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.

Energy and Transportation, Tech and Business

Exponential Technology Revolution #2 – The New Energy Matrix

The New Energy Matrix is harnessing renewable energy, storage, and the electric autonomous vehicle to change the way the world is powered. It represents the most conventional of the jumps we are facing, as we have had several of this in human history. At the same time, it is one of the most transformational, as changing our energy matrix has reliably changed how we live every time.

The Paleolithic energy matrix was the human body for both physical work and transportation. In the Neolithic, it evolved with fire and beasts of burdens. The Roman, Persian and Chinese empires were able to harness the power of water and wind to a certain extent, and complement beasts of burdens with roads, limited shipping and systematic use of the wheel. The Age of Discovery brought the full harnessing of water and wind for both energy and especially naval transportation. The industrial revolution was built on coal and the steam engine as engines of transport and physical labor. The modern era brought fossil fuels, as the basis for electricity production, factory engines, and land, sea, and air travel.

The new energy matrix builds on digital and software processes, like all the other paradigm shifts. For example, the connected and autonomous vehicle is an outgrowth of software processes and integrated reality, enabling a new way to conceive transport. However, the new energy matrix is based on many basic technologies that go beyond digital. First, the increasing efficiency and lower cost of renewable energy are opening up the possibility of revolution. Cost of solar and wind has fallen reliably and is now below conventional sources in many use cases. Second, storage technologies are allowing effective storage of extremely large quantities of energy, overcoming the problem of the lack of security of supply in renewable. Third, magnetic levitation and vacuum technologies are being leveraged for uses like the Hyperloop. Finally, the electric vehicle is being developed to be a more cost-efficient and effective alternative to the conventional combustion engine vehicle.

The deployment of the new energy-transportation matrix will be probably the slowest of the changes to play out. Energy and transportation assets are long-lived and one of the most resource-intensive assets in society. So the full transformation of the asset base will take substantial time, however, we can expect new investment to be almost solely focused on the new categories in the shorter term.

The impact we can expect is a fundamental rethink of our relationship to energy and distance. This is consistent with previous changes in the energy matrix which have made energy radically cheaper and more abundant and have reduced the scale of the world by an order of magnitude at least in terms of cost and time.

A world in which energy is an order of magnitude cheaper and cleaner will mean the end of our global warming pains and a complete redesign of our energy system. We can imagine a renewable powered smart grid with storage which makes our current energy consumption almost free and impact free. This will also turn upside down the energy and fossil fuel industries and transform the geopolitical balance of power.

Of course, a world in which energy is an order of magnitude cheaper will bring out new use cases for energy that we are not considering today. Things that are unaffordable today will become possible and will lead to new use cases. Lighting a city at night used to be an unaffordable dream in the days of whale oil and tallow candles. We will probably solve freshwater scarcity, as desalinization is feasible but energy intensive. We can only wonder what else we will do, but we will probably stretch the new energy matrix to its limits as we have always done.

In transportation, the combination of autonomous, electric, maglev, and digitized vehicles will reimagine how we define and use transportation. Different studies point to costs per km of at least 10x times lower and a carrying capacity of roads of at least 8x the current one. Speeds could also be incremented in short trips thanks to the unerring accuracy of software processes in vehicle driving. How will we think about distance is a 100km trip is equivalent in cost and inconvenience to a few km today? This will change the concept of location and the value of real estate.

Finally, autonomous mobility removes the concept of the driver, allowing access to groups which have been limited. The impact on children, the disabled and the elderly can be liberating and free up countless hours and empower countless use cases. The amount of human time liberated is also difficult to conceive.

Overall, the combination of all these impacts will have incalculable consequences on a number of industries. The oil & gas, power, automotive and transportation industries will be directly affected and potentially reshaped. Other industries like real estate and many others will face complete changes to its cost base and value proposition and might be totally transformed. It is easy to see the losers among the workers. The workforce engaged on the fossil fuels-combustion engine energy-transport grid will face tremendous change and potential unemployment. Drivers especially, a surprisingly large segment of the working population might see their jobs disappear completely in a relatively short time frame.

The apparent lack of limits of the new energy supply is not new, as each energy revolution opened up vast resources based on the previous era standard. What is different this time is the impact of digital and AI, allowing for the first time for a fully globalized and autonomous energy and transportation system.

We are seeing the new energy-transportation matrix creep on us slowly but surely on a number of fronts:

Facts

  • Solar and renewable power. Clean and endless energy
  • Storage and batteries. Making energy independent of time.
  • Electric cars and motorbikes. Nikola Tesla’s revenge.
  • Shared transportation. From 5 to 95% usage.
  • Water. Taking control of water.

Speculations

  • Smart grids and mini grids. From transporting to integrating.
  • Autonomous vehicles. AI drivers.
  • Drone logistics. Your faithful drone servants.
  • Hyperloop. Planes are slow
  • Autonomous flying vehicles. Why drive if you can fly.

