Blog Archives

The Pipe Dream: A Roundaloop?

21st-century ground transportation:

Envisioned by Elon Musk.

Traveling from Point A to Point B seems (and can literally be) pedestrian. In the modern world, there seem to be far too many detours, connecting flights, complications and mind-numbing traffic patterns to conceptualize a simplistic, easy-going path from Point A to Point B.

Then a big idea happened. And then that big idea was built and tested.

And what happens next?

Innovator Elon Musk founded The Boring Company, which is the firm that is building the Hyperloop (featured in the video above). While people won’t be lining up just yet to experience this futuristic form of transportation, the fact that a proof of concept has been achieved is a giant first step towards the reimagined American railroad. To be more precise, the reimagined American train and railroad system.

The Boring Company has essentially taken the archaic railroad system from 19th and 20th centuries and created a significantly faster 21st-century upgrade. Is it the right upgrade? Is the Hyperloop the next great innovative masterpiece in transportation we’ve been waiting for? Would you ride in the Hyperloop?

Fortunately, there’s a model (actually, a few models) to follow for judging the future progress and success of Hyperloop’s introduction to the American traveler, current and new:

Tesla.

Now, who is the co-founder and CEO of that innovative car company…?

Since Artificial GRASS is a Problem…

Elon Musk, the face defining and promoting Tesla Motors and its impressively intriguing product line, gave surprising remarks recently to a gathering of American governors.

For the CEO of Tesla, Inc., which designs and builds cars that are arguably more supercomputers than automobiles, to speak about the far-reaching dangers of artificial intelligence going forward involving unrestrained technological variations in this arena is newsworthy. Fascinating, in the very least. Moreover, Mr. Musk has the unique perspective and influence to affect the mindset of large communities of people and innovators with his recent warning revealed in the video above.

But will people listen?

The challenge is that innovation, in its purest form, presents the eternally intoxicating allure of “the future” that every generation has imagined and pursued with purpose to varying degrees. The primary concerns of building a world heavily influenced and dictated by artificial intelligence seems more reckless than wise, yet Westworld (at least to Michael Crichton fans and HBO viewers) was built with great intrigue.

Aren’t you curious to visit Westworld?

Answer honestly.

Jimmy’s Daily Planet maintains its consistent position that innovation, in all of its varieties, should be viewed with excitement and caution in equal measure. What are the costs and the benefits? More often than not, the costs and the benefits of a particular innovation are on a sliding scale nowhere close to a conclusive 100-0 result. Artificial intelligence is a very slippery slope because, in the initial stages, the benefits may appear to make our lives easier, more efficient and, above all, better. It’s usually at this point, however, when the investment into something (in this case, AI) is too grand and, consequently, becomes too interwoven into societal expectations to turn the digital clock back.

It just seems like humans, in too many situations, are far too eager to not only “big brother” themselves, but to also make themselves less relevant and necessary through ill-advised inventions. Impressive? Typically yes. The best idea? Hmmm…

A Google search defines the word “artificial” as, “made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, typically as a copy of something natural.”

How would (will?) Google define a product consciously created and then made or produced by something artificial?

Hmmm…

P.S. In the video above, Elon Musk spoke about the need for increased regulations to combat the threat of AI in the future. While a sensible regulation here and there may help, do you want to know what the better solution would be to deal with AI?

Intelligent people leading by example, like Elon Musk. 

Setting the Stage for 20/3D Vision

Allow me to set the scene.

It’s December 8, 2011 and the 5th season and 11th episode (“The Speckerman Recurrence”) of The Big Bang Theory. Below is a portion of dialogue between the guys (Leonard, Sheldon, Raj and Howard) and Leonard’s childhood bully, Jimmy.

Jimmy: Okay, here it is. I have this great money-making idea. I just need a gear head to get it to the finish line.

Sheldon: Technically, Howard’s the gear head. Leonard’s just a dime store laser jockey.

Leonard: What’s the idea?

Jimmy: This is just between us, right?

Leonard: Right.

Jimmy: Okay. What do you think about a pair of glasses that makes any movie you want into 3D?

Raj: That sounds amazing. First movie I’m watching, Annie.

Howard: How exactly would these glasses work?

Jimmy: How the hell should I know? That’s why I need a nerd.

