700 millions de Chinois en moins en 2050?; premier homicide par ransomware; sharing your analprint with big tech?, & more !

Bonjour à vous,

Vous recevez la newsletter Parlons Futur : une fois par semaine au plus, une sélection de news résumées en bullet points sur des sujets tech, science, éco, géopolitique et défense pour mieux appréhender le futur.

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(Je m'appelle Thomas, plus d'infos sur moi en bas d'email)

Voici donc ma sélection de la semaine !

L’apéro

À table !

Vidéo sympa d'une minute d'un robot qui peut marcher, voler, faire du skateboard, et marcher sur une corde

  • Leo was built by a team at Caltech, and they were particularly interested in how the robot would transition between walking and flying.

  • In a video that shows the robot Leo approaching a staircase, taking off, and gliding over the stairs to land near the bottom, the robot’s motions are seamlessly graceful.

  • “Perhaps the most well-suited applications for Leo would be the ones that involve physical interactions with structures at a high altitude, which are usually dangerous for human workers and call for a substitution by robotic workers,” the paper’s authors said.

  • Examples could include high-voltage line inspection, painting tall bridges or other high-up surfaces, inspecting building roofs or oil refinery pipes, or landing sensitive equipment on an extraterrestrial object.


Amazon crée énormément d'emplois, compte 1,3 million d'employés dans le monde dont un million aux Etats-Unis (second après Walmart), mais investit énormément pour en détruire le maximum (The Guardian)

  • Companies such as Amazon and Ocado continue to employ massive human workforces largely because the robots are – so far – unable to perform the picking and stowing operations that require human-level visual perception and dexterity.

  • This is certain to change, however. Both companies, as well as number of well-funded startups, are working on building more dexterous robots.

  • Indeed, Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, speaking at a conference in 2019, said: “I think [robotic] grasping is going to be a solved problem in the next 10 years.” 

  • In other words, a great many of the hundreds of thousands of workers now employed in these facilities are likely to become redundant in the relatively near future.

  • And as robots advance, they will likewise be deployed ever more frequently in restaurants, supermarkets and other environments.


China’s Population Could Fall by Half Within 30 Years (source)

  • étude publiée dans la revue d'une université chinoise

  • "People dare not to have children due to increasing economic pressure."

  • ce qui explique pourquoi le gouvernement vient tout simplement de tuer son industrie privée du tutorat, car elle créait une pression sur les parents prêts à tout pour améliorer les chances à l'école de leurs enfants, renchérissant ainsi le coût de l'éducation, et dissuadant indirectement certains d’avoir des enfants

  • certains analystes pensent aussi que la lutte contre la spéculation immobilière (consistant dernièrement pour le gouvernement à laisser certains promoteurs immobiliers faire faillite) a pour objectif de faire baisser le coûts du logement pour les familles et enlever les freins à la parentalité


Ces smart toilets qui surveilleront notre santé...mmm " : equipped with a scanner that can recognize the user’s unique “anal print”

  • Researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine  developed a scanner that can recognize the user’s unique “anal print,” or “distinctive features of their anoderm,” meaning the skin of the anal canal.

    • a camera inside a toilet bowl and used machine learning algorithms to match stool samples to specific, uh, users.

  • Another project : Sonia Grego, the co-founder of Coprata, a Duke University-affiliated physiological monitoring startup, wants to revolutionize the way we do our business by scanning samples of your poop and urine for health indicators, including chronic diseases and even cancer, The Guardian reports.

  • Yet another company, called Toi Labs, took that idea a step further with its TrueLoo smart toilet seat, which collects an even broader selection of biometrics.

    • “It’s essentially understanding when someone has abnormal patterns and then it’s capable of documenting those patterns and providing reports that can be used by physicians to help in the treatment of a variety of conditions,”

  • source, je partage le titre pour une fois : The smart toilet era is here! Are you ready to share your analprint with big tech? (The Guardian)


Cette serre, la plus grande des USA, produit 30 fois plus de tomates qu'un champ normal à surface égale, utilise 90% moins d'eau, des robots font la récolte (CNN)

  • Built in 2020 and set across 243,000m2 (35 terrains de football), AppHarvest says that its state-of-the-art greenhouse yields 30 times more per acre than open fields, while using 90% less water.