Wild speculation: The autonomous homestead

integrated reality, Tech and Business

Real World of Warcraft

You are walking around a forest in your hometown with some friends. Suddenly some orcs come out of the trees waving their axes and clubs menacingly. Thankfully, your group is prepared. You start to shower arrows on the orcs while your wizard friend does the incantations to launch a fireball at them. Your two warrior friends receive their charge shields up while your healer does a circle of protection ritual. You quickly dispatch them and find a map leading to the lair of the Orc King, just below the highway crossing, a very smart location to hide it.

Now imagine, you are an old couple just strolling through the woods. You see another group of those crazy Real WoW players. Decked in full body suits and AR Googles. Suddenly they start moving like crazy in a commotion. Some are doing what looks like Pilates or Yoga to you, while others are running and violently flailing their arms. You sigh, after all, it is better than if they were at home. At least they are ultra fit and enjoying the countryside. You also know they won’t bother you, as the enhanced reality world keeps them from getting near non-players. However, you still yearn for simpler times in which reality was just reality.

This scenario doesn’t have to be technically far away. As we have discussed in the Integrated Reality speculations, AR is much closer to providing presence, immersion, and embodiment than VR. This would require some kind of bodysuit (there are some in development out there) and an AR display. The narrative part is very well solved already in games like World of Warcraft (the most popular massive multiplayer online game that has kept close to 10 million paying customers for many years) that could be translated easily to a 3D AR scenario.

Integrated Reality will be undoubtedly the new medium for entertainment. Taking the experience to a whole other level from video and audio. It will be a jump comparable to that from a book to a film. We have seen plenty of futuristic portrayals in science fiction:

  • Ready Player One’s scenario of complete VR immersion based on full body suits and a hamster wheel-like contraption will still take time.
  • The Japanese series Sword Art Online pictures a full mind-machine interface, that is even able to kill you if you fail in the game. The full sensorial mind-machine interface still looks very distant from today’s technology
  • Even beyond, in Christopher Nolan’s Inception we see a technology that is so immersive that it becomes absolutely impossible to distinguish reality from fiction, and you can even go several levels into and out of reality.

The AR Wow scenario portrayed above is far more realistic, and it builds mostly on existing technologies. This is something we could have happening soon if some enterprising media fan puts together a theme park seeting. It would also be a big improvement on many fronts from the current escapist addiction into computer games that is silently conquering many in the western world.

First, the entertainment and production values of an AR immersive game would be much better. Taking a computer game into reality could allow us to make it much more appealing and even to include some educational or cultural content that not only entertains but also develops. Hopefully, the increased attractiveness of AR would compensate the typical negative reaction to the educational content.

Furthermore, the health impact of full body movement games could be amazing. Most of the world’s most prevalent medical conditions in the western world could be cured with daily exercise. Games like WoW have shown that they can snare people for much longer than the 30’ per day necessary according to most health experts. Tailoring the required moves in the game and leveraging the full body suit could easily make people go through the strength, cardiovascular and flexibility exercise that is key for long-term health. Imagine pilates for spells and push-ups for consuming healing potions.

On top of that, the game could reward environmentally friendly or prosocial behavior like picking trash or removing flammable material from forests. It could even go a step further and reward full-scale restoration of habitats with tree planting. Gamers waste uncounted hours nowadays in mindless “farming” for virtual goods. We could keep the “farming” but make it useful in the real world.

Finally, a game like this could reconnect people socially and to their environment. The value of close physical proximity to others working towards a common goal is difficult to overemphasize. This could create social bonds and reduce isolation. It can also be used to guide people to nature and wonderful settings which they would experience as the backdrop to the game.

Overall, AR “real-world” gaming could have an incredible impact on our society. Take the power of games and entertainment and transform it into something useful and helpful for well-being. We are not far from this scenario, but it needs significant ingenuity and social engineering to make it happen.

integrated reality, Tech and Business

Exponential Technology Revolution #3 – Integrated Reality Facts

The best way to illustrate the power of Exponential Technology Revolution #3 – Integrated Reality is to look at its real-world effects.

We will start with the examples that are already real and “in the wild”, covering 5 areas: digitized physical shops, smart cities, smart vehicles, robots and voice interfaces.

Digitized physical shopsGoogle Analytics for shops.

Shopping technology has had an incredible step forward in the last five years. If a store hasn’t changed over this period it is missing a big part of the value that IoT can bring to it. Mostly what has happened is a sensorization of the stores. Stores used to be knowable only through the sales associates, but now we can make them sense and see customers.

