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Comment The cult of innovation (Score 3, Interesting) 357

Innovation, invention and discovery are certainly important and can allow us to more easily or efficiently address needs, but when we are talking about "innovation" or innovative people most of the time what we are really talking about is creative problem solving using already existing methods, knowledge and technology.

It is easy to look at IT and see how real innovations have contributed to a transformation of many aspects of society over the last half century and then fall into the cult of innovation as a sort of belief in perpetual innovation as a means for the betterment of society. But both a longer view and more critical view of our day to day society should confirm the importance of understanding that you already have many of the technological tools and methods needed to address today's needs. And a good application of those already known technological tools and methods should be the priority of problem solving rather than innovation merely for the sake of innovation.

Surely there is always a need for innovation, especially in medicine where virus are constantly evolving to maximize their contagion and our existing tools need to be adapted to new challenges. But in other technology areas the problem domain does not change as remarkably over time. And already developed technology is well suited for most day to day challenges.

Sure you can probably cite a thousand different examples where today's technology is inadequate to a problem or need, but I think the point is that it is no less noble or worthy to address the tens of thousands of those other problems and human needs that can be worked on without the need for any fundamental innovation.

Comment Re:Xenophobia (Score 1) 268

Sounds like free market competition to me.

H1Bs are not "free market", since it is difficult (although not impossible) for the visa holder to change employers. There should be several reforms to the H1B program:
1. The workers should be able to change employers at will.
2. Instead of a lottery, there should be an auction. That way the quotas go to the companies that need/value them the most, and it is doubtful they could be used for "cheap labor".

At the very least "Guest worker" programs should pay people 10% or 20% more than prevailing wages, let people change jobs "by right" without any additional paperwork and be capped well below demand and auctioned off according to the highest salary.

But much better to let people that actually want to come here and be Americans stay here as either green card holders and put them on a path to citizenship. There are already far too many people living here that are living in a society apart from the rest of us. Immigration has been the life blood of this country... not non-immigrant guest worker programs.

Students who come here for 4, 5 and 6 years for education should be a priority as they are usually already well socialized in American Society.

Comment Re:The end is near? (Score 1) 481

We can build the necessary nuclear plants, except the very same people saying "we're all gonna die unless we do something!!" are also out in force to protest against nuclear being one of the answers....

Nuclear could be THE answer to preventing future climate change. We could quadruple the capacity of our existing nuclear electricity plants with new reactors, especially the sites located miles away from large population centers and pretty much solve the problem of climate change.

We have dumped more money into wasteful or futile government programs than it would cost to simply write a check and solve the problem of climate change in the next ten or fifteen years. No mass sacrifice of our productive capacity, no huge hit to the world economy, no shifting of pollution to other countries like China to pretend that we have solved the problem, just solve the energy problem (for hundreds or maybe thousands of years) and allow us to put our intellectual and engineering resources to work on solving all the other problems that face us.

Comment Re:It makes sense in NYC (Score 1) 124

Any additional sharing of rides will result in less vehicles on the road. But also no more driving around looking for a parking space so there is a double benefit. If we could get rid of half of the parking lots on the cities and do something more productive with them, we would live in a much different world. I've heard that 65% of the surface area of Los Angeles is dedicated to cars.

Autonomous cars will still need to park somewhere relatively close by to be useful. But parking/car storage can be further away than walking distance, so a 5 to 10 minute drive away instead of 5 minute walk. And if there can be fewer cars then that really does free up space for new development in desirable areas. Where car storage can go into vacant lots and industrial areas further away.

But I think planners need to be more careful than they have been in the past in permitting greater and greater density in order to avoid over saturating the road network again. So it would be good to see some of that parking used for pocket parks and amenities rather than all for new residential/commercial development. Make the cities more livable and enjoyable for people and not just pack in more people.

Comment Re:Say goodbye to a lot of tax revenue (Score 1) 124

Giving up $500M in city revenue is not worth some vaguely stated increase in prosperity.

It's great to be on the cutting edge of technology. But for that kind of revenue, why doesn't the city improve the current taxi system rather than let Uber in? Better systems and apps for drivers seems like a small price to pay in order to hang onto a rather significant revenue source.

City is going to get revenue one way or another. Autonomous vehicles wouldn't be tax free.

I wouldn't assume we are talking about Uber.

Comment Re:It makes sense in NYC (Score 1) 124

Ride shares and self driving cars will NOT solve the transportation gridlock problem. Cars simply do not have the capacity of real public transit:

MIT just showed that there is real potential for self driving cars to help the gridlock problem by reducing the number of cars on the road while still meeting the demand for point to point non-mass transit transportation.

In the sense that new technology can effectively increase capacity of the existing road network it is likely that new growth will simply take up the slack and result in more gridlock. Which is good in the sense that it enables economic growth up to the new capacity, but it would be better if there could be some limits put on that growth below the transportation system's saturation point.

People will always need lower capacity transportation options for last mile, low frequency routes and off peak transportation so mass transit is no panacea either and suffers from the same type of gridlock problems with over saturation of the network at peak times due to poor planning.

