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The car of the future is (finally!) on the way



The car of the future is (finally!) on the way

Ever drive a Nucleon? No, and neither has anyone else. The Nucleon was a 1958 concept car that used a steam engine powered by uranium fission (tailfins optional; see picture). Eventually, the idea was that nuclear reactors would be small enough to stow in the trunk. This particular vision, of course, never materialized. In that regard, the Nucleon is just one of many dream cars that failed to hit the road. Sometimes it seems as if that the revolutionary “car of the future” is one of those things, like small-scale nuclear fusion, that is always a decade away.

I think that is still the case. The car of the future is probably still a decade away—but not much more.

There is a real chance that the long-awaited reinvention of the car really is just around the corner. I say that because there has already been a revolution of sorts, but one so gradual and so positive that it has been relatively little noticed by the average person shopping for wheels. What I am thinking of specifically is that new cars are not really mechanical any more; they are microprocessors that move. Today’s cars, McKinsey noted last year, “have the computing power of 20 personal computers.” That is a fundamental change and one that can, and will, lead to even bigger changes.

Consider the windshield. For decades, these were killers, shattering on impact and slicing up occupants. Then came safety glass, which didn’t shatter. Or think about anti-lock brakes. These prevent the wheels from locking up, and according to some engineers, have been even more important than seatbelts in terms of saving lives. Both of these innovations were enormously important; but no one really took much notice of them. The new, improved windshields looked pretty much like the ones they replaced; drivers braked exactly the same way with the anti-lock version. The advances were seamless, and therefore easy to accept. And the same can be said of many of the emerging innovations that could redefine the car.

That matters because while people say they want cleaner, safer cars, they have proved markedly reluctant to pay for these benefits, to change their own behavior, or to lower their expectations of performance. What we are beginning to see from next-generation cars is that they are not eat-your-spinach-for-the-planet vehicles. They are fun, powerful, and cool to look at. And that is why I think that this time, the revolution really is nigh.

So what will the car of the future look and feel like? They will probably be much lighter; carmakers are investing heavily in figuring out how to adapt costly carbon fiber to manufacturing. Future cars will certainly spew fewer particulates and greenhouse-gas emissions. Many will be made (and of course sold) in China. Here are a few other points to think about:

Autonomy: The “driverless car” is getting a ton of attention, perhaps more than the idea deserves at the moment, considering how few of them are rolling. But there is really no question that cars will do more things in the future than they do now. I am confident about that because they already are; think of things like cruise control, self-parking, and stability controls, all of which are ways in which humans have ceded control to the machine. After 2050, says the energy consultancy, IHS, almost all new cars will be autonomous. I suspect people will still want to drive for the simple reason that many of us like to drive. But self-driving cars could be a boon for older people whose reactions have slowed and risk losing their licenses; they could also do a lot to reduce congestion and improve safety. Plus, “drivers” who are not driving can do other stuff; forecasters at Johnson Controls believe that by 2025, up to 90% of drive time will be automated. So things like game tables will find their way into car interiors. All the major car companies are exploring self-driving cars, and re-thinking the way the insides of such cars should look and function. Here is what the interior of a Mercedes automated concept car looks like.

Photo credits: Ford, Mercedes

Information: Already, some cars will tell you when a tire is low or a brake pad is thinning, and remind you in red letters if you don’t do anything about it. Some luxury models come with smartphone apps that enable owners to set up sound and climate controls remotely. In the future, the car itself will be its own ecosystem, interacting with drivers in new ways; for example, there could be systems to detect sleepiness or stress. This will sound a little creepy—think if Stephen King’s sinister car,Christine, could plot with Isaac Asimov’s Sally—but cars will also be able to communicate with each other, sending wireless signals to warn when they are getting too close, for example. Cars will also be able to communicate with infrastructure; embedded sensors can let vehicles know about road or traffic conditions. “Augmented reality” dashboards will be able to spot and identify objects on the road ahead; passengers might even be able to zoom in if they are curious. Want to chat on the phone? Sensors might automatically turn off connections if they think the driver needs to pay close attention.

