A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jul 9, 2020

Networks of Self-Driving Trucks Are Becoming A Reality In the US

Two to three million jobs may be lost, but autonomous long haul trucking appears to moving rapidly from theoretical to actual. JL

Rebecca Heilweil reports in Vox:

TuSimple announced the world’s first autonomous freight network. It is expanding existing shipments with UPS, which has also invested in TuSimple, (and) US Xpress, one of the nation’s largest freight companies, will start shipping goods through TuSimple, which now has 22 contracted customers. Alphabet-owned Waymo confirmed it will be expanding its self-driving trucking routes throughout the American Southwest and Texas, following previous tests in Arizona, California, Michigan, and Georgia. The biggest fears is that they will displace the 2 million people working as truck drivers

The Pandemic Pushed Car Buying Online. It May Well Stay That Way

As in other industries from law to media, auto dealerships are finding that the compulsory shutting of physical sales forced them to upgrade their digital capabilities - and the results have been such that the heightened efficiency and reach from the changes will remain. JL 

Nora Naughton reports in the Wall Street Journal:

The auto industry rushed to embrace the internet as a way to sell more vehicles during the coronavirus-related lockdowns. Auto makers expanded at-home delivery programs, and dealers built out their websites to help customers tour showrooms virtually and complete more of the car-buying process online. As dealerships reopen, many are cutting traditional sales roles and shifting more employees into digital operations. Employees use the internet to close deals faster, reach more customers and expand stores geographic reach through social media.

How Offices Will Use AI and Apps Try To Tempt Workers Back

The goal is a largely touchless, smartphone-controlled environment in which everything, including employees, is constantly monitored to identify risks and eliminate them before they become a hazard.

It may not be much fun, but it will be safer. JL 

Padraig Belton reports in the BBC:

As soon as you wake up in the morning, you may check your building app (which) will also tell you the ideal time to arrive, to reduce congestion, and people riding public transport at peak times. You will operate the lift with buttons on your app and you'll order food by an app. It will tell you when your workstation was last cleaned. AI (labels) "pinch points" where people are too close together. (It) creates a building health index each day, from air quality, the number of occupants, and how well social distancing is being observed. If your building has a low rating that day, you might work from home.

An Algorithm Predicts Covid's Next Moves Based On Real-Time Data

Using current methods, Covid has an automatic two week head start before authorities are able to identify its spread.

But a new algorithmic system using real time data from doctors' and hospital data as well as social media and other inputs can reduce that head start by those same two weeks, which may be a key to fighting infection spikes. Jl

Benedict Carey reports in the New York Times:

Once the coronavirus finds an opening in the population, it gains a two-week head start on health officials, multiplying before its emergence becomes apparent at hospitals, testing clinics and elsewhere. An algorithm that registered danger 14 days or more before case counts begin to increase uses real-time monitoring of Twitter, Google searches and mobility data from smartphones, among other data streams. The team tested the predictive value of the data stream looking at how each correlated with case counts and deaths over March and April. "(This) is responsive to immediate changes in behavior."

Jul 8, 2020

How Barcelona Is Using AI On Its Subway To Halt the Spread of Covid

The crucial benefit appears to be measuring environmental conditions to assure that a maximum amount of fresh air is circulated in stations and cars. JL

Sarah Wray reports in Cities Today via The Next Web:

A smart ventilation system is being trialled on Barcelona’s metro network to maximize fresh air, temperature and humidity and help stop the spread of coronavirus. The AI reads the temperature, humidity, air quality and electricity consumption in metro stations in real-time. An algorithm combines this data with the weather forecast and expected occupancy levels to predict conditions at the stations and programs each to regulate temperature and energy consumption. Control of ventilation will bring the maximum amount of fresh air inside, which will “reduce the risk of proliferation of COVID-19

Does It Make Sense For Harvard To Keep Charging Full Tuition For Online Classes?

Yes. Because this is no prepackaged MOOC and the schools are not saving money. Most of their costs are fixed. The 'experience' is part of what students' families pay for, but the knowledge, the name on the degree and those friendships and/or useful contacts made for life are just as valuable.

And since America's higher education system is one of its salient assets, preserving that for future generations is not just right for private and public universities, but for the country and the world which benefits from all those educated minds. JL

Jordan Weissmann reports in Slate:

Harvard announced it would charge full tuition this fall while only allowing 40% of students back to campus and teaching all of its courses online. But universities like Harvard are not saving much, if any, money by moving their courses onto the internet. They’re putting the same courses with the same number of students on Zoom, which—regardless of what you think about the experience—costs the same as having class meet in Room 242. Undergrads whose families earn under $65,000 pay nothing. In reality, Harvard is only charging full price to students whose families make six figures.

How AI Can Personalize Online Content For Different Viewers

Increasing filter bubbles for fun and profit. As if the public were not already subject to enough manipulation...

Anthony Ha reports in Tech Crunch:

Artificial intelligence can automatically personalize a blog for different visitors. This was designed for content creators and marketers who are seeing more traffic during the coronavirus pandemic (Adobe says its blog saw a 30% month-over-month increase), and who may be looking for ways to increase reader engagement. The AI suggest different headlines and preview blurbs for different audiences. The AI isn’t changing the content itself — just the way the content is promoted on the main site.