Ever heard of Elon Musk? TED branded him a serial entrepreneur, but that’s an understatement. He is a practical visionary:
1 – the co-founder of Paypal
2 – the CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors. Their new all-electric model S has just been named by Consumer Reports as the highest rated car ever! It’s still a luxury car but it’s phase 2. Phase 3 is a mass production model. And the company has posted it’s first profit. That will keep it going.
3 – he’s involved with solar power company SolarCity
4 – and he’s the chief designer at SpaceX, a reusable rocket company. They’re already doing work for NASA and the space shuttle.
His TED talk from February this year:
Smart phones are so much more than just phones. They are net connected, with thousands of applications available. We may balk at the cash price for some modern units. But the value? A recent application suggests most phones are capable of much more than we might think. Although it does go rather outside expected use and specs and undoubtedly voids the warranty.
NASA has launched 3 satellites run by smart phones. In fact, each made mostly from a smart phone. These “phonesats” are expected to be the cheapest satellites ever launched, using off-the-shelf products – in this case Nexus One phones running Android. Their mission – to see if smart phones can be used to successfully run a satellite in space. They’re also going to try to use the built-in cameras to take pictures of earth. And of course, they have built-in GPS. So far they’re operating normally.
They did have to add a larger battery pack and a powerful radio. The result is about 4″ square. And no – you can’t call or text them. A little out of your calling zone.
Combine this with low-cost rockets to launch and the satellite game changes completely.
Here’s a nice brief introduction to how the Internet works – they touch on IP addresses, headers, packets, and routing.
And the background to the clip: The World Science Festival and the intro to “Internet Everywhere: The Future of History’s Most Disruptive Technology.“
(This is of course http or web pages we’re talking about. ftp, email, telnet and other technologies share tcp/ip but vary in implementation.)
Computer in your glasses? I remember an old telephone company ad where they talked about a “friendly future”, showing a person walking around with heads-up display glasses and making a phone call. It was a fantasy then.
Over 10 years ago, a company demoed their heads-up display glasses to my company. They were in town looking for funding. The impressive part was being able to see large construction blueprints, unlimited by screen size.
A few years ago, I talked about the MIT “Sixth Sense” presentations. This was more a pendant than glasses.
Last year, Google demoed their new Glass project with skydivers, bikers and wall scalers during a conference using remote live video from the various wearers.
Google has recently added patents for bone conductance audio (no one can overhear your caller), a laser projector to project an interface (keyboard, number pad, etc) on a nearby surface or your hand, eyescan, a speech interface, real-time augmented imagery, and a compact see-through display. Some of this is much like MIT was experimenting with.
Google is now launching a program with developers to app out the hardware.
This illustrates a few of these potential ideas:
The demos have generated lots of parodies.
While many are suggesting the economy is recovering, many formerly “safe” jobs still have a surplus of job-seekers. Formerly low unemployment white-collar jobs are seeing chronic unemployment, particularly in 2 areas: aging boomer’s and young people in the early part of their careers.
One of the big factors is technology change. Many roles have been replaced by technology. This Washington Post article (part of a series) discusses this.
“In the United States, half of the 7.5 million jobs lost during the Great Recession [recent] paid middle-class wages, and the numbers are even more grim in the 17 European countries that use the euro as their currency. A total of 7.6 million midpay jobs disappeared in those countries from January 2008 through last June.”
“That means millions of workers are caught in a competition they can’t win against machines that keep getting more powerful, cheaper and easier to use.”
“In the U.S., more than 1.1 million secretaries vanished from the job market between 2000 and 2010, their job security shattered by software that lets bosses field calls themselves and arrange their own meetings and trips. Over the same period, the number of telephone operators plunged by 64 percent, word processors and typists by 63 percent, travel agents by 46 percent and bookkeepers by 26 percent, according to Labor Department statistics.”
Technology also creates jobs but not at the rate it’s eliminating them. It also creates new skill requirements in existing jobs that not everyone can meet. A skilled draftsperson now has limited use unless they’re also skilled with AutoCAD or similar. And related skills like email, file sharing & transfer, and so forth.
This process can actually be expected to accelerate as I discussed in Changing Jobs.
Other contributing factors:
- Older workers are often seen as expensive (both in income and benefits) and less flexible.
- Young people are seen as inexperienced and less reliable as they lack a real track record.
- Technology is being used to pre-screen job applicants. If your resume doesn’t have the “magic words”, it will never be seen. The market now requires a unique resume (and thus good word processing and writing skills) for each application.
- The expense of a new hire increases due to the increasing screening requirements and interview time.
- Even with a recession, the longer you’re un- or underemployed, the further you get from “experienced”.
- If you work in a more basic role for a period of time, you end up being downgraded, not to mention loosing your former support network.
- The “improved” economy has left many cautious and reticent to hire more. Those working have higher performance expectations and longer hours. Thus, we see more extremes and an erosion of job quality.
