Bioprogramming, Tech and Business

Future Scenario: 120-year-old youths

Death is the great equalizer, and one of the two aspects of God in most religious systems. Some, like Singularity University expert Jose Luis Cordeiro, are claiming that the “death of death” is near. We don’t need to go so far. What if we could reach 120 years old with reasonable health and well-being? Wouldn’t that be great?

Life expectancy from antiquity to the current today hasn’t really changed but has changed very much at the same time. It hasn’t really changed in the sense that a genetically and environmentally lucky human specimen could reach 90 years in Ancient Greece, today that same specimen might reach 100+, not much of a change. At the same time, the average lifespan has multiplied. In the past most humans were unlucky and they died as infants, children or adults, mainly through infectious disease. The 20th century decisively won the battle against infectious disease and now life expectancies routinely match that of the lucky Athenian.

However, we seem to have hit a stumbling block in terms of maximum life expectancy and, even more importantly, quality of old age. Our main killers nowadays are dependent on lifestyle and decay, and they are mostly chronic. Our health system and technology are much less capable of dealing with them. Cancer, the other main killer, is a product of decay but looks more like an infectious disease in terms of its severity and outcomes. We are getting better with cancer but it is still much beyond our control.

Being able to achieve the dream of being 120-year-olds with significant life quality requires that we are able to overcome both. It probably also requires that we somehow reverse cellular decay processes that seem to take place throughout the body and take to the grave even the luckiest of us. There are only between 150 and 600 supercentenarians alive that have lived beyond 110, and the oldest women alive just got to 122 years old. 120-year-old youths would be really a transformation as a species.

If we start with our chronic diseases, taking care of those could be embarrassingly easy. Books like Ray Kurzweil’s Transcend cover the 9 steps required to overcome most of the current killers. They are fairly low tech: talking to your doctor regularly, relaxation, regular health assessments, nutrition, calory reduction, exercise, some new technologies, and detoxification. Mostly common sense backed by truckloads of scientific evidence. Still, most of us don’t exercise, live stressed-out lives, don’t do health-assessments, eat too much and too bad, and don’t play to our genetic weaknesses. This first step might be more about Neurogamification than Bioprogramming.

The results from a regimen like the one prescribed by the one above would result in a step improvement from current health challenges. The top 10 causes of disease in high-income countries today according to the WHO are: Ischaemic heart disease, Stroke, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, Trachea, bronchus and lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lower respiratory infections, colon and rectal cancer, diabetes mellitus, kidney disease and breast cancer. From the list, more than half have a majority of attribution to lifestyle choices (lack of exercise, obesity, smoking, drinking, pollution) and breast cancer has an important genetic component. Only colon and rectal cancer can be considered a true “non-lifestyle non-genetic” killer.

If next, we look at cancer, it is tougher but we are making progress. First, we have traditional treatments like chemo and radiotherapy which have progressively improved survival rates. Second, genomics-based treatments covered earlier have much potential in terms of reducing overall impact from rarer cancers. Third, new treatments are coming out all the time, like a soon to be approved by the FDA cancer treatment that uses the body own immune system. Finally, either very precise artificial life or nanobots will be designed at some point that can detect and eliminate cancer right away. We might be still decades away, but after all most of us are decades away from being 120.

The final frontier is cell degeneration. Cells are programmed to die and they degenerate. Our genes don’t care much about us once we have outlived our reproductive capability, so we decay and die. This is not true with all organisms. Single cell organisms like bacteria continue endlessly, it could even be argued that the original bacteria might live on, even if in a highly mutated state, after close to three billion years. Replicating this in the human cell requires a lot of basic science work. Silicon Valley billionaires are helping here as they are donating significant amounts to research and creating a new industry dubbed the “Immortality Industry”.

Considering all of this getting to 120-year-olds in a quite healthy status might require some work, but for those who value their time on Earth highly, it might be feasible. The impact of 120 healthy year-olds would require us to change many of our ways of organizing society. If 65 starts to be when you get your midlife crisis it might be a little earlier for retirement. Healthcare costs might rise to 20, 30 or 40% of total GDP. After all, there is little more precious than life. Finally, inheritance might take a fully new concept when you can expect to reasonably be a great-great-grandfather.

If you want to try to get there you just need to start changing your habits in very common sense ways. Think that cigarette, that rerun of Game of Thrones that kept you out of the gym, or those extra pounds might cost you decades of healthy living.

Bioprogramming, Tech and Business

Exponential Revolution #5 – Bioprogramming

Bioprogramming is the capacity to understand, modify, and create from scratch the functioning of living organisms manipulating their underlying genetic code as if it was digital code. It will allow reprogramming of existing organisms or the creation ex-novo of new ones. This reprogramming and creation will be potentially as easy and fast as with digital code. The reprogrammed life forms will to heal, fabricate, and much more.

Now we enter a completely different terrain and one that impinges one step further into what we consider our core. Bioprogramming doesn’t only have great economic impact, it also touches the substrate of our own bodies. It promises to change our relationship with them, giving us knowledge that seemed an unattainable mystery and perhaps impacting some of the deepest human mysteries like health, disease, reproduction, or death itself.

Like the New Energy Matrix, Bioprogramming combines digital technologies with very physical and “wet” technologies. It is based strongly on the breakthroughs in genetic engineering and biology that have allowed us to improve our understanding of how living organisms are coded and work. It has also required substantial advances in chemistry and physics to create the physical capability of manipulating micro scale genetic material at a very low cost. The latest in a long list of advances is the CRISPR/CAS9 technology, which allows permanent modification of the genetic information of organisms. Of course, it has also required the advance of digital technology to allow to do all this in an automated and cost-effective way.

Bioprogramming allows reading, writing and modifying genetic instructions in living cells. This can be used in mainly three ways: read the genetic instructions of existing organisms, write new genetic organisms ex-novo based on previously understood genetic sequences, and modify genetic instructions of existing individuals. This can be done in micro-scale organisms, in human-scale animals and plants, or in our own genetic information.

Manipulation of microscale organisms can be used for several purposes. On the one side, it can be used to create natural “fabrication” organisms that create a given compound that is difficult or expensive to create through non-organic means. On the other side of applications, it can be used to understand and control dangerous bacteria or virus.

Manipulation of human scale animals and plants can be used to improve agricultural output, although it is increasingly being used to add new functionality to organisms for new uses. The level of manipulation available goes far beyond what can be achieved through previous methods of genetically-modified organisms as it can be done from almost scratch.

