The Future This Week: August 14, 2017

“Life isn’t a tiptoe through the tulips.”–Shannon Hoon

“When tulip mania dies down, all that remains are pretty flowers.”–Adam Cohen

I understand the value of cryptocurrency–I think.  But the valuation? Forget it.  Investors’ lives certainly won’t be a tiptoe through the tulips when and if the Bitcoin bubble bursts.  But I’ll still love hearing Tiny Tim sing about it.  And yes, tulips are still pretty flowers.

Bitcoin/Cryptocurrency–The price of a single Bitcoin topped $4,000 for the first time.  Is cryptocurrency the future of our economy?  I have my doubts.   And if you are looking for a way to short it, that makes two of us.

Semi-conductors/material science--With transistor miniaturization in silicon-based microchips rapidly reaching its physical limit,  Moore’s law could also be coming to an end.  But researchers at Stanford University have identified two semi-conductors that could extend the limits of silicon-based miniaturization by augmenting its properties.

Does “too cute to eat” also mean, “too cute to accept an organ transplant from?’

Biotech/gene editing–A group led by Dr. George Church, of Harvard University, has succeeded in using gene-editing to make piglets more suitable for growing replacement human organs.   Dr. Church believes that the first pig-to-human organ transplants may be as close as two years away.

Robotics/Artificial Intelligence–The premiere issue of Age of Robots has hit the digital newsstands.  My article, Self Replicating MachinesScience Fiction vs. Science Fact, appears, along with stories on artificial intelligence, medical robots,  machine consciousness, and more.

   Quantum Reality–A future after death? The notion of life after death has always been the exclusive realm of the spiritual/religious world–until now, that is.  Physicist and author Roger Penrose,  along with some others with impressive scientific credentials, now believe that information stored in our brains in a quantum state may live on, along with our consciousness, after we die.  This report, on the Galaxy Today web page, hints at any number of ideas which I have expounded on in my other blog,  The Millennium Conjectures.

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

The Future This Week: August 7, 2017

“Your genetics is not your destiny.”–Dr. George Church

I’d like to ask Dr. George Church a question about the above quote.  Does he mean that nurture can overcome nature?  Or does he mean your genetics can be changed?  Considering he’s one of the leading geneticists in the world, and is closely involved in one or more enterprises involved in gene editing, I’m guessing it would be the latter.  Either way, CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing was prominent in news this past week.

CRISPR/Cas9 genetic editing–A multinational team of American, Korean, and Chinese researcher succeeded in correcting a serious genetic disease in human embryos.  The paper appeared online in the journal Nature and was widely reported by various news sources.  While creating excitement for the technique’s potential, it also raised concerns for the potential advent of genetically modified “designer” babies.

UC, Berkeley researcher, and CRISPR co-developer, Dr. Jennifer Doudna, weighed in on the Nature paper, along with views on a variety of potential uses and abuses of the technology.  In a wide ranging interview with Newsweek, she mentioned cancer, diabetes and bio-terrorism as potential targets the technology could be used to fight.

Researchers at the University of Chicago reported success with CRISPR created skin grafts in treating diabetes in mice.  While not technically a cure, it could provide an effective long term treatment alternative to insulin shots.  The researchers also asserted that the technique could be useful in treating a variety of other diseases.

A brief explanation of CRISPR gene editing

 

3D Bio-printing–Doctors at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson medical school successfully inserted a 3D printed bone replacement implant in a patient who had suffered irreparable damage to a portion his skull.  Such a procedure was unthinkable just a few years ago and may be an indicator that bio-printing is on the verge of becoming a major health industry.

Robotics/Automation–Zume Pizza, of Mountain View, CA, has taken a Silicon Valley approach to making their pies.  They use robots.  While humans have not been completely automated out of the process, the robots do the repetitive parts of the process.

 Politics–According to WIRED, there is a good reason why people can’t stop talking about Mark Zuckerberg as a 2020 presidential candidate.  That reason is Mark Zuckerberg; his actions speak louder than his words.

Renewable Energy–Fresh on the heels of Atlanta’s goal to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2035, California is poised to set a statewide goal to do the same by 2045.  A bill mandating just that has passed a  committee in the state senate.  Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign it if it becomes law.

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

APF Minicast #2: Global Health Futures, July 28, 2017

“Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.”–Albert Schweitzer

Today’s sessions at the Association of Professional Futurist’s annual meeting in Seattle, Washington, consisted of morning sessions on efforts to improve human health in the third world.  It included talks from Brian Arbogast of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, on transforming sanitation; Sarah Chesemore, also of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, on the future of vaccine delivery; and Jan Flowers, research scientist and clinical faculty member at the University of Washington, on dissemination of health informatics programs in resource constrained settings.  They provide brief summaries of their work in today’s mini-cast.

