Researchers working at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have successfully challenged a fundamental law that’s limited the physics of storing electromagnetic energy for the past 100 years. This breakthrough, which the researchers have published in the journal Science, frees up physicists and engineers to develop technologies that rely on resonant and wave-guiding systems.
First formulated in 1914, the fundamental principle known as the Lorentz reciprocity posits an inversely proportional relationship between the length of time a wave could be stored to the bandwidth (or the range of frequencies transmitted in a given signal) of resonant or wave-guiding systems. For a resonator to store energy for a longer time, it has to decrease its bandwidth. In other words, limited bandwidth translates to limited data.
The researchers managed to find a work around to the 100-year-old limitation by developing a hybrid resonant/wave-guiding system using a magno-optic material. When a magnetic field is applied, it can contain the wave for a longer period of time, while also maintaining a large bandwidth.
The researchers broke the time-bandwidth restriction by a factor of 1,000 — but they think it may be possible that there’s no limit to how high it could go. “It was a moment of revelation when we discovered that these new structures did not feature any time-bandwidth restriction at all. These systems are unlike what we have all been accustomed to for decades, and possibly hundreds of years” said lead author Kosmas Tsakmakidis in a press release. “Their superior wave-storage capacity performance could really be an enabler for a range of exciting applications in diverse contemporary and more traditional fields of research.”
By breaking the restriction, the EPFL research will have a major impact on wide range of engineering and physics applications. “The reported breakthrough is completely fundamental – we’re giving researchers a new tool. And the number of applications is limited only by one’s imagination,” Tsakmakidis explained.
These applications could also extend to telecommunications, optical detection systems, and broadband energy harvesting, the press release noted. Essentially, any technology that uses waves to store information now has access to a wider bandwidth. That could be anything from on-chip spectroscopy, light harvesting and energy storage using broadband to broadband optical camouflaging — such as an invisibility cloak.
China’s central bank — the People’s Bank of China — has developed a prototype of a cryptocurrency that it could end up in circulation in the near future. It would be introduced alongside the China’s primary currency the renminbi (also called the yuan). China will be simulating possible scenarios and running mock transactions using the cryptocurrency with some commercial Chinese banks.
The potential benefits of developing a digital currency are significant, particularly in China. First, it would decrease the cost of transactions, and therefore make financial services more accessible, which would be a big help to the millions of people in the country who are unconnected to conventional banks. Second, as it would be supported by blockchain, it has the potential to decrease the rates of fraud and counterfeiting, which would be of service to the government’s attempts to reduce corruption — a key concern. Third, it would make the currency easier to obtain, which would increase the rate of international transactions, allowing for more trades and faster economic growth.
The Rise of Cryptocurrencies
Since Bitcoin’s humble beginnings back in 2009 (when it was only valued at around 0.0007 USD) the digital currency, and the very idea of cryptocurrencies in fact, has grown monumentally. The total market cap of cryptocurrencies on April 1st of this year was over $25 Billion. A single Bitcoin is now worth more than $2,500. Now many national economies, as China’s plan shows, are considering the idea of developing their own variant.
Although China’s experimental approach to simulate a self-developed cryptocurrency’s usage is the first of its kind, other countries and institutions have made strides in that direction as well. The Deputy of Russia’s central bank has emphatically stated that “regulators of all countries agree that it’s time to develop national cryptocurrencies.” Over 260,000 stores in Japan will begin accepting Bitcoin as legal tender this summer, and big banks like Santander have announced plans to develop their own version.
Earlier this year, Finland launched a pilot program to test a universal basic income (UBI) policy by giving 2,000 of its citizens €560 ($624) every month for two years.
This program is dramatically different from traditional safety net systems. The payments are completely unconditional, and recipients can spend the money however they want. They are not required to prove they are actively looking for work, and even if they find employment, they will not lose their income from the UBI program.
Five months into the program, organizers are starting to see some promising results. One participant in the program told TheEconomistthat he is now actively seeking work and feels less stressed. Of course, this one anecdotal example cannot speak for the whole of the program, which is still in its infancy, but it is encouraging.
As is the case in Finland, governments are also testing the waters of UBI. At the end of last year, the government of Prince Edward Island unanimously voted to work with the Canadian government to establish a pilot UBI program, and India is currently exploring the possibility of such a system as well.
Not only could UBI replace the income lost as automated systems continue to replace human workers, experts also believe that having such a safety net would spur more innovation as the fear of failure would be reduced. People equipped with the knowledge that they will be able to provide for themselves should they fail will be more willing to take bigger risks, which could result in a spike in innovation that would help us all.
When something bothers serial entrepreneur Elon Musk, it seems he just can’t help but come up with a solution. That’s how the Boring Company was born. Now, it looks like Musk is being true to one of the musings he voiced during Tesla’s shareholders meeting earlier this month.
At that time, Musk criticized existing music streaming algorithms and their bad playlist quality. He promised a music service feature for Tesla vehicles, which would suggest “the music you want to listen to.” Sources from the music industry are now confirming that that Tesla does, indeed, have interest in coming up with a music service. These sources confirmed to Recodethat the company has already had talks about licensing proprietary music with all the major record labels.
“We believe it’s important to have an exceptional in-car experience so our customers can listen to the music they want from whatever source they choose,” a Tesla spokesperson told Recode. “Our goal is to simply achieve maximum happiness for our customers.”
While the sources aren’t clear yet about the scope of Tesla’s music service, it’s possible that the company would start by offering a Pandora-like web radio streaming. As Tesla’s vehicles come with a high-tech dashboard and full internet connectivity, this is highly possible. There’s also interest from the record label companies, as Tesla’s sales have been going up. They sold more than 100,000 cars last January and has already 400,000 preorders for the Model 3.
Embracing the Future
Let’s take a moment to look at Tesla, though. With its hand in electric vehicles, solar power, and next-generation batteries, Musk’s company is already a major player in the renewable energy market. It’s also an industry leader, in its own right, in autonomous vehicle technology. Tesla’s already grown past what its earliest critics expected.
There seems to be nothing Musk doesn’t want to do. If you think about it, he’s just being a good innovator by providing a service to answer a particular need. The question is, is there a need for the kind of music service Musk envisions?
Getting into the streaming business might seem like a weird path for Tesla to take. By providing what promises to be a better music streaming service, however, Tesla’s simply improving the overall experience of driving its cars. Who wouldn’t want to listen to good music while your car drives itself?
Google is maintaining its edge in the world of quantum computing. Its 20-qubit processor is currently undergoing tests, and the company appears to be on schedule to have its working 49-qubit chip ready by the end of 2017 as promised. Until it began trialing the 20-qubit chip, Google’s most powerful quantum chip was the 9-qubit effort from 2015.
Traditional computer bits are binary, only existing as either 0 or 1; they’re like light switches that are either on or off. Qubits, on the other hand, can be 0 or 1 like regular bits, but can also have quantum properties that allow them to exist in a superposition where they are both 0 and 1 simultaneously. This makes qubits potentially far more powerful, because instead of figuring something out by trying each option one by one, they can simultaneously compute more than one possibility.
Google’s 49-qubit chip will allow them to develop a 49-qubit quantum system that can solve problems that are far beyond the capacity of ordinary computers: Google calls this goal quantum supremacy. The 20-qubit system that the Google quantum computing team is now working on currently boasts a “two-qubit fidelity” of 99.5 percent. The higher the rating, the fewer errors the system makes. Quantum supremacy demands not only a 49-qubit system, but also sufficient accuracy to achieve a two-qubit fidelity of at least 99.7 percent—which Google is on track to deliver by the end of 2017.
Quantum Computing, Quantum Speed
Google isn’t alone in their quest for advancing quantum computing. In 2016, IBM was running a 5 qubit computer, but by May 2017, it was offering beta access to its 16 qubit platform to the public for testing purposes. Furthermore, qubits alone aren’t the only consideration for actually achieving working quantum computers; error correction and scaling will also be critical to quantum systems. However, if Google does achieve quantum supremacy, it will be a major step forward.
On Wednesday, the price of Ether “flash-crashed” by over 99.9% in less than a second on GDAX, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges. This was due to a multi-million dollar sell order being placed on the exchange. Because the exchange did not have enough buy orders on its books to accommodate a sell this large, the price crashed immediately from $317.81 to $224.48; this movement was enough to then trigger a wave of about 800 automatic position liquidations due to margin calls and stop-loss orders, driving the price briefly as low as $0.10, and causing GDAX to suspend trading.
This is only the most recent of a series of similar events across crypto exchanges, and rather than being a reflection on GDAX in particular, it’s a symptom of the underlying problems created by the stress of capital flow increasing faster than market infrastructure development.
What does this mean for investors?
Although the price quickly returned back above $300, the millions of dollars that investors lost due to forced selling of their positions will not be recovered. This incident highlights the relative immaturity of the cryptocurrency trading ecosystem, which has been stressed by a 20x increase in daily trading volume since the start of 2017 without any fundamental change in market structures.
From the trader-in-question’s side (assuming they were simply trying to get out of this position in a crude way and not a malicious actor or market manipulator) dumping the whole position at once will have likely incurred millions in liquidity costs. A single huge move like this is both bad for them and for the margin traders who were forced out of positions at even worse prices, all due to price actions that would be easily avoidable through more intelligent trading logic.
What does this tell us about exchanges?
On the other side, the exchange doesn’t have adequate safeguards to prevent such a flash-crash. When a participant has a margin position less than their margin requirements in traditional markets, they are typically given 24–48 hours to post collateral. GDAX, on the other hand, seems to instantly liquidate you (with market orders) into their very thin order book. Some version of this problem exists on most crypto exchanges, although a few (like Poloniex) try to mitigate it with simple trading logic to soften the price impact of underwater margin position liquidations.
GDAX stop losses operate similarly. For major foreign exchange trading pairs in traditional markets, the largest differential between a person’s stop loss and actual execution price is ~0.10%. On GDAX, people who had stop losses at $316 actually sold their ether at $0.10. Furthermore, GDAX does not specify if stop orders are time-priority based or price based. For example, if someone has a stop loss order at $50, and someone puts a stop loss order later at $100, when a flash crash occurs, who gets to sell their ether first?
The thin order book combined with their liquidation rules expose the exchange, and traders on the exchange, to events like this one.
While this creates a short term windfall in margin calls for the exchange’s owners, they pay that price in reputation and deterring players from trading crypto on margin. The uncertainty a trader has to live with in this environment is one of the major barriers to entry for the large institutional pools of capital that can bring the crypto markets into maturity and raise the overall market cap to the size of traditional asset classes.
While these events are frustrating due to the negative impact they have on the space as a whole, they are also exciting because they illustrate the massive opportunity present for those willing to do the work to build out sophisticated financial infrastructure.
How does Omega One solve this problem?
The Omega One platform, which will be launched later in 2017, will provide a structural solution to problems like this, protecting both traders and exchanges.
If the trader who put the $30m order on GDAX had put the order in on Omega One, the market would barely have moved at all. Instead, the Omega trading engine would have taken this trader’s order and broken it into thousands of tiny sell orders, and placed those orders intelligently over time across all the world’s liquid crypto exchanges.
The order books on GDAX, Poloniex, Bitfinex, Kraken, and other exchanges would each have seen a tiny increment of additional selling pressure in the first seconds after the order — enough to absorb the available demand to buy on those exchanges, but not enough to force a price move.
As those initial sell orders were traded, the Omega One trading engine would have monitored the outcomes and adjusted behavior accordingly within milliseconds, releasing sell orders to the market at exactly the pace that the market could absorb. Instead of pushing the entire order into one place within one second and thus crashing the market, Omega One would have spread the order out over all the world’s crypto exchanges over the space of perhaps an hour, and nobody would be any the wiser for it.
In addition to not losing millions of dollars and crashing the market, the unknown trader from Wednesday would have also have avoided the risk of putting their millions of dollars worth of crypto in the hands of an exchange. In order to sell the Ether on GDAX, they first needed to send that Ether to GDAX, giving up custody of their funds and trusting GDAX not to be hacked or otherwise compromise their funds.
If the unknown trader had been using Omega One, they could have kept their funds on the Ethereum blockchain in a wallet under their control, right up until the point of settlement. The combination of security and cost benefits provided by Omega One will transform the crypto markets, facilitating the next level of maturity of the crypto trading ecosystem.
Disclosure: Futurism is exploring a financial relationship with Omega One and has a personal affiliation with ConsenSys. This is a piece of editorial content. Omega One and ConsenSys do not have any review privileges on editorial decisions.
If you’re a fan of Nutella, you’re likely more interested in what comes in the company’s jars than what goes on them. However, if you’re a fan who lives in Italy, you recently had reason to be excited about both.
After previously playing around with the caption on their jars, Nutella decided earlier this year that they wanted to do something interesting with the label designs on their containers. To that end, the Ferrero-owned brand launched a campaign in February that saw 7 million unique Nutella jar designs hit shelves, and all 7 million were sold.
The labels featured combinations of lines and shapes, polka dots and zigzags, and no, the company didn’t employ an army of artists to make their campaign happen — all they needed to create these “Nutella Unica” jars was a single algorithm.
An algorithm is a program developed to execute certain functions. In other words, lines of code were able to create these unique designs as well as your typical human designer could. Once written, Nutella’s algorithm would combine various patterns and colors for each design on its own and then give each a customized ID code to ensure no two labels were alike.
Nutella’s label-designing algorithm isn’t the first automated program to dabble in the artistic — indeed, it seems few professions remain beyond the reach of automation.
The intelligent automation of this century could revolutionize professions the same way automation in the days of the Industrial Revolution opened up new opportunities for people. While some people might lose their jobs, automation might just give them better ones in exchange.
Bitcoin has achieved record highs this year: currently, it’s worth almost three times as much as it was for most of January. Even so, Ether’s success this year is eclipsing Bitcoin’s, given that Ether has risen an unbelievable 4,500 percent in 2017. When we rang in the new year, Ether was worth only around 5 percent as much as Bitcoin, but as of this week, The New York Times reports that “outstanding units of the Ether currency were worth around $34 billion. . .82 percent as much as all the Bitcoin in existence.”
Ether is now backed by not only the usual tekkies, but major corporations such as Accenture, Microsoft, Toyota, Intel, and JPMorgan Chase. These companies are becoming part of Ethereum’s planned global computing network (which will require Ether to use) on the ground floor. Furthermore, Ethereum is gaining traction among cryptocurrency users, with 94 percent feeling positive about the Bitcoin alternative. Only 49 percent report feeling positive about Bitcoin, according to CoinDesk‘s report on a recent survey. Recent trends seem to indicate Ethereum’s value will surpass Bitcoin’s soon — an event cryptocurrency enthusiasts have termed “the flippening.”
Ethereum and Bitcoin share many important qualities. Both are maintained and hosted by volunteers all over the world, and tracked by a network of computers, rather than a company or government. Private exchanges establish the prices of both, and people can buy and sell them at market rates or trade them.However, Ethereum was created to do far more than work like digital currency. The Ethereum computer network can also run computer programs and do computational work; functions otherwise known as decentralized applications, or Dapps. This has attracted a massive community of programmers who all contribute their labor to improving the software. In turn, companies have started using the Ethereum network as a base for other programs. JPMorgan Chase, for example, is creating a monitoring system for trading. Some corporate Ethereum users are creating their own Ether currency-free versions of the software, although many observers believe that these software programs will eventually be connected to the Ethereum network.
The Realities Of Cryptocurrency
The rapid boom of both Ethereum and Bitcoin showcase not only the massive potential of blockchain technology, but the volatility of the cryptocurrency world. The Bitcoin community has, at times, been plagued by technical issues and struggles with hackers demanding ransom, and illicit activity like online drug sales. Ethereum has problems, too — like the DAO heist in 2016. However, challenges like these are not unexpected in totally new systems, and both Bitcoin and Ethereum have been robust enough to recover well. NYT reports that their combined value is now “worth more than the market value of PayPal and is approaching the size of Goldman Sachs.”
The idea that companies and individuals will choose to use the computing capabilities of the Ethereum network, as well as the currency, is still speculative. More conservative investors want to see extensive evidence before they make this kind of choice, and right now they don’t have that much to go on.
Meanwhile, Bitcoin’s choice to use retail acceptance of its currency as an entry into mainstream commerce through companies like Expedia and Overstock.com is less risky. Even still, that strategy does run the risk of less savory “retailers” — like drug traffickers. blockchain technology, the basis for the software, is clearly secure, but Ethereum’s strategy may prove more successful over time.
Imagine a society in which everyone, regardless of economic status, age, household size, and location, was guaranteed a minimum income — a no-strings-attached safety net that was not affected by work income or anything else. That’s universal basic income (UBI), and the idea is gaining traction as trials of the idea are taking place around the world. Canada, India, Kenya, and Finland are all investigating how UBI for every citizen might work in practice.
Some of the most successful people in the world are getting behind the idea, although not everyone agrees about the utility or practical application of UBI. Here’s what some of the world’s most prominent individuals in the world think about UBI.
Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, spoke about UBI at the World Government Summit in Dubai earlier this year. Musk said that, due to mass disruption in employment caused by automation, “I don’t think we’re going to have a choice. I think it’s going to be necessary. There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better.”
Cuban, television personality and chairman of AXS TV, is no friend of UBI, and favors fixing current welfare programs more than creating UBI programs. Although he sees automation changing the job market as a serious problem, he calls UBI programs “one of the worst possible responses.”
no. I think it’s one of the worst possible responses
Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, told the audience for his speech at the Harvard commencement ceremony that he favors UBI as a driver of innovation. “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas,” he said as part of his speech.
Clinton, former First Lady and U.S. presidential candidate, said of UBI that she was “not ready to go there,” but instead favored expanding earned income tax credit. She said in an interview with Daniel Roth last year that she was concerned about the many people who continue to be unemployed, and argued “we’ve got to help create better opportunities for them without just giving up and saying, ‘Okay, fine, […] you don’t really have to do anything anymore.’ I don’t think that works for a democracy and I don’t think it works for most people.”
Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, isn’t opposed to the UBI concept, but he doesn’t think the time is right to implement it. Gates feels that resources are too limited to make it happen now, and instead more targeted programs need to happen first. “Over time, countries will be rich enough to do this,” Gates said during a AMA on Reddit. “However, we still have a lot of work that should be done — helping older people, helping kids with special needs, having more adults helping in education.”
Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, told Robin Paul he agrees that there ought to be a minimum standard of living for everyone and feels that material needs for all people should be met. However, he stressesdthat some people in society are in much more distress than others, and need more assistance. Since this is the case, UBI might not be enough for them.
Former President Obama has not officially stated a position on UBI, although last October he told Wired that there was no question it will be part of the coming debate surrounding automation: “Whether a universal income is the right model — is it gonna be accepted by a broad base of people? — that’s a debate that we’ll be having over the next 10 or 20 years.”
Some of the most common questions ever asked in regards to the idea of a universal basic income (UBI) are in regards to the details. “How much income? Who gets it? Who pays for it? How is it paid for? What does it replace?” These are all great and important questions, but the answers vary from person to person, because the answers are a matter of personal and political preferences when it comes to fine-grained details. With that said, after years of studying basic income, below you will find what I currently believe in May of 2017 are the details of an optimally designed UBI blueprint.
First, how much are we talking about? In the United States, I suggest starting with the definition of poverty we already use, and eliminating poverty entirely. According to 2017 federal poverty guidelines, this means if we were to pass legislation tomorrow, it would need to be $12,060 per adult citizen and $4,180 per dependent under 18. The amount for kids is imperative so that income floors scale according to household sizes. A child basic income is also in large part a revenue neutral consolidation of existing expenditures presently unequally distributed. However, for reasons I will explain below, I suggest adding 10% to each amount, so $13,266 ($1,105/mo) per adult citizen and $4,598 ($383/mo) per citizen under 18.
Taking into consideration that we are talking about US citizens only (which would also incentivize legal immigration) who comprise an estimated 92.8% of the population, this particular basic income design requires finding about $3.4 trillion in total (not net) revenue. This may sound like a very big number. It is. Some people even just stop right there or decide we have to eliminate ALL government programs to do it. But it’s not as big as you may think, and we don’t have to eliminate everything to use a great deal of existing revenue.
Welfare State Reform
First, there are welfare programs we can eliminate entirely once basic income is enacted into law. Food and nutrition assistance programs ($108 billion) and temporary assistance for needy families ($17 billion) for example would both be better accomplished by simply giving people money without conditions. TANF especially needs to be fully replaced for reasons I’ve described previously. It’s important to note my plan will not touch health care, child care, or housing, although we will still spend less on all of these for reasons I’ll explain further down.
Second, there are welfare programs in existence that we don’t tend to see as welfare because they are targeted mostly toward those at the top of the income and wealth spectrum. They’re called tax expenditures. Such invisible welfare programs that disproportionately reduce tax bills are essentially the same thing as not reducing taxes and just giving people money, and so they too can be entirely replaced by basic income. They include: the earned income credit ($73 billion), the child tax credit ($56 billion), home ownership tax expenditures ($340 billion), married filing jointly preferential tax treatment ($70 billion), the tax break on pensions ($160 billion), fossil fuel subsidies ($33 billion), and treating capital gains differently than ordinary income ($160 billion).
Next, there are existing programs that can be considered as proto-basic incomes that are mostly achieved through the Social Security system like retirement pensions and disability incomes. I believe these programs should be reduced because they were designed without basic income in mind, but should function supplementally in a way that shifts some revenue to the basic income revenue pool, in a way that leaves all recipients better off. This can be achieved by replacing just one of every three dollars with basic income.
For example, someone receiving $1,500/mo in Social Security right now would instead receive $1,000/mo in Social Security in addition to their $1,105/mo in basic income, for a new total of $2,105/mo leaving them $605/mo better off. Someone receiving $2,100/mo in disability income would instead receive $1,400/mo in addition to their $1,105/mo in basic income for a new total of $2,505/mo leaving them $405/mo better off. Applying this method yields the following revenue shifted to UBI: Social Security ($324.2 billion), SSI ($20.6 billion), veteran pensions ($29 billion), and unemployment insurance ($13 billion). I also recommend lifting the cap on Social Security so that everyone pays in no matter how much they earn, which would raise an additional $380 billion.
At this point I’d like to introduce some new taxes, none of which involve raising any tax rates on ordinary salaries and wages, and all of which are highly progressive when combined with basic income.
Carbon Tax (Fee and Dividend)
The most important new tax for the survival of our species is in my opinion a revenue-neutral carbon tax. I suggest starting at $50/ton with annual increases of $15/ton. The result would be an immediate $150 billion in the first year that would grow annually in a way that results in a basic income that also grows annually, and carbon pollution that shrinks annually. Using a model provided by the Carbon Tax Center, I’ve calculated that In just five years, it could be providing everyone over $100 per month and have reduced CO2 pollution levels to a third of what they were back in 2005, while going on to cut them in half by 2030. By 2040 it could be distributing $1.5 trillion to all citizens as co-owners of the sky they’re paying more to pollute 60% less.
I suggest a financial transaction tax starting at 0.34% based on a microsimulation by Urban-Brookings which concluded it as the maximum rate before changes in behavior result in revenue decline. This would be a tiny but very progressive tax on the financial transactions of mostly the wealthiest (the top 1% own about 50% of all financial investments and the bottom 50% own about 1%) that would raise an estimated $75 billion and make financial markets more stable by putting a price on destabilizing and rent-seeking high frequency trading.
It may come as a surprise to learn that money itself is a public good that’s now almost entirely created into existence not publicly by government “printing” but privately as digital accounting entries on commercial bank ledgers. Since this money creation is free for banks, and interest on it is charged, the interest is essentially a private tax that serves as a tool of upward redistribution. It’s welfare for bankers. By replacing debt-based private money creation through seigniorage reform with debt-free public money creation, and simultaneously removing the ability of banks to create new money, we could not only fund basic income in a way that requires no taxes, but it could also help prevent future bank-created market crashes. Considering that the M1 money supply has been expanded by $2 trillion since 2008, that’s about $213 billion per year we could have instead just created ourselves in the hands of all citizens equally, no taxes required.
Whereas income taxes are direct and unavoidable as long as earning income through work is required to live, consumption taxes are indirect and avoidable because they’re only paid upon purchase. We are familiar with this in the US in the form of sales taxes, but sales taxes are only applied on the final product. A value-added tax is applied at each step along the chain of production, and thus is a tax far more difficult to evade paying.
