DaVinci Institute – Futurist Speaker http://www.futuristspeaker.com DaVinci Institute – Futurist Speaker Fri, 21 Jul 2017 18:37:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Peak electricity and 17 seismic forces of change that will make you want to shift careers http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/peak-electricity-and-17-seismic-forces-of-change-that-will-make-you-want-to-shift-careers/ http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/peak-electricity-and-17-seismic-forces-of-change-that-will-make-you-want-to-shift-careers/#respond Tue, 18 Jul 2017 18:47:26 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8378

It happened in 2007. Ten years ago the trajectory for electrical use in America peaked and started down a different course, declining for reasons we don’t fully understand yet.

No, this wasn’t a one-time drop but a clear shift, moving in a new downward direction that continues to this day.

There should have been celebrations and parades, even dancing in the streets, but no one noticed.

In much the same way animals, not humans, are able to pick up on weak signals for an impending earthquake, our ability to sense an industry’s peak still mystifies us.

To make matters even more complicated, it may not be the peak.

Our emerging electric car and trucking industries coupled with plummeting battery prices, solar roofs, IoT devices, artificial intelligence, home battery packs, and energy efficient everything are just a few of the interrelated issues that will turn virtually every prediction about our future electrical needs into a low probability forecast before its even mentioned.

Have we reached peak electrical use in the U.S.?

In 1989, Amory Lovins, Founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, spotted a typo – “negawatt” instead of “megawatt” — in a Colorado Public Utilities Commission report and decided to start using “negawatt” as a theoretical unit of conserving power, representing the amount of electrical power saved.

While the term never really caught on, Lovins’ goal of finding more efficient ways to use electricity had begun many years earlier. Art Rosenfeld, a senior staff member at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory known as the “godfather of energy efficiency,” launched a far-reaching campaign promoting energy conservation.

In one of his final interviews before he died, Rosenfeld said, “I’ve often said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance but the price of energy efficiency is eternal nagging.”

As it turns out, the “nagging era” may have come to an end. We may have turned the corner when it comes to nagging at people to turn lights off.

Per-capita electricity use has now fallen for six years in a row. We’re back to the levels of the mid-1990s, and it would appear we are headed even lower.

Seven charts that will change your understanding of the future of power

For a quick overview of the shifting landscape for electricity, here are seven important charts.

Electricity use in the U.S. peaked in 2007

1.) The Electricity Plateau – The initial drop in electricity use in 2008 and 2009 could be attributed partly to the economic downturn. But the economy grew again in 2010, and every year since. Electricity use in the U.S., meanwhile, is still below its 2007 level, and seems to be flat lining.

The change is even more dramatic if you measure on a per-capita basis:

Per capita electric generation

2.) Past the Peak and Falling – Per-capita electricity use has fallen for six years in a row. We’re now back to the levels of the mid-1990s, and seemingly headed lower.

Kilowatt hours per $100 of real gross domestic product

3.) The Economy Decouples from Electricity – Our digital economy is rapidly decoupling from the electric demands of the industrial era.

Researchers Jonathan Koomey and Richard Hirsh offered five hypotheses for why electricity demand had decoupled from economic growth:

  • State and federal efficiency standards for buildings and appliances have enabled us to get by with less electricity.
  • Increased use of information and communications technologies have also allowed people to conduct business and communicate more efficiently.
  • Higher prices for electricity in some areas have depressed its use.
  • Structural changes in the economy have reduced demand.
  • Electricity use is being underestimated because of the lack of reliable data on how much energy is being produced by rooftop solar panels.
Electric use by sector

4.) Who’s Using the Juice – We’re experiencing some significant structural changes to our economy.

A good indicator is our shift to cloud computing. From 2000 to 2005, electricity use by data centers in the U.S. increased 90%. From 2005 to 2010, the gain was 24%. As of 2014, data centers accounted for 1.8% of U.S. electricity use, according to a 2016 Lawrence Berkeley study, but their electricity demand growth had slowed to a crawl.

Rapid decline of the internal combustion engine

5.) Overtaking Lane – According to Bloomberg researchers, in just eight years electric cars will be cheaper than gasoline vehicles, growing quickly to 530 million electric vehicles globally by 2040.

In this scenario, electricity demand for electric vehicles (EVs) will grow to 1,800 terawatt-hours in 2040, or 5% of global power demand, from 6 terawatt-hours in 2016

Today there’s around 90 gigawatt hours of EV lithium-ion battery manufacturing capacity, and this will grow to 270 gigawatt hours by 2021.

Charging infrastructure may also prove to be a significant bottleneck, potentially slowing growth in key Chinese, U.S. and European markets.

Battery costs plummeting from $1,000 in 2010 to $73 in 2030

6.) More Bang for Your Buck – Lithium-ion cell costs have already fallen by 73% since 2010 and Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts battery innovation will accelerate and lead to an ongoing decline in prices over the next two decades.

The world’s biggest economies—China, the U.S. and Europe—will drive demand for battery powered cars over the next 25 years

7.) A Diminishing OPEC – The global shift toward electric vehicles will create an upheaval in the auto and oil industries, ranging from reduced gasoline demand for large oil companies to collapsing demand for manufacturers of spark plugs and fuel injectors whose products aren’t needed for plug-in cars.

While many traditional car suppliers will be hurt by EV growth, some commodities will get a boost.

  • Graphite demand will soar to 852,000 tons a year in 2030 from just 13,000 tons in 2015
  • Nickel and aluminum demand will both see demand from EVs rise to about 327,000 tons a year from just 5,000 tons in 2015
  • Production of lithium, cobalt and manganese will each increase more than 100-fold
The days of the national electric grid are numbered

17 seismic wildcards that will impact the future of electricity

The future of electricity can best be broken into four fundamental categories – power generation, power distribution, electric storage, and changes in demand.

After looking at the charts above of some of today’s most important trends, it was easy to uncover a few emerging trends that analysts haven’t been considering.

While some of these may only represent a miniscule probability over the next few years, the interplay between emerging technology and social acceptance, coupled with an exponential growth curve or two inserted into the mix, will make the energy industry a truly dicey market to predict over the next 2-3 decades.

Power Generation

1.) Solar shingles, solar roofs, and Powerwalls – Internal projections show Tesla scaling its roof installations to 1 million per year by 2022. That’s about 20% of all roof replacements in the U.S. and 5% globally. With solar shingles and whole-house batteries (Powerwalls) getting cheaper over time, this will be a fascinating “scaling-up industry” to watch over the next couple decades.