 

APF 2017 mini-cast #2: Global Health Futures

 

2017 APF minicast#2 (YouTube): Global Health Futures

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The Future This Week: July 17, 2017

“The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to.”–Carl Sandburg

I don’t know about the moon, but when it comes to Mars, it does not appear that NASA will be doing much more than saying hello in the foreseeable future.  It seems there’s this little problem of money.  On the other hand, it’s full speed ahead to the lunar surface for at least one private enterprise.

Space Exploration and Technology–NASA has finally admitted what experts have been saying for some time.  It does not have enough money to land astronauts on Mars.  They could get astronauts there and orbit, but not land.  So I suppose they could say hello.

Moon Express is full speed ahead on its own ambitious space project.  They recently announced plans to launch a series of robotic lunar mining missions, the third of which will bring back samples from the surface in 2020.  The company is racing four other enterprises as finalists for the Lunar X Prize of $20 milllion, which will be awarded to the first private venture to land a rover on the moon and send back high definition pictures.

eCommerce/Retailing– According to retail guru Brittain Ladd,  Amazon could become the largest U.S. grocery retailer by 2030, if their proposed takeover of Whole Foods goes through.   Ladd predicts Amazon will pass U. S. #2 retailer Kroger by 2025 and take over the top spot from Walmart sometime between 2027 and 2030.

Electric Cars–The greatest roadblock to massive roll out of electric cars may not be infrastructure, but batteries.  Volkswagon, says that as many as 40 new giga-factories may be needed to meet global demand by 2025.

Transhumanism/Brain interface–DARPA has awarded a contract to six organizations, to be led by the University of California, Berkeley, to develop implantable interfaces that could transmit images and sound directly into the brain.  The aim is to compensate for natural visual or hearing loss.  (Reference back: in Seeking Delphi™ podcast #10, on the future of cinema and digital entertainment, film maker Steven Katz discussed this possibility.)

CRISPR/genetic editing–A team of researchers from Harvard and MIT are casting doubt on an earlier study that found that CRISPR/Cas9 gene edits could introduce unexpected mutations.  The original study was done by Columbia University.  It should be noted, however,  that the Broad Institute, a joint venture of Harvard and MIT, is in a pitched patent battle with the University of California, Berkeley, for rights to various uses of the technology.   CRISPR gene editing has the potential to change the face of human health, and perhaps even enter the domain of trans-humanism.  See video embedded below.

In the meantime, researchers at UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley (no surprise there) say they have synthesized a protein they call anti-CRISPR which shut of mutations in CRISPR altered genes.

 

Robotics/Artificial Intelligence–It seems that a security robot has committed suicide in Washington, DC.  After sounding a security all-clear, it threw itself into a pool.

 

Coming Attractions:  I’ll be attending the annual meeting of the Association of Professional Futurists July 27-29 in Seattle.  More to come on that.

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

The Future This Week, April 2, 2017: Robot Job Apocalypse?

“The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.”–Erich Fromm

You’re fired!

Today’s lead story brings to mind a classic gag from Woody Allen’s early stand-up comic days.  He told the story of how his father came home from work one day to report that he had been laid off from his factory job; he was replaced by a 50-dollar part on the assembly line.  The sad thing was, his mother immediately ran out and bought one of those parts.

The notion that a manufacturing plant  could be comprised of 3D printers run and maintained by robots is mind boggling.  So who maintains the maintenance robots?  Maintenance maintenance robots?  And who maintains the maintenance maintenance robots….?

3D Printing/Automation–

Yes, Voodoo manufacturing has created the world’s first robot-run 3D printing plant.   It allows the humans to concentrate on the creative work while the robots do the menial work, 24/7.  So what happens when A.I. starts doing the creative work?

Writing in the futures blog on Futurizon,  Ian Pearson, Ph.D., takes the position that A.I. will actually create jobs, not take them.  Dr. Pearson will be my guest on the Seeking Delphi podcast, the week of April 10.

 

Miranda. Maybe this is where all those lost socks went?

Space/NASA–NASA astronauts made a big booboo when they lost an important part of the International Space Station during a spacewalk earlier this week.   One of four pieces of cloth shielding designed to protect the station from impacts by small bits of orbiting  space junk, broke free and floated away.  The astronauts were able to make the other three pieces make do.  That’s a good thing.  For all we know, the interplanetary lost and found could be on Miranda.

