Three Laws of Exponential Capabilities – Video

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on April 16th, 2015

We are entering into a world where driverless vehicles will eliminate millions of driving positions; robotic systems will work relentlessly day and night eliminating millions of manufacturing, welding, painting, and assembly positions; and things that seemed impossible to automate in the past will have computers and machines replacing people’s jobs.

At the same time, the amount of time it takes to build ships and skyscrapers, create massive data storage centers for all our growing volumes of information, or produce global wireless networks for all our devices has dropped significantly. But along with each of these drops is a parallel increase in our capabilities and our expectations.

For these reasons, I’d like to reframe the discussion by proposing the following “Laws of Exponential Capabilities”:

LAW #1: With automation, every exponential decrease in effort creates an equal and opposite exponential increase in capabilities.

LAW #2: As today’s significant accomplishments become more common, mega-accomplishments will take their place.

LAW #3: As we raise the bar for our achievements, we also reset the norm for our expectations.

As you read the rest of this column, you’ll find an abridged version of the Three Laws of Exponential Capabilities. Full version here.

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The Coming Era of Alternative Credentialing

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on April 10th, 2015


Earlier this week the DaVinci Institute became the first organization in the world to offer Microdegrees® to the graduates of the Institute’s coding school, DaVinci Coders. People who complete courses in Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, Swift/iOS, and Game Development will all be on track to receive this new form of credentialing.

Working as a launch-partner with Atlanta-based Edevate, the Microdegree® is new form of digital credential that certifies someone has completed 1,000 hours of learning in a professional discipline. Completing a Microdegree will be the equivalent of a full year of undergraduate upper level courses.

According to Gordon Rogers, President and Cofounder of Edevate, “Our goal is to reinvent credentialing. This is similar to the introduction of iTunes, which offered consumers the option to purchase a single track instead of the entire album.”

Expanding the notion of credentialing, Edevate plans to offer Microdegrees to students completing Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), coding schools, and other competency-based programs. The Microdegree is similar to Udacity’s Nanodegree, but it is institutionally agnostic, meaning that it can be earned by combining programs offered through many different institutions, with the freedom to stack and blend different types of educational experiences.

Students who are granted a Microdegree will receive a printable PDF diploma along with a digital badge linked to a transcript that describes the educational experience they just went through.

Microdegree candidates can also test out of certain courses by completing an Educational Testing Service’s Major Field Test. Major Field Tests are comprehensive undergraduate and MBA outcomes assessments that measure a person’s knowledge and understanding in a certain field of study.

At the DaVinci Institute, we’re excited about breaking the mold of traditional credentialing, but our sense is this is just the beginning of many new cracks that will be forming in the ivory towers of traditional education.

Here is an expansive view of the options you will have with alternative credentialing over the coming years.

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The Massive Opportunity coming for Ground-Based Delivery Drones

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on April 2nd, 2015

On a recent trip from Montreal to Denver, Air Canada managed to misplace my one piece of luggage.

Since I travel extensively around the world, it’s rare that I have my bags checked, but this time they insisted because of the size of the aircraft. I reluctantly agreed, and they proceeded to lose it somewhere between Montreal and my connecting flight in Toronto.

None of this is terribly unusual. Air travel is a highly complicated system and bags get lost and have to be delivered to people’s houses all the time.

As I arrived in Denver, I felt strangely free. I already knew my bag wasn’t going to be there, so I knew I could take off without dealing with my heavy bag, or dragging it through the parking lot to my car and wrestling it into the trunk.

It occurred to me that many people would be willing to pay for this freedom, especially if it didn’t cost too much.

According to the Wall Street Journal, every lost bag today costs the airlines over $100 per bag, with much of that expense going to the company that delivers the bag to your home. But if that cost was reduced to a fraction of what it is today, and handled with a fully automated delivery system, not only would lost bags become far less of an issue, they’d open the door to entire new opportunities.

If bags could be delivered to your home for $10, many people would jump at this opportunity. For people riding a bus or train to the airport, this would be a no-brainer.

