News of The Future This Week: November 6, 2018

“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride”–John F. Kennedy.

I wonder how JFK would have felt about an electric bike ride.  Yes, an eBike.  They are coming, as everything, but everything, seems to be adding technology.

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, PlayerFM, or YouTube (audio with slide show) and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

 Future Transport–Cars, buses and trucks are going electric.  So why not bicycles? General Motors has revealed two models of electric bike it plans to market beginning next yearAnd they are conducting a contest to name them.

Borrrringgg

–While electric and self-driving cars are getting all the attention on the ground, and flying cars above the ground, Elon Musk keeps digging underground.  He announced that The Boring Company will preview its nearly completed transit tunnel in the L.A. suburb of Hawthorne on December 10, and plan to open for public rides soon thereafter.

Chinese tech giant Baidu is the latest company to announce entry into self-driving car development.  They plan to partner with Volvo and Chinese state automaker FAW.

–Is it a robot? Is it a transport? Is it supercart?  Electronics giant LG is developing a “smart” self-driving shopping cart it hopes to launch in Korea.  It will follow shoppers around and also help them to track their purchases.

Robotics/Automation–The good news?  Amazon will be hiring 100,000 seasonal employees for the holiday rush.  The bad news? That’s down from the 120,000 they hired last year.  Expanded use of automation and robotics appears to be the reason for the decline.

–Even as Amazon expands automation in its holiday fulfilment services, it’s about to get some serious competition for its automated Amazon Go stores.   Retail giant 7-Eleven has announced its intention to launch a cashier-less checkout system for its convenience stores.

_A Chinese startup company, Makeblock, has an interesting take on teaching students about robotics.  They produce LEGO-like do-it-yourself robot kits.

SpaceX floating helipad. Image: NASA

Space Commerce–Elon Musk can’t be in the news for only one technology.  His SpaceX company unveiled it’s floating helipad for space capsule recovery this week.

Asteroid mining company Planetary Resources has been acquired by blockchain company, ConsenSys.  Planetary Resources CEO, Chris Lewicki, who will join the new company, was interviewed on Seeking Delphi 2017 APF minicast #3 last year. (below)

 

Coming soon–a three-part Seeking Delphi™ podcast series on future driving–including episodes on self-driving cars and flying cars.

Seeking Delphi™ podcasts are available on iTunes, PlayerFM, or YouTube (audio with slide show) and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

News of The Future This Week: October 29, 2018

“It is not hard to understand modern art. If it hangs on a wall it’s a painting, and if you can walk around it it’s a sculpture.”–Tom Stoppard

The future tech news continues to be dominated by artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, and space commerce.   Some of it is exciting, some of it is disturbing and some of it–well, I’m not sure what to think.  When you read about an A.I. generated paiting fetching big bucks at auction, you just have to scratch your head.

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, PlayerFM, or YouTube (audio with slide show) and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Portrait of Edmund Bellamy, produced by A.I.

Artficial Intelligence–An A.I. generated painting has sold for $432,000 at auction.  Is this why A.I. developers get paid so much?  Christie’s had estimated a value of between $7,000 and $10,000–which on the surface of it seems excessive in itself.   Apparently, some people have more money than they know what to do with.

Automation/Robotics–A Swiss firm will build a factory in China that will use robots to build more robots.  You’d think there would be enough surplus labor available in China that it would be the last place to need such.

Automomous vehicles–Will self-driving cars be the solution to urban congestion?  The New York Times reports that a major urban planning guru is suggesting the opposite–it will make it worse.

–For better or for worse, Tesla continues to go full speed ahead toward self-driving vehicles.  A new software update will add several new capabilities to its autopilot feature.

Autonomous or not,  Tesla is finally ramping up to a level of mass production.  Next Big Future reports that they will pump out roughly 450,000 vehicles in 2019, and approach one million per year by 2022.

Musk’s moon base. When will the condos go on sale?

Space Commerce–It wouldn’t be News of The Future This Week without at least two  Elon Musk companies making headlines.  Musk tweeted over the weekend that SpaceX will have a moon base operational by 2025.

—  What would you do with a fiber so strong that a cubic centimeter of it could haul 160 elephants?  Maybe build a space elevator.   The Chinese team of researchers who developed such a material are thinking just that.

–Robots building robots may seem a bit odd in China,  but in space it makes sense.  Relativity Space, a company backed by Mark Cuban, is developing a 3-D printer that will spit out robots–and other needed devices–for space colonies on the moon, Mars or  asteroids.  They don’t expect an actual market until sometime in the 2020’s at the earliest.