Leonard: I don’t think something like that’s even possible.

Jimmy: Aw, come on, you can figure it out. You’re like the smartest guy I’ve ever known.

Sheldon: The smartest? All right, you know, I may not have a firm grasp on sarcasm, but even I know that was a doozy. Leonard, you can’t live in fear of this man forever.

Leonard: Sheldon, I got this.

You know who does “got this,” to some degree?

James Cameron, apparently.

“I’m going to push. Not only for better tools, workflow, high dynamic range (HDR) and high frame rates (HFR) — the things we are working toward. I’m still very bullish on 3D, but we need brighter projection, and ultimately I think it can happen — with no glasses. We’ll get there.”
–Avatar Director James Cameron

Mr. Cameron was being honored at the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. Mr. Cameron was receiving his membership to this organization.

Imagining 3D movies without the necessity for 3D glasses is something that people have been thinking about and hoping for. The next step after watching 3D movies without 3D glasses would, naturally, be allowing moviegoers to watch any film in either 3D or 2D. This is where the dialogue above from The Big Bang Theory comes into play. This venture would combine the technology James Cameron is projecting and then incorporate interested (key term) movie directors to take that subsequent giant leap in innovation (not in existence…right now). The next question is whether movie directors would want to film a movie this way, if it becomes possible? This part of the equation is still in the countless questions phase, but it doesn’t seem completely impossible after Mr. Cameron’s statement/implied progress above.

That notion, even if just a notion at this point, is still encouraging.

For the geniuses (cough cough the writers and scientific advisors) on The Big Bang Theory, the insanely cool leap in 3D technology was seen as practically impossible back in 2011. While this surreal tech doesn’t yet exist today, it may be available in some version in the future. Incredibly, Mr. Cameron just may have revealed that he’s discovered the “secret sauce” for the mind-blowing innovative feat of enjoying 3D movies sans 3D glasses. Despite the fact this invention may still be a few years off from reality, that near future time table is exciting nonetheless.

After all, some of the greatest inventions in human history started with the wildest, craziest ideas imaginable.

And we can’t wait to see this one.

Literally.

Apple’s Ingenuity is Shifting Gears

This is not the Apple Inc. of the late Steve Jobs.

This blog post’s opening sentence is aimed directly at the surprising disclosure of development plans concerning evolving technology discussed in the recent interview above for the part-tech and part-lifestyle brand that is Apple. You’re likely recalling those iconic slideshow presentations when Steve Jobs was speaking/performing in front a packed auditorium in northern California’s Silicon Valley when he would suddenly reach into his pocket and reveal everyone’s favorite new gadget.

We all miss that suspense from the master of tech ceremonies.

But, as has been pointed out on Jimmy’s Daily Planet many, many times, Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs. For better or worse, that’s a fact. However, for a CEO not categorized as something damn near demiurge for 21st century technology consumer products, Tim Cook has proven to be among the best business leaders in the world. That’s also a fact.

There’s no risk with Tim Cook. Whether that’s been good or bad for Apple is for another blog post.

Returning to the video clip above of the interview with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang (a Silicon Valley favorite), a couple things were subtly revealed that should leave us wanting more. First, Mr. Cook appears to be feeling a bit of pressure (from investors, critics, reporters, their consumers, etc.) because why else admit a project that’s still “in the shop”? Or maybe automotive AI is only intended to serve as the obvious appretizer to something much grander and mind-blowing that shall remain hidden until suspense reaches its peak, as is the past tradition of Apple? Secondly, is automotive AI the best design path forward for empowering Apple consumers in the future?

Not to mention the implications and dangers of increasingly intelligent and widespread AI, as boldly illustrated in virtually any science-fiction book, movie or TV show ever made (cough cough Westworld).

Today, I will leave more questions than answers. Why?

Because perhaps Apple should be asking more questions as our society continues to undergo a massive (and equally uncertain, to put it lightly) digital transfer of power, of which it has played no small part. For a company made a global sensation for literally putting a surreal amount of high-quality information, entertainment and power into our hands, it seems abnormal to shift that same awesome power away from those very same hands.

Automotive AI may or may not be an automatic sell to Apple’s global consumer base. That remains the variable.

The constant is that consumers around the world will ultimately determine whether this evolving technology will find success on the right side of the road.