The coming participation of robots in every aspect of our lives is a confusing prospect: it’s at once exciting and threatening.
Above all, it’s inevitable and there is not a job that is not threatened. And what do you to earn an income if you have to give up your job to a robot but don’t have enough money to retire?
This is a burning question, almost an existential question for millions of us.
Yet someone has now come up with a novel idea: why not hire a robot to do your job for you?
It’s crazy and it’s brilliant.
Writing for Forbes, founder and Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, Joseph Coughlin, suggests that in addition to investing in robotics and artificial intelligence firms to ensure retirement income, “robotics might open up an entirely new retirement investment class for producing income in older age, in the form of what I call robotics-for-hire. Retire and hire a robot to become your cyber-self working through, and paying for, your retirement.”
Take the man seriously: he features on Next Avenue’s list of 50 Most Influential People in Aging – thought leaders, innovators, writers, advocates, experts and others that are changing how we age and think about aging.
Coughlin paints three different scenarios.
“First, imagine hiring a robot to make it possible for you to work in retirement – forever,” he writes.
Coughlin foresees the emergence of companies that would rent robots out to people. “New firms might serve individuals (many who may be retirees) who would like to purchase a robot or invest in shares of a robotic workforce to provide a source of steady income. Investing in a robotic workforce might make it possible for retirees to work by ‘bot and earn income throughout their retirement years.”
As example, he mentions Nashville-based Hirebotics which is a robot rental company.
Coughlin might be coining a new phrase when he writes about the “Robo-Gig Economy”. The gig economy, also known as the sharing economy, already provides many opportunities for people to earn income in retirement, writes Coughlin, referring to Airbnb or driving for Uber or Lyft.
The robo-gig economy refers to humans renting out their own robots for short-term jobs. Coughlin foresees that robots will become affordable for most people and skillful at a wide range of tasks.
“Future retirees might apply for temporary jobs for their own robots to perform. These short-term gigs might include tasks such as mowing the lawn, housekeeping, or consider managing a bionic bartender to tend bar at a beach getaway during the tourist high season.”
Then there are opportunities to become a franchisee of standalone kiosks run by robotics. As an example Coughlin mentions Fresh Healthy Vending International (OTCQB: VEND), which launched a novel franchise concept last year called Reis and Irvy’s Froyo Kiosk.
“How many other robotized businesses might emerge requiring no staffing and relatively scant labor on the part of the human owner? For people with an entrepreneurial spirit, there might be many similar opportunities in the future,” he muses.
The age of technology is really hard on regulators. They have to figure out how to incorporate internet-of-things to make smart cities a reality; how to provide sustainable clean energy; where AI fits into all this and they have transport challenges.
If it isn’t drones, it’s self-driving cars or providing enough charging points for electric cars. Regulations for drones and self-driving cars are not on the books yet, and already the future has landed on a tiny pad on some rooftop.
The stuff of Sci-Fi movies, flying cars that transport urbanites on their errands, have literally landed in the present. Munich-based Lilium, completed a series of test flights with its flying car in the skies above Germany recently.
The world’s first zero-emission electric plane capable of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) is a two-seater prototype that can execute a range of complex maneuvers, including transition from hover in mid-air to wing-borne forward flight, according to a statement by Lilium. It is the only electric aircraft capable of both VTOL and jet-powered flight, using its wings for lift, similar to a conventional airplane.
Celebrating the landmark moment, Lilium co-founder and CEO Daniel Wiegand said: “We have solved some of the toughest engineering challenges in aviation to get to this point. The successful test flight program shows that our ground-breaking technical design works exactly as we envisioned. We can now turn our focus to designing the five seater production aircraft.”
Electric small-scale aircraft for urban transportation use hold multiple benefits. The Lilium Jet is 100% electrically powered, so creates no harmful emissions, making it a potential solution to deteriorating air quality in towns and cities, caused by road traffic, says Lilium.
A Lilium Jet requires only a small open space for take-off, which can be a landing pad on a building -alleviating pressure on congested roads.
The Lilium Jet consumes around 90% less energy than drone-style aircraft, enabling the Lilium Jet to achieve a range of more than 183 miles and a maximum cruising speed of 183 mph. In flight, the Jet’s power consumption per mile will be comparable to an electric car.
Lilium envisions its aircraft used in dense, urban areas in an on-demand capacity. You’ll be able to order your sky ride just like an Uber ride from your mobile phone. Or maybe you’ll choose between the two since Uber is working on its own flying car.
A potential Lilium competitor is e-volo, a firm based near Mannheim in Germany. E-volo is building a “Volocopter”. The company has also started manned test flights in Germany.
The world’s largest solar power plant, Karmuthi in Tamil Nadu, India, covers an area of almost 4 square miles, and is expected to power 150,000 homes.
That’s impressive, but tiny compared to what Elon Musk has in mind.
Think 100 square miles powering the whole of the United States.
Speaking at the recent National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Rhode Island, Elon Musk told the 30 gathered United States governors that it’s possible to power the entire United States with solar energy.
“If you wanted to power the entire U.S. with solar panels, it would take a fairly small corner of Nevada or Texas or Utah; you only need about 100 miles by 100 miles of solar panels to power the entire United States,” Musk said. “The batteries you need to store the energy, to make sure you have 24/7 power, is 1 mile by 1 mile. One square-mile. That’s it.”
This message from the CEO of Tesla Inc. should come as no surprise. He has made his passion for sustainable energy provision clear on many occasions and has been laying the groundwork for a while. The first clue is in the new company name. Tesla Motors will be known as Tesla Inc. in the future, in line with Tesla becoming an energy company.
The second clue is Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity Corp., in November 2016 – a solar company Musk helped his cousins start in 2006.
