Our Newest Unit of Measure – 1 Human Intelligence Unit – and why it will Never Happen

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on December 9th, 2014

I’ve been closely watching the debate on artificial intelligence with people like Rodney Brooks saying it’s only a tool, and others like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking giving bone chilling warnings of how it could lead to the destruction of all humanity.

As I was pondering these differing points of view, it occurred to me that we currently don’t have any real way of measuring the potency of AI. How will we ever know there is a real threat of danger if we have no way of measuring it?

For this reason, I’d like to propose the creation of a standard for measuring AI based on “1 Human Intelligence Unit.”

Similar, in some respects, to James Watt’s ingenious way of calculating horsepower as a way of gauging the mechanical muscle behind his ever improving steam engines, I’d like to make a crude attempt at quantifying, in numerical terms, the influence of 1 Human Intelligence Unit (HIU). 

Since horsepower is a rather one dimensional measure of force, and human intelligence is a complex, multidimensional combination of personal attributes that include thinking, reasoning, determination, motivation, emotional values, memories, fears, and frailty, the simple notion of quantifying human brainpower quickly mushroomed into one of those “infinity plus one” questions where the answer has become more of a philosophical debate rather than something we could assign a meaningful integer to. 

Over the past few weeks I found myself immersed in this quandary, looking for a simple but eloquent approach vector for solving the 1 HIU riddle. 

To put this into perspective, imagine a scene 20 years from now where you are walking into your local robot store to compare the latest models before you buy one for your home. The three models you’re most interested in have tags listing their HIUs as 4.6, 12.4, and 24.0 respectively.

Depending on whether you’ll use your robot to simply follow orders or to become a well-rounded sparing partner to debate the issues of the day, the HIU rating will become a hugely valuable tool in determining which one to choose. 

For this reason, I’d like to take you along on my personal journey to solve for “infinity plus one” in the area of human intelligence, and the startling conclusions that are likely to disrupt all your thinking.

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Introducing the Maslow Self-Actualization House

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on December 1st, 2014

For the past several months I’ve become enamored with the idea of creating a self sufficient, connectionless home. Not only is the home off-grid, creating it’s own power, heat, and air-conditioning, but also it’s own water supply, compost, and sewage system in a smart home environment.

I’ve even imagined how a house like this could be constructed with a form of 3D printing called contour crafting. The entire house could be designed and built one drop at a time, with everything from windows, wiring, and plumbing meticulously “printed” into place.

Going even further, every surface could have sensors, solar cells, and smart devices with unusual capabilities and functionality embedded into the wall, floors, and ceilings. Micro LEDs, audio systems, and air handlers could even anticipate your mood and adjust themselves according to your changing whims. 

In fact, this ultimate off-grid smart home would be so intelligent that it would circumvent every paid service plan to provide all these services. That’s right, everything would be totally free.

Free power, free water, free security systems, free heating and air-conditioning. I had become so captivated by the disruptive notion of “free,” that I was missing the bigger picture.

Only in the past couple days have I come to realize that I was thinking about this all wrong. 

Each of us has formed an adversarial relationship with our homes. Our homes are not operating in our best interests. They’re “dumb” structures, needing cleaning and repair, unable to think on their own, and every feature we wish to add costs us more money. 

Over the years, we’ve all become complacent in our thinking, resigned to accept “that’s just the way it is.” None of us has imagined that there could actually be a better option, but there truly is.

The Maslow Self Actualization home is one that forms a symbiotic relationship with each of its residents, and over time, begins to climb the famed pyramid to imbue the power of self-actualization onto those who inhabit it. 

Here’s how I see the stages of this higher order living begin to unfold.

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What Industries will produce the First Trillionaires?

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on November 24th, 2014

A few weeks ago I got into a discussion with some friends centered around this question. “What, in your mind, will be the most powerful entity in the world 100 years from now?” 

As we look around us today, it’s easy to point to a single nation as being the most powerful. But will that still be true 100 years from now? 

