Tag Archives: Artificial Intelegence

Change is the Future – part II


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If change is the future,

we could use a little future right about now

In case you have not noticed, our society is coming apart at the seams, and the global economy is preparing for a mega meltdown. As of this writing, Europe is on the verge of going bankrupt, which may result in the dissolution of the Eurozone and the rest of the world is not far behind. How this will all come to pass is the subject of other articles that I have posted, so I will not retrace those steps here. What is a society to do when it collapses?

The only thing that is real in the world economy, are resources. Resources are the things we use, and consume. They are required for our survival. Resources allow us to produce all the trappings of a modern society. Money is not a resource; money is an artificial tool that simply enables the control of resources by an entity. Therefore, money is not real; it is simply the illusion of wealth and power. Money is the source of everything that is wrong with our modern society; greed, envy and corruption. Money is the shackle by which the people of the Earth are forced into servitude.

How you structure a monetary based economy, whether as Capitalism or Communism is irrelevant; they all have the same flaws focused around greed and a desire to accumulate power over others. Which political system you use with a monetary based economy, whether a Republic, Fascism or Socialism is irrelevant; they all have the same flaws centered on corruption of the political process and politicians. It is therefore vital for the survival of the human race that society evolve, that it transcends the need for money, politics, and an artificial monetary based economy. Fortunately, there is a way, a plan in the making for several decades; it is The Venus Project.

The Venus Project represents Jacque Fresco’s vision, and a unique solution to the socioeconomic and environmental problems that face our society and the planet we live on. What he proposes will seem radical to many people. Some will jump to negative conclusions before understanding the full concept, while others will want to jump at the chance to live in the first new cities. Whichever camp you are in, I beg of you to learn as much as you can about this proposal for a new type of socioeconomic system. It just may be the single most important decision in your life. Nothing less than the future of humanity is riding on this.

A very important point: While you will be tempted to think of this proposal as a Utopian society, it is not. Utopias do not exist; they are only a fantasy. They presume the creation of a perfect society that is in no need of further improvement. No one working on The Venus Project is under the assumption that this is a perfect Utopia. The Venus Project will have its challenges to overcome, and will take a lot of hard work before it is realized. It will be improved over time, and evolve as the technology and culture of the people evolves. Nothing is set in stone. With that said, there are a few key concepts that are firmly in the required column:

  1. There will be no monetary currency. The use of currency is replaced by a resource-based economy. This may be phased in over time, or occur abruptly.
  2. The Earth’s resources are for the shared benefit of all humankind. No individual or group shall be able to exploit resources for their sole benefit or to use resources in such a way that they are able to coerce or control others.
  3. Technology is a resource, and is to be a shared benefit of all humankind. The use of patents or other mechanisms that give exclusive access to a technology are not permitted. All people share the discoveries, inventions and designs equally and openly.
  4. Elitism is eliminated; whether through wealth or technology. It will not be possible to own or accumulate assets or property of any kind, therefore no accumulation of power may take place. This also may be phased in over time to lessen the shock. Before you get excited, read the entire article; it is not scary at all once you understand that personal ownership of things is not important when you share ownership in all the worlds’ resources.

Resource Based Economy

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When discussing resources we are referring to everything of value; natural, manmade and human. We include everything: minerals, water, food, tools and equipment, land, buildings, human labor, electronic equipment, computers, robots, software, as well as all the gadgets we create in a modern society.

How will we be paid for work? How will we obtain things?

There will be no money; no paper currency, metal coins or electronic funds. There will be no banks, no stock market and no corporations. You will not need any money because you will have access to everything you need at no cost; food, clothing, a home, education, transportation. You will have all the gizmos and widgets that make up a modern life; T.V.’s, phones, computers, camera’s etc. All resources and the things made from them are the shared inheritance of all the Earths people.

You need to understand that in a monetary system, one where you have to buy everything, you may only use resources to the extent that you can afford them. Resources are artificially restricted and made scarce through the application of money used for trade. In an economy that does not require money to trade for resources, all resources become abundant and are available to everyone.

What do we have to give up?

You are probably thinking. “Does that mean that most people in developed countries like the United States have to give up some of what they have so that all people are made equally poor?” If done intelligently and with the use of technology, no one need suffer a loss of comfort, or lifestyle. You may choose to live a different lifestyle, but that is your choice because you will have many more options from which to choose. The reality will be that the lifestyle of the average person in such a system will rapidly exceed the best lifestyle of today’s wealthy elite.

