Monday, April 18, 2016

What Will Life Be Like In 2050

What will life be like for our children and grandchildren by 2050, as we continue our transition from a Type 0 into a Type 1 Civilization.

A Type 0 Civilization extracts its energy, information, raw-materials from crude organic-based sources (e.g. wood/fossil fuel); information is communicated by books, newspapers, oral tradition; natural and man-made disasters coupled with societal conflicts create extreme risk of extinction; it's capable of orbital spaceflight; limited medical and technological advancement; failure to improve social and environmental conditions often lead to their own extinction.

A Type I Civilization extracts its energy and raw-materials from fusion power, hydrogen, solar, and other renewable resources; able to utilize and store energy available from its neighboring star, i.e. the sun; capable of inter-planetary spaceflight, colonization, and communication within its solar system; mega-scale global engineering and trade; regional and world governments; digital access to all known information and knowledge; achieves medical and technological singularity; still vulnerable to possible extinction.

My grandparents grew up during the final transition from the 'Agriculture Age' into the 'Industrial Age' back in the early 1900's. They were there at the start-up of the automobile industry, the beginning of aviation, the introduction of home appliances like the washing machine and refrigerators. Long distance travel was largely by steam ships or locomotives. They were there when electricity and telephones were first introduced. My parents got to see these innovative new products and industries mature. They got to travel by jet airplanes and were there when black & white televisions were invented, when color TV sets came into being, and even saw the emergence of computer technology. They were there at the start of the 'Space Age' and when the first man walked on the moon.

I grew up in the 1960's and lived and worked during the transition from the 'Industrial Age' into the 'Information Age' of the 21st Century. I was there to see the startup and rapid growth of the information technology (IT) industry, the transition from analog to digital communication networks, the birth of the Internet and world wide web (WWW), the emergence of regional and global governing entities, the start of inter-planetary flight, the commercialization of space travel, the emergence of mobile, wearable and implantable IT systems, the mapping of the human genome and the birth of regenerative medicine, in addition to the development and use of artificial intelligence, drone technology, laser beams, 3D printing, virtual reality, and so many other advancements rapidly leading up to the achievement of medical and technological singularity.

So try and imagine what advancements and massive changes our children and grandchildren will see and experience by 2050 and beyond. For example, will they witness:
  • Rapid growth in predictive and regenerative medicine leading ultimately to the end of disease and death as we know it;
  • Achievement of medical and technological singularity, leading to the transition of humans from our existing life forms into cyborg or android bodies;
  • Development of high-speed hyperloop transnational transportation systems on Earth;
  • Development, deployment, and use of next generation inter-planetary transportation systems;
  • Establishment of initial colonies on nearby planets within our solar system, i.e. Mars;
  • Development and widespread use of 3D manufacturing and teleportation technologies;
  • Reduction in Earth's population to more manageable levels, e.g. 5-6 billion people.
  • Development and deployment of telepathic methods of communications between people;
  • Free and 'open access' to all the world's knowledge by human beings as needed;
  • Exponential growth of innovative technologies and solutions to facilitate continued advancement of our civilization in order to transition from a Type I into a Type II Civilization in the 22nd Century.

Some of the many characteristics of a Type II Civilization will include: the ability to harness and control the power of a star; mastery of faster-than-light travel; the capability of inter-stellar travel; the colonization of other solar systems in our galaxy; starships powered by the collision of matter and antimatter; the ability to communicate all knowledge in a short, massive burst; initial contact established with other civilizations in the universe; the extinction of our inter-stellar civilization will be highly unlikely.

What do you think our children and grandchildren will see and experience in their lifetimes? Share your thoughts with us.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Open Revolution and the Information Age – Taking action to restore the American Dream

As I have said before in previous blogs on the 'Open Revolution', we are in the midst of the transition from the 'Industrial Age' to the 'Information Age' and are experiencing major changes and disruptions similar to those experienced when our country transitioned from the 'Agricultural Age' to the 'Industrial Age'.  Many organizations, business practices, skills, values, and behavior that worked well in the past have become ineffective, outdated and must change with the times.  

History reminds us that back during the Agricultural Age, the wealth of many nations and governmental power rested disproportionally in the hands of kings and their noblemen – the 1% of that era.  As we moved into the Industrial Age, conditions led to a series of revolutions (e.g. American & French Revolutions) where the 'middle class' wrested power from these nobles and set up governments that placed more power  in their hands.

Today, we again find ourselves in a position where the royalty or 'noblemen' of today, the billionaires and Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of large corporations, hold a disproportionate level of wealth and power – the 1% of this era. Again, as we transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, revolution is breaking out.  Hundreds of millions of people in the 'middle class' are seeking to wrest power away from the noblemen of today and restore fairness or balance to a system going out of control.

