For quite some time I have been preaching that autonomous cars are a boy toy fantasy myth. A tech progress fantasy used to lure literally billions of dollars from tech faithful investors, money that they will never see returned. My principle premise: artificial intelligence (AI) is not even close to being ready to join automated vehicles with humans on human playing fields.
Why? Let’s start with the fact that image recognition is in a very primitive state and not close to allowing vehicles to fend for themselves on the roadways – or even in parking lots. I’ve already posted about the infamous examples of horrible accidents caused by not-ready-for-prime-time autonomous vehicles – that we ignore at our own peril: one car ran into a turning white truck because it saw the white as sunlight; another killed a pedestrian walking a bike, because it could not see well enough in the dark, and did not have “pedestrian walking in front of me with a bike in the dark” in its image recognition database.
In a white paper I wrote for the cities of Glendale and Burbank (in my tech consulting capacity), I talked about the moral and ethical questions that loomed for automated cars that we also ignore at our own peril. AI thinks, “Should I kill the kid or the person in the wheelchair, I’m in a tough spot here, but I gotta turn right or left immediately as there is another car bearing down on me driving the wrong way in my lane.” AI 2 thinks, “In order to get on this freeway between all the cars, I am going to have to exceed the speed limit, but I don’t have any code to tell me when it is okay to break the law.” Oh, and how about the idea of every car company in the world writing it’s own ethical and moral guidelines for automated cars, because we have no social or governmental system in place to deal with these questions – where that would take us is anyone’s guess.
This week my skepticism of automated cars received a big endorsement from a tech luminary, none other than the co-founder of Apple Computer, Steve Wozniak. Steve announced that he has “lost faith” that self-driving cars are going to see widespread use in the near future.
Wozniak does not believe that the artificial intelligence systems needed for self-driving vehicles would be able to cope with the realities of driving on roads alongside manually operated vehicles.
Uh, yeah. . . .
“I don’t believe that that sort of ‘vision intelligence’ is going to be like a human,” Wozniak shared.
He came up with another problem area for these only artificially intelligent vehicles: impromptu signs being put up by police near roads. “Artificial intelligence in cars is trained to spot everything that is normal on the roads, not something abnormal,” he said. “They aren’t going to be able to read the words on signs and know what they mean. I’ve really given up.”
Good one, Steve.
Wozniak has not always been a doubter like me. In May 2017 he claimed driverless technology was the ‘biggest, most obvious moonshot” of current times.
I have to wonder what exactly changed his mind. Maybe he actually sat down and thought it through?
Because to anyone who actually has, the NOT future of autonomous cars is obvious. They are not going to happen. Not for decades perhaps centuries. If ever. Their introduction demands that societies contemplate the ethical and moral questions they raise. Who is responsible for the accidents they cause? That is not an idle question,
And any responsible society should be contemplating changes to infrastructure that might accommodate these vehicles – if we are going to eventually introduce them – like their own lanes, or their own tracks.
My biggest objection to them however has to be the fact that for all their proponents’ claims that they are the future of transportation, the ultimate in tech progress, the whole idea of autonomous vehicles is really antiquated, and I am standing like the kid in court claiming the Emperor Has No Clothes! Autonomous cars point backward to the world of selfish individuality, where everyone must have their own personal vehicle. Our future, if we are to regard the desperate state of our planet due to the burning of fossil fuels, the over-crowding, the lack of community and attention to the Commons – and do something about it – needs more public-mass transportation, not private-individual transportation, less sprawl, more walking, more biking, more foot and bike paths to accommodate those things.
Nobody I know of ever called for autonomous cars. They were a myth of progress created by the techies whose current jobs depend on them to drive industrial progress – even if it’s a progress no one needs.
Riffing About Tim Cook and Apple’s New Old Mac Mini
By Terry Bailey
Nov 4, 2018
When former Pepsi CEO John Scully was running Apple in the Nineties, I gave an interview to MacWeek, and stood behind the company and its products, then in a serious innovation slump, because I had faith Apple would pull out of their Pepsi-Money-Man doldrums and find a way to innovate again. Fortunately they did – they brought back Steve Jobs to run the company. But, unless current CEO Tim Cook and Co can locate another Steve Jobs soon, the future for Apple and its Architectural Digest new digs in Silicon Valley does not appear rosy. The Apple has lost its innovation polish.
