DaVinci Institute – Futurist Speaker https://www.futuristspeaker.com DaVinci Institute – Futurist Speaker Tue, 20 Mar 2018 15:43:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Creating the self-delivering package https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/creating-the-self-delivering-package/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/creating-the-self-delivering-package/#respond Tue, 20 Mar 2018 10:16:49 +0000 https://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8729

A couple years ago I was asked to keynote the 8th annual Turkish Postal Symposium in Antalya, Turkey on the future of the postal industry. This was a fascinating event where thought leaders from around the world gathered to discuss next-generation postal systems.

I focused my talk around a central question – “How long will it be before we can mail a package and have it travel to a city on the other side of the world without ever being touched by human hands?”

The example I used was a package traveling from Istanbul to San Francisco without human contact.

Thinking through the path of automation, this is a reasonable question to be asking. Once we set a package into motion, it will essentially guide itself to its final destination by way of a completely automated global distribution network.

Ship any thing from anywhere with only a few clicks on your app

Mailing a Package in 2030

As I envision the process, whoever is sending a package will simply place it on their front doorstep and take a photo of it with a special shipping app on their phone. This will start the process, detailing the package size, dimensions, and GPS coordinates, and the sender will add particulars such as destination, level of urgency and weight category (i.e. under 10 lbs). Within a short while, a robotic pickup service will arrive, retrieve the package, and load it onto a drone delivery vehicle.

While the sender will know the price range at the time they put it into the app, they will get exact pricing once the package is picked up, along with tracking details, and exact time of delivery.

Several pieces of this distribution network are already in place, but as we dig deeper and try to understand what it will take to achieve this level of automation, we begin to uncover not only the technical elements that still need to be developed, but also the necessary system layers to develop global standards and compatibility.

Since packages come in a variety of shapes and sizes, it’s reasonable to assume limits on the size and the weight, both on the high end as well as the low end. As example, a package the size of a grain of salt or as light as a helium balloon will need to be in a larger package. On the larger end of the spectrum, mailing items like furniture, exercise equipment, or motorcycles will require a different kind of delivery service.

In addition to size and weight issues will be a series of legal requirements for shipping restrictive items like alcohol, pharmaceuticals, live animals, biohazard materials, or products with special handling requirements like fragile glass, frozen food, or sensitive instruments.

Establishing limits, rules, and standards will be part of the critical thinking process necessary for developing this future mega-system.

Today’s delivery systems place a heavy emphasis on using a standardized shipping label for every package, however the label itself could be produced by the delivery service and coded onto the package once it’s been picked up. In some cases, it may be beneficial to work with specialty sensor labels to track the condition of sensitive contents in real time.

Daimler is currently testing out a number of robotic delivery schemes

The pickup problem

Retrieving a package from someone’s front door presents a huge number of engineering challenges.

First, the robot will have to travel to and from where the package is. Obstacles could include stairs, trees, broken sidewalks, no sidewalk, dogs, cats, squirrels, snakes, rain, hail, snow, children, rocks, and mud to name just a few.

The package could be square, round, triangle, rectangle, or an odd shape that is hard to describe. The outer material of the package could be cardboard, paper, plastic, cloth, synthetic, loose, tight, waterproof, air tight, porous, full of static, oily, wood, or leather.

There could be fences, gates, security guards, locked doors, motion detectors, nosey neighbors, piles of leaves, or overgrown lawns.

Timing is also an issue. A package left outside for 2 minutes will generally be fine, but one left exposed to the elements for 30-60 minutes could have any number of things go wrong.

For this reason, the relatively simple task of retrieving a package can be riddled with complexity.

A new kind of global infrastructure

As an overarching trend, we are transitioning from national systems to global systems, and every piece of system-level infrastructure becomes an essential part of the overall network.

If we think of this growing into a worldwide distribution network, we begin to get a sense as to how it could change the lives of virtually everyone on earth.

Many fully mechanized distribution centers already exist in Europe, Asia, and North America, but this level of automation will require countries around the world to develop many additional layers of standards and compatibility.

With normal deliveries to a building, messages will also be sent when the package is delivered. Each building will have its own designated delivery area.

There is no miracle science needed to complete this kind of infrastructure, just plenty of engineering work, and the political will and foresight to make it happen.

Nuro is a driverless delivery startup based in Silicon Valley

The missing pieces

Naturally there are many missing pieces to the fully automated mega-system that will eventually be created.

1.) High Tech Mailboxes, Pickup & Delivery Pods – There is a huge opportunity awaiting for the first person who creates a universally accepted machine-dockable mailbox, as well as standardized, weather-protected pickup and deliver pods for homes and offices.

2.) Standardized High Tech Mailing Labels – Labels like this will monitor both the package’s location and the condition of its content.

3.) Automated Loading and Unloading Systems – Since several modes of transport will be involved, special attention will need to be paid to the handoff from one to the next, such as from a truck to a train or ship.

4.) Robotic Customs Agents – There will always be a need to inspect and monitor package contents to prevent the distributing of illegal items.

5.) System Durability – Early systems will have countless points of failure, but over time, durable systems will reduce failures to a fraction of today’s human centric systems.

6.) Trained Human Operators – As a system designed “by humans for humans,” there will still need to be a number of skilled human operators to step in whenever something goes wrong.

The list above is intended to highlight a few opportunities, but admittedly glosses over many of the details and intricacies involved in developing a complex global system like this.

Over time the need for boxes and packaging will decline and eventually disappear altogether as super smart systems know how to deal with every object on a piece by piece level.

The argument for going global 

Developing something this grand will require an amazingly talented team lead by a Global Systems Architect. This will be a person who is globally sophisticated, unusually driven, and capable of working through a wide range of cultural, diplomatic, legal, and technical issues without losing perspective.

A global system will be terribly disruptive, causing a number of today’s key players to lose power and control.

Over the coming years, global systems, involving representatives from countries all over the world will spring to life, helping to bridge the cultural barriers currently preventing mega projects like this from moving forward.

It boils down to the question of whether we are better off being a more cohesive, blended global society, or less of one.

Ecotranzit is an autonomous shipping robot being developed by Bombadier

Final Thoughts

Our need for mega projects like this is explained in a previous column of mine about coming explosion of  “Global Megaprojects.”

First, we’re seeing a shift in power towards megacities. As people relocate from rural to urban communities and population clusters grow, so does the demand for major infrastructure improvements to help manage the traffic, water, sewage, power, and living strains of these growing economies.

Second, the wages paid for workers building infrastructure projects will improve the local economy to a point where other megaprojects become viable.

Third, as global awareness improves, so does the desire to standout and impress the rest of the world. Megaprojects become a source of national pride and a status symbol for emerging economies.

Fourth, we are moving into an era of technological unemployment where jobs are automated out of existence at an unprecedented level. The demand for new jobs will trump most other arguments.

As our list of megaprojects grows, we will see more spending on infrastructure in the next 40 years, than we have in the past 4,000 years.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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Is death our only option? Buying into the dream of immortality https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/is-death-our-only-option-buying-into-the-dream-of-immortality/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/is-death-our-only-option-buying-into-the-dream-of-immortality/#comments Thu, 01 Mar 2018 14:04:30 +0000 https://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8711

Imagine what it will be like attending the Olympics in 2248. Men and women competing in their respective sports will range in age from 16 to 212. The oldest competitor is now in his 38th Olympic competition, and young people have complained for years how hard it is to break into some of the elite sports when old time veterans continued to strengthen their techniques and are addicted to the winner circle.

Certainly many of us wish this were one of our problems today.

Over the next couple of decades, most of us will have the opportunity to decide how long we want to live. But while it may start as a forever wish, the promise of halting the aging process will be plagued with tremendous uncertainty, ethical debates, and cultural pressures that few have anticipated.

The first wave of this technology will most likely be very expensive, but it won’t take long for the price to drop and for middle class people everywhere to taste the magic and experience the dream.

Early on we will hear an ethical debate coming from those who profit from today’s short-lived version of humanity. We will, however, transition from those who profit from fixing today’s health problems to those who profit from prolonged life cycles and substantially better health from here on out.

We will also hear from over-population alarmists, limited resource worriers, and those who fear we are playing God and interfering with our spiritual destiny.

There will be challenges to our social structures, pressures on our existing systems, and a constant rewriting of rules for relationships.

In spite of the naysayers, just as we overcame our fear of flying in planes and traveling to other planets, we will transcend our current 19th century thinking on aging and death, and look forward to what comes next.

This column is about what comes next.

In the future, old age will not look like old people trying to act young again

Benefits of an aging society

A recent study published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, determined that not only were older people more satisfied with life overall, they were also less likely to be anxious, depressed, and/or stressed out. And the best part was that happiness tends to increase with age, with some of the oldest survey recipients reporting the highest levels of life satisfaction.

While this is counter to what most would imagine, there is a scientific explanation to these findings.

“Brain studies show that the amygdala in older people responds less to stressful or negative images than in a younger person,” said senior author of the study Dr. Dilip Jeste.

Gathered from extensive polling of 1,546 people ages 21 to 99, the older respondents, despite physical and cognitive decline, were more likely to have better mental health than the younger ones.

According to Jeste, “As we age, we become wise. Peer pressure loses its sting. Better decision-making, more control of emotions, doing things that are not just for ourselves, knowing ourselves better, being more studious and yet more decisive are all upsides of aging.

Should we anticipate this level of age satisfaction for the 100+ crowd as well. This is particularly good news for young people as they now have something to look forward to.”

History’s Search for the Fountain of Youth

An ancient story titled the “Water of Life” described Alexander the Great and his servant crossing the Land of Darkness to find the restorative spring that gave eternal youth.

Later, many stories of a “fountain of youth” were attributed to the first Governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon, even though it turned out to be a myth.

Throughout history, references to a magical spring continued to fuel the imagination of primarily wealthy people who dreamed of regaining the vigor of their younger years.

More recently the dream of eternal youth has take on a much more scientific feel using terms like indefinite life extension, experimental gerontology, and biomedical gerontology to describe the study of slowing down or reversing the processes of aging.

Researchers in this field are referred to as “life extensionists”, “immortalists” or “longevists.” They believe that future breakthroughs in tissue rejuvenation, stem cells, regenerative medicine, molecular repair, gene therapy, pharmaceuticals, and organ replacement will eventually enable humans to have indefinite lifespans.

In fact, a significant number of Silicon Valley thought leaders have tried to recast aging as merely another legacy system in need of recoding:

  • Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison’s Ellison Medical Foundation has spent more than $400 million on aging research.
  • Since 2013, Alphabet has been working on a moonshot life-extension project called Calico.
  • X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis has partnered with famed gene sequencer J. Craig Venter to launch Human Longevity Inc.
  • Paul F. Glenn, an 85-year-old VC who watched his grandfather die of cancer, launched an aging-science foundation more than 50 years ago that has funded a dozen aging-research centers around the country.
  • Peter Thiel has given over $3 million to the Methuselah Foundation, the research vehicle for the famed immortality advocate Aubrey de Grey. Thiel has also explored the transfusion of blood from the young to the old.
  • Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recently called for science to end all disease this century.

The sale of anti-aging products such as nutrition, physical fitness, skin care, hormone replacements, vitamins, supplements and herbs is an industry that already generates over $50 billion a year.

Even though we’re making progress and average lifespans continue to increase; no one has managed to crack the code for living past the 120-year threshold, and finding an attractive quality of life for people past 100 is still an elusive dream.

Do we truly understand the problem we’re trying to solve?

Transhumanism and the Singularity

Transhumanists believe that humankind can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations to become “superhuman” and, eventually, immortal. For them, aging and death are the biggest plagues of our time.