Imagine for a moment a fictional world, where people own all the water on the planet. If you want to drink water you must buy it from someone (were almost there today). It would not sound so crazy to you if someone in that world suggested that water should be shared by everyone, that no person should have to pay another for the right to drink from a stream. That is because you have the advantage of a perspective where you have seen a world where things like water and air are free, and you have enjoyed its bounty. Is it such a stretch of the imagination then, to make all the Earth’s resources free; shared by all of humanity?

Have you ever noticed that when the economy goes into a recession, that it grinds to a halt, even though nothing else has changed. The store shelve are full, companies are busy making stuff, however, people stop buying stuff. With declining demand for more stuff, companies start laying off workers, which reduces tax revenue and further reduces demand, and so on, and so on; you have a viscous circle of an economy in decline. What changed? There are just as many goods on the market as there were before. The wealth of the nation did not suddenly change overnight, yet suddenly no one has any money to spend and companies are having a hard time. The truth is that it is not real; it is all just smoke and mirrors. There is no shortage of products and resources, and there is no shortage of need. There is only a shortage of money; and as we have discussed before, money is not real; it is artificial.

Have you ever thought it odd, that we have a record number of vacant houses on the market, and we have a record number of homeless families at the same time? Is it odd that stores are having a hard time finding customers to buy their food, while at the same time we have a record number of poor families and hungry children? Is that any way for a modern society to function? Does it have to be that way? The answer is a resounding NO! The truth is there are plenty of resources available; it is just that they have been artificially made scarce by trying to control them with money.

What about the environment and running out of resources?

There is the question of how sustainable a resource is, which determines the rate at which it can be consumed without running out of that resource at some point. Non-renewable resources like oil must be conserved; otherwise, we may deprive future generations of a precious substance. There are alternatives to using oil taken from the ground, but the need for profit and human greed prevent full development of those technologies. If profit were not a factor, the development of alternative energy sources could go into overdrive, probably replacing the need for any oil within a decade. In addition, do not worry about the oil producing countries going broke; as members of a global Resource Based Economy they will start to enjoy a lifestyle that even all that oil could not buy.

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If you analyze what is needed to obtain something, be it ore from the ground, or a carved column from a block of marble, or the heavy equipment used to dig a canal, you realize that it all boils down to units of work expended to produce a result. In other words, we only need to consider the energy consumed to perform that work. If we had an unlimited supply of energy, and no need to make a profit against competitors, we could have access to an unlimited supply of resources, to the extent that the resource physically exists somewhere.

There happens to be a huge supply of resources. Earth’s crust and Oceans contain many trillions of times the mineral resources that humankind has used since climbing out of the trees. In addition, before we consume all the Earth’s resources, there is an equal or greater quantity just waiting for us in the millions of asteroids, and the moons in our solar system. There is no need to strip mine the Earth.

How do we get an unlimited supply of energy?

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The world is energy poor right now. We are energy poor because we have an artificially scarce supply by design. Developers of energy sources, solar, wind, wave, geothermal, or nuclear must compete to make a profit against the lowest cost source, which is usually oil or coal. In a monetary based economy, if the cost to obtain energy is more than the lowest cost source, it is unlikely it will receive funding for development. Witness what happened to the US solar cell producer Solyndra in 2011. They simply could not compete with the government subsidized Chinese companies.

In a resource-based economy, the lowest cost energy source does not matter. As long as an energy source produces more energy than is required to create the source after environmental factors are included, it will have a net positive effect on the global energy supply. There is a huge untapped potential for energy with solar, wind, geothermal, and wave power. We have enough renewable energy to power our civilization for many thousands of years. We do not have a shortage of energy; we have a shortsighted monetary system that is inhibiting its development.

How do things get distributed to people? How do we keep it fair?

Ok, so there is all this energy; and with that comes abundant resources. How then, do we ensure a fair and equitable distribution to the people, and prevent the abuses that we see today where people try to monopolize a resource to gain power. Who is in charge? Who decides who gets what, and how much? How do we prevent corruption? The answer may shock you at first, so let it sink in before you get excited. No person will be in charge, computers will control everything. There will not be a central government calling all the shots; no leader is in charge. We will do away with all political offices.

