JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 308 : 16 November 2012

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

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Machine Intelligence is Increasing Exponentially

Human-driven technological progress has largely replaced evolution as the dominant force shaping our future. Machines are rapidly becoming smarter than humans.

This sounds like science fiction, but consider the many areas where computers have already caught up with, and dominated, humans. Computers are better at classic games like chess, better drivers (driverless cars are safer), better at voice and face recognition and even better at the game Jeopardy, as IBM's Watson computer showed. Today, computers do the majority of trading on the stock market.

Once computers can re-program themselves, they basically take over. The question is, how can you control something that actually reprograms itself?

Clearly, we are trying to harness super intelligence to work for us, and succeeding. But, what happens when computer intelligence exceeds human intelligence?

Futurist Ray Kurzweil, considered by many to be a modern Thomas Edison, predicts that this will happen sometime within the next 20-30 years. That'll be when my grandchildren are still in their early 40's; and my new grandson will be about 30.

Raymond Kurzweil has become well known for predicting the future of artificial intelligence and the human race. I've reviewed Kurzweil's work and his books for over 10 years - since I started writing eNews.

His first book, "The Age of Intelligent Machines", published in 1990, predicted the explosive growth in the internet, among other things. Later works, 1999's "The Age of Spiritual Machines" and his 2005 tome, "The Singularity is Near" suggested the development of Human Body 2.0 and 3.0, where nanotechnology is incorporated into many internal organs.

In his latest (November 2012) book, "How to Create a Mind", Kurzweil predicts that new technologies will continue on the exponential curve, allowing humans to tie into the Internet through the brain's neocortex within 25 years. He explores how the brain will be reverse engineered, and how to create even more intelligent machines in the coming human-machine civilization.

Before you simply pooh-pooh this stuff as futuristic nonsense, consider the opinions and reviews by technology leaders like Dean Kamen (inventor of Segway) and other eminent scientists. Marvin Minsky, highly respected co-founder of MIT's Artificial Intelligence Lab calls it, "Kurzweil's best book so far".

The book was just published and, after reading reviews and excerpts, I've ordered my copy via Amazon.

Click Rise of the Machines

Click Amazon.com - Kurzweil's new book ( Nov. 2012) "How to Create a Mind"

Click Kurzweil's "How to Create a Mind" - website

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Mind extension for All

In an article in March 2000, I wrote this: "I have given amazing demonstrations of my knowledge as as a biochemist, an archeologist and an entomologist. My primary tool for demonstrations of my power is an Internet connection via one of many excellent search engines."

This "mind extension" has advanced significantly. Today, the Internet is in your pocket, and you can speak your request to your cellphone. Or, you can simply walk around with a TV screen in the corner of your eyewear. Your eye movements are detected so that you just need to glance at an arrow key to turn a page.

What used to be just Google search is becoming an extension of your mind, an omnipresent digital assistant that figures out what you need and can even anticipate your needs. This technology becomes a part of you. When you're driving, it can warn you that you're no longer fit to drive, based on your steering response time and blink rate.

There's a catch. For an augmented life, you must grant Google unprecedented privileges to monitor your personal information and behavior. What medicine do you take? What ads did you just glance at? What's your credit card number? This data will be integrated into the services, and you'll need to decide how much you want to share with Google and others on your contact list.

The problem is that these features will arrive in a steady stream of small changes, and one day you'll realize that Google has access to everything. Individually, all the changes are relatively benign; but collectively, they impinge significantly on your privacy.

Google's original mission was "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful". But, that definition is becoming obsolete, and many people don't really want to admit it.

So, will you be a "Luddite" and opt out? Or, are you in? Think about it.

Click How Google is becoming an extension of your mind

Click Your Eyes Can Control Augmented Reality Glasses

Click Jim Pinto (March 2000) - Intelligence & Consciousness in the New Age

Click The Extended Mind: Old & New

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Future Foods

With steadily increasing food prices and a growing population, food of the future needs to reflect what people can afford. And beyond just price, there's pollution.

We are used to eating cheap, abundant meat. But, it's well recognized that agriculture is responsible for about 14 % of the world's greenhouse gases. The world's 1.5 billion cows and billions of other grazing animals emit dozens of polluting gases, including lots of methane. Two-thirds of all ammonia comes from cows. In terms of its contribution to global warming, methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Already, in different parts of the world, people enjoy foods that we might find repulsive. Futurists predict that insects will be a common dish on restaurant menus. In fact, insects have the same nutritional values as beef. In 10-20 years, McDonald's may be serving insect burgers with chips.

