Beyond reality: the future of human interface

Virtual Reality, the once thought of next-in-line booming technology appears to be at a standstill. Even with the support of heavy-hitting corporations the technology has yet to explode like many experts predicted it would. It’s still early, but the experiment stage is over with. Billions of dollars have been poured into this industry and if the results continue to be underwhelming it will soon be looked at a quirky trend that never lived up to its potential.

Gaming Industry Plaguing VR

Thanks to sci-fi novels and blockbuster hits the average consumer typically associates VR with the gaming industry. Because of this, tech leaders have invested billions of dollars into the most coveted VR companies like the Oculus Rift, but even with the influence and money behind these major companies the VR gaming industry has yet to experience significant growth.

One obvious reason behind this lack of growth is the limited amount of games offered by these VR companies. None of the world’s highest grossing video games can be played through virtual reality. Users cannot throw a pass in the newest Madden, nor can they shoot down an enemy tanker in the latest Call of Duty. What they can do is play games like Job Simulator, or Farm Harvester.

Eight out of ten homes own a next-gen console. The numbers for how many virtual reality headsets have been sold have yet to be discovered, but it doesn’t reach beyond hundreds of thousands. One serious disadvantage VR gaming has is that it cannot compete with the graphics offered by consoles like the Xbox One or PS4. Players who are used to playing games like FIFA or Halo are used to the selling point of better graphics equals better gameplay. How do you reverse an entire generations thinking? The gaming industry has only itself to blame as they are the ones who developed this ideology in the first place.

Lack of Modernization

For how futuristic it’s supposed to be virtual reality severely lacks the sleek modernized look that should come with a new and exciting advancement of technology. As of now, popular headsets like the HTC Vive are extremely bulky. Users have to place chunky devices over their eyes and use controllers that look eerily similar to the first versions of the Nintendo Wii. There has yet to be a virtual reality device that doesn’t look like giant head-goggles attached to a phone. Oh, don’t forget, if you want to play online with other users you’ll have to connect to a computer and sit right next to your processor.

Not Enough Benefits

When you first put on a virtual reality headset you’ll likely be impressed. It’s exciting, how can’t it be? You just entered a new world! But give it ten, maybe fifteen minutes, and that rush will soon wear off. Not to mention the possible motion-sickness and discomfort that many users have reported of feeling after just 30 minutes of activity.

The fact of the matter is that virtual reality isn’t a new world, and users can easily tell that after a few experiences with any given VR device. Our eyes have been trained to stare at one flat screen, but now we’re being asked to turn 180 degrees within every minute of the game? That’s a hard sell for many consumers. Our days are already long, and most people will choose to get in their exercise the old-fashioned way. When you come from a long day do you want to strap on your 5 pound headset and move around your living room, or do you want to sit down and become a couch potato like the rest of us decent Americans.

As VR Stalls AR Thrives

While virtual reality has yet to reach the average consumer augmented reality is taking over the streets and your pocket cell-phone. You know those silly snapchat filters that you love to use? Or that beloved app known as Pokemon Go? That’s augmented reality, and it’s expected to have over 1 billion users by 2020, with revenue projected to be four times greater than VR. What’s the reason for this? It’s simple: augmented reality is much more user-friendly. Unlike VR, a user does not have to strap on any device over their head or eyes as they can simply use their current smartphone. It’s much more social and can be used in almost any setting, not limiting users to their computers or consoles. Graphics across both platforms are generally the same, but AR has more facial recognition capabilities. AR is not only user-friendly, it’s corporate friendly too. Advertising within virtual reality is dead, but AR advertising is just getting started. From virtual tours in brick and mortar shops to a primary medium for storytelling, AR advertising will soon be submerged within every major city. Don’t worry about finding the cheapest sweatshirt in NYC as it will soon find you through augmented reality!

VR Potential Beyond Gaming

The VR gaming industry is never going to take off like experts thought it would, but that doesn’t mean virtual reality is useless. In fact, where VR makes its biggest impact is far beyond the computer screen and mind of a 16 year old. It’s already being used in hospitals across the country as it acts a key resource to train young surgeons. But it doesn’t stop in the training field, VR can also be used to perform major surgeries: by using VR doctors across the globe can communicate and operate as if they are all standing in the same room, giving patients the ability to have insight and feedback from more than one doctor. It’s also being used to treat soldiers suffering from severe cases of PTSD, and so far, the results are nothing but positive. Virtual reality will soon be widely used across our educational and healthcare sectors, and for good reason as collaboration is almost always a good thing and something that this country could use more of.

