Optimizing Evil

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on November 12th, 2013


Would the world be a better place if Adolph Hitler never existed?

While many people will argue over who exactly was the worst of the worst, with names like Pol Pot, Josef Stalin, Idi Amin, Ivan the Terrible, Genghis Khan, Nero, Osama bin Laden, Attila the Hun, and Hirohito entering the conversation, it’s easy to attribute a face to the evil we all despise.

But when we take a more philosophical approach and ask what the world would have looked like if our own poster child for evil had never existed, we begin seeing human progress in a whole new light.

Rest assured, I’m not a fan of Hitler or any of the other psychopaths who’ve splattered blood over the pages of history. But evil does play an important role, and often times, a positive one.

As an example, some of our biggest advancements in science and industry happened during World War II when our backs were up against a wall and the word “deadline” actually referred to the time when more people would die. 

Similarly, many drawings from DaVinci and Archimedes were dedicated to creating better war machines, which also gave us much of our foundational thinking for advancing mathematics, physics, medicine, and engineering.

Our ongoing struggles with evil are never ending, and it’s up to us to stop it wherever and whenever possible. And it may be ludicrous to think we’ll ever be in danger of having “too little” evil. But knowing that we are driven by adversity, and that hardship and difficulty often brings out the best in us, is it reasonable to think there may be ways to actually “optimize evil?”

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Have we reached peak employment? 24 future industries that will lead to an era of super employment!

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on November 5th, 2013


It’s easy to spot signs of desperation in people’s eyes. With unemployment rates at persistently high levels and young people unable to find jobs from one year to the next, we have become a society seething with anxiety.

I often get asked if we are headed into an era of 50% unemployment because we’ve automated all of the jobs out of existence. There are two parts to the answer.

Every time we download one of dozens of “level apps” on our smartphone, we eliminate the need to own this tool. Levels have traditionally been a tool made of metal with a small elliptical-shaped glass tube for accurately measuring horizontal balance. But the app is far easier. It eliminates the need to produce the metal and glass components, assemble and package the product, ship components halfway around the world, and retail stores no longer need to carry this line of products.

So yes, we are automating tons of jobs out of existence and we will continue to do so. Every downloadable app has the potential of eliminating small fractional jobs. But cumulatively, this amounts to millions of positions around the world.

The second part of the question, however, is a bit more complicated. “Have we simply run out of work?” And the answer is, of course not! 

In fact, we will never run out of work. But there aren’t always jobs associated with the work that needs to be done. And that’s where we find ourselves today – plenty of work, not enough jobs.

Here are some thoughts on how we can escape the downward employment spiral and 24 future industries that will lead to an era of super employment! 

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Competing for the World’s Largest Infrastructure Project: Over 100 Million Jobs at Stake

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on October 30th, 2013

Elon Musk and Daryl Oster, competing for what could become
the world’s largest infrastructure project

When Tesla Motors CEO, Elon Musk, mysteriously leaked that he was working on his Hyperloop Project, the combination of secrecy, cryptic details, and his own flair for the dramatic all contributed to the media frenzy that followed.

Leading up to this announcement was his growing anxiety over California’s effort to build a very expensive high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco with outdated technology.

While the Musk media train was picking up steam, several reporters pointed out a similar effort by Daryl Oster and his Longmont, Colorado-based company, ET3, to build a comparable tube transportation system that was much further along.

Indeed both are working on what will likely be the next generation of transportation where specially designed cars are placed into sealed tubes and shot, much like rockets, to their destination. While high-speed trains are breaking the 300 mph speed barrier, tube transportation has the potential to make speeds of 4,000 mph a common everyday occurrence.

As Daryl Oster likes to call it, “space travel on earth.”

Even though tube travel like this will beat every other form of transportation in terms of speed, power consumption, pollution, and safety, the big missing element is its infrastructure, a tube network envisioned to combine well over 100,000 miles of connected links.

While many look at this and see the lack of infrastructure as a huge obstacle, at this point in time it is just the opposite, the biggest opportunity ever.

Constructing the tube network will be the biggest infrastructure project the earth has ever seen, with a projected 50-year build-out employing in excess of 100 million people along the way. But in addition to these impressive projections, there’s far more at stake than just jobs and superfast transportation. Here’s why. 

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Introducing Synaptical Currency Theory – Assigning Value to Brain Capital

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on October 21st, 2013


What has been the hardest problem you’ve had to solve in your life? As I step you through this question, just focus on the ones where you actually found a solution. 

For some of you, this may have included things like finding a job, finding a cure for a disease or medical problem, or dealing with major family issues.

