DaVinci Institute – Futurist Speaker http://www.futuristspeaker.com DaVinci Institute – Futurist Speaker Fri, 21 Apr 2017 13:56:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Coming Meat Wars – 17 Mind-Blowing Predictions http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/the-coming-meat-wars-17-mind-blowing-predictions/ http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/the-coming-meat-wars-17-mind-blowing-predictions/#respond Wed, 12 Apr 2017 01:14:15 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8242

In November of 2015, I was asked to speak on the future of agriculture in Auckland, NZ along with some of the leading authorities on food innovation. One of the other speakers was Dr. Mark Post, founder of Mosa Meats in Maastricht, Netherlands, who created the first lab-grown hamburger.

We had several conversations over the two days we spent together, but I remember Mark saying that his goal was to get the price of his specialty meat down to $100 a pound, a price point that would keep most people from even considering it.

As I listened to him describe the science in great detail, spending eight weeks growing meat in a vat, I naturally assumed he had overlooked the entrepreneurial factor. A well-staffed innovative startup team has a way of rewriting the original assumptions that an emerging technology is founded on.

That’s exactly what happened. Mosa Meat’s team recently announced they have produced lab-grown beef for $11.36 per pound, down from $44 per pound last year.

Even though it’s still not commercially available, within two years it will be cheaper than ranch grown meats, and that’s where things get very interesting because a number of industrial pivots will kick in, opening the doors to a vast new set of industries.

Dr. Mark Post in his laboratory in Maastricht University

Brief History of Cultured Meat

Cultured meat is known by many names – synthetic meat, cellular agriculture, cell-cultured meat, clean meat, and in vitro meat – but it refers to meat grown in cell cultures instead of inside animals.

In 1931 Winston Churchill first brought up the idea saying, “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”

With several science fiction stories and academic papers setting the stage, a 1998 U.S. patent filed by Jon F. Vein laid claim to the “production of tissue engineered meat for human consumption, wherein muscle and fat cells would be grown in an integrated fashion to create food products such as beef, poultry and fish.”

In 2008, PETA offered a $1 million prize to the first company to bring lab-grown chicken meat to consumers by 2012.

In November 2009, scientists from the Netherlands announced they had managed to grow meat in the laboratory using the cells from a live pig.

In 2010, Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s family foundation reached out to Dr. Mark Post to support his efforts in developing cultured meat. They also encouraged Mark to create a huge media event where the first cultured hamburger would be tasted, supporting the costs of the research and the event.

By 2012, 30 laboratories around the world were conducting cultured meat research.

In 2013, with a little coaxing from Sergy Brin, Dr. Post made headline news around the world for producing the world’s first lab-grown burger that was cooked and eaten at a news conference in London. The burger was cooked by chef Richard McGeown of Couch’s Great House Restaurant in Cornwall and tasted by Hanni Ruetzler, a food critic and food researcher at the Future Food Studio in London.

Ruetzler described the experience. “There is really a bite to it, there is quite some flavor with the browning. I know there is no fat in it so I didn’t really know how juicy it would be, but there is quite some intense taste; it’s close to meat, it’s not that juicy, but the consistency is perfect. This is meat to me… It’s really something to bite on and I think the look is quite similar.”

That one television event was all it took to signal in a new age of cultured meat, opening the doors to dozens of new startups.

Key Players and Accelerating Timeframes

Today we are seeing signs of a race to produce cultured meats along with several other stem cell generated animal products. These biotech startups include:

1.    Perfect Foods – Berkeley, California startup focused on animal-free dairy products.

2.    Clara Foods – San Francisco-based startup that started as the New Harvest Egg Project and was incubated by IndieBio in 2015. Clara Foods is making egg whites from yeast instead of eggs.

3.    Memphis Meats – San Leandro, California startup that made a prototype of a cultured meatball in 2016.

4.    Mosa Meat – Maastricht, Netherlands startup that is an outgrowth of Mark Post’s cultured burger, which was tasted in London in 2013.

5.    Gelzen – San Francisco-based startup that was incubated by IndieBio in 2015. Gelzen is developing a proprietary protein production platform that uses bacteria and yeast to produce gelatin

6.    SuperMeat – Israeli startup that launched an Indiegogo campaign in 2016 to create cultured chicken meat

7.    Sothic Bioscience – Cork-based startup incubated by IndieBio in 2015. Sothic Bioscience is building a platform for biosynthetic horseshoe crab blood production. Horseshoe crab blood contains limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL), which is used to validate medical equipment and medication.

8.    Gingko Bioworks – Boston-based organism design company culturing fragrances and designing custom microbes.

9.    Beyond Meat – Hong Kong based startup focused on plant-based meats.

10. Shojinmeat – Japanese biohacker community developing cultured meat.

11. Muufri – San Francisco-based startup that started as the New Harvest Dairy Project and was incubated by IndieBio in 2014. Muufri is making milk from yeast instead of cows.

12. Afineur – Brooklyn-based startup using biotechnology and smart fermentations to improve the nutritional profile and taste of plant based food, starting with craft coffee.

13. Impossible Foods – California startup developing plant-based meat and dairy products made without animals. In July 2016, Impossible Foods introduced the “Impossible Burger,” a burger that “looks, cooks, smells, sizzles and tastes like conventional ground beef but is made entirely from plants.”

14. Spiber – Japanese-based company decoding the gene responsible for the production of fibroin in spiders and then bioengineering bacteria with recombinant DNA to produce the protein, which they then spin into their artificial silk.

15. Bolt Thread – California-based company creating engineered silk fibers based on proteins found in spider silk that can be produced at commercial scale. Bolt examines the DNA of spiders and then replicates those genetic sequences in other ingredients to create a similar silk fiber. Bolt’s silk is made primarily of sugar, water, salts, and yeast, which combined forms a liquid silk protein.

16. Modern Meadow – Brooklyn-based startup growing collagen, a protein you find in animal skin, to make biofabricated leather.

17. New Harvest – Non-profit research institute dedicated to the field of cellular agriculture, focused on the development of animal-free eggs, milk, meat, and more.

Is Cultured Meat Genetically Modified?

Standard techniques involved in genetic engineering, such as insertion, deletion, silencing, activation, or mutation of a gene, are not required to produce in-vitro meat. Moreover, in-vitro meat is composed of a tissue or collection of tissues, not an organism. For these reasons it is not a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism).

Since in-vitro meats are simply cells grown in a controlled, artificial environment, industry experts say that cultured meat more closely resembles hydroponic vegetables, rather than GMO vegetables.

Religious Implications

Religious groups are still trying to decide how cultured meats fit with their theology. Jewish leaders are still debating whether cultured meat is kosher (food that may be consumed, according to Jewish dietary laws). Similarly Muslim scholars have stated that cultured meat may be allowed by Islamic law if the original cells and growth medium were halal (fits within the moral boundaries of Islam).

Cultured meats hopes to prevent the needless slaughter of animals for their meat and skin

17 Mind-Blowing Predictions

The stage has been set for some truly profound changes as urban agriculture expands in some new and interesting ways. As with all of my predictions, the intent is for you to draw your own conclusions.

1.) By 2020 over 1,000 laboratories will be conducting research on cultured meats. Virtually every country will jump onto the bandwagon wanting to gain a foothold in this rapidly growing industry.

2.) Beginning in 2020 cultured meats will be available in grocery stores. Globally, this will turn into a “race to be first” – first cultured bison, first cultured swordfish, first cultured rattlesnake, etc.

3.) By 2025 industrial grown meats will become the world’s cheapest food stocks. Although it will still be limited by production, but with the promise of being locally grown, industrial grown meats will be delivered fresh daily, to a grocery store or restaurant near you.

4.) By 2030 over 10% of traditional ranchers will go out of business because of competition from industrial grown meats. Traditional ranchers will find themselves at a significant cost disadvantage as cellular agriculture out performs traditional ranching, eliminating the need for ranch land, veterinarians, animal transport trucks, slaughterhouses, processing plants, and much more.

5.) By 2030 over 50% of the general public will give a favorable rating to cultured meats. A number of high profile tasting competitions and endorsements by nutritional experts will trigger widespread cultural acceptance.

6.) By 2030 over 50% of vegetarians will accept cultured meats as an suitable food source. There are many reasons why people are vegetarians – nutritional concerns, parental influence, religious beliefs, animal rights, environmental concerns, unwanted food additives, economics, disease scares, and other health-related issues. Cultured meats will have answers for most of their concerns.

7.) By 2030 thousands of “grow your own cultured meat farms” will spring up around the world. Cellular agriculture will become a hot new buzzword as a new era of food entrepreneurs launch their businesses.

8.) Along with these entrepreneurs will come a new era of “super hacker foods.” These will be designed around special processes for combining cultured meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables.

9.) Cultured meats will also be developed using stem cells from exotic animal like penguins, pandas, rhinos, and wombats. This will open the door for bizarre specialty food stores and restaurants specializing in thousands of different kinds of cultured meats.

10.) Over time we will develop cultured meats from extinct animal species like saber tooth tigers, woolly mammoths, and dodo birds. There will be a certain mystique to eating the meat of animals that no longer exist.

11.) While it will be a touchy subject for many, we will even see cultured meats developed from human stem cells. From a moral standpoint, some may feel this puts us on the same level as Jeffrey Dahmer, and countries may indeed ban cultured meats grown from human cells, they do have the potential to become a viable food source.

Will we soon have exotic animal skins grown in vats?

12.) Cultured meats will be developed for non-edible materials similar to leathers, plastic, and rubber. Think in terms of exotic materials such as tarantula skin seats, hedgehog jackets, and anteater shoes.

13.) Over time we will develop designer materials from the stem cells of famous people. If you can imagine George Clooney handbags, Scarlet Johansen furniture, Kevin Spacey lampshades, or Drew Barrymore wallets you’ll get the picture.

14.) We will also begin seeing a number of memorial-type products made from the cells of loved ones. Seat cushions from Aunt Lilly, wall hangings from Uncle Wilber, or a scarf from Grandma Mary.

15.) Cultured milk derived from mother’s cells will be considered far superior to other baby foods. These products will compete directly with today’s baby formula industry.

16.) Cultured blood will cause today’s blood bank industry to disappear. Cultured baby’s blood, or ‘young blood’ with its anti-aging properties, will pave the way for a variety of “cultured” anti-aging products.

17.) Before long we will see cultured hair cells to regrow our hair and cultured skin cells to remove our wrinkles. The fountain of youth will be springing to life in a way we never anticipated.

Final Thoughts

Over the past few days I’ve discussed this topic with several people at the DaVinci Institute, a discussion that caused many of them cringe at the thought of eating “frankenfood.”

There’s an adoption cycle for every emerging technology and cultured meats are no exception. Reduced environmental stress surround ranches, feedlots, and slaughterhouses, coupled with a cleaner, faster, cheaper, and superior food source are all marketing points that will move the needle quickly.

As global incomes improve, meat consumption rates will grow exponentially over the coming years. Demand for meat in Asia is expected to spike by 56% over the coming years.

Even some of the large companies in the meat industry are beginning to take notice. It was reported in December that mega processor Tyson had opened a $150 million fund to invest in startups that are preparing for a meatless future.

Will there be cultured meats in your future?

For most people the answer centers around two key questions. How does it taste, and how much does it cost?

Even though I haven’t tried it yet, and price is always a delicate topic, the advantages seem quite compelling.

With any luck, and a fair amount of additional funding, the startups listed above will pave the way to a disruptive new future, full of exceptional opportunities.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future

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78 Skills that will be Difficult to Automate http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/78-skills-that-will-be-difficult-to-automate/ http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/78-skills-that-will-be-difficult-to-automate/#comments Thu, 30 Mar 2017 11:10:10 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8219

Recently my wife Deb and I were eating at a local sushi restaurant, watching the itamae (sushi chefs) carefully preparing each meal.