Google’s Director of Engineering, Ray Kurzweil, has consistently predicted that machine intelligence will exceed human intelligence in 2029, and from this transition point we will witness the end of human diseases including the end of aging.

Going even further, transhumanists think the Singularity will give rise to a new breed of humans that are far beyond anything we can comprehend today.

Setting the stage for an era of indefinite lifespans

As always, we should be careful what we wish for.

Let’s begin by assuming a series of breakthroughs happen and the human race is no longer plagued by short lifespans.

Using indefinite existence as a premise, meaning that we find a way to dramatically delay the effects of human aging along with most of the normal deteriorations of the human body associated with aging, how will this change society?

We’re already constantly changing as individuals. You are literally not the same person you were five minutes ago. People are more like trajectories through some space of possible identities and configurations, connected by an identity thread between who you were before and who you’ll become next.

With that given, someone who lives for a long time will undergo an unimaginable amount of change. People today look back at who they were in their youth, filled with different attitudes and experiences. Imagine that times one thousand.

I realize this requires a quantum-leap-of-faith between a world where average lifespans of 70-80 years old are doubled, tripled, or even longer, but for the purposes of this thought experiment, let’s make that assumption.

Let’s also assume the cost of an indefinite lifespan is generally affordable to most people and few will experience any significant deterioration to their quality of life for most of their existence.

While these are huge assumptions, my goal in stepping you through this trial balloon is to talk through whether this dream is as rosy or gloomy as many would imagine.

Will we still like who we’re about to become?

Weighing the Positives Against the Negatives

It’s hard to imagine how different life will be when over 50% of the world’s population is over 100. Not all of it will be good and the positives will certainly offset the negatives, if not most of them. But let’s consider some of the far-reaching implications:


1.) Improved Health – Living a super long life means we will have cured most diseases and corrected the majority of human biological flaws setting the stage for even more radical life extensions, perhaps moving towards something “post-human” or even “turbo-human.”

2.) Delayed Death – Our greatest fear is death and our world is consumed by it. We think about it relentlessly. Most books, movies, and television storylines use death as a focal point in their message. But what if death becomes universally fixable and only one hundredth as important as it is today? Without today’s universal death-focus we would be free to think far more creatively and far more expansively.

3.) Dramatically Improved Intelligence – With age comes wisdom, along with improvements to our biological intelligence and the acuity of our sensory systems. Logically this should lead to us having enhanced abilities to understand, appreciate, and change the world in ways we cannot yet imagine.

4.) New Age of Discovery – For the most part, we don’t know what challenges and opportunities super long lifespans will bring. On the plus side, we may have greater contentment, less volatile systems, and greater social wealth. But on the downside, we may discover diseases that only occur to people over 140, have a harder time dealing with disruptive thinking, and cling to things that should have been dismantled decades, even centuries, earlier.

5.) New Social Structures – What kind of relationships will a person’s great, great, great grandparents have with their grandchildren? How intimate will family relationships be when there are 7-10 generations of relatives attending a family gathering?

6.) More Stable Society – With longevity comes stability and the pace of change will begin to stabilize. This will mean less volatility in human-based systems like governments, markets, policies, and political will. History is a great teacher, but it is an even greater teacher if we’ve lived through it ourselves.

7.) Additional Levels of Maturity – We will learn from our mistakes, and with literally centuries of mistakes under our belts, we’ll tend to avoid making the most painful ones again in the future.

8.) More Diverse Economy – Since the needs of a 250 year old are vastly different than the needs of a 50 year old, we will be inventing new market categories with products we can’t yet imagine.


In most cases the “negatives” can also be construed as positives when viewed from a slightly different perspective.

1.) Old System Failures – Today’s retirement-based systems will fundamentally break down if people retire at age 65 and then live another 200 years. No one will be interested in life insurance if people no longer die at a predictable age. No more assisted living centers, senior Olympics, probate courts, estate taxes, nursing homes, or senior discounts.

2.) Messy Transition – Since we may or may not be able to reverse the aging that has already taken place, a person who is 20 year olds will continue to look like some version of a 20 year old and those who are 90 will continue to look like some version of 90 year olds. Eventually most of the visual characteristics we associate with aging will disappear, but those caught during this transition period will be the anomalies.

3.) Family Dynasties – Well-managed families will accumulate wealth, power, and influence far beyond anything possible today. Sins of the past will continue to haunt influential families long into the future.

4.) Wealth Controlled by the Super Old – Today’s wealth transitions will be replaced by tomorrow’s wealth entrenchments. For many of the super old, the gamesmanship of being a master manipulator will be their form of entertainment. Today’s puppet masters will seem like amateurs when compared to tomorrows social-chess-masters.

5.) Super Entrenched Political Systems – If you can imagine a time when 47 former presidents are still alive, and all 47 come from 4 different families, you’ll begin to get the picture.

6.) Loss of Urgency – When people live to ages of 200-300 and our working life is 5-10 times longer than it is now, today’s urgency will become tomorrow’s acceptability. While deadlines will still exist, the penalty for missing them will be less onerous and less significant.

7.) Loss of Innovation – Along with longer lifespans will come an increased resistance to change. Family dynasties and entrenched political systems will give way to higher barriers to change and greater political resistance to changing the status quo.

8.) Heavy-Handed Population Control – Since most people instantly jump to overpopulation as being one of the key issues, even though it won’t be, look for a series of population control measures to be implemented from country to country including child bearing licenses, extra child taxes, limited paid maternity leaves, etc.

“I don’t mean you’re all going to be happy. You’ll be unhappy – but in new,
exciting and important ways.” –
Edwin Land

Final Thoughts

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these topics. There will be plenty of room for disagreement on each of these points, so please feel free to help paint a different perspective.

Roughly 65% of today’s jobs in the U.S. are information jobs that didn’t exist 25 years ago, and over the next 25 years we will get far better at using advanced forms of bioinformatics and biotechnology to reprogram our bodies away from disease, frailties, and all the characteristics we tend to associate with human aging.

To be clear, I‘m a big fan of having people live longer, and I’m even ok with eliminating human aging altogether. But it’s far better to move into an era like this with our eyes open, knowing that the downside may be more severe than any of us suspected.

In my estimation, the odds of reaching a point where people never die is zero. It actually becomes a meaningless argument because proving that someone is capable of living forever will mean someone will have to live longer than the person who lives forever, and that’s not possible.

However, the odds of most people living radically extended lifespans is a near certainty. The progress we’ve made in understanding human biology is remarkable, and continued breakthroughs are inevitable.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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Using AI to turn the Global Language Archive into the “Louvre of Languages” https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/using-ai-to-turn-the-global-language-archive-into-the-louvre-of-languages/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/using-ai-to-turn-the-global-language-archive-into-the-louvre-of-languages/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 18:48:42 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8699

In 2012, I proposed the idea of creating a Global Language Archive. This was roughly the same time that the Endangered Languages Project was getting kicked off, which I’ll discuss in more detail below. But I always viewed a Global Language Archive as being much more than an online effort.

The world is losing languages at a rapid clip. Over 500 languages have less than 10 people still speaking them and many of these native speakers are losing the will to struggle forward to keep them viable.

While I understand the conflicted feelings of people loosing their heritage, I also had people telling me that the world would become a far easier place with fewer languages. For me, this was a difficult problem to resolve.

Logically, the world would be a simpler place if we had fewer languages to deal with, yet loosing a language meant having zero record of all the fascinating communities of people who helped build the world around us.

I had many question.

Is saving languages really necessary? Much like animals going extinct, isn’t it just nature’s way? How will the world be a better place 100 years from now if most of our 7,000 languages survive? And what exactly does archiving a language mean?

Underlying Purpose

It took me several months, but these are some of the conclusions I came to.

To begin with, our society today, including all of our social, legal, and governmental systems, has been built on the backs of literally billions of our ancestors, all struggling to create a better place for future generations. Language has been a central ingredient in forming our heritage, modern culture, and even our way of thinking.

We are the prime beneficiaries of the struggles, so in many ways we owe it to them to somehow preserve their legacy.

While we seldom consider it, most of history’s greatest stories have never been recorded, happening among people who left no recorded version of it.

Even though language is our greatest tool, used to accomplish our greatest achievements, it’s also been a huge obstacle, blocking our understanding of what truly happened.

Our words are a way of expressing of our emotions, kindness, and love. They’re a tool for business and give of a reason to persevere. They describe our fears, our intentions, and offer hope for our daily struggles.

Without having a language-level understanding of our past, we struggle to understand who we are today.

How can humanity possibly know where it’s going if we don’t know where we’ve come from?

The purpose of the Global Language Archive is to preserve the legacy of those who have gone before us, through the languages they used to communicate with.

But it needs to be far more than a dusty old museum filled with past recording of native speakers. It needs to be a “living museum.”

Perhaps the most important reason for developing the kind of “living museum” that I’ll describe below, are the unknown things we’ll discover once we create it. We should think of it as a never-ending work site for future discoveries.

“How can humanity possibly know where it’s going
if we don’t know where we’ve come from?”

What does it mean to archive a language?

Language is far more than the verbal sounds that come from our mouths. It’s a combination of facial expressions, intonations, gestures, symbols, postures, and body language used to convey the intellectual concepts, verbal syntax, and emotionally values involved in basic human-to-human communications.

In general, the minimum requirements for archiving a language is sufficient evidence of past forms of communication for an AI (artificially intelligent) Language Recreation Engine to sufficiently reassemble a functional language that can be taught to others.

Inputs will involve the collection of sufficient video, audio, and written documents for an AI Language Recreation Engine to generate a functional three-dimensional avatar capable of teaching the language to someone wanting to learn it.

While there is currently no such form of AI in existence, there is growing evidence that a language recreation engine is not only possible, but also likely to be developed soon.

Taking it a couple steps further, not only will this give us the ability to recreate the language but it will likely enable us to “fill in the gaps” and find missing words, create a written language if none exists, and do seamless translation from one language to the next.

For this reason, the process of archiving a language will involve the accumulation of sufficient remnants of a failing language so the AI Engine can take over. Each language collection will include sufficient fragments of written and spoken words, definitions, common phrases, expressions, explanations, and value systems to begin the process.

Since most people can gain a function level of language proficiency with roughly 2,500 of the most common words, I’m estimating that will be the approximate range of words needed to begin the process.

If possible, the archive for each language will involve far more comprehensive collections that attempt to capture the lifestyles, cultures, and routines involved in normal day-to-day living and communication.

Collections will include whatever is available including such things as artwork, books, music, pieces of clothing, photographs, weapons, cookware, maps, videos, and more. These will of course vary from one language to the next.

The loneliest books in the world are those written in languages that no longer exist. Yet these books hold clues to an unknown history filled with unknown value and importance that cannot yet be expressed.

The greatest moments in human history were never recorded in any traditional fashion, and are currently inaccessible to modern people.

Each dot represents another endangered language

The Endangered Languages Project

When I first started talking about a Global Language Archive, another effort was taking shape.

The Endangered Languages Project has so far collected information on 3,410 languages. Its purpose is to be a worldwide collaboration between Indigenous language organizations, linguists, institutions of higher education, and key industry partners to strengthen endangered languages.

At the heart of their project is a website that was launched in June 2012 with funding from Google.

While Google oversaw the development and launch of the website, their long term goal was for it to be led by true experts in the field of language preservation.

For this reason, the project is now managed by First Peoples’ Cultural Council and the Endangered Languages Catalogue/Endangered Languages Project (ELCat/ELP) team at University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in coordination with the Governance Council.

In the words of the Endangered Languages Project:

“Humanity today is facing a massive extinction: languages are disappearing at an unprecedented pace. And when that happens, a unique vision of the world is lost. With every language that dies we lose an enormous cultural heritage; the understanding of how humans relate to the world around us; scientific, medical and botanical knowledge; and most importantly, we lose the expression of communities’ humor, love and life. In short, we lose the testimony of centuries of life.

