The Future Of Tech, Work, Education and Living Post COVID-19

This year’s COVID-19 pandemic has been highly disruptive in many areas of our lives. As I type this article, there have been statistically nearly 5.5 million cases and almost 350,000 deaths from this pandemic around the world. In addition to the toll this virus has taken on peoples’ lives, there have been grave economic ramifications. Many businesses and industries have been hit hard and as a consequence millions of people have either lost their jobs or have had to take a pay cut.

The unstoppable growth of the internet over the last 20 years has had a profound effect on our lives. It could already be said that we live in both the physical world and the virtual world. Yet during the lockdown period of the last several weeks, we have been spending considerably more time in the latter world. The growth of the internet has already had a noticeable effect on the physical high street as more people do their shopping online. Yet, the lockdown restrictions, at times, have given people no choice, but to buy almost all their groceries online thus increasing greatly the rate of e-commerce transactions. We have also been interacting much more with other people virtually, both for work and pleasure. And as educational institutions remain shut, or at least severely restricted, we have been doing a lot more learning online.

In an article I wrote back in 2017, I discussed new and emerging technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) and how they could change people lives, especially in the areas of education. As students are still currently unable to physically go to university and attend lectures, much of their courses and lectures are now online. In my 2017 article, I discussed how via VR technology one could be completely immersed in a setting and interact with it from anywhere with an internet connection. The education industry has long needed such a change. One of the biggest current problems facing young people is the unbelievably high costs of going to university. By the time they have graduated, they are saddled with staggering sums of debt. Yet I have long felt that it doesn’t always have to be that way and that given time, technology would soon provide a much needed solution to this issue. Even though I went to university and got my degree many years ago, I find that a lot of all the most recent knowledge I have gained has been via content online. I, of course, also supplement this knowledge with books in both physical and digital form. There is so much free and good quality educational content out there on the web. And I am also happy to pay for exceptional online resources too. Yet the total amount of money I pay is still far less than what I would pay going to universities, where tuition fees in the UK are currently still over £9k per year.

In an earlier article from 2016, I discuss how VR could potentially change all aspects of our lives, not just within the realms of education. During the lockdown period, the video communications app Zoom has taken off in a big way. Zoom has been the default option for not just video calls between family and friends, but also for remote working and playing. By the latter, I mean having a kind of ‘virtual night out’. Rather than physically going out to a bar or club with friends, Zoom has been used as a virtual platform for replicating a physical night out. VR and AR are both powerful emerging technologies and now is the perfect time for them to be harnessed to a greater level. Interacting via Zoom is still a 2D experience, yet VR and AR have the potential to make this a more immersive 3D experience. This would reduce the chasm greatly between the physical and virtual worlds.

There is no question that remote work will continue to grow and these new and emerging technologies will accelerate this growth. Yet will traditional office spaces be made completely redundant? It is tempting to go down this route and its currently all the rage to have the belief that this virus will make the traditional office space obsolete as an increasing number of workers find the option of remote work to be more appealing and perfectly feasible. To be clear, as I already stated, there is no doubt in my mind that remote/virtual work will grow, yet I think it’s at this stage too premature to say that the traditional physical office environment is dead. Even if technology develops exponentially, we are still, fundamentally, organic human beings and creatures of emotion more than logic. As long as we remain 100% organic human beings, we will still long for that human touch and physical interaction. I think to completely 100% forsake the physical world for the virtual world, we will need to physically merge with technology. I am with the futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil on his prediction for the coming Singularity in 2045 when Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be at the same level as human intelligence. This will be, arguably, the most significant event in human history and I will never bet against the infinite potential of AI. If software is currently eating the world, soon it will be AI. Yet as AI becomes further developed, the options for us to merge with technology will also arrive. AI, rather than posing an existential threat, I believe, will make our lives easier and more comfortable. What’s more, it will also enhance our lives and enable us to reach our fullest potential.

Going back to the topic of post COVID living, could the development of cities/urban spaces be affected? What if there was a growing trend whereby there was an increasing migration from cities to more rural areas? For some time, as technology improved – more specifically; internet speeds and bandwidth improved further – there has been already to a small degree such a trend. You can go and live in the remotest part of the country, but if you have access to a high speed internet connection over there, then you have full sophisticated access to the virtual world no different to that in a big city no matter how remote the physical environment may be. Yet will there ever be a complete deurbanisation type of migration where the physical location of people is much more fragmented? If such a migration were to happen in the near future and we are still 100% organic beings, we will be incredibly reliant on the virtual world and by extension the cell towers connected to our internet providers. Even if SpaceX, via its Starlink project, intends to beam super-fast satellite internet on all corners of the world in the next few years, for now we are still reliant on onshore cell towers as the source of the internet. This is quite a fragile situation, as any disruption to these cell towers disrupts the internet itself and thus a great chunk of our lives. We become instantly irritated with slow internet speeds let alone having no internet. It is amazing how dependent on the internet most of the world is. The cells towers providing the internet are powered by electricity and electricity is powered by energy from both renewable and non-renewable sources. In spite of all the technological advances since the first Industrial Revolution, we have still not found a permanent and workable solution to the long standing energy problem, that is, how do we generate an abundant and unlimited supply of energy for every corner of the world without having to tap into any non-renewable sources?

I sometimes feel that I overestimate the speed of technological development. Earlier in the last decade,  I thought that within the next few years (now), every household would have a 3D printer and the smartphone would be replaced by some form of smart-glasses with fully integrated and advanced VR and AR technologies. This has simply not happened. Even if these technologies may be available in some shape or form, we still use smartphones. The smartphones of today may be more sophisticated than the smartphones of just a few years ago, but they are still smartphones. Our interaction with the virtual world remains a 2-D experience. This is why I feel that in order for us to live completely in the virtual world with little to no living in the physical world, we have to adopt some form of transhumanism where our minds and bodies are fully integrated with technology.

