Friday, May 25, 2012

The world is about to change, my friend.  Technology Review has confirmed something that I just did not does not create more jobs than it destroys.  Thomas Friedman lied!  Who can you trust? A few months back, I came across a great example - the Google Car.

I hope that you have seen the many Google car videos on Youtube.  The one on top of the parking garage is amazing.  They have also had two Google cars drive from Italy to Beijing with only one accident.  Think about that have to cross all of the "-stans"!  By the way, the single accident happened when they forgot to turn off the second car after turning off the first one.  So far, there have been no real accidents reported from the millions of miles driven by Google cars. The Google car now has a legal license to drive in Nevada.  They are coming.

Try to imagine what this world will be like when they are ubiquitous.  Everything that now involves a car will be replaced by a Google car.  Taxi?  Google car.  Truck driver?  Google car.  Trains will have the Google car technology as will planes (both of which kind of already do).  Everything that moves.  You no longer go grocery shopping because you have them place your order in your car which then drives back to you.  You no longer go to pick up and drop off your kids....they just jump in the Google car. You have your pizza delivered by Google car which then alerts you to its arrival.  I think a slight majority of cars will be empty not too far down the road.  

Every car in the city will be completely aware of all of the other cars. The route it will choose will be decided instantaneously. If your friend is coming over to hang out you can ask him how long it will take and the car will tell you 12 minutes and 54 seconds. (this does not account for the hundreds of new cars that will be joining traffic while you are in the middle of your commute but I am sure that instantaneous rerouting will mean minimal differences.  If I am in the middle of my commute to the museum and am expecting a 4 minute trip and you just get into your car and design a destination that cuts across my path my car will slow down a few miles per hour to adjust for the moment your car cuts across my path. I know that is a simple picture and it will not be that ideal but you get the idea) It will know that driver X across the city is planning on taking I-80 West in 3 minutes and 33 seconds and you can cut across his path 2 seconds before.  

There will be no more stop lights. Every car can go 100 miles an hour on freeways.  There will be no more traffic jams. Commute times will be drastically cut. 

Here is the best part.  I actually entered a future business idea contest (and was not accepted for it) based on this. There can now be near complete freedom in car design. I want to design a courier car that has a footprint of 2' x 4' and rises maybe 3'. It will just scoot around all of the other bigger cars as it delivers and picks up documents or small loads. Send that thing on its way and off it goes. It would have a subscription based fee program and there would be dozens running around town at any given time.  When something was needed those who subscribe would put in an order and immediately the car could predict within several seconds how long to deliver the item to you. 

Car sizes and shapes will begin to drastically change. Personally, I will have a bed in my car with mega tinted windows (you will not even need windows!). I will become uber productive. I suppose the real result will be that the car interior will turn into another room in the house - home office, bedroom, living room whatever.

The point is that millions of people will be out of a job. Obviously anyone that drives a car will be out. There will be many more too, though. There will be fewer glass windows in cars, fewer air conditioners (my courier cars will not need them), and far fewer mechanics (at least no collision repair shops).  Fewer accidents will mean fewer car purchases which will affect car dealerships and even auto manufacturers.  These adjustments will all be small on an individual level but taken as a whole it will be felt. This will affect a lot of sectors and cause a lot of unemployment.

So Google cars is just one example of how technology destroys more jobs than it creates.  I am not going to debate this. I know some people will not believe this and will have questions that seem to disprove it. I am neither smart enough nor informed enough to tackle that debate. I will just take Technology Review at their word.

Before I end this post, just for a second, imagine that it is clearly true....that technology creates a net loss of jobs.  That any job destruction has been hidden by the creation of silly jobs like masseuse. This is not a real job. (Do not be insulted!) We just have more wealth and can afford trivial things. I was an archaeologist for nearly ten years. It began to become ridiculous. We surveyed and recorded constructed material from 1960! (Anything older than 50 years is historic) Because we are soon going to have to record plastic bottles on the side of a dirt road I feel fine saying that my old job as an archaeologist is becoming a silly job. There are going to be many more. I just think that at some point (as we see in Greece) the number of silly jobs will grow so large that it will become unsustainable. We can not all have silly jobs and just hope that no one notices....imagine if we all worked for the government. It would eventually collapse.

O.K., I know I am not the first person to come to this conclusion...but capitalism can not persist in a world that is rapidly developing new technology. At some point the unemployment will become too high as technology destroys job. No one will be able to buy the new technology (or anything else) and capitalism will just collapse. If you check out, they have an article that suggests that corporations will be the natural enemy of technology and the singularity.  That is because technology destroys jobs and therefore capitalism.

I guess that we will see. But I am pretty sure that things will not keep going the way that they are. This is the reason I am trying my hardest to break the ol' get a job, work 40 hours for 40 years and retire scheme. I feel that I need to get rich (not awful rich, just comfortable rich) now. And no regular job will cut it. (I saw a bulldozer operator run a dozer for 10 straight hours, then climb out and go home. He was near retirement and when he did retire he was just gonna live a few years longer - he was not healthy - and then die. All for what? He spent most of his time in the cab of a dozer. I can not live a life where I see my office mate's face more than my wife's....but that is another post).

Anyway, think about it a bit. Technology is only going to become more and more disruptive. Who would have thought ten years ago that there would be no more car drivers? Look at the rate of cell phone adoption and then smart phone adoption ( I think it is like 50% adoption rate in 12 years and 6 years respectively - this is not a well researched blog btw). You need to start planning ahead.

p.s. - I personally do not think that people just graduating from medical school will retire as doctors...there will be no more doctors is Watson and DaVinci have anything to do with it.

