Futurist Speaker Thomas Frey https://www.futuristspeaker.com Futurist Speaker Thomas Frey Wed, 15 Aug 2018 16:57:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 11 critical skills for the future that aren’t taught in school https://www.futuristspeaker.com/uncategorized/11-critical-skills-for-the-future-that-arent-taught-in-school/ Thu, 26 Jul 2018 15:03:59 +0000 https://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=11637 A few weeks ago a person who I hadn’t met before asked me what my superpower was. As an icebreaker at a networking event, this is a great question to get to know someone. However, since I had never been asked this question before, I must admit, I was caught a bit flatfooted.

Your superpower is the thing you do best, the role that you were put on this Earth to fill. If you don’t have one, it’s something you should focus your attention on. Tapping into it will not only help you personally, but also everyone around you.

No, we aren’t exactly born with superpowers we build them over time. Every company has people who are proficient in what they do, and their proficiency comes from the time, talent, and effort they’ve dedicated to it.

If you’re like most people, your job description has evolved over the past five years. For many, their role today didn’t even exist a short time ago. The workplace of tomorrow will indeed look quite different.

At the same time, our evolving workplace is creating a skills divide. Some jobs require software skills tied to cybersecurity. Others require pattern-matching skills tied to system-related problem solving skills. And still others demand great people skills coupled with a deep understanding of HR law.

We have a large number of jobs that require relatively high-level skills, and many of those jobs will become obsolete in the future as individual tasks are being automated out of existence.

At the same time, every new tool will require a full compliment of updated skills, training, support, sales, and more.

Emerging high tech jobs continue to challenge the status quo because of the steeper-than-normal learning curve. While most employees haven’t been paying attention to the evolving workplace, the half-life of their skills is growing shorter, causing the overall value of their superpower to diminish over time.

With that in mind, here are a few hard-to-teach skills and superpowers that will keep you employable for many decades to come.

Unleashing the freelancer in you

1.) Gig Management – Managing the “Business of You”

We’re moving quickly into a freelance economy and ironically no traditional schools have felt it to be a skillset important enough to add to their curriculum.

Rather than serving at the mercy of a single company that rarely has your best interest in mind, freelancers have the ability to migrate towards better opportunities, renegotiate salaries, and form both competing and complementary work relationships with businesses and organizations around the world.

That said, it’s not easy to become a highly sought-after freelancer as it requires talent in many areas. Networking, tracking down potential gigs, writing proposals, forming contracts, managing the accounting, sales, scheduling, and project management are all part of the rigorous lifestyle that comes with the territory. But, in the end, skilled freelancers have the ability to control their own destiny, something most workers can only dream of.

Note: Over the coming years there will be a number of reports that say the gig economy is not happening, but those will be very misleading. Freelancers that earn enough money will naturally incorporate for tax purposes, masking the true nature of their operation. Any W2 freelancer, when surveyed, will come across as a traditional worker, even though their behind-the-scenes operation says something totally different.

Gig management will be a career-defining talent and massively important skill for the future.

2.) Distraction Management 

We live in the most distracted society in all history. In a recent Pew study, 45% of the teens surveyed said they use the Internet “almost constantly.” Another 44% said they go online several times every day.

70% of today’s workers keep their smartphone “within eye contact” at work, and over 50% of people check their phone if they wake up during the night.

The average smartphone user checks their phone over 220 times a day. During peak times this jumps up to once every six or seven seconds. Total addicts will actually jack-in over 900 times in a day and several reports have revealed incidents where young drama-junkies have been hospitalized from exhaustion because “fear of missing out” caused them to stop sleeping altogether.

Since office workers typically take around 25 minutes to recover from interruptions before returning to their original task, it becomes a far greater challenge for people to make meaningful accomplishments.

Further complicating the situation, a 2015 study showed that distractions have a way of causing even more distractions. Workers who get interrupted by text messages are significantly more likely to ‘self-interrupt’ – allowing their attention to ricochet from thought to thought while losing their ability to fully concentrate on any one thing.

One recent study showed 53% of people would rather give up their sense of smell than their smartphone. One in three would give up sex before their phone.

But let’s not forget TV time. During peak hours, over 70% of the bandwidth for the Internet is dedicated to video streaming with Netflix and YouTube sucking up over 62% of the entire bandwidth in North America.

The average American spends over 5.5 hours a day consuming some form of video content.

So after all of that, how much time do you really have left for your job, your family and friends, and actually experiencing the world around you? Sadly, it’s only going to get worse.

For these reasons, distraction management will be one of the most critical skills for successful people to master in the future.

3.) Relationship Management

Our work, social, and family life is all formed around relationships.

The only way the human race will survive is by people forming relationships and having children. Yet there are powerfully few schools that do a good job teaching this subject even though there’s been over a million books written on the topic.

Social media relationships, something that never even existed 20 years ago, now consumes the vast majority of our relationship-building time. And our expectations from a “good” relationship has vastly changed over the past two decades.

Digital connection services have done more than just change how we find the perfect romance, they’ve changed how we network, form business deals, and make a sale. Keep in mind, it wasn’t all that long ago when most relationships began with a smile and a handshake, rather than a click or a swipe.

In the 1990s, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar claimed that the number of people you can manage strong relationships with was around 150. This became known as the Dunbar Number. However, social media has somewhat blurred his entire theory.

In spite of our ability to loosely connect with thousands, even millions online, new research from Dunbar concludes we’re only able to maintain a small number, at most five, close friendships at one time.

People who understand the constantly morphing values and techniques for building and managing relationships will be a hot commodity in the future.

How relevant are your skills?

4.) Relevancy Management

How relevant are you today? What are the talent and skills that will make and keep you relevant in your profession, company, work team, and among your peers?

