Monthly Archives: October 2016

Can Blockchain Help Solve the Refugee Crisis?

Earlier this week French officials announced that they would begin clearing out “The Jungle,” a refugee camp near the port city of Calais. More than 6,000 refugees ranging from Eritrea to South Sudan are set to be dispersed around France, many of these refugees are without proofs of citizenship and legally speaking they do not exist.

In June of 2016, The Atlantic reported that according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees there are an estimated 60 million refugees or internally displaced people (IDPs) worldwide, the highest number since World War II.

Since 2015 over one million refugees have arrived in Europe alone. With the spread of terrorist organizations like ISIS, many Europeans fear that terrorists could be crossing the borders disguised as refugees. It is worth noting that in the aftermath of the 2015 Paris attacks a fake Syrian passport was found next to one of the assailants. Thus suspensions have been raised about migrants entering countries. Are these people who they claim to be? Where did they come from? Who is a danger and who is not?

Lack of ID creates problems for border countries, refugees, and the relief organizations attempting to help. Blockchain technology could assist in resolving all of these issues.

Identity is assigned and recognized by governments and governments only, and without a relationship to the state, you essentially are no one. Because blockchain relies on a network with no government or institutional association, it creates a decentralized data structure. Thus, who you are is no longer reliant on a relationship to a state, but rather an information contained in a trustworthy and accessible ledger.

With a distributed database a refugee could arrive in Greece, a popular destination for refugees fleeing by sea, border officials could check identity on their copy of the ledger housing the ID of a refugee. And because blockchain is almost tamper-proof, the refugee could present a far more compelling story of who they are.

Furthermore, because blockchain can handle digital assets of all sorts, relief organization and NGO’s could wire money to refugees who most likely have no money.

One firm has attempted to solve this problem Bitnation:
“BitNation, a blockchain-based Governance 2.0 initiative, is using the blockchain to help refugees in Europe. The organization’s new series of Refugee Emergency Response services allow refugees to create a digital identity, which can be used to cryptographically prove their existence and who their families are.” – Huffington Post

This is the process refugees have to face while trying to enter the U.S.

Ideally blockchain technology could ease the process for refugees attempting to enter the U.S. especially with the pledge to accept 10,000 refugees.

Blockchain can help ease political turmoil of all kinds and create a world in which a refugee, despite the collapse of their national state, can maintain their identity and dignity.

Automated Vehicles: Questionable Ethics

Ethics is hardly, if ever, the starting point of a conversation about automated vehicles. The truth is that in the world of automated vehicles ethics can be something that is often overlooked or forgotten about entirely, seemingly taking a backseat in discussion. In this blog post however I hope to rectify this immediately because after reading an article last week, ethics in autonomous vehicles have been the only topics that I have been researching. Pulling no punches, the article in question looks at Mercedes-Benz  as the first car manufacturer to release their software information and brings up a rather blunt initial question: in the event of a unavoidable crash would you want your new self-driving vehicle to prioritize your own life as the owner of the vehicle or the lives of several innocent children? In so many words the scenario is broached like this: suppose you were in an autonomous vehicle and a car was on the wrong side of the road. The software driving the car now has a decision to make: it can either swerve left into oncoming traffic, putting you in immediate danger or, option two, swerve the car to the right onto the sidewalk and potentially harm a group of children walking home from school. The decision is not an easy one, nor is it one to be made lightly.

Regardless, as per the article Mercedes has now given their answer to this question: they will swerve to the right and run over the group the children on their way home from school. Now to some people this may be the clear decision to make in this situation but some may still be wondering exactly why Mercedes has gone in this direction when programming the software for their autonomous vehicles. To help understand we will take a look at a moral issue very closely associated with this dilemma, the “Trolley Problem. The Trolley Problem is a thought experiment developed by Philippa Foot in 1967 which involved a trolley coming down a road where men were currently working. If the trolley stays straight on its current path, it will kill five people on the tracks, however if you switch a lever, the trolley will instead go down a different path only killing one person. The main question raised is obvious: what is the right decision to make in this situation? This has been the moral dilemma as we’ve understood it for many decades, however now car manufacturers have to address this issue with a whole new layer of complexity added to the equation. Below this paragraph I’ve included a video to help explain the idea of this problem before we go any farther to help clarify any questions you may have. 

