Financial Times - Breakfast with the FT: Ray Kurzweil < 5min

Over a specially prepared breakfast, the inventor and futurist details his plans to live for ever ... Kurzweil, who invented the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the flatbed scanner and a music synthesiser capable of reproducing the sound of a grand piano, has been thinking about artificial intelligence (AI) for 50 years. In The Age of Intelligent Machines (1990), he predicted the internet’s ubiquity and the rise of mobile devices. The Singularity is Near, his 2005 bestseller, focused on AI and the future of mankind. In 2012 he joined Google as a director of engineering to develop machine intelligence. ... Kurzweil’s supporters hail him as “the ultimate thinking machine” and “the rightful heir to Thomas Edison”. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has called him “the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence”. To his critics, he is “one of the greatest hucksters of the age”, and a “narcissistic crackpot obsessed with longevity”. ... His interest in health goes back to when he was 15 and his father, Fredric, had a heart attack. “He died when I was 22. He was 58.” Kurzweil realised he could inherit his father’s dispositions. In his thirties, he was diagnosed with type-two diabetes. Frustrated by conventional treatments, he “approached this as an inventor”. It has not returned. “You can overcome your genetic disposition. The common wisdom is it’s 80 per cent genes, 20 per cent lifestyle. If you’re diligent, it’s 90 per cent intervention and 10 per cent genes,” he claims.

McKinsey - The Internet of Things: Mapping the value beyond the hype [Executive Summary] 5-15min

Our central finding is that the hype may actually understate the full potential—but that capturing it will require an understanding of where real value can be created and a successful effort to address a set of systems issues, including interoperability. ... To get a broader view of the IoT’s potential benefits and challenges across the global economy, we analyzed more than 150 use cases, ranging from people whose devices monitor health and wellness to manufacturers that utilize sensors to optimize the maintenance of equipment and protect the safety of workers. Our bottom-up analysis for the applications we size estimates that the IoT has a total potential economic impact of $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025. At the top end, that level of value—including the consumer surplus—would be equivalent to about 11 percent of the world economy ... Achieving this kind of impact would require certain conditions to be in place, notably overcoming the technical, organizational, and regulatory hurdles. In particular, companies that use IoT technology will play a critical role in developing the right systems and processes to maximize its value. ... The digitization of machines, vehicles, and other elements of the physical world is a powerful idea. Even at this early stage, the IoT is starting to have a real impact by changing how goods are made and distributed, how products are serviced and refined, and how doctors and patients manage health and wellness. But capturing the full potential of IoT applications will require innovation in technologies and business models, as well as investment in new capabilities and talent. With policy actions to encourage interoperability, ensure security, and protect privacy and property rights, the Internet of Things can begin to reach its full potential—especially if leaders truly embrace data-driven decision making.

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The Guardian - Where is Google taking us? 5-15min

I suppose, the latest expression of that now vintage and troublingly prophetic bumper sticker: In Google we trust. ... My campus tour has something of the quality of a west coast Tomorrow’s World. It involves meetings with the head of Google Translate, Barak Turovsky, who places a phone on a table and has it talk to me in English directly from his spoken Russian; the cartographer-in-chief of Google Maps, Manik Gupta, who is excited about current efforts to map the unmappable – Indian villages, the Grand Canyon, the Great Barrier Reef – using backpackers and local knowledge. I listen to one of the two or three key brains behind the Search algorithm itself, Ben Gomes, who speaks 10 to the dozen of “natural language generation” and “deep learning networks” (and, inevitably, of the “holy grail” of answering users’ questions before they have been asked). I walk and talk with the Brit Alex Gawley, who has just reimagined Gmail for mobile. I have my mind suitably boggled by some of the more maverick voices at Google X, the company’s in-house futurology lab, including Mike Cassidy, whose Project Loon aims to bring Wi-Fi to 4 billion currently disconnected people, with the stratospheric use of tens of thousands of hot-air balloons ... From the outside it can appear as if Google is trying to solve every problem, colonise every market, all at once. As a company, it seems dangerously – or thrillingly, depending on your point of view – addicted to ubiquity. ... Corporate cultures only become a source of wider interest when their attached businesses are wildly successful. ... The more you spend in that deliberately pervasive culture, though, the more people you speak to, the more you realise that Google employees are not only living the Google dream, they are also selling a version of that fantasy to the world.

