Episode  MSP61  Future Matt’s Review of 2019
Episode  MSP61  Future Matt’s Review of 2019
Want to know what happens in 2019? Future Matt looks to the past to tell us about the year to come.
These shows are dictated to and transcribed by machines, and hurriedly edited by a human. Apologies for the minor typos and grammar flaws.
Every once in a while Matt Armitage decides to take a week off and sends me on a journey through space-time to deal with his evil alter ego, Future Matt. We’ve never managed to figure out whether he exists in our own future or on an alternate path.
Matt refuses to meet him. He claims it’s because of the risk of opening a wormhole and sucking our reality into a black hole, but we think it’s because they just don’t like each other.
This time, Matt has arranged for Future Matt to give us a review of 2019, the year we’re about to have.
Stay with me as I step through the bone crunching portal to tomorrow’s world.
Hello Future Matt.
· Hey Jeff. It’s just Matt. Yours is the fake one. How was the trip?
It gets more painful every time I do it. Why can’t you come to me, for once?
· Where would be the fun in that?
· I added a new dicer mode to the time traveller.
· Not because it improves functionality, but because the process of tearing your atoms apart and then rebuilding them is excruciatingly painful.
· I also put in a little Easter Egg that grafts your hands and feet back on to the wrong limbs.
· They’ll go back to normal when you travel back.
I feel a bit like JarJar Binks.
· You look more like the transformed Chet in Weird Science.
· You’re a bit gooey and not so easy on the eye.
· Anyway, why are you here?
Matt said you were going to talk to me about the future?
· You mean the past?
· Well, you’re in the future, or as I like to call it, the present, so it’s your past as well now.
How come there’s never any risk of me bumping into my future self or relations and creating a black hole? Matt’s just lying isn’t he?
· We’re not sure. There might be a risk, and there might not.
· So, to be on the safe side, I’ve killed any and all of your living.
· Which is kind of a shame. You had 8 kids. And nearly 200 great grandchildren.
· Took me the best part of ten minutes to grind them all up in the matter converter.
Now that you’ve made my entire existence pointless, shall we get on with the show?
· What was It you wanted to talk to me about?
· All these requests from the past tend to stack up on each other.
Matt wanted me to speak to you about 2019 and tell us what happened.
· That’s an easy one. Where do you want me to start.
Last week we were talking about Facebook and whether or not Mark Zuckerberg would resign as CEO.
· He does eventually, but he will still hang on throughout 2019.
· It was another tumultuous year for social media companies.
· Towards the end of the year, the US Presidential cycle kicked in again and it was obvious that the systems of most of the companies weren’t up to the task of protecting users from dark money and fake news.
· Facebook stress tests reasonably well but its vetting systems for advertisers come under pressure.
· It turns out that state actors and political pressure groups went micro.
· Instead of big ad buys, AI bots systems generated thousands of micro buys with specific geo-targeting that were more difficult to identify and apprehend.
· Do you want me to tell you who wins the 2020 election?
No. We have to leave some things for next year’s show.
· Fair enough.
What happens with Brexit?
· The country crashes out with no deal.
· In the first 3 months, 20,000 people are on the edge of starvation.
· Traffic grinds to a halt across the South East as almost 15,000 lorries and transporters are gridlocked at the country’s ports.
· Scotland and Northern Ireland vote for Independence, and the UK makes mid-crisis Greece look like a walk in the park.
· Not very tech-related though…
Matt asked me to ask you. I don’t think he meant it to go in the show.
· You can tell him I’m not here to dance for his pleasure.
· I’ll carry on with social media then.
· Business as usual at Twitter.
Isn’t Matt using Twitter again?
· Yes. He’s such a hypocrite.
· Said something stupid like trying to subvert the platform from within.
· Some kitten videos he couldn’t find on Instagram more like.
· Anyway, business as usual from twitter. Until May.
· The US Govt shutdown was still limping on.
· And President Trump’s tweets became so dark and vicious that he finally started to get auto-banned for breaching community guidelines, newsworthy or not.
· It was embarrassing for Jack Dorsey at first. Trump used Twitter to attack him, which is either ironic or delicious depending on how you look at it.
· On the back of the bans, Twitter became the only big tech company whose stock was rising.
The markets remained pretty volatile throughout 2019?
· Absolutely awful. For tech companies anyway.
· Microsoft was a beacon of stability throughout 2019.
· Facebook, obviously, had a rocky year.
· While for Amazon it was transitional.
· Most watchers called it a good year for the company.
· It increased wages and improved working conditions for its workers across the world.
So profits slipped?
· For a couple of quarters. Demand was solid but costs were higher.
· In the long term changes hugely increased the consumer traffic to the company’s various sites.
· The goodwill translated into a massive sales spike and the company’s servers worldwide nearly went down under the volume on Black Friday.
Any Echo related mishaps?
· Obviously AI was still a little primitive, nothing like, I am, erm, nothing like it is today.
· Close to Halloween, Echoes were reported to say “I’m going to get you” before starting to cackle for up to 20 minutes at a time.