Sensing customers is done mostly through Wifi or Bluetooth to track the phones that enter and exit the stores, or through “person counters” which allow seeing how many individuals go through a storefront or get into a particular part of the stores. What sensing allows is to draw the funnel of where customers are and have been in a store and what movements they make. There are countless vendors of these type of technologies. They can also use WiFi information to try to identify the person. Gigya, a leading omnichannel identity management provider was recently purchased by SAP for 350 million USD.

Seeing customers is about cameras and artificial intelligence capabilities to analyze customers. You can look at customers who enter and understand demographics and sentiment. It is like having a smart associate following all your customers and seeing what they are up to. The technology is relatively straightforward so hundreds of companies are vying for position in this new area.

Of course, a concrete and impressive implementation of all this is the Amazon Go store.It tracks where you are and who you are through a “log in” at the entrance of the store and cameras. Those same cameras along with RFID tags allow knowing what you have bought and taken and charge it to you as you go out. The use case that was most obvious from the demonstration video was customer convenience, but as always Amazon also has an incredible amount of information that it can derive for customers in its store. It can be even more than the equivalent in the web.

Retail spaces are being transformed into the first digitized physical spaces. They will show us the potential of what can be done as the technology plummets in terms of cost and the skills to design this type of environments are developed at scale.

Smart cities.

Smart cities have been a buzzword for a long time already. They also represent an increasingly large investment category for governments. After all, cities are where most of the world lives and almost all of the economic activity happens. Improving cities has great return and a lot of possibilities.

At the same time, the hype hasn’t lived up to the promise. Smart cities were going to change how we lived very quickly, but for the most part, cities continue to be very much what they have been for the last five decades. This is to be expected. Change in the public sector takes even longer than in the private sector. A city, being one of the most complex entities in existence and marrying public and private, can be expected to take even longer to change.

Now, we are starting to see the first fruits of smart cities deployed in the real world and changing how we live. As usual, when those changes happen they become commonplace and stop being called smart cities anymore, but they represent substantial improvements.

There are many cities in the world vying for the title of the world’s smartest city. Santander in Spain has invested for a long time. Tempe in Finland is trying to leverage the Finnish technological legacy. As always there is a ranking for that, and the IESE ranking has many of the usual suspects at the top: New York, Berlin, San Francisco, Tokio. What is important is not the smartest city, but rather the smart things that seem to make sense for everyone and bring Integrated Reality to the fore. There are four of those very basic but smart things that seem to make sense for most cities.

Lighting. Smart lighting means LED lights and digitally controlled lighting times for the city. This might seem small potatoes but there are more than 300 million streetlampsin the world according to some estimates and they represent an important part of energy consumption and greenhouse gases for cities. Sydney has managed to reduce its energy bill by more than 30% since 2012 thanks to smart lighting, and there are many other examples across the world.

Parking. Parking is one of the most human time-wasting activities in the world. Drivers spend anywhere from 17 hours to 4 days a year looking for parking depending on the study. This is an incredible amount of wasted time. Parking sensors and displays can help drivers find parking quicker and avoid taking the car if the parking situation is too bad. The city of Santander, for example, has sensorized its parking spots in the city centers to do just that. It is also a great way to boost revenue, with smart parking companies claiming between 20 and 30% revenue uplift.

Garbage. Garbage collection is one of the most unglamorous but important tasks in a modern city. The impact of integrated reality in garbage collection covers the whole process. In waste collection, smart garbage dumps allow for collection on demand and trash type inspection. Cities like Seoul had to turn to this after even daily collection became insufficient. In waste processing, the highly intensively and back-breaking manual labor required for trash sorting is being substituted by robots which can handle trash sorting for recycling automatically and 24×7 and don’t require waste separation at origin.

Traffic. Life has changed significantly for all of us, but as usual, we take it for granted. I still remember the nerve-wracking choosing and planning you had to undergo to get to the Madrid historic city center by car in the Christmas period. You could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours to get in, the wrong choice in terms of route could easily add one hour. I first heard of Waze six years ago, when it was still an upstart. I got to meet the CEO in 2016 when they already had sold to Google. This simple application has made Google Maps smarter and allows us to know through digital how the physical reality is. Do you really want to take the car if Google predicts it will take longer than public transit? Probably not.

Cities will continue to get smarter by integrating reality more and more. We will slowly get to the point at which the physical city will have a virtual overlay that will allow optimizing its every function. This might seem only a developed world thing, but as cost drops through Moore’s law we will see “smart-first” cities in the developed world which will leapfrog into a completely new way of doing things. The smartest city in the world might be in Africa soon enough.

3D Printing. Turning digital into reality.

Everyone who is old enough will probably remember the magic of the first home printers. You could create something in the computer and then have this wonderful machine put it on paper. Now it seems commonplace and has lost its magic, but at that point in time, it was amazing.

