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 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).

 

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Podcast #12: Artificial Emotional Intelligence

“Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.”–Roger Ebert

In episode #11, futurist Ian Pearson spoke to his assertion that artificial intelligence will create jobs.  One of the main reasons for this, he believes, will be the need to provide an emotional human interface between A.I. and its intended beneficiaries, be they patients, consumers, or business clients.  But the field of affective computing is rapidly developing artificial intelligence that can read and respond to human emotion.  They are systems with emotional intelligence.   In episode #12, I talk with author Richard Yonck.  His new book,  Heart of the Machine, provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of development in emotional A.I.,  while providing cogent scenarios projecting where it might lead us in the future.

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.

 

 

 

 

Podcast #12: Artificial Emotional Intelligence

 

You Tube Slide Show of Episode #12

Richard Yonck’s background on Intelligent-Future.com

Heart of The Machine on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Ray Kurzweil’s review of Heart of The Machine in the New York Times.

News items:

Atlanta sets goal to run on 100% renewable energy by 2035.

SpaceX plans to begin launch of global network of internet providing satellites in 2019

University of Houston Master of Science in Foresight web page

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The Future This Week: April 30, 2017

“If the government regulates against use of drones or stem cells or artificial intelligence, all that means is that the work and the research leave the borders of that country and go someplace else.”–Peter Diamandis

 

Automation and artificial intelligence continue to be hot topics–and getting hotter.  I’ve heard more than one call to limit or ban them in the last week.  That won’t work, for the very reason Peter Diamandis states in the quote above.  There are over 200 countries in the world;  there is no global governance that can impose the same restrictions on all of them.  We have no choice but to proceed.  Proceed with caution, of course.  Proceed with our eyes open and with a close monitoring of the consequences.  But proceed we must.

Automation/artificial intelligence–Swedish company Wheelys announced the opening in Shanghai of an automated, app-controlled, convenience store  that will operate virtually staff-free.  After a successful mini-test in a small Swedish town, the new store will attempt proof-of-concept in a busy urban environment.

Google’s director of research,  Peter Norvig, said that he does not buy the doomsday scenarios of rampant, runaway artificial intelligence destroying mankind.  Speaking in an interview with CNBC, though, he did warn that massive workplace disruption is coming. “The pace may be so rapid as to create disruptions. We need to find ways to mitigate that,” he said.

Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly, writing in the online forum Backchannel, said that he thinks the advent of superhuman AI is a myth.

Elon Musk–It wouldn’t be The Future This Week without something from Elon.  He graced the annual TED talk conference and sat down to be interviewed by TED curator Chris Anderson to discuss his ambitious plans for Tesla, SpaceX, hyperloops and his new effort to build a network of highways under Los Angeles.

Musk, speaking in the same interview, said that one of his Tesla vehicles will make an autonomous trip from Los Angeles to New York by the end of this year.  The promise is that after the initial programming in of the destination, there will be no human intervention.

Mars/NASA–the space agency unveiled a multi-step plan to land astronauts on the red planet by 2033.Human spaceflight to Mars has been in NASA’s sites for years now–but until now there was no concrete plan.  That changed this past week when

 

The view from 2033

 

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Podcast #11: Will Artificial Intelligence Kill Your Job?

“By far, the greatest danger of Artificial Intelligence is that people conclude too early that they understand it.”–Eliezer Yudkowsky

One of the hottest topics in foresight today is artificial intelligence.  And while many of the most visible forward thinkers have been stressing over potential existential threats to all of humanity, there is a more mundane threat to all of us.  That would be our world of work.  As automation on the assembly line replaces more and more unskilled labor jobs,  there lies the looming threat of artificial intelligence taking on skilled, professional jobs.  Will A.I. kill your job?  Create you a new one? Both? Neither?  While the media is full of pessimism on this account, at least one prominent futurist is cautiously optimistic.  Author, speaker and blogger Ian Pearson, of Futurizon thinks that, at least in the short term, A.I. will create more jobs than it kills.  I talk to him about these views, as well as the longer range existential effects of A.I., in this week’s Seeking Delphi Podcast.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ian Pearson

 

 

Podcast #11: Will Artificial Intelligence Kill Your Job?

 

You Tube Slide Show of Episode #11

Ian Pearson’s blog post on A.I. and the future of work

News items:

Elon Musk’s Tesla to produce electric semi and pickup truck

European Space Agency warns on orbiting debris

Michael Abrash says full AR still 5-10 years away

Steve Wozniak on Google, Apple, and Facebook in 2075

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Podcast #6, Technology: The Good, The Bad and The Existential.

