The Future This Week: September 4, 2017

“Before we work on artificial intelligence why don’t we do something about natural stupidity?” —Steve Polyak

Is this our fate?

There is an ominous feeling in the air about artificial intelligence this week.  It seems to be everywhere, as in “all over the news.”  Elon Musk? We hear from him on the subject every week.  But now one Vladimir Putin has even weighed in.  Both Musk and Putin have dark warnings.  And Putin’s feels a lot like Littlefinger telling Ned Stark not to trust him. Oh, and don’t forget the Chinese, as they weigh in with a massive A.I. investment.  All this as Intel announces a staggering advance in A.I. hardware.

Artificial Intelligence– Elon Musk’s warning du jour on A.I. is that it will be the most likely cause of World War Three.  He’s not worried about North Korea; he thinks that’s just bluster.  The truly hair raising part of it is that he doesn’t so much think it will be a war over A.I. as it will be a war started  by A.I. that has been empowered to make that decision itself.  These conjectures came closely on the heels of Vladimir Putin’s assertion that whomever gains a dominant position in A.I. could rule the world.   He warned that it would be extremely dangerous for any one entity to gain a monopoly.

Cue the Chinese.  They have stated a desire to take a world-leading position in A.I.  by around 2030.  To that end, Chinese internet giant Baidu has teamed up with China Life, a state-owned financial company, to create a 7 Billion Yaun (~$1 Billion US) A.I. investment fund.  The aim is to invest in small private ventures with innovative technologies.

Back in the USA, Intel has announced a new A.I. accelerator that can process 1 Trillion Operations Per Second (TOP) per Watt.  Just what China and Russia are looking for?

Autonomous Vehicles–Ford and Dominoes Pizza have announced a joint venture to test an autonomous pizza delivery vehicle. (Image left).  As 55%of respondents in a recent Gartner survey found said they wouldn’t ride in a self-driving car, I’m wondering if they’d be OK with their pizza riding in one.

 

Please don’t deliver!

How about trusting your garbage to an autonomous vehicle?  Volvo is developing a self-driving garbage truck.  I hope delivery and pickup don’t get confused.

Cryptocurrency/blockchain–Major cryptocurrencies crashed by 20% over the past two trading days of last week.   Apparently China outlawing ICO’s and the SEC questioning their legality did not help things.  I still think they are basically digital tulip bulbs.

 Undaunted by this, six multi-national banks are joining an existing project, headed by UBS to launch their own cryptocurrency, designed for securely clearing large online transactions.  They are currently in talks with regulators on a projected late 2018 launch.

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: August 14, 2017

“Life isn’t a tiptoe through the tulips.”–Shannon Hoon

“When tulip mania dies down, all that remains are pretty flowers.”–Adam Cohen

I understand the value of cryptocurrency–I think.  But the valuation? Forget it.  Investors’ lives certainly won’t be a tiptoe through the tulips when and if the Bitcoin bubble bursts.  But I’ll still love hearing Tiny Tim sing about it.  And yes, tulips are still pretty flowers.

Bitcoin/Cryptocurrency–The price of a single Bitcoin topped $4,000 for the first time.  Is cryptocurrency the future of our economy?  I have my doubts.   And if you are looking for a way to short it, that makes two of us.

Semi-conductors/material science--With transistor miniaturization in silicon-based microchips rapidly reaching its physical limit,  Moore’s law could also be coming to an end.  But researchers at Stanford University have identified two semi-conductors that could extend the limits of silicon-based miniaturization by augmenting its properties.

Does “too cute to eat” also mean, “too cute to accept an organ transplant from?’

Biotech/gene editing–A group led by Dr. George Church, of Harvard University, has succeeded in using gene-editing to make piglets more suitable for growing replacement human organs.   Dr. Church believes that the first pig-to-human organ transplants may be as close as two years away.

Robotics/Artificial Intelligence–The premiere issue of Age of Robots has hit the digital newsstands.  My article, Self Replicating MachinesScience Fiction vs. Science Fact, appears, along with stories on artificial intelligence, medical robots,  machine consciousness, and more.

   Quantum Reality–A future after death? The notion of life after death has always been the exclusive realm of the spiritual/religious world–until now, that is.  Physicist and author Roger Penrose,  along with some others with impressive scientific credentials, now believe that information stored in our brains in a quantum state may live on, along with our consciousness, after we die.  This report, on the Galaxy Today web page, hints at any number of ideas which I have expounded on in my other blog,  The Millennium Conjectures.

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 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, March 5, 2017

“If you want a nation to have space exploration ambitions, you’ve got to send humans.”-Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil might have added, “or have profit motives.”  The news about commercial space exploration is almost nonstop these days.  Here’s what’s been happening in the past week.

Commercial space ventures–

In more down-to-earth news: