As I give talks on future and technology—or rather before I give my talks—I often meet people saying they feel that we’re entering a time of big changes, and yet they seem to have difficulties in defining exactly what this change is. They might refer to the fast uptake of smartphones, tablets and social media, but they probably realise that this is not the most important aspect.
I believe that there are two reasons for the difficulty to see the real power in the change technology brings—a change that will eventually affect every industry and every business, and every individual too.
One reason is that most people still consider technology as a tool, that does
things we want it to do, be it a wrench or a computer. They don’t realise that technology today is so penetrating and fast developing that it has become a driving force for change in itself, more than ever before—and also more irresistible than other technologies that brought earlier fundamental changes to society such as the industrialisation, since today’s technology is so ubiquitous and easily available.
The other reason is that people tend to be amazed at what technology can do today, without taking into account further development, which is also accelerating. This brings an illusion that things will be as they are for some time. But change will never be as slow again.
This is also why it’s so challenging for most companies and organisations to start adapting to digitisation. Often such projects become action plans involving new strategies for some apps or for social media, but in the long run this is just scratching the surface of the digital revolution.
Until everyone in the organisation, employees and top management, has understood the explosive and unstoppable power of digital technology, it’s unlikely that that strategies and action plans will be profound enough to keep up with the accelerating pace of change.
That’s why it’s so satisfying bringing up the fundamental aspects of digitisation in seminars, describing not just what technology is, but what it does and what it means. It gives everyone an injection of inspiration on digitisation—how it works, what it means—and on all revolutionary new opportunities that will affect—and benefit—them. That is the real starting point for a valid action plan, the first steps towards new ideas and new business opportunities—faster, more efficient and more profitable.
I note that people are amazed when I describe the power of the accelerating pace of technology development, with Moore’s law describing the doubling of power of information technology every second year, being live and kicking still after 50 years—not to mention that a similar ‘law’ has been valid for billions of years. Only that the real explosion is starting right now, with strong artificial intelligence—machine intelligence at the level of humans—being realised within only 15 or 20 years.
I see that it’s useful for people to understand the seven mechanisms that make digitisation so disruptive—from zero cost of a copy changing fundamental economic models, to the little explored potential in mixing digital content between industries and businesses to create completely new products and services.
And it’s effective to get an insight in the different ways that digitisation is about to transform a series of industries, just like the music industry was disrupted—from education and healthcare to finance, law and transportation. Not to mention Industry 4.0—the new data based industry phase, following disruption from steam, electricity and electronics.
In the end however, it’s easy to get trapped and almost spellbound by all the new opportunities technology offers, and therefore also easy to forget who we are—humans, with dreams, visions, passions and values.
This might be the most important part to realise when starting to adapt to digitisation and accelerating technologies. Because these are aspects of us that we have developed over millions of years, aspects that can help us make the best out of technology driven change—something that moves in harmony and not in conflict with us, both as individuals and as a society.
In the end, this will also be hugely important when we in the coming two decades will have to adapt to a world where jobs are disappearing, being automated and performed by intelligent systems and robots. Our ideas about work and about what to do with our lives will then have to change fundamentally—a change that might bring amazing opportunities if society adapts in time, and if we as individuals are ready to grasp and understand these opportunities, remembering who we are as human beings. •••
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This post was originally posted on Linkedin.
PhD student Andrew Barry from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab has developed a detect-and-avoid system that lets drones fly autonomously through a tree-filled field at a speed close to 30 mph.
The system operates at 120 frames per second and is running 20 times faster than existing software.
In Sweden, flying out of sight with drones is not permitted with ordinary drones, even though many people do, using what is called First Person View, FPV, which means that the pilot looks through video glasses showing the image from a camera on the drone. With a good radio link it’s possible to fly tens of miles away.
What’s required for out-of-sight flight, according to Swedish rules, is an on-board detect-and-avoid system, and the system developed by Barry could be one step towards cheap and commercially available such systems.
Flying much farther away would then also be possible. It has been shown that drones can be controlled using signals through commercial cell phone networks, which means that you could basically fly a private drone on the other side of the world.
Former Skype founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis aim at reshaping local small scale delivery with the company Starship Technologies and this small autonomous device, moving at four miles per hour. The plan is to offer local delivery from the grocery store or retailers, or last-mile delivery of goods arriving to local hubs with ordinary carriers, at prices 10 to 15 times less than the cost of current last-mile delivery alternatives. Local point to point delivery is also an option.
