The Future This Week: June 19, 2017

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”–George Bernard Shaw

It will take more than a few quarters to buy your one-way ticket to Mars. http://www.anderetoons.com

If ever there was a definition of Shaw’s unreasonable man, in two short words, it would be: Elon Musk.  The man continues his unrelenting, unreasonable march toward a drastically different future for humanity.   This week, he revealed his plans for a $200,000 ticket to Mars.  Next week?  It’s bound to be something new.

Mars/Space Colonization–Elon Musk’s SpaceX published its Mars colonization plans online.   Through a variety of cost saving measures, they aim to bring down the cost of launching mass into space by some 5 million per cent–a $200,000 one-way ticket for colonists is what that initially adds up to.  They believe that a self-sustaining colony will need a population of at least 1 million people–an effort that will require thousands of spacecraft and several decades to accomplish.

Aerospace–According to Popular Science,  both the U.S. and China could be flying hypersonic (4000+ mph) aircraft by 2030.  The technology would revolutionize both civilian and military aviation and render current air and missile defense systems obsolete.

Environment/Agriculture–Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary, UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION, issued a statement warning that even while global food and water demand may as much as double by 2050, crop yields are in danger of falling due to desertification and land degradation.  She also forecast that up to 135 million people, worldwide, may be displaced by this trend over the coming decades.

Solar/Alternative Energy–A research team at Melbourne Institute of Technology has developed a paint that can generate hydrogen fuel.  They believe it could be commercialized within five years.  Maybe that Tesla won’t need a refueling station after all. (see video below)

Robotics/Military Technology–A report in The Daily Mail quotes a former British intelligence officer as forecasting a near term burgeoning of automated warfare.  He says the U.S. military may deploy more  robotic soldiers than human combatants by as soon as 2025.

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

The Future This Week: June 12, 2017

“Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn’t block traffic.” ― Dan Rather

Cars.  Self-driving cars. Electric cars.  Giga-factories to build electric cars.  There’s a traffic jam of car stories in The Future This Week.  Add a self-assembling moon base and loads of al energy projects and we’re good to go.

Electric Cars/Battery Technology–Two researchers from Purdue University have developed a battery technology that can refuel at a pump, in the same way cars currently refuel with gasoline.  The battery is recharged by replacing electrolytes, and thus could be serviced by technology similar to that used in current gas stations.

For those who prefer a more scifi approach to recharging electric vehicles, consider the patent that has been filed for to create a mobile electric car-recharging infrastructure using drones summoned by smart phone.  A patent does not mean it will actually happen though; I would not bet on it.

Almost on cue for the stories above, Tesla announced a wide range of ambitious expansion plans at its annual shareholder meeting.  Chief among these was a stated goal to eventually build 10-20 gigafactories, with a production capacity of between 12 and 24 million vehicles annually.  They’ll need some ambitious charging schemes like the ones mentioned above to make those number viable.   Actually, they might first want to concentrate on figuring out how the hell they can sell that many vehicles.

Self-Driving Cars–Honda announced a target date of 2025 for bringing fully self-driving cars to the marketplace.  They’ve set a date of 2020 for rolling out vehicles with an autonomous freeway driving option, as an interim step.

3D Printing/Lunar Base–Researchers at Carleton University, in Canada are developing a 3D printer that can replicate itself.  The device could ultimately be used to build a moon base in situ with a single seeding device using lunar materials to reproduce itself many-fold and then build structures.

Internet of Things–DARPA  is making progress toward the development of a near zero-power RF and sensor technology.  Their stated goal is to reduce Internet of Things power requirements by 1000-fold.

Aerospace–Lockheed-Martin says it is on pace to develop a hyper-sonic spy drone for deployment by sometime next year.  Powered by its SR-72 propulsion system, the device could attain speeds of up to 4600 MPH, for less than $1 Billion.  Such a bargain.

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The Future This Week: May 29, 2017

The marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation defines a robot as  “Your Plastic Pal Who’s Fun to Be With.”  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation as “a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.”–Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy

Danger, Will Robinson!

The early images of robots were crude.  There was Robby the Robot in the 1956 scifi classic Forbidden Planet. His cousin, Robot B-9, on the campy mid 1960’s TV series Lost In Space, made famous the the catchphrase “danger Will Robinson.”   They look like cartoons to us today, compared, for example, to the chillingly lifelike Ava from 2015’s Ex Machinaor the robots so real in HBO’s Westworldit’s hard to tell who’s a human and who’s an android.  But how close are we to an invasion of robots of all kinds?  Some of this week’s stories would have one believe we are on the cusp.

Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet

Robotics–The emirate of Dubai announced the roll out of the world’s first robotic policeman.   With it, they stated a goal of having these devices make up 25% of their security forces by 2030.  The robocop uses an array of cameras and sensors, along with sophisticated artificial intelligence, to go about its business.

Renewable Energy–The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) issued a report stating that solar energy jobs in the U.S. grew at a rate 17 times faster than the economy a whole in 2016.  The report also mentioned strong growth in wind industry jobs, and projected employment in that sector to grow by about 40% from 2016 to 2020, while jobs related to fossil fuels will continue to decline.

Aerospace–Boeing has been awarded the contract to build the experimental XS-1, or Phantom Express, for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).  The vehicle is designed as an autonomous rapid satellite launcher,  capable of being recycled and relaunched up to 10 times in 10 days.   It is slated for full operation by 2022.

Artificial Intelligence–A research team at NEMEC in Belgium has created a neuromorphic chip that mimics the activity of human neurons to compose music.  It does so by being exposed to various compositions and then copies the style.  It’s more practical future uses lie in medical sensors and personal electronics that learn the health and behavior of its users.

Urban Futures–Architect and urban futurist Cindy Frewen joined me for Seeking Delphi™ podcast #13 in a discussion of the urban landscape of the future. Watch and listen to the YouTube slide show or subscribe via any of the links below it.

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

Podcast #13: The Urban Landscape Of The Future

“All cities are mad, but the madness is gallant. All cities are beautiful, but the beauty is grim.”–Christopher Morley

A Jetsons future?

Where will you live in 2050? What will the cities of the future look like?  Tomorrowland? The Jetsons? Waterworld?  Maybe they will look pretty much the same, but feel very much different.  To sort out some of the possible scenarios, I sought out an expert on the urban landscape of the future.  Cindy Frewen, Ph. D., is an architect and an adjunct professor in the University of Houston’s graduate foresight program.  She designs near-term urban futures, and constructs scenarios for possible longer term futures.

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

 

Cindy Frewen 
Image credit: Kansas City Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast #13: The Urban Landscape Of The Future

You Tube Slide Show of Episode #13

Cindy Frewen bio on Futurist.com

News items:

DARPA XS-1 space plane

Attacking Cancer with CRISPR gene editing

Music-making neuromorphic chip

World’s first robotic cop deployed in Dubai

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The Future This Week: May 22, 2017

“Technology… is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.”–Carrie Snow

Or, as the saying goes, technology is great when it works.  Will artificial intelligence make it work smarter? Faster? More reliably?  Or might it just give us more headaches?  We’ll find out soon enough, as we careen towards an AI-dominated future.

Artificial Intelligence– Not to be left out of any technology category, Elon Musk, via his OpenAI non-profit, has revealed an AI robotic system that can learn a task after viewing just one demonstration.  The system uses two different neural networks, one for vision and one for imitation.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivered a mostly A.I. oriented keynote address at the company’s annual I/O event.  This included the revelation that it has developed an AI that is better at creating new AI systems than Google’s own software engineers.  Forbes article on the talk here.  Futurism.com article, including embedded YouTube video of the entire 2 hours speech, here.

Digital Images–A joint team of Chinese and Australian researchers has developed what is being called the world’s thinnest hologram.  It holds out the possibility of 3D images on tablet and smartphone screens.

Socioeconomic Fast Company reports that it’s not just millennials struggling with college debt.   Increasingly, their baby boomer parents and grandparents are also saddled with crushing payments in support of their progeny. The long-term effect on the economy is unclear; but it can’t be good for consumer spending or the real estate market.

Internet/Social Media— The combination of virtual reality and social media might not be a good thing for ex-lovers.  The New Zealand Times reports a growing concern that increasingly realistic virtual reality porn could be used for revenge by spurned exes.

Renewable Energy–Swiss voters have struck a blow for clean energy.  They overwhelmingly backed a binding referendum to provide billions of dollars in subsidies for renewable energy,  while banning the construction of new nuclear plants.

Cindy Frewen

Urban Futures–Architect and urban futurist Cindy Frewen joins me in the next Seeking Delphi™ podcast for a discussion of the urban landscape of the future.  Look for it soon.