Alternative power: This is the biggie. In 1900, steam was the most prevalent power source for the car, followed by electricity; the gas-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) was a distant third, with 22% of the market. But it was not long before gas, which delivered much more power pound for pound, thumped the rest; it has been standard ever since, and still accounts for more than 95% of all cars. That is going to change, but not overnight. One oil major has estimated that by 2040, more than half of all new cars will by hybrids, combining electric and traditional ICE components. That may be conservative; oil companies obviously have a huge investment in a gas-powered car system. But the point is that even a conservative view sees a very different future.

And the future could come much faster. For one thing, China is already the world’s biggest car market (25 million cars and trucks sold in 2014) and has begun to encourage electric vehicle (EV) ownership; permission to buy an EV comes much faster than for a traditional car. The government is investing heavily in related technology. One cannot rule out a truly disruptive innovation, in the form of hydrogen, or fuel cells, or high-performance batteries. One fascinating idea that is being explored is to store energy in the panels of the car body; these capture the energy cars create, for example when being plugged in or through regenerative breaking systems, and then can be used on demand.

All of this is cool; none of it can be assumed. What can be said is that all the major car companies are investing big time in non-gas-powered engines; heck, even Harley-Davidson has joined the EV club. While relatively few people have proved willing to pay a lot more for cleaner vehicles, costs are coming down. All the concept cars at the February Chicago Auto Show tout their green credentials; in effect, theidea of a revolution is becoming mainstream, and that is hugely important.

It is also important that new business models are emerging; car-sharing services are one obvious example. In several American states, a major utility has set up a network of charging stations; it then charges electric-car owners a flat monthly fee for access, not unlike paying for cell phones. This reduces the upfront costs of owning such cars. Again, this service is new and unproven. The larger point, though, is that such experimentation has to happen to create the stable economics without which no revolution can sustain itself.

As my McKinsey colleagues have noted, “Cars are ‘freedom machines’ that enable mobility—they’re also pollution and congestion machines. Reconciling these two facts is the future imperative for the auto industry.” That gets it exactly right. And there’s reason for optimism that such reconciliation is more than possible. It is likely because on so many dimensions, the technologies exist, and the momentum—from industry, government, and consumers—is building. With more than a billion vehicles on the road, and more being added every year, even incremental changes in the car can make a noticeable difference in terms of the environment and urban quality of living. Big changes will mean big improvements.

Creating the car of the future, it turns out, does not require reinventing the wheel—and that’s a good thing.


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Celebrity accounts on Twitter have seen a big drop in numbers overnight, thanks to a rule change by the company.

Twitter announced on Wednesday that it would no longer include “locked” accounts in follower numbers in an effort to boost user trust in the service. Twitter locks accounts when they display a sudden change of behaviour, like sending lots of unsolicited replies.

According to social media analytics service Socialblade, the nine biggest Twitter accounts — Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Barack Obama, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Ellen Degeneres, Christiano Ronaldo and YouTube — all saw drops of more than 2 million followers each.

Here’s Katy Perry’s follow count — check out the sudden drop at the end:

Katy Perry
Katy Perry’s followers dropped by 2,816,619 on Friday.
 Social Blade

The size of the drops were not directly correlated to the amount of initial followers. Justin Timberlake rounds out the top 10 accounts with the biggest followings, but he’s lost around 1.8 million overnight.

Meanwhile Britney Spears (14th in terms of followers) did lose more than 2 million, and Twitter’s own corporate Twitter account (16th) lost more than 7 million.

Here’s Twitter’s follower count according to SocialBlade:

Twitter saw the largest drop of all with 7,731,910.
 Social Blade

The most popular accounts have more than 100 million followers, and Donald Trump is far down the list with 53.1 million. His follow count remains relatively unscathed. He lost just 326,118 followers on Thursday, the day before most accounts saw a drop, and on Friday he regained 5,339 followers.

