14 min read

Abundance Insider: March 15th, 2019

By Peter H. Diamandis on Mar 15, 2019

In this week's Abundance Insider: Noise-cancelling metamaterials, algorithms for early Alzheimer's diagnosis, and CRISPR's convergence with lab-grown meat.

Cheers,
Peter, Marissa, Kelley, Greg, Bri, Jarom, Joseph, Derek, Jason, Claire and Max

P.S. Send any tips to our team by clicking here, and send your friends and family to this link to subscribe to Abundance Insider.

P.P.S. Join Peter Diamandis in Dubai, the City of the Future, for the inaugural Abundance 360 Dubai Summit on March 26 - 27, 2019. Hosted by the Dubai Future Foundation and the Crown Prince of Dubai, this two-day experience offers exponential leaders an immersive look into how technology will transform every industry. Read more about the program and apply here to join.

Topics: Abundance Insider Robotics Materials Science Finance food healthcare materials biotech fintech future of food lab grown meat
11 min read

Future of FINTECH - Part 2

By Peter H. Diamandis on Sep 23, 2018

In 2018 alone, over 22,000 businesses around the world borrowed more than $380 billion from crowdlending services. 

Disruptive business models are often powered by alternative financing.

In Part 1 of the Future of Fintech, I discussed how mobile is redefining money and banking and shared some of the dramatic transformations in the global remittance infrastructure.

In this blog, we’ll discuss:

  1. Peer-to-peer lending
  2. AI financial advisors and robo traders
  3. Seamless Transactions

Let’s dive right back in…

 

Decentralized Lending = Democratized Access to Finances 

 

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending is an age-old practice, traditionally with high risk and extreme locality. Now, the P2P funding model is being digitized and delocalized, bringing lending online and across borders. 

Zopa, the first official crowdlending platform, arrived in the United Kingdom in 2004. Since then, the consumer crowdlending platform has facilitated lending of over 3 billion euros ($3.5 billion USD) of loans .

Person-to-business crowdlending took off, again in the U.K., in 2005 with Funding Circle, now with over 5 billion euros (~5.8 billion USD) of capital loaned to small businesses around the world. Now, in 2018 alone, over 22,000 businesses around the world borrowed over $380 billion from crowdlending services.

Crowdlending next took off in the United States in 2006, with platforms like Prosper and Lending Club. The U.S. crowdlending industry has boomed to $21 billion in loans, across 515 thousand loans.

Let’s take a step back… to a time before banks, when lending took place between trusted neighbors in small villages across the globe. Lending started as peer-to-peer transactions. 

As villages turned into towns, towns turned into cities, and cities turned into sprawling metropolises, neighborly trust and the ability to communicate across urban landscapes broke down. That’s where banks and other financial institutions came into play — to add trust back into the lending equation. 

With crowdlending, we are evidently returning to this pre-centralized-banking model of loans, and moving away from cumbersome intermediaries (e.g. high fees, regulations, and extra complexity). 

Fueled by the permeation of the internet, P2P lending took on a new form as ‘crowdlending’ in the early 2000’s. Now, as blockchain and artificial intelligence arrive on the digital scene, P2P lending platforms are being overhauled with transparency, accountability, reliability and immutability.

Artificial Intelligence Micro Lending & Credit Scores

We are beginning to augment our quantitative decision-making with neural networks processing borrowers’ financial data to determine their financial ‘fate’ (or, as some call it, your credit score). Companies like Smart Finance Group (backed by Kai Fu Lee and Sinovation Ventures) are using Artificial Intelligence to minimize default rates for tens of millions of microloans.

Smart Finance is fueled by users’ personal data, particularly smartphone data and usage behavior. Users are required to give Smart Finance access to their smartphone data, so that Smart Finance’s artificial intelligence engine can generate a credit score from the personal information. 

The benefits of this AI-powered lending platform do not stop at increased loan payback rates -- there’s a massive speed increase as well. Smart Finance loans are frequently approved in under 8 seconds. As we’ve seen with other artificial intelligence disruptions, data is the new gold. 

