• In a world of digital landlords and nano-sensors, the ones and zeros are king.

    Hello everyone and welcome to the Tech Journal. My name is Mark van Rijmenam, and I am The Digital Speaker.

    Throughout this series, I, or my real-world twin, have teleported my digital brother, me, into cyberspace to bring you the latest in digital breakthroughs.

    From bioinformatics and bitcoin, through to quantum computing and AI, I want to take a closer look at what digital innovations mean for our personal and professional lives. Let’s take a quick look at what I am covering on today’s show.

    You can either view the episode above or view it on Vimeo, YouTube or listen to it on Anchor.fm, Soundcloud or Spotify

    Introduction

    To start, I am going to explore an emerging trend in the digital sphere, an increasing aversion to over digitised tech and we may be on the cusp of an analogue renaissance.

    After, we will go to the other end of the digital spectrum and examine how the land I am standing on now, this digital world I exist in, could one day be worth more than land in the real world.

    Then, for the final segment in today’s digital download, I am going to take a look at bioinformatics. What is it and what it spells for the digital future of healthcare.

    And with that, my systems are fully charged, the data is collected and correlated, and my parameters are ready. It is time to start your digital download.

    An Analogue Renaissance

    A couple of years ago, Apple officially confirmed they intentionally slow down older phone models in order to “encourage”, and I use that term very liberally, consumers to buy the latest model.

    This news came only a year after the iPhone 7 was released, a model which famously removed the universal headphone jack in favour of pairing their devices with wireless headphones, sold separately, of course.

    Little did Apple realise, but their actions jump-started a movement within millennials, a movement built on the resentment of the constant forward march of digitalisation.

    This only confirmed what millennials knew anyway, backed up by a SocialChorus study, showing only 6% of millennials consider online advertising to be credible.

    Being the first generation to be young enough to embrace digital tech, but old enough to remember playing outside, millennials have found themselves in a unique position, between a rock and a hard place.

    Or, more aptly, between digital and analogue.

    Unlike Generation Z, whose streaming idols and social media lives have been digital since their birth, Millennial idols were straight out of analogue TV studios and paper magazines.

    This aversion to digital tech can be seen in the statistic dug up by Forrester Research back in 2014, might as well be 100 years ago, I know, that states 29% of internet-using American adults do not use smartphones as their main phones.

    To get a more recent number, we can look to a 2020 Nielsen study, which states over 85% of millennials own smartphones.

    So, to invert that, 15% of millennials do not own smartphones. 15% refuse to be a part of the digital world.

    But what does this mean then?

    Well, the underlying desire for less complex digital devices, devices that do not demand twenty-four-hour attention, is being translated into the growing “Dumbphone” trend.

    According to a Counterpoint research project reported by the Wall Street Journal, while international smartphone sales dropped in 2018, smart feature phone shipments, in other words, dumbphones, rose to roughly seventy-five million, going up to eighty-four million the following year.

    Pricing also plays a role, with complicated digital devices, like iPhones, averaging around a thousand dollars, a considerable price difference with dumbphones, which on average hit the twenty-five dollar mark.

    But it is not just Hipster millennials who are not using smartphones.

    According to We Are Social, also reported by the Wall Street Journal, even as wealthy nations look towards rolling out 5G, roughly three point four billion people are still smart phone free and remain cut off from the digital world.

    Something which, if you watched my Space Internet video, Elon Musk’s Starlink aims to solve.

    If the trend continues and as Millennials get older, becoming increasingly nostalgic for the nineties, digital giants, like Apple, may adjust their business model to accommodate this growing trend.

    It would not be the first-time digital tech has been side-lined for an analogue version. Digital music was and still is looked down on in favour of analogue records.

    Digital Real Estate

    While some digital technologies are forsaken in favour of analogue ones, recently, one of the most analogue industries in existence made its way into the digital sphere. Real Estate.

    Earlier this year, the digital realm, Axie Infinity, reported a record Digital Real Estate sale.

    The platform sold nine digital land plots for eight hundred and eighty-eight point two five Ether, roughly translating to one point five million US dollars.

    A significant jump from the average digital land plot price of three hundred and forty-three US dollars.

    Madness.

    So, why did the buyer pay so much?

    Well, Axie Infinity offers NFTs, non-fungible tokens, for ‘Axies’, creatures that live in the player-controlled crypto-Tamagotchi virtual ecosystem, dubbed, ‘Lunacia’.

    The more land you have, the more creatures you have access to, which translates into more NFTs.

    The buyer, who goes by the name ‘Flying Falcon’ and describes himself as a “digital landowner” on his Twitter, tweeted, “We’re witnessing a historic moment; the rise of digital nations with their own systems of clearly delineated, irrevocable property rights. Axie land has entertainment value, social value, and economic value in the form of future resource flows.”

    To translate that, Mr Falcon sees great potential to make money from the land and has great faith in the land’s longevity.

    This isn’t the first time digital real estate set real-world records, though.

    Back in 2010, Jon Jacobs, an Entropia Universe user, set a record when he sold his asteroid to another player, John Foma Kalun, known as ‘pesok’, for three hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars.

    Another, arguably ancient, example comes from the retro game, Second Life.

    A player known online as ‘Anshe Chung’, bought and developed virtual real estate, and reportedly made one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, annually, from the pursuit.

    Nevertheless, NFTs are a fascinating development and the recent auction of Beeple’s masterwork for $69 million shows what a strange world we seem to live in. For those who missed this, the digital artist sold a JPEG that anyone can view on his or her computer for the staggering amount of $69 million. In fact, I have it right here in my studio! NFTs are rapidly changing the digital world and I will certainly cover NFTs a lot more.

    Bioinformatics

    With traditional digital tech moving back towards analogue, and analogue businesses moving into the digital sphere, there is one industry where digital tech will always be chosen over analogue, the healthcare industry.

    One of the latest digital innovations to come out of the bioinformatics world are nano-sensors.

    Bioinformatics is the field that develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data.

    These nano-sensors, or bio-nano materials, are used to analyse biomolecules in an effort to detect cancers mutations and diseases significantly earlier than is currently possible.

    So, what type of real-world things can nano-sensors pick up on?

    Nano-sensors are designed to inspect the small stuff, the stuff human eyes and tools struggle with. These sensors, once present in a patient, can analyse DNA in real-time.

    As Kat Arney, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, put it, “They are looking for ways to detect DNA that has been shed by tumour cells”.

    Once present in the bloodstream, nano-sensors are small enough to detect these changes and can be used as a way of monitoring cancerous cells without the need for scans or biopsies.

    And according to a study coming out from The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, it did just that.

    The study involved 55 women who had been successfully treated for early-stage breast cancer.

    With the nano-sensors in their blood, a simple blood test was enough to detect cancer resurgence at an average of seven-point-nine months before any visible signs appeared.

    Due to their smaller size, durability, the potential to be controlled by a single AI, and enhanced biocompatibility, Thomas Webster, nano-tech engineer and chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering at Northeastern University in Boston, had this to say.

    “We think there’s a strong promise for nanotechnology that’s used in medicine, obviously because the small size allows you to penetrate cells, get inside cells and manipulate their function in ways that you can’t do with conventional material.”

    What is more, with the inclusion of deep mind AI to analyse medical results, we are looking at a potential situation where AI nano-bots can detect and treat mutations inside a cell, without instruction.

    The Future

    Without going too far into the realm of imagination, this form of deeptech, a technology designed to solve some of mankind’s biggest scientific and engineering challenges, has the potential to dramatically increase the average lifespan, and even eradicate cancer.

    If we then also take into account other digital innovations I covered in previous videos, like, Liquid Neural Networks, nanosensors, and AlphaFold protein folding, we suddenly find we are looking at a near-future where digital healthcare speeds up exponentially.

    Much like in the same way we watched screen and network technology, like the internet, smartphones, and TVs, take off in the early millennium, taking us to a place where we are using devices that were confined to the pages of science fiction only twenty years ago.

    Final Thoughts

    What types of inventions and solutions do you think bioinformatics can solve? What about nano-sensors?

    Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

    And on that e-note, I have been your digitised host, Mark van Rijmenam, The Digital Speaker.

    This has been The Tech Journal.

    If digital tech floats your processors, be the first out of your network to hear about the latest digital breakthroughs.

    Press the subscribe button now, our digital algorithmic overlords command it.

    See you next time for your information download.

    Stay digital.


    If I managed to retain your attention to this point, please leave subscribe to my weekly newsletter to receive more of this content:

    Dr Mark van Rijmenam is The Digital Speaker and he offers inspirational (virtual) keynotes on the future of work, either in-person, as an avatar or as a hologram, bringing your event to the next level:

    Get in touch