Finally, manipulating human genetic information is useful to reduce the incidence of known genetic disease. And is increasingly being used beyond that to understand and improve some diseases like cancer. Eventually, it could also be used to improve humans dramatically by eliminating shortcomings (e.g. aging) or adding new functionalities.

Overall, Bioprogramming will have a tremendous and transformative impact on our lives and it brings forth deep and worrisome ethical challenges. However, in terms of sectors of economic activity, it will impact only some sectors. It will probably change healthcare and agriculture completely. It might also have an impact in other industries in which some organic use case can be found. But most industries will not have much direct impact from bioprogramming.

Even though most sectors will not change, we should all be concerned about bioprogramming. The changes we will see in humans could be breathtaking and the potential for change in our society is massive. Receding old age, important healthcare differences between haves and haves nots, designer babies, eugenics and re-genics, super-cattle and super dogs… The decisions we need to take as a society are innumerable and they deal with the core of our legends and myths, life, death, and rebirth.

We are seeing the dawn of the bioprogramming revolution with innovations that seemed beyond science fiction not so long ago:

Facts

  • Artificial Organisms. Creating new organisms
  • Targeted medicine. Medicines for individuals
  • Improved animals and plants. Superfarming.
  • Genetic therapy. Getting the bugs out of the (genetic) code.
  • Protein drugs. Taking pharma research to the next level down.

Speculations

  • Leather and meat fabrication. No cow was hurt preparing this hamburger.
  • Genetic modification. Designer babies.
  •  Genetic mapping. Decoding the spaghetti code of life.

Future scenario: 120-year-old youths

Neurogamification, Tech and Business

Game of Life

You look at your smartphone. You are really hooked to this app and for once it seems something useful! You are already gold in wellness, after having lost 10kg, improved your nutrition, started to sleep 7h regularly, and having incorporated sport into your daily routine. Now the app has suggested you either work on your education which is still bronze or embark on a major quest, quitting smoking. You know both will be challenging, but with your app you will do it.

Science has made it relatively easy to know what to do to improve your health, happiness, knowledge, wealth, and social life. The amount of self-help books is enormous, with more coming out every day. Their exhortations are quite consistent and even backed by science, at least for the good ones. They rarely enjoin us to do something counterintuitive. Rather they just rattle through the list of things we know we should be doing with some new buzzword or framework.

From getting rids of addictions like smoking, drinking, credit card binging, or darker drugs, to reducing our waistline and improving our nutrition. Exercising more in terms of endurance, strength, and flexibility. Sleeping enough. Spending more time with our loved ones. Reading for one hour a day in our field of expertise. Keeping a to-do list. Journalling. The needs are clear, and they work, but they are overwhelming and increasingly difficult in our distracted and overscheduled lives.

Some manage to move forward through habit engineering and willpower, and the results show. But for most, it is too much even to get to the most basic behavior changes. Smoking is awful for your health, it stinks, and it’s increasingly expensive, but many fail to quit even after its rebellious and social utility fade with age. An overly expanded waistline looks bad, saps your energy, and can lead you to an early death. But still, you are not able to resist that midnight snack.

What if we could create an app as sticky as Facebook and as addictive as World of Warcraft that would structure and support our behavior change? The social and economic potential of such an invention is amazing. The reduction in healthcare costs would be immense; the improvement in happiness and peace shocking, the financial consequences might trigger a long-lasting boom.

For a long time, the self-help book was the best vehicle to transmit behavior change. While support groups like Weight Watchers or AA helped for the really large problems. However, now with neurogamification we might have the technology and know-how to support people in radically improving their lives.

We have customer experience and gamification expertise that could let us create the structure. We have the scientific knowledge to codify and quantify the behaviors. We even have integrated reality to integrate the power of the app into the physical world, allowing it to peek at our physical actions, so it doesn’t have to rely on our inconsistent reporting.

And even as we speak some are attempting parts of it. However, real behavior change will probably need a holistic approach to tackle each problem in the right order. Lack of sleep will trigger overeating, an overweight person will find it more challenging to concentrate, lack of concentration will reduce professional and educational outcomes.

It wouldn’t take a very big team to tackle this task. Creating this initial “Game of Life” would just need some user experience experts from Facebook, some gamification gurus from mobile games or Blizzard, and then the self-help specialists that can select the right behaviors to target and the order to do it in. Over time, with enough data, even that won’t be necessary as results will point to the most effective paths and the most transformational interventions.

Any effort of this sort will face challenges undoubtedly. The tobacco companies, the consumer lending companies, the sugary drinks companies… many will resist and try to stifle the creation of a more in control consumer at the center of the system. However, time is on the side of in control, happy consumers. The main challenge will be the difficulty to get people to engage in change and pay for it. Hopefully, the advances we have seen in this chapter in Neurogamification will be enough to overcome this.

Of course, this will be not for everyone. Some people prefer to be fat, or find smoking immensely pleasurable, far outweighing health consequences. This needs to be respected. However, the majority of overweight people would prefer to slim down and most smokers would prefer to quit. They just find it too hard to do it with the unaided and often depleted reserves of willpower in our brain. After all, our brain was developed to survive in the savannah, not to be on a diet for several months straight or avoid cravings while being bombarded by Facebook updates.

If we manage to make this dream reality society could change drastically for the better. We are all slaves to our lack of willpower, and sadly many businesses take advantage of that as part of their business model. We will have a second abolishment of slavery when we abolish our slavery to our lack of willpower. Would that make us less human? Some would argue it would, I would argue it is no different to speeding at hundreds of km per hour over the surface of the Earth when our legs can only carry us much slower.

So what are you user experience guru, gamification geek or self-help genius waiting for? Band together and create the Game of Life for all of us. You can start by going to Hasbro to get the trademark.

Bioprogramming, Digital Governance, Neurogamification, Tech and Business

3 More stories about the 6 exponential revolutions

More stories about how I got to understand and get deep in the 6 exponential revolutions.

Digital Governance.

My journey down the Digital Governance rabbit hole started with a random conversation with an innovation executive at a large multinational bank in mid-2015. He told me he was working on Blockchain, I had barely heard about it so I asked if it had something to do with Bitcoin. He answered with the phrase that would become stock later, “It is not about Bitcoin, it is about Blockchain”. In those days Bitcoin was in the mid-hundreds, about 10x below this writing.