Relevancy goes far deeper than your work history and current credentials. Relevancy is all about your willingness to change and adapt. People who are resilient, flexible, and resourceful are much more valuable than even the best technicians today.

  • What is that unique or special contribution that you bring to the table?
  • What is the thing that separates you from all others in the company?
  • What are you known for, and is that what people want?
  • Do you have a special talent for dealing with people?
  • Are you forward thinking with an overall sense of what the future holds?
  • Are you decisive, able to make the tough calls when others tend to hesitate?
  • Do you have the ability to make sense out of even the most complex situations?
  • When presented with new tools, systems, processes, or management, how quickly are you able to adapt?

Managing relevancy is unique talent with very few current guidelines, but those who instinctively have it will know how and when to adapt.

5.) Managing Your Awareness

How do you stay up to date on the latest information? Who are the thought leaders in your area of expertise and how do you stay current on their work?

The Internet is a massively complex tool that can be channeled to improve your awareness of virtually any topic.

While the average American is consuming information 12 hours and 7 minutes every day, how much of what you consume is truly germane to your area of expertise?

We now have thousands of possible information channels for even the most micro-niche areas of interest and those who manage to carve out the right combination of newsfeeds will find themselves in driver seat of their own career path.

6.) Managing Your Tribe (Fan Club Management)

Going beyond personal relationships is the tribes we associate with. I like to frame this thinking around the idea of fan clubs.

Everyone has people that care about them, their own personal fan club. Our ability to grow, study, and interact with these people is a powerful tool that can be leveraged in many ways.

Each new connection intensifies the network effect, adding to our overall value as an individual. Over time, the value of our personal network in tomorrow’s hyper-connected world will become far more quantifiable, and by extension, more valuable than any formulas we use to measure influence today.

It’s rare that people become famous without effort. It typically requires effort, usually sustained effort over a long period of time. Managing a personal fan club is all part of the work that prepares people to climb their own ladder of success, and our ability to master the tools for managing our own fan club will largely determine where we end up in life.

7.) Managing our Digital Toolbox

It’s much more than just knowing the tools and how to use them, it’s about knowing which tool to use in which situation.

Our choice of technology defines who we are and our ability to function in an increasingly technology-dependent world.

The very first Apple iPhone entered the world in 2007. Since then, new tools have been appearing on a daily basis. So what should we be paying attention to, and what can we dismiss?

With sensors becoming a ubiquitous part of everyday living we will soon be wearing smart shoes, sleeping on smart pillows, eating smart food, with smart spoons, while watching our children play with their smart toys.

Very soon we will be downloading apps for our drones, our smart houses, our pets, our cars, our clothes, and even our imaginary friends.

Our relationship with our personal technology will continue to be an ongoing challenge and improving skills in this area will give us a distinct advantage.

8.) Personal Brand Management

A personal brand is really another way of describing your reputational portfolio.

Being successful means setting yourself apart, and you’ll need a personal brand that defines who you are and who you want to become. That involves building a reputation, trust, and a following. The impression you project about yourself is crucial for finding the best workplace culture fit and for inspiring confidence in your coworkers, clients, and managers

Working with a team of mentors, advisors, or trusted friends, start by auditing your online footprint. This will include all images, posts, videos, connections and correspondence. Since a personal brand is all about what others think, it’s critical to assess how others are interpreting your brand.

Your goal is to ensure your image comes across as professional, polished, and appropriate, both now or in the future.

Mastering this skill is not a one-and-done activity. Your personal brand will need to be tweaked and managed on an ongoing basis.

9.) Communication Management 

In the book “The Female Brain,” author Louann Brizendine stated that women use 20,000 words per day while men only use 7,000. However, that wasn’t true. There was no study that actually showed those results.

Since then, one study showed that women speak 16,215 words per day on average and men 15,669 words per day. Statistically there’s no difference between genders, but people who speak more generally have an advantage over those with less practice.

Communication is an essential ingredient in all of our lives, but too much or too little can have devastating effects.

With life happening at a far greater pace and new communication channels springing to life in games, social media, and smartphone apps, people often stress over not keeping up with their friends and family. And when they turn things off, they suffer even greater anxiety over feeling left out.

Finding effective ways of managing our communication channels is a critical skill to master in the future.

10.) Privacy Management 

What exactly does privacy mean?

Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal that forced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before congress, privacy has become a hot topic in the online world.

Privacy and transparency live on opposite ends of the information spectrum, but they’re both part of the huge ethical issue that falls under the banner of privacy.

Drone privacy is different than social media privacy, which is different than online retailer privacy, Internet of Things privacy, big data privacy, email privacy, and snooping-around-in-my-business privacy.

The landmark EU court decision granting the “right to be forgotten” has been replaced by a more manageable “right of erasure” in 2014. This ruling has been one of the foundational privacy rights granted by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

In practice, the “right to be forgotten” was always more about the “right to be favorably remembered.” People don’t like being the subject of a smear campaign and naturally want some control over having it removed.

For this reason, GDPR is becoming an important part of managing our lives.

People can often derive significant benefits from sharing their personal details as they take advantage of relevant and useful services online. However, once collected, businesses often exploit and monetize personal information, leaving people exposed and placing their information in predatory danger.

Yes, protecting and enforcing privacy is an added burden for business, but a lack of privacy creates risk for users and reduces trust. Trust plays a key role in virtually every form of innovation.

Understanding both sides of this equation will be a critical skill for future generations. Your value as an employee will rise dramatically by having a nuanced understanding of GDPR and the overall ramifications of personal privacy.