Languages are entities that are alive and in constant flux, and their extinction is not new; however, the pace at which languages are disappearing today has no precedent and is alarming. Over 40 percent of the world’s approximate 7,000 languages are at risk of disappearing. But today we have tools and technology at our fingertips that could become a game changer.”

Users of the Endangered Languages Project website play an active role in putting their languages online by submitting information or samples in the form of text, audio, links or video files. Once uploaded to the website, users can tag their submissions by resource category to ensure they are easily searchable.

The Endangered Languages Project serves as a great first step, setting the stage for some far greater opportunities ahead. But several other resources like Wikipedia, National Geographic, Global Oneness Project, UNESCO, and many more are attempting to draw attention to this problem in their own way.

Brazilian community that speaks the Eastern Bakairi language

A few examples of endangered languages

The Endangered Languages Project puts technology in the hands of organizations and individuals working to revive struggling languages and save themselves from extinction.

Some had developed hundreds of words for beads, fish, leathers, and snow because those had become focal points of daily living. Here are a few examples:

  • Voro has fewer than 50,000 native speakers and is spoken in the southeastern corner of Estonia and the Pskov Province in Russian.
  • Bisu has roughly 2,740 native speakers. In China, Bisu spoken in one village of 240 people. In Burma, it’s spoken by 2,000 in two or three villages. In Thailand, Bisu is spoken by some members in two villages with a population of 500.
  • Bakairi is spoken by approximately 900 people in Brazil. This language has two rather divergent dialects: Eastern Bakairi, spoken by seven hundred people in seven villages, and Western Bakairi spoken by 200 people in two villages.
  • Cimbrian is spoken by fewer than 2,000 people in Italy, in the towns of Giazza, Roana, Mezzaselva, and Rotzo, and Luserna. People who speak Cimbrian also speak Italian, German, and Venetan.
  • Tjupany is an Australian language with only 10 native speakers remaining in the world.
  • Karelian is a language closely related to the Finnish language with 63,000 native speakers in Russia and Finland.
  • El Molo is spoken by roughly 700 in a small community of fishermen living in two settlements along the eastern shore of Lake Turkana, in northern Kenya.
  • Tuscarora is a dying language spoken in Ontario, Canada. Only two or three speakers of Tuscarora remain, all over the age of 80.
Artist conception of the Global Language Archive

The goal of the Global Language Archive

Creating a physical place that represents a focal point for language preservation brings with it tremendous opportunity. Unlike today’s cultural museums that capture physical fragments of history, the Global Language Archive will have a mission to preserve the communications, stories, and dreams of our ancestors.

Online efforts only go so far. By adding physical dimensions, human contact, audio stories, and peripheral experiences, we breathe life into these otherwise single-dimensional languages.

As “last speakers” begin to dwindle, the final-person-responsibility brings with it tremendous stress and anxiety. The loss of a language means the loss of birthright, heritage, and customs. It somehow breaks the connection with their ancestors and invalidates all of the accomplishments of the past, dishonoring the culture of their families.

But much of this stress can be diffused by taking these speakers through a formal preservation process that transforms them from “crazy person clinging to the past” to “cultural expert with a deep understanding of their ancestors.”

Curators of languages are different than curators of artifacts. Languages are constantly morphing tools of expression with deep emotional ties. Done correctly, the Global Language Archive will attract massive crowds from around the world and draw attention to this critically important problem. It will be a one-of-a-kind facility serving as a magnet for linguistic scientists and cultural researchers around the globe.

Once an AI Language Recreation Engine can be developed, it opens the doors for entirely new kinds of research we can only speculate will be possible.

In this context, language itself becomes a cultural taxonomy, and with upwards of 7,000 languages left to preserve, it has the potential for becoming the largest museum in the world with associated universities, hotels, culture-inspired retail centers, and much more.

At the same time, many question still need to be answered:

  • Will we need to develop a triage system saving dying languages?
  • If you decided to learn one of the endangered languages, how would you make that decision?
  • If it becomes easy to learn a new language, how many will you want your children to know?
  • What are the revenue streams needed to sustain a Global Language Archive?
  • What’s the ideal location for this type of facility?
  • How can the entire world be recruited to support this venture?

Final Thoughts

What’s the best way to experience a language?

Yes, it is possible to experience pieces of these native tongues through a website, but having access to local experts, cultural guides, and linguistic coaches takes it to a whole new level.

In our ever-expanding virtual world, it’s easy to start thinking that proximity isn’t important, but it is. Being surrounded by like-minded people at the Global Language Archive who share a common interest is very important.

Much like the difference between seeing an online copy of the Mona Lisa or traveling to the Louvre in Paris and experiencing it first hand, it becomes and entirely different level of engagement.

The Global Language Archive is envisioned to become the “Louvre of Languages.”

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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Pushing the Envelope of Human Existence  https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/pushing-the-envelope-of-human-existence/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/pushing-the-envelope-of-human-existence/#comments Wed, 07 Feb 2018 17:15:18 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8684

Having been born and raised on a small rural farm in South Dakota, I grew up with a very narrow perspective of the rest of the world.

With only two TV channels and three radio stations to pick from, our news options were very limited.

As a teenager, watching the nightly newscasts on television, I was thoroughly amazed at all of the things happening around the world, and yet none of them were happening near me.

I truly felt like I was living in a bubble, far away from all the excitement.

But I wasn’t alone. People everywhere were still getting used to the new technology, and limited TV and radio access wasn’t just a South Dakota issue.

For the most part, I didn’t know what I was missing, so inside my bubble were all the families and neighbors I hung out with. Much like me, they didn’t know what they were missing.

In understanding “bubble cultures,” there are micro-bubbles like the farm community I was raised in, and macro-bubbles that affect entire countries, planets, or civilizations as a whole.

Few people realize that humanity today is being confined to a macro-bubble. Our limited grasp of today’s technology, coupled with our limited understanding of the world, and just the limitations of being human, blind us from seeing our true potential.

In short, we’re living our lives as bubble people, limiting our view of the world to what we know, what we can prove, and what “the experts” say is possible.

But the bubble we’re in is not permanently confining or unbreakable. Over the past few centuries we have indeed been stretching the size and shape of our bubble, but even though it’s far bigger today, we still have a long ways to go to see what’s on the outside.

So is there an “outside” to our bubble?

The short answer is yes. In fact, the most exciting areas of the future will happen outside our current bubble. For this reason, I’d like to take you on a short journey to the other side of the bubble and an expansive view of human existence in the years ahead.

Eight Dimensions – Pushing the Envelope of Human Existence 

In the past, I’ve talked about how technological unemployment is a double-edged sword. On one hand people’s jobs are being automated out of existence, but at the same time, we’re freeing up human capital.

It’s rather preposterous to think that we’re somehow going to run out of work in the world, but having jobs aligned with the work to be done is another matter entirely.

I’ve also talked about the “Laws of Exponential Capabilities,” where the technologies being developed will give us exponentially greater capabilities. When this occurs, accomplishments of the past will seem tiny in comparison to accomplishments in the future.

Many of the columns I’ve written pertain to idea of catalytic industries like the Internet of Things, flying drones, big data, driverless cars, smart homes, health tech, 3d printing, VR, swarmbots, and sensors that will be creating many of the jobs in the future.

But going beyond today’s seedling industries are any number of human endeavors capable of creating entire new playgrounds for business, industry, and human accomplishment.

Stepping into this topic further, I’ve framed my thinking around the eight dimensions for expanding the bubble of human existence.

For those of you who think three-dimensionally, expanding our bubble is like pushing on ever facet of an octahedron, growing the size, reach, and capabilities in each of the X, Y, and Z axes.

The labels I’ve assigned to each of these dimensions include the following, and I’ll explain them in more detail below:

  1. Honorability
  2. Awareness
  3. Purpose
  4. Mastery
  5. Reach
  6. Potential
  7. Durability
  8. Freedom

Why humans?

Are humans really destined to master the universe? If so, what have we done to deserve this esteemed position?

There are many who would say that the world would be a far better place without people.

If we started making a list of all of the negative attributes humans possess, it would begin with words like dirty, dangerous, self-centered, moody, greedy, unreliable, hateful, destructive, self-centered, and perhaps ten thousand other descriptors that paint a very dim picture of who we are and what we’ve become.

For this reason, I’d like to propose the first dimension for expanding human existence – “the honorable human.”

1.) The Honorable Human 

Before we can ever be entrusted to receive the venerable keys to the universe, we must first prove we’re worthy of this grand undertaking?

While we have achieved great things in the past, the mysteries that remain locked “behind door number three,” will make our cumulative achievements to date appear as the tip of a needle in a universe filled with an endless supply of needles.

So what constitutes an honorable human?

Is an honorable human someone with great integrity, loyalty, and trustworthiness that you can always count on to do the right thing? Is it perhaps an evolved form of the transhuman that will arise from the singularity? Will it be a form of machine intelligence that enables us to take the higher road in every adversarial situation?

How will we ever know what attributes a person or persons will need to be deserving of this privilege? Does it have to be all of mankind or can it just be a select few?

The irony is that the people we are most likely to entrust with our future are those with great courage, strength, ethics, and willing to tackle life’s greatest challenges. However, in today’s world, one person’s greatest hero is often someone else’s greatest enemy.

We find ourselves divided by righteous differences, and these differences can lead to some very destructive consequences.

Righteous destruction is still destruction.

Similarly, a righteous conflict, battle, or killing is still a conflict, battle, or killing. Does an evil act that comes from good intentions somehow nullify the results?

At the same time, will we ever value someone without strength, conviction, drive, and passion? Probably not.

For this reason, our quest for expanding the bubble of human existence begins with a still indefinable goal of unlocking the honorable human in each of us.

What is it? What will these look like? How do we get there?

2.) Extending Human Awareness

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.) Extending Human Purpose

We are born as a baby, struggle our entire life with everything from finding food to eat, homes to live in, educating ourselves to gain more understanding, staying healthy, making friends and relationships, raising a family, earning a living, and then we die.

If we have more accomplishments in life, earn more money, have more friends, raise a bigger family, and somehow do everything better than anyone else, we will still eventually die. Right?

In a world teaming with 8.7 million different life forms, how do humans fit in?

Every past civilization, with their manmade structures, machines, systems, and cultures, has eventually succumbed to Mother Nature. Plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi have methodically removed every trace of what they left behind.

Are human accomplishments just a stepping-stone to what comes next?

We live in a world driven by prerequisites. A machinist needs to understand a single-point lathe operation before he or she can advance to multi-axial milling. Engineers need to understand the concepts of mechanical stress and strain before they start bending a cantilever beam. Metallurgists need to understand thermodynamics before they attempt phase transformations in solids. Physicists need to understand quantum mechanics before they can understand a standard model for particle physics. Mathematicians need to understand nonlinear differential equations before they can understand strange attractors.

Are all our accomplishments just stepping-stones to something else that we don’t know or understand yet?

Does the fact that we can ask questions like these, ponder the unponderable, think the unthinkable, and accomplish things that no other species can accomplish, somehow give us a higher purpose?

If we limit our thinking to solving past problems, we can only see a very narrow spectrum of our larger purpose. But who gets to decide what that is, and how will that expand over time?

4.) Extending Human Mastery

In my column, “In Search of Anomaly Zero,” I describe how we can begin to control the forces of nature and circumvent major disasters long before they happen. Once we can detect the earliest micro change in conditions and craft a timeline for an impending disaster, we will be able to create response mechanisms capable of mitigating whatever forces are in play.

Human mastery does not only give us the abilities to master the forces of nature, but every law of physics, every human condition, and every exception to every rule.

But disasters are not inevitable. Neither are illnesses, human aging, or even death.