That conversation got me exploring in 2016 and I started to find out that some of the smartest and most innovative people I knew were involved in this world. Some of them staking their careers on this new and unknown technology. The “Blockchain rather than Bitcoin” bunch was more focused on Ethereum and enterprise applications. There had to be something to it. I got familiar with the technology and started to read on it. I even started speaking about it, realizing the great degree of ignorance there was out there about the technology.

My real involvement with blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and the impact of Digital Governance was in 2017. There I made my first cryptocurrency investments and discovered that several groups of my acquaintances were already deep into it. People in the online sports betting world had been using bitcoin as a payments utility for some years already. Now they were considering it and other cryptos as an alternative investment. The San Francisco tech scene was also quite into cryptocurrencies, with a different set of favorite coins.

From there, it went quickly. Clients started wanting to get deep in Blockchain. I started to follow the ICO scene, see it climb over two billion in 2017, and met random people in Madrid who were participating in ICOs in New Zealand and getting to know the founders through the Slack channels. Even one of my portfolio companies decided to do an initial coin offering. The animal spirits of the internet boom were present with a vengeance in the ICOs and cryptocurrency investments, heralding a crash at some point. At the same time, the technology was incredibly powerful and flexible, a real general purpose technology. A new paradigm that could be game-changing in many use cases.

Bioprogramming.

Bioprogramming became real for me in two separate events. The first one was during 2016. I had always been interested in the Maker movement, and there had always been a “bio-maker” side to it. So I wasn’t surprised when I learned reading Singularity University materials that several software IDEs were available to design the DNA. I installed GenomeCompiler to try it out and was promptly shocked. Of course GenomeCompiler is just one of the options, a long list including uGene, GeneStudio, and Gene Beans is out there.

It fulfilled the promise of allowing you to design the DNA of an organism, but it went far beyond it. First, it allowed you to use existing organisms as a base for the design. This included bacteria (Lactobacillus, Escherichia Coli, Clostridium Botulinum), viruses (HIV1, Enterobacteria phage) and Eukaryotes (Saccharomyces). This meant you could try out subtle or not so subtle changes to an existing organism and see what happened. The potential for a bio-engineering golden age was obvious, as was the dangers of its potential nefarious uses.

What really made this real for me was the fact that you could actually order your redesigned samples over the internet. There are a variety of companies (Twist Bioscience, Gene Universal, GenScript, and many more) that are happy to fabricate it for you for a fee (some sites start as low as 25€). While it is not as fast as a software engineer deploying her code to the cloud, it is way faster than evolution by mutation and reproduction. I never got to order a sample to see if it really works. My wife is a doctor and she told me that in her mind it was too dangerous and potentially illegal.

That first experience made it clear to me that there was an amateur biohacking scene and that it was technically feasible. In early 2017 I learned there was a real industrial one also. We were looking for ways to reduce the environmental footprint for a fashion retailer. Surprisingly to many, Fashion is one of the most environmentally impactful industries. Its footprint is very large especially because of its materials like cotton, leather, or silk.

We explored some alternative suppliers and discovered there was a complete world of companies working on creating new materials through biofabrication. Bioengineered leather had several alternatives, it didn’t need cows and could have its leather precisely tuned to the characteristics a company needed. Everything was accomplished through cell cultures. Modern Meadow is an example of a company working on this and also on artificial meat. Another favorite is silk. The material that allegedly bankrupted the Roman Empire, silk is extremely intensive in resources, with 1kg requiring over 5000 silkworms. AMSilk is producing silk through bioengineering for textiles, medical devices, and the cosmetics industry.

Neurogamification

I have always been shocked by the low levels of work and school engagement in the world. I have been lucky enough that for me work and learning have been for the most part exciting and fun. However, I could see how many around me, and most in the world, according to statistics, were totally disengaged. For me, this is a disaster and a huge lost opportunity. It is a real pity that most of the population passes most of their waking hours in activities they find boring and unappealing.

Games have always been the opposite. Whether card games, physical games, or computer games, I have always seen people enthralled by games. Many of these games involve strenuous physical exertion, deep mental concentration, or complex social interactions with empathy and listening playing a large role. Why couldn’t the same principles that make games fascinating be applied to work and study so that everyone could be totally fascinated with his or her day to day?

Digital and the other Exponential Revolutions will enable this to a large extent, by eliminating thankless repetitive work. However, what really convinced me was seeing what the computer games by Blizzard, probably the most successful games studio of the last two decades, did to people.

I saw my friends, some more workaholic others more laid back, dedicate hours on end to these games. Their activities included intense study of how to perform certain tasks and deliberate practice to improve (leveling and tournament training), complex social negotiations and practice to get large groups (20-40 person guilds) to execute complex tasks (raids and instances), execution of repetitive tasks to gather resources (farming or grinding), and many others. Getting them to do this required very much ingenuity from Blizzard, and a level of understanding of how the brain works far beyond common sense. If this could be made for a game that actually cost money to play, I became conviced that it is doable for an activity you get paid for.

Neurogamification, Tech and Business

Exponential Revolution #6 – Neurogamification

Neurogamification allows us to fully program motivation and affective responses in human brains by using our knowledge of how the brain and the mind work. It goes much beyond primitive techniques to generate addiction or the emotional responses that are currently employed by different communication media and in Advertising.

Neurogamification touches us at our cores. It touches our minds, our concept of self, the idea of self-determination and our concept of the soul. When neurogamification has come to full fruition we will have a disturbing window on how we make decisions and how our brain works. It is still to be seen whether our concept of what being human means and how we derive meaning from life can withstand that knowledge unscathed. There are also significant risks associated with this knowledge and manipulation capability. Should organizations be able to manipulate people with their consent? How would we manage the ability to predict behavior? What would happen if a totalitarian institution captures a population through full manipulation? Would willing 99% majorities count as a democracy if they are based on neurogamification manipulation?

Neurogamification is based on a series of converging disciplines. On one side, psychology, gaming and behavioral economics that have been deepening our understanding of why and how we make decisions with increasingly elaborated experiments. On the other side, we have a growing body of knowledge around the brain, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and others, which gives us great anatomical knowledge of how its configured and increasing knowledge about how it works dynamically. All of this is underpinned by Digital and Integrated Reality which gives us the capability to increasingly control the environment in which our mind operates improving our capability to understand it and affect it. Customer experience, game design, and neuromarketing are three examples of specific disciplines that try to take what we are capable of and apply it to specific domains.