As I’m sure most of you could probably have concluded by now, in the real world of self-driving cars this problem is more than just an ethical dilemma, it’s a PR bomb waiting to go off. Just think about the car companies that will soon be designing and programming the new autonomous vehicles of the future and which car you would rather drive, the one that prioritized your own personal safety at all times or the one that prioritized others before you; I know which I’d rather drive. The fact of the matter is that if Mercedes-Benz (or any other automotive company for that matter) prides themselves on customer satisfaction it would make absolutely no sense to have cars programmed not to prioritize customer safety. Essentially, (under the assumption that there would still be automotive accidents) Mercedes-Benz would effectively be designing “death cars” in the eyes of their customers, not a very good business strategy at all. Looking at another article similar questions are brought up revolving around the difference between a car and a motorcycle: is it better to hit a car or a motorcycle in this situation? The unfortunate fact is that all this is a catch 22 situation, not helped by the fact that right now there is no law in place to lead the car manufacturers and developers in the legally “right” direction. Therefore, there is no question that it makes the most sense that the manufacturers are taking the Mercedes-Benz approach and developing with the customer in mind. What are your thoughts on this situation? Should automotive companies be taking this kind of approach in the future or is there perhaps a better solution?

Fast Delivery…Even Faster

Imagine ordering an item online, and having it delivered within the hour. Sounds impossible right? Well for British luxury etailer it’s not so impossible. During the Women’s Wear Daily Global Fashion Forum in Beijing, CEO Ulric Jerome stated that in the next 18 months one-hour delivery will be the norm in big cities. In addition, the company is also looking at 360-degree video ahead of a move into virtual reality. Surprisingly, Jerome dismissed the need to use drones to achieve the ambitious delivery target, saying airspace regulations could be a stumbling block. Instead, he’d rather focus on perfecting fast delivery. But what fueled this bold mover? Mobile sales are moving upwards with 48% of sales now coming from either a smartphone or tablet. As luxury shoppers are said to be “the most connected customer in the world,” and Jerome is working on another initiative to help with customer engagement. He plans on doing so with stylized shoppable fashion videos. These videos will act as the stepping stones towards 360 degree videos, which will give customers the freedom to interact with the 420 brands the online retailer offers and later virtual reality. Matches sees the importance of joining fashion and technology. Thus, they plan on launching the 360 videos first, and follow up with virtual reality. In the below video, Jerome speaks about E-Commece and the future of retail in the luxury space.

Loss of Human Touch

On one hand we need to look at how close virtual reality (VR) can come to being the same as the physical world or an authentic experience. And on the other hand we need to look at the ways that VR can enhance the human touch, like the visualizations of an architect or the experiences students have through VR that are impossible in the real world. VR is currently a rarity, not in the sense that there are only a few products, but in the sense that not too many consumers have purchased them. However we should be ready for a huge surge in the purchase and sale of VR devices according to a prediction made by Forrester.

Virtual reality is known for taking a user to an imaginary realistic world with goggles. Augmented reality (AR), meanwhile, is known for allowing a user to see and interact with imaginary things in real life through a device.

The video (mature content) above describes and displays how a device can allow you to experience the physical connection of being the opposite sex. The human touch is mutual between the two users. Each action is taken with caution and the view is in the goggles of the opposite user. This gives the users the true perspective of the physical attributes of being a male or female. This human touch experiment provides the opposite user empathy for the opposite sex as well as enlightenment. Not only are you seeing out of their eyes, but you are given the illusion of touching what they touch. You ultimately become someone else for some time and learn about the other person quite quickly.

There is no doubt that advancements in virtual reality have changed the way we behave. VR has made us more connected, informed, educated, and aware of disruptive innovation. Sounds like a good thing right? But what about human touch? What about in-person connectivity and social interaction? Is that lost forever? Are we developing into a society that no longer possesses skills for real life relationships? Oculus creator Palmer Luckey says if you can perfectly simulate reality, why do you need to actually go see people in real life? In our lives we exhibit emotions, hold relationships with others, play, fight, and so on. We each play a role in each other’s lives. Throughout our lives we have learned social values, morals, and actions. We learn what is socially acceptable, and how to behave. We are now faced with a challenge. If we adapt virtual reality into our lives, how will human touch last?

It is quite possible that the concept of human touch will evolve. While physical touch may become more obsolete, other methods of ‘touching’ people could become more emphasized with VR and AR. For instance, a California startup has developed Altspace VR, a social platform for people to connect with each other in a more personal way than, say, a group chat. According to this article by Virtual Reality Reporter, using a virtual platform like this that is unbound by physical reality allows people to be more imaginative and specific in how they create and share meaning with one another.

