The Future This Week: May 22, 2017

“Technology… is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.”–Carrie Snow

Or, as the saying goes, technology is great when it works.  Will artificial intelligence make it work smarter? Faster? More reliably?  Or might it just give us more headaches?  We’ll find out soon enough, as we careen towards an AI-dominated future.

Artificial Intelligence– Not to be left out of any technology category, Elon Musk, via his OpenAI non-profit, has revealed an AI robotic system that can learn a task after viewing just one demonstration.  The system uses two different neural networks, one for vision and one for imitation.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivered a mostly A.I. oriented keynote address at the company’s annual I/O event.  This included the revelation that it has developed an AI that is better at creating new AI systems than Google’s own software engineers.  Forbes article on the talk here.  Futurism.com article, including embedded YouTube video of the entire 2 hours speech, here.

Digital Images–A joint team of Chinese and Australian researchers has developed what is being called the world’s thinnest hologram.  It holds out the possibility of 3D images on tablet and smartphone screens.

Socioeconomic Fast Company reports that it’s not just millennials struggling with college debt.   Increasingly, their baby boomer parents and grandparents are also saddled with crushing payments in support of their progeny. The long-term effect on the economy is unclear; but it can’t be good for consumer spending or the real estate market.

Internet/Social Media— The combination of virtual reality and social media might not be a good thing for ex-lovers.  The New Zealand Times reports a growing concern that increasingly realistic virtual reality porn could be used for revenge by spurned exes.

Renewable Energy–Swiss voters have struck a blow for clean energy.  They overwhelmingly backed a binding referendum to provide billions of dollars in subsidies for renewable energy,  while banning the construction of new nuclear plants.

Cindy Frewen

Urban Futures–Architect and urban futurist Cindy Frewen joins me in the next Seeking Delphi™ podcast for a discussion of the urban landscape of the future.  Look for it soon.

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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: May 7, 2017 (week of)

“I feel like an email cross-dresser – I use a Microsoft product on my Apple product to access my Google product.”–Brad Feld

Um, OK.  I’m guilty as charged, too, Brad  Feld.  In the 1960’s mixed marriages caused controversy.  In the 2010’s it’s mixed technology.  But make no mistake about it, whatever you use, the cloud is about to get a lot bigger–and higher.  With the SpaceX announcement of its initiative to launch thousands of internet beaming micro satellites beginning in 2019, those unread emails are literally going to be orbiting the earth.  That’s just the beginning, in The Future This Week.

Space–SpaceX revealed detailed plans  and a timetable for its forthcoming communication satellite constellation.  It now projects 2019 as the launch date for the first of thousands of micro-satellites aimed at providing global internet service by 2024.

Now its not just enough to go to the moon or to Mars.  The Japanese space agency announced ambitious plans this week to go to the moons of Mars.  The plan is to send a robotic lander to Phobos and Deimos and return with samples, sometime in the 2020’s.

Made in Space, Inc., the company behind the 3D printer currently on the International Space Station, unveiled a video of its latest out-of-this world manufacturing venture.  It’s a heavier duty 3D printer, called Archinaut, that will have the capability to build entire satellites and even space craft while in orbit. (see below)

Autonomous Vehicles–According to a report issued by the technology think-tank ReThinkX,  autonomous electric vehicles will dominate the automotive landscape by 2030.  The report projects that these vehicles will be responsible for fully 95% of all miles driven by that time.  Most other forecasters have foreseen a much slower transition to both all-electric and fully autonomous vehicles.

Transhumanism–A recent DARPA press release  outlines the expansion of its plans to “hack” the human brain.  The idea is to enable the downloading of training directly into the mind.

Internet/Social MediaFacebook announced plans to hire 3000 human (yes human!) content checkers globally.  Apparently policing its content with artificial intelligence for inappropriate,offensive and illegal material–including live murders and suicides–is not yet effective enough.