Tim Cook has never understood the developer class, or the designer class, or the developer-designer class – those women and men who built Apple Computer into what it was. And, yes, I say into what Apple “was.” Because Apple is no longer the leader in creator digital technology. Apple has been sliding from that pinnacle perch for several years now, but it crashed in a heap from its pedestal October 30 when Mr. Cook and Company finally, finally, finally introduced the New Mac Mini that they have been promising loyal Mac users, designers and developers, for several years now.
Tim Cook is an advocate for Apple Consumers, which would be a great thing if he still had Steve Jobs around to advocate for Apple Creators. But Steve Jobs is gone, and so is any real advocacy for, allegiance to or understanding of the importance of Apple Creators. Mr. Cook and Co: without us, Apple Consumers would have nothing to consume! By ignoring us, you are absolutely biting the hand that feeds you and all your Consumers.
“Yes, we hear you,” Cook and his tech leader staff told us when we Creators voiced concern about having been left behind in favor of Consumers. For three or four years running they kept telling us they heard us.
I, like many of my tech friends, had our credit cards ready to buy the New Mini, when finally, finally, finally we learned that it was actually going to appear at the Apple Event in NYC on October 30 2018. I’d been texting for days with my tech best friend, Joe, up in San Fran. He had his credit card ready, too.
I was teaching a digital media workshop to the instructional designers at Kaiser when the morning event took place. (They were all on PCs, btw, and I on my portable teaching MacBook Pro.) You better believe, I was on my cell phone as soon as I got out of there. Pulling up the archived live stream, checking all the Apple rumor websites for details. Yes! A New Mini was announced, I texted my friend Joe. I raced back to my studio and pulled up the specs for this New Mini on the Apple website.
Wait. Wait. 3.6GHz? Isn’t that about the same as my Old Mini? And I mean old. I don’t even have the most recent, 2014, Mini. I have not used my Old Mini in over a year. It sits on my studio desk, behind my new laptop, waiting to be replaced. It houses an interactive book, Light 2.0, and all the music I wrote and recorded for it. But that book, the follow-up to my hit iTunes podcast of 2005-09, Light 1.0, has not been published because my Old Mini choked on it in its bleeding edge 2017 form.
I checked. My Old Mini has a processor speed of 2.66 GHz and is an Intel Core 2 Duo. I texted Joe, what was his? 2.0GHz, turned out his was 3 years older than mine. Talk abut patiently waiting for Apple! I checked online, the top 2014 Mini was 3.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 3.5G).
But the NEW Mini is 3.6GHz, and I’m supposed to be excited that is blazingly faster than our Old Minis?
This was supposed to be the day. The day I went online and supplied my Apple ID and bought the New Amazing Mini. The day I officially got back to building my next hit – a music and art laden iBook version my hit podcast, Light 1.0. It’s been ready for over a year. All I needed to do was finish mastering the soundtrack, the soundtrack that just wouldn’t “go” anymore on my Aged Mini. Finally, thanks to my New Amazing Mini, I’d be publishing the interactive multimedia book I’ve been promising my readers for years.
This was supposed to be the day I imagined Creators like Joe and me, all over the country, lining up their credit cards and Apple IDs to purchase the Amazing New Minis.
Because the NEW Mini is barely faster that my 2011 Mini. And this NEW Mini has a hard drive storage of 128GB. What?? My 2011 Mini came standard with 500GB, and Joe’s 2008 Mini came with 256 gigs.
And the NEW Mini comes with 4GB of RAM memory. What?? My 2011 Mini came standard with 8GB of RAM.
What is up with this? And this NEW Mini is $799 while my old one was $599. Okay, I can understand a little inflation between 2011 and 2018. But this NEW Mini actually comes with way less than my (7 year) Old Mini!
So I go into Apple’s Buy page and employ all the pulldown menus to see what this NEW Mini will cost if I at least upgrade it to have the same specs as my 2011 OLD Mini as far as storage and RAM memory. And it turns out it will cost me over $1200!
Did you hear that?
$1200 to buy a New Mini that is a little faster but everything else being equal, the Same Ol’ Mini I bought for $599 in 2011.
Oh, It has a USB-C and HDMI connector. Well, duh. It has to connect to stuff in the modern world, of course, but I would hardly call being able to connect to other modern stuff an innovative or new feature.
