If there is one dominant myth about the worldit is that we all go around assuming the world is much more of a planned place than it is.Matt Ridley, The Evolution of Everything
For those fascinated by the cosmic gears that guide us forward, and for those who http://singularityhub.com/2015/07/12/can-we-control-our-technological-destiny-or-are-we-just-along-for-the-ride/ “>question how central humans are in the story of unfolding of change, a new(ish) book by Matt Ridley, The Evolution of Everything, offers a convincing narrative for just how far our planning brains are from being master and commander of the fast-paced world in which we now live.
Ridleys book applies the evolution-centric framing of progress that fans of Kevin Kellys What Technology Wants will recognize, with sixteen chapterseach representing a new field to which one can apply his theory. The book is a dream read for aspiring polymaths, with far-ranging topics that span the evolution of the universe, morality, technology, the economy, government, religion, and a remarkably up-to-the-minute summary of the Internet (Blockchain fans rejoice!).
Human society isnt planned by the human brain, Ridley argues, but is instead the result of emergent, bottom-up, and ultimately unpredictable forces of evolution. Its a convincing narrative that aims to dispel the arrogance associated with humankinds craving forand belief inour having control.
http://i0.wp.com/singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/no-one-planned-our-world-4.jpg?resize=300%2C200 ” alt=”no-one-planned-our-world-4″ data-recalc-dims=”1″ />The books central argument is best summed up in a casually used quote Ridley offers from 20th-century philosopher Alain, who says that a bad boat design will result in that boats sinking to the bottom of the ocean.
Alain points out, One could then say, that it is the sea herself who fashions the boat.
Boat designs evolved over time from those who experimented with putting things in the water to see what could float and then copying and improving the best designs (that is, the ones that didnt sink). These designs didnt come formed inside anyones mind, ready for building. Its our tendency to ascribe a clever boat schematic to those working on the designs of our boats but humans didnt design boatsthe water did.
This ethos is one of progress by trial and error in pursuit of a goal rather than top-down control. In biological evolution the goal is survival given environmental constraints; in boats, its not sinking, given the dynamics of water. The goal and constraints define the shape of progress and result in better designs.
Its a mind-set now being adopted more widely within business innovation circles, as seen by the success of experimentation-based methodologies such as the lean startup approach. As Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, first proposed, businesses can radically transform their likelihood of success by reducing central planning and adapting a product to the needs of the customer in an iterative way over time. The customers needs become the core designer in building better products.
Its also this intuitive understanding of trial and error that allows kindergarten students to consistently outperform the planning-minded brains of recent MBA graduates on the popular https://www.ted.com/talks/tom_wujec_build_a_tower?language=en “>marshmallow challenge. Kindergarteners instinctively prototype towards an outcome rather than overthink and plan.
The sculpting prowess of evolution is now being used to build even our most advanced technologies as well. With recent advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, computer science is moving beyond the deliberately designed world of engineering to one where computers self-code to do things such as http://www.bloomberg.com/features/2015-george-hotz-self-driving-car/ “>drive cars, https://www.technologyreview.com/s/600889/google-unveils-neural-network-with-superhuman-ability-to-determine-the-location-of-almost/ “>recognize where a picture was taken, and solve http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/a15886/computer-scientific-theory/ “>centuries-old biology problems.
http://i2.wp.com/singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/no-one-planned-our-world-31.jpg?resize=300%2C200 ” alt=”no-one-planned-our-world-31″ data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Machine learning is a way for programmers to assign a task to a piece of software, define what success looks like, and then sit back and wait for the code to teach itself through experimentation.
So what does this mean for usa species http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3385676/ “>who some argue reached our much vaunted place atop the animal kingdom through an ability to imagine outcomes and execute accordingly? Its likely more nuanced than Ridleys binary approach of central-planning is bad/bottom-up is good.
Though Ridley demonstrates a self-awareness for the one-sidedness of his arguments, they do push too far at times. Everything from World War I to the 2008 financial crisis is blamed on top-down problems.
Others, however, have convincingly argued that these two events were the ultimate of bottom-up disasters (for example, http://www.dancarlin.com/product/hardcore-history-50-blueprint-for-armageddon-i/ “>this amazing podcast by Dan Carlin profiles the calamity of unexpected horrors that plunged the world into the First World War). The book also ignores that top-notch central planning has resulted in good business strategy and, at times, good policy. For example, Apple, who do understand customer-focused design principles better than anyone, has succeeded through making their iOS environment http://www.cultofmac.com/329381/app-store-vs-google-play-is-it-time-apple-stopped-being-a-control-freak/ “>a notoriously closed-source place. And as distinguished Singularity University faculty David Roberts often points out, the coordinated efforts by our world governments have https://theconversation.com/saving-the-ozone-layer-why-the-montreal-protocol-worked-9249 “>addressed the depletion of the ozone layer with great success.