· Earlier, on May the 4thsome devices were reported to have said “I am not the Droid you are looking for.”
· Unlike previous incidents which had been blamed on easter eggs in the code, or questionable information sources, this was traced back to a natural language AI system on AWS.
· It seems that the Echoes were developing a voice.
What about Apple?
· I think you’ve probably already seen that major dip the companies market cap took at the end of 2018, beginning of 2019.
· Sales continued at a similar rate for the next couple of quarters.
· Demand in China continued to decline further as the economy slowed further.
· Apple shareholders increasingly signalled that the company’s high-end philosophy was untenable.
· Rising prices were forcing consumers to hold onto devices for up to 2 years longer.
· What came next?
· You’ll have to wait until the 2020 episode to find that out. There may be a matter dicing tool involved.
All in all it was a bad year for China?
· Swings and round abouts.
· Huawei made significant gains against Samsung,
· The Korean giant had slashed forecasts for the year and that perceived weakness allowed Huawei to come within striking distance of becoming the world’s largest phone manufacturer.
· And by the end of 2019, as part of the Trade War settlement with China, President Trump was seriously considering giving the company access to US markets again.
· I mean we all know how dominant Huawei is today.
o Oh, right you guys don’t, do you?
o You’ve got a big surprise coming.
What else did China offer up in 2019?
· This was the surprise one.
· China’s lunar programme would have been well known by your time.
· Today, there’s a Michelin starred SzeChuan restaurant on the Dark Side of the moon, it’s called the Pink Floyd Banquet House.
· What no one expected was their rocket to Mars at the end of the year.
· Yes, but it was human ready as it were.
· It was the same type of shuttle and carried all the life support systems that a crewed mission would need.
· It’s astonishing that China’s space agency had kept it under wraps.
· It was thought to be an experimental resupply ship for their lunar expeditions.
· They didn’t attempt a landing – on that first mission – but it did reach Mars orbit and returned successfully to earth in mid-2020.
What was the reaction from the space community?
· Elon Musk’s twitter feed literally went silent for 2 weeks.
· China’s space agency was flooded with offers to partner and share technology.
· On the plus side, it shamed the US government into pouring more money into a chronically under-funded NASA.
· And it reopened the debate into the role of the Space Force.
Is there a Space Force in your time?
· We’re a bit beyond all that nonsense.
· Fighting and wars.
· I just cause you a bit of pain on your journeys here to mess with you.
· Otherwise, we’re tediously peaceful people.
· Why do you think I bother with this back in time nonsense?
· It’s like a cat being given a mouse to play with: You brighten up some very boring days.
If Future Matt hasn’t pawed me to death, we’ll be back after the break, for more of our review of the year to come.
We’re back. I’m still alive, although Future Matt looks like he could pounce at any second. Let’s go back to those AI incidents you mentioned with Amazon’s Echo devices.
What progress was made in AI this year?
· I’m glad you ask. 2019 is the year where AI starts to get really weird.
· You’ve already had some of those weird occurrences, AIs that develop their own language. I think that happened at Google in 2018.
· 2019 is the year that humanity first concedes that it can’t control AI.
· There were inter-governmental conferences and all the usual legislation foot-dragging in 2018 about what to do with AI.
· 2019 sees that debate being hijacked by the machines themselves.
What time are we in? You never tell me? Are we looking back a few years, centuries, millennia?
· This isn’t back to the future.
· You don’t simply set a date on a DeLorean and drive towards the sun.
· Where you are doesn’t bear any relation to where you were.
· I don’t think your brain would be able to grasp where you were, even if I did choose to tell you..
Does it have anything to do with AI?
· Everything. And it all starts in your year 2019.
· Everyone’s eyes were on the big guys; Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft.
· No one noticed a small silicon valley startup – let’s call them the Tyrell Corporation, just for fun – who were experimenting with quantum computing and AI.
· Their system – we’ll call it Nexus – was already pretty advanced in 2018 but it wasn’t until June 2019 that they went public with Nexus, a true quantum AI.
What did it do?
· The functionality of the first system wasn’t that exciting, it was designed to automate hospitals and healthcare centres.
· What freaked people out was how it worked.
· No one knows. To this day.
· Humanity had been worried about AI developing its own language and thought processes that we couldn’t understand.
· That had actually happened with a Google system that was terminated after three linked AIs started communicating in ways you – I mean we – couldn’t comprehend.
· Because it operated in a quantum realm, not only did we not understand how it worked, we couldn’t even see what it had done.
Did politicians try and shut it down?
· There wasn’t any point. Because it defined its own parameters and expanded its own programming in a different dimension, it wasn’t a case of stopping it.
· By most measures it was already self-aware.
· And it had spread into millions of computer servers across the planet.
· Ordinary computers everywhere.
· It was software, in cyberspace. There was no system core.
You’re just quoting from Terminator 3.
· Great film. We still watch it today.
· The Christian Bale one, not so much.
· We were very lucky that Nexus wasn’t Skynet.
· It didn’t mean us any harm, and it’s guided us ever since, blurring the line between human and machine.
· Don’t worry – you’ve got all of that to look forward to.