2.) 3D printed solar houses – Contour crafting is a large-scale form of 3D printing used in the construction industry. As the technology improves, contour crafting will not only print the structure, but also the wiring, plumbing, bathroom fixtures, kitchen cabinets, insulation and roofing. It’s only a matter of time before we will see solar cells printed into the roofs and sides of buildings as well.

Japan’s proposed space-based power station

3.) Space-based power stations – After Japan’s Fukushima disaster occurred in 2011, an in-depth review of possible options concluded their most viable long-term strategy would be to focus on spaced-based power systems. Japan now has a 25-year plan to build the world’s first 1-gigawatt power plant in space.

4.) Atmospheric energy harvesting – lightning – Capturing the energy of a lightning bolt has been achieved on a small scale in laboratories, but no one has been successful at scaling it up. It only takes one mistake so not a lot of people playing in this space. While still theoretical, many think it will soon be possible, and the ultimate cool job of the future will be to work on a lightning farm.

5.) Thorium-based nuclear power – When it comes to nuclear power, thorium offers several potential advantages over uranium. It’s more plentiful, superior fuel properties, and reduced amounts of nuclear waste. It also has far lower weaponization potential. With research and experimentation already happening in several countries, thorium power has massive potential. As example, India is projecting it can meet as much as 30% of its electrical demands through thorium by 2050.

Power Distribution

6.) Superconductor graphene power lines – My recent column on developing the “world’s first graphene super-conductor power grid“ describes how a superconductor power line will dramatically alter line loss, demand loads, and efficiencies throughout the electric usage spectrum. In my mind, it’s no longer a matter of “if” but “when.”

7.) Home batteries replaced by drones – Once drones are equipped to fly to remote buildings, dock with their battery stations, and perform a fully automated 2-minute replacement, our need to live in a wire-connected world will quickly diminish.

8.) Artificial intelligence and smart utilities – While still in development, A.I. will soon be able to use predictive algorithms to balance grids, anticipate failures, detect hacks, and precisely route power to where it is needed most. These smart systems will soon calculate precise details of every user, analyze a location’s supply and demand behavior, and store or release energy as needed to keep the grid balanced.

Unique and powerful techniques designed for investors, advisors, planners, and strategists

Electric Storage

9.) Large-scale energy storage – There are dozens of methods for storing energy on a large scale including everything from supercapacitors, to flywheels, liquid metal batteries, superconducting magnetic energy storage, grid-oriented batteries, and heat fusion. As battery prices continue to fall, utilities and policymakers are increasingly looking at storage as an alternative to traditional peaking generation.

10.) Explosion of micro-grids – The micro-grid advantage can best be summed up in their freedom to experiment with new forms of energy generation, distribution, and storage. With national grids posing a serious security risk, the proliferation of micro-grids is already underway. Energy derived from solar, tidal, and wind sources are constantly shifting along with time of day, moon phase, season, and random factors such as the weather. For this reason, large-scale energy storage is most likely to find a home on experimental micro-grids.

Changes in Demand

11.) Electric agriculture – Going beyond a farmer’s electric cars are everything from electric tractors, to electric trucks, combines, augers, swathers, bailers, sprayers, and robotic harvesters. The electric version of virtually every piece of ag equipment is already in the planning and development stages.

Electric cargo ships of the future

12.) Electric shipping industry – Cargo ships represent some of the most polluting vehicles on the planet. There will be huge pressure for them to reduce the amount of sludge they dump into the ocean and electric ships are far less disturbing to marine life. However, once electric ships are in use, recharging an entire cargo ship will be no small feat.

13.) Electric airline industry – The airline industry is also hugely polluting and will also be pressured to clean up its act. Since airplanes are very weight-sensitive, there will need to be a number of advancements in battery technology before this becomes feasible on a broad scale.

14.) Electric drone explosion – We’ve already seen massive growth in the drone markets, but over time, the transition from fossil-fuel engines to electric will have a profound affect on the electrical power needs of the emerging drone industry. We will see the first billion drones in the world sometime between 2030-2032.

15.) Surge in off-grid living – The recent surge in interest around sustainable homes, ecocapsules, backyard shedquarters, shipping container homes, and low-impact lifestyles are all driving us towards something that can best be described as “simpler living.” There will always be people who love surrounding themselves with the opulence of their own wealth, but the general trend is in the other direction. Simple, more manageable lives that give us the opportunity to experience life in a more symbiotic fashion.

16.) Disposable houses – 3D printed houses will open the door to low cost structures designed as temporary or disposable houses. In many situations we will move past the “collapsible and movable” to the “grindable and re-printable.” These types of structures will also be off-grid and self-reliant, paving the way towards nomadic lifestyles that leave tiny environmental footprints.

17.) Tube transportation – With an explosion of attention being directed towards tube transportation systems like Hyperloop and ET3, it now seems inevitable that tube transportation infrastructure will be constructed in virtually every country on the planet. This will quickly become the largest infrastructure project in all history, and our ability to manage the power demands for this new form of transportation will become a critical factor in its development.

Final Thoughts

The power industry has already entered a state of disruption, but is ripe for much more. Today’s politics will be a distant memory 2-3 decades from now.

The list above is merely a starting point for those wanting to research the possibilities ahead.

In much of the world, electricity demand is still growing. In China, per-capita electricity use has more than quadrupled since 1999. Still, most other developed countries have experienced a plateauing or decline in electricity use similar to that in the U.S. over the past decade.

More than 80% of our energy today comes from burning fossil fuels, which is both harmful to our environment and unsustainable.

At the same time, wind and solar have proven to be the lowest cost form of electric power generation across a majority of the U.S., even without subsidies. Renewables are already at grid parity and will continue to drop in price.

Electric power will endure to be a battleground industry for decades to come. Our shifting base of technology, startups, lifestyles, culture, and politics will continue to make this a highly unpredictable landscape for the foreseeable future.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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Blueprint for Disruption: Freelancer College http://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/blueprint-for-disruption-freelancer-college/ http://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/blueprint-for-disruption-freelancer-college/#respond Mon, 26 Jun 2017 12:12:54 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8344

Parents often ask me what their kids should be studying in college. The answer, however, is never as straightforward as they’d like because college is not always a good solution.

