News — At The Edge — 4/22

Three sets of articles and videos this week — economics, robotics and technology.

First economics article discusses how business monopolies have gotten out of control and are now harming the economy. The other article is how financial artificial intelligence systems could wreak havoc on the economy in the future.

  • University of Chicago worries about a lack of competition
  • Sir Tim Berners-Lee lays out nightmare scenario where AI runs the financial world

The robotics article and video should give you real pause.
The article describes plans for 100s of autonomous roving robots with cameras and facial recognition capability all connected to city surveillance cameras, the internet and each other with decision making ability about who to pursue in public venues.

  • These surveillance robots will work together to chase down suspects

The video shows a future battlefield demonstration comprise solely of autonomous tanks, drones and robots shooting guns.

  • Russian Terminator Humanoid Robot FEDOR Learns To Shoot With Both Hands

Technology article is about a company now replacing plastic water bottles with cheaper, edible bottles. The video shows a new 3-D printed process where heat is applied to items after they’ve been printed can change shape and function.

  • Seaweed-based water pouch aims to end the need for plastic bottles
  • 3D Printed Objects Transform with Heat


Economic Issues –

University of Chicago worries about a lack of competition -

“[1970s] ‘Chicago school’ argued…big firms were not a threat to growth and prosperity…which led courts and regulators to adopt a relaxed attitude towards antitrust laws for decades….

[Now] an emerging consensus…competition in the economy has weakened significantly [and]…incumbent firms may not need to innovate as much, and…if companies can hoard profits and spend less on investment and wages…[suggesting] less creative destruction is taking place. The number of new, tiny firms being born is at its lowest level since the 1970s.

Two explanations are plausible. One is successive waves of mergers….When you split the economy into its 900 or so different industries, two-thirds have become more concentrated since the 1990s. Regulators may also have been captured by incumbent firms….American companies collectively spend $3bn a year on lobbying…[and] regulated industries that don’t face competition from imports — health care, airlines and telecommunications — prices are at least 50% higher than in other rich countries, and returns on capital are high.

The technology industry’s expansion could exacerbate the problem…[with] about half the…abnormally high profits…earned by tech firms…[who’ve bought 519 firms, often embryonic rivals, in the past decade…[enabling] firms to exert their market power ‘vertically’ up and down the supply chain….[There’s] little agreement on how to respond….

DoJ and the FTC are not meant to run the economy, but instead to enforce a body of law through courts that have become friendlier to incumbents….[Some] argue that the government is now so rotten that America is condemned to perpetual oligarchy and inequality….

Republicans have become the party of incumbent firms, not of free markets or consumers. Too many Democrats, meanwhile, don’t trust markets.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee lays out nightmare scenario where AI runs the financial world -

“[A] scenario where artificial intelligence (AI) could…[create] and run their own companies…[and] start to develop decision-making capabilities and [impacting]…the fairness of our economic systems….’[Starts] when AI starts to make decisions such as who gets a mortgage…which companies to acquire…creating its own companies [and]…holding companies, generating new versions of itself to run these companies.

‘So you have survival of the fittest…between these AI companies until you…wonder if it becomes possible to understand how to ensure they are being fair, and how do you describe to a computer what that means’….

[T]he scenario does threaten to wipe out an entire industry and raises some serious questions about how fair a financial system without any human involvement [and]…similar to the fear laid out…by AI-sceptic Elon Musk….No room for human beings….

[Berners-Lee] ‘Should we introduce a rule that if you’re a political organization, you may not target…[or] scenario of going to a candidate’s webpage and depending on who you were you get a different message.…[We] need to rethink the way we have built society on top of the web.’”

Robotics Issues —

These surveillance robots will work together to chase down suspects -

“[Researchers] are building a system for networked coordination between camera robots, drones and mounted smart cameras that can swap information instantly and move around a scene to chase a suspect, change their perspective and even reason about their environment as the machines look for questionable activity….

[They’ll] be using Segue robots with automatic cameras…programmed to pan, tilt and zoom…[teaching] ‘robots to follow things of interest…[and] reason about what they are seeing, what kind of activity is happening and what the agent might be doing next…and coordinate hundreds of robotic cameras….

[Idea] is to make the robotic cameras as autonomous as possible.[and] fuse together all available video data to reason about a scene, and…connected to the web so they can access more data for when they detect holes in their understanding….’Our intention is…that the robots are actually in charge of perception’….

To get robots to reason and make decisions about what to pursue and where to go, the team…is building artificial intelligence navigation algorithms that are coupled with the ability to perceive and understand the information they are collecting….[So] robots won’t be programed to simply…avoid obstacles or get from point A to point B…[rather] deduce what needs to be focused on and what agent in its video feed is the right one to pursue….

[Expect] a working demonstration in the next three years.”

Russian Terminator Humanoid Robot FEDOR Learns To Shoot With Both Hands — video (1.5 min.)

Apr 14, 2017 [Russia’s] humanoid robot FEDOR is being trained to shoot guns from both of its hands [to]…improve the android’s motor skills and decision-making. [But, note this battlefield only has self-driving tanks, drones and now robots. In other words, a battlefield consisting of only autonomous weapons!]

Technology Issues –

Seaweed-based water pouch aims to end the need for plastic bottles -

“Plastic bottles…takes energy to make [and]…unmake the bottle, as plastics won’t fully degrade on their own. ….[Company] has developed a capsule called ‘Ooho!’ for transporting water that is not only biodegradable, it’s edible….

Ooho membranes are a gelatin composed of sodium alginate from seaweed and calcium chloride….[It’s] extremely inexpensive — each pouch of water costs only two cents to produce…first unveiled Ooho in 2014 after testing the design with people around the world…[and] aiming for a wider rollout [at]…events like music festivals and marathons.”

3D Printed Objects Transform with Heat — Video (I min)

Apr 12, 2017 A new 3D printing method to create objects by printing layers of shape memory polymers with each layer designed to respond differently when exposed to heat.

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Doc Huston



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Doc Huston

Doc Huston


Consultant & Speaker on future nexus of technology-economics-politics, PhD Nested System Evolution, MA Alternative Futures, Patent Holder —