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Mark Lewis
Professor of Computer Science. Author of Scala textbooks. Ring dynamicist, coder, avid roller skater.
Professor of Computer Science. Author of Scala textbooks. Ring dynamicist, coder, avid roller skater.

Mark Lewis's posts

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This is a good look at the challenges of training in a highly automated world, something I have discussed here on G+ previously. I think this has the potential to cause rel social problems. You can't enter the workforce until you have skills that someone is willing to pay for you. What happens when no one will pay you for anything entry level because machines can do that? How do young people enter the job market? Who is going to pay for them to train up on specific skills that might be valued by only a single employer?
"Bill Knight, an assembler at General Electric's plant in Grove City, Pennsylvania, demonstrates how to torque a bolt on the flex plate of a 15-ton locomotive engine. Instead of lifting a heavy tool, weighing 25 to 40 pounds, like he used to do, he almost effortlessly guides a robotic tool. Once the tool is in place he uses a single finger to activate it, and it torques the bolt perfectly. Then it tells Knight where to place the machine next."

"Knight, however, won't be around forever. Future workers who do his job won't have his experience and won't be able to double-check the machines. So how will they be trained?"

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I could pull so many quotes from this, but since it is a short piece and almost all of it is worth quoting, I'll just post it. The one thing I would like to add for the end of the piece is that there is a simple explanation for why the companies who aren't at the top aren't increasing their productivity, it is a lack of skilled individuals. If we need more companies increasing their productivity through technology, instead of just the top few, then we need a lot more people who are highly skilled and qualified to shape the use of technology.

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This is exciting, but a bit too limited for my personal use. I'm fine with highway only, but I need it to work at full highway speeds.

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I love this description of the sensors that Waymo has in place on their new self-driving cars. There is no doubt in my mind that these systems are more capable of detecting what is happening around a car than a human driver is. I think this is an area where autonomous cars can't cut corners. The systems currently in cars available to the public don't come anywhere close to this, and that is part of why they can miss things and really aren't capable of driving without human input yet. We still need better AI/code taking the data from the sensors and making decisions based on it, but having the data is extremely critical. I hope that Waymo can ramp this up quickly and roll it out successfully as I really do think they still have a lead on pretty much everyone else.

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I love that Waymo is posting things like this. A big part of making the move to autonomous vehicles is getting people acclimated to the idea of autonomous vehicles. Seeing what does into training them can probably help in that regard.

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This is a great comparison between the two newest high end chips from Intel and AMD. Indeed, AMD has produced a chip that can give Intel competition again. The architectures are very different, so which is better for you depends a lot on what you are doing. I'm impressed by the benchmarks at the end where AMD beats Intel in raw FP performance. This type of real competition in the x86 server chip market will be good for consumers. It is something we haven't seen for a while.

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I need to keep this handy for my CS1 section next year. We work in Linux, and things are nice for Mac users because they are basically on BSD Unix, but getting things working for the Windows users has often been quite painful. I'm hoping that this will help.

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This looks cool, but the current implementation definitely doesn't work well for existing structures. The safety implications will take a long time to work out as well. I almost wonder if it would be easier to set up "beaming" systems in a house that put a little station someplace in a room with cameras and possibly Bluetooth detectors and it beams energy directly toward the things that need it. The machine vision would allow it to turn off when a human is in the beam direction, and my understanding is that the beams are more efficient at delivering energy.

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Another interesting tech demonstration for what life will be like in the fairly near future. Reading this article, I got a strong feeling that the large variety of autonomous driving software under development today will wind up being problematic when it really goes into play. One of the things that has been mentioned about human drivers is that we do communicate with one another with gestures and other signals while driving. We have to standardize how cars talk to one another, we also need vehicles to have something of an agreement on how they react to various things so that other cars know what to expect from the vehicles around them. That type of thing get challenging with a broad spectrum of implementations.

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I agree that the 2040 deadline is far enough out that it probably won't matter. However, this does send a message. Granted, it would be a much louder message if it were coming from China instead of France.
The end of the gasoline era

The end isn't here - but it's coming! Yesterday Volvo announced that starting in 2019, all its cars would be hybrids or electric. The company's chief executive said:

This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car.

And today, the environment minister of France announced that sales of gasoline and diesel powered cars would be banned starting in 2040!

David Bailey, an automotive industry expert at Aston University, said:

The timescale involved here is sufficiently long term to be taken seriously. If enacted it would send a very clear signal to manufacturers and consumers of the direction of travel and may accelerate a transition to electric cars.

And France is not the only country moving in this direction! Norway has set a target of only allowing sales of 100% electric or plug-in hybrid cars by 2025. The Netherlands is considering a 2025 ban for gasoline and diesel cars, and some states in Germany want to phase them out by 2030.

Tony Seba, a Stanford University economist, argues that electric cars will take over even sooner:

Banning sales of diesel and gasoline vehicles by 2040 is a bit like banning sales of horses for road transportation by 2040: there won’t be any to ban.

Still, announcing this ban will help people see the handwriting on the wall - we can start innovating and adapting as needed.

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