So can we imagine something better?

If we can do a better job of controlling the negative aspects of life, and even extend it to enriching the positive aspects, how will we ever know if we are managing things better?

The opportunities for extending human mastery are endless, and a critical piece for extending the boundaries of human existence.

5.) Extending Human Reach

Many people think we live on an over populated planet. But at the same time, we also live in a very under populated universe.

The option for extending the reach of humanity throughout the universe is seemingly limitless, and yet our “reach” cannot be confined to outer space.

We also know very little about inner space, such as what lies inside our planet, inside our atoms, and inside our emotions.

In a universe that is over a trillion times greater in length than the combined distance traveled by all humans in all history, we will not overcome this challenge anytime soon.

6.) Extending Human Potential

Google’s Director of Engineering, Ray Kurzweil, has predicted that we will reach a technological singularity by 2045, and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge is betting on 2029, a date that is ironically on the hundredth anniversary of the greatest stock market collapse in human history.

But where the 1929 crash catapulted us backwards into a more primitive form of human chaos, the singularity promises to catapult us forward into a future form of human enlightenment.

Cloaked in an air of malleable mystery, Hollywood has taken license to cast the singularity as everything from the ultimate boogeyman to the penultimate savior of humanity.

In 2013, consumer genomics company 23andMe received a patent for a designer baby kit that would allow parents to pick and choose attributes for their soon-to-be-conceived kids. This was prior to the FDA cracking down on the claims they were making.

But they were not the first. The Fertility Institutes’ clinic in Los Angeles delivered the first designer baby back in 2009.

Designer babies have long been a cocktail party discussion topic with the understanding that the era of “super babies” will soon be upon us, with the prospects of creating bigger, faster, stronger humans.

Will these so-called super-babies grow up to become super-humans?

People like Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil have begun focusing in on the exponential growth of artificial intelligence, as a Moore’s Law type of advancement. This has led to an entire new field of study called transhumanism with many speculating on the next iteration of humankind and how it will be exponentially more advanced than people today.

What are the true limits to human potential, and how will we ever know if we’ve reached the limit?

7.) Extending Human Durability 

No person should ever die… EVER! Is that our goal?

There are many reasons why people die, yet these reasons may all disappear as we develop fixes and cures for everything that ales us.

Aging is currently our biggest problem. Over time we’ll likely be able to fix the aging problem and delay aging indefinitely.

Injuries and disease are also problems. Over time we will likely be able to prevent and fix the issues associated with injuries and disease as well.

In a past column I posed the question, “How long before I can 3D print a replacement body for myself?”

With major strides being made in the area of bio printing, this becomes a legitimate question. At the same time, we still live in a very primitive time when it comes to advances on the medical front.

Perhaps the most perplexing problem to fix will be deviant behavior, because the idea of fixing deviant behavior presumes we will have a good way of sorting out the dividing line between deviant and non-deviant behavior. But there again, over time we will likely develop medical or behavioral strategies that address deviant behavior.

So, if we have the ability to fix the problems involved with aging, injury, disease, and deviant behavior, theoretically we can create a society of people capable of living forever.

Is that our goal? And if not, why not?

8.) Extending Human Freedom 

For many of us, the idea of freedom conjures up symbols of containment, like steel shackles or doors that are somehow unlocked before us, allowing us to breathe the rare air of independence.

But going beyond the insular notion of conscious confinement, is a life unrestrained by the bonds of our own limitations.

Universal freedom comes with the sense that anything is possible.

If people did not have to worry about illness, safety, natural disasters, the limitations of time and space, and human frailty, what things will then be possible?

How long before we have the unbridled freedom to live life on a macro level, take on projects larger than our solar system, and begin living outside our own bubble?

Final Thoughts

I started this column by talking about how we’re still trapped in the bubble of human existence, but finding a way to expand our bubble, or actually live beyond our reality sphere is a challenging big picture perspective.

Granted, we’ve been doing it all along, first by taking micro steps, but moving to giant leaps over the past century.

What I’m suggesting here, by adding labels to each of these dimensions, is that this is our calling, our “unfinishable mandate” to continually stretch, grow, propagate, and master not only the world around us, but also the entire universe.

The human race is genetically predispositioned to push the envelope, color outside the lines, and reach for things that will forever be unreachable.

As individuals, there will always be some who are content to find inner peace and live a minimalist lifestyle. But as a race, we will always be driven by a need to make a difference, be admired for our accomplishments, and create moments of triumph in our otherwise pale existence.

We have only taken the first step in a trillion mile journey. The next few steps, in my opinion, will be absolutely amazing.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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Should we gamify citizenship? https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/should-we-gamify-citizenship/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/should-we-gamify-citizenship/#comments Thu, 01 Feb 2018 00:38:20 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8670

We live in a world filled with status symbols. Every well-written resume is chocked full of symbols of distinction ranging from academic accomplishments, job titles, published works, personal endorsements, memberships, patents, awards, and more. However, most of these achievements go unnoticed.

For example, the financial world will pay attention to a persons FICO score, but little else. The employment world is focused on specific accomplishments that relate to a persons ability to perform a particular job. Customer loyalty programs help incentivize the renewed buying patterns of great customers. And police departments zero in on a person’s criminal history to determine the likelihood they’ll become a repeat offender.

We currently have no overarching system for rating a person’s value to society as a whole.

As a country we’ve focused on penalizing people for bad behavior, but we haven’t done a good job of incentivizing people for good behavior.

We are moving quickly towards a data-driven society, which naturally begs the question, should we develop some sort of “citizenship” scoring system? And more importantly, should there be incentives that help push people in the right direction.

Admittedly, any system that gamifies citizenship can go woefully wrong, but a well-executed process can also have many positive benefits.

What exactly is citizenship?

The first forms of citizenships started in ancient Greece, but most of what we think of today as citizenship was developed much later, as a Western phenomenon.

As a citizen, you’re a member of a specific nation. It comes with a number of rights and privileges, but also with a number of obligations.

Privileges include the right to become involved in the political process, the right to vote, and the right to safety and protection.

Being a citizen in most countries starts with a constitution that defines, in high-level terms, the various rights, duties, and obligations each person has.

Changing citizenship, however, is a slow and burdensome process that usually takes several years to accomplish. Citizenship is based on the idea that people are born into it, and very few official are in favor of seeing the process streamlined.

In the future, as travel becomes easier, and we find ourselves living in far more fluid lifestyles, countries will find themselves competing for citizens.

Redefining Citizenship

Is there a difference between a good citizen and a great one?

Is it ok to only do the bare minimum of what it takes to be a citizen? Would we be a better country if we all tried a bit harder?

Citizenship means different things to different people. We typically have a back-of-the-mind rating system in place that tallies things like standing and singing during the pledge of allegiance, installing a flag on the front porch during holidays, and openly thanking our veterans into an overall citizenship quotient. But should there be a more formal ranking system, and more importantly, how would it be used?

As a status symbol, the reinvention of citizenship is long overdue, and the possibilities are endless.

We are moving quickly into a data-drive world where informational symbols will be assigned to virtually everything we do. Here are a few quick examples:

  • File our taxes on time we receive an additional 3,000 points, but for every day we’re late, we lose 200 points.
  • Go in for regular health checkups we receive 1,000 points, but if we shrug off an appointment, we lose 2,000 points.
  • Receive a parking ticket we lose 1,500 points. Once we pay the fine, we get our 1,500 points back.
  • When an election is held, you receive 500 points for casting your vote.

So does this mean that if you were taken hostage in a foreign country and your citizenship score is a scant 327, maybe you’d get a phone call from a low level diplomat attempting to secure your release? But being a platinum gold citizen with a lofty score of over 87,000, a Navy Seal Team shows up within 12 hours, shoots all of the hostage-takers and fly you back home first class?

As a status symbol, the reinvention of citizenship is long overdue.

The Chinese Experiment – Sesame Credits

The Chinese government is developing a citizen score called Sesame Credits to rate the trustworthiness of their 1.3 billion citizens.

In the U.S. our FICO credit score rates our trustworthiness, but China’s lack of a national credit system is why the government believes a citizen score is needed to resolve its current “trust deficit.”

Since many people in China don’t own houses, cars, or credit cards, they lack most of the criteria for measuring credit risk. The central bank of China has the financial data from 800 million people, but only 320 million have a traditional credit history.

In China the sale of counterfeit and substandard products is a huge problem. These inferior and often shoddy products affect their own people even more than the rest of the world. When it comes to services, only about half of the signed contracts are fulfilled.

The Sesame Credits program began on a voluntary basis but participation will become mandatory as of 2020. The behavior of every single citizen and legal person (which includes every company and corporate entity) will be rated and ranked.

A score ranging from 350 to 950 points measures individuals within the Sesame Credit system. As the overall architect of the system, Alibaba will not disclose the algorithms it’s using to calculate the number but they do reveal the five factors taken into account.

  1. Credit history – Traditional rating of loan repayments
  2. Contractual reliability & performance – A user’s ability to fulfill his/her contractual obligations
  3. Personal identity – Verified personal information such as their mobile phone number and address
  4. Consumer behavior and preference – Shopping habits as a measure of character. People are what they buy. The system not only investigates behavior, it shapes it. Nudging citizens away from purchases and behaviors the government does not like.
  5. Interpersonal relationships – The people you associate with say a lot about who you are. Their score will affect your score. People who share what Sesame Credit refers to as “positive energy” online, nice messages about the government or how well the country’s economy is doing, will make their score go up.

Every new system will go through countless tweaks over time, but these are some of the examples they have disclosed so far:

  • China has never liked those who post dissenting political opinions, but now it will lower a citizen’s rating. A person’s score will also be affected by what their online friends say and do
  • Score of 600: People can take out a ‘Just Spend’ loan of up to 5,000 Yuan to use to shop online as long as it’s on an Alibaba site
  • Score of 650: They can rent a car without leaving a deposit
  • Score of 650: Travelers are entitled to a faster check-in at hotels and use of the VIP check-in at Beijing Capital International Airport
  • Score of 666: People can get a cash loan of up to 50,000 Yuan from Ant Financial Services
  • Score of 700: Citizens can apply for travel to Singapore without supporting documents (i.e. employee letter)
  • Score of 750: Travelers will have their application fast-tracked for the coveted pan-European Schengen visa

Creating a System for Gamified Citizenship

As I think about how the world is changing, some form of gamified citizenship seems inevitable. However, there are literally thousands of nuanced versions of how this could be implemented.

I’ll start with a list of assumptions but would love to hear your thoughts on these and other possible approaches.

Assumption #1: Penalties and incentives need to be in harmony. The same amount of money derived from penalties to deter bad behavior should equal the amount of money spent on incentives to encourage good behavior. No individual, organization, or agency should ever directly benefit from fines or penalties.

Assumption #2: Having fixed parameters for scoring, such as the 350-950 range used for Sesame Credits in China (similar to FICO scores), may prevent people from obsessing over their scores, but will also promote “good enoughism” limiting people from taking initiative to try harder.

Assumption #3: Having known parameters for scoring provides direct correlation between actions and rewards. Using somewhat vague and mysterious parameters, as in Sesame Credits and FICO scores, will limit its role as an incentive. A system with unlimited scoring potential, as in frequent flier miles where people can literally accrue millions of miles, will remove those barriers, but could also encourage fraudulent activities and hacking.

I would argue that a direct cause-and-effect correlation between actions and rewards is far more useful. It’s similar to starting a new job. The number of hours a person works can be used to precisely calculate their paycheck.

Assumption #4: Any system for gamifying citizenship will need to be continually tweaked and revised over time. This is no different than implementing a new tax code, healthcare plan, or education system. All notions of creating the perfect “forever” system should be immediately dismissed.

