Brain-to-brain & brain-to-cloud communications … and an explosive health care improvement

Hello Future Fans,

It is rare that I come across a new development that has the potential to drive truly radical and explosive change. I recently had the pleasure of this feeling when I discovered the interview with Mary Lou Jepsen in the (February 18) archives on my favorite podcast, After On.

Mary Lou has a storied career across some of the world’s greatest tech companies, including Alphabet’s ‘X’ moonshot lab and Facebook (working on Oculus). She has a PHD in Optical Physics from Brown University, has been a professor at both MIT and RMIT, has generated 200 or so patents, and was the founder of the ‘One Laptop Per Child’ project. She was recognized in TIME magazine’s “Time 100” as one of the 100 most influential people in the world and also as a CNN top 10 thinker. She has the credentials to pull off something big.

Mary Lou founded a company called ‘Open Water‘, and the technology being developed there has truly stunning potential that might revolutionize medical diagnosis and, potentially, be a realistic ‘neural lace’-style technology i.e. a technology that can connect our brains to each other and the global network in real time, at scale.

The Open water technology leverages holographic principles to map structures inside the body, in real time, at micron accuracy. The method uses near-infrared light shone at the body; a very small percentage goes straight through the flesh and the rest is scattered as it interacts (collides) with our biology. Amazingly, the scattered light can be captured by regular phone-scale optical sensors and re-constructed via algorithms, providing a real-time high-definition view of the smallest components of our bodies. The technology appears to be so sensitive that it can even detect the behaviour of individual neurons. This is exciting enough (phew!), however there is also some chance that the technology could use light to directly interact with the body, providing localised treatments and even – admittedly at a long shot / over the much longer term – implant / create memories and information in the brain. Continue reading “Brain-to-brain & brain-to-cloud communications … and an explosive health care improvement”

Wake-up call: The World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs” Report

Hi Future Fans,

Wow, where to start? The World Economic Forum (WEF) has released their latest report around the future of jobs, looking at the relatively short time frame of 2018-2022. It’s rather dense and also truly critical for any business leader, parent, or worker to understand. In this post I’ll aim to summarise some of the central information and themes.

For context, the report is based in the idea that we are in the midst of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres; think nanotechnology, robotics, AI, quantum computing, autonomous vehicles, ubiquitous connectivity, etc.

The key aspect of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is that it’s evolving at an exponential pace and the speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. These advancements are the topics that I regularly cover here at

Further reading around the Fourth Industrial Revolution (and the source of some of the above text) is available here and here.

The main considerations in the WEF report are:
  • Overall, over 2018-2022, jobs may increase rather than decrease
  • There will be rapid shifts in the types of jobs and skills that are needed by the market
  • There is a very large re-training requirement across the workforce
In addition, I found these items to be particularly telling:
  • The percentage of work done by humans vs machines is shifting quickly
  • Skills shortages will drive a more geographically distributed workforce

Continue reading “Wake-up call: The World Economic Forum’s “Future of Jobs” Report”

An Electronics Revolution

Hi Future Fans,

I’ve been tracking some pretty exciting advancements and future promise in the area of electronics & computing, and thought it would be interesting to write a piece on this. It is a bit of a dense topic and is rather fascinating (in my opinion 😉). I hope you enjoy …

I’ve discussed a few times that progress in many fields is driven by the combination of increases in computing power (think Moore’s Law), advancements towards new methods (e.g. new computing architectures), and advancements in related fields (e.g. AI impacting many other fields). These drivers can multiply to push progress much faster than with any one driver alone.

This post will focus on the second of these three elements (new methods), as this driver is picking up pace and becoming more central to our progress over time.

Continue reading “An Electronics Revolution”

Exponential thinking

Hi Future Fans,

There has been a ton of great news out there in the last weeks. I will start posting some of the content I’ve earmarked, but today I wanted to touch on this useful & interesting Singularity Hub article about how exponential progress works and how hard it is for the average person to think about it correctly.

The reason I’ve chosen that article is that most of the really interesting stories and advancements I talk about here are in areas that are experiencing exponential progress. The simplest example is the growth in computing power, where there has been a steady trend of doubling computing capability every 2 years or so. Think about that for a moment – roughly every two years we will have doubled the entire capability that we developed over the history of computing. That is rather ridiculous and is also a very well established trend.

Continue reading “Exponential thinking”

AI better than dermatologists at detecting skin cancer

Hello Future Curious Folks,

It’s been a while since my last post. Life and travel gets in the way sometimes, and sometimes a bit of time at yet-another-airport-lounge is the perfect time for some future gazing.

Today I’m going to do one more AI post, before moving onto new topics. Whilst AI is a huge field with many implications, one of the most immediately striking is the area of image recognition and the massive strides we’ve taken in this area over the last years. As always, this emerging powerful capability has potential to drive massive benefit and also gives us some potential warnings. Continue reading “AI better than dermatologists at detecting skin cancer”

Waymo outpacing Tesla, Uber

Hi Future Fans,

It’s about time to move away from AI and back to other topics!

Self-driving vehicles is a topic that I cover here fairly regularly. I do, however, find a lot of variance in the predicted timeframes for self-driving cars to become commonplace. These timelines have to do with regulations as much as the technology itself, and recent fatal crashes by Tesla and Uber are not helping to sway public and government opinion towards a rapid deployment.

Given the uncertainty, one great area to keep an eye on is vehicle orders, and we’ve turned a corner there. Uber took a bit of a gamble late last year by placing an order for 24,000 Volvo XC90 vehicles. Since then, Waymo (part of Alphabet) has made two large orders – for 20,000 Jaguar I-PACE vehicles and 62,000 Chrysler Pacifica minivans. These orders are a very clear indication that meaningful self-driving services are imminent, at least in places like Pheonix or perhaps Dubai, where local regulations will support the establishment of these new self-driving industries. Continue reading “Waymo outpacing Tesla, Uber”

The epic rise of artificial personal assistants

Hi Future Fans,

Following on the theme of AI, this post will dig a little into the world of artificial personal assistants. It is, in part, inspired by the slightly-creepy-and-still-mind-blowing google duplex announcement & demo. In the demonstrations, google’s intelligent assistant makes lifelike calls to real people to make appointments at hairdressers & restaurants (see the below links and listen to the audio).

Existing capabilities like the Amazon echo, google assistant, and Cortana are very much just the start of a capability that will clearly grow exponentially alongside many of the other technologies we discuss here at Continue reading “The epic rise of artificial personal assistants”