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FutureScapes April 21: Social Technologies

Welcome to the latest edition of FutureScapes. Today we take a look at global drivers of change focused around emerging social technologies, and in the media, a few interesting finds ranging from big data and virtual reality, to a mainstream endorsement for blockchain and sci-fi LEGO bodies of the future.

In this issue:

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Futures Finds in Media

AR, VR, MR: Making Sense of Magic Leap and the Future of Reality via WIRED

You’ve probably seen the stunning promotional videos floating around the web from Magic Leap, but what the heck is the difference between augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality? Here’s a short video from WIRED that breaks it all down.

The Modular Body

Take living tissues and plug them into a bio-battery for life. The Modular Body is a new, slightly disgusting and creepy sci-fi website gone viral that shows us where we may be heading. Could we one day switch out our extremities or even our internal organs by simply plugging a new one into a body socket?

This 15-Ton Computer Creates Clean Water, Electricity, and Internet Access via Futurism

“The Watly unit comes equipped with photo-voltaic solar panels that produce heat and solar power. Water is then pumped into its tank that produces clean water following a vapor compression distillation process—a method that employs solar thermal energy to vaporize water and segregate contaminants (from sea salt to poisons.) A single machine can purify up to three million liters of water annually and has a lifespan of up to 15 years.”

Singapore in 2030: Minimum wage in place and innovation driven? via SMBWorld AISA

“What does the future hold for Singapore’s talent landscape in the year 2030? Will there be a minimum wage in place, with the country enjoying full-employment with continued reliance on foreign employees? Or will the adoption of technology result in old business models making way for new ones?” This report, put together using the Delphi technique and 45 Singaporean experts, develops four potential scenarios for the future of Singapore.

Microsoft Just Struck a Major Blockchain Deal With World’s Leading Banks via Futurism

The winds are shifting – while financial institutions have largely ignored digital currencies, the tech behind it, blockchain, is beginning to go mainstream in a big way…

Artificial Intelligence: Bringing Humanity to Big Data & Customer Experience via insideBIGDATA

CEO and co-founder of Boxever Dave O’Flanagan discusses how airlines are leveraging big data and predictive capabilities to transform customer engagement. Yet another great example of harnessing big data to your advantage.

Writings on the Future
Global Drivers of Change: Social Technologies

By April Koury, Iva Lazarova and Rohit Talwar from The Future of Business

There is little doubt that accelerating and ever-more impactful advances in science and technology will play an increasingly significant part in our everyday lives. The below global drives of change highlight how rapid advances are altering the way we might live and work and the way in which we manage our relationship with technology.

Evolving Personal Tech Ecosystems – The personal technology we use daily has evolved from desktop to luggable, from luggable to portable, from portable to wearable, and we are beginning to see an evolution into embedded / implantable technology. Wearable technology is becoming prevalent in smart watches, intelligent clothing, and personal health trackers like FitBit, while embedded technology now stretches beyond medical necessities like pacemakers and cochlear implants, to subdural microchips that operate lights, doors, and other computers remotely.

The Internet – Increasing Ease of Access and Worldwide Penetration – The internet is already a critical part of the operational infrastructure for individuals, businesses, and governments within the developed world. As technology becomes faster, cheaper, and more globally accessible, even individuals in the most remote regions on earth will gain access to the internet. It continues to transform access to services like education, and encourages entrepreneurship by giving people with limited resources the ability to reach the entire world and have unimaginable amounts of information at their fingertips. By 2025, experts forecast that more than 91 percent of people in developed countries and nearly 69 percent of those in emerging economies will be using the internet. The expectation is that we will rise from about three billion users today to up to 7.6 billion over the next decade.

The Internet of Things (IoT) / Internet of Everything (IoE) / Internet of Humanity – The IoT is a further development of the internet, where items are connected to the network and can send and receive data. These everyday objects can communicate with each other and transmit information to people and systems. Everything from street lights to refrigerators to cars is now being connected. In 2015, Gartner estimates that 4.9 billion “things” will be connect to the internet, and by 2020, that number is expected to increase anywhere from 25 billion to 100 billion things.

Intelligent Web – The intelligent web is the evolution of the internet as we know it. Increasingly complex algorithms and artificial intelligence will become smart enough to search web data and draw meaningful inferences. The system will understand spoken questions, gather the relevant information, and form a meaningful answer to inquiries. The intelligent web will transform the way we access information and interact with each other on the web.

Virtual Worlds – Virtual worlds are computer-based, 3D simulated environments where online communities of users can interact with each other. Massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft create a fantasy virtual world, whereas the virtual world of Second Life represents the real world. Beyond gaming, virtual worlds are increasingly used for online conferences and meeting spaces for businesses and education.

Digital Currencies – Digital currencies like Bitcoin are an internet-based medium of exchange similar to paper currency, but they are “borderless” and allow for instant transfer between accounts anywhere in the world. The currencies are usually decentralized, controlled by users, outside of any governmental regulatory bodies, and transactions are anonymous. (For an in-depth look at the future implications of Bitcoin and blockchain, listen to Exploring the Business of the Blockchain by Rohit Talwar and Alexandra Whittington).

Smart Cities – Smart cities utilized digital technologies to connect with their citizens, improve overall wellbeing and reduce costs and unnecessary waste. Everyday city objects such as electric grids, roads, sewer systems, buildings and cars will be connected to the internet of everything, enabling object-to-object and people-to-object interactions. The belief is that these connections will open up vast new possibilities for sustainable, healthy communities, safer streets, and economic growth and development. At the same time, there will be push-back from privacy advocates who are concerned about the massive data collection associated with smart cities. Smart city initiatives are being pioneered in Boston, Copenhagen, Dublin, Masdar Abu Dhabi, Rio, and Singapore.

Augmented Reality (AR) – Augmented reality is the process of overlaying objects in the physical world with digitally generated content like maps, video, and sound. Generally, this is accomplished through smartphones or tablets, but advances in wearable devices like Google Glass and Hololens, and research into AR-enabled contact lenses will result in a much more physically integrated AR experience.

Virtual Reality (VR) – Virtual reality uses computer modeling and simulation to generate real and imagined 3D worlds, 3D objects, and even sensations with which people can interact. Oculus VR, makers of the most recognizable VR headsets on the market, believe VR will reshape many fields in the future, including medicine, architecture, education, and business.

Human Enhancement – Human enhancement is defined as any attempt via augmentation to overcome the limitations of our bodies through chemical, genetic, or technological means. Enhancements range from improving mental performance, to boosting physical speed, strength, and stamina. It is predicted that by 2025 humans will have “hacked” every aspects of their bodies, creating a new breed of human 2.0 and 3.0. All of these enhancements will be monitored and managed constantly by a variety of wearable technologies and devices implanted into the body, which will track every vital sign and link directly to personal hand held devices and to monitoring services provided by healthcare providers.

Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) – Using EEG signals detected by electrodes attached to the scalp, a BCI system records the brain’s electrical activity, and as the user thinks of a certain concept or command, patterns in the EEG are deciphered by machine-learning software. The resulting information enables applications which communicate these commands wirelessly to computers and other objects. A new venture by Braingate hopes to commercialize a wireless device that can be attached to a person’s skull and transmit the thought commands of paralyzed patients to various devices in the room.

Rohit on the Road


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