Next Big Future reports that there is a push within the Chinese government to triple spending on space science over the next several years.  It’s still far less than NASA spends, though. Projections through the year 2030 are provided.

Digital Media–Business Insider issued a report, along with a free slide presentation, on the future of TV and the digital media that is rapidly replacing it.  Most notable is a forecast that fully 75% of all mobile data will be video by 2022.  My guest next week will be filmmaker and author Steven Katz  to discuss the future of  cinema and the digital video entertainment it is competing with.

Cargo drone or killer whale?

Aviation/Drones– An automated  amphibious cargo drones the size of a Boeing 777 could take to the skies by 2020.  Daily Mail reports that the California company building them is about 70% complete on the first test model.  The final production model will have a carrying capacity of 200,000 pounds.

Biotech/Anti-Aging–PureTech Health has licensed a possible anti-aging compound from NovartisMIT Technology Review reported that Boston-based startup company .  The drug, everolimus has been shown in clinical trials to increase effectiveness of flu vaccines in elderly patients, suggesting that it effectively makes immune systems younger.  The substance is related to rapamycin, which has previously been shown to increase average life span in mice by as much as 25%.

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

Podcast #9, Ethics and Emerging Technologies

All attempts to adapt our ethical code to our situation in the technological age have failed.–Max Born 

When thinking about the future of technology, many envision one extreme or the other.  Apocalyptic collapse, or Utopian delight.  There is a broad in between, however, filled with ethical as well as existential conundrums.  In this episode of Seeking Delphi, I talk with James J. Hughes, director of The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies about a wide range of issues.  These include not just the ethics of if, how, and when to proceed with certain technologies, but the ethics of public policy in dealing with the potentially disruptive social and economic changes they trigger.  The future is not black and white–in case you hadn’t noticed–but infinite shades of gray. It’s also clouded by the rise of the right and the Trump administration.

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

 

 

Episode #9: Ethics and Emerging Technology

 

 

 

(YouTube slideshow)

 

James Hughes bio

Harvard scientists to launch ambitious geoengineering experiment

World Future Society 2017  conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, Oct 12-14 (details soon).

Elon Musk launches venture to link brains directly to computers

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The Future This Week, February 26, 2017

“I would like to die on Mars.  Just not on impact.”–Elon Musk

cropped-mars.jpg

Surprisingly, there is no new Elon Musk news this week.  In an even bigger surprise, Mars was in the news, but without Elon Musk–at least not by name.

Space Exploration–

  • The United Arab Emirates unveiled a 100-year goal to colonize Mars with 600,000 people.  The public announcement of the Mars 2017 Project came at a World Government meeting held in Dubai and was made in a speech by sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, in which he emphasized his nations long-term commitment to space exploration.

 

  • In plans that are much nearer in time and space, the Russian space agency Energia announced plans to send tourists to the moon by 2022.  They say they will sell nine places on its Soyuz space capsule, as soon as this spring, for flights as soon as 2022.  The craft that will loop around the moon before heading to the International Space Station.  This represents an aggressive upgrade from its previous plan,  originally projected to be launched in the early 2030’s.  No indication of price or selection process for tourists was given.  Start saving your Aeroflot frequent flyer miles now.

 

  • SpaceX (okay, that is an Elon Musk story, at least indirectly) announced a new target date of 2020 for landing a robotic probe on Mars.  This represents a setback from the original target of 2018.

Biotech–

  • Market Research Future released a study projecting that the global bioprinting market, estimated to have been worth $570 million in 2015, will grow at a compound annual rate of 25-27% through 2022.  At present, they estimate that North America holds a 40% share of this market.

 

Robotics–

  • The private sector is not the only place where workers are being replaced by AI and machines.  The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the U.S. military is in the process of developing and deploying automation to streamline its support operations and even reduce personnel on the front lines.  Some of the concepts include driverless combat vehicles and robotic frogmen.

 

Structural engineers may soon be able to determine if London Bridge is falling down--without actually visiting it.

Structural engineers may soon be able to determine if London Bridge is falling down–without actually visiting it.

Virtual Reality–

  • World Architecture News reported that a joint project of Microsoft and the University of Cambridge aims to enable structural engineers to inspect bridges using the Hololens virtual reality headset, rather than traveling in person to the sites.  This would be accomplished by creating a combining composite of photos taken locally by non-experts, allowing expert engineers to zoom in and out and take a virtual walk-around of a structure. The idea is to save the time and cost of travel.