Tech News

Ford Promises Autonomous Car in 2021

Ford recently announced plans to mass-produce a fully autonomous car by 2021. Ford’s president, Mark Fields, added that this new model would not only be able to drive itself, but would be built with a steering wheel during an event in the Silicon Valley.

ford 2Fields added that the auto company would be doubling its investment in its research center in the city. The car manufacturer also plans to make additional and hefty investments in technology companies willing to work with and within the autonomous driving industry.

The self-driving vehicle will likely be implemented as part of a ride-sharing service much like Uber and Lyft, but the service will not require a driver.

“As you can imagine, the experience inside a vehicle where you don’t have to take control changes everything,” explained Mr. Fields in an interview with a major media news outlet. “Whether you want to do work, whether you want entertainment… those are the types of things we are thinking about as we design the experience for this type of autonomous vehicle.”

“There will be a growing per cent of the industry that will be fully autonomous vehicles,” Fields predicted. “Our goal is not only to be an auto company, but an auto and mobility company,” he concluded.

Ford has taken major strides towards becoming a high-tech firm as well as an auto manufacturer over the past few years. It recently began to describe itself as a technology company as opposed to an automaker, and Fields’ speech in Silicon Valley on Tuesday certainly supported its new tech identity.

Ford has also been making some rather unprecedented partnerships with tech companies from around the globe. Its recent decision to collaborate with Chinese firm Baidu has begot a joint investment of $150 million in LiDAR system developer Velodyme. LiDAR is a system akin to radar that allows for computers to detect the objects around a car.

Ford also helped to raise $6.6 million for digital mapping company Civil Maps and even invested in neuroscience research.

Automated Fusion Hybrid Research VehicleFord’s announcement was made devoid of any mentioning of Google or Apple, implying that Ford plans to compete against the tech moguls instead of teaming up.

Google remains the leader in self-driving technology; its autonomous vehicles have been on the road in Silicon Valley for years now, and have spread to Austin and Seattle as well. Google is also developing a car without a steering wheel, though regulations have kept the car from entering public property.

The US-based Society of Automotive Engineers created system of levels of sophistication of self-driving technology. Tesla’s Autopilot, for example, can change lanes and monitor traffic flow but comes out only to Level two autonomy, meaning even if the software is used it must be monitored at all times. Ford claimed that it would be aiming on Level 4 autonomy, meaning the cars would achieve “high automation” by being able to operate unmonitored in a particular use case. Ford said its use case would chalk up to city areas.

Level 5 autonomy implies that a car can drive itself in any and all driving conditions.

 

DNC Hack Unleashes Whirlwind of Criticism

A few days back, 19,000 emails and several private voice mail recordings stolen from the Democratic National Committee’s private server were released and published on WikiLeaks. The leaked data, which represents yet another way that technology has played a major role in the 2016 elections, has since been thoroughly sifted through by reporters and civilians alike, with fairly damning results.

dnc2The emails reveal the many embarrassing deals made between donors and campaign officials, demonstrating the way that fundraising higher-ups are in charge of approving and denying access to Barack Obama and other top officials.

The emails also validated concerns expressed by Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign that the DNC favored Hillary Clinton in the race to become the Democratic presidential nominee.

The voice mail recordings are no less embarrassing; two different US ambassadors left messages for the DNC to speak about personal meetings with the president; one message is left by disgraced DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who sought to confirm plans to attend a “small dinner” with President Obama. Another was from a staffer who wanted tickets to a St. Patrick’s Day event with the president.

“We’ve received an invitation to the vice president’s breakfast but not the White House reception,” complained the staffer in a voice mail dated back from February. That same staffer later called to confirm that the invitation had been received.

The leak, which many experts believe to have been carried out by Russian state-sponsored hackers, are also heavily composed of email exchanges that discuss a large range of donor data and transactions. Among these exchanges include emails about donors hoping to get seats next to Obama at roundtable discussions. One such email facilitated the bump of a donor with cancer from the seat next to Obama, allowing a more generous donor to take his place.

dnc leak2“A lot of people unfortunately get sick,” finance director Jordan Kaplan said of the switch via leaked email. After the email was revealed to the public, Kaplan admitted to being “embarrassed” by the leak:

“It was a conversation we were having amongst our team, and again, I’m sorry people have read them, and I’m embarrassed it’s out there,” he conceded.