In Japan, becoming an itamae of sushi requires years of on-the-job training and apprenticeship.

For this reason, I asked Deb if she would prefer eating sushi that was prepared by humans or the same kind of meals prepared by machines. After thinking about it for a bit, she said that she’d prefer having a human chef because she liked the inconsistencies that go along with having a person at the cutting board.

For her, machines meant perfect consistency and perfectly prepared meals and that was less appealing than a human-centric operation with randomness added to the equation.

The key point here is that when it comes to automation, the marketplace will decide, and the market is not always logical.

  • We still go to concerts even though listening to prerecorded music at home is safer, more comfortable, and oftentimes better quality.
  • We still go to museums even though we can witness most of the images online without having to wait in lines and fight crowds.
  • We still go to coffee shops even though we can brew the same kind of coffee at home for far less money.

In each of these cases, the value of the experience far outweighs the incongruity of decisions being made.

Simply put, we live in a human-based economy, and humans are not always logical.

What role will robots play in your future?

The Irrational Human

Will a robot’s smile ever be as comforting as a mother’s smile?

If a robot tells you you’re beautiful, will that ever mean as much as when your boyfriend or girlfriend says it?

It’s easy to start listing all the so-called inferior traits that people have. Robots don’t sweat, complain, have to urinate, take breaks, get angry, or make mistakes.

We generally don’t design machines to be cruel, insulting, lazy, vindictive, violent, irrational, clumsy, greedy, envious, hotheaded, power-hungry, selfish, shy, tactless, superficial, or stupid.

However, humans come with a number of positive characteristics to offset all the negative ones. We can also be friendly, helpful, charming, warmhearted, risk-taking, courageous, empathetic, inspiring, bold, brilliant, resourceful, benevolent, gracious, humble, and forgiving.

When it comes to designing machines to replace humans, we often forget how enormously complex we are.

We have a need to compete, a need to belong, a sense of purpose, we crave attention, love, sex, importance, and the human touch. We must never underestimate the power of the human touch.

Every human deficiency creates a new market

The Human Economy

Yes, we are all flawed individuals, and as such, we have a number of basic needs.

We need things like water, food, shelter, clothing, safety, and security. Once those needs are met, a number of other needs kick in like our need for belonging, companionship, love, intimacy, and family.

As our lower level needs are met, we move up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to things like self-respect, self-esteem, status, fame, recognition, power, and freedom.

While on the surface we come across as incomplete beings, lacking in so many areas, the reality is that our needs are what drives our economy.

Every human deficiency creates a new market.

Grocery stores wouldn’t exist if we didn’t need food. The housing industry wouldn’t exist if we didn’t need shelter and safety. The automobile industry wouldn’t exist without our need for power, status, and freedom.

Ironically, the reason robots exist is to support our basic human needs.

Robots, on the other hand, do not have the same kind of needs.

The Great “Either-Or” Debate

Will we buy music that’s generated by machines or music produced by humans?

Will we buy machine-made art, watch a robo-ballet, attend a car race with only driverless cars, or sit in a stadium to watch robo-athletes?

In virtually all of these cases, we’ll choose to do both. Certainly we will mostly choose one over the other, but we’ll buy human art along with robo-art. We’ll attend a human-run restaurant one day and a robo-restaurant the next. We’ll cheer on our favorite human team with one set of friends and cheer on our favorite robo-athletes with another.

We will also love some robots and hate others.

We don’t live in an “either-or” world. Rather, our human culture has grown up around a more inclusive “both-and” economy.

Yes, these new options will compete with each other, causing fewer restaurant workers per restaurant, and fewer artists and musicians to fill today’s demands. However, as demand increases, we may actually have more people working in these fields.

Our struggle will be to find the optimal balance. The best restaurant owners will use robots to gain efficiency; the best artists will use robots to produce far more art; and the best musicians and athletes to play with robots instead of play against them.

Tasks and Skills that will be Difficult to Automate

When we factor all of this thinking into a few practical guidelines, the safest jobs will form around:

  • Complex systems too expensive to automate
  • Creative endeavors that only humans can appreciate
  • Human to human interactions that produce an emotional response
  • Decisions that need human-based reasoning
  • Complicated outputs that demand a human translator
  • Situations that require the human touch
  • Settings where the loyalty of hacker-proof humans is preferable over digital machines
  • Human to human valuations
  • Positions where humans control robots
  • Human to human competition

As I step through this list, please understand that I’m talking about things that will be “difficult” to automate, but probably not impossible.

Once again, it boils down to this question. Given a choice, will people prefer food that is made by humans or food that is made by machines?

Farmbots are beginning to take center stage in the global ag world

Complex systems too expensive to automate

While there may be no such thing as a “complex system too expensive to automate,” the more complex the system, the more humans will be involved to oversee potential breaking points.

1.    Space launches

2.    Asteroid mining

3.    Nanotech research

4.    Deep ocean research

5.    Demographic studies

6.    Linguistics analysis

7.    Material science

8.    Failure analysis

Creative endeavors that only humans can appreciate

We have a great love for what creative people produce. Invariably we will use machines to help in these endeavors, but there will always be people directing the effort.

9.    Artistic performances – painting, sculpting, dance, and design

10. Musical performances

11. Poetry

12. Fashion designers

13. Interior designers

14. Industrial designers

15. Beauty parlors

16. Reputation designers and managers

Human to human interactions that produce an emotional response

These may seem like tiny pieces of humanity, but the value of these nuanced interfaces play an extraordinary role in our relational experiences.

17. An encouraging smile

18. A persuasive argument

19. A personal handshake

20. A hug

21. A romantic kiss

22. A convincing sales pitch

23. A massage

24. Multiple facets of sexual relations and procreation

Decisions that need human-based reasoning

As our capabilities grow, we will see an ever-increasing need for ethical oversight. Our ability to destroy things will soon exceed our ability to create things, and we’ll need ever-vigilant watchdogs to protect humanity.

25. Creation of new laws, policies, and regulation

26. Government oversight

27. Basic troubleshooting

28. Business planning

29. Marketing strategies

30. Managing animal shelters

31. Child care workers

32. Basic and advanced problem solving

Complicated outputs that demand a human overseer or translator

As the number of sensors increase and the amount of data we’ll be dealing with on a daily basis exceeds human ability to comprehend, we’ll begin to automate the analysis. However, there will still be a need for human oversight to manage all the exceptions and edge cases.

33. Doctors and medical diagnosis

34. Data analytics

35. Judges and legal systems

36. Business executives

37. Privacy advocates and experts

38. Relationship building strategies

39. Birthing processes

40. Genealogical mapping

Situations that require the human touch

Humans are social creatures by nature, and strong social bonds invariably require human touch.

41. Teaching someone to sing, dance, or juggle

42. Teaching someone how to gracefully enter a room

43. Teaching someone how to win a debate

44. Teaching someone why it’s important to take a bath

45. Teaching someone to do gymnastics

46. Teaching someone to make a reasonable decision

47. Teaching someone the value of human life

Settings where the loyalty of hacker-proof humans is preferable over digital machines

Fallible humans may not seem like the strongest link in a secure system but in many cases they become a crucial disconnected node in an otherwise hackable digital structure.

48. Guarding the President (or other important people)

49. Holding a secret

50. Personal confidant

51. Safeguarding corporate knowledge

52. Robot displacement specialists

53. Robot consultants

54. Robot lobbyists

55. Leaders of robot resistance groups

Human to human valuations

Since robots do not value objects the ways humans do, or make decisions about what constitutes a fair price on a product, the need for human value judgments will continue to be important.

56. Buying stocks or commodities

57. Voting

58. Government policy decisions

59. Decisions to act on a policy violation

60. Buyers

61. Purchasing agents

62. Product and service ratings

63. Surveys and polls

Positions where humans control robots

There are many positions where people will use robots as tools and evolve along with their industries, growing with each new productivity advancement.

64. Business owners and managers

65. Software designers and coders

66. System engineers

67. Product designers

68. Robot maintenance and repair

69. Robot configuration specialists

70. Robot test technicians

71. Auctioneer that specializes in selling robots

Human to human competition

We’re much more interested in our standing among other humans over how we compare to robots.

72. Popular sports (i.e. football, basketball, soccer)

73. Olympics and Paralympics

74. Popularity competitions (i.e. beauty pageants, elections, etc.)

75. Loyalty programs

76. X-Prize competitions

77. Startup funding pitches

78. Conflict resolution

Is this what we should expect from the robot revolution?

Final Thoughts

One of my readers, BJ Brown, recently passed along the following story:

When I was in northwestern Canada in the 70’s I ask one of the locals why they still used dogs instead of snowmobiles. He replied, “When I’m out in bad conditions, the dogs have as much stake in getting home as I do. The snowmobile doesn’t care.”

Will robots ever truly care?

Contrary to popular belief, most robot and AI systems currently act as a complement to humans rather than a replacement them.

According to most experts, we are still years away from general artificial intelligence and full automation. But eventually, there will come a day where robots will perform most tasks and the role of humans in the production cycle will become marginalized.

My goal in writing this was not to develop an exhaustive list of “safe jobs,” but rather to create tools for thinking about the human role in our future.

Robots are coming. They’re coming with or without our blessing, and in shapes and forms we can’t even imagine.

But they also come with limits, limits that we will soon discover along the way.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future

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14 Fallacies of the Coming Robot Apocalypse http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/14-fallacies-of-the-coming-robot-apocalypse/ http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/14-fallacies-of-the-coming-robot-apocalypse/#comments Tue, 21 Mar 2017 14:38:14 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8206

Over the past few weeks I’ve come across a growing number of tirades warning us of the dangers of robots. If you were concerned about A.I. in the past, once it’s tied to a robot, the warnings seem to escalate to imminent peril. Each of these writers seems to reach the same conclusion, that super smart robots will soon be taking all of our jobs, and humanity is doomed.

The biggest misconception about AI is that if we create intelligent systems, those intelligent systems will want to overthrow their human managers and take over the world.

We’ve seen this many times in the movies — evil robots taking over the world, where technology is the bad guy, and only Jeff Goldblum can save us.

A recent survey by SelectHub showed that 41% of Americans fear getting replaced by AI, automation, and digitization. This fear plays out in different ways depending on age, gender, and social status.

A full 50% of Gen Xers have concluded they will need to get a job in a different industry if their current position gets eliminated through AI, automation, or digitization.

The victimization mindset continues to grow as people worry about becoming irrelevant.

As a result, we now have a burgeoning tech-wary community, fueled with paranoia, ready to halt or at least limit progress before it even leaves the starting blocks.

Recently Bill Gates suggested that robots should be taxed to offset the cost of humans losing their jobs:

“Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”

While on the surface it would appear to be logical response to the almost daily announcements about jobs disappearing, and an easy campaign slogan for politicians, this line of thinking is problematic on many different levels.

Taxing Robots 101

Naturally, when it comes to taxing robots, everything centers around how we define them. The dictionary definition is rather broad, describing a robot as “a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer.”

If we use this definition, then robots will include everything from cars, to printers, elevators, clocks, tractors, forklifts, guns, lawnmowers, chainsaws, drones, and much more.

If we think of robots as job destroyers, we need to understand that software is far better at it than machines. Case in point, sharing economy companies like Uber and AirBNB employ sophisticated apps that have decimated both worker and management jobs alike. Even simple spreadsheet software can reduce the time an accountant spends doing company books by over 90%.

Also, there’s a very fine line between a machine that is laborsaving and one that is job-killing. Nearly every patent filing includes at least one laborsaving claim in its extended description and this has been going on for hundreds of years.

