The Future This Week: April 23, 2017

“Getting information off the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.”–Mitchell Kapor

This week, I feel like I’m trying to take a drink from an open fire hydrant.  There’s simply a flood of news from all the usual suspects: A.I., robotics, transhumanism, flying cars, AR, VR, gene editing.   Oh, don’t forget Elon Musk–he’s perpetually in the news, though he might have been upstaged by Neil DeGrasse Tyson this week.

Elon Musk–Full page ads–described by CNN as anti-Elon Musk–ran in the Sunday editions of several major news papers including the New York Times and Washington Post.  They were run by a silicon valley investor who is critical of Musk’s participation in the Trump business advisory council.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson–Timed to coincide with the national march for science day, Tyson released a statement warning that America faces pending collapse if it abandons the rational, empirical world of science. (video below)

 

Facebook F8 conference–Speaking at Facebook’s annual F8 conference, Michael Abrash, chief science officer of Oculus Research, said that AR glasses will be hotter than smartphones in five years.   Maybe he’s looking at the digital world through rose-colored glasses?

Meanwhile, at the same conference, Facebook executive Regina Dugan announced an ambitious project to enable direct brain to computer typing at 100 words per minute.  She asserted that, unlike Elon Musk’s neural lace, this will be a non-invasive process.  I can’t wait to be able to think-type “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy neuron.”

Genetic Editing/CRISPR–Feng Zhang, one of the co-inventors of the breakthrough CRISPR Cas/9 gene editing technique, has a new acronym for you biotech fans.   SHERLOCK.  It employs a relative of the Cas/9 protein designated Cas/13a and according to a paper published by Zhang and others in the journal Science, will be useful for rapid and cheap diagnosis of genetic disorders.

MiRo, the robotic dog

Robotics–The Daily Mail reported that researchers at the University of Sheffield, in England, have created a robotic dog that is designed to be a responsive companion for the isolated elderly.  The article, along with a video, is available here.

Flying Cars–German company Lilium Aviation previewed its electric-powered vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle. Essentially, a flying car. (video 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.

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, March 26, 2017–Live Forever, or Just Live Better?

“I think science has begun to demonstrate that aging is a disease. If it is, it can be cured.”–Tom Robbins
“I’m not afraid of death.  I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”–Woody Allen

Our time is limited. Or is it?

It seems as if many of the biggest players in science and digital industry are obsessed with slowing, stopping, or even reversing aging.  New stories appear every day, it seems.  And of course, David Wood’s comprehensive study of the issue, The Abolition of Aging, was the subject of the first two episodes of Seeking Delphi.  But an editorial in Wired Magazine suggests that the moguls of silicon valley are trying to solve the wrong problem. It asserts that they should be working to improve the quality of life, not the quantity.  There are good arguments both ways–reversing aging could greatly improve human health and cut costs drastically–the lions share of healthcare spending treats the diseases of aging.  What do you think?   The big stories this week:

Biotechnology/Aging Research–

  • A pair of breakthroughs, one from The University Ulm in Germany, the other from the University of Ulster in the UK, suggest means of using young blood cells to provide anti-aging properties.  The two studies are summarized in this article by Next Big Future.

 

 

  • Writing in Wired Magazine, Emily Dreyfus argued that huge investments in anti-aging  research by major silicon valley entrepreneurs is barking up the wrong biological tree.  She thinks they should be investing in better quality of life rather than increased quantity.

Autonomous Vehicles–

Social Robotics–

  • The world’s first social media robodog has been created by Jason Buzi.  Now we just need a robot veterinarian to take care of it. (See 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.