The leaked emails also show Kaplan asking other finance staffers to compile a list of major league donors who wanted to play golf with President Obama. The resulting drafted list is also available via email.

Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta believes the most significant aspect of the leak to be that donors’ personal information was exposed to the world:

“What was disclosed is personal information of our donors, and it’s always worrisome when personal information is stolen,” he stated. “And that’s true whether it’s Target or Sony or, or the DNC.”

Among the files leaked is a large spreadsheet titled “Big Spreadsheet of All Things” that lists every donation made to the party and each event where money was raised.

Some emails even demonstrate the process by which donors were vetted. Many donors found that their support was not accepted due to past scandals involving the donor, all of which was laid out clearly in the emails.

While Democratic fundraisers are displeased with the leak, many say that what the leak demonstrates has been commonplace for decades.

Takeout App to Use Delivery Robots

Just Eat is a takeout food delivery service and app generally manned by a staff or restaurant employees. However, the company has recently revealed its plans to use delivery robots developed by Starship Technologies for orders in limited neighborhoods from a small selection of restaurants in London.

stAccording to Just Eat, the robots have already been utilized in cities on other continents. The delivery bots that underwent beta testing in these other locations have already traveled a combined 5,000 miles without a single accident.

Starship Technology developed robots that are small, autonomous and capable of carrying small packages over short distances. The robots have onboard cameras that keep the device aware of its changing surroundings and can be over ridden by human operators in a command center given complicated situations. The compartment in which the packages are kept (meal orders, in this case) are secured and can only be accessed through entering the correct access code.

“There is a lot of talk in the industry of this sort of automation, and the use of drones as well, but there are many health and safety and compliance issues to overcome,” explained Bryan Roberts, analyst at TCC Global. “Unleashing these robots on the street carries an inherent risk, and may even show a naive view of human nature and people’s desire to interfere with this type of technology.”

That said, Starship Technologies’ chief executive Ahti Heinla has responded to this alleged threat before, stating that there have yet to be examples of the general public interfering with or hijacking the robots.

“People do not actually interfere with it on the pavement,” he explained. “We have driven thousands of miles with robots like this… and the vast majority of people just ignore it.”

st2Metro Group, a German retailer, as well as parcel delivery company Hermes and London-based food delivery service Pronto are also testing the robots, hoping to be the first companies to discover a new and more efficient way around hiring employees.

Other companies like Deliveroo help match companies with people willing to run deliveries, allowing freelancers to receive a small payment for every meal that they deliver.

“It’s a laudable and adventurous idea,” posited Roberts, “but I also wonder how this could be rolled out at scale when there is already a very low cost human alternative.”

It’s true that implementing a new technology that no doubt requires a high cost initial investment and cannot promise consistent success is likely to be a challenge. After all, how well are these robots actually understood and is it smart to put such valuable technology to work unsupervised in the streets? While the robots may have worked well without incident, I would be curious as to the cities where they were tested. Were those little autonomous delivery bots to be set free holding potentially valuable packages and even takeout food in dangerous areas of Chicago or Oakland, they would likely not have the same incident-free success record.

Perhaps autonomous flying drones would work better, as they could at least remain out of reach during deliveries.

Pavlov and High-Tech Appliances

You’ve likely heard of Pavlov’s dog, but what was Pavlov’s theory really all about, and how does it relate to you as you move through life in our modern era? Perhaps disconcertingly, what Pavlov called “classical conditioning” is more relevant than ever in our day and age, especially given the way that our technological appliances have become so closely threaded into our lives.

Classical conditioning as Pavlov defined it is a reflexive or automatic type of learning in which a stimulus acquires the capacity to evoke a response that was originally evoked by another stimulus. Pavlov demonstrated that this process occurred and could potentially be made to happen on purpose through the research he conducted in the early 20th century.