I text “never mind” to Joe up in San Fran.
Joe and I talk later. We can’t believe it, either one of us. What a letdown.
But none of the journalists are reporting this fiasco yet. One guy is talking about how he can stack them as servers.
Yeah, and I could stack them as doorstops.
I read another journalist who does at least broach the subject of how Tim Cook is trying to upscale the price of all his products, and alludes to the fact that Cook is a jerk for doing this with the New Mini for Creators like he has done with all his Consumer products, but the journalist just winds up telling all of us that he will buy it anyway.
So, what I am looking at is a bunch of corporate sponsored tech journalists who are afraid to tell the truth. “The Emperor has no clothes!”
And here I was anticipating that Apple was going to make a fortune this coming month and holiday season due to all the pent up demand for the Amazing NEW Mini.
Who are we? These Die-Hard Mini Advocates who have waited expectantly and patiently for so long?
Unlike Tim Cook’s misguided idea that we are a bunch of amateur, cheap, computer novices who bought, and remained faithful to, the Old Mini as our computer “entry point,” this is who we are:
• We are computer designers, and new media producers, and WEB designers, and UX consultants, and digital artists who did not want to buy or use Apple’s “all-in-one” iMac computer any more that any of us want to use all-in-one printers. We are professionals and we want to configure our own set-ups, and we want to use professional grade equipment. We are also not idiots, and know that if one part of an all-in-one anything goes kaput, the whole machine is a goner.
• We are high end programmers and WEB / App developers who often take our computers (i.e. all our stuff) with us to events and to the offices of colleagues, and just plug them in at these off-site locations. The Mini was our computer of choice because it was portable that way.
• We are Pros who have so many other pieces of equipment on our desks that the Mini with its tiny footprint was a welcome relief to those old huge desktop towers.
• We are Pros who need power, but not as much power as the Mac Pro Towers (which btw are outdated, too). We are not editing giant feature length movies with hundreds of thousands of minutes of picture and sound, but we may very well be creating short-length videos for the WEB.
• We are Creatives who love to use monitors of our own choice (the Mini comes sans keyboard and monitor), often more than one, and the Mini allowed us to do this.
• We are professionals working independently who need to keep costs down, so the ability to buy a monitor at Best Buy or some other electronics store for a couple hundred dollars was huge in terms of our bottom lines.
• And we are not just Creatives. My accountant and my insurance agent both have old Minis on their desks waiting to be upgraded.
• We are Cutting Edge Professionals who need to stay at the forefront of technology, and did so buying new computers every two to three years, keeping Apple in green for decades – until they failed to deliver Mini updates.
• We are faithful Apple Computer users (I bought my first Apple computer in 1984!) – but that era may finally be coming to an end for many of us.
My friend Joe, who does lots of 3D, and now wants to get into 3D printing, is eyeing Windows PCs after Tim Cook’s disappointing “event.” He shared with me how Apple has been behind in 3D for years, but he had always expected them to catch up. The Mini introduction appears to signal the end of Joe’s patience for the idea that Apple will ever respect its professional users again since reconfiguring itself as a Consumer Company when Money Man Tim Cook took the helm post Steve Jobs.
Me? I’m going to get a new monitor for my laptop, give up on my dream of an Amazing New Mini. And spend some time contemplating how I will finish my interactive multimedia book, Light 2.0 with all its art and music. Will it still be an Apple iBook, or will I look in other directions there, too? The jury is out.
I am still in shock at the realization that Tim Cook and Co. really don’t respect the class of people who MAKE all the stuff that runs on their consumer watches and iPhones and iPads and laptops. I am still in shock about the fact that Tim Cook and Co have configured their greedy business plan to ignore the Creator Hands that feed them – their Designers and Developers – and lumped us in with the Consumers whom they are going to keep sticking with higher and higher price tags, because they can.
Because the only way to continue escalating profits when a company is not innovating is to raise product prices. This may satisfy some Shareholders with continued increased profits in the short-term, but in the long-term . . . .
Last week, the guy I have always referred to as the Pepsi Man, John Scully, former Apple CEO, (and Pepsi CEO before that), accused Tim Cook of not innovating. Ironic coming from the man who almost ran Apple into the ground in the late 90s due to his lack of innovating! But, Scully is not that far off target, in spite of Scully’s lack of critiquing credentials. Tim Cook has not innovated. He has marketed and monetized all the Apple products that the real innovator, Steve Jobs created. And he has done a good job of it.
