News of the Future This Week, March 28, 2018

 “A space station is a rangy monstrosity, a giant erector set built by a madman.”–Mary Roach

Oh, how jaded we’ve become.  Remember Skylab?  When it became the first orbiting space station to crash back to earth, away back in 1979, it provoked a wide range of bizarre cultural outcroppings, from Skylab crash parties to insurance against it landing on your head.  This time?  Not so much.  If the cable news channels can’t politicize it, they won’t give it much mention.

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, PlayerFM, or YouTube (audio with slide show) and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

Chinese Space Station: look out below!

Space–The Chinese space station will hurtle back to earth this weekend.  Time Magazine reports that you don’t have to worry–much–about it landing on you.

According to a paper by Gregory Matloff, published in Centauri Dreams, the combination of the SpaceX Falcom Heavy rocket, a Bigelow inflatable habitat, and huge solar sail, would be the perfect combination for manned expeditions to near earth objects in the 2020’s.

–NASA’s next Mars rover isn’t scheduled for launch until 2020.  In advance of that,  today they’re testing the parachute designed to deploy at supersonic speeds and drop it gently to the Martian surface.

James Webb telescope or Klingon battleship? Image Credit: NASA

Speaking of NASA, they’ve delayed the launch of the James Webb Space Telescopte–again.  The successor to Hubble is now scheduled for launch in May of 2020.   Anyone taking bets?

Electric Vehicles–Speaking of betting on late deployment, FedEx has apparently ordered 20 of Tesla’s new electric semi-trucks.  The scheduled roll out for these is 2019.  Based on Mr. Musk’s timetable track record, I’d set an over-under on actual delivery to Fedex at January 2021.

Artificial IntelligenceAccording to Mashable, NVIDIA’s new supercomputer will create A.I. that’s “terrifyingly smart.”  Well, maybe not–most experts believe we won’t AGI–artifiicial general intelligence–for least 15-30 years, if ever.  But even they don’t agree.

Automation/Future of Work–Hardly a week goes by without some new forecast of an automation driven job-killing apocolypse.  The latest one, from Bain Consulting, foresees 50% of current jobs eventually going away, and specifically forecasts that U.S. employers will need 20-25% fewer workers by 2030.

Extreme Bionics–In case you missed it, here’s the link to the final Seeking Delphi™ podcast from SXSW 2018, on Extreme Bionics: The Future of Human Ability.  It feature two bilateral amputees,  paralympian and actrees Aimee Mullins (Stranger Things, Unsane) and MIT Media lab associate professor, Hugh Herr.  (YouTube slide show link below).

You can subscribe to Seeking Delphi™ podcasts on iTunes, PlayerFM, or YouTube (audio with slide show) and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

SXSW 2018 Mini-cast #4: March 12, 2018; Extreme Bionics: The Future of Human Ability

” The only true disability is a crushed spirit.”–Aimee Mullins

In this final instalment from the first Seeking Delphi™ visit to SXSW,  we hear from two of the most remarkable individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

The session, entitled Extreme Bionics: The Future of Human Ability, delved 100 years into the past, covering the history of prosthetic devices from the crude low-tech devices built for World War I amputees, through to the increasingly high tech devices of today.  Furthermore, it looked to a future that might bridge the final gap to neurological embodyment of artificial limbs, and various technologies that will enhance natural biological human abilities along with prosthetic devices.

Aimee Mullins was born without shin bones and lost both of her legs below the knee at the age of one.  She has hardly let that stop her–she was a paralympian and is a model and actress.  Most notably, she had a recurring role in season two of the hit Netflix series, Stranger Things.  

Hugh Herr lost both of legs below the knee at age 18 to frostbite suffered in a mountain climbing mishap.  He is an associate professor and head of the biomechatronics group at MIT’s Media Lab.

In keeping with the future theme of Seeking Delphi™ I asked both of them to imagine the future of these technologies.  This panel was part of the IEEE Tech for Humanity series at SXSW 2018.  Acknowlegements to them, and to Interprose, for arranging these interviews.