Going back to the economic ramifications of the current COVID-19 pandemic, I wonder whether, at least in the short to medium term, the concept of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) may become more widely adopted? Already technology has been automating many menial and repetitive jobs that has resulted not only in vast swathes of people losing their jobs, but also in these same people being ‘left behind’ as technology marches on. This is a serious concern as such people become naturally angry and turn to political parties and figures who echo and amplify their frustrations rather than turn to transformative solutions. The virus has hit hard industries requiring a constant physical presence. Some of these industries that have been hit hard such as, for example, the physical high street retail industry, has long already been affected by the growth of the internet. This virus has almost been like the final nail in the coffin.

Technology never stands still and the number of people using the internet will only keep growing. If you look at the S&P 500 (the top 500 companies) you will see that the biggest companies today are all technology companies. My concern however is with the demise of all these low skilled repetitive jobs. Although I personally think that a lot of these jobs are time wasting jobs (and time is an increasingly scarce and valuable asset), which offer no spiritual or intellectual nourishment, many people are employed in such jobs and depend on the income for their survival. If such jobs disappeared on an even greater scale and the people employed in these jobs had little or few alternative skills for other jobs, how will they survive? I hear a lot of emphasis on ‘learning to code’. Whilst computer programming is very useful and currently provides a lot of employment opportunities, who’s to say that such jobs also won’t get disrupted? Furthermore, why would anyone want to learn something purely for the ’employment opportunities’ it will bring? Surely one would learn computer programming, because there are interested and fascinated by it? Learning it just purely to make money seems very flawed and short sighted to me. If we want to continue to live in a capitalist economy then a Universal Basic Income may have to become more widely adopted. Otherwise the alternative is a socialist economy. I do in the long run, however, believe that we will enter a brand new kind of post-scarcity and post-work environment of abundance created by exponential technological innovations. This would transcend any economic model of the past. I wrote about this in greater depth in my article from last year entitled ‘THE TRUE SINGULARITY: A Universe Of Unlimited Abundance And Eternal Harmony’. This kind of vision for the future is also outlined very clearly in the excellent 2011 book by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler ‘Abundance’. Yet in order for this to become a closer reality, we also cannot take technological development for granted. One of the early internet pioneers and entrepreneurs, Marc Andreessen, wrote a recent article entitled ‘Its Time To Build’ talking about this. We cannot take innovation for granted and rest on the laurels of the technological advancements of the past. When the virus hit the world, we were unprepared. There was no available vaccine to protect us. Thus we had to adopt measures that have been very disruptive to our daily living. Several companies may currently be working on a cure and it could still be several more months before one is in place, but the point is there was no available permanent remedy at the time. Technology may have provided many vital solutions to long standing limitations, yet, as is currently clear, there are so many more limitations that require solutions. And it is only via continuing to innovate and build that we can ensure that these other limitations begging to be solved are solved.

 

By Nicholas Peart 

Published on 24th May 2020

(c)All Rights Reserved

 

Image: qimono

THE FURORE-ING TWENTIES: My Thoughts On The New Decade Ahead

guerrero-1838996_1920 (1)

As we leave the 2010s and head into a new decade, I naturally like to meditate on what the next ten years will have in store for the world. Approximately ten years ago to this day I was in Peru in the Andean town of Huaraz. Back then my eyes were not so open and I couldn’t see beyond my own little self-created bubble of rock n roll, existential literature and nomadic travelling. I had little to no understanding about global politics, technology and the financial system.

Predicting the future is hard enough. Very often, the predictions that turn out to come true are ridiculed from the start. If I were to say to a group of fellow travellers at some bar in Huaraz on New Years Eve 2009 that during the following decade Donald Trump would become president of the USA and that there would be a referendum in the UK where the UK would vote to leave the EU, they would have looked at me as if I had lost my mind.

What do I think will happen in the 2020s? I think it will be a very interesting decade where lots of changes will occur.

I will begin with the financial markets. As of now, many stock markets are at all time high levels. The 2010s has been an absolutely stellar decade for US stock markets, especially the NASDAQ. Back in 2009, towards the end of the financial crisis, the NASDAQ was trading below 1500 points. Today, it’s close to hitting 9000 points. That’s a six-fold increase within the space of a decade. The question now of course is, will this rally continue or are markets in danger of crashing? When I try to make my own predictions, I like to also gauge what the general consensus is. On social and traditional media sites, there seems to be no shortage of videos and articles predicting that 2020 will be the year when markets are going to crash. With such an overwhelming consensus, I, naturally, have to re-evaluate my own thoughts and vision.

The important point is that for all of the 2010s since the 2007-9 financial crisis, interest rates have been at very low levels. In some countries they are now at negative levels. The consequence of this has been that since the 2008 Lehman Brothers collapse, total global debt levels have increased by almost 50% from $173 trillion to $255 trillion. This era of cheap money has played a large role in this decade long stock market boom. Instead of trying to predict when the next crash will occur, it may be better to predict when interest rates will finally return to more normal levels. My feeling is that this is not going to happen anytime soon and that interest rates will, at least in the short run, continue to fall even if they breach negative territory (as they already have in some countries). This will be bad news for trying to reduce the already gigantic levels of global debt. Debt will only just continue to increase and stock markets will continue to rise, until the moment when inflation will kick in, which will immediately trigger central banks to raise interest rates.

Throughout the 2010s, gold has never dipped below $1000 per troy ounce. It has always remained above that level. At the start of the millennium, 1 troy ounce of gold was trading between just $250-300. It was almost as if it were considered obsolete, a relic from another age. With hindsight one can shoot down in flames the UK’s former chancellor Gordon Brown for selling off half of the UKs gold reserves back in 2001 at such low prices. Yet at the time, gold just wasn’t on many people’s radars save for a small selection of far-sighted individuals. As the 2000s chugged on, the price of gold went on a phenomenal ascent breaching $1000. By the end of 2011, just 2-3 years after the financial crisis, the price of gold nearly hit $1900 an ounce . As of today, the price of gold is hovering around the $1500 an ounce mark.