Digitizing access to P2P loans paves the way for billions of people currently without access to banking to leapfrog the centralized banking system -- just as Africa bypassed landline phones and went straight to mobile. Leapfrogging centralized banking and the credit system is exactly what Smart Finance has done for hundreds of millions of people in China.

Blockchain Backed Crowdlending

As artificial intelligence accesses even the most mundane mobile browsing data to assign credit scores, blockchain technologies -- particularly immutable ledgers and smart contracts -- are massive disruptors to the archaic banking system, building additional trust and transparency on top of current P2P lending models. 

Immutable ledgers provide the necessary transparency for accurate credit and loan defaulting history. Smart contracts executed on these immutable ledgers bring the critical ability to digitally replace cumbersome, expensive third parties (like banks), allowing individual borrowers or businesses to directly connect with willing lenders.

Two of the leading blockchain platforms for P2P lending are ETHLend and SALT Lending. 

ETHLend is an Ethereum-based decentralized application aiming to bring transparency and trust to P2P lending through Ethereum network smart contracts. 

Secure Automated Lending Technology (SALT) allows cryptocurrency asset holders to use their digital assets as collateral for cash loans, without the need to liquidate their holdings, giving rise to a digital-asset-backed lending market.

While blockchain poses a threat to many of the large, centralized banking institutions, some are taking advantage of the new technology to optimize their internal lending, credit scoring, and collateral operations.

In March 2018, ING and Credit Suisse successfully exchanged 25 million euros using HQLA-X, a blockchain-based collateral lending platform. 

HQLA-X runs on the R3 Corda blockchain -- a platform designed specifically to help heritage financial and commerce institutions migrate away from their inefficient legacy financial infrastructure.

Blockchain and tokenization are going through their own fintech and regulation shakeup right now. In a future blog, I’ll discuss the various efforts to more readily assure smart contracts, and the disruptive business model of security tokens and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Parallels to the Global Abundance of Capital

The abundance of capital being created by the advent of P2P loans closely relates to the unprecedented global abundance of capital.

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and crowdfunding are taking a strong stand in disrupting the $164 billion venture capital market. The total amount invested in ICOs has risen from $6.6 billion in 2017 to $7.15 billion USD in the first half of 2018. Crowdfunding helped projects raise more than $34 billion in 2017, with experts projecting that global crowdfunding investments will reach $300 billion by 2025.

In the last year alone, using ICOs, over a dozen projects have raised hundreds of millions of dollars in mere hours. Take Filecoin, for example, which raised $257 million  in only 30 days; its first $135 million was raised in the first hour. Similarly, the Dragon Coin project (which itself is revolutionizing remittance in high-stakes casinos around the world) raised $320 million in its 30-day public ICO. 

Some Important Takeaways…

  • Technology-backed fundraising and financial services are disrupting the world’s largest financial institutions -- anyone, anywhere, at anytime will be able to access the capital they need to pursue their idea.
  • The speed at which we can go from "I've got an idea" to "I run a billion-dollar company" is moving faster than ever.
  • Following Ray Kurzweil’s Law of Accelerating Returns, the rapid decrease in time to access capital is intimately linked (and greatly dependent on) a financial infrastructure (technology, institutions, platforms, and policies) that can adapt and evolve just as rapidly.

This new abundance of capital, requires financial decision-making with ever-higher market prediction precision. That’s exactly where artificial intelligence is already playing a massive role.

 

Artificial Intelligence, Robo Traders and Financial Advisors

 

On May 6, 2010, the Dow Jones Industrial Average suddenly collapsed by 998.5 points (equal to 8 percent, or $1 trillion). The crash lasted over 35 minutes and is now known as the ‘Flash Crash’. While no one knows the specific reason for this 2010 stock market anomaly, experts widely agree that the Flash Crash had to do with algorithmic trading

With the ability to have instant, trillion-dollar market impacts, algorithmic trading and artificial intelligence are undoubtedly ingrained in how financial markets operate.