A reminder that this and all Seeking Delphi ™podcasts are available on iTunes, PlayerFM, and  YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook and on twitter @MarkSackler

 

Special Edition SXSW 2018 mini-cast #4

 

YouTube slide show of SXSW 2018 mini-cast #4

 A reminder that this and all Seeking Delphi ™podcasts are available on iTunes, PlayerFM, and  YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook and on twitter @MarkSackler

News of the Future This Week, March 21, 2018

“It’s not going to do any good to land on Mars if we’re stupid.”–Ray Bradbury

“You cannot be serious.”–John McEnroe

Is Vladimir Putin serious?  He’s really going to put Russians on the moon by next year?  Live Russians? Human Russians?  Russian manikins, maybe.  Or how about those nested Russian dolls?  I have my hunches about his obvious hyperbole.  Like maybe he’s goading a certain Western leader I won’t name to take it seriously and go broke trying to compete with him. All the while what he’s really doing is focusing his resources on hacking democracy and wreaking havoc.

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, PlayerFM, or YouTube (audio with slide show) and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

Matryoshka dolls. Send these to Mars?

Space Exploration– Yes, according to Futurism.com, Vladimir Putin did say that he intends to send both manned and unmanned missions to Mars, possibly as soon as next year.  This timetable is a full 5 years ahead of SpaceX’s most optimistic scenario. He might have his work cut out for him.  The Russian space agency has not attempted to reach beyond earth’s gravity well since a 2011 launch failed and fell out of orbit.

–Next Big Future reports on the progress–and relative merits–of AD-Astra’s  VX200SSTM VASIMR® prototype  space propulsion engine.  Recent test firings have brought them one step closer to enabling earth to mars transit in as little as 4 to 6 weeks.  SpaceX, with its BFR, has aims at making the transit at similar speeds.

Quantum Computing–IBM released it’s 5 in 5 list–five inovations that will change our lives in five years.  Most notably they, predicted that quantum computing will be mainstream within five years.  If you listened to my podcast with whurley from SXSW 2018, you’d know that enabling broad use of quantum computing is exactly what he’s aiming for with his new company, Strangeworks (YouTube link below).

Quantum Computing featuring whurley, recorded March 12, 2018 at SXSW, Austin, TX

Age of Robots reported on the marriage of quantum computing with biological data.  Specifically, researchers at USC have demonstrated how a quantum processor could effectively predict certain processes in the human genome.

3D printing-A vehicle its maker says will be the first mass-produced, 3D-printed car, is slated for availability in 2019.   With a price tag of less than $10,000, but with a single-charge range of only 90 miles at a maximum speed of 45mph, it might seem more like a golf cart on steroids than a real car.  Dr. Paul Tinari talked about 3D-printed cars in Seeking Delphi™ podcast #7 in March of 2017.

Dr. Paul Tinari on 3D printing cars, homes and–good grief–even human beings. Seeking Delphi™ podcast #7, from March 2017

Self-Driving Cars–In the wake of the Tempe, Arizona pedestrian fatality involving an Uber self-driving car, the New York Times published this guide to how self-driving cars sense the world.

Google-modified Lexus. Source: Google

 

Up next:  one final special edition mini-cast out of SXSW.  Exteme Bionics: The Future of Human Ability.

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

SXSW Mini-Cast #3, Quantum Computing featuring whurley

“As an entrepreneur I like to know the next two or three things I might start a company on.  For me it was robotics, bio-hacking, and quantum.”–whurley

As one of America’s leading technologists, when whurley speaks, people listen.  Lots of them.  His SXSW 2018 Intelligent Future keynote, titled The Endless Impossibilities of Quantum Computing, packed the largest ballroom at the Austin Convention Center.  Just hours before the launch of his new company, Strangeworks, he provided the culmination of IEEE’s Tech For Humanity series.  In between those two events, I was able to sit down in person for an exclusive interview.  Special thanks to Interprose and IEEE for arranging this and several other interviews as SXSW.  whurley heads IEEE’s working group on quantum computing.