During the early stages before full computer automation is available, we may have professionals and scientists who are experts in a certain area to help manage and coordinate things. Managers may only work for a few hours a day. In addition, most of that work is done from home. During the transition, resource managers will not be able to obtain personal gain from doing their job because they cannot accumulate assets as they would in a monetary society. They cannot own exclusive access to a resource any more than anyone could. Thus, we eliminate the motive that creates corruption. If a manager is incompetent, it is an easy matter to find a replacement.

Need, will determine the distribution of resources. Development of the automation to replace managers and other human labor positions will be a high priority. Forget what you see in the movies, like Terminator. Computers are not hell bent on the destruction of humanity. Those are total fantasies designed to sell movie tickets. A computer that does not have emotions and no desire other than to serve humanity will control the resources. Technology will be every person’s friend, and create a world of almost limitless possibilities.

Computers will measure and track all of the resources on the planet and will schedule the transport and manufacture of all goods, including food, clothes, buildings and other infrastructure. Since there will be more than enough resources to go around, there is no need to ration or restrict access, except in the case of non-renewables. In cases where a resource is not renewable, the system will find ways that do not consume that resource, or by replacing it with a renewable source. For example, cars and trucks that use gas or diesel become obsolete, in favor of all electric or hybrid designs that can use renewable fuels for extended range. All uses of oil today could be replaced with renewable sources, and healthier alternatives; all that is lacking is the effort to do it.

What about work, what will people do?

Making a change as significant as that proposed by The Venus Project, cannot happen overnight without either some sort of major collapse of society or a revolt of the people. We all hope to avoid either of those two scenarios, as there would be great suffering. If we can effect a peaceful transition over time to a resource-based economy, then there will be a period where people will still need to contribute labor until their positions are automated. How all of this might be coordinated is pure speculation, as it could work any number of ways. One way to do it might be to ask people with the required skills to volunteer their time. As long as their needs are met, most people will want a sense of fulfillment by achieving something. What could be more fulfilling than helping transform humanity into a civilization able to endure millennia, while preserving the Earth as a livable habitat?

As automation replaces the need for a person’s labor, their workday could shorten until there is no need for any labor. Automation of jobs will happen rapidly because there will be no budget constraints limiting development, and there will be no ill effect on society by eliminating positions. Technology will be our friend, and the elimination of jobs though automation a benefit to society. Everyone benefits from technology, not just the corporate shareholder as we see today.

Once a person is no longer required to provide labor, they are free to devote their time in whatever area interests them. It is highly unlikely we will have a world of couch potatoes, who just eat and get fat. Oh, I am sure there will be a few, especially the first generation that grew up in a world of scarce resources. People will have to adjust to having plenty. It is odd though, that the majority of people who are lucky enough to retire early do not spend their days on the couch watching TV; they find other ways to enrich their lives. Go back to school, get involved in research or their church, learn to play music, experience nature or travel the world; the choice is yours. It is your life to live, as you desire.

What about transportation, will we still have cars, busses, trains and planes?

The simple answer to the question above is probably yes, in the beginning. However, there will be a big push to convert all transportation to more efficient, cleaner modes. For example, electric vehicles will replace gas-guzzling automobiles.

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One scenario might be that the cities of the future will provide electric vehicles with a built in autopilot systems. This technology exists today.

Autonomous Car of the Future is Here

You may have a key fob like the one that opens your locked car door today, only this fob when pressed will call a car and tell it to wait outside your house for you. One of the many autonomous vehicles in the city is then dispatched to your home. You would enter the vehicle and tell it where you want to go. The autonomous vehicle then takes you wherever you need to go. When you return home, the vehicle returns to a municipal parking space to await its next command. It is an automated on-demand taxi service without the taxi driver, or a running meter. There would not need to be as many vehicles produced as we have cars today. Only enough vehicles are needed to supply the people needing to go from one place to another. When not transporting people, autonomous vehicles may be used to move goods from place to place. When you use an item in the kitchen, you scan its bar code. That item could automatically be scheduled for delivery to your home the next day by an autonomous vehicle; much like the mail is delivered today. Your kitchen shelves will never be empty.

Other mass transit options will be available for longer distance travel. Electric trains are the most efficient and have the least impact of the environment. They may even be moved underground so as not to disrupt the lands between cities that are returning to their natural state. High-speed rail will be developed for all continental travel and transport. Eventually, ultra-high-speed maglev trains that travel in a vacuum tube and reach speeds of over 1,000 miles per hour may replace intercontinental air travel.

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What about food? I like to eat.

