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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Disrupting Government – Why Countries Will Soon Have to Compete for their Citizens

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on June 26th, 2014

In 2002, Roger Ver was honing his entrepreneurial skills by selling products on eBay. It was in the aftermath of the Twin Towers disaster when one of his products called “Pest Control Report 2000” hit the radar of Homeland Security and he was charged and convicted of selling 14 pounds of explosives without a license.

He dismisses the product as little more than a “firecracker to scare birds from cornfields,” but ended up serving 10 months in federal prison.

While his computer-parts business made him a millionaire by age 25, Ver became truly wealthy after investing tens of thousands in Bitcoin in 2011, a crypto-currency that he bought for $1 each and trades in the neighborhood of $600 today.

Now, at age 35, Roger Ver has adopted the moniker “Bitcoin Jesus” and is one of the currency’s most ardent supporters as well as a major investor in Bitcoin startups. 

At the same time, he has another agenda. He is now traveling the world, explaining to wealthy people everywhere how they can invest as little as $400,000 in the Caribbean island nation of St. Kitt and become a citizen there. 

After finishing his probation in 2006, Ver moved to Tokyo to stay off of the radar of U.S. officials. Earlier this year, on Feb 13, 2014, he got his St. Kitt’s passport, and renounced his U.S. citizenship that same month. 

“I didn’t hurt anybody. I had nothing but happy customers, and the U.S. government locked me in a cage,” he said. “So I want nothing to do with those people. I don’t want to support them. I want them out of my life.”

St. Kitt has become a magnet for wealthy people around the world because they only require an investment, not residency, to gain citizenship.

With transportation systems growing more efficient, and intrusive technologies leaving many feeling hyper-exposed and alienated by their government, conditions are now ripe for a massive wave of governmental disruption where wealthy individuals choose to “vote with their feet,” and abandon their home country.

Here’s why a massive shift is about to occur, that will force countries to compete for their own citizens.

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Artificial Intelligence will be Crashing the Stock Market in 3, 2, 1…

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on June 12th, 2014

A few weeks ago, Stephen Hawking opened the world’s eyes to the dangers of Artificial Intelligence (AI), warning that it has the potential of outsmarting humans in the financial markets. But few people realize that we are already in imminent danger of this happening.

The stock market is a system for assigning value to companies through the buying and selling of stock. It’s a human-based system, assigning human value, to corporations owned and operated by humans. Well, at least that is how it was supposed to work until the machines started taking over. 

In the 1960′s, an average share of stock was held 4 years. By 2000, average ownership dropped to 8 months, and in 2008 it dropped even further to 2 months.

Today the average share is held a scant 20 seconds and within a few months, it will drop to less than 10 seconds. 

At the center of this rapid buying and selling of stock are a series of high-frequency trading machines run by the quants, the math-whiz kids who are a type of hackers only on Wall Street.

Without having people at the center of these trades, we have lost the core ingredient, our ability to accurately assess value. 

The invasion of high-frequency trading machines is now forcing capitalism far away from anything either Adam Smith or the founders of the NYSE could possibly find virtuous. 

We’re not about to let robots compete in the Olympics, driverless cars race in the Indianapolis 500, or automated machines play sports like football, basketball, or baseball. So why is it we allow them to play a role in the most valuable contest of all, the world wide stock exchange? 

With crude forms of AI now entering the quant manipulator’s toolbox, we are now teetering dangerously close to a total collapse of the stock market, one that will leave many corporations and individuals financially destitute. 

Here is why this should be ringing alarm bells all over the world.

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Launching the Whole Earth Genealogy Project

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on May 16th, 2014

Some of us get bitten by the genealogical bug early in life, others a bit later. But there are few of us who haven’t been haunted by the question – where did I come from?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.

So when University of Southern California researchers invented something called the Geographic Population Structure (GPS) test, which works by scanning a person’s DNA for parts that were formed as a result of two ancestors from disparate populations having children, the press release instantly caught my attention.

More captivating, though, was the claim this new DNA test could locate where your relatives lived over the past 1,000 years, and in some cases, even pinpoint the specific village or island your ancestors came from.

It’s easy to draw the boxes for your own family tree going back 1,000 years, but it’s far more difficult finding the names, places, and detailed information about each of your ancestors.

The genealogy industry today consists of millions of fragmented efforts happening simultaneously. The duplication of effort is massive. While significant databases already exist on websites like Ancestry.com, RootsWeb, GenealogyBank, and the National Archives, there is still a much bigger opportunity waiting to happen, an opportunity to automate the creation of our genealogies.

We have the ability to create the placeholders for family trees going back 1,000, maybe even 5,000 years. And now with the GPS Test we can automatically start filling in pieces of information coming from every DNA test.

Using today’s stitching programs, a technology that can do pattern matching to link individual family trees whenever common names or common details show up, and using search bots to mine existing databases, we have several of the pieces already in place to begin the whole earth effort. 

This kind of information becomes critically important for those looking for ways to improve personalized medicine, forensic science, and conduct research pertaining to ancestral origins of different populations. But it’s far more than that.

What’s missing is a Jimmy Wales-type entrepreneur to turn this project into their life’s calling. Here’s why this type of project is so critically important.

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The Singularity and Our Collision Path with the Future

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on April 17th, 2014

Google’s Director of Engineering, Ray Kurzweil, has predicted that we will reach a technological singularity by 2045, and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge is betting on 2029, a date that is ironically on the hundredth anniversary of the greatest stock market collapse in human history.

But where the 1929 crash catapulted us backwards into a more primitive form of human chaos, the singularity promises to catapult us forward into a future form of human enlightenment.