These ideas are based on the existence of different kinds of learning, the most relevant of which is called associative learning. Associative learning occurs when a person makes a new association between events in the environment in which he or she lives. There are two forms of associative learning called classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

dog shikFamously, Ivan Pavlov conducted an experiment in which the feeding schedule of particular dogs was paired with the ringing of a bell. After some time of this, Pavlov found that he could trigger the dogs’ salivation simply be sounding the bell. Through this discovery, Pavlov found that a neural stimulus that was not originally associated with triggering salivation was ultimately wedded with the physical response, proving that stimulus-response bonds (considered by some as the basic building blocks of learning) can be formed in such a way. The unconditioned stimulus (meat powder) triggered the dogs’ salivation, which constituted an unconditioned response. The bell became a conditioned stimulus that triggered the salivation, or conditioned response.

So how does that process affect human beings in our era? Doubtless it affects them in a myriad of ways, but perhaps one of the simplest and most widespread examples of this phenomenon distinct to our era would be the text, Facebook notification, or other form of pop-up sound or image that notifies a person that something has changed in terms of their virtual presence.

fb stockWhile texts and phone calls are plenty distracting, notifications in either form are signs that a person has made a genuine effort to reach out to another party directly. This is immensely helpful, through there are of course people who use the technology in a way that’s unhealthy.

Perhaps the more disturbing cases are those tethered to social media, when notifications are meant to make noises and trigger bright lights once found solely in casinos. The beeps and whistles of these signs have been shown to light up reward centers for the people who receive them as they seem like indicators of social well-being and interest. However, more and more often notifications are unrelated to the actual social media account user, or are notifications of very shallow and uninteresting changes in the person’s account. At the end of the day, they’re meant to be addictive more than they’re meant to deliver social satisfaction.

 

Ads Shown Before Youtube’s ISIS Videos

While advertisers are generally happy to have as many people as possible see the promotions for their products, there are certain groups that even the most mainstreams brands don’t want to be affiliated with. Take ISIS for example.

feel bern2It recently caught media attention that some major American companies were unaware that their ads were playing in open spots before some of ISIS’s YouTube videos. Proctor & Gamble, Toyota and Anheuser-Busch were among a list of companies with pre-roll ads running before videos associated with the militant Islamic group known as ISIS or ISIL, which has taken over large tracts of land in Iraq and Syria.

Google-owned YouTube has been quick to remove the ads from the videos as well as the videos themselves as a result of policy violations, but some of the ads were playing in pre-roll slots for days after the news stories rolled and likely weeks before.

A spokesperson for YouTube recently released the following statement: “YouTube has clear policies prohibiting content intended to incite violence, and we remove videos violating these policies when flagged by our users. We also have stringent advertising guidelines, and work to prevent ads appearing against any video once we determine that the content is not appropriate for our advertising partners.”

According to Google, the ads that precede YouTube videos are often picked at random my an algorithm, meaning that neither YouTube nor the advertiser can predict which ads are playing which videos.

“Our ads should not have appeared and we’re working with YouTube to understand how it happened and to avoid it happening again,” Proctor & Gamble said in a statement to a major news source. Other companies that found their ads before ISIS videos didn’t immediately release statements but were satisfied by the removal of their ads by Google.

isis3YouTube stated that over 300 hours of footage are uploaded to its site every minute and that ISIS-related videos tend to be posted from a variety of accounts. It has stated that it relies heavily on its users to flag content that violates the community guidelines put out by the site. It also has put forward a “promotes terrorism” flag as an option underneath every video and reviews all flagged content. Finally, YouTube terminates accounts that it believes are created by agents of foreign terrorist organizations, including but not limited to those potentially created by ISIS.

YouTube’s policy states that is does not serve ads before videos that don’t fall into the category of “advertiser-friendly” content, but whether that assertion holds true in the light of day remains in question.

