The Future This Week: September 11, 2017

“Automation is going to cause unemployment, and we need to prepare for it.”–Mark Cuban

Back in his early stand up days, Woody Allen had a joke that went something like this. My father came home from work one day and told us he had been laid off from his factory job.  He had been replaced on the assembly line by a $50 part.  The real tragedy of the situation was that my mother immediately went out and bought one of those parts.

Funny, yes.  But the disruption being caused in the workplace by automation and artificial intelligence is not so funny, particularly for the people on the losing end.

Automation/AI induced job loss or disruption–A report in London’s Daily Mail, suggests that we are nearing a tipping point for massive job disruption and loss caused by artificial intelligence and various other forms of automation.   While some critics of the employment doomsday scenarios suggest new jobs will be created to replace those lost, the report suggests, at best, there will be a period of painful adjustment.

Almost on cue, Futurism.com reported that another major Silicon Valley executive has come out in favor of Universal Basic Income.  Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, joined the ranks of other major tech leaders, including Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, in supporting the concept of providing everyone in society with an unconditional guaranteed income as insulation from tech-induced unemployment.  If you’re wondering how it could be funded, here are some suggestions.

Sharing economy– Services like Uber and Lyft are not exactly automation, but they are empowered by the technologies of the internet and smart phones.  Apropos to the two stories above, today’s New York Times reports on economic hardships inflicted on traditional cab drivers by the ride sharing apps.

China’s answer to Hyperloop

High speed transport--Move over Elon Musk, China has its own answer to his Hyperloop transport system.  China Aerospace Science and Industry announced the planned development of system using maglev technology and vacuum tubes to transport passengers at an astounding 2500 mph.

Meanwhile, India has jumped onto the Hyperloop bandwagon. Hyperloop Transportation Technologies announced it has signed a deal to explore building a system linking the cities of Vijaywada and Amaravati in southeast India. The U.S.-based company already has deals to explore building systems in South Korea, Slovakia and Abu Dhabi.

Autonomous Vehicles– Who says congress is always behind the technology curve.  This past week they passed a bill to help facilitate the development and dissemination of self-driving cars. Now if only they’d do something about high school biology students using $50 CRISPR gene editing kits.   Pardon the expression, but I guess the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Coming Attractions–I’ll be attending the Emotional AI summit, hosted by Affectiva at the MIT Media Lab this week.  Look for reports and a podcast soon thereafter.

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.

The Future This Week: August 28, 2017

 “Millions long for immortality who don’t know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”–Susan Ertz

Like it or not, anti-aging reasearch–the quest to slow, stop, or even reverse the aging process, has gone mainstream.  Several serious projects have been funded, animal and even human trials of age retarding pharmaceuticals have begun.  It isn’t just on the fringe, anymore.

Aging/rejuvenation therapy research– The Longevity Fund just completed its second round of capital raising, to the tune of $22 million US dollars.  It aims to invest in all manner of enterprises looking to boost human lifespan.  And it was founded by 23-year-old Laura Deming–she is certainly thinking ahead.

Electric Vehicles-The latest report on Tesla’s proposed new all-electric semi-truck, is that it will have a range of 200-300 miles.  They also assert that use of it’s auto-pilot feature could reduce crashes by up to 40%, though with the limited range it is not likely to make a significant dent (pardon the expression) in that rate any time soon.  The truck has been promised to be available as soon as next month.

Airline Travel–Qantas has set in motion a very tentative plan to launch the world’s longest regularly scheduled airline route.  They hope to begin service between Sydney and London by 2022.  There’s just one problem.  The key word is tentative–there is no current model airliner capable of a flying that far without refueling.  Qantas has thrown down the challenge to Boeing, Airbus, and others: develop one.

Flying Taxis–Speaking of aircraft manufacturer’s, Airbus intends to launch an urban, autonomous flying taxi service, and do it soon.  Worry no more about traffic jams on the ground–and let the FAA and other air transportation regulators worry about traffic jams in the sky.  Boeing says they will be flying by the end of this year.

Machine-brain Interface–The journal Science reports that engineers at Northeaster University have published a breakthrough study on miniaturized antennas.  The devices are 100-times smaller than any previously possible, and may be used to enable  implants in the brain and micro–medical devices, not to mention tiny consumer electronics.

Creative Artificial Intelligence–The world’s first music album,  composed and arranged by AI in collaboration with a human artist has been released by Amper Music.  The A.I. does almost everything except perform. That is left to popular internet artist Taryn Southern, backed by professional studio musicians. Southern wrote the lyrics and the vocal melody. See the YouTube video below.

Coming Attractions–The next Seeking Delphi™ podcast will feature an interview with Bloomlife CEO and co-founder Eric Dy.  The company’s health monitoring device that keeps tabs, simultaneously, on pregnant women and their unborn babies,  recently won an impressive innovation contest.

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.

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.

 

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 30, 2017

“If the government regulates against use of drones or stem cells or artificial intelligence, all that means is that the work and the research leave the borders of that country and go someplace else.”–Peter Diamandis

 

Automation and artificial intelligence continue to be hot topics–and getting hotter.  I’ve heard more than one call to limit or ban them in the last week.  That won’t work, for the very reason Peter Diamandis states in the quote above.  There are over 200 countries in the world;  there is no global governance that can impose the same restrictions on all of them.  We have no choice but to proceed.  Proceed with caution, of course.  Proceed with our eyes open and with a close monitoring of the consequences.  But proceed we must.

Automation/artificial intelligence–Swedish company Wheelys announced the opening in Shanghai of an automated, app-controlled, convenience store  that will operate virtually staff-free.  After a successful mini-test in a small Swedish town, the new store will attempt proof-of-concept in a busy urban environment.

Google’s director of research,  Peter Norvig, said that he does not buy the doomsday scenarios of rampant, runaway artificial intelligence destroying mankind.  Speaking in an interview with CNBC, though, he did warn that massive workplace disruption is coming. “The pace may be so rapid as to create disruptions. We need to find ways to mitigate that,” he said.

Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly, writing in the online forum Backchannel, said that he thinks the advent of superhuman AI is a myth.

Elon Musk–It wouldn’t be The Future This Week without something from Elon.  He graced the annual TED talk conference and sat down to be interviewed by TED curator Chris Anderson to discuss his ambitious plans for Tesla, SpaceX, hyperloops and his new effort to build a network of highways under Los Angeles.

Musk, speaking in the same interview, said that one of his Tesla vehicles will make an autonomous trip from Los Angeles to New York by the end of this year.  The promise is that after the initial programming in of the destination, there will be no human intervention.

Mars/NASA–the space agency unveiled a multi-step plan to land astronauts on the red planet by 2033.Human spaceflight to Mars has been in NASA’s sites for years now–but until now there was no concrete plan.  That changed this past week when

 

The view from 2033

 

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 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.