Future Cities Digest #3 (6.12.2013)

by Lukasz Alwast

#futures #science #predictions #kaku

Last week New York Times published a piece from Michio Kaku (NYU theoretical physicist, futurist & communicator of science) titled A Scientist Predicting the Future. In his article Kaku laid out what he expects to be the major transformations for the coming decade, based on series of interviews with over 300 scientists. Kaku suggests that: “computers will soon disappear”, “augmented will be everyday reality”, “the brain will be augmented with the Internet”, “parents will be designing their offsprings” and “intellectual capitalism will replace commodity capitalism”. Such way of communicating predictions brought the attention of Geoff Mulgan and Noah Raford who both on twitter expressed mild reservations towards such manner of presenting futures (Mulgan: “Half plausible, half inadvertent parodic reminder why futurism so often gets thing wrong”). Worth having a look if you want to build your own opinion.

#futures #governance #WEF #scenarios

 An article from Joseph Nye (former chairman of the National Intelligence Council and Harvard Professor of Governance) in last week’s Project Syndicate referred to a conversation that took place during the World Economic Forum Global Agenda 2013 Summit in Abu Dhabi. The big question was How might governance look like in 2050? The conversation lead into the development of three scenarios. In the first one participants considered a world ruled by “megacities”, where governance is administered largely by major urban agglomerations. The second was a world in which strong central governments use big data to fortify their control. In the third, central governments were fundamentally weak, with markets – and the enterprises that dominate them – providing almost all services.  The general conclusion was that in the coming years, governance systems capable of addressing fundamental issues like security, welfare, liberty and identity, will require coalitions that are small enough to function efficiently and being able to make decisions concerning the underrepresented. However, in Nye’s opinion, although megacities have the potential to create new opportunities for workers and businesses, they cannot solve universal problems such as climate change or managing the production and protection of national and global public goods.

 #drones #octocopters #logistics #Amazon

Amazon broke the news on Monday morning sharing information that it will be testing the use of octocopters for short range parcel deliveries. According to Bezof (Amazon’s CEO) 86% of the companies deliveries weight less than 2,5kg, which makes them potentially suitable for half-hour deliveries. However, even now Amazon officials acknowledge that the technology is not yet there and expect it to be ready in 2015 when the new US FAA regulations will take place. The name for the envisioned service is PrimeAir (video). The Monday hype was quickly addressed by IEEE Spectrum which published an reply pointing out to a number of obstacles for this type of technology. In their opinion, the main difficulty with such services is the GPS navigation (a simple address is not enough for a drone to land on a door step), reliable real-time avoidance systems (what might require a lot of computing power and sophisticated sensors) as well as safety, legality and liability issues. It is worth noting that UPS also expressed interest into air-delivery technologies, which might indicate further attention and R&D inflows into associated technologies.

 #robotics #logistics #acquisitions #Google

 According to an article in the New York Times, in the last half year Google has acquired seven technology companies in a declared effort to create a new generation of robots. According to the team leaders, only recently has a range of technologies come to mature to a stage where this kind of automated systems can be realistically deployed. Among the acquired companies are organizations which develop humanoid robots, computer vision systems, robots for loading and unloading trucks and robotic camera systems. These observations correspond with last month International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo, where according to IEEE Spectrum, the four most visible robotic trends where: dual arm robots, robots with cameras on hands, wearable robots and high-speed pick-and-place robots. According to Google sources, the seven companies are already capable of creating technologies needed to build a mobile, dexterous robot, but Google will be pursuing additional acquisitions in this area soon.

Recent reports out there:

This weeks’ artefact from the future:


Smart Shopping Card (IFTF)
“What if important health information were delivered through multi-sensory processes, so that you not only relied on visual cues to make health decisions, but you were informed through touch, smell, and sound? HealthCart, steeped in findings emerging from the burgeoning field of multi-sensory research, promotes healthy decisions at the grocery store by leveraging not just your sight, but all of your senses. Your HealthCart knows your previous shopping habits, biometric data, and/or shopping values, making navigating the grocery store easier and even healthier for you.”