In 2017, CNBC.com estimated that 90 percent of daily trading volume in stock trading is done by machine algorithms, and only 10 percent is carried out directly by humans.

Artificial intelligence and financial management algorithms are not only available to top Wall Street players.

Robo-advisor financial management apps, like Wealthfront and Betterment, are rapidly permeating the global market. Wealthfront currently has $9.5 billion in assets under management, and Betterment has $10 billion.

Artificial intelligent financial agents are already helping financial institutions protect your money and fight fraud. A prime application for machine learning is in detecting anomalies in your spending and transaction habits, and flagging potentially fraudulent transactions.

As artificial intelligence continues to exponentially increase in power and capabilities, increasingly powerful trading and financial management bots will come online, finding massive new and previously lost streams of wealth. 

How else are artificial intelligence and automation transforming finance? 

 

Disruptive Remittance and Seamless Transactions

 

When was the last time that you paid in cash at a toll booth? How about for a taxi ride? 

EZ-Pass, the electronic tolling company implemented extensively on the East Coast, has done wonders to reduce traffic congestion and increase traffic flow. 

Driving down I-95 on the East Coast of the United States, drivers rarely notice their financial transaction with the state’s tolling agencies. The transactions are seamless.

The Uber app enables me to travel without my wallet. I can forget about payment on my trip, free up my mental bandwidth and time for higher-priority tasks. The entire process is digitized and, by extension, automated and integrated into Uber’s platform. (Note: This incredible convenience manytimes causes me to accidentally walk out of taxi cabs without paying!).

In January 2018, we saw the success of the first cutting-edge, AI-powered Amazon Go store open in Seattle, Washington. The store marked a new era in remittance and transactions -- gone are the days of carrying credit cards and cash, and gone are the cash registers. And now, on the heals of these early ‘beta-tests’, Amazon is considering opening as many as 3,000 of these cashierless stores by 2023.

Amazon Go stores use AI algorithms that watch various video feeds (from advanced cameras) throughout the store to identify who picks up groceries, exactly what products they select, and how much to charge that person when they walk out of the store. It’s a grab and go experience. 

Let’s extrapolate the notion of seamless, integrated payment systems from Amazon Go and Uber’s removal of post-ride payment to the rest of our day-to-day experience.

Imagine this near future:

  • As you near the front door of your home, your AI assistant summons a self-driving Uber that takes you to the Hyperloop station (after all, you work in L.A. but live in San Francisco).
  • At the station, you board your pod, without noticing that your ticket purchase was settled via a wireless payment checkpoint.
  • After work, you stop at the Amazon Go, pick up dinner -- your virtual AI assistant passes your Amazon account information to the store’s payment checkpoint, as the store’s cameras and sensors track you, your cart and charge you auto-magically.
  • At home, unbeknownst to you, your AI has already restocked your fridge and pantry with whatever items you failed to pick up at the Amazon Go.

Once we remove the actively transacting aspect of finance, what else becomes possible?

 

Top Conclusions

 

Extraordinary transformations are happening in the finance world.

We’ve only scratched the surface of the fintech revolution.

All of these transformative financial technologies require high-fidelity assurance, robust insurance, and a mechanism for storing value. 

I’ll dive into each of these other facets of financial services in future blogs.

For now, thanks to coming global communication networks being deployed on 5G, Alphabet’s LUNE, SpaceX’s Starlink and OneWeb, by 2024, nearly all 8 billion people on Earth will be online.

Once connected, these new minds, entrepreneurs, and customers need access to money and financial services to meaningfully participate in the world economy.

By connecting lenders and borrowers around the globe, decentralized lending drives down global interest rates, increases global financial market participation, and enables economic opportunity to the billions of people who are about to come online.

We’re living in the most abundant time in human history -- and fintech is just getting started.

