The tech behind Google-Uber legal beef could be ready to boom

The tech behind Google-Uber legal beef could be ready to boom

 .. Waymo alleges that six weeks before resigning, Levandowski copied 14,000 confidential files and trade secrets from his company-issued laptop. Among those files were designs for Google’s custom-designed Lidar system, the technology that gives autonomous vehicles their vision.
.. Waymo learned of the alleged theft when a Lidar component supplier inadvertently attached machine drawings of what was said to be Uber’s Lidar circuit board in an email, a design it said is strikingly similar to Waymo’s own unique design.
.. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk is not a fan, and his aversion to Lidar brings up some questions about how widespread its use will be. He believes radar-based visual systems are better, and is focusing on those for Tesla’s self-driving automobiles. Unlike radar, Lidar cannot penetrate fog, heavy rain, or snow, but radar has its own issues, including difficulty detecting non-moving objects and certain materials such as metallic objects.
.. Rasgon believes that radar in conjunction with cameras may become more widely used than Lidar.
“Radar is easier, cheaper, more ubiquitous,” he said in an interview. “Ideally, you would want to use the cheapest solution that you can…The performance is very good in Lidar, but if you can get by with cameras and radar, that is probably the best way to go.”
.. Google’s Waymo said in the lawsuit that by designing its Lidar systems itself, it has already driven down the costs; its Lidar systems are now less than 10% of the cost of Lidar systems just a few years ago.

What Tech Employees Want

Lori Goler and Juliet de Baubigny on the secrets to finding and keeping the best workers

What we see a lot of is the importance of pride. They are looking for the sense of fulfillment—having an impact, being part of something that’s bigger than you are, learning. People really want to learn. The most important thing is actually playing to your strengths. So it’s the notion of doing not just something you’re good at, but something you love.

.. 21% of millennials are looking for another job.

.. So, as you look at investing in people, the days of hanging on to your great talent for a decade are largely over, or should be questioned. The question is, “What can I really invest and get out of that person for the time that they are with me?”

.. The other two big drivers, particularly for young people today, are compensation, also transparency. This is a values-based generation. They really want to understand the values of the company that they’re working for.

.. So, yes, maybe having the annual performance review. But most millennials value a weekly feedback, a monthly feedback, a quarterly feedback cycle.

.. We’re looking for builders. We’re looking for people who can look at any situation and think, “That works pretty well. I bet it can be even better, and I have a vision for how to make it better.”

.. I am intrigued by Los Angeles as a market. Austin. Berlin.

.. Companies that do not have diversity and inclusion policies will not be competitive.

.. My favorite question to ask is always, “On your very best day at work when you go home and you think, ‘I have the best job on the planet,’ what did you do that day?” Because I want to be sure that whatever job or role the person is coming into is something that has a lot of whatever that is in it.

Tech titans’ latest project: Defy death

For centuries, explorers have searched the world for the fountain of youth. Today’s billionaires believe they can create it, using technology and data.

What many of the recent efforts have in common is a belief that computerized analysis of big data sets can deliver cures, predict outbreaks and discover patterns that would have been impossible for the human brain to process. An oft-cited example is Google’s flu heat map, which is built on the idea that an improved predictor for flu activity might be clusters of searches for, say, Tamiflu or “flu symptoms,” collected from Internet service provider addresses.

That approach turns the traditional scientific method on its head. In the United States, most biomedical research happens at a gradual and sometimes painfully deliberate pace. Scientists start with a hypothesis, conduct experiments to test it and then spend years refining and analyzing the results they collect.

.. And there are few checks and balances on such initiatives. Once, two-thirds of scientific and medical research was funded by the federal government, beholden to the public good. Now, two-thirds is funded by private industry, a growing share by billionaires accountable to no one and impatient with the pace of innovation.

.. America remains deeply ambivalent about using new medical treatments to live radically longer lives. In a 2013 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 51 percent said they believed treatments to slow, stop or reverse aging would have a negative impact on society.

.. In that kind of world, social change comes to a standstill, he said; aging dictators could stay in power for centuries.

.. Fukuyama said in an interview. “Extending the average human life span is a great example of something that is individually desirably by almost everyone but collectively not a good thing. For evolutionary reasons, there is a good reason why we die when we do.”

.. Vinod Khosla, one of Silicon Valley’s most revered venture capitalists, likened the practice of medicine to witchcraft. He argued that machines are better than the average doctor and that disruption in health care was more likely to be driven by those outside the industry than those in the profession.

.. Since 2010, the National Institutes of Health’s budget has been cut by about $3.6 billion — or 11 percent — after adjusting for inflation

.. Prevailing theory among the tech entrepreneurs holds that the federal government is too risk-averse to properly drive medical research.  A failed project in Washington is akin to a great tragedy — with managers being called to testify at congressional hearings and Government Accountability Office investigations being launched into why so much taxpayer money was wasted. But in the entrepreneurial world, say tech leaders, failure is regarded as a learning opportunity on the way to the next innovation.

