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Drones for deliveryThis recent news got my attention: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos outlined plans for drone-delivery of packages weighing up to 5 pounds in 30 minutes. The Amazon drones will be called Amazon Prime Air - for Prime customers. Happily I’m prime.
Amazon’s "octocopter" was announced on "60 Minutes”. Some say this was a Bezos publicity stunt, hyped and timed for the start of the online holiday shopping season. Beyond just showmanship, there’s reason to believe that Amazon is on to something. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that expanded use of commercial drones is inevitable.
Often, consumer technologies start by serving higher-end markets and trickle down to become widespread. But, Matternet, a small Silicon Valley startup has been developing drone delivery technology for several years and the company expects drone delivery to be used in the developing world, to deliver food, medicine and other necessities to places that are not easily accessible. Matternet expects to introduce drone delivery technology to the "people who need it most" and then build from there.
It’s not clear that drones would be legal. They are potentially hazardous (flying objects with rotors, electric power supply and five pounds of cargo). Most drones would lack the automatic ability to sense and avoid other objects. There’s the problem of drones being easy target-practice for anyone with a pellet-gun. Then there’s the privacy problem - imagine drones buzzing around with cameras, audio recorders and facial recognition technology.
Drones have the potential to be a great boon to law enforcement, emergency workers, weekend campers - the list is almost endless. Businesses are only just beginning to dream up commercial applications. If Amazon’s concept ever becomes reality, its effect on retail could be revolutionary.
In my opinion, even if it takes a decade or more, drones will eventually be fairly common, seamlessly navigating the skies. And Amazon will be dropping stuff off on my condo balcony. I think I’ll email Jeff Bezos and request prime beta-test status.
Synthetic LifeBiotech research pioneer Craig Venter and his team are the first to create new life. In May 2010, they started with DNA and constructed a novel genetic sequence of more than one million coded bits of information and synthesized a functioning living creature.
Craig Venter and his team figured out how to make an artificial bacterial cell, inserted their man-made DNA genome inside, and watched as the synthesized organic life form moved, ate, breathed and replicated itself.
One of the two locations of the J. Craig Venter Institute for genomic research is in San Diego and I was at a presentation when Venter defined his new technology as "synthetic genomics" - using computers to digitize biology and make new DNA constructs for very specific purposes.
Venter’s novel bacterial creations may be thought of as "4-D printing”. 2-D printing is generated by old-fashioned ink-printing devices; for several years now, products can be printed in 3-D. Many synthetic biologists consider that self-assembly or self-replication with the building blocks of life is 4-D printing - designs sent to 3-D printers resulting in creations capable of transforming and replicating.
Craig Venter’s new book, "Life at the Speed of Light" presents a study of this emerging field, detailing the origins, current challenges and projected effects on modern life. This book is a landmark work, written by a visionary at the dawn of a new era of biological engineering. It’s not an easy read, but I’m slogging through it.
The tools of synthetic biology are increasingly becoming available without special scientific training. Craig Venter worries about what might happen if amateurs inadvertently create organisms that are dangerous to humans or the environment. But still, his greatest fear is not technology abuse, but that we will not use it.
Craig Venter has tried to warn humanity-at-large about what is coming. He considers this the start of the new era of very rapid learning. There’s not a single aspect of human life that doesn’t have potential to be totally transformed.
Book - The Human Race to the FutureDo you wonder about the future - what things will be like some day? How much further and faster can technology escalate? How will robots and biotech impact our lives? Will there be sudden changes with major impact?
This recent book (published 2013) was authored by Dr. Daniel Berleant, professor of Information Science and fellow member of the Association of Professional Futurists. His writing is easy to understand and even entertaining. It shows the importance of understanding the future and considering how we might react.
Humans race for everything - the race among businesses to develop and introduce new products or services, the global economic rivalry between regions and nations. How much faster can this race accelerate? What can cause it to slow down?
This non-fiction book is almost science-fiction. The imaginative future scenarios include GPS-enabled clocks to replace daylight savings time, keyboards replaced by mind-reading, cheap genomes, smart pills, genetically engineered food for everyone, global warming vs. another ice age, colonizing the planet Mercury and the asteroid Apocalypse.
This book proposes many possible scenarios, spanning from the current century to many more centuries and beyond. It is imaginative, readable and sometimes even humorous.