Shoppers can follow the robot’s position through an app which is also used to unlock the lid of the robot.
The first pilot services are planned for UK, US and some other countries in 2016.
Digitisation of transportation is already coming through driverless cars, bringing big changes in car ownership, parking, traffic optimisation, city planning, logistics, taxi services and much more. Starship Technologies’ robot could add to that process, being much cheaper than a larger vehicle, and yet much easier to handle, more energy efficient and with bigger load capacity than drones.
Essentially no new physics but a little-known physical effect describing matter’s interaction with electromagnetic fields — ponderomotive Miller forces — would explain energy release and isotopic changes in LENR. This is what Rickard Lundin and Hans Lidgren, two top level Swedish scientists, claim, describing their theory in a paper called Nuclear Spallation and Neutron Capture Induced by Ponderomotive Wave Forcing (full length paper here) that will be presented on Friday, October 16, at the 11th International Workshop on Anomalies in Hydrogen Loaded Metals, hosted by Airbus in Toulouse, France.
From the conclusions of the paper:
“This report demonstrates, theoretically and experimentally, that nuclear energy production may be accommodated in rather small units, operating at modest temperatures (≈900-2000°C), and produce sustainable power output in the range 1 – 10 kW – at minute fuel consumption (few grams per year). (…) The magnitude of the power output, delivered from a miniscule amount of fuel, demonstrates that it is a nuclear process with great potentials. Properly utilized the process has potentials of becoming an unlimited and sustainable energy source, producing essentially no long-lived radioactive waste.”
Read more at Animpossibleinvention.com
With digitization and automation jobs will disappear, but we’ll continue to work anyway. That is what several experts I have been talking to believe. They also think that distribution of wealth in society could become the biggest challenge ahead.
None of the experts I have been talking to about jobs and the future is opposed to the picture that a large part of today’s jobs will be automated.
“Everyone understands that we are replacing people with robots in factories that are being automated. What is still not widely recognized is that this also applies to white collar jobs now — those jobs that absorbed much labor when we started the transition to manufacturing in factories, and also what made this transition relatively painless. The question is whether there is a third sector that can absorb those who are losing white collar jobs,” says Gunnar Karlsson, professor of telecom traffic systems at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.
So the crucial question is whether new jobs will be created when old ones disappear. Many hope they will be created in innovative star-ups, but Swedish technology weekly Ny Teknik concluded last fall that 25 of Sweden’s most acclaimed start-up companies together had created 3,700 jobs, while 5,000 jobs had disappeared in five years, only in the Volvo Group.
Another hope, however, lies in increased demand for local services as a result of higher income for those who still have jobs, and according to a report by the Foundation for Strategic Research (Stiftelsen för strategisk forskning) this seems partly to be true (see below).
Anna Felländer, chief economist at Swedbank, also sees a trend moving in that direction, where the most important thing, according to her, will be to make it easier for innovative companies and for the self-employed.
“40 percent of the US workforce is self-employed and in five years it will be 50 percent. There is an individualization of the economy going on, and it happens quickly in Sweden,” she says.
Robin Teigland, a researcher at the Stockholm School of Economics, who has written a report on the new ‘sharing economy’ with Anna Felländer, believes that our revenues will come from many sources, and even from machines working for us.
“They can make money for you without you having to do anything except maintaining the machine or the resource,” she says.
Per Johansson, a former researcher in human ecology, and now part of the think tank Infontology, believes in a similar trend but he wants to make a difference between jobs and work. He says that jobs are functions in systems with roots in bureaucracies and military chains of command — tasks with some kind of mechanical character. Work is instead what we do in life — anything that requires effort.
“We need to shift focus towards other human urgencies and tasks — areas in which I think there will never be any shortage of work. It’s a kind of of change of fantasy we have to undergo,” he says.
How difficult it will be depends on how indoctrinated we are in the old beliefs, according to Johansson.
Roland Paulsen, PhD in sociology at Lund’s University, goes further.
“I see work as the biggest environmental problem we have. Nothing consumes so much of the Earth’s resources,” he says, referring to the objective of high employment rates, despite automation effects, which leads to unnecessary production and consumption.
No matter which picture of the future of jobs you choose, most believe that the distribution of wealth will be a major challenge. One reason is the risk of accumulation of profits to giant corporations with high automation rate. Another is the risk of very large income gaps. A third is that the self-employed may be exposed to fierce price pressure through global digitization.
