The Future This Week, March 19, 2017

“There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.”–George Carlin

The moon, and space exploration in general, continued to make news this week.  It seems the moon is just howling for some company.  Here’s what’s been happening during the current lunar phase.

Space Exploration–

 

Additive Manufacturing/3D printing–

  • In an interview on the Seeking Delphi podcast, Dr. Paul Tinari made a variety of bold statements regarding the future of 3D printing for everything from food to cars, homes, battleships, and even human bodies.  (YouTube link available at the bottom of this post.)

 

 

Biotech–

  • Gene editing startup eGenisis raised $38 million dollars in venture capital funding for its process to use CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to grow pig organs for human implantation.  The company was co-founded by Harvard genetics guru, Dr. George Church and 30-year old Dr. Luhan Yang.

 

YouTube slide show: Podcast #7, 3D printing with guest Dr. Paul Tinari.  Also available on iTunes.

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, March 12, 2017

“You affect the world by what you browse.”–Tim Berners-Lee

Ah, our automated future. http://www.savagechickens.com

The Tim Berners-Lee quote above is a sort of digital version of “you are what you eat.”  Perhaps, today, we are what we browse.  But what we browse is of deep concern.  Can we keep it private? Can others, particularly government, abuse our rights and destroy our privacy with what they know about our lives online?  That’s just one of the technology issues in The Future This Week.

Digital Technology–World Wide Web inventor, Tim Berners-Lee, had some chilling words about his digital offspring on its 28th birthday.  Speaking at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, he warned the web is in peril due to three troublesome trends.  Privacy of personal data, in the wake of the Wikileaks revelation of massive CIA cyber-spying, fake news that spreads like wildfire, and unregulated political advertising.  I welcome a discussion on these issues in the comments section below.

Speaking at Google’s Cloud Next conference, Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt predicted that big data will become so important that nations will fight over it. “He who has the data can do the analytics and algorithms,” he said.  You can see his full speech on the Business Insider link here.

Digital Entertainment–Several sources reported that Netflix is delving into interactive story telling that enables the viewer to chose from diverging story lines.  This would represent a kind of digital video version of the Chose-Your-Own-Adventure kid-lit novels that were popular in the 1980’s. Actors would film multiple variations of story lines and viewers would be allowed to chose the direction of the story at various points.  The first series may roll out later this year.

Renewable Energy–Those hydrogen fuel-cell-powered vehicles discussed in episode #3 of the Seeking Delphi podcast may be one step closer to reality.  New work revealed this week by the energy department’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.  A big challenge is the extrication of  hydrogen from water., which, in itself, is an energy intensive undertaking.  The process Berkeley lab has been working on involves using special catalyst materials called photo-anodes to drive distillation of Hydrogen from water using sunlight.   Their scientists have identified 12 newphoto-anode substances in the past two years, more than doubling the previously known count.

Biotechnology–CRISPR gene editing pioneer, Jennifer Doudna, laid out her vision for the technology.  Speaking at the same South by Southwest conference that hosted Tim Berners-Lee, she focused primarily on the potential for eradicating genetic diseases.  Meanwhile, a Chinese team released results of the first CRISPR trials in healthy, viable embryos, reporting that they were able to correct genetic mutations in some of them.

Global Economy–A new report issued by The Brookings Institute projects a global increase in the middle class of 2.2 billion people by 2030.  The report also sees 88 per cent of this growth coming from Asia.

Hawking

Existential Technology Risks–Almost on cue for the most recent Seeking Delphi  episode,  physicist Stephen Hawking warned that establishment of a global government may be the only way to keep our technologies from destroying us.  He acknowledged that a world government could become a problem in itself–particularly a tyrannical one–but stated strongly that we need a means to identify threats, and act quickly to counter them in a unified manner.

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, 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.

New Feature: The Future This Week.

“Bad news travels at the speed of light; good news travels like molasses.”–Tracy Morgan

Future news travels here, if a week behind (eat your heart out, John Oliver).   And we won’t report on hexagonal pizzas. I promise.

Without further ado, then, here is this past week’s future-related news.

Biotech–

  • The U.S. Patent and Trademark office issued a ruling in favor of the Broad Institute, a joint venture of Harvard and M.I.T., in its patent dispute with the University of California, Berkeley over the rights to CRISPR/Cas 9 gene editing.  The ruling upheld patents granted to Broad in 2014, and effectively stated that they were different enough from those applied for by Berkeley to stand.   Shares of Editas Medicine which has an exclusive CRISPR license from Broad were up 20% after the ruling. Both sides indicated expectations that the I.P.  battle has probably just begun.

 

  • Since CRISPR/Cas9 and other new and powerful gene editing techniques have the potential to exact great change in the human genome–and with it the entire future of human experience, it would probably be a good idea to engage a public discussion on how and when to proceed,  and with what applications.  That’s just what a group of U.S. scientists suggest.  In a far reaching report issued jointly by The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine,  they suggest heritable human germ cell tests be limited primarily to the treatment of intractable genetic diseases, at least until more public discussion can be generated.

 

  • Dr. George Church of Harvard University, who was mentioned in the first Seeking Delphi podcast on radical longevity extension, predicted that age reversal in humans will be achieved in 10 years.  This vs. the 50% probability within 25 years forecast by David Wood in The Abolition of Aging.  I hope I’m around long enough to see at least one of them be right.  If you missed the podcast,  the YouTube version is embedded at the bottom of this post.

Elon Musk–(yes, he’s reached the point of being his own category–just a few of the relevant stories below)

Technology–

  • Bill Gates doesn’t warrant his own category these days, but he did say something bold.  He suggested that if robots take your job, they should be taxed.   While acknowledging that such a measure could hinder innovation to some degree, he also realizes that massive job losses need to be offset.  One way he suggests is to use the tax proceeds to to fund training for jobs that humans will still do.  Hmmm.  Like robot maintenance?

 

If you see something during the coming week that ought to be here next time, please let me know.  The next Seeking Delphi Podcast, scheduled for midweek release, will feature futurist and financial manager Jim Lee talking about Technology Investing for the Future.

 

 

 

David Wood on The Abolition of Aging,  in the premiere episode of  the Seeking Delphi, podcast.