The Future This Week: May 29, 2017

The marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation defines a robot as  “Your Plastic Pal Who’s Fun to Be With.”  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation as “a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.”–Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy

Danger, Will Robinson!

The early images of robots were crude.  There was Robby the Robot in the 1956 scifi classic Forbidden Planet. His cousin, Robot B-9, on the campy mid 1960’s TV series Lost In Space, made famous the the catchphrase “danger Will Robinson.”   They look like cartoons to us today, compared, for example, to the chillingly lifelike Ava from 2015’s Ex Machinaor the robots so real in HBO’s Westworldit’s hard to tell who’s a human and who’s an android.  But how close are we to an invasion of robots of all kinds?  Some of this week’s stories would have one believe we are on the cusp.

Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet

Robotics–The emirate of Dubai announced the roll out of the world’s first robotic policeman.   With it, they stated a goal of having these devices make up 25% of their security forces by 2030.  The robocop uses an array of cameras and sensors, along with sophisticated artificial intelligence, to go about its business.

Renewable Energy–The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) issued a report stating that solar energy jobs in the U.S. grew at a rate 17 times faster than the economy a whole in 2016.  The report also mentioned strong growth in wind industry jobs, and projected employment in that sector to grow by about 40% from 2016 to 2020, while jobs related to fossil fuels will continue to decline.

Aerospace–Boeing has been awarded the contract to build the experimental XS-1, or Phantom Express, for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).  The vehicle is designed as an autonomous rapid satellite launcher,  capable of being recycled and relaunched up to 10 times in 10 days.   It is slated for full operation by 2022.

Artificial Intelligence–A research team at NEMEC in Belgium has created a neuromorphic chip that mimics the activity of human neurons to compose music.  It does so by being exposed to various compositions and then copies the style.  It’s more practical future uses lie in medical sensors and personal electronics that learn the health and behavior of its users.

Urban Futures–Architect and urban futurist Cindy Frewen joined me for Seeking Delphi™ podcast #13 in a discussion of the urban landscape of the future. Watch and listen to the YouTube slide show or subscribe via any of the links below it.

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 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, 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:

 

Podcast Episode 3: Whatever Happened to Fuel Cells?

“I believe fuel cells could end the 100-year reign of the internal combustion engine.” –William Clay Ford

Hydrogen fuel cells have long been touted as a possible replacement for the internal combustion engine.  But progress has been slow,  and the emergence of this technology seems not much closer than it was 20 years ago.   In episode #3 of Seeking Delphi, I explore the world of Hydrogen Fuel Cells with William Smith, the CEO of Infinity Fuel Cell and Hydrogen, Inc.  The oil companies may not want you to hear this, but this technology is not dead yet.   Links to Infinity’s web site and this weeks news stories are below.  Seeking Delphi is now available on iTunes. Now also on YouTube.

William Smith

William Smith

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast episode 3: Whatever Happened to Fuel Cells , running time 22:13.

Infinity Fuel Cell and Hydrogen, Inc.

Turning exhaust into ink

New Dictionary Words

NASA’s commercial airlock

Venus-proof computer

Honda-GM fuel cell venture

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