11.) Modern Time Management 

The most precious commodity in everyone’s life is still time. You can ponder it, over-schedule it, spend it with others, account for every second of it, make others account for it, squander it, or simply act as if it doesn’t exist. But so far we’ve not found a way to stretch it, reverse it, or buy extra bags full of it when we run out.

Time management systems of the past will continue to morph, shift, and change to accommodate lifestyles and business demands of the future.

Every item on the list above boils down to creating efficiencies, and we can’t possibly create these efficiencies without finding better ways to manage our time.

Final Thoughts

Yes, the key word in this list is “management.” It will be up to us to manage every aspect of our increasingly complicated lives.
Is eleven the right number? This was not intended to be an all-inclusive list of skills for tomorrow. Over time, many more will be needed.

My goal was to draw attention to some of the most critical ones, the ones that currently seem to be overlooked today.

But I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Let me know what I’m missing and where I may be off base. The ideas of the many are almost always greater than the ideas of the few.

By Futurist Thomas Frey
Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future

Insights On The Future Of Banking https://www.futuristspeaker.com/economics/keynote-speaker-future-of-banking/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/economics/keynote-speaker-future-of-banking/#respond Thu, 05 Jul 2018 21:02:03 +0000 https://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=11472

Is our current banking system doomed?

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 the 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 an 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? Even as a keynote speaker specializing in the future of banking, it’s hard to say. However, to learn more about the future of banking and what that looks like, here are some of the major tipping points looming in the near future — all part of my future of banking keynote speaker insight.

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 of 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 months, 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 an area 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.

3.) Live human-robot ATMs

Bank tellers will be the telegraph operators of the 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 breaches 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.

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 the buildings.

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 would 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.

To learn more about the future of banking and get me to come to speak about it, contact future of banking keynote speaker Thomas Frey.

By Futurist Thomas Frey
Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions for Transforming Your Future”

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The Mannequin Vs. Model Showdown is Coming https://www.futuristspeaker.com/uncategorized/the-mannequin-vs-model-showdown-is-coming/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/uncategorized/the-mannequin-vs-model-showdown-is-coming/#respond Tue, 05 Jun 2018 23:36:08 +0000 https://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=11357 “If it weren’t for their glowing eyes, I would have sworn they were live fashion models dancing in the store window.”

How long before we can’t tell them apart from humans?

Moving smoothly to match the music playing in the background, each of the seven perfectly proportioned mannequins swayed to a carefully choreographed set of moves designed to draw attention to the clothes they were wearing.

The eerie feeling that they were watching me as much as I was watching them was not a mistake. They were indeed looking at me.

In fact, each move was being used to carefully assess my reaction on a millisecond by millisecond basis, morphing body proportions, adding and lowering height, making nipples more or less visible, altering the hue of eye shadow, and transforming the smile from pouty disinterest to happy engagement with mesmerizing precision.

When I caught myself drooling I knew that they had touched a nerve. As seconds turned into minutes, I realized that each of the mannequins were competing for my attention.

Being a guy who always hated being asked to go dress shopping, and even offering to take a beating rather than have to experience anything like that ever again, I was quickly changing my mind.

Obviously they knew I wasn’t going to buy woman’s clothing, but the longer my gaze was held by theirs, I wasn’t so sure.

It was only around the 18-minute mark that I realized a large crowd had gathered next to me. The mannequins hadn’t managed to convert me from casual observer to active buyer so they were now working on other people in the crowd.

With women, it was amazing to watch how the mannequins morphed into an almost exact replica of the person looking at them. But it was a better version of them, something they would aspire to become.

Almost on queue the mannequin would flash a knowing blink and ladies, in what could best be described as a hypnotic-like trance, would reach for their phone, click on the “purchase” button, feel absolutely nothing as they had their body scanned, and leave knowing full well that a perfect fitting outfit would arrive at their home within an hour or so.

No longer the passive ornaments used in today’s retail stores that merchandizing experts hope, at best, to garner an occasional fleeting glance, these mannequins were destined to serve as stand alone sales agents, never requiring a coffee break, sales commission, health insurance, or even an encouraging thank you.

Welcome to the world of interactive mannequins, the life-sized body models endowed with ample enough technology to make even the nerdiest of nerds stand up and pay attention.

“Mannequinology” – The Early Years

Initially designed to support the arts, mannequins have been an integral part of human culture for centuries. However, the path of stationary mannequins has been on a collision path with other forms of tech like animatronics and robotics for a long time.

Animatronics had its roots as far back as 1515 when Leonardo da Vinci designed and built the Automata Lion to impress the King of France. Over the centuries that followed, a number of ingenious self-operating devices, or automata, were built paving the way for such notable advances as Sparko, The Robot Dog, featured at the 1939 New York World’s Fair and the Enchanted Tiki Birds first making their appearance at Disneyland in 1963.

Animatronics paved the way for Honda and their teams developing humanoid robots in the 80s. In 2000 Honda introduced ASIMO, a cute little walking talking robot-person that raised the bar significantly, and gave us a whole new understanding of what machines were capable of.

Since then, humanoid robots have become an integral part of our culture, appearing in newscasts, television shows, and movies on a daily basis. It is no longer uncommon to see a robot giving a TED talk, a TV interviewer asking a robot about its work life, or having robot dancers taking center stage at the Consumer Electronics Show.

But until recently, mannequins have remained little more than a plastic or wood stand-in for the human body. Commonly used by artists, tailors, and dressmakers, most of us think of them as little more than ornamental figures used to display the latest fashions.

The 2013 Jean Paul Gaultier Exhibit

In late 2013, French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier unveiled a stunning exhibit at The Brooklyn Museum in New York City. Working with 30 animated mannequins manufactured by Mannequins Jolicoeur International, Quebec, the figurines came to life, with some laughing, winking, smiling, whistling, and even speaking. It was all done in such a realistic way that it made visitors do an instant double-take.

