The Age Of AI: And Our Human Future

This shift is neither inherently threatening nor inherently redemptive. Yet it is sufficiently different that it very likely will alter the trajectories of societies and the course of history. Few eras have faced a strategic and technological challenge so complex and with so little consensus about either the nature of the challenge or even the vocabulary necessary for discussing it.

The Age of AI: And Our Human Future – Henry A Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, Daniel Huttenlocher
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RethinkX: Humanity Today – The Great Transformation

In this fifth installment of the RethinkX rethinking humanity series, Tony Seba and James Arbib describe humanity transformed by convergence across five foundational sectors: energy, transport, information, food, and materials. This convergence creates new possibility spaces representing both opportunity and disruption. I like to think of these spaces as a subway map that takes us in multiple directions. The green and red paths highlight the need for society to manage the path towards constructive outcomes. The warning signs are clear: our centralized ways of managing society are outdated.

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Therapeutic Agents That Target Cancer Cells Directly

Two scenarios in our emerging future are healthy life extension and radical life extension. The former extends are healthy lives and the latter pursues immortality. At the heart of both scenarios lies astounding and rapid advances in science and technology. A recent article provides a great example while exploring the possibility of cancerous tumors eliminating themselves. Per the article, a new technology developed by University of Zurich (UZH) researchers enables the body to produce therapeutic agents on demand at the exact location where they are needed.

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Radical Life Extension

At the furthest point of the future scenario curve sits radical life extension. I use this emerging future visual to depict the exploding number of building blocks that combine to shape the future, challenging our ability to track its complexity. Convergence across aspects of science, technology, economic forces, politics, society, our environment, and a growing conversation around ethics, is creating a highly uncertain world. At the heart of the pace dynamic is the exponential progression of science and technology – reflected in the first curve on the visual.

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Multiple Signals Point To The Need For Global Cooperation

The pandemic is demonstrating the extent to which high levels of collaboration are required for deeply interconnected societies to manage—and recover from—complex, exponential systemic crises. The fact that viruses are borderless is just another reason why humans need to invest in dramatically re-tooled principles and mechanisms for global co-operation.

Sanjeev Khagram – Why coronavirus will accelerate the fourth Industrial Revolution

Historically, when society has entered a new era, the world has transformed. I believe we are in the early days of a transition to a new era. A major difference between this era and previous eras is the connectedness of our world. That means managing the transition is more complicated. No one nation or organization can ensure a smooth transition. Much like the accelerating shift to multi-stakeholder ecosystems requires collaboration excellence, the path to a future that enhances human development depends on global cooperation.

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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.

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

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.

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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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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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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The Probability Of Living Past 110 Is On The Rise

I posed this question in 2018 in a post on healthy life extension: Has the first person to live to 200 already been born? I ask that question in various forums to provide a good example of how one scenario can challenge current institutions and traditional thinking. In that earlier post, Johnty Andersen, had this perspective on that question:

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Will Artificial Intelligence Be More Profound Than Fire, Electricity, And The Internet?

Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google’s owner Alphabet, believes that artificial intelligence (AI) will eventually have a bigger impact than fire, electricity, and the Internet. Historically, general purpose technologies have driven two major tipping points – from the hunter-gatherer era to the agrarian, and agrarian to industrial. Advancement of human development through transformative periods like this had two common drivers: the growth of knowledge and inventions that served as a platform for society. With that in mind, Mr. Pichai’s assessment when viewed through the lens of history could be spot on. Artificial intelligence combines both drivers in a way that prior platform technologies did not. AI is a general purpose technology that is increasingly woven into the fabric of society, and it could ultimately represent the pinnacle of knowledge attainment.

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Meet The Jetsons

We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters

– Peter Theil

That quote dates back to 2013. Reid Hoffman reacted to our progress since then in a recent Tweet.

Much progress has indeed been made as demonstrated by the video below. However, this article provides a word of caution:

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What Do AI and Kurt Cobain Have In Common?

I never thought I would put artificial intelligence and Kurt Cobain in the same sentence. As we continue to explore the path of AI and its reach, one critical question is just how far it will encroach on our right brain characteristics. Those traits that make us distinctly human have long been considered out of AI’s reach. Yet, we slowly see signs that we could be wrong. What do AI and Kurt Cobain have in common? A new song. This song titled “Drowned in the Sun” was written by Google’s AI as described by Vanessa Bates Ramirez in a recent article. Read the full article for a fascinating look at how this was accomplished.

Now, consider a scenario where Nirvana lives on and performs new material in concert with Kurt Cobain appearing as a hologram. Listen to the song below and then let me know how you react via the poll.