A 10% VAT could generate around $750 billion per year in new revenue. It would also function as a clawback mechanism for basic income similar to a negative income tax with a 10% clawback rate, where individuals consuming more than $132,660 per year would pay more in taxes than what they receive in UBI, while all those consuming less would receive more in UBI than they pay. Essentially, with a 10% VAT, everyone spending more than $132,660 would be funding their own $13,266 basic income and thus carry no cost to any other taxpayer.
A 10% VAT applied to all purchases in the US would also raise the poverty line about 10%, which is the reason the basic income I recommend is 10% above the existing federal poverty line. Also, for those who fear the idea of people taking their basic incomes and earning no additional income, it would mean that aside from the other 90% that gets transformed into wages and salaries through purchases of goods and services, 10% of their basic incomes would go right back into funding everyone else’s basic income.
Last but not least, in fact in my opinion most important of all economically in the long-term as a new tax to increasingly replace existing taxes with, is a tax on the unimproved value of land — aka land-value taxation or LVT. Not to be confused with property taxes that tax what’s built on land, LVT taxes the total value of real estate minus what’s built on it. The owner of a high-rise apartment building providing homes to hundreds of families would pay the same tax as an identical adjacent lot that stands empty, thus providing a disincentive to idle speculation and an incentive to develop unused and underused space.
The value of land is perhaps the best example of all of the wealth we all co-create, because the value of land depends entirely on everything and everyone that exists around it, not on it. If all your neighbors burn down their houses, your house will be worth less. If all your neighbors fix up their houses, your house will be worth more. The increase in value is clearly collectively (not individually) generated.
Since the 1980s, housing prices in the US have increased by 5% on average (minus the real estate bubble creation and burst), which means a 5% tax levied on land values and distributed to all as basic income would be distributing the value created by everyone to everyone. It would raise an estimated $750 billion and function as an entirely unavoidable tax on both corporations and individuals alike. It would also serve alongside the VAT as an additional clawback mechanism, where all owners of land totaling more than $265,320 would pay more in LVT than received in basic income.
This combination would be hugely progressive, not only economically but racially, because the top 10% own 78% of all non-home real estate, and where the median white household has around $76,000 in home value wealth, the median black household has only around $1,500 in home value wealth. In other words, under this plan, median white households (not counting any other taxes but LVT) would potentially be net receivers of $9,466 in basic income and median black households would be net receivers of $12,966 in basic income. For those hoping for a UBI that provides extra as reparations, this plan achieves that by clawing back less from African Americans, not for being African American, but for being systematically excluded from property ownership for centuries.
This proposed basic income plan is not only fully funded at this point, but has surpassed the mark by over $300 billion. However, I’m still not done, as I firmly believe basic income needs to (aside from being indexed to inflation) grow as productivity grows, so now we need to look at ways of accomplishing what is effectively indexation of basic income to the automation of labor.
As I’ve written about previously, Alaska points the way forward as a model to expand upon. Economic rent should be diverted from rentiers and back to citizens through recognition of citizen co-ownership of natural common assets like water and minerals, and social common assets like big data and patent royalties, with that revenue feeding into a national fund whose purpose is universal dividends. There are some very clever methods of achieving this already being proposed. Renowned economist Yanis Varoufakis has suggested that because taxpayer money has funded so much of the technology around us, like for example the iPhone, the process of filing for every new IPO should involve a percentage of those shares being added to a giant sovereign wealth fund, like in Alaska, whose dividends will pay into the total basic income pool. Robert Reich has suggested that because governments are the ones providing patent and trademark protections for the technologies that are eliminating jobs, that a share of the profits from that protection should go to citizens as the condition of such protection.
Just as an annually rising carbon fee could be returned to us all as a dividend for our co-ownership of the air, I suggest that an annually rising intellectual property fee could be added to any intellectual property wishing to be monopolistically excluded from the public domain, with the revenue returned to us as co-investors of the government granting such protection. I also suggest that big data should be seen as a new form of property being digitally created by everyone through everything we do, and that as a result, citizens should see a percentage of the money derived from it as a big data dividend. Companies like Facebook could pay into the basic income pool a percentage of what they earn from selling our data as a royalty for mining us like oil fields.
There are a lot of ways to grow basic income from something that just covers the purchase of essentials into something more like a prosperity dividend that covers far more than the basics over the decades to come. Let’s figure them out. The automation of human labor demands it, as does human flourishing.
One of the main points of division among supporters of basic income is the choice of eliminating the welfare state or supplementing it. I’ve already covered how this is a false choice with my suggestion of a partial transformation of the Social Security system into a top-up program of payments of reduced size, but there is I think a key point to consider as a grand compromise. If considered identical to ordinary income for the purpose of welfare qualification, the basic income will raise people’s total incomes above the point of qualifying for many existing welfare programs due to their very means-tested nature. This would greatly reduce the benefits many programs provide, some even to nothing, just as working a job would, without actually eliminating anything at all.
Take Medicaid for example. Right now to qualify, one must be earning less than 138% of the poverty line. This means that if we treat a basic income set at the poverty level as an increase of everyone’s earned incomes, only those earning 38% of the poverty line right now will still qualify for Medicaid after UBI, just as they would no longer qualify after getting an equivalent raise through their employer right now. That could effectively lower the total Medicaid bill from $650 billion per year to under $200 billion. Those earning more than 38% of the poverty line who previously received Medicaid would instead receive ACA (assuming it isn’t repealed and replaced) subsidies to afford private health insurance in their state market exchanges, and those currently receiving subsidies who are earning more than 300% of the poverty line right now would no longer qualify for them.
Looking beyond Medicaid at all means-tested programs designed to help those living in poverty, lifting everyone above the poverty line would result in many programs becoming entirely pointless based on their own existing definitions of deciding who is deserving of help and who isn’t. If the only people deserving of help are those earning less than $12,000 per year, then after UBI is enacted, no one is deserving of that help anymore having newly joined the ranks of the undeserving.
Additionally, no discussion of the cost of basic income and the savings it stands to provide is complete without asking the cost of not implementing basic income. How much are we spending right now on the full costs of poverty, inequality, and insecurity in the form of all the crime, poor health outcomes, worse educational outcomes, and reduced productivity for example that would not exist with basic income? I’ve attempted to calculate this myself, and I think the amount, whatever it is, is greater than the cost of this UBI plan. In other words, basic income entirely pays for itself by reducing countless other costs that we currently consider entirely normal to pay, across all of society. Basic income is akin to a vaccine, or a strategy of fire prevention versus fire fighting. It’s an ounce of prevention instead of a pound of cure.
The above combination of revenue sources and entirely new funding methods has the potential to bring in multiple existing constituencies — each already advocating for these ideas albeit separately — while also enhancing the ability to adjust the basic income over time by creating a series of new economic dials. Additionally, by simplifying the income tax code and implementing these new taxes, fees, and royalties universally as part of putting money into the pockets of citizens directly without strings instead of indirectly with strings, citizens may show greater support for further improvements over time, to increase the basic income or further redistribute existing tax burdens.
There is also a purposeful modularity to this plan, where parts can be pulled out and implemented on their own, as strategic steps toward the larger plan. For example, the passage of a national carbon fee and dividend policy should be seen as successfully taking a big step toward a full UBI, as would initiatives to get such policies implemented at the state level. If everyone is already receiving a $100 per month carbon dividend, a full basic income policy is then $100 per month cheaper to implement. Full UBI implementation would then also be less of a shock to the economy with people going from $100 per month to $1,100 per month instead of from $0 per month to $1,100 per month. (Note: phasing in UBI over a matter of say five years may still be wise though.)
A key detail of any well-designed basic income plan is to make sure it is at the very least indexed to rise automatically with inflation so that the value does not erode over time. But an optimally-designed basic income in my opinion will rise with the growth of the economy as a whole. At the moment, this means automatic indexation with inflation-adjusted GDP. However, being that GDP itself needs to start being questioned, especially after the adoption of basic income where everyone is more able to engage in unpaid work untracked by GDP, we will at some point need to index basic income to this new measure, whatever it ends up being, that’s a more accurate reflection of our increasing wealth generation and our growing technological ability to do more with less.
Additionally, a counter-cyclical element is optimal, so that during recessions, the basic income does not shrink along with the economy. This is one of the reasons I believe the citizen seigniorage element to be so important, so that in times of economic contraction or even inability to hit yearly inflation targets due to exponential technological deflation, this component can be ramped up by the Federal Reserve without the need for legislative process, to function as essentially quantitative easing for the people (QEP), and also ramped down in the case of an overheating economy.
To illustrate this, think of a basic income of $1,500 per month where $1,200 of it is indexed to real GDP, $100 is new money, $100 is the carbon dividend component, and $100 is the natural and digital resource-based national wealth fund dividend component. In the case of economic contraction, the $1,500 part may shrink to $1,400, but the Fed could then decide to increase their $100 to $300 to stimulate the economy in time of need. Once the economy is growing again, this amount could then be reduced back to $100, or even $0 if inflation targets are surpassed and it would be preferred to interest rate hikes.
Meanwhile, the $1,500 component could be adjusted at any time by adjusting the tax components. Perhaps the LVT would be seen as especially effective and thus increased from 5% to 10% for an extra $200 per month for everyone. Or the VAT could be increased or decreased to disincentivize or incentivize consumption while adjusting the amount of basic income or other taxes.
And the $100 national wealth fund component? That would be growing year after year as IPO stock after IPO stock gets added to it, such that it would hopefully after decades, surpass the tax-funded component of the entire basic income package. In total, it could all then be considered as far more than basic income. It could be prosperity income.
Hopefully this all helps illustrate what I mean by economic dials and UBI optimization. The basic income should be designed with flexibility and long-term viability in mind. It should operate as a platform we construct above the poverty line, that we can continue ratcheting up year after year ever further above the poverty line, but at any point adjust and optimize through ongoing funding method decisions.
By combining tax reform and welfare reform along with the introduction of new non-income-based taxes, especially those designed to correct for market externalities, where the resulting revenue goes to all citizens equally, I believe basic income can more strongly appeal to both the left and the right, and through its adoption, we can simultaneously introduce long-needed additional improvements like the public creation of money, the reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the discouragement of rent extraction, the sharing of naturally created and collectively created wealth, and the predistribution of the great wealth being generated by the technology we all effectively paid to research and develop.
This is my proposal for a better future. What’s yours?
On Monday the Trump administration’s American Technology Council (ATC) met in order to discuss goals. The purpose of the council is to allow federal agency leaders to seek out the advice of leaders in the tech industry on a range of issues.
While the Trump administration differs from previous administrations in many ways, its focus on updating outmoded technologies and speeding up the government’s transition to digital is something that’s been shared by past administrations. The ATC itself, however, is new, as is the goal of updating technology in order to eliminate programs and services.
Chris Liddell, formerly of Microsoft and GM, heads up the ATC. Present for the meeting were representatives from Alphabet, Microsoft, Mastercard, IBM, Intel, Qualcomm, VMware, Oracle, and Adobe. Notably absent were Facebook and Tesla — according to Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg had a conflict and could not attend. However, Elon Musk has pulled Tesla from the council in the wake of President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Accord — a decision that has been almost universally condemned in the tech community.
More Tech-Savvy Government
The other tech leaders have remained on the council because they agree it’s important to create a more tech-savvy government. The White House says it will prioritize digitizing government services, improving cyber security, and transforming the way government buys technology. The White House is also interested in using new technologies like big data and machine learning to tackle issues like illegal immigration and federal resource fraud. How willing tech leaders will be to help the administration achieve these goals remains to be seen.
Technology not only has the potential to make the government more efficient and lower costs, but it also possess many challenges from an infrastructure and regulation standpoint. For example, an invention that transmits power wirelessly could allow electric cars to charge while on the road. Would building new highways incorporating this tech be a good investment? Autonomous cars and flying cars are become more widely available, but the government has not yet set up rules and regulations for their use. Not to mention the current lack of policy around automation and artificial intelligence — both of which are rapidly becoming integrated into society.
Technology is quickly advancing, and every government would be wise to consider how best to utilize and regulate it. The ideas generated by the ATC have the potential to shape policies that could impact national debt, cyber security, and the development of new inventions. Let’s hope the minds that have revolutionized our tech can also improve our government.
Initially it seems like a nice problem to have as it will free people to do what they really want to do with their lives. But we define ourselves by how we contribute to society, for most people their career is the answer to who they are and what they do.
Some will spend all that extra time doing more of the things they already do with their free time: surfing the internet, watching movies and TV shows, and playing video games.
But there is an opportunity this future we are quickly hurtling towards will also create. Rather than just being passive consumers of content, people will all be able to become active participants in content creation.
More User Created Experiences
YouTube is the world’s third most visited site after Google(which also owns YouTube) and Facebook. 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and 3.25 billion hours of video are watched each month. Gone are the days when we rely solely on giant studios and networks for our entertainment as increasingly people are turning to other people for content.
Online content creation has become an industry unto itself as the number of YouTube channels earning six figures has increased by 50% year on year. Digital marketplaces for a wide variety of content creators are coming online allowing anyone who wants to become a digital entrepreneur.
This will impact how individual value is measured. Your worth will no longer come from the company you work for or the degree you have but by the popularity of your creations. A history of producing things people want will be all that has value.
The On-Demand Model
Passive consumption will also continue to grow and will become even more appealing and addictive than it is today.
98 million people now have Netflix accounts and that number is growing rapidly. The company got here by understanding the importance of creating easy and addictive user experiences. They started in 1997 selling home deliver DVDs and in 2007 switched to become the go-to live streaming on-demand platform that has made them the largest internet television network in America.
However their plan is to become the biggest entertainment network on earth and to get there Netflix is now harnessing artificial intelligence to customize their user interface to fit each person’s unique tastes. Here is CEO of Netflix Reed Hastings in a talk titled “leveraging AI to make user experience & entertainment addictive”.
Augmented Social Media
Facebook just launched what they are calling ‘Act 2’, which is going to take the social media giant away from its core product, social media, and refocus its efforts on augmented reality and artificial intelligence.
In a talk on April 18th Mark Zuckerberg outlined his vision for the future of Facebook. He simultaneously launched the beta version of Facebook’s new augmented reality tool that will leverage their social media platforms; Facebook, Whatsapp, Snapchat and Instagram, to create the communities he has been talking about a lot lately.
Underlying all of the augmented reality applications, as well as the new messaging service and the new VR social media platform that they are also rolling out is machine learning algorithms (AI). Zuckerberg stated in his address that the application of AI to all that Facebook is doing will eventually allow the platform to replace all of the hardware in the real world with digital versions of them that look and feel just as real.
Another critical part of this plan is to make these platforms open and allow for anyone who wants to contribute to the creation of all the content that will go into them.
The biggest game changer will eventually come from immersive artificially intelligent entertainment. Once AI becomes good at writing novel code it will be able to create virtual experiences that can be crafted to each user, writing movies for you as you watch them and writing games for you as you play them, making it possible that no two people will ever play the same game or watch the same movie.
What kind of Future is all of this Creating?
For those that recognize and take advantage of all these changes it means a shift away from passive consumption to active selection of entertainment and the ability to participate in the creation of content. For those that don’t adjust and get stuck in the passive consumption model of the past the future will probably look something like this…
According to research from Business Insider, more than 24 billion internet-connected devices will be installed around the world by 2020. To give that some context, that’s more than four devices for every person on the planet. Together, these devices comprise the Internet of Things (IoT), and its presence is permanently changing our world.
IoT is the connection between the physical world of humans and the digital world of data (and, to some extent, human ideas). Computers, smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, modern TVs, and wearables are all part of the IoTs — that part is intuitive. However, even everyday appliances like thermostats and smoke detectors are now beginning to boast smart capabilities, which establishes them as part of the IoT. Our entire transportation system, the way we work, and even how we socialize will all change because of the IoT.
What’s Growing The IoT?
Although there are many things that together are driving the growth of the IoT, there are a few basic trends that are easy to identify. Internet connectivity is expanding and will soon be almost everywhere. For example, in 2018 New York is set become the first state to bring broadband access to every household, even in rural areas. Another factor is that mobile technology is improving quickly, and the use of remote and mobile devices is rapidly becoming more widespread. This means prices are falling, and access is growing. Nokia, for example, is bringing 5G technology to India.
Along these lines, more money is being invested into the IoT as companies and governments alike recognize its importance. The U.S. government invested $8.8 billion in IoT solutions in 2015, up $1.1 from the previous year. At the same time, the price of internet-connected sensors, which most IoT devices rely on, is falling. This means the price of IoT devices are dropping, and more people can afford more devices.
As the IoT grows, security challenges will arise, and possible privacy concerns that could affect our individual rights. However, overall the growth of the IoT will mean more access to opportunity for more people. The best way to respond to it is to plan ahead for these kinds of problems and be ready to tackle them.
The tech sector is notoriously male-dominated. This is ever apparent in Silicon Valley in the U.S., a country where women make up 59 percent of the workforce, but only hold 30 percent of jobs in the tech industry. This disconnect is keeping the industry back, but it doesn’t exist everywhere. In Lebanon, things are changing for the better.
The Lebanese tech sector is also still very much dominated by men. However, programs like SE Factory, a bootcamp of sorts that prepares young people to enter the field, are starting to make changes. Asia Joumaa, a web developer at Pixel38 who graduated as a top student from the program, said, “I’ve always wanted to work as a web developer, and then I got into SE Factory, which helped me get there. There’s a lot of young women who want to get into tech here in Lebanon.” She and many others are showing how, as long as the support and educational resources exist, more and more women will be able to access these careers.
One example of how the Lebanese tech sector is changing lies within the Beirut Digital District (BDD), which is a major tech center located in the capital city. The BDD supports a massive percentage of tech work that is done within the country, approximately 70 companies (SE Factory among them). And, within this bustling tech hub, 55 percent of the work is done by women. And, while this isn’t the end of gender disparity in the Lebanese tech sector (executives are still represented by an 80-20 ratio of men to women), it is a sign that things are moving in the right direction.
One of the many Lebanese women who has worked with the unique challenges of life in Lebanon (which offers an incredible education system, but experiences consistent issues with politics, power outages, and slow internet) to create something incredible is Nadine Haram. She is the co-founder of Proximie, an augmented reality platform for virtual surgical training. This program could be a life-saving addition in war zones and other areas of conflict, along with remote locations. She graduated from an accelerator program at BDD, the U.K. Lebanon Tech Hub, and exemplifies what can happen with the correct support.
Closing the gender gap in the tech sector is not trivial by any means. Balancing this inequality is vital to the future of the field itself, future technologies, and the global economy. Women make up slightly more than half of the total U.S. population. And, while they consume tech and engage with social media and apps just as much as (if not more than) men, women make up only 17% of Google’s, 15% of Facebook’s, and 10% of Twitter’s engineers. So, while women might be very involved with tech, they do not have a significant input on what is created and how. This is a massive setback for the future of developing technologies. How can innovation flourish when over half of the population’s input is left out of the conversation?
Additionally, as more and more women enter the tech sector, the economy will benefit and the gender pay gap will begin to close. Higher earnings, that are often accompanied by jobs in the tech sector, will help us all to reach these goals. So…how do we do it? Simply, though there are many steps along the way, through support. By making the tech sector a space that accepts and considers the ideas of people of all genders. By creating programs like the SE Factory that focus on young people and help them develop their skills and interests. By continuing to advance our educational systems to ensure that all students are granted equal and quality experiences so that one day, every student who has an interest in tech will have the capacity to make their dreams a reality.
Most executives in tech believe that the next five years will bring about a significant number of jobs lost to automation. As advances in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are being rapidly developed, the capability of machines to do work previously requiring humans is ramping up. However, not all executives subscribe to this idea of the ultra-fast progression of automation.
Outgoing Chief Executive of General Electric, Jeff Immelt did not mince words regarding his feelings about the impending automation take over. Speaking at the Viva Teach conference in Paris, Immelt said, “I think this notion that we are all going to be in a room full of robots in five years … and that everything is going to be automated, it’s just BS. It’s not the way the world is going to work.”
Immelt believes that tech executives who have no experience running or working in a factory have no idea of how they actually operate and therefore cannot realistically gauge how automation will progress.
Serial entrepreneur Jeff Bezos needs your help. He recently took to Twitter to post a message about a predicament he’s currently facing; he is crowdsourcing for a new philanthropic idea.
“I’m thinking I want much of my philanthropic activity to be helping people in the here and now — short term — at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact,” Bezos wrote in the tweet. It seems like the Amazon CEO was inspired by the philanthropic work done at Mary’s Place in Seattle.
Bezos admitted that much of his time is currently occupied by long-term innovation, as can be seen in his work with Blue Origin. His private space company is currently working on improving its rocket technology as it builds the New Glenn, it’s biggest one yet. The plan, Bezos revealed previously, is to colonize the Solar System, which is obviously a long-term endeavor.
Bezos also has projects that bring long-term ambition into the here and now. One example of this is how Amazon is redefining the retail experience with its unmanned stores. It’s a product of how Amazon has been using artificial intelligence (AI), an advanced and quickly developing technology, to influence business in the present.
As for Bezos’ new philanthropic idea, one can say that whatever positive changes it could make in the here and now could give people a shot at a better future. And hey, you can even get involved and pitch in an idea or two.
Innovation and forward-thinking may be Hawaii’s two biggest exports in 2017. Earlier this month, the state earned the distinction of being the first in the U.S. to formally accept the provisions of the Paris Climate Agreement after President Donald Trump decided to withdraw the nation from it, and now, Hawaii is taking the lead in embracing yet another innovative idea: universal basic income (UBI).
Today, Hawaii state representative Chris Lee wrote a Reddit post about House Concurrent Resolution 89, a bill he says he introduced in order to “start a conversation about our future.” According to Lee, “After much work and with the help of a few key colleagues, it passed both houses of the State Legislature unanimously.”
Lee also mentioned the development via Twitter:
Hawaii first state to declare everyone deserves basic financial security; begins eval of universal basic income #UBIhttps://t.co/RsvM95tEFs
The bill has two major provisions. First, it declares that all families in Hawaii are entitled to basic financial security. “As far as I’m told, it’s the first time any state has made such a pronouncement,” wrote Lee. The second provision establishes a number of government offices “to analyze our state’s economy and find ways to ensure all families have basic financial security, including an evaluation of different forms of a full or partial universal basic income.”
The congressman thanked “redditors” in his post, as he said the site became his first resource in considering UBI, and added a Reddit-standard TL;DR at the end: “The State of Hawaii is going to begin evaluating universal basic income.”
A Step Forward
Under a UBI program, every citizen is granted a fixed income that’s not dependent on their status in life. Despite the current focus on the concept, it actually isn’t particularly new. In fact, former U.S. President Richard Nixon actually floated the idea back in 1969.
However, the benefits of such a program have become more appealing in light of recent technological advances, specifically, the adoption of automated systems that could result in widespread unemployment.
Of course, the implementation of any major UBI program requires a great deal of political will. As Lee wrote, “Planning for the future isn’t politically sexy and won’t win anyone an election […]. But if we do it properly, we will all be much better off for it in the long run.”
The operation allowed Syrian refugees to collect food paid for by the WFP from participating markets in the refugee camp in Jordan. Individuals had their eyes scanned to confirm they were one of the more than half a million refugees cleared to receive aid, after which they could receive their food.
This project could be a model for feeding refugees worldwide. Five million people have fled Syria alone, and many now live in poverty in nearby Jordan. The country is dealing with a major refugee crisis — in 2016, the UN estimated it is now home to 630,000 Syrian refugees, two million Palestinian refugees, and an ever-increasing number of asylum-seekers fleeing conflicts in Yemen, Somalia, and Iraq.
Is Blockchain the Future?
Blockchain could provide help on a much larger scale, and the WFP has an ambitious goal: to expand to 100,000 individuals by August, help the entire Jordanian refugee population by 2018, and eliminate hunger worldwide by 2030. The project’s success supports claims that blockchain could be used to transform the humanitarian and sustainability sectors.
“Through blockchain, we aim to cut payment costs, better protect beneficiary data, control financial risks, and respond more rapidly in the wake of emergencies,” explained Robert Opp, the WFP’s Director of Innovation and Change Management, in a UN press release. “Using blockchain can be a qualitative leap — not only for WFP, but for the entire humanitarian community”
Blockchain, the distributed ledger system supporting the Bitcoincryptocurrency, has the potential to impact other industries as well. Toyota has proposed using the technology to expedite the development of driverless cars, and a recent report by Rethink Music claimed a change to cryptocurrency would decrease exploitation and corruption in the music industry: “The money would be automatically split according to the set terms, and each party’s account would instantly reflect the additional revenue.”
As famed futurist Ray Kurzweil asserted at the Exponential Finance Summit in New York City last week, Bitcoin might not prove to be the currency of the future, but blockchain is a technology well worth considering.