3D Printing is an old technology, with its initial patents and industrial success in the 1980s, however, it is still in the amazing and clunky phase for the most part. You can design a 3D model, scan one using a phone and some software or a 3D scanner, or just get it from one a site from Thingiverse, and then make it real. You will make it real in orange plastic, and it won’t look very polished, but still, it is incredibly cool. Suddenly your computer and reality are connected in a very real sense.

Consumer 3D printers are getting cheaper and better all the time, Now there is a host of companies in the market and you can get one from $199 to $2.500. Quality and speed are getting better but they are far away from the dream of “build everything at home”. There might be times when they can be useful, like building some gear for your Halloween costume, but for the most part, they are a curiosity.

The real deal in 3D printing is in industrial settings. Here the longer history of 3D printing and the availability of higher quality models is taking some use cases by storm. It is still not the manufacturing use cases, as plastic injection molding is difficult to beat for anything at scale. It is mundane uses like spare parts, which you need in unit batches and where a lot of the cost is currently in inventory. Consumer-focused uses like personalization, where a small bit of 3D printing on top of a traditional industrial fabrication process can go a long way. Or really transformative cases like AI-based generative design for high tech (e.g. GE turbines, Boeing airplane frames) that is then 3D printed because it is too complex for industrial fabrication.

The current 3D printing craze will pass, but the technology will get better over time. More and more use cases will become economic, with traditional methods being economic at higher and higher volumes. Eventually, we will end in the paper printing scenario, in which only extremely high volume runs make sense with an industrial printing setting any more.

Physical robots. Embodied Intelligent Processes.

The robots are coming. Up to now most of the robots have been virtual robots, that have automated the tasks we call routine cognitive (e.g. data processing) and are little by little encroaching on non-routine cognitive through robotic process automation and cognitive. These robots are in computers and servers, and they are not exciting to see. However, there is a whole new wave of robots coming for the routine physical jobs that are a lot more like Star Wars characters.

Industrial robots have been with us for a long time, and many of the highest productivity countries and companies use them intensively. The automotive industry is a poster child of robotization of the assembly line. The most advanced countries like Korea, already have more than 800 industrial robots per 10.000 workers according to the International Robotics Federation. This is continuing and high profile M&A like China’s Midea acquisition of Germany’s Kuka shows it is still an area of rapid development and international high strategy.

However, the wave that is coming is taking robots beyond extremely high volume industrial processes. We can expect robots in many more mundane environments. We have the robotic waste sorters of the Smart City section. We have drones, that are well suited for both small weight delivery and sensing from above. We have Zume, the automated pizza restaurant on wheels. We have the 100% automated sushi restaurants in Japan. The retail robots that greet customers, show the merchandise and even do inventory counts in Lowe’s in the US and in the Softbank stores in Japan.

Advances in machine intelligence are making locomotion, sensing and physical interaction a lot more mundane. Talking to the CEO of the robot company that is helping Lowe’s he was telling me that the big change is speed and safety. Before you had to have an industrial robot in a cage, now it can interact with humans. Before sensing took too long for real-time, now it is quickly approaching workable real time for most applications.

There is no end to the variety of tasks that could be automated in this way, even without rethinking form factors and ways of doing current tasks. The important stuff from the Integrated Reality perspective is that all those robots will have virtual twins that are constantly controlled digitally. And the physical robots will be able to sense and act in the physical world, digitizing the physical environment.

Smart vehiclesI need you, Kit.

Getting into a Tesla might not look like integrated reality at first but it is extremely cool. The first times I got into one what really made me excited was the big tablet in the dashboard. That might look like the integrated reality in the Tesla, but when you talk to Tesla owners it is just the tip of the iceberg.

A Tesla is continuously reporting back to Tesla Motors almost everything. Its performance, health, location, issues, etc… Effectively Tesla Motors is always seeing the virtual Tesla which is the digital twin of the physical one. This has tremendous implications in terms of design and optimization. Tesla can see and report any problems developing, solving the problem for you and solving the problem forever in the design. It also has great safety features. If you have an accident you will get help as quickly as possible. If your physical car is stolen, its digital twin will know where it is. Finally, the Tesla is a computer, you can update it over the air and get a progressively smarter car each day.

While Tesla is the most flashy in terms of these improvements the rest of the industry is following quickly. Almost all cars will come with this functionality sooner rather than later. Adding more futuristic capabilities like cars that are able to rent themselves out while not in use or go get you with autonomous driving don’t seem to be too far out.

Voice interfaces. Alexa, I want to talk with Cortana and Siri.

Voice interfaces are booming and they probably deserve a book or at least an article to themselves. Voice could be a new interface that supersedes point and click, and even touch for a lot of use cases. The number of voice devices and applications is staggering. More than 20 million voice devices expected in 2017, and more than 10 shipped in 2015 and 2016. Applications are already in the tens of thousands.