This paradigm shift covers a number of distinct but connected areas. First, our capability to understand what is going on in the mind of a consumer, employee, investor or citizen by seeing how she behaves in the world and what is the pattern of neural activation. Second, the creation of engaging experiences that uses the brain’s functioning to make us intrinsically motivated to perform in a certain way. Third, the therapeutic uses of this knowledge to break negative brain circuits that trigger habits like overeating, or even clinical conditions like depression.

Understanding what is going on in the brain could be called “Google Analytics for the mind”. This is the dream of any marketer or salesperson come true. Instead of guessing and what works, you could actually see were in the neural patterns of engagement your pitch is breaking down. Ubiquitous cameras and powerful image analysis software from Integrated Reality allows an understanding of detailed physical behavior. Combined with a neural scanning of brain activation it would allow getting a complete picture of the behavior of each customer for each offering. With Intelligent Process we could extract knowledge and act upon this data. Is it a word that triggers a negative association? Do we just tune out at the beginning?

Engaging experiences are now given a variety of names, customer engagement, customer experience, gamification… In the end it is all about using our knowledge about how the brain works to create extremely engaging experiences. Of course, this  can be addictive, and it takes us into an ethically questionable territory. What is clear is that gamification elements using psychological knowledge can be used to boost engagement and make customers, users and employees want to behave how we want them to behave or even how they want to behave themselves.

Finally, therapeutic uses are increasingly available. Our knowledge is taking us deeper into the understanding of depression and addictions. What we are seeing is that psychological afflictions often have an underlying cause in brain chemistry unbalances. So we can use the power of integrated reality and digital to confront and treat these conditions. Again, it is easy to fall into questionable territory as one person’s therapy is another’s manipulation.

Neurogamification will be tremendously impactful across industries and change every one of the areas of economic and human activity. While it might not transform any particular value chain, it will probably change the way we think and go about many fundamental human activities. While it has its dark side, it is also full of possibility. The opportunity of a world of full engagement in which we are as excited to go to work, learn or do our taxes, as an addicted Candy Crash player could boost human potential and human happiness beyond what we can imagine.

Even though neurogamification is probably the most incipient of the six paradigm shifts described it is already being deployed widely both in ways we can already consider facts, as well as others that are still speculations.

Facts

  • Addictive cues in games. Just one more level.
  • User engagement.  The new world of zero friction.
  • Shopper Analysis and neuromarketingOptimizing the brain funnel.
  • Gamification.  Playing to buy.
  • Serious games.  Playing to work and learn.
  • Gamified /VR therapy and training. Playing to heal.

Speculations

  • Brain structure and function. The most complex structure in the universe.
  • Mind structure and function. The ghost in the machine.
  • Engagement in corporations. From Human Resources to Employee Game Design.

Potential Future: Game of life. Creating meaningful and engaging life, work and learning.

Energy and Transportation, Tech and Business

The Self-Reliant Homestead

Thomas Jefferson was enamored of the yeoman farmer. The pillar of democracy who sustained the republic by independent thinking and hard work. The idea of an independent citizen who had relative autonomy is more difficult to entertain nowadays. After all, most people are deeply enmeshed in the web of modern civilization and couldn’t live independently even for one week. The most poignant sight in disaster movies is always the empty supermarket, as soon as it is thoroughly looted there is no more food or modern life.

This could change significantly over the next decade, especially as the new energy matrix comes online and other technologies are fully developed. Solar and storage hold the promise of energy independence for the household. It would take more panels and storage than the optimal grid-connected setting, but it is totally feasible to have an isolated home that is energy independent in most latitudes. As we will see energy, in the form of electricity, is the basis for all the rest.

With electricity, you can have lighting, electronics, cooking, heating, and cooling. This forms the basis of current modern life.  Each of those would require specialized equipment, but with that equipment, the home could be completely self-reliant.

On top of that, you would need water and sanitation. As we have seen in the New Energy Matrix Facts and Speculations water is also feasible without unduly burdening the power system, and that could also have water and organic waste recycling. Achieving a relatively circular management of materials and water will be increasingly important as we look to reduce our impact on earth

Next, we would go for the part that would be more alien for Jefferson: the computing, storage, and communications infrastructure. While huge datacenters seem to be the norm now, there is actually less and less reason to go for massive scale a. Many are heralding the return of “personal storage”. A cloud node with the requisite computing and storage power, along with radio connectivity capability in a mesh network style wouldn’t tax the energy capabilities of our self-reliant homestead much.  A fiber or satellite link would take care of the connection with the outside world.

With electricity, cloud, and communications in place we would be able to add a number of very important amenities for modern life with the right electronics and cloud content:

  • Education and entertainment by leveraging cloud storage and communications. We can think of the equivalent to OTT content consumption services, but with the contents stored in the homestead cloud. Storage costs are falling so quickly that the cost of having an almost limitless library of film, games, music, books, and educational content would be almost zero. You would need the electronics to consume such as screens, loudspeakers, and gaming consoles.
  • Creative work could be performed from the homestead. Today an increasing array of professionals can work almost fully from home: writers, content creators in general, coders, customer support, inside sales, some healthcare professionals… With the right hardware and software, you can have the setting you need for your chosen profession. Collaboration tools will help you interact with your teammates when needed.
  • Mobility through an array of electric vehicles, fully rechargeable in the homestead thanks to the electricity and cloud. These vehicles could have a substantial range and allow for both passenger and goods transport. It doesn’t need to be only cars and motorbikes. We can think also of drones and flying vehicles, completely autonomous and electric.
  • Social interactions through messaging and transport to other homesteads or social settings. Many social interactions are now electronic, with more to come with Integrated Reality. The homestead would also allow transport through the mobility capability to other locations.
  • Digital governance technologies would allow the homestead to participate politically and economically in the broader republic effectively at all levels. Each homestead would be running a full Blockchain node giving it monetary and voting sovereignty.

