The Future Last Year: 2017 In Review

“My mentality is that of a samurai. I would rather commit seppuku than fail.”–Elon Musk

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”–Alan Kay

Technology was everywhere in 2017.  And everywhere technology went, Elon Musk was sure to lead.  Perhaps we should paraphrase Alan Kay.  The best way to predict the future, is to watch Elon. If anybody is inventing it, it’s him. Tesla, Solar City, SpaceX, Neuralink, Hyperloop.  If it involved renewable energy, autonomous vehicles, space commerce, transhumanism, or warnings about artificial intelligence (lot’s of warnings), it probably involved Elon.

With that, I name Elon Musk, in total, our first Future Story of The Year, for 2017.  Here’s a very brief history of his year, along with some of the other top stories from 2017.

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Elon Musk

Tesla– Even as the lower priced ($35,000) model 3 production lagged way behind predictions, Elon revealed the new Tesla semi.  It’s great that he aims high, but in 2018 he will need to deliver, not just promise.

SpaceXAs of this writing, the Falcon Heavy rocket sits on pad 39A at Cape Canaveral.  It’s the precursor of even heavier launch vehicles that Elon hopes will send humans to Mars by 2030. 

HyperloopMusk may have invented it, but Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One is making the bulk of the headlines these days.  Kudos to Elon, though, for open sourcing the concept and allowing competition to rapidly develop it.

The Boring CompanyWhile aiming to odominate the transportation on the surface of the earth (Tesla) and space above it (SpaceX) , Elon also created The Boring Company to drill tunnels below it. give him credit for a sense of humor with this company’s name.

Neuralink–When it comes to A.I., Elon’s motto seems to be “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” He created Neuralink to accelerate the merger of mind and machine.

So…how many new technology ventures will he create in 2018, as he continues to invent the future?  I’d put the over/under at 2 1/2.

Other top stories of the Year.

Artificial intelligence, CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, self-driving cars, Bitcoin and blockchain, reversing aging and the future of work, were all frequently in the news in 2017.   Somewhat less visible were stories about laboratory grown meat, reversing aging, hypersonic weapons, 3D printing and advanced drone technology.  Here are few top story lists from other sources.

Futureseek Daily Link Digest

Wired Magazine’s top stories of 2017

Favorite 2017 Science Stories, The Verge

Science Fiction vs. Science Fact: Replicating Machines (my article from the first issue of Age of Robots)

IEEE Spectrum best stories of 2017

2017 in 3D printing

Dave Barry’s less than reassuring look back at 2017

Seeking Delphi™ finished the year with a podcast interview with SENS foundation,s chief science officer,  Aubrey de Grey, on ending aging.

 

Happy New Year, all.  2018 figures to be quite a ride.

Coming Attractions–2018 will kick off with an interview with Bioviva CEO Elizabeth Parrish, the first person to edit parts of her own genome to reverse aging.

 

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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.