Dirk Knemeyer

Emerging Technologies & Global Warming, November 4, 2016

What I’m finding is that the advances that are coming more from the science side as opposed to more of the commercial side are the more interesting emerging technologies, the more interesting advances, because they are necessary. I mean, they have a real clear applicable benefit beyond just making some corporation a lot of money while having nominal questionable convenience benefits for the first world.

Did you know that most of the leading oceanographers will not eat seafood anymore? They will not eat things that come out of the sea. They’re so concerned about the detrimental impact to their health for eating the seafood that they won’t eat it anymore.

What I would like to see more of from a standpoint of emerging technology, emerging science, are things that are reversing global warming. Some of the things we’re talking about will allow us to move away from technologies that hurt the environment and warm the earth, to things that either do it less, or don’t do it all. We need to start cooling the earth, right? That’s just the fact of it, unless we want to accept the sea level rises and the other really catastrophic things that are going to come from it. Notably absent on this list are technologies designed for that purpose, to not just slow down the warming, but to start cooling and start going in the other direction. That’s the kind of thing I’m really interested in seeing and as far as I can tell, very little effort is being put to those endeavors.

It reflects industrial age thinking. As you mentioned, there still is a waste product from, for example, microbes that pull and process carbon dioxide that needs to be stored somewhere. I mean, we’ve happily stored garbage underground. We’ve happily stored nuclear waste underground. We can keep doing that, but it doesn’t scale, right? 2016, what about 3016? At some point, we run out of places and the science fiction idea of jettisoning garbage and rubbish into space, that doesn’t scale either. I mean, our world and by world I mean the greater, not just our planet or our universe, but everything. I mean, it’s all interconnected at the end of the day, right? It’s all interconnected, and we continue to take things and turn them into rubbish of varying degrees and toxicity, and putting it away for later, but at some point with later, there’s a reckoning, right? I’d love to see us break out of that frame, of the industrial, going back pre-industrial.

I mean, I guess we go back to agrarian so well into the BC, but of just, “Hey, there’s waste. Bury it, dump it, move it down the road and move on,” I mean, let’s stop with waste. Let’s totally change our thinking and think long term, think sustainable in a more global way. I’m just tilting at windmills at this point.

The future of health tracking, November 13, 2014

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

Yeah, I mean this topic covers a few different factors. On the privacy side, we’ve talked about on previous shows that at this point I’m just kind of … for the moment I don’t care, which is to say that there are none of the companies that I would buy and use the products for. That seems so Big Brother-ish to me that I’m concerned about manipulating or hurting me with data that I give them. I’m just not concerned about that at the moment so I don’t even think about it.

It’s like I’m going to try these things out, I’m going to use these things; they’re going to be a part of my life. Privacy, yeah, if the world seemed more gloomy and grim from the standpoint of these … again, very liberal companies that I tend to buy the stuff of, then it might be a concern, but for now I’m just mailing it in. It’s like, “Uh, it is what it is.” Maybe that will be proven to be stupid if that gets down the road for me or my followers, my children, future generations; but I’m just going to go with the flow for the moment.

To the ecosystem, to the product category, itself, it’s another one as a consumer that I’m really not interested in. Five years ago I think we started to experiment with products like these, really when it was Quantified Self Movement was just getting started, very nascent and trying these things out.

What I’ve figured out from using them, from thinking about them is they’re going to be a curiosity, they’re going to be something just to uber geek or the uber athlete or the uber something until one of two things is realized.

One, either instead of the device being a new device, it is part of your phone or part of your digital device is that you go around the day with. That it’s not this extra clumsy thing that gets in the way when you’re using your computer that has to be taken off in some cases when you take a shower; that is sort of odd when you’re being intimate or whatever it might be.

One of the paths is integration into the phone or some other device we already otherwise carry. The technology is going to keep moving forward. Could it be in your credit card, right? Like could it be integrated, I mean that’s not the best solution, but my point is that you’d have to look at what is all the stuff that people will continue to carry around and how can it be integrated directly into that, instead of this really odd, heavy, chunky bracelet that you’re wearing around.

Or the second path and the one that I’m more interested in, which I also think is the scarier one for most people is embedded. I want an embedded device that does all of that stuff. The first company that can prove biological safety as well as reliability to some device they put in under your skin that never comes out, that’s always cranking, that captures a lot of metrics and puts them in the Cloud and gives them to my doctor, like I am onboard, that’s the killer app right there.

All the stuff are just different shades of clumsy that are coming out right now. People who are just sort of discovering them for the first time are excited about them just like I was when I was discovering them for the first time. There are different types of people that are sort of minority groups who find them useful on a day-to-day basis even in their current form, but the hockey stick comes when it’s again, either in your phone or equivalents or it’s subdermal and for me subdermal is the cool one.