Seeking Delphi™ podcasts are available on iTunes, PlayerFM, or YouTube (audio with slide show) and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

News of The Future This Week: July 8, 2018

“Artficial Intelligence will reach human levels by around 2029.”–Ray Kurzweil

“There is no reason and no way that a human mind can keep up with an artificial intelligence machine by 2035.”–Gray Scott

 

Make no mistake about it.  Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is still a pipe dream.  Nobody is exactly sure how to create  it.  But that doesn’t seem to discourage technology inventors like Ray Kurzweil and techno-philosophers like Gray Scott from their certainty that someone eventually will.  I remain agnostic on the question; my role is to report on it, not to predict it.  Who knows, maybe in a few years an A.I. will be able to predict itself.  What comes first, the chicken or the A.I.?

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, PlayerFM, or YouTube (audio with slide show) and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

 Artificial Intelligence–Is Ray Kurzweil’s prediction of human level A.I. by 2029 realistic?  This evaluation of the global A.I. race, by The Lifeboat Foundation, suggests it is.

source: Lifebooat Foundation

–The A.I. job apocalypse forecasts just keep on coming.  The latest to raise the red flag is hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio.  Speaking on CNBC this week, he said that A.I., while increasing productivity, it is also exacerbating the wealth gap and has become a national emergency.

According to The Economist, A.I. poses a unique threat of fake videos so realistic, that dead celebrities may essentially become immortal.   Elvis is alive and in the virtual building.

Sayonara, Ralph Kramden. image: Baidu

Chinese conglomerate, Baidu, has announced a new artificial intelligence chip that it intends to use in a number of applications.  The first such use will be in autonomous buses to be launched in Japan next year.

Researchers from UK firm, Wayve, have created a neural network A.I. that they claim can be taught to drive a car in 15-20 minutes.  Now if they could only train your teenager to avoid dinging the family sedan at the mall.

Biometrics–London’s trial of A.I. for facial recognition has been a complete bust.  Yet a 98% false positive I.D. rate has not deterred the enthusiasm of the city’s chief of police.

–In the meantime, Australia has launched its own facial scanning scheme.  It’s a trial to replace passports with facial recognition scans at the Sydney airport.  Let’s hope the accuracy is better than London’s.

Home, sweet (3D-printed) home.

3D printed house–We’ve been hearing about 3D printed housing for some time now.  For the first time, a multi-room 3D-printed house has been occupied in France. It took 54 hours to print and its creators claim a construction cost savings of 20% versus conventional methods.

Space Exploration–Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has announced intentions to land astronauts on the moon by 2023.  It’s a first step to what they hope will be the establishment of a permanent manned base.

Next Big Future reports that SpaceX is helping NASA stay out in front of China through 2030.  The key is getting their BFR off the ground several years sooner.

You can subscribe to Seeking Delphi™ podcasts on iTunes, PlayerFM, or YouTube (audio with slide show) and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

News of the Future This Week, March 28, 2018

 “A space station is a rangy monstrosity, a giant erector set built by a madman.”–Mary Roach

Oh, how jaded we’ve become.  Remember Skylab?  When it became the first orbiting space station to crash back to earth, away back in 1979, it provoked a wide range of bizarre cultural outcroppings, from Skylab crash parties to insurance against it landing on your head.  This time?  Not so much.  If the cable news channels can’t politicize it, they won’t give it much mention.

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, PlayerFM, or YouTube (audio with slide show) and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

Chinese Space Station: look out below!

Space–The Chinese space station will hurtle back to earth this weekend.  Time Magazine reports that you don’t have to worry–much–about it landing on you.

According to a paper by Gregory Matloff, published in Centauri Dreams, the combination of the SpaceX Falcom Heavy rocket, a Bigelow inflatable habitat, and huge solar sail, would be the perfect combination for manned expeditions to near earth objects in the 2020’s.

–NASA’s next Mars rover isn’t scheduled for launch until 2020.  In advance of that,  today they’re testing the parachute designed to deploy at supersonic speeds and drop it gently to the Martian surface.

James Webb telescope or Klingon battleship? Image Credit: NASA

Speaking of NASA, they’ve delayed the launch of the James Webb Space Telescopte–again.  The successor to Hubble is now scheduled for launch in May of 2020.   Anyone taking bets?

Electric Vehicles–Speaking of betting on late deployment, FedEx has apparently ordered 20 of Tesla’s new electric semi-trucks.  The scheduled roll out for these is 2019.  Based on Mr. Musk’s timetable track record, I’d set an over-under on actual delivery to Fedex at January 2021.

