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More than 100 years of car evolution could reveal where the industry is going next

More than 100 years of car evolution could reveal where the industry is going next

By on 6 Apr 2016 6:05 pmcommentsShare

Unless you’re a couple of crusty old white guys, the future of cars is looking pretty bright. Affordable electric cars are about to hit the market, self-driving cars are practicing their not-hitting-people skills, sleek 3D-printed cars are becoming a thing. And in a world that desperately needs to be more efficient and rely less on fossil fuels, this is all promising news.

But predicting the future of technology is always hard and often leads to egg-covered faces and tarnished reputations. The former chair of IBM, for example, once famously said that “there is a world market for maybe five computers.” And boy does that guy have about a billion eggs on his face right now.

Fortunately, a new (yet to be peer-reviewed) study on arXiv.org offers a way to predict where our technologies are going by first looking at where they’ve been. The study, led by researchers at UCLA, presents an evolutionary model for technology, and with the automobile as a case study, suggests that “electric and hybrid cars may be experiencing the early stages of a radiation event, with dramatic diversification expected in the next three to four decades.”

The model includes data on 3,575 cars made by 172 manufacturers between 1896 and 2014. It considers each car model a distinct species whose first and last years of production mark its origin and extinction, respectively. It thus offers a rate of “species” origination and extinction over time, allowing the researchers to analyze the effects of outside factors like GDP, oil prices, and market competition on the size and diversity of species types.

Not surprisingly, they found declines in origination in 1933, during the Great Depression. They also found declining extinction rates in 1935, again corresponding to the Great Depression, and in 1960, when the “Big Three” automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) hit their peak.

More surprising was that the model showed that the rate of new species hitting the market had decreased fourfold between 1980 and 2014 and that extinction rates slightly outpaced origination rates during that time, meaning the market has gotten less diverse. At the same time, the average lifespan of models increased.

This happened, the researchers speculate, because certain designs began to dominate, and experimenting with new ones became too costly. The resulting market consolidation increased brand loyalty, stabilized cost of production, and made for safe investing. And it showed that market competition is more strongly correlated with species diversity than other factors like GDP or the price of oil.

Which brings us back to today. Electric vehicles haven’t gone through the decades of evolution that gas-powered cars have, which is perhaps why a relatively new brand like Tesla can come in with its shaky production schedules and unsteady financial standing and shake up the market. And in the coming decades, according to this research, we can expect more competitors to join Tesla’s Model 3 and GM’s Chevy Bolt before the market ultimately settles on dependable models and creativity in the industry declines once again.

By that point, though, we’ll surely be in the midst of a flying car diversity boom. That’s one tech prediction that will never die, no matter how many times it’s blown up in people’s faces.



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More than 100 years of car evolution could reveal where the industry is going next

Posted in alo, Anchor, FF, G & F, GE, LG, ONA, Radius, Ultima, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on More than 100 years of car evolution could reveal where the industry is going next

Did Ray Rice Get What He Deserved?

Mother Jones

Over at Vox, Amanda Taub easily dismantles the argument that the NFL and Roger Goodell initially went easy on Ray Rice because they didn’t know the details of exactly what he had done. The arbitrator’s report makes it crystal clear that (a) they knew, and (b) they could easily have viewed the damning elevator videotape if they’d had even the slightest interest in it. There was obviously something else at work:

The reason Rice wasn’t given a more severe punishment in the first place is that the NFL didn’t take the assault seriously enough….In the arbitration, the NFL claimed that Rice misled them by saying that he only “slapped” Palmer, and that she had “knocked herself out” on the railing, rather than that he had knocked her out. (The other witnesses to the disciplinary hearing deny that, and Rice claims that he not only used the word “hit,” he also demonstrated to the Commissioner how he had swung his fist across his body during the assault, making its force clear.)

But the fact that the NFL made that argument suggests that they still don’t understand domestic assault, or take it seriously enough. The idea that it is somehow morally superior to “slap” one’s girlfriend than to “hit” her is bizarre, particularly in a situation in which the alleged “slap” knocked the victim unconscious.

Yep. The NFL has since tightened its standard disciplinary action for domestic violence, but only time will tell if their attitude lasts—or, better yet, becomes even less tolerant.

Still, the stock liberal narrative that Rice was essentially let off with a slap on the wrist leaves me uneasy. What Ray Rice did was horrific, and it’s inevitable that any hesitations on this score will be taken as some kind of defense of his action. For the record, that’s not what I mean to do here. But I’m uneasy nonetheless and want to make two related points.

First, although Ray Rice’s assault of Janay Palmer was horrible, any sense of justice—no matter the crime—has to take into account both context and the relative severity of the offense. And Ray Rice is not, by miles, the worst kind of domestic offender. He did not use a weapon. He is not a serial abuser. He did not terrorize his fiancée (now wife). He did not threaten her if she reported what happened. He has no past record of violence of any kind. He has no past police record. He is, by all accounts, a genuinely caring person who works tirelessly on behalf of his community. He’s a guy who made one momentary mistake in a fit of anger, and he’s demonstrated honest remorse about what he did.

