The Future This Week: November 28, 2017

“Always make the audience suffer as much as possible.”–Alfred Hitchcock

It seems movie theater owners are taking Hitchcock quite literally.  At our first break from home binge watching in almost a year, my wife and I went to a local cinema. We arrived right on the dot at the advertised starting time of the movie, and immediately suffered through 20 minutes of commercials–exactly what we get away from by watching Amazon and Netflix and premium cable channels.  I just love paying to binge watch commercials.

 While you’re reading about all this week’s future-related  news, don’t forget that you can subscribe to Seeking Delphi™ podcasts on iTunes or PlayerFM, and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

Digital entertainmentAmazon, Apple, and Netflix  are expected to be spending nearly $20 Billion, combined, on digital content by 2022.  Take that, Bollywood.

The Venture Reality Fund reports that Hollywood’s investment in AR and VR is booming.  Overall, AR/VR investment in the second half of this year is seen as rising by $2.3 billion, or 79 per cent, over the same period a year ago.  Oh boy, even those insufferable commercials will be enhanced.

The worm turns–on mars.

Space Travel/Colonization–What’s better than pigs in space?  How about worms on Mars?  A recent study by researchers at Wageningen University found that earth worms can grow and reproduce in Martian-like soil. It’s part of a study to see if food plants can grow in the same compound, to support potential colonization.

–Woody Allen once said, “man can’t live on bread alone; often there must be a beverage.”  Anheiser-Busch is taking that literally by sending beer into space.  A Dec. 4 SpaceX launch will send beer making ingredients to the international space station, a very early step toward sending it to Mars with the first colonists.  Talk about opening new markets.

Future Life/2030 Forecasts–A new report from The World Economic Forum paints a heady picture of life in the year 2030.  Genetically engineered pets…smart toilets…internet connected clothes…wow, I can hardly wait.


A similar study, reported in Forbes, focuses more on how we will change as humans by 2030. It’s not about augmented reality, it’s about augmented us.

Transportation/Sustainable Energy–Hydrogen powered trains will be coming to Germany by 2021.  The technology is being built by French concern, Alstom.

Robotics/AI–China announced plans to open a fully automated police station, sans humans.  The facility will deal primarily with driving -related issues, making it more like a western motor vehicle department facility.  It’s all in line with China’s stated goal of being world leader in artificial intelligence by 203o.

A reminder that the Seeking Delphi™ podcast is available on iTunesPlayerFM, blubrry , and has a channel on YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook.

The Future This Week: November 20, 2017

 “There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.” –George Carlin

Ah, the moon; so close, and yet so far away.  Has it really been almost fifty years since Neil Armstrong took his one small step for man?  Now, finally, the race is on to go back to our nearby celestial neighbor.  But in 1969, the only motivation was to win a race that was instigated by the cold war.  Now there is different driver in play.  It’s money;  many of the new players, in what is now a multi-way competition, are commercial ventures.

 While you’re reading about all this week’s future-related  news, don’t forget that you can subscribe to Seeking Delphi™ podcasts on iTunes or PlayerFM, and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

Space/Lunar explorationMoon Express has unveiled its lunar rover that’s due for a 2019 launch.  Described as an R2D2 lookalike, it would be the first commercial launch beyond earth orbit. The $20 million lunar X-Prize is hanging in the balance.

Yoda would be proud

China has announced plans to catch up to the US in space rocketry by the early 2020’s,  and a longer term goal of developing nuclear powered space vehicles by 2045.

Next big future reports on the possible development of what’s being called an interlunar photonic railway.  It’s based on the the laser powered space sails being planned by Breakthrough Starshot.

Electric Vehicles–Tesla unveiled two new ambitious vehicles, slated to begin production in 2019.  Its big-rig truck has a projected single-charge range of 500 miles and acceleration capabilities far better than diesel powered semis.  The roadster will boast a 620-mile range and a 260 mph top speed.  The price for these indulgences?  I’m not asking; i know I can’t afford either one.