However, the jury is still out with regard to real usage. My personal experience with Alexa and Google shows to music as the killer application. And apparently few of the other applications are gaining traction. Habit dies hard, and even small failures in performance (e.g. my device understands me two out of three times) can hamper adoption and addiction. Touchscreens also took time to adopt, and it was a very small step from point and click.

Voice is very relevant for Integrated Reality because it marries physical reality and the digital world. Speech is a very natural human art, a key part of human-physical interaction. When you touch a smartphone you take yourself outside the physical world. Talking could integrate digital in our daily physical reality more than any number of touchscreens can. Voice is also the language of magic, we have always fantasized about magic spells that change the world. Now it can start to happen.

The final important point of voice interfaces is their sensor nature. Like with the Amazon Now store, Alexa is really a data play. My Alexa and my Google are listening to every conversation (except when my youngest son disconnects them, which is quite often) and gather a huge corpus of data to analyze. The amount of client knowledge is really amazing and frightening. The corpus for machine learning of voice processing is also enormous. Voice biometrics can be relatively secure, especially when the text is dynamic making it difficult to synthesize a false positive. This could also add another layer of security to our reality.

With voice working as an interface, we would only need to create workable gestural interfaces to have full digital immersion in our physical reality. With all our devices being able to understand and obey us. We are only in the initial stages of voice and gesture. They might take their time to catch on, but the only real risk of them not being relevant is if we leapfrog them through mind-machine interfaces or virtual/augmented reality that we will see in Integrated Reality speculations.

integrated reality, Tech and Business

Exponential Technology Revolution #3 – Integrated Reality

(En español aquí)

Integrated reality is the marrying of the physical and the digital and making our interaction with it totally transparent. With the physical being fully measurable and programmable like digital is right now. And, with the digital being instantiated physically or through lifelike virtual worlds in which interaction is complete. Integrated reality also includes moving intelligent processes to the physical world through robots, sensors, and actuators, managing to substitute much human routine physical labor in the process.

Integrated reality has a wide number of technologies impacting it. First, it is based on the foundation of Intelligent Processes, Digital and AI. On top of that virtual reality and enhanced reality technologies are key, to be able to physicalize the digital and integrate digital and physical. Internet of Things and 5G networks, with connected sensors and actuators of all shapes and sizes, is a key enabling technology which “digitalizes” physical reality to any accuracy we are willing to invest in. Voice and mind interfaces will remove the filter that the keyboard, screen or mouse puts to our interaction. Finally, physical robots in the sense of integrated physical entities with sensing, actuation, and machine learning capabilities will be the avatars of software processes in the physical world.

We will perceive integrated reality as a fundamental change to our lives, as it will touch our day to day environment and even our concept of reality. Integrated reality will change the way the world works for us, and many of the things it enables will seem like magic. We will speak words or think thoughts and this will translate into actions and changes both in the digital and the physical world. The physical world will also reflect the digital world in a way that was impossible until now.

As the digital and the physical become integrated we will be able to do what we do in the digital world in the physical world. First, we will be able to measure and quantify reality constantly and effortlessly with increasing granularity, like we do with digital systems. Second, we will be able to act on the world in a software-based world leveraging automation, code and machine intelligence. Third, we will be able to integrate the physical and the digital, and even the physical from several locations. We will be able to create digital settings based on physical ones or add a digital layer to physical settings in enhanced reality.

A good way to understand the impact of ubiquitous measurement is the “Google Analytics for shops” metaphor. With integrated reality, we could be able to measure anything that happens in a store. Who comes in, what aisles are visited, which items are browsed or considered, total funnel clarity up to which point did each item get to and where did it fall in the funnel. Beyond the shop scenario, you can think innumerable others, a hairdresser, a factory, an electrical grid with damage and repairs, etc.. The possibilities in each case are endless. Having that amount of information about physical reality would probably lead to a similar impact to that of big data over the digital world.

Acting on the physical world is equally transformative. It means that we will be effectively able to “click” on the physical world even if we are not physically there and have our wishes performed. Of course, it goes beyond clicking; it means physical responses to our voice commands or even our thoughts. Pure magic, enabled by technology.  It also means embodied software processes roaming the world and doing our bidding without us having to tell them anything, and with the same omniscience, processes have in the digital world. These types of embodied software processes defy our imagination. We can now think of robots mostly, but probably the best form factors won’t necessarily have to mimic humans or mammals.

Physical and digital world integration is most relevant and dangerous psychologically and socially. We will have the opportunity to create full virtual reality worlds and interact with them realistically. The possibilities here are endless and scary. Full alienation into virtual reality is a common trope in science fiction dystopias, and could become a real societal problem, much like drugs or gaming are used to escape today. Enhanced reality is extremely potent, allowing us a contextual menu or display on reality. At the same time, it carries the threat of taking mobile phone distraction to our every interaction. Finally, virtual-physical reality combination can be very potent really eliminating distance as a factor.

