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8 New Digital Technologies & The Risks They Carry

Augmented Reality: Near field devices, radio frequency tagging, eye projection displays, google augmented translation

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Augmented reality is about experiencing data real time. Whether that be through wearable tech such as Google Glass, smartphone apps such as Google Translate, or Holographic Simulations such as Microsoft’s Hololens, augmented reality enables it’s user real time access to super computing power thousands of miles. This means instant translation of text on street signs for your next international trip and real time Skype calls displayed for your eyes only. It also means real time synchronization between what your senses take in and what the cloud already knows as apps using facial recognition are able to automatically search content on the web to bring up on your display (see image above). Wondering what mistakes you made on your blind date? Simply replay on your home entertainment system with your friends based on the video recorded by your smart glasses.

Risk: Distraction & lack of engagement; If you think people are already too distracted with smartphones (just surpassed drunk driving for number of automobile accidents) and that relationships are suffering due to the impulsive and compulsive nature of apps, touching, and notifications; get ready for a whole new era in distracted living.

Similarly privacy issues abound with the ability to record audio and video nearly anywhere with or without the consent of those being filmed. Imagine just two scenarios; an uninhibited single night of passion between two new acquaintances and a fight that leads to divorce between a long time couple, not to mention the possibility for blackmail / extortion. Experts such as Thomas Friedman of the NY Times have suggested that our inability to attract leaders into government is directly related, as many iconic American figures (i.e. Benjamin Franklin & John Kennedy) would have never held up against the spotlight of radical transparency that exists today.

Internet Of Things: Wearable tech, smart home appliances, smart home utilities, smart transport systems, Nest home products, smart clothes, Babolat tennis rackets, Jonnie Walker smart bottles, Tesla autonomous repairs, Ford app-link, Phillips Hue LED lighting, Hilton smart rooms, Walgreens photo-print api, smart locks / home security

The internet of things is already here and, as with all technologies, it has first been utilized in services we interact with the most; televisions, automobiles, phones, jewelry, gaming systems, security systems and kitchenware. Currently devices operate independently to share information between the individual and the device. In the near future devices will interact and share information among each other. When all of these devices merge in the cloud to provide you highly customized advice on health, risk mitigation, financial planning, time management and even mental health; individuals will be better equipped to make informed decisions on everything from what’s for dinner to how is the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Risk: The primary risk for the IoT lies in the realm of CyberSecurity. The concern lies in the fact that the IoT removes a very real barrier between hackers and their targets; this barrier being that of physical proximity. With an adult dating site breach or a stolen credit card an individual may have to deal with damage to their reputation or a frustrating investigation with their bank but ultimately it is not going to jeopardize their physical well being. IoT is going to totally eliminate that safeguard and as more technology in our home systems, self driving cars, and health devices go online real risks will emerge. Of course many of us would all enjoy having microscopic sensors that we wear or are injected with to allow our doctor to know when a cancer cell or blood clot emerges but in order to have that capability these devices will need to be part of a network that will require extreme encryption and security to remain effective.

3D Printing: Makerbot, StepOne System (Applied Biosystems), 3D home printing

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The building shown above was created entirely by a 3D printer in China

Ready to change the way we consume nearly everything? 3D printing is in a maturing stage after over thirty years of increases in efficiency and decreases in spacial requirements. This has led to some incredibly disruptive events in manufacturing and distribution. Entrepreneurs are now able to engineer, design, and fabricate prototypes that can be immediately presented to venture capitalists, investors, and crowd sourcing platforms to gain the required seed funding needed to mass produce products at scale. This has led to a drastic reduction in the time required to take products to market and has eliminated a multitude of barriers to entry that previously existed. What lies ahead? Eventually an entirely new distribution network in which businesses and consumers purchase digital blueprints and fork over the cost for raw material to stock their home printer. Too large? Pop over to the local print shop to take care of items that require some additional print capacity.

Risk: Just as the entertainment has fallen victim to rampant pirating – the same challenge will continue to present itself for any and all types of digital products that can be easily replicated a million fold. In addition small scale decentralized manufacturing developed primarily for prototype engineering and medical research has already presented many risks with 3D printing systems capable of rapidly producing fully functional firearms and sophisticated biological pathogens.