In other words, his case is far from being a failure of the criminal justice system. Press reports to the contrary, when Rice was admitted to a diversionary program instead of being tossed in jail, he wasn’t getting special treatment. He was, in fact, almost a poster child for the kind of person these programs were designed for. The only special treatment he got was having a good lawyer who could press his cause competently, and that’s treatment that every upper-income person in this country gets. The American criminal justice system is plainly light years from perfect (see Brown, Michael, and many other incidents in Ferguson and beyond), but it actually worked tolerably well in this case.

Second, Ray Rice committed a crime. We have a system for dealing with crimes: the criminal justice system. Employers are not good candidates to be extrajudicial arms for punishing criminal offenders, and I would be very, very careful about thinking that they should be.

Now, I’ll grant up front that the NFL is a special case. It operates on a far, far more public level than most employers. It’s a testosterone-filled institution, and stricter rules are often appropriate in environments like that. Kids take cues from what they see their favorite players doing. TV networks and sponsors understandably demand a higher level of good behavior than they do from most employers.

Nevertheless, do we really want employers—even the NFL—reacting in a panic to transient public outrage by essentially barring someone for life from ever practicing their craft? Should FedEx do that? Should IBM do that? Google? Mother Jones? Perhaps for the most serious offenses they should, and it’s certainly common to refuse to hire job candidates with felony records of any kind. (Though I’ll note that a good many liberals think this is a misguided and unfair policy.) But for what Ray Rice did?

I just don’t know about that. Generally speaking, I think we’re better off handling crimes through the criminal justice system, not through the capricious judgments of employers—most of whom don’t have unions to worry about and can fire employees at a whim. I might be overreacting, but that seems like it could become a dangerous precedent that hurts a lot more people than it helps.

I’m not unshakeable about about this, so please argue about it in comments—though I’d really prefer it if we could avoid ad hominem attacks that I just “don’t get” the scourge of domestic violence. I have precious little tolerance for domestic violence, and that generic accusation gets us nowhere anyway. My actual argument is this: (a) Rice is a one-time offender who made a momentary mistake, not someone who’s a serial abuser; (b) this is normally grounds for relative leniency; (c) Rice was treated reasonably by the criminal justice system; (d) that’s the appropriate place for handling crimes like this. We should not applaud workplaces being turned into arbitrary kangaroo courts simply because a case happens to get a lot of public attention. It’s a slippery slope that we might come to regret.

POSTSCRIPT: Looking for counterarguments? I’ll give you a few:

Rice was not acquitted. If he completes the diversionary program the case will not show up on his record. But he was indicted on felony aggravated assault charges, and more than likely would have been convicted if the case had gone to trial.
For reasons noted above, the NFL has a special responsibility to be tougher than most businesses on domestic violence offenders (and, I might add, other crimes as well—drunk driving, for example, is potentially far more dangerous than what Rice did).
We need to send a message about domestic violence, and a high profile case like this makes more difference than a thousand routine convictions. If, as a result, one millionaire athlete ends up being treated slightly unfairly, that might be an acceptable tradeoff.


Did Ray Rice Get What He Deserved?

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Will TSA Soon Have Bins Full of Dead Smartphones?

Mother Jones

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Security screening at airports for certain flights to the United States is about to get even more annoying:

As the traveling public knows, all electronic devices are screened by security officers. During the security examination, officers may also ask that owners power up some devices, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. The traveler may also undergo additional screening.

Two comments. First: this is new? I remember being asked to turn on laptops and such before business flights in 2002-03. In fact, I distinctly remember one flight where some poor guy was running around in a panic asking everyone if they had a charger for an IBM Thinkpad because TSA wanted him to power it up. I happened to be using a Thinkpad in those days and came to his rescue. But I haven’t traveled on business for a long time, so maybe TSA gave up on this years ago.

Second: lots of us have had the experience of having to toss out a bottle of liquid or a pocket knife at a TSA checkpoint. But a cell phone? That’s a whole different animal. If TSA starts forcing people to toss their $500 smartphones into a bin, never to be seen again, there’s going to be some serious public outrage. Is that really going to start happening?

Continue at source:  

Will TSA Soon Have Bins Full of Dead Smartphones?

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Watson Not Just for Jeopardy! Anymore

Mother Jones

IBM plans to make Watson, the computer that beat the all-time Jeopardy! champs, available on the web to everyone. But why? In addition to the PR value for its cloud computing business, I suspect the answer is at the bottom of this New York Times story:

Besides gaining bragging rights and a much bigger customer base, IBM may be accelerating the growth of Watson’s power by putting it in the cloud. Mr. Gold said that Watson would retain learning from each customer interaction, gaining the ability to do things like interacting in different languages or identifying human preferences. IBM has taken steps to keep these improvements for its own benefit, by retaining rights in user agreements that customers are required to sign.

Once it’s publicly available, Watson is going to receive a tidal wave of new interactions that it can learn from. Basically, the public will be doing IBM’s beta testing for it. Everybody wins.

See the article here:

Watson Not Just for Jeopardy! Anymore

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