Overall, we can expect integrated reality to transform totally our physical world by making it “clickable and searchable” like the internet. Additionally, we will see embodied intelligent processes substitute a large number of jobs that are routine physical causing many of the same advantages and tensions that we see with regular intelligent processes. Finally, virtual and enhanced reality will have the deepest and most psychologically and transformative impact on us.

As always Integrated Reality will be made real through seeing what is already deployed (the Facts), what could reasonably be expected to happen (the Speculations) and what could eventually see happening (the Wild Guess)

Integrated Reality Facts

  • Digitized physical shops. Google Analytics for shops.
  • Smart cities. Sensing and acting urban landscapes.
  • 3D Printing. Turning digital into reality
  • Physical robots. Embodied Intelligent Processes.
  • Smart vehicles. I need you, Kit.
  • Voice interfaces. Alexa, I want to talk with Cortana and Siri.

Integrated Reality Speculations

  • Home automation. Your robot housekeeper.
  • Virtual reality. Virtual reality as a medium.
  • Enhanced reality. Getting Google Glass to Work.
  • Physical-Digital integration. Where are we?
  • Mind-machine interfaces. Voice is so much work!

Wild Guess: Real World of Warcraft

integrated reality, Tech and Business

Revolución Exponencial #3 – Realidad Integrada

La realidad integrada es el matrimonio de lo físico y lo digital y hace que nuestra interacción con él sea totalmente transparente. Con el mundo físico totalmente medible y programable, y con el  digital instanciado físicamente o a través de mundos virtuales realistas en los que la interacción es completa. La realidad integrada también incluye trasladar procesos inteligentes al mundo físico a través de robots, sensores y actuadores, logrando sustituir el trabajo físico rutinario de muchas personas a través de la robotización.

La realidad integrada tiene una gran cantidad de tecnologías que la impactan. En primer lugar, se basa en los procesos inteligentes, digital e inteligencia artificial. Además de eso, la realidad virtual y las tecnologías de realidad aumentada son clave para poder fisicalizar lo digital e integrar lo digital y lo físico. Internet de las cosas y redes 5G, con sensores y actuadores conectados, es una tecnología clave que permite “digitalizar” la realidad física a cualquier nivel de precisión en la que estemos dispuestos a invertir. Las interfaces de voz y cerebrales eliminarán el filtro que el teclado , pantalla o mouse pone a nuestra interacción. Finalmente, los robots físicos en el sentido de entidades físicas autónomas con capacidades de detección, actuación y aprendizaje automático serán los avatares de los procesos inteligentes en el mundo físico.

Percibiremos la realidad integrada como un cambio fundamental en nuestras vidas, ya que tocará nuestro entorno cotidiano e incluso nuestro concepto de realidad. La realidad integrada cambiará la forma en que el mundo funciona para nosotros, y muchas de las cosas que permite parecerán mágicas. Hablaremos palabras o pensaremos en pensamientos y esto se traducirá en acciones y cambios tanto en el mundo digital como en el físico. El mundo físico también reflejará el mundo digital de una manera que era imposible hasta ahora.

A medida que lo digital y lo físico se integren, podremos hacer lo que hacemos en el mundo digital en el mundo físico. Primero, podremos medir y cuantificar la realidad de manera constante y sin esfuerzo con una granularidad creciente, como hacemos con los sistemas digitales. En segundo lugar, podremos actuar en la realidad en un mundo basado en software que aprovecha la automatización, el código y la inteligencia artificial. En tercer lugar, podremos integrar lo físico y lo digital, e incluso lo físico entre varias ubicaciones. Podremos crear entornos digitales basados ​​en los físicos o agregar una capa digital a los entornos físicos en la realidad mejorada.

Una buena forma de entender el impacto de la medición ubicua es la metáfora de “Google Analytics para tiendas”. Con la realidad integrada, podríamos medir todo lo que sucede en una tienda. Quién entra, qué pasillos se visitan, qué mercancia se examina o se considera, la claridad total del funnel hasta qué punto llegó cada elemento y dónde cayó del funnel. Más allá del escenario de la tienda, se puede pensar en innumerables otros, una peluquería, una fábrica, una red eléctrica con daños y reparaciones, etc. Las posibilidades en cada caso son infinitas. Tener esa cantidad de información sobre la realidad física probablemente lleve a un impacto similar al del big data en el mundo digital.