Conclusion

Both virtual and augmented reality will continue to receive billions of dollars from investors hoping to become the next Apple or Microsoft. Many of these startups will fail, but the few that succeed will become global influencers. The race is on, whose going to make it to the finish line?

Vertical farming: the future or a fad?

The Problem

200 years ago there were less than 1 billion humans living on earth. Fast forward to 2018 and the human population is above 7 billion with no indication of slowing down anytime soon as experts expect it to be over 12 billion by 2050. This rapid growth can be attributed towards a number of positive developments and improvements within the technology space and medical fields, but with all that growth comes plenty of problems. One of the most critical problems that a rapid growth in population brings is food. Because of the growing demand for food humans are currently overfishing oceans and without drastic measures to prevent this we could see every seafood species fall below commercially viable levels as soon as 2048. You don’t need to be a math wiz to understand that more people means more food, begging the question: how will we continue to address our rising populations as we have less space to work with and more people to feed?

The Solution

Vertical farming. It’s as simple as it sounds: grow crops vertically instead of using great plains and open fields. Sky scrappers, schools, apartment buildings, the potential hosts of vertical farms are nearly limitless. It’s a solution that is already being implemented within major cities across the globe with a wide variety of leading experts believing it to be the most effective way to combat the growing food crisis. A major bonus that comes with vertical farming is how environmentally safe it is. Indoor farming reduces the waste of fertilizers and water and because of the controlled climate it also requires ef pesticides and harmful toxins that can often be found in expansive outdoor crops. One of the world’s largest vertical farms currently produces heads of lettuce using 40% less power, 80% less food waste and 99% less water usage than their outdoor competitors, clearly indicating the eco-friendly benefits that come with vertical farming.

The Promise

What type of food can be grown and how much of it greatly depends on the availability of space and resources surrounding the vertical varm. However, almost every vertical farm will aim to work around developing a plan that includes greater water preservation, an increase in yield, more efficient use of urban space, and renewable production on top of being environmentally friendly. Vertical farms are also weatherproof and can feature year round crop production, something that many outdoor fields fail to accomplish through blistering winters or scorching hot summers.

How It’s Done

When it comes to vertical farming there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But there a few practices and commonalities found within every vertical farm, including:

  • Stacking crops

    • Instead of laying out crops in an open row farmers instead stack them on top of each other

  • LED lighting

    • Used as a energy and light source, replacing the need of a Sun.

  • Using technology to aid the growing process

    • Humidity and temperature control

    • Control monitoring of nutrients and fertilizer

    • Timed treatment of crops

  • They feature some type of “ponics”

    • Every vertical farm will include some variation of a nutrient and water delivery system intended to feed the crops (Aeroponics, Hydroponics, Aquaponics, etc.)

While these features can be found in almost every vertical farm a number of newer developments are including plans that collect their own rain water and produce their own energy for the entire building through wind turbines and solar cells. As vertical farms continue to develop, a greater sense of community involvement continues to arise; these farms aren’t just looking to maximize their profits, they’re looking to give back to their communities and help pave the way for future generations.

The Benefits

The U.S. manages to waste $165 billion in food each year. 40% of the food in the U.S. today goes uneaten, much of which finds itself in local landfills contributing towards a large portion of our current methane emissions. Vertical farming combats this growing crisis by providing food for only one city rather than shipping it off to people across the globe. A large portion of food is wasted through transportation and quality standards that overemphasize appearance, which results in less profits for the farmers and higher prices for the consumer. Vertical farms eliminates all of these problems by eradicating the need for shipping and transportation: all of the food that is grown will go towards feeding the city, so there is no need for large shipping containers that often compromise the integrity of the produce. As previously mentioned vertical farms are also extremely environmentally friendly as they greatly reduce water usage and wastage. The efficiency behind these farms also save farmers quite a bit of money on their energy bills, not to mention the 24/7 capability that shields crops from extreme weather.

The Negatives

It’s not cheap. Yes, you will save a great amount of money overtime, but that cannot be achieved overnight. Urban land is going to generally be more expensive to purchase than rural farmland. Creating a controlled weather environment is going to cost much more than gathering natural rainfall and sunlight from an open field. Unlike a rural farm you cannot employ just a farmer or two as you will need a team of engineers and scientists behind any project that is meant to serve an entire city. Another serious disadvantage is that you can only grow a limited amount of crops as not everything can be perfected under controlled climates. Plenty of produce can be grown in these farms: such as strawberries, kale, lettuce, basil, and other herbs. But some of the most widely eaten food cannot be grown under these conditions, including wheat, and rice.