In summation - Disruption City, here we come!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I have NEVER seen an alien movie that I enjoyed.  Fill me in if there is one out there that can even remotely begin to describe how a true alien invasion would take place.  It even makes me angry, especially when it is Independence Day.  Let me explain what I mean.

Here is how the 'aliens take over Earth' movie should go.

1. The aliens will not show up, they send surrogates  (Ever see that movie? I really liked a lot of the ideas in it. Did you realize that our simplistic 21st century military is becoming nearly completely surrogates?

 "DARPA's goal when it opened the competition in 2004 was to encourage development of vehicles that could operate autonomously in war zones, meeting a congressional mandate that 30% of the military's vehicle fleet be robots by 2015."  

What will it mean to go to war when you just strap into a sun tan bed device and start shooting Taliban?  This whole idea definitely deserves it's own post.  Anyway, the aliens will have this idea down.  If they bother with us at all, they will clear everything off before they even get here with surrogates.  

2. It will happen in less than an hour......probably more like a handful of minutes.  There will be no emergency broadcasts.  Let me give a little perspective.  Do you remember in History class when they mentioned the French cavalry running up to the German tanks in the opening scenes of World War II?  The cavalry had just kind of stayed around from the War to End All Wars (World War I). Nobody really was thinking another horrendous war was around the corner. So the cavalry just kind of sat around.  When the tanks came they did not know what else to do so they sent the cavalry in.  A flesh and blood horse against a tank!  And when the trench battles began they were in a similar situation.....they literally had gangs of men charge the opposing line KNOWING they would all be mowed down.  Just brutal when an enemy gets that advantage before their opponent does.  Can you imagine that World War II technology against Civil War era armies?  There would be no chance! If Patton had to face off against Lee the war would wrap up in several months....tops.  (That is without the atom bomb)  

Now just try to picture our military in Afghanistan going against Lee or picture against Washington.  I do not doubt that 100 or 200 troops from today could decimate Washington's army, even the British army.  They would have the logistics, supply chain, materials, intelligence, weaponry, training and strategies that would let 100 men take out 1,000s of the enemy.  They would conquer the colonies in weeks.  How about our military against men with swords and long bows?  They would sit at a castle for a couple of hours, take it out and move on.  Plundering the castle would be the only thing that takes any time.  

Do you see where I am going?  These aliens would be so far ahead of us that their technology would wipe us out with only a thought - literally (more about this another day).

So it makes me puke when the plucky humans come up with some ingenious way to destroy the aliens.

3. They will never come to take us over in the first place.  Have you been reading the news lately?  We are finding earths left and right.  Do you remember those alien movies trying to come up with a reason to take us out?  There was 'using humans for food', there was the 'water is the most precious resource in the universe' crap.  There is nothing here that anyone with the ability to travel inter/intra - galactic space would bother with!

Carl Sagan's son, Nick, agrees with me

"Humans having any kind of sporting chance against hostile alien invaders armed with superior technology," Sagan said. "Good luck. If they're advanced enough to cross the enormous distances of interstellar space, they're advanced enough to wipe us out without breaking whatever in their physiology passes for a sweat. Why not just lob a few asteroids at us? How are we going to handle that? The conceit of plucky human underdogs triumphing at the end might make for feel-good popcorn movies but in reality there's just no 'there' there."

Here!  Here!

The purpose for aliens to bother coming her stopped making sense, so they started coming up with the 'aliens are like us, they are just violent' idea.  They crashed here. There was an intergalactic highway excuse too. But we should get over ourselves and admit that there is nothing here worth an alien's time (not that there will be such a thing as time...but that, too, is another post) unless it is beneficent in nature. A cultural exchange.

Keep this in mind too....if this earth has been around something like 5 billion years and you are going along with the Drake Equation that there is likely life out there, then on one of those similar planets, there would be one thing early on that advanced their progression rate just a bit so that they developed sentient life just 200 years earlier than us.  200 out of 5 billion.  Realistically it would much more likely be a few thousand years.  But even 200 years.  Those two hundred years will easily be so technologically potent that the before and after of those two centuries would look nothing alike. (this is Kurzweil's accelerating technology idea....again, another post).

So, to summarize, it will not happen.  If it did it would be over in minutes. We would never see an alien, only their surrogates.  That is why there are no real alien would be more like an alien invasion commercial.  Uh, maybe an alien invasion tweet.

Friday, May 18, 2012

To the Greeks Hubris was a definite "no no".  It pretty much meant the end of the line if you fell victim to it.  I, however, disagree.  Bill Gates (early version).  Donald Trump (late version). Bill Clinton (all of it). Sure a little Hubris makes someone into a douche.  But it also helps the rest of us quite a bit.  I mean Julius Hubris Caesar did not end things so well for himself, but he got the entire Western world organized.  This is the point.  Hubris can really help organize society and advance knowledge.  Hubris can be a great friend to the singularity.

So how does that fit with the greatest sin in Mormondom - pride?  If pride is enmity towards God, it must be a terrible thing.  If it is a terrible thing, than the fruit of such a thing can only be the same.  But if some of the fruit of Hubris is advancement.....hmmmmmm.  Perhaps this riddle is only answered by the admission that the advancement of the human race via technology and science is not inherently good.

Perhaps our 'Tower of Babel' will come crashing down and we all become confounded in our attempts to reach the singularity.  So I leave it to you.  As the posts are posted and the discussion becomes debate......are we only building our own Tower?  Will Babel fall?  Or is Heaven reachable by mortal men and his continual, unrelenting steady laying of brick after brick?