The animation effects were accomplished by a high-tech, high-definition audiovisual system that projected facial images on to the mannequins.

In addition to the animated mannequins, the exhibit also featured another 110 ground-breaking mannequins that used unusual color finishes to create skin tones that corresponded with the diverse ethnicities that Gaultier hoped to portray.

Even though this exhibit dramatically raised the level of realism for modern day mannequins, the true potential for this technology will be unleashed over the coming years with the Internet of Things.

The Internet of Things Goes Full Mannequin

So how do today’s lifeless pieces of plastic end up evolving into full animatronic fashion models that spend more time watching us than we spend watching them?

Mannequins will soon become part of the tech industry, closely integrating advances in machine intelligence, stationary robotics, sensor technology, facial prosthetics, and 3D printing for everything from teeth, to nails, to realistic looking skin.

Most of the advancements in “mannequinology” will inch forward one Internet-of-Things device at a time, but the real magic will occur later when all of the pieces are assembled and synced together like a symphony of moving, sensing, twisting, reacting pieces all working in concert around one central objective.

Are they real or are they mannequins?

The Great Mannequin Vs. Fashion Model Showdown

With inflating, deflating muscles, perfectly timed eye movements that create broad smiles as they pierce your consciousness, and morphing styles and fashions that have an amazing way of flowing perfectly with every body contour, the real trial will come when a staged test will determine whether or not these mannequins can outsell an equivalent team of live fashion models in the world’s major fashion centers of Paris, New York, London, Barcelona, Rome, Berlin, Sydney, Los Angeles, Antwerp, and Shanghai.

Much like IBM’s Watson computer pairing off against Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter in 2011, the “Mannequin Vs. Model” showdown will inevitably end with machines stealing the show.

Fashion models living in human bodies with human limitations will have little hope of competing with the chameleon-like color-changing, shape-shifting features of future machines with full sensory capability of reading someone’s emotions with 100% accuracy.

At the same time, even though they can closely replicate human appearance, it will be a long time before they have the ability to simulate the warm and caring nature of genuine people.

Final Thoughts

For many, the idea of having fashion models, that many of us regard as the ultimate form of personal beauty, lose in a one-on-one battle with synthetic humans is a rather depressing thought.

This notion that lowly machines, made of gears, motors, and switches can evolve into lifelike forms that can out-flirt, out-fox, and out-finesse even the sexiest among us is both confusing, depressing, and troubling all at the same time.

But before you resign yourself to this new state of depression, keep in mind that machine perfection like this will only exist if humans create it, manage it, and repair it when it breaks down. And it will always eventually break down.

It will also enable people to aspire to a higher calling. Rather than living the life of human works-of-art, this may be nature’s way of pushing us for more – more wisdom, more compassion, more of what it means to be human.

I would invite you to weigh in on this line of thinking. Will we be having a showdown between fashion models and humanoid mannequins anytime soon? Will people still remain in control, or will some form of machine intelligence create an entirely new set of problems for us. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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Mini Airports: Coming to a city near you https://www.futuristspeaker.com/uncategorized/mini-airports-coming-to-a-city-near-you/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/uncategorized/mini-airports-coming-to-a-city-near-you/#respond Wed, 09 May 2018 14:30:08 +0000 https://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=11333 As a futurist, I often get questions about flying cars. Well, the bad news is that we will never actually get to the flying car era that many have imagined, but flying drone taxis are similar and will prove to be far better. And the best part is they’re right around the corner.

When flying drones started entering our consciousness a few years ago, a number of drone pioneers focused their attention on vehicles big enough to transport people.

Today, following the maiden voyage of the first Volocopter drone taxi flight September 2017 in Dubai, several companies have announced their intentions to compete in the soon-to-emerge drone taxi industry.

No one disagrees with the vast number of problems that will need to be solved before it becomes a staple of our transportation mix, yet the overwhelming allure of this prospect has attracted a growing number of our best and brightest seeking to make a name for themselves in an industry where the sky is literally the limit.

In just a few years air taxis will be common in most major cities and along with them will come a new kind of infrastructure – mini airports.

During the first stage of development, planners and entrepreneurs will carve out first-generation landing pads around cities. These will most likely be small sections of existing parking lots.

As traffic grows, and the number of landing and departures grows from tens to hundreds a day, single landing pads will grow into multiple pads with waiting areas.

Over time, crude landing areas will evolve into sophisticated terminals for managing passengers as well as the street-level and air traffic surrounding each of these mini airports.

The speed of this evolution will largely depend on pricing. With private planes still costing many times the cost of a first class ticket, it’s never broken into mainstream consciousness. If flying drones can somehow be lowered to 2-3 times an Uber drive across town, it will grow quickly.

Will mini airports first appear on rooftops or in parking lots?

Launching the industry

Creating an entirely new industry like this requires a special breed of risk-taking entrepreneurs that know how to simultaneously raise money, design equipment, hire talent, deal with IP and legal matters, balance PR and publicity stunts, and tiptoe through a minefield of ten thousand decision points, where one wrong move could permanently torpedo their business.

Leading the charge are eight companies that include VolocopterBoeing-AuroraAirbus VahanaeHangKitty HawkLiliumUrban Aeronautics, and Joby.

Uber is also talking about being in the air taxi business, but they will not be developing their own equipment.

Even though Volocopter got tons of publicity in September 2017, the first one to actually start offering commercial flights was eHang who started offering a limited number of passenger flights starting in February 2018 with their 62 mph eight-rotor drone. Even though their ingenious design already comes with some level of autonomy and remote control flying ability, it still lacks many of the safety features like parachutes and airbags that will likely be required in the future.

