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: August 7, 2017

“Your genetics is not your destiny.”–Dr. George Church

I’d like to ask Dr. George Church a question about the above quote.  Does he mean that nurture can overcome nature?  Or does he mean your genetics can be changed?  Considering he’s one of the leading geneticists in the world, and is closely involved in one or more enterprises involved in gene editing, I’m guessing it would be the latter.  Either way, CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing was prominent in news this past week.

CRISPR/Cas9 genetic editing–A multinational team of American, Korean, and Chinese researcher succeeded in correcting a serious genetic disease in human embryos.  The paper appeared online in the journal Nature and was widely reported by various news sources.  While creating excitement for the technique’s potential, it also raised concerns for the potential advent of genetically modified “designer” babies.

UC, Berkeley researcher, and CRISPR co-developer, Dr. Jennifer Doudna, weighed in on the Nature paper, along with views on a variety of potential uses and abuses of the technology.  In a wide ranging interview with Newsweek, she mentioned cancer, diabetes and bio-terrorism as potential targets the technology could be used to fight.

Researchers at the University of Chicago reported success with CRISPR created skin grafts in treating diabetes in mice.  While not technically a cure, it could provide an effective long term treatment alternative to insulin shots.  The researchers also asserted that the technique could be useful in treating a variety of other diseases.

A brief explanation of CRISPR gene editing

 

3D Bio-printing–Doctors at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson medical school successfully inserted a 3D printed bone replacement implant in a patient who had suffered irreparable damage to a portion his skull.  Such a procedure was unthinkable just a few years ago and may be an indicator that bio-printing is on the verge of becoming a major health industry.

Robotics/Automation–Zume Pizza, of Mountain View, CA, has taken a Silicon Valley approach to making their pies.  They use robots.  While humans have not been completely automated out of the process, the robots do the repetitive parts of the process.

 Politics–According to WIRED, there is a good reason why people can’t stop talking about Mark Zuckerberg as a 2020 presidential candidate.  That reason is Mark Zuckerberg; his actions speak louder than his words.

Renewable Energy–Fresh on the heels of Atlanta’s goal to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2035, California is poised to set a statewide goal to do the same by 2045.  A bill mandating just that has passed a  committee in the state senate.  Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign it if it becomes law.

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 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: 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 10, 2017

“Tesla is becoming a real car company.”–Elon Musk

The stock market has considered Tesla almost more than a car company for some time now.  If you are concerned about its valuation, take a look back at Seeking Delphi™ podcast #4 on Technology Investing for The Future, and the Gartner Hype Cycle.  Whatever happens–and whatever you believe–Tesla made the first major step towards becoming a real car company this past week.  The public will vote with their wallets.  Stay tuned.

Electric Cars–Elon Musk tweeted photos of the new mass market Tesla Model 3.  Production has begun and is targeted to ramp up to 20,000 vehicles per month by the end of the year.

Tesla Model 3

Volvo announced plans to become the first premium auto make to abandon all-gasoline cars.  By 2019, all of its vehicles will be either hybrids or all-electric.

Artificial Intelligence–Wired Magazine reports that banks are increasingly resorting to artificial intelligence to detect currency transfers by terrorist organizations.  In the past, simple logic algorithms had been used to detect suspicious transactions.  But the increasing use of micro-transfers by ISIS and other groups has fueled the need for more powerful tools.

Virtual Reality–Swedish company Starbreeze is pursuing an ambitious plan to launch arcade-style virtual reality parlors.   Starbreeze is pushing ahead despite many previous retail VR disappointments by other companies.  The current venture, in partnership with Acer, will place these entertainment centers in IMAX theaters.

Global Economy–The IMF’s latest projections say China’s purchasing power parity GDP will surpass that of the US, Germany and Japan combined by 2022.  Their per capita purchasing power parity GDP will still be far down the list of countries, and GDP in total nominal dollars will still trail the U.S.

Robotics/Automation– An Australian firm Fastbricks Robotics has announced that it is being backed by Caterpillar to develop a home-building robot.  Its Hadrain X can lay down 1,000 bricks and hour a construct an entire home in two days.

Science fiction author Will Mitchell discussed the prospects for deployment self-replicating machines, to aid in the exploitation of space, on Seeking Delphi™ podcast #14.

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: 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 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.