Saturday, May 5, 2018

This article, “Mercedes Decides Who An Autonomous Car Should Save And The Answer Is Worrying”, brings to light an ethical discussion which challenges the new emergence of auto pilot in cars.  The ethical problem that the article talks about is a discussion on the Trolley Problem.  The Trolley Problem is a thought experiment created by Philippa Foot in 1967, which discusses a specific scenario where a person would have to decide whether to save one person’s live, or 5 people’s lives.  In the scenario, there are 5 people on a trolley cart and they come to a fork in the road where on one side there are 5 men working on a track and on the other side there is only 1 man.  The driver then must ultimately decide which side of the path to steer the trolley.
This article presents the same Trolley Problem, but it brings to light the emerging concept of the “autonomous car”, or the self-driving car technology, which is confident in its abilities and how the technology is programed to react to it. Because this is an ethical issue, there is no correct answer for this problem, so we cannot program or rely on technology to make the “right” decision if we cannot do it ourselves. The dilemma is of whether to receive bad PR, Public Relations, on programming the car to make the passengers life the priority (the one man on the tracks) or prioritize the group people in the road (the five men on the tracks). While in an interview the manager of driver assistance systems and active safety for Mercedes Benz, Christoph von Hugo, released that the technology is wired to prioritize the passenger’s life inside the car, which essentially takes a specific stand on one side of the ethical problem at hand.
Personally, I agree with the development of the technology and how it prioritizes the passenger’s life, however I do not think that the world is quite ready to rely on day-to-day transportation just yet.  I think it should first wait for the technology to advance more and secondly, make it easily accessible to move toward a system where cars are automated, but it is so wide spread that it could be put into a system that works a lot better.  There is no correct solution to the problem without someone’s life being taken away and who are we to make that decision. Further into the philosophy is assuming the role of God. When we take a stance on the discussion, and program technology to make a specific decision when presented this problem, you assume a position of valuing one person’s life more than another, and no one is supposed to do that except God, according to this thought process.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Could Airships be the Future?

Ever since the 1937 Hindenburg disaster, we have been relatively hesitant to really explore airship or blimp technologies. However, that event is probably going to be the biggest hurdle to jump over for aerospace companies like Flying Whales. What’s really interesting about Flying Whales is there latest project is a blimp that will be able to carry an industry-leading 60 tons. Internally, have a rigid structure with individual pockets of helium, which apparently that technically makes it airship. Also, it’s going to be powered by a small diesel or electric engine but it won’t require that much power. They have already been able to receive $246 million in capital to start on a concept that’s going to be a 500-foot model that will debut in 2021 and will also be backed by China.
The amazing thing about these handful of companies delving into the blimp technologies are the markets that could potentially open. Flying Whale says that originally its designed to lift logs over forests but the designs can be tweaked to maybe be a new way of luxury air travel, or maybe a legitimate flying circus. Imagine in the super distant future, so far that it would make none of this worth anything, that we could have potential cities, potentially up in the sky. I know I sound like a 6-year-old, and mentally I feel like that’s where I’m at; although, I am a realist and I know it’s a stupid idea. For example, there would be nothing we could do to lower the suicide rates, and that’s pretty bad.
            However, my terrible ideas aside, there is still a lot of money to be made in this field especially now that we have the technology to make these more efficient and cleaner. The founder and CEO of Flying Whales, Sebastien Bougon said in an interview with Bloomberg that they estimated sales at 5 billion euros over 10 years from a fleet of 150 machines that are being built in China and France.
What I’m trying to say is that I’m glad that there is a sort of an “airship race” between companies because I’m so curious about the different applications that we can apply this technology to in a way we haven’t really seen before. Hopefully I’ll be alive long enough to see at least some sort levitating city. I won’t, but I can hope, right?

Word Count: 397


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Is Biometric Technology Safer for Businesses?

Passwords have been around for as long as anyone can remember.  In the past, people have used passwords as a way of allowing specific persons to gain access to parties or secret meetings.  Children often use passwords when they play made up games.  With technology, passwords are used for people to gain access to their email or different accounts online.  As technology has swiftly improved, it seems that many businesses are trying to eradicate passwords from their company altogether.
Passwords can be annoying as people often forget what password they use to sign into online accounts.  Often times, websites have different parameters they set for users to create their password such as having a number or a punctuation mark in their passwords.  This makes it difficult because most people who use social media and technology in general sign up to have different accounts on websites like Facebook or Amazon.  Having different passwords is annoying because it is hard to keep track of all of them. 
Many companies are trying to switch from using passwords to using biometrics.  Biometric authentication uses face, fingerprint or iris scans to confirm a person’s identity.  A well-known example is the newer models of iPhone that Apple produces, which have fingerprint scanners to make it easier for people to unlock their phone.  The new iPhoneX has facial recognition, which lets people unlock their phones simply by looking at the screen. 
A professional network for people in the IT industry called Spiceworks predicts that 90% of businesses will use biometric authentication by the year 2020.  Today, the number is currently at 62%.  The most common type today is fingerprint scanning.  One benefit of biometrics is that it reduces the risk of hackers, because it can be quite easy to guess someone’s passwords and it is a lot tougher to steal one’s fingerprints or facial recognition.  I am personally in favor of this movement because I have so many passwords I use that it is tough to keep track of them all.  While I may be a college student, I am striving to work for a company one day and in my opinion it will be a lot easier for everyone if people simply had to scan their fingerprint or look at a monitor instead of remembering and typing in a password. 
Having to use passwords can be quite expensive for a company.  The director of program management in Microsoft’s identity division, Alex Simons, claims he spends “over $2 million in help desk calls per month helping people change their passwords.”  Banks and financial industries are most interested in biometric technology because, obviously, they hold and control the flow of money in the world and as stated before, passwords can be stolen or guessed and this would allow people to steal money from these industries.
Overall, I believe biometric technology is a positive technology that can help to reshape and improve the way businesses are run and help make day-to-day life easier for people.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Roomba iRobot Vaccum