Here’s Donald Trump’s follow count:

Trump Twitter stats
Trump had a small loss on Thursday, but started regaining followers on Friday.
 Social Blade

Although losing 2 million followers is undoubtedly a significant drop, proportionally speaking it’s not necessarily huge. Katy Perry started off with 109 million followers, and a 2.8 million drop represents a decline of approximately 2.6%. Twitter initially warned that its culling of fake followers would affect about 6% of all follows, so Perry actually may have got off lightly.

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Much has been said about blockchain potential to revolutionize the internet and usher in a new age of interconnectedness — one characterized by fairness, equality, privacy and security, popularly termed as “Web 3.0”. Several projects are building the infrastructure to enable this transition, of which the social media experience is an integral part.

Sapien Network, which has been building a decentralized social platform that gives power back to end-users, is one of those projects. Social platforms have enormous influence in shaping the opinions of the masses, and are unfairly designed in favor of the tech companies behind it.

With its utility token SPN, Sapien hopes to let users define the value of content, advertising influence and their overall social experience.

It’s no small task overhauling the web, however, and Sapien has been focused on developing the many underlying features that make up a radically new way of interacting online.

In Its Vision to Build Web 3.0, How Does Sapien Differ from Reddit and Steemit?

As is the case with other projects attempting to build Web 3.0, Sapien’s long-term goal is to build a tokenized version of a social platform that gives power to the users, which in turn allows them to combat misinformation, protect their data and secure their privacy through the use of tokens and decentralized governance mechanisms.

To that end, they are building an ecosystem of products in partnership with several other projects and third parties that will uphold the principles of the internet’s true intent: a platform for communication that cherishes free speech, privacy and democracy.

The current internet offers this to a degree, with platforms like Reddit and Steemit allowing users to share their opinions anonymously.

However, Sapien triumphs over Reddit by monetarily rewarding users for their content and curators for their moderation efforts, while also highlighting experts and their knowledge in certain fields. Additionally, there is a greater emphasis on users putting forth their ideas, rather than companies pushing their agenda.

With respect to Steemit, the advantage Sapien has is its Proof-of-Value consensus mechanism, which runs on the quantifiable value of content and reputation of communities. This is bolstered by the fact that it is also easier to create communities on Sapien’s platform.

Users are incentivized to act honestly through a reputation system, which also plays a part in platform governance, which we talk about later.

What users like best are tools that let them operate in the way they want and, knowing this, Sapien is also planning to implement public and private modes, and community tools, which lets them customize their social experience to their liking.

Indeed, customization is one of Sapien’s most salient features. These modes will allow users to choose either their real identity or a anonymous one, and this can be set according to the groups or subscriptions that one wishes to join.

When one switches between these groups, the private/public mode automatically toggles. In other words: one account, two different identities.

This is an important aspect in upholding a user’s privacy, which is an essential characteristic of Web 3.0. Of course, this privacy also extends to the chat systems, which are encrypted from end to end.

Not to be left unmentioned, Sapien’s marketplace allows users to buy goods on a peer-to-peer basis using their native tokens.

Sapien’s unique staking system also deserves a brief mention as content value is at the heart of the staking system, which is divided into various “pillars.” Each of the 8 pillars demands varying amounts of staked tokens, and grant different levels of user actions.

For example, the first level called “Access” allows user to perform only read-only actions, whereas staking more tokens into the “rewards engine” lets the user receive a greater amount of revenue from advertisements.

The system lets users decide how much they want to contribute and rewards them proportionally. The more a user stakes, the more they earn.

The reward engines will go live this month, letting users stake SPN for each action they take on the platform, such as creating HQ content, leaving comments, and voting on posts.

It is worth reading Sapien’s documentation on their staking system to get all the details on how it works.

The Sapien Network Roadmap Describes the Path Towards their Decentralized Vision

Consistent updates to keep the community informed about progress is a hallmark of a good project, and those interested in Sapien will be pleased to know that the team does so frequently on their blog.

As those posts will indicate, Sapien’s 2018 roadmap revolves around designing a user-friendly platform with an intuitive UI/UX, which we talk about shortly, and getting the word out that a decentralized social platform does exist and is ready for use.

Their overall roadmap stretches to 2020, around which time they hope to consistently add users to their platform. First, however, they must create a platform that can actually be used and this has been their focus in early 2018.