This type of delivery is far different than the flying drone delivery that has become such a hot topic, with the FAA positioning themselves as the gatekeeper for all things flying.

As I have written in a previous column, flying drones will soon be regulated by weight, distance, noise, etc. But automated ground-based delivery will have far fewer limitations and far less scrutiny.

That said, there are still a few technical hurdles to overcome, including the last 100 feet.


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All those Damn Laws! Over 18 Million Laws in the U.S… and climbing!

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on March 26th, 2015

How many laws are affecting you as you’re reading this today?

If you think you know the answer, I will tell you you’re lying, and there is a law against lying about how many laws there are.

I really don’t know that there is, but then again, you really don’t know that there isn’t. So we could both be in trouble.

However, I do know that ignorance of the law is no defense. This is something I’ve heard many times in the past, but I have no clue as to whether it’s really law or just something judges use to belittle people into feeling guilty.

Thinking through the title for this column, I have to admit that I have no idea how many laws truly exist in the U.S. But then again, neither does anyone else.

They’re simply not countable. There is no central place for our laws, no common form, style, or accessibility requirements; only some level of hope that once enacted, people will pay attention to them.

Here’s why this is such a confusing issue.

The total number of governmental bodies in the U.S. is approaching a staggering number – 90,000. Every city, county, state, and special taxing district has its own governing body with its own elected officials.

Taking on many of the characteristics of living, breathing organisms, these governmental organizations are constantly fighting for influence, control, and survival.

Each one of these governmental entities has an ability to create and enforce its own laws, rules, and regulations. Working with a limited set of tools in their toolbox, governments have resorted to using laws and regulations to solve virtually every conceivable problem. The sheer volume of laws emerging from these 90,000 rule-making bodies is truly stunning.

It may indeed total 18 million.

With a society that is already heavily invested in our current systems, and people already pre-programmed to think and act accordingly, what we need is a system for changing the system.

Here’s what I would propose.

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Living the Life of Bubble People and Unlocking the Next Phase of Human Existence

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on March 18th, 2015

Having been born and raised on a small rural farm in South Dakota, I grew up with a very narrow perspective of the rest of the world.

With only two TV channels and three radio stations to pick from, our news options were very limited.

As a teenager, watching the nightly newscasts on television, I was thoroughly amazed at all of the things happening around the world, and yet none of them were happening near me.

I truly felt like I was living in a bubble, far away from all the excitement.

But I wasn’t alone. People everywhere were still getting used to the new technology, and limited TV and radio access wasn’t just a South Dakota issue.

For the most part, I didn’t know what I was missing, so inside my bubble were all the families and neighbors I hung out with. Much like me, they didn’t know what they were missing.

In understanding “bubble cultures,” there are micro-bubbles like the farm community I was raised in, and macro-bubbles that affect entire countries, planets, or civilizations as a whole.

Few people realize that humanity today is being confined to a macro-bubble. Our limited grasp of today’s technology, coupled with our limited understanding of the world, and just the limitations of being human, blind us from seeing our true potential.

In short, we’re living our lives as bubble people, limiting our view of the world to what we know, what we can prove, and what “the experts” say is possible.

But the bubble we’re in is not permanently confining or unbreakable. Over the past few centuries we have indeed been stretching the size and shape of our bubble, but even though it’s far bigger today, we still have a long ways to go to see what’s on the outside.

So is there an “outside” to our bubble?

The short answer is yes. In fact, the most exciting areas of the future will happen outside our current bubble. For this reason, I’d like to take you on a short journey to the other side of the bubble and an expansive view of human existence in the years ahead.

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Blueprint for a Makers District

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on March 5th, 2015

The demise of local retail stores has been painful to watch. Empty storefronts and weed-infested parking lots are gut-wrenching symbols of community decay.

So if I told you there was an immediate way to turn this around, would that catch your attention?

This whole transformation in thinking started with a short visit on Saturday to “The Source,” an artisan food market inside a former 1880‘s brick foundry in Denver’s River North District.

Located far away from most retail, I quickly became enamored with how this eclectic mix of 15 shops could attract a packed house on a cold wintery day in February to an industrial part of town.