Conclusion  

The world has a serious food epidemic taking place. We’re overfishing our oceans, wasting produce at an alarming rate, and not giving enough support or help to farmers who continue to lose profits on their crops. Vertical farming is a creative solution to these serious problems, and it’s a great idea and should continue to develop in cities across the globe, but is it enough? People are starving, farmers are losing money, and wasted food continues to build mountains of trash in our landfills. We need more than one creative solution to combat these serious world crises.

Basic Universal Income: All You Need To Know

What Does Universal Basic Income Mean?

It is the idea and proposal of providing every citizen within a given state or country a specific amount of money on a regular basis. It’s essentially a welfare system provided by the government that doesn’t eliminate the freedom of choice. It’s supposed to be fair, simple, and difficult to corrupt. Everyone receives the same amount of money, and the government stays out the way regarding what citizens can do with their free cash. It’s often brought up as a way to combat poverty and provide greater assistance to those who need it most.

Where Did It Come From?

Thomas Paine, a late 17th century social activist and philosopher is often credited with coining the term universal income through an essay he published in 1797 that was aimed at preserving private property for the working class. It can be argued that Paine was the first to express this ideology on paper, but his mentor Antoine Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet often voiced the same arguments when publicly speaking to the poverty stricken French laborers. Paine’s mentor was eventually jailed and slaughtered for his political activism and disdains against the state, but he didn’t die in vein as his mentee and fellow followers helped spark one of the world’s most infamous political revolutions.

Paine is largely viewed as one of the most influential philosophers of his time, and for good reason. But truthfully Paine, nor his mentor should be credited with the idea of a minimum income, as Thomas More first laid out the blueprint and explained the potential benefits in his fictional novel Utopia. Utopia was published in 1516, more than 200 years before Paine was even born. Without Utopia, activists like Paine may have never introduced Europe to the possibility of a minimum income for all of its citizens.

Arguments For A Universal Income

Implementing a universal income for a large population would be difficult, that’s no secret. But arguing for a universal income is quite simple as the reasonings behind it are definitive and short. Arguments include an increase of financial security, protection against advancements of technology that could soon replace many jobs, and reducing the inequality found within many countries.

The most widely used argument for a basic universal income is that it would improve the welfare of the poor. In capitalist countries such as the US the wage gap between the poor and elite continues to skyrocket. Our current welfare checks and balances limit recipients on what they can use government money for, and in most cases it is simply coupon vouchers that can be redeemed at local grocery stores. Universal income would allow citizens to spend the money however they choose, and instead of using it on food they could invest it towards furthering their education or creating their own small business, providing a potential greater return than simply giving them discounted food items.

The second most commonly used argument is that it will help countries adjust to labor-saving technologies. It’s no secret that automation is coming, and soon global industries that provide millions of jobs will begin to implement technology that will eliminate the need for a large percentage of their human employers. The US trucking industry provides more than 7 million jobs across the country but many experts believe it could soon be entirely replaced by self-driving cars and trucks that will not require a passenger or driver. The bottom line is that replacing human employers with self-learning machines is no longer fantasy. Fast food chains across the world are replacing their cashiers with touch screens as chain-restaurants continue to eliminate the need for a server.Even firms working in the creative space are beginning to realize the positive ROI when employing a computer over a real life person; a Toronto based graphic design firm uses AI technology to develop logos and graphics for businesses across the world. Just a few years ago it was thought that the creative arena was perhaps one of the few spaces that AI couldn’t touch. But marketers, writers and designers should be just as concerned as their local truck drivers.

One final argument for a basic income is that it could potentially lead our world towards our next social evolution. Before automation and smart computers existed citizens of the world heavily relied upon one another for the basic survival of mankind. But as computers have evolved our species have soon realized that the machines we have invented possess far greater capabilities and power than we could ever hope to achieve ourselves. Our parents grew up on the notion that putting in an honest day’s of work is what makes you a respectable and contributing member towards society. But this was mainly used as a tactic to grow the economy and help build a nation that is now regarded as the world’s first hegemonic country. When speaking of a universal income it’s important to ask the question of human development. Were we truly placed on this planet to work 5 days of week? Can we not imagine a world that allows us to focus more on relationships and things that we genuinely enjoy to participate in? Providing a basic income would give citizens more freedom to pursue the things that provide them with happiness and joy.