 

Topics: Bitcoin Finance cryptocurrencies blockchain fintech banking investing mobile banking developing markets developing economies loans distributed ledger
8 min read

Future of Finance & Banking - Part 1

By Peter H. Diamandis on Sep 16, 2018

The CIA estimates over $90 trillion of global value is stored in cash, banknotes, money markets, and bank accounts.

Topics: Bitcoin Finance cryptocurrencies blockchain fintech banking investing mobile banking developing markets developing economies loans distributed ledger
14 min read

Abundance Insider: August 10th, 2018 Edition

By Peter H. Diamandis on Aug 10, 2018

In this week's Abundance Insider: Search-and-rescue centaur robots, computer-generated celebrities, and a personality-parsing AI.

Cheers,
Peter, Marissa, Kelley, Greg, Bri, Jarom, Joseph, Derek, Jason, Claire and Max

P.S. Send any tips to our team by clicking here, and send your friends and family to this link to subscribe to Abundance Insider.

P.P.S. Want to learn more about exponential technologies and hone in on your MTP/ Moonshot? Abundance Digital includes 100+ hours of course work and video archives for entrepreneurs, like you. Keep up to date on exponential news and get feedback on your boldest ideas from an experienced, supportive community. Click here to learn more and sign up.

Driverless Buses Proposed for Regional Areas to Help with Lack of Transport

What it is: After making history in California in March by launching the first autonomous shuttle on public roads, French company EasyMile is seeking government funding to launch a set of autonomous shuttle trials in rural and suburban communities throughout Australia. Each shuttle will accommodate up to 14 passengers, plus a chaperone (as required by law). The intent is to provide access to those in need of essential services, with each community and local councils deciding where to set up stops. As an example, in Adelaide, where EasyMile will set up its Australian headquarters, trial buses will transport passengers to and from hospitals and shopping centers. So far, even people in their 80's and 90's who we might expect to be fearful have embraced the technology.

Why it's important: Evidence that our autonomously transported future will almost certainly have variety, from grocery delivery vehicles like Nuro to the shuttles created here. It’s also worth noting that the adoption of "risky" technologies often find early acceptance where pain is greatest, particularly when regulatory bodies are involved. When you combine these two ideas and look within your industry, what opportunities emerge?  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Morgan McDermott / Written by Jason Goodwin 

Is a Centaur the Future of Search-and-Rescue Robots?

What it is: Researchers from the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia built a new experimental search-and-rescue robot named Centauro. Centauro has four legs and two arms -- resembling the mythical centaur -- to help scientists find the most valuable and versatile body shape for robots to aid in disaster relief efforts. Robots designed to resemble a hybrid of different creatures offer flexibility advantages over purely anthropomorphic machines. For example, Centauro can take a number of different postures, including upright and on wheels for fast transportation, and crouched like a spider to provide a lower center of gravity while using equipment. Standing 1.5 meters tall (~5 feet) and weighing in at 93 kilograms (205 pounds), Centauro’s design evolved from that of Momaro, another centaur-robot built by European researchers for the DARPA Robotics Challenge in 2015.

Why it's important: While the world as a whole becomes safer for humans every day, the threat of natural disasters to human life still looms large. Disaster relief is a dangerous job -- and we can save more lives, faster by supporting human relief workers with robot reinforcements.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Max Goldberg 

The Rise of the Computer-Generated Celebrity

What it is: Digital -- that is, non-corporeal -- celebrities are on the rise and creating fans across a variety of audiences in advertising, music and modeling. As examples, Hatsune Miku began life as the anime mascot for a Japanese company making voice synthesizer software. She now performs songs in concert as a hologram drawing massive crowds, as does Aimi Eguchi, the holographic member of Japanese girl band AKB48. Over on Instagram, the bot Lil Miquela counts its followers in the millions, partners with Prada, and champions social causes like Black Lives Matter.