  • "The facility allows you to control the light, the heat, and the nutrition of the crops," says Josh Lessing, AppHarvest's chief technology officer.

  • LED lights are used to supplement natural light and crops are grown without soil, in an alternative growing medium that allows water and nutrients to be absorbed by the plant root.

  • Using 300 sensors and AI, the facility collects data from over 700,000 plants, and growers can remotely monitor the microclimate to ensure that crops receive the ideal amount of nutrients and water. AppHarvest's robots assess which tomatoes are ripe enough to be harvested, and then pick and prune them using their robotic arms.

  • "Building technology to forecast, steer the crop, and create absolute stability in the food supply allows us to grow locally and control our food destiny. That's the real opportunity with robotics and AI," says Lessing.


Microsoft’s Massive New Language AI is 3X the Size of previous record-holder OpenAI’s GPT-3 (source)

  • GPT-3 turned out to have capabilities beyond what its creators anticipated, like writing code, doing math, translating between languages, and autocompleting images (oh, and writing a short film with a twist ending). This led some to speculate that GPT-3 might be the gateway to artificial general intelligence.

  • But the algorithm’s variety of talents, while unexpected, still fell within the language domain (including programming languages),

  • However, given the tricks GPT-3 had up its sleeve based on its 175 billion parameters, it’s intriguing to wonder what the Megatron-Turing model may surprise us with at 530 billion. 

  • à noter cependant, le deep-learning (cette branche de l'IA qui permet de développer des outils "intelligents" en entraînant des algos avec beaucoup de données) aurait des rendements décroissants

    • Even businesses outside the tech industry are now starting to shy away from the computational expense of deep learning.

    • A large European supermarket chain recently abandoned a deep-learning-based system that markedly improved its ability to predict which products would be purchased. The company executives dropped that attempt because they judged that the cost of training and running the system would be too high (source)


Un certain type de batteries permettrait de stocker de l'électricité sur 12h pour très très peu cher, parfait complément aux énergies renouvelables (twitter thread de Ramez Naam)

  • at scale, "iron flow batteries" (a non-lithium-based variety) should achieve a cost of storage of around 2 cents / kilowatt-hour for 12 hours of electricity storage. 

  • For context, the cost of energy from a gas or coal plant (in normal times) is around 5-6 cents / kwh.

  • we're in path to eventually have 1 cent solar, and perhaps 2 cent wind, across large swaths of the world.

  • that means that the cost of solar or wind PLUS 12 hour electricity storage, could well be below the cost of coal or gas power. Possibly even below the fuel costs of already built coal and gas

  • We might see this point where renewables + 12 hour storage are cheaper than fossil electricity as soon as 2030. Or it might take longer. Either way, it appears to be on the horizon

  • To be clear, 12 hour storage doesn't solve all scenarios. We need to develop 100 hour and longer multi-day storage, or other firm clean resources. But 12 hours, at low cost, gets us a very powerful new tool in decarbonizing electricity.


Amazing Airborne Microchips are the Tiniest Human-Built Objects to Take Flight (source)

  • Like helicopter seeds (les graines « hélicoptère », en fait la disamare, la graine de l'érable) falling slowly towards the ground, these newly created “microfliers” catch the wind to achieve unpowered controlled flight. 

  • Called “microfliers,” the tiny devices ride the breeze while falling and leverage the powers of spin to fall in a slow and controlled manner.

  • The purpose of the project was to find effective ways of distributing functional miniaturized electronic devices and to do so en masse. Dropping thousands of microfliers from planes or tall buildings could enable unique ways of monitoring the environment, such as pollution, toxic spills, and the spread of diseases.

  • Modified microfliers could form powerful interlinked networks composed of hundreds or thousands of nodes, or communicate wirelessly with external devices, acting as sensors in the Internet of Things. The potential applications are practically limitless.

  • the ethical and legal ramifications of this technology will need to be sorted out to avoid potential abuse, such as the surreptitious tracking of people.

