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.

 

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The Future This Week: June 12, 2017

“Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn’t block traffic.” ― Dan Rather

Cars.  Self-driving cars. Electric cars.  Giga-factories to build electric cars.  There’s a traffic jam of car stories in The Future This Week.  Add a self-assembling moon base and loads of al energy projects and we’re good to go.

Electric Cars/Battery Technology–Two researchers from Purdue University have developed a battery technology that can refuel at a pump, in the same way cars currently refuel with gasoline.  The battery is recharged by replacing electrolytes, and thus could be serviced by technology similar to that used in current gas stations.

For those who prefer a more scifi approach to recharging electric vehicles, consider the patent that has been filed for to create a mobile electric car-recharging infrastructure using drones summoned by smart phone.  A patent does not mean it will actually happen though; I would not bet on it.

Almost on cue for the stories above, Tesla announced a wide range of ambitious expansion plans at its annual shareholder meeting.  Chief among these was a stated goal to eventually build 10-20 gigafactories, with a production capacity of between 12 and 24 million vehicles annually.  They’ll need some ambitious charging schemes like the ones mentioned above to make those number viable.   Actually, they might first want to concentrate on figuring out how the hell they can sell that many vehicles.

Self-Driving Cars–Honda announced a target date of 2025 for bringing fully self-driving cars to the marketplace.  They’ve set a date of 2020 for rolling out vehicles with an autonomous freeway driving option, as an interim step.

3D Printing/Lunar Base–Researchers at Carleton University, in Canada are developing a 3D printer that can replicate itself.  The device could ultimately be used to build a moon base in situ with a single seeding device using lunar materials to reproduce itself many-fold and then build structures.

Internet of Things–DARPA  is making progress toward the development of a near zero-power RF and sensor technology.  Their stated goal is to reduce Internet of Things power requirements by 1000-fold.

Aerospace–Lockheed-Martin says it is on pace to develop a hyper-sonic spy drone for deployment by sometime next year.  Powered by its SR-72 propulsion system, the device could attain speeds of up to 4600 MPH, for less than $1 Billion.  Such a bargain.

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Podcast #13: The Urban Landscape Of The Future

“All cities are mad, but the madness is gallant. All cities are beautiful, but the beauty is grim.”–Christopher Morley

A Jetsons future?

Where will you live in 2050? What will the cities of the future look like?  Tomorrowland? The Jetsons? Waterworld?  Maybe they will look pretty much the same, but feel very much different.  To sort out some of the possible scenarios, I sought out an expert on the urban landscape of the future.  Cindy Frewen, Ph. D., is an architect and an adjunct professor in the University of Houston’s graduate foresight program.  She designs near-term urban futures, and constructs scenarios for possible longer term futures.

Links to relevant stories appear after the audio file and embedded YouTube video below.  A reminder that Seeking Delphi is available on iTunes and PlayerFM, and has a channel on YouTube.  You can also follow us on Facebook.

 

Cindy Frewen 
Image credit: Kansas City Star

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Podcast #13: The Urban Landscape Of The Future

You Tube Slide Show of Episode #13

Cindy Frewen bio on Futurist.com

News items:

DARPA XS-1 space plane

Attacking Cancer with CRISPR gene editing

Music-making neuromorphic chip

World’s first robotic cop deployed in Dubai

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The Future This Week, March 26, 2017–Live Forever, or Just Live Better?

“I think science has begun to demonstrate that aging is a disease. If it is, it can be cured.”–Tom Robbins
“I’m not afraid of death.  I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”–Woody Allen

Our time is limited. Or is it?

It seems as if many of the biggest players in science and digital industry are obsessed with slowing, stopping, or even reversing aging.  New stories appear every day, it seems.  And of course, David Wood’s comprehensive study of the issue, The Abolition of Aging, was the subject of the first two episodes of Seeking Delphi.  But an editorial in Wired Magazine suggests that the moguls of silicon valley are trying to solve the wrong problem. It asserts that they should be working to improve the quality of life, not the quantity.  There are good arguments both ways–reversing aging could greatly improve human health and cut costs drastically–the lions share of healthcare spending treats the diseases of aging.  What do you think?   The big stories this week:

Biotechnology/Aging Research–

  • A pair of breakthroughs, one from The University Ulm in Germany, the other from the University of Ulster in the UK, suggest means of using young blood cells to provide anti-aging properties.  The two studies are summarized in this article by Next Big Future.

 

 

  • Writing in Wired Magazine, Emily Dreyfus argued that huge investments in anti-aging  research by major silicon valley entrepreneurs is barking up the wrong biological tree.  She thinks they should be investing in better quality of life rather than increased quantity.

Autonomous Vehicles–

Social Robotics–

  • The world’s first social media robodog has been created by Jason Buzi.  Now we just need a robot veterinarian to take care of it. (See below).

 

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