Why does all this matter? It matters, because I believe in the 2020s precious metals will do very well due to the extraordinary circumstances we are facing with record levels of global debt, perpetually low/falling interest rates and stock markets showing no signs of slowing down. The ‘kicking the can down the road’ mantra can only go on for so long until eventually the music will have to be faced.

But it’s not just fragile economic circumstances that will contribute towards precious metals doing well. Political circumstances will also play their role. In continental Europe, populist governments will continue to rise as will government spending. The economic situation in several Eurozone countries remains very precarious and this could lead to the Eurozone facing a genuine existential crisis. There are vast financial imbalances between the major Eurozone countries. During the last Eurozone crisis at the start of the 2010s, the European Central Bank (ECB) was able to utilize monetary tools such as Quantitative Easing to stimulate flagging Eurozone economies thus saving the Eurozone. The question now is if the Eurozone were to face another such crisis, would the ECB this time be able to successfully avoid a disastrous situation? It is trickier now for two reasons. Firstly, the Eurozone is carrying much more debt than before. Many Eurozone banks also continue to remain in dire shape. Secondly, the discontent of citizens in Eurozone member counties and the rise of populist parties in these countries could only exacerbate and make worse any already fragile/vulnerable situations.

Another thing that will be interesting to see is how the whole Brexit saga is going to play out in the coming months. What kind of a trade deal will be negotiated between the UK and the European Union? Will there even be a deal? If the UK were to leave the EU completely with no deal, it’s likely that the burden of keeping the EU together (and contributing more money towards it to keep it going) would fall increasingly more on Germany and to a lesser degree on France. This would put the entire future of the EU project in a very difficult position, especially if the German economy were to fall into a recession due to factors such as additional tariffs on the bulk of its exports as well as the very real prospect of a substantial government bailout to save two of the country’s largest banks; Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank.

It pains me to say that the 2020s could very well see the first stages of the Eurozone being dismantled followed by the EU itself. I am praying that such a situation doesn’t happen, but I feel this may unfortunately become a reality. A breakup of the EU could lead to Russia gaining much more dominance in the region with some former EU countries forging stronger ties with Russia. At the same time, I can also foresee some of the southern European Eurozone countries, especially Italy and Spain (which, like Germany, also have large manufacturing industries), experiencing multi-year long economic booms once they have their own currency (which they will be able to devalue and thus re-gain their economic competitive advantage). Whilst the German economy benefited greatly from adopting the Euro currency, the Euro hurt the economic competitiveness of other major Eurozone countries such as Italy, Spain and to a lesser degree even France.

One of my boldest and most off-the-wall predictions would be to say that the USA will experience a taste of some kind of socialism at some point in the 2020s. I feel there’s a high probability that, as unlikely as it may currently seem with the impeachment inquiry hanging over him, Trump will manage to secure a second term in power in 2020. However, his second term will be more challenging than his first. It is also highly likely that the long-awaited stock market crash that everyone is predicting will happen at some point during his second term. And when it does occur it will be very painful and cause another economic recession. In the wake of this, it is possible that many of Trump’s most loyal supporters begin to turn against him. By the time of the 2024 elections in the USA, I think the Democrat party will have moved more to the left just as has happened with the Labour Party in the UK over the last few years. By the time of the 2024 US elections, I envisage the Democrats winning the election with a barely tested transformational socialist agenda. By 2024, many of Trump’s traditional Midwest supporter base, who will have felt let down and failed by him, will opt for any kind of new change regardless of the consequences.

Any kind of future socialism though will likely not be like the socialism of the past, but more a kind of technological socialism. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the internet didn’t even exist, and it was possible to easily control information. The world was a much larger place. A future kind of socialism could be one where technology is so advanced that everyone’s most basic needs are all provided for and there is no need to perform any repetitive jobs or tasks. Technological socialism within the paradigm of a post-work or post-scarcity society. However, this kind of a vision is still some way off.

The truth is, in the coming years ahead, one is likely to witness an increasing number of savvy and hyper aware Millennial and younger Gen Z politicians come to the fore, who will want to change the rules. In the United States, the politician Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is a prelude and prime example of those next generation politicians who will eventually rise to prominent positions of power.

The 2020s will be a decade of exponential technological progress. The implementation of 5G networks will be crucial and integral towards the development of the so-called Internet Of Things, where every electronic device – be it your electronic household devices, street lights, transportation vehicles etc – is connected to the internet. Once this has been further developed, the transition from Smartphones to Smartglasses with enhanced Augmented Reality capabilities will become more of a reality and I predict this transition will begin to bear fruit from around the mid to end part of the 2020s.

In one of my very first blog posts back in 2016, I made a moonshot prediction that by the beginning of the 2020s, every household would have a 3D printer. It seems that I got that prediction horribly wrong. Back in 2013/14 there was quite a bit of hype around 3D printing and how it would revolutionise manufacturing. I am still a big believer in 3D/4D printing or however one wishes to call it. Such a technology makes it possible for anyone to print any physical thing no matter where in the world they may be.

The 2020s will also be a decade to watch regarding the development of Space Exploration and Sustainable/Renewable Energy. Elon Musk is at the fore of those developments with his companies Tesla and SpaceX. Most people who are aware of Tesla view it as a company that sells high priced electric vehicles. Yet the mission of Tesla is to transition the world away from fossil fuels. The building of its giga-factories in various locations around the world will enable Tesla to develop a level of scale to successfully achieve its mission. In many financial circles, lots of investors and analysts have been predicting that Tesla will go to zero. Lots of people have been betting against Elon Musk. However, I feel that such a move is unwise. I believe that Tesla will ultimately succeed in its mission and will become a very valuable and important company.