A reminder that this and all Seeking Delphi ™podcasts are available on iTunes, PlayerFM, and  YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook and on twitter @MarkSackler

SXSW 2018 Mini-cast #3 with whurley

YouTube link for SXSW 2018 mini-cast #3 with whurley

 Quantum Computers for Babies

 

 

 

 A reminder that this and all Seeking Delphi ™podcasts are available on iTunes, PlayerFM, and  YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook and on twitter @MarkSackler

SXSW 2018 Mini-cast #2: March 11, 2018; Can We Create Consciousness In A Machine?

 

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”–Albert Einstein

For anyone who has watched the HBO series Westworld,  the questions about creating machine consciousness run much deeper than “can we.”  These include,  should we?  How will we treat it?  How will it feel about its station as artificial life?  Will we be able to control it, and is that ethical?  And most profoundly,  how will that change what it means to be human?  The questions go beyond ethical to existential, and they were all addressed in the SXSW Intelligent Future track in a panel titled Can We Create Consciousness In A Machine? Not surprisingly, there were two techno-philosophers on the panel to explore these issues.  They are David Chalmers, with NYU’s Center for Brain an Mind Consciousness, and Susan Schneider, with the Department of Cognitive Sciences at the University of Connecticut.

In this Seeking Delphi™ minicast,  I speak with both of them about some of these issues.   The third panelist mentioned in the podcast is Allen Institute physicist, Kristoff Koch.

A reminder that this and all Seeking Delphi ™podcasts are available on iTunes, PlayerFM, and  YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook and on twitter @MarkSackler

David Chalmers

Susan Schneider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Edition SXSW 2018 mini-cast #2.

YouTube slide show of  Seeking Delphi™ SXSW 2018 minicast #2

The experts on the panel agreed…classical digital computers can’t create consciousness.  Neural networks? Neuromorphic chips?  And what about quantum computing?  My interview with whurley on quantum computing, immediately following his SXSW keynote on the subject, is below.

SXSW minicast #3: whurley on quantum computing

 

In case you missed it, the YouTube slide show link for SXSW 2018 minicast #1, on covering sessions on quantum computing and self-driving car safety, is below.

A reminder that this and all Seeking Delphi ™podcasts are available on iTunes, PlayerFM, and  YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook and on twitter @MarkSackler

SXSW 2018 Mini-cast #1: March 10, 2018

 As introduction to the podcast, some of this material is reprinted from a post earlier today.  Scroll down for the audio file or links to access it on iTunes or PlayerFM.

“The promise of autonomous vehicles is great.”–Dan Lipinski

“My opinion is that it’s a bridge too far to go to fully autonomous vehicles.”–Elon Musk

Wait–what?  The man who thinks he can send humans on a one way trip to colonize Mars within 10 years, thinks fully autonomous vehicles are out of our reach?  The  Elon Musk quote above is from 2013.  I would be surprised if he still feels that way–but who knows?

Segue to this morning, at the Intelligent Future interactive track at SXSW 2018 in Austin, TX.  Nobody on the panel entitled “Who takes the wheel on self-driving car safety” suggested we won’t get there.  But there was plenty of caution  on how, how fast, and how far we go in doing so.

Most notable were comments by Andrew Reimer of MIT.  He foresaw a gap of 50-100 years before fully autonomous cars–no human intervention–take over the lion’s share of driving, globally.  His issues were not just technical; they included trust, complexity, infrastructure and good old fashioned habit.  He was certain that manual driving would probably never  completely go away.  He sighted the example of a high end sports car owners wanting the enjoyment of driving.

“It might just be hobbyists,” he said, but made it clear that in some shape or form, the human factor is likely to survive for a very long time.

 

Quantum Computing

A session on “Quantum Computing: Science Fiction to Science Fact,” was somewhat misnamed.  While the history of its theoretical origins were recounted by D-Wave’s Bo Ewald, the session really focused on the current trends and developments leading toward a 10-year or so future horizon.

Bo Ewald talks about meeting Richard Feynman

Ewald recounted how iconic physicist Richard Feynman first imagined quantum computing in 1981, published the first paper on it in 1982,  and gave a talk on it at Los Alamos in 1983.  Ewald was head of computing at Los Alamos in 1983 and met Feynman at that talk.  Sheldon Cooper, eat your heart out.