When you had to solve the problem, how much time, energy, and brainpower did you commit to coming up with an answer?

Now consider how different your life would have been if it only required half as much effort – half as much stress, anxiety, and mental turmoil.

In his book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell focused on two key variables as to why people have become successful – effort and opportunity. The effort part coincides with what he calls the “10,000-Hour Rule” where true experts expend at least 10,000 hours studying and learning their craft, and that alone is not enough unless they also fall into the right opportunity. 

Taking the “10,000-Hour Rule” a few steps further, how many synapse firings inside the brain have to occur to achieve the equivalent of this 10,000-hour mastery?

Assuming there is a physical limit to the number of times a synapse triggered signal can pass through the human brain in one day, the way we expend our “synaptical currency” becomes a crucial element in our personal success formula. 

So how do we go about assigning monetary value to the finite resource I’m calling “synaptical currency” that will eventually determine our value in society? 

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The Future Favors the Bold – 8 Backcasting Scenarios for Understanding the Future

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on October 4th, 2013


Did you hear about the spy who was caught stealing huge amounts of data by hiding it in the DNA of his skin? Officials couldn’t find any trace of the information on him so they eventually had to let him go.

If you haven’t heard of that story, it’s because it hasn’t happened…. yet. The technology is still a few years away from being viable, at least at a price anyone could afford. As an emerging technology, DNA storage, with it’s ability to store over 2 petabytes of information on a gram of DNA, may not be practical for another decade or so.

However, knowing that it’s not only possible, but also likely, even with this brief mention of it, changes our understanding of the future.

Ideas are like pixels floating in space. With only a few, they look like random dots on a thousand mile canvas. But with the right lens these ideas can form recognizable patterns, turning random dots into clear visions of what’s coming next.

The clarity with which we see into the future is directly related to the number of idea fragments we manage to piece together.

Once our ideas reach critical mass, that’s when the fun really begins. Idea pixels, properly arranged, create a working model of the world to come, along with a roadmap for both business and personal strategies. 

But here’s the most amazing part. Those with the clearest vision of the future will naturally rise to the top, becoming critical influencers, industry leaders, and voices of authority.

The future favors the bold! Are you sufficiently well-informed to act boldly?

If not, here are a series of backcasting scenarios specifically designed to help you start connecting the dots and add to your own understanding of what the future holds. 

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Trimming the Fat – Introducing the Lean Micro-College Model for Education

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on September 29th, 2013


Last year the DaVinci Institute launched a computer programmer training school, DaVinci Coders, and one of the key people we tapped to be one of our world-class instructors was Jason Noble. On Friday I attended a talk given by Jason at the Rocky Mountain Ruby Conference in Boulder, Colorado titled “From Junior Engineer to Productive Engineer.”

DaVinci Coders is an 11-week, beginner-based training in Ruby on Rails, patterned after the successful Chicago-based school, Code Academy (later renamed The Starter League).

Working as a Senior Software Engineer for Comverge, an intelligent energy management company in Denver, and also part-time instructor for DaVinci Coders, Jason understands what it takes to train people both in the classroom and on the job.

In his presentation he compared the apprenticeship times necessary to bring three different newly hired Junior Developers up to speed – one with no Rails experience, one who attended our 11-week course, and another who attended a 26-week program at a different school. 

He concluded that the one with no Rails experience required 6-7 month apprenticeship time, the one with 11-weeks training required 2 months, and the one with 26 weeks schooling was up to speed in 3 weeks.

He also estimated hiring a talented college grad with a computer science major, the apprenticeship time would likely be more than 2 months, but they’d also bring other valuable tools to the table.

Yes, this is an unusually tiny sample size for a test case and training times will vary greatly. But this type of comparative analysis naturally begs the question of how much training should be required prior to taking a job, and whether the investment of time and money spent on training should be optimized around the company or the employee, knowing there will always be some in-house training required.

When we look at the bigger picture of retraining for this and many other professions, knowing that people will be rebooting their careers far more often in the future, with time being such a precious commodity, how do we create the leanest possible educational model for jobs in the future? That’s where the Micro-College concept comes into play.

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How Long before a Driverless Car Wins the Indianapolis 500?

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on September 13th, 2013

In 1997, IBM staged a history-making competition between World Chess Champion Gary Kasparov and their own chess-playing computer, Deep Blue.

Fourteen years later in 2011, IBM staged a similar competition pitting their more human-like computer, Watson, against the two top Jeopardy players of all times, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.

The tally for these two major competitions stands at Computers–2, Humans-0.