Additionally, AR technologies such as the Meta 2 are groundbreaking in that they allow people to collaborate in both a physical and virtual reality simultaneously. In the first few minutes of his TED Talk, Meron Gribetz explains how our currently integrated technologies (smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.) can still create a disconnect between human interaction. We hear it all the time; many people argue that people are becoming less sociable because of technology. But, according to Gribetz, AR is designed to enhance human interaction and capabilities.

How will this affect the visual arts, which are currently and primarily physical representations of things? Will the arts become overshadowed by fascinations in digital expression, or will the delicate, flawed stroke from a human hand on a muddy canvas become all the more precious? Or perhaps the potential scarcity of physical human touch will become all the more valuable? With the integration of VR we will be able to take more risks with less fear of their consequences – after all, regardless of what happens in virtual reality, our physical body is safe. That being said, will we develop a deeper appreciation for pain and the lessons it teaches us?

The implications of VR and AR’s effect on human touch are huge, while the underlying question remains; can VR and AR replace the interactions that humans have with one another and/or replace the interaction that we have with nature? This article from puts it very well; the author says that he enjoys speaking to people face to face, and enjoys spending time outdoors in nature. However the author then questions, similar to Luckey, why these authentic experiences would be different from the same experience in VR or AR if they become indistinguishable. It frightens people when reality is replaced with a virtual form. For example, in the Disney Pixar movie Wall-E, humans develop a lazy mentality to a point where they have replaced basic human abilities with virtual technology. This prediction seems dramatic and unfounded, but many people have a similar fear that the human race will become even more lazy than we already are because of this technology. The bottom line is that we shouldn’t expect the human touch to go away anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that it may slowly be replaced by virtual experiences.

Automated Vehicles: Here & Now

Science fiction has always been an extremely popular genre whether in movies, in television, or in novels. Indeed, it is a fascination fueled by the innate imagination inside of every human being – the ability to dream endlessly about what the future may hold. However, as many sci-fi fans may tell you such fantasies usually stay as just that, a fantasy, as is the case of lightsabers from Star Wars, or The Starship Enterprise from Star Trek. But today the world is bearing witness to perhaps one of the greatest exceptions to this rule: automated vehicles. Posted below this paragraph is a video that details a brief history of the idea of automated vehicles for the first few minutes of the video’s run time. In the video the narrator explains not only have automated vehicles been around in some form for longer than most people would suspect, but also that the idea originated in a 1929 sci-fi magazine. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the future and we get to be a part of it here and now.


But now that we’ve succeed in merging one of the coolest ideas of science fiction into the real world, just what exactly are we doing with autonomous vehicles current day? Today’s post aims to take a shorter term approach and dig deep into what this technology is doing for us not in the future, but current day.

To start off, Tesla has been on the forefront of innovation since their insertion into the auto industry in 2003. Currently they are best known for their semi-automatic vehicles on the road that are impressive not only from a technological standpoint, but also for the fact that they are electric. The main driving force of Tesla is the CEO, Elon Musk, who can be frequently seen on social media and in various other meetings and talks supporting the progression of autonomous vehicles. The company constantly updates the software that goes into their cars, and are now soon to release their first autopilot software to be installed into their newer model cars. Musk was quoted in August as saying “What we’ve got will blow people’s minds, it blows my mind …it’ll come sooner than people think.” In connection with this, Bosch, the leading distributor of car parts has just released their first self driving vehicle. This is a huge step for Tesla because the software being used in the Bosch’s vehicle will be the same software in Tesla’s Autopilot 2.0. To help understand just how big a leap this is, a level system is used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) when describing how autonomous certain vehicles are. Currently Tesla’s cars are at a level 2 autonomy, however these cars coming from Bosch rank higher at level 4 autonomy (fully functioning autonomous vehicle) thanks to the autopilot program that is soon to be released. The reason Tesla is now using the Bosch technology is because of an accident that occurred with one of their semi-autonomous in Florida because of a “technical failure” when the vehicle’s sensor could not recognize a tractor trailer due to it blending in with the glare of the sun. Due to the crash, Moblieye, an auto tech supplier left the company, so Tesla turned to Bosch. Despite this setback the world is still eagerly awaiting the next big piece of news to come from Tesla in the future.

