Juan Enriquez' recent presentation at TED juxtaposes the accelerating world financial crisis against the backdrop of the longer term, more profound changes in robotics, biology and genetics. For the former, he suggests that we work longer before receiving social security and not get too tied up in the current morass that we lose track of the incredible advances in the latter. With regard to this he says we are beginning to evolve into a new species - "Homo Evolutis - Hominids that take direct and deliberate control over the evolution of their species...and others." This is not a new meme though it seems to be gaining traction and is popping up more frequently these days. Our ability to manipulate and integrate technology into our very beings will no doubt be one of the hot button issues of the next decade.
France-based Easy Web develops 3D video projection systems for 'monumental architecture', but could they be developing new cultural expectations for human-city interfaces where everything becomes a template?
One of the most exciting areas of 'Nano-bio' research is the engineered integration of 'wet' and 'dry' nanoscale systems that might revolutionize research in genetics and proteomics (Study of Proteins). But how do you explain this breaking down the barriers of biological and human-made systems? Through 3D animation videos on YouTube, of course!
During the next decade we are likely to see commercial products that will start to define the 'Post PC' Era of smart, networked objects that follow a new path of product development. Users will interact with embedded devices beyond the keyboard and mouse. We know that OLEDs offer a clear path to flexible, transparent display screens, but what about the combination of sensors and low power chips that make the 'screen' irrelevant for new applications. If it is hard to imagine commercial Post PC applications for enterprise sectors, what about designs for education and entertainment markets based on visions like Impress project from Sillenet [via Vimeo]
Leaked photos of the next generation Mac Mini suggest that Apple is committed to steadily shrinking components and appears to be on the road to something that may look a lot like this vision of the iPhone 2015 that we published last November:
Sometimes it’s hard for people to get an accurate sense of what the future holds for certain technologies. For instance, could the average person three years ago have imagined that something like the 3G iPhone could exist now?
It is for this reason I present this vision of the iPhone circa 2015.
Contact Lens Display
The most interesting feature of the iPhone 2015 is its first generation Contact Lens Display System. If there’s one thing that iPhone users believe themselves to be, and that Apple stresses all the time, it’s that people who use Apple products are independent and unique. It is for this reason that an eyeglass display was thrown out. No iPhone user would be caught dead wearing the same glasses as over ten million other iPhone users. The fact is, glasses are cumbersome. They gather dirt, get lost easily, and make sports rather difficult.
In 2007, development of a contact lens display system began at the University of Washington, Seattle. “Engineers at the University of Washington have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.” In the time between now and 2015, the cost involved in the production of a contact lens display will likely reduce in price, meaning the loss of one won’t reduce you to tears in case of loss.
The problems associated with contact lenses (protein build-up, 8-hour wear limit, annoyance of constant inserting and removal) will be lessened with oxygen-permeable lenses. O2OPTIX, a company currently specializing in such breathable lenses, already sells a lens capable of week-long wear without removal. “O2OPTIX is made with a revolutionary silicone hydrogel technology allowing up to 5 times more oxygen through the lens than the leading traditional 2-week lens, to help protect from the signs and symptoms of corneal oxygen deficiency.” It only makes sense that seven years from now a lens will be developed which can last even longer making wearable contact lenses less of a pain.
Of course there always is the option of implanting the lens permanently into the eye, but who would ever go under invasive surgery for first generation technology?
One of the great efficiency opportunities for the next century is based on the convergence of information and energy flows. The notion of a 'smart grid' is a more reliable and efficient energy web based on the integration of software, sensors and energy storage.
And for those homes with 'Smart Meters' or Smart Devices, solutions are coming online quickly. Google has now thrown its hat into the ring around the basic idea: 'if you can measure it, you can improve it'. The Google Power Meter is a software tool integrated into smart meters that helps consumers better understand how they use energy in order to reduce their costs and consumption. Google is a big name, in an expanding space of 'smart energy' startups, like Sentilla and REGEN, who are trying to build demand in the residential market.
Related Smart Grid posts on The Energy Roadmap.com
The day when anyone can create a stunning 3D Augmented Reality simulation is getting closer. Last month, General Electric's innovative AR media campaign to promote its 'Smart Grid' platform helped to push Augmented Reality out into the masses by giving users a chance to try it at home using a printable marker download and webcam.
The Clinton Foundation has announced a plan to help the City of Los Angeles retrofit 140,000 street lamps with more efficient white-light LEDs that offer longer lifetime, lower energy use and less 'light polllution' that restricts night sky views.
The Outdoor Lighting Program of the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) will be the largest LED street lighting retrofit project ever undertaken by a city to date. The City expects to reduce its electricity use by approximately 40,500 tons a year equal to taking '6,700 passenger vehicles off the road every year.' The Foundation expects the city to save save a total of $48 million over a seven year period, and reduce carbon emissions by 197,000 tons.
A National Model for Saving Electricity & Night Sky Views?
Stating a lack of social focus as a fundamental problem, I recently joined the ranks of those critiquing the tentative Singularity University (SU) curriculum. I found (and still do) the proposed courses to be too hard-tech centric, which is often a critique I level at singularitarians and transhumanists who often seem to project their current selves into a post-Singularity future, thus impairing the visioning of how we get there.
At the same time, I want to clarify that though I do agree with the crux of Jamais Cascio's argument that, "A useful Singularity University ... would be one that dove deeply into the nature of disruption, how society and technology co-evolve, and how we deal with unintended and unanticipated results of our choices," I believe his suggested curriculum goes too far in that it does amount to a "social studies/liberal arts crash course with a future twist" as Brian Wang pointed out in the discussion thread. It's not the sort of thing that will appeal to economic movers and shakers.