Limits to Automation

If we think about automation 1,000 years from now, what are hard limits? What things are possible and what’s not?

So far we’ve been limited by technology and something called the Polanyi paradox, named after Karl Polanyi, an Austro-Hungarian economist who in 1966 concluded, “We know more than we can tell.”

His paradox refers to the difficulty in automating an activity that we only understand implicitly like painting a picture, writing a persuasive argument, or dancing. All of these are tasks that even people who are highly skilled in them are not fully able to describe.

We can’t automate what we can’t understand.

While we have seen some cases where machine learning appears to be capable of understanding our implicit capabilities, for now, professions that require resourcefulness, flexibility, and creativity still appear to be impervious to obsolescence.

14 Fallacies of the Coming Robot Apocalypse

Here are some of the biggest robot myths floating around today:

1.) Robots are destroying jobs. Wrong. Robots don’t eliminate jobs, only tasks.

The first misconception is that automation destroys jobs, which is not true. It does kill parts of jobs and eliminates the needs for certain skills, but entire jobs are far more complex than that.

2.) Automation has already destroyed many jobs. Wrong. Automation has only completely eliminated one job in the past 67 years.

According to a recent report by Harvard economist James Bessen, automation has only caused one job to go totally extinct over the past 67 years – elevator operators.

Of 270 occupations listed in the 1950 US Census, only elevator operator no longer exists due to automation

Another 32 jobs were done in by a loss of demand, and five became technologically obsolete.

3.) Automation will soon eliminate my job. Wrong. Automation is forcing companies to redefine jobs.

In the short to medium term, the main effect of automation will not necessarily be eliminating jobs, but redefining them. As the skills and tasks required in the economy change, our response should not be alarmism or protectionism, but a strategic investment in education

ATM machines did replace many of the tasks that bank tellers performed, but not all of them. As a result, ATMs enabled tellers to be more efficient doing other things.

Similarly, meter readers do far more than read meters. Retail clerks do more than operate cash registers. And travel agents, teachers, truck drivers, tollbooth operators, and even parking lot attendants are all more than single task jobs.

While automation can drastically reduce the number of people needed to perform a specific job, the job itself is rarely eliminated.

4.) Automation is reducing our opportunity for finding a job. Wrong. Automation often increases the number of jobs.

The textile industry is a great example of this phenomenon. Despite the fact that 98% of the functions of making materials have now been automated, the number of weaving jobs has increased since the 19th century. As automation drove the price of cloth down, the lower prices increased demand, and eventually caused more job growth.

In a similar fashion, when ATMs rolled out in the 1970s, their numbers grew rapidly from 100,000 to 400,000 between 1995 and 2010. Since operating an ATM is cheaper than paying a teller’s salary, we started seeing more ATMs than tellers, and the overall cost of operating a bank branch came down. Since it was cheaper to operate a bank branch, more of them opened, and the number of bank branches increasing by 40% between 1988 and 2004.

As a result, the number of tellers actually increased. Rather than putting tellers out of work, the number of tellers continued to increase between 1980 and 2010.

5.) With automation, there will be nothing left for humans to do. Wrong. Non-automated tasks will become more valuable.

Automation is more likely to take over boring and repetitive tasks, allowing skilled workers more time to do the things that require talent.

In an emergency room setting, if diagnosis can be automated, doctors can focus on special one-off cases, increasing the overall number of patients treated.

Likewise, as automation helps mortgage-loan officers do the routine paperwork involved in processing loan applications, each person can both manage and process more loans, and their overall value to the organization increases.

Will there be robots in your future?

6.) There will soon be a robot knocking on my door to take my job. Wrong. Robots don’t eliminate jobs, people do.

The number of workers needed is always a management decision. It’s easy to start blaming robots for the decisions made by their owners. But robots need owners.

Yes, it may be possible to construct autonomous AI robots in the future that can operate independently without humans anywhere in the picture, but that will be in a distant future, and in all likelihood, many things will go wrong.

From my vantage point, it’s very difficult to imagine a robot that is capable of taking initiative, and continually develops and redevelops its own role, purpose, and mission independent of any human agenda.

Keep in mind that with the cars we’re currently driving, it’s taken 120 years of reimagining them to get to the vehicles we have today. Even though things are speeding up and we are going through exponential growth curves in product development cycles, the kinds of robots we’re imagining are exponentially more complicated than any manmade device so far.

7.) A conscious robot means that they will work and act exactly like humans. Wrong. A.I. will not add consciousness to robots.

At this point we don’t even know what consciousness is let alone integrate it into artificial intelligence.

8.) An intelligent robot will have all the same feelings as humans. Wrong. A.I. will not enable robots to have human-like emotions.

Emotions are the effect of low-level/instinctive drives and the anticipations of rewards. They are the mechanisms we use to place value on the objects around us. Yes, we can replicate emotions on a certain level, but artificial love will still lack many of the quirky trace characteristics that make us human.

9.) Intelligent robots will want to overthrow the human race. Wrong. Robots do not come with a “gene” that causes them to desire power.

No they don’t. This seems to be a reoccurring theme in countless Hollywood movies, but few are asking the most relevant question of “then what?” If they somehow manage to conquer humans and only machines remain, then what?

10.) Super smart robots will be thinking machines. Wrong. Robots are incapable of human-like thinking.

Naturally this depends on your definition of thinking, but the human brain is extraordinarily complex, with around 100 billion neurons and 1,000 trillion synaptic interconnections. The brain is not digital. Rather, mental capabilities are dependent upon electrochemical signals with inter-related timing and analogue mechanisms, the sort of molecular and biological machinery that we are only just now starting to understand. Simulated thinking is still a long ways away in robots and will be a far cry from the way humans think.

11.) Robots will soon be competing for your job. Wrong. Robots don’t compete.

Robots don’t come with a built-in desire to compete. They only do what they’re told. Yes, in many situations they can perform better than you, doing the same task only faster and more efficiently, but they aren’t the ones making the decision about whether you should stay on as an employee.

12.) Robots with A.I. will soon be able to solve all of our problems. Wrong. Robots create more problems than they solve.

Yes, some of the emerging A.I. systems will be able to solve some of our problems some of the time, but they will also create new ones. Every machine wears out. Every computer system eventually dies. While the mean time between failures will undoubtedly get longer, they will all inevitably fail.

13.) We will always be able to tell the difference between humans and future robots by peeling back their skin. Wrong. Future robots will be grown just like humans.

I only included this because it’s a common theme in today’s movies. Future robots will likely be cloned or “grown” into living breathing fleshbots, so cutting off part of their arm will just reveal a very humanlike severed arm with blood gushing everywhere.

14.) Robots are forever. Wrong. The second law of thermo dynamics states that everything is slowly falling apart, even robots.

All robots, computer systems, AI software programs, and their synthetic hands and legs will eventually fail. This means that someone will need to be there to make repairs, pick up the pieces, and do the scheduled maintenance.

Yes machines can fix machines just like human fix humans, but at some point, all systems eventually fail, just as humans do.

In the future we will more likely be partners with robots instead of enemies!

Final Thoughts

Job paranoia is running rampant. We have seen what machines can do and it’s making us all very nervous.

However, it’s important to understand that if a profession is completely automated, yes, jobs will ultimately be eliminated. But if the process is only partial, eliminating only tasks rather than entire jobs, employment for those jobs may in fact increase because of the efficiency gains and possible effects on demand.

So far we’ve managed to eliminate many tasks, but not many jobs in their entirety. Fewer than 5% of the jobs in the U.S. today can be completely automated using current technology.

Yes, we will have to learn many new skills to stay relevant and competitive in the future, and future robots will be able to do things we never dreamed possible. But for now, there are many areas where tacit skills create safe ground for future employment.

One of my future columns will be dedicated to tasks that are not easy to automate, because this is where most people will want to hone their skills.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. This is a very dicey topic and I’ve glossed over many details, so please add your comments below.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future

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25 Shocking Predictions about the Coming Driverless Car Era in the U.S. http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/25-shocking-predictions-about-the-coming-driverless-car-era-in-the-u-s/ http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/25-shocking-predictions-about-the-coming-driverless-car-era-in-the-u-s/#comments Sat, 25 Feb 2017 01:33:59 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8181

The night before my talk for the Texas Transportation forum in Austin, Texas, my wife and I were involved in a car accident. Since Uber and Lyft no longer operate in Austin, we were riding in the back of a Ride Austin vehicle.

With an oncoming car that erroneously turned in front of us at an intersection, and a few panic-filled seconds of stomping on brakes and bracing for impact, we ended up in a relatively low-impact head-on collision where no one was seriously injured.

It occurred to me later that a huge portion of today’s cars are designed around mitigating damage from accidents. Everything from seatbelts, to airbags, child car seats, headrests, bumpers, and headlights are all designed to improve safety and reduce the cost and liability of car accidents.

As a point of comparison, we don’t plan for accidents on elevators and escalators. There are no seat belts on elevators.

The logical next question is, how much of this goes away as we enter into the driverless car era?

Yes, it’ll be a messy transition period, and we will only see a relatively small amount of change while there are still human drivers on the roads. But once we develop fully automated transportation systems, will we still need all these safety features?

25 Shocking Predictions

Throughout this column I will be making a number of predictions about the coming driverless era, which will be followed by the age of fully autonomous vehicles.

Naturally this will require a level of trust in the technology that is still a ways off. However, the economic drivers behind rapid adoption are hard to ignore.

As with all predictions, there are a number of variables that could cause a far different outcome. For this reason, the true value of a prediction is in drawing your attention to the situation, and you reaching your own conclusions.

1.) Life expectancy of autonomous vehicles will be less than 1 year

I’ve been doing some math on driverless cars and came to the startling conclusion that autonomous cars will wear out in as little as 9-10 months.

Yes, car speeds will be slower in the beginning, but within ten years as speeds increase and cars begin to average 60-70 mph on open freeways, a single car could easily average 1,000 miles a day.

Over a 10-month period, a single car could travel as much as 300,000 miles.

Cars today are only in use 4% of the day, less than an hour a day. An electric autonomous vehicle could be operating as much as 20 hours a day or 21 times as much as the average car today.

For an electric autonomous vehicle operating 24/7, that still leaves plenty of time for recharging, cleaning, and maintenance.

It’s too early to know what the actual life expectancy of these vehicles will be, but it’s a pretty safe assumption that it will be far less than the 11.5 years cars are averaging today.

Electric vehicles will cause noise levels in cities will be cut in half

2.) One Autonomous Car will Replace 30 Traditional Cars

2028-2030 will be the years of peak messiness for the driverless car revolution. The number of autonomous vehicles will grow quickly but they will be intermingled with traditional driver-cars.

Drivers bring with them a hard-to-quantify human variable, and that’s what makes driving today such problem-riddled experience.

There are roughly 258 million registered cars in the U.S. and replacing them will be a long drawn out process. But here’s what most people don’t understand. One autonomous vehicle that we can be summoned from a local fleet will replace 30 traditional cars.

For a city of 2 million people, a fleet of 30,000 autonomous vehicles will displace 50% of peak commuter traffic.**

During off-peak times, 30,000 autonomous vehicles will handle virtually all other transportation needs. Peak traffic times that will be the hardest to manage.

3.) Less than 4 million autonomous cars will replace 50% of all commuter traffic in the U.S.

With roughly 250 million people in the U.S. living in urban communities, 3.75 million autonomous vehicles will handle 50% of peak commuter traffic in the country.

That means 4 million autonomous vehicles will replace our need for half of all cars, or roughly 129 million vehicles.

With a projected sale of 17-18 million new vehicles annually in the U.S., a fleet of even 1 million autonomous vehicles will make a serious dent in traditional car sales.