  • The team is also cognizant of the fact that microfliers might eventually become a form of litter or pollutant themselves. To that end, they’re working on versions that dissolve in water or naturally degrade over time.

  • They’re also looking to make microfliers capable of active flight, which will be considerably more challenging.

  • Voyez un tel microflyer en projet, à l'échelle, en bas à droite à côté de la fourmi ci-dessous


Another company is offering edge-of-space balloon trips, but at just $50,000 (CNN)

  • The company's first commercial flights are slated to begin in early 2024 -- with Grand Canyon National Park as the location for its first spaceport

  • its next targets are -- in order of projected opening dates -- the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Serengeti in Kenya, the Aurora Borealis in Norway, Amazonia in Brazil, the Giza Pyramids in Egypt and, finally, the Great Wall of China in Mongolia

  • flights will take off from these premium locations and lift eight passengers and two crew members up to 30km altitude (la fusée de Blue Origin monte à 100km environ), about four times higher than a standard commercial airplane flight, and nearly 23 miles into the stratosphere.

  • They'll zoom on up there in a zero-pressure balloon (le ballon n'est pas gonflé sous pression, simplement rempli d'hélium plus léger que l'air) and pressurized space capsule, which will then gently float in the atmosphere, allowing guests to experience the Earth's curvature and the awesome darkness of space.

  • Each trip on board the craft will last six to 12 hours

  • At $50,000 a seat, it's cheaper than many Mount Everest our South Pole expeditions -- and you're less likely to get frostbite.

  • "We've also chosen helium instead of hydrogen as our lift gas, which costs 10 times more than hydrogen, but we felt it was an important sacrifice as we prioritize the safety of our flights." (l'hydrogène est inflammable, réagit avec l'oxygène, c'est ce qui a causé la catastrophe du dirigeable Hidenburg en 1937 et mis fin au développement de ce moyen de transport)

  • Voir la magnifique vidéo d'animation de 2 minutes sur Youtube


How Musicologists and Scientists Used AI to Complete Beethoven’s Unfinished 10th Symphony

  • When Ludwig van Beethoven died in 1827, he was three years removed from the completion of his Ninth Symphony, a work heralded by many as his magnum opus. He had started work on his 10th Symphony but, due to deteriorating health, wasn’t able to make much headway: All he left behind were some musical sketches.

  • Ever since then, Beethoven fans and musicologists have puzzled and lamented over what could have been. His notes teased at some magnificent reward, albeit one that seemed forever out of reach.

  • Now, thanks to the work of a team of music historians, musicologists, composers and computer scientists, Beethoven’s vision will come to life.

  • a group of scientists at the creative AI startup Playform AI that taught a machine both Beethoven’s entire body of work and his creative process

  • AI had successfully generated music in the style of Bach. However, this was only a harmonization of an inputted melody that sounded like Bach. It didn’t come close to what we needed to do: construct an entire symphony from a handful of phrases.

  • We printed musical scores that had been developed by AI and built off the sketches from Beethoven’s 10th. A pianist performed in a small concert hall in the museum before a group of journalists, music scholars, and Beethoven experts. : We challenged the audience to determine where Beethoven’s phrases ended and where the AI extrapolation began. They couldn’t. 

  • This project would not have been possible without the expertise of human historians and musicians. It took an immense amount of work—and, yes, creative thinking—to accomplish this goal

  • At one point, one of the music experts on the team said that the AI reminded him of an eager music student who practices every day, learns, and becomes better and better.

  • Bref, l'IA a aidé, mais n'est pas encore capable de réaliser un tel exploit seule...

  • Extrait de 3 minutes à écouter via le player disponible en bas de l'article ici


Les charmes de l'hydrogène (The Economist)

  • Today's hydrogen business is, in global terms, reasonably small, very dirty and completely vital.

  • Some 90m tonnes of the stuff are produced each year,

  • This is done almost entirely by burning fossil fuels with air and steam—a process which uses up 6% of the world’s natural gas and 2% of its coal and emits more than 800m tonnes of carbon dioxide, putting the industry’s emissions on the same level as those of Germany.