Food, like all other resources will not cost anything. Several things will help ensure a plentiful food supply to every person on Earth. No one will go hungry in this system. Many foods will be grown in hydroponic or aeroponic greenhouses year round in any climate. Doing so will increase yield per acre by 100- 500% and consume 70-80% less water. It will also require far fewer pesticides since no soil is used, and drastically reduce the amount of fertilizer required. This also means that more food can be grown locally, reducing wasted energy, time delays and spoilage associated with transport. Other foods that cannot easily be grown in a greenhouse will be controlled and coordinated by the resource management system.

Meats will still be available, however, expect a shift to synthetic meat that is grown without the need to kill an animal. It is actually just like the real thing; grown from real animal cells. The only difference is that no animal need suffer and die to provide it and the nutrition, taste and fat content can be more closely controlled.

Our culture has grown to desire fast food because we lack the free time to cook for ourselves. It will take time to adjust, but with more free time, the fast foods of today will give way to higher quality foods that are more nutritious. In addition, once the food lobbyists are out of Washington and advertising is outdated, then perhaps we can actually bring healthy foods into our schools for our children as well. Along with more attention spent on how to live a healthy lifestyle, the greatest gift we give our children may be the gift of more life.

What about creativity, and individuality? Will we force everybody be the same?

No. In fact, people will be able to express much more individuality than they can today. It is true, there will not be 27 versions of the same product made by competing companies. However, by bringing manufacturing closer to the source of consumption, like what we expect with 3D printing technology in the next few years, people will be able to customize their order a thousand different ways. For clothing, you may select from thousands of different styles and colors, not just the ones mass-produced in a sweatshop by human slaves six months ago.

In our schools, instead of indoctrinating our youth for a job as a wage slave, we can teach them analytical freethinking skills. Rote memorization will be replaced with doing, discovery and experimentation. Every child will have a chance, and be encouraged to become an Einstein, or an Edison. The human potential within all of us will be released.

What about healthcare and medicine?

As with everything else, healthcare is free of charge. Health care professionals will do the work out of a desire to do something important with their life, to make a difference. It will not be about getting rich. Without money or budget constraints, we will have the best healthcare technologically possible. Decisions will be based on what creates the best outcome for the patient and not on making the best profit for a healthcare corporation.

Currently, our drug industry is severely broken. We know about a great many drugs, but we do not produce them because there is not enough profit in it. We produce other drugs, but keep them scarce so that outrageous prices can be charged that will generate huge profits. Still other drugs are not discovered or brought to market because the cost of research and approval is staggering. Research done to develop a drug then becomes a closely held secret, and therefore kept out of reach from many people who may need it.

Now, imagine a world where there is no budget constraining research; a world where the amount of effort put into research is based only on the potential for improving the human condition, not a juicy profit loss statement. Imagine a world where drug discoveries were instantly shared with the entire scientific community, and once proven safe are not withheld from anyone. Imagine a world where medical science begins to focus on how to keep us healthy instead of just trying to fix us when we break. Imagine a new world of limitless possibilities.

Summary

There is so much more to The Venus Project than can possibly be covered in this short article. The scope of the ideas we have talked about here are vast, and many of the concepts mentioned will need to be further developed, tested and evaluated before being placed into practice. For every detail, there are 100 questions yet to be answered. Many questions cannot be answered until events start to unfold; such as exactly how the transition to a resource-based economy will take place. Until then, all we can do is prepare, and educate people about the possibilities. We have lot of hard work ahead of us.

The rewards will be well worth the effort; yielding a healthy, vibrant society and living a lifestyle that the ultra-wealthy today would envy. Abundant resources will be shared by all humankind fairly. In addition, we will have an end to war, poverty, human suffering and most crime. Living on planet Earth will truly be a pleasant experience.

I encourage you to visit The Venus Project web site and continue finding out as much as you can. If you are moved as I have been, the project is actively looking for volunteers on a number of projects, and I encourage you to apply to volunteer your time and help make the ideas discussed here a reality.

The Venus Project: http://www.thevenusproject.com/

In addition, a fantastic resource and excellent reading is a book by Jacque titled “The Best That Money Can’t Buy,” available for sale at the Venus Project web site. All proceeds go to support the project.

http://www.thevenusproject.com/en/store/the-venus-project-store#ecwid:category=1360103&mode=category&offset=0&sort=normal

Change is the Future – Part I

Change is the Future – Part III

Further Reading:

The End of Work; Jerry Rfkin, 1995; Tarcher Putnam; isbn: 0-87477-779-8
http://www.amazon.com/End-Work-Decline-Global-Post-Market/dp/0874778247

Technological Unemployment; blog
http://thefuturist.co/technological-unemployment

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2011 Predictions for the Comming Decade


In 2000 I was telling everyone that would listen, that global oil production would not be able to keep up with demand within the next 15 years. Does anyone doubt this now?