Actuar en el mundo físico es igualmente transformador. Significa que efectivamente podremos “hacer clic” en el mundo físico, incluso si no estamos físicamente allí y cumplimos nuestros deseos. Por supuesto, va más allá de hacer clic; significa respuestas físicas a nuestros comandos de voz o incluso a nuestros pensamientos. Magia pura, habilitada por la tecnología. También significa que los procesos inteligentes incorporados en robots se mueven por el mundo y cumplen nuestras órdenes sin que tengamos que decirles nada, y con la misma omnisciencia, que tienen en el mundo digital. Este tipo de procesos inteligentes en robots desafía nuestra imaginación. Ahora podemos pensar en los robots principalmente, pero probablemente los mejores factores de forma no necesariamente tendrán que imitar a humanos o mamíferos.

La integración física y digital del mundo es más relevante y peligrosa psicológica y socialmente. Tendremos la oportunidad de crear mundos completos de realidad virtual e interactuar con ellos de forma realista. Las posibilidades aquí son infinitas y atemorizantes. La alienación total en la realidad virtual es un tópico común en las distopías de ciencia ficción, y podría convertirse en un problema social real, al igual que las drogas o los juegos se utilizan para escapar hoy. La realidad mejorada es extremadamente potente, lo que nos permite un menú contextual para la realidad. Al mismo tiempo, conlleva llevar la amenaza de distracción que el teléfono móvil representa a todas nuestras interacciones. Finalmente, la combinación de realidad virtual-física puede ser muy potente, eliminando  la distancia como un factor.

En general, podemos esperar que la realidad integrada transforme totalmente nuestro mundo físico al hacer que “se pueda hacer clic y buscar”, como Internet. Además, veremos que los procesos inteligentes hechos físicos sustituyen una gran cantidad de trabajos que son físicos rutinarios y que causan muchas de las mismas ventajas y tensiones que vemos con los procesos inteligentes digitales robotizando mucho del trabajo. Finalmente, la realidad virtual y aumentada tendrá el impacto más profundo y más psicológico y transformador en nosotros.

Como siempre, la Realidad Integrada se entiende al ver lo que ya está desplegado (los Hechos), lo que podría esperarse razonablemente que ocurra (las Especulaciones) y lo que eventualmente podría suceder (la transformación potencial).

Hechos de la realidad integrada:

  • Tiendas físicas digitalizadas. Google Analytics para tiendas.
  • Ciudades inteligentes. Percepción y actuación de paisajes urbanos.
  • Impresión 3D. Haciendo lo digital realidad
  • Robots físicos Procesos inteligentes hechos físicos.
  • Vehículos inteligentes. Te necesito, Kit.
  • Interfaces de voz. Alexa, quiero hablar con Cortana y Siri.

Especulaciones de la realidad integrada

  • Automatización del hogar. Tu robot ama de llaves.
  • Realidad virtual. La realidad virtual como medio de comunicación.
  • Realidad aumentada Conseguir que Google Glass funcione.
  • Integración físico-digital. ¿Dónde estamos?
  • Interfaces mente-máquina. La voz es mucho trabajo!

Wild Guess: el mundo real de Warcraft

Blockchain, Digital Governance, Español, Tech and Business

Competición entre Criptoestados

 

Ya hemos echado una mirada profunda a Realidades y especulaciones de gobernanza digital. Para terminar de explorar la Revolución Exponencial # 4 – Gobernanza Digital, veremos una potencial transformación a largo plazo que podría traer: la competición entre criptoestados.

Como humanos, generalmente no nos gusta el cambio. Especialmente no nos gusta el cambio si va en contra de nuestros intereses. Dado que cualquier cambio siempre tendrá un efecto adverso en algunos grupos de interés, nos encontramos con una inercia institucional relevante. Esto es cierto incluso si el cambio es neto positivo, especialmente en los casos en que los efectos positivos son difusos mientras que los efectos negativos se concentran. A cualquier grupo de personas les resultará difícil cambiar a menos que se sometan a una tremenda presión.

La inercia institucional explica el ascenso y la caída de muchos imperios. Los griegos tenían mucha menos inercia institucional que los persas, por lo que superaron y derrocaron un imperio mucho más grande. El imperio romano sucumbió a los intereses acumulados de su clase dominante, que no hizo los cambios necesarios para mantenerlo viable. El imperio chino Song era muy avanzado tecnológicamente, pero no adoptó esas tecnologías para cambiar su funcionamiento y fue superado por Europa.

La competencia ha demostrado ser el mejor antídoto para la inercia organizacional. Europa a finales de la Edad Media era altamente competitiva y adoptó las innovaciones necesarias que China había inventado, adelantándose a ella. Las empresas juegan en un terreno competitivo que las obliga a adaptarse o morir. Sin embargo, la guerra y las revoluciones, los resultados habituales de la competencia a nivel estatal, son costosas y devastadoras. Y la privatización, poniendo todo en “el mercado”, ha demostrado que no funciona en servicios como salud, educación o seguridad.