Ray Kurzweil, a leading futurist, author, inventor, and the head of Google’s engineering lab, has made some impressively accurate predictions about the future. However, this may not be the best news for the burgeoning cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. Kurzweil spoke at the Exponential Finance Summit in New York City late last week and he had some less than flattering things to say about the currency. While he may see the value in the decentralization of currency, he doesn’t feel like Bitcoin is the way forward.
Currencies like the dollar have provided reasonable stability. Bitcoin has not. And it’s not clear to me that the whole mining paradigm can provide that type of stability… We’ve seen tremendous instability with bitcoin, so I wouldn’t put my money into it. I certainly do think there could be alternatives to national currencies emerging in the future. Algorithmic ones are a possibility, I just don’t think we’ve arrived at the right algorithm yet.
Kurzweil is not the only high-profile Bitcoin skeptic or opponent. Billionaire investor Mark Cuban spoke out about Bitcoin last week, denouncing it as a currency and discussing it as a bubble. Kurzweil’s comments echo these sentiments, especially with his view of the cryptocurrency’s instability. However, Daniel Roberts from Yahoo! Financesees Kurzweil’s view of that instability as an oversimplification. When looked at in the long term, Bitcoin is showing steady gains.
Bitcoin has enjoyed a meteoric rise in recent weeks as prices have surpassed $3,000 (albeit briefly). In the first moments of 2017, Bitcoin could barely reach the $1,000 mark. As of today, the cryptocurrency stands at more than $2,550.
Bitcoin is powered by blockchain technology. A blockchain is a decentralized ledger that allows for complete anonymity, security, and transparency for all transactions taking place on the ledger. Kurzweil is more optimistic about blockchain, saying, “I think once we can demonstrate confidence, then yes, a blockchain currency makes sense, and being able to document transactions securely, but there’s a lot to work out.”
In an effort to work out those kinks, many companies and even some countries are adopting blockchain technology. Some countries are even exploring switching their national currencies over to cryptocurrencies. We are in the early stages of its development, but this could go down as one of the few predictions Kurzweil gets wrong.
On April 1, 2017, the total market cap for all cryptocurrencies was slightly higher than $25 billion. Roughly two months later, the cap exceeded $100 billion. In just over 60 days, the value of cryptocurrencies surged by 300 percent. So what is going on?
The leading cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, recently made headlines by climbing dramatically in value (it’s currently sitting around $2,600 USD, about 160 percent higher than its value in April). But Bitcoin hasn’t been alone in this extreme growth. The cryptocurrency market as a whole has spiked in value within the last few months.
While those already invested in Bitcoin might be celebrating, this jump is clearly reason to pause for anyone considering entering the market. Historically, what goes up super-fast must come down — at least when it comes to the stock market. This has prompted many to call this rise a bubble, leaving investors to wonder when it will burst.
In an interview with Bank Innovation, cryptocurrency trader Jacob Eliosoff, who runs a Bitcoin-focused investment fund, explains:
Factor number one in the general price rise is just another of crypto’s periodic bubble[s]: see Nov 2013, March 2013, July 2011. Lots of coins which patently have no plausible long-term use case or value — the classic example is Dogecoin, an obsolete joke — have set new highs during this frenzy — a bad sign.
We’ve seen with these sort of ups and downs, these small groups of mostly Chinese pools end up with more than 50% of the capacity. And we don’t know anything about these organizations. Are they state controlled? The moment [there is too much consolidation in the mining pools], then effectively the platform is dead, at least as a currency.
Anyone looking for proof of the volatile nature of cryptocurrencies, specifically Bitcoin, got it when Mark Cuban publicly criticized the currency. After the billionaire entrepreneur claimed on Twitter that Bitcoin was in a bubble and not, in fact, a currency at all, the cryptocurrency dropped significantly in value, seemingly illustrating a fragile and unstable nature.
An Upward Trend
Whether due to historical precedent, a monopoly on investment, or simply an easily swayed investor pool, it seems pretty likely that this recent rise of cryptocurrencies will lead to some sort of drop. However, that doesn’t mean cryptocurrencies don’t have the potential to be a major player, if not the only player, in the future of finance.
One positive development is the increasing diversity of cryptocurrencies. While Bitcoin was long the definitive leader in the market, holding roughly 80 percent of the total market cap, others such as Ethereum are making major gains, knocking Bitcoin down to just about 50 percent. As TechCrunch writer Fitz Tepper notes, “The fact that these gains have come from currencies other than Bitcoin are a good sign that this is less of a bubble and more of a resurgence of interest in crypto.”
Other experts note that while drops in value are likely, they don’t signal an end to cryptocurrency by any means. As Brian Kelly, CEO and founder of global investment management firm BKCM, told CNBC, Bitcoin is “in the first years of what is likely to be a multi-year bull market. Of course there will be corrections and even crashes along the way, but Bitcoin is here to stay.”
Blockchain, the technology supporting these digital currencies, may be even more worthy of the investment than the cryptocurrencies themselves. “I would say I think conventional wisdom now is that blockchain and the underlying technology is probably more interesting and has more potential than maybe Bitcoin does by itself,” Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari explained in a Reuters report.
The link between digital currencies and this super-secure distributed database lends further support to the argument that digital currencies are a sound investment. However, only time will tell whether this current period of rapid growth will slow, plateau, drop, or continue skyward. As with any investment, the potential for reward comes with its share of risks, but right now, the future looks pretty bright for cryptocurrency.
The technology for virtual reality (VR) has been growing in leaps and bounds over the past few years. From teaching us chemistry to helping us design cars, the virtual world is becoming more and more dominant in our everyday lives.
However, VR is still hampered by the necessity for users to wear clunky headsets and possibly other gear. While these are becoming more user friendly, we wanted to know when we will be able to bypass all that equipment to simply connect VR to our minds directly. We asked Futurism readers what they thought and got a range of predictions.
The decade with the most votes was the 2030s, taking 36 percent of readers’ votes. One such vote came from Kevin Kealey, who noted our progress in mapping the human brain and predicted this knowledge would soon allow VR techs to place electron inputs and outputs in the right places.
“[T]he whole brain will be mapped and fully understood very soon,” Kealey commented. “We know where emotions come from. We know how to control them. We know most invasive techniques to place things within the body.” While we still have a long way to go before we truly comprehend the complexity of the human brain, we are making progress in mapping it — even using VR to help get the job done.
What The Experts Have to Say
These guesses aren’t too different from some that are coming from experts in the field. For example, Dan Cook, founder of EyeMynd BrainwaveVR, has been working on tech that will allow users to interact in VR using their brainwaves — no headset or controller needed.
“Ten years from now, this will seem obvious,” Cook said in an interview with the Guardian. “Computers are becoming fast enough that we can detect and interpret all the signals of the brain in real time.” Cook bases his technology off of the principles we observe when people dream. The mind can “see” and “hear” without using eyes or ears, and we should be able to harness that neurological ability, Cook argues.
Others in the field are more skeptical about the state of brain-computer interface (BCI) technology. An international group of researchers determined that methods for interacting with virtual environments through our thoughts “remain in their infancy,” as they wrote in a study published in Computer. “Major research challenges must be tackled for BCIs to mature into an established means of communication for VR applications,” the researchers concluded in the paper.
While we may have to wait a number of years before we can enjoy a virtual world sans headset, companies are continuing to invest in BCI and VR technology. Who knows where the science will be by the time they finally release Magic Leap.
See all of the Futurism predictions and make your own predictions here.
Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell on YouTube just released a new video that explores the age of automation and how, while automation has changed society before, things are different this time. Before, as automation modified industries like agriculture, jobs were lost. However, with this job loss came job creation, as machines needed to be repaired. This actually was an overall positive movement, as the new jobs which replaced the old ones were typically “better” in terms of pay and working conditions.
One of the main differences between that shift and the one that we are currently in is the lack of job creation. While the internet led to the creation and development of new industries and jobs, it simply hasn’t been enough to keep up with growing populations and the demand created by automation-driven job loss. Industries and jobs of the information age simply need fewer people to make them work.
But we are beyond that now. While the information age couldn’t support the need for new jobs, the age of automation will pose even more issues and difficulties. As populations continue to grow and job creation continues on a downward trend, what will we do? The video above explores both the grim and positive possibilities that the age of automation could create. This moment in time could forever shape the future in ways that have never been seen before. We as human beings should learn as much as we can about what’s happening in order to adapt to an inevitably automated world.
Like our homes and the places that we go to provide for them.
Need proof? Have you entered a store recently? If so, you were probably greeted by, well, a greeter. This is fairly typical; however, around the globe, a new kind of greeter is popping up—and they’re metallic.
Take, for example, the newest assistant at Lowe’s: the LoweBot. It’s an autonomous robotic store assistant that can help both customers and employees in a number of ways. Initially introduced in 2016, the bot can locate products in multiple languages and aid in navigation around stores. Ultimately, this frees employees to complete tasks that require more skill and expertise.
The LoweBot can also scan items and perform other tasks that are more repetitive in nature. Currently, the robot is only in use in stores in the San Francisco Bay area; however, with 1,840 stores across North America, if this little bot becomes ubiquitous, it could help rewrite the future of employment throughout the nation.
As explained on the Lowe’s Innovation Labs site, this kind of disruption is precisely what they are working towards. The company asserts that they are working to “build an innovation roadmap and rapidly prototype new technology in real-world, living labs.” To this end, the robot is a trial that is meant to both usher in beneficial change and provide us with one glimpse of what our future might (and maybe should) look like.
Bots Are The Beginning
However, this is just the start of how our everyday world, and thus, our very lives, are being transformed. If you need more convincing, meet the Holoroom.
The Innovation Labs first introduced the world to the Holoroom back in 2014. The room served as a parallel to the Danger Room from X-Men, except that, instead of giant robotic enemies to smash, the experience gave customers new skills, teaching them how to complete various tasks and make home improvements that, ordinarily, they wouldn’t be able to do without an expert to assist.
Another iteration of the Holoroom also allowed individuals to visualize and actually create their dream spaces in virtual reality. So instead of walking about the store trying to piece various merchandise together, or browsing about an online store, customers could actually walk around inside the room they created and truly see it come to life.
Ultimately, work like this reveals that the future isn’t some far-off finish line that we are trying to get to, and it’s not something that exists at the periphery—it’s something that is happening right now all around us; it’s something that we are building each day.
Brick and mortar stores are already on the brink of some real changes, and by investing in innovation and R&D, Lowe’s (and companies like it) are ensuring that they have a place at whatever table the future builds.
A serious concern in the computing industry is that when true quantum computers are produced, the principles of encryption will break down due to the dizzyingly superior processing power.
Although blockchain is a far more secure method of transaction than our current financial system, even it will become vulnerable to a brute force attack by a quantum computer. Andersen Cheng, co-founder of U.K. cybersecurity firm Post Quantum, told Newsweek, “Bitcoin will expire the very day the first quantum computer appears.”
A team lead by Evgeny Kiktenko at the Russian Quantum Center in Moscow, though, may have found a way to protect blockchains by fighting fire with fire using quantum mechanics. They are designing a quantum-secured blockchain where each block, hypothetically, is signed by a quantum key rather than a digital one.
They propose that transmitting and encrypting information using quantum particles such as photons, which cannot be copied or meddled with without the particles being destroyed, ensures the blockchain’s safety. The principle is based on Zero-knowledge proofs which allow you to validate information without sharing it.
Protection in a Quantum World
In recent months Russia has become increasingly interested in blockchain. The central bank is composing new laws focused on cryptocurrencies and is interested in developing one of its own. This research marks a step forward in these efforts because it concerns the protection of such systems.
If the quantum-secured blockchain proves successful it would be hugely beneficial to the rest of the world as well. Blockchain has the potential to do a lot of good for the world by streamlining the transaction system, making it more secure, and ensuring transparency like never before. Countries such as Senegal have developed currencies that are entirely digital, Japan is accepting bitcoin (which uses blockchain) as legal tender in 260,000 stores this summer, and Ukraine is considering using it to combat corruption.
If the advent of quantum computing could be the apocalypse for blockchain, it is therefore crucially important that we begin thinking about how to protect these system before entire countries and currencies could be subject to hacks from the abusers of quantum computers.
You’ve likely heard of Bitcoin as the future of money, but it is not the only cryptocurrency in the running for cashless economy dominance. The second largest among them is found on the Ethereum blockchain and is called Ether. One of the critical differences between Bitcoin and Ether is that while Bitcoin is first and foremost a currency, Ether, however, can be a platform for a variety of decentralized applications. In short, Ether can do much more than Bitcoin.
The adaptive quality of the platform may be part of the reason why Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, seem to be showing great interest in Ethereum. Reporting from Bloomberg reveals that Putin has been thinking about digital currency. “The digital economy isn’t a separate industry, it’s essentially the foundation for creating brand new business models,” he said at last week’s St. Petersburg Economic Forum.
Russia could be looking at Ethereum as a way to expand the country’s economic profile of fossil fuels with technology. Bloomberg’sLeonid Bershidsky suggests that Putin is “…under the impression that, to wean the country off its oil dependence, they needed a major leap in some specific area of technology that wasn’t yet dominated by Western, Chinese, or Japanese tech giants.”
Russia is already testing an Ethereum-based blockchain system through its central bank. When Deputy Governor Olga Skorobogatova was asked if Russia is pursuing a national virtual currency, she did not deny the possibility. Currently, there are a few countries already experimenting with national cryptocurrencies.
Coindesk cites eight cryptocurrencies from a variety of countries in the Eurozone. Among them are Iceland’s Auroracoin, Pesetacoin and Spaincoin from Spain, Gaelcoin from Ireland, and Aphroditecoin from Cyprus. Cryptocurrencies offer a lot of benefits including both transparency and security. The level of encryption essentially makes counterfeit transactions impossible.
Russia is among the most powerful countries in the world. Adoption of this technology would be a major boon for the platform and could accelerate the expansion of its influence across the world.
Mark Cuban has recently raised a series of criticisms of bitcoin on Twitter, which has resulted in the cryptocurrency’s exchange rate dropping rapidly— illustrating many of the issues with the currency that he discussed in the Tweet themselves.
Mark Cuban rose to wealth by selling his start-up businesses MicroSolutions (a PC company that he sold to CompuServe for $6 Million) and Broadcast.com (which transmitted sports games over the internet, and was subsequently sold to Yahoo for $5.7 Billion) in the 1990s, and rose to prominence by becoming owner of the NBA team the Dallas Mavericks.
Earlier today he took his opinions of Bitcoin toTwitter:
I think it’s in a bubble. I just don’t know when or how much it corrects. When everyone is bragging about how easy they are making $=bubble https://t.co/hTrV5DeWNd
Cuban crucially differentiates between blockchain and Bitcoin: the former being a means of transaction that is more secure, transparent, and distributive, and the latter a cryptocurrency.
However, Cuban likens bitcoin to the religious worship of gold as an asset and describes it as a “stock”, which is fundamentally different from a currency — currencies measure how much of an asset you have. This is why Cuban progresses to state “I am not questioning value. I’m questioning valuation.”
Just because bitcoin’s exchange rate has reached thousands of dollars, this doesn’t mean that anyone would be willing to give you thousands of dollars for your bitcoin. Currencies are universal measures of value in the country you operate which allows anyone to trade with anyone as part of a universal system of value. This is in contrast to assets which you can buy with that value system but not necessarily trade anywhere as easily.
Currencies, in order to operate in this way, need to be relatively stable — which Cuban showed bitcoin was not due to the almost instant drop after his tweetstorm. To analogise: can you imagine the dollar, pound, or euro drastically dropping in a matter of hours just because of a few tweets?
Bitcoin’s Huge, But Possible Fatuous Rise
On the surface, Bitcoin looks monumentally impressive: it has grown every year apart from 2014, has climbed 141 percent in value this year alone, even peaking at $2,900 this past week. However, the precise reason for this success is the reason for its potential failure — it is too turbulent, too successful.
This means that while Bitcoin may seem extremely seductive — it has been billed as, among other things, the ultimate investment and a universal currency — we must be careful when investing in it (particularly because it is difficult to convert back into dollars), putting faith in it, and being overoptimistic about its potential.
Bitcoin is one particularly famous use of a potentially more promising and widely applicable system called blockchain, which has the potential to revolutionize everything from the music industry to sustainable development and even banking accountability.
According to many, it is blockchain, not bitcoin, that has the potential to revolutionize future transactions: “If the internet bought us near instant digital communication, then the blockchain brings us near instant asset transfer, asset movement and security of data movement” said Simon Taylor, the previous head of Barclay’s cryptocurrency division.
Technology is teaming up with cuisine to provide realistic alternatives to meat, and the first prototype products are starting to interest consumers. Mimicking the taste, texture, look, and smell of meat isn’t easy, and creating these first few products demands a significant investment from companies. However, more companies are taking a chance on synthetic meats, hoping for major returns in the long run.
In 2016, Beyond Meat became, arguably, the first startup to bring a plant-based meat alternative — one that could really stand in for real meat — to grocery stores. Impossible Foods, its main competitor, is instead approaching restaurants first with the intention of penetrating the grocery market later.
Other companies are literally growing synthetic meats, called “cellular-agriculture meats,” fiber by fiber in labs. These are extremely expensive to produce, but their prices are falling fast. The price of the first lab-grown beef burger, created by Mosa Meats, was equivalent to about $1.2 million per pound, retail. Now, lab-grown hamburger runs for about $11.36 per pound, similar to the Beyond Meat alternative which goes for about $12 per pound — although both are still out of reach for most consumers. In contrast, ground beef retails for around $3.54 per pound on average.
Meanwhile, Memphis Meats is currently in the process of growing chicken meat in the lab. Although comparatively, its retail price of $6,000 per pound is much more accessible than $1.2 million, it still has a way to go before it will be attainable for consumers.
Kinder To The Environment
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), livestock feed production eats up 26% of the ice-free land on Earth, and 13 billion hectares (32.1 billion acres) of forest are lost to land conversion for pastures or cropland annually. Livestock farming also contributes to about 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. All of this damage could be alleviated by transitioning to lab-grown meats.
Scaling — the ability to consistently meet demand in a cost-effective way — is the main problem holding lab-grown meats back. Although companies are working toward solutions, animal-free meat will not be affordable for average consumers before 2020. Still, Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown aims to completely replace the meat industry by producing more realistic meat alternatives with products like whole turkeys, and companies like Tyson are investing in his idea. For now, that’s just a pipe dream, but if lab-made and plant-based meats can prove to be friendlier to the environment, healthier, and cost effective, they might just have a fighting chance.
Elon Musk and Tesla are holding their annual shareholder meeting today, June 6th. Musk kicked the party off a little early yesterday on Twitter, soliciting questions from users that ranged from silliness to truly important topics that may point to the trajectory of the company.
The upcoming questions will likely veer a little closer to the serious side of the spectrum. Tesla’s rapid growth in the last year will likely leave plenty for shareholders to inquire about.
Shareholders will also get a chance to vote whether board members will have to be re-elected each year.
Whatever is discussed at the meeting will likely give a clearer view as to the vision of the company for the future. Tesla is rapidly becoming a driving force in the push away from fossil fuels. Their products —from the electric cars, solar roofing tiles, to the battery packs to store that power — are already revolutionizing the way people generate and use energy.
In the opening of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, viewers are shown a historic moment in time where primitive man used the first tool. It was a bone, and used like a club, it allowed a physically weaker group to overpower a physically stronger group. The story is, of course, fictional, but at some point in time we as humans did use our first tool, and ever since that day, directly because of our tool usage, we as a species have been able to accomplish increasingly more with increasingly less. Buckminster Fuller referred to this process as “ephemeralization.” The theoretical endpoint of this process exists as an asymptote that we can only approach but never reach, where we gain the ability to accomplish everything with nothing. This should sound great. It is. But there’s a catch. There’s always a catch.
What’s the Catch?
The catch is of our own making. The catch, and it’s a big one, is two-fold. First, we require the exchange of money for the basic necessities of life like food and shelter. And second, we require the exchange of work in order to obtain money. The result of this pairing is that we systematically require the exchange of work to stay alive. So as long as everyone can exchange their labor for income, moral issues of involuntary servitude aside, everyone can then theoretically survive in a system where private property is established and enforced. However, tool use throws an unavoidable wrench into this system.
That Wrench is Technological Unemployment.
The ability to find paid work is rooted within supply and demand. If there is a demand for your labor, and few can supply it in the same way you do, you will do well. If many can supply it just like you, you may not do so well, but you may also manage to get by if you’re lucky. However, we’ve been busy building tools far beyond those made out of bone, and these newer tools are increasingly able to meet our demand for labor without any need for us. So the question becomes, if machines can supply the demand for labor, and at a lower price point, what happens to the ability of living human beings to work, and therefore to live, and even to obtain what all the machines are producing?
There can only be three solutions to this self-created conundrum based on our two-fold catch. We can either stop requiring the exchange of money for basic needs, essentially making certain things like food, water, and shelter entirely free. Or we can guarantee that everyone can always find paid work for enough income to exchange for the fulfillment of basic needs. Or we can stop requiring the exchange of work for money by paying everyone an income whether they work or not, and the amount would just need to be sufficient enough to cover basic needs.
The first option would destroy the price system for basic goods and services. This would, in turn, destroy the ability to calculate just what to produce, how much of it produce, and where it’s needed. This option is a planned economy for basic goods and services. The second would guarantee that in a world of machines able to do an increasing amount of work better than us humans, the work we could guarantee to ourselves would be increasingly pointless — the equivalent of digging holes and filling them. This is the job guarantee (JG). The third would fully preserve the price system and entirely avoid the pitfalls of unnecessary work. In fact, it would not only preserve the price system, but enhance it, and it would not only avoid the creation of unnecessary work, it would reduce it. That third option is the unconditional basic income (UBI).
If technological unemployment is the Gordian knot of the 21st century, basic income is the sword that cuts through it. By simply severing the connection between income and work through the unconditional provision of an income for life always sufficient for basic needs, the fear of technological unemployment is removed. It doesn’t stop there though, because the right to a basic income has repercussions beyond the removal of fear, and these repercussions are themselves systemically transformative.
To understand just how transformative basic income thus stands to be, we must first more closely examine the full magnitude of technological unemployment as something that is not a problem that exists in the future, but one that is already here. To claim everyone is just crying wolf is false. Sheep are actively being eaten as we speak. We just don’t choose to see it. Then we must look at the economic system we’ve created with new eyes to see the core problem that’s been with us for so long we accept it as normal, and that’s the inability of anyone without sufficient property to say no to working for those who own most of it. And finally we must come to recognize our interdependence within an economic system where our growing productivity is our common heritage, and thus our common wealth no one person or group can claim a monopoly to. As productivity grows with ongoing automation, as too should the basic income grow as a kind of prosperity dividend. What is at first basic should eventually be the right of every citizen shareholder to the vast wealth of an automated nation.
Warnings of oncoming technological unemployment have been with us for over a century. Over and over again someone has called attention to the ability of capital in the form of machines to replace labor in the form of humans. This fear has been expressed so often, people refer to it as the Luddite Fallacy. It’s actively considered fallacious to point out the very real potential that machines can do the work of humans to the point that human labor sees as much demand as horse labor after the introduction of cars. And so here we are today, where very smart people are looking around at all the jobs that still exist and are actively being created, and then claiming it as evidence in support of a perceived fantasy of technological unemployment. The thing is, we aren’t looking closely enough at the jobs we have, because we need jobs, and thus it’s in our own interest to not look closely enough. Never underestimate the unwillingness of someone to see the reality, if their lives depend on seeing a fantasy.
The invention of the computer did indeed change the way we work forever. Beginning in the 70s, we have been eliminating jobs involving a medium amount of skill — consider, for instance, manufacturing as we replaced car assembly line workers with robots. And what jobs we couldn’t automate, we used our new technologies to pack up and ship offshore to places like China and India where labor was cheaper. In place of those jobs that made up the heart of the middle class, we created and grew the service industry in its place. For decades we’ve created more and more low skill jobs — think fast food restaurants — to fill the holes in the labor market cored out by technology. Since 1990 even the growth of jobs defined as involving routine tasks has ended. More than that, because not having a job and simultaneously not being impoverished is something we’ve never really allowed as a real choice, we’ve perpetuated and even created jobs that need not exist.