Artificial IntelligenceAccording to Mashable, NVIDIA’s new supercomputer will create A.I. that’s “terrifyingly smart.”  Well, maybe not–most experts believe we won’t AGI–artifiicial general intelligence–for least 15-30 years, if ever.  But even they don’t agree.

Automation/Future of Work–Hardly a week goes by without some new forecast of an automation driven job-killing apocolypse.  The latest one, from Bain Consulting, foresees 50% of current jobs eventually going away, and specifically forecasts that U.S. employers will need 20-25% fewer workers by 2030.

Extreme Bionics–In case you missed it, here’s the link to the final Seeking Delphi™ podcast from SXSW 2018, on Extreme Bionics: The Future of Human Ability.  It feature two bilateral amputees,  paralympian and actrees Aimee Mullins (Stranger Things, Unsane) and MIT Media lab associate professor, Hugh Herr.  (YouTube slide show link below).

You can subscribe to Seeking Delphi™ podcasts on iTunes, PlayerFM, or YouTube (audio with slide show) and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

SXSW 2018 Mini-cast #2: March 11, 2018; Can We Create Consciousness In A Machine?

 

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”–Albert Einstein

For anyone who has watched the HBO series Westworld,  the questions about creating machine consciousness run much deeper than “can we.”  These include,  should we?  How will we treat it?  How will it feel about its station as artificial life?  Will we be able to control it, and is that ethical?  And most profoundly,  how will that change what it means to be human?  The questions go beyond ethical to existential, and they were all addressed in the SXSW Intelligent Future track in a panel titled Can We Create Consciousness In A Machine? Not surprisingly, there were two techno-philosophers on the panel to explore these issues.  They are David Chalmers, with NYU’s Center for Brain an Mind Consciousness, and Susan Schneider, with the Department of Cognitive Sciences at the University of Connecticut.

In this Seeking Delphi™ minicast,  I speak with both of them about some of these issues.   The third panelist mentioned in the podcast is Allen Institute physicist, Kristoff Koch.

A reminder that this and all Seeking Delphi ™podcasts are available on iTunes, PlayerFM, and  YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook and on twitter @MarkSackler

David Chalmers

Susan Schneider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Edition SXSW 2018 mini-cast #2.

YouTube slide show of  Seeking Delphi™ SXSW 2018 minicast #2

The experts on the panel agreed…classical digital computers can’t create consciousness.  Neural networks? Neuromorphic chips?  And what about quantum computing?  My interview with whurley on quantum computing, immediately following his SXSW keynote on the subject, is below.

SXSW minicast #3: whurley on quantum computing

 

In case you missed it, the YouTube slide show link for SXSW 2018 minicast #1, on covering sessions on quantum computing and self-driving car safety, is below.

A reminder that this and all Seeking Delphi ™podcasts are available on iTunes, PlayerFM, and  YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook and on twitter @MarkSackler

SXSW 2018 Mini-cast #1: March 10, 2018

 As introduction to the podcast, some of this material is reprinted from a post earlier today.  Scroll down for the audio file or links to access it on iTunes or PlayerFM.

“The promise of autonomous vehicles is great.”–Dan Lipinski

“My opinion is that it’s a bridge too far to go to fully autonomous vehicles.”–Elon Musk

Wait–what?  The man who thinks he can send humans on a one way trip to colonize Mars within 10 years, thinks fully autonomous vehicles are out of our reach?  The  Elon Musk quote above is from 2013.  I would be surprised if he still feels that way–but who knows?

Segue to this morning, at the Intelligent Future interactive track at SXSW 2018 in Austin, TX.  Nobody on the panel entitled “Who takes the wheel on self-driving car safety” suggested we won’t get there.  But there was plenty of caution  on how, how fast, and how far we go in doing so.

Most notable were comments by Andrew Reimer of MIT.  He foresaw a gap of 50-100 years before fully autonomous cars–no human intervention–take over the lion’s share of driving, globally.  His issues were not just technical; they included trust, complexity, infrastructure and good old fashioned habit.  He was certain that manual driving would probably never  completely go away.  He sighted the example of a high end sports car owners wanting the enjoyment of driving.

“It might just be hobbyists,” he said, but made it clear that in some shape or form, the human factor is likely to survive for a very long time.

 

Quantum Computing

A session on “Quantum Computing: Science Fiction to Science Fact,” was somewhat misnamed.  While the history of its theoretical origins were recounted by D-Wave’s Bo Ewald, the session really focused on the current trends and developments leading toward a 10-year or so future horizon.