In light of the recent and horrifying attack in Orlando, many are calling for tech companies to do more in the fight against terror, especially tech firms like Facebook, Twitter and Google that provide services often used by terrorists for recruitment and the dispersing of radical ideals. Whether Google will actually employ more people to aid in removing terrorist content from YouTube remains to be seen, but volunteer flagging work is clearly insufficient in terms of stopping terrorist content from being published online.

Are Self-Flying Cars on the Horizon?

Bloomberg Businessweek reported on Thursday that Google cofounder Larry Page is currently working with two startups based in the Silicon Valley to develop a flying car. One of the startups, a Mountain View neighbor to Google called Zee.Aero, has been personally funded by Page since its launch in 2010. The firm has allegedly filed a patent application for a small-sized, all-electric vehicle that could take off from the ground and then land.

flying car2Page has reportedly invested over $100 million in Zee.Aero to date, enabling the company to hire almost 150 employees and expand its operations into an airport hangar in Hollister, California. Prototypes are being developed and tested currently and a manufacturing facility has been built at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View.

And Zee.Aero is only one piece of the puzzle. Page also personally backed a flying car startup called Kitty Hawk last year. Kitty Hawk is operating just down the street from Zee.Aero, though allegedly the companies are not collaborating on efforts to develop a flying car and are instead competing to create better designs.

Kitty Hawk’s leader is Sebastian Thrun, head of the self-driving car program at Google and founder of the research division of Google called Google X.

While flying cars may seem like a setting-creating accessory in futuristic shows like the Jetsons or novels like A Brave New World, Kevin Krewell of Tirias Research may have put it best when he said, “We live in an era of science fiction.”

“We have universal translators, private rockets to space, cars that can drive themselves, drones,” he continued. “We’re just missing that darn flying car we were promised- but I’d prefer a jet pack over a flying car.”

Krewell makes a good point; in our rapidly developing technological era, it seems there’s no way of overreaching what’s possible, especially when experienced tech company founders set their minds to it.

“Page would like to extend the ability to fly beyond traditional airfields to streets and parking lots,” said Krewell. “The traffic in the Bay Area has gotten really bad in recent years with the explosive growth of local companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Apple, and I fully understand his wish to rise up above the crowded freeways.”

flying car3However, much like the creation of EVs and autonomous cars, the switch from ground-based and flying cars would involve more than making it possible to launch a car into the air; entirely new infrastructure would need to be built through collaboration of both the public and private sectors.

“The automobile was, of course, a horseless carriage,” observed one futurist. “It was a big change, but really a change in degree, not kind- and you could use the same roads,” he continued. “The flying car, on the other hand, will require new infrastructure. Even if it is vertical takeoff and landing, that’s going to mean new landing pads everywhere.”

The cars will also be self-driving, apparently, which seems like a good idea. As Paul Teich of Tirias Research pointed out, “People have enough difficulty driving on a fixed road infrastructure in 2.5 dimensions- counting landspace topography as half of a dimensions- so that is why we need insurance, and far too often police, fire, and EMS response teams.”

Google: Portland Has All the Right Moves

We all wonder what is going to be the next frontier of the tech world and where is going to be the next home for entrepreneurs and business elite to sink their teeth into and call somewhere home. This may seem like not that big of a deal to you on the surface but the fact is that where dfgever it is comes with it a myriad of jobs and cultural overhaul of the region that is highly contested, many for it, many against it. So it goes that many who see the opportunity in the move push for it hard, but like an unforeseen consistence there is always something that we do not know will happen and most likely it will be the case that there is somewhere in the middle, that something is good, and something is bad, that said we never really know until the dust has settled and the tech gods have spoken. For instance we have seen that many tech companies have decided to choose Los Angeles as its new sacrificial lamb of tech magic and we see that in the last year there has been an over haul of new jobs and the culture has gone whammy in terms of tech. Today we know that not everyone can set up shop in the silicon valley, in fact if you’re a new company and you don’t have a huge financial backing you probably won’t be able to get a loan, it is the tech capital of the world and if you want to bark with the big dogs you better bring a milk bone. Because of this people are always looking to find the perfect middle ground, where in there is just enough infrastructure in tech there to justify the move and ensure that you can find consistent talent, but you can’t go somewhere where there is too much talent and make it the case that if there is too much talent there you are going to have a hard time getting your foot in the door and actually making a compelling business model.fdfh

