As the old world of manufacturing, I.T, Services and financial markets evolve, the internet has been quietly (and not so quietly) changing the way things get done, to make improvements in output, and capability possible, and this coupled with demographics, is at the root of the world’s current economic woes.
This is 1928 in market cycle terms, when the abundant supply, and low oil price justified Henry Ford in building his Model T, and the same technology was used to build his tractors, which allowed farmers to buy a tool, that freed up thousands of labourers used to manage farms and produce crops. Back then, the explosion of the tractor, led the typical farmer to lots of debt, and the bumper crops of those years led ultimately to lower agricultural prices and thus food costs, which helped cause deflation, but also made thousands of farm hands unemployed. It also allowed large crop outputs to be transported to cities nationwide, on the new trucks that were just emerging, opening up new markets.
Just as in the early millennium, the ubiquitous smart-phone changed the PC and I.T. infrastructure market, when it put essentially a PC in our pockets, with the processing power, and storage capacity of an office PC of fifteen to twenty years ago, all in a form factor that sits nicely in the palm of the hand. Yes, the screen size wasn’t as big, but the pixel size was certainly an improvement, allowing the clarity of contrast, line width, colour rendition, resolution, saturation and hue all improved to the point that watching a video on our portable handset was possible, and now a major step forward over the 640 x 480 screen images of the early PC days (so-called VGA – Video Graphics Array) of circa 1990.
The next major standard after VGA, gave us 800px by 600px, – XGA and Super VGA. Then came improvements in rapid succession, and then CDs, and DVDs, taking resolutions up to 1920 x 1200. These standards and Blue-Ray with up to 1920px by 1080px, got the viewing public used to step-wise improvements, for larger screens viewed at several metres distance across a typical front room, drawing room or Family room, depending on your social milieu. And now since TV has followed, and surpassed the PC resolution with 3840 x 2160pixels – so called 4K systems.
But every improvement gets us closer to the limits of what most people’s eyes can resolve. So now Graphics Processor Companies, such as nVidia are using the mathematical capabilities of the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) for Quantum Computing.
A few years ago, Google purchased a company called DeepMind out of London, and DeepMind is an artificial intelligence (AI) Corporation. Now if you think back to 2011, IBM was able to beat the world champion of chess with its super-computer – Deep Blue. Steps forward in certain areas of computing have now gone exponential, and as a former software engineer, I know about the already fast pace of change in the industry.
So Deep Blue knew every possible outcome of every move. But what happened just a few weeks ago in South Korea is light-years beyond that.
DeepMind used an algorithm it developed called AlphaGo to play the Chinese game Go in South Korea with the world champion.
DeepMind’s AlphaGo artificial intelligence (A.I.) already beat the European champion last year. He was ranked 275th worldwide. The score was 5 to 0.
Now, what’s really interesting about this, is that A.I. experts did not think this was possible. They estimated that AI could not beat a human Go master for another 10 years.
These are the experts. These are the people in the industry who focus on nothing but AI. And even they did not think this could happen.
The main reason is that there are 361 opening moves in Go, compared to chess, which has 20. That puts the number of possible patterns and possible outcomes of the game into the hundreds of billions. In fact, it’s such a large number, we don’t even have the computer processing power to count all the possible outcomes, but this system beat the world champion 4-1. Everybody is completely shocked that AI basically destroyed the world champion in the most complex game on Earth… more than a decade sooner than any expert thought possible.
Cars and Trucks using these technologies are in development to make driverless vehicles a reality within 5 years for cars, and within 10 years for most heavy goods vehicles. The technology already has been tested, but like super-computers, we all haven’t got one in our pockets or homes – YET…
The vast Internet, with fibre-optics enabling communication at light-speed is changing everything. Think of all the industries being affected… TV is now almost entirely digital, Netflix is destroying the business model of cable companies. Uber, is likely going to destroy TAXI companies, Air BnB, will impact the small hotel business, Tesla is changing the automotive industry and in the process changing the energy market too. Solar, Wind, Wave and Geo-Thermal are all pressuring carbon-based energy.
So, when you couple AI, Robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT) and all the supporting industries, the next depression will happen any time soon, as we stop buying the old, and begin buying the new. However, we will emerge in five or so year’s time into the sunlight of a brave new world. But those without high-tech skills, able to add value to these industries, will suffer, will not be employed, as AI replaces almost every menial job, and many that are currently professional level including middle-management positions, accountants and lawyers. BUT, we will also need a stable economy, with price discovery, and a world without wars and unrest.
Modern Tech – causing unrest?
Is this emerging trend part of the reason for the surge in IS membership in the middle-east?