The next company to look at is Ford, a longstanding and popular motor company that created the “first affordable automobile” the Model-T. However, that small 1927 revolution is nothing compared to what Ford is planning on releasing in 2021 as heard from CEO Mark Fields when he made the announcement on August 16th that Ford will release a level 4 autonomous vehicle. As the level system from the NHTSA above tells us, this is final level of autonomy which requires absolutely no human interaction. Interestingly, Ford also announced that this first new vehicle would not have steering wheels or control pads. Further, in 2021 Ford will not be selling the cars to the public but rather using the vehicles as a shuttle for their own employees. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this announcement from Ford is that they are skipping levels of autonomy and opting instead to release a vehicle which is fully autonomous. While some companies like Tesla, Google, and Uber are taking a more comprehensive approach with street testing and semi-autonomous vehicles first to move the software along this could all change extremely quick because Ford is opting for a more immediate route. Look for Ford and other U.S. auto companies to continue innovation and progress even further.

Finally, we step away from car manufacturers and take a look at the transport company, Uber. When Uber was founded in 2009 it instantaneously become a disruptive force in the automotive industry. Taxi drivers in all cities around the country scrambled to try to keep up with the massive changes that Uber was causing. Fast forward seven years and now Uber has upped the ante with a strong push in the world of autonomous innovation. Two months ago Uber rolled out autonomous vehicles on the streets of Pittsburgh. As of right now the cars unfortunately have a limited number of streets they can operate on due to programming constraints however this technology has gotten to the point where Uber drivers were only operating the vehicle close to 30% of the time on any given ride. This decision made many people wonder why Uber chose Pittsburgh for the initial testing of their automated vehicles as they are a California company and California is known as a state leading the way with laws and regulations allowing autonomous vehicles to hit the roads.  The main reason for the Pittsburgh is surprisingly simple however, Carniege Mellon University, which is home to most of the technology that is driving Uber’s advancements. Additionally, the company felt it was important to have engineers close to the vehicles just in case anything happened. Thus far there have been two conflicting reports about two incidents involving accidents occurring with the new autonomous vehicles. However, both of the accidents were human error, one being the driver went down a one-way street and the other was an Uber vehicle that got rear ended by another vehicle. The critics are trying hard to restrct Uber because right now they are the closest company to moving this technology to a national level. 

According to Reuters, various companies are just starting onto the onset of a competition between each other in the autonomous vehicle world. Indeed in terms of unlikely bedfellows , not only does Reuters have Uber slated to be Apple’s competition in the autonomous vehicle industry but they are also reporting that Google and Ford are rumored to partner in 2016 for automotive innovation. It would seem that many companies such as Google and Ford or Apple and Tesla are teaming up because while the tech and media companies have the advantage for Research and Development capabilities as well as existing computing technologies, the auto makers possess the industry expertise and facilities necessary to make the innovation a reality.  Yet, Uber is arguably well placed to be the leader in this regard as they well capitalized and Uber has already brought many changes in the taxi-driver on demand sector.  Uber is no longer simply viewed as a ridesharing app, current day it has now reached a market whereby using a smartphone to match demand and supply for automobiles efficiently and cheaper. Between Uber and Apple it would seem that Apple will need to utilize their technological capability to enter that sector in order to compete with Uber.

Meanwhile current day, Google has created a self-driving car with two routing programs, a “long term router” that acts much like the GPS device on a normal car, and another, short-term router that makes decisions on when to speed up, slow down, turn and execute other maneuvers. The self-driving car is poised to have a positive impact because there will be less accidents on the road, and as such less fatalities. At the moment, it would seem that autonomous vehicles are right around the corner waiting for the light to turn green so they can be allowed onto the streets of the United States.

Beyond Bitcoin: Blockchain in Real Estate

With blockchains most prevalent and well known application being bitcoin, it is often initially associated with rocking the finance industry. But it is underestimated exactly how many other markets are being disrupted by this encrypted ledger and Real estate is one on the high end of this disruption with agencies and systems already taking place to support its integration. Ubiquity and The International Block Chain Real Estate Association are the first players in the property market to leverage blockchain to bring benefits to the industry. So where exactly does it all fit in?

Think of the copious amounts of paper record and book keeping that occurs every time a transaction takes place. Sometimes the property is flipped and sold before the record has even become permanent then it’s on to the next data entry on the books and online. Efficiency is brought about by the implementation of blockchain, bringing the transaction time down from months or weeks down to minutes or even seconds. Less time searching and less time documenting, the property will have closed in the deal in record time.