Wired - Andy Rubin Unleashed Android On The World. Now Watch Him Do The Same With AI 5-15min

Rubin has a theory that humanity is on the cusp of a new computing age. Just as MS-DOS gave way to Macintosh and Windows, which gave way to the web, which gave way to smartphones, he thinks the forces are in place to begin a decades-long transition to the next great platform: artificial intelligence. ... Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have collectively spent billions to fund the development of neural networks that can understand human speech or recognize faces in photos. And over the next decade AI is bound to grow more powerful, capable of tasks we can’t imagine today. Soon, Rubin figures, it will be available as a cloud service, powering thousands of gadgets and machines. Just as practically every device today contains software of some kind, it could soon be nearly impossible to buy a device without some kind of AI inside. It’s hard to imagine precisely what that future will look like, but for a rough idea, think about the difference between your car and a self-driving car; now apply that difference to every object you own. ... Rubin wants Playground to become the factory that creates the standard building blocks—the basic quartermaster’s inventory of components—for the AI-infused future. And he wants to open up this platform of hardware and software tools so that anyone, not just the companies he works with directly, can create an intelligent device. If he’s successful, Playground stands to have the same kind of impact on smart machines that Android had on smartphones, providing the technological infrastructure for thousands of products and giving a generation of entrepreneurs the ability to build a smart drone. ... The fundamental idea, Rubin says, is to create what he calls an idea amplifier—a system that quickly turns concepts into products with maximum impact. ... For AI to reach its true potential, Rubin argues, we need to bring it into the physical world. And the way to do that is to create thousands of devices that pull information from their environment

The Atlantic - What Is a Robot? 5-15min

Ubiquitous computing and automation are occurring in tandem. Self-operating machines are permeating every dimension of society, so that humans find themselves interacting more frequently with robots than ever before—often without even realizing it. The human-machine relationship is rapidly evolving as a result. Humanity, and what it means to be a human, will be defined in part by the machines people design. ... A distrust of machines that come to life goes back at least as far as tales of golems, and this uneasiness has remained persistent in contemporary culture. ... While doppelgängers, golems, living dolls, and automata are all ancient, the word “robot” is not even a century old. It was coined by the playwright Karl Capek in “R.U.R.,” short for Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti, or Rossum’s Universal Robots, in 1921. “R.U.R.,” which tells the story of a global robot-human war, also helped set the tone for the modern conception of robots. ... After Capek brought “robot” into the lexicon, it quickly became a metaphor for explaining how various technologies worked. By the late 1920s, just about any machine that replaced a human job with automation or remote control was referred to as a robot. Automatic cigarette dispensers were called “robot salesmen,” a sensor that could signal when a traffic light should change was a “robot traffic director,” or a “mechanical policeman,” a remote-operated distribution station was a “robot power plant,” the gyrocompass was a “robot navigator,” new autopilot technology was a “robot airplane pilot,” and an anti-aircraft weapon was a “robot gun.” ... Today, people talk about robots in similarly broad fashion. Just as “robot” was used as a metaphor to describe a vast array of automation in the material world, it’s now often used to describe—wrongly, many roboticists told me—various automated tasks in computing. ... a future that many people today simultaneously want and fear. Driverless cars could save millions of lives this century. But the economic havoc that robots could wreak on the workforce is a source of real anxiety. ... The rise of the robots seems to have reached a tipping point; they’ve broken out of engineering labs and novelty stores, and moved into homes, hospitals, schools, and businesses. Their upward trajectory seems unstoppable.