For real independence, we would still need to go beyond and leverage the surrounding environment with Integrated Reality (robots, IoT, and full sensing).  This would be mostly for extracting, processing, and recycling needed resources:

  • Food and supplements through precision automated farming. This would probably require more energy for self-driving tractors and irrigation, so we could have a separate industrial-scale solar panel and storage array.
  • Basic materials mining through scanning and robotic miners. To be able to extract from the environment whatever materials are needed in the least invasive way possible. We could target the specific elements that could be reprocessed as needed.
  • A healthcare station, in which automated stations can diagnose and treat basic illnesses. More serious conditions would probably still need hospital care. A great example of this is the Tricorder X Prize. Launched in 2012 and finished in 2017 it has awarded 2,5 million USD to two teams for creating a handheld device that can be used by a normal person to diagnose the twelve most common diseases.
  • Security and surveillance, with the sensing mesh allowing a detailed view of what is happening, and reaction capabilities to natural or human-made disasters and threats.
  • 3D Scanning and Printing capability to create new objects adapted to all needs, including basic ones like clothing or home decoration, but also more advanced ones such as the servicing of all the electronics. This would include the capability of actually duplicating all the homestead’s components. Here, the unsolved problem yet is how to deal with the different materials. Current 3D printing is very reliant on plastics and as such on oil. It would be critical to find an alternative material base and way to deal with complex fabrication such as electronics or robots.

This would create a really self-reliant and autonomous homestead. Humans could live independently of broader society in these settings for a long period of times and with almost no impact on the environment. Of course, we might choose to continue living in cities, I for one, prefer the hustle and bustle of a modern city (especially once we get rid of ICE vehicles). However, the self-reliant homestead would be open for those who prefer at least partial solitude.

It could also be used as a way to colonize other worlds, which apparently is Elon Musk’s main goal with all his technology developments. You can imagine these homesteads, with additional pressurization and air processing components, dotting the Moon or Mars.

Anything you would be missing in the autonomous homestead? Who would you take with you in a long self-reliant seclusion?

Energy and Transportation, Tech and Business

Exponential Revolution #2 – The New Energy Matrix Facts and Speculations

There is no better way of understanding Exponential Revolution #2, the New Energy Matrix, than looking at the real-world examples. Here we cover the facts of the case, in which the evidence clearly shows that the Exponential Revolution is already taking place and will continue to advance. We also look at speculations, the areas in which the change is not so well established, but that already show significant progress, either through real changes or large investments by credible players.

Facts: Change is already happening

Solar and renewable power. Clean and endless energy

Solar and wind, and some other forms of renewable energy are reaching and surpassing grid parity. This means that their cost is starting to be cheaper than that of fossil fuels for generating electricity. Many experts link this declining cost curve with the impact of digital on renewable technologies, although it represents a combination of many factors.

The history of solar and wind energy goes back to the ancient world, with the Greeks. Chinese and Romans already exploiting these sources of power to a certain extent. However, it was only in the late 19th Century that solar and wind energy for electricity production started to develop. The first solar array was a 1% efficient selenium based cell installed on a New York rooftop in 1884. Over the next century, solar power was confined to specialized uses such as satellites, but the technology slowly developed.It was in 2000 when concern over climate change started a drive to increase renewable energy and feed-in tariffs were introduced.

Initially, Wind Power had the advantage and enjoyed an important boom, from less than 10 GW of installed power in the late 90s to over half a Terawatt today according to the Global Wind Council. Overall usage of Wind in the global electricity grid is near 5%, with many countries over 10% (e.g. the US) and some over 40% (e.g. Denmark). The global wind industry has developed significantly and installs over 50GW of power every year.

Wind Power has important limitations, as it requires large favorable sites which are severely impacted by the deployment of wind turbines. Its cost progression seems to have peaked at 4-5 cents per KWh, which is comparable to fossil fuels (even when we don’t factor in the environmental advantages) Consequently while wind will continue to grow and it is an important part of reducing dependency on fossil fuels, it will not change the nature of our energy matrix.

The technology with the opportunity to be the real game changes is solar. After all solar input to the Earth is orders of magnitude greater than our current energy consumption, and solar panels can be installed with limited environmental impact in small quantities. Consequently, solar has the opportunity to transform our energy matrix and make electricity virtually free.

Of course, solar has held this promise for the last decades and the changes haven’t happened yet. So why is it going to happen now? Basically, the reason is two-fold: grid parity for utility-scale systems and for home based systems. Improvements in technology and especially in the installation and management process have reduced the cost significantly, with favorable locations already below the 3 cents per KWh.

In terms of utility-scale projects, we have seen impressive projects well below grid parity cost in many locations. In the US in May 2017, a Tucson utility inked the deal for a system to power 20.000 homes for under 3 cents per KWh. In Chile, there was a bid in 2016 for 2,91cents per KWh. Finally, the record holder as of this writing is in the UAE at 2,42 cents per KWh. Obviously less favorable locations in terms of irradiation are still at higher costs, but 2,42 cents per KWh still represents about half the typical cost of utility-generated fossil fuel electricity, even without considering full environmental impacts.

The price of home-based arrays has also been improving systematically, especially reducing the installation and financing costs that now account for most of the cost. Cost for installing solar power in the US are as of 2017 3 USD per Watt. Considering irradiation, which changes significantly depending on the specific geography, and the useful life of residential systems, the cost of electricity can vary significantly. Some estimates place it between 5-10 cents per KWh for a high irradiation zone. This compares to an average cost for a consumer of 10-15 cents per KWh for residential users, making it an attractive proposition in many areas.

Thanks to this, solar capacity has been growing dramatically and it has reached over 300GW according to the IAE, representing ~2% of electricity generation in the world. Most of this capacity is Photovoltaic and has a good mix of utility-scale and residential. While it is catching up with wind quickly, it still has a lot more runway thanks to its lesser environmental impact and resource requirements. So it could continue to go down the cost curve as new technologies come online and production and installation become easier and cheaper.

Solar has two key problems to fulfill its promise. The first is regulation. Spain was the country that pioneered the renewable boom in the 2000s. However, utility protecting regulation has left us lagging now. Home solar has been made uneconomical in Spain through regulation, by forcing consumers to pay for the grid costs and peak power costs even if they use mainly solar. This is stopping solar in several countries. This is a political limitation, and as such will only be able to reduce demand temporarily. At the same time, it pinpoints a real problem, as the grid and backup power generation capacity need to be paid for, at least until it is totally substituted. The second is storage, the sun doesn’t shine at peak consumption so we need a way to store solar-generated power for use when it is really needed. That is why storage is a key element of the new energy matrix.

Storage and batteries. Making energy independent of time.

I am an electrical engineer so I have a deep understanding of electricity. However, I didn’t really understand the critical role of the lack of economical storage for electricity until I started working for electric utilities. The whole system is designed to overcome this limiting factor, this requires incredible expense and engineering in terms of the grid and the generating plants that contribute to it. The first utility I worked with had some huge plants operating at 20% capacity, they were the so-called “peaker plants” which are only activated in peak demand.