The evolution of emerging technologies, October 2, 2014

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The thing that we’re fighting against is that human nature is to only react to something after it’s far too late. I think an instructive example of reacting to when changing the trajectory of technology would be with nuclear weapon technology. Once that horse was let out of the barn in 1945, the pursuit and the production of nuclear weapons just went crazy. I don’t have the specific numbers handy but we’re talking about thousands and thousands and thousands of warheads, and many nations pursuing the technology and the whole nine yards.

More recently now, after the Cold War ended, there’s actually been a decrease in the production of nuclear warheads and the production of nuclear weapons of any kind that are capable of eradicating millions of humans. It only happened after this huge arms race happened that collapsed the former Soviet Union, in part, and created arsenals that were big enough to obliterate the whole world many times over. It’s like only way after we had made all these stupid mistakes that we finally say, “Okay, geez, let’s reign it in.” Even still, there’s way too many nuclear weapons.

I predict that the way that these other [emerging] technologies unfold and how they are used will be very similar. That even as it’s stupid for them to be exploited and pursued, they will be exploited and pursued, and it’s only after really nasty things happen and we don’t have a choice, and we’ll start to go in the other direction. I think if we look back over all of human history and I’ve chosen a more recent example, because I think the cycles of time are closer to where we are today than some more ancient examples, that’s just how we react. That’s just how we function.

Unfortunately, being that the technology and the things that are being produced now are so … Their potential is all global and so significant, that that is a recipe for a tragedy, frankly.

Emerging technologies, December 31, 2013

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But the changes that are coming now in the next decade or two are changes that are going to really alter the world beyond just giving us a lot information and goodies in the palm of our hand. What we’re talking about here is designing our young, is having the ability genetically to select out negative genetic traits and potentially, depending how the ethical conversations go and how it trickles into the legal realm of design in positive traits for people who are yet to be born.

We’ll also be able to drastically alter ourselves genetically in adulthood, I’m expecting, I’m 40, I’m expecting there’s a reasonable chance that during my life I’ll be able to genetically be treated to avoid cancer. I think that is a very, very real possibility in my life and that’s just sort of the most extreme tip of the iceberg in ways much smaller and many. We’re going to have the opportunity to genetically change our constitution in was that are really dramatic, you know the personal drones which we hear about military drones but personal drones are more and more showing up.

I just read a story on Al Jazeera this week in fact about a personal drone that got chopped off his owner’s head, it was a horrible mishap, of course but it’s a personal drone by somebody whose using it on a public space in New York and due to a malfunction and being that this thing is so powerful it decapitated him. We’re heading towards a world where not just these military things off in far away places but really in the spaces that we inhabit are going to be very dangerous technologies, very dangerous robots of a certain type.

We’re heading towards everyday cyborgs, we also Oscar Pistorius in the Olympics, the last summer Olympics and that is just a very relatively rudimentary cyborgism. We’re headed towards a much more rich integration of biological tissue, organic tissue with digital technology and robotics. We all have, of course too, have heard the Google self guided cars, self guided cars are on the way too. Ten years from now some percentage of us with … Death percentage being a large one, I’m guessing you’ll have to opt out of the self guided cars. Although I’m guessing that opt out will be available but I think a good deal of us who are more progressive and tech driven, we’re not going to be driving ourselves around anymore. We’re going to be sitting and reading a book or doing something else while the vehicle just takes us there.

These again are all things that are really long gestation period, now we’ve been introduced to an increasingly rich forms of media but they are about to be upon us and the way it will physically transform the world is far beyond what the Internet did from an informational and media perspective. We’re talking about real structural shifts in the environments that we inhabit.

The future of the quantification industry and The Quantified Self movement, August 30, 2012

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

I think the trick for the quantification industry is to figure out what data is meaningful and present it in ways that encourage behavior. Right now, and again I’m interested in it, but I’m kind of a geek and out there and interested in it, and so I can say this because when you are one you know one. So much of what’s happening in quantification today is just total geekdom. It’s just total geek stuff. It has very, very little practical application to a normal, every day life, and it’s just geeking out on unnecessary reams of data at the end of the day. Like, what could be a bite where somebody could just be on a service for a week and get all they need. These companies are trying to have business models to have people on them perpetually and for years, and that’s crazy. Like they might get this teeny, teeny fraction of the market, but they’re never going to get and expand into the general market. The trick to making quantification a successful business and making it something with real, meaningful, broad cultural impact is about getting less data, shrinking the data, and flipping it to behavior. There’s little indication that they’re anywhere near that yet. So, as a geek, I’m happy that they’re doing it and I’m enjoying some part of it, but I’m really skeptical about how close they are to real, long-term, meaningful business models.

