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 Next Great Space Race – Space-Based Power Stations

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on May 9th, 2014

Earth’s appetite for power continues to grow. Since the 1960s, power consumption has quadrupled around the globe, with many countries opting to build large oil and coal plants to meet the demand.

But for Japan, a burgeoning economy without large oil and coal reserves, after the Fukushima disaster occurred, an in-depth review concluded the most viable long-term strategy was to focus on spaced-based power systems.

For this reason, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) recently announced its 25-year plan to build the world’s first 1-gigawatt power plant in space.

The vision of harvesting solar power from space and beaming it to earth has been around ever since Dr. Peter Glaser first proposed it in 1968. After considerable research in the 1970s, scientist concluded it wasn’t a viable concept just yet because technology hadn’t advance enough. The materials were far too heavy, and it would have required over 100 astronauts working with thousands of crude robots to create it.

Since then, technology has advanced in countless ways, not only making it doable, but for Japan, making it the best available option for controlling its own destiny.

What most people don’t realize is that solar panels in space are 10 times more efficient than those on earth because there are no day-night cycles, seasonal variations, or weather issues to contend with.

But here’s where it gets even more interesting. Many other countries won’t be comfortable with Japan having the world’s only expertise in building space-based power stations. Once the first one proves successful, it will become faster and cheaper to launch the next 10, or even 100 of them.

With Japan throwing down the gauntlet, they are effectively forcing China, Russia, and the U.S. to compete in an entirely new kind of space race. Here are a few thoughts on the massive implications of this JAXA announcement. 

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Betting on Your Future Self

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on April 30th, 2014

Every day we wake up different.

Moment by moment, our lives are changing. Much like a strobe light with flashes of memories jumping through our minds we randomly recall where we’ve been.

It happens something like this:

…and then I woke up
…and then I was eating food
…and then I was taking a shower
…and then I was in the office
…and then I was in a meeting
…and then I was driving
…and then I was staring at myself in a mirror
…and then I was getting on a plane
…and then I was speaking in front of a crowd of people
…and then I was sleeping again

Moments come and moments go. We have no idea where they come from, or where they go, but every moment changes us. 

The person we were as a baby is different than who we were as teenagers, and that person has morphed and changed a million times along the way. We don’t even look the same.

So when we think about ourselves in the future, we have to ask, “Is my future self going to be more valuable than my present self?”

Will the person we become five years from now be more talented, wealthier, healthier, better looking, better educated, or have a better circle of friends to network with? 

There are many things we can do today to improve our future self. We all intuitively know this, but sometimes we need to be reminded. We can read more, exercise more, take a class, find a better job, write a book, start a business, invent something, meet new people, expand our social network, or do many other things.

We are all placing a bet. Each of us is somehow betting on our future self. But here are a few things you may not have thought about.

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Disposable Houses

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on April 24th, 2014

 

Disposable housing will blindside the real estate industry
in virtually every country on earth

When it comes to doing something first, and winning the technology race, there are typically no official forms to fill out, no rulebooks, no judges, and certainly no deadlines.

In fact, when it came to using 3D printers to print an entire house, a process known as contour crafting, only a small number of people actually knew how important this race really was.

During the past few years, I watched as several groups worked feverishly to have their names emblazoned in the annuls of history, but I was surprised when an unknown company in Shanghai, China claimed victory using an alternative approach I hadn’t even considered.

While other groups were preparing to print their houses on location, the Chinese team came up with a modular approach, printing all of the components inside a large factory, and transporting and assembling the houses at their final destination.

With this approach, the WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Company not only printed a house in a day, they completed 10 houses in a single day using a massive printer that was 490 feet long, 33 feet wide, and 20 feet deep. 

The ‘ink’ used was made of recycled construction materials, industrial waste and tailings, and according to Architect’s Newspaper, each of these homes cost around $4,800. 

No, they’re not ornate mansions with lots of decorative trim. Some would even say they’re ugly. But they represent the first of an entirely new wave of housing – inexpensive, durable home that can be produced in only a few hours for very little money. This process is perfect for fabricating homes for the poor and homeless, a major issue in China, as well as virtually every other nation on earth.

Ugly or not, WinSun won the first phase of this undeclared competition, and is now putting together plans to build 100 factories in China to “collect and transform” construction waste into aggregate for its machines.

The most important feature, at least in my mind, is that these houses can just as easily be ground up a second, third, or fourth time, and be reprinted as an entirely new home. They are, in fact, disposable houses that will fit very well with the nomadic lifestyles of future generations.

Here’s why this will be such a massively disruptive technology.

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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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A Journey into the Land of Epiphany

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on February 28th, 2014

I’ve always loved ideas and I think it stems from the fact that I’ve had so many to choose from. But it wasn’t about the sheer number of ideas I got to play with. Rather it was finding that one truly remarkable gem, the golden epiphany, hiding in amongst the others.

It’s hard to explain the epiphany experience, but it’s a euphoric high unlike anything else. Some have described it as “a orchestra from on high,” “a sudden realization,” “a epic breakthrough of the mind,” “an orgasm of the brain,” or “that Eureka moment!”

For me, I’ve become an epiphany junkie, always in search of the next great revelation. But there’s a big difference between a minor epiphany and what I refer to as a full category five epiphany – a mass-spectrographic, isotopic, double quad-turbo, full blown epiphany.

These are the ones people give half their kingdom for, but being part of the frequent-flier crowd for epiphanies, I’ve had the honor of dancing with them on a daily basis.

