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.

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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.

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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

 

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The Future This Week: October 31, 2017

“Aging is mostly the failure to repair”– Gregory Benford

“Age is inevitable; aging isn’t”–Marv Levy

Even as lifestyle issues like smoking, obesity, distracted driving and drug overdoses have of late limited life expectancy gains in the west, there continue to be breakthroughs in anti-aging research at breathtaking pace.  At some point–maybe soon–we may experience a period of anti-aging therapy deployment such that average life expectancy increases by one or more years every year. How long will we live, then?  And the bigger question is: what will be the implications for civilization and the earth as a whole?

 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 

Anti-aging/Longevity research–Virtual biotech company, Youthereum, believes they can extend healthy human lifespan by 30% using epigenetics.  The idea of such an approach as  has been around for decades; they believe they are in striking range of achieving it.  The unconventional part of the plan is not the science, it’s financing the research, which they hope to accomplish through an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) of a new cryptocurrency.

Two University of Arizona scientists have published a paper on the mathematics of aging, purporting to prove that immortality is impossible.  That sounds suspiciously like the scientist who published a paper supposedly proving that space travel was impossible, just a few months before the launch of the first Sputnik.

Food– Food distribution giant, Cargill, Inc., has joined the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson with investments in Memphis Meats.  The San Francisco-based (not Tennessee) company says its products–lab grown beef, chicken and duck–will be in stores by 2021 and will eventually cost as little as $1 a pound.  The products use real animal cells, but obviate the need to raise and kill live animals.

Space Launch and Propulsion–Positron Dynamics is projecting the potential launch of an anti-matter propelled cubesat by as early as sometime next year.  It further forecasts that a Mars-bound anti-matter powered rocket could be launched by the 2030’s.

–Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s SpaceX continues to make progress towards lowering the cost of space launches.  This past week, it conducted its fifteenth consecutive successful launch and first stage landing of the reusable Falcon 9 rocket.

China/Economic Development–The New York Times reports that Chinese president Xi Jinping wants to fully eliminate poverty in his country by 2020.   It’s all part of the larger Xi plan which outlines many of the country’s goals, including those in healthcare, AI, and the sharing economy, through 2050.

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: October 23, 2017

 “I think we are at the dawn of a new era in commercial space exploration.”–Elon Musk

Nothing accelerates technological development like competition. It was the competition between the US and the Soviet Union that put a man on the moon in 1969, decades sooner than it would otherwise have occurred.  The finish line of that race ended the competition, and we haven’t gone back since.  But a new competition, multi-faceted and far more diverse, has begun.  The commercial development of space figures to re-accelerate our push into the final frontier. If you’re a fan of space exploration and exploitation, stay tuned, the next few years are going to be exciting.

 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 

Fly me to the moon…in 2022

Space exploration/exploitation/tourismUnited Launch  Alliance and Bigelow Aerospace have announced a joint venture to place a habitat in lunar orbit by 2022.  While they describe fully how they intend to get it there, they don’t yet say who will inhabit it or what it might be used for.  Anyone want to rent a lunar-orbiting apartment?

Richard Branson says his Virgin Galactic commercial space venture will launch its first astronauts into space in about 4 months.  He also says his program will do more for humanity than Elon Musk’s ambitious SpaceX plans to colonize Mars.  Branson vs. Musk is not exactly USA vs. USSR; in fact,  it might actually be more sustainable.

–Branson and Musk aren’t the only billionaire-sized egos in space.  Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin announced  a breakthrough that brings it one step closer to launching sub-orbital space tourism flights by 2019. They successfully test fired their new BE-4 rocket engine.

While NASA progresses at a snails pace in returning US astronauts to the moon, it’s ramping up the effort to detect nearby, habitable earth-like planets.  How they will ever get us there is another question, altogether.

Artificial Intelligence–Elon Musk says that the AI in a Tesla will soon be able to predict your destination and bring you there without asking. That’s good; half the time I have no idea where I’m going.  Seriously, though, that’s amazing–and kind of creepy at the same time.

The New York Times reports that tech giants are paying big bucks for the services of Artificial Intelligence experts.  The deals they offer them often include signing bonuses and multi-year contracts, sometimes resembling those offered to professional athletes.

–Dubai and India are both jumping on the A.I. bandwagon, as far as government monitoring and regulation is concerned.  Dubai is appointing a minister of artificial intelligence, while India is establishing an expert panel to advise government on policy.

Biotechnology–An Italian neurosurgeon says he will conduct the world’s first full head transplant in December of this year.  And you were skeptical of self-driving cars.

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: October 17, 2017

“Leadership is not about the next election.  It’s about the next generation”– Simon Sinek

“Millennials on steroids.”–description of generation Z on a Wharton Business School blog

Wow.  Millennials have barely come of age, and already we are talking about generation Z? Well, I guess they represent the post-post-generation X world.   Maybe we’ll call their kids generation  X3.

 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 

Social DemographicsThe headline of a 2015 article on the Wharton Business School blog proclaimed generation Z to be “Millennials On Steroids.”  But as this article  from factsandtrends.net points out, an analysis of generation Z characteristics show they are more like…um…er…Millennials on steroids!

Dubai police hoverbike

Transportation technology–Dubai, ever the leader in bleeding edge technology for security and law enforcement, has yet another first.  Their police force will soon begin using hoverbikes for rapid emergency response.

Elon Musk says the new Raptor engine for space launch vehicles may also be used to provide point-to-point transportation anywhere on earth within 30 minutes.  He also insists it will be at least as safe as airline travel.  What he doesn’t say is whether anyone will be able to afford it.

UK based consultancy, Wood MacKenzie released a forecast that the oil industry is sure not to like.  It projects that world demand for gasoline will peak by 2030, due to a combination of increased vehicle efficiency and proliferation of electric-powered vehicles.

Artificial Intelligence/Transhumanism-In a forecast Ray Kurzweil is sure to love,  a senior IBM scientist in the UK is projecting all sorts of technology implants in the body and the brain. These may include cognitive enhancements and cell repairing micro-bots.

Near Earth astronomy–You might not want to sign any leases longer than 50 years.  The European Space Agency says that a house-sized asteroid, that came within 30,000 miles of us this past week, might strike  the Earth in 2079.  The odds are pegged at 1 in 750–no sure bet,  but not impossible, either.

3D Printing–A Ukrainian company, PassivDom, has unveiled a 3D printed home that can be built in 8 hours, for a price tag starting at around US $32,000.00.  Compared to the 100-square foot 3D printed cement huts recently showcased by other concerns, they look like palaces.

$32,000

$10,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.