Future news travels here, if a week behind (eat your heart out, John Oliver). And we won’t report on hexagonal pizzas. I promise.
Without further ado, then, here is this past week’s future-related news.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark office issued a ruling in favor of the Broad Institute, a joint venture of Harvard and M.I.T., in its patent dispute with the University of California, Berkeley over the rights to CRISPR/Cas 9 gene editing. The ruling upheld patents granted to Broad in 2014, and effectively stated that they were different enough from those applied for by Berkeley to stand. Shares of Editas Medicine which has an exclusive CRISPR license from Broad were up 20% after the ruling. Both sides indicated expectations that the I.P. battle has probably just begun.
Since CRISPR/Cas9 and other new and powerful gene editing techniques have the potential to exact great change in the human genome–and with it the entire future of human experience, it would probably be a good idea to engage a public discussion on how and when to proceed, and with what applications. That’s just what a group of U.S. scientists suggest. In a far reaching report issued jointly by The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, they suggest heritable human germ cell tests be limited primarily to the treatment of intractable genetic diseases, at least until more public discussion can be generated.
Dr. George Church of Harvard University, who was mentioned in the first Seeking Delphi podcast on radical longevity extension, predicted that age reversal in humans will be achieved in 10 years. This vs. the 50% probability within 25 years forecast by David Wood in The Abolition of Aging. I hope I’m around long enough to see at least one of them be right. If you missed the podcast, the YouTube version is embedded at the bottom of this post.
Elon Musk–(yes, he’s reached the point of being his own category–just a few of the relevant stories below)
Bill Gates doesn’t warrant his own category these days, but he did say something bold. He suggested that if robots take your job, they should be taxed. While acknowledging that such a measure could hinder innovation to some degree, he also realizes that massive job losses need to be offset. One way he suggests is to use the tax proceeds to to fund training for jobs that humans will still do. Hmmm. Like robot maintenance?
If you see something during the coming week that ought to be here next time, please let me know. The next Seeking Delphi Podcast, scheduled for midweek release, will feature futurist and financial manager Jim Lee talking about Technology Investing for the Future.
David Wood on The Abolition of Aging, in the premiere episode of the Seeking Delphi, podcast.
Social robotics continues to develop, and new robots are appearing on the market all the time. According to reports from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), robots stole the show. Typical of the reporting, USA Today wrote, “We saw robots to make your morning coffee, pour candy, fold your clothes, turn on and off your lights, project a movie on the wall, handle your daily chores and most impressively, look just like a human, or in this case, legendary scientist Albert Einstein, with facial expressions and movement.”
Turn on and off your lights? Well, all these little household applications may seem like small, even trivial steps along the way to the robotic future of our favorite scifi movies, but they are steps, and consumer demand for social robots, i.e., robots that interact with us socially and/or play predominantly social roles in our lives, I would argue, is key to the development…
“I believe fuel cells could end the 100-year reign of the internal combustion engine.” –William Clay Ford
Hydrogen fuel cells have long been touted as a possible replacement for the internal combustion engine. But progress has been slow, and the emergence of this technology seems not much closer than it was 20 years ago. In episode #3 of Seeking Delphi, I explore the world of Hydrogen Fuel Cells with William Smith, the CEO of Infinity Fuel Cell and Hydrogen, Inc. The oil companies may not want you to hear this, but this technology is not dead yet. Links to Infinity’s web site and this weeks news stories are below. Seeking Delphi is now available on iTunes.Now also on YouTube.
Podcast episode 3: Whatever Happened to Fuel Cells , running time 22:13.
In episode one of Seeking Delphi, the podcast, I spoke with David Wood, chair of London Futurists, about his book The Abolition of Aging. Specifically, we talked about his bold forecast of a 50% probability of widely available, affordable rejuvenation therapy being available by 2040. In part two of my interview with David, we discuss a few of the wide ranging implications for society, should radical longevity extension become a reality. Retirement, work, sustainability and the meaning of life itself are all in play.
“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.”–Woody Allen
In episode one of Seeking Delphi, the podcast, I talk with David Wood, chair of London Futurists, about his book The Abolition of Aging. Relevant links to this weeks’ show below the audio track. This is part 1 of a two part program. This week: can we do it? Next week: Should we do it, and if we do it, what are the implications?
Episode #1: The Abolition of Aging, Part 1; running time 26:9
It’s not likely that Thomas Jefferson meant to disparage study of the past, it’s just, like Albert Einstein’s missive that imagination is more important than knowledge, he meant that it is our dreams of the future that enable us to build a better world.
I’ve been dreaming about the future since I was a kid. Daydreaming, my parents would have said, and my wife certainly would say. But that’s OK. Somebody has to do it. If humankind is going to survive the the challenges that lie ahead, somebody needs to be thinking further ahead than the next pay check, the next quarter’s profit, and the next election. Let’s do it together.
On Seeking Delphi, the podcast, I’ll address many of the myriad uncertainties that lie ahead, some of them with existential consequences. Some of them just for fun. But all of them the stuff that imagination–and dreams–are made of.
“The future always comes too fast and in the wrong order.”–Alvin Toffler
The world lost its foremost futurist in the past week, a man who was one of my heroes. Alvin Toffler taught the world how to think about the future some 45 years ago. It’s a lesson the world should relearn. I read Future Shock way back in 1973–and have been thinking about it–and the future–ever since.
The quote above describes the cause of the disease–the human psychological malady–he calls future shock. He made me think about the implications of a future that comes too fast and too hard for most people to comprehend or tolerate. It made me think about the dangers of thinking improperly about the future–or avoiding the thought of it at all. I’ll go into detail on these issues–and the potential remedies thereof–in future posts. In the meantime, I take off my virtual digital hat to the man who just may have been the foremost futurist of all time.
Writing in the New York Times on July 6, Farhad Manjoo lays out clearly and concisely why Toffler’s ideas are so relevant today. I highly urge you to read this piece, and to read Future Shock if you’ve never done so. I intend to reread it now. We have never needed foresight more than we do today.