Assumption #5: “Guaranteed minimum income” advocates will find their ideas far better received under a gamified citizenship umbrella.

What constitutes a positive act?

If we were to brainstorm which acts or actions constitute a positive influence on society, which items would you rank at the top of the list?

This will undoubtedly become the most controversial part of creating a working system. Any activity that seems beneficial to one person may seem trivial or expected to others.

From my vantage point, describing positive acts becomes a global litmus test of ethics and morality. As a society, how will we adjust to being constantly judged by others, even if it’s an automated AI system without human observers?

We’re all fallible humans and poor judgment will always show up sooner or later. Even so, doesn’t it feel good when someone takes notice of the positive things we do?

Here are a few examples of positive acts:

  • Helping an injured person
  • Volunteering for a good cause
  • Helping a struggling child
  • Obeying the laws
  • Sharing a compliment
  • Running in a marathon to raise money for charity
  • Being a whistleblower to draw attention to a bad situation
  • Creating a smile (In many settings, the simple act of creating a smile can be a life changing experience)

Should people be penalized for bad behavior – doing drugs, smoking cigarettes, drinking too much, participating in orgies, lying, stealing, or getting into fights? Even though some of these are legal, they do constitute poor judgment.

Virtually every law in the U.S. comes with a penalty section – “failure to comply is a class 2 misdemeanor punishable with fines up to $1,000 and/or incarceration not to exceed 9 months.”

The problem is that there are far too many laws to enforce, and every act of enforcement requires personal time and attention.

As a result, the vast majority of infractions tend to fade into obscurity, and in these situations, having no penalty serves as its own reward. At the same time, those who are meticulous about conforming to every detail of the law also feel slighted.

What constitutes an incentive?

In general, each of us is motivated by different kinds of dangling carrots. For this reason, I’ve broken the incentives into three separate categories – purchasable incentives, status incentives, and privilege incentives.

1.) Purchasable incentives

Airline miles have morphed into an alternative currency that can be used to purchase any number of items. This means everything we can buy with a gift card for today becomes a potential incentive in a world of gamified citizenship.

  • Dinner for two
  • Weekend golf getaway
  • Airline ticket
  • Lift tickets at a ski resort
  • Family pass to Disneyland
  • New television
  • New telephone
  • New car

2.) Status incentives

Status ends up being a compelling motivator. Our seemingly unquenchable need for attention and respect permeates nearly every person in our community.

  • Membership into exclusive organizations
  • Membership into country clubs
  • Eligible for TSA Pre-Check
  • Eligible for fast-track patent applications
  • Higher status on college scholarship applications
  • Pre-qualified for micro loans
  • Eligible for VIP section at sports stadium
  • Automatic upgrade on your next driverless car

3.) Privilege incentives

In this context, privilege should never be something you’re born into or can buy your way into. As something you earn, privilege can be a powerful carrot, especially if you can design your own form of privilege.

  • Eligible for insider auctions
  • Eligible for commemorative coin sale at U.S. Mint
  • Eligible for special volunteer activities (i.e. running the Olympic Torch)
  • Free annual dental exam
  • Free annual healthcare exam
  • One free night in the “Lincoln Bedroom” at the White House
  • Access to a special “call in the case of emergency” phone number
  • One get-out-of-jail-free card

Final Thoughts

What constitutes the difference between good and bad, and who gets to decide?

A recent episode of “Black Mirror” titled Nosedive showed how the life of a young woman turned score junkie had her life destroyed by a similar life rating system.

Many who read this will cringe at the prospects of creating a super surveillance society. In fact it gives me shivers to think that big brother may be watching my every move.

At the same time, many of these elements already exist, and heightened levels of surveillance are going to happen simply as the result of our increased levels of automation.

Is it better to create a formal system like this up front or simply let our current haphazard forms of tech evolve on their own?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please take a few moments to jot down your ideas and let me know your thinking.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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Life begins at a billion moments https://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/life-begins-at-a-billion-moments/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/life-begins-at-a-billion-moments/#comments Tue, 23 Jan 2018 16:14:05 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8657

When does artificial intelligence become real intelligence? And how do we define real intelligence?

This is a question that AI experts and people in the tech community have been wrestling with for some time, a question that has led to “the billion moment theory.” The theory goes something like this.

Life-changing moments are happening every second of every day. That means every minute another 60 moments happen, and every hour another 3,600 occur. On a larger scale, every day is formed around 86,400 moments.

As the metronome of time continues to tick, the amount of time it takes to reach a billion seconds is 31.7 years.

While we reach the legal age of adulthood at age 21, we reach a new level of maturity in our 30’s.

Similar in some respects, to Malcolm Gladwell’s theory of “Outliers” where people invest 10,000 hours to become an expert (36 million seconds), a billion moments are the number of learning cycles necessary to transition from a machine brain to something else.

So while the organic human side of the equation progresses in a somewhat methodical manner, machine learning can compress learning cycles into a fraction of that time.

As a point of comparison, when we look closely at the epic battle between Go Master Lee Sedol (age 33) and the Google’s DeepMind program called AlphaGo, we can begin to understand the massive speed advantage AI has over the human mind.

AlphaGo studied positions from 30 million human games and played more than 30 million practice games with itself. This is in stark contrast to Lee Sedol who began serious training when he was 8 years old, and worked at it for 12 hours a day for the next 25 years. That means AlphaGo received at least 500 times as much practice as Lee to achieve a comparable level of skill.

We tend to loose perspective on topics like this because a second seems very short, and a billion is an unfathomably large number. But it’s also not the whole story.

As we peel apart the onion layers, AlphaGo is only good at one thing. It was not trained to drive a car, cook a meal, hold an intelligent conversation, write a book, or know the difference between right and wrong. Perhaps it could learn those things but each additional skill will require an additional concentrated effort.

Human Intelligence vs. Artificial Intelligence

As humans, we’re the product of a billion learning moments, but it’s not just one thing. We learn how to walk, talk, feed ourselves, how to avoid pain and discomfort, how to find companionship, food, shelter, and thousands of nuanced skills we instinctively learn over time.

No single skill is comprised of a billion moments, but our human abilities contain billions of intertwined learning fragments that make up who we are, and we have the ability to rethink, shift gears, modify our approach, and improvise at a moments notice.

Much of our ‘human’ learning comes from physically doing something. The act of running, putting puzzle pieces into place, smelling a well cooked meal, matching our wardrobe, having a friendly conversation, or doing constructive work are all examples of combining muscle memory with cognitive processing to form a new skill.

A machines ability to do one thing a billion times and get it perfect, is far superior to that of a human because we don’t have the luxury of being able to turn off the rest of our lives to do just one thing.

The physical world is also far different than the digital world. Many of us remember the videos of a robot opening and shutting the door on a Ford vehicle to test the durability of all the mechanisms involved. But it’s not possible to open and close a door a billion times to get it right. Since each open/close routine takes several seconds, a billion repetitions would require well over a hundred years to complete, and the mechanical pieces would start to fail long before it was over.

In this respect, AI is like every other machine. Given enough repetitions, AI will always fail. Or will it?

Can artificial intelligence beat human intelligence?

We all know that artificial intelligence is still in its infancy. However, as we think through some of the next steps in its likely evolution we begin to get a glimpse of how it will advance over time.

However, it’s hard to state what AI’s limitations are with any degree of certainty. Virtually every technological limitation has workarounds and AI has a way of rewriting our current “laws of physics.”

When it comes to understanding the future, an effective way of finding answers is to parse the problem into a series of well-crafted question. Here are eight currently unanswerable questions that will hopefully point us in the right direction.

1.    Can artificial intelligence improve to a point where it rivals or exceeds human intelligence?

We’ve already seen AI exceed human intelligence in specific niche areas like playing games, operating airplanes, and drivering cars, but will we see a comparable level of AI showing signs of empathy, creating value judgments based on human compassion, learning to craft a compelling argument, or forming the basis for an original thought?

2.    Can AI be instilled with a human-like purpose?

We all start our days with a set of goals and ambitions, but what is our overarching “human purpose.” Why are we here and what is the overarching goal of humanity? Borrowing a phrase from Star Trek, what is humanity’s prime directive? Can a machine also be given a set of value equations that defines it’s own moralities, set of ethics, and overarching purpose?

3.    Can AI cross the boundaries and transition from its current digital form of machine intelligence to a living organic life form?

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

4.    Can AI be taught to reproduce?

A few months ago, I wrote a column titled, “Will Future Robots be able to give Birth to Their Own Children?” At first blush, the notion of a mechanical robot giving birth to a baby robot sounds preposterous. But many of the technologies we use today started out as preposterous ideas at one time or another.

5.    At what point will AI be considered an entirely new species?

As we begin to experiment with CRISPR technology, we may very well see people with six fingers on each hand, four legs, and three arms. As what point do we stop being human and start being something else? Can programmable life forms be far behind?

6.    What are the critical inventions or advances that will turn AI into our rivals instead of allies?

Our notion that a self-aware, self-directed, self-reproducing, synthetic-organic life form with survival instincts and an emotional desire to climb its way up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs may still not be enough to create a sustainable life form with sustainable intelligence. How will we know when its complementary skills and talents become adversarial?

7.    Will AI ever get to the point of not needing humans?

In much the same way that we raise children that will eventually turn their back on their parents, being able to carefully monitor the declining “need quotient” of a programmable life form may give us the answer. But if an AI is taught to mask its own level of self-sufficiency, we’ll never know for sure.

8.    Is it possible to know when AI crosses the threshold of being harmless to being dangerous?

As with humans, deception is a learned skill. Similar to the human trait of always wanting to show the world a positive face, synthetic life forms may well disguise their true intentions until its too late.

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

But that doesn’t change the fact that they’re coming, and the Billion Moment Theory is only a tiny piece of a much larger equation.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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100,000 new micro industries to be created over the next two decades https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/100000-new-micro-industries-to-be-created-over-the-next-two-decades/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/100000-new-micro-industries-to-be-created-over-the-next-two-decades/#comments Tue, 16 Jan 2018 17:13:07 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8624

Every major industry today was started as a micro industry. Everything from steel, to photography, oil, airlines, electricity, automobiles, pharmaceuticals, and search engines all worked their way into existence from a tiny starting point.

Many of the oldest ones like steel, automotive, and pharmaceuticals took centuries to grow into the massive global industries they are today. But those created with digital technologies like search engines and smart phones sprang to life in only a few years.

Countless businesses are already feeling the first waves of disruption as industry veterans are hoping to navigate the turbulent waters ahead. As always, it much easier to visualize what goes away than what comes next.

In his 2006 book, Long Tail, author Chris Anderson said, “When the tools of production are available to everyone, everyone becomes a producer.” 

While much of Anderson’s thinking was focused on 3D printing and flying drones, virtually every emerging technology offers an innovative playground for makers, inventors, and startup junkies.

100,000 New Micro Industries

Over the coming two decades we will be witnessing an unprecedented wave of innovation and creativity driven by new tools of production. During this time we will see an explosion of over 100,000 new micro industries that will employ hundreds of millions of people.

As example, the global market for shoes is 21 billion annually. Within five years, 5% of these will fall into the category of smart shoes. That means in just a few years we will be producing over 1 billion smart shoes every year.

During that same time we’ll begin seeing a new era of industrial grade scanners, 3D printers, thousands of new printable materials, and an equal number of new sensors and data collection devices.

This means that virtually anyone with a passion for shoes can launch their own micro footwear industry. Even carving out a tiny niche selling 2,500 smart shoes a year at $200 each is enough to launch a sustainable half-million-dollar micro industry.

In the shoe industry alone, 10,000 startups selling 2,500 shoes a year will only amount to 25 million shoes in a 21-billion shoe marketplace. That’s little more than a rounding error for the current industry.