Analytics Everywhere: biometrics, web analytics, eyetracking heat sensors, paint strain sensors (structural integrity), Google location history

Abstract Stock Market Charts. Zip includes CDR, AI and high-res JPEG files.Map source: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=8392 Software used: CorelDRAW X6 Date created: 14.10.2012 Layers of data used: Outlines

As Big Data continues to grow at an exponential rate year over year we continue to see an increase in both the size and type of insights we have into everything from the purchases we make, the websites we visit, and the health quality of lifestyles that we live. As all this data is collected and personalized it will present us incredible transparency into our own behavior and how it compares to our peers.

Risk: Once again, the primarily concern with all of this data being collected is privacy. Even without discussing the potential for abuse by government, hackers, and generally malicious persons, many people do not feel comfortable with such high levels of personal data being recorded and stored. Cost of data storage has drastically fallen and will continue to do so putting less financial pressure on companies to erase old data and minimize storage costs. Ultimately in societies that values individual liberty, regulations will need to be implemented to ensure that citizens have complete and final control of what data is collected and the ability to ensure it’s complete and through disposal.

Graphene: Head sports equipment, powerbooster graphene touchscreens, Vorbeck materials graphene products

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Graphene, who’s even heard of it? And why would a new form of carbon material make it onto a technology list anyway? Here’s why: Graphene is not just another mineral, it is going to completely revolutionize the way we create technology. Why are it’s capabilities? Imagine a paper thin, flexible, translucent, incredibly durable & damage resistant substance that is able to charge devices by conducting enough electricity to charge a smartphone or tablet based solely on your body heat. Incredible, I know – currently being researched for uses as exotic as crash resistant cars, clothing able to protect the wearer from unwanted advances with an electrical shock, virtual house curtains able to display digital scenes and as mundane as batteries that last incredibly long periods and paint that never corrodes. Graphene is going to change the way we invent and engineer the world around us.

Risk: The primary concern with graphene is that it is both hazardous and expensive to create, resulting in highly toxic waste after it has been processed. Expense is a challenge that can be overcome; as a rule of thumb all costs for new products decrease over time. Rare earth minerals face similar challenges. As a vital component of renewable energy, they also produce dangerous toxins as a byproduct of their production.

Smart Machines: Context aware applications, robots, drones, nano-bots, self driving / parking cars

Smart machines, otherwise known as artificially intelligent software, is evolving simultaneously alongside the internet of things. As more items are able to “get online” more of those devices are able to have access to incredible quantities of information and super computing capacity. What are the real life implications of this? Cars that not only notify you when there is an issue; they make the auto appointment and order a valet to pick up the car for repair (Tesla). Security systems that not only call the police; they utilize facial recognition and 4k video to begin the investigation before the burglary has concluded. And of course virtual assistants such as Siri, Google Now & Cortana that will monitor our behavior and notify us when health risks arise, flights are delayed and to stop by the flower store to pick up that sale on roses for your anniversary.

Risk: Automation and job loss. Countries must invest heavily in education and skill training as a large majority of lower skill jobs will be done by smart machines. Animosity and resentment, particularly against the creators and evangelists of these technologies could easily arise. Which we have seen in the anti-technology sentiments that continue to arise particularly with American blue collar workers. How do individuals prevent from becoming obsolete in the 21st century labor market? Two ways; specialize and personalize. Specializing is nothing new. Adam Smith, the first economist to write on capitalism, described it as the separation of labor in “The Wealth Of Nations”. The latter concept has been documented by Dov Seidman, an ethics consultant to companies wanting to improve their business practices. The idea is this, the more specialized your skill is the harder it is to be automated by a smart computer or by a software that relies on cheap foreign labor. The more personal you take your role the more value you retain as ultimately the only thing smart machines are not yet capable of is human emotion.