4.) Fleet owners will become the primary influencers on the design of new cars

The thinking of large fleet owners will dominate the autonomous car market. Their focus will be on vehicle costs, repair records, maintenance, cleaning expenses, and operational efficiencies.

In a competitive consumer marketplace they will also have to pay close attention to comfort, convenience, and the overall user experience.

AI-driven fleet management systems will be tasked with ensuring cars are in the right place at the right time to meet user demand. This type of fleet management software will take years of operational know-how to make it work efficiently.

5.) Driverless cars will be electric vehicles

As battery life improves and recharging stations become more automated, the demand for electric vehicles will jump exponentially. However, large fleet owners will only choose electric cars if they are easier to maintain, more reliable, and cost efficient.

6.) Electric vehicle range will exceed 1,000 miles per charge by 2027

Battery range for electric vehicles is improving. Even though Elon Musk has predicted a 600-mile range for Tesla cars in 2017, their latest models only get about half of that.

So far the primary drivers for extending electric vehicle distance has been a form of “range anxiety” among individual consumers. Once autonomous vehicles come into play, the need for far greater distances will be driven by fleet owners who will view “range” as a primary purchase consideration.

For this reason, we will see electric vehicles routinely passing 1,000 miles on a single charge within ten years.

7.) Noise levels in cities will be cut in half

The shift to electric vehicles will dramatically change the sound of a city. This cannot be overstated. Rumbling engines, smelly exhaust clouds, and loud revving noises will all fade into distant memories.

8.) 80% of driverless cars will be one-passenger vehicles

Since 76% of cars on the road only have one person in them, and since one-person vehicles will be cheaper, over 80% of autonomous fleets will be designed around single passenger occupancy.

9.) 40% of sales tax will disappear

Roughly 40% of state and local sales tax comes from auto sales. With the current rules all cars in a fleet will be exempt from sales tax. Very likely new taxes will be created to replace these lost revenues.

10.) Over 10% of retail businesses will disappear

Over 10% of today’s retail businesses are connected with cars. As personal ownership of cars begins to shrink, we will see a rapid decline in gas stations, car washes, oil change businesses, detail shops, tire shops, brake shops, emissions testing, alignment shops, auto repair, body shops, tow trucks, glass repair, transmission repair, auto part stores, rental car agencies, and auto insurance offices. Dealerships themselves will also disappear.

11.) Police departments will shrink by 80%

In most U.S. cities, 80% of police departments are dedicated to traffic control. Without DUI fines, speeding tickets, and parking fees, most police departments will be trimmed to a bare minimum.

12.) U.S. will lose over $35 billion/year from gas taxes

In 2014, federal fuel taxes amounted to $35.2 billion. This number will undoubtedly increase over the coming years until we reach a point of peak gas usage somewhere in the mid-late 2020s.

13.) New York City will lose over $2 billion per year in traffic fines

The big apple collected a whopping $1.9 billion from traffic violations in 2015, and this number has been steadily increasing over time.

14.) 41% of airport revenues will disappear

According to the Airports Council International-North America, 41% of airport revenue in the U.S. comes from parking and ground transportation services. Virtually all of this will disappear over the coming years.

15.) Cities will lose over 50% of their revenue

When we combine the loss of sales tax, retail stores, income from traffic violations, gas tax, vehicle licensing, parking meters, and parking garages, the total loss of revenue to a city becomes a very large number.

Keep in mind, what I’m referring to is their current revenue streams. They will undoubtedly develop new ones but that will require considerable foresight and planning.

Autonomous vehicles will instantly know their surrounding situation

16.) Healthcare industry will lose over $500 billion per year

The National Safety Council estimates 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million injured on U.S. roads in 2015.

Driverless cars have the potential to push those numbers nearly to zero. If we consider how low the accident/injury rate is for the airline industry, that’s roughly what we should expect for autonomous vehicles.

If we multiply the average cost of repairing a person after a traffic injury, say $10,000, times the number of injuries, 4.4 million, we end up with a potential drop of $440 billion in payments to hospitals and the healthcare industry.

For 2015, the CDC estimates that 38,300 people killed resulted in $62 billion in medical and work loss costs in addition to the immeasurable burden on the victims’ families and friends.

That’s over half a trillion dollars, in the U.S. alone, that simply goes away.

17.) There will be 700,000 fewer stolen vehicles per year

In 2015, 707,758 motor vehicles were reported stolen. Of that total, 24% were stolen in California, and over 14% were Hondas.

Autonomous cars will not be “stealable.”

18.) Auto insurance industry will lose over $150 billion a year

Total personal automobile insurance premiums in the U.S. stood at about $186 billion in 2014.

According to KPMG, accidents will decline 80% by 2040 due to safer cars and autonomous transportation. But if driverless adoption happens sooner, the 80% decline will come into play much earlier.

While the cost per accident may rise substantially because new cars and their parts are more expensive, once driverless tech hits it’s stride, the decline will be dramatic and result in sizable reductions in loss and premiums. More than 90% of accidents each year are caused by driver error.

19.) Location no longer matters

In the past, being in business was all about “location, location, location.” However, as the driverless world evolves, passengers will become much more involved in working, watching movies, and playing games throughout the commute.

As a driver, we become very invested in the landmarks along the way, and understanding the context of our location. But once drivers transition to passengers, they will be paying far less attention to local landmarks. As a result, it will be far easier to just ask your car to take you to whatever store or business you want to go to, regardless of proximity to your current location.

Perhaps a better way of thinking about this is that location will still matter, but it will matter differently.

20.) Remodeling garages in people’s homes will soon become a thriving industry

As car ownership declines, garages will no longer be needed as a place to park your car.

A nicely remodeled garage, set up as a separate living unit, could add as much as $1,500-$2,000 a month in rent payments, as an AirBNB rental, to the average homeowner’s income.

21.) Over 5 million acres of parking lots will suddenly come available for redevelopment

14% of Los Angeles is currently used for parking.

We have an amazing amount of land dedicated to parking – over 5 million acres to be precise. Demand for parking will begin to dwindle over the coming decades and this property will be sold as prime real estate for redevelopment.

22.) Overall transportation costs will shrink by 50%

According to AAA 2015 study, the average person spends $8,698 a year on their car that averages 15,000 miles per year. That works out to $725 a month. For autonomous vehicles, projected annual spending on transportation will be far less – $4,200 (.28/mile * 15,000 miles) or $350/month.

Over time, the 28 cents per mile we used in our calculation will drop as fleet owners develop more efficient systems.

23.) Car ownership will soon become a very expensive hobby

Autonomous vehicles will cause car ownership to evolve from a necessity to a luxury.

As dealerships and gas stations begin to dwindle, the overall cost of owning and maintaining a car will begin to ratchet upwards. Once autonomous vehicles reach 50% of commuter traffic, the cost of traditional car ownership will skyrocket.

24.) Overcrowding will officially come to an end

One thing that symbolizes overcrowding more than anything else is traffic. Once traffic flows smoothly, people will begin to regain control of their lives and our sense of feeling overcrowded will begin to disappear.

25.) Driverless technologies will cause 1 in 4 jobs to disappear

Over the next 2-3 decades, driverless technologies will be either directly or indirectly responsible for the loss of 25% of all of today’s jobs.

But that’s only part of the story.

Virtually every aspect of society, in every country around the world, will be touched by driverless technologies, and the vast majority of it is destined to improve our global standard of living.

Job losses will be offset by job creation. Businesses that disappear will be replaced by innovative new businesses built around the ingenious new capabilities autonomous vehicles provide.

The driverless revolution is coming, there’s no turning back

Final Thoughts

In the future, our cars will know far more about us than we know about them. Each new vehicle will instantly know how to adjust the seats, what music we like, our favorite TV shows and where we left off in the latest series. It will also understand where we’re going, letting those we’re meeting with know when we will arrive.

As transportation becomes faster, cheaper, and easier, we will simply do more of it. We’re moving towards a very fluid society, and all this movement will seem natural and effortless.

It’s important to understand that driverless technology will not only be applied to cars, but also tractors, trucks, ships, lawnmowers, forklifts, water taxis, snowplows, submarines, drones, trains, and even airplanes. It will soon touch the lives of every person on planet earth.

Still, this is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Just as wealthy people today enjoy the status of driving a more expensive car, not all driverless vehicles will serve the same utilitarian function. Richer people will pay to “arrive in style,” and will expect to have premier access to buildings. In much the same way hotels often greet their elite guests with teams of people waiting on their arrival, retail stores will find unusual ways to greet their most prominent customers and make them feel welcome.

If technology progresses the way I’ve predicted, we are on the verge of an explosive transformation.

As always, please take a few moments to consider the implications of these changes and let me know your thoughts.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future

  • ** – 2 million population X 45% who commute to work = 900,000 total X 9.1% during peak times = 81,900 commuters between peak time of 7:30-7:59 am
  • ** – 81,900 commuters X 76% who travel alone = 62,244 vehicles
  • ** – 81,900 commuters X 24% who carpool = 19,656/2 = 9,828 carpoolers
  • ** – 62,244 + 9,828 = 72,072 commuting vehicles
  • ** – 72,072 commuting vehicles X 84% (average commute 25.4 minutes or 84% of the 30 minute timespan) = 60,540 cars on the road during peak commute
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Inside the Mind of a Futurist – April 10-14, 2017 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/inside-the-mind-of-a-futurist-april-10-14-2017/ http://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/inside-the-mind-of-a-futurist-april-10-14-2017/#respond Thu, 16 Feb 2017 14:27:33 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8167

A little over two years ago I mentioned a new anticipatory thinking tool I’ve developed called “situational futuring.” It helps me gain better insight into the world ahead. Until now I hadn’t given too many details about how it worked, but I recently decided to reveal the entire process and how to apply it.

While I’ve been very protective about the crazy brain games I use for developing predictions, this will give you a sneak peek into one of the secret tools I use for thinking about the future.

Situational futuring is a micro-futuring process that positions a single technology, specific idea, or what-if condition inside a future time slot. Through the use of situation-specific scenarios, it builds a growing body of understanding around that topic.

Early on, after I attempted my first test runs, I began to realize how difficult it was to develop the “situational” storylines to paint the broader picture, so I made a few changes.

As I worked through a series of alpha and beta stage tests, I concluded that it still needed a few more parameters to improve usability. It is this new and improved version of situational futuring that will be one of the key methodologies we’ll work through in our upcoming course – “Inside the Mind of a Futurist” – April 10-14, 2017. Details here.

How many of your currnt problems could you solve if you had the mind of a futurist?
How many of your current problems could you solve if you had the mind of a futurist?

Inside the Mind of a Futurist
The techniques and strategies to predict, prepare, and profit from the future.

To be an influential and effective leader, strategist, or investor, you first have to think like a futurist. The forces of technology-driven-change are sweeping across every industry, disrupting cities, businesses, products, and professions. Critical decision makers, investors and strategists can no longer make decisions by projecting market trends forward.

The unique insights of futurists come from techniques such as backcasting, situational futuring, scenario planning, causal layer analysis, and environmental scanning, as well as watching innovation trends that will disrupt markets.

You will not only be able to proactively study and plan for the future, but also use these tools to create it!

Traditionally, future-studies have been regarded as a theoretical discipline, but this course will show you the science behind the techniques and give you ways to make it actionable and potentially quite profitable.

In this course you will learn:

  • Six techniques for predicting any technology’s future.
  • How and when to use each technique.
  • Practice using these techniques to shape your investment, corporate, and product strategies.
  • Wildcard techniques to avoid/prepare for catastrophic risk.
  • Improve your ability to communicate using powerful techniques for making a compelling case for your ideas.