Offering a bit more speed, the German startup Lilium has constructed an EVTOL jet that flies at 180 miles per hour. It’s 36 electric “jet” (ducted fan) engines allow triple redundant power system design, and are particularly quiet compared to traditional rotors. They are also claiming an impressive one-hour flight range, capable of traversing even the most sprawling metro area.

Pricing and noise will be the two key issues surrounding the air taxi industry

Dispelling the front-of-my-house landing argument

Logically, most passengers would prefer to have a drone that can pick them up in front of their home or business, but there are several reasons why this level of convenience will be a far later development.

Any drone large enough to haul people will be noisy and require routine refueling, battery charging-changing, and maintenance. This will mean that landing-takeoff locations have supporting ground crew to manage both the passengers and the equipment.

Since cities are very wary of any situation where potential fatalities could take place, a number of safety measures will need to be put into place. These will include fire and security procedures as well as having paramedics close by to deal with any emergencies.

Landing areas will need to be well planned, free of such things as trees, tall poles, power lines, animals, and children. Severe weather conditions such as high winds, hail, rain, and snow will force the closure of these mini airports until the situation improves.

To be sure, cities will want to add additional mini airports as demand grows and having multiple suburban locations will make them far more convenient. The big unknown will be the number of privately owned commuter drones and the need for private hangar space.

It is likely that one or more of these companies will design fly-drive drones capable of picking up a passenger and driving them to the nearest mini airport and flying them to their final destination. In this situation, we will likely see more privately owned vehicles.

Fly-drive air taxis are already in development

Problems to overcome

As with most breakthrough technologies, this one comes with a rich problem set that will have to be wrestled to the ground. Here are a few of the issues, but by no mean is this a complete list:

1.) Noise – Electric drones will solve some of the engine noise problems, but the whirling blades still create enough sound to generate neighborhood complaints.

2.) Safety – Operating without pilots, these drones will have to incorporate a number of rapid compensation algorithms to literally correct problems on the fly. Will we still have a need for parachutes and airbags or can overall reliability be boosted to the point of making them unnecessary?

3.) Trust factor – Our relationship with machines inevitably starts with developing a level of comfort around safety and security. For many of us, our trust of flying drone taxis will stem from hearing our family and friends tell us about their experience.

4.) Autonomy – Flying a drone is far too complicated for the average person on the street, so air taxis have to become fully automated and mind-numbingly simple.

5.) Range, speed, and power – The first goal will be to design vehicles that can accommodate 90% of passenger needs. Convenience is the key, so price, range, and speed are all pieces of the complex equation for developing a minimum viable service offering.

6.) Visual aesthetics – Tiny electric drones become invisible even at a short distance. But noisy, banner-pulling, exhaust-spewing, and disturbingly snoopy drones will force a number of laws to be written for governing the use of drones.

7.) Wi-Fi everywhere – All autonomous vehicles, both cars and drones, need to talk to each other. Rapidly changing road and air conditions are critical variables. For this to happen, we will need a pervasive, reliable signaling system, with minimal latency, devoid of shadows and dropped signals.

8.) Devious people – While most people will find the drone era refreshingly easy and convenient, there are always a sinister few who will find ways to use them for nefarious purposes.

How much will mini airports add to the cost of an air taxi flight?

Final Thoughts

Interestingly enough, the chief competition for drone taxis will be driverless technology. It’ll be a race to see which one develops fastest.

The driverless world will take 2-3 decades to unfold as the combined driver-driverless transition period will be rather messy. But each year of progress will step us closer to an increasingly fluid transportation system.

During this time, the air taxi industry will improve both in speed, range, and sophistication.

Since both require the creation of entirely new systems, we’ll first have to develop a regulatory environment to insure we have safe and reliable systems.

However, every regulation has both a compliance cost as well as operational cost associated with it. But a totally unregulated environment, where failures are unpredictable, can also be expensive.

This is yet another area that city’s are woefully unprepared for. They will need to come up the learning curve quickly.

I, for one, can’t wait for my first air taxi ride. That will likely happen within the next two years.

By Futurist Thomas Frey

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

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20 common jobs in 2040 https://www.futuristspeaker.com/business/20-common-jobs-in-2040/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/business/20-common-jobs-in-2040/#respond Fri, 20 Apr 2018 03:22:14 +0000 https://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=10528 German industrial giant, Siemens, recently hosted an Innovation Day that I participated in at their Chicago design center to give thought leaders in the U.S. a first look at many of the cutting edge technologies they’re working on. The topics they covered ranged from autonomous vehicles, to drone taxis, electric aviation, digital twins, agripods, VR, robotics, microgrids, energy storage, AI-powered manufacturing, and the overall potential of a digitized value chain.

All of these topics, which have been at the top of my research list, offered tremendous insight in the world ahead. But more than insight into the technology, they give us a glimpse of what some of our jobs will be in the future.

If you walked into an average 1950s era household, you would see much that you would recognize, including home appliances, a TV and an automobile. On the other hand, if you had to live in a 1900′s era home, with no running water or electricity, you would struggle to survive.

Now we’re entering a new era of innovation that is likely to be far more impactful than the last wave of innovation. Much like the computer revolution was built on top of electricity, the new era will use computing to drive advancement in other fields, such as genomics, nanotechnology and robotics.

This new era has already begun. We are learning to both manipulate individual atoms and molecules as well as to work with massive amounts of data to create machines that can do jobs previously thought to be uniquely human. Still, much like our predecessors in 1918, we struggle to fully grasp what the impact will be.

Glossing over interim steps

Like most people, I have a habit of glossing over many of the interim steps necessary to make the engineering advances that seem obvious.