Universal Apps & Cloud Experiences: Google Maps, MS Office, Gmail, Facebook, Youtube, Evernote, WeChat, Yelp

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If you ask the new CEO of Microsoft – Satya Nadella, Microsoft is betting the farm on the fact that what consumers are really interested in are experiences over devices. Not only on the intuitive quality of the experience but also how seamlessly the experience can be replicated in multiple situations and scenarios. Take Google Maps as an example. Now the world’s most used application; Google’s premium map service provides valuable data about location, directions, geographic placeholders and local activities all while hosting rich media such as images, video, location reviews, and virtual tours. Whats the best part? Your experience is ubiquitous. Whether you are at home on an old XP desktop, on the go with an iPad / smartphone, or in your new car with Android Auto the interaction is going to feel identical. The media we encounter on these software journeys is often incredible with seemingly free access to all the worlds content. As software continues to migrate from running in hardware on the device to a server on the cloud these product experiences will continue to merge and become integral parts on our daily routine. Due to the fact that the data is stored on the cloud, for minimal monthly subscriptions we now have access to super-computing power we could never afford on our own budget. In addition this data is nearly immune to loss in a disaster. The days of backing up are soon to be long gone. The benefit for software engineers is  control. Because of the subscription business model, issues associated to software piracy are no longer an issue. Their software can also now be sold to literally billions of global customers. From smart refrigerators to holographic glasses; the devices may change but software you encounter will be as familiar as an old friend.

Risk: Perhaps the greatest aspect of the internet and PC revolution was it’s ability to drastically level the playing field in that those with the best ideas and greatest programming talent would thrive by creating great websites or desktop software. It was so incredible that individuals began creating free software that was improved and maintained by communities of software enthusiasts known as freeware. Even as the cloud began to emerge many services were offered at little to no cost for individuals and premium pricing for enterprise services. The barriers to get on the world wide web were ridiculously low and the ability to scale continues to be astonishingly endless as billions more get online for the first time. While websites are still a crucial pillar, applications are dominating more of our time and attention, and the majority of these applications are being accessed through digital marketplaces owned by tech Goliaths such as Apple, Google, Microsoft & Amazon. The dilemma this creates lies in the fact that innovators, musicians, poets, and writers all must submit their creations to one of these marketplaces in order to gain mass distribution and in that process these creations can be altered, exploited, or denied all together. Ask any musician who is killing their industry and they won’t tell you it’s Atlantic Records, they will tell you it is Apple who takes 30% of an already slim pie after production costs. 12 years ago a small software engineer would write a program, create a small website, and submit it to a search engine for people to find. Now he must go head to head with thousands of competing apps across the globe to possibly make .05 per download. Creatives will continue to create because it is in their nature, we as a society must if we are going to reward them for their efforts.

Tele-Services: Medicine, Tutoring, Accounting, Legal Services, Real Estate

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Getting out of the house is great, if you have somewhere fun to go. Most people would not list trips to the doctor, attorney, accountant, or even therapist under the “fun” category on a regular basis. Well there’s good news. With the introduction of universal devices in which people can interact via video many of the services we use on a regular basis are going to change. From expert tutoring to college classes from the best professors – these services are going to be more competitive, cheaper, higher quality and are going to present an enormous amount more choice and variety than we could have ever imagined. Previously when looking up a translator and editor for your new cookbook you might have flipped open the yellow pages and paid thousands for an inexperienced freshly minted graduate. In the modern era you are able to search literally millions of talented graduates the world over.

Risk: As tele-services create millions of jobs for professionals all over the globe that want to connect, compete, and collaborate the same trend will also remove the insulators from millions more that previous felt secure in their roles. As barriers to entry are lowered and global competition drives down prices the inevitable result will be stagnant or diminishing wages for many. In addition liability issues arise for a number of sensitive industries such as mental health professionals, attorneys, and physicians. Receiving the results of an STD test, a victim discussing trauma from an assault, discovering you have been diagnosed with cancer, or discussing a pending lawsuit of a crime in which you have been suspected are all conversations I am sure the majority of people would like to have face to face. However as the  price of these services continue to rise in many cities the temptation to utilize cheaper tele-services will lead many to discuss their interpersonal problems with PHD’s in Bangalore instead at their local therapists office.

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