“We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology.”–Carl Sagan

Here Be Dragons, Science Technology and The Future of Humanity
by Olle Häggström

Technology.  We certainly do depend on it.   It does great things for us, but it also can annoy us and, indeed, has the potential to do us outright harm.  In this episode of Seeking Delphi, I talk to author Olle Häggström about some of the existential risks that technology may pose to humanity.  His book, Here Be Dragons, is a thorough examination of a wide ranging inventory of potential dangers, from the ones we currently know and worry about (climate change, nuclear war), to the ones that yet might be (bio terrorism, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence) ,and the ones Hollywood fantasizes about (alien invasion).  Olle is a professor of mathematics at Chalmers University of Technology in Göteborg, Sweden.  I called him there to conduct the interview for this episode.

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 #6, Technology: The Good, The Bad, and The Existential  25:41

(YouTube slideshow)

Bigelow Aerospace plans to orbit lunar space station by 2020.

Blue Origin planning a lunar delivery service, a la Amazon.

Lawrence Berkeley lab doubles the number of materials potentially useful for solar fuels

Volkswagon unveils Sedric, its entry into the self-driving vehicle market.  (It looks like a breadbox on wheels.)

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The Bleeding Edge

“Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.”–R. Buckminster Fuller

“Engage your mind before you shift your mouth into gear.”–Unknown

My father used to warn me about talking before thinking.   This definitely applies to blogging as well.  One should cogitate before pushing the “publish” button.

I said in a previous post that I would present two major types of articles herein,  but I didn’t think before pushing that button.  As it turns out, there will be three.  As previously promised, the first category of posts in the How to Think About The Future category will summarize basic methods, philosophies and general assumptions about foresight.

The second, category, The Future of…, will tackle the future of various domains of human endeavor, such as education, politics, environment, economy, healthcare and various subsets thereof.

The third category, the one I left out originally, is The Bleeding Edge, which will delve into critical emerging technologies that may potentially upend the established course of human activities, for better or for worse, or probably both.   Here are some of the hot topics to look forward to,  hopefully in the not-to-distant future.

Gene Editing–Last November, a New York Times Magazine article,  aptly titled The CRISPR Quandary, was even more aptly subtitled A new gene editing tool might create an ethical morass–or it might make revising nature seem natural.  As this ground-breaking technology is advancing far faster than the ethical and regulatory guidelines to control it, it is well on its way to doing both.

Artificial Intelligence/The Singularity–While CRISPR has so far escaped broad public scrutiny,  Artificial Intelligence certainly has not.  With warnings of the potential dangers of strong AI from the likes of Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk getting big play in the media,  even while Ray Kurzweil waxes almost poetic on the virtues of an A.I. singularity.  The controversies continues to grow.

Robotics–The combination of robotics and A.I. is rapidly accelerating, offering the potential for great convenience and efficiency, but also wholesale upheavals in the world of work.  Some pundits project that automation of various forms may obsolete up to 50% of all jobs in the near future.

3D Printing–No field of work is more susceptible to job loss due to automation than is manufacturing.   And while the progress of 3D printing has been much slower than some other technologies, it still holds out the promise of an eventual sea change in the world of fabrication–potentially breaking up major national and regional manufacturing plants into hundred of thousands of small local sites.  The skills to design and run 3D printing applications are specialized and very different from those of traditional manufacturing.

Nanotechnology–If ever there was a double-edged sword in technology, this is it.  While the most optimistic prognostications outlined by Eric Drexler in his landmark 1986 book, Engines of Creation, are still a distant pipe dream,  progress is being made.   And while those optimistic dreams envision a world of unlimited abundance on demand, the most pessimistic counter views see the potential for catastrophic human harm, either inadvertently or by intentional malice.  Kurt Vonnegut warned of these dangers as long ago as 1963 in his sci-fi classic Cat’s Cradle.

Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality–Poised to become a hot new consumer electronics category, Virtual Reality devices offer a wide range of very useful applications, from education, to training and entertainment.  But there are downsides, too.  Will some people get so addicted to it that they lose contact with actual reality?  And at least one futurist has forecast a huge market for virtual reality porn.  If you’re not familiar with the concept of teledildonics, well, you might be in for a shock.

Blockchain–The shared public ledger technology that enables Bitcoin cryptocurrency is rapidly being advocated and to some extent deployed in a variety other domains including education, law and banking. It is massively distributed, open, and indelible.  But even this might have some downside.

The hope here is to cover these and many other emerging technology issues in the coming weeks and months.  Keep an eye out for an accompanying podcast as well, assuming I can get my technical act together.