Sunday, November 15, 2015

Islands of Truth

In a post, The End of Work, I promoted the strengthening of bonds between cultures.  My fear was that 3d printing would eventually drive a wedge between cultures as we are less dependent on the financial bonds that have pushed us over the centuries to communicate across so many boundaries.

What do you assume about Porsche owners?
My brother' reply to this was that 'We are already experiencing this because of companies like WalMart and even more so with Amazon.  We don't know who we are buying from, and we no longer care.  We don't need to interact with them.'

Not only was he right, but he hit on the crucial behavioral characteristic of the problem.  We like to interact with those who reinforce our beliefs.  Instead of enabling dialogue, the web has enabled this isolating behavior.  We are becoming a self divided society.  We are slicing our society into segments, and we are becoming intolerant of opposing ideas.

What is happening at Missouri and across the nation is an attack on ideas.  It is so easy to assume we are right and they are wrong.  We have adopted this moral obligation to help others, protect them and the rest of society from the evils of strange thoughts.

The Starbucks Coffee cup is another great example of this.  The cup is red, and the only news I noticed was from a liberal perspective that claimed Christians were inflamed.  Never did I see any actual Christians upset by the cup, but by the claim that they were upset.

On the other side of this crazy world of intolerance a woman refuses to do her job on religious grounds and is made a hero, a martyr even going to jail for the act.  This woman is forever in people's minds as either an idiot or a hero.  How would you like it if your life was summed up into one act?

Ask Monica Lewinsky who was not the first who was destroyed by our modern way of jumping to conclusions.

Driving on the highway my son pointed out a VW Beetle.  I casually mentioned that it was a great car, and it was a point of pride for Adolph Hitler.  My son was aghast.  The idea that Hitler, had done something most people would say is good was certainly Dad pulling his leg.  Moreover I told him of Hitler's involvement in the development of our modern Highway system, and again he was incredulous.  A person as evil as Hitler couldn't do things that helped humanity, it was unthinkable.  Make no mistake, having people killed because you can is evil, but as Mr. Ollivander from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone described Voldemort, "After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things. Terrible! Yes. But great."

I have no idea the particulars of these events and I don't care to.  What I do want is for people to somehow stop thinking they always have the answers.  I make silly guesses, and I don't presume to be correct.  I do attempt to think things through but my perspective is as narrow as anyone's.

Its going to take talking, working and playing with each other to make this world better.  The next time you see someone who makes you feel uncomfortable, I hope you say Hi, smile and strike up a conversation, it could be very enlightening.

Friday, October 23, 2015

FAT Dumb and Happy?

Last night I watched a TED talk by Mel Robbins, "How to stop screwing yourself over", and today I was reflecting on a book that I am writing.  It features Fat-dumb-happy people.

It was classic TED, simple and mind blowing.  My two takeaways were, you must be your own parent and force yourself to do the things you should be doing but don't want to do and "Fat, Dumb and Happy people" are simply comfortable.  Yes I know, shock, profound.  But I really made the connection that I have allowed myself to lecture my kids on work ethic while projects I have been "Starting" for years languish.  I am comfortable, plain and simple.

America is comfortable, we don't do what we know we could or even should do, because we're comfy.

I see a future where most people just exist.  Taking chances is unnecessary.  'No pain, no gain' is replaced by 'no pain no pain'.  Exercise may soon be accomplished by a pill and that will thrill many including myself.  Safety will be the norm and any risk will be shocking.  Male contraception and Basic Guaranteed Income may eliminate extreme poverty and create a low income leisure class never before seen in history.

I'm not sure Mel's TED talk will sway many.  My guess is that time with family, screens and no explicit needs will yield an ever increasing group of Fat-dumb and happy people, even if medicine makes us all fit and smart.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The road to domestic automation

Our vision of the domestic robot of the future is Rosie from the Jetsons or Robin Williams portrait of a home robot in Bicentennial Man. The reality right now is iRobot's Roomba , and many robots with little immediate potential for everyday people.