Wired - Hyper Vision > 15min

Virtual reality overlaid on the real world in this manner is called mixed reality, or MR. (The goggles are semitransparent, allowing you to see your actual surroundings.) It is more difficult to achieve than the classic fully immersive virtual reality, or VR, where all you see are synthetic images, and in many ways MR is the more powerful of the two technologies. ... Magic Leap is not the only company creating mixed-reality technology, but right now the quality of its virtual visions exceeds all others. Because of this lead, money is pouring into this Florida office park. ... At the beginning of this year, the company completed what may be the largest C-round of financing in history: $793.5 million. To date, investors have funneled $1.4 billion into it. ... to really understand what’s happening at Magic Leap, you need to also understand the tidal wave surging through the entire tech industry. All the major players—Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung—have whole groups dedicated to artificial reality, and they’re hiring more engineers daily. Facebook alone has over 400 people working on VR. Then there are some 230 other companies, such as Meta, the Void, Atheer, Lytro, and 8i, working furiously on hardware and content for this new platform. To fully appreciate Magic Leap’s gravitational pull, you really must see this emerging industry—every virtual-reality and mixed-reality headset, every VR camera technique, all the novel VR applications, beta-version VR games, every prototype VR social world. ... The recurring discovery I made in each virtual world I entered was that although every one of these environments was fake, the experiences I had in them were genuine. ... The technology forces you to be present—in a way flatscreens do not—so that you gain authentic experiences, as authentic as in real life.

The Chronicle of Higher Education - Is This Economist Too Far Ahead of His Time? 12min

It’s the year 2120. You feel no hunger, no cold, no heat, no pain. There’s no need to eat or to take medicine, though you can if you like. You are beautiful, intelligent, and charismatic, as are your friends, co-workers, lovers. Though the economy is fiercely competitive, retirement is not far off. You do not fear death. Look out your office window and you see sunlit spires towering over tree-lined boulevards. ... At least this is what you think you see. In fact, you live and work in virtual reality. Your city amounts to racks of computer hardware and the pipes that cool them. And you are not "you" in the traditional sense: You are an "em," a robotic brain emulation created by scanning a particular human brain and uploading it to a computer. On the upside, you process information 1,000 times faster than a human. On the downside, you inhabit a robotic body, and you stand roughly two millimeters tall. ... This is the world Robin Hanson is sketching out to a room of baffled undergraduates at George Mason University on a bright April morning. To illustrate his point, he projects an image of an enormous futuristic city alongside clip art of a human castaway cowering on a tiny desert island. His message is clear: The future belongs to "ems." ... This may sound more like science fiction than scholarship, but that’s part of the point. Hanson is an economist with a background in physics and engineering; a Silicon Valley veteran determined to promote his theories in an academy he finds deeply flawed; a doggedly rational thinker prone to intentionally provocative ideas that test the limits of what typically passes as scholarship. Those ideas have been mocked, memed, and marveled at — often all at once. ... Hanson, deeply skeptical of conventional intellectual discourse, argues that academics have abdicated their societal responsibilities by ignoring more speculative work.

National Geographic - How Humans Are Shaping Our Own Evolution 18min

The most intriguing part of the antenna, though, is that it gives him an ability the rest of us don’t have. He looked at the lamps on the roof deck and sensed that the infrared lights that activate them were off. He glanced at the planters and could “see” the ultraviolet markings that show where nectar is located at the centers of the flowers. He has not just matched ordinary human skills; he has exceeded them. ... He is, then, a first step toward the goal that visionary futurists have always had, an early example of what Ray Kurzweil in his well-known book The Singularity Is Near calls “the vast expansion of human potential.” ... But are we on the way to redefining how we evolve? Does evolution now mean not just the slow grind of natural selection spreading desirable genes, but also everything that we can do to amplify our powers and the powers of the things we make—a union of genes, culture, and technology? And if so, where is it taking us? ... Conventional evolution is alive and well in our species. Not long ago we knew the makeup of only a handful of the roughly 20,000 protein-encoding genes in our cells; today we know the function of about 12,000. But genes are only a tiny percentage of the DNA in our genome. More discoveries are certain to come—and quickly. From this trove of genetic information, researchers have already identified dozens of examples of relatively recent evolution. ... In our world now, the primary mover for reproductive success—and thus evolutionary change—is culture, and its weaponized cousin, technology. ... One human trait with a strong genetic component continues to increase in value, even more so as technology grows more dominant. The universal ambition of humanity remains greater intelligence.