Why it's important: It might be easy to discount anime and girl bands, but this is a trend to watch. How will we interact with other AIs, such as service bots and autonomous vehicles, if social acceptance and admiration continue to grow? Is a humanlike interface all we need to form emotional bonds and trust in technology? And how will influencer marketing and the notion of "celebrity" change as AI proliferates?  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Jason Goodwin 

AI Can Watch Your Eye Movements to Read Your Personality

What it is: A global team of researchers has built a machine learning algorithm that uses a person’s eye movement to reliably determine their Big Five personality traits (neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness). The researchers demonstrated the correlation between eye movement and personality traits by tracking the eye movements of 42 participants as they did everyday tasks around their university. Then, a baseline set of personality traits was determined by a well-established questionnaire. After tracking eye movement and establishing a baseline, the collected eye movement data was fed to a machine learning algorithm to also infer personality trains. The results from the questionnaire and machine learning algorithm were well correlated.

Why it's important: Personality traits are complex; this machine learning application demonstrates that we can extrapolate personality traits from in-real-life situations. This new in-situ data collection can be contrasted with the standardized questionnaire method for determining personality -- where you sit and take a test, without in-the-moment environmental factors that might influence your personality results.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Morgan McDermott / Written by Max Goldberg 

Jack Ma's Giant Financial Startup is Shaking the Chinese Banking System

What it is: Leading the world in fintech disruption is Alibaba's Ant Financial Services Group, which controls the world’s largest money-market fund, has made loans to tens of millions, handled more payments in 2017 than MasterCard, and completed over $8 trillion of transactions via its online payments platform last year alone. At the forefront of China's mobile payments revolution, Ant held billions of customer funds in escrow for Taobao transactions by 2013. What then? With 620 million users already on Alipay, Ant built out its Yu'e Bao money-market fund, allowing users to invest as little as a few cents, transfer cash in and out without fees, and get yields several points higher than bank payments on short-term deposits.

Why it's important: As Ant Financial builds out technologically superior financial services that threaten more traditional incumbents, China's central banks and finance players are beginning to push back. Able to invest in high-yielding products riskier than those which banks are allowed to tap, Yu'e Bao has siphoned off money from savings accounts, driven up banks' interest rates, and even contributed to the closing of branches and ATMs. But while central bank regulators hit back with restrictions on escrow fund use and Ant’s more recent Zhima credit-scoring system, fintech models akin to Ant Financial’s may be moving too quickly to contain, disrupting everything from personal loans and small-business lending to credit scoring and insurance. What new financial services will be possible? And how will the international finance community respond?  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Claire Adair 

This AI-Driven Robotic Hand Used a Self-Teaching Algorithm and 100 Years of Data to Rotate a Cube

What it is: OpenAI researchers have just released Dactyl, an AI-driven robotic hand system trained to dexterously handle a cube with OpenAI’s self-teaching algorithm. By practicing an equivalent of 100 years inside a virtual simulation (50 hours of training in real time), the robotic hand taught itself to maneuver a cube with near-human-level skill, honing its fine motor skills through trial and error until reaching desired cube positions. Using a trio of cameras and reinforcement learning, researchers were able to adapt the robot’s grasping skills to countless different parameters.

Why it's important: OpenAI's Dactyl illustrates two major leaps forward in AI’s convergence with robotics: development of fine motor skills and adaptive learning in the physical world. While not explicitly taught any handling strategies, Dactyl was able to teach itself intuitive motor skills and even adapt humanlike grasps to its own robotic architecture (such as favoring its thumb and pinky to rotate the cube). And perhaps most exciting, Dactyl was trained with the same algorithm used to play the computer strategy game DOTA 2, demonstrating that a more general-purpose algorithm can indeed teach AI to succeed at two vastly different tasks. A significant milestone, this means AI researchers may soon be able to repurpose old algorithms for a wide variety of novel goals.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Morgan McDermott / Written by Claire Adair 

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This email is a briefing of the week's most compelling, abundance-enabling tech developments, curated by Marissa Brassfield in preparation for Abundance 360. Read more about A360 below.

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Topics: Abundance Insider Robotics Finance AI computer vision autonomous vehicles fintech banking computer generated