Covid-19 slowed down the economy, but the pandemic is accelerating technology and driving big changes to society. We asked the Xinova innovator network in April to look ahead and predict what the world will look like by Earth Day 2021 and beyond, in light of those Covid-19 and technology-driven changes. Ken Bodnar, Principal Consultant at Blockchain Associates, is an accomplished technologist and data scientist whose innovation track record runs through the public and private sectors.
by Ken Bodnar Principal Consultant at Blockchain Associates
Covid-19 is accelerating development of blockchain, AI and other technologies, as well as their impacts on the future of work and everyday life. Multiple sectors now find themselves with a shared sense of urgency and purpose. This translates to more rapid development and adoption of technologies that help keep people safe, and organizations productive in the face of unexpected challenges.
We’re also more likely to take other existential threats seriously. I envision multiple sectors and industries will be more motivated to work together to, for instance, slow down and reverse environmental degradation and climate change. Here are six areas that will likely be impacted by Earth Day 2021, and beyond.
If the COVID pandemic lasts for months and months, many folks will be out of work, and perhaps unemployable in the traditional sense of going to an office for a full-time job with salary and benefits. I see the emergence of micro-services work, which will be essentially task-based work. I see the innovation of a blockchain-based exchange where folks bid on micro-service tasks and their work is arbitrated and paid by smart contract, perhaps even in some sort of cryptocurrency. The gig economy will devolve into a micro-services economy.
I use the word “devolve” in the social sense, as in folks will earn their living without the safety net of a full time job with benefits. I believe that with the advancement of AI, we will see more autonomous organizations. But on top of that, once we get a utile blockchain with fast transaction speeds, we will see more and more usage. Blockchain mediates trust among untrusted parties, and the trust mediation will become a revenue stream.
More and more businesses will migrate to a DAO model — a distributed autonomous organization, which is virtually people-less except for one or two principal owners. (We might even start seeing pop-up flash organizations grow in popularity, as I’ve written about before). Artificial intelligence frameworks, which are now almost “crack-the-shrinkwrap” deployable without in-depth knowledge, will help, as well as AI’s dumber sister — machine learning. If the products are not digital, fulfillment will be done by a third party on an ad hoc basis. This will touch many industries and jobs, and not just traditional gig economy-type work like giving rides and hammering nails. More complex innovation and R&D projects could be broken down and micro-tasked, along with legal, medical, financial and other professional services that become blockchain-based.
AI has not followed Moore’s Law in development. That’s why we still don’t have the self-driving cars promised for 2020. However, it will evolve with AI on silicon and as a result, a lot of businesses will become autonomous, outage-resistant, and distributed.
I see custom manufacturing linked to an online platform. Customers order something. The server is connected to a 3D printer. The product is made, and the only job that a human does is a low paid job that sends it off to the fulfillment center. Rating agencies like Moodys and Fitch could be done autonomously. H&R Block income tax services could be hugely disrupted with a DAO.
The innovation that I see here is where the supermarket grows food much like the recent indoor farm announced in Abu Dhabi . Folks wander through aisles and pick the produce and plants. The indoor growing of food will become widespread, because full-spectrum growth LED lights are $10 USD for a 20-foot length. The energy costs are dropping because of the low-energy, high photon output of these LEDs. I see the emergence of apartment-sized food agri-appliances. Instead of rice cookers on the countertops, we will see lettuce and herb growing appliances.
It blows me away that with the ubiquity of mobile phones that need to be charged daily, that living spaces do not come with a solar panel installation to charge electronic devices like phones, tablets, charging pods, and MP3 players. Take the population of New York city. Can you imagine how much electricity could be saved if even 1/8th of them plugged into free harvested solar electricity instead of the grid. That’s over a million devices charging on renewable energy, in just NYC alone.
Elon Musk has close to some of the right ideas for solving transportation of goods. Instead of hyperloops and underground tunnels with high speed vehicles in them whisking you between cities, why not do some lateral thinking with the railways — specifically the railway right-of-ways. The nation is crisscrossed with them connecting every single major city. Instead of drones, why not have an AI driven pod monorail. These miniature pods, perhaps just 10 cubic feet in capacity, could zip on an elevated rail along the traditional railway right-of-ways at high speeds — completely autonomous, and powered by renewable solar panels, also mounted on the monorail supports.
With Deep Learning and Convolutional Neural Networks I see the field of robotics following the trajectory of silicon-based innovation, propelled by COVID-19. Robots will become faster, smarter and much smaller. Why can’t you have a robot that gives you a haircut? Just like the passport photo booths of old, one could step into a booth that gives you a haircut. That is the trivial example. The more cogent example is a robotic booth that gives you a health check-up, or diagnoses COVID-19. Have them in malls, hotels, airports and public transit stations, couple them to zero-knowledge proofs, and you could have public interaction without fear of pandemic infection.
I have a pile more of ideas, but this feels like the right stopping point for now. Funding these ideas would create brand new industries and offsets that are un-seeable now, but once in operation would be leveraged into their own economic sectors. What we need is a well-funded skunkworks to develop these things and make the world a better place than it is today. Crowdfunded, perhaps, to put IP into open source for the common good.
Ken Bodnar is Principal Consultant at Blockchain Associates, Data Science Influencer, and one of the winners of the first challenge of the F1 Connectivity Innovation Prize 2017.
Ken Bodnar has a long career in advanced technology. He has navigated his way through the spectrum of hardware and software engineering, technical architecture, research and development and emergent technology innovation.
He started his career by designing circuits for advanced military weapons systems and shifted to software design. Most recently he is a winner of the Formula One, Mercedes Racing Team Connectivity Challenge where presented his Blockchain/Internet of Things/Machine-Learning Platform at the final Formula One Grand Prix of the year in Abu Dhabi in November 2017.
He is an international Blockchain/Fintech consultant to governments. He was a digital transformation specialist to the Government of Canada for many years, and was the technical architect for the 38th General Election of Canada. He is a prize-winning eGovernment practitioner, as an architect for the team winning the Stockholm Gold Medal for eGovernment for “Connecting Canadians,” a digital literacy tool for the disadvantaged to bridge the Digital Divide.
His software designs were implemented in a partnership with the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism to create the all-inclusive island for Grand Bahama destinations in 2008. His skillset includes Distributed Ledger Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and Machine-Learning, large enterprise systems, Cyber Security and Fintech/eCommerce solutions. He is an author of a book on Digital Design.
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