A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jun 19, 2018

Chatbots Were the Next Big Thing. What Happened?

The relentless tech hype machine inspired lots of companies to think bots were 'the answer.'

Which led lots of smart people to forget that the problem in tech today is that there is no one answer. To anything. JL

Justin Lee reports in Medium:

Chatbots took on several difficult problems and failed all of them. A great bot can be as useful as an average app. When it comes to sophisticated, multi-layered apps, there’s no competition. Machines let us access vast, complex information systems, and graphical information systems were a leap forward. Bots are built using decision-tree logic, where the canned response relies on specific keywords in the user input. Bots are a reflection of the capability and patience of the person who created them; and how many user needs they were able to anticipate. Problems arise when life refuses to fit into those boxes.

Psychology's Trolley Problem Impacts Driverless Car Design. But What If It's Wrong?

How humans react theoretically may be influencing the design and programming of driverless cars.

But new research suggests it's conclusions may be inaccurate. At best. JL

Daniel Engber reports in Slate:

A runaway trolley barreling down a track toward a group of five people. The only way to save them from being killed, is to hit a switch that will turn the trolleyonto tracks where it will kill one person. Trolley dilemmas are interpreted as though they were a valid measure of a person’s tendency toward utilitarian decision-making. (men are more utilitarian than women; millennials more than Gen-Xers.) But recent research finds these only measure the willingness to inflict sacrificial harm. That leaves commitment to the greater good. That explains the fact that trolley studies label psychopaths as utilitarians.

Tech Disrupts Itself Again: Increased Broadband Speeds, Reduced Latency Disintermediate Game Consoles

Tech continues to eat its own. JL

Jeremy Horwitz reports in Venture Beat:

You won’t need a console or computer Technology advances are going to enable stream(ing) fully rendered games directly over broadband and phone networks, enabling high-end PC-quality games to be played on anything with a modern screen. Global broadband speeds are increasing, and latency  is about to nosedive thanks to soon-to-be-launched 5G. 

The Reason the Next Apple Laptop May Be More iPhone Than Macbook

Strategically, Apple is trying to give its laptops more iPhone-like capabilities which could differentiate it from competitors.

At the same time, this convergence with mobile attributes may revive interest in laptops as iPad - and tablet sales generally - have plateaued and deny Apple the growth it wants from alternative platforms. JL

Christopher Mims reports in the Wall Street Journal, illustration by Sean McCabe:

Laptops, which haven’t been exciting for years, are about to get interesting again. A reason for Apple and its competitors to switch to ARM-based laptops is that mobile processors are gaining capabilities larger computers dont have. Apple is pushing as on-device artificial intelligence, which could enable voice recognition. Apple could deprive cheaper Macbooks of spatial, visual, auditory capturing and processing in mobile devices which might drive customers toward the iPad.

Why Tech Companies Don't See Their Biggest Problems Coming

Early success often breeds overconfidence. JL

Ian Mitroff reports in MIT Sloan Management Review:

Peter Drucker wrote about the failure that ensues when companies succeed quickly and spectacularly. The cascade of great news can make an organization blind to problems that lurk within its business model and are embedded in its culture and structure. Smugness about achievements in IT can make management seem deceptively easy. An ethical crisis can quickly morph into PR and financial crises and into a crisis of confidence in the entire company.

Amazon Acquired Whole Foods 1 Year Ago. How Much Has Changed?

Not as much as everyone - including investors, shoppers and competitors - expected. JL

Sarah Halzack reports in Bloomberg:

Whatever Amazon’s grand vision is for Whole Foods and digital grocery, it seems largely unrealized. Amazon investors appear content to give the company time to keep tinkering. Online grocery has only just reached its tipping point for widespread adoption. There are going to be millions more dollars up for grabs in this channel in the next several years, and habits aren’t yet ingrained for who gets them. Old-school retailers came a long way this year toward positioning themselves to get a piece of the action.

Jun 18, 2018

The Reason Google Is Investing $500 Million In JD.com, Alibaba's Toughest Rival

If it looks like an ecosystem...JD also has partnerships with Walmart and Tencent. 

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. JL

Saheli Choudhury reports in CNBC:

The partnership would open a channel for JD.com to sell to consumers outside China. The two tech companies said they would work together to develop retail infrastructure that can better personalize the shopping experience and reduce friction in a number of markets, including Southeast Asia. When retailers partner with Google, it gives their products visibility and makes it convenient for consumers to purchase them online. For the tech giant, its shopping service is important in helping to win back product searches from Amazon and to stay relevant in the voice-powered future of e-commerce.