Still, I strongly disagree with Wang's assertion that, "The politics, ethics and social matters do have their place but as part of a TED conference or a conference specifically on the risks and issues. Trying to force feed it in this kind of program will not work." My issue being that I believe politics, ethics and social matters to be part of convergent acceleration.
The emphasis needs to be on the manner in which all of these technologies, trends, and issues fit together. (Please follow below the fold for Proposed Curriculum.)
Oil Supply Crunch ahead The world's leading authority on oil markets is warning that these days of cheap ($40 barrel) oil are just a mirage and that the world is likely to experience 'an oil supply crunch' next year (2010) as markets begin to recover.
Reuters reports on IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka describing a potential short-term reality: "Currently the demand is very low due to the very bad economic situation, but when the economy starts growing, recovery comes again in 2010 and then onward, we may have another serious supply crunch if capital investment is not coming."
The Real Problem with Oil - No Alternative Oil's biggest problem is 'lack of substiitutability'. There is no other 'reserve' of liquid fuel that can compare to the energy locked up inside the hydrogen-carbon bonds of oil.
If we talk about using oil as gasoline for the transportation sector there is no commercially viable alternative that offers the same volume and performance. Even 'Next Generation' biofuels from algae and cellulose-eating bacteria cannot provide the scale to fill even a tiny gap in global oil production vs demand.
People who push 'solar', 'wind' or 'nuclear' (which produce electricity) as an 'alternative to oil' simply do not understand the combustion engine. You cannot put electricity inside your gas tank. We must either produce massive amounts of liquid fuel substitutes, or take a bolder step to kill the combustion engine.
Is the world ready to confront the real problem? The Combustion Engine
President Obama is close to naming the ‘Car Czar’ who will oversee a large portion of the federal auto loans and consult on the looming transformation of the US auto industry. Let's hope this person doesn't try to build a better buggy whip.
Most ideas out on the table are incremental (e.g. ‘better mileage’), or short-sighted (e.g. plug in batteries?) and fail to inspire disruptive changes that reflect a 21st century version of the transportation sector.
Here are Ten Ideas for the US Car Czar:
1) Lower the US Auto Industry I.C.E. 'Manufacturing Footprint' The problem isn't oil, it's the cost complexities of building mechanical engines. Declare the Internal Combustion Engine ‘Dead’ by 2025 (When more than 50% of new vehicles will be powered by electric motors) Have automakers share combustion engine plants and suppliers during the transition.
2) Accelerate the Electricification of the World's Auto Fleet At the same time expand the US manufacturing base around the 'next' generation platform for mobility: Electric Drive systems based on high performance motors, drive by wire systems, software and various energy storage devices.
3) Explain ‘Electrification’ clearly to the public ‘Electric’ refers to the motor, not just the battery. Next generation 'electric' vehicles will integrate batteries, fuel cells and capacitors. Fuel cells produce electricity. A hydrogen powered car is an electric car. Let’s stop the confusion and battle between technologies. Cars are not iPods, and will need various systems to function. This is a multi-decade long transition. Don't pick short-term winners.
4) Go Global - Expand our ties to Asian Manufacturers & Markets Electric cars are not designed to be built as one unit, in one country. They are assembled systems of systems that can be constantly upgraded via a global value chain. The line of 'new' car vs 'old' car blurs when we shift to modular electric platforms. And all the real growth will happen outside of the US! 'Detroit' must participate in this global supply chain and be in a position to sell 21st century vehicle systems to Asian markets. (Hint: The high value auto industrial base will revolve around polymers, software and sensors, not metal frames.)
5) Software Side of Car Experience The single greatest opportunity for the next century might be the ‘software’ side of the automobile experience. Smarter vehicles embedded with sensors and ‘situation awareness’ systems, customized driving experiences based on ‘drive by wire’, and mobility services (e.g. OnStar). The US can compete in this new growth market and benefit by getting 'more flow' out of our current roadway system as we make drivers and cars smarter. (PS - Mass Transit could use some software to create service transparency)
Read on: 6) Build next generation energy systems; 7) Reinvent the Wheel; 8) Fleet only for Plug-ins; 9) Shift Revenue streams to After Market 10) New 'types' of vehicle & service
To scale and dominate as quickly as Google has, a new company will need to generate serious end-user value, monetize effecively, and take a new web-based approach to human resources. One such structure might be an organization specializing in prosumer-based quantification (structured crowd-sourced info mining) that can expand and contract quickly by paying citizen quantifiers for quality content that they input (think adsense, but more structured and directed from the outset). I imagine that this sort of company could catalyze big, fast economic growth and play an important role in generating positive-sum network value as we move further into the acceleration era.
To get the discussion of such a possibility rolling here's a speculative timeline of such a company (2011-2015) that I've cleverly dubbed "Quantification Company":
2011 - Launch: A logical outgrowth of flash mobs, open mapping parties, and steadily rising prosumerism, the Quantification Company (QC) was created in 2011 with the mission of "organizing and accelerating the comprehensive quantification of Earth's most valued systems." The for-profit organization relied on a small core of programmers, salespeople and community managers to catalyze quantification cascades, better known as Data Swarms, for a large variety of clients, but mostly municipalities and large corporations. Early efforts were kept simple and focused mostly on the rapid and/or real-time HD video mapping of U.S. cities, national parks, and other under-quantified areas of interest. Traffic-based fees were paid out to citizen quantifiers who captured and uploaded the best geographic footage and/or commentary. Though they were slightly nervous at the ambition and direction of the QC, competitors like Google, Yahoo and Wikipedia were happy to see traffic and content flow through their systems.