The person who coined the term “singularity” in this context was mathematician John von Neumann. In a 1958 interview, von Neumann described the “ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, can not continue.”

Since that first cryptic mention half a century ago, people like Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil have begun focusing in on the exponential growth of artificial intelligence, as a Moore’s Law type of advancement, until we develop superintelligent entities with decision-making abilities far beyond our ability to understand them.

Cloaked in this air of malleable mystery, Hollywood has taken license to cast the singularity as everything from the ultimate boogeyman to the penultimate savior of humanity.

Adding to these prophecies are a number of fascinating trend lines that give credence to these predictions. In addition to our ever-growing awareness of the world around us brought on by social media and escalating rates of digital innovations, human intelligence shows a continued rise, every decade, since IQ tests were first invented in the 1930s, a phenomenon known as the Flynn Effect.

We all know intuitively that something is happening. IBM’s Watson just beat the best of the best at their own game, Jeopardy. With computers beginning to generate their own algorithms, and more cameras adding eyes for the Internet to “see,” amazing things are beginning to happen.

Tech writer Robert Cringely predicts, “A decade from now computer vision will be seeing things we can’t even understand, like dogs sniffing cancer today.”

So what happens when we lose our ability to understand what comes next?

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Which Requires More Faith, Science or Religion?

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on April 10th, 2014

For the past several months I’ve been wrestling with this topic, and how to discuss it from a centrist viewpoint.

In an era where the science vs. religion debate has become an increasingly polarizing issue, we see both sides using their own brand of logic as the weapon of choice to gain what they assume will be the higher moral ground.

There are no “separation of church and state” policies between science and religion. They struggle to coexist.

In many respects, the battle between them has denigrated into a “my logic is better than you logic,” arguments when in reality, there are more than enough foibles to go around. 

Religion isn’t going away just because some elite scientists say it doesn’t make sense, and science isn’t going to change just because it flies in the face of church doctrine. 

No, there hasn’t been anyone put to death because they believed in gravity, although Galileo came very close. And yes, holy wars are the cause of much of the world’s strife and the number of people who have died or been abused in the name of religion are more numerous than any plague.

Even though they employ radically different approaches, both science and religion offer the promise of a better future ahead. They offer hope. And inside each of these promises of hope is a subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle, request to have faith.

Faith is what bridges the gap between what we know and where we hope to be going. Faith helps us connect cause and effect, bad decisions with good intentions, and everything we think and hope to be true.

Most of our decisions in life have some degree of faith hovering in the background, and science is no exception.

The reason I feel this is such an important topic is because much of our future is being formed at the intersection of science and religion. So join me as we explore bridging the chasm between the here and now and what comes next, and that innocent little thing we call faith.

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The Great Barrier Backlash

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on April 3rd, 2014

My wife Deb and I just returned from a weeklong trip to South Korea where much of our travel inside the country involved riding on the high-speed KTX Train (Korean Transit eXpress) from city to city.

The train is designed for speeds up to 350 km/h (217 mph), but currently tops out at 190 mph. Our final trip from Changwon City in the southern tip of Korea to Seoul in the far north took just 3 hours.

The entire country is 20% smaller than my home state of Colorado, but has a population of over 50 million people, greater than California, Arizona, and Colorado combined.

KTX trains are amazingly efficient with each stop lasting only 3-5 minutes and hundreds of people getting on and off at each stop. Compared to the nightmare that airports have become, where the minimum time between a plane landing and takeoff is well over an hour, and highways that slow to a crawl during most of the day, these trains are breaking down barriers of time and distance all across Korea.

Next month, KTX will connect Seoul’s Incheon Airport with the rest of its network.

Their system works because it has broken down all the barriers – no security lines, no stoplights, no traffic cops, no passport checks or customs stations, just lightning fast trains.

In addition to high-speed trains, they are known for their high-speed networks. South Korea is also rolling out a 5G network in 2017, which is 1,000 times faster than today’s 4G LTE networks.

Yes, it helps to be a small country geographically. But pushing the limits on both transportation and Internet speeds, combined with reducing barriers along the way, makes for a potent combination.

Here’s why global competitiveness and emerging technology are forcing the hands of nearly every country to rid themselves of unnecessary barriers, something I call the Great Barrier Backlash.

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The Next Bold Step in Transportation: Personal Rapid Transit Systems

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on March 12th, 2014

Throughout history, speed has been synonymous with greatness. In sports, those who ran the fastest were heroes. In times of war, those with the fastest chariots, ships, planes, and weapons had a significant advantage. In the business world, a company’s competitive edge has typically been formed around speed – quickest delivery, fastest transaction times, or speed of information.

With the aid of technology, we’ve found ways to speed up communications – voice, text, email, social networking, and even delivery systems. But we’ve only been able to achieve minor advances in the speed of physically traveling somewhere.

As we look closely at the advances over the past couple decades, it’s easy to see that we are on the precipices of a dramatic breakthrough in ultra high-speed transportation. Businesses are demanding it. People are demanding it. And the only things standing in our way are a few people capable of mustering the political will to make it happen.

The change we’re alluding to is the introduction of large scale Personal Rapid Transit Systems (PRTs).

So how do changes like this ramp up to a global scale? The same way they always have, with a few unreasonable people, proposing unreasonable concepts enough times until it stops sounding unreasonable.

Currently four thought leaders are leading the charge for PRTs, each proposing a different solution to the world’s growing transportation problems – Elon Musk, founder of Hyperloop; Jerry Sanders, CEO of Skytran; Bill James, CEO of Jpods; and Daryl Oster, CEO of ET3.

The following is an explanation of what’s driving the need for PRTs and why they’re the logical next step in human and cargo transport.

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