  • Why is it vital? Hydrogen is also, crucially, used for the production of almost all the world’s industrial ammonia.

    • Ammonia is the main ingredient in the artificial fertilisers which account for a significant part of the world’s crop yields.

    • Without it, agricultural productivity would plummet and hundreds of millions would face starvation.

  • Morgan Stanley, an investment bank, reckons that, if governments take their green commitments seriously, today’s market could increase from 90m tonnes todat to 500m tonnes by 2050

  • Les 3 grandes qualités :

    • It is very energy-dense: burning a kilogram of it provides 2.6 times more energy than burning a kilogram of natural gas.

    • When burned in air it produces none of the sulphates or carbon monoxide through which fossil fuels damage air quality both outdoors and in, though it does produce some oxides of nitrogen

      • and when used in a fuel cell, a device that uses the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity without combustion, it produces nothing but water.

    • And because it can be made without oil, it was held to free its consumers from the tyranny of oil producers

  • Le code couleur pour s'y retrouver avec la techno de l'hydrogène (The Economist)

    • Today’s high-emissions hydrogen (càd dont la production émet beaucoup de gaz à effet de serre) is known as grey, if made with natural gas,

      • grey hydrogen costs about $1 a kilogram

    • or black, if made with coal.

    • The same technologies with added Carbon Capture and Storage are known as blue

    • The product of electrolysers (machine qui séparent l'eau, H2O, en H2 et O2) running off renewable energy is deemed green;

      • Green hydrogen, meanwhile, costs over $5/kg in the West.

    • that of electrolysers which use nuclear power is pink

    • Hydrogen produced by pyrolysis—simply heating methane until the hydrogen departs, leaving solid carbon behind—is turquoise

  • Morgan Stanley argues that at the very best locations for renewables in America, green hydrogen will be able to match grey hydrogen’s $1/kg “in 2-3 years”.

  • Hydrogen can be used as a material to store and transport energy in bulk. Renewable grids struggle when the wind dies or it is dark.

    • Batteries can help, but if renewable power is converted to hydrogen, it can be stored cheaply for long periods (to deal with differences from season to season and even year to year) and converted to electricity on demand.

    • Sunny and windy places that lack transmission links can export clean energy as hydrogen. Australia, Chile and Morocco hope to “ship sunshine” to the world.

  • Airbus, a European aeroplane-maker, is giving hydrogen its full-throated support. In September, it confirmed a plan to power planes using hydrogen by 2035.

  • Les voitures à hydrogène n'auraient pas de sens, mais cela en aurait pour les camions et les trains

    • Fuel cells (machine qui combine hydrogène et oxygène pour générer de l'électricité) add to an electric car’s price and complexity while offering no benefit in performance. They are also inefficient. 

    • A veteran Japanese utility executive whispers that Toyota’s stance makes no sense: “Millions of fuel-cell cars won’t happen. Even Honda gave up. Pride is why Toyota is sticking with it.”

    • Hydrogen lorries can beat battery-powered rivals with faster refuelling, more room for cargo and a longer range.

    • Alstom, a French firm, is running hydrogen-powered locomotives on European tracks.


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Quelques mots sur le cuistot

  • J'ai écrit plus de 50 articles ces dernières années, à retrouver ici, dont une bonne partie publiés dans des médias comme le Journal du Net (mes chroniques ici), le Huffington Post, L'Express, Les Échos.

  • Je suis CEO et co-fondateur de l'agence digitale KRDS, nous avons des bureaux dans 6 pays entre la France et l'Asie. Je suis basé à Singapour (mon Linkedin), également membre du think tank NXU.

  • Retrouvez-moi sur twitter en cliquant ici : je tweete des faits et infos contre-intuitives, brèves, à consommer sur place (et non pas des liens sans contexte vers des articles interminables), Jacques Attali est un de mes followers par exemple.

  • Retrouvez ici mon podcast Parlons Futur (ou taper "Parlons Futur" dans votre appli de podcast favorite), vous y trouverez entre autres des interviews et des résumés de livres.

C'est tout pour cette semaine !

Merci, et bon week-end !

Thomas