Comment Re:Say goodbye to a lot of tax revenue (Score 0) 124

Medallions cost around $1 million each. Do you really think a ten billion dollar asset is just going to roll over and play dead?

Whichever cities try to block autonomous taxis will be left behind economically. Even New York would eventually have to come around or else see their prosperity diminished.

When a technology comes around that can both improve quality of life and increase prosperity through economic efficiency blocking it is not a viable option.

Comment Re:Cars that don't have autonomous should be banne (Score 1) 151

Seat belts and airbags are not an apt comparison because they were always intended to be a cheap and basic solution. Autonomy is the exact opposite of that. It is hard to see if it can ever be adopted to the extent that will save a significant amount of lives. Therefore it shouldn't even enter into consideration at this point.

In what way is putting an explosive charge to inflate a bag in the steering wheel seem like a basic solution? That is some very precise engineering.

I don't see a few cameras, maybe a bit of lidar, with some coding to not hit stuff as too complicated. If you code it the right way then worst case it should stop when it sees something in its path. Cars are very complex systems already.

Comment Re:Cars that don't have autonomous should be banne (Score 1) 151

As long as Uber is putting these cars on the road intending for them to one day be autonomous and in the name of training them to be autonomous, then they should be technically ready to be autonomous. If they are not technically ready to be autonomous then they need to go back to the drawing board and get better hardware.

I've never heard a better description of a catch 22.

So, should we take every car off the road that has collision avoidance technology just because car manufacturers are collecting data with the intent of someday making the cars fully autonomous? This is technology meant to save lives. Seat belts and airbags also had their problems and failed to save lives under particular circumstances and with defects, but if we had used your criteria of provable perfection then a lot of people would be dead that didn't need to be.

Comment Re:Cars that don't have autonomous should be banne (Score 1) 151

If the Uber cars are really capable of avoiding cyclists, why does Uber not just say so? Also if their cars are so teachable why don't they just go through a couple proper turns with a pilot and resolve that issue forever more? If anything, regulation is highlighting some real glaring gaps in their implementation here and that's a good thing.

Uber is saying that these are not autonomous cars as defined under the California regulations. For the purposes of the regulations these are cars with driver assist technology being operated by licensed drivers. For regulatory purposes this should be regulated the same way as all the other car companies that are offering some sort of driver assist technology. It would be a mismatch if you make Uber go through some licensing/certification process intended for fully autonomous vehicles if they are not fully autonomous vehicles. Sure maybe Uber is trying to live in some gray area of regulation, like they like to do, but it also seems that the regulators are trying to apply some standards that may not be applicable.

Comment Cars that don't have autonomous should be banned. (Score 1) 151

San Francisco bicyclists can breathe a sigh of relief now

Yes, much better not to have cars that will automatically try to avoid hitting bicycles. People are much more reliable than machines... well except for the hundreds of thousands of times every year when people driven cars they hit people, other cars, and other stuff.

Sarcasm... yes. As a society we should be mandating adoption of this technology and improving it, not treating it like a safety threat to be slowed down. In the next 5 years there should be a prohibition against allowing any car on the market that doesn't have autonomous collision avoidance features. Once we have cars that won't allow drivers to hit stuff unless the driver specifically disables that feature (like choosing to disable an air bag or not buckling your seat belt) then fully autonomous is a natural progression.

Comment Re:DMV offered to bend the rules for Uber. (Score 1) 151

I didn't read it that way. Under the law it really did appear that Uber had a valid point that they weren't operating their cars fully autonomously since there was a driver at the wheel ready to take over control like with Tesla's and other manufacturer's cars. It isn't at all clear if all the other manufacturers have autonomous permits for their driver assist technologies like self braking. It seems the permit should only have been necessary when transitioning to fully autonomous operation with no driver at the wheel.

Comment Re:But... (Score 1) 44

But I was told by Slashdotters that government people didn't understand the Internet and therefore such attempts would be useless. What is next, saying that DRM actually has an effect on casual piracy?

That was true... until governments hired us all. Now we are the Man.

Comment Re:The no-rules no-ethics new dotcom boom (Score 1) 156

Exactly. People think the medallion system is some sort of magical fairy to assure quality and safety. It is hard to believe that people are that stupid.

Admittedly I have only take a few Uber rides, but in terms of safety and quality they compare favorably to the worst of the taxi service rides I have taken. I've had at least a few rides in taxis where I wasn't sure I was going to make it to my destination because of mechanical issues, a few rides in taxis where they were just dirty and unpleasant and a few rides in taxis where the person driving seemed to be a bit mentally unstable. I am sure there are plenty of people having those same sorts of experiences with Uber, but I think the customer feedback system are actually far more effective at correcting issues than city run inspections for taxi services. That is just my experience.

That said, I know here in Boston the city is pushing for Uber drivers to be finger printed like taxi drivers, supposedly to allow a more complete background check.. The counter argument is that you should be able to get all the information you need from the drivers license and even more sensitive workers like childcare workers and teachers don't get fingerprinted for their background checks. Of course why wouldn't you just fingerprint everyone with a driver's license if a driver's license is so easy to fake that you need to get fingerprints to ensure against identity theft. It would be relatively trivial to add a finger print scanner at the DMV/RMV where they take your picture.

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