The Internet, computer chips, social media, and mobile technology coupled with open source, open access, open standards, open data, and other key components of the 'open' movement are all contributing to the disruptive 'Open Revolution' that is occurring all around us.  These new technologies and the growth of 'social networks' are being used to bring about major changes in the public and private sector organizations, as well as our society and culture in general.

So, once again let's ask the following questions.  What does this all mean to us? What steps will Americans take to strengthen or replace existing ways of doing business, improve the way our government works, and how we lead our lives in the 21st century?  What can we do to help shape a better future for our country and our people? We shouldn't just complain or shout at others about the current state of affairs, we ought to provide constructive recommendations on next steps to take as we move deeper into the 21st century.

So, let's start to figure out what 'We the People' believe ought to be the best way forward. Let's identify some of the key issues facing us and specific strategies and alternatives we should pursue. For example:

  • Do we want to see our global nation-state system give way to a world governed by large powerful multi-national corporations?  Is this what the 'Open Revolution' is all about?
  • Or, do we see the 'Open Revolution' and the Information Age empowering individuals and providing for a more democratic society?
  • Do we want to see decentralization and re-distribution of governmental power away from billionaires and  large corporations back into the hands of an informed citizenry?
  • Should we be insisting on the passage of laws outlawing corporate lobbyists? Not just placing restrictions on their activities, but outlawing them – especially by former Congress members or their staff.
  • Do "We the People" want to pass laws specifically aimed at reversing the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision allowing organizations to spend unlimited dollars on political campaigns?
  • Do we want to actively encourage the adoption of 'open solutions' as one way to increase competition and innovation in the coming century? e.g. open source, open access, open data, open standards, etc.
  • Should many of the "too big to fail" corporations and monopolies based in the U.S. be broken up? Has their power become a major threat to our Constitution and way of life?
  • As an alternative, should we more proactively encourage the growth of small and mid-size organizations that tend to compete and collaborate more in a truly 'open' marketplace?

What are your thoughts? What do you think needs to be done? How do you see the 'Open Revolution' playing out as we move deeper into the Information Age over the coming decades?

* Interested in the Future of America? Visit the blogging site on the America's Future: 2020-2050.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Latest Update on Human Augmentation & Exoskeleton Technologies

News continues to proliferate about the development, deployment and use of emerging human augmentation and exoskeleton technologies.

Human augmentation technologies have the potential to enhance our innate human abilities in many ways. For example, it could be used to replace missing limbs or correct physical disabilities. In fact, some of the latest prosthetic devices have now reached the stage where they offer equivalent or slightly improved functionality over human limbs.

Military organizations are now experimenting with a wide range of 1st generation human augmentation technologies, including exoskeletons that allow personnel to carry increased loads and perform at a higher level. These devices also have the potential to be adapted for use in healthcare and many other industries.

Elderly people could benefit from powered human augmentation technology, such as powered exoskeletons, that can be used to assist wearers with simple walking and lifting activities, improving the health and quality of life for aging populations.

New implantable brain-machine interfaces have been developed and are being tested that are demonstrating that directly bridging the gap between brain and prosthetic devices are becoming a reality – allowing prosthetic devices to be directly integrated with the user’s body.

Neuro-enhancement technology under development could also provide superior memory recall or speed of thought for humans. Think of the possibilities for the those suffering from some form of dementia.

Exoskeleton Technology

Powered exoskeletons consist primarily of an outer framework worn by a person coupled with a powered system of motors or hydraulics that delivers part of the energy needed for limb movement.

The main function of a powered exoskeleton is to assist the wearer by boosting their strength and endurance. To date, powered exoskeletons have primarily been designed and developed for use by the military.

Powered exoskeletons are now also being designed for use by firefighters and other rescue workers operating in dangerous situation.  The medical field is another prime area for exoskeleton technology development and use. For example, it could be used to assist nurses in moving heavy patients. It could also be used by patients with major physical disabilities, missing limbs, and many who are currently wheelchair-bound.

Image result for exoskeleton 

Exoskeleton for the Military

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) initiated development of exoskeletons in 2001 under the Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation program. Check out some of the following examples:

  • XOS Exoskeleton is a robotics suit developed for the US Army. The XOS system was originally developed as the Wearable Energetically Autonomous Robot (WEAR) by Sarcos Research. The company was subsequently acquired by the defense contractor Raytheon.
  • The DARPA Warrior Web program aims to develop a soft, lightweight suit that would help reduce injuries and fatigue and improve Soldiers’ ability to efficiently perform their missions.
  • Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC) is an untethered, hydraulic-powered anthropomorphic exoskeleton developed by Ekso Bionics , under an exclusive licensing agreement with Lockheed Martin. It is intended to help soldiers in combat carry a load of up to 200 pounds at a top speed of 10 miles per hour for extended periods of time.
  • A light weight robotic exoskeleton is also being developed and tested by Harvard scientists for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) called the Soft 'Exosuit'.