Some believe the ultimate solution is the "Internet of things" which is cool, and this model probably has a good shot at becoming ubiquitous.  I don't know however if people want to or will care to have 'Intelligence' built into everything.  It just doesn't seem necessary. 

The military has embraced 'Drones' or semi autonomous robotics.   These drones are land and air based and have many things in common.  While there are some non-military drones those too are far removed from the everyday life of  most people.

My bet is that drones will be available that can carry out many different jobs around the home.
Imagine having someone from anywhere in the world driving a robot in your kitchen, helping it when it gets stuck or teaching it a new task. These tasks and the information they learn would become part of the collective information about objects, and activities.  This task of programming, training and guidance needs just a few steps of hardware capability to become reality.

This vision is an extension of Baxter from and other teachable robotics. The second and most challenging issue is mobility.  Current user friendly general purpose robots aren't about to have the mobility necessary to mow  your lawn, climb stairs, get in and out of a vehicle and scrub your bathtub, but they are on their way. 

By 2020 there will be robots  that combined with human drivers will do many tasks around wealthy homes.  They will be the precursor to wide spread domestic automation.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Your Grandkids Grandkids won't be Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers or Plumbers

While these kids will need to be tech savvy, their kid’s future is much less certain.  No level of education can keep pace with the pace of technology.  Employees of 2100 will not perform any function that we think of as work today.

Few people are proposing answers to questions about our future.  Most know that we can't know what the future will bring.  Almost all posts about the future are really just re-asking the question what should we do?  I want to give legs to an idea I had, and I hope others can get passionate about it.

If it will happen is no longer a real question.  We can question when, but that too is of little consequence because we will certainly need to have built a new societal structure before it is absolutely necessary in order to stave off revolution. 

There are at least 5 ways humanity will meet the singularity... please comment with yours.

1)      People will evolve, as we have to include technology
a.      Education
b.      Different jobs
c.      Add internal circuitry

2)      Everything will be free
a.      Just add drugs
b.      Guaranteed Income

3)      Encourage other pursuits, potentially competing, possibly coexisting with technology
a.      Learning
b.      Teaching
c.      Creating
d.      Exploring

4)      Caring for people, expanding the tribe
a.      Human time & companionship as a valued resource
b.      International human relations being valued
c.      Intra racial relations
d.      Intra religious relations
e.      Intra generational relations

5)      People will revolt there is no future

I have very specific reasons for hoping for #4, but I would assume we will have some of all of these things. 

We must focus on understanding fear at a cultural level, then encourage outreach as a bridge to help unite our world.  This will expand on a personal level our ability to empathize and relate to others thereby reducing our fear of differences and any us vs. them mentality.

There is no level of education that can keep pace with the pace of technology.  Employees of 2100 will not perform any function that we think of as work today.  Expanded brains and bodies will not change this.  'Our' work will be insignificant.

'Let the miners be miners, let the loggers be loggers, let the farmers be farmers.'  The facts don't play out well.  I don't need statistics to tell you that these jobs have been automated. 

Even the technical roles for these fields have diminished.  It is true that as we increase performance the technical aspects to these and about any other field change and expand, however as these performance increases progress the level of automation increases, and our ability to use intuition decreases.  Computers can now be programmed to mimic intuition, but more importantly they can assess every possibility, especially the ones we wouldn't think of.

In this new world we will not just rely on computers but our ability to understand our world will depend on our ability to eliminate the barriers between ourselves and our machines.

I constantly see posts that expect history to continue on the same path, assuming that we will develop new jobs that we can’t yet imagine and other ways to ward off the impending machine age.

It is time that we look toward the future with eyes wide open and focus on what can be done not relying on what we have done.

Would a guaranteed income solve our ills?  Please tell me the last time you saw someone live a happy life without spending at least 10 hours a week producing, serving or competing.  That’s not to say that we should stay the same, but expecting everyone to be able to deal with free time in a constructive manner is irrational.

Within 10 years 90 percent of the US population will have expectations that everything we call work today will be replaced by machines in their lifetimes.

Sometime soon, we need to break down the walls, spend time with one another and build a culture where people no longer fear each other, and that is what I think we need to focus on.