November 29, 2015

AI and robotics will will be redefine jobs rather than eliminate them in the short term

The potential of artificial intelligence and advanced robotics to perform tasks once reserved for humans is no longer reserved for spectacular demonstrations by the likes of IBM’s Watson, Rethink Robotics’ Baxter, DeepMind, or Google’s driverless car. Just head to an airport: automated check-in kiosks now dominate many airlines’ ticketing areas. Pilots actively steer aircraft for just three to seven minutes of many flights, with autopilot guiding the rest of the journey.

McKinsey launched research to explore workplace automation questions and investigate the potential that automation technologies hold for jobs, organizations, and the future of work.

Results to date suggest, first and foremost, that a focus on occupations is misleading. Very few occupations will be automated in their entirety in the near or medium term. Rather, certain activities are more likely to be automated, requiring entire business processes to be transformed, and jobs performed by people to be redefined, much like the bank teller’s job was redefined with the advent of ATMs.

As many as 45 percent of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies. In the United States, these activities represent about $2 trillion in annual wages. Although we often think of automation primarily affecting low-skill, low-wage roles, we discovered that even the highest-paid occupations in the economy, such as financial managers, physicians, and senior executives, including CEOs, have a significant amount of activity that can be automated.

The bottom line is that 45 percent of work activities could be automated using already demonstrated technology. If the technologies that process and “understand” natural language were to reach the median level of human performance, an additional 13 percent of work activities in the US economy could be automated. The magnitude of automation potential reflects the speed with which advances in artificial intelligence and its variants, such as machine learning, are challenging our assumptions about what is automatable. It’s no longer the case that only routine, codifiable activities are candidates for automation and that activities requiring “tacit” knowledge or experience that is difficult to translate into task specifications are immune to automation.

In many cases, automation technology can already match, or even exceed, the median level of human performance required.

Velmenni targets 2018-2019 for commercial Li-fi LED bulbs for Gbps to multi-Gbps communication

Velmenni Jugnu smart LED bulbs can transfer data through visible light. Velmenni is implementing the Li-Fi technology in their new range of LED bulbs. It refers to the wireless communication system which uses light as a medium of transport instead of traditional radio frequencies. Although the use of light in order to transmit data can be limited in comparison to radio waves, there is a great amount of possibilities that can be developed with the proper use of this technology.

BBC News reports that Estonian start-up Velmenni recently completed the first real world test of visible light spectrum-based Wi-Fi. Velmenni used a li-fi-enabled light bulb to transmit data at speeds of 1Gbps. Laboratory tests have shown theoretical speeds of up to 224Gbps.

One of the big advantages of li-fi is the fact that, unlike wi-fi, it does not interfere with other radio signals, so could be utilised on aircraft and in other places where interference is an issue.

While the spectrum for radio waves is in short supply, the visible light spectrum is 10,000 times larger.

Li-fi cannot be deployed outdoors in direct sunlight, because that would interfere with its signal. Neither can the technology travel through walls so initial use is likely to be limited to places where it can be used to supplement wi-fi networks, such as in congested urban areas or places where wi-fi is not safe, such as hospitals.

The technology is already being eyed by airlines for in-flight internet service, where a light-based streaming service would eliminate existing security risks posed by devices sharing the plane’s radio spectrum. The brightly lit, but predominantly interior spaces of airports are another obvious fit for the technology.

China's Hainan island will soon open a circular high speed rail track

South China's island province Hainan began a trial run on Thursday of a new stretch of track that completes the world's first high-speed train line circling an island.

Up to 20 empty trains will run on the 345-km Western Ring Railway per day in the trial period. Exercises will test responses to emergency situations. The western stretch will be officially put into operation at the end of this year with a designed speed of 200 km per hour, according to its operator, the Guangzhou Railway Corporation.

The western stretch has 16 stops in six cities and counties, linking provincial capital Haikou with Sanya, a tropical tourist spot. It began construction in Sept 2013 with an investment of 27 billion yuan ($4.23 billion).

The island has a lot of tourists from other parts of China

US Air Force Might Buy 72 new upgraded F-15 2040C or upgraded F-16 Fighter Jets

The U.S. Air Force might buy 72 upgraded F-15, F-16 or even F-18 fighter aircraft due to low F-35 production rates and the high cost of the F-35.