There are over 1,400 insects that can be eaten by humans. Some edible insects will be called mini-livestock - the name can disguise what they actually are and make them seem more edible. The benefits of eating insects include the fact that they are less expensive to breed and care for than cattle, are more environmentally friendly and drink less water.

The food of the future may be synthetic, made to mimic real food. Foods could be made using a combination of laboratory chemicals. Lab-grown meat will be efficient and environmentally friendly. Algae can be grown in the ocean, a big bonus since land and fresh water will be increasingly scarce. The biofuel derived from algae could help reduce the need for fossil fuels. <> Foods such as lemon soufflŽ and chocolate pudding can be made using a combination of foams, gels and solids. It is thought that these foods will grow in popularity as real foods become more expensive to buy.

Reminiscent of the science fiction book, "Soylent Green", some foods will be made from human tissue. And some drinks will be made from urine (remember, some think urine has a beneficial effect).

To conserve land, vertical farming will be common - giant skyscraper farms. Plastic packaging will be edible - eliminating the pollution hazards. Some food will be 3D-printed into more appealing food shapes.

Click What will we be eating in 20 years' time?

Click Future Foods - for a Naturally Healthy World

Click Food of the future, insects and fake food

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eEducation Advancing

Traditional American universities are suddenly running scared. The start of the Internet age was open-enrollment degree programs like the University of Phoenix. But now they're confronting something much more alarming - online courses like Vimeo and 5min and iTunes U and TED and the Internet Archive.

We discussed in a previous eNews (23 May 2012) how Salman Khan turned the remote math-tutoring sessions he was offering his cousin into a global Internet phenomenon reaching 4 million unique viewers a month.

The threat to universities is this: Internet video sharing technology means that talented people from outside the education establishment can make and publish free educational videos that are more compelling than any university classrooms.

Most universities are scrambling to respond. But now they're vying with an explosion of new online learning resources like Coursera, Dabble, Skillshare, Udemy, and Udacity. Most are video courses, and are free.

For 40 years now, most established universities have been increasing tuition and fees at three times the rate of inflation. They've got professors and sports stadiums, but there's no evidence that faculty are more productive or that students are getting a better education.

Online courses can deliver college-level material in a more efficient and productive way, while opening up knowledge to millions of people who can't afford college tuition, or don't meet admissions standards.

Coursera now offers more than 100 courses and access to world-class courses from the following major universities:

  • California Institute of Technology
  • Duke University
  • Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Princeton University
  • Rice University
  • Stanford University
  • University of California, San Francisco
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Virginia
  • University of Washington
To date, 700,000 students from 190 countries have participated in classes on Coursera, with more than 1.55 million course enrollments.

There are many examples of this Futurists rule-of-thumb: When something Continues to offer less and costs more, it is becoming obsolete. Conventional university education, with its bloated fees and professor tenures and unrelated to education college-football extravaganzas, is simply putting itself out of business.

Click MIT Tech Review: Does Online Education Need to Be Free to Succeed?

Click WSJ: What campuses can learn from online teaching

Click Decentralizing education: how startups are dismantling the university

Click JimPinto.com -America's College Education in Serious Decline

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Automation & The Internet of Things in the Cloud

Over the past two decades, automation has improved the performance, quality and productivity of manufacturing and process systems. But performance remains at a plateau. Further improvements demand more data in real-time, beyond the processing capability of existing systems.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is about to transform the next decade. Literally everything will be connected to everything. Some estimate that 50 billion devices will be IoT-connected by 2020. The clock on the connected device transition is ticking very loudly.

IoT certainly won't bear fruit without ways to analyze all the data. Cloud computing is the enabler, the catalyst for that inflection point. It fundamentally changes how masses of data can be stored for interaction. It offers services on demand at the infrastructure, platform and software levels. Big data, the cloud and analytics combine to offer breakthrough productivity solutions.

Glen Allmendinger has been preaching the technology for more than a decade. He believes that "the biggest challenge will be finding enough new technology and industry players to develop all the applications required for this expanding opportunity." That's the growth opportunity.

Cloud-computing technology is now at a maturing phase. Development of both private and public cloud systems has become a priority across a broad spectrum of commercial suppliers and users. Cloud services are becoming inexpensive and widely available.