The sheer waste of the whole system is obvious to any engineering mind. Why build a huge capital expenditure plant in the billions and then have it operating at 20% capacity? The answer is that economical storage of electric power has been uneconomic since industrial electricity was born. We still operate a system that is very similar to the one Edison created with his first power plants at the dawn of the 20th century. It hasn’t been very necessary either, as fossil fuel powered plants can be easily turned off and on providing the peaking power needed.

This has changed as renewables enter the grid, as they depend on sun and wind to determine if they are “on or off”, and as batteries become more important for other applications. Namely consumer electronics and electric cars. Battery costs have been plummeting over the last decade, from more than 1000 USD per kWh of storage to around 200 USD today. They are expected to go even further and break the 100 USD barrier soon.

Mobile phones were the first devices to really jump start battery technology development. However, even smartphone batteries are small affairs by industrial standards. It has been the introduction of electric vehicles that has really accelerated battery development, at anywhere from 25 kWh to 80 kWh battery sizes are significant affairs. The increasing volume of electric car production is leading to being able to manufacture them at scale

In turn, this has lead to home batteries, like the Tesla Powerwall. At around 10kWh these batteries allow a home with solar panels to source most of its demand from its own generation capability. The battery cycles from charging mode during the initial daylight hours in which there is low consumption to contributing to the grid or to the home during the peak evening hours. There are many examples in the web of hobbyists. Some of the extreme ones manage 75% self-sufficiency even with two electric cars in not so sunny England.

The ability to put batteries in parallel or series to add them up one way or the other makes it feasible to add them up to utility scale. So a couple of million electric vehicles at 50kWh and five million homes at 10kWh could add up to a 150 GWh capacity for the grid of a medium-sized country like Spain (150GWh are equivalent to 30 billion USD in storage investment at 200USD per kWh). With a consumption of ~700GWh per day (Spain example), this is enough to smooth the peaks and avoid peaker plant operations.

This would totally change the way in which electricity works and bankrupt most electric utilities and grid operators as we know them. Consequently, we can expect a bumpy road to the storage economy in terms of regulation and special interests. However, it would make for a much more efficient and cheaper electricity production which would use probably just the renewable and nuclear capacity base.

For this to happen we not only need homes to have batteries but especially cars to change to electric and be plugged into the grid in an efficient way. So let’s look at electric vehicles now

Electric cars and motorbikes. Nikola Tesla’s revenge.

The first electric vs. combustion motor showdown happened in the early 1900s. Electric’s advantages were the same as today, cleaner and more direct transmission of power (i.e. higher acceleration and efficiency) and doing without controlled explosions within the vehicle. However, the phenomenal energy storage efficiency of gasoline won out. After all, gasoline still packs 100 times the power of LiOn batteries (although an electric battery would only need ~30% of the capacity of gasoline to be comparable) and has a global infrastructure to pour it in seconds into vehicles.

The second coming of the electric car is premised mainly on improved batteries, global warming, smog and Elon Musk. Let’s tackle each one at a time.

Batteries have improved very significantly since the early 1900s. Not only in terms of price as discussed in the previous reality, but also in terms of weight ratios (already beyond 200Wh/kg compared to the 30-50Wh/kg starting point for lead batteries). The large gap against gasoline could be bridged over the next 30 years or so according to Argonne lab report. However, with today’s batteries start to be competitive and the drop in prices could make them functional soon enough.

Global warming and smog are two significant reasons to move to electric vehicles. Transportation is about a fourth of greenhouse gases, so it is a great place to start reductions. Air pollution in cities is becoming a top concern in many cities. Its link with lung disease and even cancer is increasingly being proven, so it is becoming a priority to reduce by many governments.

Finally, there is the “great person” factor. In this case, we were lucky enough that someone as gifted as an engineer and communicator took it on to transform the transportation sector to electric. With his company Tesla he has captured the imagination of the consumers and galvanized the rest of the sector into action. He might have sped up electric car development by at least 5 years, whether Tesla ends up being the powerhouse it looks to be or not.

All of this has increased electric car penetration, with over 2 million electric cars in 2016, and the most advanced countries such as Norway selling one in three cars as electric. There has also been a boom in electric motorcycles, very relevant in the development world, with more than 200 million electric two-wheelers just in China in 2016 according to the IEA. Some countries are already planning the phase-out of internal combustion engine based vehicles with several dates announced either for new sales or for all vehicles. The closest date is Norway (2025) with other more longer-term commitments (e.g. France 2040, UK 2040, and India 2030).

Probably the area in which electric vehicles are moving the fastest is shared transportation, so let us turn to it now.

Shared transportation. From 5 to 50% usage.

Electric vehicles are also powering another swifter revolution that is being played out in many of the world’s biggest cities. More than 60% of the people of the world live in high-density settings such as cities, at the same time cars in those same cities stand idle 95% of the time. It was only a matter of time until someone put two and two together and used smartphones to rent out electric cars.

To me, shared transportation was introduced in a very personal way. I had the opportunity to discuss it with the global CMO of Car2Go who had just launched in Spain. For me that discussion was enlightening. I hadn’t heard much of shared cars until then and everything started to click.

First, the famous 5% number in terms of the percentage of time a car is used. Next, the fact that the car manufacturers know what is coming and are leading the charge themselves. I was really surprised to learn that Car2Go was part of Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes and several other brands. Third, the strong involvement of city halls which were intent on pushing shared vehicles as a way to reduce air pollution, traffic and parking problems. Finally, the proven business model that had already deployed in many cities, and was starting to accelerate further.

After cars came motorbikes and now in Madrid, we have three brands of cars and another three of motorbikes. I am sure it is not the densest network in terms of development, but still, just with this, it is life changing. I am a shared vehicle power user. I live in the city and commute often in it. My wife and I have a single car and I can’t get the business case to buy another one now. I can pick up a car or motorbike usually within less than 500m of where I am and take it to exactly where I need to go. All for the price of public transport. With the motorbikes, it reliably takes me half the time to get anywhere. They are all electric and really painless to use. I can also be multimodal, maybe I need to go in a hurry but then I can get back by walking leisurely. A mobility revolution.

We can expect Shared Transportation to continue to gather pace and merger with the taxi-cabs and Ubers once autonomous driving is a reality. Going from 5% utilization to 50% could reduce the number of cars on the sidewalks and parking by an order of magnitude. It will also make transportation easily accessible to much more and encourage us to use multimodal transport rather than be bound to the car. Obviously, it won’t work everywhere, as it requires a certain density but in cities, we will see a quick transformation making us wonder how did we survive before.