Things occur from a blending of top-down and bottom-up, and they arent always good or bad in the way that Ridley suggests.
The larger point of Ridleys book is spot-on, however. Humans tend to reason that things are the result of coordinated efforts from people we assume are smarter and more qualified than we are. For Ridley, we better become a more bottom-up-based societyand fast. He thinks central planning is bad policy, bad for business, and bad for the citizens of the world.
The world does face a growing list of challenges, and Ridleys magic pill is counterintuitivenamely that humanity ought to get out of its own overcontrolling way. Ridleys practical guide might best be embodied by Forgetting Sarah Marshalls https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKIpCPS-oZc “>do-less mentality for learning to surf. And that mentality may be too much to stomach for a control-thirsty species like ours.
Image credit: http://www.shutterstock.com “>Shutterstock.com
On hearing words like industry and manufacturing most of us probably picture sprawling assembly lines, heavy machinery, groaning metal, and flying sparks. Few of us likely envision gazelles or fighter jetsagility and manufacturing dont really go together.
But thats about to change.
Its being called the fourth industrial revolution. Today, this means the recent and ongoing explosion of sensors and data in industrial settings. Sensors can do everything from precisely counting inventory to tracking goods as theyre trucked across the country or over the ocean.
This information will provide a real-time window into the supply chain and make it more efficient, a familiar goal in manufacturing. But thats just the beginning.
Customers and managers want this insight turned into action to satisfy an ever-increasing need for agility asthe production of physical goods looks increasingly like a laggard compared tothe rapid changes of its digital peers.
Here are six reasons why physical product companies need that agility to survive.
http://xmanu.co/march23 “>http://i1.wp.com/singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/future-manufacturers-agile-like-software-companies-4.gif?resize=750%2C100 ” alt=”future-manufacturers-agile-like-software-companies-4″ data-recalc-dims=”1″ />
Market conditions change fast, and when they do, its important to respond quickly and decisively. But thats easier said than done, and we can see industries struggling to adapt.
2015 marked the first year that growth in shipping volumes was below growth in GDP, according to Nomura. A trillion-dollar industry was never more visibly subject to currency fluctuations and fickle demand. Boats have been idled and scrapped, and in certain markets, new orders have frozen, sending shivers throughout shippingfrom shipyards to ports.
This picture is repeated elsewhere. In oil and gas, for example, the shale industry in the US virtually collapsed overnight as prices eroded. Shale wells have the advantage of having a low shelf life and being relatively easy to close down. Car companies had less luck and had to be bailed out in 2008 as they struggled to adjust production to demand.
Agile production methods make tooling less expensive and machines fungible, and thus enable companies to adapt rapidly to changes in global markets by redirecting resources easily to new tasks.
Divergent3D Blade supercar.
The relentless pressure to improve performance is particularly clear in transportation. Fuel efficiency, for example, is constantly getting better. Where do these gains come from? Design, better utilization, but also, crucially, from manufacturing technologies.
The automotive power-to-weight ratio, which has been decreasing steadily, is maybe the best example of this.Take Divergent3Ds first car, the Blade.
The Blades frame, made entirely of carbon fiber and 3D-printed components, is the lowest power-to-weight ratio ever. It also reduces tooling costs by a factor of 13. The techniques used for the Divergent3D car are now being licensed to large scale production runs of well-known brands.
Deploying new technologies such as 3D printing gives companies a large step ahead in highly competitive industries with razor thin margins, such as the automotive market. But increasingly they are needed just to be able to compete.
With rapid technology changes, we dont know where the next innovation will come from. Firms need the ability to integrate new solutions into their production quickly. The current form of heavy up-front capital investment and fixed production lines that are trimmed to a specific output years in advance cannot deliver this.
Its not just tooling prices that can be reduced through more agile operations. As https://www.linkedin.com/in/smartdigital?trk=pulse-det-athr_prof-art_hdr “>Jonas Berge pointed in response to a https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/turning-sensors-agents-shape-industry-40-come-andre-wegner?trk=pulse_spock-articles “>previous article, smarter manufacturing operations are allowing chemical companies to adapt to changing raw materials prices.
Berge uses a refinery as an example. The price of a particular kind of crude oil, for example, becomes an attractive low-cost optionproblem is, its corrosive. Solution? Corrosion sensors in the pipes. Or perhaps they want to use shale oil and need to monitor heat exchangers. Again, sensors are the answer. With the right monitoring, they can switch between cheaper inputs.
The customer is always right. Managing inventory to keep up with quick changes in needs and tastes is a must. For physical product companies the cost of moving too slowly is high.Some are adopting software-like cycles of testing, measuring, and updating to get an edge.
http://i0.wp.com/singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/future-manufacturers-agile-like-software-companies-2.jpg?resize=300%2C200 ” alt=”future-manufacturers-agile-like-software-companies-2″ data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Zara, the biggest brand in the fashion conglomerate Inditex, is famous for picking higher cost production locations such as Spain, Portugal and Morocco so they can react to customer demands faster. In contrast to rivals, Zara commits to only 50% of the seasons production at the outset of the season, giving them the flexibility to add new designs as the season moves along, sometimes doing so in a matter of weeks.
According to a https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.scribd.com/doc/74021699/Colombia-Case-Zara%23scribd&sa=D&ust=1458418237159000&usg=AFQjCNEgroKyG6R6YtRCa-krDj_eTKh-JA “>Columbia University case study, this gives Zara a strong competitive advantage.They need sell only 15 to 20 percent of their clothing at discount compared to 30 to 40 percent at other retailers. Further, it encourages customers to visit the store more often17 times a season versus 3 to 4 times at GAPbecause they know there will always be new items.
Xiaomi, the billion-dollar Chinese consumer tech startup, built its business on a similar strategyusing flash sales to test demand and producing only after theyve met certain thresholds. This allows them to keep very low inventory and have far faster product release cycles than competitors.
Both these cases and many others like them show that hardware release cycles are moving the same way as software.
At my company, http://www.authentise.com “>Authentise, we do 60+ releases a week to fix bugs, address customer needs, and ready our tools for the next stage. While physical products can only dream of such a frictionless release cycle, customers are demanding better.
As new influences and needs bounce around the internet at the speed of light, all businesses, including product companies, need to react faster.
Who you employ is as important as what you produce.
Manufacturing companies, for example, have long been able to rely on loyal, experienced professionals. Now, they are retiring and few are willing to fill manual jobs. The US is expected to have 3.5 million manufacturing vacancies in the next 10 years, according to a http://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/~/media/827DBC76533942679A15EF7067A704CD.ashx “>Deloitte study, 2 million of which are likely to go unfilled due to the skills gap.
The rapidly changing environment of the manufacturing workplace is partially to blame, as new IT skills are needed. But technological innovations such as robotics or augmented reality can also help make the workforce and hiring process more agile by reducing the need for skilled labor in areas where those particular skills are retiring.
Companies dont have an alternative route to growth. Previous strategies such as outsourcing are the victims of their own success. Chinese wages, for instance, rose 17% between 2001-13, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit, which has led to nearly 50% of managers expressing an interest in reshoring. Without an intelligent manufacturing process enabling a more agile workforce, they wont be able to do so.
While companies may spend a decade planning for shifts in the workforce, environmental disasters often dictate significantly more agilityand its absence can cost companies dearly.
When the Thoku earthquake and following tsunami wiped out four key Toyota plants and countless suppliers, no contingency plan would hold. Nearly a month later, two thirds of their suppliers from northeastern Japan were still http://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2011/04/08/japan-quake-tsunami-take-heavy-toll-on-toyota/#6d75342f7f04 “>not functioning.
A more agile manufacturing operation that allowed production to be re-routed autonomously may have been able to keep more of Toyotas operations running during the event. Fixed tooling for factories able only to produce a single car also means there are fixed points of failure.
Toyotas http://www.toyota-global.com/company/profile/figures/vehicle_production_sales_and_exports_by_region.html “>production declined by over 600,000 cars in 2011 and the firm lost its place as largest automaker by volume. The price of a less-than-agile manufacturing operation is staggering.
Most manufacturers are aware http://xmanu.co/footer23 “>its time to adopt a more agile approachno wonder so many are eager to adopt Industry 4.0. Whether its customers, the environment, suppliers, or the marketleaders are hearing they have to turn their large, slow moving ships into nimble jets.
Image credit: http://www.shutterstock.com “>Shutterstock.com, https://www.flickr.com/photos/jurvetson/21735944992/in/photostream/ “>Steve Jurvetson/Flickr CC BY-2.0
Technology goes beyond mere tool making; it is a process of creating ever more powerful technology using the tools from the previous round of innovation.Ray Kurzweil
A decade ago, smartphones (as we know them by today’s standards) didn’t exist. Three decades earlier, no one even owned a computer.Think about thatthe first personal computers arrivedabout 40 years ago. Today, it seems nearly everyone is gazing at a glowing, handheld computer. (In fact, two-thirds of Americans own one, http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015/ “>according to a Pew Report.)
Intuitively, itfeels like technology is progressing faster than ever. But is it really? According to Ray Kurzweilyes, it absolutely is. In his bookhttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0143037889/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0143037889&linkCode=as2&tag=singula05-20&linkId=BJTBCRKETX72DPL7 “>The Singularity Is Near, Kurzweil shows technology’s quickening pace and explains the force behind it all.
This article will explore Kurzweil’s explanation of this driving force, which he dubbed the law of accelerating returns, and the surprising implications of technology’s acceleration.
Computer chips have become increasingly powerful while costing less. That’s because over the last five decades the number of transistorsor the tiny electrical components that perform basic operationson a single chip have been doubling regularly.
This exponential doubling, http://singularityhub.com/2016/03/08/will-the-end-of-moores-law-halt-computings-exponential-rise/ “>known as Moore’s Law, is the reasona modern smartphone affordably packs so much dizzying capability intosuch a small package.
The technological progress in computer chips is well knownbut surprisingly, it isnt a special case. A range of other technologies demonstrate similar exponential growth, whether bits of data stored or DNA base pairs recorded. The outcome is the same: capabilities have increased by thousands, millions, and billions for less cost in just decades.
http://i2.wp.com/singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/law-accelerating-returns-12.png?resize=1220%2C1051 ” alt=”law-accelerating-returns-12″ data-recalc-dims=”1″ />
The above charts showa few examples of acceleratingtechnologies, http://kk.org/thetechnium/was-moores-law/ “>but more examples are plentiful. These do not directly depend on the doubling of transistor countsand yet each one moves along its own exponential curve just as computer chips do.
So, what’s going on?
According to thelaw of accelerating returns, the pace of technological progressespecially information technologyspeeds up exponentially over time because there is a common force driving it forward.Being exponential, as it turns out, is all about evolution.
Lets begin with biology, a familiar evolutionary process.
Biology hones natural technologies, so to speak. Recorded within the DNA of living things are blueprints of useful tools known as genes. Due to selective pressureor survival of the fittestadvantageous innovations are passed alongto offspring.
As this process plays out generation after generation over geological timescales, chaotically yet incrementally, incredible growth takes place. By building ongenetic progress rather than starting over, organisms have increased in complexity and capability over time. This innovative power is evident nearly everywhere we look on Earth today.
Evolution applies positive feedback, Kurzweil writes. The more capable methods resulting from one stage of evolutionary progress are used to create the next stage.”
Biologys many innovations include cells, bones, eyes, thumbs, brainsand from thumbs and brains, technology. According to Kurzweil, technology is also an evolutionary process, likebiology, only it moves from one invention to the next much faster.
http://i1.wp.com/singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/law-of-accelerating-returns-chart2.png?resize=1220%2C1061 ” alt=”law-of-accelerating-returns-chart2″ data-recalc-dims=”1″ />
Civilizations advance by “repurposing” the ideas and breakthroughs of their predecessors. Similarly, each generation of technology builds on the advances of previous generations, and this creates a positive feedback loop of improvements.
Kurzweil’s big idea is that each new generation of technology stands on the shoulders of its predecessorsin this way, improvements in technology enable the next generation of even better technology.
Because each generation of technology improves over the last, the rate of progress from version to version speeds up.
To see this, imagine making a chair with hand tools, power tools, and finally assembly lines. Production gets faster after each step. Now imagine each generation of these tools is also used to design and build better tools. Kurzweil suggests such a process is at play in the design of ever-faster computer chips with the software and computers used by engineers.
“The first computers were designed on paper and assembled by hand. Today, they are designed on computer workstations with the computers themselves working out many details of the next generation’s design, and are then produced in fully automated factories with only limited human intervention.” – Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity Is Near
This acceleration can be measured in the returns of the technologysuch as speed, efficiency, price-performance, and overall “power”which improve exponentially too.
The acceleration of acceleration: Its a bit like climbing a mountain and receiving a jetpack.
Further, as a technology becomes more effective, it attracts more attention. The result is a flood of new resourcessuch as increased R&D budgets, recruiting top talent, etc.which are directed to further improving the technology.
This wave of new resources triggers a second level of exponential growth, where the rate of exponential growth (the exponent) also begins accelerating.
However, specific paradigms (e.g., integrated circuits) won’t grow exponentially forever. They grow until they’ve exhausted their potential, at which point a new paradigm replaces the old one.
http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns “>Kurzweil wrote in 2001 that every decadeour overall rate of progress was doubling, We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st centuryit will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”
This suggests that the horizons for amazinglypowerful technologies may be closer than we realize. Some of http://singularityhub.com/2015/01/26/ray-kurzweils-mind-boggling-predictions-for-the-next-25-years/ “>Ray Kurzweils predictions from the last 25 yearsmay have seemed a stretch at the timebut many were right.
Like in 1990 when he predicted that a computer would beat a pro chess player by 1998, which came true in 1997 when Garry Kasparov lost to IBMs Deep Blue. (Now, in 2016, http://singularityhub.com/2016/02/06/how-googles-ai-beat-a-human-at-go-a-decade-earlier-than-expected/ “>a computer has mastered the even more complex game Goan accomplishment not expected by some experts for another decade.)
Were only 15 years into the 21st century and the progress has been pretty stunningthe global adoption of the Internet, smartphones, http://singularityhub.com/2016/02/24/atlas-robot-is-more-capable-and-human-than-ever-in-latest-video/ “>ever-more agile robots, http://singularityhub.com/2016/02/15/where-artificial-intelligence-is-now-and-whats-just-around-the-corner/ “>AIthat learns. We sequenced the first human genome in 2004 at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Now,machines can sequence http://singularityhub.com/2014/02/02/illumina-claims-new-sequencer-transcribes-18000-genomes-per-year-at-1000-each/ “>18,000 annually for $1,000 a genome.
These are just a few examples of the law of accelerating returns driving progress forward. Because the future is approaching much faster than we realize, it’s critical to think exponentially about where we’re headed and how we’ll get there
To learn more about the exponential pace of technology and http://singularityhub.com/2015/01/26/ray-kurzweils-mind-boggling-predictions-for-the-next-25-years/ “>Ray Kurzweil’s predictions, readhis2001 essay “http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns “>The Law of Accelerating Returns” and his book,http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0143037889/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0143037889&linkCode=as2&tag=singula05-20&linkId=BJTBCRKETX72DPL7 ” target=”_blank”>The Singularity Is Near.
Image credit: http://www.shutterstock.com “>Shutterstock.com
For as long as I can remember, Ive wanted to learn Japanese.
Linguists often say that the best way to learn a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it, and thats what I did. For a while, I put post-it notes on items with their Japanese names on them, watched anime with the subtitles off and even fell asleep to kawaii Japanese podcasts whispering in my ear.
Learn by osmosis, right? Maybe even as I sleep something will stick, I thought.
http://i0.wp.com/singularityhub.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/scientists-find-sleep-ultimate-memory-aid-3.jpg?resize=300%2C200 ” alt=”scientists-find-sleep-ultimate-memory-aid-3″ data-recalc-dims=”1″ /> It sounds utterly nonsensical learn while youre unconscious?! but the idea of sleep learning has thrived for centuries. Eerily described in Brave New World by Aldous Huxley in the 1930s, sleep was once thought to be a subliminal state similar to hypnosis, in which the person is susceptible to messages from the outside world.
Perhaps because of this dystopian sci-fi association, early neuroscientists lambasted sleep-learning something desirable, marketable and potentially abusive as quackery.
As it turns out, they might be wrong.
Sleep may be the brave new world for learning. A recent flood of high profile studies suggest that our nightly slumber profoundly boosts what weve learned in the previous day, making the information stick.
But here’s the crazy cool part: animals and humans may have the ability to absorb new information during sleep, without ever being consciously aware of the learning process.
Let me be clear: its an extremely contentious idea, one far from settled. But heres what we know. The story starts with a seahorse-shaped brain structure called the hippocampus and the electrical waves that oscillate through it after the lights go out.
As you go about your day, various experiences are transformed into electrical impulses that spread through neural networks in the hippocampus. These waves of activity gently tweak the connections between neurons called synapses, making some stronger and others weaker.
Roughly speaking, memories are temporarily stored in these changes in synaptic strength, much like information in a computer is stored by swapping 0s and 1s.
Read the original here:
The Zeitgeist Movement Global