Zoom Zoom

–Elon Musk may be the pioneer in all-electric vehicles, but he’s certainly not alone.  Volkswagon plans to invest an immodest $40 Billion on electric car technology through 2022,  and Toyota is targeting 2020 for its launch of an EV in China.

Senescence/Anti-aging research–Harvard professor and serial biotech entrepreneur Dr. George Church is moving headlong towards enabling human aging reversal.  His Rejuvenate Bio firm plans to test an age reversal therapy in dogs in 2019, and if successful, followed by human trials in 2022.

Scientists at Northwestern University say they have found what may be the first anti-aging genetic mutation.  The genetic anomaly was found in a small Amish community in Indiana.  Individuals who possess the mutation experience longer than average lifespans.

A reminder that the Seeking Delphi™ podcast is available on iTunesPlayerFM, blubrry , and has a channel on YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook.

Book Review: Life 3.0, Being Human In The Age of Artificial Intelligence, by Max Tegmark

“The short answer is obviously that we have no idea what will happen if humanity succeeds in building human-level AGI.”–Max Tegmark, in Life 3.0


Reprinted with permission of the publisher, my review of Max Tegmark’s new book, from the November/December issue of Age of Robots.

Full issue available for download here.

LIFE 3.0: BEING HUMAN IN THE AGE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE Max Tegmark ©2017, Borzoi Book published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 364p. Review by Mark Sackler


Max Tegmark is not one to shy away from bold scientific pronouncements. The MIT cosmologist and physics professor is perhaps best known for his taxonomy of a four level multiverse—some levels of which are predicted by certain theories, but none of which have been proven to exist. In his previous book, Our Mathematical Universe, My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality, he offers the astounding conjecture that the whole of reality may be nothing more than pure mathematics.

So, what, if anything, makes Life 3.0, Being Human in The Age of Artificial Intelligence different? Unlike a universe of multiverses, or of pure mathematics, it deals with issues that are right in front of our faces. And his taxonomy of Life 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 is not a mere conjecture that can’t yet— or might never—be tested. Artificial
intelligence is happening right in front of us, and we have a multiplicity of issues to deal with, while we still can control it. Even as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk are shouting loudly about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence, and many actual AI researchers are countering that the dangers are overblown and distorted, Tegmark is doing something to bridge hype and reality. Or at least, he’s trying to. The problem is, there is no consensus even among the experts. He provides the reader with a wide range of scenarios. Many are not pretty—from a corporation using advanced AI to control global markets and ultimately governments, to a runaway AI that discards human intervention to rule the world itself. And yet, he asserts, all of the scenarios he presents have actual expert believers in their possibility.

The ultimate answer is, we don’t know. Tegmark is not so much warning against its development—it’s probably impossible to stop—as he is advising about its challenges, opportunities and dangers. He knows that the experts don’t really know, and neither does he. But he’s not afraid to present bold scenarios to awaken our awareness. He sums it up best in Chapter 5, Intelligence Explosion:

The short answer is obviously that we have no idea what will happen if humanity succeeds in building human-level AGI. For this reason, we’ve spent this chapter exploring a broad spectrum of scenarios. I’ve attempted to be quite inclusive, spanning the full range of speculations I’ve seen or heard discussed by AI researchers and technologists: fast takeoff/ slow takeoff/no takeoff, humans/ machines/cyborgs in control. I think it’s wise to be humble at this stage and acknowledge how little we know, because for each scenario discussed above, I know at least one well-respected AI researcher who views it as a real possibility.

Tegmark makes is clear, that for all the unknowns, we need to proceed with caution. Bold conjectures and scenarios sometimes turn into realities. And some of these potential realities are not where we want to go. Decisions we make about machine intelligence in the next few decades will go a long way to deciding the future of humanity—our evolution or even our continued existence. He goes on to present possible scenarios for what we might look like in 10,000 and even 1 Billion years. It’s fascinating, but mind-numbing. We simply might not be able to control any of it.

You can follow Seeking Delphi and me on Facebook and Twitter.

