Blog - Bash or Cash
To tell you the truth, reader, I had started a completely different post, since I was out of inspiration. And then it comes like a slap in your face, inspiration, without warning… Okay, a little bit with what we can listen or see.
I was amused by the media coverage of the Russian elections, which very often leads to Russian bashing, on a par with the usual Turkish Bashing and Chinese Bashing. With our ethno-centric and western-centric vision, we do not even try to understand the historical and cultural specificities of other countries, by wanting to put our “democracy” everywhere. And then the Russians are accused of having manipulated the American people to get Trump elected. On the other hand, the United States, this great country that has done so much for democracy in South America through its latent influence, seems to have difficulties weighing on Russian elections, despite all the tools of espionage, infiltration, etc… So the simplistic vision is a bit one-sided. And it should be noted that Russians have an equivalent of Google, Yandex, and Facebook, VK. I’ll note give you the equivalent of french Copains d’avant… But speaking of Facebook, we got a very good one: The Cambridge Analytica case.
Yes, you know, this start-up which, under cover of personality tests, pumped tons of data via Facebook to make itself a beautiful analysis and a beautiful address book of all these potential voters ! And since the shareholder of this company is a close friend of Steve Bannon, we quickly pinned the trick, by making stock prices fall, these things so detached from reality. No Trump-Bashing, it’s too easy. But data collection, the new sport of all our societies, yes! Here, in mass distribution, we have the remote scanner, the loyalty card and the “drive in” shopping for that. I’m even convinced that our little internet boxes that make television and soon coffee, are capable of sending behavioral data if we want to. In fact, there’s no need since you can keep connection and usage stats at the ISP level when you think about it. Fortunately, we are not there yet and we are not sinking into paranoia, hum!
The fact remains that Facebook is fond of all these seemingly harmless “applications” that have access to all the data in our profiles. I put my feet back on my sleepy profile to see what my contacts were doing…oh, here, tests, right. This is crazy! At least it might be a lesson. But we also meet some outside Facebook and I also talked about this Google application that promises to give something in exchange for our behavior. Well, it will only kill a little more the old star of social network but never definitively, especially since it already has replacements anyway (Instagram, Snapchat….), including in its company. Zuckerberg has always been able to change the formalisation of its network from the beginning until today and invest wisely. The markets are stupid, we don’t care, Facebook forgets the information sector because too risky to refocus on its new core target, the people who grew up with it. Twitter has finally found a viable business model… and will fall back one day too. But it’s the smartphone that’s still the star of the bugs and privacy piracy. However, soon we will also have the car connected with not only a black box, but the replica of a smartphone inside. This data collection will go either to the manufacturer, or will be subcontracted as already the agreements made with companies like Google, Cisco, Tencent… let think it. And if Facebook rightly lets go of the press in its new formula, it takes revenge in a bashing sequence when in the end it is not a discovery that this use of data.
Speaking of cars, there was this fatal accident with a prototype autonomous Uber car. In fact it is a Volvo (thus of the Chinese group Geely) with material rather close to that of Waymo (Google) on since Uber paid 245 Million dollars for it. We thus have the last type of sensors, it is 10PM, in a US street, and a lady crosses out of normal way with her bicycle, arrives in front of the car which was in autonomous mode. Immediately, we gave in the technological bashing, up to a provocative title in a TV talk show, the favorite of retirees in France. What happened? What happened? The survey will tell, but caution dictates that the programming and sensors of all vehicles of this type must be examined.
