Three Great Machine Learning Paradoxes

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on February 18th, 2015

I installed my Nest Thermostat a little over a year ago. This “learning” machine was billed as being able to study the habits of people and adjust the settings to optimize both temperature and energy usage.

But ever since then I’ve found myself in a constant battle with my thermostat. It’s cooling things down when I need heat, warming things up when I’d rather be cool, and the amount of energy it’s saved is far less than the loss of productivity I’ve experienced from being uncomfortable.

This is also true with my other “smart” devices.

My washing machine still doesn’t understand the fabrics it’s trying to wash. My smart door lock still doesn’t know who I am. And our home security system does a far better job of keeping the good guys in, instead of the bad guys out.

Much of the “smartness” we’ve added to our lives has been in meager doses, slightly better than before, but not much.

That said, the level of intelligence in our homes, cars, clothes, and offices is about to move quickly up the exponential learning curve as connected devices combine remote processing power with everything around us.

Our orange juice bottles, cans of soup, and boxes of crackers will all have a way of reordering themselves when inventories get low. Toasters will soon be toasting reminders onto the sides of our bread so we won’t forget birthdays and anniversaries.

Biometric coffee makers will know exactly how much caffeine to put into our coffee, and our fireplace will even know what color of flame we’re in the mood for.

If I’m feeling ill, not only will my devices know what’s wrong, they’ll be able to scan my home and give me a quick recipe for a cure.

“Add 2 oz of turpentine from the garage, 3 tablespoons of shoe polish, four capfuls of Listerine, and 2 cough drops to a cup of boiling water, and what floats to the top will fix your problem.”

I refer to this as “MacGyvering medicine.”

Our learning machines will pave the way for a hyper-individualized world where everything around us syncs perfectly with our personal needs and desires. But that’s the point where the train begins to derail, and all our best intentions start to work against us. Here’s why.

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37 Critical Problems that need to be Solved for Drone Delivery to become Viable

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on January 27th, 2015

 

It all started when Toni, one of our staffers working on our flying drone workshop, asked me a simple question. She asked, “Since I live in an apartment complex, if I order something to be delivered by drone, where would they leave the package?”

This naturally led to a longer conversation and we instantly ticked off around a dozen other problems that will need to be overcome before we can expect drone delivery to become a viable option.

As a futurist, I’ve often gotten caught up in understanding what an emerging industry will eventually look like, but tend to gloss over the labyrinth of issues that will invariably plague the early stage pioneers willing to plow through the messy early years and take on all the risks.

Naturally there are many areas where flying drones could instantly be put to use, but when it comes to having a company like Amazon offer product delivery throughout its system, these simple flying machines suddenly take on “workhorse” status requiring levels of durability, automation, and system-building that are currently missing inside most conversations.

For example, early stage drone delivery will require a pilot for every package, making it an expensive option. Not only will pilots need to navigate their way to the destination, they’ll need to handle the empty return flight back as well. Eventually this will be automated, but it’s not a simple task.

Since electric drones have very limited battery life and range, delivery drones will most likely be fueled with gas or some other petrochemical. Gas powered drones have issues with noise and pollution that will cause many communities to start restricting their use.

With limited range and capacity, only a select few items will be eligible for this kind of delivery. When it comes to delivering food, companies will need to carefully monitor portion sizes because weight will become an increasingly important variable.

After considering many of these current deficiencies, I thought it might be helpful to begin listing some of the key technical, system, and regulatory challenges that lie ahead. At the same time, every problem creates an opportunity, and the sooner our emerging drone entrepreneurs learn how to capitalize on these problems, the sooner we’ll see this industry take off like many of us are imagining.

With that in mind, here are 37 near-term issues that will need to be solved.

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Top 10 Most Influential Columns in 2014

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on December 26th, 2014

Over the past year we’ve delved into a variety of different topics on FuturistSpeaker.com and naturally some have been more popular than others. Sometimes it’s the headlines, other times the graphics, but in the end it’s the subject matter and content that will determine which ones rise to the top.

Overall, we’re still finding a pervasive fear over jobs, privacy, and the economy, and a strong desire to understand what comes next. Our confidence in government has plummeted and the newest evil villain is artificial intelligence gone awry.

On the positive side of the equation, both flying drones and robots are hot, even though both have serious downsides. The Internet of Things is gaining in popularity along with its magical junior categories of enchanted objects and smart homes. The sharing economy is becoming a more defined niche and tiny homes are an emerging category that will soon be replaced with 3D printed disposable houses.

Even though Bitcoin hasn’t been a good investment in 2014, it’s been a banner year for cryptocurrencies in general. No, we still haven’t minted any cryptocurrency billionaires just yet, but as national currencies become increasingly dysfunctional, with security holes affecting nearly everyone, new opportunities are just around the corner.

At the DaVinci Institute, our work on Micro Colleges are paving the way for future generations to reboot their careers quickly to better match the emerging talent needs of business and industry.