If a parent’s primary objective is for their kids to find a job, they should drop out today. Colleges aren’t about getting jobs, well, at least not directly. There are many ways to learn job skills but traditional college is usually the slowest and most expensive way to land a job.

In fact, many of the highest paying jobs in fields like computer programming, commercial pilots, cyber security, real-estate brokers, cloud architects, crime scene detectives, and web developers typically don’t require a degree at all.

Virtually any bright student can learn a marketable skill in less than 6 months. This means they could have several years of work experience by the time their counterparts graduate from college.

Once a person has a marketable skill, they can begin to take control their own destiny, and start themselves down the path to becoming a freelancer.

Yes, there’s a big difference between a newbie freelancer and one who’s a total rockstar, but it all begins with taking that first bold step, and that’s where life’s journey starts making sense.

Freelancer college, as I’m envisioning it, will be an intensive one-week course, where students begin this life-altering experience in a room filled with other wannabe freelancers.

As the gig economy grows, every free agent will need to surround themselves with a network of like-minded solopreneurs and the initial classroom training is a great place to start forming these networks.

The first thing that you, as a student, will learn is to take control of your life. As the owner/manager of “you incorporated,” every decision becomes a business decision. Being “in charge” changes how you talk about yourself, who your friends are, buying decisions, and what things become priorities.

The course will guide you through a roadmap of tools, systems, and techniques needed to forge an effective business model. But this is no ordinary roadmap. In so many ways it will become the mother of all roadmaps as it morphs, shifts, and changes with you for the rest of your life.

This should not be thought of as a restrictive pathway to trailblazing a future. Instead, freelancer college will likely become one of the most fertile approaches to continually build your opportunity landscape.

Creativity is a critical component in every freelancer’s toolkit

You don’t need to be an expert

Freelancers come in all shapes and sizes, and few young people will have the critical skills to command a high salary. But that’s okay.

Easy entry points are always day labor positions like offering a home laundry service, moving furniture, mowing lawns, walking dogs, or personal concierge.

  • Home laundry services can easily grow into a variety of household management services where 3-5 households become a full-time business.
  • Moving furniture can quickly transition from you doing the physical work, to you managing the process, offering additional staging and relocation services to expand the offering.
  • Mowing lawns is a great way to begin a career as a freelance arborist, botanist, or professional groundskeeper.
  • Walking dogs will often set the stage for a variety of freelance pet services like dog grooming, vet runs, and doggy spas and vacations.
  • Personal concierge is a perfect door opener for offering personal protection services, publicist, reputation manager, or life coach.

In each of these situations, a handful of good clients can launch a productive freelance career.

Being a freelancer will involve a lifetime of learning

Freelancer college learning modules

As with every multi-discipline form of training there are a variety of topics to focus on. Here are a few critical skills that most people will need early on.

  • Fan club management – Every person has a fan club, a circle of friends who cheer them along life’s journey. Developing a productive “friends network,” and learning how to grow, manage, and interact with it, becomes an enormously important piece of the freelancer equation.
  • How to create a website – Every freelancer will need a website along with good copy and at least one video. An effective website will leave many impressions highlighting unique characteristics, but most will need a crystal clear explanation of what you’re selling, great testimonials, past client list, and some form of “buy now” button.
  • Marketing & lead generation 101 – Who are your ideal clients? Where do they live? What magazines do they read, what TV shows do they watch, what income do they make, and where is the best place to randomly bump in to them? There are many “leads groups” to help introduce you to the people you need to know.
  • How to produce low cost videos – Posting a video or series of videos on Facebook, YouTube, and your website is an essential part of getting started.
  • How to price your services – While you may think you’re offering a valuable service, clients will often have a different opinion. What’s the best way to “sell” them on you as well as the service you’re offering?
  • Creating a business proposal – Who is in charge of the deal? If you submit a proposal, you have the advantage of controlling the terms of the deal.
  • Contract negotiation – Having a boilerplate, fill-in-the-blanks contract is an easy way to start, but it also needs to give the impression that you know what you’re doing.
  • Understanding legal entities – Should your business be set up as a sole proprietorship, partnership, C Corp, S Corp, LLP, or LLC? Should it be a for-profit or non-profit business, and what are the advantages and disadvantages?
  • Networking tips and tricks – Your first client is only one networking event away. Learning to meet and greet prospective clients is indeed an art form.
  • Social media management – Social media is not only a business tool but also a service you can offer to prospective clients.
  • Overview of back office technology – How to purchase and manage your business tech. The right configuration of tools and gear can save you huge amounts of time.
  • How to build a referral network – Even a half dozen people who regularly refer clients to you can be worth their weight in gold. But referrals go both ways so be prepared to give more than you get.
  • Accounting 101 – What’s the best way to create invoices and track expenses? If you’re not good at managing your own books, find someone who is.
  • How to manage the emotional side of business – Rejection is never easy, and getting criticism and bad reviews on Yelp, Google, and Facebook is often hard to take. Finding a support group to keep your head strait is critical. Virtually every good entrepreneur has someone they can lean on for advice, solve problems, and answer critical questions.
Some freelance careers allow you to work anywhere at any time

Ongoing education

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking colleges know what’s best for you. After all, they’ve been educating tens of thousand of people for hundreds of years, so they must be doing something right.

Sadly, colleges don’t know what’s best for you, only you do.

That’s what sets Freelancer College apart because it’s all about you and turning your talents into marketable business opportunities.

Millions of people around the globe are opting for greater independence in their work lives. As a result, they are joining the gig economy. Advances in technology have made it easier to launch, grow, and manage these types of businesses than ever before.

Here are a few stats about the growing gig economy:

  • Researchers project that over half of the working U.S. population will be part of the gig economy within the next five years.
  • One-third of U.S. office workers have a second job and more than half (56%) predict they will have multiple jobs in the future.
  • More than one-third of Millennials are already independent workers.
  • By 2025, over 75% of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials.
  • 80% of freelancers use social media as a means of finding work.
  • Researchers have concluded that nearly all of the net job growth in the economy since 2005 has been in freelance and alternative work arrangements.
  • The European Union saw a 45% increase in the number of independent workers from 2012 to 2013.
  • India’s independent workforce, the second largest in the world, currently has about 40% of the world’s freelance jobs.
There’s no limit to what you can accomplish

Accomplishment-based education

The best learning always occurs when you have a project where you can instantly apply the things you learn.

