The Future This Week: November 20, 2017

 “There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.” –George Carlin

Ah, the moon; so close, and yet so far away.  Has it really been almost fifty years since Neil Armstrong took his one small step for man?  Now, finally, the race is on to go back to our nearby celestial neighbor.  But in 1969, the only motivation was to win a race that was instigated by the cold war.  Now there is different driver in play.  It’s money;  many of the new players, in what is now a multi-way competition, are commercial ventures.

 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 or PlayerFM, and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

Space/Lunar explorationMoon Express has unveiled its lunar rover that’s due for a 2019 launch.  Described as an R2D2 lookalike, it would be the first commercial launch beyond earth orbit. The $20 million lunar X-Prize is hanging in the balance.

Yoda would be proud

China has announced plans to catch up to the US in space rocketry by the early 2020’s,  and a longer term goal of developing nuclear powered space vehicles by 2045.

Next big future reports on the possible development of what’s being called an interlunar photonic railway.  It’s based on the the laser powered space sails being planned by Breakthrough Starshot.

Electric Vehicles–Tesla unveiled two new ambitious vehicles, slated to begin production in 2019.  Its big-rig truck has a projected single-charge range of 500 miles and acceleration capabilities far better than diesel powered semis.  The roadster will boast a 620-mile range and a 260 mph top speed.  The price for these indulgences?  I’m not asking; i know I can’t afford either one.

Zoom Zoom

–Elon Musk may be the pioneer in all-electric vehicles, but he’s certainly not alone.  Volkswagon plans to invest an immodest $40 Billion on electric car technology through 2022,  and Toyota is targeting 2020 for its launch of an EV in China.

Senescence/Anti-aging research–Harvard professor and serial biotech entrepreneur Dr. George Church is moving headlong towards enabling human aging reversal.  His Rejuvenate Bio firm plans to test an age reversal therapy in dogs in 2019, and if successful, followed by human trials in 2022.

Scientists at Northwestern University say they have found what may be the first anti-aging genetic mutation.  The genetic anomaly was found in a small Amish community in Indiana.  Individuals who possess the mutation experience longer than average lifespans.

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The Future This Week: October 2, 2017

“Mars is there, waiting to be reached.”–Buzz Aldrin

“I want to die on Mars.  Just not on impact.”–Elon Musk

Ah, Mars.  Indeed it does seem to be just sitting there for the taking.  And while I do appreciate Elon Musk’s desire not to die there on impact, I’m not so sure he cares whether you die there on impact.  Or here on Earth, either, for that matter.  His Mars ambitions are all over the news this week. As is usual for ‘ol Elon, they seem, well, over ambitious.

 While you’re reading about all this week’s out of this world news, don’t forget that you can subscribe to Seeking Delphi™ podcasts on iTunes or PlayerFM, and you can also follow us on Facebook.

Mars/rocketry–The latest SpaceX pronouncement from Elon Musk, is that he aims to put humans on Mars by 2024.  To attain that ambitious goal, he’s planning a new rocket design. It replaces the previous ITS (Interplanetary Transport System) design, with a new one called BFR.  What does BFR mean?  Well, its a BFD.

–Apparently Mars isn’t the only place Elon Musk wants to send you via his new BFR.   He also wants to use it for very fast air transport on Earth.   He might think it’s a good idea, but others not so much–as this article in The Verge suggests.

–Will we ever find Martians?  NASA’s Mars 2020 rover aims to look for them. Or rather, for the carbon signatures of past Martian microbes, using a super hot laser technology.

–Speaking of colonizing Mars, the United Arab Emirates has stated a goal of building a major metropolis on Mars within 100 years.  They plan to build a prototype right hear on Earth to test out the needed survival technologies. 

Home sweet Home–Mars habitat

Electric/next generation vehicles–Even as Elon Musk goes over the top with his rocketry ambitions, the bottom has, in a way, fallen out of his electric vehicle ambitions.   It turns out that only 260 new Model 3 Teslas were produced in third quarter, versus an original projection of at least 1,500.

–Elon isn’t the only one with an aggressive agenda for electric vehicles.  GM has announced they plan to introduce some 20 new all-electric models by 2023.

BMW says they will add Amazon’s Alexa to their 2018 models.  Great, it’s bad enough when that GPS voice gets all snarky on you; now there will be two of them.