The U.S. Air Force “is struggling to afford 48 F-35s a year” for the first years of full-rate production a senior Air Force officer told Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

Full rate-production is slated to begin in 2019 and the U.S. Air Force wants to buy 60 planes in 2020, and 80 F-35 per year after that. This year, the Air Force is to receive 28 F-35s, whereas in 2016 the number is slated to increase to 44. By 2038, the service wants to have 1763 F-35 aircraft in service. However, this procurement schedule might not be financially feasible for the Air Force.

F-15s and F-16s will serve longer and will outnumber F-35s and F-22s through the late 2020s.

Boeing is proposing an “F-15 2040C” series of upgrades that would extend the life of the fourth-generation F-15C air superiority fighter to complement the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor. The 2040 version would double to 16 the number of air-to-air missiles the fighter carries, extend its range and improve its lethality and survivability with upgraded electronics.

An F-15 2040C would also extend the fighter’s production line in St. Louis, which with 84 F-15SAs destined for Saudi Arabia has firm orders through 2019. Boeing previously offered a stealthy “Silent Eagle” version for South Korea’s F-X III fighter competition, but that country last year settled on the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II for the requirement.

Boeing would off a package of continuing upgrades. They would incorporate the programmed radar upgrade of F-15C/Ds with the Raytheon APG-63(v)3 active electronically scanned radar and a new electronic warfare suite called EPAWSS, for the Eagle Passive/Active Warning and Survivability System. A proposed long-range infrared search and track sensor pod would complement the AESA radar. Boeing supplies conformal fuel tanks on the multi-role F-15E Strike Eagle; the 2040C upgrade would add them on the F-15C. The proposed weapons load increase would be accomplished by adding a Boeing-developed “quad pack” carriage system on two weapons stations. A communications and networking pod with advanced datalinks, now being demonstrated under the Air Force’s Talon HATE program, would enable the older F-15 to interact with the Raptor and other platforms.

The new F-15 would complement the F22. the F15 2040C would have more weapons, a long-range sensor that is in a different frequency band than what the F-22 carries, the extended range and the connectivity to the F-22 and other systems—that is a huge increase in capability

The F-15 2040C upgrade would double the missile load of the F-15C from eight to 16 missiles and extend its range. (Image: Boeing)

China's yuan set for IMF reserve currency status

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is expected to announce on Monday that China's currency, the yuan, will join the fund's group of international reserve currencies.

Just the US dollar, the euro, Japan's yen and the British pound are currently part of this select band.

Earlier this month, IMF head Christine Lagarde backed the yuan's inclusion.

If the decision is made, the yuan is likely to join the basket next year, experts said.

China is the world's second largest economy behind the US, and asked for its currency to become a reserve currency last year.

The Financial Times said the inclusion of the Chinese yuan may be “like many Chinese financial reforms: significant in hindsight but harder to get excited about in its early stages.” The current value of all SDRs is around $280 billion, and most economists estimate that the yuan’s inclusion will take up around 10 percent of the value of the currency basket. This equates to $28 billion—a small amount compared to the huge volumes traded worldwide.

Other analysts predict the inclusion of the yuan will have a large impact over the following few years. Standard Chartered PLC predicts the inclusion could spur up to $1 trillion of net purchases of China’s onshore bonds by the end of 2020. AXA Investment Managers predict that about 10 percent of the $11.6 trillion of global reserves will flow into yuan assets.

Elon Musk is ramping up engineering teams for fully autonomous cars

Elon Musk and Tesla want to take their cars to Level 4 or 5 autonomy. This will require some breakthroughs. It goes without saying that Google has made astonishing progress with its Google Car, but that vehicle isn't at all ready to be manufactured in significant numbers. It's more of an adorable platform to provide a proof-of-concept.

Musk is betting that software will enable full autonomy within 5 years.

Every Autopilot-enabled Tesla is already feeding data back to the mother ship, providing a basis for tweaking the technology for future updates. Tesla's vehicles are quite literally learning the roads that they drive on and are enriching the company's overall mapping efforts. This is something of a secret weapon for Tesla autonomous-driving initiatives: Its entire fleet can learn to drive itself.

UK sets up £250 million research for small modular nuclear reactors and will likely partner with China

The UK could build one of the world's first small modular nuclear reactors in the 2020s, after ministers announced support for the technology through a £250 million research package.

A competition to identify the "best value small modular reactor design for the UK" will be launched in the new year, which will "pave the way towards building one of the world’s first small modular reactors in the UK in the 2020s", the Treasury said.