Writing a book, receiving a patent, or starting a business are all noteworthy symbols of achievement in today’s world. But being the author of a book that sells 50,000 copies, or inventing a product that a million people buy, or building a business that grosses over $10 million in annual sales are all significant accomplishments far more meaningful than their academic equivalents.

Most of what happens in today’s universities is based on “symbols of achievement,” not actual accomplishments.

Academic competitions pit students against each other to produce results that best match their teacher’s expectations. Only rarely will they produce anything noteworthy.

Completing a class is nothing more than a symbol of achievement. Similarly, completing many classes and receiving a diploma is noteworthy, but still only a vague representation of a real accomplishment.

No, this doesn’t mean that classroom training has no value. But, what we achieve in a classroom is at least one level of abstraction removed from a real-world accomplishment.

In the business world, it’s only an accomplishment if someone is willing to pay for it.

The global marketplace is not looking for people who have learned how to be great students. It wants results.

How much are you willing to invest in your future self?

Criteria for graduation

Those who complete Freelancer College will get a certificate. But to receive a “Master Freelancer Certification,” students will need to demonstrate a definable market niche that closely aligns with their own personal expertise, and demonstrate certain criteria such as:

  • Working with at least five clients per month
  • Generating at minimum $50,000 every month for 12 months straight.

Ironically, those who manage to do this won’t really care about receiving the “Master Freelancer Certification.” That type of achievement will pale in comparison to their own real-world accomplishments.

Doing everything yourself can be exhausting

Using other freelancers to help

Being a freelancer doesn’t mean you’re flying solo all the time.

The Internet is a very sophisticated communications tool that enables us to align the needs of business with the talent of individuals in far more precise ways than ever before. So rather than employ a full time person, companies will “hire” someone for 2 months, 2 weeks, 2 days, or even 2 hours.

While our tools for working with this level of precision are not quite as efficient as they should be, it’s only a matter of time.

It will also be a short time before we’ll have services that pair freelancers with other freelancers. We only have so many hours in a day, so leveraging the talent of others will become a routine part of every free agent’s toolbox.

Companies are also losing the restrictive notions of “place.” For many, the need for a physical location is either dwindling or disappearing. Business is becoming very fluid in how it operates, and the driving force behind this liquefaction is a digital marketplace that connects buyers with sellers faster and more efficiently than ever in the past.

Freelance thinking is about to disrupt colleges and businesses alike

Final Thoughts

I often think about the Ritz Carlton motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.”

People who hire a freelancer have respect for your abilities. At the same time, with any good relationship, you’ll have respect for the work they’re trying to accomplish.

Over time you’ll be able to influence the nature of projects, as well as the path to accomplishment, and take pride in your achievements.

Rather than settling for whoever wanted to hire you, you have the ability to migrate to the top quickly, avoiding all the infighting and office politics involved in climbing the corporate ladder, sway people’s thinking, and make a meaningful difference along the way.

No, being a freelancer doesn’t come with health insurance, vacation time, or a 401k plan. But what it does offer is far greater.

You’re in control so you get to decide who you want as a client, when you’re available for work, and most often, how much you’ll get paid. Yes, sometimes you’ll get fired from a project, but you can also fire your client.

Freelancing done right will give you a far higher salary, a far more influential circle of friends, and most importantly, the ability to make a difference.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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60 future crimes that don’t exist today http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/60-future-crimes-that-dont-exist-today/ http://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/60-future-crimes-that-dont-exist-today/#comments Mon, 05 Jun 2017 13:36:16 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8317

Most of our heroes were rule breakers. Yes, virtually everyone that holds a prominent place in our history books was a rebel, rule breaker, and occasional criminal.

No, I’m not saying these people should have been arrested, but I think it’s safe to assume that others may have been imprisoned and perhaps even killed for committing similar crimes.

But crimes in the future will require even greater levels of sophistication. As technology explodes around us, rule-breakers will have far more rules to consider in their trailblazing efforts.

We are witnessing a decline in traditional criminal groups, a void that is being filled by a growing virtual criminal underground made up of individual criminal entrepreneurs, who come together on a project-by-project basis. Seasoned criminals will lend their knowledge, experience and expertise to the growing ‘crime-as-a-service’ business model.

This is already happening in the area of cybercrime, but will soon infect virtually every level of ‘traditional’ organized crime, involving everything from designer drugs, to circumventing immigration laws, to large-scale counterfeiting of brand name products.

As we consider the forces at play, I’d like to step you through a number of future crimes and the emerging technologies that will be used to perform them.

Future crimes will attract a whole new breed of criminal!

Future crimes that don’t exist today

The same technologies that enable us to 3D print our own guns, also gives us the ability to create our own drones, intimidation engines, signal jammers, spyware, rockets, and gene hacking equipment. Virtually every new technology, created with all the best of intentions, can and will be used against us at some time in the future.

Suffice it to say that criminal minds are working overtime to concoct new and unusual opportunities for exploiting each of these emerging crime fields.

Drone offenses

Future drones will need to comply with thousands of unknown laws and regulations that are still in the process of being written.

1.) Transport of illegal substances – Bombs, poison, drugs, body parts, etc.

2.) Weaponized drones – Equipped with guns, lasers, Tasers, flamethrowers, and more.

3.) Voyeurism – Inappropriate spying on people in their residences or in restricted personal spaces.

4.) Disruptive marketing – Traffic-disrupting in-your-face messaging.

5.) Illegal shooting or destruction of drones – The anti-drone crowd is growing.

6.) Noise violations – Future drones with speakers and sound amplification systems attached (think flying concert speakers), can be turned into destructive weapons.

7.) Drone bullying – Acts of intimidation, threatening moves, or displaying images to shame or embarrass someone.

8.) Drones killing other drones – Drones specifically designed to capture or destroy other drones.

Mixed reality distortionaries

Imagine a mixed reality game showing the world we live in, only with visual overlays that make people around us unwitting players and pawns that we attempt to influence from inside this altered reality adventure. Think of it as the game of life, operating with a completely different rulebook.

9.) Mixed reality games designed to score points by injuring others – Users score points for physical bruises, verbal abuse, public shaming, and even physically disabling or killing someone.

10.) Purposefully distorted realities – Often times people stand to profit when they can get clients or customers to think something is wrong. Whether it’s visually distorting the dental work needed, the amount of treatment required for a medical condition, or your role in a criminal activity, there is a special place in hell for those who perversely benefit from the suffering of others.