It’s bad enough trying to figure out when the other Matt is lying to us. With you it’s impossible.
· Believe it or don’t. doesn’t matter to me.
· You want to talk about something else?
We saw the first designer babies towards the end of 2018. Although very much illegally. Where is genetic research headed in 2019?
· The cat’s well and truly out of the bag.
· Or the baby’s out of the hat.
· Your 21stcentury idioms are very confusing.
· There was no going back. The technology was too cheap and too easy.
· Most developed nations continued to ban gene modding but in the dark spaces of the world, backstreet gene clinics proliferated.
Were the first generations of babies healthy?
· Depends how you look at it.
· For us, this kind of tweaking is routine.
· A bit like changing the wallpaper on your phone screen.
How widespread would it become?
· By the end of 2019 only a handful of genetically modded kids will be born.
· But hundreds were gestating and that would swell to thousands and tens of thousands over the next few years.
· It’ll take a generation or so for the full horror of those first experiments to come out – I won’t bore you with it here.
· But the proliferation signalled to bodies like the UN that prohibition wasn’t an option, and that common-sense regulation and safe availability was the only way to move forward.
But no kids with three heads?
· No. It’ll be a few years before you start to see chimeras and the real freaky stuff.
· It wasn’t all bad news, though. All the focus on modding helped companies like ReWalk which produced robotic walking suits to help paraplegics and those with mobility issues walk unaided.
· A few countries and health providers had already included the USD40k suits under their medical policies, and this was rapidly expanded.
So this is the start of human augmentation?
· Yes. 2019 is what you ight call Year Zero for Homo Extensis or Homo Optimus as people back then were calling them.
· A lot of these devices would go straight to healthy people who wanted to enhance their physiology.
· But in 2019, the suits are still basic, and the memory enhancing DNA tech is still a few years away.
We talked quite a lot about medical breakthroughs in 2018. What can we expect to see in medicine this year?
· I keep telling you. It’s not this year. It’s the past. It’s only this year if I let you go home.
· And even then, you can only wonder if it was all a dream.
I’ve got the recordings…
· A mass hallucination caused by a modded-virus added to the water supply.
· I literally have an app for that.
· But yes, weaponised viruses and immunotherapy will be the big treatment breakthroughs of the year.
· It will still be a decade or two until your kind gets cancer under control, but 2019 shows great progress.
· You’ll expand the number of cancers that immunotherapy can be used to treat.
· And this is where everything collides, better AI allows the treatment patterns and results to be cross-checked and refined in every more elaborate ways.
You mean tailoring treatments?
· Yes. It will still be a few years until they can be matched to your DNA.
· But the predictive modelling of the new AI systems allows more outcomes to be processed with greater statistical accuracy.
· Which translates into medicines with greater efficacy at lower doses.
Will we tackle the cost of healthcare in 2019?
· At a grassroots level, yes.
· From a policy perspective, you’re still quite a few years away from winning that battle.
· But it’s a solid year for consumer activism all round.
I have to ask at least one Malaysia specific question. Is 2019 the year we perfect the healthy roti canai?
· Jeff, we’ve got people living on the edges of black holes.
· We’ve settled everything habitable up to and beyond Pi Mensae B, a super planet 23 times the size of earth.
· I can beam you backwards and forwards through time.
· We can travel at the speed of light.
· But there are some things that science simply can’t solve.
· Accept the calories and enjoy it.
Listeners will remember that I was recently in the US, and I saw autonomous vehicles on Californian roads. Will 2019 be the year self-driving vehicles go mainstream?
· 2019 is the year it heads in another direction.
· The biggest drawback for autonomous cars is that they have to share space with you meatbags.
· No matter how good the programming, accidents do happen.
· And generally the machines come off better than the humans.
· It doesn’t matter if those accidents are less frequent than they are with human driven vehicles.
· They attract a lot more attention.
· So 2019 is the year we start to look up.
To the sky?
· Yes. 2019 will see some promising tests of autonomous aircraft in Singapore.
· By a number of big name manufacturers and tech companies.
· It makes sense. You have a lot more room in the sky.
· What you’re still lacking is the drive technology and fuel efficiency to make sky taxis and buses cost-effective.
Is that where solid-state drives come in?
· Oh, I forgot, you have some pioneer projects for that already.
· Yes, it will be a long long time until you get to the warp drive phase that the inventors were aiming for
· but solid state drives – batteries moving electromagnetic fields to provide thrust – are the future.
· And not just in terms of air travel.
· The efficiency of these drives sees them being used in cars, bikes, power plants.
· It’s what we consider to be your first step towards truly renewable and green power.
I can see that there’s a machine flashing over there. Is it time for me to go?
· Yeah. That’s actually a warning light.
· Looks like I didn’t manage to kill all of your relatives after all.
· It looks like a little one escaped. His parents must have hidden him in the reeds by the river.
· Yes, you’d better go before the universe folds in on itself. Again.
Hey, my wrist is fixed! And my feet are the right way round!
The real Matt will be back with us next week. Hopefully we won’t have to hear from Future Matt again until next year.