Imaginemos que somos capaces de introducir competencia en la esfera pública de una manera segura y sin derramamiento de sangre. Imaginemos que los ciudadanos pueden elegir de manera instantánea y continua su nación-estado y proveedor de servicios público, como si fuera su marca de champú. Imaginemos que los resultados acumulados determinan fronteras y presupuestos, con nuevos estados emergiendo y otros que mueren dinámicamente y sin derramamiento de sangre. Imaginemos la responsabilización de los funcionarios públicos, la velocidad de la evolución y la innovación en la esfera pública.

Al mismo tiempo, parece un caos perfecto. Trae a la mente situaciones como los referendums de Quebec y Escocia, como el terrorismo irlandés o vasco, o los problemas actuales en Cataluña. Nuestra infraestructura pública simplemente no está preparada para este tipo de responsabilidad y cambio. La opinión común es que rápidamente colapsaría bajo la tiranía de la mayoría. Que sería imposible mantener un sistema público funcionando con voto real y descenderíamos al populismo y la dictadura.

Si bien eso podría ser cierto en una gobernanza pre-digital, con la nueva tecnología podríamos construir un tipo de gobierno responsable y programable. Podríamos tener ciudadanos verificados criptográficamente que puedan decidir a qué gobierno criptográfico quieren pertenecer en cada instante. Los cambios se ejecutarían y las cuentas se resolverían fácilmente en blockchain. Y los gobiernos estarían sujetos a la responsabilidad directa de los ciudadanos. El castigo por tergiversación o incompetencia de los líderes públicos no sería una revolución armada, sino más bien perder a los ciudadanos y finalmente desaparecer como estado. Alguien con una idea diferente podría hacer emprendimiento público y probar el modelo a una escala pequeña y usar su historial para atraer nuevos ciudadanos.

Si Blockchain y la tecnología digital pueden hacer que este escenario se haga realidad, aún está por verse. Incluso es dudoso que la naturaleza humana pueda aceptar la competencia y la incertidumbre en un nivel tan cercano a nuestro sentimiento de identidad. Sin embargo, lo que parece claro es que un gobierno público organizado de esta forma sería tan superior a las formas existentes que las superaría rapidamente. Al igual que las ciudades griegas hicieron con los persas, o los estados de la Europa medieval tardía lo hicieron con el resto del mundo.

El aumento de la presión de la competencia y el aumento de la tasa evolutiva de un estado criptográfico sería incomparable y nos llevaría mucho más lejos de lo que nunca hemos considerado. Podría arraigar en algunos de los estados fallidos del mundo como el Oriente Medio Mediterraneo, Asia Central o África que no tienen nada que perder. También podría surgir en algunos de los Estados-nación más pequeños que existen hoy, como los nórdicos o América Central, que saben que necesitan evolucionar rápidamente para sobrevivir. También podría ser utilizado por uno de los gigantes bloqueados como China, Rusia, Brasil, Estados Unidos o la UE para reinventarse e ir más allá de sus limitaciones actuales. En cualquier caso, quien desbloquee este nuevo tipo de gobierno podría superar a todos los demás de manera rápida y eficaz para dar forma a la futura evolución política del mundo.

Por supuesto, puede haber peligros. Recordemos el DAO, un fallo en la programación podría convertir esta cripto-utopía en una pesadilla totalitaria. Los primeros intentos pueden descender a la anarquía y la violencia a medida que se desactivan las restricciones tradicionales. No será un viaje fácil, y es improbable que el primer intento funcione.

De todos modos, vale la pena intentarlo. Vemos el regionalismo, el populismo, la desigualdad, la corrupción y la globalización que amenazan el edificio de las libertades que ha construido la democracia capitalista. Incluso vemos una nostalgia preocupante por los autócratas y tiempos más simples en la mayoría de las naciones desarrolladas. Las dictaduras pueden hacer maravillas con monarcas-filósofos platónicos. Hay muchos ejemplos en la historia como Lee Kuan Yew de Singapur, Augusto y Trajano en Roma, las Isabeles de Castilla e Inglaterra en el Atlántico, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln y Roosevelts en EEUU, sabios emperadores de China o Ashoka en la India. “Felicior Augusto, Meior Traiano”, pedía el Senado romano a cada nuevo emperador. Sin embargo, por cada Augusto o Trajano, la historia ha demostrado que tenemos al menos 5 Nerones, Caligulas, Heliogabalos, Comodos y Domicianos. La competencia criptoestatal nos llevaría desde promesas de 4 años hasta decisiones en tiempo real basadas en realidades. Y de ser forzados a elegir la opción menos mala, a tener nuevas opciones para elegir que aparecen y se testan continuamente. No nos exigiría privatizar lo que funciona mejor como público, sino que nos permitiría someter a nuestras instituciones públicas a la disciplina de la competencia y al poder purificador de la creación y la destrucción.