History distorters

We’ve long dealt with historical revisionists and blatant fabricationists, but as we move into the age of super news-fakers, it will become increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction. Over time we will develop a technology that enables us to replay an unalterable visual representations of past events. But even technologies like that can be abused in new and unusual ways.

11.) Bald-faced character assassination – Piecing together bad snippets of anyone’s life can make them look like a fool. We all have the frailties of being human, and good judgment is everybody’s shortcoming at one time or another.

12.) Blatant revisionists – For some, painting false realities, drawing false conclusions, and reimagining past events will become a new criminal art form.

13.) False memes – Perpetuators of false research, polls, and studies.

14.) Counterfeit conclusionists – The fine art of reaching false conclusions. Since it’s an asymmetrical relationship between researchers and those consuming the information, scientists need to be held to a higher standard.

How long before everyone becomes blackmailable?

Social blackmailers

In much the same way Google’s personalized marketing system delivers targeted ads, an intimidation engine can be invented for the sole purpose of delivering highly targeted threats. As cyber crime escalates, we run the risk of having our social structures deteriorate into invisible mafia-style communities with the blackmailers ruling the blackmailees. While most will be doing it for money, others for revenge, few, if any, will be capable of understanding the true behind-the-scenes turf wars taking place.

15.) Threatening children – With social media it will become increasingly easy to intimidate someone with the threat of harming their child, friend, or loved one.

16.) Threat of isolation – We’re all social creatures by nature and the threat of alienating, and thereby isolating, us from our friends may be a fate worse than death.

Artificial intelligence plagues

It will become easy to rely on artificial intelligence to make most of our decisions for us – where to go, who to meet, what music to listen to, and even how to entertain our kids. But what happens when our A.I. goes bad or is coopted by those with sinister motives?

17.) Traffic accidents – Since driverless cars and drones will be managed by A.I., corrupted software could disrupt the entire transportation grid through a series of crashes, accidents, and massive traffic jams.

18.) Operating system amnesia – It’s what happens when information losses, alterations, and purposeful distortions take place.

19.) Power and data outages – Brownouts, blackouts, and information sieges designed to cut certain people off from the utilities, help, and services they need.

20.) Analysis paralysis – A.I. will soon become a crucial part of our daily decision-making processes, but system “overload” hacks, equivalent to “denial of service attacks,” will cause enormous problems.

Legacy revisionists

Few things in life are more disturbing than having a person’s legacy destroyed after they’re dead. Character assassination of dead people can be relatively easy, with living children being the primary subjects of this kind of attack.

21.) False motives, false intentions – If a person is no longer alive to defend their actions, it’s relatively simple to distort their motivations.

22.) Made-up involvements – With social media, our circle of loosely associated friends and acquaintances has expanded exponentially, so contriving intimate affairs with virtually any other person on the planet becomes a relatively easy hack.

23.) Fabricated consequences – Altering cause and effect relationships has become a common instrument used in political circles to twist people’s thinking to draw the wrong conclusion.

24.) Rewriting conclusions using incorrect assessments of impact – Most spin masters have a massive set of tools in their toolbox, including the ability to turn any tiny blip on the radar screen of life into the appearance of a full blown nuclear-style holocaust.

Space crimes

Every military strategist knows the extraordinary advantage a destructive person could have directing an attack from a near earth vantage point, and it’s only a matter of time until amateur rocketeers are capable of exploiting this opportunity.

25.) Launch-from-space EMP blast – Capable of bombing a country’s financial systems into the stone ages.

26.) Launch-from-space pandemic – Deadly contagions and viral outbreaks will be easier than ever to fabricate, distribute, and infect over the coming decades.

27.) Launch-from-space communication blackouts – As we become more reliant upon data/voice communications, our key points of vulnerabilities become increasingly obvious.

28.) Launch-from-space incendiary bombs – One carefully directed blast could cause immeasurable damage.

Robot crimes

Black hat robots are coming. With our growing imbalance between the super rich and the super poor, a likely scenario will be a scaling up of techno-stealth warfare of the clandestine kind, with black hat technologies used to disrupt our systems, industries, and government in new and unusual ways.

29.) Black hat drones, black hat robots, black hat car crashers, and black hat data manipulators – Terms like this will soon become a common part of every future criminal’s vocabulary.

30.) Hacker psycho-bots – One slightly deranged psycho-bot can easily be a thousand times more destructive than a single suicide bomber today.

Cryptocurrency miscreants

Cryptocurrencies have become the perfect tool for hiding transactions. As an example, Monero is a cryptocurrency that was launched in 2014 with enhanced privacy features. Monero leverages identity-obscuring ring signatures to paint a super-confusing picture of which funds have been sent by whom and to whom.

31.) Secret transactions – Cryptocurrencies open the door for truly secret communications and money transfers.

32.) Clandestine wealth storage – It becomes impossible to deter criminal activity when there’s no way to understand how the transactions are made and how the money is being stored.

CRISPR gene hacking

Genetic engineering has long promised cures for diseases and general improvements for the human condition, and CRISPR has emerged as the gene designer’s tool of choice for making it happen. At the same time, gene manipulation is a tool that can be used in all the wrong ways.

33.) Creating destructive new life forms – We have no idea how harmful new life forms can and will be.

34.) Fabricating super contagious new diseases – This will include anything that compromises the health, security, or long-term viability of people.

35.) Sadistic human editing – Without checks and balances we can expect fringe scientists to attempt risky schemes such as adding multiple sex organs, heightened levels of fear, anxiety, paranoia, or self-destruction.

36.) Super-baby hackers – People wanting to make a name for themselves will test extreme theories by designing babes with four legs, five eyes, grotesquely large heads, super short or super tall, etc.

How long will our brains be safe?

Brain hackers

We like to think of our own mind as a safe haven for our thoughts, but what if it isn’t? What happens when our own grey matter becomes hackable.

37.) Implanting false memories – As our understanding of the human brain improves, hacking memories or inducing memory blackouts may become a common occurrence.

38.) Merged memories – Without our knowing, our minds could simply become co-mingled with someone else. The voices in our head may be coming from an elderly French woman with no understanding of who we are.

39.) Using false directives to supersede our free will – Our highly valued free will may not be so free after all. We may be forced to commit crimes even if we physically resist.