For many people the holy grail has been found, in what people are calling the silicon forest, or should I say the great land of Portland Oregon. In the past year they have seen a collective $130 million dollar investment from various companies saying that they want to set up shop there. which is begin met with mixed signals. For many of the residents this is the final nail in the coffin for the city in losing its cultural identity and having the locals who give it its distinctive charm the chance to afford to stay. Still others make the argument that the new tax revenues that it will pull in is nothing short of awesome, and what it can do for the city is something that also needs to be considered. at any rate when Google says it wants to call a place home you can rest assured that the area is due for a huge over haul.

From “Likes” to “Reactions”: the Facebook of Tomorrow, Today

Technology is always changing and Facebook is no exception. On Wednesday Facebook released 6 new options for it’s 1.5 Billion users which is nothing short of ground breaking. These options pertain to the way one can respond to posts that appear on their news feed. These new features include 6 all new “reactions” to be added in addition to the classic “Like” feature the website has been known for nearly 10 years. The thought being that this will clear up the ambiguity that is present from the old way of simply liking something. For example, we are all aware of a case where someone posts a news article of a sensitive or triggering manner and someone “likes” it. In those moments we are left to wonder “whats behind the ‘Like’?” Is it done from a place of sincerity or as a display of solidarity for the topic in question, or are they genuinely “like” the fact that something bad is happening to an affected region half way around the world? Are they trolling? and is it even fair to ask?

Mark-Zuckerberg faceguy

In an attempt to clear up this pervasive issue Facebook engineers have rolled out the new “reactions” to more clearly convey your mental state and sense perception of the: Topic, post, or picture at hand. The selection process however was in a long and hard process with months of back and forth as to which would make the final cut.

The reactions they settled upon are as follows:

Like( this is Facebook’s “bread and butter” and will more likely be the most commonly used feature considering the users familiarity and experience with the feature)

Love:(which is shown simply with a pink circle with a white heart in the center. Many have gravitated towards this feature because sometimes a simple “like” just doesn’t say how the user feels about that special cat video!. Maybe next they’ll make a “meow” but we can only hope.

Haha: (this feature is suppose to streamline the process of simple typing “haha” in the comment section, and allows may to join in the laughs. this comment is shown by a yellow face with eyes closed and mouth wide open in laughter.

Wow: (My personal favorite this reaction the team hopes aims to capture the awe and wonder we sometimes feel when watching a video of space or Chris Angel magic trick. Like Blogger Zach Goatman said in an interview last week, “it was unclear when I should use the “wow” feature, I was like ‘ what the heck’ but when I saw the mind freak levitate over a moving car I knew, a simple like wouldn’t cut it, we were in wow country now.)mind freak

Sad: ( one we wish we never had to use but when its there we’re glad it can offer a little solace.)

Angry: (this feature has stirred some controversy, but there has been a demand for something similar to it ever since the “like” button the haters have wanted and “unlike” or something similar. The angry face hopes to bridge that gap and let your Facebook community know exactly where you draw the line.)

Facebook is testing these reactions in the coming weeks, and if things go as expected and everyone not only “likes” them but “loves” them, hopefully well be using the “wow” feature soon when they roll out a hinted at but highly secretive additional reactions, but we can only hope.

 

Technology at a Glance

The strangest and most definitive aspect of mankind is likely our aptitude for creating technology. Animals that do not use tools may see things only as they are, but we humans, along with apes and some other animals who have been found to use tools, can behold an object and see not only what it is, but what it could be.

stock photoThis proficiency in technology is likely responsible for our evolution thus far; our physical weakness and lack of strong senses would have condemned us to extinction were our brains not mutated successfully for technological capabilities. That said, we’ve come so far past the point of needing technology to survive day to day that we now need to revise technology to survive from generation to generation.

