Uber self-driving car kills pedestrian

Source: Uber self-driving car fatality halts testing in all cities, report says


Miso scores $10 million to bring its hamburger-flipping robot to more restaurants

One of many companies working to automate the restaurant business and reduce labor and benefits costs:

Pasadena-based hardware startup Miso Robotics just got a big vote of confidence from investors, in the form of a $10 million Series B. This latest windfall led by Acacia Research Corporation brings…

Source: Miso scores $10 million to bring its hamburger-flipping robot to more restaurants | TechCrunch

Autonomous self driving cars’ sensor arrays may be used for intensive public surveillance

Autonomous self-driving cars are continuously surveying their surroundings using an array of sensors and recording this to memory.

In the event of an accident of malfunction, this data can be retrieved for analysis.

However, this data could also be retrieved as surveillance data – even when the vehicle itself has not been in an crash.

Consider, a bike versus human driven car crash at an intersection. Two other vehicles at the intersection are autonomous vehicles and they have recorded the entire scenario, in detail, including subject and object positions and travel speeds.

All of this data is available to the police. Police agencies that today operate their own license plate readers and intersection surveillance cameras might choose to contract with autonomous vehicle companies for use as public data collection systems. When your autonomous vehicle is connected to your EV charging station, it might communicate over WiFi to upload collected data to a master database.

This is not particularly difficult or far fetched and police may already have the legal authority to pursue this collection.

Source: Why cops won’t need a warrant to pull the data off your autonomous car | Ars Technica

Data mining is a questionable activity when databases are filled with crap

I need to replace an old toilet and had to order one at Lowe’s. It seems they only stock the “tall” version of toilets now days, rather than old fashioned regular height toilets.

We go to a Point of Sale system where a staff member logs in to place the order. It looks like its running a VT100 emulator – like 1970s or 1980s technology. It’s apparently old Unix but looks like DOS, if you get the picture (yeah, its ancient technology).

They enter my phone number to look me up in their database – and it returns someone with my name in a city and state I have never been in.

We are told how wonderful information systems are to improving efficiencies and effectiveness in organizations, and in presenting new marketing opportunities.

But bad data and bad data mining occur everywhere and render such ideas moot.

Last week, we received a sample products package for Mom’s who’ve recently given birth, for a family member who has never lived in this house and who is not pregnant nor recently given birth, and which was addressed to her pre-married name. A bit of looking online finds others have received these sample products.  One recipient called the company and found they buy customer lists from many stores like Toys R Us, and what not, and run data mining software to discern facts about people. And then promptly mail them a sample products package as part of their marketing efforts. Garbage in –> Garbage out.

Meanwhile, my GMail account became so overwhelmed with email for other people that I had to trash it. Except I can’t – the apps I have on my phone are under my email address. I have, however, moved all of my email correspondence to a different email provider. However, my GMail account receives billing statements for other people with the same name who likely entered an incorrect email address for our similar names.

We know that GMail runs artificial intelligence analysis on our email to build up a marketing profile. It is not scanning for keywords – it is literally the equivalent of someone reading all of your email and taking notes (another reason to leave GMail). GMail is taking notes on other people’s correspondence but attributing those emails to me. Google is building a dossier on me, for marketing purposes, based upon analyzing emails that have nothing to do with me – in other words, Google’s dossier on me is full of crap.

Most of the email I receive on that account is to other people who entered the wrong email address. Consequently, I receive monthly billing statements from businesses I’ve never done business with, in cities and state’s I have never lived in. I receive reminders to take my BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Volkswagen vehicles in for maintenance (I own none of those). I also receive notices of bills not paid (apparently I am a dead beat BMW owner except none of these are mine). I receive all kinds of emails for products and services I have never used, from vendors I do not know. The email account is completely wrecked. Yet Google continues to analyze email in that account without recognizing its all garbage.

One time when we pulled a credit report on ourselves, we found data records saying we had lived in places we had never lived, and employment history showing us working at places we had never been to (we requested the records be corrected).

All of these grand databases that are being data mined to improve marketing are full of crap. No amount of artificial intelligence, data science or data mining can fix that these databases are full of crap information.

Within 20 years, a majority of today’s jobs may be automated

Study finds that 2 in 3 jobs in Las Vegas may be automated by 2035. That’s just the headline.

The real story is that 50% or more of jobs in most metro areas at a risk of automation by 2035. Areas in yellow, orange and red indicate where more than 50% of local jobs are at risk of being automated by 2035.

Source: Future job automation to hit hardest in low wage metropolitan areas like Las Vegas, Orlando and Riverside-San Bernardino | ISEA

Studies like these should be viewed as “possible scenarios” and not as absolute predictions for the future.

Automation has been happening for a hundred years. New, low cost technology enables automation to be applied in places where it was previously cost prohibitive or the tasks were too difficult to automate. This change is happening quickly.

Again, as frequently noted on this blog, automation is happening. The rapid increase in minimum wage and benefit requirements is accelerating the trend towards automation, improved work place efficiency and variable cost cutting – and a loss of many types of jobs (not all job losses will be low skilled either).

Major demographic change could lead to more robotics, automation because fewer workers available

This discussion by Charles Schwab & Co highlights that the ratio of workers to non-workers is dropping and may reach 1 to 1 in another 20 years in many parts of the world.

When labor is abundant businesses make less investment in “productivity enhancing technology”. Presumably the opposite is true – as labor supply shrinks, businesses will invest in more automation. This comes at a time when the capabilities of automation are increasing rapidly while the costs are dropping dramatically.

When the global labor supply became more abundant, spending on productivity enhancing technology by businesses became less attractive or necessary. Wages stagnated along with productivity and spare capacity helped keep inflation in check. But as labor becomes more scarce, the opposite should occur: greater investment in productivity enhancing technologies, faster wage growth, and tighter capacity leading to higher—but not runaway—inflation.

Inflation may be kept from a destructive resurgence and social programs for the elderly from becoming overburdened if productivity rebounds with more business investment in productivity-enhancing technologies, including robots and artificial intelligence.

Source: Expecting the Unexpected: Is a Demographic Disaster Looming? | Charles Schwab

As noted repeatedly on this blog, automation is coming anyway – rising minimum wages are not the cause of increasing use of automation. However, rising wages, including mandated higher minimum wages, accelerate the adoption of new tech to eliminate jobs.

Increasing minimum wage leading to more automation

If workers can keep their jobs, they’ll enjoy higher wages. But rising labor costs are pushing employers toward robots.

Source: California’s $15 minimum wage may mean more automated jobs | The Sacramento Bee

Automation has been coming and is coming, regardless of minimum wage hikes. However, large mandated wage hikes encourage rapid adoption of automation.

When automation is introduced, businesses often re-think their business processes too and invent more efficient ways to get things done.

The combination of automation – and improved business processes –  reduces the labor required just as the costs of automation are plummeting.

Mandated wage hikes lead to automation and improving business processes – which leads to greater economic efficiency. But it also leads to the loss of low wage jobs.

If workers retrain to add more value, this can be a positive development. However, for a variety of reasons, many workers will not improve their skills to add more value and end up out of work.

The bottom line is minimum wage hike laws are speeding up investment in automation and improvements to business processes that lead directly to low wage, low skilled job losses.