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.




News of the Future This Week, March 8, 2018

“Life is a DNA software system.”–Craig Ventner

You’ve heard it all, and lately you’re hearing it more.  The singularity is near.  Robots are going to take our jobs.  Robots are going to take over altogether.  Robots are even going to take over our sex lives.  Yadda yadda yadda.

I’m not saying it won’t happen;  I just think it’s farther away than the impression most people are getting from all the news.  What’s here right now is genetic editing, and with it, the possibility of directing human evolution. The very real and very near possibility of changing what it means to be human.  Read all the artificial intelligence and future of work articles–yes.  But keep your eye on the gene editing ball–it’s here right now.

Seeking Delphi™ will be at SXSW 2018 in Austin, TX through Wednesday of next week.  Stay tuned for updates on the Intelligent Future track.

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 

Gene editing/synthetic biology–A Japanese team has created a new genetic editing process so precise it can edit a single letter of DNA.  Called MhAX, it works by combining the gene editing tool CRISPR with a DNA repair technique.

–If you thought IBM was only about information technology and business processes, think again.  Researchers at the compnay  are making headway in the development of synthetic molecules that might be able to replace antibiotics in the fight against drug resistant infectious organisms.

The Future of Work–Speaking of artificial intelligence, maybe it is coming to take jobs.  But a new Gallup survey suggests that most Americans think it will take somebody else’s job–not theirs.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Autonomous Vehicles/Advanced Transportation–If job disruptive technology is at hand, can Luddism be far behind?  Apparently not, as recent attacks on self-driving vehicles in San Franscisco demonstrate.

–If cars are ever going to be fully autonomous, every aspect of the operation needs to be designed to be human-free.  Even headlights.  Engineers at Mercedes Benz have now done just that, they’ve designed smart, autonomous headlights.

Energy–Elon Musk has been rather quiet lately–for him–as far as these weekly reports go.  Not to worry; his latest idea is to equip 50,000 Australian homes with his Tesla solar roofing tiles and lithium ion batteries, to create a virtual power plant.

Tesla solar roofing tiles look like…well…roofing tiles.

Chinese Space Station–China’s failing space station is due to come crashing back into the atmosphere within the next few weeks.  Fear not, though.  Your own future probably doesn’t include getting conked on the head by the falling debris.  Experts have calculated your chances of being hit as a million times more remote than winning Powerball.   That equates to about one in three hundered trillion.

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.

News of the Future This Week, March 1, 2018

“The killer app is making calls.”–Steve Jobs

“For three days after death hair and finger nails continue to grow, but phone calls taper off.”–Johnny Carson.

Phone calls?  Who makes phone calls?  Texts, chats, messages…yes.  The only way I can get my daughter on the phone is to text her with a message to call me.  And  it helps to make it read like somebody died.  Anyway, the Mobile World Congress was this week.  I’d love to see the stats on calls vs. texts and miscellaneous messaging and chat apps among the attendees at the conference.

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 

Earth man phone home?

Mobile Telephony–If you think your cell service is bad at home, just imagine what it might be on the moon.  Vodaphone and Nokia have announced their intent to build a lunar mobile service initially intended to enable communication between robotic probes and their base station.

According to one pundit presenting at the MWC, mobile service providers are way behind the AI curve.  They could be using artificial intelligence to improve service, but so far have not done much.

–Looking for MWC highlights?  The Verge gives its take on the good, the bad, and the ugly at this year’s conference.

Impressive, even if they don’t fly

Autonomous Vehicles/Advanced Transport–Wherever humanity is going, Dubai seems determined to get there first.   And they are determined that their workers get there first, by commuting via proposed autonomous transport pods.

Tests of fully driverless cars may be hitting California highways as soon as next month.   Well, sort of–there will be no driver in the cars, but they will be linked to humans by remote control.

–If autonomous cars bomb out as a concept, it won’t be for lack of trying–or funding.  Toyota has announced a nearly $3 billion investment in the technology, which will employ 1,000 workers.

Artificial Intelligence–A new study says artificial intelligence can best lawyers in searching legal documents.   Other than lawyers themselves, this does not break anyone’s heart.

–Two top Microsoft executives make a stunning assertion in a new book.  In the future, they say, we will all have artificially intelligent, alter ego digital assistants.  Just what the world needs: a mechanical me.

Coming Soon–I’ll be representing Seeking Delphi™ and Age of Robots, covering the Intelligent Future track at SXSW in Austin, Texas, March 9-14.  Stay tuned for multiple podcasts and reports.

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.