The mainstreaming of The Quantified Self, December 30, 2011

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Something that surprised me over the last year, over 2011, has been sort of a lack of awareness of the Quantified Self. A good friend of mine Joshua Kauffman is a major part of that, and he and I talk about it and when we’re talking we think the whole world knows of it and is interested in it and is inspired by it, but the reality of it is, as over this last year I’ve been doing a lot of fund-raising, a ton of networking, as I’ve moved into a new market, and because I’m so interested in this stuff I say to people, “what do you think of the Quantified Self” and most people have never heard of it! It’s been absolutely shocking to me. So I think 2012 is definitely the year where this peaks, it breaks through, and this whole world of Spime, Quantified Self, The Internet of Things, all comes front and forward.

The 2011 Japanese earthquake and social media, March 15, 2011

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

The big story this week is the tragedy in Japan. As of this writing the death toll is at over 10,000, but clearly the number will be far higher. The tragedy of a terrible earthquake and tsunami being followed by a deepening nuclear crisis leaves not just the Japanese nation, but much of the world anxiously waiting to see when and how this nightmare will end. Of course, beyond being and important news story it is another illustration of the power of digital technologies in our lives. The big stories of yesteryear—stories as big as JFKs assassination, the Munich Olympics, the Iran hostage crisis, The Challenger disaster, and even the OJ Simpson trial and verdict were virtually in the stone ages from the standpoint of available information and immersion, compared to what is possible today in our digital life. The variety and volume of information, visuals, analysis and opinion downright dizzying. Hopefully digital tools also prove useful in hoping to inform and move people in real time, thus saving lives. In any event our thoughts, prayers and good karma go out to the Japanese people.

Mind-to-computer control, December 22, 2010

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

Ok so now that we’ve previewed what listeners can expect next, well, let’s get a little crazy and make some predictions for the farther future. Now let’s have each of us make one prediction, something people won’t necessarily expect, but let’s put a date to it, let’s not just wave our hands and gesticulate, let’s put our flag in the ground and say “this is something I really believe and this is where it’s going to happen”. I’ll kick it off. The one that I want to predict is that mind-to-computer control coming to mainstream devices is going to happen by 2013. So, what do I mean by “mind-to-computer control”? At a mainstream level right now the most sophisticated human-computer interaction device is the Kinect, which we talked about earlier, where your body has become the controller. But where we’re heading is to a world where your mind is going to control a computer. This goes back a number of years—I wanna say it was six years ago—when Sony submitted a whole raft of patents for this technology, the mind-to-computer control. It’s going to be the next big thing, and we’re not even there yet so this is why this is a little farther off. When you’re using your console, playing video games, or just using the computer, for the everyday worker, for the more advanced worker, one whose using Solidworks, or pro engineer or something really hardcore—we’re going to be wearing something on our head and we’re going to be thinking what we’re going to be seeing on the screen. And I think we’re going to begin to see that in really ways, meaning that they’re going to be shipping products that real people, not just the wealthy, but that real people are buying by 2013. That’s my big future prediction.

Digital convergence, May 5, 2004

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

The future of Web design is one of integrated specialization. Whereas the Web exists now as a major cultural force, something that has changed the human paradigm and demonstrably altered reality, its role will become increasingly smaller and more specialized. That does not mean that it will be any less complicated or less important. Rather, instead of being the brash virtuoso, it will join an ever-growing and complicated symphony.

[…]The future of the Web will evolve similarly to the technology of telling time. Like timepieces, which deliver information to people, the Web is ultimately a delivery medium: it delivers information, experiences and communication. And we are at a point where we are struggling to produce—relatively speaking—rather simple products. That is not to criticize the work that we are doing, but rather to underscore the extremely immature stage the Web is in. The major issues that plague us, ranging from standards to usability to aesthetics to advertising to classification, parallel the challenges that faced clockmakers between the Renaissance and the invention of the quartz crystal. Like Web designers today, a veritable army of skilled practitioners worked on micro-sized problems to make incremental changes that would improve the clocks and watches so their performance would better match the needs of people. However, things changed quickly thereafter in timekeeping, with the quartz crystal and digital technology changing the traditional industry from an extremely important, highly-skilled and lucrative trade into a dinosaur almost overnight. Web design is in a similar evolutionary stage today.

What is going to be our quartz crystal? What new technologies, innovations or trends will re-define Web design?

Convergence: technologies are crashing together

It has happened so quickly: cellular phones, personal data assistants, cameras and the Internet are now all contained in a single product that is readily available and affordable. At the same time, personal computers, televisions, DVD players, digital recording technology and the Internet are all fully accessible in one single product that is readily available and affordable. At the same time, radios, telephones and digital positioning systems exist in a single component that is standard in automobiles from most major manufacturers. And the convergence is only going to accelerate in the years ahead.