First hypothesis: The sensors are not sensitive enough in this luminous environment in spite of a probable recourse to infrared or were deceived even dazzled. For those who have already used night vision, we know that it is complicated to manage urban lights, shadows, etc. Imagine to program a detection. And as someone who is very sensitive to light, I pay particular attention to glare. We don’t make headlines on every nighttime accident in the world. What is certain, compared to the video broadcast by the police, is that a driver would not have avoided an impact in relation to the speed of the vehicle. And even there’s a small lighted area just before impact…
The second hypothesis was that, since the person was beside the bicycle, the vehicle and its on-board computer may have had difficulty understanding the obstacle and its reaction. Knowing that the priority of the programming remains the protection of passengers, if in this fraction of a second it seems “easier” to hit an obstacle that will not damage the vehicle than to avoid it by striking something else, that can be understood. Still, at 65km/h (40MpH), it’s hard enough to avoid something at night. The video confirms that the pedestrian was not very visible from a distance in relation to the road configuration. But also that there was an excess of confidence on the part of the driver with regard to the on-board technology, because it is a prototype.
And then I thought of a very silly experience: Crossing a crossroads in Vietnam. The first time we arrive in this country, we tend to wait for an opportunity that will never come with the flood of motorcycles. And then we quickly understand that it is necessary to start and walk with a regular step while counting on the anticipation of the drivers. The slightest stop will be paid for by the accident or the yelling, believe me. Imagine the same logic in a machine and you will understand the programming dilemma. I remain convinced that in two generations, our grandchildren will no longer even want to bother driving a car in cities completely unsuited to that or in controled roads of all kinds. Knowing that we already have pieces of autonomous car in the last cars of today, without the centralized management of these aids. (detection of rain, darkness, reading of maximum speeds, crossing warning, automatic braking, adaptive regulation…) It will just be necessary to be able to afford it. Cynically, I think we also need this kind of accident to advance the artificial intelligence that will be on board. As for legal liability, in fact, it is already dealt with by cases such as the airbag sensor problems we had with the Takata case. And concerning Tesla’s Autopilot, the manufacturer was cleared by NHTSA experts, given that it was not a completely self-contained car (level 5 still unpublished). Again, it was an overconfidence in the supposed autonomy. Air transport has thus progressed with doubled or tripled safety features and multiple cases in autopilots. Here too, data were collected, but to good effect.
And then this relative “autonomy” that we will gain in an individual transport could allow us to envisage trips differently, to no longer have this moment of stress with the children who heckle at the back or in the wagon, to communicate more easily while remaining in his family cocoon, for example. Well, that’s the theory, because it’s already bad at home or at the office. I see this through this fashion of the Flex-Office to which I will devote an entire article soon. We thought to recreate the link between people in huge open-spaces, it is the opposite that happens with the impression of robots isolating themselves from each other and sometimes crossing each other in the “relaxation” spaces. The goal is obviously to save space by putting fewer offices than people, so cash! We depersonalize the office space which could be a sort of second home, we relocate the document online. Except for too many people, it’s unnatural, it’s anxiety-provoking, depressing. We are no longer even in direct contact with our hierarchy, which is also somewhere in open space or in a meeting room. We end up communicating online, via Skype or chat. For the one who is not autonomous enough, it is “death” assured. A bit like the one who decided that Telework was the future (The baker and the plumber will appreciate it), it is indeed a guy from the service sector who thought of the Flex-Office… except that no luck, there is still industry.
And then I keep watching the Yammer in my company, which only interests tertiary people, finally. I still find interesting things outside my field of activity because there are rare sectors that use it effectively. But these are people who are already used to working transversally, with multiple applications of the same kind. For the “normal” people I meet, it remains an irrelevant whim, a gadget. The community is not a sum of autonomies. And the human species needs interaction. It needs it especially with other species which it often qualifies as harmful however. As a result, we see species like the White Rhinoceros disappearing… but also birds from the countryside. French minister Nicolas Hulot is right to say that nobody cares about biodiversity, unfortunately. With spring, I enjoy the birdsong to break the morning silence. And yet I no longer see so many of my winged friends. The other day, some sparrows, sometimes a robin and yet it is not for lack of trees, food for them. But between the pesticides that kill them indirectly by preventing them from eating, global warming, the destruction of hedges and forests, hunting, it is not good to fly in our spaces. I also hear that there would be more rats in Paris and yet, they are useful for something and it is mainly because of the floods that they are visible. But we like to blame other species for our ills.