If you read my blog on the regular, then you already know I’m gaming you with the headline. But, whether you’re a newcomer or a frequent reader, rejoice in this rare respite: for today, we’re not talking urban planning or transportation policy or corporate chicanery.
We’re talking basketball. We love that basketball.
Cheap distribution already changed the world once. It most likely will happen again.
In the late 1990s, my father became a thief.
He would stay up late into the night in his office upstairs, his desk perched where my bed used to be. The green glow of the CRT reflecting off his forehead in the dark, he would sit nearly motionless, hour after hour watching the progress bar fill as he pirated old radio shows, books on tape, and music from the golden age of rock and roll.
Back in the early 1990s, it was not obvious that the internet would launch a global army of greying men into the world’s most tedious crime spree. It was not obvious college students and housewives and kids obsessed with Jamiroquai would join them to take down the record industry. And journalism. And video stores, encyclopedias, and travel agents.
Ask anyone with a vested interest in denouncing self-driving cars, and they’ll spout off a sound bite about the piles of legislation standing in the way of this technology’s growth. Be it repealing old laws or drafting new ones, the pace of government can only be accelerated so much by lobbyist dollars.
But ask them a second question: “what laws in particular?”
It is a warm autumn morning, and I am walking through downtown Mountain View, California, when I see it. A small vehicle that looks like a cross between a golf cart and a Jetsonesque bubble-topped spaceship glides to a stop at an intersection. Someone is sitting in the passenger seat, but no one seems to be sitting in the driver seat. How odd, I think. And then I realize I am looking at a Google car. The technology giant is headquartered in Mountain View, and the company is road-testing its diminutive autonomous cars there.
This is my first encounter with a fully autonomous vehicle on a public road in an unstructured setting.
By Jeremiah Owyang, with co-contributor Ryan Brinks
Drones come in many shapes and sizes, and are coming to a front door near you. Retail, logistics, and the way we shop and consume will never be the same.
We call this trend the “Autonomous World” when robots are able to augment, supplant and replace human workers at greater efficiency. It’s happening in all walks of life, industries and sectors, but the one area that will be most impacted will be the retail and logistics space. Earlier this month, I was a keynote at Etail, where over a thousand retailers were present to learn about how on-demand workers and autonomous drones will impact their business models.
In the aftermath of President Trump’s order for a new immigration ban, the American Civil Liberties Union won a flood of online contributions — $24 million over a weekend, six times its usual annual take from online donors (Fast Company). Tech CEOs and wealthy Silicon Valley investors made impromptu offers to match individual donations, game companies put pop-up suggestions in front of players, and app-based services like Lyft pledged direct support.
Now the ACLU has to figure out how to use that windfall effectively, and it’s taking up an offer from Y Combinator to join the high-profile startup accelerator’s Winter 2017 class (TechCrunch). The ACLU has been around nearly a century, has a long history of defending individual civil rights, and operates at national scale. It’s anything but a startup. The idea is that the nonprofit will be able to network with Silicon Valley execs, thinkers, and engineers and put its war-chest to more effective use, particularly when it comes to building better technology to sustain its new momentum and connect with supporters.
Could Uber be figuring out that sometimes it’s actually better to seek permission first rather than forgiveness later? Don’t bet on it. But if that is the case, the news that the company has backed out of its controversy-ridden, permit-free deployment of self-driving cars in San Francisco would mark the start of Uber’s humility learning curve (The Guardian).
Uber maintained that it needed no permits since the tech it was testing in 16 vehicles wasn’t truly autonomous: A human driver was always present, and the system was more like the kind of autopilot Tesla already offers in its cars. The company stuck to its “We don’t need no stinking permits” stance even after videos surfaced of the vehicles running red lights and bicyclists complained about a bike-lane blind spot that Uber acknowledged. So the DMV revoked the test vehicles’ registrations.
“Whistleblower” is a peculiarly American term for someone who sees something wrong happening in an organization and calls foul. The problem with the sports metaphor is that, on the athletic field, the person blowing the whistle is empowered — a referee or umpire. In business, however, whistleblowers are usually vulnerable employees who face retribution and blackballing.
Government regulators at agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have programs in place to encourage whistleblowers to step forward and reward and protect them. Businesses typically resent that and charge that it encourages fraud. But a new study by a business professor at the University of Iowa shows that whistleblowing has a clear and valuable deterrent effect (Gretchen Morgenson in The New York Times).
The rise of the self-driving car will free up huge chunks of downtown real estate now dedicated to parking for other, better uses: parks and green belts, housing and shops. Clive Thompson paints this future portrait in Mother Jones.
Millennials love downtowns and don’t love cars nearly as much as previous generations. As autonomous vehicle tech matures, we’re going to need a lot fewer cars, we’re going to use them more efficiently, and we’re going to need a lot less room to park. A full switch to self-driving vehicles could reduce urban parking needs by 90 percent.