Scientist at the Univeristy of Munich have developed a technology to transmit holographic images over the internet.  A paper describing how the radiation from a wi-fi transmitter can be used to transmit 3-dimensional images of surrounding environment is available here.

Artificial Intelligence–In case you missed it, author and futurist Richard Yonck discussed his groundbreaking book, Heart of The Machine, with me on the latest Seeking Delphi™ podcast. (YouTube slide show below).

 

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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

 

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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)

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The Future This Week, April 9, 2017:

“I want to die on Mars; just not on impact.”–Elon Musk

 

Mr. Musk

No. Really.  This is The Future This Week.  It only seems like Elon Musk This Week.  Indeed, there is at least one twitter account dedicated exclusively to Elon Musk news.   If forced to make a prediction, I’d say there will be enough material for a 24/7 Elon Musk cable news channel by next year.  When it comes to inventing the future, nobody tops Elon.   Tesla, SpaceX, Solar City, Neuralink, Hyperloop One (OK, that last one isn’t his company, but hyperloop is his idea).  You get the idea.   He’s all over the place;  with some of this stuff he might actually be successful.  Like Babe Ruth, he may set a home run record but strike out a lot in the process.

 

Tesla/SpaceX/Musk news–

Robotics–

Biometrics–

 

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 2, 2017: Robot Job Apocalypse?

“The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.”–Erich Fromm

You’re fired!

Today’s lead story brings to mind a classic gag from Woody Allen’s early stand-up comic days.  He told the story of how his father came home from work one day to report that he had been laid off from his factory job; he was replaced by a 50-dollar part on the assembly line.  The sad thing was, his mother immediately ran out and bought one of those parts.

The notion that a manufacturing plant  could be comprised of 3D printers run and maintained by robots is mind boggling.  So who maintains the maintenance robots?  Maintenance maintenance robots?  And who maintains the maintenance maintenance robots….?

3D Printing/Automation–

Yes, Voodoo manufacturing has created the world’s first robot-run 3D printing plant.   It allows the humans to concentrate on the creative work while the robots do the menial work, 24/7.  So what happens when A.I. starts doing the creative work?

Writing in the futures blog on Futurizon,  Ian Pearson, Ph.D., takes the position that A.I. will actually create jobs, not take them.  Dr. Pearson will be my guest on the Seeking Delphi podcast, the week of April 10.

 

Miranda. Maybe this is where all those lost socks went?

Space/NASA–NASA astronauts made a big booboo when they lost an important part of the International Space Station during a spacewalk earlier this week.   One of four pieces of cloth shielding designed to protect the station from impacts by small bits of orbiting  space junk, broke free and floated away.  The astronauts were able to make the other three pieces make do.  That’s a good thing.  For all we know, the interplanetary lost and found could be on Miranda.

Next Big Future reports that there is a push within the Chinese government to triple spending on space science over the next several years.  It’s still far less than NASA spends, though. Projections through the year 2030 are provided.

Digital Media–Business Insider issued a report, along with a free slide presentation, on the future of TV and the digital media that is rapidly replacing it.  Most notable is a forecast that fully 75% of all mobile data will be video by 2022.  My guest next week will be filmmaker and author Steven Katz  to discuss the future of  cinema and the digital video entertainment it is competing with.

Cargo drone or killer whale?

Aviation/Drones– An automated  amphibious cargo drones the size of a Boeing 777 could take to the skies by 2020.  Daily Mail reports that the California company building them is about 70% complete on the first test model.  The final production model will have a carrying capacity of 200,000 pounds.

Biotech/Anti-Aging–PureTech Health has licensed a possible anti-aging compound from NovartisMIT Technology Review reported that Boston-based startup company .  The drug, everolimus has been shown in clinical trials to increase effectiveness of flu vaccines in elderly patients, suggesting that it effectively makes immune systems younger.  The substance is related to rapamycin, which has previously been shown to increase average life span in mice by as much as 25%.

A reminder that the Seeking Delphi™ podcast is available on iTunes, and has a channel on YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook.