10 min read

Abundance Insider: August 30th, 2019

By Peter H. Diamandis on Aug 31, 2019

In this week's Abundance Insider: Stratospheric drones, a new space elevator design, and CRISPR-controlled materials for drug delivery.

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Cambridge scientists reverse aging process in rat brain stem cells.

What it is: A team of researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute has discovered a critical component of the extracellular environment’s effect on our brain’s aging process. As a result, they’ve now uncovered a potential mechanism for reversing loss of function in brain stem cells, typically due to stiffening. The researchers first studied the function of oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) — a type of stem cell critical for normal brain function and myelin reformation — by placing the OPCs of older mice into the far softer brain tissue of younger animals. Surprisingly, the older cells became rejuvenated, behaving more similarly to younger counterparts. The team then took its research a step further by removing Piezo1, a protein on the cell’s surface that detects whether its environment is soft or stiff. Once Piezo1 was removed, the OPCs were essentially tricked into believing their environment was soft, subsequently resuming normal, healthy function.

Why it’s important: In the near term, this discovery holds extraordinary potential to alleviate the pain of patients with Multiple Sclerosis, who suffer loss of function in both the brain and other parts of the nervous system. More broadly, however, this study demonstrates a key link between extracellular environment and the human aging process, opening new avenues for research and therapeutic applications. A major feat for longevity research, this and similar discoveries make aging research far more relevant to the well-funded study of other diseases, helping spur new funding for our extension of the human healthspan. | Share on Facebook.

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Drone Ambitions Soar to the Stratosphere.

What it is: Airbus, Boeing, and SoftBank are now developing stratospheric autonomous drones, capable of flying at (and even above) 60,000 feet. Intended to fly for months without intervention, the drones could deliver imaging and even internet services from above, generating a new market for commercial and military customers. Already, Airbus’s current iteration of its solar-powered Zephyr UAV weighs just 175 pounds yet touts a wingspan of 75 feet. Taking after this lightweight model, the stratospheric drones would be able to recharge batteries during the day to stay aloft at night. While seemingly a competitor to satellite connectivity providers like Starlink, OneWeb or TeleSat, these drones could additionally improve the link between ground and space satellites, according to the European Space Agency. This, in turn, would make upper stratospheric and space efforts far more complementary than competitive.

Why it’s important: According to research firm NSR, high-altitude aircraft (including stratospheric drones, balloons and airships) could generate $1.7 billion in revenue over the next decade. Despite the challenges of building aircraft light enough to fly above 60,000 feet, yet capable of withstanding turbulence at lower altitudes, there are already over 40 development programs currently under way. As both R&D and private sector investment continue on the rise, we will soon bring connectivity to upwards of 4 billion people currently without access to the web— no undersea cables or capital-intensive trenches needed. Last-mile connectivity costs will plunge, and anyone anywhere will be able to leverage the connected globe. | Share on Facebook.

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Double’s new telepresence robot now drives you around like you’re a Sim.

What it is: In a new feat for telepresence robotics, Double has announced the third generation of its flagship telecommuting device. The company’s latest model, “Double 3” has vastly improved upon previous hardware, no longer consisting of a scooter-like mount topped with (separately purchased) iPad. Embedding a screen for remote interaction with the robot’s environment, Double 3 is additionally equipped with a suite of cameras and 3D sensors, enabling seamless self-driving and augmented reality integration. No longer needing to manually steer Double around the office, users can simply place a “pin” on their target location and the robot will automatically go there, avoiding all obstacles and people along the way. Further geared with high-resolution Pan-Tilt-Zoom cameras, the device grants remote workers anywhere the novel ability to collaborate with colleagues in a hyper-efficient, life-like way.

Why it’s important: In just the past 5 years, the number of employers that allow working from home has grown 40 percent. Yet beyond the benefits of no commute, a recent survey revealed that 86 percent of employees find they are more productive at home than in an office. Yet Double and similar telepresence robots provide teams the best of both worlds, offering the convenience of working from home, while still maintaining the efficiency of spontaneous “water cooler” conversations and in-person meetings. As investment in sensors, Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality surges year-to-year, the cost of producing telepresence hardware will continue to plummet. An indication of the technology’s growing commercialization, Suitable Technologies (Double’s main competitor) was recently acquired by Blue Ocean Robotics, as the company continues deploying its Beam robot. Amplifying the experience of decentralized teams, Double’s latest iteration could permeate a range of industries, from elder care to surveillance to supply chain management. How might your business leverage telepresence robotics in a growing decentralized workforce? | Share on Facebook.

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Wildfire science: computer models, drones and laser scanning help fan the flames and prevent widespread devastation.