Intermediaries also slow down the process, in doing so charging highly for their time. Without the middleman (e.g. for this industry Escrow) there is no need to seek confirmation and approval from numerous parties because this system determines legitimate transactions. It can therefore verify them independently, rapidly reducing the time it takes to close on an estate or property and enabling the proof to be available almost immediately. It is understandable that these escrow companies are some sort of security to ensure each party holds up their end of the bargain, attempting to reduce fraud, but in removing the middleman and replacing it with one straight road to legitimate transactions a whole load of time is saved.

That leads us to our second point, proof. It is estimated that Real estate fraud is around hundreds of million dollars yearly. The system in place allowed for manipulation of documents, forged signatures and deeds being trusted to alternate parties other than those purchasing the place, even photo-shopped images of documents. A big economic view that also plays a key point in advocating block chain is the financial crisis which effectively was caused due to the housing bubble and ‘high rated credit’ loans/mortgages being sold on to the next deceived client. Block chain comes in as this safe, transparent ledger that enables every transaction to be seen and researched with all its information in one, un-manipulated place. Transparency is something which can only be beneficial when dealing with industries, with this disruption causing more symmetrical information leading to better choices for consumers and higher efficiency from vendors, an economic picture of bliss.

The use of bitcoin as digital currency in these transactions creates ‘‘smart property/contracts’.’ One article mentions Bitcoins can be used as secure digital tokens for any asset, and this is what we call smart property,”. “That’s where you take a physical piece of property, such as a car or house, and you associate it with a digital token; that’s called tokenization.” Essentially this token can then be traded as a bearer asset. This still requires some real life interaction in person to work, but none the less the technology will be at the forefront. It ties with the original idea of blockchain and its famous bitcoin currency using its ledger in financial systems, but this financial disruption can change not only regular everyday transactions and the financial industry, but now large hefty sums of money and the property being invested in and this property market.

What really is one of the major benefits with this implementation is the effect it has on developing countries and their emerging real estate markets. Better property records and effectively cheaper transactions from cutting out intermediaries can lead to the markets of these countries expanding at a great speed and connecting them in a way that makes international trade and investment much easier. Transparency plays a big part in blockchain in developing countries, especially ones where corruption is rife. An example by one article demonstrated ‘In Honduras, people were looking at using property titling with blockchain because if you have a padded envelope with the right amount of cash, you just slip it to the right politician, he goes in [and] changes a computer entry in a property database at the government that says, ‘Okay. You’re now the owner of this property,’”. It will level the ‘playing field’ so to speak for those with lower income and education to be able to access records the same as everyone else, but this decentralized system must be recognized by the state/government otherwise further problems of corruption that already existed will still take place.

The video above shows how Bitcoin itself and its ledger blockchain are already helping LEDC’S such as Ghana and their real estate markets flourish.

The mix between using the existing blockchain system and its famous bitcoin and the use of a new system will provide a great economic and social benefit. The problems lie with the corporations themselves, similar to banks, will they really want to cut out the middleman? The amount of money lost to such escrow companies and those in high positions with their secretive and lucrative deals could mean that this will be very slow to come into effect and if it does it will be controlled in some shape or form.

VR Effects on Education

Virtual Reality (VR) has the potential to revolutionize industries like healthcare and entertainment, but a little known disruptive possibility for VR is in the education industry. VR is the type of technology that allows for a unique experience that can only be rivaled, if at all, by the same experience in the physical world. The advantage that VR has over the physical world itself is that it can let people experience things that are impossible to see in the physical world, or things that are imaginary in the first place. VR has the ability to allow students to observe things in a more inclusive environment, or to even interact with their surroundings – such as a VR flight simulator or surgical simulation training using VR. The possibilities for VR in education are endless.

One VR education experiment in particular called the “World of Comenius” is using VR technology to give kids learning experiences that they could not get before, like moving around a cell or meeting people from history and understanding the environment of others. “World of Comenius” is an educational software that aims to utilize the VR to show people things that weren’t possible before.” Similar programs to this one exist like Google Expeditions, which has aimed to provide educational experiences for all kids by providing teachers with cheap means to lessons that allow students experiences that are outside the limits of the physical world. Google says that their Expeditions program is accessible to everyone; “all teachers need to do is download the Expeditions app onto a set of devices and choose which one of the over 200 Expeditions they want to take their class on.” The only other materials needed are the smartphones and the smartphone headsets that students will use.

