The Future: The Extrapolations of Udo Gollub at Messe Berlin, Germany

The Future: The Extrapolations of Udo Gollub at Messe Berlin, Germany

I just went to the Singularity University summit and here are the key learnings:

Opinion - commentary -analysisIn 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt.

What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years – and most people don’t see it coming. Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on paper film again? Yet digital cameras were invented in 1975.

The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but followed Moore’s law. So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a long time, before it became way superior and got main-stream in only a few short years.

It will now happen with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs. 

During this presidential primary voters are most interested in jobs and the economy. Candidates are discussing “plans” to “bring jobs back to America.” However, we are moving in an economic direction no one ever anticipated. None of the candidates is discussing the amazing changes that are occurring. The future won’t look anything like the past:

Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution – the Exponential Age.

Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years. Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.

Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected.

Lawyers: In the USA, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So if you study law, recognize that there will be 90% less lawyers in the future, with only specialists remaining. IBM Watson already helps nurses diagnose cancer, 4 times more accurately than human nurses. Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

Autonomous Cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear publicly. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone; it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our kids will never get a driver’s license and will never own a car.

It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% less cars for that. We can transform former parking space into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 100,000 km, with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 10 million km.

We will save a million lives each year.

Most car companies might become bankrupt.

Traditional car companies try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels. I spoke to a lot of engineers from Volkswagen and Audi; they are terrified of Tesla.

Insurance Companies: will have massive trouble because without accidents, insurance will become 100x cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.

Real Estate: will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighbourhood.

Electric Cars: will become mainstream by 2020. Cities will be less noisy because all cars will be electric.

Electricity: will become incredibly cheap and clean: Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but you can only now see the impact. Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil fuels. The price for solar will drop so much that all coal companies will be out of business by 2025. With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water.

Desalination now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter. We don’t have scarce water in most places; we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if we can have as much clean water as we want, at almost no cost.

Health: The Tricorder X price will be announced this year. There will be companies who will build a medical device (called the “Tricorder” from Star Trek) that works with your phone. It scans your retina, your blood sample and you breathe into it. It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any disease. It will be so cheap, that in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medicine, almost free.

3D Printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. At the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies have started 3D printing of shoes. Spare airplane parts are already 3D printed at remote airports.

The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used in the past. At the end of this year, new smartphones will have 3D scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home. In China, they have already 3D printed a complete 6-storey office building. By 2027, 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D printed.

Business opportunities: If you think of a niche you want, ask yourself: “in the future, do you think we will have that?” If the answer is yes, say to yourself, “How can I make this happen sooner?” If it doesn’t work with your phone, forget the idea.

And any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st Century.

Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a short time.

Agriculture: There will be a $100 agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their fields instead of working all day on their fields. Hydroponics will need much less water. The first petri dish produced Veal is now available and will be cheaper than cow produced Veal in 2018. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces are used for cows. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore. There are several start-ups which will bring insect protein to the market shortly. They contain more protein than meat. It will be labeled as an “alternative protein source” because most people still reject the idea of eating insects.

Truth or Lies: There is an app called “moodies” which can already tell us the mood we are in. By 2020 there will be apps that can tell by our facial expressions if we are lying. Imagine a political debate where it’s being displayed, if they are telling the truth or not?

Longevity: Right now, the average life span increases by 3 months per year. Four years ago, the life span used to be 79 years, now it’s 80 years. The increase itself is increasing and by 2036, there will be more than a year in longevity increase per year. So we all might live for a long, long time, probably over a 100 years.

Education: The cheapest smartphones are already costing $10 in Africa and Asia. By 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smartphone. This means, everyone has the same access to world class education.

Every child can use Khan Academy for everything a child learns at school in First World countries….. They have already released new software in Indonesia and will release it in Arabic, Suaheli and Chinese shortly, because they see an enormous potential. They will give the English app for free, so that children in Africa can become fluent in English within half a year.   – The possibilities – another Kodak Moment?