“Solar and storage are at their best when they’re combined. As one company, Tesla (storage) and SolarCity (solar) can create fully integrated residential, commercial and grid-scale products that improve the way that energy is generated, stored and consumed,” explained a statement on Tesla’s website. The acquisition is a crucial part of Musk’s “Master Plan” he drew up in 2006 to accelerate the advent of sustainable energy.
To start off, Musk told the assembled governors, combining rooftop solar and utility-scale solar plants is the way to go. The former would be on the rooftops of houses in the suburbs in order to avoid building huge transmission lines in neighborhoods. Utility-scale solar plants could power areas other than the suburbs.
Tesla is already receiving orders for its Solar Roofs. It comes with an integrated Powerwall that stores energy collected during the day.
The company claims that Solar Roof is more affordable than conventional roofs because in most cases, its cost will be offset by the reduction or complete elimination of electricity bills.
Until transition from fossil fuel to solar can be completed, we’ll have to depend on other renewables, continued Musk. “We’ll need a combination of utility-scale solar and rooftop solar, combined with wind, geothermal, hydro, probably some nuclear for a while, in order to transition to a sustainable situation.
“Rooftop solar, utility solar; that’s really going to be a solution from the physics standpoint. I can’t really see another way to do it.”
So, it’s like this. Musk wants the U.S. to implement solar power as a sustainable energy source for the country and his companies, Tesla Inc. and SolarCity Corp. are poised and ready to spearhead the undertaking. Energy gathered through SolarCity’s Solar Roof can be stored in a Tesla Powerwall or Powerpack to provide energy for American homes. If you happen to have an environmentally friendly electric car, a Tesla model or otherwise, Tesla can charge that for you at your home.
Now, that’s a neat, over-all strategy for all the energy needs of American families. Just what one would expect of a utility company.
Over the last 15 years, the emergence of Big Data has been perhaps the single largest change in how business is done. It’s important for everyone to understand what it is and how it’s changing the world.
Early on, companies struggled to create the basic infrastructure that was needed to make Big Data a reality.
Now, the infrastructure is being put into place, the data is being collected and rapid changes to how society functions are on the way.
Here are 7 TED talks on big data that are required watching for anyone interested in how big data will have a vast impact o the future direction of technology and society.
1) Susan Etlinger: “What Do We Do With All This Big Data?”
The question of what exactly to do with data is a problem that has stood out for more than a decade now. Data are arriving at a greater velocity, and from a greater number of sources, than ever before. However, truly ‘operationalizing’ it at the corporate or individual level is still a challenging process. Even highly informed decision-makers can misunderstand data and apply their biases to it. Susan Etlinger, a leading data analyst with Altimeter Group, urges a reassessment of how we truly make meaning from data sets.
2) Kenneth Cukier: “Bigger Data is Better Data”
Now that the Big Data transformation is truly underway, data will always be growing — never shrinking. This places enormous responsibility upon data analysts, of course, but also opens the door to technological advances that were unthinkable as little as a decade ago. Beginning with the example of self-driving cars, Kenneth Cukier — Data Editor of the venerable Economist — connects the dots to understand how Big Data will drive continued technological change. The intersection between Big Data and machine learning may produce unexpected benefits.
3) David McCandless: “The Beauty of Data Visualization”
For data to be of value to ordinary individuals, it must be visualized in some form. When data are visualized effectively, it becomes easier to process and act on. Even the most complex data — such as that involving military spending — can be transmuted into a new format. This allows people to make more intuitive and effective decisions. But, as data journalist David McCandless shows, the benefits do not end there. By using the power of visualization, data can indeed become beautiful.
4) Jennifer Golbeck: “The Curly Fry Conundrum”
Billions of people all over the world spend time engaging in social media every day. During this time, they might do all kinds of things online they don’t think twice about. It can be likened to mindlessly eating curly fries. Through the power of Big Data however, businesses derive a tremendous amount of information from even the most innocuous online behavior. In this talk, computer scientist Jennifer Golbeck draws back the curtain to demonstrate the power of these data points.
5) Deb Roy: “The Birth of a Word”
Deb Roy is an MIT researcher who focuses on cognitive science, particularly big questions on how children learn languages. To bring his understanding to the next level— and develop new insights that might aid in language learning for machines — he recorded 90,000 hours of footage chronicling every aspect of his infant son’s life. This talk is the result of searching that footage, more than 3,750 days’ worth, and synthesizing his findings into less than 20 minutes.
6) Glenn Greenwald: “Why Privacy Matters”
In the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations on the scope of U.S. government surveillance, former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald became one of the most controversial figures in the mainstream media. This TED talk comes from Greenwald’s years of tireless work analyzing, commenting on and publicizing those revelations. In it, he advocates for the idea that privacy matters to everyone, even if you are not doing anything wrong.
7) Mallory Soldner: “Your Company’s Data Could Help World Hunger”
Business often focuses on the ways Big Data can be monetized. Cutting costs or improving sales are the end goals for the vast majority of commercial forays into Big Data. However, that data is so foundational to the people and experiences it describes, that it could be used for much greater purposes. Self-described ‘data activist’ Mallory Soldner puts this into perspective. Her talk shows how data collected by corporations can be applied to make powerful, lasting changes to long-standing humanitarian issues — often much more quickly than anyone would expect.
Data science is not about data alone, but about how we conceptualize data to make it an effective decision-making tool. Even experienced, educated data scientists must be careful not to take logical ‘shortcuts’ —actions that can make data seem intuitive while obscuring deeper and more significant meanings. This may become the central challenge of data science in coming years.
Inspired by hairy, semiaquatic mammals such as beavers and sea otters, a group of MIT engineers are fabricating fur-like rubbery pelts learn how these mammals stay warm and even dry while diving underwater.
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