Register Today

  • DATE: April 10-14, 2017
  • TIME: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday-Friday
  • LOCATION: DaVinci Institute, 9191 Sheridan Blvd, Suite 300, Westminster, CO 80031
  • COST: $3,499 – Register here
  • CONTACT: Jennifer of Jessica – 303-666-4133

Who Should Attend

Over time, futurist thinking will become integrated into virtually every discipline. This course has been designed for corporate executives, planners, strategists, influential thinkers, and those who aspire to take on that kind of role in the future. More specifically, those who manage or influence portfolios of technology or companies:

  • CEOs
  • CMOs
  • VPs of Strategy
  • Corporate fund managers
  • VCs
  • Angel groups
  • Board of Directors
  • Family Offices
  • Science fiction writers
  • Future enthusiasts and hobbyists

Cause and Effect Relationships

Our lives are filled with cause and effect relationships. While these are typically far more complicated than a simple one-to-one relationship, for the purpose of this exercise we will limit it to simple answers about simple relationships.

With enough practice you will be able to describe a complex cause-and-effect relationship in greater detail, but that will come later.

How will your future change after this event?
How will your future change after this event? – Register here

Final Thoughts

Thinking about the future is hard. It works muscles in your brain that rarely get exercised.

Situational futuring is a very demanding process, forcing you to look at scenarios from a variety of different perspectives.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future

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Building the World’s First Graphene Superconductor Power Grid http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/building-the-worlds-first-graphene-superconductor-power-grid/ http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/building-the-worlds-first-graphene-superconductor-power-grid/#comments Fri, 10 Feb 2017 18:35:41 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8153 graphene-power-grid-1t

In 2002 when Dr. Bor Jang, a little know researcher in Akron, Ohio filed his patent for graphene, few people had a clue as to how revolutionary it would be. Certainly not the people at the Nobel Foundation who forgot to check the patent registry and instead awarded the Nobel Prize for graphene to scientists Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov from the University of Manchester.

As the poster child for the emerging new super materials industry, graphene is a form of ultra thin carbon just one atom thick. If you can imagine something a million times thinner than a single sheet of paper, you get the picture.

Despite this, graphene is also one of the strongest materials in the known universe. With a tensile strength of 130 GPa (gigapascals), it is more than 100 times stronger than steel.

Graphene is now 15 years old and even though most of the progress has happen below the radar, the progress has indeed been stunning.

Even though the numbers sound staggering with several thousand patents having been filed, most of the research has been concentrated in three countries. China and Korean companies currently hold 43% of global graphene patents, and U.S. companies hold 23%.

Similarly, there are currently 142 companies that produce graphene in 27 different countries with roughly two thirds concentrated in China, Korea, and the U.S.

Graphene is on the verge of rewriting the rules for many industries
Graphene is on the verge of rewriting the rules for many industries

Two Major Breakthroughs

Two particularly noteworthy developments have the potential to cause graphene to explode into a host of new industries.

First, researchers at the University of Cambridge have figured out how to unlock graphene’s superconductor properties by coupling it with a material called praseodymium cerium copper oxide (PCCO).

Yes, superconductors are already in existence and are being used in other applications, but this breakthrough shows that graphene is the only one that works at room temperature.

Second, physicists at Kansas State University have discovered a way to mass-produce graphene using a simple explosion process involving hydrocarbon gas, oxygen, and a spark plug.

The resulting detonation creates a 3,000 degree K temperature inside the vessel, enough to create pure graphene stacked in single, double or triple sheets. KSU researchers are now working to improve the quality of the graphene and scale it up to industrial levels.

Each of these breakthroughs by itself is a game changer for the emerging graphene industry, but combined, they have the potential to rewrite the rules of business and industry several times over.

One single line will replace our massive power infrastructure
One single line will replace our massive power infrastructure

Rewriting the Rules for the Energy Industry

These latest advances are strong indicators that within the next decade we will see the world’s first functional piece of a graphene superconducting power grid. That means our current power grid, composed of huge metal towers with dangling wires stretched across every continent in the world will be replaced with a thin strand of graphene, buried underground, that works a million times better than anything we have today.

But the most amazing part of this story is what happens after that.

A superconducting power grid will trigger a global construction boom to revamp power infrastructure everywhere. As graphene lines are trenched in and turned on, overhead power lines will be dismantled.

The overall efficiency of these lines will dramatically reduce line loss and reduce the price of power. As a counter intuitive response, when the price of power drops, we will simply find ways to use more of it. Overall power consumption will undoubtedly increase as we find better and more precise ways to electrify the world.

Large-scale battery systems, also made of graphene, will be installed in homes, cities, and throughout our communities. Over time, renewable power sources will become dominant sources of power generation, and a large percentage, over half, of today’s power plants will be closed.

Rest assured, this will be a 30-40 year process, and each step forward we will discover new options we had never before considered.

Graphene will lead to new types of superconducting quantum devices for high-speed computing
Graphene will lead to new types of superconducting quantum devices for high-speed computing

Extreme Graphene

Even though there are no “killer apps” for graphene just yet, and there are no commercial products presently available, it’s only a matter of time. Here are a few areas where we will expect to see products in the near future.

  • Housing – 3D printing, a technology that is now 35 years old, will soon be used to print solar roofs on houses. As large scale 3D printing, known as contour crafting, matures, it will be used to not only print the structure of a house but also the wiring and plumbing in the walls, toilets, sinks, and cabinets in the bathrooms, insulation in the walls, as well as solar cells on the exterior walls and roof. Over time it will be used to print water-capturing devices on the roofs, battery packs in the basements, and sewage composting systems out back.
  • Health Sensors – A graphene health sensor that goes on the skin like a temporary tattoo could be used to take real time measurements with the same precision as bulky medical equipment. A graphene tattoo, similar to the one presented in December at the International Electron Devices Meeting in San Francisco, would be the thinnest epidermal electronics ever made, used to measure electrical signals from the heart, muscles, and brain, as well as skin temperature and hydration. Graphene electrodes can pick up changes in electrical resistance caused by electrical activity in the tissue underneath. When worn on the chest, graphene sensors can detect faint fluctuations that are not visible on an EKG taken by an adjacent, conventional electrode.
  • Blood Monitors – Since the healthcare industry is heavily invested in selling tests, a graphene tattoo that can track and analyze a person’s blood, spewing hyper-individualized analytics 24-7, will be a game changer for the industry.
  • Robotics – Skin is the largest organ of the human body and it serves as a protectant, a coolant, and a sensory input device. Graphene will eventually be able to duplicate that functionality for robots.
  • Lubricants – Friction is one of the biggest enemies of mechanical devices. It causes energy to be lost and stress to be placed on machinery. One new application for graphene is in lubrication with near-zero friction.
Power grids have become a huge eyesore in most communities around the world
Power grids have become a huge eyesore in most communities around the world

Final Thoughts

Rumors have it that Elon Musk already has a team working to develop a graphene superconducting power grid. After all, what could possibly be a bigger prize than getting a series of contracts to replace all the power grids for the entire world?

In my way of thinking, when it comes to a graphene superconducting power grid, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” The race to be the first to develop the world’s first functional zero-resistance power grid is far too compelling, with a pot of wealth, fame, and influence dangling for everyone to see.

In ten years, graphene will be celebrating it’s 25th birthday, sufficient time for most emerging tech to get integrated into society. The original patent will have expired but thousands more will have been filed.

The true winner in this competition has yet to be decided. There is still time for you to claim this prize.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future

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Will My Future Self Be Disappointed in the Decisions I’m Making Today? – Excerpts from Epiphany Z http://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/will-my-future-self-be-disappointed-in-the-decisions-im-making-today-excepts-from-epiphany-z/ http://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/will-my-future-self-be-disappointed-in-the-decisions-im-making-today-excepts-from-epiphany-z/#comments Mon, 30 Jan 2017 12:05:29 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8131 future-self-z2

On January 10, 2017, my new book, “Epiphany Z – Eight Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future was officially released in bookstores all around the world. Here are a few excerpts from the book where I discuss the concept of “future self.”

Being a Futurist is far more than just making predictions. It involves digging deep into the nature of humanity to better understand who we are and why we do the things that we do.

So what kind of relationship do you have with your future self?

If you had 5 minutes to give advice to the person you were five years ago, what would you say? How would you coach yourself to do and say things differently to improve your life today?

Will the person you 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.

Here are a few things you may not have thought about:

How did we get here?

As a baby, life was all about eating, sleeping, and dry diapers. Even though you are learning new things quickly, not much else really mattered. By the time you enter grade school, you have learned to walk, talk, feed yourself, and have fun with your friends.

Entering high school you’ve grown much taller, in most cases, doubling your height from when you were a toddler. Your eyes and facial features have many similarities and look familiar, but you are now very different. You are fascinated by music, television, and any time you spot a passing smile by someone of the opposite sex, it becomes heart-stoppingly important. Relationships matter.

Every new day has you seeking a different set of experiences. You take pride in whatever you were good at, and become enamored with things you enjoy.

Every personal relationship brings with it a different set of involvements. Your first kiss sets the stage for your second, and your first intimate moments become cemented into the very fabric of your being.

As you enter your thirties and forties, your skill sets change dramatically. With age comes perspective, big problems become little ones, and over time, even the little ones fade away. In your sixties and seventies you begin to feel time is running out. It is in this progression we begin to realize that the future has changed us every step of the way.

Even though there are continuities to our personality and genetic structure, we are constantly changing. One cell gets replaced by another until we bear little resemblance to that person we were so many years ago.

And yes, you are now a different person than you were, even a few seconds ago.

Does that mean your past self is irrelevant—particularly in a future that’s changing at the speed of light?

Hardly!

We all know aging changes us, but why is that important?
We all know aging changes us, but why is that important?

18 Reasons Why the Person You Were Still Matters

The former you has set the stage for the present you, and the person you are today will become critically important to the person you become in the future.

  1. Memories—Every past memory helps crystalize who you are today.
  2. Shared Experiences—Every long-term relationship is built around shared experiences, and these shared experiences provide the common ground foundation for future ones.
  3. Emotional Values—Everything around you is constantly being emotionally rated on a subconscious level. That is why your car will generally hold more value than things like a skateboard or power drill.
  4. Skills—Learning how to perform a task efficiently ties directly into a combination of short-term, long-term, and muscle memory. While some skills will fade over time, their influence will remain for years to come.
  5. Your Body—Your present body came from your former body.
  6. Derivative Talents—Every talent you have is a derivative of some other talent, interest, or tendency.
  7. Physical Improvements and Physical Impairments—Every time you work out, it causes both short and long-term changes to your body and health. On the flip side, every time you hurt or injure yourself, it will also cause residual effects that linger over time.
  8. The Personality Equation—Every individual is a combination of attributes, tendencies, desires, interests, and about twenty more ingredients we don’t have names for yet. Some will change significantly over time, but others less so.
  9. Secrets—Hidden deep beneath the sub-floor of human consciousness are our secrets that can come back to haunt us if we don’t deal with them somewhere along the way.
  10. Struggles—Our struggles are what make our accomplishments valuable.
  11. Obsession—Determination becomes obsession and then it becomes all that matters. But from my vantage point, obsession is underrated.
  12. Possessions—Yes, it is possible to simply walk away from all of our possessions, but few people do. Not only do we own our possessions, they own us. And the things we own very often influences our future decisions.
  13. Connections & Networks—We forge our weak and strong relationships through our connections. But today’s social networks give us the tools to amplify those connections in a massively powerful way.
  14. Inner Voice—Our most intimate of all intimate relationships takes place in the rarely audible space inside our head. We have a constant love-hate relationship with our inner voice, and even though we argue with ourselves, it will continue to influence who you are in the future. No it won’t! Y.E.S., I.T. W.I.L.L.!
  15. Hopes & Desires—Inside every great person is the hope and aspiration to become something better—more meaningful, more influential, more passionate.
  16. Reputation—If we’re doing things correctly our reputation will enter the room before we do. Our reputation involves a multitude of variables, and is one of the most influential aspects of who we are.
  17. Quirkiness—Todays foibles can become tomorrow’s most admired qualities if we know how the leverage them.
  18. Legacy—For many of us, the disturbance we leave in the force field of life is the most significant accomplishment we can possibly make.
How can we become the person we want to be in the future?
How can we become the person we want to be in the future?