The 2020s will also see quite a lot of activity from Musk’s other company SpaceX. I think that SpaceX will lead the way in the nascent space industry and be responsible for dramatically reducing the costs of space exploration. The last part is very important as its currently prohibitively expensive to launch even just a satellite into space. Hence that’s why there are not many players operating in this industry due to high costs and high barriers to entry. In the 2020s, we are likely to see via SpaceX, the greatest accomplishments in the space industry since 1969 when the first person landed on the moon. The mission of SpaceX’s Starship rocket is to transport people to Mars and create a permanent human colony there. Using ground-breaking bioengineering innovations, the goal is to turn Mars into a planet similar to Earth (via the process of ‘terraforming’), with a climate and atmosphere containing vegetation and oceans and the right temperature and levels of oxygen for living organisms to flourish. Although all this is highly unlikely to occur as early as the 2020s, the next decade may well see the beginnings of the initial stages of such a mission coming into fruition.

However, one SpaceX project to keep an eye on in the near future is Starlink. This project involves sending lots of satellites into low orbit to beam down high-speed internet on all corners of the world, event the most remote corners. The last point is very important. Even though billions of people are already connected to the internet, there are billions of people living in remote and undeveloped parts of the world with no access to it. Currently, almost all of our wi-fi and telecommunications networks come from land-based cell towers. A mass adoption of super strong satellite beaming internet would be a real game-changer in the next level of network/internet connectivity, as it has the potential to enable everyone in all corners of the world to have access to a high-speed internet connection.

It will be interesting to also see how cryptocurrencies/blockchain technology will evolve in the 2020s. Lots of people invest in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin hoping that the price will go higher, yet what does the future hold for cryptocurrencies? My greatest fear is that increasing government regulation will affect the development and performance of the main cryptocurrencies. In an article from earlier this year, I wrote about certain cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and Zcash acting as a store of value. Many people also tout Bitcoin as a form of digital gold and some even say that it will disrupt physical gold as a store of value. I fear that such a situation is unlikely to occur and that Bitcoin will likely never again see the highs it witnessed at the end of 2017.

Privacy coins, especially Monero, have long been a thorn in the side of governments around the world. Of all the privacy coins, the one I am keen to watch is Zcash (where privacy is just an option – transactions can be shielded or unshielded), especially since I think it is currently fundamentally undervalued compared to other privacy coins. Furthermore, the other advantage it has is that, unlike many other cryptocurrencies, it was created by professional academic cryptographers.

The underlying blockchain technology itself will continue to evolve, and I can see further development of so called ‘stablecoins’ (which are not prone to fluctuate madly in value) becoming more widely adopted. One project I am interested to see manifest is Facebook’s own digital Libra currency. Facebook has the unique advantage of unbelievable network effects with over 2.4 billion users from around the world. So, Facebook simply introducing its own digital currency, means at least a third of the world’s total population potentially using it. This could be a huge benefit for Facebook users in countries with unstable currencies. However, I fear that the implementation of Facebook’s Libra currency will be met with lots of opposition from governments around the world who may fear that it will pose a threat to the stability and performance of their very own national currencies.

In fact, there is a big chance that at some point during the next decade both Facebook and Google/Alphabet will face even higher amounts of regulation by governments around the world with the very real possibility of both these companies eventually being broken up. This kind of regulation as well as the more extreme break-up threats will likely begin to kick off in a big way in Europe and could further manifest in the USA itself if a left-wing Democrat party politician (with an anti-billionaire, anti-Big Tech agenda) where to come to power in the 2024 elections in the USA. However, taking an axe to both Facebook and Google could also have the effect of further empowering their Chinese rivals, Tencent and Baidu. It could well be that Facebook and Google’s loss become Tencent’s and Baidu’s gain.

So, these are my thoughts for the coming new decade. Reading them over again, they can seem to oscillate wildly from overly pessimistic to naively optimistic with scant middle ground. When writing these predictions, I tried very hard to overcome any well ingrained cognitive biases by envisaging potential events that could likely occur even if I don’t want them to happen and/or they are against my beliefs and values. In a sense, this is also a kind of experiment and I expect to get several of my predictions completely wrong. Yet I feel that the unexpected black swan events we all witnessed throughout the 2010s will continue into the 2020s taking many by surprise.

 

By Nicholas Peart

27th December 2019

©All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

SOURCES/FURTHER READING

https://mises.org/wire/150-years-bank-credit-expansion-nearing-its-end

https://www.ccn.com/edward-snowden-zcash-interesting-bitcoin-alternative/

 

Image: aitorvz

 

 

THE TRUE SINGULARITY: A Universe Of Unlimited Abundance And Eternal Harmony

background-1462755_1920

The Singularity is a term referring to the point when Artificial Intelligence (or more specifically Artificial General Intelligence) will be at the same level as human intelligence. I feel that the term is often misunderstood and many people find the prospect of this dystopian and dehumanising. Technology has already changed our lives in unprecedented ways. When I think of technology, I don’t just think of hardware or software. For me, technology means problem solving or finding a much needed solution to a glaring limitation. When seen through this lens, it is clear that technology enhances and assists our lives. The world is much more connected then ever before and we have many applications (most of which are free) at our disposal to help us save time and money.

The beginnings of the first industrial revolution in the 18th century, via the inventions of the steam engine, spinning jenny and power loom, dramatically reduced the number of hours traditional labourers worked. This period was an unprecedented gamechanger in the evolution of humanity. Then the invention of the railroad, the development of an advanced network of roads, the move from the horse and cart to the automobile, the invention of electricity and the lightbulb negating the need for candles and oil lamps, the invention of the aeroplane, the invention of the radio and the telephone, and then the television and later the internet; the invention of all these things created solutions, made our lives easier, saved everyone time and money and enhanced the connectivity of the world.

