Challenges to Autonomous Control

Great article in the New York Times about the challenges with autonomous vehicles. I continued to be fascinated by solving this problem and the resulting impacts that will have on all of us. I’ve written about it here and here and other places.

This article highlights some of the very subtle but real challenges with having an automated system control all aspects of a complicated problem. It is these boundaries or edge kind of problems that are the hard problems to solve. Things on the edge. These are the issues and problems that will delay any automation moving into the mainstream. Having a car stay between two lines is not the hard problem.

And then in the decade after these problems are solved and these vehicles are the norm, we’ll all forget how to manually drive the car because we’ve turned that problem over to the machines. Just like pilots today who are so used to autopilots that when they have to take over in a complex situation, they may not be up to the task.

Complexity of our Devices

I’ve been thinking lately that our devices are getting so complex that we no longer are sure about how to manage, secure or protect them.

My wife’s phone recently went nuts and started flashing the LED for alerts but that setting was not turned on under settings. Another friend’s phone started acting strangely and randomly and the vendor ended up giving him a new device. His phone was an iPhone 6 which is awfully old to be getting a free exchanged unit. My wife’s Apple Watch battery/system was so poor that the battery ran down every day mid-afternoon with everything turned off. She had to charge it twice a day. Apple support said it was within specifications. Right.

Our home networks are vulnerable and we don’t even know what we need to do to harden. Apple TV can support multiple streaming sources, but nothing is simple and they each authenticate differently. We have devices to open our garage doors with who knows what security. What about our cars?

Apple and Steve Jobs used to talk about removing and simplifying. Matthew May writes about subtracting and eloquence in his books (well worth the read).

Unfortunately, companies continue to make things more complicated.

Our ice maker has a light to remind us to clean the filter. I have no idea how to clean the filter.

Some Interesting Reading

I tend to share things of interest mostly on twitter (@brewerma) and not on the blog. However, I thought today I’d share a few interesting readings of late.

The High Cost of Fitting In by the founder of Puppet Luke Kanies.  We shouldn’t be trying to fit in.

The formula for winning at life is actually incredibly simple which includes several pearls like ‘write it down’ and ‘realize you are responsible for this.’ The article was written by Mark Manson.

Stop asking for easy on the besomebody.com site. Worth the watch and following along.

And an interesting article about Occam’s Razor at a wonderful site that has lots of interesting material. Follow them too.

And How to Overcome Your Fear and Get What You Want on Medium by Josh Spector. The point about ‘the alternative is scarier’ is one of my favorites. We can’t be comfortable with the status quo and we’ve got to try new things.

 

 

 

The Dance of the Possible

I’ve read a few books over the years about creativity and innovation and it is part of numerous posts on this site. Scott Berkun just released his latest book entitled, The Dance of the Possible: the mostly honest completely irreverent guide to creativity which I just bought and read today.

This is probably best, fast, focused book on the ideas around creativity that I’ve read:

We spend so much time trying to be efficient that doing anything interesting feels like a waste of time. And in this tendency is another misconception: creativity is rarely efficient. It always involves taking chances and trying things that might work but might not.

and

To create means to make something new, at least for you, and to do something new is like going off of the map, or more precisely, deliberately choosing to go to a part of the map that is unknown.

I especially liked the idea of writing down your ideas. I remember one of Tom Clancy’s books, I think it was Executive Orders, where there was the repeated line that ‘if you don’t write it down, it never happens’ and then that becomes a key part of the story development. Loved it. I write a lot and take notes as much as possible and I save lots and lots of notes, clippings, articles, etc. for future reference. Love this.

But I know that if I don’t write it down, I’ll never get a second chance to evaluate it again. Despite my convenient hope that I’ll remember it later without writing it down, I know, scientifically, that I’ll likely forget it, and forget that I forgot it.

and finally, this comment about just doing the work required to get it done.

The simplest habit is to work on your project every day.

If you are looking for a fast refresher on creativity and how to think about creativity, this is a great place to take a look. Recommended.

 

 

 

Connected All The Time

So there is a story on Mashable called The Latest Tool in Medicine? The iPhone which highlights some studies where iPhones are being used to collect data as part of medical studies.

Yes, carrying around a powerful compute device, that you can interface with, that is connected to the mother ship for two way communications might result in some powerful new medical studies, advances, options and ideas. Duh.

It is not really the iPhone, it is the mobile, connected, compute device that people have with them all the time (and won’t leave behind) that is the key here. I love my iPhone, but that is not the advance, it is the connected device connecting to the patient/subject.

There will be huge things coming from this as has been written about elsewhere. Immediate detection of crisis events, more frequent sampling of data in studies, ability to trigger something to happen to the patient (administer something), etc. etc. Lots of things can come from this.

Exaptation

Steven Johnson in his book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation used the word exaptation to describe new uses for existing solutions. The word has a biological background and use, but it can be applied to anything. I’ve written about this book before on a post about being cross disciplinary and spreading good ideas.

David King has started a new company called Exaptive which is doing work with a tool and methods designed from the ground up to facilitate leveraging ideas, methods, solutions and data across different disciplinary areas. Very interesting. You can follow their blog here.

Interesting Reading

I’ve picked out a few articles that struck me this week as particularly interesting. Thought I’d share them here.

  1. How Long Till Hackers Start Faking Leaked Documents appeared in The Atlantic a few days ago. I had never considered this possibility before and it has really struck me. Distribute thousands of real emails and insert in 2-3 carefully crafted ones into the mix. Elections could be influenced. Governments could fall. Businesses could collapse. I had never thought of this before and is absolutely no reason to believe it isn’t happening already or will happen.
  2. Spotting the Gaps is a wonderful reminder that we need to learn to see what is missing. We need to learn to look for the missing pieces, the things that aren’t there or aren’t happening. We tend to only see what is right in front of us. Perhaps we should start purposely asking about what is missing in discussions about problems and opportunities.
  3. Six Rules to Simplify Work is another gem. Reenforce the integrators is particularly important. Those who connect and tie things together are very valuable. Learn to be that person.
  4. Seven Steps Toward Better Critical Thinking is another very good list of things to consider. Don’t believe something just because everyone else does. I might add to the list that you need to consider the source of a position because they might be biased in favor of one position over another. I recently read an article where someone came out criticizing a position yet it wasn’t clear in the article that the author was motivated and prospered by the decision going a particular way.

I post a lot of articles that I like on twitter at @brewerma.