 .. scientists, motivated by the pressures to publish and entangled in a web of conflicts of interest, manipulate data so often that it’s impossible to trust the body of scientific literature that  assesses the efficacy of hormone-replacement therapy or vitamin E or low-dose aspirin. Of 45 well-accepted journal articles about medical interventions, Ioannidis found, 14, or 31 percent, were later shown to be wrong or exaggerated.
.. Thiel said the problem with the grant-making processes at NIH, the National Science Foundation and other major funders of research is that they are “consensus-oriented.”
.. everyone would be like Harriette Thompson, the 91-year-old who broke records this year after completing a marathon in 7 hours and 7 minutes.
.. The big challenge of aging research is that to make it work the way people want it to scientists would have to figure out a way to extend all human systems simultaneously and shut them all down at pretty much the same time. Otherwise you would be replacing one way of dying with another.
.. “If you did this, you might start working on some great projects you might otherwise not have attempted because you didn’t think you’d finish,” Thiel said. “You’d treat strangers a lot better because you’d likely see them again. You’d be a much better steward of the Earth than if you thought it was your last day and you were having a crazy party or something.”

Whitey on Mars: Elon Musk and the rise of Silicon Valley’s strange trickle-down science

Musk’s plan to colonise Mars is a sign of an older and recurring social problem. What happens when the rich and powerful isolate themselves from everyday concerns? Musk wants to innovate and leave Earth, rather than to take care of it, or fix it, and stay. Like so many of his peers in the innovating and disrupting classes, Musk prefers to dwell in fantasy and science fiction, safely removed from the world of here and now. Musk is a utopian, in the original Greek meaning: ‘no place’. Repulsed by the world we all share, he dreams of a place that does not exist.

.. Before his death, King had turned his political activism toward the problems of economic inequality and poverty. Abernathy stayed with this focus, and continued to organise people around addressing economic issues for black and white Americans. In July 1969, with the Apollo 11 launch, Abernathy saw an opportunity to keep economic justice on the nation’s conscience. He announced a march to Cape Canaveral in Florida, the rocket launch site.

.. Abernathy told NASA officials, as one of them recalled: ‘The money for the space program should be spent to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend the sick, and house the shelterless.’

.. Abernathy’s insight about the priorities of a country that could send men into space while millions of Americans lacked medical care, shelter and food found a new voice in Gil Scott-Heron.

.. US adventures into outer space – white men in expensive, gleaming white spaceships – captivated popular attention and support in ways that urban poverty did not. Americans continued to send their tax revenues to the heavens.

.. US adventures into outer space – white men in expensive, gleaming white spaceships – captivated popular attention and support in ways that urban poverty did not. Americans continued to send their tax revenues to the heavens.

.. His parents divorced when he was young, leaving Musk to be raised by his abusive father. The boy developed the habit of detaching from reality and entering a dreamlike space of imagination. Later, he would envision new technologies in this state. As a child, he was known as a spaced-out nerd who corrected his peers’ mistakes. He was bullied. By his teen years, Musk fantasised about escaping South Africa for the US. After he graduated from high school in 1989, he followed through on these dreams, leaving behind his impoverished and racially divided country.

.. From his early days in business, Musk developed a reputation for harshness. He chastised one employee who missed a company event to be at the birth of his child: ‘You need to figure out where your priorities are. We’re changing the world and changing history, and you either commit or you don’t.’

.. Musk himself admits that, in his early years as a leader, he assumed that ‘other people will behave like you’. He grew frustrated when he realised that people didn’t behave like him. He lacked a natural ability to empathise with other people’s experiences and points of view.

.. For all its ideals and the great possibilities inherent in them, Tesla remains a company that makes toys for rich people.

.. Musk insists that humans in fact ‘need’ to go to Mars. The Mars mission, he argues, is the best way for humanity to become what he calls a ‘space-faring civilisation and a multi-planetary species’. This otherworldly venture, he says, is necessary to mitigate the ‘existential threat’ from artificial intelligence (AI) that might wipe out human life on Earth.

.. The idea that Google’s CEO Larry Page might create artificially intelligent robots that will destroy humanity reportedly keeps Musk up at night. ‘I’m really worried about this,’ Musk told his biographer. ‘He could produce something evil by accident.’

.. Musk estimates the cost of the Mars mission at around $10 billion per person. His goal is to reduce that cost to $200,000 per person. He said this would allow ‘almost anyone’ to save up and buy a trip to Mars.

.. For $1.5 billion, we could upgrade the lead-contaminated water infrastructure in Flint, Michigan; for $400 billion, we could repair the water infrastructure of the entire US. It’s jarring to think that one of the brightest minds of our age would rather fund 40 trips to Mars than keep children in his own country safe from poisoned water. It’s enough to make one wonder what led Musk to develop such contempt for the billions of humans who could never escape Earth.

.. ‘The idea that Mars will somehow save us from the decisions we’ve made is a false one.’ If we ‘truly believe in our ability to bend the hostile environments of Mars for human habitation, then we should be able to surmount the far easier task of preserving the habitability of the Earth.

.. In his September 2016 announcement, he declared that a fully self-sustaining civilisation on Mars would need around 1 million people. From Earth’s current population of 7.125 billion, the Musk Million would bring 0.014035087719298244 per cent of it to Mars.

.. If Musk prefers the planetary scale of action, he could lead people to preserve our single planetary resource, also known as Earth, the only planet we will probably ever have. Even on Musk’s own optimistic terms, his adolescent space fantasies will benefit only 0.014 per cent of humanity. He makes the politicians who serve the 1 per cent seem like communists.

.. Quite simply, why not address the existential problems facing our society and our fellow humans directly? We don’t need trickle-down science.

.. The moral detachment of the plan signifies a deeper pathology that afflicts our culture of innovation, and celebrates innovators such as Musk, who are all too eager to play with gadgets and leave their fellow humans behind.