The Future This Week: November 7, 2017

“We’re going to become caretakers for the robots. That’s what the next generation of work is going to be.”–Gray Scott

Hmmm.  Will we be caretakers for them, or them for us?  Will there even be a next generation of work? Hot on the heels of my Seeking Delphi™ podcast interview, with John C. Havens, on ethical considerations in artificial intelligence, comes a flurry of additional A.I.-related stories.

 While you’re reading about all this week’s future-related  news, don’t forget that you can subscribe to Seeking Delphi™ podcasts on iTunes or PlayerFM, and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

Robotics/Artificial Intelligence–In a Seeking Delphi™ podcast interview, author and IEEE consultant John C. Havens, argues that businesses must adhere to triple bottom line standards if A.I. is going to serve humanity in a beneficial way.  That means environmental and employee/customer well-being outcomes as well as profits.

Financial giant, J.P. Morgan Chase, says that A.I. and big data could trigger the next market correction.  This is nothing new, as autonomous computer algorithm trading was a significant driver in  the volatility that led to the 1987 market crash.

The New York Times reports that major tech companies are struggling with a shortage of artificial intelligence programmers.  Their solution?  Automate the process, of course.   In other words build A.I., itself, to build more A.I.

MIT students have tricked an artificial intelligence program into misidentifying a turtle as a gun.  That sounds more like the title of an Oliver Sacks story than a purposeful scientific endeavor.  But the idea was to see if it could be fooled, as a test of the reliability its image recognition capabilities.  Apparently, the students won and the A.I. lost.

Sofia, the new Saudi citizen

–At this point, it seems more like a cheap publicity stunt, but Saudi Arabia granted citizenship to a humanoid robot named Sofia (see YouTube video at the bottom of this post.)  And no less ridiculous–at this early juncture–was Tokyo’s decision to grant residency (whatever that means) to an artificial intelligence logarithm.

Self-Driving Cars–Software bugs are not usually lethal,  but in autonomous vehicles they certainly could be.  IEEE Spectrum reports on a new method for finding and weeding out such bugs before disaster strikes.

Space Exploration/Colonization–Amazon and Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos says we have to explore and colonize space in order to save the Earth.— On the other hand, maybe he’s just looking for new markets to monopolize.

Internet of Things–According to analysts at market research group, Reportsnreports, the Internet of Things market will grow more than tenfold to top $185 billion by 2023.  They estimate that the 2016 value was just over $16 Billion.


 A reminder that the Seeking Delphi™ podcast is available on iTunesPlayerFM, blubrry , and has a channel on YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook.

Podcast #17: IEEE and Ethical Considerations In Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems

“The real question is, when will we draft an artificial intelligence bill of rights? What will that consist of? And who will get to decide that?” —Gray Scott


Gray Scott’s comment aside, there are more pressing issues than a robot bill of rights.  Artificial intelligence development is progressing at an ever accelerating rate, and bringing with it questions of privacy, unemployment, and potential malevolent uses of the technology.  In this edition of the Seeking Delphi™ podcast, I talk with author John C. Havens about these issues.   He’s executive director of the IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations In Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems.

Links to relevant stories appear after the audio file and embedded YouTube video below.  A reminder that Seeking Delphi is available on iTunes, PlayerFM, and has a channel on YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook

Follow me on twitter @MarkSackler


Episode #17: Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems with John C. Havens

YouTube slide show of Episode #17


John C. Havens biography

IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems

Heartificial Intelligence on Amazon

Dubai appoints state minister for A.I.

India appoints experts to advise government on A.I.

Tesla announces addition of new autopilot features in the near future

Eric Schmidt warns U.S. on China’s impending lead in A.I.

Saudi Arabia’s newest citizen, Sofia


Subscribe to Seeking Delphi™ on iTunes 

Subscribe to Seeking Delphi™ on PlayerFM

Subscribe on YouTube

Follow Seeking Delphi™ on Facebook @SeekingDelphi

Follow me on twitter @MarkSackler