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.

 

 

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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.