Sapien spent 2017 working on a private beta, developing Sapien into a blockchain application and completing the project’s whitepaper. Having done this, they felt confident enough to move onto the actual token sale, which conducted its first phase in Q1 2018.

What’s Next for Sapien in 2018

Sapien is taking the majority of the year to build the fundamental infrastructure for their platform and growing the user base. The following is an outline of their agenda for 2018.

Marketing, Brand Awareness and the Sapien Mobile App

Social platforms are a finicky endeavor. There were many before Facebook came into being, but none clicked in quite the same way as Facebook. A large part of a platform’s success comes down to word of mouth and a welcoming UI; and up and until Facebook, nothing had the same effect as Facebook’s news feed and the inviting red notification contrasted against a blue background.

The Sapien team knows that growing a user base is at the heart of their project’s success and has thus put a lot of effort into marketing and brand awareness.

The first half of 2018 was focused on marketing and UI/UX, described below. The former included airdrops, the Sapien rewards programcompetitions and a ceaseless effort by the team to educate the public on all of the different ways decentralized social platforms are better than current platforms. The Sapien team also implemented a payout to content creators and curators.

Being aware of the fact that most people use social media on their phones, Sapien released a mobile app version of the Sapien platform on June 14, which is a key development in creating growth. Additionally, they are also working on porting the platform to a dapp.

Naturally, marketing will have to be a continual effort, at least until Sapien’s adoption reaches critical mass. It is not the only project in this space, which is further reason as to why publicizing its uniqueness will be important. The team hopes to acquire 10,000 users every month by Q4 2018, which is a reasonable ambition.


For any service in which people are expected to spend a lot of their time, the actual experience of using the platform must be intuitive and unobstructive. Think Facebook, and the ease with which you can view updates from your friends, as opposed to MySpace or Orkut, which was extremely cumbersome by comparison.

That’s why the team has been working hard on perfecting the UI/UX of the Sapien platform.

Pictured below is a preview of the proposed update to the UI that is expected with Sapien’s next platform update. The clean approach draws the attention to the content, with easy accessibility to categories, filters and user account options.

Sapien Network UI
Proposed UI wireframe

The UI will continue to remain a subject of development efforts throughout 2018 and beyond.

2019 and Beyond

2019 is a whole different ball game for the project, shifting their focus from marketing to platform development and general refinement.

Democratized Autonomous Platform

A key feature of the Sapien platform is the Democratized Autonomous Platform (DAP) which is a mechanism that allows users to have their say on the project’s roadmap through a proposal system. SPN stakeholders will have the power to influence organizational decisions, suggest new features for the platform, and modify marketplace rewards.

The DAP will function on a staking mechanism and random set of users will be selected as validators. Furthermore, a reputation system exists to ensure that malicious actors are penalized for dishonest behaviour.

The ultimate goal is to create a system that is self-moderating and fully autonomous, where users themselves can decide what is best for the platform.

The team will be building the infrastructure for the DAP in Q1 2019.

Bolstering the Marketplace and Other User-Centric Features

The marketplace goes beyond just goods, as the SPN token plays the most important role in deciding how valuable a content is, and the more charitable goal of fighting fake news and loq quality content.

Creators receive tokens for worthwhile content from other users, and this removes the dependance on advertisements for revenue.  As Sapien grows more popular, the team wants to add to the list of available items on the marketplace, which will become the economic hub that defines the value of content creators.

This is expected to happen in Q2 2019.

Scaling to a Million Users

Growth remains one of the biggest challenges and pulling in developers will be critical in overcoming that challenge. By Q3 2019, the team hopes to open up the developer platform to third-party applications and integrations, which would mean that many more services and products could be built on top of the Sapien Network.

In tandem with their marketing efforts, this could put them on track to achieve their goal of optimizing the platform to scale, and add a million new users every month from Q4 2019, as they have stated in their roadmap.

For a detailed description of roadmap and features, we recommend reading Sapien’s whitepaper.

