News of The Future This Week: April 24, 2019

“My opinion is it’s a bridge too far to go to fully autonomous vehicles.”–Elon Musk, 2013

“We’ll have a fleet of robo taxis by the end of next year.”–(paraphrased), Elon Musk, this week

Ah, you have to love Elon Musk. Or maybe not.  If he were a politician, the election opponents would be all over him for flip-flopping.  Ok, so we’ll allow him to change his mind in light of further technological developments.  The problem is, some pretty big names in field of autonomous vehicles don’t agree with him.  And as for his track record on Tesla promises…well, you know the drill.

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.

Autonomous Vehicles–Barely two weeks after Ford CEO Jim Hackett admitted that “the industry overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles,” Elon Musk shot back with a much rosier, prediction. He’s forecasting that Tesla will roll out a fleet of self-driving taxis by the end of next year, even as many other automotive executives are suggesting that 10 years is a far more realistic timeframe than one year.

–Tesla posted this video of an autonomous road trip (below)

Elon unveilled a Boring Company hyperloop test tunnel in California last year

Hyperloop/Boring Company–On another Elon Musk front, his The Boring Company made a major step towards a formal government approval of its first subterranean hyperloop transport system.  It filed a 505-page environmental assessment study on the impact of its proposed NY-Philly-Baltimore-DC underground transit loop.  Musk says an initial 16 tunnels for the route between Baltimore and D.C. could be completed in 15-23 months.  Judging by the number of state, local and federal agencies that have to sign off on the proposal, it’s likely to take a lot longer than that to get the needed approvals.

CRISPR/gene editing–One of the inventors of the gene editing process, CRISPR, has a strong message for us.  Jennifer Doudna says we’ll be eating CRISPR-edited foods within 5 years.

–On the other hand, Nature News reports that working with CRISPR-edited lab animals is proving to be a challenge. Key among those challenges is keeping them alive.

Space–China continues to ramp up its space efforts.  They plan to launch an asteroid-comet mission in 2022.  On a more disturbing front,  they are apparently using U.S. satellite technology to ramp up their global surveillance efforts.

Meanwhile, a more restrained NASA has assembled and tested it Mars 2020 rover.

Gig economy–According to this opinion piece in OneZero, the gig economy may be broadening the rich/poor gap.

Surveillance/Existential Risk.–Techno-philospher Nick Bostrom may be best known as a dyed-in-the wool transhumanist, and the man who first proffered the suggestion that all of us may living in an simulation.   Now–going one step farther than Stephen Hawking’s suggestion that we might need a global government to keep tabs on the existential risks of technology–Bostrom has suggested that global surveillance of every single human might be the only thing that can save us.

Seeking Delphi™ podcast/coming attractions:  John C. Havens on IEEE’s new volume, Ethically Alligned Design, laying out their proposed framework for the safe and beneficial development of A.I. and other automated systems.

Seeking Delphi™ podcasts are available on iTunes, PlayerFM, or YouTube (audio with slide show) and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

News of The Future This Week: October 4, 2018

“To me–old age is always ten years older than I am.”–Bernard Baruch

“Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.”–Mark Twain

Ah, yes.  I have attained the age at which I truly appreciate the comments of monsiuers Baruch and Twain.  And I really appreciate the efforts of those who aim to keep senescence–and dentures–indefinitely in the 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.

Anti-aging/rejuvenation–Researchers at the University of Minnesota claim to have discovered a compound that slows aging.  Well, at least in mice it does.

Several new videos have been posted from last month’s Translating Aging Research conference sponsored by the Life Extension Advocacy Foundation.  Aubrey de Grey (Seeking Delphi™ podcast #19) was one of the speakers.  His talk is linked below.

Artists conception: Lockheed lunar lander

Space/space commerce/NASA–Lockheed Martin has unveiled it’s proposed design for NASA’s next lunar lander.  It is huge–truly the Hummer of space vehicles.