What it is: Utah University atmospheric scientist Adam Kochanski and a team of researchers are now refining a computer model with new data to predict how fires will spread and what weather events will follow in their wake. Initiating a “prescribed fire” — a controlled fire typically intended for habitat restoration in forest regions — the team used numerous infrared camera-fitted drones, laser scanning, and sensors to collect data while Kochanski tested his predictive model’s forecasts. While generated data is still being processed, the experiment is contributing to ‘coupled fire-atmosphere models,’ which leverage data to determine how wildfires influence local weather conditions, and the interaction of the two. Yet already, Kochanski’s model proved remarkably predictive of the experimental fire’s actual behavior.

Why it’s important: As wildfires grow ever more untamable and regions like the Amazon suffer detrimental losses, high-accuracy predictive models are more vital than ever before. Just in the last 10 decade, wildfires have decimated between 16,000 and 40,000 square kilometers of land in the U.S. each year, resulting in financial losses of US$5 billion. Paired with robust networks of sensors and autonomous drone fleets, computer models that incorporate weather conditions in AI forest fire mapping could help us to stem early fires before they gain momentum, saving forests, lives, and entire habitats. | Share on Facebook.

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These researchers want to run a cable from the Earth to the Moon.

What it is: Space elevators have remained a science fiction moonshot since the Space Race of the 1960s. Building them would require cable material far stronger and lighter than any material currently discovered. However, in a newly published paper, researchers from Columbia and Cambridge universities describe Spaceline, a promising cable design made from known materials that could run from the surface of the Moon to geostationary orbit (approximately 36,000 kilometers above ground). Given that the elevator would not attach to Earth’s crust, the design eliminates numerous past engineering challenges, as rockets would only need to reach Spaceline’s endpoint, dock on the elevator, and be pulled to the Lunar surface.

Why it’s important: Rocketing into space (particularly with heavy cargo) is exorbitantly expensive, costing between US$10-20 million per metric ton of weight. Finding alternative methods of exiting the Earth’s atmosphere is therefore crucial for our democratization of space travel and extraplanetary discovery. In success, Spaceline could significantly lower the cost and challenge of modern-day rocket launches, possibly even allowing future researchers to tether orbital telescopes and research institutions between the Earth and Moon. Made far more accessible given its use of existing materials, Spaceline may not only forge a faster path to private space travel, but could enable new space-based research to fundamentally shift the way we understand our universe and our species’ place within it. | Share on Facebook.

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Gene Editing Transforms Gel into Shape-Shifting Smart Material.

What it is: We often think of CRISPR in the context of genetically modified organisms or treatment of genetic diseases. Yet a team of researchers led by MIT bioengineer James Collins now has a new application for the gene-editing tool: smart materials that can shape-shift on command. Working with water-filled polymers held together by DNA strands called DNA hydrogels, the team used DNA-snipping enzyme Cas12a to alter the properties of these polymers. Programmed to recognize a specific DNA sequence and cut the targeted strand, Cas12a is now being used to build a number of CRISPR-controlled hydrogels that can change shape or dissolve completely to release a payload. Having demonstrated effectiveness, the team has even designed these hydrogels to release enzymes, drugs and human cells in response to programmed stimuli.

Why it’s important: Smart sensors for targeted drug delivery within the body have long been a hot topic of discussion, poised to revolutionize medicine with personalized and preventive care. Yet this research team’s CRISPR-controlled hydrogels could soon make this vision a practical reality. As expressed by Collins, “We’re in the CRISPR age right now [...] It’s taken over biology and biotechnology. We’ve shown that it can make inroads into materials and bio-materials.” Enabling constant monitoring of internal conditions, shape-shifting hydrogels and similar CRISPR-controlled materials might one day be capable of surrounding an infection with antibiotics the minute it appears, or releasing cancer drugs as soon as tumors are detected. Fortifying our bodies with an internal line of defense, smart biomaterials are slated to vastly increase the human healthspan, revolutionizing healthcare and the way we treat disease. | Share on Facebook.

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What is Abundance Insider?

This email is a briefing of the week's most compelling, abundance-enabling tech developments, curated by my team of entrepreneurs and technology scouts, including contributions from standout technology experts and innovators.

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At Abundance 360, a Singularity University program, we teach the metatrends, implications and unfair advantages for entrepreneurs enabled by breakthroughs like those featured above. We're looking for CEOs and entrepreneurs who want to change the world. The program is highly selective. If you'd like to be considered, apply here

Abundance Digital, a Singularity University program, is an online educational portal and community of abundance-minded entrepreneurs. You’ll find weekly video updates from Peter, a curated newsfeed of exponential news, and a place to share your bold ideas. Click here to learn more and sign up.

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Topics: Abundance Insider Space AI Artificial Intellegence IoT driverless autonomous vehicles self-driving cars physics computation
10 min read

Abundance Insider: August 23rd, 2019

By Peter H. Diamandis on Aug 23, 2019

In this week's Abundance Insider: Intel's new AI chip, Starship's college-based delivery bots, and a major breakthrough in determining protein structure.

