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Prepare now for 2025

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– such as a diagnostic ‘Doc in your Pocket’ – will soon make today’s hi-tech medical practices appear old and outdated.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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Cisco gives pre-owned tech a Refresh

In a market of constant upgrades, Cisco Refresh aims to keep quality product away from landfills, writes BRYAN TURNER.

When one gets a new smartphone upgrade, the old device may be used as a backup or can be used by someone else. In business environments, equipment upgrades may not be conducive to keeping old equipment around, which may send older, working equipment to landfills.

This is where Cisco’s Refresh initiative comes in. At Cisco Connect in Sun City this week, Ehrika Gladden, VP and general manager of Cisco Refresh, lifted the lid on a little-known aspect of the company’s strategy. 

“Refresh is Cisco’s global pre-owned equipment business unit,” said Gladden. “It is certified to meet the quality and engineering standards of Cisco. It is licensed for software and it’s also inclusive of a services warranty.

“Our responsibility in 80 countries around the world is tied to both the recovery of assets and the ability to leverage those assets at a lower price point. This ensures our sustainability and proper usage of the Earth’s resources while providing access to small and medium businesses. The products are typically in the range of 20-40% cheaper. The products represent the entire portfolio for Cisco in some part, the majority of that product set is 2+ years in terms of generation.”

Cisco’s Circular Economy initiative ensures a sustainable loop through businesses willing to pay a premium for the latest, cutting-edge solutions, while Cisco markets older, working equipment for resale to those who don’t require the latest solutions. This ensures far less new components need to be used in a product range.

“We are leveraging the model of remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and reusing,” said Gladden. “Depending on the product set, there is a certain set of product yield that we expect. They vary from product to product, but we do have a percentage that doesn’t make it through.

“Those are always reused, meaning we will look at those products and decide to use them completely differently, leveraging the components, remanufacturing back into the overall build process. If that can’t be done, we will go into a recycle process where we melt those products down to reuse them.”

Repairing and refurbishing older products isn’t just that. Cisco is creating repair centres that are owned by third-parties to uplift local ownership.

“The repair centres, as a global manufacturer, is Cisco’s entree into local ownership,” said Gladden. “I want to be precise about what I mean by local ownership. It’s critical for us to have a localised presence, but doing that through ownership. When you look at inclusive economies, those that are participative, to be sustainable – not in the product set, but generationally.

“The ability as a global manufacturer through a local ownership model  isto create a repair centre where a product can be returned, screened, tested, and repaired, leveraging the talent that the Networking Academy is creating.”

Cisco is working closely with local governments to understand where it operates and how to leverage the skills in the market.

Gladden said: “We are also super excited about the National Development Plan and African Union statements which with we align: eradication of poverty, job creation, ownership, healthcare, education, it all fits in the model. So we were very excited to have the opportunity to come to Africa first to announce this. Over the next twelve months, we want to establish our first repair centres, and in the next 3 to 5 years, build that vision into a reality.”

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Why Data Privacy has become a Pipe Dream

If you’re active on WhatsApp, Facebook or any other social platform, you’re not as safe as you thought, writes
AARON THORNTON, MD of Dial a Nerd

As you begin to read this, let’s perform a quick experiment! How many active conversations are you engaged in – right now – on WhatsApp? When was the last time you shared a picture or video on Instagram? Is Facebook currently open and active on one of your devices? And how many internet- connected devices are you using at this moment? Chances are, you have multiple devices running multiple applications most of the time. So what’s the problem, you ask? Since when did checking in with a high school buddy in Australia via Facebook become a dangerous act?  

In reply, we say, read on if you can stomach it!  

Nation-State Hacking & You  

It might seem like a laughably long shot to say that you are a key player in the increasingly sinister and sophisticated world of nation-state hacking. Well, you are. Given that individuals, businesses and governments are now constantly connected, round the clock, consumers and businesses have become fair game in cyber espionage. And as we create and share more and more data, both the value and accessibility of that data increases. According to a report by McAfee, IP theft now accounts for more than 25% of the estimated $600 billion cost of cybercrime to the world economy.    

With data having become the ‘new gold’, nation states are naturally pouring investment and key resources into building advanced cyber warfare tools. Indeed, entire divisions of armed forces as well as the upper echelons of corporate leadership are devising ways to harness data to gain economic, political and social power. At the highest level, tools and platforms are being developed with the specific aim of perpetrating cyber espionage and data theft. No surprise then, that the consumer and business environments are rife with increasingly advanced malware, ransomware and many other malicious hacking tools and methods.  

Still not convinced? Yes, we can smell the scepticism from here! So let’s take a moment to see how this has already played out, beneath our noses.  

Remember the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal of early 2018? For many, this was a watershed moment in the emerging war for consumer data – and the ensuing tensions between privacy, power and profit. Need a refresh? Well, in 2018, Facebook exposed data on up to 87 million Facebook users to a researcher who worked at Cambridge Analytica, which worked for the Trump campaign. In essence, the data was harvested without user consent and used for political purposes.  

Another chilling but less direct example can be found in Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. According to Politico, Russia launched a massive social media campaign to ‘sow discord’ leading up to the elections. The website reported that as early as 2014, an infamous Russian “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency – a company linked to Russian president Putin – developed a strategy using fraudulent bank accounts and other fake identity documents to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” 

When referring to the Russian hacks and their impact on election results, one U.S. Representative sagely noted: “They didn’t just steal data; they weaponized it.” 

Ignorance is not bliss 

Okay, so data is being ‘weaponized’, and ordinary people and businesses are being caught in the crosshairs of cyber warfare. A little bit frightening, but the good news is that savvy individuals like you can take steps to protect personal data and actively combat the creeping influence of juggernauts such as Facebook and Google.  

To begin with, awareness is key. As you engage with various platforms and applications at work and at home, take time to understand how your data is being used and what the terms of use are. Is your data being accessed and sold to advertisers? Have you consented to this? In addition to scrutinizing your consent, also pay close attention to how much data you share online – and the nature of the details you are divulging. Always keep in mind that hackers are employing smart social engineering tactics and using the details of your private life (birthdays, holidays, pet’s names, etc) to trick you into opening infected emails and clicking on malware. Whenever you are online, you are a target – and vigilance at all times is critical. Beyond that, it goes without saying that you must commit to following basic security protocols with your devices. So always keep software up to date and keep your data backed up so that you can reboot or wipe a device if needed.   

Now that we’ve left you sufficiently spooked, you can get back to those demanding WhatsApp/Facebook/Instagram notifications (same company, by the way)…albeit, we hope, with a slightly altered [cyber] worldview!  

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