Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2015

5. March 2015

Date: 05-03-2015

From autonomous drones to emergent AI to digital genomes, this year’s list from the World Economic Forum offers its latest glimpse of our fast-approaching technological future

Fuel-cell vehicles have long promised several major advantages over those powered by electricity or hydrocarbons.

SA Forum is an invited essay from experts on topical issues in science and technology.

Editor’s note: Today the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies, one of the organization’s networks of expert communities that form the Global Agenda Councils, released its Top 10 List of Emerging Technologies for 2015. Bernard Meyerson, chief innovation officer of IBM and author of the following essay, is chair of the Meta-Council. Scientific American editor-in-chief Mariette DiChristina is serving as vice-chair.

Technology is perhaps the greatest agent of change in the modern world. Although never without risk, technological breakthroughs promise solutions to the most pressing global challenges of our time. From zero-emission cars fueled by hydrogen to computer chips modeled on the human brain, this year’s Top 10 Emerging Technologies list—an annual compilation from the World Economic Forum (WEF)—offers a vivid glimpse of the power of innovation to improve lives, transform industries and safeguard our planet. Read the rest of this entry »

Automation, jobs, and the future of work

5. December 2014


A group of economists, tech entrepreneurs, and academics discuss whether technological advances will automate tasks more quickly than the United States can create jobs. 

December 2014

The topic of job displacement has, throughout US history, ignited frustration over technological advances and their tendency to make traditional jobs obsolete; artisans protested textile mills in the early 19th century, for example. In recent years, start-ups and the high-tech industry have become the focus of this discussion. A recent Pew Research Center study found that technology experts are almost evenly split on whether robots and artificial intelligence will displace a significant number of jobs over the next decade, so there is plenty of room for debate.

What follows is an edited transcript plus video clips of a conversation on this topic, moderated by McKinsey Global Institute partner Michael Chui and MGI director James Manyika. The participants were Martin Baily, senior fellow, economic studies, Brookings Institution; Richard Cooper, Maurits C. Boas Professor of International Economics, Harvard University; Curtis Carlson, former president and CEO, SRI International; Reid Hoffman, partner, Greylock; Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO, O’Reilly Media; Matt Slaughter, associate dean of faculty, Tuck School of Business; Laura Tyson, professor of business administration and economics, Haas Business and Public Policy Group, University of California, Berkeley; and Vivek Wadhwa, fellow, Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance, Stanford University.

Rethinking job creation

Tim O’Reilly: There’s this wonderful line from William Gibson, the science-fiction writer. He said, “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” So, yes, there’s all kinds of science-fiction things that we can imagine in the future. But we can also just look around and see what is happening today and then extrapolate forward.

Reid Hoffman: If you look at most of the automation, it comes down to man–machine combinations. And all productivity means is that when you have productivity increases, each person is doing more. And therefore, the unit—the number of people to do this amount of work—goes down, right? But that then creates resources for doing other work. The most simple one was the transformation from an agricultural economy. We used to have a huge percentage—James Manyika: Forty-one percent of employment, right?  Read the rest of this entry »

Germany Bets on ‘Smart Factories’ to Keep Its Manufacturing Edge

27. October 2014

Date: 26-10-2014
Source: The Wall Street Journal

AMBERG, Germany—The next front in Germany’s effort to keep up with the digital revolution lies in a factory in this sleepy industrial town.

At stake isn’t what the Siemens AG plant produces—in this case, automated machines to be used in other industrial factories—but how its 1,000 manufacturing units communicate through the Web.

As a result, most units in this 100,000-plus square-foot factory are able to fetch and assemble components without further human input.

The Amberg plant is an early-stage example of a concerted effort by the German government, companies, universities and research institutions to develop fully automated, Internet-based “smart” factories.

Such factories would make products fully customizable while on the shop floor: An incomplete product on the assembly line would tell “the machine itself what services it needs” and the final product would immediately be put together, said Wolfgang Wahlster, a co-chairman of Industrie 4.0, as the collective project is known.

The initiative seeks to help German industrial manufacturing—the backbone of Europe’s largest economy—keep its competitive edge against the labor-cost advantages of developing countries and a resurgence in U.S. manufacturing. Read the rest of this entry »

Love of Labor

25. August 2014

 Typical Nick Carr! (hfk)

Date: 25-08-2014
Source: Technology Review

Automation makes things easier, whether it’s on the factory floor or online. Is it also eroding too many of the valuable skills that define us as people?

WHY IT MATTERS: Automation is creeping into more of our work and our leisure.

Messages move at light speed. maps speak directions. Groceries arrive at the door. Floors mop themselves. Automation provides irresistible conveniences.

Carr Glass CageAnd yet automation can also be cast as a villain. When machines take over work that once required sweat and skill, humans atrophy into mere button-pushing operators. Laments about automation are as familiar as John Henry, the railroad steel-driver of lore who could not outlast a steam-powered version of himself. The latest is The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr, who worries about the implications as machines and software advance far past the railroad and the assembly line to the cockpit, the courtroom, and even the battle­field. Machines and computers now do much more than rote mechanical work. They monitor complex systems, synthesize data, learn from experience, and make fine-grained, split-second judgments.