Past Successes Will Instill Confidence for Their Ambitious Goals

Despite the relative newness of the Sapien platform, the project has already established multiple partnerships and completed major milestones.

Most recently, Sapien partnered with Civic, the digital identity project, and was listed on LAToken. The list of collaborations extends to UC Berkeley’s Blockchain Lab, Rocket.Chat, Onfido, ComplyAdvantage and many more. The full list of partnerships can be viewed here.

The common theme among these partnership appears to be growth and utility for its users. Each one of the varied list of partners serves different purposes and helps build a robust decentralized social platform, who in collaboration with Sapien, expand the advantages of the platform.

For instance, ComplyAdvantage offers Anti-Money Laundering services for businesses to safely conduct their operations, Onfido offers biometrics for token sale security and Rocket.Chat offers a feature rich chat system.

Sapien has also checked off some notable milestones since the project really began its development cycle at the beginning of the year.

Most significant of all was the launch of the beta version of the marketplace and merchandise store. The marketplace was the first project of its kind to accept payments in native tokens, via Metamask, and allows users to purchase virtual and physical goods, including premium content, clothing and accessories.The team expects to add more goods to the store in the months to come.

We also mentioned the launch of the mobile app, which is available on both Android and iPhone.

Lastly, Sapien’s beta program, launched on April 30, allowed its ardent followers to test the platform and publish content, which resulted in the creation of over 7,000 posts and 150 micro-communities.

If they can continue to consistently develop and meet their goals, Sapien can very well reach their ambitious goal of building Web 3.0.


The sheer scale of Sapien’s efforts to overhaul the online social experience is made clear in their roadmap.

There are 2 major sides to their development efforts: marketing and infrastructure. The former is rather straightforward, given that a use case such is directly dependent on the user base. While marketing efforts may be an obvious necessity, it is no means easy and this is why Sapien is spending so many resources in raising awareness.

Infrastructure development is far more interesting, and arguably more important than marketing. Sapien has the potential to get several third parties and partners to deliver useful and creative products on the platform, which are created with end-users in mind. These end-users in turn purchase and support these features, further emphasized by elements of the platform like the Democratized Autonomous Platform.

The Web 3.0 may not be around the next corner, but it is coming, and it is platforms like the Sapien Network that will be beating a path towards it. With the successful implementation of user-centric features that preserve security, privacy and free speech, the Sapien network could be the platform that brings in the age where we are in control of our social media experience, and where we can decide what information is worth viewing and disseminating.




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Mobile Platforms




Google’s mobile web browser, Chrome, can do most of what everyone wants when it comes to navigating through a website. The engineers in Mountain View feel the application can be improved so much more and a lot of us within the community can agree. Last year, we found that Google was experimenting with a new “Chrome Home” feature that would redesign the new tab page, which has continued to evolve throughout this year. Still, the company has a long way to go before the Android version of Google Chrome reaches feature parity to its desktop counterpart. The latest activity in the Chromium Gerrit indicates that the application will soon let you rename files and choose a folder for downloads.

It was December of last year when our Editor-in-chief, Mishaal Rahman, revealed some pieces of information that he had uncovered with Google Chrome. First, we learned that Google was working on adding support for parallel downloading through their Google Chrome application. This was slated for release in version 64 of the application, but it was only being tested with the beta version of the application. The feature was to create 3 parallel jobs to speed up the download process, which has proven to increase download speeds from sources that support it.

” />google chrome download

That same month we also discovered that work was being done to enhance the standard download routine in Google Chrome. Currently, when you click a link for something that is downloaded automatically, it goes into the “Downloads” folder without any consent from you. Maybe you wanted to rename that file or maybe you wanted it to go into another folder altogether. At the time it required you to be on the nightly branch of Google Chrome and enable the hidden chrome://flags#enable-downloads-location-changeflag, but now the feature has progressed.

These new options for downloading via Google Chrome are currently available in the developer and canary version of the web browser and is it actually enabled by default. It can be disabled with the DownloadHomeModern flag. However, at this time it seems like the ability to change the download folder isn’t currently working. You can see the new option in the screenshots below.

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