Already in industrial automation, we're seeing applications of cloud computing to facilitate preventive and predictive maintenance, a major change-driver. This requires every possible machine parameter to be collected historically and analyzed to drive intelligent decision-making; this is possible only with real-time analysis.

In addition to creating new markets and opportunities, cloud/IoT restructuring will overthrow many assumptions about who the industry's leaders will be and how they will establish and maintain leadership.

The insightful Jeremy Pollard writes: "Definite-purpose devices have populated our software and hardware toolboxes for decades. The cloud might change it all."

As the saying goes, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Click AW June 2011 - Automation in the Cloud

Click AW October 2012 - The Automation Internet of Things

Click AW November 2012 - Industrial Automation and the Cloud

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Wallace Krebs [wdkrebs@gmail.com] knows and has used and 3D printing. He sent this:
    "I have considered buying a Makerbot. You didn't point out the competing technologies of FDM vs. SLA in the desktop space.

    "The low resolution of FDM (fused deposition modeling) printers (Makerbot) has kept me from making the investment. I'm more interested in the SLA (stereo lithography) process. Since SLA uses lasers, it can currently achieve much higher resolution than FDM printers.

    "I'm sure the resolution of FDM will get better over time, just like Inkjet printers got better. I remember my first Canon portable inkjet printer with a resolution of around 80dpi (good enough for text) and it only did B&W. Now we can print at 2400dpi or higher with inkjet technology, but it has taken years to get there. SL can print at those higher resolutions today, but the cost has been the limiting factor.

    "A third technology that looks promising is SLS (selective laser sintering) that literally bonds together different powders. This technology has the capability to create models in far more materials than the other two technologies. It also has the benefit of printing undercuts and details that are next to impossible with other technologies. I haven't seen any desktop versions of an SLS printer."

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Ritchie Tabachnick [ritchie.tabachnick@ec-africa.com] took issue with Rodger Lovrenich's mention of "firebrand liberals" being intolerant:

    "Inequality in America has become institutionalized, and has played a big role in the downfall of the economy. No one expects level results, however, opportunity for social mobility in America, once a hallmark of our free enterprise economy, has become amongst the lowest in the developed world.

    "In the US, the high cost of education is preventing us from developing our brightest young talent, which impedes social mobility and deprives society of educated workers who are necessary for economic development. Banks penalize the poor with higher rates and higher fees. The lack of comprehensive public transportation in most of our cities penalizes the poor. High energy prices penalize the poor. The list goes on and on.

    "Conservatives complain that liberals want to redistribute wealth. The fact is that in the last 30 years, the US has undergone a tremendous redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top. From 1945-1980, rising tides raised all boats. Then, through outsourcing, de-unionization, rising health care costs, deregulation of banks, privatizing pensions, shifting the tax burden downwards, and lack of investment in education and infrastructure, we put anchors on the boats of the bottom 80% of wage earners, and let the rising tides drown them.

    "No one expects level results. A democratic society should provide the framework for those who have talent and work hard to escape poverty and make better lives for themselves. A person who holds full-time employment should be able to keep his or her family housed and fed, and have access to health care when they need it. They should have public schools that will help their children develop, and access to higher education that will give the brightest among them a chance to make better lives for themselves.

    "This is not liberal idealism, it's good sound economics. Upward mobility creates consumers who have disposable income. Investment in infrastructure creates decent-wage labor jobs. That's what drove the economy to grow in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. We can do it again if big-money interests and their 'conservative' puppets in government get out of the way of responsible economic policy."

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Glenn Harvey [glennharvey@charter.net] concured with the discussion of American problems of poverty and inequality of women in the workplace. But he brought up the troubling problems of worldwide poverty.

    "You partitioned the poverty issue into 'among rich countries' but you obviously know that people living in poverty in the US have far better quality of life - by orders of magnitude - than the poor in India and other third world nations.

    "I often wonder how those like you who come from countries like India, rationalize the position of admonishing Americans to distribute their wealth more freely to other Americans, rather than advocating for the broader issues such as lifting those who exist under cardboard shelters in the slums of Mumbai, or stopping the massacre of tens of thousands of citizens by their own government in places like Syria.

    "I don't see you pleading with your subscribers to help with these more severe problems in other countries, or even to inform us of them."

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