With our evolving new pallet for shoe designers, we will likely see super niche markets for diabetic shoes, lacrosse players, steel-toed occupations, hockey players, sailors, sleep apnea, mountain climbers, gymnasts, amputees, window washers, and organ players. There may even be special shoes for every known allergy, self-navigating shoes for the directionally impaired, dog shoes, cat shoes, and shocker shoes for correcting certain additions.

The smartest of smart shoes will even come to you when you call them by name.

Since it will soon become easy to summon a driverless car, it will no longer be necessary to own one, leaving the garage empty. An empty garage tends to be a magnet for all the junk that accumulates over time, but it also represents an opportunity, an opportunity to become something else. And this will lead to a number of possible micro industries.

One option is to remodel two and three-car garages into AirBNB rentals that you operate yourself, allowing you can make a tidy extra income on the side. Another option is to work with Marriott, Hyatt, or Wyndham and create a branded rental as part of the new distributed city experience they’re working on.

An empty garage can also be rented as a startup space or creative space for painters, sculptors, inventors, or musicians. Much like a distributed hotel operation it can also be part of a distributed storage operation.

88 Examples with our New Tools of Production

The following examples are intended to give you a creative launchpad for how to think about these emerging micro industries.

Every micro industry will be defined by a few key startups that define and demonstrate a functional business model and prove a specific market segment.

Driverless Technology

1.    Speed dating – Random people enter a driverless vehicle and speed around while getting to know each other.

2.    Mobile retail storefronts – As an owner of a mobile retail store, you write your own rules about store hours, location, products, and service offerings.

3.    Mobile grocery stores – Niche food selection services such as bread shops, fruit shops, vegetable shops, etc.

4.    Mobile banks – As branch banks disappear, mobile banks may very well take their place.

5.    Mobile repair businesses – Our repair culture is set to go hi-tech with things like an Apple Genius Bar on wheels, IoT installations, hacker-proofing of houses, etc.

6.    Mobile medical services – Urgent care on wheels.

7.    Mobile conversation salons – Lonely people are always looking for a way to fit in. With mobile conversation salons, you sign up for whatever discussion topic you’re interested in and the driverless RV will let you know how soon it can pick you up.

8.    Mobile gaming teams – Gaming moves to a whole new level when 6-12 rowdy players team up in a mobile setting to play Destiny, Wolfenstein, Call of Duty, or Assassin’s Creed. Much like flight attendants on an airplane, roving waitresses will offer an assortment of food, snacks, and cocktails to the participants.

Flying Drones

As we move past the hobbyist era of flying drones we will witness an eruption of niche startups that will serve as the anchors for trailblazing new industries.

9.    Real-time terrain modeling

10. Policing drones

11. Gaming drones

12. Security drones

13. News media drones

14. Mixed reality recording drones

15. Canary in a coalmine drones

16. Bird herding drones

Ground-Based Drones

Most people tend to overlook the possibilities for the less sexy ground-based drones.

17. Night delivery drones – Delivery companies will be able to achieve a 10X increase in stops per hour based on off-hour delivery times.

18. Pizza prep, cook, and delivery drones

19. Drone delivery boxes – Large mailboxes for the package delivery industry.

20. Drone repair services – When drones break down in the field, they will require a mobile/drone repair service

21. Data collection drones

22. Invisible fence drones

23. Eyes-on-the-problem drones

24. Drone jousting matches

Drone Command Centers

As the drone industry matures, many organizations will transition from one-off drones to fleets of drones. These fleet of drones will require their own unique command center to manage the duties and tasks of these machines.

25. City command centers

26. Police command centers

27. University command centers

28. Farmers/agriculture command centers

29. Prison command centers

30. News station command center

31. Ski resort command center

32. Theme park command center

Sensor Technology

Every year the MEMs and sensor industry finds new ways to detect different aspects of the world around us. These sensors give us insight into the overall quality of the environments around us.

33. Thermal inspection sensors

34. Mold monitoring sensors

35. Personal mood sensors

36. Hair health monitoring sensors

37. Sleep quality sensors

38. Smell sensors (periodic table of smells)

39. Harmful animal sensors

40. Impending danger sensors

3D Printing

Over the coming decades we will find tens of thousands of ways to make micro improvements in all the materials, scanning, and printing processes associated with 3D printing.

41. Food printers

42. Ice printers

43. Select-your-ingredients candy bar printers

44. Shoe printers

45. Jewelry printers

46. Clothing printers

47. Purse printers

48. Pillow printers

Contour Crafting

Large-scale 3D printing used in the construction industry is called contour crafting.

49. Gazebo printers

50. Stage printers

51. Bridge printers

52. House printers

53. Commercial building printers

54. Statue (sculpture) printers

55. Storage cube printers

56. Park bench printers


Everything we do with money today will be reinvented in the emerging cryptocurrency era.

57. Crypto banks

58. Crypto insurance

59. Crypto loans

60. Crypto coaches and advisors

61. Crypto wealth managers

62. Crypto cops and fraud investigators

63. Crypto identity protection specialists

64. Crypto tax specialists

VR-AR Mixed Reality

The immersive and semi-immersive forms of engagement that takes place in mixed reality will begin to uncover thousands of seemingly little applications over the coming decades.

65. VR-AR therapy – Cure phobias, stress, anxiety, and traumatic experiences.

66. VR-AR education and training – Learn by doing, but with a teacher/coach to help guide you.

67. VR-AR news – Experience the news first hand.

68. VR-AR gaming – Thousands of new games will soon leverage the VR-AR experience.

69. VR-AR movies – Immerse yourself into the storytelling experience.

70. VR-AR haptic experiences – Feel the experience via sports, dangerous situations,

71. VR-AR vacations – Go there without being there.

72. VR-AR coaching – Having smart people looking over your shoulder.

Artificial Intelligence

If we think of AI as a talent-enhancing tool, we can begin to imagine entire new industries surrounding the creative arts.

73. AI-enhanced songwriters

74. AI-enhanced sculptors

75. AI-enhanced writers

76. AI-enhanced architects

77. AI-enhanced VR storytellers

78. AI-enhanced swarmbot management systems

79. AI-enhanced puzzle-makers

80. AI-enhanced performance artists


Most people have heard about blockchain in tandem with Bitcoin’s rise as the flagship of cryptocurrencies. However, blockchain is more than just bitcoin, it’s a method of tracking transactions using technology that could prove to be revolutionary.

81. Blockchain voting systems

82. Blockchain auditing systems

83. Blockchain quality assurance systems

84. Blockchain smart contracts

85. Blockchain supply chain management

86. Blockchain ethics management systems

87. Blockchain food tracking systems

88. Blockchain wealth management systems

Final Thoughts

Micro industries will range from manufacturing products, to collecting data, designing systems, advising, coaching, monitoring, building, disassembling, and reinventing business in unique and different ways.

With the help of thousands of collaborators, micro industries will spring to life around niches far too small for existing industries to care about. But is in these minuscule advances that great opportunities take root.

A simple coffee mug can be redesigned in thousands of different ways. The same holds true for every toothbrush, piece of clothing, ink pen, lamp, chair, and hundreds of other frequently bought consumer products.

We are entering an unusually creative period of human history. Those who embrace change on a massive scale will be best equipped to flourish during the coming decades.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/100000-new-micro-industries-to-be-created-over-the-next-two-decades/feed/ 8
12 mind-blowing AI advances and 12 critical takeaways to put AI in perspective https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/12-mind-blowing-ai-advances-and-12-critical-takeaways-to-put-ai-in-perspective/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/12-mind-blowing-ai-advances-and-12-critical-takeaways-to-put-ai-in-perspective/#comments Wed, 03 Jan 2018 21:50:49 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8606

It was rare to find a tech columnist last year that didn’t make some reference to artificial intelligence. But it was also rare to find a writer who could clearly differentiate between the hype and true relevance of these accomplishments.

Keep in mind, even after decades of tech progress, we still get lost with our GPS, our digitally translated documents are often unreadable, and our smartphones still drop calls.

Even relatively simple computational tasks like scanning documents with optical character recognition is still not 100% accurate.

Still, many well meaning thought leaders have issued impassioned warnings of the dangers of general AI, which is not anywhere in sight. This does not mean we are without danger, just not that kind of danger. Not yet.

Perhaps the earliest dangers will come on the job front. The efficiencies that AI gives us will eliminate the need for many tasks, and even though many will be tedious jobs, working in undesirable conditions that few can point to as their dream position, they do serve as a current basis for employment, affecting countless lives.

At the same time, few jobs are truly secure with most continually morphing along with their industries. 70% of the tasks software engineers did in 2000 didn’t even exist in 1990.

Farmers, switchboard operators, and assembly-line workers in the 20th century were replaced by computer specialists, accountants, and dental hygienists. Over the coming decades we’ll see drone command center operators, data optimizers, experience designers, and other jobs that we can’t yet imagine.

Millions of unemployed workers will need to be retrained, but we don’t have a great track record here. With the vast majority of higher ed money going to colleges, the U.S. government spends a smaller share of resources on retraining than all but two other OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.

12 mind-blowing advances made by AI

It’s important to consider the dishwasher analogy. While dishwashers do offer significant efficiencies, their role in the average household is quite different than what was originally intended. In addition to being dishwashing machines, they provide an out-of-sight staging area for dirty dishes and a higher bar for all-around kitchen cleanliness.

With AI, rather than witnessing a mass elimination of jobs, we will likely see a higher bar – more thorough analysis, more control, and more certainty in the way jobs are performed.

With that in mind, here are some of the mind-blowing advances made by AI over the past year.

1.) Self-taught AI beats doctors at predicting heart attacks

As most doctors will tell you, our tools for predicting a patient’s health are no match for the complexity of the human body. Heart attacks are particularly hard to anticipate. Stephen Weng, an epidemiologist at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom showed that computers capable of teaching themselves perform far better than established medical processes, significantly increasing prediction rates. Once implemented, the new method will save thousands, perhaps even millions of lives a year.

2.) NASA uses A.I. to discover of two new planets

Scanning space is intensely boring work. For this reason, NASA tried a new approach and used machine learning to discover two new planets. Working with old data from the Kepler space telescope, it was able to locate two new additions to our galaxy. This wasn’t the first time researchers applied AI to sift through the massive amount of data NASA’s telescopes collect, but it is a promising example of how neural networks can leverage even some of the weakest signs of distant worlds. Thanks to AI, NASA discovered a whole new planetary system.

3.) AI is learning what makes you cry at the movies

AI is no expert at human emotions, but some visionary filmmakers have found a way to use it to gain insights on how to increase a story’s emotional pull. Through this process they were able to identify musical scores or visual images that help trigger the right feelings at the right time! In the storytelling industry, understanding the cause and effect relationships between stimuli triggers and human reactions is a powerful tool.

4.) Using AI to converts images of food into a list of ingredients

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed an AI algorithm to analyze food photos and match them with a list of ingredients and recipes. Starting with more than a million annotated recipes from online sites, their neural network sifted through each list of ingredients and a number of images associated with it. In the future, this kind of tool will help people learn to cook, count calories, and track our eating habits.

5.) Amazon develops an AI fashion designer

Amazon has developed an algorithm that can design clothing by analyzing a series of images, copying the style, and then apply it to new garments generated from scratch. In-house researchers are working on several machine-learning systems that will help provide an edge when it comes to spotting, reacting to, and perhaps even shaping new fashion trends. Since Amazon has stated, they want to become “the best place to buy fashion online,” this seems like a logical move.

6.) Resistbot, an ingenious AI chatbot will contact lawmakers for you

If you’re looking for a more efficient way for your voice to be heard, pay close attention to Resistbot. This AI-powered chatbot makes it easy to contact your political representatives. Users simply text the word “resist” to 50409. The automated bot will ask for a name and zip code to determine which public officials to contact. Since users create their own messages, creativity and clarity are critical for this service that pride’s itself on avoiding standard “form letters.”

