A Blog by Jonathan Low


Dec 7, 2019

How the Rise In App Distraction Has Led To A Huge Increase in Injuries

Pay attention or die? JL

Tanya Basu reports in MIT Technology Review:

People are being distracted by apps on their phones, and getting injured as a result. The actual number of people with head and neck injuries from cell phone use could be as high as 76,000. Insurance or legal reasons are a big incentive to not mention you were using your phone at the time of the accident. (There was) a spike in injuries in 2007, a dip in 2008, and a sharp climb for the next decade. “It’s not about using your phone to make phone calls. Making a call, while a distraction, still keeps your eyes up and around for hazards. It’s apps."

Is AI Development About To Hit A Wall?

Due to the rising expense of experimentation and testing, the demand for more power - and its attendant costs - the cost-benefit calculation for AI is becoming a concern, even for the biggest tech companies. JL

Will Knight reports in Wired:

Deep learning and current AI has a lot of limitations. We are very far from human intelligence, and there are criticisms that are valid. The rate of progress is not sustainable. If you look at top experiments, each year the cost it going up 10-fold. Right now, an experiment might be in seven figures, but it’s not going to go to nine or ten figures,  nobody can afford that. It means we're going to hit the wall. In many ways we already have. Not every area has reached the limit of scaling, but we're getting to a point where we need to think in terms of optimization, in terms of cost benefit, and we need to look at how we get most out of the compute we have.

The FBI Officially Warns That Your TV Is Probably Spying On You

And the word 'probably' is optional. JL

Karl Bode reports in Tech Dirt:

The FBI issued a warning to cyber Monday shoppers that their smart TV is a little too smart, and likely watches you as much as you watch it. "Do a basic Internet search with your model number and the words “microphone,” “camera,” and “privacy.” Don’t depend on the default security settings. Change passwords if you can – and know how to turn off the microphones, cameras, and collection of personal information if possible. If you can’t turn them off, consider whether you are willing to take the risk of buying that model or using that service."

Fresh Food Vending Machines Are Coming - And Will Be Regulated Like Restaurants

The place where the growing demand for fresh food and automation intersect is...complicated. JL 

Jane Black reports in the New York Times:

What might look like a convenient healthy-eating option to many people looked to the inspector like a food-safety time bomb waiting to blow. The internal temperature of each machine is taken every five minutes and uploaded to servers. Should a refrigerator reach an unsafe temperature, it stops dispensing food. The machines also track how long food has been inside, and will not release a product after its sell-by date. (but) each machine will be treated as a restaurant — or “food service establishment,” per the health code. Every machine will require a permit, inspections and the same kind of letter grade posted from McDonald’s to Le Bernardin.

Retailers Adjust Strategy, Staffing To Meet Customers' Switch To Online Buying

Retailers have adapted to online shopping by investing in retraining their workforces and changing the way their stores are organized to encourage consumers to use them to pick up digital orders.

And customers are noticing. JL

Sarah Nassauer reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Foot traffic to U.S. stores fell 6.2% on Black Friday, as more people ordered online. Target, Walmart and other retailers are staffing stores differently to meet new competitive challenges, as well as attract workers and control payroll costs amid the tightest labor market in decades. Daytime stocking is becoming more popular, efficient use of labor that keeps workers in the store helping shoppers Some chains, adapting to the shift to online shopping, use their stores to handle deliveries or shoppers to pick up orders rather than wait for an Amazon package.Target says it sources 80% of its online orders from stores, not warehouses.

Why Amazon One Day Shipping Doesn't Mean One Day Delivery. Again.

Hmmm. High order volume and wintry weather in December. Who could ever have imagined and planned for such an eventuality?

Maybe next year Amazon will be able to hire extra workers and offer them better wages so they'll stay rather than leaving to take the first available job that doesnt treat them like robots. JL

Jason Del Ray reports in Re/code:

Amazon Prime members, who pay $119 a year in the US for express shipping and other perks, have been flooding the company’s Twitter and Facebook accounts this week with complaints of shipping delays. The tech giant acknowledged that customers’ orders are experiencing shipping delays as the company battles high demand and winter storms. “I can order from Target or Walmart with free shipping and have my order in 2 days. Your excuse about high order volume is pitiful. You knew the holidays were coming and should have hired extra staff. Prime members are paying for service you can’t provide and should all be refunded.”

Dec 6, 2019

AI-Enabled Robot Returns To Space Station With Enhanced Emotional Intelligence

As long as it doesnt always win at card games or chess it might help. JL

Darrell Etherington reports in Tech Crunch:

The first smart astronaut assistant will demonstrate ways the astronaut support robot can help those working in space from a practical and an emotional angle. Functions include retrieving information, tracking tasks astronauts are doing on board, and helping to alleviate social issues that might arise from settings in which a small team works in close quarters over a long period. 'We’re trying to understand and analyze emotions during a conversation  to see how they’re feeling. That could help evolve a robotic countermeasure for “groupthink.”