The most powerful entities in the future could be large multi-national corporations, giant associations of people, companies, religious groups, clusters of countries such as NATO, perhaps some new entity that controls technology like ICANN, or something entirely new. 

Adding to the confusion of this question, what actually defines power? Is it money, clout, influence, an ability to control a large military, or some combination of all of these? 

Will the notion of power be defined differently in the future than it is today? 

These are all important questions to ask because powerful entities define who the powerful people are. And it is the underlying systems and technology that will determine status and clout.

But maybe this is the wrong way to think about it. The most powerful entity in the world 100 years from now may very well be a band of trillionaires.

With their level of influence, the trillionaires may very well determine the clout, power, and status of nations as well as the standing of other groups.

So where will these trillionaires come from? Are they simply billionaires in an inflated global economy? Perhaps. But it becomes a rather intriguing question to consider what industries, systems, and business models will have the potential of generating 100X more income that anything in the world today.

Another way of asking this, what are the products or services that are sufficiently scalable, transportable, and in-demand to produce $1 trillion in revenue in a short period of time? 

To put this number in perspective, if 7 billion people on earth each spent $143 on the same item, it would yield $1 trillion. But since gross revenue is a long ways from profit, and profit is generally several multiples of an individual shareholder’s wealth, the money spent per person would likely have to be in the neighborhood of 100X more.

With that backdrop I’d like to explore the question of which future industries have the potential of producing the first trillionaires?

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Modern Day Grandstanding and the Future of Getting Noticed

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on November 17th, 2014

 

On a recent trip to Amsterdam, I had a conversation with Axel Rüger, Director of the renowned Van Gogh Museum about what it was that made Van Gogh so famous. Was it his talent, the fact that he cut off his own ear, or a combination of both?

As we continued the discussion, perhaps an even bigger question that we debated was whether Van Gogh and his artwork would be more famous or less famous 100 years from now?

Naturally, this line of thinking raises many other questions. Is there any kind of formula that can guarantee fame? Does grandstanding, plus talent, equal fame?

If a talented artist today engaged in a similar form of grandstanding by cutting off their ear, or some other part of their body, would it have the same effect today?

Probably not, because it has already been done before, and we rarely remember those who come in second.

As a professional speaker, I find this line of questioning very intriguing because I find myself rubbing elbows with some of the most recognizable personalities in the world.

So what kind of grandstanding has worked in the past, and how will it change in the future?

Radio stars of the 1920s were very different than TV and movie stars of the 1980s. And those celebrities took a far different route to fame than many of our well-known personalities today.

After Justin Bieber used a few homemade YouTube videos to carve a path to superstardom, thousands of other talented young kids began posting similar videos with hopes that lightening would strike again.

Similarly, Mark Zuckerberg and his team of rule-breaking Harvard-dropouts inspired thousands of other young startup pioneers to jump on the fast track to becoming the next Internet billionaire. 

Is there a limit to the number of famous people the world can have at any given time? Does a famous person have to die to make room for someone new? Will everyone have their 15 minutes of fame like Andy Warhol famously suggested?

Here’s why all these question are so important and how the path to fame will continue to change in the future. 

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Extreme Graphene and the Coming Super Materials Gold Rush

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on October 27th, 2014

In 2004, scientists Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov from the University of Manchester, used adhesive tape to lift a thin layer of carbon from a block of graphite, and placed it on a silicone wafer. Graphite is the stuff commonly found in pencil lead.

As simple as this sounds, what these two scientists had created was a 2-dimensional form of carbon known as graphene, and in 2010 they received the Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery. But that’s only part of the story. 

What makes the discovery of graphene so important is all of its unusual properties. It is a pure form of carbon that is very thin, very strong and very expensive.