In an article for Strike! Magazine in August of 2013, David Graeber refers to this kind of employment as “bullshit jobs,” e.g. lobbyists and telemarketers as opposed to actually important work like refuse collection and nursing. This is what’s likely behind the huge percentages of people all over the world who don’t feel engaged or even feel actively disengaged by their jobs — estimated at 87 percent. People are increasingly spending their days in jobs where they are not actually working, plastered instead to their social network feeds and smartphones. People are clocking in 47 hours of work a week in jobs that require only 40 and oftentimes working for only 25–30 hours. This is a huge drag on productivity and a monumental waste of human potential.
Meanwhile, it’s more than just the binary situation of job or no job. Jobs themselves have been in the process of transforming from full-time decades-long careers to a series of non-full-time alternative jobs that are bounced among in terms of years, months, and even hours instead of decades. This century alone something new has taken over, and that’s the growth of these forms of alternative work where people are no longer really considered employees but alternative workers. Such alternative work is in the form of temp agency workers, on-call workers, independent contractors, and freelancers. Some call it the 1099 economy, short for the different form required by the IRS at tax time for “nonemployees.” In fact, since 2005, all nine million net newly created jobs are in this sector.
It’s the rise of short-term and self-employment where employee benefits and rights have gone by the wayside, and though many love the greater sense of autonomy, a greater sense of insecurity comes right along with it. Even more recently the gig economy has been born, where self-employment has been taskified, and it’s up to everyone to patch together sufficient income on a minute by minute basis, never knowing for sure if they’ll be able to cover the rent like they once could with a long-term, steady paycheck.
All the above is the invisible flock of sheep being eaten one by one as we turn our heads away and claim technological unemployment is a fantasy. Technological unemployment cannot exist in the way we’ve always feared, where no new jobs are created as a result of elimination, as long as we require the existence of jobs. We will instead fill that hole with useless jobs, and jobs ripe for replacement as soon as the technology becomes cheaper than the cost of desperate workers willing to work for handfuls of pocket change in order to get by. Technological unemployment is so much more than actual unemployment. Because technology allows the greater granularity of breaking jobs into tasks — taskification — another facet of technological unemployment is technological underemployment. In other words, it’s not just about automation, it’s about atomization.
Meanwhile, our existing safety nets are not built to handle such realities. It’s one thing to maybe once in a lifetime need to meet with a program administrator and jump through their hoops for financial assistance. It’s entirely another for bureaucracy to become a perpetual fact of life, where you never know if you’ll meet the requirements, and you must make the decision of whether taking that part-time job/gig as an Uber driver is even worth it if you’re going to lose your benefits and be faced with the possibility of trying to jump through all those hoops all over again. Our safety nets are not built for flexibility. They are sticky. They ensnare. They trap. What we need is a firm non-stick springboard of a floor that lies underneath everyone and requires no bureaucracy. It would always be there. It would be under full-timers. It would be under part-timers. It would be under sub-contractors. It would be underneath everyone in the gig economy. It would even be under would-be entrepreneurs. Unconditional basic income would be such a bureaucracy-free universal floor built for maximum flexibility and propulsion.
The time to prepare ourselves for the future was yesterday. The effects of technology are not around the corner. They’re in our past and they’re here right now. And it’s directly because we’ve never instituted basic income, and in so doing made working fully voluntary, that we’ve not allowed our jobs to disappear without replacement. The boy cried wolf, and the boy was right. We just happen to have created a world where seeing dead sheep is considered delusional, when really the world where we create useless work and look the other way as inequality grows and economic security shrinks is what’s truly delusional. The granting of a basic income will release us all from this collective delusion.
The Missing Right
What lies at the heart of the invisible sheep problem is our inability to say no to jobs. Without that power, we are effectively enslaved. To live we must eat. To eat we must have money. To have money we must sell our labor. There is no real option to just live off the land with our own sweat because all the land is owned. And so we must toil for those who own land. There is no other name for that but slavery, but we don’t call it that. Instead we call it the labor market. But anyone interested in free markets must care about free people within those markets, and the only way for people to be free is to be granted the right of refusal to work for others.
Once one understands how important the right of refusal is, much more comes into focus. There can be no individual bargaining power without the right to refuse. Being able to walk away means being able to negotiate the true value of human labor. If human labor were thus priced accurately in a free labor market, low demand jobs would be rewarded more because fewer people would be willing to do them unless paid sufficiently, and where the cost of human labor becomes higher than the cost of automation, machines can be welcomed to fill that job.
Think garbage collector. If no one wanted to do that work for $30,000 per year because they already have a basic income of $12,000 per year, an offer of $100,000 per year in additional income would attract many to do that job. If the cost of automating that job is the equivalent of $90,000 per year, automation is then the cheaper option and no one need do that job anymore. The result is the complete transformation of a social system built around a goal of full employment, where everyone has a job, to a new goal of full unemployment where as many jobs as possible are offloaded to machines, granting people the ability to pursue whatever is most important to them as living breathing humans with limited lifespans.
The right to refuse is even so important it lies underneath all other rights. Do you really have the right to free speech as long as you’re afraid of being fired? How many times have you wanted to say something, and decided against it, just in case? When was the last time you considered taking to the streets in an act of civil disobedience, but feared the repercussions to your present and future employment? How many times has someone somewhere not voted out of fear they’d be late for their job, and potentially lose it? For those who most value the right to bear arms, do you really have that right if you can’t afford to purchase the arms? To what else can that be applied? How many things in life do we think of as right that don’t truly exist due to lack of money or fear of economic destitution?
Arguably, it’s the right to a basic income that makes all other rights actually possible. People become free to speak their minds with the fear of destitution off the table. People become free to march in the streets and to get to work late because voting was more important. With a guarantee of economic security, all other rights are empowered. Without the recognition of economic rights, all other rights are infringed. Basic income is our missing economic right, from which our other incomplete rights become complete.
Finally achieving the ability to say “No” after the adoption of basic income changes the rules of the game entirely. It represents the dawn of recognition that any advanced society should pursue not full employment, but full unemployment. Society prospers when every member within it is fully free to prosper.
The Return of Common Wealth
No one person can claim 100% ownership of their wealth. It’s all fractions of the whole. As the saying goes, no one person can make a pencil. As simple a creation as that seems, it is the collective work of humanity. The wood comes from somewhere. The graphite comes from somewhere else. The eraser and what comprises it comes from elsewhere. Shipping networks transport raw materials that are made into component parts that are manufactured into a finished product that is shipped all over the world. More than that, no one alive thought of the pencil. That person is long dead.
We all prosper because of knowledge from the past, passed down to us. This is our collective “something for nothing” we all enjoy on the one hand, while deriding the idea of something for nothing on the other. Civilization itself is something for nothing. It is the result of billions of interdependent parts working together as part of a social system known as humanity.
Land value too is its own clear example of wealth created collectively. When something we own goes up in value as the result of our doing nothing, that added value is the result of everything and everyone around the land, not anything we ourselves did. Similarly, transport a piece of high-priced metropolitan land into the middle of nowhere, with no one else around, no resources, no infrastructure, no nothing, and the value of the land becomes nothing. It should be clear that the increasing value of land should be shared with the ones creating the value, which is everyone.
Advancing technology is also common wealth, the result of those today standing on the shoulders of the giants of the past. Additionally, it’s even the result of tax dollars being invested into the public research and development that makes all the advancements possible. The iPhone wasn’t created in a vacuum by Apple. It was built on the technologies pioneered by government-funded research. Big data isn’t created in a vacuum either. It is the result of our collective interactions. It is the mining of natural resources where the mines are each and every one of us, and the ore is the information we all create through our interactions with each other. Market research firm IDC has estimated that by 2019, the US market alone for big data and the tech to mine it (and by it I mean us) will be worth $98 billion.
We are completely surrounded by uncompensated commonly created wealth. Now, this isn’t to say that 100% of all wealth should be shared among all equally. It’s simply the recognition that a fraction of all wealth should be justly shared with everyone, because that fraction is created by everyone. And as productivity continues to grow, as our society continues to achieve more and more with less and less — Fuller’s ephemeralization process — that productivity should be recognized as the shared creation it is and compensated appropriately.
This is where basic income becomes more than basic income. The idea of a basic income is simply the starting point. It is the recognition that at the very least, our collective wealth creation and our right to say no to each other in a technologically advancing world should be met with an absolute minimum of sufficient access to resources to have all our basic needs met. And as technology continues to advance and productivity continues to grow, our unconditional access to all resources should grow as well because we are all in some way contributing to all of it. In ways impossible to measure, we interdependently grow our collective prosperity, and it should be recognized with a growing dividend — a prosperity dividend — universally provided without condition.
As prosperity continues to grow, the eventual endpoint of basic income is thus an amount of access to resources that can only be considered effectively infinite. By effectively infinite, I mean the ongoing process of ephemeralization through advancing technology will allow the meeting of wants and needs with fewer and fewer resources. Whereas 20% of a $20 trillion economy is $4 trillion, 20% of a $200 trillion economy is $40 trillion, which is the difference between a $12,000 per year basic income and a $120,000 per year prosperity dividend. The higher the minimum amount, and the cheaper the goods and services possible to spend it on, the harder it is to spend all of it, and therefore it increasingly becomes effectively infinite.
Once everyone receives as a minimum an amount of access to resources that goes so far that most people find it difficult to ever actually “spend” it, and work is increasingly motivated not by money but by the pursuit of meaning, money itself loses meaning. The result is something more like an economy based on resources instead of money, where what is possible is measured by if we can physically achieve it instead of if we can “afford” it. Some may call this postcapitalism. Others may call it a Star Trek economy. Still others may call it a resource-based economy. But it doesn’t really matter what we call it, because it lies beyond, and only if we make that first all important step together — unconditional income.
The connection between work and income must be severed. That Gordian Knot of our own creation must be undone. Our growing insecurity must be ended. Our inability to say no must be abolished. And our interdependent creation of our thus far uncompensated common wealth building must be compensated.
An unconditional basic income achieves all of these things. It is far more than what some see as “a few crumbs” tossed to the great masses as compensation for technological unemployment. Basic income is the abolition of enslavement once and for all, and the beginning of a new kind of society built on higher achievements of purpose than just toil for paychecks. It is the destiny of a species that picked up its first tool and imagined a way to use it to achieve all that could not otherwise be achieved without it.
Is basic income a sufficient response to technological unemployment? It’s more than that. It’s the most important response of all. It is a collective step that is humanity’s next giant leap.
In partnership with GlobalFoundries and Samsung, IBM has unveiled the world’s first 5nm silicon chip. The chip is notable in that it is smaller than previous versions yet more dense and powerful, therefore offering higher performance. It’s also the first practical application of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography and horizontal gate-all-around (GAA) field effect transistors (FETs).
Tri-gate finFETs, now used in most chip designs sized at 22nm and below, will probably be unsuitable at around 7nm. In contrast, GAAFETs — particularly in tandem with EUV — could work all the way down to 3nm. Below that size, no one yet knows what will function properly. FinFETs originally solved the volume issues older 2D transistors faced because they are 3D, increasing the volume of silicon atoms which can carry electricity by protruding from the substrate. GAAFETs can revert back into 2Ds using stackable silicon nanowires.
More Power, Less Space
According to IBM, “the new 5nm tech offers a 40 percent performance boost at the same power, or a 75 percent drop in power consumption at the same performance.” Density is also significantly improved: IBM states that it can now fit up to 30 billion transistors onto a chip 50-square-millimeters across —about the size of a fingernail. In the past, a similarly sized chip would hold 20 billion transistors at most.
As this technology continues to shrink, we will be able to fit more of it into less space. This will mean computers and other devices can become more powerful, but at the same time smaller and more portable. IBM is already on the job, having pointed out that GAAFETs are ripe for scaling down even further.
Blockchains are secure, transparent and efficient. They record transactions as ‘blocks’ on a synchronized and distributive ledger — each one has to be ratified by more than one party, and is tied to the previous block. This means that supply chains involving more than one transaction can be traced along their entire sequence. If they are integrated with smart contracts, they could cut out middlemen. The most well-known manifestation of the blockchain is cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin; however, as it is a transaction system, it can be used for far more than currencies.
Among this revolutionary system’s most promising applications, though, is its potential use in sustainable governance systems, as Guillaume Chapron has argued on Nature. She details four ways in which it could improve governance and sustainability:
First, by making ownership concrete. As blockchains cannot be altered, manipulated, or changed without consent by all parties involved in the network, blockchain could prevent corrupt governments or companies from evicting or seizing the assets of people unfairly. Benben in Accra, Ghana, is already performing this task, along with Georgia and Honduras.
Second, by using its unique traceability. If Blockchain is used in conjunction with the internet of things, the efficiency, waste, and/or emissions of individual commodities, as well as entire company’s supply chains, could be securely and reliably logged. This would enable a reward structure for sustainability because it would provide a way to ensure there is no manipulation of figures or deliberate misinformation.
Third, by providing reliable payments. Blockchains do not require bank accounts — which is beneficial to people in countries that lack the infrastructure to supply them. This would ensure that money intended to be a reward for conservation, or charity payments to specific causes, does not disappear into unintended pockets through bureaucratic labyrinths. Blockchained money could be released automatically to the correct parties in response to meeting environmental targets. Another potential use in this sector is the direct trading of energy, rather than having to rely on middlemen’s conversions or evaluations.
Fourth, by making the corrupt accountable. This can apply on a number of levels, from the governmental to the individual. Votes could be registered on blockchains, making electoral manipulation extremely difficult — or, on a more personal level, evidence could not be tampered with, nor deals changed or fiddled with.
Blockchain can work in tandem with companies advocating sustainable development, governmental improvement, and individual empowerment in a variety of ways — freeing people from webs of complicated contracts, bullying by those in power, and the lack of accountability that often stems from the complexity of the digital age.
Tentative Steps Toward Melding Fashion and Technology
The arts and technology are beginning a courtship that may fundamentally affect the way we perceive both of them: in visual art, we have Google Deep Dream, creating hallucinatory vistas on par with the wackier end of Hieronymus Bosch or Alan Aldridge; in music, we have A.I composers; virtual reality offers an unprecedented and fully-immersive opportunity for filmmakers and writers alike. Fashion, however, is another kettle of fish because it is an art that is lived, occurring at all hours of the day. Additionally, the high fashion industry is a made-to-order one, often based on a limited quantity of materials and intensive crafting — a difficult set of values to integrate with the nature of the technology industry: machines mass-producing goods and materials.
There have been hesitant exchanges at the higher end of fashion — some examples include a Google and Levi’s collaboration called Project Jacquard that turns fabrics into gesture-controlled surfaces and Largerfield using 3D printing in some of his designs. At the far end of the spectrum is Studio Bitoni; Francis Bitoni, the company’s CEO, said: “Our products should create the next version of the human, not service humanity after it has evolved.” They are responsible for high heels fit to be worn to a dinner party by a Matrix sentinel and bodices that would look natural on an alien queen (although they’re currently worn by Dita Von Teese).
Wearable technology has progressed far beyond the L.E.D t-shirts you used to wear to parties when you were 15, and has now become fully integrated into those with active lifestyles with the advent of step counters and heart rate recorders. According to an educated guess by Canalys, a research firm, the Apple Watch sold 11.9 million units last year, permeating the market more than any previous smart watch and setting a precedent for widespread adoption of wearable technology. However, the next development will shift the onus of the development from wearable to worn, stressing integration rather than accessorization. Almost every wearable currently available relies on a cell phone, including that Apple Watch.
Kate Sicchio, an assistant professor of integrated digital media at New York University, predicts the relationship could lead to the elimination of the smartphone itself: “If we look at the history of ubiquitous computing…in the ’90s, all these MIT researchers had backpacks full of laptops, and now we just have this little [rectangle] we keep in our pocket, and soon that’s going to disappear and it just will be a small microcontroller in our garments.”
While this may seem outlandish, we must think that we already consider technology as part of our bodies in many ways: a study published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication states that “cellphone users are capable of perceiving their iPhone as an object of their extended self, which can be negatively impacted (i.e., lessening of self) during separation.” If this is the case, then, it is only natural that we will want to bring our technologies closer and closer to our bodies. Fashion could be the stepping stone that bridges handheld technology and bionics on the way to synthesis between humans and machines.
So what are some of the technologies that companies are dabbling in? Adidas is working on 3D printed shoes, Nike is focusing on shoes that lace themselves (which actually began as a replica of the Mag shoe worn by Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II), and Google/Levi’s Project Jacquard created a denim jacket that can connect to a smartphone. By touching the jacket sleeve in certain ways, you can control your phone. If, as Diane Kruger famously stated, “what you wear is an expression of who you are,” our growing obsession with iPhones, Instagram, and technology as a whole will be reflected in the direction the clothing and wearable industries take in the coming decades.
Just over 100 years ago, lawmakers created antitrust laws in response to the largest divide of wealth between the rich and the poor that the country had ever seen. In 1911, the Supreme Court ordered Standard Oil, then owned by John D. Rockefeller, to dissolve. This recognition that monopolistic control over such a valuable resource needed to be broken up is now echoed today in a new kind of revolution: the rise of the data economy.
Right now, there are five tech juggernauts — Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple — that arethe most valuable companies in the world. So far in 2017, The Economist reports that this group of companies has earned a collective first quarter net profit of more than $25 billion. Amazon takes almost 50 cents of every dollar Americans spend online, and Facebook and Google together were responsible for nearly all digital advertising revenue growth in the U.S. in 2016.
Data is different than oil, and all other resources in past history, but it is no less valuable. With data, there is no limit to how much may be extracted, the refinement process is always evolving, and the way that data is bought, sold, and valued is dynamic. Data gives value to and opens up new business opportunities to such a massive array of companies. For instance, Facebook users tag themselves and their friends in photos they post. Using this data, AI capabilities within the program are able to use highly effective facial recognition.
Ownership of data is a fuzzy area, and in this arena, the big companies are far ahead of everyone else — especially us, the individual consumers, who produce data with our every move. But, as the history of antitrust law shows us, the law is there not to enable companies, but to protect consumers — or rather, that has been true thus far.
Antitrust And Data
As The Economist points out, the mere fact that these companies are huge and powerful is not, by itself, enough to assume that there’s a problem, and their success has benefitted consumers in so many ways. Moreover, when we analyze the companies using standard antitrust tests, and even more liberal tests such as those applied in the EU, they appear mostly harmless, not least because many of their services are cheap or free — or paid for with data itself. However, control over data cedes enormous power to these few tech companies. And so, to monitor and regulate this new type of economy there must be a new system, because of the traditional antitrust laws and the ways of thinking that undergird them, devised during the Rockefeller oil days, is outdated and insufficient for coping with our data economy.
The sheer magnitude of the data that now exists, and that is constantly and continuously generated, has changed the nature of what it means to compete in the marketplace. “Network effects” insulate huge tech companies from competition by ensuring that smaller rivals can never develop products with as much competitive insight. And, when a new kid in town creates something that might be a threat? A big enough tech company with enough data probably knows about it in time to buy it before it’s ever really a competitor (think Facebook buying WhatsApp for $19 billion).
So, what would a newer, more effective body of antitrust law look like in this data economy? The Economist has two ideas. First, this law must assess merger impact in data-conscious ways, by considering how much data the merged company will have access to, and things like unusually high purchase prices (ahem, WhatsApp) as possible signals of competition-killing moves. Second, regulators should act as transparency watchdogs, forcing companies to be open with consumers about what data they’re taking and why, and give consumers and third parties easy access to data.
Unfortunately, the FCC and Congress seem currently unlikely to support this kind of change to antitrust laws. Based on recent government decisions, convincing lawmakers to wrest more power away from huge companies could be a struggle. In the meantime, we’ll see how the data economy develops, and whether it changes the face of wealth and power in corporate America.
Just a few generations ago, the idea that we could hop in our car for a road trip without a paper atlas and, instead, navigate with computers in our car—let alone computers in our handheld phones—was idea that was little more than science fiction.
However, in recent years, technology has evolved so quickly, and in so many ways we couldn’t have imagined, that we’re now well along the path to a remarkably futuristic world. Flying cars and vacuum tube trains were something only The Jetsons could have made up. But it’s no longer a matter of if, but when we will have these advanced technologies. And the “when” may be much sooner than you think.
In fact, when it comes to some of that previously scifi-only technology, the future is already here.
One of the major ways in which technology is already altering the course of history is through the ways we get around. Transportation—both at the micro and macro level—is already undergoing major adaptations due to technology. Indeed, once upon a time, our transportation was limited by the realities of what we could achieve technologically. Now, it’s practically the reverse: The only thing limiting us is what we can dream up.
On the roadways, electric vehicles and hybrid cars have become increasingly common. Tesla, Google, and even traditional automakers like Volkswagen have EVs in the pipeline. While they aren’t yet an affordable option for every driver, that’s likely to change as the technology becomes easier (and cheaper) to produce. The next task will be scaling up EV technology for trucks, trains, and buses; a task which will likely require a major overhaul of the United States’ infrastructure — especially if the rails and roadways have self-charging technology.
The infrastructure in the U.S. is probably long overdue for an upgrade, but those who are coming up with ideas aren’t limiting themselves simply to what cities need; they’re thinking well beyond. Cars that can seal up potholes or roads that can “heal” and de-ice themselves, train tracks that can charge cars as they cruise along and even send excess energy back to the grid, and bridges that are capable of adjusting their weight-bearing to extend the lives of their cables…these are just a few of the things in the works.
Beyond-your-wildest-dreams concepts like the Hyperloop have already gone from plan to prototype, and they won’t just change how we get from point A to point B, but change our perception of what it means to travel. In the same way that air travel cut time off trips that used to take months by sea, the hyper-fast travel permitted by something like the Hyperloop will change our perceived geographically limitations for work, living, and play.
The idea of distributed energy could also be used for individual, electric vehicles: fleets can be hooked up to a power grid to charge and, in turn, the grid can tap into the excess energy as-needed. As those grids would be powered by wind or solar, the energy-generating potential would be efficient and renewable.
Pair these efficient, renewably-energized vehicles with self-driving technology, and you’re looking at the next frontier of transportation technology: EVs that can drive themselves.
While autonomous vehicle technology is already being developed, we don’t yet know exactly how it will play out in large scale implementation. It would require people to, essentially, relearn to drive (or, as it is, learn to not drive), and the “rules of the road” would need to shift accordingly.
Making Dreams Into Reality
Although the aforementioned technologies are already well on their way to completion, we need to ensure that society it able to keep pace. For example, would multi-lane highways be safer or more precarious in the absence of human drivers? Who’s to blame when an AI driven car gets in an accident? Should human drivers be banned from the streets? While many studies have supposed that autonomous vehicles will be safer because they take human fallibility out of the equation, until the tech is in practice we can’t be sure.
Similar legislative and ethical questions surround the other technologies detailed. As Tony Robinson, who co-founded the company behind The Future of Transportation World Conference, notes, from flying cars to smart streets, the tech of tomorrow is going to necessitate some new rules. For example, he asserts that we will need to “completely rethink the legislation relating to air traffic control, as flying cars will need very high levels of investment in geo-mapping, flight dimensional city mapping, and interfacing with the aviation segment to enable a lot of advanced systems to operate underneath the existing canopy of what we know as air traffic control and air traffic management.”
Fortunately, there are plenty of minds gathering around the world to ruminate on these questions and come up with solutions—ideally, before problems even arise. To this end, The Future of Transportation World Conference, which will be held in Cologne, Germany July 5 and 6 of this year, aims to:
Bring together world transportation leaders from automotive manufacturers and their suppliers, transportation authorities and city planners, rail and public transportation technology firms and operators, technology and software giants, drone and personal air transportation solution companies, freight and logistics companies, mass-transit solution providers, business consultants, inventors of new and disruptive global mobility solutions, all with the common goal of devising better solutions for the increasingly demanding challenge of providing safe, efficient, sustainable transportation for the world in 2030 and beyond.
Bregman’s standing ovation reflects the particular appeal that basic income is gaining among America’s technologists.
People in Silicon Valley are working to build autonomous robots that could replace human labor. But as economists have started speculating about the ways those innovations could lead to widespread unemployment, many tech elites have begun searching for solutions to the problem they’re creating.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Y Combinator President Sam Altman, and Facebook Cofounder Chris Hughes have all endorsed basic income. (Altman and Y Combinator are leading a basic-income trial in Oakland.) On Twitter, venture capitalist Chris Sacca remarked Bregman’s talk was “devastatingly provocative and enlightening.”
Basic income has gained new life in the last few years. It started as a niche economic theory in the late 1960s, promoted by Milton Friedman, but a wave of basic income trials around the world has propelled the idea towards the mainstream.
Experiments are currently under way in Finland, Kenya, and Oakland, California, and new ones are expected to launch later this year in the Netherlands and Canada.