For some, the Singularity is solely based around this concept of AI matching human levels of intelligence and the potential end of the human race. What many forget to understand are all the benefits of AI. Instead of this doom and gloom future, I see the continued development and enhancement of AI contributing to a more prosperous and peaceful world. I believe that technology via AI will make all jobs obsolete. A Post-Work society is unavoidable. Many people worry about such a situation and its perfectly understandable. Yet they are worrying about it from the limited paradigm of our current economic model of global capitalism. Lets try to view the bigger picture. What if technology became so advanced that it were to, by default, make economics and money obsolete? In a world where nothing is exclusive and all physical goods and services are unlimited and at zero cost, since technologies such as 3D/4D Printing, AI and data creation and mining, Nanotechnology, Genetic Engineering and Robotics would have contributed towards making such a world like this a reality.

In today’s world, most people’s primary worries are economic. Followed by their physical and emotional wellbeing. Followed by their hopes, dreams, desires and ambitions. A world of an unlimited abundance of everything at no cost would take care of our economic worries. A common worry of such a post-work Singularity future is how a lot of people who always had jobs would begin to develop serious psychological problems since much of their identity was always traditionally defined by their job. Yet when I envisage the Singularity and super advanced AI, I also believe that by that time every single cell in the body of each one of us will be completely understood at the most minute level. Each one of our bodies will be like smart data machines with highly advanced algorithms continually keeping track of the entire physical and emotional health of our body, and enabling us to maintain perfect optimum health via the nano-signalling and detection of decaying cells and any irregular and abnormal behaviour in our nervous system. Nobody would ever become ill or develop serious illnesses such as cancer. Our bodies will be merged and upgraded with technology. The latest AI developments will be merged in our own bodies. Everyone will be a SMART hyperconnected entity. And I would even go as far as saying that this would negate the need to eat, drink, sleep, experience temperature fluctuations or fatigue. Our consciousness and memory would be preserved, stored and enhanced. Yet all the limitations and shortcomings of our physical sensations would be transcended by technology. This technology won’t numb us or kill our empathy (I would even argue that it will augment our empathy and consciousness in unprecedented ways), but it will protect us from many mental health issues, which currently affect so many people around the world. Mental health will cease to be invisible as it is today and will be just as clear as our physical health. There will be no chasm between the two. 

Furthermore technology extends to providing solutions to bigger issues, beyond paving the way for transhumanism and a post-work and post-capitalist society. Climate change and global environmental pollution (such as air, land and sea pollution) can all be reversed by technology. Technology has the power to eradicate all the plastic and polluting debris in our oceans. Technology has the power to purify the air in large cities. Dare I say technology even has the power to replenish and restore the environmental balance of the world.  One day technology will enable humanity to be an interplanetary and intergalactic species.

In short, technology has the power to create solutions to all our current problems we experience today. It is easy to be cynical and look at how technology can also be destructive but if we are looking at technology in all its totality in providing solutions to all the most pressing struggles and limitations faced by many, then a post-work, post-scarcity, limitless, prosperous, and a perfectly level and peaceful world is more than achievable.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved 

 

Image: acekreations

Could LockTrip Disrupt Airbnb And Booking.com?

Locktrip

We are living in a world where things are changing very fast. Not that long ago, Airbnb was a little known peer to peer booking platform for accommodation. Today it is used by millions and has revolutionised the accommodation industry.

As convenient a service as it is, it is a middleman service business, which takes a commission on each booking from both the host’s and customer’s end. It is an internet business yet it’s model is centralised.

This is where Locktrip comes into play. Locktrip is a little known decentralised booking ecosystem platform for renting hotel rooms, property and all kinds of accommodation. The entire accommodation industry is a huge $500billion industry. Already Airbnb has had a huge effect on this industry in the process becoming a business valued in excess of $30billion and not owning a single property. It is a very clever business model making all its money via all the commissions it earns from all its bookings.

The reason why Locktrip has such disruptive potential is, because it offers all the services the likes of Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia.com etc offer without taking any fees from both parties. It is a decentralised platform with no middleman. It is a pure peer to peer platform between both the host and the customer with no centralised middle entity in the mix.

The technology it employs to make this work is blockchain technology, which is what the likes of Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin are built on. Bitcoin is the world’s first digital currency created almost ten years ago and has had a very big impact on the world of money by enabling people to bypass global financial institutions to make payments.

LockTrip is also a cryptocurrency with its own supply of tokens. Yet whereas Bitcoin is just for payment transactions, LockTrip offers a ground-breaking service platform in the world of accommodation as well as other kinds of travel and cultural experiences. Once more hotels, guesthouses and other hosts register their services on LockTrip and more people also register themselves on LockTrip, the other current centralised commission-charging internet accommodation services will find their users diminishing. It is still early days and this is a very new concept. It will take time. Furthermore, a better decentralised version of LockTrip could also come on the scene even though LockTrip is an early mover in this field.

It is all very exciting and I will continue to monitor its progress

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

 

FURTHER READING:

LockTrip website

LockTrip whitepaper

 

Are People Wrong About Snapchat?

snapchat-logo

Snapchat has had a torrid year so far. If one were to look at the company purely within the paradigm of its financial fundamentals there is a lot to be concerned about. There is also the risk that the company runs out of money and ceases to be a going concern. One cannot rule out this likely outcome. It’s current share price certainly reflects the very bearish sentiment many have towards the company. At one point the share price recently went below $6 a share. When the company went public last year, the initial public offering price was at $17 a share. Back then the sentiment of the general public towards the company was different. There was such a frenzy around the IPO at the time that the price duly rocketed above $25 a share. Since the beginning of this year though the share price has been on a downward trajectory.

It has been the victim of a number of mishaps such as an unpopular app redesign, key influencers leaving the platform, and even, since quite recently, the number of total users slowly dropping. One of the most damaging things to happen to the company though was Instagram copying it’s key ‘Stories’ feature.

The Facebook Group is an enormous global digital media juggernaut consisting of the Facebook platform, Instagram and WhatsApp as its primary platforms. Snap is a mere minion by comparison. This is a true battle between David and Goliath. Snapchat owns just a sling and a stone whereas the Facebook Empire has Kalashnikovs, WOMDs and other state of the art weapons. On the face of it, Snap doesn’t stand a chance. Or does it?

