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Future

Artificial Intelligence has the potential to rapidly destroy modern society. It could be secret AI, known AI or even network AI (lots of AI networked together around the globe, learning from each other). Famously Elon Musk as warned of the risks, along with other top scientists.

Prevention is the best cure, and hopefully limitations and safeguards will be in place to protect us.

But if that doesn’t happen, we need a Plan B. I propose a global network of secret volunteers who will leap to action and coordinate a dismantling of AI if AI attacks modern society.

  • shutdown electricity
  • shutdown AI in situ
  • shutdown Internet
  • shutdown fibre optic cables

In each case insiders with direct access is the best option. Otherwise there might be a bit of breaching security required.

Possible triggers:

  • meltdown of financial markets
  • war
  • mass discrimination (women unable to withdraw cash from ATMs, for example)
  • media propaganda
  • weather manipulation
  • robot disobedience

Each should be clear and obvious to all should they occur.

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Think of an skinny R2D2 with arms. The arms become legs for getting up and down stairs and over obstacles.

Fetchr has a primary mission of finding and fetching things for you. He can also:

  • hand you tools while you are fixing the car
  • vacuum using an attachment that he attaches himself
  • fetch canned or bottled drinks from his own special fridge
  • bring in the mail or newspaper
  • tidy up (for example any clothes found on the floor go to the laundry basket)

In other words an un-fancy robot that everybody has a use for.

But here’s the innovation – Fetchr learns from you via your AR glasses. When you are at home, while wearing the glasses you explain what you are doing and identify items. Just like speech recognition software, it will take a while initially to train it. Beyond that, just wearing the glasses at home means that Fetchr sees what you see. He knows when you last mowed the lawns. He knows what a hammer is and the last time you used it, and where it was last seen.

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On two fronts, video games and pop music, it is being proven in Japan that you don’t need real live humans any more. And this is presumably where the rest of the world is heading, to some degree.

Hatsune Miku is a Japanese pop princess with a #1 single and sell-out live shows. But her voice and image are computer-generated, and her “live” shows feature a holograph that the fans seem to enjoy as much as a real performer:

And now video games are providing the same level of soft porn as rap videos. Just watch this and ask yourself why young men will really be buying Dead or Alive: Paradise

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Pokemon Go is the first big hit of augmented reality. It won’t be the last.

AR gaming will come and go, tidal like. There will be a new interaction, a new twist, a new franchise.

But ultimately it isn’t remotely real, nothing like the possibilities of VR.

People will give it a go, and tire of it quickly. Enough people will keep playing to let each hit experience last 6+ months.

But eventually seeing little demons and angels on your friend’s shoulders will get old.

Seeing yellow plumes of sulphuric farts erupting from your enemies butt will get tired.

The real hits of AR will be practical resources. The real gaming hits will be in VR.

#pokemongone

 

 

 

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I am keen on the Neo Luddite movement, and part of me yearns for a back-to-basics world.

I am also a futurist who works in tech. And I love many of the new gadgets and gizmos that come out.

I don’t mind being a hypocrite – I think it’s almost normal to be a hypocrite. It is commonplace, and overdue to be accepted as a natural trait.

So, as someone with one foot in each camp, I am calling myself a Semi.

Guns are a good analogy. Manual guns are cumbersome. Semi-automatics are efficient. Fully automatic only have bad uses. Semi is the in-between, the ascertained middle ground, the considered sweet spot.

When it comes to technology, much of it is stupid. Recently a colleague showed me how his Samsung phone could measure his pulse. I showed him the old school way (fingers on the wrist or neck) and he was surprised that a non-high-tech method existed.

A 55″ HD TV gives me the same experience as a 70″ curved 3D UHD TV. For 1/7th of the price. (Actually, the lack of enthusiasm for 3D might be seen as a starting point for the Semi movement)

I like electric car windows, but I could easily do without them. I like air-con in a car. I don’t want or need automatic windscreen wipers or heated seats.

I understand that manufacturers need to make improvements to sell more stuff. But sometimes, enough is enough.

When I get home on a scorchingly hot day, and walk into a hot house, it takes 30 seconds for the air-con to kick and for me to start feeling cooler. I don’t need a system to detect that I am 2kms away and turn it on for me.

Our house is locked when we aren’t at home. We use a physical key to unlock it. Works just fine! We don’t need an app to do it for us. On a phone where the battery easily dies.

Some people will embrace every “advance” like good little capitalist citizens. A handful will rebel completely. And a percentage – I’d say between 10% and 50%, mostly older folk, will become Semis like me.

The concept could flow through to businesses. Instead of there being either greedy corporations, or non-profits, I see a place for Semi companies, which take enough profits to satisfy them, and not more. Who only make product changes for the good of all, not for marketing. Who advertise to promote, not to brainwash.

We live in a service economy now, which basically means that many of us have more money than we need, so we pay other people to do things for us that we could/should do ourselves. It began with paying a local kid to mow the lawn. Now we pay people to tell us how we should decorate our homes, what we should eat, how to exercise, which meds to take.

And we get to blame others when things don’t work out. The Uber driver turned up late.

I like mowing the lawn. A lawn is more than something to look at, it should be interactive. I like planting the tree that I could potentially look at every day for the rest of my life. I like walking the dogs, preparing my own dinner, and deciding what temperature to set the air con to today.