40.) Embedding dominant personalities – For domineering criminals, if we ever object to what they’re doing, an embedded dominant personality will overrule our objections and force us to conform.

Time crimes

Sitting needlessly at stoplights, or watching the minutes tick away as we wait in some line, or being forced to fill out yet another form, our precious time is being coopted by everyone from inconsiderate businesses, to overbearing government, to painful security checks at the airport.

Little by little, whatever tiny amount of control we thought we had over our day becomes infested with new life-sucking time-barnacles that congest our mind and adds surface-scratching aggregate to the smooth day we had planned. Like a leaky sieve carrying our daily time supply, however much we started with is never even close to what we end up with.

If someone steals our money, it’s an obvious crime. So why isn’t it an equally obvious crime if someone needlessly squanders our time?

41.) Time scarcity laws – Needlessly wasting our time will soon become a crime.

42.) Lost time penalties – Since time is a scarce commodity we will soon see time penalties to reimburse for lost time.

43.) Onerous time-limit laws – Very often people are forcing us to fail by creating situations with “far too little time to make something happen.” When situations fail a “reasonableness standard,” it will be considered a criminal act.

44.) Destructive Deja vu – Will we soon have the power to cause someone’s life to happen in random order, shifting from childhood, to retirement, to teen dating, to job loss, to your deathbed? Time hackers can be a vicious lot.

Driverless terrorists

There will be little need for suicide bombers in the future as the hacking of driverless vehicles will open the door to a whole new set of perils.

45.) Destruction fanatics – Driverless vehicles equipped with bombs, dangerous animals, chemical agents, Saran gas, etc.

46.) Child abduction/kidnapping – With kids traveling unescorted to their schools, friends, or after-school activity, an abduction is only a hacker’s algorithm away.

47.) Communication jammers – Future communication jammers may be totally undetectable with their ability to block all forms of light, heat, sound along with virtually every fragment of the visible and invisible spectrum.

48.) Self-destructing fear generators – Think in terms of mobile land mines designed to intimidate people, blatantly obvious, casually driving through neighborhoods, but set to explode if anyone messes with them.

Megaproject manipulators

Gone are the days where people are impressed by projects costing $10-$50 million or even $100 million. We are witnessing an explosion in the number of $1 billion+ projects with some, like the artificial archipelago being built in Azerbaijan, Turkey’s massive Urban Renewal project in Istanbul, and the new construction of Masjid Al Haram in Saudi Arabia each exceeding $100 billion.

But along with these mega-investments comes a new breed of money manipulators and con artists hoping to capitalize on flaws in the implementation process.

49.) False job claims – Most countries will be heavily invested in keeping their people employed so most proposals will come with bogus job claims, something that is not easy to prove until after the fact.

50). Deceptive economic benefits – Claims of large-scale economic benefit are always attractive to politicians, but good intentions do not make viable business operations.

51.) Fabricated need – Infrastructure is usually an easy sell, especially when existing infrastructure is failing, but bogus “need” is a slippery slope that giant project con men will exploit.

52.) Fictitious accounting – The startup world has been a magnet for those who can make unattainable number look doable, and the world of megaprojects is creating an even stronger magnet.

Industrial genocide

All industries are a bell curve with a beginning, middle, and an end. Yes, all industries will eventually end.

Along the path of our increasingly volatile business landscape will be many winners and losers. As a result, industries on the verge of gasping their last breath, will try to reinvent themselves in the role of a viable new industry. Many will be able to accomplish this unless there’s menacing people causing interference.

Invariably the demise of certain industries will benefit one country over another, turning industrial warfare into a new criminal battlefield sanctioned by governments.

53.) Manipulate global demand – When the buyers are forced to go away, an industry will simply cease to exist.

54.) Remove financial backing – Refer to my comments on blackmail to understand how financiers can be manipulated into backing away from a deal.

55.) Hording of parts or materials causing costs to skyrocket – Most successful products are formed around critical components that are often hard to make and hard to get. Arranged shortages become an easy pinch point in a manufacturer’s supply chain.

56.) Causing all stocks in a specific industry to tank – We’ve only scratched the surface on fake news. Well-crafted rumors, designed to spawn other rumors, can easily force even the best stocks to slide. In the future it won’t take much to remove the valuation floor altogether, sending stocks into a total freefall.

When the darknet goes super dark

Have you ever run across a situation so frustrating that you wish you could hire a “fixer?”

Maybe it has to do with gangs moving into your neighborhood, or the local slumlord not willing to repair a dangerous situation, or a local politician taking bribes, or finding out that your husband is also married to someone else in another state.

My guess is that we’ve all run into problems that are outside of our ability to deal with and we need help. But the help we need is not the normal kind. We don’t have millions to throw at lawyers and we don’t have the time, patience, or resources to go though official channels.

Reasons like this are why the darknet has evolved into a place where less-scrupulous people offer less-scrupulous solutions. But the darknet has the potential to go super dark.

57.) Destroy the economy of an entire country – This is already happening on certain levels. By adding a few new tools, this will only get easier.

58.) Instigate a massive natural disaster – In the future, our ability to control hurricanes, earthquakes, hailstorms, or locust infestations will all be within reach.

59.) Forcing a nuclear power plant to self-destruct – Every new technology gives master manipulators additional capabilities.

60.) Remove a world leader from office – Once the playground of secret government agencies, the super puppet-masters of the future need only make a down payment on the super darknet.

Will the world become a safer or far more dangerous place in the future?

Final thoughts

Oddly enough, the reaction to most future crimes will transition from “Oh my god!” to “What the hell just happened?”

On one hand we’re putting more and more power into the hands of an individual. On the other, we are witnessing something of an arms race with governments and enforcement agencies pushing intrusiveness to whole new levels. This can be both good and bad.

It’s good if we catch the bad guys before their sinister plot unfolds, bad if we don’t want the government constantly peering over our shoulder.

The downside of a super-connected society is that we can easily connect with others who share our frustration, and shared frustrations often ferments into unusual forms of conflict.

This is where the ‘crime-as-a-service’ business model will evolve into sophisticated business operations with literally thousands of unwitting people engaged on multiple levels, but few if any knowing the exact nature of the plan for deniability purposes.

Battlefields of the future will continue to morph along with our tech cultures, and many of the weapons of the future will be unrecognizable by today’s standards.