What will be left for us to do? While economists and policy makers are debating what automation will mean for employment and inequality (see “How Technology Is Destroying Jobs,” July/August 2013), Carr’s book does not sort out those implications. It is about what he fears will be diminished—our autonomy, our feelings of accomplishment, our engagement with the world—if we no longer have to carry out as many difficult tasks, whether at home or at work.

The centerpiece of his argument is the Yerkes-Dodson curve, which plots the relationship between human performance and the stimulation our tasks provide. Too much stimulation makes us feel panicked and overloaded, but when we have too little stimulation—when our work is too easy—we become lethargic and withdrawn. Activities that provide moderate stimulation yield the highest level of performance and, as Carr argues, turn us into better people in the process.

Things reviewed

The Glass Cage: Automation and Us
NORTON, 2014 Read the rest of this entry »

The age of smart machines

25. May 2013

Date: 23-05-2013
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter

Brain work may be going the way of manual work

IN HIS first novel, “Player Piano” (1952), Kurt Vonnegut foresaw that industry might one day resemble a “stupendous Rube Goldberg machine” (or as Brits would say, a Heath Robinson contraption). His story describes a dystopia in which machines have taken over brain work as well as manual work, and a giant computer, EPICAC XIV, makes all the decisions. A few managers and engineers are still employed to tend their new masters. But most people live in homesteads where they spend their time doing make-work jobs, watching television and “breeding like rabbits”.

It is impossible to read “Player Piano” today without wondering whether Vonnegut’s stupendous machine is being assembled before our eyes. Google has designed self-driving cars. America’s military-security complex has pioneered self-flying killing machines. Educational entrepreneurs are putting enlightenment online. Are we increasingly living in Vonnegut’s dystopia? Or are the techno-enthusiasts right to argue that life is about to get a lot better?

Two things are clear. The first is that smart machines are evolving at breakneck speed. Moore’s law—that the computing power available for a given price doubles about every 18 months—continues to apply. This power is leaping from desktops into people’s pockets. More than 1.1 billion people own smartphones and tablets. Manufacturers are putting smart sensors into all sorts of products. The second is that intelligent machines have reached a new social frontier: knowledge workers are now in the eye of the storm, much as stocking-weavers were in the days of Ned Ludd, the original Luddite. Bank clerks and travel agents have already been consigned to the dustbin by the thousand; teachers, researchers and writers are next. The question is whether the creation will be worth the destruction. Read the rest of this entry »

Esa-Projekt: Eine Mondbasis aus dem 3D-Drucker

3. February 2013

von Werner Pluta,

01.02.2013, 15:11 Uhr

Die Esa testet, ob es möglich ist, eine Mondstation per 3D-Druck aus Mondgestein aufzubauen. An dem Projekt ist auch das Büro des renommierten britischen Architekten Norman Foster beteiligt.

So würde die Station auf dem Mond aussehen. Quelle: Foster+Partners

BerlinEine Mondstation aufzubauen, ist weniger aufwendig, wenn nicht alle Komponenten von der Erde mitgebracht werden müssen. Die europäische Raumfahrtagentur Esa hat ein Konzept entwickelt, wie eine Station aus Mondmaterial erbaut werden kann: Sie wird gedruckt.

„Der 3D-Druck stellt eine potenzielle Möglichkeit dar, die von der Erde aus notwendige Logistik zu reduzieren und die Besiedlung des Mondes damit zu erleichtern“, sagt Esa-Mitarbeiter Scott Hovland.

„Mit 3D-Druckverfahren werden auf der Erde schon komplexe Gebäudestrukturen erzeugt“, ergänzt Esa-Projektleiter Laurent Pambaguian. Warum also nicht auch auf dem Mond? Die Esa prüft zusammen mit mehreren Unternehmen, ob und unter welchen Bedingungen ein solches Unterfangen möglich ist.

Die Mondhäuser sollen die Form einer Kuppel haben – vergleichbar dem Iglu der Inuit. Ausgangspunkt ist ein zylindrisches Modul, das von der Erde mitgebracht wird. Es bildet den Eingang des Mondhauses. Der Wohnraum ist eine aufblasbare Kuppel, die an den Zylinder angesetzt wird. Um diese herum wird dann eine Mauer aus Regolith gebaut, die Schutz vor Mikrometeoriten und Strahlung bieten soll.

Die Mauer ist nicht massiv, sondern hat „eine hohle, geschlossene Zellstruktur, vergleichbar mit der von Vogelknochen“, erklärt Jethro Hon von Foster+Partner. Diese Struktur soll Stabilität bei vergleichsweise geringem Gewicht bieten.

