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.

 

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.

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.

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: 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: 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.

 

A reminder that the Seeking Delphi™ podcast is available on iTunesPlayerFM, blubrry and , 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.