Misinformation Is About To Get Worse

Technology has always been a double-edged sword – after all fire provided light, warmth, and more calories – but it also burned downed villages. When social media first burst onto the scene, I was a big believer in its power to build community, reconnect people, and move us towards democracy 2.0. I was wrong. The destructive side of that sword is winning – and technological advances are about to make that problem worse.

We are mostly all guilty of locking ourselves into echo chambers. Passing along information that supports our views, but is simply false information. The sheer reach of Facebook, when combined with deep fakes and AI-enabled misinformation, makes the destructive potential frightening. A new book that addresses this topic will launch in November. Eric Schmidt, Henry Kissinger, and MIT Dean Daniel Huttenlocher, co-authored “The Age of AI” in an effort to shine a light on both the positive and negative aspects of our AI future. This Article summarizes an interview with Eric Schmidt that describes the book and the issues.

You can pre-order the book on Amazon. A massively important topic that we should all invest the time to understand.

The Profit Paradox

I finished another book and added it to my book library. The Profit Paradox was written by economist Jan Eeckhout and focuses on the decline of competition in the market. This decline, and the resulting dominance of large firms, has contributed to inequality, reduced innovation, and dropped the labor share of the economy.

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Growing and Declining Jobs Over The Next Decade

A recent article provides a glimpse into the fastest growing and declining jobs of the next decade. The visuals captured from the article summarize it well. Not surprisingly, health and wellness, renewable energy, and technology represent the fastest growing job domains. A very hot topic these days along with education.

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Education As The Bridge Between Eras

In the mid-1800s, when operating steam-driven machines required a skilled workforce, education helped the working class emerge from a period of stagnation. Later, high school helped ease the transition from the farm to the factory and office. We find ourselves straddling two eras again. The world economic forum estimates that sixty-five percent of children today will end up in careers that do not exist yet.

Our goal is to double the world’s GDP. That’s a very audacious goal. But education is the only thing that has ever done it in the past. It can jumpstart entire economies

Sebastian Thrun – Chairman and co-founder of Udacity

So here we are again. Education must emerge as the bridge between eras. It must ensure that those educated embody the qualities and competencies essential to life in a society different than our industrial past.

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Futuristic New Cities

I believe the smart city represents the intersection of multiple emerging ecosystems. Energy, transport, water, food, health, and more, could come together to create a more equitable and sustainable future. At least that’s the mission of Telosa. A recent article via Oscar Holland describes the vision of billionaire Marc Lore:

The cleanliness of Tokyo, the diversity of New York and the social services of Stockholm: Billionaire Marc Lore has outlined his vision for a 5-million-person “new city in America” and appointed a world-famous architect to design it.

Oscar Holland – Plans for $400-billion new city in the American desert unveiled

Per the article, the 150,000-acre proposal promises eco-friendly architecture, sustainable energy production and a purportedly drought-resistant water system. It embraces a “15-minute city design” that allows residents to access their workplaces, schools and amenities within a quarter-hour commute of their homes. The brief video describes the vision.

Astounding Levels Of Innovation: Energy

As we move aggressively into this period of great invention, we will increasingly marvel at astounding levels of innovation. Every domain will experience this phenomenon…and it is accelerating. The articles below make the point very clear. The most encouraging piece of these breakthroughs is growing evidence that our world of extraction is shifting ever so slightly to one of creation. Advances in materials science are critical to solving some of the worlds greatest challenges. The energy transition is underway.

Tesla aims to release $25,000 electric car in 2023, likely will not have a steering wheel

This wildly reinvented wind turbine generates five times more energy than its competitors

Experimental chlorine battery holds 6 times more charge than lithium-ion

What if walking around on your wood floors powered your home?

Hydrogen in aviation: how close is it?