Topics: Abundance Insider Space AI Artificial Intellegence IoT driverless autonomous vehicles self-driving cars physics computation
12 min read

Abundance Insider: August 16th, 2019

By Peter H. Diamandis on Aug 16, 2019

In this week's Abundance Insider: NYC's first driverless shuttle service, universe-generating supercomputers, and the new legal debate of patent-holding AIs.

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 home in on your MTP/ Moonshot? Abundance Digital, a Singularity University Program, includes 100+ hours of coursework 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.

New York’s first-ever driverless shuttle service has now hit the road.

What it is: Just last week, autonomous vehicle (AV) startup Optimus Ride became the first public AV offering in New York City, providing shuttle rides to passengers in Brooklyn's Navy Yard. While carrying both a safety driver and software operator, and restricted to a 1.1-mile loop of private roads, the shuttle service is already expected to serve over 16,000 passengers per month. Lowering consumers' barrier to use, Optimus has even made the service free, running between a NYC Ferry stop and the Yard’s Cumberland Gate to embed itself in the daily routine of thousands of commuters.

Why it’s important: As regulatory frameworks continue to catch up with AV technology, public trust is critical. By launching its shuttle service at the Navy Yard (private property exempt from DMV regulation), Optimus can tap into an existing passenger pool with rigidly defined routes and far fewer safety concerns. This choice further reflects Optimus’s strategy of deploying its service in residential communities, corporate and university campuses, resorts, and similarly well-structured environments. Providing a lower-risk market entry route, these “enclosed network” transportation services are already predicted to exceed a combined value of $600 billion, according to Optimus’s founders. An alternative to personal vehicles’ incremental addition of adaptive cruise control, brake assist, and hands-free parallel parking, Optimus-like shuttle services may vastly accelerate AV’s broader public adoption. | Share on Facebook.
 
 

Google’s AI researchers built an open-sourced soccer simulator to train next-gen machine learning algorithms.

What it is: Developing what we might call an AI playground, AI engineers at Google Research’s Brain Team have now built Google Research Football Environment. A reproducible, customizable, and physics-based environment, the open-sourced soccer video game is an ideal platform for researchers anywhere to test their machine learning algorithms. While games such as Pong, Space Invaders, and Go are now easily mastered by sophisticated algorithms, complex open-world games like Starcraft remain too challenging. Virtual soccer, on the other hand, offers a sufficiently structured (rule-based) game while introducing behavioral uncertainty and diverse team strategies.

Why it’s important: As explained by Research Lead Karol Kurach, Google’s football environment “provides a challenging reinforcement learning problem as football requires a natural balance between short-term control, learned concepts such as passing, and high level strategy.” Given the learning algorithm’s capacity to play against humans and machines alike, the virtual soccer game also introduces a broad range of opponent weaknesses and human irrationality. Yet beyond the game’s utility for immersing machine learning in accurate, real-world environments, GRFE could grant us new soccer strategies that even the world’s most skilled coaches have never considered. Meanwhile, for the AI research community, Google’s new game environment perfectly combines an effective training platform, public code, appropriate complexity, and non-deterministic patterns. | Share on Facebook.

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India’s Reliance Jio is launching its IoT network on New Year’s Day, with a plan to connect 1 billion devices.

What it is: Chairman of Reliance Industries, Mukesh Ambani, has now set the conglomerate’s sights on powering at least half of India’s connected devices, projected to exceed 2 billion over the next two years. Leveraging the company’s 4G network, Reliance’s telecom subsidiary, Reliance Jio, is therefore launching a Narrowband Internet of Things (or NBIoT) this coming January. Yet Jio will focus less on in-home appliances, instead targeting low-cost, seamless connectivity between industrial machines in manufacturing, transportation, logistics, and utilities. Reliance's focus on these latter industries also follows the Indian government's $1 billion investment in the construction of 100 smart cities.

Why it’s important: While India’s IoT-connected devices currently number about 60 million, Deloitte estimates a 32X surge in the nation’s online devices by 2020. Growth at this scale would drive a $9 billion domestic market, attracting countless smart device companies and new telecom players. Although we often think of technologically developed nations as best suited to IoT and smart cities, India and other emerging economies are well-positioned to leapfrog traditional network infrastructure, as IoT technology can be more easily embedded during network construction (no retrofitting needed!). As governments begin pouring funds into front-end smart city applications, IoT networks like that of Reliance are providing the backbone for everything from traffic flow optimization to government e-services. Share on Facebook.

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Could this AI inventor be the first with a patent to its name?