18 Reasons Why the Person You Were No Longer Matters

The voice of the fatalist inside often gives us little room for hope. If we believe change is not possible, then it certainly isn’t.

  1. You look different. You’re nearly unrecognizable to those you hung out with twenty years ago.
  2. You’ve forgotten. The vast majority of your life has disappeared into the ether, leaving little more than a faint residue of the imprint you made along the way.
  3. Your physical abilities have changed.
  4. Your income is different.
  5. Your friends are different.
  6. Your clothes no longer fit, and if they still fit, they fit differently.
  7. The things you valued most in the past, now holds little meaning. (Note to self—Shag carpeting should have never been invented.)
  8. Your favorite sports team today has none of the same players you remember from ten years ago.
  9. New friends may be more valuable than old friends.
  10. Your ability to make brilliant decisions today is far greater than the person you left behind.
  11. Past mistakes can only haunt you if you’re still you.
  12. Bad memories can be replaced by good ones, and old dreams can be replaced by more inspiring, more infectious, more exciting new dreams.
  13. New skills will make you a different person.
  14. Every significant shift in your life can be broken down into a series of baby steps that can be repeated, modified, redirected, or recalibrated.
  15. You are only one relationship away from being the person you want to be.
  16. There is always a path out of your current dilemma.
  17. The only thing holding you back is you.
  18. There is no limit to personal wisdom.

future-self-z5

Final Thoughts

Each morning, as I brush my teeth, I barely recognize the person in the mirror staring back at me. If I’m the same person I was twenty years ago, then why do I look so different, think so different, and why has my path of progress been so unpredictable?

Realistically though, what kind of relationship can we have with our future self? Will my future self be disappointed in the decisions I’m making today?

Should we ask our future self for advice on tough decisions? Since we don’t exactly have the ability to Skype call ourselves 5-10 years in the future, how can it possibly matter what “future-me” thinks about “present-me?”

The answer, it will matter a great deal when you get there. And you’ll hate yourself if you haven’t paid attention to the future.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future

Every bookshelf should have a copy of Epiphany Z, essential reading for the 21st century. Order yours today!
Every bookshelf should have a copy of Epiphany Z, essential reading for the 21st century. Order yours today!
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Will Future Robots be able to give Birth to Their Own Children? http://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/will-future-robots-be-able-to-give-birth-to-their-own-children/ http://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/will-future-robots-be-able-to-give-birth-to-their-own-children/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2017 14:22:26 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8105 baby-robot-1t

At first blush, the notion of a mechanical robot giving birth to a baby sounds preposterous. But many of the technologies we use today started out as preposterous ideas at one time or another.

Every year we cross boundaries that never seemed crossable, entertain theories that seemed ludicrous a decade earlier, and create industries that were considered science fiction when we were growing up.

Naturally, you’re probably questioning the use of the term “robot” for something that is a living, breathing organic life form.

So let’s start with the definition. ROBOT ˈrōˌbät,ˈrōbət/ – noun –  (especially in science fiction) A machine resembling a human being and able to replicate certain human movements and functions automatically.

Most of us have a preconceived notion of what a robot is and how it should act, but even our dictionaries leave the specifics far more open ended.

Over time, our thinking about mechanical machines will evolve from purely mechanical devices, to hybrid mechanical-organic contraptions, to mostly living machines, to pure synthetic life forms, and the process of building machines will be replaced by growing them. During this time, artificial intelligence will be replaced by degrees of synthetic intelligence, followed by what many will consider a superior form of “real” intelligence.

In much the same way a living culture of sourdough is passed from one generation to the next, the living intelligence of one bot will be “birthed” into each new generation, building upon what it already knows, exhibiting the same characteristics of humans, living, breathing, and growing from baby bots into biomimetic versions of ourselves, only with far fewer flaws… hopefully. But that’s where things get messy.

Over time the debate over the philosophical underpinnings of our “humanness,” and whether humans are superior to synthetic life forms will surface time and again with many arguing that our so-called human flaws are indeed necessary components of higher order emotions like compassion and empathy.

Giving birth to a child is a messy process. Could there be a better way?
Giving birth to a child is a messy process. Could there be a better way?

The Coming Age of Biorobotics

The word “biot,” a clever descriptor meaning “biological robot”, was originally coined by Arthur C. Clarke in his 1972 novel Rendezvous with Rama. In the novel, biots are depicted as artificial biological organisms created to perform specific tasks in space.

We are seeing a number of emerging fields that bridge the boundaries of biology and robotics. These include everything from cybernetics, to bionics, biomimicry, and synthetic biology.

I won’t go into all the nuances that differentiate each of these fields, only that the hard, fast boundaries between organic and inorganic, biological engineering and biomechanical engineering, and artificial life and real life are all beginning to blur.

Last year molecules became machines when the Nobel Prize in chemistry went to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart and Bernard Feringa who figured out how to combine atoms to make nanoscale machines that can act like motors, elevators, muscles and even a rudimentary car with four “wheels.” Their creations are so small that they’re about 1,000 times narrower than a human hair.

We are using 3D printers to print with human tissue, stem cells, and even artificial blood cells. Other 3D fabrication machines are able to print bone, cartilage, muscle, teeth, organs, blood vessels, and even ears.

Ironically, it seems like only a matter of time before we adopt the “Mr. Potato Head” approach to replacing body parts.

Will we be growing or cloning synthetic humans in the future?
Will we be growing or cloning synthetic humans in the future?

Cloning Humans

The science of cloning first entered the public lexicon in 1996 with the cloning of Dolly the sheep. Since then dozens of different species have been cloned including camels, dogs, deer, horses, monkeys, cows, frogs, rabbits, and many more.

Human cloning has long been discussed as a natural extension of the animal research, promising an exact genetic copy of any person.

There’s a difference between “natural clones” that show up as identical twins in humans and other mammals, and “artificial clones.”

For a more technical explanation, there are three different types of artificial cloning: gene cloning, reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning.

Gene cloning produces copies of genes or segments of DNA. Reproductive cloning produces copies of whole animals. Therapeutic cloning produces embryonic stem cells for experiments aimed at creating tissues to replace injured or diseased tissues.

Researchers routinely use cloning techniques to make copies of genes that they wish to study like bacteria, yeast cells, viruses, or plasmids.

Despite several highly publicized reports, human cloning still appears to be fiction. There currently is no solid scientific evidence that anyone has actually cloned a human embryo.

Synthetic Biology

Synthetic biology involves the fabrication of biological systems through engineering disciplines.

Synthetic biology originated from converging forces in chemistry, biology, computer science, and engineering. Think of it as a biology-based “toolkit” that uses algorithms and automated processes to change how we build, control, and repair biological systems.

Over time, synthetic biology will enable us to program DNA to produce tailor-made foods, fuels, and vaccines.

Combining cloning with cybernetics, biorobotics, and synthetic biology and we begin to understand the basis for fabricated life forms that can reproduce. All we’re missing is our ability to synthesize our reproductive organs.

Artificial womb for goat fetuses created by Japanese researchers in mid 1990s
An artificial womb for goat fetuses was created by Japanese researchers in the mid 1990s.

Artificial Womb Technology

Emanuel Greenberg patented the first artificial womb over 60 years ago in 1955.

In the mid 1990s, Japanese researchers succeeded in incubating goat fetuses for weeks in a machine containing artificial amniotic fluid. Recent advancements in neonatal intensive care have pushed back the minimum gestational age for human fetuses to survive to less than 22 weeks. That’s only a little more than halfway through a normal 40-week pregnancy.

The technology isn’t nearly as outrageous as it first sounds. An artificial uterus, as a replacement organ, could have many potential applications.

As example, if a fetus was moved from a natural uterus to an artificial one with extended functions, doctors could treat a number of conditions independent of the mother’s situation such as her being sick or in an accident, and even raises prospects for conducting certain kinds of fetal surgery at an earlier stage instead of having to postponing until after birth.

Last year, scientists at Cambridge University conducted a series of tests to grow human embryos for a full 14-day duration inside a petri dish, the ethical limit for this type of research imposed by an association of 17 nations.

Each day of growth gave researchers the ability to study both the physical and genetic changes that occurred in the developing embryo.

Study author Marta Shahbazi was surprised to see that a human embryo could direct its own development, even after it reached the point where it should have implanted into the uterus, without any direction from the mother.

Naturally this begs the question of whether an artificial womb, if it had the right ingredients, would be capable of bringing a developing human to term?

It also creates tons of questions about all the conditions necessary for producing a functional human being, even though we are hard-pressed to explain what a functional human actually is.

Since doing this research with real human embryos is deemed taboo, experimenting on artificial embryos or synthetic embryos is an obvious direction since they don’t carry the same stigma.

Is a robot babysitter a more likely scenario?

Childbearing Robots

With this brief overview of some of the latest advancements, the idea of a robot giving birth to a baby, either a baby human or a baby robot no longer seems so far fetched.

In fact, it seems quite plausible that a news media headline later this century will read, “World’s first synthetic human robot gives birth to its own offspring.”

Just as controlling weather, gravity, and time have long been theoretical sciences that have moved from science fiction to science possibilities, the idea of robots birthing robots is moving into a similar realm of viability.

Is a childbearing robot really such a farfetched idea?
Is a childbearing robot really such a farfetched idea?

Final Thoughts

First a disclaimer. Even though I write about topics that often make us uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean I’m giving my seal of approval to them. We’re still a long ways from understanding the full implications of something like this.

As a messenger of the future, it’s important for me to begin the very early stage conversations so a well-informed public can make well-informed decisions.

While I don’t see this happening in any viable fashion for several decades, there’s always an off chance of key researchers being light-years ahead of the pack, perhaps ones developing synthetic spiderbots that give birth to baby spiderbots, much sooner than expected.

Many of our advancements over the coming years will challenge our sensibilities. They will challenge our understanding of what constitutes life, our rights as humans, our moral compass, our sense of authority, and especially the ethical limits of science.

But that doesn’t change the fact that they’re coming.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future

Book Tom 1

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Bitcoin and the surprising “disturbance in the force” that will upend our financial systems http://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/bitcoin-and-the-surprising-disturbance-in-the-force-that-will-upend-our-financial-systems/ http://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/bitcoin-and-the-surprising-disturbance-in-the-force-that-will-upend-our-financial-systems/#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2017 18:33:45 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8088  

A future controlled by Bitcoin

In 1984, Congressman Jack Kemp introduced the “Gold Standard Act of 1984.” At the time, many people found it inconceivable to have anything more stable than gold to serve as the basis for our economy.

32 years later, gold is losing its luster, and the emerging new kid on the block, Bitcoin, would have seemed like science fiction back in 1984.

Today, we are seeing clear signs that Bitcoin is replacing gold as the safe haven currency of choice for key investors in countries all over the world.

When surprises happen, people buy Bitcoin.

In Venezuela where hyperinflation is causing the bolivar to spiral out of control, the smart money has moved to Bitcoin.

When Greece threatened to leave the European Union in 2015, investors surged into the digital currency.

The same thing happened with the Brexit vote in the European Union, and when Donald Trump defied polls to win the U.S. presidential election. Recent economic surprises in China, India and Philippines that threatened to destabilize those countries’ paper currencies sparked an interest in the digital alternative as well.