Graphene innovation opens doors to low cost, sustainable, sodium-ion batteries

The Building Blocks Of Our Future

In a post from 2019, I described the building blocks that established our modern society. It was convergence across multiple domains that shaped our current world. From the post:

A century ago, a convergence across domains ushered in unprecedented advancements in human development. As Robert J. Gordon describes, the special century (1870 – 1970) that followed the Civil War was made possible by a unique clustering of what Mr. Gordon calls the great inventions. The great inventions of the second industrial revolution significantly improved our well-being. In his view, the economic revolution of 1870-1970 was unique in human history, unrepeatable because many of its achievements could only happen once. What makes this century so special, is that these inventions altered what until then, was a life lived in misery. 

Frank Diana – Convergence

I captured many of those building blocks in a visual that I use to tell this story (click on the visual to open in a separate window).

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Crewless Cargo Ship with Zero Emissions Launches

A Norwegian company has created what it calls the world’s first zero-emission, autonomous cargo ship. If all goes to plan, the ship will make its first journey between two Norwegian towns before the end of the year, with no crew onboard. Instead, its movements will be monitored from three onshore data control centers.

Rochelle Beighton – World’s first crewless, zero emissions cargo ship will set sail in Norway

That quote from this recent article describes the worlds first fully electric container ship that is also autonomous. The shipping industry currently accounts for between 2.5% and 3% of global greenhouse gases emissions, according to the International Maritime Organization. This zero emissions cargo ship begins the long process of addressing that problem. It is envisioned that it will replace 40,000 truck journeys a year. The crewless feature of this emerging innovation makes the ship more cost effective to operate. Almost every scenario we look at tells the same transition story. In this case, the transition involves humans loading and unloading the ship initially, but eventually transitioning to all operations using autonomous technology.

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3D Printed Smart Homes

When looking into the future, changes to the home may not be the first place you look, yet it will not be spared in this era of transformative change. In fact, the home experience was already changing prior to the pandemic, and in a post-pandemic world, the future home looks different. Other drivers like sustainability and aging in our homes are likely to alter our long-standing views of homes. As an example, a recent article describes a new home that is self-sustaining, autonomous, and 3D Printed. The video provides a glimpse.

Tesla Pursues Humanoid Robots

Move over Sophia you might have company. At Tesla’s AI Day, Elon Musk said the company plans to build a robot in human form, leveraging some of its vehicle technology. The path of humanoid robots much like everything else, will go in two possible directions. Constructively, care robots, companion robots, and those that handle difficult repetitive tasks, help address mounting challenges as well as long-standing ones. On the destructive side, these robots may someday encroach upon those traits that make us distinctly human. Our path forward continues to represent a balancing act. Elon Musk describes his vision in the video below.

Will The Next interaction Frontier Involve The Brain?

In 2017, I explored the various ways that human interaction was likely to change. Two years later, I shared predictions from Ray Kurzweil that included his thoughts on interacting in a world that is increasingly instrumented and machine-oriented. Ray envisions a deep transformation in the way we interact in a machine-oriented society, and that includes thought commands. The possibility of interacting with the world using our brains still feels like science fiction to most. Whether it is moving an object (like the racecar video in my earlier post) or communicating with another human brain-to-brain, it is hard to wrap our minds around that profound a change.

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The Precipice

I just finished another good book. Tony Orb takes us to the precipice in a new book that explores existential risk. He looks at natural risks like asteroids, comets, supervolcanic eruptions, stellar explosions, brightening of our sun, and orbital dynamics. He then explores those risks stemming from human activity (anthropogenic). These include nuclear weapons, climate change, environmental damage, pandemics, unaligned artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and back contamination (from space microbes). The remainder of the book focuses on quantifying risks and safeguarding humanity. I highly recommend the book for those looking well into the future and focused on humanity. I have added the book to my library. Here is the Amazon abstract.

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The Extraction Age Gives Way To The Creation Age

In their book titled Rethinking Humanity, RethinkX Founders Tony Seba and James Arbib describe a transition from an age of extraction to an emerging age of creation. The extraction age began with agriculture and continued through the industrial period. The authors describe the age of extraction as follows:

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Autonomous Trucking

A growing narrative these days reflects a belief that realizing the autonomous driving vision is far off in the future. It’s harder than people think, and many experts believe reaching level five autonomy is next to impossible. Those beliefs stem from the complexity of the human mind, and the intuition we use in decision making. Yet quietly, Autonomous Trucking is on a path towards realization by the middle of this decade. Starting in the southern region of the U.S., autonomous trucks are logging miles. Southern states like Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico, provide the right conditions for early phase testing: bad weather is less common, favorable regulation, and strong highway infrastructure.