As example, the first experiments on driverless vehicles actually started in the 1920’s and researchers then envisioned that someday all cars would be able to drive themselves. But this leap in advancements has taken nearly 100 years so far, and we’re still not there.

Similarly, physicist Dennis Gabor first worked on the idea of holography and three-dimensional displays in 1947. While it has been easy to envision a lifelike 3D display, the engineering needed to create one has been far more complicated than first imagined. Seventy years later we still haven’t achieved it.

For these reasons it has been very easy to under-predict the time necessary for change to happen, and also easy to under-predict the full scope of the resulting impact.

Today, we find ourselves competing in a networked world where the key to competitive advantage is no longer the sum of all efficiencies, but the sum of all connections. Strategy, therefore, must be focused on widening and deepening linkages to access ecosystems of technology, talent, and information, and the talent piece of this equation should never be underestimated.

It’s become common to think that if a job disappears that it’s simply gone and nothing will fill the void. But that’s not true.

With all the headlines predicting jobs being automated out of existence, as robots and artificial intelligence take over our jobs, we begin imagining delusional timelines and unrealistic consequences for what lies ahead.

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

In the short to medium term, the main effect of automation will not necessarily be eliminating jobs, but redefining them.

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

Before we start a discussion of what the most common jobs will be, let’s take a quick look at the categorization problem.

Siemens electric aircraft demonstration at Innovation Day 2018. 

Most common jobs today

Defining jobs is a fuzzy art.

I spent quite a bit of time looking at the list of today’s most common jobs below, and found it very confusing. For example, many retail sales people also work as cashiers and many secretary/admin workers also do bookkeeping.

Additionally confusing, a registered nurse in an ER setting does vastly different work than one in home health, but they’re both RNs. Similarly, a patent attorney does vastly different work than a criminal defense attorney, yet they’re both lawyers.

At the same time many part-timers are working multiple gigs simultaneously – morning barista, janitor by day, and Uber in between.

Future jobs will have professions that bridge technology, but it will be the technology that is the primary job generator, not the profession.

Here are the top 50 most common jobs in the U.S. today.

  1. Retail salesperson – 4,155,190
  2. Cashiers – 3,354,170
  3. Office clerks – 2,789,590
  4. Combined food preparation and serving workers – 2,692,170
  5. Registered nurses – 2,601,336
  6. Waiters and waitresses – 2,244,480
  7. Customer service reps – 2,146,120
  8. Janitors and cleaners – 2,058,610
  9. Freight, stock, and hand material mover laborers – 2,024,180
  10. Secretaries and admin assistants – 1,841,020
  11. Stock clerks and order fillers – 1,795,970
  12. General and operation managers – 1,708,080
  13. Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks – 1,675,250
  14. Elementary school teachers – 1,485,600
  15. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers – 1,466,740
  16. Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants – 1,451,090
  17. Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives – 1,367,210
  18. First-line supervisors of office and administrative support workers – 1,359,950
  19. Teacher assistants – 1,249,380
  20. Bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists – 1,222,770
  21. Maintenance and repair workers – 1,217,820
  22. First-line supervisors of retail sales workers – 1,172,070
  23. Executive secretaries and executive administrative assistants – 1,132,070
  24. Accountants and auditors – 1,072,490
  25. Secondary school teachers – 1,053,140
  26. Security guards – 1,006,880
  27. Receptionists and information clerks – 997,080
  28. Business operations specialists – 993,980
  29. Home health aides – 982,840
  30. Team assemblers – 928,170
  31. Restaurant Cooks – 901,310
  32. Maids and housekeeping cleaners – 865,960
  33. Landscaping and groundskeeping workers – 829,350
  34. Food preparation workers – 802,650
  35. Light truck or delivery service drivers – 780,260
  36. Construction laborers – 777,700
  37. First-line supervisors of food preparation and serving workers – 773,400
  38. Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses – 730,290
  39. Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks – 687,850
  40. Personal care aides – 686,030
  41. Packers and packagers – 676,870
  42. Middle school teachers – 655,090
  43. Police and sheriff’s patrol officers – 644,300
  44. Carpenters – 620,410
  45. Childcare workers – 611,280
  46. Automotive service technicians and mechanics – 587,510
  47. Computer support specialists – 579,270
  48. Lawyers – 561,350
  49. Tellers – 556,310
  50. First-line supervisors of production and operating workers – 555,260
Tomorrow’s workforce will be driven by technology, not professions

20 common jobs of 2040

Once again, future jobs will have professions that bridge technology, but it will be the technology that is the primary job generator, not the profession.

For this reason, the following list of common jobs will be framed around common technologies like drones, robots, and blockchain as opposed to professional categorizations like nurse, teacher, or engineer.

Keep in mind we’re automating tasks out of existence, not entire jobs. As our tasks disappear, new tasks will get created, and jobs, work, and entire industries will be redefined.

1.) Robot Sherpas – Robots today tend to be good at one or two things. So far we haven’t seen the iPhone equivalent in robotics where people can build apps and the robot is capable of many things. That will happen well before 2040.

However, smart robots will still require an entire ecosystem of support staff to operate at peak efficiency. In much the same way a single passenger plane creates employment for dozens of people (pilots, flight attendants, ground crew, reservationists, ticket agents, etc.), our most versatile robots will require a team of support workers to optimize their performance.

  • Robot maintenance
  • Robot monitoring
  • Robot operation techs
  • Robot suppliers
  • Robot programmers
  • Robot UI/UX experts
  • Robot ethicists
  • Robot business developers

2.) Data Junkies – In many respects, data is the new oil. As a seemingly unlimited resource with the potential to create millions of new products, data will spawn hundreds of new job categories.