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

The Future This Week: May 15, 2017

“‘Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”–Douglas Adams

If Douglas Adams were still alive today, he might be pleased to find that little yellow sun getting more and more regard every year.  Solar industry jobs grew at a rate 12 times faster than that of overall economy in 2016.  Solar panel installer was the single fastest growing job description in the U.S. between 2012 and 2016.  More respect for the sun, please.

Clean/ renewable energy– According to a report in Business Insider, findings by the Global Alliance of Solar Energy Research Institutes suggest that improved solar cell efficiency  and cheaper storage batteries will allow solar to surpass traditional fossil fuel production in cost-effectiveness by 2020.  Further, the report states that the entire electrical grid, as it now stands, may become obsolete by 2030 due to widespread localized production.

Biotech–A 24-year old doctoral student from Oxford University has created a prototype for an artificial retina.  It is thought to potentially be an improvement over the artificial retina that was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2013.  It represents the first use of synthetic tissue and is seen as possibly revolutionizing the bionic implant industry.

Jeff Boeke, one of the lead scientists in the Human Genome Project-Write (GP-Write), thinks that human genes will be able to be created synthetically within 4-5 years.  Boeke, who is director of the Institute for Systems Genetics at New York University, was speaking at a recent meeting of 250 genomics researchers and bioethicists  in New York.

Flying Cars–Toyota has entered the race to build flying cars.  They are backing a project called Skydrive,  which is developing a vehicle that can fly at 100kph (62mph) at a height of 33 feet.  They are hoping to commercialize it in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Robotics–If your worried about losing your job to a robot, consider the problem Japan has.  Their shrinking workforce is forcing firms to replace workers with robots.  So reports Daily Mail.com.

Augmented Reality (AR)–Cirque de Soleil has partnered with Microsoft to use its Hololens augmented reality device to visualize stage setups and choreography.  The technology was unveiled onstage at the recent Microsoft Build developers conference.

 

 

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

The Future This Week: May 7, 2017 (week of)

“I feel like an email cross-dresser – I use a Microsoft product on my Apple product to access my Google product.”–Brad Feld

Um, OK.  I’m guilty as charged, too, Brad  Feld.  In the 1960’s mixed marriages caused controversy.  In the 2010’s it’s mixed technology.  But make no mistake about it, whatever you use, the cloud is about to get a lot bigger–and higher.  With the SpaceX announcement of its initiative to launch thousands of internet beaming micro satellites beginning in 2019, those unread emails are literally going to be orbiting the earth.  That’s just the beginning, in The Future This Week.

Space–SpaceX revealed detailed plans  and a timetable for its forthcoming communication satellite constellation.  It now projects 2019 as the launch date for the first of thousands of micro-satellites aimed at providing global internet service by 2024.

Now its not just enough to go to the moon or to Mars.  The Japanese space agency announced ambitious plans this week to go to the moons of Mars.  The plan is to send a robotic lander to Phobos and Deimos and return with samples, sometime in the 2020’s.

Made in Space, Inc., the company behind the 3D printer currently on the International Space Station, unveiled a video of its latest out-of-this world manufacturing venture.  It’s a heavier duty 3D printer, called Archinaut, that will have the capability to build entire satellites and even space craft while in orbit. (see below)

Autonomous Vehicles–According to a report issued by the technology think-tank ReThinkX,  autonomous electric vehicles will dominate the automotive landscape by 2030.  The report projects that these vehicles will be responsible for fully 95% of all miles driven by that time.  Most other forecasters have foreseen a much slower transition to both all-electric and fully autonomous vehicles.

Transhumanism–A recent DARPA press release  outlines the expansion of its plans to “hack” the human brain.  The idea is to enable the downloading of training directly into the mind.

Internet/Social MediaFacebook announced plans to hire 3000 human (yes human!) content checkers globally.  Apparently policing its content with artificial intelligence for inappropriate,offensive and illegal material–including live murders and suicides–is not yet effective enough.

Scientist at the Univeristy of Munich have developed a technology to transmit holographic images over the internet.  A paper describing how the radiation from a wi-fi transmitter can be used to transmit 3-dimensional images of surrounding environment is available here.

Artificial Intelligence–In case you missed it, author and futurist Richard Yonck discussed his groundbreaking book, Heart of The Machine, with me on the latest Seeking Delphi™ podcast. (YouTube slide show below).

 

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