Establishing the Central Bank of Bitcoin

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on August 17th, 2014

The year is 2024. It seemed like a piece of nostalgia to open a new bank account and get a free toaster, but this wasn’t any ordinary toaster, and it certainly wasn’t any ordinary bank. The new Internet of Things Toaster was one of the coolest gadgets of all times, and the Global Bank of Bitcoin was a charter member of Bitcoin’s new Central Bank based in Luxembourg.

Having launched as a Kickstarter project in 2022, raising millions in the process, this kitchen appliance elevated “toast” to the level of a new communal food with a designer flair. Old-fashioned bread could have 3D-printed toasted-inlays ranging from jams and spreads, to vitamins and dietary additives, to sweeteners and energy laces.

But what people found most magical was its ability to have animated hi-res images print-toasted onto the surface and brought to life through the use of edible electro-jellies. This next-gen food-tech had given rise to a myriad of party games, where “players” told stories about the animated scenes and “toasted” the other participants by eating the face of their favorite protagonist, one bite at a time, until both the story and the food were totally consumed.

For this new crypto-bank, it was the perfect crypto-gadget to draw attention to their crypto-currency. Similar to traditional banks, accountholders could apply for home mortgages, car loans, and establish retirement accounts. But unlike today’s highly monitored, highly regulated banking world, the Central Bank of Bitcoin’s charter was to be more of an anti-central bank, serving as a pass-through shell without taking ownership of the currency, but rigorously guarding the anonymity of the accounts and transactions, as well as the integrity of the networks, at the same time, adding a systems layer to promote wider scale adoption.

Even the super-libertarian backers of cryptocurrencies had begun to realize the limitations of operating without a support structure, and in its absence a myriad of proprietary technologies, destructive thinking, and bad actors had begun rearing their ugly heads.

While the original purpose of Bitcoin was to build a counterculture currency and transaction network free from the intrusion and prying eyes of big government, its role has begun to evolve into more of a checks-and-balance system to offset abuses by the worlds existing banking system.

Here’s why creating a Central Bank for Bitcoin may be the next logical step. 

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The Future Library – A Liquid Network for Ideas

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on August 12th, 2014

At a recent conference on the “Future of Libraries” put together by the American Library Association at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, I proposed a rather unusual mission for libraries, that of becoming “liquid networks” for our ideas.

Unlike our not-so-distant-past, the world’s most important information is no longer solely in books.

Whenever a great idea forms in our head, we look for a place to put it. Is it something useful, that we can turn into a product, add to a document, tell to our friends, include in a presentation, or attach with magnets to the front of our refrigerator? 

Ideas, much like parasites, need a host. If we don’t manage to gaff them before we slip into our next stream of consciousness, they will be forever lost. Without a host, these squirming little idea-fish will have a very limited shelf life.

If we manage to cluster enough of them together, they have a bit more staying power, but they still need to somehow reach critical mass before they become noteworthy. 

In the past we had very few options. We could jot them down in a notebook, mention them to friends, or make a few drawings or sketches. But even then, most ideas died of isolation. We had very few “places” to appropriately store these pockets of ingenuity. 

Today our options have grown exponentially and good ideas can now go from zero to Facebook entry in 0.9 seconds. They can be fashioned into tweets, infographics, photos, podcasts, PowerPoints, LinkedIn discussions, Quora forums, YouTube videos, submitted to blogs, or turned into interactive charticles.

We literally have thousands of placeholders for our momentary flashes of brilliance. Much like planting seeds into the freshness of damp soil, these memes have the organic potential to spring to life bursting into a colorful bouquet. 

However, even with our very best ways of posting and hosting ideas today, the reality is that most public and private companies tend to have a rather short life expectancy, and some concepts come with a far longer gestation period. That’s where the more stable storehouses of information at public libraries comes into play. 

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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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All Information, Ever Created, is Still in Existence

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on July 28th, 2014

The date is July 14, 1986. Herbert Benson wakes up early, goes down to the kitchen and makes himself a peanut butter sandwich. This is a seemingly trivial incident that happened nearly 30 years ago.

How do we know today that this sandwich-making incident actually happened? Is there any kind of time-space record of it?

Making a nighttime sandwich is a seemingly inconsequential act, but what if Mr. Benson later committed some heinous act like killing a young girl, blowing up a bridge, or shooting the President? In these situations, whatever precedes an extremist act becomes critically important.

Was he alone in the house? Was he making sandwiches for more than one person? Did he add poison to the peanut butter? Why were there sandwich fragments at the crime scene? All of these details are critically important, but will this kind of information ever be accessible?

When we look into space we are actually looking back in time. This is because we are looking at old light traveling towards us at 186,000 miles/second.

We already know that if someone is watching us through a large telescope on the moon, they’re seeing events that happened 1.3 seconds earlier because that’s how long it takes light to get from the earth to the moon.

Similarly, if someone builds a giant telescope on Saturn, they will see things that happened 75-85 minutes earlier, depending on the orbits, because that’s how long it takes light to travel from the earth to Saturn.

Using this as a very crude proof, we already know that information does indeed transcend the here and now, but can we ever access it and reassemble it into a useful form? 

From what we know today, it’s not reasonable to think we could send a probe 20 light-years away from the earth just to see what happened 20 years earlier. But there may be other ways to reconstruct these fragments?

If people in the future somehow gain the ability to view past events, how will that change the way we live our lives? What changes would you make if you knew someone from the future might be watching you?

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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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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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