One thing that does stand out about Snap is that it is designed and created in such a way to be the communication platform of the future. For ten years, smartphones have come to dominate our lives and they still do. But what is the next step? I am tempted to go in the direction of Smart Glasses and Augmented Reality. Google tested the waters with this earlier this decade with their Google Glass product, but it was too ahead of its time and people weren’t ready for it. The biggest misconception about Snapchat is that it is a social media company. It is not. It is a camera app.

Both Facebook and Instagram are designed in a way that is made for the smartphone. Of course people share photos and videos, but they also share written text and messages. The other social media platform Twitter, is purely text-based and relies on the keyboard on your smartphone. Snapchat, on the other hand, is made in a way that can bypass the keyboard and the smartphone. It’s Snapchat Spectacles product enables one to record videos completely bypassing the smartphone. It already has lenses that react to sounds yet earlier in August it launched lenses with speech recognition capabilities. Snapchat is often ridiculed in the media as a platform that is ‘frivolous’ (and Facebook isn’t?) and only used by fickle people. Yet when it comes to technological innovation, it is ahead of Facebook and with far less leverage at its disposal. It would be deliciously ironic if the people who are ridiculing Snapchat today begin to adopt it like everyone else in the event of a massive turnaround in the company’s fortunes. Consensus views can always radically change.

Snapchat may currently be down in the dumps on the surface, yet there is a lot going on behind the scenes that we are not privy to. You can write off Snapchat all you want today, but don’t be surprise in the event that you find yourself with a different point of view a few years from now.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

Solutions Solutions Solutions

light-bulb-2010022_1920

There are many problems and challenges facing the world and no shortage of writers and journalists in the media who are only too willing to heighten our awareness of all these issues. What there is a shortage of though, are individuals finding solutions to all these issues.

Talk is cheap. Withering, junk-food grade criticism is even cheaper. I am forever bored of writing that amplifies the problems of the world without shedding at least a mere pinhole of light and solutions to these problems. This is one of the reasons why I am turned on by hearing and learning about new and emerging technologies, because more often than not they provide solutions to most of these problems. They also enable me to foresee a future that is not as dire as what is often projected in much of the media.

For example, a very real and pressing social issue in the UK is the underfunding of the National Health Service and the uncertain future it currently faces. This is a huge concern as private healthcare can be very expensive and not everyone can afford it. This is especially true across the pond in the USA, where healthcare is notoriously costly. The biggest solution I see to making healthcare cheaper, more abundant and available is the further development of new and emerging technologies. Many fear the rise of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. But the development of both these two technologies will bring unprecedented benefits in the race to making healthcare not only more affordable (or even almost free) but more advanced too. Imagine robotic surgeons much more advanced than human surgeons – they don’t get nervous or stressed, they can analyze the entire human body at the molecular level and perform surgeries with nano precision. Already robotic surgery devices exist yet the scope for further development is limitless. Nanotechnology will play a very important role in understanding the entire body at the celular level and will be revolutionary in enabling everyone to maintain optimum health at all times without any viruses and damaged cells occurring. And all this can be managed via a digital application or chip without intervention from a finite supply of human doctors. I could go on but it is solutions like these to a current and real crisis that give hope and enable one to re-evaluate their hard wired negative perceptions of a situation.

Worried about the rising costs of education? Virtual Reality will be a huge game changer. This will be an enormous boon in parts of the world where there is a limited supply of teachers. With VR you won’t even need to physically step into a bricks and mortar learning institution.

There are many parts of the world, which lack enough of the right type of land to grow crops. Vertical farming is one of the potential solutions especially at the aeroponic level where crops can be grown simply via the nutrients in the air. It is still a technology that is very much in its infancy yet would reduce global hunger levels dramatically once it gets to a stage where it is much more advanced.

These are just a few solutions. I am no engineer, scientist or inventor, but knowing that these are very real solutions with the capacity to eradicate many of the most pressing global problems fills me with hope and optimism for the future. It sure beats being constantly fed the broken-record narrative in much of the news about how awful things are and that they are only going to get worse.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

Solutions In The Age Of Job Security Decline

IMG_0790

This is an unpublished piece I wrote back in May 2017

Today we are living during an extraordinary time where technology is advancing at an exponential pace. The growth of the internet and powerful emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence are disrupting industries and jobs that were once considered safe. It seems to me that the traditional Industrial Age job seeker 9-5 modal of working and job security are in decline. Replacing this is the rise of the precarious gig economy of job scraps with zero hour contracts.

Any job where the work is repetitive and/or is work where there are patterns in the tasks is most certainly at risk from potential automation. In fact the whole notion of ‘a job’ is changing. Restricting yourself to the mindset of solely looking for work is restricting yourself to a periodically shrinking pool of increasingly scarce opportunities. On the other hand, if you can move away from the mindset of a job seeker to one of a job creator or entrepreneur than you have already prepared yourself. That is the new job security.

 

Solutions for Workers in low paid Unskilled Jobs

Low paid jobs such retail and bank clerk jobs, cleaning jobs, transportation driver jobs, factory workers and all kinds of call centre and admin work etc are the most at risk from automation. In fact many of the jobs in these industries have already been automated. It is important that people in these jobs take a moment to retreat and try to understand a bit more about themselves. What are your interests and passions? What inspires you? If you have a passion, say for example, for cooking or gardening, you could start a blog and connect with people and impart some unique and sought after tips and extend this into offering a paid service like cooking or gardening classes/workshops. There are also more potential revenue streams like providing advertising space on your website especially if you have lots of subscribers and followers. You could also focus on a more specialised form of something that you are passionate about which would make you stand out if the market of the area you are focusing on is overly saturated.