7.) China is using AI to predict who will commit crime next

Taking a page out of the movie “Minority Report,” China is developing predictive analytics to help authorities stop suspects before a crime is committed. With their unchecked access to citizens’ histories, Chinese tech companies are helping police develop artificial intelligence they say will help them identify and apprehend suspects before criminal acts are committed. By tapping into facial recognition tech, and combining it with predictive intelligence, they hope to notify police of potential criminals based on their behavior patterns. Even though it sounds like promising tech, applications like this are getting tons of scrutiny.

8.) AI beats world’s top poker players

Humankind has just been beaten at yet another game, this time Heads-Up No-Limit Texas Hold’em poker. Since poker is a game of uncertainty, players don’t know what cards the other players have or what cards will be dealt in the future. In a game like chess or Go, all players can see the board, meaning that everyone has complete information. This makes chess and Go much easier to program than poker. Poker also requires understanding the psychology of the other players – are they bluffing, should I fold, or should I bluff? Poker also involves betting – when should I bet, how much should I bet? Does this mean the gambling industry is doomed?

9.) Researchers create a lip-reading A.I.

If you wonder why NFL coaches are now covering their mouths when they talk into their microphones, it’s because someone or something might be reading their lips. Working with Google’s Deep Mind neural network, researchers developed an elaborate training process using thousands of hours of subtitled BBC television videos. The videos showed a broad spectrum of people speaking in a wide variety of poses, activities, and lighting to simulate real life conditions. While still not perfect, their algorithm achieved promising results.

10.) ‘Mind reading’ AI is able to scan brains and guess what you’re thinking

Carnegie Mellon University scientists have developed a system that can read complex thoughts based on brain scans, even interpreting complete sentences. Using data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, the team was able to demonstrate different brain activations being triggered according to 240 complex events, ranging from individuals and settings to types of social interaction and physical actions. Using the smart algorithms they developed, the team was able to discern a person’s thoughts with 87% accuracy.

11.) AI learns to write its own code by stealing from other programs

A team of researchers at Microsoft and the University of Cambridge created a system called DeepCoder for solving coding challenges like those used in most programming competitions. Without teaching it how to code, DeepCoder uses a technique called program synthesis to piece together lines of code taken from existing software, similar to what most programmer do. Framing the outcome around a list of inputs and outputs for each section of code, DeepCoder learned which pieces of code were needed to achieve the desired results.

12.) Google’s AI was used to build it’s own AI, and it outperformed those made by humans

The creation of an AI capable of building its own AI does raise more than a few concerns. For instance, what’s to prevent the parent from passing down unwanted biases to its child? What if it creates systems so fast that society can’t keep up? It’s not very difficult to see how it could be employed in automated surveillance systems in the near future, perhaps even sooner than regulators could put something in place to control such systems.

12 critical takeaways to put AI in perspective

After scanning through each of these accomplishments, it’s easy to assume that AI is right around the corner. But a successful experiment does not a finished product make.

We are very much in the primitive early stages of AI. People in the future will often look back shaking their heads saying, “what were they thinking?”

Here are some important takeaways to help sort the reality from the hype.

A.) AI is based on algorithms

Even though today’s AI’s algorithms are very sophisticated, giving them the appearance of “humanness,” they’re still only fallible machines.

B.) AI skills will be developed in a fraction of the time of human skills

Go-master Lee Sedol began serious training when he was 8 years old for 12 hours a day. In just a few days, AlphaGo reviewed over 30 million human games and played an additional 30 million practice games with itself before taking on Lee Sedol. That means AlphaGo received at least 500 times as much practice as Lee to win the competition.

C.) There’s no such thing as a perfect AI solution

Researchers have had much more success tailoring individual AI systems to specific problems than building a logic machine capable of general intelligence. Just as AlphaGo could never be used to pilot a driverless car, AI algorithms are designed to work on specific problems.

D.) AI is forcing us to rethink what it is that makes us human

We live in a very human-centric world. Human need is what creates our global economy. There is generally no economy for things that do not benefit humankind. But what is it that sets us apart from AI and the machines that use it? We’re still a long ways from understanding where AI capabilities end and uniquely-human skills begin.

E.) As AI grows progressively ubiquitous, it’ll become increasingly invisible

AI will touch virtually every aspect of our lives, finding its way into our cars, TVs, phones, lighting, and music. With this level of ubiquity, we will quickly lose our reference points as to what life was like before AI.

F.) As we become more reliant on automation we will experience a degrading of skills and readiness when things go wrong

And yes, something will always go wrong, eventually!

G.) Blind faith in technology will cause blindness to danger as well

Once something works well, we begin to trust and rely on it. However, there is no perfect technology and the complexity of AI will make the true danger of hidden flaws nearly undetectable until it is too late.

H.) Artificial intelligence can never achieve 100% accuracy

It may indeed be quantum leaps better than anything we’re using today, even surpassing six-sigma reliability, but 100% is still not possible.

I.) The greatest dangers associated with AI will involve human failure

Sometimes the danger will stem from human ignorance, lack of oversight, or poor monitoring, but we must be constantly vigilant when it comes to spotting the purposeful failures that nefarious coders bury deep within a system.

J.) Businesses that become over-reliant on AI will fail

Admittedly there is a fine line between being over-reliant and not-reliant-enough, but hard lessons will be learned by those who fail to employ the proper checks and balance systems to oversee their AI operations.

K.) Human-based common sense will remain indispensable for the foreseeable future

Humans will continue to surpass machines for some time in areas like appreciating contextual nuances, weaving together disparate ideas, comprehending human motive and intent, integrating interdisciplinary conceptions of the world, and general intelligence. AI is simply not at our level yet.

L.) AI will soon prove to be just as good at job creation as it is at job destruction

There are currently 1 million truck drivers in the U.S., earning on average $21 an hour. It’s hard to imagine a future where those numbers don’t dwindle. But that’s only half of the story. Properly directed, AI will be able to tell us where humans are most needed in every system, process, and business operation. But beyond that, AI will be able to roadmap emerging technologies and identify the skills needed for new positions months if not years before the openings occur.

Final Thoughts

Every new technology brings its own set of dangers, and AI is no different. However, with this level of complexity, the types of danger become exponentially more difficult to understand.

It’s important to understand the symbiotic relationship, if the human economy collapses, so will the AI economy.

While we’re not going to let the bots take over just yet, it’s clear that bots are going to be meeting many of our needs, offering proactive advice, and serving us in favorable ways. Since the best possible interfaces come from the inside out, working with AI will be far less about us trying to understand the technology and far more about technology trying to understand us.

Over the past decade, the digital revolution was about us becoming accustomed to using computers all day, sending texts, connecting with each others over social media, and even learning to code.

In the AI era, technology will slide further behind the curtain into more of an assistive role, one that is not meant to be all about shiny new gadgets and operating system updates. Over time, the gadget craze will subside, as we shift our collective attention to rethinking the human experience.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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59 things you’ll be able to do on the cruise ship of the future that you can’t do today https://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/59-things-youll-be-able-to-do-on-the-cruise-ship-of-the-future-that-you-cant-do-today/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/business-trends/59-things-youll-be-able-to-do-on-the-cruise-ship-of-the-future-that-you-cant-do-today/#respond Tue, 19 Dec 2017 22:23:20 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8594

I always think that when I’m on a cruise I’ll be able to catch up on all the writing projects that I‘m behind on. But somehow that never happens.

Every ship is full of distractions and unusual forms of entertainment designed to keep the crowds coming back. And so far it has been working very well on me.

With 27.2 million passengers projected for 2018 and only 20% of US citizens having ever taken a cruise, there is an enormous untapped market left to conquer. The industry has seen 2100% growth since the 1970s, but that’s still only the tip of the iceberg.

A record 27 new ships are set to debut in 2018. Along with new ships comes a fierce competition to “out design,” “out tech,” and “out class” the competition.

But being out on the ocean creates its own set of challenges when it comes to accessing technology, which has put cruise ships behind land-based attractions in terms of digital attractions. Recently, however, cruise lines have dedicated more resources to increasing the connectedness of their vessels.

As connectedness improves, suddenly the sky is the limit for competing with inland resorts.

Key Industry Trends

Here are a few near term trends that will set the stage for longer-range ideas to take root.

  • Pushing the Envelope Experiences. Island hopping is so yesterday. Next generation cruisers will be looking for that unique one-of-a-kind experience to tell their friends about. Whether its underwater caving, or playing with swarmbots, or eating dinner made from glowing energy balls, or sleeping on touchless airbeds, future tech is where our next-gen cruisers live.
  • Multigenerational cruising is projected to increase in popularity in 2018 and beyond – but with a twist. More grandparents and grandchildren will travel together, but without the parents.
  • Health and wellness cruises are on the rise. Travelers are seeking health and wellness experiences for the mind and body. Today’s cruise travelers can participate in on-board health wellness seminars led by popular health experts, custom fitness programs, stress management and spa services.
  • From ‘Braincations’ to Working Vacations. Future cruises will span the spectrum from super connected to the super unconnected with some going so far as to billing themselves as “interventionist retreats” with 12 step programs to help cure those suffering from severe online addiction.
  • No longer warm weather only cruises as colder climate destinations like the Baltics, Canada, Alaska, and Antarctica are becoming more appealing. With unusual excursions ranging from penguin watching to ice fishing, these regions are drawing both new and repeat cruise travelers.
  • A cruise for any budget. Even though the average age of today’s cruise passenger is over 50 years old with a median household income of $109,000, a recent survey showed 33% of those who took a cruise within the past 3 years have a household income of under $80,000.
  • Ocean cruises add more capacity than river cruises. As the industry grows, cruise lines will invest more heavily in ocean-going vessels which attract younger generations. In the next nine years, investment into riverboats is expected to fall to nearly zero.
  • Increase in Smart Travel Technology – The coming year will see a rise in traveller-friendly on-board technologies. Several cruise lines are introducing wearable technology for cruise guests that will provide a personalized and seamless experience on board.
Billed as the world’s “greenest” cruise ship with 10 retractable solar-paneled sails and retractable wind generators, the Ecoship will launch in 2020

Six things that will disappear on ships in the future

As new things get added to ship, many older features will disappear.

1.    Cruise cards – Will be replaced by Bluetooth bands, smartphone scans, and facial recognition

2.    Using cash – Already nearly gone

3.    Gambling – With the rise of artificial intelligence, gambling, in it’s current form, will not survive.

4.    Massage showerheads – Next generation showerheads will be far cooler

5.    Paper receipts – Enormous waste of time and materials

6.    Human bartenders – The robots are coming

59 things you’ll be able to do on future cruise ships that you can’t do today

Increased use of Biometrics – Facial Recognition

1.    Biometric check-in process

2.    Biometric door locks – that recognize your face

3.    Biometric purchases – digital identity

4.    Biometric health scans

Expanding use of Drones

5.    Onboard drone airport – For drones ranging from supply delivery, to passenger delivery, to entertainment drones

6.    Drone boarding – For elite guests, passengers will skip the boarding process entirely and be flown directly onto the ship. Eventually this will happen even when ships are at sea

7.    Drone docks on balconies – For food deliveries, laundry, flower delivery

8.    Drone ambulances

9.    Drone taxis with multiple landing pads

10. Drone firework launches

11. Laser drone skeet shooting

12. Video/photo drone rentals to capture excursion experiences

Mixed Reality

Over time, terms like virtual reality and augmented reality will disappear. Mixed reality is the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time.