Das renommierte, von Norman Foster gegründete Architekturbüro hat das Mondhaus entworfen. Die Briten haben schon einen 1,5 Tonnen schweren Block aus simuliertem Regolith gebaut. Das Material stammt aus einem Vulkan im Bolsenasee in Mittelitalien. Das Basaltgestein von dort ist weitgehend mit Mondgestein identisch. Read the rest of this entry »

Manufacturing in the Balance

3. January 2013

Date: 03-01-2013
Source: Technology Review
Inexpensive labor has defined the last decade in manufacturing. The future may belong to technology.  
Understand the technology and ideas behind the manufacturing renaissance.

When General Electric expanded manufacturing of home heaters and refrigerators at its facility in Kentucky last year, the reasons included big wage concessions the company had won from local workers and the advantages of being closer to its U.S. customers. But writing in the Harvard Business Review last March, CEO Jeffrey Immelt explained that one of the biggest factors in GE’s decision to bring back manufacturing from China and South Korea was the desire to keep appliance designers near its manufacturing and engineers.

“At a time when speed to market is everything, separating design and development from manufacturing didn’t make sense,” Immelt wrote. Now, someone who has an idea for a dishwasher that has fewer parts and weighs less can actually try to build it. These designs won’t be so quick to end up in knockoff products built by GE’s suppliers, either. “Outsourcing based only onlabor costs is yesterday’s model,” Immelt said.

At the turn of this century, manufacturing wages in southern China were 58 cents an hour, just 3 percent of U.S. levels. GE and many other manufacturers rushed to take advantage of so-called labor arbitrage by moving manufacturing overseas. In 2004, the Boston Consulting Group told clients the choice wasn’t whether to go offshore but “how fast.” Read the rest of this entry »

Next Year’s 3-D Printers Promise Big Things — Really Big Things

1. December 2012

Date: 01-12-2012
Source: WIRED

2012 has been a big year for 3-D printing, but the industry has quietly been growing for decades. And the innovations are impressive — for every new plywood-clad 3-D printer kit that makes the rounds on the internet, engineers are developing ways to print titanium parts for jet engines that will change the aerospace industry.
3D Print 1
This week at Euromold, a manufacturing trade show, the companies behind these devices are demonstrating new products and highlighting the novel technologies that will change the way we build things. The 3-D printing industry is on track to be a $3.1 billion business by 2016 and the innovations on display this week show its foundation is growing — both in revenue and in physical print size.

Objet 1000

The big news out of Euromold is really big — a 3-D printer so large that it requires a palette jack to unload. The newest 3-D printer from Objet combines their world-class accuracy (16 micron/0.0006 inch layer thickness) and the ability to create models with 14 materials in one print job with extraordinary size. The new Objet 1000 is named for its 1000 x 800 x 500 mm (39.3 x 31.4 x 19.6 inches) print area which is over three times the size of competitive printers. To put this in perspective, the Objet 1000 holds over 238 pounds of resin to print with, more than some 3-D printers weigh. Read the rest of this entry »

Manufacturing: The new maker rules

27. November 2012

Date: 27-11-2012
Source: The Economist

Big forces are reshaping the world of manufacturing

“YOU can carry your own head in your hand,” enthuses Bre Pettis, inviting customers to try out a three-dimensional photo booth that will scan their head and then print a miniature plastic version of it as a solid object. This is useful, no doubt, for those about to audition for the role of Zaphod Beeblebrox in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.

Mr Pettis, the founder of MakerBot, a maker of low-cost 3D printers, spoke at the opening of his firm’s first retail store on November 20th in New York. It will sell desktop MakerBots, which make things out of plastic, for just $2,200. It is still early days, but MakerBots and machines like them are “empowering people to make the things they want, rather than buy them from factories,” says Mr Pettis.

Certainly 3D printing is hot. Some firms are already using the technology, which is also known as additive manufacturing because it involves building up material layer by layer. It can be used to make such things as prototype cars, hearing aids, customised dolls and medical implants. On the same day that Mr Pettis opened his store, GE announced it had bought for an undisclosed sum Morris Technologies, a Cincinnati firm that uses industrial 3D printers (which cost $500,000 or more) to print objects for engineers. Morris will be printing metal parts for a new GE jet engine.

Yet 3D printing is just one of many production technologies and trends which are transforming the way companies will be able to make things in the future. The old rules of manufacturing, such as “you must seek economies of scale” and “you must reduce unit-labour costs”, are being cast aside. New machines can print every item differently. More flexible robots are getting cheaper and better at doing all the boring and dirty stuff. Read the rest of this entry »

Networks at Heart of Future Technologies

24. November 2012

Date: 24-11-2012
Source: The Wall Street Journal

The importance of the networks, and in particular wireless, is revealed in a U.K. government report published Friday looking at what technologies will be driving growth in the economy in the 2020s.

As its title – Technology and Innovation Futures: UK Growth Opportunities for the 2020s – 2012 Refresh –suggests this is an update to an earlier report, commissioned in 2010.

The original report looked at 53 technologies, from genetech and other bio-related fields, through advanced agriculture, nanotech, advanced materials and the like. It has been updated and the fact that changes in such a short time scale are necessary shows how fast technology is changing.

The British government has noted changes in the speed of development in 3-D printing, in robotics and in the whole area of energy including production and management through technologies like smart grids. Read the rest of this entry »