“We will need to improve individuals’ negotiating position through regulation,” says Robin Teigland.
One solution being discussed is unconditional basic income — a kind of base salary to everyone, sufficient for covering basic costs in life, and replacing all other social programs in society. Many are skeptical, including former Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, even though he early on recognized the risk that jobs can be automated.
“I see it as a left wing alternative that has occurred in the debate (…) where we in fact establish a society where a large percentage of the population will never get any job because they will live on the citizen salary,” he says.
But proponents see great opportunities.
“It is important to focus on what a citizen salary would make possible if people did not have to worry about providing daily food and housing — a freedom from adapting to other people’s agendas, which the old way of governance and managing means, and then new businesses can emerge. In a best case scenario this leads to an adaptability which I think is key to solve these problems,” says Per Johansson.
Roland Paulsen notes that a citizen salary may have surprising effects.
“You would have to raise the salary of crappy jobs that no one wants to do if they don’t have to. An upside-down world where the least attractive jobs would become the best paid. But I still think that a basic income can lead to the development of new ethics and a new way of living together,” says Roland Paulsen.
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Machines are taking over the jobs
- The report “The Future of Employment” from Oxford University (2013), by Carl Benedikt Frey et al, states that 47 percent of the jobs in the United States are at high risk to be automated within a few decades. The report also claims that the entry of machines will occur in two waves. First low-wage jobs with low educational requirements will be hit, for example in transportation, logistics, production and administration. Then there will be a pause while technology is evolving to embrace also creative and social abilities, and at that point also well paid jobs with high educational requirements will be affected.
- In the report “Every second job will be automated within 20 years” from the Foundation for Strategic Research (Stiftelsen för strategisk forskning) — a Swedish adaptation of the Oxford report — the author argues that 53 percent of Swedish jobs run the same risk.
- Gartner expects that one in three jobs will be done by software, robots or smart machines 2025.
- Pew Research Center’s report “AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs” is based on answers from 1896 technology experts and analysts. 48 percent of them thought that technology will displace more jobs than it creates, while 52 percent believed the opposite.
- The report “New jobs in the automation era” from the Foundation for Strategic Research shows that 450 000 jobs were lost in Sweden through automation between 2006 and 2011. New jobs and increased demand for local services due to higher wages for those who still had their jobs, replaced three quarters of the lost jobs. Reforms in the labor market contributed to a total rise in employment.
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This can become Sweden’s role
What can be the role of Sweden for handling the transition when jobs are being automated?
Per Johansson: “We may be good at finding a new imaginative and realistic optimism. You have to observe all sorts of negative things and limitations clearly, but if you create a confidence in the future that is effective enough, then you have the antidote you need against destructive tendencies that strive back to the Middle Ages.”
Roland Paulsen: “To be a leading country. Economic globalization is not the only one, there is a political / ideological globalization too. That the Washington Post reported on the experiment in Gothenburg (six-hour work day), says something about when a country is at the forefront, it puts pressure on other countries. And Sweden has a long tradition of being a political frontrunner.”
Robin Teigland: “Sweden is at the forefront in sharing economy, in robotising of jobs, and in IT and Internet penetration. Many people look at us and see how we do. We can sell our services and our knowledge. All countries are facing this and people come to us. Sweden can also be a test market, where it is easier to push change than in the US for example.”
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A part of this report was first published in the Swedish magazine Digital Teknik.
(This post was originally published on Animpossibleinvention.com).
I’m happy to announce that the Italian edition of my book An Impossible Invention — Un’invenzione impossible — is finally out. I’m particularly satisfied since the story is closely related to Italy to which I have personal connections, my wife being Italian.
A great thanks to Alex Passi who has made the translation, and who preferred not to be compensated but instead asked me to donate part of the sales revenue to scientific research, which I will do. What research that will receive the donation is still to be defined.
Read more here.
(This post was originally published on Animpossibleinvention.com).
On August 25, Andrea Rossi was granted a patent on his LENR based heating device the E-Cat. The patent, which has the filing date March 14, 2012, can be downloaded here: US9115913B1
As far as I understand, the patent describes the so-called low temperature E-Cat that Rossi showed in semi-public demonstrations at several occasions in 2011, and which is also used in an ongoing 350-day trial of a 1 MW plant, but since it describes core parts of the technology it is probably also valid at a certain extent also for more recent E-Cat models with higher operating temperature.