So, at least in my way of thinking, the next logical competition should be to pit a self-driving computer against the world’s best racecar drivers. It may not be the actual Indianapolis 500, but rather a staged competition, maybe Google or Tesla Vs. 2-3 of the top Nascar car drivers?

Is this a contest that will happen in the next 5 years?

The answer has many moving parts and far more at stake than simply winning or losing. So open the door and climb in. Let’s take a journey into our driverless future and see what really makes sense.

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Tapping into the Waterways in the Sky

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on September 8th, 2013

With all of the water we have in the world, only 2% of it is fresh water. To make matters worse, only one-forth of all fresh water is accessible to humans. 

Until now, the entire human race has survived on 0.5% of the available water on earth. But that’s about to change. 

We are seeing a fast growing trend towards harvesting water from the atmosphere, something our ancestors first began working on centuries ago. People in the Middle East and Europe devised the original air-well systems over 2,000 years ago. Later the Incas were able to sustain their culture above rain line by collecting dew and channeling it into cisterns for later use.

Even though these techniques have been around for a long time, technology in this area has recently taken a quantum leap forward, and many are beginning to think in terms of houses that generate their own water supply, self-irrigating crops, and even “waterless” cities.

The earth’s atmosphere is a far more elegant water distribution system than rivers, reservoirs, and underground waterways. Our current systems involve pipes and pumping stations that are expensive to operate and maintain, and easily contaminated. 

Since we all depend on the rains to provide the water we need, what if we could extract this rain at the very time and place we need it? On-demand water extractors. 

A new breed of inventors has emerged to tackle this exact problem. Using solar, wind, and other forms of passive energy, our future water networks will be operate with far more efficiency and convenience than anything imaginable today. 

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Life as a Teenager in 1994, 2014, and 2034 – What a difference a generation makes! – Part One

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on September 3rd, 2013

How quickly we forget. Events of 20 years ago seem like a distant memory, but 1994 was the year when Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa, O.J. Simpson was arrested for killing his wife, huge massacres were happening in Rwanda and Sarajevo, and China got its first connection to the Internet.

Bill Clinton was President; the Academy Award for Best Picture went to Forrest Gump; and the world’s population reached 5.6 billion.

To put this year into perspective, this was before the Monica Lewinsky scandal (she was hired by the White House in 1995), before the Oklahoma City bombing (1995), and before the death of Princess Diana (1997).

It was also after the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989), after the Persian Gulf War (1991), after the Rodney King incident (1991), and after the Branch Davidian catastrophe in Waco, Texas (1993).

But most teenagers weren’t talking about world affairs. Instead, they were far more interested in getting their driver’s license; listening to the music of Madonna, New Kids on the Block, Celine Dion, Coolio, or Prince; or going to the latest Jim Carrey movie.

More telling for these teenagers was what they didn’t have yet. They didn’t have the Internet, email, smart phones, search engines, social networking, Sony Playstation, Apple iPods, or downloadable anything. Music, movies, and information came on CDs, cassettes, VHS, in cartridges, or in printed form.

But here’s one crazy detail you may not have considered. Many of the teens of 1994 are now the parents of teenagers in 2014. This is the group tasked with reinventing the rules of childhood in terms of screen time, cellphone curfews, social networking etiquette, and more. But we’re just getting started.

NOTE:  Part two can be found here.

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Agriculture the New Game of Drones

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on August 25th, 2013

A few days ago the people in Deer Trail, Colorado made national news with a proposed ballot initiative to allow hunting licenses to shoot down flying drones.

Deer Trail would charge $25 for drone hunting licenses, and the town would offer a $100 bounty reward for shooters who bring in debris from an unmanned aircraft from the U.S. government.

This perfectly illustrates the growing paranoia associated with UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) often referred to as drones.

But the good people living in the farming community of Deer Trail have obviously not been paying attention to the positive uses for drones, more specifically, the use of drones in agriculture.

Even though the vast majority of drone use today is government and military, one of the big emerging markets will be agriculture. Several new companies have begun moving into the ag-drone space, but there are a few short-term problems.

Current FAA rules limit their operation to under 400 feet and to steer clear of airports and crowds on the ground. But that will change in a couple years. The U.S. Congress has mandated the FAA incorporate drones into national airspace by Sept. 30, 2015.

Many in this new industry are chomping at the bit to get started. According to the Association for Unmanned Vehicles International, once drones get okayed for the national air space, the first 3 years will produce $13.6 billion in economic activity and 34,000 new manufacturing jobs will get created. 

The FAA estimated up to 10,000 drones could be airborne in the U.S. by 2018. Here’s why that number is far too low. 

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