That moment when sci-fi becomes reality and all chocolate is 3D-printed and nobody owns a car

Visualizing a home improvement project in a Lowe’s Holoroom

Visualizing a home improvement project in a Lowe’s Holoroom

Scenario planning has been around for a half century. Royal Dutch Shell used it to foresee and react to the oil crisis of the early 1970s — and still uses it. Futurist Brian David Johnson added science fiction to the scenario-planning formula, helping Intel predict future applications of its microprocessors in the 2000s.

But it wasn’t until 2012, when Ari Popper opened the doors of his Burbank, California consultancy SciFutures, that science fiction emerged as a mainstream organizational visioning, strategy development and even prototyping tool.

History has shown that, with sci-fi, art presages life: think iPad, IBM’s Watson, the smartphone and much more. Directed energy weapons have made less-than-killer-moon-scale versions of the Death Star a reality. Arthur C. Clarke imagined communication satellites more than a decade before Sputnik. Even those old pre-Jetson’s mainstays, flying cars, are on the cusp of commercialization.

In that spirit, Popper and his SciFutures team created for The Hershey Co., a graphic novel about a future sated with 3D-printed food. For Ford, they imagined a future without car ownership (subscription transportation services and sharing among the alternatives). For the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, they envisioned the future of warfare. Most famously, SciFutures worked with Lowe’s to create the Star Trek holodeck-inspired Holoroom, a 20-by-20-foot space in which shoppers can see how Lowe’s products might look in their own homes. Customers pick out products on a tablet, then use a virtual reality headset to see those products placed in context in the home. [more at Medium.com]

 

The Queen of Sh*#$% Robots

Simone Giertz

Simone Giertz with a few of her creations

Note: I’ve been writing Medium.com posts in the lead-up to the second-annual Brain Bar Budapest this June (did the same last year). If you’re in the neighborhood, this year’s lineup is awesome.

Comedy comes in lots of flavors — anecdotal, improvisational, insult, deadpan, sketch, satire, physical, and so on. Simone Giertz, through her own inventions, has invented another. Call it robotic comedy.

Giertz, 26, builds what she describes as “shitty robots” and has crowned herself their queen. Among the creations her 420,000 YouTube subscribers and counting have observed include a wake-up machine, a hair washing robot, a sandwich robot, a butt-wiping machine, a hair-cutting drone, and knives of doom. Vids of these and others have more than 20 million views. She co-hosts TESTED, founded by Adam Savage of MythBusters fame, with whom she created the popcorn helmet. She’s been featured on all sorts of websites as well as on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Conan. It wasn’t always this way. [more]

 

Top 10 things I’m doing during the first 100 days

first100days

10. Memorizing the lyrics to the Beatles song, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.”

9. Writing a long essay on the Hamlet-Bojack Horseman linkages.

8. Issuing executive orders around the house, principally to the dog.

7. Intentionally mismatching my daughters’ socks.

6. Attempting to make the sound of one hand clapping.

5. Teaching my Google Home device German.

4. Polishing my wife’s left and right shoes in slightly different hues to see if she’ll notice.

3. Chopping alley ice and sliding the chunks into sunny patches even though it will eventually melt on its own.

2. Muttering apocalyptically.

1. Awaiting the findings of the new administration’s vital voter-fraud investigation.

The arrogance of ignorance

It’s become accepted in many quarters to associate the wielding of facts or knowledge with arrogance. Typically the term is applied to political liberals – coastal elites, the blue-state bloviators, whatever one might call all the annoying know-it-alls who purportedly disdain the Rust Belt working-folk and get their information from sources not owned by Rupert Murdoch’s ilk.

But the politically ignorant – the sorts of people most likely to be deceived by demagogues and liars – have an arrogance of their own. Some might just dismiss it as wishful thinking: for example, the apparently widespread conviction that, say, the political system would be best off after a shakeup by an outsider – regardless of the source or dispositional/intellectual/experiential/moral/philosophical qualities of that outsider.

But it’s not just wishful thinking. It’s a blind faith in the righteousness of one’s own beliefs coupled with a total disinterest in the heft of the factual hull of those beliefs amid the high seas of reality. It’s a deep sense of the superiority of one’s own opinions, coupled with a blind dismissal of any facts that countervail those opinions. That’s much more sinister in this than mere ignorance.

In ten days, we embark into political terra incognita based not on ignorance, but on the arrogance with which it has locked arms.

Regs not the problem for oil business

oil

The incoming Trump administration and the oil and gas industry like to talk about the burdens of environmental red tape. But in Deloitte’s “reality check” of the top six issues facing the oil and gas industry in 2015, regulatory burden is absent. These are mostly big companies for whom compliance is a part of doing business and a manageable cost of operations. The entrepreneurs running wildcat operations aren’t strangers to this side of the ledger, either. And keep in mind that these companies, averaged over time (it’s a cyclical business, the world’s largest industry) make money hand over fist and can afford to do their part in minimizing the environmental impacts. For every Dakota Access Pipeline and Keystone XL, there are hundreds of projects that go forward unhindered.

Industry-bought statements by the likes of the American Petroleum Institute in the wake of the joint U.S.-Canadian protection of thousands of square miles of seas from offshore drilling that talk about the importance of these places for energy security – they’re a joke. Arctic offshore today accounts for about 0.025 percent of U.S. crude production. The Gulf of Mexico offshore produces 23 percent of all U.S. crude and basically all of the offshore production.

We won’t need it long-term, either. Electrification of the vehicle fleet will drive down domestic demand, meaning less oil will satisfy it over time, obviating the need to drill sensitive areas that threaten tourism and the environment (not even getting into global warming here).

Shell abandoned its drilling plans in the Arctic, where an oil spill would be catastrophic: imaging trying to clean up after a Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, but in 40 mph winds at minus-20, with no local fishing fleets or anyone else to help out (caribou being notoriously lazy). The industry would have to self-fund the entire cleanup infrastructure, even if they found a bonanza of oil, which Shell at least didn’t.

Exxon Mobil had a “rough” year in 2016, its net incoming falling by about half – still, it made $16 billion on $260 billion in sales. God knows what their regulatory costs were, showing up in various accounting buckets all over the world. But this company’s – and most oil companies’ – profits hinge not on the relatively minor costs of doing their part in keeping the planet more livable, but on the whims of global oil production and demand.