This brief experience caused me to spend countless hours over the following days researching similar developments around the country. For me, the collision course of intersecting trends in retail has become a full-blown obsession. (Just for the record, obsessions are underrated.)

To summarize briefly:

  • The first shopping mall was born in Edina, MN in 1956. After peaking in 1990, there have been no new malls built in the U.S. since 2006.
  • Big-box retailing was born in 1962. That’s the year when Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Target all opened their first big stores. After 50 years of putting mom and pops out of business, big-box retail is now struggling.
  • In 1994, Jeff Bezos launched Amazon as an online bookseller. Twenty years later it has emerged as the primary reason big-box stores are shutting down.
  • In 2005, MAKE Magazine published it’s first issue, signaling the beginning of the makers movement. Words like “handcrafted,” “home grown,” “authentic,” and “artisan original,” suddenly entered the public lexicon.

With retail stores closing, consumers are left with fewer options for out-of-the-home forms of entertainment, and a pent-up demand for meaningful experiences.

This collision course of trends is creating the perfect storm for the next retail revolution – Maker Districts.

A maker district can best be described as a cross between an artist colony, farmers market, woodworking shop, music festival, bakery, brewpub, and brainstorming session all happening in the same space. It’s all that and more.

Here’s why I see Maker Districts entering your lives in a big way.

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The Great Cow Epiphany and the Six Immutable Laws of Information

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on February 26th, 2015


Recent comments by Vint Cerf, vice president of Google and one of the founding fathers of the Internet, about the long-term viability of our data has many wondering what will happen to our digital information over the next 100, 200, or even 1,000 years.

At the heart of the problem is something he refers to as “bit-rot,” decaying levels of information that can be found in our digital storage systems.

Much of the data stored on outdated mediums like VHS tapes, vinyl records, cassette tapes and floppy disks has already been lost.

We currently have no usable form of storage technology capable of maintaining its integrity for centuries on end. Without a breakthrough in this area, humanity’s most important memories – videos, photos, books, writings, and thousands of other informational sources – may indeed be lost.

Sadly, paper remains as our most survivable form of information over the next 100+ years.

But here’s where that whole issue goes sideways.

Swiss scientists recently developed a process for encasing DNA in glass and chilling it down as a way to preserve data encoded in it for upwards of a million years. DNA is an ultra dense storage medium with the potential of holding 455 exabytes of data per gram of DNA.

Since all of the information that exists in the world today is still under 10,000 exabytes, we have the potential of storing all of the world’s data in less than a cup of DNA.

Yes, we still have a ways to go before encasing DNA in glass and keeping it chilled for all eternity becomes practical, and we still have to develop efficient ways to store and retrieve information, but the DNA approach may indeed be the light we’re looking for at the end of this tunnel.

With that in mind, I’d like to invite you along on a journey into the far reaches of future information. Come along as we create a few unusual scenarios surrounding the “six immutable laws of information.”

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Three Great Machine Learning Paradoxes

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on February 18th, 2015

I installed my Nest Thermostat a little over a year ago. This “learning” machine was billed as being able to study the habits of people and adjust the settings to optimize both temperature and energy usage.

But ever since then I’ve found myself in a constant battle with my thermostat. It’s cooling things down when I need heat, warming things up when I’d rather be cool, and the amount of energy it’s saved is far less than the loss of productivity I’ve experienced from being uncomfortable.

This is also true with my other “smart” devices.

My washing machine still doesn’t understand the fabrics it’s trying to wash. My smart door lock still doesn’t know who I am. And our home security system does a far better job of keeping the good guys in, instead of the bad guys out.

Much of the “smartness” we’ve added to our lives has been in meager doses, slightly better than before, but not much.

That said, the level of intelligence in our homes, cars, clothes, and offices is about to move quickly up the exponential learning curve as connected devices combine remote processing power with everything around us.

Our orange juice bottles, cans of soup, and boxes of crackers will all have a way of reordering themselves when inventories get low. Toasters will soon be toasting reminders onto the sides of our bread so we won’t forget birthdays and anniversaries.