 

Solutions for Professionals

Professionals in the medical, legal and financial services require more skills than people in low paid unskilled work yet it does not mean that their jobs are not immune from the potential threat of automation. As I already mentioned, it is important to understand and know what interests and inspires you as it can potentially be translated into a successful online business or project. Alternatively, if you are, for example, a lawyer working for a large law firm and you want to remain in the industry, you could start your own online law business in an area of law you are most interested in. In a way, AI will be very beneficial to the legal industry since super intelligent deep learning systems will be able to (and already are to a degree) crunch through reams of dry data and documents in far less time than a human can. This will have the added benefit of freeing up more time to work on more cases and more interesting aspects of law. Furthermore, all these new technologies will make running your own business easier, saving you both time and money.

 

Solutions for Creatives

If you are an artist, musician, writer or fashion designer etc, the most important thing is finding and connecting with your biggest and most loyal fans since they are the ones who will always willingly fund what you do whenever you try to sell your products and services. With the rapid growth of the internet and social network sites this is easier to do than ever before. All this enables creatives to potentially bypass middle agents and deal directly with their fans, meaning all profits go directly to you without any middle people taking a cut. Twitter is an indispensable social networking site for constantly networking, connecting and keeping your fans up to date with all your developments. Instagram was made for creatives and is a very powerful platform to network and showcase your uniqueness.

If you are a creative that is shy and feels uncomfortable with networking and are inexperienced in the business side of things then my advice is to find a trustworthy and experienced manager to do all the networking, promoting, funding and sales on your behalf in exchange for an agreed percentage of your net revenues.

It is very important that you are constantly connecting with your fans and making them feel a part of your creative journey, since if you ever wanted to raise funds for your projects via crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter, you will stand a higher chance of reaching your financial targets.

 

By Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved

A World Where Everybody Is An Entrepreneur Doing Something They Love

IMG_0545

This is an article I originally posted on Elixtacy on July 10th 2017

 

We are currently living in a time of great technological transformations. The internet has created enormous opportunities for individuals, entrepreneurs and businesses. The most clear game changer with the internet is the direct peer to peer contact it offers with all kinds of people from all around the world. It creates a fabulous opportunity to develop an online business or project in something you truly love and enjoy. In the process, you get to directly connect with many different people finding potential fans and clients who appreciate, love and value what you are doing.

 

Moving away from old Industrial Age model jobs

Currently many people are still stuck in Industrial Age jobs. These jobs are often of a repetitive nature even if, for now, they may provide a stable income and job security. And it could be argued that many people who do these kind of jobs don’t enjoy them (even if they may pretend that they do) and do them purely for the money. Yet these are the jobs most at risk from automation. These are not just jobs in the retail, manufacturing, construction, transport and basic service industries but also high skilled jobs in the legal, financial and, ironically, even tech industries (there will come a time when AI will be able to do most of the programming/data analysing jobs and create better software than humans can).

 

Tapping into your creativity 100%

When the above scenario occurs, instead of the dystopian reality that many predict, people will have a great opportunity to develop a business or project doing something they truly love. They will be using their creativity 100%. They will have to. They will have no other choice. It will be the most important “commodity” we have to offer. The alternative option is to be part of a society of “useless people” (a most disempowering term) who constantly lament about how they used to have a solid job and no longer have it due to automation. These are people who sadly haven’t tapped into their creative resources and the immense power within themselves. Instead they fail to change/adapt and are constantly stuck in the past. A very sad state of affairs but it doesn’t have to be like this!

 

The importance of using your initiative

In our current society only a small segment of the population use their initiative. Most people are crippled by fear, anxiety and low levels of self esteem to take the initiative to start their own business or project. They are more comfortable applying for a limited and dwindling supply of jobs. But one day in the future everyone may be forced to use their initiative. Yet it will be by utilising their creative gifts to their fullest capacity. After automation has made obsolete many jobs in existence our creativity will be king and the entire global economy will be full of individual entrepreneurs and startups all utilising their creativity and operating in something they love, which even benefits and contributes to society in a meaningful way. It will be a truly pure and direct sharing economy of people interacting and transacting with their unique services.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

How Artificial Intelligence Can Be Your Friend

IMG_6528

This is an article I originally posted on Elixtacy on July 25th 2017. I have edited the original article.

 

Much has been said about artificial intelligence or AI. Often people have talked about AI in a very fearful way as something with catastrophic and apocalyptic consequences. Even highly regarded people like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawkings have warned of the potential dangers when AI becomes highly developed and sophisticated. There is no question that AI will develop exponentially and become an enormous industry. It will greatly augment other industries and increase their productivity in unprecedented ways.

 

What about when AI becomes more sophisticated than humans?

One of the hot topics surrounding AI and the main cause of most people’s concern is, what happens when AI becomes more sophisticated than humans? Most people view such a situation as a threat to humanity and there are perfectly legitimate and rational arguments as to how AI can be a real danger to the human race. But let’s look at AI and it’s potential in a more exciting and positive way. This is a technology, which has the power to change our lives and make our lives better and less gruelling. Already there exists different kinds of AI such as the electronic calculator, speech and image recognition, or the algorithms designed for automatic language translation, spelling and grammar corrections, and the ones tech goliaths Facebook, Google and Amazon use to create our daily news feeds and recommendations respectively etc. The Siri function on your Apple iPhone (or Amazon’s Alexa) is a very embryonic form of the ‘virtual assistant’ type of AI, which will grow and develop at an exponential rate. At some point in the future this kind of AI bot will be your 24/7 multi task virtual assistant, which you’ll be able to have intelligent two way conversations with about virtually (no pun intended!) anything. Based on all your digital data and spoken words, it will help you make all your decisions for you. This virtual assistant bot will help you with all kinds of issues whether they are legal and financial queries, relationship problems and generally try to help you to organise your life and make it more efficient and productive. A SMART Life! In some ways, it could be said that the future of the traditional Google Search engine, where you type what you are looking for, is ‘voice search’. Existing and continually developing search engine algorithms incorporating increasingly sophisticated speech recognition functions will develop into super smart virtual assistants where all quieries are answered and specific links and information to those quieries is provided through the already substantial amount of data and content on the net.