At the end of 2014, the UK had published a small modular reactor feasability study

The market study concludes that there is a very significant market for SMRs where they fulfil a market need that cannot, in all circumstances, be met by large nuclear plants. The size of the potential SMR market, is calculated to be approximately 65-85GW by 2035 (as shown above), valued at £250-£400bn, if the economics are competitive. In a regional assessment, the study also determines that there could be a UK market for around 7GW of power from SMRs by 2035, based on a demand for low-carbon generation and site availability for small nuclear reactors (less than 300MW). To gain access to larger potential markets for SMRs, it would be
desirable for the UK to partner with another country in order to help access the international market.

A shortlist of six reactor designs technologies was identified as potentially meeting both the technical and financial requirements and within a ten year timeframe:
• ACP100+ - CNNC
• mPower – B and W and Bechtel
• Westinghouse SMR - Westinghouse
• NuScale - Fluor

Discussions with AREVA revealed that they were no longer considering the HTR Antares design and although they are considering an alternative PWR SMR design, they are not planning to proceed with this within the timeframe of this study. As a consequence the AREVA option was discounted from further investigation.

Discussions with U-Battery identified that their design was targeted at a different market and potentially in a longer timescale. It was concluded that ongoing discussions were better suited to a separate NIRAB (Nuclear Innovation Research Advisory Board) grouping which is considering alternative technologies and a longer timeframe. So this option was also discounted from this study.

November 28, 2015

Startup Humai targets uploading human minds within 30 years

Australian startup Humai wants to enable the uploading of human minds into computers within 30 years

They want to be able to resurrect humans through Artificial Intelligence

Humai is an AI company with a mission to reinvent the afterlife. We want to bring you back to life after you die.

We’re using artificial intelligence and nanotechnology to store data of conversational styles, behavioral patterns, thought processes and information about how your body functions from the inside-out.

This data will be coded into multiple sensor technologies, which will be built into an artificial body with the brain of a deceased human. Using cloning technology, we will restore the brain as it matures.

* first collect extensive data on their members for years prior to their death via various apps
* After death, the company will cryogenically freeze members’ brains until the technology is fully developed, at which point the brains will be implanted into an artificial body.
* The artificial body functions will be controlled with your thoughts by measuring brain waves. As the brain ages we'll use nanotechnology to repair and improve cells. Cloning technology is going to help with this too

Bill Gates, other billionaires and the governments of the USA, China, India and other countries will fund multi-billion dollar clean energy fund

Bill Gates will announce the creation of a multibillion-dollar clean energy fund on Monday at the opening of a Paris summit meeting intended to forge a global accord to cut planet-warming emissions, according to people with knowledge of the plans.

The fund is meant to pay for research and development of new clean-energy technologies. It will include contributions from other billionaires and philanthropies, as well as a commitment by the United States and other participating nations to double their budget for clean energy research and development, according to the people with knowledge of the plans, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the fund.

The announcement of the fund, which has the joint backing of the governments of the United States, China, India and other countries, the people said, is intended to give momentum to the two-week Paris climate talks.

In July, Mr. Gates wrote: “If we create the right environment for innovation, we can accelerate the pace of progress, develop and deploy new solutions, and eventually provide everyone with reliable, affordable energy that is carbon free. We can avoid the worst climate-change scenarios while also lifting people out of poverty, growing food more efficiently and saving lives by reducing pollution.”

Scientists generally agree that preventing the worst effects of climate change requires limiting the temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius, and that doing so requires the biggest emitters to cut emissions 80 percent by 2050 and all countries to essentially eliminate them by the end of the century. Unfortunately, while we can make progress with today’s tools, they cannot get us to an 80 percent reduction, much less 100 percent. To work at scale, current wind and solar technologies need backup energy sources—which means fossil fuels—for windless days, long periods of cloudy weather, and nighttime. They also require much more space; for example, to provide as much power as a coal-fired plant, a wind farm needs more than 10 times as much land.

These are solvable problems. If we create the right environment for innovation, we can accelerate the pace of progress, develop and deploy new solutions, and eventually provide everyone with reliable, affordable energy that is carbon free. We can avoid the worst climate-change scenarios while also lifting people out of poverty, growing food more efficiently, and saving lives by reducing pollution.