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  • Clyde Duncan  On December 3, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    This is the Most Dangerous Time for Our Planet

    Stephen Hawking | The Guardian UK

    We can’t go on ignoring inequality, because we have the means to destroy our world but not to escape it

    As a theoretical physicist based in Cambridge, I have lived my life in an extraordinarily privileged bubble. Cambridge is an unusual town, centred around one of the world’s great universities. Within that town, the scientific community that I became part of in my 20s is even more rarefied.

    And within that scientific community, the small group of international theoretical physicists with whom I have spent my working life might sometimes be tempted to regard themselves as the pinnacle. In addition to this, with the celebrity that has come with my books, and the isolation imposed by my illness, I feel as though my ivory tower is getting taller.

    So the recent apparent rejection of the elites in both the USA and Britain is surely aimed at me, as much as anyone. Whatever we might think about the decision by the British electorate to reject membership of the European Union and by the American public to embrace Donald Trump as their next president, there is no doubt in the minds of commentators that this was a cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders.

    It was, everyone seems to agree, the moment when the forgotten spoke, finding their voices to reject the advice and guidance of experts and the elite everywhere.

    I am no exception to this rule. I warned before the Brexit vote that it would damage scientific research in Britain, that a vote to leave would be a step backward, and the electorate – or at least a sufficiently significant proportion of it – took no more notice of me than any of the other political leaders, trade unionists, artists, scientists, businessmen and celebrities who all gave the same unheeded advice to the rest of the country.

    What matters now, far more than the choices made by these two electorates, is how the elites react. Should we, in turn, reject these votes as outpourings of crude populism that fail to take account of the facts, and attempt to circumvent or circumscribe the choices that they represent? I would argue that this would be a terrible mistake.

    The concerns underlying these votes about the economic consequences of globalisation and accelerating technological change are absolutely understandable. The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.

    This in turn will accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world. The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive.

    We need to put this alongside the financial crash, which brought home to people that a very few individuals working in the financial sector can accrue huge rewards and that the rest of us underwrite that success and pick up the bill when their greed leads us astray. So taken together we are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing. It is no wonder then that they are searching for a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent.

    It is also the case that another unintended consequence of the global spread of the internet and social media is that the stark nature of these inequalities is far more apparent than it has been in the past. For me, the ability to use technology to communicate has been a liberating and positive experience. Without it, I would not have been able to continue working these many years past.

    But it also means that the lives of the richest people in the most prosperous parts of the world are agonisingly visible to anyone, however poor, who has access to a phone. And since there are now more people with a telephone than access to clean water in sub-Saharan Africa, this will shortly mean nearly everyone on our increasingly crowded planet will not be able to escape the inequality.

    The consequences of this are plain to see: the rural poor flock to cities, to shanty towns, driven by hope. And then often, finding that the Instagram nirvana is not available there, they seek it overseas, joining the ever greater numbers of economic migrants in search of a better life. These migrants in turn place new demands on the infrastructures and economies of the countries in which they arrive, undermining tolerance and further fuelling political populism.

    For me, the really disconcerting aspect of this is that now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together.

    We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans.

    Together, they are a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it.

    Perhaps in a few hundred years, we will have established human colonies amid the stars, but right now we only have one planet, and we need to work together to protect it.

    To do that, we need to break down, not build up, barriers within and between nations. If we are to stand a chance of doing that, the world’s leaders need to acknowledge that they have failed and are failing the many. With resources increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, we are going to have to learn to share far more than at present.

    With not only jobs but entire industries disappearing, we must help people to retrain for a new world and support them financially while they do so.

    If communities and economies cannot cope with current levels of migration, we must do more to encourage global development, as that is the only way that the migratory millions will be persuaded to seek their future at home.

    We can do this, I am an enormous optimist for my species; but it will require the elites, from London to Harvard, from Cambridge to Hollywood, to learn the lessons of the past year. To learn above all a measure of humility.

    • The writer launched http://www.unlimited.world earlier this year

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