Biometric coffee makers will know exactly how much caffeine to put into our coffee, and our fireplace will even know what color of flame we’re in the mood for.

If I’m feeling ill, not only will my devices know what’s wrong, they’ll be able to scan my home and give me a quick recipe for a cure.

“Add 2 oz of turpentine from the garage, 3 tablespoons of shoe polish, four capfuls of Listerine, and 2 cough drops to a cup of boiling water, and what floats to the top will fix your problem.”

I refer to this as “MacGyvering medicine.”

Our learning machines will pave the way for a hyper-individualized world where everything around us syncs perfectly with our personal needs and desires. But that’s the point where the train begins to derail, and all our best intentions start to work against us. Here’s why.

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Going Beyond Micro-Payments to Nano-Payments

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on February 10th, 2015

If a billion people each gave you a tenth of a cent, you would have $1 million.

Over the past few weeks I’ve become enamored with the power of financial friction. This could involve everything from adding a tenth or hundredth of a cent charge to every email sent, social media “likes,” video downloads, views of copyrighted photos, and much more.

Even though it may not seem significant, there is a huge difference between “free” and “0.1 cent.”

Tiny charges, much like the rest of life’s sandpaper, tend to give us clarity between what’s significant and what’s not.

The reason this has become such an important topic today is because transaction costs have plummeted along with the cryptocurrency invention of distributed block chain ledgers, and the possibility of creating “nano-payment” networks is opening the doors to thousands of new fractional payment models.

The traditional way of providing online services like email, news, or uploading photos has been to pass the cost of operating these services on to advertisers. But that could change.

Over the past decade, micro payment schemes have created successful business models around charges less than $1. As an example, Google’s AdSense charges advertisers as little as a few cents for every click of their ads.

It’s only recently that we’ve been able to consider much smaller charges, even less than a penny.

In the past I’ve been an ardent advocate of simplicity, but over time my thinking has changed. Automation enables complexity, and the intricacy of complexity is what opens the door for unusual new business opportunities.

Here are just a few ways these seemingly insignificant payment schemes could become a big deal in your future.

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Four Rules for Game Testing Our Way to a Better Future

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on February 4th, 2015


At a recent video game tournament in Denver called ClutchCon, I was moderating a panel discussion on the future of video games, and we got into the topic of leveraging the time and energy spent playing video games into a “wisdom of crowds” approach for solving the world’s problems.

Video games have a way of immersing players into an epic challenge that consumes them physically, intellectually, and emotionally. While detractors commonly dismiss game playing as a waste of time, it more accurately embodies an evolutionary shift in human pastimes causing more synapse-firing per second than virtually any other activity on earth.

It is this heightened level of brain activity that most intrigues me. Educators would love to tap into it. Employers would give anything to see their employees as engaged at work as they are in games. And big thinkers who are heavily invested in solving the world’s biggest problems would drool over the prospects of applying ten gazillion well-focused brain cells onto whatever problem they’re wrestling with.

Passive engagement is far different than commanding someone’s full attention, and games have a way of engrossing players on virtually every brain metric for hours, sometimes days, on end. Gaming’s kill-or-be-killed situations force players to constantly push themselves to another mental state.

The addictive nature of gaming comes from players reaching pinnacle levels of brain activity where they are rewarded with an endorphin-like high. Ordinary kids are suddenly transformed into a swaggeringly ultra-cool superhero persona, and the accolades they receive for their digital accomplishments are just icing on the cake.

At issue, though, is our ability to transition “digital accomplishments” into something of real world value. How can we shine this spotlight of laser-brain brilliance onto problems like curing cancer, mitigating hurricane damage, or large-scale corruption and actually change the world?

In many ways, the path to making some of the world’s greatest breakthroughs is much like slogging our way through a labyrinth of well camouflaged enemy warriors disguised as old school thinking, failed experiments, and self-doubt to find those eureka moments that have been eluding us for decades.

So is it possible to cluster the micro accomplishments of gaming in a way to inch our way towards the macro accomplishments of real world problem-solving? Here are a few unusual insights that are guaranteed to explode your objections to video games completely.

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