With that in mind, here are the 2014 columns that attracted the most attention over the past 12 months.

 

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Our Newest Unit of Measure – 1 Human Intelligence Unit – and why it will Never Happen

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on December 9th, 2014

I’ve been closely watching the debate on artificial intelligence with people like Rodney Brooks saying it’s only a tool, and others like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking giving bone chilling warnings of how it could lead to the destruction of all humanity.

As I was pondering these differing points of view, it occurred to me that we currently don’t have any real way of measuring the potency of AI. How will we ever know there is a real threat of danger if we have no way of measuring it?

For this reason, I’d like to propose the creation of a standard for measuring AI based on “1 Human Intelligence Unit.”

Similar, in some respects, to James Watt’s ingenious way of calculating horsepower as a way of gauging the mechanical muscle behind his ever improving steam engines, I’d like to make a crude attempt at quantifying, in numerical terms, the influence of 1 Human Intelligence Unit (HIU). 

Since horsepower is a rather one dimensional measure of force, and human intelligence is a complex, multidimensional combination of personal attributes that include thinking, reasoning, determination, motivation, emotional values, memories, fears, and frailty, the simple notion of quantifying human brainpower quickly mushroomed into one of those “infinity plus one” questions where the answer has become more of a philosophical debate rather than something we could assign a meaningful integer to. 

Over the past few weeks I found myself immersed in this quandary, looking for a simple but eloquent approach vector for solving the 1 HIU riddle. 

To put this into perspective, imagine a scene 20 years from now where you are walking into your local robot store to compare the latest models before you buy one for your home. The three models you’re most interested in have tags listing their HIUs as 4.6, 12.4, and 24.0 respectively.

Depending on whether you’ll use your robot to simply follow orders or to become a well-rounded sparing partner to debate the issues of the day, the HIU rating will become a hugely valuable tool in determining which one to choose. 

For this reason, I’d like to take you along on my personal journey to solve for “infinity plus one” in the area of human intelligence, and the startling conclusions that are likely to disrupt all your thinking.

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101 Endangered Jobs by 2030

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on November 7th, 2014

Business owners today are actively deciding whether their next hire should be a person or a machine. After all, machines can work in the dark and don’t come with decades of HR case law requiring time off for holidays, personal illness, excessive overtime, chronic stress or anxiety.

If you’ve not heard the phrase “technological unemployment,” brace yourself; you’ll be hearing it a lot over the coming years.

Technology is automating jobs out of existence at a record clip, and it’s only getting started.

Yes, my predictions of endangered jobs will likely strike fear into the hearts of countless millions trying to find meaningful work. But while crystal balls everywhere are showing massive changes on the horizon, it’s not all negative news.

For those well attuned to the top three skills needed for the future – adaptability, flexibility, and resourcefulness – there will be more opportunities than they can possibly imagine.

As an example, for people who lived 150 years ago, having never seen a car, the thought of traveling 1,000 miles seemed like an impossible journey. But today, 1,000-mile trips are not only common, they’re trivial.

This is precisely the shift in perspective we’re about to go through as the tools at our disposal begin to increase our capabilities exponentially.

As I describe the following endangered jobs, understand there will be thousands of derivative career paths ready to surface from the shadows.

We live in unbelievably exciting time, and those who master the fine art of controlling their own destiny will rise to the inspiring new lifestyle category of “rogue commanders of the known universe.”

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Should Robots Have Their Own Bank Accounts?

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on September 22nd, 2014

Typical house-bot shopping on a budget

The year is 2027 and Winston, a newly born house-bot charged with doing a number of domestic chores including cleaning, meal prep, laundry, and building maintenance, has been programmed to not only perform the work, but also restock supplies once they reach a certain level.

Owners have wide latitude in the amount of autonomy they can grant their bots when it comes to decision-making, and spending authority is always the one given most attention. Much like a young child making decisions on their own for the first time, owners are typically reticent to grant too much authority until all of the systems are proven to be reliable.

The recent news story about a similar bot in Portugal, that glitched-out in an endless loop and ordered over $20,000 in cleaning supplies in less than a minute, was still fresh in everybody’s mind.

Yes, safeguards were quickly put into place to prevent anything like the Portugal incident from ever happening again, but the hangover effect of bad news has a way of lingering for a while in the background.

Typically, after the first 200-300 text messages from a bot, seeking spending approval on everything from $3.45 toothpaste to $12.93 laundry detergent, the owners typically relinquish their item-by-item purchase scrutiny in favor of the peace of mind that comes from being less bothered. 

But on this occasion, the store that the bot normally buys from has discontinued the brand of pasta it was requesting. When this happens, after searching for other likely suppliers that happen to be too far away, the bot sends over a list of possible replacement options, along with product ads and marketing descriptions.