According to Bregman, we already have the means, the research, and the need for basic income. All that’s left is the action, and judging by the reaction to Bregman’s talk, the TED crowd seems to agree.
Experts in tech and tech enthusiasts alike know that there wasn’t just one “Steve” behind Apple. While Steve Jobs was the popular (and disruptive) face of the company, Steve Wozniak was the genius behind Apple’s earliest technology — most notably, the original Macintosh that was the key to Apple’s initial successes.
No stranger to innovation himself, Wozniak has made some startling assertions recently, stating that he thinks that the next big thing in tech won’t be coming from the company he co-founded—and in which he still owns a sizable amount of stock. In a recent interview with Bloomberg Canada,
Wozniak is betting that Tesla, and its CEO Elon Musk, will be the source of the next, great innovation.
“I think Tesla is on the best direction right now. They’ve put an awful lot of effort into very risky things,” Wozniak said. “They started with a car—the Tesla Model S—that made little sense in engineering terms in how much you have to build for what price and what the market will be.”
It’s precisely that kind of attitude that won Woz’s admiration. “I’m going to bet on Tesla,” he added.
Not From Big Business
Back in the day, Jobs and Wozniak didn’t always see eye to eye, but it’s not this largely unspoken conflict that made Woz bet on Tesla. More than anything, it’s the bit of Apple that Woz sees in Tesla now. “Look at the companies like Google and Facebook and Apple and Microsoft that changed the world—and Tesla included. They usually came from young people. They didn’t spring out of big businesses,” he said.
For the most part, it’s also because Tesla started with a product that Musk liked very much. Again, this is another parallel with how Apple started from a project Woz was building as a hobby. “It was really built for Elon’s own life. What car would he like? And when things come from yourself, knowing what you’d like very much and being in control of it… .that’s when you get the best products,” he explained.
Tesla and Musk have gone a long way from that first electric car. For one, Woz admires Musk’s latest boring project. Apple, on the other hand, seems to be suffering from a lack of innovative spark. This has led some to argue that Apple and Tesla might work better by combining their resources together — Apple’s money and Tesla’s innovation. However, Musk has already cast doubt on the proposal. Alas.
This week Mark Zuckerberg spoke to the latest class of Harvard graduates, offering advice about the future and inspiration to grow on. Among his ideas was the notion that universal basic income (UBI), a standard base “salary” for each member of society that can help meet our basic needs regardless of the work we do, is worth exploring.
UBI pilot programs are sprouting up all over the world, including one in Oakland, California sponsored by Y Combinator. Many are modeled in part after the State of Alaska’s long-term “Permanent Fund” which distributes a dividend to every resident so they can share in the wealth gleaned from the state’s natural resources equally.
While the successfulness of such initiatives can be analyzed several different ways, Zuckerberg emphasized to graduates the need for metrics that go deeper than standard economic measures — metrics that can help foster innovation.
“We should have a society that measures progress not just by economic metrics like GDP, but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful,” Zuckerberg told the Harvard graduates and their guests. “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.”
The Time Is Now
This idea that basic income supports more innovation as well as human rights is perhaps what has made it such a popular idea among Silicon Valley tech minds. In fact, this public endorsement from Zuckerberg is not all that cutting edge — he is one of the later proponents of UBI by Silicon Valley standards, joining the likes of Tesla’s Elon Musk, eBay’s Pierre Omidyar, and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman. Bill Gates agrees that UBI is a good idea, and that we’ll be ready for it soon.
UBI isn’t just a Silicon Valley thing. Andy Stern, the President Emeritus of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), has recently written a book that sets out a detailed plan for making UBI work here in the U.S. Timotheus Höttges, the CEO of Germany’s largest telecommunications company, Deutsche Telekom (DT), also supports UBI because it supports social stability in the age of automation.
UBI pilot programs will hopefully show strengths and benefits of different strategies, and data from Alaska can suggest how such programs can survive the test of time. As pilot programs succeed — and early results seem to indicate that they will — expect more experts to endorse UBI.
In recent weeks Bitcoin has surged repeatedly, smashing records over and over again. However, it seems that the Bitcoin boom might finally be slowing down. After soaring past $2,500 and peaking at almost $2,800 for the first time ever on Thursday, it lost a fair amount of this progress, ending up at about $2,230, down 9.2%. Over the past 30 sessions, it gained almost 90% of the time, growing more than 107%.
The Digital Currency Group, a consortium of 56 companies from 21 countries, has convened in New York at the Consensus 2017 conference. Since closing on Tuesday, news that the group had reached an agreement on scaling prompted another boost for Bitcoin, they climbed as much as 25% since closing on Tuesday. The scaling agreement was just another step forward for Bitcoin, which had already become a legal method of payment in Japan and on Russia’s largest online retail website, Ulmart.
However, it’s not all good news for Bitcoin. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has yet to rule on its reconsideration of the exchange traded fund (ETF) of the Winklevoss twins. This uncertainty was prefaced by the public comment period that ended on May 15. So, Bitcoin users are now waiting to hear whether Bitcoin will be traded on the U.S. Stock Exchange. So far, the answer is no, which is and has been a major setback for the cryptocurrency.
The rise of Bitcoin has become undeniable: while it was once notoriously relegated to the darkest corners of the web, its ascension to become one of the world’s most popular cryptocurrencies has been rapid. It’s become even more difficult to deny in the last few months.
Things have been downright phenomenal for Bitcoin as of late. It’s hit another record just this week, landing on the top 5 Google searches in the United States on Monday. Those of you who’ve been following Bitcoin’s growing legacy are probably already familiar with why last Monday was special: seven years ago, on May 22, 2010, someone bought two pizzas using 10,000 Bitcoin. Today, that would be worth some $20 million. That date is now celebrated among Bitcoin users as Bitcoin Pizza Day — a remembrance of possibly the most expensive pizzas ever bought — and for Bitcoin’s meteoric rise to fame.
The president. A highly coveted and highly controversial role, one traditionally held by humans. The use of “traditionally” is a recently added modifier, one necessary when discussing a Wired article suggesting that the role of president might one day be filled by an artificial intelligence (AI).
Others have pushed the idea of an AI president before, with one group even fighting for Watson, IBM’s AI, to run for the position in 2016. This massive, strange, sci-fi political makeover would completely upend the idea of traditional political discourse, so why are so many considering it?
One major reason is level-headedness. Humans are vulnerable to emotion, obviously, but an AI can make decisions without prejudice, without anger, without resentment, without impulse, and without ego (a major concern with powerful positions). AI is, by nature, capable of fully considering all aspects of an issue before making up its “mind.” AI will not make quick decisions based off of a single fact, so in that respect, the machine has humanity beat.
Also, an AI president could not be influenced financially. An AI wouldn’t have a financial stake in any businesses, so it wouldn’t prioritize any over others. It would only calculate what would be best based on the most up-to-date existing facts. For example, an AI would not have any investment in any energy source, so that would free it to consider only the facts of the situation when determining action on climate change.
What’s Really Possible?
As with any radical idea, the election of an AI president seems impossible on the surface. Could we really ever advance to the point where it would be technologically feasible to entrust the presidency to an AI? Theoretically, yes. AI is advancing rapidly, so if a serious project to build the first presidential AI came to fruition, such a system could probably be built in the not-so-distant future.
The largest issue standing in the way of this becoming a future reality is whether or not we, as a people, will allow it. Would the idea ever be supported by a majority of people? Hard to imagine when you consider that the current political landscape appears more polarized than ever.
As automation creeps into more and more aspects of our lives, it is not too out-there to think that we might be willing to one day elect a president unswayed by human shortcomings and programmed to act according to a set of ideals. The president could be programmed to follow conservative or liberal agendas, or instead of electing an AI designed to reflect one political party or another, we could just vote on various issues that would then be considered by our unbiased AI leader.
As AI systems take on tasks traditionally held by human doctors, lawyers, and even songwriters, considering an AI president isn’t so far-fetched. AI can now even be used to create better AI, so it might be time for us to consider a future in which our political leaders are smarter, fairer, and, well, less human.
“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.” – Dori Lessing in The Golden Notebook
Automation will make most jobs obsolete. Rather than mourn the loss of the 9 to 5, we should see this as an opportunity to liberate humanity from the need to work for somebody else to survive. Coupled with universal basic income, it should be seen as a chance for every individual in society to more fully realize their potential.
To do so we will also need to redefine and reform education. Today it is a means to an end, a way of getting a job; but education should be seen as a lifelong quest and automation enables us to take this view. No longer will we need to confine ourselves to learning one tiny branch of knowledge or developing one particular skill, instead we will each be able to examine what really matters to us and explore all the variety that life has to offer.
Education reform could also enable us to improve our democracies. Democracy relies on the wisdom of crowds, but our crowds are no longer wise because most people don’t have time to learn about all of the issues at stake in each election so they vote based on a handful of issues that they think are most important to them. Rather than producing leaders who inspire, this has led to populist strong men who appeal to our fears.
We do not have to be stuck in this paradigm forever; automation and universal basic income along with education reform have the potential to give us the time and the tools we need to be able to make more informed decisions.
The biggest leap could come from incorporating the blockchain to enable a return to direct democracy where everyone has a say in every issue they deem relevant to them instead of the present system where we exercise what little political rights we have by casting a vote every few years to pick someone to make decisions for us.
Reform Has Begun
All of this relies on having an education system that gives everyone, children and adults alike, the tools, knowledge and skills needed to contribute and engage in society.
Some schools are already catching on and have begun implementing sorely needed change in the classroom. One such school is High Park Day School in Toronto where they have gotten rid of traditional classrooms, rote based learning, and curriculum geared around testing and grades. Instead they have small integrated classrooms with students of varying age ranges that are built on project based learning assignments where students learn and apply skills like 3d printing and software design starting from as young as grade 1.
As Amanda Dervaitis, the Principal and founder of High Park Day School states…
“At a systemic level, I believe we are focusing on the wrong markers of “success” which end up driving curriculum development and policy. The focus is on the fundamentals – reading, writing and math, and improvement plans work towards strengthening these areas to increase “success”. However, we should be focusing on the skills identified that are needed for success in today’s global and technological world; critical thinking, collaboration, communication, computational thinking, global digital citizenship, etc.
The lack of tech curriculum integration should be particularly concerning. Right now, you can graduate from high school in Ontario without having taken a single tech or computers course! Schools are increasing access to use of computers, tablets, etc. in the classroom, but it’s not enough to interact with computers at a consumer level in school. We need to implement technology curriculum (computational thinking, coding, systems, etc.) so that students have a deep understanding of computer technology and are more prepared for a technological future.
The size of our schools and school systems is impeding the development of skills (on a personal level) and progressive programs (on a board/systems level). The factory model no longer serves our students’ needs and the changes in our world have out-paced the potential of our school to support them. Every industry is in an “adapt or die” situation with the advances of technology. The ministry itself will not “fail” as a system (as there is no competition to contend with), however, our education system will fail our students, and society in the end.”
Just a year ago, it was trading at just $443 (£341), after deflating from what was then seen as the giddy highs of about $1,100 (£847) in late 2013. It has since embarked on an epic bull run.
“The Japanese have caught the Bitcoin bug and inefficiencies across markets are being exposed,” CryptoCompare founder Charles Hayter said in an emailed comment. “Irrational exuberance is taking hold as the Japanese stumble over each other to enter the Bitcoin market and drag up international prices.”
The digital currency has come a long way since 2010, when the purchase of the two Papa John’s pizzas by Laszlo Hanyecz from another bitcoin enthusiast marked what is believed to be the first “real-world” bitcoin transaction.
“I’ll pay 10,000 bitcoins for a couple of pizzas.. like maybe 2 large ones so I have some left over for the next day. I like having left over pizza to nibble on later. You can make the pizza yourself and bring it to my house or order it for me from a delivery place, but what I’m aiming for is getting food delivered in exchange for bitcoins where I don’t have to order or prepare it myself, kind of like ordering a ‘breakfast platter’ at a hotel or something, they just bring you something to eat and you’re happy!
“I like things like onions, peppers, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, pepperoni, etc.. just standard stuff no weird fish topping or anything like that. I also like regular cheese pizzas which may be cheaper to prepare or otherwise acquire.
“If you’re interested please let me know and we can work out a deal.”
Bitcoin Pizza Day
Ten thousand coins were then worth about $40 (£30). A British user agreed to buy the pizza for him, and even at the time the buyer got a good deal out of it: The person paid only $25 (£19) for the two pizzas.
No, we aren’t talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
Shapr is a completely free tool for building your professional network. Whether looking to grow your network in a new industry, seeking cofounders and investors for your startup idea or just hoping to grab a coffee with someone new, Shapr introduces professionals who are equally interested in expanding their networks. The company states that their goal is ultimately to encourage professionals to learn from each other and find ways to work together.
The app uses an algorithm to parse the profiles of users and provide you with possible matches based on professional experience, location, and, tagged interests. Each day, Shapr produces a personalized selection of 10-15 potential opportunities.
Users swipe right if they’re interested, and they swipe left if they’re not. Once the interest is mutual, you can message with your match and set up a time to meet. That conversation could take place over coffee, Skype, or whatever communication you prefer – but the point is to get people meeting face to face.
Optimized Networking, Optimized Living
In the modern age, we tend to spend a lot more time living in the “digital world” than living in the “real world.” In a number of ways, this is great, as it makes communication and collaboration faster than ever—after all, it takes only a few seconds to send a text. However, the age of the Internet also has its problems. It’s really easy to network and communicate, but difficulties arise when one considers whether or not they are actually networking with valuable individuals and whether a social media connection is worth much.
The company has shared hundreds of success stories, and they assert that they have already made 1.5 million matches this year. For example, an Atlanta-based user named Sarah found a skilled collaborator on Shapr in just three days after spending a staggering three years of unsuccessful searching. Jessica, a New-York-based journalist looking for mentoring and advice, found two more senior journalists to advise her, thanks to the app.
To be clear, there are plenty of existing ways to put yourself out there online and network – with LinkedIn being one of the most notable examples. So what makes this app different from AngelList or Meetup? To begin with, Shapr is meant to be more active. The app is full of relevant professionals who want to actually take a conversation offline.
In addition, the algorithm does the work for you – on Shapr there is no sourcing or endless browsing of profiles. You can check your daily batch of 10-15 connections in less than two minutes a day. The app focuses on quality matches, so that you spend time speaking to the right people and taking those conversations offline rather than just collecting business cards.
This “mindful networking” approach is an efficient way to hack networking and make it more meaningful, inspiring and fun. Technology has already drastically altered the way we search for jobs. Why shouldn’t it impact the way we make meaningful, professional connections? Test it out for yourself – Shapr is free for iOS and Android.
Futurism curates the products that could help reshape our world. This post has been sponsored by the team behind Shapr.
Bitcoin (for its history, see this infographic) has experienced unprecedented success since their domain name was registered on anonymousspeech.com. Monday, it was reported that the single bitcoin hit a landmark point, reaching $2,251.61 dollars, which far exceeds the price of gold. Its exchange rate has increased in 23 of its past 26 sessions. It has been the top performing currency every year since 2010 (besides 2014). By the summer, it will be accepted at more than 260,000 stores in Japan, since it is officially legal tender in the country. The verdict against the Winklevoss Twins to not allow it to enter the U.S stock exchange may, in the wake of this success, be overturned.
All of this seems to point to Bitcoin becoming a currency on par with the Dollar, Pound, Yen or Euro; or — because of its decentralized and digital nature — it could become the global currency.
Why This Might Not be so Great
These figures, however, may not tell us the whole story. “All that glitters is not gold.”
The first thing that Bitcoin will have to do to continue its rise is to become more stable. The reason Bitcoin is so successful is also the reason it could fail. It has the ability to swing and shift extremely quickly: we need only look at when it dropped 15% in a matter of minutes in response to the Winklevoss Twin’s ETF verdict. One key characteristic of a successful currency, rather than its worth as an asset, is stability, which Bitcoin has not yet achieved.
Second, it will need to increase its transaction speed. In comparison with payment processors like Visa, the number of transactions Bitcoin can process is tiny: around 7 compared to thousands. This is because of each transaction has to be validated and verified by an individual due to it being part of a blockchain. And, even though it has the potential to stretch to 27, unless this value is increased there will forever be a serious limitation to how much bitcoin can grow.
Third, these exciting new figures may be artificially caused by an indirect centralization (centralization not through the legal process, but by market means — similar to a hostile takeover of a company). While Bitcoin is an uncentralized currency, if an individual miner (or collection of miners) take control of most of the mining then they are able to abuse the majority loophole, created as a democratic foundation of the currency. This would also allow the individual or group to rewrite the blockchain. As the majority of the miners are Chinese companies, and demand for the currency is increasing in the country due to the value of domestic currency falling, some fear the rise of state control in a system designed to be anti-state.
The Washington Post reports that researchers and officials at the CDC say the vacancies are affecting “programs supporting local and state public health emergency readiness, infectious disease control and chronic disease prevention.” An unnamed senior CDC official (who spoke to The Washington Post anonymously) told the organization that critical public health analysts, scientists, and advisers are among the unfilled positions. These are the people who help ensure that scientists working in labs and the field all over the country have sufficient equipment and support to remain operational.
The CDC’s problems are made even worse, the senior official said, because the agency is operating without a director. The former permanent director, Tom Frieden, resigned in January from the position, which is one of the most important roles in the fight against infectious diseases in the U.S. and everywhere else in the world. Since that time, the CDC has essentially been rudderless, trying to cope with a difficult transition without the benefit of leadership.
According to the Sierra Club, whose Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request yielded the data on the results of the hiring freeze, the frozen jobs remaining open at the CDC are mostly medical experts and scientists (26 percent of positions) and policy experts (19 percent). In other words, the freeze is not affecting “bureaucratic” jobs and is instead preventing the CDC from hiring chemists, economists, epidemiologists, microbiologists, statisticians, and other high-level professionals.
The CDC isn’t the only agency feeling the impact of these policies. HHS is facing the same problem and is trying to get by without dozens of people who help the department respond to public health and cybersecurity emergencies. Meanwhile, NIH staff indicate that the vacancies are causing patient care, clinical work, and recruitment to suffer.
A doctor at the National Cancer Institute, who spoke to The Washington Post anonymously to avoid funding retaliation, has been unable to replace a key assistant because the agency’s human resources department “was overwhelmed by the demand and could not process recruiting actions.” The physician added that “it’s complicated to get exceptions granted” for an open senior laboratory position at the institute.
In the meantime, the White House and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have directed all federal agencies to submit plans by June 30 reflecting how they will reduce their civilian workforces. The administration will soon release its new budget, which is expected to be in line with its previously stated goals.
The impact of these agencies extend far beyond their cost, however. The Washington Post reports that multiple positions remaining vacant are in the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response (PHPR), the body that maintains the country’s store of emergency medical countermeasures and regulates some of the most dangerous viruses and bacteria in the world. Jobs in the infectious disease offices also remain open, as do positions in the office for noncommunicable diseases, injury, and environmental health.
Liz Perera, the public health policy director of the Sierra Club, told The Washington Post that the administration’s “thoughtless freeze on hiring public servants prevented the CDC from filling critical roles at programs essential to preventing chronic and infectious diseases, advancing immunization, and safeguarding environmental health.”
Drastic budget cuts to science and public health have serious consequences that are worrying professionals who work in these areas. Furthermore, experts argue that research affects more than our understanding of the world. It also supports local economies and fosters new industries. Now, at the dawn of the age of automation, this is more important than ever.
In any case, slow, considerate changes in policies that affect public health are essential to ensuring health is safeguarded. They also make good fiscal sense. Former CDC director Dr. David Satcher touts the importance of investing in public health in order to prevent disease and promote health — and save money. Prevention “is consistent with a conservative approach,” because it brings down the cost of healthcare, Satcher told the Georgia Health News in January. “The business argument for the CDC is a good one,” he added.
Blockchain is a decentralised network in which each ‘block’ represents a piece of information as computer code. When a transaction takes place, it is recorded on a completely transparent public ledger (database) and chained to every previous transaction that the piece of data is involved in using a digital signature.
The system cuts out middlemen and bureaucracy, providing a trust-based system of exchange. Rachel O’Dwyer, of Trinity College Dublin, says in an essay, “the blockchain is presented as an algorithmic tool to foster trust in the absence of things like social capital, physical colocation, or trusted third-party management.”
The most famous use of the system is to support the cryptocurrencyBitcoin, which has become notorious for its use on the darkweb, but which has the potential to act as a currency to buy anything. Dr. Catherine Mulligan, a Fellow and an Expert of the World Economic Forum for Blockchain Technologies, says in the video below that it could have a “Foundational impact on the way our society runs, the way our government runs, the way that we interact with one another — not just in economic transactions, but on a day-to-day basis.”
Like any innovative and potentially all-pervasive system (people have commonly compared it to the internet), there are some legal issues that need to be traversed.
Because it is decentralized, it facilitates illegal transactions. Money laundering and acquiring digital assets are hard, because in digital banking an individual has to go through a middleman and there are meetings, intimacy, or exchange between parties who know each other. Because blockchain exchange is conducted under pseudonyms, the parties do not know each other, but more importantly can claim that they do not. As most countries operate on a principle of Know Your Customer, in a financial system in which the customer is not validated or ratified, illegal activity becomes easier.
Smart contracts may be long-term detrimental. Smart contracts use the blockchain to decrease transactional friction (the economic inefficiency caused by processing a transaction) and provide a way for individuals to exchange without the middleman. However, the contracts are often too simple to cater for fiscal or legal complexities, meaning that if a problem arises they may be insufficient to help resolve it.
Linked to the above point is that the legal system will take time to adapt to evidence derived from blockchain. Even if contracts are complex enough, the legislative system and lawyers need time to understand and handle the evidence and how it can be used. However, blockchain is already fairly widespread in its use, meaning that over the next few years we could see incorrect legal decisions because of misinformation.
What are the Benefits?
Blockchain has the potential to decrease bureaucracy, democratize data, decrease risk, decentralize banking, and make asset management far easier.
Its rise or fall depends entirely on how it is legislated, and this is the tension at the heart of it. This is a system that is being used by both the world’s biggest banks and to buy drugs online, that is precisely designed to be decentralized and uncontrolled, so how can we ensure it is used for good and not abused? That it is accruing value perhaps shows the beginning of financial trust, which could develop into total trust in a more transparent and democratized world.
What is an EEG, and what have studies concerning its security found?
Two new studies by the University of Alabama and the University of Washington have revealed the malicious possibilities lurking in the shadows of impressive promises of brain-computer interface (BCI) developers: the ability to access PINs and other private information.
Electroencephalograms (EEG) are tests that detect electrical activity in your brain using a skullcap studded with electrodes. This technology has been used in the medical sector for years — for example, to diagnose schizophrenia as far back as 1998. However it is now due to be used for far more commercial enterprises. Rudimentary versions, such as Emotiv’s Epoc+ have been released with the promise of far more sophisticated versions just around the corner, including examples being developed by Elon Musk and Facebook.
The University of Alabama’s study discovered that hacking into a BCI could increase the chances of guessing a PIN from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 20; it could shorten the odds of guessing a six-letter password by roughly 500,000 times to around 1 in 500. Emotiv has dismissed the criticisms, stating that all software using its headsets is vetted and that users would find the activity of inputting codes suspicious; but Alejandro Hernández, a security researcher with IOActive, claimed that the Alabama case is “100 percent feasible.”
The test involved people entering random pins and passwords while wearing the headset, allowing software to establish a link between what was typed and brain activity. After data from entering 200 characters was gathered, algorithms could then make educated guesses what characters they would enter next. Nitesh Saxena, Research Director of the department of Computer and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama, detailed a situation in which someone still logged on to a gaming session while checking their bank details could be at risk.
The University of Washington test focused on gathering data. In their study, subliminal messages flashed up in the corner of a gaming screen while EEG gauged the participant’s response. Tamara Bonaci, a University of Washington Electrical Engineer, said that “300 milliseconds after they saw a stimulus there is going to be a positive peak hidden within their EEG signal” if they have a strong emotional reaction to it. Howard Chizeck, Bonaci’s fellow electrical engineer who was also involved with the project, said, “This is kind of like a remote lie detector; a thought detector.” Potential uses of data could stretch from more targeted advertising than ever before to determining sexual orientation or other such personal information that could be used to coerce users.
How serious is the threat?
While some BCIs are being used in extremely positive ways, like diagnosing concussions or allowing people with severe motor disabilities control over robotic aids, the threat to security and privacy posed by commercially available and mainstream BCIs is huge.