Blockchain–Move over cryptocurrencies and other financial applications powered by blockchain.  The CDC wants to use the technology to track disease outbreaks for the betterment of public health.

–Speaking of cryptocurrency, South Korea has joined China in banning new ICO’s.  Initial Coin Offerings are the cryptocurrency equivalent of stock IPO’s.

Coming Attractions–On the next Seeking Delphi™ podcast, I’ll be speaking with Linda Groff, PhD, on her new book exploring options for future human evolution.  Yes, for perhaps the first time in history, there are options.

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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.

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The Future This Week: July 24, 2017

“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”–Elon Musk

“I want to die on Mars; just not on impact.”

I see a major quandary going forward with this feature.  Elon Musk quotes may run out before Elon Musk stories run out.  And Elon Musk stories will run out, like, never.  Though this week, a couple of the stories could easily be categorized as anti-Musk.

HyperloopElon Musk says The Boring Company has received verbal government go ahead to tunnel from New York to Washington, DC.  The hyperloop that would run within it could make the run in 29 minutes, vs. the 3+ hours by Amtrak, and could begin construction in as little than 4-6 months, he asserts.

More than one observer thinks Musk is blowing smoke on the rapid startup envisioned for the NY-DC loop.  Government approval for large scale infrastructure projects don’t get done in months; they take years or even decades.

Artists conception of an underground Hyperloop station

Robotics–The L. A. Times reports that a critical shortage of migrant farm workers in California is being met by a move to robotic crop pickers.  It still has a way to go, but after years of crackdown on illegal immigration, there appears to be no other way to go.

Artificial Intelligence–China wants to be the world leader in A.I. by 2030, reports the N.Y. Times. They project a domestic industry worth $150 billion yearly.  That’s a lot of yuan.

It’s not just government project proposals that Elon Musk doesn’t understand.  According to Rodney Brooks, the founding director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, Elon doesn’t know much about artificial intelligence, either.  Speaking in an interview with Tech Crunch, Brooks said that the one thing that Elon, and all of the other naysayers who warn of existential risks in A.I.,  have in common, is that none of them work in A.I.

Autonomous Vehicles–The Verge reports that buyers of autonomous vehicles could effectively face planned obsolescence as technical capabilities advance rapidly.  The last time I heard that phrase in regards to cars, it referred to the size and shape of tail fins, circa 1960.

1959 Chevy Impala tail fins. They got smaller in 1960 and again in 1961, and disappeared altogether in 1962. Planned obsolescence.

 

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The Future This Week: July 10, 2017

“Tesla is becoming a real car company.”–Elon Musk

The stock market has considered Tesla almost more than a car company for some time now.  If you are concerned about its valuation, take a look back at Seeking Delphi™ podcast #4 on Technology Investing for The Future, and the Gartner Hype Cycle.  Whatever happens–and whatever you believe–Tesla made the first major step towards becoming a real car company this past week.  The public will vote with their wallets.  Stay tuned.

Electric Cars–Elon Musk tweeted photos of the new mass market Tesla Model 3.  Production has begun and is targeted to ramp up to 20,000 vehicles per month by the end of the year.

Tesla Model 3

Volvo announced plans to become the first premium auto make to abandon all-gasoline cars.  By 2019, all of its vehicles will be either hybrids or all-electric.

Artificial Intelligence–Wired Magazine reports that banks are increasingly resorting to artificial intelligence to detect currency transfers by terrorist organizations.  In the past, simple logic algorithms had been used to detect suspicious transactions.  But the increasing use of micro-transfers by ISIS and other groups has fueled the need for more powerful tools.

Virtual Reality–Swedish company Starbreeze is pursuing an ambitious plan to launch arcade-style virtual reality parlors.   Starbreeze is pushing ahead despite many previous retail VR disappointments by other companies.  The current venture, in partnership with Acer, will place these entertainment centers in IMAX theaters.

Global Economy–The IMF’s latest projections say China’s purchasing power parity GDP will surpass that of the US, Germany and Japan combined by 2022.  Their per capita purchasing power parity GDP will still be far down the list of countries, and GDP in total nominal dollars will still trail the U.S.