- Many formerly secure roles have been turned into contract positions that have no benefits. College teachers, for example. (On-line education will dramatically reduce even those contract roles) Those with entrepreneurial skills and temperament can do fine in such roles but this changes who can do them successfully. It changes some professions into essentially different jobs.
- Some roles are being contracted out overseas or outsourced, including highly skilled jobs.
- Specializations are changing at a faster pace, requiring ongoing skill development. Meanwhile, student loan programs have made it more difficult to obtain such training, potentially voiding a once successful career.
- Many students are graduating with massive debts. Some discover their training is already out of date.
- Schools teach students how to be good workers, not how to be entrepreneurs – that’s where the “employment” is expanding.
The consequences of this cannot be underestimated. At a time when millions of boomers will be retiring, will we also have permanently unemployed youth? And what of the many middle class families who have lost their standard of living, forcing changes in housing, relationships, and locale.
How does a person respond to chronic unemployment? With anger? Dropping out? Underground economy? Crime? Drugs & alcohol? Will that not create considerable social unrest, some of what we’re already seeing?
For those who find themselves stuck in such a situation, keep in mind this is not personal. It’s an economy in transition. Boomers went through some of this in the early ’80′s but it’s bigger this time. History is full of such events. The problem is NOT the technology, it’s our recognition of what is unfolding and adapting to these changes. You need to continue to find ways to take care of yourself. Spend time exploring what you love & what you’d like to contribute. Recognize the current situation is a temporary phase. Write that song or book you’ve always wanted to. Read or watch the films on your list. You’ll probably find things on your “bucket list” that need more time than money. And follow your bliss. That can lead you to a niche market that is not being served. Then you, or perhaps you with someone who complements your skills, can meet that need and become self-sufficient again.
Life is a journey. Keep moving.
Recent declassified documents from the US Air Force indicates they designed and began prototyping a flying saucer in the 1950′s. They hired Avro Air, a Canadian Co., to test the specs. Called USAF Project 1794, it was designed for vertical takeoff and landing, a top speed of about Mach 4, a ceiling of over 100,000 feet, and a range of over 1,000 nautical miles.
Testing concluded it was quite feasible, with a top speed higher than initially expected. It doesn’t appear a full prototype was actually built. They estimated a cost a little over $3 million ($26.6 mill in todays $) over 2 years to do so. It would have an average top speed of about 2,600 miles per hour.
As the archives point out, they had a curiously strong resemblance to flying saucers depicted in popular science fiction films of the mid-50′s.
Given the troubles with the later “Avrocar“, a related project between the USAF and Avro, the early testing seems to have been overly optimistic.
It’s curious how technology evolves. Microsoft’s founder famously discounted the value of the Internet, favouring a closed network (MSN, like Compuserve). Web browsers arose and became a portal to the world. Then the desktop. And now the OS. Mozilla is developing a smartphone operating system built from HTML5, the language of web page design. Apps are web apps without OS restrictions. The message becomes the medium.
The point? Smart phones at 1/3 to 1/6th the price. Smart phones for the rest of the world. Including that Masai warrior.
In this video from an unexpected source, they explore the rapid acceleration in technology and the new “Age of Surprise“. As they suggest, we can predict “broad outlines” but not the consequences. Information is going everywhere, empowering people exponentially. The “collective intelligence of humanity” is driving “innovation in every direction“.
What will it be like in 2035?
Earlier this year, I wrote about some of the long-term changes taking place in the job market due to technological change. Since I wrote that, some of that technology has begun to show up.
I recently read another article on structural changes already underway. They mention for example how services like Craigslist have gutted newspaper classified offices. Manufacturing jobs are not expected to be revived due to robotics. And Lean Accounting is reducing jobs along with its efficiencies. Of particular note is the graph showing a dramatic acceleration of the changes since the mid-2000′s, even before the markets dumped.
The article is a little US-centric and a little vague on the “missing element” of non-socialist Community. It seems one must buy his book for the answer. But it’s useful to be aware of the trends.
This is not to say we’re doomed or that technology is evil. This is simply to recognize the changes that are upon us so that we can more readily adapt. Technology also brings us astonishing access to information and thus power. “a Masai warrior on … a smart phone using Google… has access to more information than the U.S. president did just 15 years ago.” – Peter Diamandis
We easily forget how powerful it is to have search engines at our call. One example that highlights the potential: the 15-year-old kid who developed an early cancer detection system that’s markedly faster and cheaper. His research library? Google.
Peter talks about the increase in our abundance in recent years: as a whole, we’re richer, healthier, and have access to goods once considered luxury items. And that smart phone? He mentions the “free mobile apps that this same Masai warrior can access: a GPS locator, video teleconferencing hardware and software, an HD video camera, a regular camera, a stereo system, a vast library of books, films, games and music.” What is standard on a smartphone was worth a million dollars 20 years ago. The article links to several TED talks, including Peters on Abundance.
The future looks to be exciting indeed.
Another excellent TED talk on how the rise of automated content filtering in Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and so forth is also narrowing our view of the world. (9:05 min)