Water. Taking control of water.

We are more than 60% water and we can’t live, or our civilization function, without fresh water. However, water is one of the scarcest utilities we have. Less than 1% of all water available on Earth is fresh, with another 1% if we add the polar caps. Global warming is also making droughts and water shortages an increasing problem in many parts of the world, both developed and developing.

Can humanity liberate itself from its water dependency? Apparently yes, it’s a question of energy. If we have enough energy through solar we have the technology to generate as much water as we need. The most obvious solution is desalination, and some countries like Kuwait already source 100% of their water from desalinization plans. The advantage there is that desert habitats combine extreme drought conditions with great insolation levels for solar power generation.

According to the American Membrane Association desalinatization, energy costs are now around 2,5-3,5Wh per liter, with a theoretical minimum for membrane-based desalinization of 1Wh per liter. Considering average water usage ranges from 100 to 300 liters per person we would have a consumption of 0,25 to 1kWh per person for water per day. For a year of a three-member household, this would represent a maximum of 1 MWh per household per year. This is significant but manageable given household energy consumptions in the developed world from 6 to 15 MWh and could be incorporated into the solar footprint of a home, especially in a desert area.

Speculations: What is coming

Autonomous vehicles. AI drivers.

I will always remember how he introduced the conversation: “I am very worried. Our company is doing something great technically but we will disrupt the 5 million truck drivers in the US. What can we do to help these people?”. That was my first realization that autonomous vehicles were much more serious and close than I thought. When someone so smart and thoughtful as my friend started to worry about consequences then it was really coming.

Six months later I saw him again. This time another phrase struck me. “This is a race, we haven’t taken a vacation for the last year. It is all about who gets it right first”. This was about speed, if days counted we couldn’t be far away. If so much was hanging in the balance of getting the technology right, there was more to it than I thought.

The third foundational experience was going to Mexico DF for a friend’s wedding with my wife. One of the megacities in Latam, I had been to DF a number of times. Moving around had always been a pain. Taxis are not totally safe and are not comfortable or easy to find. This is quite a thing in a city with the famous hour-long traffic jams. This time around my friend suggested we use Uber. It was an amazing experience, that changed my perception of the value of the service.

In the developed world, especially in European cities, Uber or Cabify are marginally more convenient than taxis. They might be cheaper, maybe even slightly cleaner and it is cool to be able to hail it with your mobile. But by and large taxi companies have increased the level of service and convenience, and high labor costs maintain prices at a relatively high level, so its no big deal (at least for me, I know others who are extremely excited even in Europe).

Uber in Mexico DF has changed the experience of the city. DF must be one of the cities with most Ubers in the world, so it’s rare to have one more than 5 minutes away. Labor costs are so low that the price is really cheap. This changes your way of experiencing transportation and makes you use it a lot more. Apparently, high earning power Mexicans are even dropping their cars, because Uber is just better and cheaper.

That’s when I thought, this is what will happen everywhere once there is autonomous driving. Transport will be so much cheaper that it will change how we think about it. Not only for logistics but also with passenger traffic. Individual cars won’t make sense, and maybe even public transport will have a hard time competing.

That is why autonomous mobility is the capstone for the Energy Matrix revolution. It will change transportation and with that our relationship with space and time. Maybe 50km will be the new 5km, so where we build, live and work might change dramatically.

So how fast can we expect autonomous vehicles? While there has been substantial progress made in terms of autonomous driving support, which is rapidly become a standard feature, a fully autonomous vehicle is bound to find significant technical, regulatory and psychological challenges. The main companies pursuing it, Google, Uber, and Tesla, are facing short-term challenges in their projects however they seem confident of their long-term success.

After an aggressive initial deployment focusing on level 5 only (“Steering Wheel optional”) Google’s Waymo had to backtrack its ambition. However, it is now conducting trials with over 600 minivans and has even announced intentions to deploy in Detroit to try out autonomous driving in snow conditions. Overall Waymo has logged over 3.5 million driverless miles putting it at the head of the pack. It is also now collaborating with Lyft, Uber’s main competitor, to move faster

Uber got to a fast start after purchasing Otto, the driverless truck company founded by ex-Googlers. It also had a high visibility pilot in Pittsburgh with self-driving Ubers (with backup drivers) as part of the fleet. All of this was significantly slowed when Google sued Uber over intellectual property this year. However, self-driving technology is “existential” to Uber according to the company, because whoever gets there first will be able to outcompete other shared vehicle services extremely fast.

Finally, Tesla has the most organic approach. Self-driving cars are just another point in the roadmap for Tesla. Something they can offer their car buyers to make their life better and cooler. Already at level 3 autonomy (“hands off”), Tesla is trying to move to level 4. It has managed to weather the impact of the first autonomous car death and promises over-the-air upgrades to its drivers. However, it seems true level 4 and 5 will require extra hardware (cameras and sensors) not available in all models.

Overall autonomous driving seems to be experimenting strong progress. It will need to overcome significant regulatory obstacles but the consensus is that it will eventually get there. However, there is no consensus on whether it will take 5 or 25 years. In any case, as it develops we can expect one of the most important transformations in the way we live, work and get from one place to the other. Maybe soon enough if you want to get behind a steering wheel you will need to go to a historic amusement park, much like you need to go to a riding school to try out horse riding, something that was part of the everyday life of many not so long ago.

Drone logistics. Your faithful drone servants.

Drones have many applications in both Integrated Reality and the new Energy Matrix. The level of development in terms of cost, range and autonomous flying capability has been amazing and is still going strong. Now we are facing the regulatory challenges necessary to integrate them into the economy.

From the New Energy Matrix perspective, the main use will be short-haul transportation. With digital capturing an increasing share of retail sales short-range delivery is starting to become a huge part of the retail supply chain. The only way to put a lid on the ever-growing costs, environmental impact and human resources needed for it would be autonomous delivery.

Drones are able to deal with most of the typical transport requirements and will also be able to do so while improving significantly the service to end consumers. The combination of autonomous small vehicles being able to deliver directly to the home could transform the supply chain even beyond what we have seen today.