Finally, the less self-efficient we become, the less able to cope we will be if something goes wrong. And something always goes wrong.

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Minerva Schools at KGI is a bold new concept. The idea of presenting lectures over the Internet is not new, but they way they have designed theirs means students are more involved than if they were in a classroom or lecture hall.

“We know there are tons of biases that affect how professors call on students,” says Kosslyn. “Women students don’t get called on as much as male students.” In each class, students’ faces are displayed as thumbnails across the top of the screen. For them, it’s always in alphabetical order, but “for faculty, we vary the order depending on who needs to be called on based on data we’ve collected before and how much they’ve been talking in class. It’s a decision support tool that helps them overcome the traditional biases in class.”

If students are answering a question, professors can send them silent notes to warn them that they’re veering off course. Passing notes under the table, so to speak, works both ways; students can send professors messages if they don’t feel comfortable asking a question out loud.

Also unusual is that despite not having classrooms, the students are not living at home:

Minerva students spend their first year living together in San Francisco, their second year in Buenos Aires and Berlin, their third in Hong Kong and Mumbai, their fourth in London and New York.

Full story at Newsweek.

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There has been a recent boom of websites that facilitate the sharing of private possessions – accommodation, tools, caravans… I have not come across such a service for books. People tend to be very possessive of books, and extra proud of their personal libraries. I foresee a new trend, where people allow their books to be borrowed. All we need is a process that ensures you get your books back (timely, un-damaged) and that you get some sort of karma/reward/fame/cudos for doing so.

I just wrote this on Facebook in response to a friend’s photo of her bookshelves:

My shelves are similarly groaning. I think the time has come for personal/public libraries, where respectful people get to borrow from personal libraries. Few of my books are available at local public libraries, or even inter-library loans. Especially powerful if the personal libraries are themed…

I’d love to know the ratio – how many book titles exist in a town/suburb/city that are not offered in the local public libraries? I wouldn’t be surprised if it were 100/1 or much greater.

Cataloging is easy, with barcode scanners available for $10 or so. I have used the CueCat for my 1000+ books. 649 are listed at LibraryThing (very easy to achieve).

But how to make sure your books come home unharmed? You could just copy the AirBNB system, or perhaps a $50 deposit?

I would love to share my books…

 

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I understand that it could easily be achieved digitally, but I doubt there will ever be a better, easier or more rewarding experience that browsing through real hardcopy books that fit your area of interest.

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We’ve heard a lot recently about Spain’s economic woes, so it would seem an unlikely place to spot the future of businesses. A future where workers are in charge & where CEOs are paid a more moderate wage. A system that looks after everyone fairly. A socialist spin on capitalism. And the proof of concept is already massive in Spain. As soon as I read the Spain’s 10th largest corporation (in terms of sales or employees) was a co-op, I was ready to be convinced…

  • Mondragon Corporation has 85,000 members
  • Founded in the town of Mondragón in 1956, its origin is linked to the activity of a modest technical college and a small workshop producing paraffin heaters.
  • 80-85% of the workers collectively own and direct each enterprise run by MC
  • Workers choose and employ a managing director and retain the power to make all the basic decisions of the enterprise (what, how and where to produce and what to do with the profits
  • MC worker-members collectively choose, hire and fire the directors, whereas in capitalist enterprises the reverse occurs
  • MC limits top-paid worker/members to earning 6.5 times the lowest-paid workers
  • Total student enrollment in all its educational centers in 2010 was 9,282
  • Largest corporation in the Basque region
  • Has its own bank,  Caja Laboral, with $25bn in deposits
  • MC has expanded internationally, now operating over 77 businesses outside Spain

No wonder the region had a separatist movement!

Full story at The Guardian.

Note that in the UK, the third largest privately owned business is also a co-op: John Lewis Partnership. They are primarily the John Lewis and Waitrose businesses, and they have 81,000 employee members.

It looks like all that we need is for large co-ops like John Lewis to be brave and expand into new territories. But at the same time, we need to be careful that eventually there are multitudes of co-ops rather than a few super co-ops that wield too much power!

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Traditional burials, sea burials, cremation – they’ve been around for a long, long time. But now, with land at a premium, new methods of dealing with the deceased are arising:

Resomation (aka bio-cremation) -  uses heated water and potassium hydroxide to liquefy the body, leaving only bones behind. The bones are then pulverized, much as in regular cremation, and the bone fragments are returned to the family. This reduces the impact of cremation on global warming!

Natural Burial -  bodies are wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable casket, the idea being that they will decompose naturally. Nothing new about this one, but I like it. Available in over 50 US cemeteries.

Eternal Reefs - …creates artificial reef material out of a mixture of concrete and human cremains (the crushed bone left over from cremations). These heavy concrete orbs are then placed in areas where reefs need restoration, attracting fish and other organisms that turn the remains into an undersea habitat. A bit like being buried by the mob in the foundations of a skyscraper…

Space Burial - choose the most important few grams of the deceased and have them launched into space, starting at $995. Pretty cool. Nice for folk to look up at the stars and thing of you.

Mummification (from $63K, and legal), plastination (free if you don’t mind being looked at in exhibits), cryogenics and freeze-drying (where you can literally end up as compost) round out the eight listed at Live Science

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The way research is progressing, it seems fair to say that in the future if you lose a tooth, it can be replaced with a brand new one, that grows in place. I say this because they have done it a mouse.

Looks like the color needs working on…

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