In China, Bitcoin use is skyrocketing. Much of the time Bitcoin use is tied to a sense of desperation, and this desperation-driven demand is what’s forcing the value of Bitcoin higher. Over time, its value will be driven more by its usability because a digital global currency is infinitely more usable than cash, gold, diamonds, and even digital national currencies.

Ironically, I’ve often said that for Bitcoin to become widely accepted around the world it would have to learn how to play well with national currencies. Instead, the tables are starting to turn and national currencies are beginning to realize that they have to play well with Bitcoin.

The Limitations of Gold

All forms of currency are based on trust. Not just those that are commonly referred to as fiat money, which means “trust,” but absolutely every form of currency is based on some level of trust.

Gold has typically not been considered fiat money because it’s always been scarce and therefor always valuable. But that may not be true much longer.

Twenty years ago, few would have believed synthetic diamonds would become more plentiful than natural ones. Can synthetic gold be far behind?

Gold is also hard to exchange. It requires physical handling and comes with constant levels of paranoia over purity, theft, and a variety of other slight-of-hand deceptions. In addition, stolen gold, once melted, becomes nearly indistinguishable from non-stolen gold.

Whenever large amounts of gold pass through a system, like customs, it instantly raises red flags and suddenly taxes, tariffs, and watchdog scrutiny kicks in.

Since digital currencies are infinitely more usable than a physical commodity, the governments of China and India have severely constrained citizen’s investment in gold. For this reason, people are abandoning it and turning to cryptocurrency as an alternative investment vehicle.

Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, are far more liquid than gold, and they come with the added benefit of being somewhat anonymous.

Bitcoin – Safe Haven Currency of Choice

Since its introduction in 2009, Bitcoin has been integrating itself into our global culture. Each of these usage nodes represents another hook into the fabric of society, a hook that builds stability as well as a growing user base.

While it’s true that criminals and those skating on the edge of the law prefer to work with Bitcoin, so do many legitimate investors.

Even though Bitcoin is often referred to as an anonymous currency, which it’s not, it would be more accurate to describe it as a “neutral currency,” not favoring any one country.

All Bitcoin transactions are stored publicly and permanently on the network, which means anyone can see the balance and transactions of a particular bitcoin address. Yes, the identity of the user behind an address is typically unknown, but there are ways of uncovering the identity of the person through purchases or related activities.

That said, cryptocurrencies have no geographical or cultural constituency. They operate outside the control of any one nation.

As such, cryptocurrencies do not have an obligation to help a local economy or improve the lives of a particular citizenry. They have a way of automating “authority” out of the equation, which makes central banks very nervous.

The Emergence of Fluid Citizenry and Fluid Economics

We’ve been raised with the notion of a captive citizenry. Everyone belongs to the country they live in. No matter what crazy shenanigans your national leaders might pull, you are obliged to pay taxes to your particular country.

At the same time, crossing country borders has become an increasingly trivial event with many people crossing multiple borders on a daily basis.

Sending money to loved ones back home has become one of the primary functions of Bitcoin. It’s been a painful process until now, but Bitcoin allows families in other countries to access funds instantly (within minutes) with less than 2% transaction fee instead of the 10-20% banks onerously charge.

The Internet has given us borderless economies and a global marketplace. Over time, drone taxis and other forms of passenger drones will make national borders even less significant as crossing a border becomes as easy as going to the grocery store.

Every year people become more fluid in their ability to travel, but this is a double-edged sword. Along with a fluid citizenry comes a waning loyalty to a particular a particular city or region.

Similar to credit cards making national currencies invisible to the consumer, cryptocurrencies will make wealth transfers invisible to national governments.

As much as governments wish to exert additional authority and control over our lives, cryptocurrencies, along with most of the tech world, are working overtime to break the “big brother” bonds.

Level One Disruptions

Its already clear Bitcoin will be a major disruptor. Here are some of the industries currently dealing with the effect of Bitcoin.

1. ) Banking – Bitcoin is already disrupting the banking industry, allowing people to access a form of money that’s not controlled by an agency of the central government. Over the past couple years, several global financial institutions like MasterCard, BNP Paribas, Visa and J.P. Morgan have invested in blockchain startups after realizing Bitcoin could save the industry billions each year by eliminating the middleman.

2.) E-Commerce – There are any number of reasons why a consumer would prefer to use Bitcoin over credit cards or PayPal when making a transaction. A number of cryptocurrency payment processors like CoinBase, BitPay, BIPS, and Blockchain Merchant now offer tools to integrate bitcoin e-commerce into a website.

3.) Charities – Humanitarian efforts in countries with nearly worthless currencies have realized that Bitcoin is a valuable tool. A few of the organizations already accepting Bitcoin include the Human Rights Foundation, the American Red Cross, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the United Way.

4.) Music – Bitcoin and blockchain startups have already started to disrupt the $15 billion music industry. By using companies like Ujo Music, Stem, Kashcoin, and PeerTracks fans can directly pay artists for their music, without record labels and producers taking a huge cut.

5.) Gambling – While most governments have restricted online gambling on some level, Bitcoin players are generally free to step into some of the world’s most popular casinos without leaving their home. One of the biggest of these online gaming portals is Dragon’s Tale, a role-playing game that uses Bitcoin instead of chips. Another, SatoshiDice, saw as many as 12,400 bets per day in 2013. A study that year showed that at least half of all Bitcoin transactions were related to gambling.

Cryptocurrencies gain value from the “network effect”
Cryptocurrencies gain value from the “network effect”

Why does Bitcoin have value?

Normally we can apply some form of supply-and-demand equation to virtually any commodity and we can gain a sense of its value. But Bitcoin is different.

Since our societies rely heavily on trade and commerce, anything that facilitates the exchange of goods and services has some degree of value.

In the past farmers would farm, fishermen would fish, and widget-makers would make widgets. But trading fish for widgets, or trading grain for fish was a messy and inefficient way to conduct a transaction. For this reason currencies were invented.

By agreeing on one intermediate commodity, say silver coins, we only need to pay attention to the number of silver coins involved in every transaction.

But silver has its own set of problems, especially when we’re dealing with very small or very large transactions. On one hand they’re not easily divisible, on the other, they’re not easily manageable.

Bitcoin has a way of solving all those problems.

Today’s monetary systems are old and tired, with so many patches in place that even the patches have patches.

We previously patched our problems with gold and silver by introducing paper banknotes. We patched further problems by removing the precious metal backing those banknotes, and then patched them again to allow wire transfers, credit cards, debit cards, direct deposit, and online billpay. All the cornerstones of modern life are just patches on patches inside a prehistoric system.

Every IT guy knows that from time to time you have to take drastic measures and scrap the old system and build a new one from scratch.

So what would happen if we scrapped our decaying old financial systems along with the barnacle-people making absurd profits by maintaining them? That is exactly what Bitcoin was intended for.

Bitcoin isn’t another bank or payment processor coming up with new ways to move old dollars. Bitcoin is instead a simple and elegant replacement for the entire concept of money. It has value for exactly the same reason as the paper money in your wallet: It simplifies the exchange of goods and services.

So let’s go back to the original question, “Why does Bitcoin have value?” We can answer that in two words – network effect.

The network effect is a fascinating way of explaining why networked products and services tend to have more value when more people use them. The most common example is the telephone. During its early days when few people had access to telephones, and therefore its value was minimal. Today practically everyone has a phone, so its utility and value is extraordinarily high. In a similar fashion the value of Bitcoin is directly tied to its number of users and the frequency of their use.

As the usability of Bitcoin increases, its user base will grow, and its value will increase exponentially.

The Overall Size of the Bitcoin Universe

Several years ago an architect working on dome houses explained to me why the dome shape always comes across as an optical illusion. “When people walk into a room, their eyes unconsciously look for the corners of the room to gain a sense of perspective about the size of space they’re walking into,” he said.

Without corners, a dome will appear abnormally smaller from the outside and strangely larger from the inside.

This paradoxical perspective has forced me to constantly “search for the corners of the room” with every new situation, technology, and system, and in this case, gain an inside and outside perspective about the size and shape of the Bitcoin universe.

There are a total of 21 million Bitcoins in the Bitcoin universe. While most currencies are loaned into existence, Bitcoins are mined into existence, a complex process requiring increasingly vast amounts of computing power, cryptic algorithms, and a bit of luck.

Through this mining process, over two thirds of all Bitcoins have already been mined into existence, an activity that, over time, becomes exponentially more difficult to accomplish.

With 21 million possible, if each Bitcoin is worth $1,000, the total Bitcoin universe becomes valued at $21 billion.

To individuals, this seems like a huge number. But to countries like the U.S., China, and India, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $18 trillion, $21 trillion, and $9 trillion respectively, a number like $21 billion is little more than a fly on the backside of an elephant.

At the same time, $21 billion is the equivalent to the GDP of Jamaica, Armenia, or Tajikistan.

However, every Bitcoin can be subdivided into 100 million bits, a tiny slice of currency known as 1 Satoshi. If each Satoshi grew in value to become worth $1 USD, then the entire Bitcoin universe would expand in value to $2,100 trillion, an incomprehensively large number that would overpower most national currencies.

If we actually moved up the valuation scale from $21 billion to $2,100 trillion, naturally a number of world-changing seismic shifts will occur.

How large will the Bitcoin universe become?
How large will the Bitcoin universe become?

Bitcoin and the surprising “disturbance in the force” that will accompany it

With Bitcoin, as its network effect climbs the exponential value chain; we will witness a series of disruptions. Every level of disruption will involve some level of psychological turmoil, economic turmoil, and growing national hostilities.

Venture Capitalist Tim Draper predicts that Bitcoin will hit $10,000 by 2018. That means the Bitcoin universe will expand from $21 billion to $210 billion.

In a similar fashion to the way stocks divide, leapfrog jumps in valuation will empower new technologies and new investors at the same time.

While it’s true that faster money will create a better economy, Bitcoin will find ways to route transactions around today’s power brokers and remove some influential people from tomorrow’s revenue streams. For this reason many will feel betrayed or left out of the inner circles, and a new age of monetary skirmishes will ensue.

Here are some possible implications with each 10X increase in value. When Bitcoin reaches:

  • $1,000 – Many new currency-related technologies will spring to life. We’re seeing this now.
  • $10,000 – Bitcoin becomes the global standard for e-commerce. A high percentage of gold holders will switch to Bitcoin. Most of today’s banks will begin to disappear as new institutions arise.
  • $100,000 – Most countries will establish Bitcoin reserves, and will attempt to tie their national currencies to the value of Bitcoin.
  • $1,000,000 – Bitcoin will be universally acknowledged as the first global currency and spawn a series of complementary currencies.
  • $10,000,000 – Most global infrastructure projects will be financed through Bitcoin.

Admittedly it’s not feasible to develop a realistic list like this with any level of confidence because of the tectonic plate-shifting changes that will accompany each of Bitcoin’s exponential leaps in value.

It may even collapse under its own weight.

However, what will become glaringly clear along the way are all the deficiencies we have with today’s economic systems.

Final Thoughts

Bitcoin has become the flag bearer for an emerging cryptocurrency industry with literally thousands of players waiting in the wings.

There is little doubt in my mind that Bitcoin will achieve lofty valuations in the future. How high and how fast still remains a fascinating topic for debate and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Will your financial future be controlled by Bitcoin?

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future

book-tom-1

 

 

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Driverless Tech – 8 scenarios that show it to be the most disruptive technology in all history http://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/driverless-tech-8-scenarios-that-show-it-to-be-the-most-disruptive-technology-in-all-history/ http://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/driverless-tech-8-scenarios-that-show-it-to-be-the-most-disruptive-technology-in-all-history/#comments Tue, 03 Jan 2017 23:22:07 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8055 driverless-tech-4t

Driverless vehicles will be the most disruptive technology in all history. There may be more disruptive technologies on the horizon, but it is hard to imagine anything that will add more changes to our daily lives faster than this one.