In 2005 I was telling anyone who would listen that within 5 to 10 years cars will be driving themselves like an airplane does on auto pilot. Most manufactures either have driver assist or partial auto pilot coming out by next year. Fully autonomous cars are only a few years away now. (update GM says they will provide sophisticated driver assist mostly for collision avoidance by 2015 and fully autonomous cars by 2020.)

So, what’s my latest prediction for the next decade?

Manufacturing will undergo a transformation so radical that the industrial revolution will be trivial when held up for comparison. Actually a number of new technologies stand at the cusp to revolutionize everything from the ground up.

1. New materials are coming out of Nanotechnology; glass that is stronger than steel, batteries that hold 10 times the charge and can be recharged in seconds, and a DVD disk that can hold 600 hours of video. New delivery for cancer drugs are being developed that will allow them to be carried by robots that are smaller than a blood cell, and can deliver their drug at a specific target site, killing only the tumor. Look for all of these to either be on the market or in trials within 3 to 5 years.

2. Computers will continue to double in power for the foreseable future every 12 to 18 months. A super computer will excede the processing power of the human brain before 2020. The software to create human level intellegence will take another 10 years.

There are two specific areas that will benefit from all other advances to revolutionize manufacturing, reshaping our world in ways we can’t even imagine; robotics and 3-D printing. We have had both technologies for some time now, however both seeing rapid advances due to other technologies that are enabling them.

3. Within 10 years most homes will start installing 3-D printers (a replicator not unlike those we saw on TV shows like Star Trek). Like the Microwave oven, it will be expensive and bulky at first, but eventually no household will be able to imagine life without one. Imagine the ability to manufacture 90% of anything you could ever want in your kitchen or garage. A new pare of shoes, a sweater, works of art, spare parts to fix your vacuum cleaner, or heck a whole new vacuum cleaner. Need a special tool to replace a roofing tile, print one, and then print the roofing tile. There are even plans to build a printer large enough to manufacture whole houses on-site. NASA is very interested in the house printer for off world home construction, and a general 3-D printer to make spare parts in space.

http://www.txchnologist.com/volumes/advanced-manufacturing/3d-printing-and-the-replicator-economy

Even printing food is on the table:

http://futureoftech.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/09/14/7765055-the-wild-possibilities-of-printing-food

4. The field of robotics is currently constrained mostly to special industrial situations like the automotive industry. Until now they were not well suited to work in close proximity with humans because they lacked the required attributes to operate safely around people. A new generation of robots is beginning to show up. Soon, robots will have skin that responds to touch, and have soft bodies so that they can avoid hurting people. Robot vision and artificial intelligence will be able to operate in our disorganized and cluttered world. They will communicate verbally as well as any natural person. Within 10 years robots will be commonplace in such environments as hospitals and nursing homes, helping with patient care. They will also start showing up to replace administrative and secretarial functions; though these latter units may not look like a traditional robot because they may simply exist in a person’s desktop computer. They may in fact show up in your home as a very fancy, and smart answering machine; one that not only answers the phone and interacts like a real person, but also wakes you up in the morning, reminds you of your doctors appointment and not only balance your checkbook but act as a finicial advisor and travel agent. Soon thereafter, as the price point comes down another order of magnitude, robots will start to replace domestic labor and become common household appliances, running around doing the laundry at 3 am when electricity is cheaper, and trimming the bushes in the yard. And yes, even putting the cat out at night.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2011-07/30/c_131018764.htm

In summary the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs overseas will be a short lived phenomenon. Manufacturing will become localized to where it is consumed. Robots will fill most other needs for manufacturing where items are either too large or too complex to be made with a 3-D printer/replicator. Demand for raw materials and delivery of raw materials to the site of manufacture will be in high demand, but there again, that industry easily lends itself to automation with the robots coming on line in the next decade. We will once again have to transform our economy to adapt to the new normal.

People need not fear the robot revolution in the next twenty years. After that, if were dumb enough to design them without safe guards then perhaps we need to loose.