The Future This Week: June 12, 2017

“Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn’t block traffic.” ― Dan Rather

Cars.  Self-driving cars. Electric cars.  Giga-factories to build electric cars.  There’s a traffic jam of car stories in The Future This Week.  Add a self-assembling moon base and loads of al energy projects and we’re good to go.

Electric Cars/Battery Technology–Two researchers from Purdue University have developed a battery technology that can refuel at a pump, in the same way cars currently refuel with gasoline.  The battery is recharged by replacing electrolytes, and thus could be serviced by technology similar to that used in current gas stations.

For those who prefer a more scifi approach to recharging electric vehicles, consider the patent that has been filed for to create a mobile electric car-recharging infrastructure using drones summoned by smart phone.  A patent does not mean it will actually happen though; I would not bet on it.

Almost on cue for the stories above, Tesla announced a wide range of ambitious expansion plans at its annual shareholder meeting.  Chief among these was a stated goal to eventually build 10-20 gigafactories, with a production capacity of between 12 and 24 million vehicles annually.  They’ll need some ambitious charging schemes like the ones mentioned above to make those number viable.   Actually, they might first want to concentrate on figuring out how the hell they can sell that many vehicles.

Self-Driving Cars–Honda announced a target date of 2025 for bringing fully self-driving cars to the marketplace.  They’ve set a date of 2020 for rolling out vehicles with an autonomous freeway driving option, as an interim step.

3D Printing/Lunar Base–Researchers at Carleton University, in Canada are developing a 3D printer that can replicate itself.  The device could ultimately be used to build a moon base in situ with a single seeding device using lunar materials to reproduce itself many-fold and then build structures.

Internet of Things–DARPA  is making progress toward the development of a near zero-power RF and sensor technology.  Their stated goal is to reduce Internet of Things power requirements by 1000-fold.

Aerospace–Lockheed-Martin says it is on pace to develop a hyper-sonic spy drone for deployment by sometime next year.  Powered by its SR-72 propulsion system, the device could attain speeds of up to 4600 MPH, for less than $1 Billion.  Such a bargain.

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The Future This Week: May 29, 2017

The marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation defines a robot as  “Your Plastic Pal Who’s Fun to Be With.”  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation as “a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.”–Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy

Danger, Will Robinson!

The early images of robots were crude.  There was Robby the Robot in the 1956 scifi classic Forbidden Planet. His cousin, Robot B-9, on the campy mid 1960’s TV series Lost In Space, made famous the the catchphrase “danger Will Robinson.”   They look like cartoons to us today, compared, for example, to the chillingly lifelike Ava from 2015’s Ex Machinaor the robots so real in HBO’s Westworldit’s hard to tell who’s a human and who’s an android.  But how close are we to an invasion of robots of all kinds?  Some of this week’s stories would have one believe we are on the cusp.

Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet

Robotics–The emirate of Dubai announced the roll out of the world’s first robotic policeman.   With it, they stated a goal of having these devices make up 25% of their security forces by 2030.  The robocop uses an array of cameras and sensors, along with sophisticated artificial intelligence, to go about its business.

Renewable Energy–The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) issued a report stating that solar energy jobs in the U.S. grew at a rate 17 times faster than the economy a whole in 2016.  The report also mentioned strong growth in wind industry jobs, and projected employment in that sector to grow by about 40% from 2016 to 2020, while jobs related to fossil fuels will continue to decline.

Aerospace–Boeing has been awarded the contract to build the experimental XS-1, or Phantom Express, for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).  The vehicle is designed as an autonomous rapid satellite launcher,  capable of being recycled and relaunched up to 10 times in 10 days.   It is slated for full operation by 2022.

Artificial Intelligence–A research team at NEMEC in Belgium has created a neuromorphic chip that mimics the activity of human neurons to compose music.  It does so by being exposed to various compositions and then copies the style.  It’s more practical future uses lie in medical sensors and personal electronics that learn the health and behavior of its users.

Urban Futures–Architect and urban futurist Cindy Frewen joined me for Seeking Delphi™ podcast #13 in a discussion of the urban landscape of the future. Watch and listen to the YouTube slide show or subscribe via any of the links below it.

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 15, 2017

“‘Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”–Douglas Adams

If Douglas Adams were still alive today, he might be pleased to find that little yellow sun getting more and more regard every year.  Solar industry jobs grew at a rate 12 times faster than that of overall economy in 2016.  Solar panel installer was the single fastest growing job description in the U.S. between 2012 and 2016.  More respect for the sun, please.

