When Everyone Becomes Blackmailable

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on July 20th, 2014

On a recent driving trip, my wife and I became immersed in the audio version of one of Tom Clancy’s last novels titled, “Threat Vector.” Without giving away too much of the plot, a Chinese super-geek villain has hatched a plan to hack into our most secure networks and blackmail people with their darkest secrets to subversively cause chaos and disruption for the American government.

While most good authors have devious ways of thinking like a criminal, Clancy does an exceptional job of crafting this storyline as a plausible threat. 

For many of us, our reputation is one of the most important aspects of our lives. It’s central to everything we do.

Every time a TV courtroom drama plays out, whether it’s a trial featuring Eliot Spitzer, Martha Stewart, Clarence Thomas, or Monica Lewinsky, we instantly identify with the most embarrassing pieces of the testimony because it could easily be us. We are all terminally human, with enough of our own character flaws to make us the center character of a juicy reality show.

Recent revelations about the NSA PRISM program make this kind of paranoia even more justifiable. Virtually any person, put under a microscope, can be threatened with his or her own character flaws. 

But an even greater danger comes from knowing personal weaknesses, and in most cases, it’s the person or thing we care about most. People seeking leverage always want to know the one button they can push, and whether it’s a child, parent, valuable possession, or their reputation, one well-crafted threat can be instant blackmail. 

In much the same way Google’s personalized marketing system delivers targeted ads, an intimidation engine will be capable of delivering highly targeted threats.

As cyber crime escalates, we run the risk of having our social structures deteriorate into invisible mafia-style communities with the blackmailers ruling the blackmailees, and few, if any, capable of understanding the behind-the-scenes turf wars? 

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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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The Growing Dangers of Technological Unemployment and the Re-Skilling of America

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on July 6th, 2014

In March, when Facebook announced the $2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift, they not only put a giant stamp of approval on the technology, but they also triggered an instant demand for virtual reality designers, developers, and engineers.

Virtual reality professionals were nowhere to be found on the list of hot skills needed for 2014, but they certainly will be for 2015.

The same was true when Google and Facebook both announced the acquisition of solar powered drone companies Titan and Ascenta respectively. Suddenly we began seeing a dramatic uptick in the need for solar-drone engineers, drone-pilots, air rights lobbyists, global network planners, analysts, engineers, and logisticians.

Bold companies making moves like this are instantly triggering the need for talented people with skills aligned to grow with these cutting edge industries.

Whether its Tesla Motors announcing the creation of a fully automated battery factory; Intel buying the wearable tech company Basic Science; Apple buying Dr. Dre’s Beats Electronics; or Google’s purchase of Dropcam, Nest, and Skybox, the business world is forecasting the need for radically different skills than colleges and universities are preparing students for.

In these types of industries, it’s no longer possible to project the talent needs of business and industry 5-6 years in advance, the time it takes most universities to develop a new degree program and graduate their first class. Instead, these new skill-shifts come wrapped in a very short lead-time, often as little as 3-4 months.

Last month, Udacity’s founder, Sebastian Thrun, announced his solution, the NanoDegree, where short-course training is carefully aligned with hiring companies, and virtually everyone graduating within the initial demand period is guaranteed a job.

Udacity’s NanoDegrees are very similar to the Micro College programs being developed by the DaVinci Institute that can rapidly respond to swings in the corporate training marketplace. More about DaVinci’s Micro College plans in the coming weeks.

Here’s why NanoDegrees and Micro Colleges are about to become the hottest of all the hot topics for career-shifting people everywhere.

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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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‘Situational Futuring’ and 44 Mind-Stretching Scenarios to Learn How to Use It

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on June 21st, 2014

Last week I got into a discussion with a friend about the concept of self-contained water. If you think in terms of picking up a bottle of water, only without the bottle, you get the picture. 

Rocks are self-contained, baseballs are self-contained, so why can’t we devise some way to make water self-contained? Yes, we have ice, but I’m referring to a more usable form of water.

As an example, if water itself could be used to form a somewhat hardened skin around a small quantity of water, we could create 100% consumable water with zero waste.

An industrial design team in London has come the closest with something called “Ooho,” a blob-like water container made out of an edible algae membrane. While it still involves using something other than water, it does give us clues on how to make a container out of what we’re trying to contain, in this case water. 

As we imagine our way through this design problem, many more questions come to light. Should it be flexible like a plastic bag or a bit more ridged like a typical water bottle? What is the ideal shape? Should it be a cube for easy stacking, have a handle for easy holding, or spherical just because it looks cool?

Even a container made of water will get dirty, so how do we clean the dirt from the side of a solid water container? More water?

