brendan Rodgers has crafted a nice balance of possession and generally combative play (lots of ball recoveries, lots of take-ons), with strong execution on set pieces.
Is the template overseas? In Spain, where possession play has reigned for a longer period of time and almost everyone is pretty proficient, more old-fashioned tactics like winning duels and aerials (and executing on set pieces) have begun to correlate more strongly with wins and losses again.
In conclusion, teams and leagues are always evolving. City took possession play to extremes, and in response, the Premier League shifted into a more modern, possession-based league. Now, the top teams are again championing speed in transition to catch opponents out. Something will shift this status quo. We just don't know if it will happen first in England or elsewhere.
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Posted: at 2:05 pm
Technology solutions must make care delivery easier not frustrate providers.
If you take a close look inside todays health information technology (HIT) environment, youll encounter a fundamental frustration by providers struggling to master the technology that is intended to ease the delivery of patient care.
Simply put, we need ways to remove the technological frustration that pervades the healthcare world.
As the chief technology officer of a leading healthcare IT security company, I regularly see this frustration firsthand. I have an operating model, which I call QS4, that helps HIT leaders address this challenge. Its been my North Star when conducting IT operations.
To break down QS4, quality is at the top, supported by four S's representing stability, security, speed and simplicity, in order of priority.
Speed, in this case, refers both to the speed of compute and the speed of deployment, leaning more toward deployment.
Stability, security and speed are all built on the foundation of simplicity. The simpler you can make things, the more stable, secure and speedy they will be.
Using the theory of QS4, I believe HIT leaders can improve IT operations and innovation processes.
Navigating Innovation In Healthcare
I believe there are two types of innovation: evolutionary and revolutionary.
Im not a revolutionary kind of guy I just dont have the right thought processes for it. I am, however, a huge fan of evolutionary innovation. Ignore thoughts of Darwin that slow generational timeline think about the type of evolution that happens quickly. Evolutionary innovation involves the kind of rapid change that, in a business setting, new technologies can bring to bear on how companies are run. Sometimes it appears an industrywide disruption, or it can be simply new software that completely changes almost overnight how certain business practices are run.
Within evolutionary innovation, there are two subcategories: operational and strategic. I think QS4 is well suited for use in operational evolution because it is, at its core, an operating model. It also plays an important, although smaller, part in strategic evolution. But its fundamental utility is helping improve operations.
Processes and practices dont just evolve, though. Theres a trigger or catalyst for that evolution. In healthcare, that catalyst should derive from observations done at the point of patient care. Healthcare providers are, almost without exception, laser-focused on patients when theyre delivering care. They dont have time to examine new technologies that may help them deliver more value to their patients and families, nor do they have time to suggest ways to remove the technological friction that exists in todays HIT environment.
Indeed, this friction reflects the increasing burden routinely placed on doctors and nurses, creating challenges for clinical staff that are truly immense. When our healthcare system reaches a point where clinicians feel that technology is the problem, the entire healthcare industry should take notice.
For HIT vendors, the key is to realize that no matter how small our contribution, we can and must play a central role. We are perfectly positioned to bring evolutionary innovation directly into the marketplace, and help it work across health networks. How?
Vendors must first fully understand the form, function, application and significance of clinical workflows. By engaging directly with clinical staff, vendors can ideally support and streamline those clinical workflows all under clinician guidance.
Doctors and nurses will always do whatever it takes to complete their work and care for their patients this is their mission. This commitment to care is so prevalent that if healthcare administrators arent careful, care providers can get dangerously overworked. HIT leaders can protect against this possibility and avoid taking advantage of the mission-based devotion to care by providing clinicians with tools that let them fulfill their ethical commitments. At the same time, this investment will help these dedicated providers maintain a sustainable life balance.
As HIT leaders, we must step up to this challenge. We must work alongside caregivers to find evolutionary innovations that remove technological friction, or, if we cant do that, provide more value for the friction that cant be eliminated.
We must stop expecting technological innovation from our clinical and business partners because they're focused on working in the business and have no time to work on the business. I depend on them to provide great patient care and outstanding support; they should rightfully depend on people like me to bring them technological innovation.
Its important to look beyond titles that serve only to separate us from working together. Thats why my favorite title from my various workplaces is partner experience and innovation. It describes exactly what the old desktop titles are evolving into. Im also stuck on calling the clinical and business folks we support partners rather than "customers."
The QS4 model comes in handy for partner experience and innovation teams. They already know, from an operational perspective, how they support their business and clinical partners on a day-to-day basis, and how the QS4 model helps separate the wheat from the chaff in operational priorities. They know that if they work on simplicity, theyll be able to affect the stability, security and speed of the service their partners are depending upon.
All we need to do, HIT leaders, is give our folks the time to focus on using QS4 for something other than break-fix operational prioritization. That just perpetuates the current friction and doesnt increase value.
Instead, use QS4 to advance the kind of evolutionary innovation described above and (hopefully) experience what delighting your partners feels like! Thats the best way we can help our clinical and business partners deliver the highest-quality, most compassionate care to our patients and families.