What it is: Sparking historic legal debate, American engineer Stephen Thaler and legal experts have just filed for UK-, Europe-, and US-based patents in the name of an AI. Dubbed Dabus AI, the algorithm was originally invented by Thaler but went on to autonomously design novel consumer products. Those in the patent filing process include a fractal-based, easy-to-grasp food container and a lamp built to flicker in patterns mirroring brain activity. As might be expected, however, patent offices are showing strong resistance, citing the traditional precedent that legal rights have always gone to humans.

Why it’s important: Now that AIs are becoming inventors, the legal status of human creativity and artificial genius could fundamentally alter how we assign legal responsibility, credit, ownership, and (in the case of product malfunction) culpability. As explained by the BBC, human requirements were originally intended to protect individuals from losing their inventions to corporations. Yet the increasing use of AIs (such as generative adversarial networks, or GANs) to design everything from optimized auto parts to novel drug therapies, is about to birth a far broader debate about intellectual property and the legal definition of invention. | Share on Facebook.

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This supercomputer generates millions of universes, helping researchers determine the rules that shaped our own.

What it is: Peter Behroozi and his research team at the University of Arizona Steward Observatory are now employing computer simulation to study one of humanity’s most existential questions: the formation of our universe. Foregoing costly telescopes, the team instead uses a supercomputer to generate millions of virtual universes. Each known as an “Ex Machina,” individual universes contain 12 million galaxies and start 400 million years after the Big Bang. By observing the characteristics of each universe, Behroozi and colleagues can distinguish underlying differences across simulations (relative to our own universe) to determine the viability of today's various formational theories. With a specific focus on the role of dark matter and how simulated galaxies give birth to stars, the research team can thereby infer causal relationships far more difficult to identify through traditional observation.

Why it’s important: Astronomers’ newfound ability to simulate millions of universes could soon allow us to isolate individual causal factors responsible for what we observe in the stars today. Yet supercomputers’ ability to generate massive databases with logically consistent data affects scientific discovery well beyond the origins of our universe. Soon, we might be able to “birth” millions of ecologies or even political simulations, each bound by their own set of parameters. In success, supercomputers and AI-generated simulations could thereby help researchers identify causal links, optimal conditions, and even theoretical flaws within any scientific field imaginable. | Share on Facebook.

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Astronomer David Kipping’s proposed “terrascope” (a planetary telescope) would use Earth’s atmosphere as a giant lens.

What it is: Telescopes capable of observing far-off worlds usually exceed billions in cost and can span the equivalent of multiple football fields. What if we could instead use the Earth as a giant telescope lens, dramatically cutting down on cost and size? Enter Columbia University’s David Kipping, an astronomer who has now developed designs for a “Terrascope.” When light hits the Earth, it refracts through the Earth’s atmosphere. This refraction closely mimics the lensing behavior of standard telescopes and reading glasses. Kipping’s thought proposal therefore suggests that we harness the Earth itself as a giant lens, placing a space telescope at the focal point. In theory, this configuration would boast the light-gathering power of a 150-meter telescope, but cost far less than alternative astronomical observation systems.

Why it’s important: While many technical challenges remain, Kipping’s paper provides first principles engineering solutions that validate the efficacy of a conceptual Terrascope. Today, Earth-based telescopes are astronomically expensive. Kipping estimates that replicating the results of a Terrascope-scale system would require a 100 meter (as opposed to 1 meter) terrestrial lens, not to mention upwards of $35 billion. Leveraging an entire planet as our lens, however, could offer an extraordinary new method for imaging distant, space-faring objects and even earth-like planets. How else might one apply Kipping’s first principles approach to astronomy and engineering? | Share on Facebook.

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What is Abundance Insider?

This email is a briefing of the week's most compelling, abundance-enabling tech developments, curated by my team of entrepreneurs and technology scouts, including contributions from standout technology experts and innovators.

Want more conversations like this?

At Abundance 360, a Singularity University program, we teach the metatrends, implications and unfair advantages for entrepreneurs enabled by breakthroughs like those featured above. We're looking for CEOs and entrepreneurs who want to change the world. The program is highly selective. If you'd like to be considered, apply here

Abundance Digital, a Singularity University program, is an online educational portal and community of abundance-minded entrepreneurs. You’ll find weekly video updates from Peter, a curated newsfeed of exponential news, and a place to share your bold ideas. Click here to learn more and sign up.

Know someone who would benefit from getting Abundance Insider? Send them to this link to sign up.

Topics: Abundance Insider Space AI Artificial Intellegence IoT driverless autonomous vehicles self-driving cars physics computation
14 min read

Abundance Insider: November 9th, 2018

By Peter H. Diamandis on Nov 9, 2018

In this week's Abundance Insider: AI physicists, a new cashierless store, and navigating the previously unexplorable deep ocean.

Topics: Abundance Insider retail Artificial Intellegence Batteries biotech physics