At the same time, consider that Web design began as a relatively linear and controlled activity. People accessed the Web from personal computers, with a fairly standardized connection rate and a finite amount of interface and display devices. The majority of challenges were in dealing with the newness, uncertainty and changing nature of this new medium. From this initial period of controlled innovation we moved into the current paradigm of complex optimization. Even as we scrutinize micro-elements of Web design as we know it, we are faced with increasingly complicated challenges that are not yet touching mainstream developers, such as design for mobile interface devices. The design of applications and interfaces optimized for portable devices will emerge as the essential challenge—and area of opportunity—in the years ahead. And even though that shift in itself is significant, that is only part of the picture.

As digital products continue to converge, the Web will increasingly become just one component of more complicated products. Many of the difficult decisions that dominate today’s conversation about Web design will either be settled or be relegated to a position of much less significance. Furthermore, Web design, as a distinct field of professional practice, will decline in prominence and opportunity. Along with the Web becoming an integrated and smaller component of complicated digital products, the gap between the interface and application side will continually grow—to the point where the relative “jack-of-all-trades” Web designers of today will become extinct. At one extreme you will have the strategic professionals who will need a broad understanding not just of the Web, but of other products and technologies that are part of complex digital products. At the other extreme, there will be tactical specialists who will need a deep understanding of well-defined areas of expertise. It will be their job to implement high-level, complicated solutions but ones that are, nonetheless, only small components of the overall product.

The future of the Internet of Things, March 28, 2003

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

What it makes me think of is the evolution of technology in other ways. Even this goes back many thousands of years in terms of looking at technological progress and trends. Just looking at the history of internet-based technologies, the pattern is — you start with this Wild West of a lot of disjointed things, and it then synthesizes into fewer established foundational things.

For example, the early Internet was total Wild West, people just connecting essentially on a phone and a terminal, connecting into a text interface. Over time that was consolidated into platforms, into companies like Prodigy, CompuServe, and eventually AOL which kind of killed the category, that took this situation where there were all of these kind of janky, disconnected, ad hoc things and made them into larger platforms that people could use and leverage in large and meaningful ways.

Those had their limitations as well, and so those walled gardens came out of favor, and we went back to a Wild West of … I’m going to say relatively good web pages and websites, and there were lots of them, lots and lots of them, and there weren’t any clear winners. There weren’t any clear leaders. Whether it be search engines or photo processing sites or any of the main … shopping for example … any of the main use case for doing things online, they were highly protracted.

Now today, it has really congealed into a relatively limited number of platforms, companies like Amazon, Apple, Google control huge market share, and the number of small companies doing things … they might be trying to come up and break in, but they’re trying to break into relatively established, broad-based platform players.

The Internet of Things is going to have to follow that same pattern. Right now we’re in the Wild West. The reason that the Jawbone UP, despite being cool and interesting, ultimately is a failure for me, is that it doesn’t have that platform protection. It’s not integrated into a larger thing that makes it a safe, reliable, dependable user experience, that makes it something that I can really integrate into my life and count on and have matter. The missing piece is the platform, and it’s something that isn’t being talked about. I’m not seeing, at the bleeding edges, good examples of prototypes or things trying to solve that problem, but it’s where we’re going to have to head next, and we’re going to need pioneers. We’re going to need people like … a good example would be my friend Leandro Agro who started a company in Italy called WideTag back in 2007/2008; that’s back at the beginning of the Internet of Things, when that phrase existed, but people were using the word “spime” more than they were using “the Internet of Things” to describe what this nascent space would be.

There are going to have to be pioneers like that who are getting things started, who are doing business and trying to make things even before it’s ready, because right now it’s not ready. These different companies, these products, are so diffuse and so split and spread that pulling them into a platform and having them function in a truly really effectively-working bigger life cycle, it’s still years away, but it’s the next move that needs to happen.

As we deal with the Internet of Things, as we make our cool little things in Arduino and enjoy products like the Jawbone UP, they all are hobbled in different ways. They’re just experiments. They’re cool. They’re almost more novel than anything at the end of the day because they’re limitations are so clear and so near.

Where we need to head is to the platform and to pulling these things together into bigger solutions. I think the companies that succeed at that today, it’s probably unclear. If I had to pick a favorite, I’d actually pick Samsung because Samsung is doing disruptive things across all kinds of technologies and industries. Google would also be a good candidate. It’s going to be a company on that level that is pulling together a family, a collection of Internet of Things into a whole life cycle of experience where you don’t have the kind of failings that I had with the Jawbone UP or that are obvious in the little, very cool, home-brewed kit-type things that people are having a great time working on these days.

The Internet of Things … it’s wonderful, I’m excited and intrigued by it, but where the really interesting things need to happen, where it’s going to go from being a novelty to be something that’s really revolutionary, is when the platforms come together. What those look like and the companies that are behind them is uncertain, but seeing that transpire, and then really, particularly, benefiting from the fruits of those successes is going to be really thrilling.