Experts have advised that we begin to think of means of protection now, rather than after the technology has become more widespread. Howard Chizeck told Motherboard over Skype that “There’s actually very little time. If we don’t address this quickly, it’ll be too late,” while scientists from the University of Basal and the University from Zurich have called for a “right to mental privacy” in response to the developments.
Worryingly, there has been very little work towards providing protection against such attacks. The BCI Anonymizer, still in its propositional stages, aims to “extract information corresponding to a user’s intended BCI commands, while filtering out any potentially private information.” But aside from this, there is very little else.
As with many technologies, the novelty and potential of BCI is headily seductive, but we must beware of the practical consequences their use may give rise to.
A variety of new payment methods, processors, and banking tools that use smartphones will revolutionize the way we use money — particularly for small businesses and developing countries. Polish futurist Piotr Turek stated in an interview with Thomas Frey that, “in less than five years, smartphones, watches, and other devices will replace credit/debit cards, wallets, lenders, stockbrokers, and insurance agents.”
So, what technologies and enterprises are acting as a catalyst to a cashless, cardless society? Sumsung Pay, Apple Pay, and Google Pay — to name a few. Numerous technology giants are launching mobile payment and banking applications that only require the user to have a smartphone to pay for products. Start-ups, which include B, Starling, and Monzo (which raised £1 Million in 96 seconds in its crowdfund during March, 2016) have also had success in the sector.
These ventures are booming most in developing countries, in which banking is difficult due to a lack of physical banks. A 2016 report by the Global Economic Governance Program found that nine of the 10 top mobile banking companies were in Africa. But these technologies and businesses could have a big impact on first-world economies as well.
Mobile points of sale are replacing the need for cash registers. Examples include Square and Shopkeep, which reduce the start-up costs for businesses. These can be integrated with other apps to provide small businesses with management, project planning, and payment tools, greatly decreasing the cost and learning curve for small business owners.
The use of these mobile banking tools makes managing finances: quicker, because there is no need to go through banks and money transfers are often instantaneous; easier, because app’s interfaces are designed to be as simple as possible; and more secure, because there are no physical cards and money to steal, and even if a phone is stolen, one cannot access money without a passcode.
An interesting potential consequence of payment being conducted over blockchain more and more could be a universal global currency, as blockchain is capable of functioning using only cryptocurrencies. As Turek said in the interview, “There is a good chance that we will have a default global currency arise from the cryptocurrency movement.”
On Thursday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 2-1 in favor of starting the process of dismantling net neutrality rules and changing the classification of home and mobile internet providers as common carriers (under Title II of the Communications Act). The vote pushes forward the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks to remove the Title II classification entirely.
The FCC is open to comments regarding the NPRM until August 16, when it will then make its final decision. For those who wish to share their thoughts, the docket can be accessed here. It’s still not clear, however, if Pai intends to put back the 2015 net neutrality rules that prohibit ISPs from throttling or blocking lawful internet content in favor of prioritized, paid access.
Debate over net neutrality centers on protecting internet freedom. Pai himself called his plan “Restoring Internet Freedom,” — but does removing net neutrality, and changing the Title II classification rules, really protect internet freedom?
Pai thinks so, arguing that “[t]he Internet was not broken in 2015” before net neutrality rules were put in place. Instead, the FCC chairman is optimistic. “This is the beginning of the process, not the end,” Pai said before the 2-1 vote.
“Today, President Trump’s FCC took the first step to dismantle net neutrality,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.). “This action will undermine the free and open Internet and hand its control over to a few powerful corporate interests.”
In effect, what the FCC wants to do is to remove government regulation of ISPs and to give them total broadband access control. From that standpoint, taking out net neutrality is freedom — but not for consumers. That being said, removing the ISP’s common carrier or utilities classification would put them under the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) authority.
The final set of rules will likely be presented this fall after the public comment period has ended.
Elon Musk has boldly claimed that within 10 years, Tesla could be as big as Apple, with a market cap of $700 Billion. He stated, “If we’re able to maintain a 50% growth rate for 10 years and achieve 10% profitability number and have a 20 P/E, our market cap would be basically the same as Apple’s is today.” His prediction is based on the technology he is releasing this year, which includes battery and solar panel production lines as well as the more affordable Tesla Model 3.
His plan is not to outsource production to other countries, as Apple does. Rather, he wants Tesla to construct the “machine that builds the machine.” His determination is shown by the 467 weird and wonderful Kuka robots that form the “alien dreadnought” which will build the model 3.
Despite these bold claims, futuristic robots, huge production lines, and Tesla’s ascension to America’s most valuable car manufacturer, Musk still has an awful lot of catching up to do. Apple’s quarterly profit, announced this past Tuesday, eclipsed Tesla’s total profit for 2016, and to date, they have sold over a billion iPhones. In contrast, Musk hasn’t yet sold a million cars. In fact, Tesla is struggling to reach its production goal of 1 million by 2020. Especially because of Apple’s recently acquired “cash pile,” it seems like Tesla might have a long way to go. Musk may have been right when he followed up his claims by saying, “I could be delusional.”
We here at Futurism know that science is cool and do our part to spread that message far and wide. We are certainly not alone in this goal. Some of the biggest supporters of science and all the potential it harnesses are also some of the most famous faces in show business.
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard, one of these famous faces, recently spoke on his part in that mission. The acclaimed director of such science-related films as Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind recently spoke to CNN about his role in making science more attractive. He said, “This is a time to remind audiences how important science can be, how important it’s been to us in the past, and what the possibilities are for the future.”
His most recent work, Genius, explores the life of the seminal scientific figure Albert Einstien with big budget Hollywood flair, combined with more down-to-Earth documentary elements that come together into a thoroughly entertaining and educational experience.
Other modern science communicators often use similar tactics of showmanship to explain important scientific topics to a greater audience. Take, for instance, everyone’s favorite science guy, Bill Nye, and his show Bill Nye Saves the World on Netflix. Additionally, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson often uses pop culture to open up conversations regarding complex scientific principles.
The cult of celebrity is nothing new to our modern era. However, the power that social media and seemingly endless access to content give entertaining science communicators an edge in shaping minds to help usher in a smarter, and more scientific, future.
We want to get the most out of our appliances and, while internet connectivity can be quite useful, there are many limitations to the abilities of the current Internet of Things (IoT) model. Smart devices cost much more than their offline counterparts and they often do not talk to each other. Even more, some devices may incorporate cameras as a part of their scanning technologies, which many consumers find intrusive.
A graduate student, Gierad Laput, studying computer-human interaction at Carnegie Mellon University is looking to reconcile those limitations with a single, relatively low-cost, device that has the potential of turning entire rooms into “smart-rooms.”
Laput’s project is called Synthetic Sensors. The sensors can be powered directly from a wall socket and are about the size of an old Gameboy cartridge. It combines the sensing capabilities of an inventory of sensors into a central board giving it the ability to monitor an entire room.
While the device itself may not allow for the kind of capability that specialized IoT technology can provide, but it does offer a level of integration that further development, even from third parties, may allow. For example, the suite of sensors can monitor when a paper towel has been taken, but on its own, it cannot monitor when the roll may need to be changed. However, when coupled with what Laput calls “second order” sensors, the devices can capture counts and send notifications of the need to replenish.
This capability can be scaled to an unlimited degree (theoretically) giving consumers highly specific and applicable feedback.
Now, while we may not yet be in the era of sentient smart houses from our science-fiction dreams, we are slowly making our way into a future where every aspect of our day contains encounters with smart devices. The popularity of devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are helping technology like this to grow quickly, despite their limitations.
Perhaps this technology can be a part of the integration that Laput is hoping to achieve.
Sidewalk Labs is a company that wants to completely reimagine city environments for the internet age. To test out their ambitions the Google sibling company recently applied to develop a 12-acre stretch of land within Toronto so they can build a mini city from scratch. Could internet-friendly smart cities be the future of urban planning?
Bill Gates has been almost prophetic in his past predictions: his 1999 list was hauntingly accurate, foreseeing the advent of price comparison websites, smartphones, social media, and bots. Over the last few years, in interviews and annual letters, he has continued predicting: here are a selection of seven of his insights.
1. In the next 15 years, 33 million people could be wiped out in less than a year by a pathogen.
At the Munich Security conference, Gates warned that “epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year.” This could be due to mutation, accident, or terrorist intent. While this may seem outlandish, similar events have occurred before: the most obvious example is the Black Death, which killed almost a third of Europe, but more recently, in 1918, the Spanish Flu wiped out between 50 and 100 million people.
He believes Africa will achieve the goal due to a number of structural changes:
First, better fertilizers and crops being developed will cause an upward spiral of greater nutrition leading to greater productivity.
Second, developments in infrastructure that are already taking place, such as Ghana increasing the width of highways connecting production zones to distribution zones and Senegal removing checkpoints that cause delays.
Third, as phones become more widespread, this will allow the communication of information such as weather reports and market prices.
3. The lives of the poor will be transformed by mobile banking.
Electronic banking systems will allow the poor to store and protect money digitally: he said in his 2015 annual letter that “by 2030, 2 billion people who don’t have a bank account today will be storing money and making payment with their phones.”
Gates cites how much the world has changed during his own lifetime — moving from a world segmented into the Soviet Union, the Western Allies, and “everyone else” to the world we see today — as a precedent for how much it has the potential to change. He wrote in his 2014 letter that “aid is a fantastic investment, and we should be doing more. It saves and improves lives very effectively, laying the groundwork for […] long-term economic progress.”
5. By 2030 there will be a clean energy breakthrough that will revolutionize our world.
In an interview with Quartz, Bill Gates envisages, as many industry leaders do, a world in which humans are put out of work by robots. Gates, though, has provided a possible plan of action: to tax robots in order to fund more jobs that can only be performed by humans, like taking care of the elderly or working with children.
7. Polio could be eliminated worldwide by 2019.
In his 2013 Annual Letter, Gates revealed statistics showing that the prevalence of polio has been reduced from impacting millions of people in hundreds of countries to now being active in only three countries worldwide. The key, he states, is measurement: “You have to measure accurately, as well as create an environment where problems can be discussed openly so you can effectively evaluate what’s working and what’s not.”
A Russian firm called NTechLab has created a software that, when used in tandem with surveillance cameras, can detect emotions and identify people who are angry, nervous, or stressed in a crowd. The software then processes the emotions it perceives in the context of the age, gender, and identity (if known) of the people it is surveilling to decide who the potential criminals and terrorists are. Last year, the firm’s software was used to power the FindFace app, which works on the Russian version of Facebook to find anyone from missing family members to suspects in cold cases.
NTechLab claims that the technology is more than 94 percent accurate. If they’re proven right, municipalities that use it may be able to monitor situations in real time, stopping crime before it happens. Its clients mostly include retail businesses and security firms, but local, state/regional or even federal governments could conceivably use their technology.
New Technologies Preventing Crimes
Technology has already changed the way the authorities fight crime and work to prevent it. The FBI has been using the Next Generation Identification (NGI) facial recognition system, which allows the agency to parse more than 411 million photos to identify suspects — and not just the faces of people who have committed crimes. It also searches the visa and passport application photos of the State Department. In fact, experts estimate that about 117 million Americans — around half of all adults in the U.S. — are in the database. This kind of technology has also been implemented in airports since the 9/11 terror attacks.
Facial recognition is also being used to boost security in other contexts: HSBC uses facial recognition software rather than more traditional security measures, as does Lloyds in partnership with Microsoft. While this technology is primarily intended to boost online security, it is in essence also working to prevent crime and fraud.
So, can a dystopian future like the one shown in Minority Report — in which innocent people are imprisoned without ever committing actual crimes — be possible in a world that makes use of this technology? The FBI has responded to criticisms of its use of the NGI system by saying that it uses the software to generate leads — not to make positive identifications. However, state and local law enforcement agencies also have access, and might have different policies or de facto procedures. As of October 2016, Wired reported that more than 40 civil liberties groups had requested that the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department (now headed by Jeff Sessions) evaluate the use of the technology around the country and issue guidance. As yet, the matter remains unresolved.
In the science fiction flick Incorporated, a post-apocalyptic future world is no longer run by nation-states but by corporation-states, each acting in the best interests of the company. Such a future doesn’t seem that far or farfetched now, especially if one considers just how big the world’s most powerful corporations are.
One LinkedIn post recently got our attention. It in, a young tech entrepreneur made an interesting calculation: just how wealthy is Apple? Recent reports show that the Cupertino-based tech giant has an unbelievably massive cash stash of $256.8 billion — and a market value hovering around $800 billion.
That’s obviously a great deal of dough, and to show just how much, the LinkedIn post claimed that, with its cash, Apple could buy Tesla (approximately $50.1 billion), Netflix ($67.4 billion), Uber ($68 billion), Airbnb ($68 billion), Twitter ($13.38 billion), and a budding tech firm called Eden App (probably valued around $10.92 billion), and still have about $16 billion cash left.
Ruling the World
Now, while Apple won’t be buying Tesla — although, while Elon Musk would never sell, it should — or any of these companies anytime soon, what this illustrates is just how much (purchasing) power one corporation could wield. Today, where globalization has shaped and continues to shape an interconnected world, it’s corporations like Apple that now “rule” the world — and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that…right?
It’s pretty ironic for Apple, though, as it has now become the “Big Brother” it worked so hard to fight against in its early innovative years.
The great irony of globalization, it would seem, is money. While information and access, and even space, are democratized, the financial resources of the world still seem to be focused on just a few. This financial setup is poised for disruption, as digital and cryptocurrencies become more and more popular.
Marshall McLuhan, a media theorist of the past generation, once said, “The computer is the most extraordinary of man’s technological clothing…beside it, the wheel is a mere hula hoop.” Next to quantum computers, perhaps our classical computers will look like simple gameboys.
Quantum computers use the principles of quantum physics to perform calculations impossible for a classical computer to handle to accurately because of their delicacy, intricacy, or multifaceted nature. So, how do they work?
In classical computing, a single piece of information is called a “bit” and is either a 1 or a 0. The two properties quantum computers use to disrupt this binary are “quantum superposition” and “quantum entanglement.” Quantum superpostion allows quantum bits (“qubits”) to be a 0 and 1 simultaneously. Quantum entanglement entwines multiple qubits, allowing for a greater number of calculations.
Up until now, this technology has been reserved for uppermost plateaus of academia. But this is about to change.
This problem may be solved by other companies, such as Google. The search giant’s John Martinis claims his team will build a device that achieves “quantum supremacy” (working faster than our current supercomputers) by the end of the year. Another titan, IBM, will soon charge clients to use one of their quantum computers through the cloud as part of their IBM Q program, and foresee a commercial launch of quantum computers within the next few years.
And finally, we have Rigetti, a small start-up looking to beat these technological Goliaths by producing a prototype chip far more complicated than those of the competition by the end of 2017.
Computers of the Future
Quantum computers have the potential to fundamentally change almost any industry, but two of areas that most are focusing on at the moment are chemistry and finance.
Quantum computers could expedite the discovery of medicines and materials, since the classical computers used now cannot simulate the atomic and subatomic motions of more complex molecules. Scott Crowder, IBM Systems vice president, said in an interview with Newsweek, “You don’t even ask those questions on a classical computer because you know you’re going to get it wrong.”
In the finance sector, quantum computers could be used to re-balance investment portfolios day to day — or even hour to hour. López de Prado claimed in an interview with Newsweek that having personal quantum computers could allow companies to “replace guesswork with science,” using their own data and models rather than “listening to gurus or watching TV shows with Wall Street connections.”
However, usability rather than technological attainability may prove to be the biggest hurtle to widespread adaptation of quantum computers. Programming scenarios with them requires an understanding of quantum physics at the very least.
In addition, very few people have actually used the computers, so experts are unsure if the principles they operate on will be similar to traditional programs. Dan Rowinski wrote in a post for ReadWrite that “the underlying logic for digital programs may not translate precisely (or at all) to the quantum-computing realm.”
It is also worth noting that these quantum computers are not intended to replace classical computers, but to perform tasks that classical computers cannot. But whether or not we all have quantum computers in our homes in the next 10 or 20 years, one thing is certain: quantum computing will revolutionize our tech — and how we can use it — forever.
Universal Basic Assets (UBA) have been suggested by the Institute for the Future (IFTF) as a more progressive and fair way to challenging inequality — which, at this point, is staggering. Currently, according to Oxfam, eight people own as much wealth as half of the world’s population.
This inequality will become more severe with the exponential increase of two factors: The first is climate change, which creates “climate refugees” due to water and food shortages as well as the wars that start as a result. The second is advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technology, which will displace many workers. Stephen Hawking has recently added his name to the growing list of scientists worried about the impact of AI on middle class jobs.
UBA has been proposed as a way of averting economic disaster by properly assessing and distributing our resources to meet the needs of every person. It can be seen as an evolution of the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI), which gives every citizen, regardless of how much they earn, a set amount of guaranteed money. The biggest criticisms of this concept are that it is hugely expensive, not all individuals have equal skills in managing money, and that — as Lenny Mendonca of NewCo Shift wrote in an opinion piece — “it is giving crumbs to pacify rather than means to participate.”
The IFTF defines UBA as “a core, basic set of resources that every person is entitled to, from housing and healthcare to education and financial security.” Rather than just focusing on money, the IFTF divides assets into three categories: First, private assets owned personally, such as housing, land, and money. Second, public assets owned collectively and usually managed by a government, which can include anything from the police force to public art galleries to national parks.
And third, open assets owned by neither an individual nor the government, but by a defined group. Resources in this category are epitomized by how open-source software operates today. John Clippinger, founder of the Institute for Data-Driven Design, said this category usually evolves with society, giving the example of British Common Law in an interview with Forbes, “It was constantly reinventing itself around the circumstances, and there was no single point of control.”
Better Than UBI?
The IFTF is still early in its planning stage, so its members are vague about exactly how they propose to implement UBA. Their model going forward is to:
Catalyze a community to create a “new economic operating system built on universal basic assets.”
Conduct research, particularly on open assets.
Launch experiments from which they can forecast the kind of society we can create.
However, there are some key issues that will have to be faced in order to change the economic operating system:
Firstly, there is the issue of quantification. In order to distribute something equally, there must be a way of measuring it in order to assign the same amount to each individual. While this is fairly simple with private assets (money can be counted, land measured in feet etc.), it becomes murkier when applied to the IFTF’s categorization of open assets.
Secondly — and linked to the above point — while private and public assets lie within a country’s borders, open assets do not. An example of this could be the air we breathe. So even if we can find a way to quantify open assets, how will we be able to distribute resources that we do not own, and cannot be owned?
Finally, if a problem with UBI is that not everyone has equal financial management skills, then the same criticism can be applied to asset management.
Douglas Rushkoff states in Economics Is Not a Natural Sciencethat “The marketplace in which most commerce takes place today is not a pre-existing condition of the universe.” UBA is a promising means of making the economy a more equal space. However — like any new idea — there are some problems it has to overcome first.
Early adopters of Bitcoin, the novel currency sweeping the globe, have plenty to celebrate this year. The cryptocurrency has grown in value by 85 percent in 2017. It has enjoyed steady growth, topping $1,700 for the first time ever today. This is the latest milestone for the digital currency, however back in March, Bitcoin surpassed the value of gold for the first time in its history. And, there are no indications of it slowing down.
The previous success of the currency has been tied to the uncertainty in markets after the results of the 2016 US elections. However, that explanation can’t continue its potency for that long. Even more, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) still has to rule on whether or not they will reverse a previous decision to reject a high profile exchange-traded fund (ETF), so the reasons behind the currency’s burgeoning strength remain unclear.
Last month, Japanese policymakers made Bitcoin a legal method of payment. This was followed closely by an announcement that Russia would consider adopting Bitcoin (among other cryptocurrencies) in 2018. However, not all countries are readily willing to consider legitimizing Bitcoin. China, for example, has recently decided to restrict its trade.
Even with some minor hiccups, Bitcoin is set to revolutionize the way that we pay. Its footing keeps getting stronger as it continues to be the top-performing currency since the start of the decade, save for 2014.
The Japanese adoption of the currency could be a considerable boon toward it hitting the mainstream. Experts are expecting retailers in more than 260,000 stores across the country to be accepting Bitcoin. The ease afforded by the currency being international could make it a favorite for travelers as well.
The future of Bitcoin may not be entirely clear. But, if this upward trend continues, it will be difficult for policymakers to deny its rightful place in the pantheon of finance.
Comedian John Oliver has again taken up the cause of net neutrality. On the most recent episode of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” he urged viewers to make public comments on the FCC’s plans to roll back net neutrality provisions. During the show, Oliver discussed the issues surrounding net neutrality and the FCC’s new plans, and then he provided a URL for viewers to visit: gofccyourself.com. The site redirects to the FCC’s comment page for its “Restoring Internet Freedom” proposal, and the “express” function allows the visitor to easily leave a comment.
Either version of events supports the idea that public outcry is powerful. If comments shut down the site, that is notable, and if someone cared enough to make sure people couldn’t make comments, that is also noteworthy.
The “Restoring Internet Freedom” measure would roll back the classification of the internet as a public utility. Critics of this measure argue that it will harm net neutrality and benefit large corporations over all other users. “It would put consumers at the mercy of phone and cable companies,” Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, a consumer advocacy group, told The New York Times. “In a fantasy world, all would be fine with a pinkie swear not to interrupt pathways and portals to the internet despite a history of doing that.”
Google and Netflix, who have been among the most active supporters of net neutrality, have not commented individually about the proposal, but their trade group, the Internet Association, has spoken out against it. “Rolling back these rules or reducing the legal sustainability of the order will result in a worse internet for consumers and less innovation online,” Michael Beckerman, chief executive of the Internet Association, said in a statement.
When Public Action Works
This isn’t the first time Oliver has successfully tackled this issue. In 2014, his broadcast discussion of net neutrality prompted a petition signed by more than four million people and much more vocal, broad-based support for net neutrality measures. In fact, Oliver’s approach with net neutrality is an example of how effective mobilizing public support around a political issue can be.
“The entire purpose of this process is to get public input.” – FCC Chairman Ajit Pai
In a recent interview with FCC chairman Ajit Pai, Maggie Reardon of CNET pointed out that the last time net neutrality was under discussion, the FCC received in excess of four million comments, overwhelmingly supporting the principle. She asked Pai if he would change his mind if the same thing happened this time. Here is Pai’s response:
As I’ve said, we have an open mind. That’s the reason that we call it a notice of proposed rule-making. It’s not a decree. The entire purpose of this process is to get public input. Then, after the record is closed, we apply what the DC Circuit calls a ‘substantial evidence test.’ We look through the record, figure out what the right course is based on facts in the record. Then we make the appropriate judgment. I don’t have any predetermined views as to where we’re going to go. That’s the reason why we have an Administrative Procedure Act and an independent agency like the FCC that’s committed to following that Act.
If what he says is accurate, public input may once again prove to be very persuasive in the FCC’s decision-making process. However, according to The New York Times, Pai has also said, “Make no mistake about it: This is a fight that we intend to wage and it is a fight that we are going to win.” Clearly, every comment will count as the future of the free internet is decided in the coming months.
We are living in the age of automation. Robots are capable of handling tasks previously reserved for lawyers, doctors, shoe manufacturers, and just about every profession in between. And now, Abundant Robotics, a startup “developing leading edge robots for agriculture,” has created a robot that picks apples.
The inspiration for the invention came as a result of the current political landscape. The focus on immigration policy has left many worried that there simply won’t be enough immigrant workers to meet the demand. The growing trend of fewer people working on farms has led to quite an issue with production, and apples obviously can’t be sold if they’re never picked.
This led Abundant Robotics to develop a robot that can, according to CEO and co-founder Dan Steere, identify, pluck, and place apples into a crate with roughly the same accuracy and care as a human. However, unlike a human, a robot doesn’t need to eat or sleep, and it can work at, well, inhuman speeds. In an interview with MIT Technology Review, Steere has even said, “Our commercial system will pick at rates that match crews of tens of people.”
Progress for Production
Some may see this development as cause for concern, another example of automation leading to job loss. And yes, as more and more robots capable of human action are developed, we might be replaced, in a way. However, while increased automation could lead to problems that we are looking for solutions to, a lot of good will come with it as well.
Robots often make life safer. From the operating table to the harsh conditions of working on a farm, robotic replacements could increase productivity while reducing risk. If we promote research, new jobs will follow, and if we emphasize education funding, current citizens and those immigrating to the U.S. will be able to take advantage of those alternative work opportunities.
So long as we keep promoting progress in a way that helps humanity as a whole, positive change will follow. Steere puts it into historical perspective: “Look at the history of agriculture going back to the 1800s. Machinery has changed how harvesting’s done, and huge benefits to society have come from that.”