  • Data-catters – sourcing new forms of data, acquiring rights, licensing to users
  • Data detective
  • Data frackers
  • Data analytics
  • Data monitors
  • Data ethicists
  • Data trust officers
  • Data brokers

3.) Drone command crews – By 2040, large fleets of drones will be very common, as we will have surpassed the first billion-drone mark in the early 2030s. Drones will come in every possible shape and size, and since risks are high and so many things can go wrong, we will see many drone-related positions created for monitoring payloads, systems and optimizing traffic flow.

  • Drone command center operators
  • Drone taxi ground crew
  • Traffic flow optimizers
  • Drone maintenance and repair
  • Aerial security teams
  • Drone designers
  • Drone programmers
  • Drone salespeople

4.) Personal health maestros – Yes, we will still have nurses and doctors in the future, but most of the job growth in the health industry will be surrounding the digitization of personal health and the optimization of human performance.

  • Anti aging practitioners
  • Brain augmentationists
  • Nurses
  • Aging assistants
  • Gene sequencers
  • Epigenetic therapists
  • Brain neurostimulation professionals
  • Genetic modification designers and engineers

5.) AI-Enhanced Freelancers – Over the past few decades we have transitioned from a world where information was scarce and only the experts had access to it, to a time where information is plentiful but only the experts know what to pay attention to. Before 2040 there will be a similar transformation as we begin adding AI enhancements to our bodies and minds where only those skilled in the craft will be able to fully leverage the AI turbocharging we add to our capability mix.

  • AI-enhanced freelance coaches and trainers
  • AI-enhanced writers
  • AI-enhanced musicians
  • AI-enhanced artists
  • AI-enhanced quantum programmers
  • AI-enhanced accountants
  • AI-enhanced cyber security experts
  • AI-enhanced AI experts

6.) Driverless ground crews – Just because the driver is gone doesn’t mean there’s no room for humans. In fact, just the opposite is true. Yes, it will eventually be possible to automate many of these positions out of business, but it will require thousands of iterative developments for increasingly narrow niche edge cases. In many situations we simply reach the point of diminishing returns where it’s far cheaper and easier to employ a person instead of building a robot to handle a situation that only occurs once in every million-car trips.

  • Command center operators
  • Payment and accounting department
  • Circulation engineers
  • Maintenance and repair
  • Cleaning crews
  • Traffic flow analyzers
  • Charging station installers
  • On-board experience designers

7.) Blockchain architects – Blockchain in all its forms and derivations represents an exciting new industry that will overlay virtually every other industry. In many respects, this is virgin territory and we have yet to discover the true limits of blockchain.

  • Blockchain regulators
  • Blockchain engineers
  • Blockchain designers
  • Blockchain UI/UX experts
  • Blockchain cloud managers
  • Blockchain system analysts
  • Blockchain product managers
  • Blockchain business development gurus

8.) 3D printing fabricators – Over the next two decades 3D printing will grow exponentially in speed, precision, and in the kinds of material that it can be used. This will open the doors to a wide variety of support personnel, as each machine becomes a major profit center.

  • Digital house architects
  • Contour crafters – 3D house builders
  • Material scientists
  • 3D product designers
  • 3D printed pill pharmacies
  • 3D printed organs, limbs, and prosthetics
  • 3D printing specialists for reconstructive surgery
  • 3D food printers

9.) Cryptocurrency – While the existing banking/finance industries will still employ a huge number of people, the traditional money world will be shrinking as automation causes most of the branch banking outlets to disappear. At the same time we will see over 50% of national currencies replaced by cryptocurrencies. Most of the growth in the financial sector will take place in professions surrounding cryptocurrency.

  • Cryptocurrency regulators
  • Cryptocurrency bankers
  • Cryptocurrency transaction specialists
  • Cryptocurrency wealth managers
  • Cryptocurrency insurers
  • Cryptocurrency miners
  • Cryptocurrency exchange operators
  • Cryptocurrency analysts

10.) Sensor system architects and curators – By 2040 the data universe will be driven by over 100 trillion sensors. As the MEMs and sensor industry uncovers innovative ways to sense and monitor different aspects of the world around us, the number of workers needed to bridge the interface between data and our physical world will also grow exponentially.

  • Sensor designers
  • Sensor installers
  • Sensor tailors and garment creators
  • Sensor data modelers
  • Sensor data transmission optimizers
  • Sensor signal engineers
  • Sensor architects
  • Sensor troubleshooters

11.) Space tech ground crews – Space X is causing industry experts to rethink time tables for the entire space industry. By 2040, we will have already begun to colonize Mars and space tourism rocket launches will be a daily occurrence. Similar to the airline industry, every launch will require a large cast of people employed in hundreds of different roles.

  • Space mission planners
  • Space launch management
  • Space launch prep, cargo prep, meteorologists
  • Space command traffic analyzers
  • Space command guidance monitors
  • Space experience designers
  • Space impact minimizers
  • Space ethics experts
Asteroid mining will become a huge industry by 2040

12.) Asteroid miners – Asteroids are filled with all the ingredients necessary to construct things in space as well as material that can be taken back to earth. These include gold, iridium, silver, osmium, palladium, platinum, rhenium, rhodium, ruthenium and tungsten for transport back to Earth; and iron, cobalt, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, aluminum, and titanium for construction. As launch costs continue to drop, activity in this space will grow quickly.

  • Asteroid scouts and surveyors
  • Asteroid mining ground crews
  • Asteroid mining launch specialists
  • Asteroid mining bot operators
  • Asteroid material scientists
  • Asteroid transport operators
  • Asteroid-based smelting operators
  • Asteroid analytics data managers

13.) Fusion power plant builders – With the first fusion power plant coming online in 2040, the global power industry will be making plans to build literally thousands of new fusion power plants to replace our aging power infrastructure. Even though it will still be a fledgling industry, the hiring and prep work will have already begun.

