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.

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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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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

 

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