Humanizing Autonomy

A sessiojn autonomous systems covered much of the same ground that was addressed in Seeking Delphi podcasts with Richard Yonck (#12) and John C. Havens (#17).   last year.  But one of the presenters, Liesl Yearsly of Akin, had an interesting means of illustrating how the material will affect us.

SXSW Minicast #1, March 10, 2018

YouTube slide show of SXSW 2018 Mini-cast #1

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.

 

 

 

SXSW 2018–Saturday Morning, March 10

“The promise of autonomous vehicles is great.”–Dan Lipinski

“My opinion is that it’s a bridge too far to go to fully autonomous vehicles.”–Elon Musk

Wait–what?  The man who thinks he can send humans on a one way trip to colonize Mars within 10 years, thinks fully autonomous vehicles are out of our reach?  The  Elon Musk quote above is from 2013.  I would be surprised if he still feels that way–but who knows?

Bryan Reimer of MIT, speaking at panel “Who takes the wheel on self-driving car safety.” SXSW 2018

Segue to this morning, at the Intelligent Future interactive track at SXSW 2018 in Austin, TX.  Nobody on the panel entitled “Who takes the wheel on self-driving car safety” suggested we won’t get there.  But there was plenty of caution  on how, how fast, and how far we go in doing so.

Most notable were comments by Andrew Reimer of MIT.  He foresaw a gap of 50-100 years before fully autonomous cars–no human intervention–take over the lion’s share of driving, globally.  His issues were not just technical; they included trust, complexity, infrastructure and good old fashioned habit.  He was certain that manual driving would probably never  completely go away.  He sighted the example of a high end sports car owners wanting the enjoyment of driving.

“It might just be hobbyists,” he said, but made it clear that in some shape or form, the human factor is likely to survive for a very long time.

As for the issue of safety,  Cathy Chase of  Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety cited three critical areas of consideration to make self-driving car safety standard.  The first is a morass of no fewer than 400 different laws that could be enacted–now–to make all driving safer.  As an example, she  mentioned automatic emergency breaking.  Today it’s mostly only found as a feature in semi-autonomous luxury vehicles. To make it as standard as seat belts would require federal regulation.  Second is the need for a shift in public attitudes; there needs to be reassurance.  A majority of the public–at least in the US–does not yet trust self-driving cars.**  The third is to avoid issue amnesia.  In a rush to mainstream autonomous driving, congress could pass enabling laws prematurely, before all technical and regulatory issue are resolved.

**My two cents on the issue of trust.  To better understand why there is mistrust, consider the cognitive bias that Nobel economics laureate Daniel Kahneman calls “what you see is all there is.” or WYSIATI.  When one Tesla on auto-pilot is involved in a fatal crash, it makes major national headlines.  It’s right in front of us.  Yet, over 100 in the US die every day in auto accidents caused by human error.  Unless a celebrity is involved, none of them make news beyond their local area.  Nobody pays attention unless they are directly affected.  Statistically, at some point, self-driving vehicles are likely to be far safer than human-driven.  But as long as the autonomous accidents make the big news,  the public may not perceive them as safe.

Quantum Computing

A session on “Quantum Computing: Science Fiction to Science Fact,” was somewhat misnamed.  While the history of its theoretical origins were recounted by D-Wave’s Bo Ewald, the session really focused on the current trends and developments leading toward a 10-year or so future horizon.

Bo Ewald talks about meeting Richard Feynman

Ewald recounted how iconic physicist Richard Feynman first imagined quantum computing in 1981, published the first paper on it in 1982,  and gave a talk on it at Los Alamos in 1983.  Ewald was head of computing at Los Alamos in 1983 and met Feynman at that talk.  Sheldon Cooper, eat your heart out.

Ewald repeated this story for me in a brief interview which should be available as part of a Seeking Delphi™ minicast later this evening.  I also asked him about the notion that we really don’t know for sure everything that quantum computing will be able to do.  He agreed.

“For the past ten years, most of the discussion has been about quantum cryptography, ” had said. “this has nothing to do with what Feinman was talking about.   He was interested in modeling nature.”  He cited material sciences and system optimizations as areas of great promise for the future.

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.