Since most domestic products like this come with a list of personal preference attributes like smell, taste, and texture, it’s not possible for a bot to make a personal preference decision based on what the owner truly likes. Ideally samples are sent for owners to conduct a personal experience test, but pasta is not an item easily sampled. So this one required an additional text message.

As a way of safeguarding decisions like these, most owners have chosen to open separate bank accounts for each of their bots as an additional measure to limit potential losses. Winston, the house-bot has his own account, just like Trimly, the yard bot, and Sped, the deliver drone.

Here’s why most homeowners will opt for this approach in the future and why today’s banks are ill-prepared for this kind of activity.

 

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Seven Reasons Why the Value of Human Life is Increasing Exponentially

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on September 14th, 2014

What’s the value of a human life?

For some of you this is a very disconcerting question because it attempts to put a dollar value on a person, something we value in far different ways.

But that is exactly what governments and businesses find themselves doing on a daily basis. Every time an insurance company calculates their premiums, militaries plan their budget, or juries calculate an award in a product liability case, the value of human life is a central part of their decisions.

In fact, the value of people is a subconscious calculation that we all make on a daily basis. Each of the following statements will indicate a value judgment happening in the back of our mind:

  • If I take this training my salary will go up.
  • When the mayor died, his estate was worth millions.
  • As a single mother raising 7 children, she left a tremendous legacy.

Much like adding an adjustment for inflation, cost of living increase, or adding a premium for brand name anything, we are constantly readjusting our sense of life’s value in our mind.

To some, the difference in value between a homeless person in Indonesia and the President of the United States may be well over $1 trillion. To others, they should be considered equal.

Seven global shifts are currently underway causing the underlying value of human life to move up the exponential growth curve, and along with it, a massive reassessment of corporate decision-making is about to begin. 

Here is why this will become such a huge factor over the coming years.

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192 Future Uses for Flying Drones

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on September 2nd, 2014

The thought occurred to me that mounting a video projector to a flying drone could give it unusual capabilities. 

My first idea was to use it for special effects at a concert or major indoor event. But a device like this could also be used for spot advertising – creating momentary images on the sidewalk or parking lot; subliminal advertising – suggesting a variety of products or services inside graphic images; emergency rescue – displaying a series of arrows to help someone lost in a forest; or image masking – to disguise someone’s body and facial features to prevent them from being monitored. 

This line of thinking started me down several dozen new paths almost instantly.

Drones can be low flying, high flying, tiny or huge, silent or noisy, super-visible or totally invisible, your best friend or your worst enemy.

We can add lights, sound, cameras, microphones, sensors, robotic arms, wave cancellation technology, or wave enhancement technology.

Simply adding a robotic display will enable us to fly in and have a private video conversation with someone on the other side of the world.

Flying drones can also roll along the ground, stick to the side of a building, float in a river, dive under water, jump onto a building, climb a tree, or attach themselves like parasites to the sides of trains, ships, and airplanes.

One moment they can be hovering in front of you and the next they can fly off at the speed of sound, disappearing into the clouds.

Combining all these capabilities, attributes, and special features into one single device will open up a world of possibilities unlike anything before in all history.

Join me as we step into the magical world ahead being unleashed with this amazing new technology – flying drones.

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When it comes to jobs, why is this time different?

Posted by FuturistSpeaker on August 26th, 2014

In 1964, and open letter was drafted and sent to President Johnson, warning him of the coming Triple Revolution.

The letter was composed and signed by 35 members of the “Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution,” which include luminaries like Nobel Chemist, Linus Pauling; civil rights activist, Tom Hayden; and Swedish Nobel Economist, Gunnar Myrdal.

The letter focused on three revolutions taking place at the time:

  1. Cybernation Revolution – increasing automation
  2. Weaponry Revolution – mutually assured destruction
  3. Human Rights Revolution – growing civil unrest

While the letter talked about all three issues, it focused primarily on the Cybernation Revolution where they predicted that machines would cause massive new unemployment:

“A new era of production has begun. Its principles of organization are as different from those of the industrial era as those of the industrial era were different from the agricultural. The cybernation revolution has been brought about by the combination of the computer and the automated self-regulating machine. This results in a system of almost unlimited productive capacity which requires progressively less human labor. Cybernation is already reorganizing the economic and social system to meet its own needs.”

Of particular interest to me was the work of one of the signers, Robert Theobald, a futurist who had written extensively on the economics of abundance and his advocacy of a Basic Income Guarantee. These are the same topics being discussed by those today who fear massive technological unemployment in the years ahead.

Even though this 1964 warning of a Triple Revolution registered little more than a tiny blip on the radar screen of history, computers have dramatically changed the jobs landscape as well as the skills required to perform those jobs.

Today we are seeing many voice similar concerns about technological unemployment, where computers, robots, and machines are automating our jobs out of existence. In fact, some have gone so far as to call this the “robot jobs Armageddon.” 

So is this time truly different? Here are six overarching shifts in the world that are causing many to say, “Yes, this time may really be different!”

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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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