Arguments Against Universal Income

Providing a basic universal income is deeply rooted in socialism and even flirts with communism. Capitalist countries such as the US have a history of deflecting and putting negative spins towards these political ideologies. Our current welfare system is already heavily debated, and many people believe our government is already providing too much assistance. Keep in mind that capitalist countries are often founded and built on a type of bootstrap mentality, one that doesn’t include giving away thousands of dollars without asking for anything in return.

An economical argument against providing a bui is that the inflation it causes across multiple markets will offset any potential positives that it may bring. What good is it to provide a small consistent income to all of your citizens if the prices of basic goods and services dramatically rise? Is receiving $10,000 a year worth having to pay $2 more every time you buy a fruit or vegetable? You can kiss the falling costs of TV’s and computers goodbye! These are things often said by bui critics, but recent studies have pointed out the flaws in these vague arguments.

The US has a population hovering around 327 million people. Let’s say the government distributes a universal basic income of $10,000 to all of its citizens, a common number that is found within many pro-arguments. Where will that money come from? The country is already facing budget cuts towards healthcare, agriculture development and education, how would it possibly come up with the money to give away that much free cash? It’s not as if you can just print more money without facing severe economic consequences.

Finally, one last argument that is often seen in the arena of providing a basic income is that there is little to no proof that it would make life easier for the poor, which is the class that it would be most intended to benefit. The only country that has successfully implemented a universal income is Finland, a nation that features a much more homogenous country than the US. Many believe that providing this free income would simply raise the floor of the poverty line, which doesn’t directly casuate to more people escaping poverty.

Key Leaders Who Are Sparking The Conversation

This blog wouldn’t be published without public figures and industry leaders arguing for a universal income. Because of their voiced opinions this political ideology has forced its way in mainstream news, and will likely be a heavily debated topic in the next presidential election.

Elon Musk is perhaps the most well known proponent of a bui. The current SpaceX CEO has publicly stated the need for a greater welfare system as robots continue to become more advanced. In an interview with CNBC the founder of Tesla explained that soon there will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better and that with automation comes a drastic reduction in corporations costs. Musk has also gone on the record to say that if a bui is not provided in the near future than the gap between the rich and the poor will only expand, creating a greater sense of inequality in a country that is meant to provide equal opportunity for all of its citizens.

In the political sphere Bernie Sanders has continually argued for the need of a bui. The democratic socialist has pushed for bipartisanship to carry out the task of designing a logical plan that could be supported from both sides of the table. During his presidential campaign Sanders went on the record to clear up his stance on bui, saying that because we stand to lose half of our jobs to automation within 20 years providing a bui is an inevitable choice we must make, and not doing so will cause great suffering.

It’s important to credit these leaders while also understanding that if a bui is to be implemented it will be because of the general public’s demand, and not a politicians or CEOs wishful thinking.

If Not Universal Income, Then What? Some Type Of Policy Is Needed

One of the largest expenses for many small businesses and corporations is payroll. Employees are paid every single minute of the day, at least while they’re at work. Machines don’t come without costs, but they don’t have the residual costs that come with a real life person. Another important factor to take into account is that machines don’t require lunch and coffee breaks, nor do they require sleep. If a business is presented with an opportunity to cut employees that take up a large percentage of their payroll they are likely going to do it because in the capitalist world it's all about maximizing profits. 

A recent report by the Paris-based OECD concluded that 14% of jobs across developed countries are already highly-automable, and at least 32% of jobs are at severe risk of experiencing significant changes. The report states that a minimum of 13,000,000 jobs in the US will soon be lost thanks to automation, creating an economic crises that will far outweigh what Detroit experienced during the decline of the car industry.

As a general public it’s important to realize that without the average consumer these large corporations would not exist. Who helped make Walmart what is today? The consumer. Many would argue that it is socially and morally corrupt to replace the people who helped bring in your profits to begin with. A solution that differs from providing a bui is a taxation policy; If corporations want to replace human workers then the government should create policies that tax them at higher rates for doing so. Finally, one last word is that if citizens do not put pressure on their local and national politicians to create creative policies that combat the negative economic impact that automation is going to bring then the majority of them are likely going to be left in the dust while a select few basque in the benefits of automation.