The new Apple store in Dubai changes shape according to the weather and temperature outside. In cool weather, large windows open allowing customers to go out onto a terrace overlooking the street below. During wind, rain, or sandstorms, the large windows close. The interior temperature adjusts automatically according to the temperature and light levels outside.
An emergence of digital platform economy is driving fundamental changes in our societies. But there is nothing new about platforms. Platform refers to a product, technology, or organization that enable direct interactions between two (or more) distinct actors. For example, most General Motors cars were already years ago built on a shared product platform. So, no matter if you bought an Opel or a Cadillac, the underlying structure of the car was actually similar. It makes sense, of course, to standardize production like this for economies of scale.
Platforms are a way to save costs, as they were for GM, but they also create flexibility and competitive advantage. Flexibility comes from the ability to customize the offering on top of the platform, as GM did for different cars in different price ranges. Microsoft Windows 95 might be the best example of competitive advantage created via platform.
A typical approach to monopolies is that they hinder innovation and development. However, this isn’t always the case. A dominant software platform such as Windows 95 allowed a sort of an ad hoc standardization that allowed smaller companies to create software that previously demanded immense resources. The dominant platform also made it possible for developers to create software only for this one platform, significantly reducing development costs. Clearly the platform position of Microsoft Windows 95 made the development of information technology faster. These assets also provided Microsoft with a long-lasting competitive advantage in the market.
Another great example of platform utilization is Apple App Store. Apple earns much more from its App Store than Google does from Google Play, even though Google has many times more downloads. Apple also gave developers much higher returns.
But Digitalization Brings Them Into Our Everyday Life
Internet of things (IoT), the next step in digitalization, is colliding digital and physical worlds. IoT will become part for our everyday life especially through platforms. There is a natural link between digitalization and platforms.
Uber, Lyft, AirBnB, and others have demonstrated that improving sensors and digital tools in physical environment makes it possible to scale up products and services almost like they are digital. These companies have emerged really fast, but are already as big as or bigger than the old players in their markets. They are often related to eating, living, and transportation, where the big money is and where people also really realize that things change. This is why there is so much talk about platforms and platform economy right now.
To be more precise about why platforms have a natural link to digitalisation, the following must be emphasized: standardization helps also in production of physical goods such as the GM cars where the old chassis of the vehicle could be, if desired, used in a new car. But when data, algorithms and apps are reused, it does not require deconstruction of the original goods. The optimal use of information, including data, databases, information, metadata, algorithms, codecs, learning algorithms, apps, programs, and scripts is much more efficient when the platform is digital, even though the product or service is physical.
So, when digitalization moves onward, service providers see it first in contexts that are easy to digitalize with the highest profits. Obviously, these contexts are houses and cars. Nevertheless, because recycling information is free, it makes sense to digitalize in smaller and smaller contexts. The more there are digital networks, the more it is economically reasonable to digitalize things. This means next we can see digitalization of clothes, household items, tools, and so on until everything is digitalized.
Digitalizing of all the things happens through combinatorial innovations, which means combining or recombining different component parts to create new inventions. This needs huge number of data points and thus they will become relevant for digitalization only after a long time. After that, there might be immense benefits from combinations. For example, combining mobility data with eating data would enable very detailed health profiling.
When everything becomes digitalized, the role of platforms and platform standards becomes more and more significant. Within platforms we are able to control interfaces, APIs (application programming interface, which enable communication between different programs), programs, information, and sensors of digital services. This is due to the fact that there are no other mechanisms that allow for 1) cost savings, 2) protection of business models, 3) third party innovations, or 4) aggressive scaling.
Then, platforms remove friction between people, creating more efficient markets, especially by decreasing the transaction costs. For example, Uber has decreased the transaction costs of finding someone willing to offer a low-cost ride below the opportunity cost of standing on a street corner trying to hail a cab. They also reduce investment costs, as in the case of Apple promising “no advertising fees” for companies that want to advertise in the App Store.
But these platforms also reduce the freedom of choice both from the buyer and the seller. The seller gets an advantage by not having to configurate offerings from the start. On the other hand s/he can only build the offering inside the service standardization of the platform. For example, Uber drivers can give you free snacks, but cannot drive you to random locations for fun. Apple’s App Store is known to be really strict on what is allowed and what is not. For example, application developers find it problematic that the App Store gives some apps and publishers, such as Apple, an advantage in the marketplace.
As digitalization becomes a more and more integral part of the physical world, the role of platforms becomes more important. As an increasing number of our interactions happen in digital platforms, it is important to develop the ways people can influence platforms and their rules. That’s why platform governance is one of the biggest societal questions of our era.
Over the past century or so, humanity has accomplished a great deal of innovation. We learned to fly (at least with the help of airplanes), built huge machines, cured diseases, and developed computers, the Internet, and smart devices. At the same time, we’ve caused our fair share of destruction, too: in the form of several wars — two of which were world wars — and, of interest as of late, man-made climate change. Now, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking thinks we have 100 years left before doomsday — and we need to get off Earth long before that comes to pass.
The details of Hawking’s latest doomsday warning will be featured in a new BBC documentary airing on June 15 called Expedition New Earth, where he suggests that humanity needs to be a multi-planetary species within the next century in order to survive.
Our Days Are Numbered
Hawking explains that humankind’s days on Earth are already numbered because of climate change, asteroid strikes, epidemics, and overpopulation. The only way to survive? We need to change planets, and fast. A lot could happen in 100 years, and we’ve proven that we’re capable of discovering and developing many things within a century. But could we really go multi-planetary in that timeframe?
The fact that you’re able to read this article means you are one of the more than 3.77 billion people in the world that has access to the internet. While that’s already a good number — more than half of the world’s population, in fact — some 3 billion others don’t have such access. Thankfully, a number of efforts are underway to bring the internet to the farthest corners of the globe, and one of those is being put forth by SpaceX.
“SpaceX plans to bring high-speed, reliable, and affordable broadband service to consumers in the U.S. and around the world, including areas underserved or currently unserved by existing networks,” explained Patricia Cooper, SpaceX’s VP for satellite government affairs, in a prepared statement during the hearing.
SpaceX plans to improve internet speeds and overall connectivity in the U.S. and the rest of the world by putting 4,425 satellites into orbit between 2019 and 2024. The satellites will be transported into space in multiple batches via the company’s Falcon 9 rockets.
A Basic Human Right
The United Nations recently declared internet access a basic human right, and because it bypasses some existing complications to bringing internet service to far-flung areas, SpaceX’s endeavor would be a huge step forward in the effort to ensure all of the world’s citizens enjoy that right. “In large measure, the disparity in available service to rural and ‘hard-to-reach’ areas is the result of the heavy, up-front capital expenditures necessary to achieve connectivity to these locations,” Cooper said.
SpaceX is eager to contribute to the cause. “SpaceX looks forward to being part of the solution to expand access to high-speed, reliable, and affordable broadband internet connectivity in the United States and worldwide,” Cooper said. The web of satellites proposed by SpaceX would bring faster and more robust web access to more people, so now it’s just a matter of whether or not they’ll get the governments go-ahead.
You may not recognize his name, but Andy Stern clearly knows a thing or two about working with people. He’s President Emeritus of the fastest-growing union in North America, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and a Senior Fellow at the Richmond Center, Columbia University One. Stern’s educational background is in education and urban planning, and he regularly speaks to audiences about entitlements, fiscal policy, healthcare, immigration, and the future of the labor movement. Under Stern’s leadership, the SEIU grew by more than 1.2 million workers and generated numerous national and global organizing campaigns, such as Justice for Janitors, Kids First, Sodexo, and There Is No Place Like Home.
Like many other people right now, this supporter of the working stiff has quite a bit to say about universal basic income (UBI), but his new book, “Raising the Floor,” is one of just a few sources of detailed information about how UBI could practically be implemented in the U.S.
Since the idea behind UBI is to meet every citizen’s basic needs, like housing and food, without discouraging work and industry, Stern’s plan would pay all 234 million American adults $1,000 a month, placing them at about the federal poverty line ($24,000 a year for a family of four). In the future, the amount would increase automatically based on the GDP’s growth. This will prevent those in power from trying to stagnate the dollar amount, a problem that has surfaced with regards to the minimum wage.
“…the best way to end poverty and prepare for the future is some kind of guaranteed income.” – Andy Stern
Paying everyone and not just a select few is likely to make the system more popular and longer-lasting. Society as a whole should benefit as workers will be more readily able to change jobs or take on new pursuits. But how would we pay for this? $1,000 a month for everyone would cost approximately $2.7 trillion annually, which represents around four to five times the size of the defense budget and 15 percent of the GDP. In his book, Stern proposed paying for the $2.7 trillion as follows:
Cancel most existing antipoverty programs, which cost about $1 trillion a year, including food stamps ($76 billion a year), housing assistance ($49 billion), and the Earned Income Tax Credit ($82 billion)
Cut military spending
Phase out most tax expenditures (tax breaks), which currently cost $1.2 trillion a year
Implement a federal sales tax and a financial transaction tax
Entitlements are often derided for their complexity, which is why the simplicity of UBI is so appealing to so many. One flat benefit for everyone, no questions asked, means very little bureaucracy or red tape. As more and more countries trial UBI programs, some of the concerns about the strategy may finally be put to bed.
GiveDirectly will be providing a UBI to more than 26,000 Kenyans across 200 villages this year, some for 12 years, some for two years month by month, and some for two years as a lump sum. In this way, GiveDirectly will be studying the feasibility of various UBI models.
However, seemingly just as many experts believe UBI will work. Frank Stilwell, a professor emeritus in political economy at the University of Sydney, argues that UBI is necessary due to society’s technological changes and feasible so long as wealth is more equitably distributed. Scott Santens sees UBI as a social vaccine against poverty — if we invest an ounce of prevention in UBI, we can avoid poverty in our society and the pound of cure it necessitates.
Brad Voracek, who holds a degree in applied mathematics in economics and computer science from Berkeley and a master’s in economic theory and policy from Bard College, thinks proponents of basic income and job guarantee programs should be supporting either option or even pushing for a combination of both, because UBI does not discourage working. Finally, Elon Musk says that AI will force governments to implement UBI.
Of course, plenty of people don’t want to give benefits to anyone at all, let alone everyone, and many of those people are politically powerful. Still, this challenge isn’t something that scares Stern. He believes we could see UBI become a rallying point for governmental reform in the age of automation.
“Any time you try to write specific laws, all of the weeds tend to grow larger and people don’t necessarily see the grass,” Stern told Fast Company. “But I think there will be a huge conceptual agreement at some point that the best way to end poverty and prepare for the future is some kind of guaranteed income. In 10 or 15 years, there’ll be a stronger sense, particularly for people born in the 21st century, to just let people make their own choices, which is what the Internet has allowed us to do already.”
The United States Congress has finally agreed on a budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which ends on September 30, 2017. Lawmakers will vote on the budget this week, and assuming President Trump signs it as expected, it will end the spending freeze that has been in place at most agencies for the past seven months, avert a government shutdown, and allow new programs to start.
The overall thrust of the budget avoids most of the major cuts to federal science agencies that were initially laid out in the “skinny budget” requested by the Trump administration in March. Many members of Congress appear ready to support science programs and agencies despite opposition from the executive branch and pockets within Congress.
The 5 percent increase in research and development (R&D) in this year’s budget, for example, may signal a more favorable outlook for 2018, but the generally combative climate in Washington from all sides probably lends itself to more conservative measures of optimism.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) received an increase of $2 billion, the second increase in as many years after more than a decade of no growth and a stark contrast to the “skinny budget,” which would have cut NIH’s budget by more than $1 billion. This 6.2 percent increase to $34 billion includes a $352 million boost to the 21st Century Cures Act, a biomedical innovation measure that became law in December 2016. That measure’s 10-year reserve of money is not subject to the annual appropriations process and is earmarked for specific initiatives at NIH. Therefore, the actual boost to the NIH is more modest, only $1.6 billion. The relief felt by supporters of biomedical research is likely to be short-lived, however, as the Trump administration hopes to cut the NIH budget by $5.8 billion, or 18 percent, for FY2018, which begins on October 1.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget was trimmed by about one percent, or $81 million, to $8.06 billion, a move that runs contrary to the Trump administration’s requests for major cuts to ecosystem protection and research programs. Nevertheless, the science and technology programs of the EPA did sustain a 3.8 percent cut of $28 million to reach a budget of $707 million. Compared to the White House’s proposed $230 million in cuts — including $48 in climate-related research, $49 million in lake restoration, and $30 million in superfund cleanup — this was a modest hit. Congress chose to keep climate and air research and the Great Lakes program flat, while boosting superfund cleanups by $7.5 million.
The revised budget is a mixed bag for the Department of Energy (DOE). Despite its role as the single largest funder of physical sciences in the U.S., funding for the DOE’s Office of Science sees just an 0.8 percent increase to $5.392 billion.
Housed within the Office of Science are six research programs. Advanced scientific computing research, which includes supercomputing projects, gets an increase of 4.2 percent, and high energy physics increases by 3.8 percent. Basic energy sciences — which covers chemistry, condensed matter physics, material science, and most large user facilities of the DOE — gets a 1.2 percent increase, and both nuclear physics and biological and environmental research are almost flat, each increasing by less than one percent. The fusion energy sciences program takes a major hit, losing 13.2 percent of its budget.
Likely breathing a sigh of relief right now are those working under the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The agency is tasked with quickly developing promising research ideas into usable technologies, and last week, the DOE froze all ARPA-E grants and placed a gag order on program managers, leaving many researchers in limbo. The Trump administration previously indicated that it wanted to eliminate the ARPA-E altogether in 2018, but Congress’ FY2017 budget gives the agency a comfortable 5.2 percent increase to $306 million, a promising sign for FY2018.
The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) funding will remain steady, with Congress rejecting an increase requested by the Obama administration and NSF’s own request for additional operating funds so it could move to a new building. The NSF did receive additional funding to build two of the three large facilities it has been ordered to construct, two telescopes and a pair of research vessels. No word on where the agency will get the balance needed to complete all three projects.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) received a 1.9 percent increase to $19.653 billion, which includes an increase of 3.1 percent for its Office of Science. Although the Trump administration proposed defunding NASA’s earth science and satellite monitoring projects, which provide climate change data, both are funded in this budget, as are the rest of NASA’s missions.
Under Congress’ budget, the Smithsonian Institution does not get the increased support for observatories and biodiversity projects requested by the Obama administration, but it does win modestly with an increase of 2.7 percent for its nine research institutions, 19 museums, and the National Zoo.
The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) budget remains relatively flat as it has for more than a decade. Its Precision Medicine Initiative receives funding, but less than was requested, and although Vice President Joe Biden’s cancer moonshot receives funding under the NIH budget, it receives nothing from the FDA.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) receives a 7.1 percent increase to $375 million for its work as one of the main funding sources for basic science in academia, while the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service got a 2.3 percent increase to $1.17 billion.
The bottom line here is that while optimism may be warranted, that optimism should be tempered with caution. It is unlikely that the assault on funding for science has passed, and it is appropriate to stay vigilant on this issue. This is especially true given the holistic effect of scientific research on our country and the world.
Although the goal of funding scientific research is broadly to expand our of understanding the world and how we can thrive within it, this work also has a very individual impact, supporting the education of youth, the training of highly skilled workers in STEM industries, and owners of a wide range of businesses. A vast array of people are hurt when sponsored research projects are cut, not to mention what this lack of information does to our planet and our knowledge base more generally.
Technology has the power to improve people’s lives — and not just by supplying flying cars to millionaires. The computer networks that brought us Bitcoins are advancing in ways that will make humanitarian giving simpler and more secure than ever.
These networks are called blockchains. They are decentralized digital ledgers that allow for an incomparable level of transparency and are equipped with cryptography-based security, making them optimal for making and monitoring transactions. Simply, they take out the middle man (banks) and make the transfer of funds more streamlined and safe.
The United Nations (UN) chose one specific blockchain, Ethereum, to distribute funds from the World Food Program (WFP) in a pilot program earlier this year. The experiment was a success, distributing aid to 100 people in Pakistan.
Meeting a Need
The UN will be putting Ethereum to an even greater challenge now, because, having started May 1, the system will now be used in Jordan to distribute funds to more than 10,000 people. To protect the privacy of those who accept WFP aid, the monetary amount being dispensed is not being announced. Assuming all goes according to plan, the UN expects to use the blockchain to help support 500,000 recipients by 2018.
This program is designed to demonstrate the aptitude of blockchain technology for distributing humanitarian aid to people who need it. It is also a strategic investment for the UN, as the resilient digital infrastructure could allow these charitable services to outlive the UN itself.
The UN is considering more ways it can use blockchain to optimize aid distribution, WFP financial officer Houman Haddad said in an interview with CoinDesk. Strategies include sending funds directly to food stores instead of the actual recipients, thereby cutting down on transactions, and potentially using cryptocurrency instead of state-issued currency to circumvent currency volatility.
With the power of blockchain, the WFP can potentially (and more effectively) help 80 million people each year — and maybe even expand that number.
This past weekend, the tech world was abuzz with the most recent developments discussed by mega-CEO Elon Musk at the annual TED conference in Vancouver.
During his talk, Musk updated the crowd on some of his most anticipated projects, including his future vision for The Boring Company, the all-electric semi-truck from Tesla, as well as developments regarding the Gigafactory. This progress was already covered over the weekend, but now we have a video of his entire talk.
Musk dazzled audiences with a video presentation that displayed a network of underground tunnels. Vehicles were skirted through the tunnels at high speeds on proprietary platforms, dubbed skates. During the talk, Musk stated that “There’s no real limit to how many levels of tunnels you can have. The deepest mines are much deeper than the tallest buildings are tall,” suggesting that his plans for the company are titanic in scale.
Musk also gave the audience a glimpse into Tesla’s new heavy-duty electric truck. The all-electric vehicle is said to be capable of rivaling or surpassing sports cars in terms of performance.
He also, of course, discussed SpaceX and his vision of putting humans on Mars.
To the uninitiated, Musk can look a lot like a ‘Wizard of Oz’ type figure. However, unlike the wizard, Musk’s magic is being backed up by both action and verifiable science.
Australia will be the first country to replace passports with face, iris, and fingerprint recognition. Though there are security concerns, this will add significant convenience to the international travel experience.
Today, another court ruling has propelled its fate forward as a tweet from Lawrence Hurley, a Reuters journalist covering the U.S. Supreme Court, revealed that a U.S. appeals court has declined to reconsider the Open Internet rule.
BREAKING: Appeals court refuses to rehear net neutrality challenge
The decision is a victory for net neutrality supporters, as it means the rules will remain in place. But Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is still committed to rolling back the regulation, a process he claims the commission will begin on May 18.
Net neutrality laws prevent ISPs such as AT&T or Verizon from playing gatekeeper between you and the information you want to access online.
Without these laws, ISPs could choose to block content, slow down certain sites, or prioritize certain users. For example, if you access the internet via AT&T, your provider could choose to block access to the site of a competitor, such as Verizon. Without net neutrality laws, an ISP could choose to slow down your access to a site like Netflix, which uses a lot of bandwidth, unless the company agrees to pay more for a “fast lane.”
If we eliminate net neutrality laws, the internet is essentially for sale to the highest bidder. Smaller companies may never get the opportunity to grow as access to the public is bought out from under them.
Some members of the government are committed to ensuring net neutrality laws remain in place, but it’ll be up to U.S. citizens to ensure that we continue to have access to an open internet. As written by several members of Congress in a recent Washington Post op-ed, “[W]ith powerful forces pushing to get rid of net neutrality — Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and other multibillion-dollar companies — it’s going to take Americans speaking up to protect the internet that we depend on.”
“It’s frustrating sometimes to hear this rhetoric about bringing jobs back to the United States that left. Those jobs are actually still here in the United States, but they’re being done by robots, not humans,” Maurice Conti, Director of Applied Research and Innovation at Autodesk, told Bloomberg in an interview that might leave many worried about their future financial stability.
Autodesk is a manufacturing software company that is on the forefront of automating the workforce, so Conti is truly in the know when it comes to this subject, but new data analysis reveals that job loss may not be the only negative aspect of increasing automation.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Daron Acemoglu and Boston University’s Pascual Restrepo looked at data from a period spanning 17 years (1990–2007) for their analysis and concluded that wage decreases are coupling with job loss to further widen the wage gap between the rich and the poor. They estimate that automation has potentially increased the gap between the top 90 percent and the bottom 10 percent by up to an entire percentage point. According to their numbers, wages for impacted workers have been slashed by between 0.25 percent and 0.5 percent.
What to Do?
This problem is only going to get worse. People need money to support themselves and their families, but with the number of jobs dwindling, we are rapidly approaching a point when the number of jobs available is simply incompatible with the number of workers.
Many experts in various fields have spoken out to offer potential solutions for this issue. Bill Gates suggests that we tax the robots taking those jobs, or, more accurately, the company owners using them. In that scenario, the money from the taxes could be used to fund social programs. It could also go toward supporting another leading contender of what to do in the face of automation, universal basic income (UBI).
Super-CEO Elon Musk is a strong proponent of UBI. In a UBI system, the populace is given funds unconditionally to subsidize their wages or lack thereof. Multiple UBI experiments are currently being conducted all around the world, so we will soon have more concrete data on the effectiveness of the project and whether it could be the answer we’re looking for as we face a future of widespread unemployment.
Both Ether and Bitcoin prices are trading at a record high right now, and no one is entirely sure what is happening in the world of cryptocurrency that’s pushing this surge. According to the Coindesk price index, bitcoin peaked today, May 1, at $1,444. That high represents an increase of approximately 12 percent over the course of 7 days, part of an increase of 33 percent over the month of April.
Ether is booming even more; Today, it peaked at $84.57, up from $51.37 the week before. This was a jump of around 65 percent in a single week. And while Ether and Bitcoin prices are somewhat connected since people often trade Bitcoins against Ethers, that correlation doesn’t really explain why Ether is jumping this much — especially since it has been less than one year since the June 2016 hack into the Decentralized Autonomous Organization and the hard fork response in July.
Romain Dillet of TechCrunch has noted that Bitcoin and Ether prices tend to rise when the world is receiving bad news: “If Donald Trump tweets about North Korea, chances are it will have positive effect on cryptocurrencies. Conversely, I noticed a micro-crash minutes after the results of the first round of the French election — prices went up again minutes later. Marine Le Pen arrived second, which was a good sign for traditional currencies like USD and EUR.”
This trend reflects the evolution of how we think about money and what it means to keep money safe. As the political outlook appears less predictable and governments seem more unstable and even corrupt, cryptocurrencies are considered a safer investment than traditional currencies and markets. They are not tied to any one government or political system, and they offer a verifiable trail so investors can watch what happens to their money.
In times when governments can look more incompetent or untrustworthy than consumers prefer, at least we can depend on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.
Dutch historian Rutger Bregman gave a TED talk on universal basic income (UBI) in which he explored this loaded question: Why do the poor make such poor decisions? His answer was simple: people in poverty save less money, eat less healthful foods, and do drugs more often because their basic needs are not met.
UBI is the simplest, fastest way to meet those needs for everyone, without danger of unfairness, Bregman argued. It is his position that the need and the means to establish UBI already exist, and only action and the will to implement it remain unfinished.
“Poverty is not a lack of character. Poverty is a lack of cash,” he told the TED crowd of more than 1,000 people — inspiring the crowd onto its feet.
This standing ovation was a sign of the groundswell of support for UBI in the U.S., a movement which has its roots in the technology sector. As artificial intelligence (AI) and the changes it will inevitably cause in the labor force creep ever nearer, Silicon Valley thought leaders are searching for ways that humans and AI alike will be able to thrive in a 21st century economy. Sam Altman of Y Combinator, Pierre Omidyar of eBay, Chris Hughes of Facebook, and Elon Musk of Tesla all see UBI as an essential part of the solution. Other influencers are taking note, too; Venture capitalist Chris Sacca tweeted that Bregman’s remarks were, “devastatingly provocative and enlightening.”
UBI And Automation
Based on the enthusiastic response from the TED crowd, the U.S. may have the will to implement — just not the action quite yet. With this will can inspire action remains to be seen, but a spate of UBI trials around the world is bringing the concept into the mainstream. In Finland, Kenya, and Oakland, California, UBI experiments are already happening. Later this year the Netherlands will begin a trial as well.
On Monday, April 24, Premier Kathleen Wynne of Ontario shared the specifics of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot which will be trialled for three years starting this spring. This UBI program will provide income to a total of 4,000 people from Hamilton, Lindsay, and Thunder Bay, with the goal of making findings that can be generalized to the rest of the province.