One of the leading developers of VR education is Unimersiv. Taking Edgar Dale’s “Cone of Learning” to heart, they claim that people retain 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, but 90% of what they do or simulate.

Cone of Learning

It logically follows that VR is an incredibly effective learning tool that will enhance the speed of learning. Better yet, it is free. While it still has yet to develop into a full-fledged educational system, Universiv marks the expansion of VR into education. Who knows, if outfitted with a sophisticated system of performance measurements and copious amount of content, perhaps we will eventually be able to obtain college-level degrees through VR. The company that provided it would simply be selling a copy of the software – no campus, no buildings, no parking lots, no school supplies. Combine this service with a platform such as Slack with a teacher and other students, and we now have ourselves a pretty good gig going. Imagine how many doors would open up with this kind of affordable and highly effective learning. The question remains, then, whether or not colleges will be able to adapt to this disruptive technology before students open their eyes and realize they are wasting their money and time.

One issue with using VR to advance and disrupt education is the digital divide. Between the educated and uneducated there are many factors that come to play when it comes the digital divide and the continuous technological advances surrounding society. The ability to use the Internet, to obtain news, and to be involved economically tend to be the top tier points of the educational system we are involved with today. The cost and affordability of information and communication with technology deters citizens away from education and technology as not only a pairing but as a whole. This unfortunate situation creates a deeper hole in hardships rather than focusing on the expansion of technology and its advantages for the everyday person – no matter how big or small the enjoyment that comes along from using the advances to our advantage. Only 40 percent of people have the ability to own and use a computer. This statistic appalls me to no end. I believe we all should be more grateful to our lives and privileges given to us. I totally agree that new technology could provide society easier devices to use such as computers and mobile communication. But I also feel that many people across the world do not necessarily have access to the Internet. Since they do not have the personal means to purchase these devices, they find other means to access the news with word of mouth, newspaper, television, etc. There are other options out there for most to obtain this information, but for some, the goal of holding the news freely in their hands is simply unattainable. How this affects virtual and augmented reality is far from simple. Education in the classrooms allow students to explore outside the classroom while being in a physical one across the world.

Students are provided devices to allow them to “travel” all over the world to showcase history, technology, advancements, and so on. This allows the students to finally step outside the box of the linear path of thinking. They have never been taught to do something much more beneficial for themselves in the future because of this restricted thinking. Classrooms around the world have already started to prepare for this next phase in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With these generations continuing to live in a technology based world, the baby steps of this process are to allow technology to be used and create a resourceful tool for these classrooms at all times. Classrooms around this city, country, and even the world are finally implementing the use of iPads, tablets, and video cameras that have many programs and resources for the students to learn from. These lessons that they will learn will change their lives dramatically, just like this Disruption, Technology, & Law course is doing for the majority of us. The goal is to teach these students these methods at an early age to ensure their path to success is continued throughout their entire lives without giving up on learning and falling behind like the older generations will eventually have to do. Virtual Reality is the next step in this direction, and it is important that we give our students the best opportunity possible to reach their fullest potential.

The world is slowly opening doors to the less fortunate by providing them computers. Children finally have a lost cost, rugged, low- power, connected laptop for them to finally own. This gives children an outlet to obtain a great education on their terms to truly learn, share, and create greatness together.

Scientists predict that by 2018 the number of mobile phones will equal the world population. These are facts that should awaken Governments all over the world. It also should awake the awaiting citizens who are looking for their great big break. This statistic means so much more than an arrangement of numbers, it leads to our futures becoming great again. People need to come together to power through the issues that keep us divided. As students in America who are blessed with much, being grateful for what we have is a great way to start contributing to this effort. When we are grateful, it becomes easier to help those who are in need.

The Knight Foundation has tried to find ways to bridge the digital divide in Detroit, where less than 40 percent of households have broadband access. They approached the challenge of the digital divide by focusing on three high poverty neighborhoods, and set out to fund a broadband network there in addition to digital literacy training. Partnerships were arranged between local community organizations, private companies, libraries and government by the project to fulfill its goals. The program’s achievements included a federal stimulus grant that brought in additional funding, and the donated, refurbished laptops. Through partnerships with the University of Minnesota’s Digital Divide Initiative and the Geek Squad, several hundred families have received refurbished computers for their home use and on-going instruction on how to safely use and maintain them.