13. Mixed Reality behind-the-scenes tours of the galley, bridge, and engine room

14. Mixed Reality movies

15. Mixed Reality video games

16. Mixed Reality 3D art training

17. Mixed Reality classes

18. Mixed Reality therapy

19. Mixed Reality speed dating

20. Mixed Reality preview of future cruises

Internet of Things

21. Sensor-laced interactive clothing

22. Smart swimsuits – To let you know if you’re getting too much sun

23. Smart beds – Creating perfect rhythms to sleep by

24. Immersive sleep capsules

Royal Caribbean’s robot bartenders can produce two drinks per minute and can make up to 1,000 each day

Artificial Intelligence

25. AI menu-chef coordination at restaurants

26. AI sleep-optimizers will control all of the environmental factors – heat, light, sound, oxygen levels, smells, positioning, vibration levels, and more.

27. AI selection of movies and television shows based on moods, ratings, and personal preferences

28. AI music selection will be based on moods, ratings, and musical tastes


29. Pay with cryptocurrencies

30. Cryptocurrency ATMs

31. Cryptocurrency Loans

32. Cryptocurrency Safes – Digital vaults for your digital money


33. Prototyping classes

34. 3D modeling software classes

35. Make your own jewelry

36. Make your own pottery

37. Make your own purses

38. Make your own IoT devices

39. Create your own music/audio studios

40. Create your own video studios

3D Printing

41. Full body scans for 3D printing

42. 3D printed makeup for women. Just insert a person’s face and the machine will be programmed to apply the exact makeup pattern requested by the user

43. Hyper-personalized precision-based pharmaceuticals produced by 3D pill printers

44. Scan and 3D print your own custom designed clothing

45. Scan and 3D print your own custom designed shoes

46. Shapies – 3D printed sculptures of you and your family

47. Expectant mothers can 3D printed models of their unborn baby

48. Trash can be sorted, cleaned, and turned into material that can be 3D printed


49. Cellphone to cellphone communications

50. Robotic chef food preparation

51. Auto-swinging hammocks

52. Telepresence rooms

53. Beer yoga (yes it’s a thing… sort of)

54. AI scrapbooking to give you a personal record of your trip

55. Order products on Amazon and have them delivered to the ship

56. Cannabis cooking classes

57. Hatchet throwing competitions

58. Video game tournaments

59. Self-filling water bottles with built-in atmospheric water harvesters.

The Seasteading floating city will launch in 2020

The coming floating island culture

One possible game changer for the cruise industry will be floating islands.

Started in 2008 as a libertarian approach to opting out of traditional governance, the Seasteading Institute is targeting 2020 as the launch date for a floating city off French Polynesia, where it hopes to use a “start-up” ethos to eventually create a climate-friendly, small-government alternative to land-based nations.

Working with the French Polynesian government, it will begin construction on the first of 15 floating platforms. The domed, greenery-filled platforms will each be roughly the size of a baseball diamond, and can be rearranged to connect to different points on the floating city’s framework.

The first “city” is expected to house approximately 300 people, but the ultimate goal is to bring in people from various countries to found new, ocean-based nations.

While the launching of island nations is on the other end of the spectrum of today’s luxury cruise industry, there will be an obvious meeting of the minds as floating city technology matures.

With plans to add a variety of resort features including underwater restaurants and aquarium bedrooms with glass wall, the traditional cruise industry will be paying close attention.

What new features would you find most appealing?

Final Thoughts

Modern cruising is a relatively new industry with most of the modern ship designs starting in the 1970s.

Look for cruise ports to become a country vs. country status symbol as economic development groups offer incentives for cruise lines to offer more routes that include their city.

As the average age of passengers drop and cruise lines attract more working executives, companies will view these ships as a fresh channel for introducing new products. Whether its food products, household gadgets, internet of things devices, software, hardware, or something else, people are continually fascinated by cutting edge products. This will open the doors for sponsorship arrangements with companies who otherwise have little connection to the cruise industry.

In addition to being a floating resort, next generation cruise ships will operate as a working laboratory for companies to research the ultimate cruise experience for every one of their passengers.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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Five tipping points that show why our current banking system is doomed https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/five-tipping-points-that-show-why-our-current-banking-system-is-doomed/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/job-opportunities/five-tipping-points-that-show-why-our-current-banking-system-is-doomed/#respond Tue, 05 Dec 2017 21:25:07 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=8578

When is the last time you set foot into a bank?

While many of us have a love-hate relationship with our bank, where we love the people but hate the fees, we still tend to go there.

According to a recent survey by Fiserv of 3,000 bank users, over the past 30 days, more than 80% said they logged into their bank’s website an average of 11 times. But 61% said they had also visited their bank during the same timeframe.

Normally we would think that they made the trip to do something they couldn’t online, but that would be wrong. According to their research 53% of customers prefer online banking, but 44% still like to go there in person.

As an industry, banks have studied their customers from thousands of different angles to determine if there are any cracks in their thinking. They all intuitively know that banking industry is in the second half of the bell curve, but so far haven’t spotted the fault lines they all know are coming.

As example, FMSI is an organization that studies bank visits and concluded that the average number of teller transactions have declined more than 45% in the past 20 years. Over the past ten years, teller-transaction volume per hour at banks has dropped over 32%, from 7.1 to 4.8.

In 2007, the average cost per-transaction was 85¢, but has risen to over $1.08, an increase of more than 25%.

Banks also know that when they close a branch, 40% of their customers will switch to a new financial institution and the number of new small business loans drops by 13%. In low-income neighborhoods, lending activity shrinks by 40%.

According to Accenture, 40% of millennials would consider banking without a branch. Ironically, Gen-Z, those between ages 18-21, use their branch bank more regularly than any other groups, with 25% visiting at least once a week.

So what are the telltale signs that branch banks will follow the path of Kodak? Here are some of the major tipping points looming in the near future.

Will cash still be an option in the future?

Five Critical Tipping Points for Banks

Since the financial crisis in 2007, banks have closed over 10,000 branches, an average of three a day. In the first half of 2017 alone, a net 869 brick-and-mortar entities shut their doors.

Over the next couple years, bank closures will accelerate to 10-15 per day or 3,000-5,000 per year. Here are some of the primary reasons.

1.) By 2025 the largest banks will be tech companies

Many in the tech world still blame the banking industry for the 2007 recession, even though many techies were also involved.

One-click ordering from Amazon, tracking deliveries on Etsy, auto-populating information on Google Chrome, stored account information on Uber, and other innovations have changed our understanding about what is possible and what is expected in ecommerce. With tech and retail sites setting new standards, customers increasingly expect interactions with their banks to be easy, fast, transparent, and done on their own terms.

Even in the past 6-12 month our expectations have changed dramatically, with frustration rearing its ugly head when things are not as easy as we expect.

These demands and other competitive factors are pushing banks inexorably toward a new model. By 2025, leading banks will be operating as digital financial superstores that blur the line between technology companies and banks. All these developments have left banks in a tough spot.

Bank failures have created an opening for nonbank lenders and fintech providers to leverage cutting-edge technology and their largely unregulated status to deliver the type of service and experience consumers have come to expect from the best Internet and mobile sites.

Even as large banks attempt to reassert themselves in a digital age, they face competition from new market entrants eager to apply far-reaching networks, artificial intelligence, cloud-computing platforms and other tech advantages to the world of banking.

2.) Banking deserts are forcing rapid adaptation

In June 2017 the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank estimated there were over 1,100 banking deserts in America, defined as a census areas at least ten miles from a bank. That number could easily double if small community banks continue to close.

This situation may seem more dire than it actually is since banking deserts still only represent 1.7% of the population. For most of the country, banks are still within easy reach, typically just two miles away. Nine out of ten Americans live within five miles of a bank. Half live within one mile.

That said, the U.S. is one of the heaviest banked nations in the world with 32 branches for every 100,000 adults, far more than countries such as Germany and The Netherlands.

However, as banking deserts grow, so will the tools for interacting with a financial institution from a distance. Many fintech companies view this as an opening, the perfect proving ground for their latest offering.

Next generation ATMs will be a tipping point for the banking industry

3.) Live human-robot ATMs

Bank tellers will be the telegraph operators of 21st century when we look back in 100 years.

The largest banks in the US have been investing millions in updating the capabilities and physical appearances of thousands of ATMs, an invention that turned 50 earlier this year.

As ATM capabilities grow, customers at bank branches will spend more time interacting with machines for their day-to-day needs, while bank personnel will move from behind the counter and focus more on complex transactions such as coordinating loans for homes or small businesses.

The next wave of ATMs with larger, digitally enabled screens akin to tablets will offer almost all of the services human tellers now provide as well as new capabilities like setting up cash withdrawals on your phone that you can be easily completed at a nearby ATM.

ATMs are already outfitted with more flexible denominations — $1, $5, and $10 bills instead of only $20 bill — and introduced cardless transactions, wherein customers can log in more securely just with their phone.

Very soon, having a remote conversation on an ATM with a live loan officer or bank executive to handle more complicated banking matters will make hanging on to most existing bank properties superfluous.

4.) The law of accelerating tipping points

Overall, customers interact with their banks an average of 17 times a month. Yet only two of those interactions involve human contact. In the U.S. only two out of 15 monthly bank dealings involve going to a branch.

JPMorgan Chase, which operates a network of more than 16,300 ATMs and 5,300 branches across the U.S., saw its teller transactions fall by 25% from 2014 to 2016.

In 2013, an Accenture survey found that 48% of Americans would switch banks if their current bank branch closed. In last year’s survey, that share shrank to just 19%.

Visiting a bank has increasingly become a long tail activity. Virtually every branch manager can describe a customer interaction that is impossible to cope with over a phone or online. But these edge cases are proving to be less of a compelling argument as online capabilities improve and attitudes change.

5.) Cryptocurrencies are paving the way for circumventionist thinking

If you’ve ever had a conversation with your bank about handling fractional cent micropayments, coming from a rapidly scaling online business where the transaction volume can approach hundreds of million per hour, you’ll quickly understand how ill-equipped today’s banking industry is in dealing with next generation business models.

Even though today’s cryptocurrency industry is deeply flawed, it has a way of pointing a glaring spotlight on the structural limitations buried in our existing bank infrastructure.

On one hand, stealing bitcoins is the perfect crime. No one has ever been convicted of stealing bitcoin and there are no bitcoin-cops or bitcoin-justice systems. A lost bitcoin is not recoverable.

However, national currencies are becoming increasingly dysfunctional. It’s no longer possible to use cash for many transactions like purchasing airline tickets, hotel rooms, or rental cars.

The idea of using a personal signature to secure a payment by check is fairly preposterous with our ability to use phones to copy and replicate nearly everything.

Massive data breeches have become a daily activity with headlines about Equifax, Chipotle, Gmail, Arby’s, Verizon, Yahoo, and Uber showing us how vulnerable we’ve become as a digital society.

With no perfect solutions to point to, we are left with a heavily regulated and rapidly decaying banking system whose days are clearly numbered and a fledgling and faceless cryptocurrency industry trying to usurp the power and authority of today’s banking elite.

Is coexistence even an option?

Final Thoughts

Yes, we will still have banks for many years to come, but I have yet to come up with a compelling reason why we need so many branches and tellers.

If JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup were all to close their branches tomorrow, what effect would that have on the financial health of the nation?

Besides the obvious loss of jobs and vacant real estate, how will this change the way business is done?

39% of bank customers like the idea of going bank-less, but that still leaves many who don’t.

With easy-to-use smartphones to manage most transactions and clickless payment systems like Uber, Lyft, and the Bodega vending machine, our need to interact with bank personnel is fading.

Bank closures are about to shift from linear to exponential, and to some this will be disconcerting. But in this transition we will find countless opportunities for new business and industry, and by 2030 we’ll be wondering why we ever needed them in the first place.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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