In much the same way we never want to show up with a knife for a gunfight, our police forces are a terrible match for tomorrow’s criminal undergrounds. We are a long ways from having the right tools and tech needed to deal with tomorrow’s criminal enterprises.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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21 startling ways the future of retail will shift in the self-driving mobile business era http://www.futuristspeaker.com/uncategorized/21-startling-ways-the-future-of-retail-will-shift-in-the-self-driving-mobile-business-era/ http://www.futuristspeaker.com/uncategorized/21-startling-ways-the-future-of-retail-will-shift-in-the-self-driving-mobile-business-era/#comments Sat, 20 May 2017 23:47:16 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8271

We first started discussing this topic when I posed the question, “Will there still be RVs after we shift over to driverless technologies?”

The answer came quickly, “Sure, why not?”

But as we removed the driver from the equation it opened the door to a vast array of new types of businesses that separate themselves from a permanent location.

The number one challenge of traditional retail has always been driving customers to the store. As we move into a highly mobile marketplace, businesses can drive to where the customers already are.

Retail is undergoing a major transition. With reports that 3,500 stores will be closing this year in the U.S. alone, and some speculating the real number may indeed be three times higher, seasoned entrepreneurs are beginning to sniff around the edges to find emerging opportunities.

Today’s storefronts are a throwback to yesteryear. Commercial building owned by wealthy landlords, highly regulated by cities with signage, zoning, and code level restrictions, requiring years of prep work to construct and a similar timeframe to modify or change anything on the property.

Because of this, landlords have been in a unique position. With commercial properties relatively scarce, and good buildings in high traffic locations even scarcer, most landlords prefer to hold out for Fortune 500 retailers to sign a 15-20 year lease that requires a team of lawyers to review before anything gets signed.

The commercial real estate system has evolved into a super complicated, top-heavy industry governed by national brands and global suppliers. As a result, most little-guy merchants don’t stand a chance.

At the same time, the buying public is a mercurial bunch. People love to shop at places that are new and different. They love to be surprised by their experience, and they are willing to pay for those surprises.

The mobile food truck industry has paved the way for a much larger industry.

Gone are the days where stores could simply warehouse products for shoppers to buy. Retailers need to provide customers with a feeling of excitement, exclusivity, and a tell-your-friends remarkable experience.

Traditional shopping centers have become stagnant. Sure, some of the displays change along with the merchandise, and occasionally a store is replaced by another store, but the pace of life is much faster than the glacial speed that transforms the fashion racks at Macy’s.

When it comes to retail, we don’t remember an evolution, we only remember a revolution.

NOTE: What you’ll see below are images of existing mobile businesses. Once driverless technology kicks in, these mobile businesses will take on some radically different designs.

Mall of the future – as mobile businesses set up, every day is a new experience

1.) Mobile Mall Shops

The idea of mobile mall shops started with rural communities. In most small towns the customer base is too low to warrant a full-time presence and permanent location. But a one-day-a-week storefront in five or six communities might be a perfect arrangement.

For this reason, it’s not a stretch to envision a new form of shopping center that caters to mobile businesses. With a stationary common area at its core, the mobile mall will be a central gathering place where a variety of businesses can “plug-in” and set up shop.

RVs, trucks, vans, and other large vehicles can be converted into traveling dental offices, tax preparation centers, chiropractic clinics, and retail storefronts. As they pull into place, merchandise and service areas will expand into the common area creating an “open bazarr” feel for the shoppers.

Most of the traveling storefronts will be one or two person businesses, nomadically traveling from city to city on their daily business adventure. Others will work a regular circuit, showing up on the same day each week, building a loyal customer base.

2.) Mobile Clothing Stores

After stepping into a full body scanner to get exact measurements, customers will select the fashion, style, pattern, and color of their garments and watch the manufacturing process as they wait. Even though 3D printers can print the clothing, a number of finishing processes will require additional tools. Clothing manufacturing processes will include:

  • Body scanners
  • 3D printers
  • Laser cutters
  • Fabric embossers
  • Robo stampers and imprinters
  • Sensor mount and test systems
  • Textile laminators
  • Automated button installers

3.) Mobile Laundromats

This type of business can be used as both a laundry service for travelers and a promotional tool for companies demoing new laundry products.

4.) Mobile Shoe Shops

Similar to a mobile clothing store, future shoe stores will begin with a complete foot scan coupled with a pressure point analysis. Since each person’s walking/running gate is different, the creation of hyper-individualize footwear is a complicated process involving:

  • Biomechanical simulators
  • Heat, moisture, stress sensor insertion tools
  • Auto-pore vent systems
  • Stitch, laminate, adhesion seam bonders
  • Treadmill testers
  • Foot & ankle scanners
  • Stress point analyzers
  • 3D shoe & sole printers

5.) Mobile Bike Shops

Bicycles are popular all over the world and it’s quite amazing how a mobile operation can open up so many possible revenue streams.

  • New and used bike sales
  • Bicycle supplies and accessories
  • Fix-a-flat service
  • Bike tune-ups and repair
  • Custom guided bike tours
  • Bike races and competitions
  • Rental bikes and scooters
  • Bicycle trainers, therapy, and coaches

6.) Mobile Brewery – Bar 

No need to go out to the local liquor store when you can summon an entire brewery whenever and wherever you want. The local watering hole just got a lot more neighborly.

  • Mobile brewery
  • Mobile winery
  • Mobile distillery
  • Spontaneous street parties
  • Taster cars to promote new items
  • The ultimate tailgate party
  • Party anywhere bar-car
  • Neighborhood socials

7.) Mobile Vending Machine Stores

Wherever there’s a crowd there are wants, needs, and desires, and mobile vending machine services can be there to help.

8.) Mobile Hobby Shop – Makerspaces

As every DIYer knows, good hobby shops are filled with experiences-waiting-to-happen. These experiences can be formed around kits, plans, pieces-waiting-to-be-assembled, raw materials, and all the tools necessary to trigger a fertile imagination. Think of it like a bookmobile only these shops are designed to bring rapid prototyping to school kids.

9.) Mobile Drink Shops

When it comes to consumables, drinks are an easy sell and these storefronts typically develop a higher frequency of visitation than any other type of product.

