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Prepare now for 2025

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A recently published book written by STEPH VERMEULEN, takes a look at if we are ready to embrace some of the exponential changes over the next decade or if we will be thrust out of our comfort zones into a world of uncertainty.

In 2015 a diverse range of thinkers – known as the London Futurists – met to ponder the exponential change likely to take place over the next decade.  The book –  Anticipating 2025: A guide to the radical changes that may lie ahead, whether or not we’re ready – is a compilation of their papers.  The book leaves one questioning whether we’re ready to embrace such extraordinary changes in citizenship or are we so caught in the present that these shifts will thrust us right out of our comfort zones?

Some roadblocks:

To take advantage of the scientific marvels to come, a reboot will be necessary in the economic, political and social systems that run commerce, education, healthcare and human wellbeing. We know change is inevitable so the million-dollar question is; will global institutions shift by evolution or will they rapidly be made redundant through disruptive revolution?

The catalyst:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already changing everything.  Not only is this being felt in business – and in the way we work – but it’s also blurring the lines between human and machine.  Instead of using devices, we will soon be able to answer complex questions in our heads by silently interacting with information sources; it could be how we end up relating to one another too.  Although full AI-human interface is unlikely by 2025, progress will make us all a lot smarter and – potentially – these deep changes could lead to ‘superintelligence’ determining the future of humanity.

Redesigning humanity:

Disruption in medicine will provide quick personalised and cheap alternatives to today’s expensive choices making health an option for the poor.  The combined potential of the Internet of Things (where everything is smart and connected), data collecting wearable tech, AI, robotics and virtual healthcare – such as a diagnostic ‘Doc in your Pocket’ – will soon make today’s hi-tech medical practices appear old and outdated.

 

  • Designer genes:  The building blocks of life are nano-sized and advances in nanomedicine allow scientists to target treatment at a molecular level providing the ultimate in personalised care. Wellness is likely to be exponentially improved by the following: self-editing genomes (DNA) that fine-tune our genetic inheritance; biosensing for diagnosis and biomedicine for treatment; surgical nanorobotics (built from DNA but can be programmed like a computer), bionic limbs that are operated by our nervous system; medical computer chips embedded in our heads and – if what you’ve got is incurable – cryonics is becoming sophisticated enough to preserve you in a frozen state until a cure becomes available.
  • Prolongevity:  Aging itself will not be slowed but the physical wear-and-tear can be mended making us more youthful and healthier as we age.  At a nano level, scientists understand in principle how to remove, repair and replace damaged cellular ‘machinery’.  Popping some ‘refurb’ capsules containing such nano-bots could delay experiencing the effects of aging of a 60-year-old to 90.  If the same process is repeated at 90, the aging experienced at 60 potentially could be delayed until we’re 150 years old.  This will mean having to rescript retirement and ‘work’ will involve sandwiching periods of productive contribution with periods of learning.  Breakthroughs in speed-learning will assist us to keep up with the speedy pace of progress.

 

Social Futurism:

Our traditional socio-political and economic systems are incapable of solving many of the world’s serious problems and – right now – we’re at the crossroads of unprecedented promise or total catastrophe.

  • Politics: A shift towards group problem solving could move us from competitive power-driven political hierarchies (á la DJ Trump) to more collaborative Ubuntu-style social structures where democratic, decentralised institutions will evolve naturally from mutual support networks.  Could it be that governments will end up having no greater power than administrating the money generated by these collaborative structures?
  • Economics: Capitalism is the only system not grounded in natural principles which is well illustrated by the gross inequality of 1% of the population holding the same amount of wealth as the remaining 99%. To avert catastrophe, calls for a universal basic income echo those made by many presidents, philosophers and economists since the 1600s.  If you’re concerned about producing idleness, then take note of economist John Kenneth Galbraith’s question: “why is leisure uniformly bad for the poor but uniformly good for the well-to-do?”
  • EmPowerment:  Poor people’s income and time are consumed by fuel – either gathering wood or buying it. On average, kerosene (paraffin) costs $8 per kilowatt hour while Brits pay only 20c for the electrical equivalent. Solar power makes sense on a continent awash in sunshine as the extra time and incremental money saved can be used to make an income.  Mass literacy initiatives using digital media will also give people access to information so expect an explosion of creativity from Africa and Asia as people find new, appropriate solutions to their pressing problems.
  • Environment: The other side of the coin is the extraordinarily high level of consumerism needed to sustain capitalism.  99% of materials used in the US end up in landfills six weeks after production.  3D printing could relieve some of this environmental pressure and it could also put an end to cargo-based trade. Instead of end-products, trade will involve moving the raw materials needed to feed 3D printers.

These massive social shifts will in turn have implications for our financial future and it is predicted that disruption will wipe out and/or replace most of today’s more traditional investments.

Survival kit:

Using our imagination creatively is what’s needed to see beyond the restraints of the known and having a mindset of lifelong learning will help us stay healthy and sane.  With many jobs being taken over by machines, it is anticipated that by 2025 most of us will occupy ourselves providing services to some of the planets 8 billion or so inhabitants – much of this will involve helping people to manage change.

Oh… and there’s just one last thing:  it won’t be too long before robots will be so convincing that many people will choose a relationship with a robot over a human partner… and, when we’ve programmed the ‘bot to our liking, we may even marry them.

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CES: Most useless gadgets of all

Choosing the best of show is a popular pastime, but the worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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