While this may sound like a braggadocios statement, rest assured, behind every idea junkie is a tortured soul. Every seismic shift in thinking is often preceded by days, months, even years of intellectual frustration waiting not-so-patiently for the next lightning strike to occur.

The epiphany phenomenon is also behind much of the surge in coffee and energy drink sales because caffeine and other stimulants can indeed trigger an “epiphanous” reaction. 

For this reason I’d like to take you along on own journey into the land of epiphanies, and offer you some rare insights into this mysterious world.

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Why the Tiny Home Movement May Not be So Tiny

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on February 13th, 2014

Tiny Homes – Redefining the simple life 

Most of us hate feeling cramped. We hate being stuck on a crowded plane, stuck in congested traffic, and wading through packed concert halls. We like to be able to stretch out, get casual, and relax, but we can’t do that when people are invading our space.

Over the past century, space has become synonymous with wealth, status, and luxury. Naturally the most important people have the biggest houses, biggest cars, biggest boats, and work at the biggest corporations.

In 1900, the average house in the U.S. was a mere 700 sq. ft. with an average of 4.6 people living inside. A hundred years later, the average home had mushroomed to 2,500 sq. ft. with only 2.5 residents.

As a society we’re caught up in a self-perpetuating make-money-spend-money loop that blinds us to other possibilities. We’ve been in a race to the top and a tremendous number of service organizations have cropped up that both heighten our fear of missing out and provide quick financing to buy the “good life” today with tomorrow’s money.

But the recent recession delivered a sobering gut-check to life as usual. Easy money has caused housing prices to spiral out of control, and all of the things we thought were so important, suddenly became less so.

Out of this has sprung a low carbon living crusade as a natural follow-on to the green and renewable energy movements. But it tends to be less about solving the world’s ills and more about people taking control of their own destiny.

At the heart of this movement are a new breed of tiny homes that are comfortable, efficient, often portable, and most important, mortgage free. They represent freedom, freedom from debt, freedom from conspicuous consumption, and freedom to live a life of passion.

Here’s why the tiny home movement is likely to be far more than a tiny blip on the radar screen of change.

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The Disruptive Nature of the Sharing Economy: Finding the Next Great Opportunities

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on February 1st, 2014

Many of us suffer from a sinister and often contagious disorder, something I call just-in-case disease.

We own toolboxes full of tools, just in case we need to fix something. We have kitchens full of appliances just in case we want to prepare a meal. We have cars in our garages just in case we need to go somewhere. We even have closets full of clothes we know we’ll never wear just in case we get desperate.

Wealthy people suffer from an even more extreme form of just-in-case disease. They own yachts, summer homes, extra cars, fancy jewelry, snowmobiles, and even private islands just in case they need something to keep them entertained.

Many of these items are hugely valuable assets that only get used occasionally. In the grand scheme of things, they represent an incredible waste of natural resources – hardware, buildings, real estate, equipment, and art – all sitting around collecting dust.

We’ve all become stuffaholics, addicted to more, more, and don’t-stand-in-my-way because I want more!

When it comes time to get rid of our stuff, we suffer from another affliction, separation anxiety. When it comes time to say goodbye to our stuff, we find ways to avoid giving it the death sentence and actually throwing it away. 

As a result of our separation anxiety, we’ve created a massive self-storage industry to “age our stuff” just a bit longer. In the U.S. alone we have over 2.3 billion square feet of rentable storage space.

Nigel Marsh sums it up well when he says, “There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.”

There is, however, a cure for this ailment, and its called the “sharing economy.” 

The sharing economy is creating some amazing business models around the use of “other people’s stuff.” Here’s why it will be such a disruptive force in our future, and some of the next great opportunities in this space.

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The Quantified Self, the Great College Killer

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on January 14th, 2014

Who are you as an individual? 

As part of a family, you are measured by your domestic life and the relatives closest to you. As a prospective employee, you are evaluated by your skills, talents, and knowledge. As part of a community, you are gauged by the kind of relationships you build and maintain. As an athlete you are assessed by your physical strengths, your reaction times, and your determination.

Whatever kind of lens or filter we place over our lives we use different systems for measuring those key differentiators. And while we all think we are the world’s foremost expert on ourselves, we actually know very little.

That’s about to change.

The Internet of Things is already comprised of over 10 billion moving parts, and by 2020 that number will grow to over 50 billion.

These “things” have a way of gathering information about ourselves in ways we never imagined were possible. Not only will we be able to monitor the quantity and quality of food we eat, the air we breath, and our daily activities, but we will also be tracking the information we consume, our moods, our level of engagement, and what undertakings we find most stimulating.

In addition to charting the normal inputs and outputs for our mind and body, we will also be evaluating the context in which we exist. Whether it’s an emotional context, environmental context, or spiritual context, each plays an important role in determining who we are. In the future, it all becomes measurable. 

The “quantified self” is all about building a vast and measurable information sphere around us. As we get better acquainted with the Delphic maxim “know thyself,” we will become far more aware of our deficiencies and the pieces of learning needed to shore up our shortfalls. And that’s why this will have such a tremendous impact on colleges.

Compensating for these deficiencies won’t be about getting bachelor or master degrees. Rather, they will be about gaining experiences, reading books, meeting people, or working as an apprentice. At most, it will be about taking 1-2 courses at a university, but not an entire degree package. Here’s why. 

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