If climate change is a serious problem then we need serious solutions like scaled nuclear power

Peter Thiel makes the case in the NY Times for policy to get aligned to enable new nuclear designs to be used to reduce the emissions associated with climate change

Speaking about climate change in 2013, President Obama said that our grandchildren will ask whether we did “all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem.”

So far, the answer would have to be no — unless he seizes this moment. Supporting nuclear power with more than words is the litmus test for seriousness about climate change. Like Nixon’s going to China, this is something only Mr. Obama can do. If this president clears the path for a new atomic age, American scientists are ready to build it.

We still lack a plan to fund and prototype the new nuclear reactors that we badly need.

While politicians prepare a grand bargain on emissions limits that future politicians are unlikely to obey, a new generation of American nuclear scientists has produced designs for better reactors. Crucially, these new designs may finally overcome the most fundamental obstacle to the success of nuclear power: high cost. Designs using molten salt, alternative fuels and small modular reactors have all attracted interest not just from academics but also from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists like me ready to put money behind nuclear power.

However, none of these new designs can benefit the real world without a path to regulatory approval, and today’s regulations are tailored for traditional reactors, making it almost impossible to commercialize new ones.

Value of technology is unlocked incrementally so we will adapt and work with machines and automation

James Bessen wrote Learning by doing. Bessen returns to Marx’s 19th-century weavers to prove that as humans work with new technologies over the long term, they improve them and boost their own fortunes in the process. So, yes, when the power loom was invented, in 1785, it shifted weaving from farms to factories, instantly increasing productivity yet leaving workers’ wages flat for decades, as Marx noted. But he failed to predict what happened next: From 1860 to 1890, weavers’ pay more than doubled.

The value of any technology is unlocked incrementally, Bessen argues, perhaps over a generation, through on-the-job learning. Weavers working with early power looms produced two and a half times as much cloth per hour as their predecessors who used handlooms; 80 years later, they produced 50 times as much. It’s therefore the adopters and adapters of a technology—not its inventors—who create much of its value.

Faster Adaptation is needed

Wages don’t rise until the skills needed to operate a technology are standardized and able to be easily taught to workers. Once power looms matured and factories became more uniform, weavers could credibly threaten to take their skills elsewhere—and command more money as a result. Bessen offers several recommendations to speed up skills training in modern times: increased investment in community colleges, vocational education, and retraining programs for displaced workers, along with company-sponsored training and development programs that help workers learn new skills and gain experience with new technologies.

Reject the obsession with job-eliminating technology in favor of a focus on complementarity. Help workers acquire new skills, and craft an industrial policy that focuses as much on adoption as on creation.

ATMs increased bank teller and banking jobs

Consider the ATM, a classic example, supposedly, of technological progress that has all but eliminated a white-collar job. In fact, Mr. Bessen shows, the number of bank tellers working in the U.S. has risen since the 1970s, when ATMs were introduced. How could that be? The average bank branch used to employ 20 workers. The spread of ATMs reduced the number to about 13, making it cheaper for banks to open branches

Meanwhile, thanks in part to the convenience of the new machines, the number of banking transactions soared, and banks began to compete by promising better customer service: more bank employees, at more branches, handling more complex tasks than tellers in the past.

Online banking is also trying to shift effort to the user with more self service combined with automation.

Medicine has a constant need for new technologies and skills

Another job category that has grown rather than shrunk as a result of technology: licensed practical nurses, or LPNs. Many in the medical profession expected computerized medicine to eliminate LPNs, who were thought to lack the skills needed to run new, sophisticated machines. Instead, developments like lasers and advanced endoscopy made it possible to perform minimally invasive surgery at short-stay clinics, which have multiplied in the past three decades, creating jobs and raising wages for licensed practical nurses. “The effect of technology on jobs is simply more dynamic and more complicated than many people recognize,” Mr. Bessen writes.

Hyperloop one mile test track targets mid-2016 and hyperloop pod competition

SpaceX will construct a one-mile test track adjacent to their Hawthorne, California headquarters. They have invited teams will to test their human-scale pods during a competition weekend at the track, currently targeted for June 2016. The knowledge gained here will continue to be open-sourced.

The hyperloop test track will be 1-mile long, 6 feet in diameter and can have a 99.8% vacuum environment.

Hyperloop pod teams will be can select pressures from 0.02 psi (~99.8% vacuum) to 14.7 psi (pressure at sea level).

It will take between 15-30 minutes to pump the pressure down to 0.02 psi.

Hyperloop pod competition rules have been published.

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