In conclusion, VR is projected to have an immense impact on education, spearheaded through apps such as Google Expeditions and Unimersiv. These kinds of innovations will drive down costs and increase learning retention. But nobody said this would be a walk in the park; disruption is always messy. Colleges and other educational institutions are slow to change, and the digital divide remains a pressing issue at hand. In any case, VR will disrupt education and learning, and we should prepare ourselves for it.

We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

The Future of AI

Everyone wonders about what Artificial Intelligence will bring and how it will impact us in the future. According to an article by Max Tegmark, the AI today is only narrow or weak AI which “is designed to perform a narrow task” but the AI in the future will be general AI or AGI (strong AI) which will “outperform humans at nearly every cognitive task.” Many questions arise with this type of change into our lives. How will we be able to stop/control AI if it is designed to outsmart human intelligence? What are some of the problems that will arise because of Artificial Intelligence and how will be combat these issues? What are some of the benefits this new technology can provide?

Max discusses some of the dangers that can result from future AI. In addition to being able to outperform human, AI can also do good things the “bad” way. For example, Max states how “autonomous weapons are artificial intelligence weapons that are programmed to kill” meaning that if this technology gets misplaced or put into the wrong hands, it can easily cause mass causalities, maybe even be able to “destroy the human race” as we have only seen in movies. Also, even if the end goal of AI is to do something good, it may not take the ‘safest” way to reach that goal. Max gives an examples of how if the mission of an autonomous vehicle is to take one to the airport as fast as possible, it might get one there being chased by helicopters and being covered in vomit.

In an article on Business Insider by Guia Marie Del Prado, Prado states “AI could either make all of our dreams come true or destroy society and the world as we know it.” Above we discussed the dangers of AI, but what are the possible benefits? Prado discusses a number of benefits that can come from smarter and better functioning AI. The first one is that it can keep us safer, which is an obvious fact. But if autonomous vehicles become a lifestyle in the future and there are zero to no human drivers, the road for humans, pedestrians, and animals could be made much much safer. There will be no issues regarding speeding, drunk driving, or “deer on the road”. In addition to driving, AI may also be able to warn us of coming disasters and even be able to enable appropriate responses to eliminate these disasters. AI has the potential to not only become smarter than humans, but to make humans supersmart and “better at everything”. The combination of Artificial Intelligence and humans can make history with its accomplishments and help humans achieve more than they ever could alone. AI can also be able to solve the world’s problems and save the world. As Staurt Russel writes in Prado’s article: “If you had a system that could read all the pages and understand the context instead of just throwing back 26 million pages to answer your query, that kind of program could actually answer the questions asked. It’ll be like if you asked a real question and got an answer from a person who had really read all those millions and millions and billions of pages and understood them and been able to synthesize all that information.” This type of intelligence could help the world solve poverty, or diseases, or prevent wars and find solutions without having to take lives to do it. All this can happen of course, after ethics are taken in to consideration and applied to each of these aspects that AI focuses on.

So how is the world today preparing for the future of AI? Is there even enough going on to keep up with the new AI innovations coming out every day? In an article called “The Administration’s Report on the Future of Artificial Intelligence”, it states that the White House is aware of AI and is releasing a report on “future directions and considerations” for AI called Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence. In addition to this report, the White House also holds public workshops which teach the public and get their inputs on AI, information which they include in the report.

Among the strategies:

  • Better understand the national AI R&D workforce need.
  • Develop effective methods for human-AI collaboration.
  • Develop shared public datasets and environments for AI training and testing.
  • Make long-term investments in AI research.

In this video, the speaker Jack Delosa speaks about HECI (Humanities, Ethics, Creativity, Imaginations). This acronym discusses how right now, hard skills are more looked for than soft skills. But in the future with better and stronger Artificial Intelligence, soft skills will be one of the main things employers will be looking for in humans (this being said only if AI doesn’t start to have emotions yet). He also says that “the number one skill set that exists today and that will exist in the future, that isn’t a skillset at all, is your ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn.” This is how we prepare for the future.

The future of AI is almost the present. We don’t whether this technology is going to help us or destroy us, we don’t know whether we’d ever be able to keep it under control, or if we could ever learn to coincide with it. All we know is that it’s coming and its going to keep improving.