But the gold mine of innovation Tim Cook inherited from Jobs has run its course. Now Cook is upping product prices in an effort to squeeze the last drop out of that mound of innovation.
And at Apple’s October 30 event, Cook demonstrated his intent to take a bite out of the Professional Creator Hands that fed Apple for decades with his introduction of the New Old Mini.
Sad sad sad.
When John Scully was running Apple in the Nineties, I gave an interview to MacWeek, and stood behind the company and its products, then in a serious innovation slump, because I still had faith Apple would pull out of their Pepsi-Money-Man doldrums and find a way to innovate again. Fortunately they did – they brought back Steve Jobs to run the company.
But unless Tim Cook and Co can locate another Steve Jobs soon, the future for Apple and its Architectural Digest new digs in Silicon Valley is not very rosy. The Apple has lost its innovation polish.
Terry Bailey: Oct. 20, 2018 – Subbed a college coding class last week. Students asked if I had a smart phone. I said, “Of course.” They said, “Most of our professors still have flip phones.”
Note: Several people here clicked the like and the funny emojis, and others left the following comments, to which I responded.
CC: Many of them are part-timers living on subsistence wages, cobbling together a meager income from three or four institutions. Flip phones are all they can afford.
MS: This is so true. It doesn’t matter of the community colleges pay better they still pay shit. I had to teach 24 credit hours in order to pay my bills and I don’t have a car payment and I only pay a couple hundred dollars a month on my student loans. It’s criminal what they’re paying professors.< JK: Only if you’re a full time tenured or tenure track faculty member. Part-time faculty are paid by the course at a very low rate with zero job security. And part-timers make up the majority of the faculty.
CC: Only if you’re a full time tenured or tenure track faculty member. Part-time faculty are paid by the course at a very low rate with zero job security. And part-timers make up the majority of the faculty.
MS: Just FYI they lowered the starting pay for profs at some CCs to 50k full time. I left academia after 20 years of this crap.
MS: That’s in SoCal where 50k isn’t gonna pay for much
JK: I heard of a couple jobs at ELAC that paid a lot. Temp biology gigs, but, for whatever reason, they were high.
E: The jobs I see on their website are 65 an hour. I agree that 50k is too low. That’s absurd for teaching at college full time.
Terry Bailey: While I can certainly sympathize with the salary plight of college professors, the intent of my post was to share the plight of students, not teachers. And while, at first glance, my post may seem comedic, it is not. As I stated, this was a coding (programming) class (in a computer science department). I teach design and programming of web sites and computer apps. What the students were referring to is the fact that the teachers who are supposed to be teaching them these subjects don’t even have the devices that these web sites and computer apps run on! This is pathetic. While in some cases it may be that professors can’t afford them, in other cases the professors are simply old-school and have not kept up with technology. A professor simply can’t do an adequate job of teaching smart phone app or mobile web site design if she/he does not own or use a smart phone! Would you want someone who had never flown an airplane teaching your kid how to fly? This post is not intended to propose solutions for professors’ lack of knowledge or equipment, I am simply trying to start raising alarms about the serious problems facing students in our schools today. When class ended, three of the students insisted on walking out with me. I was almost brought to tears when they surrounded me on the sidewalk after class asking me if I was going to teach full-time in the spring, asking if I taught somewhere else that they could take classes. “You have what we need to know, ” one of them told me.
TF: Wow. This is what they get for the student debt.
Pictured is Galileo. We learned in history class how he was banished for his heretical scientific discoveries. What we did not learn was that other men, and women, were executed for such beliefs. What we did not learn was that because he was a devout Catholic, with important Church ties, he only received house arrest, and that his house arrest was the ability to live out his life on his estate, not in some hovel.
What we did not learn was that Galileo was a married man with three children who abandoned his wife and children when he began to achieve scientific prominence.
What we did not learn was that Galileo managed to obtain an imperial pension for his abandoned son so that the son was able to live a pretty normal life. What we did not learn was that Galileo wound up having his two daughters committed to a convent at ages 11 and 12. What we did not learn was that the younger daughter had a nervous breakdown as soon as she was banished to the convent, from which she never recovered. What we did not learn was that the elder daughter spent her life writing letters to her father, begging him to get permission for her to leave the convent just to pay him a visit – something he never did for her.