It will even be more disruptive than past innovations like the wheel, fire, electricity, filtered water, and sanitation systems because it will happen to more people in a shorter period of time.

As I step you through some of the following scenarios, you’ll begin to get a sense as to how massive this disruption will truly be.

If you’re still on the fence about unmanned vehicles, still love your car, and think driverless cars are doomed to failure, please read on.

The economics of driverless cars are so compelling; they create their own force of nature, pushing society for greater adoption every step of the way.

This is particularly true for cities. Most cities are destined to lose over 50% of their current revenue streams.

Over the next 2-3 decades, cities will have to deal with a number of looming crises that are currently not on their radar.

Driverless vehicles will be the catalyst that changes nearly every line item in a city’s budget. This means virtually every revenue stream; expense, long-term obligation, and planning process will be altered in some way.

City employment in most areas will plummet. The way we think about property values, land use, zoning, transportation, taxes, and public safety will begin to morph and shift in ways we never imagined.

With so many moving parts it will be impossible to determine the “new normal” for cities, counties, and states anytime soon.

Watching the Transition Unfold

As driverless technologies progress, there will be less and less need for human oversight. Eventually we will achieve fully autonomous cars where we can summon a car whenever we need it and car ownership becomes a thing of the past.

First generation vehicles will come with a variety of regulator issues and technical problems few can anticipate. But as with all early stage technologies, each of these problems will be dealt with as they arise.

Realistically though, in 2015 there were 257.9 million registered vehicles in the U.S. at an average age of 11.4 years. So how long will it take to replace this many cars and what happens to all the old cars?

In 2015, automakers sold 17.5 million new cars and light trucks. With estimates that one driverless car will likely replace 15-20 traditional cars, then 1 million driverless cars could offset the sale of 17.5 million other vehicles.

Since traditional cars are only used 4% of every day, driverless cars will transition us from a just-in-case mindset where we have a car in our garage just-in-case we need to go somewhere, to a just-in-time mindset where we can summon a vehicle any time we need one.

Every problem creates an opportunity and we will find thousands of new opportunities as we step into this brave new driverless world.

Large Fleet Ownership

The first big change will involve large fleet ownership of driverless vehicles, perhaps as large as 5-10 million vehicles with 20,000 in one city and 50,000 in the next.

Fleets may be owned by large companies like Hertz or Avis, General Motors or Ford, or Uber or Lyft. Along with fleet ownership will come the responsibility of cleaning, upkeep, and repair, but these companies will also wield a huge amount of clout when it comes to car design and efficiency.

The Shift to Electric Vehicles

As battery life improves and recharging stations become more automated and plentiful, the demand for electric vehicles will jump exponentially. However, large fleet owners will only choose electric cars if they are more reliable and cost efficient.

The shift to electric vehicles will dramatically change the sound of a city. This cannot be overstated. Rumbling engines, smelly exhaust clouds, and loud revving noises will all fade into distant memories.

One-Passenger Vehicles

Over time, driverless cars will queue up for people coming and going from a building. Since most trips will involve only one passenger, the majority of driverless cars will be one-passenger vehicles.

These mono-vehicles will come equipped with all the tools necessary to be productive – Wi-Fi, computer table, window-dimmers – as well as features to make it a fun and relaxing space – video games, movies, music, and VR.

Larger vehicles can be summoned for families, couples, and groups. Some will request upscale vehicles to match their need for status and luxury.

This means that rental cars will eventually disappear. So will the taxis, limos, shuttles, valet services, and parking lots.

Entertaining passengers will become a whole new industry
Entertaining passengers will soon become a whole new industry

Eight Examples of Disruption

As we enter the driverless car era, and quickly transition into an autonomous vehicle era, all other forms of transportation will begin to fade into the background.

Consider the following examples developed with my “situational futuring” technique.

1.) Retail Sales Tax Loss

Roughly 40% of State and local sales tax comes from auto sales.

In addition, over 10% of today’s retail businesses are car-related. As ownership goes away, people will be less invested in their car’s maintenance and efficiency. This means a rapid decline in gas stations, car washes, oil change businesses, detail shops, tire shops, brake shops, emissions testing, alignment shops, auto repair, body shops, tow trucks, glass repair, transmission repair, auto part stores, rental car agencies, and auto insurance offices.

Dealerships themselves will also disappear.

The declining sales tax revenues from all these businesses should not be underestimated.

No need for traffic tickets in a driverless world
No need for traffic tickets in a driverless world

2.) Traffic Courts

A significant number of cities in the U.S. rely heavily on traffic tickets, court fines and fees for balancing the local budget, often accounting for as high as 30% of their total revenue. In many cases, the courts only keep between 5-10% of the fees they collect.

In 2015, New York City collected a record $1.9 billion in fees and fines for motor vehicle violations.

As we make this transition to driverless cars, there will be no more speeding tickets, failure to stop at stoplights, DUIs, and road rage. Courtrooms, judges, lawyers, DAs, driver’s education, sobriety checkpoints, and anger management schools all fade away. This will translate into dwindling revenues and far fewer staff positions in these areas.

3.) Airports

In 2013, 41% of airport revenue came from parking and ground transportation, according to Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA).

It’s amazing how sophisticated airports have become. Since I’m personally in and out of airports several dozen times a year, this is a topic I’ve become very attuned to.

Airports have evolved into a massive intersection of people-in-transition. The number of vehicles being staged at most large airports has grown from hundreds, to thousands, to tens of thousands.

Rental cars, buses, taxis, shuttles, Ubers, limos, vans, trucks, scooters, and trains all play a role in the continuous waves of people going to and from an airport. All that is about to disappear.

In addition to airports, parking lots throughout cities begin to lose revenue and staff. Meter maids, parking meters, parking tickets, valet services, and handicap parking all go away.

4.) Queuing Stations and the Great Retail Store Rework

The success of virtually all retail businesses has long centered around three words – location, location, location – and that location was often defined by the relationship between parking and store access. As our need for parking declines, a new usability metric to watch will stem from the design and construction of queuing stations in front of stores, offices, and businesses.

Planning entrances where driverless cars can quickly pull up, allow passengers to exit, and move on, will soon go through far deeper scrutiny over less understood features like the “arrival experience” and the “frictionless entry.”

Queuing stations will be complex additions to most buildings. Over time the notion of a simple drive through lane for people to enter and exit vehicles will be replaced with multiple lanes, including handicap lanes, and specialty lanes for various classes of vehicles.

Just as wealthy people today enjoy the status of driving a more expensive car, not all driverless vehicles will serve the same utilitarian function. Richer people will pay to “arrive in style,” and will expect to have premier access to buildings. In much the same way hotels often greet their elite guests with teams of people waiting on their arrival, retail stores will find unusual ways to greet their most prominent customers and make them feel welcome.

Having enclosed porticos around entrances for climate-controlled ingress and egress is only part of the equation. Since driverless cars won’t allow you to store a trunk full of shopping from one store to the next, having storage lockers near every entrance will be common.

Because group shopping is never equally rewarding for all members, having waiting areas that serve coffee, tea, and other refreshments near the entrance will also be part and parcel to the arrival-departure experience.

Driverless vehicles will be far safer than cars today
Driverless vehicles will be far safer than cars today

5.) Hospitals

The National Safety Council estimates 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million injured on U.S. roads in 2015, which saw the largest one-year percentage increase in half a century.

Driverless cars have the potential to drive those numbers to zero.

If we multiply the average cost of repairing a person after a traffic injury, say $10,000, times the number of injuries, 4.4 million, we end up with a potential drop of $440 billion in payments to hospitals and the healthcare industry.

For 2015, the CDC estimates that 38,300 people killed resulted in $62 billion in medical and work loss costs in addition to the immeasurable burden on the victims’ families and friends.

That’s over half a trillion dollars in cost to society, in the U.S. alone, that simply goes away.

6.) Gas Taxes, Car Licensing, and Registration

In researching this topic, I wasn’t able to find the amount of money car owners pay today for gas taxes, car licensing and registration, but rest assured, it amounts to hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

States may still require that all driverless vehicles be registered, but for large fleet owners, car licensing and registration will be handled in a much more automated fashion requiring far fewer employees.

With alternative forms of power generation, and the wholesale shift towards electric vehicles, and large-scale mass energy storage networks that will likely involve these vehicles, our overall dependence upon petroleum products will plummet.

7.) The Coming Municipal Bond Crisis

Most municipal bonds are issued with a long-term repayment plan, often extended over a 30-year period, issued with the assumption that the flow of money will stay relatively consistent during that period of time.

As an example, cities that issue bonds to add toll lanes for high occupancy vehicles and those willing to pay the toll, will soon discover that driverless cars can travel just as fast without using the toll lanes, and anticipated revenues will plummet.

For another example, a city that builds a large parking structure with bonds that are to be repaid with parking fees will soon be left with an empty parking structure and no revenue. Most of these giant parking structures will eventually be torn down, but the debt will still remain.

When it comes to building power plants, which often come with a $4-$8 billion price tag, many are structuring their repayment plans around the additional revenue collected from peak demand pricing. However, once most homeowners have battery packs installed in their basements, the demand for “peak power” will crater, undermining the whole repayment plan.

With declining revenues, virtually every debt taken on by cities, counties, and states will receive extensive scrutiny to make sure there is a viable plan for repayment.

8.) City Pension Crisis

Numerous cities have made overly generous long-term commitments to fund staff pensions, a commitment that will be especially hard to manage when revenues begin to drop. With increased longevity, most pension funds were never adequately funded in the first place.

This is particularly true for the California Public Employees Retirement System, CalPERS, which presently only has 65 cents for every dollar that it needs to provide pension benefits for its two million members.

Many in California are just now coming to grips with the insane amounts of money needed to fund these pensions in the future. Los Angeles already spends 20% of its general fund on retirement costs.

CalPERS pension debt is now roughly $164 billion, a debt that will continue to grow over the coming years. In a radical move to help correct the situation, CalPERS has announced they are cutting pension benefits across the board, by as much as 60% for many recipients.

With driverless technologies zapping many of our city’s existing revenue streams, the challenges we’re facing today will transition into a full-blown, rioting-in-the-streets pension crisis in the future. There will be no easy solutions for bailing out these super expensive pension plans.

Tomorrow’s opportunities will only be limited by our own imagination
Tomorrow’s opportunities will only be limited by our own imagination

Final Thoughts

Even though I’m sure there are thousands of details that I’ve over looked, and few things ever turn out 100% the way we predict, the level of disruption coming with driverless technologies is staggering.

They will not only change the way we get from point A to point B, but also how we think about shopping, entertainment, dining out, as well as the design of our buildings, houses, hospitals, churches, and shopping centers.

Virtually every aspect of society, in every country around the world, will be touched by driverless technologies, and the vast majority of it is destined to improve our global standard of living.

Job losses will be offset by job creation. Businesses that disappear will be replaced by innovative new businesses, and the overall size of government will begin to shrink.

As transportation becomes faster, cheaper, and easier, we will simply do more of it. We will become a very fluid society, and all this movement will seem natural and effortless.

At the same time, the path to progress is strewn with countless road mines and pitfalls. Many things will go wrong and the journey is never smooth.

As you read through this, I encourage you to mention the thoughts going through your head. What have I missed, overlooked, or simply gotten wrong?

Many of my friends already know that for me, my dream car is no car at all. Personally I can’t wait until I can, once again, look forward to my daily commute. It simply doesn’t need to be this painful.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future

Book Tom 1

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