  • SUPER THIN – It is only one atom thick, so it is almost transparent.
  • SUPER STRONG – Graphene is the strongest material ever discovered, 100 times stronger than diamond, and 200 times stronger than steel, and yet flexible and even stretchable.
  • SUPER CONDUCTOR – It conducts heat and electricity faster at room temperature than any other known material. It also charges and discharges electrically up to 1000x faster than traditional batteries.
  • SUPER EXPENSIVE – Even using the most advanced processes for manufacturing it, graphene still runs around about $100,000 per square meter.

These unusual attributes have made graphene the most exciting new material in all of science. 

Since its discovery, a total of 8,413 patents were granted by February 2013 in areas such as super computing, electronics, energy storage, telecommunications, renewable power, health care, and telecommunications.

Over the coming years, the price of graphene will go through an exponential price drop similar to Moore’s Law.

Here’s why graphene and a host of other super materials are turning material science into the hottest of all hot new fields of research.

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You will be a different person by the time you reach the end of this article

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on October 15th, 2014

Whatever happened to that young child you were not so many years ago?

As a baby, life was all about eating, sleeping, and dry diapers. Even though you are learning new things quickly, not much else really mattered.

By the time you enter grade school, you have learned to walk, talk, feed yourself, and have fun with your friends. Mom and dad were very important and playtime is a central part of every day.

Entering high school you’ve grown much taller, in most cases, doubling your height from when you were two. Your eyes and facial features have many similarities and look familiar, but you are now very different. You are fascinated by music, television, and any time you spot a passing smile by someone of the opposite sex, it become heart-stoppingly important.

Relationships matter. Every new day has you seeking a different set of experiences. You take pride in whatever you were good at, and become enamored with things you enjoy.

Every personal relationship brings with it a different set of involvements. Your first kiss sets the stage for your second, and your first intimate moments become cemented into the very fabric of your being.

As you enter your 30s and 40s, your skillsets change dramatically. With age comes perspective, big problems become little ones, and over time, even the little ones faded away. In so many ways, you can now see the bigger picture.

In your 60s and 70s you begin to feel time is running out. One moment of urgency gets replaced by the next, but urgency also comes with a new outlook. Your greatest memories become like gardens of eternal beauty, a place where you graciously linger whenever they show up.

It is in this progression that we begin to realize that the future has changed us every step of the way. Even though there are continuations to our personality and genetic structure, we are constantly changing. One cell gets replaced by another until we bear little resemblance to that person we were so many years ago.

And yes, you are now a different person than you were, even a few seconds ago when you first started reading this column. So why does this matter? 

Here are 18 reason why the person you were still matters, and another 18 reasons why it doesn’t.

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Disrupting Healthcare – When Devices Replace Medicine

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on October 9th, 2014

Doctors today are constantly selling.

No, it didn’t start out that way, but a system has evolved that richly rewards members of the physician’s food chain if sales continue.

These sales include the selling of tests, pills, therapy, referrals, or simply selling the patient on their competency as a doctor.

Over the coming years, much of the selling will be replaced by data. Expert opinions get replaced by hard cold facts. Yes, this will unfold over time and the transition period will involve a multitude of probabilistic approaches that will eventually lead to a more factual-based decision-making process.

While many in the medical profession view this as taking away much of the doctor’s power and authority, it may be just the opposite. Big data is not the doctor’s enemy, but rather a hugely valuable important tool, perhaps the most important of all time.

Consider the following scenario.

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, patients walking into the doctor’s office will first receive a full-body scan, creating a complete data model built around several thousand data points. Any area that gives even the slightest hint of troublesome activity will warrant closer inspection.

For any number of conditions, rather than prescribing medicine as a treatment, doctors will prescribe a device. Devices will have a wide range of purposes ranging from ingestible cams and monitors, to wearable super data-collectors, to body function amplifiers, to pulse correctors, to early warning indicators.

During the transition period it will be a combination of drugs and devices, but eventually most medicinal treatments will be replaced with devices designed around coaxing the body into repairing itself. 