–Any chance we’ll see a space elevator in the future?  Next Big Future says no time soon–if ever.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says his Blue Origin space venture is the most important work he is doing.  The reason?  We need to l lower the cost of launches to mine resources in space, and to lower the barrier of entry for space commerce entrepreneurship.

Future TransportHyperloop Transportation Technologies has unveiled the proposed design for its first passenger capsule.  They hope to have it ready by sometime next year, and eventually to transport passengers at up to 750mph.

Ford issued an industry-wide call to all those enterprises now developing self-driving automotive technology: the vehicles need to talk to each other.  To that end, they advocate an developing a standard communication language to share intent.

The future of construction?

Robotics–Are drywall installers the next workers to be replaced by automation?  If this video is to be believed, the answer is yes.

Seeking Delphi™ podcasts are available on iTunes, PlayerFM, or YouTube (audio with slide show) and you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook 

News of The Future This Week: May 18, 2018

“Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.”–Albert Schweitzer

 

Ah memory.  How fleeting and ephemeral–as well as inaccurate–it can be.  Apparently, now, it can be transferred or even implanted falsely.  Westworld may be closer than we think.

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 

Neuroscience/Memory–A team of UCLA scientists claims to have successfully transplanted memory from one snail to another.  I’m not exactly sure what the point is, but I hope the little buggers protected their ATM PIN numbers.

If fake news isn’t bad enough, it appears that UC Berkeley scientists have figured out how to implant fake memories in the human mind using holographic images.   While this could have constructive uses in physical therapy and psychotherapy, it’s also ripe for abuse.

Getting there? Hard. Staying there? Brutal.

Space Colonization–Getting there is less than half the battle.  Maintaining a colony on Mars is replete with challenges, and a new study says having babies maybe one of the biggest ones.

Artificial Intelligence–Demand for artificial intelligence engineers continues to outstrip supply.  In response, Carnegie Mellon has created the first undergraduate program specializing in such.

INTEL has it’s own A.I. plans, at least in the hardware department.  It’s Lohi chip, planned for release next year, will have the equivalent of 100 billion synapses–about the number in the brain of a mouse.

On the road to strong A.I.–machines that can learn anything.

DARPA may be a step closer to the quantum leap that will enable artificial general intelligence.  As advanced as we may think today’s A.I. is, it still only does tasks it is initially designed for.  But DARPA’s L2M initiative is making strides toward developing a system that can adapt to new situations outside their initial programming–a major step towards achieving strong A.I.

SpaceX/Elon Musk–Elon continues to work overtime on ambitious transport projects of all kinds.  The latest is a scheme, combining the joint efforts of SpaceX and Hyperloop, to create a transport system that will enable 1-hour travel time to almost anywhere on earth.

On the road to an ambitious future like the one described above, Musk plans 24 hour turnaround and relaunch of his reusable Falcon 9 rocket, starting in 2019.

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The Future Last Year: 2017 In Review

“My mentality is that of a samurai. I would rather commit seppuku than fail.”–Elon Musk

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”–Alan Kay

Technology was everywhere in 2017.  And everywhere technology went, Elon Musk was sure to lead.  Perhaps we should paraphrase Alan Kay.  The best way to predict the future, is to watch Elon. If anybody is inventing it, it’s him. Tesla, Solar City, SpaceX, Neuralink, Hyperloop.  If it involved renewable energy, autonomous vehicles, space commerce, transhumanism, or warnings about artificial intelligence (lot’s of warnings), it probably involved Elon.

With that, I name Elon Musk, in total, our first Future Story of The Year, for 2017.  Here’s a very brief history of his year, along with some of the other top stories from 2017.

While you’re reading about it all, 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 

Elon Musk

Tesla– Even as the lower priced ($35,000) model 3 production lagged way behind predictions, Elon revealed the new Tesla semi.  It’s great that he aims high, but in 2018 he will need to deliver, not just promise.

SpaceXAs of this writing, the Falcon Heavy rocket sits on pad 39A at Cape Canaveral.  It’s the precursor of even heavier launch vehicles that Elon hopes will send humans to Mars by 2030. 