No Automated Answers

Automated vehicles, like most up and coming technologies, are extremely exciting to some people but unsurprisingly terrifying to others. There exist a great many people who cannot wait to see increases in productivity or inefficiency the likes of which we’ve never seen before that is currently being heralded by the coming of automated vehicles. As we will cover in a future post, automated vehicles will make almost everyone’s lives easier and more convenient by decreasing the amount of time and effort spent driving cars. But why exactly is this being mentioned in a post about the downsides of automated vehicles? What could make people be reprehensible about having automated vehicles? You’ve probably already figured out the answer on your own: job loss. Just from a cursory glance at statistics from 2014 provided by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics we are able to see that in the United States alone transportation makes up 4,640,300 jobs, all of which stand to become redundant when the revolution that is automation hits the transportation industry. Unfortunately, those four million people are not the only ones who should be worried because the way this technological change is set to change our world there will be no one who is left unaffected. Before going anything farther into this topic I’ve posted an extremely well-made video below on the topic of automation which may help to convey the extent to which automation will touch not just vehicles but all facets of our lives.

Coming away from that video I’m reminded very much of poem by famous English poet John Donne which has a verse that reads thusly,

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.”

Just keeping the conversation focused on the transportation industry, the loss of over four million jobs in the United States will be felt not only be those unemployed people but also economically nationwide. However, problems will persist farther than just on an economic scale when those four million jobs are made redundant. The United States will be left with a dearth of jobs for those four million displaced transportation employees as most will not have the education nor the skill set needed to obtain a job in skilled labor industries. Therefore with four million people out of a job and lacking the prerequisites to get a job that has not been automated the United States, as well as the rest of the world, will be left in a very precarious situation with no easy solution for combating unemployment.

Following that, for all the good that the future of autonomous vehicles holds there are still other issues that arise when trying to successfully implement them. The first and perhaps the biggest obstacle for getting an autonomous vehicle on the road would be the rapid pace that both driving laws and the legal system in the United States and around the world would need to change. Before any automated vehicles can be made street legal various laws would have to dramatically reworked. Just as an example, when doing research for this blog post I attempted to find posts or videos on the internet which would provide a useful definition of what being street legal is with regards to automated vehicles. Of the multiple articles that I found, none of them have any useful information regarding self-driving cars. The only article I was able to find about the issue would only go as far as to say that self-driving cars operate in a, “kind of legal gray zone.” Regardless, steps are however being made in the right direction. The first state to take one such step has been California, which is allowing testing on the streets of it’s state once certain conditions are met. The most important part of all of this for both companies and the government is the cost of the law with each automated vehicle that is being tested without the aid of a human behind the wheel needing to be insured for five million dollars. While this will make it extremely costly for companies to test their cars on California streets the unfortunate reality is that California is the only state where humanless tests are allowed. Delving deeper into the law and logistics of automated vehicles, the next part of the new California laws are 112 pages and a four part policy that must be met in order for any car to even hit the streets. The U.S. Department of Transportation has set a clear 15- point safety assessment clearance policy that each car must pass before they are allowed to be driven which could make the process rather repetitive and tedious.  The obvious downside here is that because of the increase in costs and the high levels of restrictions levied upon automated technology by the law the technology is unable to grow at the fastest possible rate.

On a completely different front, with an increase in reliance on technology and software to operate our vehicles people will start viewing these less as vehicles and more as computers. Unfortunately, just like with computers people will look to hack into our cars, which could be detrimental for the safety of the roads. The world of cyber security is still years away from catching up with the ever advancing technology we know as autonomous vehicles. We are verging on a world where there will be thousands of networks operating to make self-driving cars run everyday, and moreover, a world where automakers will have to step up their security in order to ensure the safety of all drivers. Think of a world where a terrorist attack is no longer the threat of a nuclear bomb, but the threat of them gaining access to our driving networks and controlling our streets and highways. The future is a place where we cannot afford to have no internet connection as that will make it impossible for autonomous vehicles to communicate with other autonomous vehicles on the road. Right now the automated vehicles are relying on software like Google Maps to operate their vehicles which translates to vehicles of the future having a dependency on being connected to wifi at all times which would require the addition of wireless networks on all U.S. roadways. Not only that, the installation of wifi is just the first step as for the technologies to truly work. GPS and specific software for the vehicles themselves will need to be updated constantly so that the cars can function properly and avoid accidents. Not only would all this be costly but also it would require wireless companies to come together in order to be able to string up connection needed for the cars to run.  So yes, you could say that automated vehicles have more than a few areas in which they are still for lack of a better word, lacking.