News of the Future This Week, January 24, 2018

“There are no right answers to wrong questions.”–Ursula K. Le Guin

Le Guin in 2004

This week’s future news is dedicated to the author of my favorite Science Fiction novel, Ursula Le Guin.  She died yesterday at age 88.   Her 1971 novel, The Lathe of Heaven, depicted a vision of a mildly dysfunctional Portland, Oregon, on the verge of a major apocalypse, at the turn of the 20th century.  But the real message, amidst the effects of chaos, complexity and unintended consequences, was “think globally, act locally.”  It is a must for anyone seriously interested in how our thoughts and actions create our future.

 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–We’ve heard it before; let’s hear it again.  Yet another pundit is forecasting huge job losses to artificial intelligence an autonomous vehicles.  In this case, fully 1/3 of all jobs by 2030.


–If the above isn’t vexing enough, The Verge reports that artificial intelligence will, as they put it, “supercharge surveillance.”  All those passive security cameras will, in effect, wake up and smell your location.

–Speaking of digital surveillance, reports that we are well on our way to having location tracking implants, a la a recent episode of Black Mirror.  They put the time frame as some time in the latter half of the 2030’s–or about 20 years from now.

–Artificial intelligence?  How about an artificial synapse?  MIT engineers have apparently created such a device, which could lead to brain-on-a-chip technology,

Automation–Amazon opened its first Amazon Go fully automated convenience store, in Seattle, Washington.  It uses sensors and cameras to track your movements and purchases, and charge you through an app on your smartphone.  And maybe creep you out, as well.

Cryptocurrency/Blockchain–One of the allures of cryptocurrency, for its users, is the ability to fly below government radar.  Unfortunately, that can mean money laundering, terrorism funding, and tax evasion.  India becomes the latest country to look into this, with reports it wants to tax cryptocurrency investments.

–Another appeal of cryptocurrency–and anything executed in a blockchain, for that matter–is security.  Well, maybe. According to  a new report from Ernst & Young, hackers have been stealing millions from ICO’s.

Space Travel/Colonization–If you think Mars colonization is ambitious, consider what Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp is proposing: floating balloon habitats in the upper atmosphere of Venus.  That sounds more like a prison colony than a “habitat” to me.


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The Future This Week: September 4, 2017

“Before we work on artificial intelligence why don’t we do something about natural stupidity?” —Steve Polyak

Is this our fate?

There is an ominous feeling in the air about artificial intelligence this week.  It seems to be everywhere, as in “all over the news.”  Elon Musk? We hear from him on the subject every week.  But now one Vladimir Putin has even weighed in.  Both Musk and Putin have dark warnings.  And Putin’s feels a lot like Littlefinger telling Ned Stark not to trust him. Oh, and don’t forget the Chinese, as they weigh in with a massive A.I. investment.  All this as Intel announces a staggering advance in A.I. hardware.

Artificial Intelligence– Elon Musk’s warning du jour on A.I. is that it will be the most likely cause of World War Three.  He’s not worried about North Korea; he thinks that’s just bluster.  The truly hair raising part of it is that he doesn’t so much think it will be a war over A.I. as it will be a war started  by A.I. that has been empowered to make that decision itself.  These conjectures came closely on the heels of Vladimir Putin’s assertion that whomever gains a dominant position in A.I. could rule the world.   He warned that it would be extremely dangerous for any one entity to gain a monopoly.

Cue the Chinese.  They have stated a desire to take a world-leading position in A.I.  by around 2030.  To that end, Chinese internet giant Baidu has teamed up with China Life, a state-owned financial company, to create a 7 Billion Yaun (~$1 Billion US) A.I. investment fund.  The aim is to invest in small private ventures with innovative technologies.

Back in the USA, Intel has announced a new A.I. accelerator that can process 1 Trillion Operations Per Second (TOP) per Watt.  Just what China and Russia are looking for?

Autonomous Vehicles–Ford and Dominoes Pizza have announced a joint venture to test an autonomous pizza delivery vehicle. (Image left).  As 55%of respondents in a recent Gartner survey found said they wouldn’t ride in a self-driving car, I’m wondering if they’d be OK with their pizza riding in one.


Please don’t deliver!

How about trusting your garbage to an autonomous vehicle?  Volvo is developing a self-driving garbage truck.  I hope delivery and pickup don’t get confused.

Cryptocurrency/blockchain–Major cryptocurrencies crashed by 20% over the past two trading days of last week.   Apparently China outlawing ICO’s and the SEC questioning their legality did not help things.  I still think they are basically digital tulip bulbs.

 Undaunted by this, six multi-national banks are joining an existing project, headed by UBS to launch their own cryptocurrency, designed for securely clearing large online transactions.  They are currently in talks with regulators on a projected late 2018 launch.

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.