Robotics/Automation– An Australian firm Fastbricks Robotics has announced that it is being backed by Caterpillar to develop a home-building robot.  Its Hadrain X can lay down 1,000 bricks and hour a construct an entire home in two days.

Science fiction author Will Mitchell discussed the prospects for deployment self-replicating machines, to aid in the exploitation of space, on Seeking Delphi™ podcast #14.

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The Future This Week: June 26, 2017

“We wanted flying cars.  Instead we got 140 characters.”–Peter Thiel

“Flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.”–Douglas Adams

 

The PAL-V flying car prototype

It appears that Peter Thiel might get his flying car by this time next year.  Oh, there’s just one problem though.  If you want one, you’ll have to be as rich as Peter Thiel, as they won’t exactly be cheap.  In fact  you can buy a single engine Cessna for much less.  In any case, let’s hope the drivers miss when they throw themselves at the ground.

No, they won’t look like this

Flying Cars–Dutch firm PAL-V has announced it tends to bring its 3-wheeled, 2-passenger gyro-copter to market by sometime next year. The vehicle is certified for both the air and the road, making it a true flying car.  You’d better start saving your pennies, though, as the first model will list for about $600,000.   But don’t worry, the firm will follow the launch up with a second model–a sport vehicle–targeted to sell for a mere $350,000.

Aerospace–The European Space Agency,  while still three years away from the first test flights for its planned space plane, says it hopes to privatize the vehicle by 2025.  They foresee Space Rideras it is called, offering commercial launches into low earth orbit for about $4,200.00 per pound.

Neural Networks/Quantum Computing–The US Air Force and IBM are collaborating on a venture to build the world’s first supercomputer to be based on human brain architecture.  The device, employing IBM’s True North neurosynaptic technology, will have the equivalent of five million neurons and 16 billion synapses.  In case you’re worried about being replaced, the human brain has about 100 billion neurons and one quadrillion ( 1015 ) synapses.

The University of Southern California (USC) will head a consortium of universities and private contractors to develop a quantum computer that will be 10,000 times faster than classical computers.  The Quantum Annelear will feature 100 qubit architecture and is targeted for operation by 2023.

Meanwhile, Google remains out front in quantum computing race.  It currently is testing a 20-qubit device, and hopes to have a 49-qubit processor operational before the end of 2017.

Design Innovation–A student from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has won the Radical Innovation Award for 2017, for his concept of a Hyperloop Hotel.  The idea would  employ modular container suites would detach and serve as luxury hotel rooms at each city stop.

All that’s needed is…a hyperloop.

 

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The Future This Week: June 19, 2017

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”–George Bernard Shaw

It will take more than a few quarters to buy your one-way ticket to Mars. http://www.anderetoons.com

If ever there was a definition of Shaw’s unreasonable man, in two short words, it would be: Elon Musk.  The man continues his unrelenting, unreasonable march toward a drastically different future for humanity.   This week, he revealed his plans for a $200,000 ticket to Mars.  Next week?  It’s bound to be something new.

Mars/Space Colonization–Elon Musk’s SpaceX published its Mars colonization plans online.   Through a variety of cost saving measures, they aim to bring down the cost of launching mass into space by some 5 million per cent–a $200,000 one-way ticket for colonists is what that initially adds up to.  They believe that a self-sustaining colony will need a population of at least 1 million people–an effort that will require thousands of spacecraft and several decades to accomplish.

Aerospace–According to Popular Science,  both the U.S. and China could be flying hypersonic (4000+ mph) aircraft by 2030.  The technology would revolutionize both civilian and military aviation and render current air and missile defense systems obsolete.

Environment/Agriculture–Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary, UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION, issued a statement warning that even while global food and water demand may as much as double by 2050, crop yields are in danger of falling due to desertification and land degradation.  She also forecast that up to 135 million people, worldwide, may be displaced by this trend over the coming decades.

Solar/Alternative Energy–A research team at Melbourne Institute of Technology has developed a paint that can generate hydrogen fuel.  They believe it could be commercialized within five years.  Maybe that Tesla won’t need a refueling station after all. (see video below)

Robotics/Military Technology–A report in The Daily Mail quotes a former British intelligence officer as forecasting a near term burgeoning of automated warfare.  He says the U.S. military may deploy more  robotic soldiers than human combatants by as soon as 2025.

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.