  • Perfect water
  • Energy drinks, health drinks, and mood drinks
  • Coffee, lattes, and espressos
  • Tea, tonic, pekoe
  • Juice, nectar
  • Smoothies, coolers,
  • Malts and sodas
  • Elixirs, potions, and tinctures

10.) Mobile Construction Services

Most things we own will need fixing, repair, or improvement at one time or another. Mobile businesses like this will soon become a common sight.

  • IoT and smart home device installation
  • Filter cleaning and replacement
  • Mudjacking
  • Sealing and waterproofing services
  • Termite inspection and repair
  • Gutter installation
  • Window covering installation and repair
  • Mobile carpet, tile, and flooring shop

11.) Mobile Grocery Store – Fruit Stands

Think of this as tiny convenience stores or fruit stands that can pop up anywhere. Niche products and specialty foods for the farmer’s market mindset.

12.) Mobile News Stations

Future news services will deploy a vast array of tools and technologies for adding dimensionality to a story. With all the problems surrounding fake news, having remote journalists positioned in a mobile command center, will give them the ability to add multiple facets of detail to every story. Some of the new tools at their disposal will be:

  • Eye-in-the-sky surveillance drones
  • Remote interview drones (with video screen showing the person asking questions)
  • 360-degree VR camera drones
  • 3D charticle creation instruments
  • Search engines for the physical world
  • Full sensory recording tools (sights, sounds, smells, mood, texture, weather conditions, presence of animals/insects, environmental conditions, etc.)
  • Multidimensional editing tools
  • Full spectral analysis tools (i.e. able to change visual filters for looking an accident/crime scene to geolocate blood spatters, heat signatures, presence of chemical agents, etc.)

13.) Mobile Hotel Rooms

Every big-time convention that rolls into town will soon be able to accommodate far more people when additional hotel rooms can be summoned as easily as the guests who will be using them.

FEMA will also like the idea of self-driving homes as a way to provide instant housing whenever a disaster occurs.

14.) Mobile Drone Command Centers

It won’t take long for people managing complex operations to realize that if one drone is effective, a dozen or two can produce far better coverage.

Managing a fleet of commercial drones will be far different than working with today’s one-off hobbyist quadcopters. Fleets will only come into play once automated systems enable less-skilled operators to manage their own equipment.

Fleet operators will find themselves needing a command center with skilled personnel such as pilots, logisticians, and data analyzers, but piloting the drones themselves will be automated to the point of needing little supervision.

Within 10 years there will be fleets of drones used to manage:

  • Police departments
  • Fire departments
  • News organizations
  • Sports teams
  • Stadiums
  • Forestry departments
  • National parks
  • Power plants
  • Ski resorts
  • College campuses
  • Airports
  • Large farms
  • Construction companies
  • Shipping docks
  • Theme parks
  • Prisons
  • Military installations

15.) Mobile Professional Service Offices

Every service we use on a regular basis will soon have a mobile version visiting our community.

  • Barbershops and beauty salons
  • Chiropractors
  • Accountants and tax preparation specialists
  • Dentists
  • Massage therapists and acupuncturists
  • Lawyers
  • Realtors
  • Insurance agents

16.) Mobile Veterinarians – Pet Shops

For many people, pets have become an integral part of their family, and pet services have become a routine part of modern living.

  • Vet services
  • Mobile kennels
  • Dog, cat, pet grooming
  • Wash, bath, and styling services
  • Spay and neuter clinic
  • Pet photography
  • Training services
  • Animal psychologist

17.) Mobile Entertainment 1

Entertainment comes in many forms and turning it into a mobile experience opens up a wide range of opportunities.

  • Live bands
  • Comedians
  • Magicians
  • Speed dating
  • Face to face video game tournaments
  • Mobile rave command center
  • Social club
  • Game parlors

18.) Mobile Entertainment 2

National and global events have become a key part of our social structure. One large video screen is all it takes to attract likeminded people and turn a simple broadcast into a community event.

  • Monday night football
  • Academy awards
  • VR-AR experiences
  • Olympics
  • World Cup
  • Popular TV shows – Walking Dead, Game of Thrones
  • Congressional hearing
  • Election night

19.) Specialty Product Shops

Certain products inspire unusual levels of loyalty and people who closely follow these products are always looking for the next great innovation.

  • Mustards
  • Spices
  • Hot sauces
  • Breads
  • Candy, taffy, cookies
  • Jerky
  • Teas
  • Makeup

20.) Talk-to-an-Expert Shops

People love to talk to experts to get answers for those nagging questions that create a cloud of uncertainty around most products. Apple stores are a perfect example of “experts shops” because each of their employees is a true expert on the products they sell. While Apple uses several elements to attract and engage buyers, the expert-to-consumer relationship is a key feature.

Other companies like Amazon and Google are looking to replicate the Apple experience, but they will have an uphill battle. Unless something major changes, Google will ultimately fail with their retail experiment because they have little respect for two-way communications. If you’ve ever tried to contact Google you’ll know what I mean. In the end, retail is all about two-way communications.

21.) No-Inventory Demo Shops

One major expense in traditional retail has been inventories and shelf space. For this reason a new breed of storefront will spring to life, with no inventory, focused solely on product demonstrations and same-day fulfillment.

While most people think in terms of cooking demos with chef’s talking about the food and cookware that they’re using, Demo Shops will include everything from athletic equipment, to toys, to hardware, to appliances, and more.

Most will be pay-to-play product placement stations with experts on hand to answer questions. Look for tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft to pave the way for these kinds of storefronts.

Will there be a mobile business in your future?

Final Thoughts

On a recent shopping trip, I went to three separate stores to find an unusual product. With each in-store experience I tracked down a sales clerk and they told me about an option that either wasn’t apparent to most customers, or that I hadn’t considered.

Yes, the online retail is stealing a growing percentage of business, but people-to-people interactions still matters. However, it’s mattering less, and pricing competition is making the people-to-people option a luxury.

When it comes to retail, consumers are in control. They decide what to buy, where to buy, when to buy, and how much they’re willing to spend.

In a connected world, where information is fluid and transparent, retailers must become actively engaged in the global conversation. If not, their customers will begin the conversations without them.

Physical stores still provide the best way to create a high-value relationship with customers that add to the brand experience, but in addition to online sales, they will soon find new competition in the form of mobile storefronts.

As the driverless era kicks into high gear, our thinking about proximity, place, and location will also shift. Will bricks and mortar retail survive? Yes, in some form, but it may end up far different than anything you can imagine.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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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 surrounding 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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