These experiments are taking place now largely in anticipation of automation, which experts say is coming soon regardless of anyone’s feelings about it. And while some argue that UBI cuts against a free market system, other experts point out that UBI actually enables a truly free market for laborers in which people have more freedom to seek out meaningful work and pursue it. The ability to make better choices for ourselves may be the greatest benefit we draw from the age of automation — if Bregman is correct, at least.
Dubai has quickly grown into a global hub for trade. Now, it’s planning to use blockchain as the basis for its economy, further enhancing this status. Blockchain has the potential to simplify record-keeping and the transport of goods all over the world. In concert with Dubai’s advanced transportation infrastructure and near-zero taxes, businesses will experience Dubai as a secure, reliably business-friendly environment.
Although Blockchain is primarily known as the technological basis of the digital currency Bitcoin, the technology itself can function in many roles. Blockchain allows users to share and track information from transactions and contracts using a digital ledger, and the records are secure, verifiable, and permanent. With blockchain serving as the basis for both private business and government services in Dubai, service provision will be more efficient. In short, doing business in Dubai will become far simpler for any kind of business.
“We want to make Dubai the first blockchain-powered government in the world by 2020,” Aisha Bin Bishr, director general of Smart Dubai, a government office charged with facilitating innovation, told The Wall Street Journal. “It is disruptive for existing systems, but will help us prepare for the future,” she says. This commitment to using blockchain at the government level makes Dubai the first city in the world to promote the technology in this way.
In March, a citywide implementation effort began, led by Smart Dubai. The office will educate both the private and public sectors about the potential of blockchain, and conduct workshops with key stakeholders, public and private, to identify which services can best be enhanced by blockchain and prioritize them for implementation. It also will educate the public and private sectors about the technology’s potential. Once these efforts are finished, Smart Dubai predicts that the blockchain rollout will begin later this year as the public and private sectors collaborate on pilot projects. The office will also build a shared Blockchain as a Service platform for implementing government projects.
City Of The Future
Dubai’s vision for becoming the city of the future goes far beyond a blockchain economy. By 2030, 25% of Dubai’s road transport system will be using AI and will, therefore, be driverless. The use of rooftop solar power will be mandatory by 2030 — the same year the country plans to reach 25% of its goal to generate 75% of the city’s energy via solar power by 2050. With what will be the world’s largest 1000 MW concentrated solar power plant scheduled to open in Dubai in 2020, the city should be on track to reach that goal.
Dubai is also home to “Smart Palm Trees,” 3D-printed trees with Fiber Reinforced Plastic (FRP) that act as community tech hubs throughout the city. The trees provide free wifi, city information, and device charging powered by solar. Dubai is also going to be home to the world’s first 3D-printed skyscraper; the first 3D-printed office is already in use. The city is also planning for a hyperloop, and inviting entrepreneurs and innovators with working ideas for technical solutions to pressing problems to join the Dubai Future Accelerators program to foster more great work.
A blockchain economy will be the next step in this process, and it will fit right in. “We have a very clear objective to make Dubai the capital of the blockchain industry,” Ms. Bishr tells WSJ. “By 2020 we’ll have 100% of applicable government services and transactions happen on blockchain.”
Disclosure: The Dubai Future Foundation works in collaboration with Futurism and is one of our sponsors.
In response to advances in neuroscience and technologies that alter or read brain activity, some researchers are proposing a recognition of new human rights to mental integrity. These would protect people from having their thoughts abused, hacked, or stolen. The idea of this kind of human right is a recognition that although brain-related technologies have the potential to transform our lives in many positive ways, they also have the potential to threaten personal freedom and privacy.
A large portion of brain-related technology owes its development to medical research and physical need; some diagnostic tools and treatments, for example, need to “read” brain activity. However, this area of research and development has also given birth to performance enhancers, game interfaces, and brain-computer interfaces that can control anything you want them to.
According to University of Basel neuroethicist Marcello Ienca and University of Zurich human rights lawyer Roberto Andorno, these advances in neuroscience and technology threaten personal freedom and privacy in new ways. The pair argues that we are not yet doing enough to protect ourselves, and the human brain as the last refuge for human privacy. They have therefore offered up four new human rights they hope can preserve that refuge: the rights to cognitive liberty, mental integrity, mental privacy, and psychological continuity.
“Cognitive liberty” concerns a person’s freedom to alter their mental state using brain stimulation and other techniques—and to refuse to do so. If this human right is recognized, it could, for example, make it illegal for employers to use any kind of brain stimulation techniques on employees. The right to “mental integrity” concerns the possibility of hackers who might interfere with brain implants that are otherwise being willingly used by their owners. Hacking might take the form of sending false signals to implants or taking control of the implant itself.
The right to “mental privacy” would guard against a person having their mind read without their consent, whatever form that takes as technology continues to improve. Under the current state of the law, you might have better luck pursuing someone for stealing and publicly sharing photographs or documents you took pains to keep private than if they used a device to steal your memories or thoughts and posted them publicly.
The right to “psychological continuity” would protect people from actions that could disrupt their sense of identity, or harm their feeling of going through life being the same person. The use of electrode implantation for deep brain stimulation to control Parkinson’s symptoms and other conditions, for example, has already triggered concerns about personal identity — with some patients indicating that they no longer feel like themselves after the procedure.
“The question we asked was whether our current human rights framework was well equipped to face this new trend in neurotechnology,” Ienca told The Guardian. “The information in our brains should be entitled to special protections in this era of ever-evolving technology. When that goes, everything goes.”
Brain Technologies In Bloom
Although some may think these concerns sound like science fiction, brain-related technologies and brain-computer interfaces are in development now at an astonishing rate—and this will only gain momentum, producing more and more sophisticated technologies. If you’re thinking the four human rights related to the integrity of the mind sound far-fetched, consider the breakthroughs that have come to fruition within the last few years alone.
Engineers created a robot than can be controlled with brainwaves. Scientists connected monkeys using brain implants and the monkeys learned to “communicate” at a distance using their minds. They also achieved brain synchronicity in rats, and connected two humans with EEG caps well enough to allow them to communicate yes and no answers. Early this year people suffering from locked-in syndrome were able to communicate using BCIs.
While the BCI technology isn’t perfect yet, it’s progressing fast. In fact, humans have used BCIs to control some amazing things. Researchers in Korea have used BCIs to control the movement of turtles by mentally controlling their instinctive escape behavior. Earlier this year a quadriplegic man used a brain-computer interface (BCI) and Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) technology to “think” his arm into moving again. Facebook is already working on its BCI, and it will allow people to “think” to each other without typing or speaking. And Tesla’s Elon Musk is creating what may be the most ambitious BCI application yet: a third layer of the human mind that will merge human intelligence with AI.
Brain implant technologies have also been exploding: a Harvard team is working on implants that are not rendered less effective by scar tissue, and may soon be using them to restore sight to the blind. Other researchers are working to create electrodes from glassy carbon that are ideal for use in BCIs and may help paralyzed people become mobile again. MIT researchers have developed ultrafine fibers approximately 200 micrometers in diameter that are flexible like brain tissue and can be used to manipulate chemical, electrical, or optical signals.
Researchers are even reprogramming actual brain cells to fight Parkinson’s disease. They’ve already been able to “decode” brain activity, and the refinement and sophistication of these decoding skills are growing. It is safe to assume more reprogramming and decoding abilities are coming.
Ienca agrees that although some of these concerns are ahead of the technology, that won’t be true for long, and it’s typically better to be proactive. At least one experiment has already shown that brain signals are likely to be hackable in the future. “We cannot afford to have a lag before security measures are implemented,” he told The Guardian. “It’s always too early to assess a technology until it’s suddenly too late.”
From the birth of language to the dawn of the Internet, the technologies that push humanity forward allow us to collaborate at new scales. We agree on a common purpose, and work together in groups of increasing size and power.
Today, with so many of us connected online, the goal of 3.5 billion people frictionlessly sharing knowledge and collaborating is, in theory, an achievable one.
There are, of course, many answers, but here’s a simple one: the Internet is broken.
The Internet democratized access to information in a way previously the realm of science fiction. Texts, videos, and ideas became widely available, and transmittable, and our ability to communicate with each other, organize groups, and choreograph our activities, exploded.
But just when it seemed like the world had opened up, we identified a new type of information, more valuable than any before, and stashed a lot of it away in private vaults. The Internet allowed us to generate, strategically collect, and deploy, rich data about people, programs, companies, markets, and societies. A small, exclusive group of users siphoned this data off, to store in guarded silos and leverage for private gain.
In the end, our minds and their ability to create new ideas are the ultimate source of all human wealth. That’s a resource nearly without limit. — Ramez Naam
To resist the privatization of data, the open source community has existed as long as computing, beginning with cypherpunks and basement hackers. Their movement produced Linux, Wikipedia, and countless more platforms, tools, and projects that succeeded. But it lost the battle for control of the Web 1.0 and 2.0. The winners were personal data collectors, repackagers, and vendors like Facebook and Google.
Finally, though, the tide is turning. Today we have a chance at a new Internet, enabled by decentralizing technologies such as Ethereum, the world computer. Big players are recognizing the benefits of open source, and exploring the community-driven business models they bring. Creators and developers can take power again if we come together in time. We can build a new Internet that puts us, the users, first.
There’s an uncomfortable tension online today. Contributors of songs, ideas, art, code, and stories want to enrich the public sphere, but they need to sustain themselves and get paid for their work. That work adds enormous value to our lives, makes them vibrant, and sometimes even saves them.
The problem is that the way we exchange money captures value in only two dimensions. In truth, value is being created everywhere. Let your eyes linger on an ad in the subway, and value has been created. Tweet a popular hashtag. Turn on the lights. Sign in using Facebook. Report traffic on Waze. Tell someone your secret.
In the twenty-first century, our personal data is probably the most valuable resource most humans still have to offer, and we are giving it to the tech giants in exchange for email services and funny cat videos.— Yuval Harari
There is a shift coming in the way we use the Internet, from an Internet of information to an Internet of value, where we frictionlessly exchange and communicate with no intermediaries.
In this new world, our value is something we carry around with us, that belongs to us and us alone (unless we opt to trade it). Value is captured in as many dimensions as reality. The representation of value that exists on the virtual plane becomes so rich with data that virtual becomes flush with real.
Without trust, there is no love. — Myth of Eros and Psyche
Why don’t we trust each other? Maybe we did when we lived in tribes. In a small group, it’s possible to remember everyone from birth and the characteristics that make up their identities. There’s no, “She’s warm-hearted.” “He exaggerates.” “She prefers to sleep all day.”
Today, we empower institutions to guard the trust. We pay them royally for that service, because without trust, there is no business deal, no stamp on a passport, no line of credit, and no peace treaty.
But what happens when we create universal identity — a common and accepted baseline of trust, that exists without need for authority? What if we build a system that is inherently logical, programmable, and safe? What if everyone could share it, access it, and help grow it, all at the exact same time?
“Given a large enough beta-tester and co-developer base, almost every problem will be characterized quickly and the fix obvious to someone.” — Eric S. Raymond, The Cathedral & The Bazaar
There is a new Internet coming, and with it, a new reality.
The architects of the future are already building these systems. But those systems are open source, which means if you help build them, they will be even better and stronger. Join some of the world’s most innovative technologists, entrepreneurs, and humanitarians at Ethereal Summit on May 19th in Brooklyn.
Getting blocked by a paywall can be irritating, especially if you’re trying to access peer-reviewed scientific research. Open access advocates would certainly think so. To paraphrase Richard from HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” who doesn’t want free information? Well, there may now be a way to get scientific publications for free — and it’s completely legal.
“Now more than ever, humanity needs to access our collective knowledge, not hoard it behind paywalls,” according to Unpaywall’s website. “Lots of researchers feel the same; that’s why they upload their papers to free, legal servers online. We want to help bring that open access content to the masses.”
Unlike similar services that rely on means like automated web scraping, Unpaywall’s method of getting full-text access to scientific journals is totally legal. It scans a database of more than 90 million digital object identifiers (DOIs) for copies of papers that the researchers themselves have uploaded, whether on some pre-press servers or university websites. Unpaywall is also completely secure, as it doesn’t ask you for any personal information.
Best of all, to use the service, you just need to install the plug-in on your Chrome or Firefox desktop browser. A little lock symbol will appear every time you visit a journal article’s landing page. If the lock is green, you have access to a full-text copy of the article. A gold lock means an article already has open license access from the publisher.
“We’re able to deliver an OA copy to users more than half the time,” Jason Priem, one of Unpaywall’s creators, told The Chronicle of Higher Education. He’s excited for the service to hit critical mass: “That’s when people start thinking, ‘Hey, why are we paying millions of dollars to subscribe to tens of thousands of journals when our researchers have about a better-than-even chance of reading an article with no subscription at all?’”
A service like Unpaywall’s can help fight the flood of fake news or unverified information. It’s a fact-checking tool that’s readily accessible to anyone with an internet connection and the appropriate web browsers. Truly, the only thing worse than no information might just be information that’s false.
On Monday, Premier Kathleen Wynne of Canada announced the details of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot, a universal basic income (UBI) program that will begin this spring and run for a period of three years. A total of 4,000 people from three areas – Hamilton, Thunder Bay, and Lindsay – will be receiving income.
Ideally, under a UBI program, every citizen of legal age — regardless of social status and employment situation — is eligible to receive a fixed amount of income with no strings attached. This basic income can be given either on a regular basis or in lump sum. In the case of the Ontario UBI program, the Toronto Star reports, the recipients will be chosen randomly.
“The project will explore the effectiveness of providing a basic income to people who are currently living on low incomes, whether they are working or not,” Wynne said in Monday’s speech. “People participating in our pilot communities will receive a minimum amount of income each year — a basic income, no matter what.”
Single adults between the ages of 18 and 64 are eligible to receive $16,989 annually. Meanwhile, couples would be given up to $24,027 and persons with disabilities would receive an added $6,000. “It’s not an extravagant sum by any means. For a single person, we are talking about just under $17,000 a year, but even that amount may make a real difference to someone who is striving to reach for a better life,” Wynne explained.
The debate is an ongoing one. The viability and effectiveness of UBI still needs to be proven, and running pilot programs like Ontario’s is the best way to go about it. As the Canadian Premier said in her speech: “We want to find out whether a basic income makes a positive difference in people’s lives […] and whether it is an approach that deserves to be adopted across our province as a whole.”
Shanghai may be known for its towering skyscrapers, but a large part of the city will soon have towering vertical farms that grow fruit and vegetables.
The city is planning a 250-acre agricultural district, which will function as a space to work, live, shop, and farm food. Called Sunqiao Shanghai, it will include new public plazas, parks, housing, stores, restaurants, greenhouses, and a science museum. Some of the crops will be grown hydroponically indoors (i.e. under LEDs and in nutrient-rich water rather than soil).
The masterplan was conceived by the design firm Sasaki, which has offices in Massachusetts and Shanghai. It’s part of a larger plan to turn a portion of the city into an ag-tech hub, Michael Grove, a principal at Sasaki, tells Business Insider. In the mid-1990s, Shanghai’s government designated a 3.6-square-mile area of the city for agricultural production, hoping that bioengineering and biopharmaceutical companies would set up research facilities working in tandem with city greenhouses.
Shanghai only constructed 3 single-story greenhouses at the time. Sasaki was commissioned to expand the plan for Sunqiao, Grove says. There isn’t a construction timeline yet, but Grove estimates that a crew will break ground on the project by 2018.
A new farming district, called Sunqiao, will be located between Shanghai’s international airport and the city center.
With over 24 million residents, Shanghai is one of the densest cities in the world.
Sunqiao will include algae farms, greenhouses, green walls, a farmer’s market, vertical seed libraries …
… as well as housing, stores, restaurants, and a science museum.
The masterplan was conceived by Sasaki, an urban design firm that has offices in Massachusetts and Shanghai. It calls for the following (measured in total gross floor area): 717,000-square feet of housing, 138,000-square-feet of commercial space, 753,000-square-feet of vertical farms, and 856,000-square-feet of public space.
The masterplan features a vast amount of public outdoor space.
The farms will primarily grow leafy greens, like kale, bok choi, and spinach. Those will be sold to restaurants, grocers, or exported. In the future, Grove says the district may also raise fish in vertical aquaponic farms.
The district will be developed and maintained by Shanghai Sunqiao Modern Agriculture United Development Co. Ltd., which is working with local planning officials.
He says that the project’s largest challenge will be building architecture that accommodates farmland. For example, his team needs to make sure the towers don’t cast shadows on crops that need lots of sunlight.
Sunqiao will allow for produce to be grown closer to the city, while reducing the impact of land and water use that comes with traditional agriculture, Grove says. At the same time, he acknowledges the large energy use that comes with vertical farms, which rely on LEDs to grow crops.
“As cities continue to expand, we must continue to challenge the dichotomy between what is urban and what is rural,” Grove says.
Like any beloved ’90s sitcom, ConsenSys, an Ethereum development firm, is getting a spin-off. However, unlike “Joey,” this one is poised to be a success.
Th development of Ethereum, the blockchain network, has many incubation projects under its umbrella. But Gnosis is the first project to blossom into its very own startup, splitting off from ConsenSys with a new headquarters and a beta launch in August. That was followed by an official launch this week.
Gnosis is a decentralized prediction platform built on Ethereum. Developers can use the platform to create a prediction market for any event, such as the Super Bowl or an art auction. People can then voice their prediction by buying “shares” in one outcome or the other using Gnosis tokens. This can be done with a simple tweet.
The event’s final outcome is determined by one or more oracles — human, hardware, or software agents that find and verify the outcome of a real-world event and then submit it to a blockchain. Those on the winning side of the prediction can then redeem their shares for money, while those who predicted incorrectly suffer a financial loss.
Gnosis held an auction of these tokens today, reaching its goal of selling 250.00K Ethereum in under 15 minutes, giving it a market cap of $300 million. With digital tokens in hand, owners are now free to start predicting.
A Better Predictor
While polls can be a useful predictor for future events, they have flaws. Because there’s no penalty for being wrong, anyone can contribute to a poll, even if they don’t actually have any knowledge of the subject. For example, someone who has never seen a football game may still be willing to contribute to a poll asking who will win the Super Bowl because they have nothing to lose if they’re wrong. The results of that poll, then, aren’t a very accurate predictor of which team is likely to win.
Gnosis aims to address this flaw by requiring people to effectively put their money where their mouth is in order to contribute to its prediction market. This should ensure that only those with at least a reasonable belief in what they are predicting will contribute.
Another benefit to Gnosis is its transparency and security. Users needn’t worry about a market being removed or their funds disappearing. “By creating prediction markets on a Blockchain layer, we can ensure that the data always remains open and accessible to all parties,” explained Gnosis CSO Matt Liston in a video introducing the platform.
With its successful token auction, Gnosis is now one step closer to its goal of building the world’s most efficient forecasting tool. Who wants to bet it reaches it?
This man is trying to create a world without money. The Venus Project views poverty, war, hunger and debt, not only as avoidable, but as totally unacceptable. Here is their alternative vision of what our future could be like.
In a Facebook post on April 19, Neil deGrasse Tyson commanded the attention of his followers: “Dear Facebook Universe, I offer this four-minute video on ‘Science in America’ containing what may be the most important words I have ever spoken.”
He starts the clip by reminding us that the United States was an underdog, an upstart that achieved something amazing, transforming itself from a “backwoods country” into “one of the greatest nations the world has ever known,” thanks to science and an unwavering trust in its pursuit. That’s how we traveled to the Moon and got online, and it has always been a fundamental element of what America was — until now.
A disturbing trend has gripped our nation in the 21st century, a time when people need science and a rigorous method for testing truth more than ever: “People have lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not,” he said. “It’s not something to say ‘I choose not to believe E = mc^2.’ You don’t have that option.”
Tyson highlights issues that have somehow become highly controversial despite overwhelming scientific evidence that should stamp out any such dispute: human-caused climate change, evolution, and vaccinations, for example.
He then points out that some of the people who both understand science the least and deny it the most now hold the most power in our society, and he calls this catastrophically dangerous situation out: “That is a recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy.”
Scientific Literacy on the Brink
The scientific method is more important than ever in this era of “alternative facts.” Tyson explains the elements of the scientific method — hypothesis, experimentation, and how they work even more effectively when rivals employ them — in the space of about 30 seconds. Applied properly, these tools lead to emergent truths, and they do it more effectively than anything else. “The scientific method does it better than anything else we have ever done as human beings,” explained Tyson.
Emergent scientific truths don’t care about your opinions; they are true regardless of your beliefs about them. “And the sooner you understand that, the faster we can get on with the political conversations about how to solve the problems that face us,” said Tyson in the video.
That is why scientific literacy is more important than ever in this age of lightning-speed innovation. Each moment of science denial only delays the potential solution. The end result is the same problems, worsened by neglect and ignorance. Tyson wants citizen-voters to understand how science works so we can make more informed decisions. As Tyson asserts, we are the only ones who can: “It’s in our hands.”
The concept of universal basic income (UBI) has been thrown around a lot lately. The idea itself isn’t new, but recent developments — particularly the advancement of automation that threatens jobs in a number of industries — have made UBI a worthwhile consideration.
UBI is a fairly simple concept. It entails giving a fixed amount of money to people without any stringent conditions or qualifications. Essentially, every person in such a program would receive basic income regardless of their social situation or employment status. As such, experts believe that UBI could level the economic playing field while simultaneously improving social welfare programs.
Implementing such a program, however, isn’t that simple, and just like any novel idea, UBI has its own set of critics and skeptics, including billionaires Bill Gates and Mark Cuban. Concerns include the source of the funding, how the money should be allocated, and the question of taxation. Some critics warn that UBI would make people lazy and less productive.
This sense that UBI would change people’s attitude toward work was the primary reason why the German government rejected a petition from some 50,000 Germans for a basic income back in 2009. However, a Berlin-based startup is determined to put the system to the test.
Mo’ Money, Fewer Problems
Mein Grundeinkommen (My Basic Income) covered the problem of funding through donations received by 55,000 supporters via a crowdfunding model, and now, 85 people, including 10 or so children, are each receiving one year’s worth of monthly payments of 1,000 euros ($1,063) through the program.
The company’s founder, Michael Bohmeyer, asserts that no one involved in the program has become lazy or less productive because of it. “Everyone sleeps more soundly and no one become[s] a layabout,” he said, speaking of his startup’s beneficiaries.
This does seem to be the case, according to Valerie Rupp, one of Mein Grundeinkommen’s recipients. “Without day-to-day pressures, you can be more creative and try things out,” she told public broadcaster ARD. She explained how she was able to start working as an interior decorator while still taking care of her baby.
For University of Freiburg economist Alexander Spermann, Bohmeyer’s UBI startup is a “poorly thought out” solution for a number of social questions. He told AFPthat Men Grundienkommen has only succeeded in answering the question, “What would I do with a blank cheque if I got one for Christmas?”
However, in order to really find out just how effective or ineffective UBI could be, more programs that test this model need to be implemented. Already, several countries and institutions are involved in UBI trial runs, including Finland and one startup that uses cryptocurrency for basic income payments. Other test programs are also in the works, so we should know very soon if UBI is the answer to our automation woes.
On Wednesday April 19, Facebook revealed test results to the F8 developer conference from its efforts to get rural regions around the world online, and function as a source of disaster relief. The social platform created a small helicopter that’s connected to a power source and an internet cable (called a Tether-tenna) which in turn connects it to existing fiber lines. It can then fly above ground, serving as a tower during emergencies. Although this tech is a long-term plan for now, Facebook says it could eventually provide connectivity for months at a time while communities rebuild in the wake of disasters.
The high-speed corollary for populated areas, Terragraph, is being tested in downtown San Jose. Terragraph, which launched last year, boosts wireless in places with denser internet use. Facebook is making progress with the tech but says there’s still work left to do.
Facebook’s first flight of the Aquila drone — built for beaming internet service using millimeter wave technologies to provide faster data speeds — also took place in 2016. Although, the drone suffered a “structural failure” during its landing, triggering a National Transportation Safety Board investigation. Test flights will continue in 2017.
Perhaps most exciting is the data transfer record Facebook set this month with its beaming technology: it tested a rate fast enough to support the simultaneous streaming of 4,000 ultra-high-definition videos. It also beamed data back and forth to a plane more than seven kilometers away. However, not everyone is that excited about Facebook’s new tech. India blocked Facebook’s Free Basics program in 2016, saying it could “stifle innovation” and create an unfair playing field.