The Future This Week: July 17, 2017

“The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to.”–Carl Sandburg

I don’t know about the moon, but when it comes to Mars, it does not appear that NASA will be doing much more than saying hello in the foreseeable future.  It seems there’s this little problem of money.  On the other hand, it’s full speed ahead to the lunar surface for at least one private enterprise.

Space Exploration and Technology–NASA has finally admitted what experts have been saying for some time.  It does not have enough money to land astronauts on Mars.  They could get astronauts there and orbit, but not land.  So I suppose they could say hello.

Moon Express is full speed ahead on its own ambitious space project.  They recently announced plans to launch a series of robotic lunar mining missions, the third of which will bring back samples from the surface in 2020.  The company is racing four other enterprises as finalists for the Lunar X Prize of $20 milllion, which will be awarded to the first private venture to land a rover on the moon and send back high definition pictures.

eCommerce/Retailing– According to retail guru Brittain Ladd,  Amazon could become the largest U.S. grocery retailer by 2030, if their proposed takeover of Whole Foods goes through.   Ladd predicts Amazon will pass U. S. #2 retailer Kroger by 2025 and take over the top spot from Walmart sometime between 2027 and 2030.

Electric Cars–The greatest roadblock to massive roll out of electric cars may not be infrastructure, but batteries.  Volkswagon, says that as many as 40 new giga-factories may be needed to meet global demand by 2025.

Transhumanism/Brain interface–DARPA has awarded a contract to six organizations, to be led by the University of California, Berkeley, to develop implantable interfaces that could transmit images and sound directly into the brain.  The aim is to compensate for natural visual or hearing loss.  (Reference back: in Seeking Delphi™ podcast #10, on the future of cinema and digital entertainment, film maker Steven Katz discussed this possibility.)

CRISPR/genetic editing–A team of researchers from Harvard and MIT are casting doubt on an earlier study that found that CRISPR/Cas9 gene edits could introduce unexpected mutations.  The original study was done by Columbia University.  It should be noted, however,  that the Broad Institute, a joint venture of Harvard and MIT, is in a pitched patent battle with the University of California, Berkeley, for rights to various uses of the technology.   CRISPR gene editing has the potential to change the face of human health, and perhaps even enter the domain of trans-humanism.  See video embedded below.

In the meantime, researchers at UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley (no surprise there) say they have synthesized a protein they call anti-CRISPR which shut of mutations in CRISPR altered genes.

 

Robotics/Artificial Intelligence–It seems that a security robot has committed suicide in Washington, DC.  After sounding a security all-clear, it threw itself into a pool.

 

Coming Attractions:  I’ll be attending the annual meeting of the Association of Professional Futurists July 27-29 in Seattle.  More to come on that.

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: July 3, 2017

“If you die in an elevator, be sure to push the Up button.”–Sam Levenson

On more than one occasion, I have traveled in an elevator that could move horizontally as well as vertically.  How did I manage that?  It turns out I was dreaming–and I must admit I experienced a bit of a disappointment when I woke up.  Honestly, the feeling of moving sideways in an elevator was just, well, cool.  Now, though, a new technology might actually make that feeling possible.

Elevator Technology–Thyssenkrupp Elevator Technology, of Berlin, Connecticut, USA, has developed and, in fact, installed the world’s first cable-free horizontal-vertical elevator in a  test tower in Rotweill, Germany.  (See YouTube video embedded at the bottom of the page).

Space Exploration and Technology–In what appears to be an Asian reboot of the U.S.-Soviet 1960’s space race, Japan has announced plans to put a man on the moon by 2030–and beat China to the punch.  JAXA,  the Japanese space agency, recently announced the plan, thus throwing themselves into a multi-national Asian sprint to the lunar surface.

NASA announced plans to revive a dormant plan for developing nuclear power for space colonies.   Originally envisioned some 50 years ago, it aims at building a mini-fusion plant to provide electric power for bases on the moon and Mars.

Internet of Things–According to a report in Business Insider there will be 24 billion devices, globally, connected to the Internet of Things by 2020.  I feel like there are nearly a billion in my house, alone.

Computer Technology–As silicon technology nears the limits of Moore’s Law, IBM scientists say they have created carbon nano-tube transistors that are smaller and faster than silicon.  No timetable has been set for scaling up to the level of practical, useful devices.

How real is it?

Virtual Reality–The Japanese firm, Futureleap, claims to have invented the virtual girlfriend. Apparently, one can not just view, but actually feel sensations of an imaginary friend breathing down your neck.  Not tonight dear, I have some corrupt code.

 

 

 Be sure to stay tuned for the next Seeking Delphi podcast, on self-replicating machines, with science fiction author Will Mitchell.

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: 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.

The Future This Week, February 26, 2017

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

cropped-mars.jpg

Surprisingly, there is no new Elon Musk news this week.  In an even bigger surprise, Mars was in the news, but without Elon Musk–at least not by name.

Space Exploration–

  • The United Arab Emirates unveiled a 100-year goal to colonize Mars with 600,000 people.  The public announcement of the Mars 2017 Project came at a World Government meeting held in Dubai and was made in a speech by sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, in which he emphasized his nations long-term commitment to space exploration.

 

  • In plans that are much nearer in time and space, the Russian space agency Energia announced plans to send tourists to the moon by 2022.  They say they will sell nine places on its Soyuz space capsule, as soon as this spring, for flights as soon as 2022.  The craft that will loop around the moon before heading to the International Space Station.  This represents an aggressive upgrade from its previous plan,  originally projected to be launched in the early 2030’s.  No indication of price or selection process for tourists was given.  Start saving your Aeroflot frequent flyer miles now.

 

  • SpaceX (okay, that is an Elon Musk story, at least indirectly) announced a new target date of 2020 for landing a robotic probe on Mars.  This represents a setback from the original target of 2018.

Biotech–

  • Market Research Future released a study projecting that the global bioprinting market, estimated to have been worth $570 million in 2015, will grow at a compound annual rate of 25-27% through 2022.  At present, they estimate that North America holds a 40% share of this market.

 

Robotics–

  • The private sector is not the only place where workers are being replaced by AI and machines.  The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the U.S. military is in the process of developing and deploying automation to streamline its support operations and even reduce personnel on the front lines.  Some of the concepts include driverless combat vehicles and robotic frogmen.

 

Structural engineers may soon be able to determine if London Bridge is falling down--without actually visiting it.

Structural engineers may soon be able to determine if London Bridge is falling down–without actually visiting it.

Virtual Reality–

  • World Architecture News reported that a joint project of Microsoft and the University of Cambridge aims to enable structural engineers to inspect bridges using the Hololens virtual reality headset, rather than traveling in person to the sites.  This would be accomplished by creating a combining composite of photos taken locally by non-experts, allowing expert engineers to zoom in and out and take a virtual walk-around of a structure. The idea is to save the time and cost of travel.