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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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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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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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 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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Creating the God Globe

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on February 19th, 2014

 

In 1998, a column I wrote for The Futurist Magazine took issue with the state of computer displays. Viewing the vast and growing Internet through a little square box on our desk was, in my opinion, the equivalent of watching a baseball game through a knothole. 

As a solution, I proposed we experiment with a variety of different shapes for displays starting with my favorite, a spherical display, well suited for viewing global activities ranging from travel itineraries, to animal migrations, to pollution flows, to weather patterns.

Even today, fifteen years later, we still find ourselves viewing the online world with primitive 2-dimensional flat displays. So when I heard about one satellite company’s vision for developing a real-time globe, with up to the minute live video feeds of virtually every square inch on earth, naturally it caught my attention.

It wasn’t just the spherical displays or video feeds of the earth that peaked my imagination, but the overall convergence of data. The number of sensory devices monitoring the earth is about to explode, and it occurred to me that a cross-pollination of data flows will radically alter our way of life.

  • Satellites monitoring the earth will grow from thousands to millions.
  • Embedded sensors will grow from billions to trillions.
  • Street cams, smartphones, wearables, and other connected “things” will grow from billions to trillions.
  • The amount of data generated will burst from petabytes, to exabytes, to zettabytes, to yottabytes.

Our growing number of data-generating devices will vividly increase awareness of the world around us. Increased awareness improves our ability to predict, and superior predictability will lead to greater control. Super awareness gives us the ability to pinpoint critical inflection points, and make changes before something serious happens.

But to do this, we will need a master command center strategically positioned at heart of this data streaming activity. As a way to visually imagine what this will look like, think of all global data streaming through one master console with a giant spherical display used to monitor it.

Yes, it will very likely unfold in a far different fashion than this, but I’d like to take you along on a journey into a scenario I call the “God Globe,” where we form a master command center for planet earth, and for the first time ever, begin to control nature’s greatest forces.

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