Bo Ewald talks about meeting Richard Feynman

Ewald recounted how iconic physicist Richard Feynman first imagined quantum computing in 1981, published the first paper on it in 1982,  and gave a talk on it at Los Alamos in 1983.  Ewald was head of computing at Los Alamos in 1983 and met Feynman at that talk.  Sheldon Cooper, eat your heart out.

Humanizing Autonomy

A sessiojn autonomous systems covered much of the same ground that was addressed in Seeking Delphi podcasts with Richard Yonck (#12) and John C. Havens (#17).   last year.  But one of the presenters, Liesl Yearsly of Akin, had an interesting means of illustrating how the material will affect us.

SXSW Minicast #1, March 10, 2018

YouTube slide show of SXSW 2018 Mini-cast #1

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.

 

 

 

SXSW 2018–Saturday Morning, March 10

“The promise of autonomous vehicles is great.”–Dan Lipinski

“My opinion is that it’s a bridge too far to go to fully autonomous vehicles.”–Elon Musk

Wait–what?  The man who thinks he can send humans on a one way trip to colonize Mars within 10 years, thinks fully autonomous vehicles are out of our reach?  The  Elon Musk quote above is from 2013.  I would be surprised if he still feels that way–but who knows?

Bryan Reimer of MIT, speaking at panel “Who takes the wheel on self-driving car safety.” SXSW 2018

Segue to this morning, at the Intelligent Future interactive track at SXSW 2018 in Austin, TX.  Nobody on the panel entitled “Who takes the wheel on self-driving car safety” suggested we won’t get there.  But there was plenty of caution  on how, how fast, and how far we go in doing so.

Most notable were comments by Andrew Reimer of MIT.  He foresaw a gap of 50-100 years before fully autonomous cars–no human intervention–take over the lion’s share of driving, globally.  His issues were not just technical; they included trust, complexity, infrastructure and good old fashioned habit.  He was certain that manual driving would probably never  completely go away.  He sighted the example of a high end sports car owners wanting the enjoyment of driving.

“It might just be hobbyists,” he said, but made it clear that in some shape or form, the human factor is likely to survive for a very long time.

As for the issue of safety,  Cathy Chase of  Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety cited three critical areas of consideration to make self-driving car safety standard.  The first is a morass of no fewer than 400 different laws that could be enacted–now–to make all driving safer.  As an example, she  mentioned automatic emergency breaking.  Today it’s mostly only found as a feature in semi-autonomous luxury vehicles. To make it as standard as seat belts would require federal regulation.  Second is the need for a shift in public attitudes; there needs to be reassurance.  A majority of the public–at least in the US–does not yet trust self-driving cars.**  The third is to avoid issue amnesia.  In a rush to mainstream autonomous driving, congress could pass enabling laws prematurely, before all technical and regulatory issue are resolved.

**My two cents on the issue of trust.  To better understand why there is mistrust, consider the cognitive bias that Nobel economics laureate Daniel Kahneman calls “what you see is all there is.” or WYSIATI.  When one Tesla on auto-pilot is involved in a fatal crash, it makes major national headlines.  It’s right in front of us.  Yet, over 100 in the US die every day in auto accidents caused by human error.  Unless a celebrity is involved, none of them make news beyond their local area.  Nobody pays attention unless they are directly affected.  Statistically, at some point, self-driving vehicles are likely to be far safer than human-driven.  But as long as the autonomous accidents make the big news,  the public may not perceive them as safe.

Quantum Computing

A session on “Quantum Computing: Science Fiction to Science Fact,” was somewhat misnamed.  While the history of its theoretical origins were recounted by D-Wave’s Bo Ewald, the session really focused on the current trends and developments leading toward a 10-year or so future horizon.

Bo Ewald talks about meeting Richard Feynman

Ewald recounted how iconic physicist Richard Feynman first imagined quantum computing in 1981, published the first paper on it in 1982,  and gave a talk on it at Los Alamos in 1983.  Ewald was head of computing at Los Alamos in 1983 and met Feynman at that talk.  Sheldon Cooper, eat your heart out.

Ewald repeated this story for me in a brief interview which should be available as part of a Seeking Delphi™ minicast later this evening.  I also asked him about the notion that we really don’t know for sure everything that quantum computing will be able to do.  He agreed.

“For the past ten years, most of the discussion has been about quantum cryptography, ” had said. “this has nothing to do with what Feinman was talking about.   He was interested in modeling nature.”  He cited material sciences and system optimizations as areas of great promise for the future.

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.