More importantly, what is the optimal size for a self-contained water container? Should it be cup-sized, quart-sized, gallon-sized, or larger? Or maybe marble-sized or pea-sized water pellets would work best. 

Should the water be “eaten” like tiny liquid snacks that could be popped into your mouth at any time? Perhaps we would want flavored water like cherry water, tea water, coffee water, or chocolate water. 

Maybe we don’t actually eat or drink the container. Once the inside water is gone, it may be possible to just discard the bottle onto a lawn or flowerbed, as a form of enviro-littering, and wait for it to re-liquefy, sending a few drops of moisture to the thirsty plants below. 

How would we fabricate the container part of water? Would it somehow be molded, pressed, 3D printed, or simply sprayed onto a form? 

The process I’ve just described is what I call “situational futuring,” where we begin to explore the implications of some future technology. Here’s how this can be used as an effective futuring tool. 

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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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Six Radical Trends Redefining the Hotel of the Future

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on June 5th, 2014

A few nights ago, I arrived at a very nice Radisson Blu Hotel in Minneapolis for my talk on the “hotel of the future.”

My client was the good people on the Board of Carlson & Rezidor Hotels, the group responsible for a large number of impressive hotels and travel operations around the world.

When I first arrived on the property and entered my hotel room, the staff had prepared a very nice fruit plate, topped with peaches, apricots, and chocolates. This was a very nice gesture, but these were all things that my dietary restrictions would not allow me to eat.

The thought occurred to me that the hotel probably would have appreciated knowing up front about my food allergies, but it kinda ruins the moment if they have to ask lots of questions before they surprise you.

So I spent time considering this dilemma. What kind of anticipatory system could be created to broadcast the needs and preferences of guests to a hotel without turning it into a lengthy discussion?

It occurred to me that this is the exact space where smart building technology is intersecting with the Internet of Things.

In the past, hotels built their business around employing highly attentive people. In the future, they will replace many of their staff with highly attentive buildings.

Here’s a quick scenario that will explain the symbiotic relationship that will develop between people and a building that can attend to their every need. 

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Will there be Swarmbots in Your Future?

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on May 30th, 2014

Imagine stepping out of the shower in the morning, and rather than reaching for a towel, a swarm of thousands of flying drones will surround you and begin to dry you off.

A few seconds after drying your skin, the same swarm will begin to attend to other morning prep duties such as shaving, applying makeup, drying and fixing your hair, adding lotions, deodorant, and powder where necessary, and completing everything in only a few seconds.

Once the face-prep is finished, the swarm will assemble itself as your clothing, rearranging itself into the color, style, and fashion most appropriate for your day’s activities. 

The swarm will be in constant communication with you, anticipating your needs, responding to voice commands, replying when necessary through tiny ear-bots or projection eye-bots. 

The swarm will handle many duties, simultaneously serving as body armor to protect you from injury, adjusting temperatures to keep you warm or cool, constantly communicating with the rest of the world-wide swarm network, attending to every bodily function, keeping you fit and trim in the process.

These same bots will also serve as your short-range transportation system. Much like a scene from a Superman comic book, the swarm will physically lift your body and fly you to where ever you want to go.

If this sounds like science fiction, it’s because this scenario just leapfrogged 10 generations of swarmbot development. At the same time, we are quickly moving into unchartered territory, and swarmbots like this will soon have capabilities we can’t even imagine. 

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How Long Before I Can 3D Print a Replacement Body for Myself?

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on May 22nd, 2014

A couple weeks ago I turned 60. I remember how old 60 was when I was a kid, and now I’m here.

As a person who spends a lot of time asking “what if” questions, constantly thinking about extreme possibilities, the notion of 3D printing a replacement body for myself became very intriguing.

I remember seeing science fiction movies where cloned bodies were grown over long periods of time, and more recent ones with accelerated cloning technology, but the 3D printing of replacement bodies is a faster option, just now coming into view.

Bioprinting is the process of using 3D printers to form human tissue. This process that has already been used to print replacement kidneys, bladders, livers, skin, bones, teeth, noses, and ears, as well as prosthetic arms and legs. This is a list that didn’t even exist 5 years ago, but is now growing on a regular basis.

As incomprehensible as it may sound today, printing an entire replacement body for myself may only be a decade or two away. But it is also a topic steeped in massive controversy, with moral, spiritual, and ethical implications that we haven’t even begun to debate.

Once again, this is an area of science with a quickly escalating race to be first. The first person to 3D an entire human body will very likely win the Nobel Prize in Medicine and will be invited to all the world’s A-list functions. So who wouldn’t want win this race.

With this swirling cauldron of competing forces in play, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who would relish the opportunity to move into an 18-20 year old version of my own body. Yet, at the same time, this technology will be opening the mother of all cans of worms. Here’s why.

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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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