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.

 

 

 

News of the Future This Week, March 8, 2018

“Life is a DNA software system.”–Craig Ventner

You’ve heard it all, and lately you’re hearing it more.  The singularity is near.  Robots are going to take our jobs.  Robots are going to take over altogether.  Robots are even going to take over our sex lives.  Yadda yadda yadda.

I’m not saying it won’t happen;  I just think it’s farther away than the impression most people are getting from all the news.  What’s here right now is genetic editing, and with it, the possibility of directing human evolution. The very real and very near possibility of changing what it means to be human.  Read all the artificial intelligence and future of work articles–yes.  But keep your eye on the gene editing ball–it’s here right now.

Seeking Delphi™ will be at SXSW 2018 in Austin, TX through Wednesday of next week.  Stay tuned for updates on the Intelligent Future track.

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 

Gene editing/synthetic biology–A Japanese team has created a new genetic editing process so precise it can edit a single letter of DNA.  Called MhAX, it works by combining the gene editing tool CRISPR with a DNA repair technique.

–If you thought IBM was only about information technology and business processes, think again.  Researchers at the compnay  are making headway in the development of synthetic molecules that might be able to replace antibiotics in the fight against drug resistant infectious organisms.

The Future of Work–Speaking of artificial intelligence, maybe it is coming to take jobs.  But a new Gallup survey suggests that most Americans think it will take somebody else’s job–not theirs.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Autonomous Vehicles/Advanced Transportation–If job disruptive technology is at hand, can Luddism be far behind?  Apparently not, as recent attacks on self-driving vehicles in San Franscisco demonstrate.

–If cars are ever going to be fully autonomous, every aspect of the operation needs to be designed to be human-free.  Even headlights.  Engineers at Mercedes Benz have now done just that, they’ve designed smart, autonomous headlights.

Energy–Elon Musk has been rather quiet lately–for him–as far as these weekly reports go.  Not to worry; his latest idea is to equip 50,000 Australian homes with his Tesla solar roofing tiles and lithium ion batteries, to create a virtual power plant.

Tesla solar roofing tiles look like…well…roofing tiles.

Chinese Space Station–China’s failing space station is due to come crashing back into the atmosphere within the next few weeks.  Fear not, though.  Your own future probably doesn’t include getting conked on the head by the falling debris.  Experts have calculated your chances of being hit as a million times more remote than winning Powerball.   That equates to about one in three hundered trillion.

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.

News of the Future This Week, March 1, 2018

“The killer app is making calls.”–Steve Jobs

“For three days after death hair and finger nails continue to grow, but phone calls taper off.”–Johnny Carson.

Phone calls?  Who makes phone calls?  Texts, chats, messages…yes.  The only way I can get my daughter on the phone is to text her with a message to call me.  And  it helps to make it read like somebody died.  Anyway, the Mobile World Congress was this week.  I’d love to see the stats on calls vs. texts and miscellaneous messaging and chat apps among the attendees at the conference.

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 

Earth man phone home?

Mobile Telephony–If you think your cell service is bad at home, just imagine what it might be on the moon.  Vodaphone and Nokia have announced their intent to build a lunar mobile service initially intended to enable communication between robotic probes and their base station.

According to one pundit presenting at the MWC, mobile service providers are way behind the AI curve.  They could be using artificial intelligence to improve service, but so far have not done much.

–Looking for MWC highlights?  The Verge gives its take on the good, the bad, and the ugly at this year’s conference.

Impressive, even if they don’t fly

Autonomous Vehicles/Advanced Transport–Wherever humanity is going, Dubai seems determined to get there first.   And they are determined that their workers get there first, by commuting via proposed autonomous transport pods.

Tests of fully driverless cars may be hitting California highways as soon as next month.   Well, sort of–there will be no driver in the cars, but they will be linked to humans by remote control.

–If autonomous cars bomb out as a concept, it won’t be for lack of trying–or funding.  Toyota has announced a nearly $3 billion investment in the technology, which will employ 1,000 workers.

Artificial Intelligence–A new study says artificial intelligence can best lawyers in searching legal documents.   Other than lawyers themselves, this does not break anyone’s heart.

–Two top Microsoft executives make a stunning assertion in a new book.  In the future, they say, we will all have artificially intelligent, alter ego digital assistants.  Just what the world needs: a mechanical me.

Coming Soon–I’ll be representing Seeking Delphi™ and Age of Robots, covering the Intelligent Future track at SXSW in Austin, Texas, March 9-14.  Stay tuned for multiple podcasts and reports.

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

News of the Future This Week, February 21, 2018

“While technology is important, it’s what we do with it that truly matters.”–Muhammad Yunus

So what’s more important–technological breakthroughs or how we apply them?  The cloud is a technology;  blockchain is an application.

So where do the 10 breakthrough technologies that make up MIT Technology Review’s annual list for 2018 stand?  All over the place.  Many, if not all of them, might be described as either incremental improvements or advanced applications built on existing technologies.   Where is the line?  Tell me if you know.

Technology Breakthroughs–MIT Technology Review published its annual list of breakthrough technologies for 2018.  Not surprisingly, it’s chock full of digital and bio technologies.  Good list?  Somehow I feel there is more out there.

EM Drive. A propulsion system without propellant? Image credit: nasaspaceflight.com

Space/propulsion systems–Talk about your breakthrough technology: China claims to have perfected the EM drive.  You might not see it on that MIT list anytime soon, though.  It will take more than talk to convince the mainstream scientific community, which views the concept as an impossible violation of one of Newton’s third law of motion.  It claims to create thrust without a propellant.

–NASA isn’t sold on the EM drive, at least not yet.  But they are considering reviving a decades old plan to use nuclear powered rockets in an effort to send manned craft to Mars by the 2030’s.

Energy/Transportation–BP is forecasting a peak in oil and gas demand by 2040. It sees the mass emergence of self-driving electric vehicles as the main cause.  Considering their vested interest, they may be ignoring the possibility of a more rapid drop off.

Bored in Space?

Space Commerce/Tourism–Hotel magnate Robert Bigelow, also  CEO of Bigelow Aerospace, has now formed a new enterprise, Bigelow Space.  One of his proposed projects is to launch an inflatable orbiting space hotel by 2021.  I’m just wondering what one would do up there, other than float around in microgravity.  Maybe binge watch episodes of the Lost In Space reboot?

Aerospace/Advanced Transportation–A Chinese team has announced the design of a hypersonic jet that could make the trip from Beijing to New York in as little as two hours.  If feasible, it could upstage the planned 2020 test flight of a new Lockheed jet which aims to make the trip in 7 hours.  There is no announced timetable for building and testing the Chinese craft.

Electric Vehicles–It might not be as sexy as a 6,000kph jet;  but Volkswagon has provided a teaser preview of its proposed 112mph, 400+ mile range electric vehicle.

Coming Attractions–Seeking Delphi,™ the podcast, will return in March, featuring interviews with Roberto Sacarro on social robotics, and Jerome Glenn, on The Millennium Project’s 19th State of the Future publication.  We’ll also feature some on the spot interviews from the Intelligen Future tracks at the 2018 SXSW conference from Austin, Texas.

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 

 

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.