HyperloopMusk may have invented it, but Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One is making the bulk of the headlines these days.  Kudos to Elon, though, for open sourcing the concept and allowing competition to rapidly develop it.

The Boring CompanyWhile aiming to odominate the transportation on the surface of the earth (Tesla) and space above it (SpaceX) , Elon also created The Boring Company to drill tunnels below it. give him credit for a sense of humor with this company’s name.

Neuralink–When it comes to A.I., Elon’s motto seems to be “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” He created Neuralink to accelerate the merger of mind and machine.

So…how many new technology ventures will he create in 2018, as he continues to invent the future?  I’d put the over/under at 2 1/2.

Other top stories of the Year.

Artificial intelligence, CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, self-driving cars, Bitcoin and blockchain, reversing aging and the future of work, were all frequently in the news in 2017.   Somewhat less visible were stories about laboratory grown meat, reversing aging, hypersonic weapons, 3D printing and advanced drone technology.  Here are few top story lists from other sources.

Futureseek Daily Link Digest

Wired Magazine’s top stories of 2017

Favorite 2017 Science Stories, The Verge

Science Fiction vs. Science Fact: Replicating Machines (my article from the first issue of Age of Robots)

IEEE Spectrum best stories of 2017

2017 in 3D printing

Dave Barry’s less than reassuring look back at 2017

Seeking Delphi™ finished the year with a podcast interview with SENS foundation,s chief science officer,  Aubrey de Grey, on ending aging.

 

Happy New Year, all.  2018 figures to be quite a ride.

Coming Attractions–2018 will kick off with an interview with Bioviva CEO Elizabeth Parrish, the first person to edit parts of her own genome to reverse aging.

 

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News of The Future, This Week: December 19, 2017

Blockchain is the tech. Bitcoin is merely the first mainstream manifestation of its potential.”–Marc Kenigsberg, founder, Bitcoin Chaser

The price of a single Bitcoin, as of this writing, sits at just north of US$18,300.  At that level, I don’t think that guy to the left is going to be finding too many of them in his virtual hat.  But as this week’s lead story suggests, some workers in Japan will soon need Bitcoin wallets.***

 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 

 Bitcoin/Cryptocurrency/Digital Payments–A Japanese company will start paying part of it’s employees salaries in Bitcoin.  Participation is voluntary; that’s probably a good thing.  When the bubble caves in, those employees might wind up looking like the bum in the cartoon.

Wired Magazine reports that a serious unintended side effect of Bitcoin is environmental damage.  The mining of Bitcoin, according to a source they cite, is burning more energy than the entire nation of Serbia.

–Despite strong growth of digital payments and cryptocurrencies, it appears cash won’t be going away any time soon.  According to a report by Boston Consulting Group, digital payments will account for about 30-35% of all non-credit transactions by 2025.

The Future of China–Next Big Future reports that China has embarked on a three year plan for a massive roll-out of artificial intelligence systems centered mainly in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles, and energy efficiency management.

The Chinese won’t make it easy for foreign firms entering the self-driving car market, though.  They won’t be allowed to map roads in China, and will have to partner with Chinese firms to do so if they want to sell, build or operate autonomous vehicles there.

According to a new report Global Cities report by Oxford Economics,  Asian cities (mostly Chinese) will outstrip European and North American cities in total economic activity by 2035, and will account for nearly half of global GDP.

Advanced Transport–Virgin Hyperloop One set a new speed record for the vacuum tube transport system.   The system reached  240 mph (387 kph) on December 18, surpassing the record of 220 mph (355 kph) set this past summer by Elon Musk’s hyperloop.

Coming Attractions–2017, Future Stories, year in review, coming next week.

***By the time I hit the “publish” button on this post, the Price of Bitcoin had fallen, in just a few hours, to under $17,000.  That represented a drop of 15% from its high over $19,000 earlier in the day.

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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.

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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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