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RethinkX Releases Climate Change Report

RethinkX just launched a report on climate change, and I have added it to my research library. Sustainability is a growing topic and focus area for leaders around the world. RethinkX concludes that technologies to address the climate change challenge already exist, but they are subject to societal choices. The abstract points to the importance of this report for all leaders.

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Talking To Ghosts

Storytelling is a powerful way to communicate in a world as fast-moving and uncertain as ours. Jason Fagone demonstrates its power in a brilliantly written piece on mental health, loneliness, grief, and isolation. It is a very long article, but incredibly impactful. He tells a story of a grief-stricken freelance writer that lost his fiancée to a rare liver disease. In telling the story, Jason shows both the power and fascination of current day innovation, and its fear and destructive potential. It effectively describes our need to balance these opposing forces of innovation. Some background: Jason Rohrer, a Bay Area programmer, launched Project December, which is powered by one of the world’s most capable artificial intelligence systems, a piece of software known as GPT-3. It knows how to manipulate human language, generating fluent English text in response to a prompt.

This text-based experiment created a new kind of chat service that lies at the heart of this story. He created various personalities and proceeded to communicate with them. During one exchange with a bot he named Samantha, he asked her what she would do if she could walk around in the world. This exchange led to a realization:

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The Impact Of Societal Forces On Our Future

Convergence is a big part of how the future reveals itself. I have written often about convergence across geopolitics, science and technology, and other domains. Even a domain like philosophy is converging in ways that help shape our future. Macro-level forces illuminate possible futures, and forces in the societal domain play a major role in determining that future. This article on population provides a great example.

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Are We Living In The Most Important Century For Humanity?

I have written in the past about tipping points in human history and a belief that the world may experience its third tipping point sometime this century. A recent article via Holden Karnofsky hypothesizes that we live in the most important century in human history. Both views are driven by an underlying belief that the century likely delivers humanity altering changes. In my view, the combination of rapid knowledge expansion, artificial intelligence, machines, biotechnology, genetic engineering, our connectivity, and a new computing paradigm, are likely to change what it means to be human. In the article, the author argues that the 21st century could see our civilization develop technologies that allow rapid expansion throughout our currently empty galaxy. He argues all sides of a debate that ranges from impossible, to skeptical, to humanity altering.

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How Close Are We To Autonomous Driving?

I’m extremely confident that level 5 [self-driving cars] or essentially complete autonomy will happen, and I think it will happen very quickly. I remain confident that we will have the basic functionality for level 5 autonomy complete this year.

Elon Musk

The question of full autonomy goes back to 2014. There was a time when leaders across industry focused on the disruptive potential of autonomous vehicles. Here in 2021, those disruptive scenarios have not emerged on the timeline many expected. So, how close are we really to level five autonomous driving? That quote above provides one man’s opinion. Granted, that opinion comes from Elon Musk, a person that has made technology history for decades. As this article via Nick Hobson describes, vehicles that have achieved level five autonomy can drive in all circumstances, removing the need for a steering wheel and driver’s seat. Many experts believe reaching level five autonomy is next to impossible. Those beliefs stem from the complexity of the human mind, and the intuition we use in decision making.

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Perspectives From A Labor Economist And Epidemiologist

I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion on day two of the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California (WCIRB) annual conference. Bill Mudge CEO of the WCIRB moderated a discussion that looked forward and somewhat over the horizon. We focused on the future of working labor, medical science, and the long term or latent issues from COVID-19. Our dialog explored the opportunities that COVID-19 and economic recession have unlocked, and the accelerated trends that were already emerging. Joining the discussion were Dr. Sylvia Allegretto PhD., the labor economist and co-chair of the center for wage and employment dynamics at the university of California. Also joining us was Jacek Skarbinski, MD Physician and Research Scientist with Kaiser Permanente.

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