 

Job automation

People fear that AI will speed up the process of job automation and eventually make all jobs obsolete. This will happen yet it will happen to all Industrial Age, repetitive jobs with little to no creativity. Instead of being fearful, people should be happy. I mean do people enjoy repetitive, humdrum and uninspiring jobs? In our current culture there is this incomprehensible and irrational obsession with work; but work of an often soul destroying kind and not work that people enjoy and which can benefit and change society. AI will eventually automate all forms of repetitive and uncreative work and in the future people will be working far fewer hours.

 

A Post-Work society and why our creativity and ideas will be king

AI in the distant future will lead to a type of Post-Work society. Yet in these times people will be finally free from monotonous work and will likely be engaging and harnessing their creativity and ideas in doing something they love. Rather than being a threat, AI will be an indispensable and invaluable resource, which will augment, complement and greatly benefit our levels of creativity and ideas and help us to realise with the best results whatever we want to achieve. AI will greatly enhance our creativity and generation of ideas and help us to tap into them in unimaginable ways. And best of all, it will all most likely be free. No need to set aside money for expensive lawyers, financial advisors, planners and accountants. Or even software developers and digital data analysts and marketers. AI will be able to serve you in all these areas at no cost.

 

By Nicholas Peart

(c)All Rights Reserved

Low (to no) cost high strength satellite internet for every corner of the world

IMG_0759

Ever wondered if there would come a time when every corner of the planet, both on and off land, would be connected to the internet? Elon Musk wants to do just that via a satellite internet network called Starlink as part of his ambitious Space X project (founded in 2002 to further develop space technology and create the conditions for people to live on other planets). Musk plans on launching a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband “constellation” of satellites, which would beam down high speed internet to every part of the globe. Space X is scheduled to start launching these satellites potentially in 2019 and hopes to have all the satellites in orbit and everything complete by 2024.

Musk’s project is not a brand new thing. A 1990s company called Teledesic along with two other companies, Iridium and Globalstar, tried to build a commercial broadband satellite constellation. Yet these companies didn’t succeed and Teledesic suspended its satellite construction work in October 2002. These companies were maybe too ahead of their time, but with the expansion of the space industry over time as well as the advancement of space technology development as more money continues to be invested in it, Musk’s Starlink satellite constellation has a higher chance of succeeding.

 

The end of cell tower network telecommunications companies?

Over half of the world’s population has internet access and some device to access the internet with, most commonly a smartphone. Yet most people still rely on assorted telecommunications companies to call and connect to the net. Telecommunications companies are still needed as long as their are landline connections, but with the world constantly becoming increasingly mobile and with so many people completely bypassing landlines for smartphones (especially in developing parts of the world where it’s cheaper to buy an inexpensive smartphone or dirt cheap cell phone than install a landline), the services provided by traditional telecommunications companies could potentially be bypassed if Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet project really does take off (no pun intended). For now we need these telecom companies as they still provide us with the essential connectivity infrastructure, yet unless they match or better Elon Musk’s ambitious satellite plans, they could encounter huge challenges. Free public internet in assorted public spaces via normal on the ground cell towers is always increasing across the world. Fast developing countries such as India already have free internet in many railway stations across the country (thanks to Google).

 

Wi Fi from balloons and drones

Google and Facebook both tried to solve the challenge of internet for the entire world. Google tried this via their Project Loon project (“cell towers in the sky”) which via mobile cell towers connected to hot air balloons they tried to connect remote parts of the world to the net. However the problem was that sometimes the balloons would not last in the sky and would soon come crashing down to earth. Facebook tried to solve this via internet powered drones flying above parts of the world lacking internet infrastructure. SpaceX’s project seems the most ambitious yet in solving this challenge.

 

No need for multiple networks and SIM cards to provide your roaming

If every part of the world is connected to the internet via Space X there could be potentially almost no need to use the services of traditional telecommunications companies (This is, of course, not only dependent on Spacelink succeeding, but on decreasing costs of sending satellites into space). It is always a pain to change SIM cards whenever travelling to a different part of the globe. Even if there are a clutch of competing online telecom startups offering SIM cards that can be used in almost every country and traditional telecom companies are offering services where existing national SIM cards can be used in many other countries (though often at high costs), it is still a rather cumbersome way of connecting the world when one considers all the future possibilities. Sending satellites into space may currently be vastly expensive but as more companies tap into the very nascent space industry and the technology to explore and enter space improves and becomes cheaper and safer, costs for satellite powered internet will go down dramatically. Hopefully Musk’s ambitious project will set a new bar for others to follow suit and maybe even match or better what he is doing.

 

The end of mobile numbers for instant connectivity

With access to a super fast public internet connection wherever you go in every part of the world, there is no need to even have your own mobile number (even if online video/messenger services like WhatsApp still require it – for now) and anyone from any part of the world can instantly connect to each other. This provides the ultimate instant connectivity transcending all networks and other connectivity services. I suppose with Facebook being the social media site with the highest number of users at close to almost two billion, it’s Messenger service is the closest thing for over 25% of the world to instantly connect and communicate with one another without a mobile number and only an internet connection.

In the wake of this it is crazy to think that for far too long we have relied on a plethera of large global telecommunications to provide us with our daily connections. Of course at this moment, the infrastructure provided by these telecommunications companies are still vital for our daily connectivity and on-the-go roaming. Yet Space X’s Starlink satellite project has the power to revolutionise the way we all connect if most if not all of the world has a state of the art internet connection. Having the entire world connected to the internet you have the quintessential Smart World of every corner of the world connected to the net. What’s more there’s a parity in terms of connection with everywhere having an equally super fast connection. This also has the potential to dramatically speed up the development of developing/undeveloped nations.

 

By Nicholas Peart

©All Rights Reserved

 

Other useful links…

https://edgylabs.com/spacex-satellite-network-soon-to-be-named-starlink/
More info on Space X’s Starlink project

Video link below illustrating Space X’s plans to establish satellite internet for the entire world…