Robotics, Military and Civilian Drones, Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) Quantum Computing, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and IoT Companies, will all require hardware engineers, software engineers, chip designers, and scene designers able to transform a series of images, or video into data in computer memories. These skills will not be widely available for a few years yet, as Universities develop the knowledge and skills to pass on and develop courses in these new industries.
So, anyone acquiring these skills now, is set for a high salary, and steady work outlook, but those in the jobs that these industries will revolutionize faces an uphill battle, and loss of income. And the people most affected? The young under 25, and those who don’t have any saleable skill except in the service sector. Even mining corporations are now introducing remote sensing capital equipment, which lowers mining costs, improves output, but will unseat many in the developing world, who previously worked in mines, perhaps leading to further unrest as large numbers of unemployed miners are let loose on their nation’s streets.
Companies to watch:
General Dynamics Corp.
Lockheed Martin Corp.
Northrop Grumman Corp.
BAE Systems (Part of ESA and producer of parts for the Airbus)
Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd.
Turkish Aerospace Industries
Facebook and Microsoft, who are getting more involved with hardware.
Google who bought – Oculus Rift
HTC and Sony
These are the hardware companies, but there are also software corporations, who will produce Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality experiences – Hollywood Studios for example… That will produce Millionaires, and Billionaires.
And the experience of users in these VR worlds, is going to be enhanced as long as those users can touch and feel their environment.
Imagine climbing to the top of a virtual Everest, and picking up a handful of soft powdery snow, pressing it into a ball, using the VR gloves you’re wearing, that allows you to feel the snow, to make a VR snowball…and looking down from 28,000 feet to the valley below, launching that snowball to some climbers coming up behind you, 1,000 feet below…
Or visiting a virtual, Val d’Isere, France, in January, and skiing down slopes you wouldn’t normally dare risk, so that you can hone your technique – in August… Or going back in time to a virtual Bastille Day, to take part in a virtual peasants revolt, and watching Robespierre take his revenge on those who had gone before in power or who threatened the new republic. But I suspect, also, as before, the new tech hardware and software, will allow the porn industry to once again flourish as the new VR systems permit almost any dream to be met.
That will be VR content, or Augmented Reality, where you’re on your sofa, but using your augmented reality set, you’re at the controls in an aeroplane at 4,000 feet, feeling the plane bouncing around, in 1917, in an old Sopwith Camel, or the Fokker Tri-plane, holding a joy-stick, and flying these ancient machines, in a WWI aerial battle. And when you land, you lift the VR hood, and go inside the engine bay to fix that subtle misfire that scared the hell out of you as you were coming into land…
Sports, Training, Exercise and Games will be quantum leaps ahead of the Nintendo Wii, that got us off the sofa in our front rooms ten years ago, to play tennis against our other half.
These experiences, will be driven by the hidden technologies that will go into the devices that Samsung, Apple, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony and Google, will supply.
Those sensors and chipsets, will make other millionaires too… Mobile sensors, (MEMS – Micro-Electronic Mechanical Systems) which know which way up they are in any of 10 different directions, and 3D stacked sensors will be part of them.
ST Microelectronics NV
IPG Photonics Corp
Vishay Intertechnology Inc
Universal Display Corp
and others of these will supply the sensors or manufacturing machinery fabrication technology and fibre-optics and laser equipment to produce elements of these new technologies.
But Blockchain technology will also change the world. In the financial world, crypto-currencies may replace fiat currencies, this will likely eliminate the need for Central Banks and the control that they exert over the rest of us. But you can bet your bottom dollar, that they will fight it tooth and nail to maintain that control, or influence what comes afterwards to ensure they’re still in charge. In fact they may have already started the fight back.
I recently learned of the Open-Ledger Project, set up by the Linux foundation, which attracted, financial institutions, technology firms, as well as two blockchain startups based in New York, Digital Asset Holdings and R3CEV, the consortium that has attracted 40 major banks, including: JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and others. The name given to this project is the name Hyperledger.
And as I’m sure you know, Crypto-currencies use the blockchain to ensure that any currency transferred between nodes is valid. Peer reviewed. Even Law Firms might use blockchain technology to ensure contract performance, and enforce agreements. Already, Ethereum Foundation has a two year head-start almost, in building a platform for such infrastructure.
But at this juncture, BitCoin, and the other crypto-currencies perhaps offer the best opportunities… (See my previous piece -Why we could see Bitcoin = $1,000,000)
But here are also a couple of companies to watch.
Cuvva is a startup that is using the blockchain, to buy insurance to allow someone to buy insurance on an as needed basis, rather then an annual agreement.
Helm is a financial technology firm using a database of legal compliance requirements, that allows small firms to do away with an army of lawyers.
As I learn of other companies involved, I will bring them to your attention.
Note: Any mention of the above companies is not a solicitation to buy nor financial advice. I am not an investment or financial adviser, and any mention of such companies is for general information and education purposes only.
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