Over time, doctors will transition from being the experts on human biology and medicine to being the experts on biological data and biological devices.

Here’s why understanding this transition period is so important. 

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When it comes to jobs, why is this time different?

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on August 26th, 2014

In 1964, and open letter was drafted and sent to President Johnson, warning him of the coming Triple Revolution.

The letter was composed and signed by 35 members of the “Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution,” which include luminaries like Nobel Chemist, Linus Pauling; civil rights activist, Tom Hayden; and Swedish Nobel Economist, Gunnar Myrdal.

The letter focused on three revolutions taking place at the time:

  1. Cybernation Revolution – increasing automation
  2. Weaponry Revolution – mutually assured destruction
  3. Human Rights Revolution – growing civil unrest

While the letter talked about all three issues, it focused primarily on the Cybernation Revolution where they predicted that machines would cause massive new unemployment:

“A new era of production has begun. Its principles of organization are as different from those of the industrial era as those of the industrial era were different from the agricultural. The cybernation revolution has been brought about by the combination of the computer and the automated self-regulating machine. This results in a system of almost unlimited productive capacity which requires progressively less human labor. Cybernation is already reorganizing the economic and social system to meet its own needs.”

Of particular interest to me was the work of one of the signers, Robert Theobald, a futurist who had written extensively on the economics of abundance and his advocacy of a Basic Income Guarantee. These are the same topics being discussed by those today who fear massive technological unemployment in the years ahead.

Even though this 1964 warning of a Triple Revolution registered little more than a tiny blip on the radar screen of history, computers have dramatically changed the jobs landscape as well as the skills required to perform those jobs.

Today we are seeing many voice similar concerns about technological unemployment, where computers, robots, and machines are automating our jobs out of existence. In fact, some have gone so far as to call this the “robot jobs Armageddon.” 

So is this time truly different? Here are six overarching shifts in the world that are causing many to say, “Yes, this time may really be different!”

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2050 and the Future of Infrastructure

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on August 4th, 2014

Much of the world around us has been formed around key pieces of infrastructure. Most see this as a testament to who we are as a society, and part of the cultural moorings we need to guide us into the future.

In general, infrastructure represents a long-term societal investment that will move us along the path of building a more efficient, better functioning, society. And usually it does … for a while.

But infrastructure comes in many forms and as we build our elaborate networks of pipes, wires, roads, bridges, tunnels, buildings, and waterways, we become very focused on the here and now, with little thought as to whether there might be a better way.

Virtually every piece of infrastructure creates jobs, revenues streams, and investment opportunities, as well as new laws, regulations, and industry standards.

The longer a piece of infrastructure is in place, the greater the resistance there is to replacing it. Much like an aging tree, the root system that feeds it becomes enormous. 

That said, the life-cycle of infrastructure is getting shorter, and teams driving the disruptive technologies are getting far more sophisticated.

Infrastructure projects represent huge paydays for someone, and the disruptors are determined to make it their payday.

Here are ten examples of how our core infrastructure are about to change and what this will mean to the nations and businesses at the heart of this revolution.

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The Laws of Exponential Capabilities

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on July 14th, 2014

When people like Google CEO, Larry Page, Virgin’s Richard Branson, and X-Prize Foundation CEO, Peter Diamandis, talk about us entering into a period of abundance, there has been a natural tendency to assume we’ll be entering into a life of leisure. People won’t have to work as hard and we will all have more time for travel, vacations, and play. 

Yes, 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. 

With these types of automation and AI (artificial intelligence) replacing human involvement, the discussion has focused on solutions like shared jobs, micro employment, and guaranteed income.

While those may be options, there’s also great danger in preparing for “slacker lifestyles” where people feel less significant, less certain about their future, and less connected to the value they have to offer. As a society we risk becoming soft and lazy.

There is great value in the human struggle, and when we fail to be challenged, our best-laid plans tend to fall apart at the seams.

Today, 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. 

Here’s why this is so critically important.

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