Most chapters offer a concluding section with recommendations and sometimes Berleant’s inimitable opinions. Some recommended actions can be done by individuals, others by nations or other groups, and some will need to be world-efforts.
Here’s a sampling of some of the chapters to tempt you further:
2. Live Anywhere, Work Anywhere Else
3. Keyboards Yesterday, Mind Reading Tomorrow
5. Getting smarter with Smart Pills
6. When Genomes Get Cheap
12.Will Artificial Intelligence Threaten Civilization?
14.Get ready for a Space Empire
17.Global warming and a warm, poisonous planet
21.The Teeming Cities of Mars
25.Prepare for an Asteroid Apocalypse
If you recognize that the future is more than most of us may imagine, read this book - or download it to your Kindle for just $ 2.99.
Automation FuturesWhile much of the world is trying to figure out the techno-acceleration that’s occurring almost every day, the automation business lags behind, following rather than leading. The excuse for not trying new things too quickly is widespread conservatism. Many big manufacturing plants are still stuck in old-fashioned mainframe-era IT, hierarchical top-down central planning and moribund organizational structures.
And yet, right under the noses of the slumbering giants, things are continuing to happen - the rapid rise of mobile devices, the arrival of the Cloud and the Internet of Things, wireless connections everywhere.
My primary avocation over the past years has been, "Technology Futurist". Most of my writings and speaking engagements have been on Technology Futures topics. To close 2013, I’m listing here my writings and columns on Automation Futures topics.
Perry Marshall & Jim Pinto Webinar - December 18In the last issue of eNews, I mentioned the live webinar hosted by Perry Marshall and featuring the inimitable Jim Pinto. Hey, it gives you and I chance to interact this coming Wednesday - please come.
Here’s how Perry introduces me in his webinar "landing page":
"Jim Pinto is better qualified than almost anyone to answer because he’s lived his entire life in the automation business. Jim is now a Technology Futurist and keynotes at major events all over the world. His monthly e-newsletters are a must-read.
"1% of what you do produces 50% of your results. Jim will be sharing the 'tiny 1% hinges' that have swung huge doors for him, and will for you as well. He will open up his treasure chest of knowledge and experience and present directly actionable steps which, if followed, can produce immediate practical results."
Time : 1pm Eastern, 12pm Central, 10am Pacific.
The session is 90 minutes, with time reserved for live audience Q&A.
Please do reserve the time and let's talk. Sign on now and put it on your calendar.
eFeedbackDick Caro [RCaro@CMC.us] relates his experience with a trip to India:
"On all the roads as we drove around, there were masses of people. There were men who were generally not working, shopping, or doing anything that looked productive. Obviously, there are many more people than jobs. We saw thousands of small shops, most with signs in Hindi and English, selling everything. We saw lots of animals: cattle, monkeys, elephants, camels, horses, dogs – everywhere. Many animals were beasts of burden. We saw whole families, up to seven people, riding on a single motor scooter.
"We took a side trip from New Delhi to Agra to see what must be the most magnificent sight in all the world: the Taj Mahal. This was another oasis among the throngs of people all along the 3-hour ride from New Delhi to Agra."
"I think that humanity should try to solve this in at least two ways :
"The world’s populations and consumption can't grow longer this way. I think I’ll read ‘Inferno’, Dan Brown’s third book, soon.”
"E-mail predates the Web, and it betrays its origins - a means of communication within a scientific community who largely knew each other and certainly respected those they did not personally know.
"There are now fundamentally two versions of e-mail.
"I believe that the solution must include a business model that parallels the snail mail system, where the sender must affix a stamp. The sender must pay for each and every e-mail sent.
"The charge per e-mail does not have to be much - most people would barely notice one cent per e-mail, and monthly fee plans could include a number of ‘free' e-mails, similar to many mobile plans, with ‘free' SMS included.
“One cent per e-mail would break the business model of most spammers - who rely on sending out millions of free e-mails to get a few suckers to respond.
"People like yourself, who send out large numbers of welcomed e-mails might have to charge - perhaps no more than about 12 cents a year per subscriber. Most of your subscribers would be more than willing to pay a dollar a year for your newsletter. (Go on, admit it, you could do with the money to complete your bucket list!)
"There are probably other ways of achieving the same result, but the bottom line must be - the sender pays, or the receiver specifically requests and authorizes the e-mail."
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