Exoskeletons in Medicine

Several companies have also created exoskeleton systems for use in medicine. For example, check out the following solutions:

  • The HULC System developed by Ekso Bionics for the military is also working on a modified version of the system for medical use. The Ekso Exoskeleton Lower Extremity Gait System (eLEGS)  is a hydraulically powered exoskeleton system that helps paraplegics to stand and walk. A variant of the system known as Mantis is being developed for use in other industries.
  • Cyberdyne has developed the Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL-5),  a wearable exoskeleton cyborg-type suit, that allows the wearer to lift 10 times as much as they normally could. It is expected to be applied in various fields such as rehabilitation support and physical training support in medical field, activities of daily living (ADL) support for disabled people. Cyberdyne's HAL-5 system could also provide support for rescue workers at disaster sites.
  • Honda has been working on their Walk Assist & Body Support systems that is now being readied for the marketplace. It is designed for use in activities requiring extended standing or repetitive lower-body tasks.
  • ARGO Medical Technologies has partnered with innovative robotics experts YaskawaElectric Corporation as it continues the global expansion of its ReWalk exoskeleton device which enables individuals with lower limb disabilities such as paraplegia to walk.

Exoskeletons & Open Source

Various organizations and projects teams have now tapped into the 'open source' movement and practices to collaborate, share, and speed up the development of a wide range of innovative human augmentation solutions, including exoskeleton systems. For example:

  • OpenExo is a project to build and program an open source assistive lower limb exoskeleton. Also visit the OpenExo Project on GitHub.
  • Open Prosthetics Project is producing useful innovations in the field of prosthetics and freely sharing the CAD designs, open source code, and open source hardware, e.g. Arduino boards.
  • Rehab Rex is designed and developed by Rex Bionics for use in rehabilitation centers to assist with the treatment of patients under their care.
  • Titan Arm is a robotic exoskeleton which was developed using low-cost manufacturing and production techniques to cut the cost dramatically. The project team used open source software to run the device and reduce development costs.

The development of human augmentation technology and exoskeletons is primed for significant growth over the coming decade(s).  Think of the many benefits to the military, manufacturing, factories, healthcare, gaming, and many other industries. As we move into the next generation of this technology and become more aware of its potential, more and more actors are getting into the game.
Latest Exoskeleton Technology News

Finally, some of the most recent articles this year about this emerging market and specific exoskeleton products include the following:

  • Panasonic thinks you'll hike, run, and build stuff using its Robotic Exoskeletons - Panasonic has developed three different types of exoskeletons designed for specific tasks. Their Panasonic Assist Suit is designed for warehouse and factory workers who lift heavy things, reducing strain on a wearer's lower back by up to 33 pounds. The much sleeker-looking PLN-01, which Panasonic has dubbed "Ninja," assists with motions like walking and running, and is shown being worn by people hiking steep mountain trails. Finally, the Power Loader suit is a very large exoskeleton that's designed for construction, public works, and disaster relief.
  • FDA Clears Parker's Indego® Exoskeleton for Clinical and Personal Use - Parker Hannifin Corporation, the global leader in motion and control technologies, today announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given clearance to now market and sell their Indego® exoskeleton for clinical and personal use in America. Indego is already commercially available in Europe. With annual sales of approximately $13 billion in fiscal year 2015, Parker Hannifin currently employs approximately 55,000 people in 50 countries around the world. Visit the company's website at
  • Ekso Bionics has now developed and delivered their Ekso GT robotic exoskeleton which enables individuals with lower extremity paralysis or weakness to stand and walk. In fact, the first Ekso GT was delivered to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago several years ago. The FDA is now hoping to see Ekso Bionics conduct a post-market study to assess the use of their products by patients.
  • Advances in exoskeleton tech provide the gift of walking to Paraplegic Patients - Recently, the California-based bionics firm suitX was selected as the winner of the $1 million top prize at the event for its pediatric medical exoskeleton at the 2016 UAE Artificial Intelligence & Robotics Competition. The company’s Phoenix exoskeleton is a modular unit which has a maximum weight of 27 pounds and is adjustable in size. The pediatric version of the Phoenix exoskeleton has been envisioned for helping children suffering from cerebral palsy or spina bifida to gain ambulatory mobility.
  • Global Exoskeleton Robots Market 2016-2020: Key Vendors are Cyberdyne, Ekso Bionics, Rewalk Robotics and Rex Bionics - The global exoskeleton robots market is expected to grow at a fairly solid Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 50.85% during the period 2016-2020. Then the industry will really take off!

If you're looking for a hot new field to enter that will start to play a dominant role in the marketplace in the 2020-2030 timeframe, this is it – human augmentation and exoskeleton technologies.