Drone logistics are already becoming reality. Amazon Air is the experiment by the e-commerce giant to transition its huge delivery infrastructure into autonomous flying vehicles. Given the huge involvement of Amazon in home delivery, this is something to take seriously. While details are still sketchy, it seems to be under trial in several use cases. It might make sense to start it with suburban deliveries, which are more challenging economically, and only later move on to the chaos that drones could represent in a fully urban setting.

Hyperloop. Planes are slow

Elon Musk’s contribution to the great person theory of history doesn’t end with the electric vehicle or the autonomous car. Not even with space or intelligent robots, which we will cover in the “further away technologies” section. His biggest visibility area in 2017 is certainly being Hyperloop. However, Elon didn’t invent the Hyperloop, although he did give it its really cool name and inspired the Tesla-Space X team that created the open source design.

The origin of vacuum based high-speed transportation goes all the way back to the end of the 19th century and was developed and even trialed in NYC in early 20th. However, it wasn’t until Elon Musk’s very public endorsement that it achieved its fame and notoriety.

The Hyperloop’s promise is simple. A system that could allow large hundreds to low thousands transport of goods and people at extremely high speeds and very low costs. We still have to see operational systems, but some analysis promise one-way tickets in the tens of dollars and speeds in the 1000km/h mark.

The best way to show that the Hyperloop is not just pure science fiction is to showcase some of the Hyperloop companies. Hyperloop One is the most visible, with hundreds of millions already invested into it and the backing of Richard Branson in late 2017. It has also a number of feasibility studies underway with a number of governments and even a potential contract with Dubai. Hyperloop One has already trialed the Hyperloop concept at a full-scale version.

Will the Hyperloop be a workable solution? It will be seen over the next months. If history is any guide it will prove much more expensive and difficult than theory suggests, but even in that case, it could be an extremely interesting addition to the potential transportation modes on Earth. Reducing reliance on planes and using the rest of the new energy matrix to reduce emissions further.

Smart grids and mini-grids. From transporting to integrating.

There is probably no component of the modern world that has stayed so relatively constant throughout the last century as the power grid. The power grid is the silent and unknown backdrop that makes our daily life possible. It connects power generation, transmission and distribution making it possible for us to flip a switch and receive reliable electricity within a certain level of parameters. It is a marvel of engineering, taming a dangerous force like electricity and putting it at our service.

The power grid has many limitations though. It is the paragon of centralization, prepared for a world of large power plants that drive consumption. It has limited capability for fine control or two-way management, which would be key for a storage and renewable world. It also wastes a significant amount of energy as it is transported and dots the landscape with ugly infrastructure. Finally, it has limited control over its constituents parts, failing to capture the power of integrated reality.

This is all changing quickly, with a large number of smart-grid or mini-grid initiatives being deployed across the world. The aim of these initiatives is to create a new type of grid, which is much more flexible and efficient. Not only the grid will be able to “sense” power flows and adapt to bidirectional energy contribution and storage. It will also be able to “sense” its own infrastructure and detect failures or attacks instantly, walling them off or setting emergency response teams.

One of the most complete initiatives is the San Diego University mini-grid, which has 90%+ percent of own energy generation and manages it through a smart grid with integrated storage. Beyond it, there are smart grid projects in almost every country, with less developed regions like Africa trying to leapfrog directly to smart grids.

There are even a new species of smart-grid that focuses on marrying the New Energy Matrix not only with Integrated Reality but also Digital Governance. It attacks the centralized nature of power grids and allows to decentralize them through blockchain and tokenization. Grid+ is one of those many projects, with an ICO on October 30, 2017. It creates a hardware agent to install in your home so you can manage your own energy purchasing, sales, and storage in real time. Taking back control of your energy needs and optimizing your energy footprint.

What will happen when the New Energy Matrix, Integrated Reality, and Digital Governance give birth to the next generation power grid? The jury is still out, but we can count on a more efficient and decentralized system that integrates distributed generation, storage, and renewable natively.

Autonomous flying vehicles. Why drive if you can fly.

Imagine you need to go across Sao Paulo, Mexico City, LA, or any other gridlocked megacity. You need to do it in about ten minutes. The only feasible way to do it today would be by helicopter and this is expensive and inconvenient, as landing pads are scarce and far between. Now Imagine someone says that you could do it from your backyard immediately and with just the click of an app at the price of an Uber. That is the promise of autonomous flying vehicles according to its boosters.

Autonomous vehicles and they Hyperloop already seem like quite a stretch for many, so the latest announcements about autonomous flying vehicles might seem like mindless futurism. However, the advantages of flying over land-based vehicles are clear. Not having to build roads is great for the environment. Traffic is no problem when you have ten kilometers of vertical space and AI-controlled vehicles to play with. Distance is much less of a problem when you are flying and specific locations are always accessible.

Autonomous flying vehicles would be incredibly convenient and cool. So what would we need for them to work? There are three key criteria to fulfill: autonomous, can we get them to self-drive to avoid all getting a pilot’s license and life insurance, flying, how is flying tech for small crafts, can it be affordable, and finally efficient, we can’t deploy millions of this if they are based on fossil-based fuels like kerosene. As we will see, we are actually doing quite well on all three counts, so maybe we will experience this type of vehicles soon after all.

According to Fortune, there are over 15 flying car startups, at which 8 of which have completed a test flight. Of this several have high profile deals with the likes of Uber, Google or Microsoft, and at least one is already doing pre-sales and planning to start deliveries by the end of 2018. We will examine Uber Elevate and a couple of the most advanced flying car startups to see how they stack against the criteria.

Uber Elevate is not so much a flying car startup as a PR and ecosystem program. Uber is trying to heighten awareness of the technology through videos and whitepapers, and get everyone to collaborate through a summit. They also have a very particular claim of what they are trying to accomplish that allows us to at least examine the “efficient” part of our framework. They want to have a “flying taxi” from San Francisco to San Jose (currently close to two hours and $100+ dollars with regular Uber) cost around $20 and take 15 minutes. This would certainly be efficient, and according to Uber the VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) vehicles they would operate are all-electric. It will also be autonomous

Kitty Hawk is about flying. It also has some cool videos you can watch. Its first purchasable product should come out later this year. It aims to be to planes, what a Zodiac is to boats a cheap and accessible version that anyone can drive. It will initially be focused only on over water flying (less regulated as you can’t crash on anything) and it aims to be very accessible.

PAL-V is the yacht of flying, rather than the zodiac. It is going to sell a 500k USD multimodal vehicle that can both drive and fly. Still a far cry from the types of vehicles that Uber is looking forward to, but a step in the right direction.