  • Fusion plant designers
  • Fusion engineers
  • Fusion system integrators
  • Fusion micro grid experts
  • Fusion plant contractors
  • Fusion plant architects
  • Fusion in space planners
  • Fusion project manager

14.) CRISPR, biohacking, and programmable healthcare gurus – By 2040 we will be able to program our way to better health and genetically cure most diseases. Most will be wearing a huge range of sensors offering real-time monitoring. Longevity will rise, with many living well beyond 100. Children born in 2040 will essentially have a blank slate when it comes to life expectancy. With gene therapy, stem cell and nano-scale medicine, barring an accident or fatal disease, we cease to worry about dying, and look much younger as we age.

  • Algorithmic health providers
  • Algorithmic health researchers
  • Algorithmic dietitians
  • CRISPR biotechnicians
  • CRISPR engineers
  • CRISPR auditors
  • Biomanufacturing experts
  • Biomanufacturing organ designers

15.) Tube transportation infrastructure builders – By 2040 we will have begun building a global tube transportation network, which will commonly be referred to as the world’s largest infrastructure project. Tube transportation will employ countless millions of people in both the construction and operation of the global tube system.

  • Tube network designers
  • Tube network builders
  • Tube network command center
  • Tube network safety engineers
  • Tube network operators
  • Tube network traffic optimizers
  • Tube network maintenance and repair
  • Tube network janitors

16.) Quantum tech gurus – By 2040 we will have made the transition from bits and bytes to qubits. Qubits are the standard units used to measure quantum information. With quantum computing, all traditional encryption systems become hackable, and all users will have been forced to upgrade to quantum level encryption long before 2040.

  • Quantum computing programmers
  • Quantum data analyzers
  • Quantum level privacy monitors & managers
  • Quantum level trust managers
  • Quantum equipment operators
  • Quantum health monitors
  • Quantum level medicine pharmacists
  • Quantum computing personality designers
There’s a huge difference between a 2D thinker and 3D visualization

17.) Mixed reality builders – Few of us realize this, but we’ve been taught to think two-dimensionally. Starting with 2D paper, books, whiteboards and blackboards, our schools have beaten us over the head with 2D thinking. As we moved into the computer age, we moved to 2D screens. If we throw away the display on our computer and project everything three-dimensionally above our desks, we can’t even imagine what it’ll look like to “surf the net,” produce a 3D website, or if we created 3D charts and graphs, what that third dimension will represent. We all live in a three-dimensional world, but we’re only now getting to the point of experiencing it the way it already exists.

Mixed reality travel agents
Mixed reality therapists
Mixed reality trainers
Mixed reality coaches
Mixed reality game designers
Mixed reality movie producers
Mixed reality experience builders, designers, and creators
Mixed reality news producers

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

  • Cultured meat bioreactor designers
  • Cultured meat stem cell managers
  • Cultured meat designers
  • Cultured meat ethicists
  • Cultured meat quality control
  • Cultured meat new product development
  • Cultured meat dietary engineers
  • Cultured meat process managers

19.) IoT– Home automation professionals – By 2040 home automation will be used to protect people, their health and belongings as much as it is to enhance their lives.

  • IoT elocutionists
  • IoT smart building installers
  • IoT smart clothing developers
  • IoT health monitors
  • IoT system anthropologists
  • IoT proximity alert systems
  • IoT data actuaries
  • IoT failure point assessors

20.) AI-teacherbot educators– In 2040 we will be living in a world that will require higher caliber people to make it work, and it’s rather preposterous to think our existing systems can suddenly start producing better results. AI-enhanced teacherbots are coming and the ones who benefit the most will be the ones who start making an early transition.

  • AI-enhanced teacherbot interface designers
  • AI-enhanced teacherbot courseware creators
  • AI-enhanced teacherbot engineers
  • AI-enhanced teacherbot maintenance and repair
  • AI-enhanced learning coaches
  • Personal AI-enhanced skill builders
  • Personal AI-enhanced life monitors
  • Learning optimizers

Final thoughts

Today we can only see a small slice of what the future holds for us. We know that computer architecture, energy sources and manufacturing practices will change dramatically and we can see rough outlines of the shifts ahead. What we can’t see is the secondary effects, the technologies and business models that will build on top of base technologies, that will impact tomorrow’s industries.

There were no newspaperman who looked at a mainframe computer and saw social media or websites, just like no retail store owners that looked at the first “horseless carriages” saw the coming of strip malls and supermarkets. They were too busy trying to serve their customers and beat their existing competitors. For this reason they missed the growing threat that would eventually disrupt their businesses.

That’s why today it is crucially important to set aside resources to explore, experiment and to tackle grand challenges so that you can begin to understand and ultimately harness the forces that will shape an industry. It’s better to prepare than adapt because, by the time you see the need to adapt, it may already be too late.

By Futurist Thomas Frey
Author of “Epiphany Z – 8 Radical Visions Transforming Your Future

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Creating the self-delivering package https://www.futuristspeaker.com/uncategorized/creating-the-self-delivering-package/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/uncategorized/creating-the-self-delivering-package/#respond Mon, 09 Apr 2018 14:43:39 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=10506

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/uncategorized/is-death-our-only-option-buying-into-the-dream-of-immortality/ https://www.futuristspeaker.com/uncategorized/is-death-our-only-option-buying-into-the-dream-of-immortality/#comments Mon, 09 Apr 2018 14:29:49 +0000 http://www.futuristspeaker.com/?p=10495

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 officials 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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