What we did not learn was whatever happened to his wife.
The abuse and subjugation of women takes many forms and has done so since year one. Literally.
Dr. Marc Rayman, Chief Engineer and Mission Director of NASA’s Dawn Mission told an audience at JPL last Thursday night: “NASA’s motto is ‘If it isn’t impossible, it isn’t worth doing.’ ”
I think this will be my new motto, too. It seems to be a pretty good description of my life!
I remember one of the first space scientist lectures I attended after moving to Pasadena. It was at Caltech, and it was celebrating all the scientists who worked on the various missions over the many years leading up to the Curiosity Mission to Mars. One of the speakers explained to us about the earliest space scientists: “You need to remember that they had no mentors, no role models! There was no such thing a a spaceship or space travel before they built the first one.” Turns out many of them had been driven and “ideaized” by sci-fi! I love it!
When I finish my Light 2.0 interactive multimedia novel, I really want to write something that draws the parallels between these scientist starting off to invent space travel, and the life of a woman in tech and science – who typically has no role models or mentors simply by the fact of her gender. I’m starting here.
In college (BA Film Undergraduate) I was once hired to record the live performance of a 300 voice choir, with soloists and musicians and a pianist, in San Francisco’s Civic Center Auditorium. Before that the most I had ever recorded on location was a band and a small school choir with a Nagra recorder hooked up to a film camera.
There were no mentors or advisors for me to turn to. On concert day, the director of the project simply pointed to a box of gear and told me where to set up my mixing station and whom to talk to if I wanted to tap into the auditorium’s PA. When I opened the very large crate, I had no idea what half the items in it even were. I skipped the PA tap because, truthfully, I didn’t know what that meant. I will save the details for some essay in the future, but, I will share here that somehow with the help of my little sister whom I had dragged along with me and who was furious because she knew that neither of us knew what we were doing, I pulled it off.
I put all that equipment together, remembered pictures in my sound books about mic placement, circumvented the PA, taught myself how to solder, mixed a 16-channel recording of a live performance, and a few weeks later got a call from the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in San Francisco (the performance I recorded was of a choir composed of choirs of every religion from all over San Francisco) thanking me for the outstanding recording I had created of the day’s performance. To this day I can’t believe I pulled it off!
For years when people asked me how I learned so much about sound in college (I wound up building an Academy Award winning sound post-production studio for producer Saul Zaentz after I completed my undergraduate degree in film), I used to tell them how I apprenticed with the staff engineer at my university. For years I did not know why I gave that as my standard answer. For it was a lie. I am going to speculate today, because I am thinking more deeply about these things now, that I said it because I figured it would give me more credibility than telling people I taught myself. Especially because I was a girl, and was always struggling to be taken seriously. That and the fact that the truth somehow embarrassed and humiliated (and hurt?) me.
The truth being that when I asked him if he would mentor me, he said no. Not only that, but when I went back to him, after learning he had a daughter, and posed the question to him differently, persuasively: “How would you feel if you knew your daughter, like me, some day went to some man and asked for help so she could get a leg up in the world and he said no?” – Unmoved, he still said no.
And yet for years I told people that I went to him with that question, and he agreed to mentor me and that was how I came to know all about sound engineering. When in truth I learned by doing my Workstudy in the sound lab of the university for 20 hours a week. And by engineering and mixing the soundtracks of all my peer’s college movies. And by reading every sound recording and physics of sound book I could get my hands on. And by listening to sound. Everywhere.
So, yeah, I kinda know what it has been like for these scientists, inventing things that have never existed before, pulling off feats and expeditions of great complexity – each usually for the first time. But one big difference is that they have each other. Maybe no mentors of people who have gone before, but each other. Most of us women who have been raised in this patriarchal society have pulled off the things we have done for the most part on our own. I hope that will change one day.
P.S. If you would like to learn about the Dawn Mission to Vespa and Ceres (exoplanets in our solar system that were thought to be actual planets until the mid 1800s, but which are actually planetary bodies whose growth was stunted by other solar system happenings before they could become full-fledged planets), check out the video of Dr. Rayman’s wonderful, and curiously amusing, lecture here: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/lectures_archive.php?year=2016&month=7
by interactive new media author & artist Terry Bailey