Unfortunately for we millennials, the baby boomers and those that came before them birthed us into a half baked world scarred by our species’ beginning attempt at industrialization and threatened by the oncoming second and third round of this process. We are over populated and have created bombs that could not only wipe out entire cities, but could do such environmental damage as to ruin ecosystems and the atmosphere to the point that way may cause some species-wide extinctions, including our own. Efforts to recognize and combat global warming are slow-coming and increasingly late. The tipping point is upon us.

So how do we handle this time in history? In a world of ever-increasing distracting temptations and entirely new arenas of virtual life and consumerism, it looks as if technology may act as an obstacle to fixing the problem which it itself caused. That said, there may be no other way to combat climate change and what could be the extinction of our species than to use that very technological mindset that saved us from beastly predators those many years ago; just this time, we’ll need it to save us from ourselves.

technologyNew electrical cars and clean-energy initiatives are surely promising. The rise of the first sexy electric car, the Tesla, seems to connote an attractive and consumer-friendly (as opposed to hippie-friendly) method of fueling the environmental revolution to which we all must contribute in order to survive. Unfortunately for the hippies, their righteous gobbledy gook will turn off the most important and influential listeners and the language of their message will detract from their cause. Musk understood that in order for environmentalism to rise to the mainstream it must harness the energy of the mainstream, that is to say, harness the ideals principal to capitalism and consumerism. At least, that’s likely how it must be done if changes are to be made today.

Changes to be made in five or ten years may need to ascribe to a totally different format; perhaps political action today will allow for environmentalism to take a different form tomorrow. The rise of Bernie Sanders and the angry liberals no longer supportive of a system which caters to the richest and least moral of the country may cause energy debates to be played to a different tune.

 

Techies Changing the US Elections

President Obama’s winning of the Democratic nomination in 2008 was proof of a game-changer in the political arena that he caught wind of far before his contemporaries: the use of data collection and other technological innovations for political gain. Now as 2016 is upon us, tech is calling the shots in more ways than most people should be comfortable with; social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have become some of the most direct sources of news for young to middle-aged tech users, and Youtube actually co-hosted the last Democratic debate.

So who’s really pulling the strings in America? Here’s a list of the human tech giants with the most sway:

eric schmidt1. Eric Schmidt

The executive hair of Alphabet (which owns Google), Schmidt has been given a fair amount of credit for Obama’s success. He’s acted as a tech advisor to the president and guided Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Silicon Valley and the government tend to cross swords, but Eric Schmidt is an exception to the rule. He may be the only tech titan that doubles as a DC insider, making his lobbying power all the more all-encompassing.

Schmidt’s company Alphabet spends more on lobbying than almost any other company, and he’s been more than willing to support Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

2. Justin McConney

He currently has no affiliated party, but considering this man was Donald Trump’s first directer of new media (and introduced him to Facebook and YouTube), this man clearly has quite the pull over the polls. People have been describing Trump as a web-comments thread in human form, and it’s not a bad description; he’s basically brought the politically incorrect recklessness of more commonly anonymously posted opinions to the political arena as his main weapon. Without McConney, Trump would surely have missed out on the attention he receives today, and perhaps the nominations would be looking very different.

stephanie hannon3. Stephanie Hannon

This current chief technology officer for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign earned her stripes before being brought onboard the Clinton team. She was a directer of product for civic innovation and social impact at Google and helped create Google Maps and Gmail before shifting into politics. She even worked with Facebook briefly. Now she heads a team of Yelp and Google techies in amping up Hillary’s online presence, and has become the first woman to lead a presidential campaign’s tech effort.

4. & 5. Aidan King and David Frederick

These two men don’t have half the money or credentials of the others on the list; 24-year-old King works at a winery in Vermont and 33-year-old Frederick works at Crate & Barrel. Nonetheless, the two changed history simply by starting a reddit forum for Bernie Sanders. The forum not only spread the word about Bernie Sanders, but began to draw donations, which at this point have summed up to over $500,000. Their reddit forum even allowed the two to bring together over 100 Reddit readers, who together coded and built a website on Sanders’ positions, completely free of charge. That’s what grassroots politics looks like in real life.