Clean/ renewable energy– According to a report in Business Insider, findings by the Global Alliance of Solar Energy Research Institutes suggest that improved solar cell efficiency  and cheaper storage batteries will allow solar to surpass traditional fossil fuel production in cost-effectiveness by 2020.  Further, the report states that the entire electrical grid, as it now stands, may become obsolete by 2030 due to widespread localized production.

Biotech–A 24-year old doctoral student from Oxford University has created a prototype for an artificial retina.  It is thought to potentially be an improvement over the artificial retina that was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2013.  It represents the first use of synthetic tissue and is seen as possibly revolutionizing the bionic implant industry.

Jeff Boeke, one of the lead scientists in the Human Genome Project-Write (GP-Write), thinks that human genes will be able to be created synthetically within 4-5 years.  Boeke, who is director of the Institute for Systems Genetics at New York University, was speaking at a recent meeting of 250 genomics researchers and bioethicists  in New York.

Flying Cars–Toyota has entered the race to build flying cars.  They are backing a project called Skydrive,  which is developing a vehicle that can fly at 100kph (62mph) at a height of 33 feet.  They are hoping to commercialize it in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Robotics–If your worried about losing your job to a robot, consider the problem Japan has.  Their shrinking workforce is forcing firms to replace workers with robots.  So reports Daily Mail.com.

Augmented Reality (AR)–Cirque de Soleil has partnered with Microsoft to use its Hololens augmented reality device to visualize stage setups and choreography.  The technology was unveiled onstage at the recent Microsoft Build developers conference.

 

 

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

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, 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.

 

 

Podcast #8: Inventing The Local Future

“The best way to predict your future is to create it.”–Abraham Lincoln

“Think globally, act locally.”–Variously attributed

If you’ve never heard the phrase, “think globally, act locally,”  you’ve probably been living under a rock.  It’s origin is murky, but the concept is best attributed to Scottish town planner Patrick Geddes, and his 1915 book, Cities in Evolution.   100 years later,  Neil Richardson and Rick Smyre have written the 21st century blueprint for Communities of the Future, in their 2016 volume, Preparing for a World That Doesn’t Exist–Yet.  In my Seeking Delphi podcast interview with Neil Richardson,  we discuss many of the bold ideas in the book, including the authors’ call for enabling what they call a “second enlightenment.”   We also discuss three key points in the book–terms the authors coined–master capacity builder,  polycentric democracy and creative molecular economy.  Previous podcast episodes of Seeking Delphi have showcased technological quantum leaps that have the potential to cause radical upheaval of civilization.  Authors Richardson and Smyre point the way for small to medium organizations and communities to deal with it–to embrace, use, and grow with it.    A means to invent the local future.

Links to relevant stories and organizations 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.  The YouTube video of Robot’s Delight is embedded below.

 

 

 

Episode #8: Inventing The Local Future 28:50

 

 

 

(YouTube slideshow)

Preparing For A World That Doesn’t Exist–Yet, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Emergent Action

Communities of The Future

European biocomputing project

India, China and Japan to increase coal usage through the 2020’s.

Facebook anti-suicide project

 

 

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Short Fiction: A Life Pod at Riverton

Here is a fascinating question for those who fear the apocalypse. Can there be a post-collapse world that might not be so bad? In this short piece of fiction, my University of Houston foresight colleague, Eric Kingsbury, suggests a future transformation that might not be so bad. It’s re-blogged from his site, http://www.kiteba.com

Kiteba: A Futurist Blog and Resource

Speculative fiction has always been a great way to imagine the future. The following is a short climate-related piece I wrote.

A Life Pod at Riverton

“When we look at biological analogues,” Jane began, lifting the cover off the evap system and dropping to one knee, “we see the many ways in which large organisms are vulnerable when climate push comes to climate shove.”

The sun hovered in an infinite sky, bright, blanching out any atmospheric color. It was spring, and the air was warming, with a sweet sugar breeze.

Jane lifted a hand to shadow her eyes.

“Elephants, lions, cows, all the big mammals,” she said, then gestured in the direction of several grassy mounds that rose from the prairie. “Too big, too slow, too pack-oriented. Vulnerable.”

Then, she reached into the evap unit and pulled out a length of rotten rubber hose.

“So too all the networks dependent on…

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