Word Count: 392
In the world of technology, there is a heightened sense of convenience, ease, and accessibility. Recently one of my favorite YouTuber RavenEylse vlogged about her experience with the Roomba 980- a robotic vacuum cleaner. It is the shape of a frisbee which vacuum cleans the floor of your home. It comes with Bluetooth capability, Wi-Fi, application support, scheduling cleans by date and time. Along with application notification with alerts if the Roomba is stuck, needs to be cleared of dirt, is on its way to self-charge and if it needs to be updated. It goes into performance mode to detect carpet, wood, and title. The Roomba’s top competitors are the Dyson 360 eye and the MiMi Robot. Over time it accesses the entire space, can navigate cables, wires, and the sorts. The Tach Chap says “99.9% of the time, the Roomba works well with cords” and unlike the Dyson 360 eye, the Roomba can sliver under beds, sofas, and small tables. Why should you care about the Roomba? Millennials generally enjoy ease, comfort, and the reduction of domesticity which is why companies like Peapod, HelloFresh, Blue Apron, and Healthy Harvest (prepared meals and grocery services) are successful with individuals or young people ranged 18 to 30 years of age. The purpose of introducing the Roomba to our class is to allow the consideration of technological innovation and systems which connect to our daily lives.
Now let’s briefly explore the technical specifications of the Roomba 980. According to, “iRobot has been developing robots with wireless integration along with intelligent navigation capability based on VSLAM (Vision Simultaneous Localization and Mapping)” The VSLAM builds an interactive map for the Roomba to navigate, it uses a camera that can look u to 45 degrees to track, position, and capture pixels of things in its way. The VSLAM is an attractive software because, “as far as VSLAM algorithms go, the Roomba has to be a little bit clever, because it frequently finds itself under tables and couches and beds, where tracking “features” in the environment gets harder” ( I am interested to see how this software and technology may be implemented in things such as toilets, kitchen sinks, window blinds, even bedding to increase the autonomous nature within technology to simplify some of the most mundane tasks which exist (i.e.; chores).


Lil Miquela: The Internet Phenomenon

            For years, the development of technology has stunned and impressed audiences all over the world. While, for the most part, these advances have been a way to meet public demands and make tasks like vacuuming easier, technology has now found a place within the arts. We have social media, Instagram more specifically, to thank for this development.
            Ever since the rise of the popular app, there have been celebrities present within it, sharing a range of content. More recently, however, this “celebrity” status has been extended to a new group of people who refer to themselves as “influencers.” The prerequisites to obtain this status are rather vague, and it is more often than not a self-given title. Among these is Miquela Sousa, also known as Lil Miquela (@lilmiquela), who has taken over the internet.

The 19-year-old Brazilian/Spanish model currently lives in Los Angeles, where she enjoys going to different spots around the city by herself and with friends, who include a couple celebrities. However, she is different from the average Instagram influencer, as well as from you and I as well. That difference being Miquela isn’t actually human, which has contributed to her internet fame.
            For a while, people were skeptical on whether or not she was real. Although her features closer resemble a computer-generation’s than a human’s, her pictures in known places have caused confusion. It wasn’t until February 5th, 2018, following an interview with Business of Fashion, that her audience got confirmation that Miquela really was a computer-generation. However, the mystery behind her creator and who’s running her page still remains a mystery. This has, in turn, caused many people to come up with different theories on who is behind all of this. One of these is that digital artist Nicole Ruggiero is behind the account.
            The theory behind Ruggiero stems from the physical similarities between Miquela and herself, as well as her history with 3D models. However, Ruggiero quickly shut down these theories, claiming that she not only wasn’t behind it but also has no idea who is. In an interview when asked about Lil Miquela, Ruggiero said “She seems very realistic, like she’s actually a social influencer, whoever came up with this is brilliant.” 

            The mystery behind this social media phenomenon hasn’t caused interest in Miquela to decrease. She has now been involved and worked on projects with fashion icons like Chanel, Versace and Moschino, a huge honor for anyone in the fashion industry. Although this mystery remains almost entirely unsolved, it is safe to say that not knowing is what’s contributing to Miquela’s fame and success. While the world wants to know who is behind this project, this is a mystery which might remain better unsolved.


Self-driving cars – are they as safe as they claim?

The chief executive of Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving car unit Waymo, John Krafcik stated that Waymo’s technology would be able to adeptly detect and stop for a pedestrian.  This statement was in response to the recent accident in Tempe, Arizona in which a woman was struck and killed by an Uber self-driving car.  Waymo believes its self-driving technology is more advanced than Uber’s and will be able to appropriately respond to and handle life-threatening situations.  I think that Waymo making this statement is encouraging because it shows that they are very confident in their technology they have developed.  I hope that every company is that confident in their products because their cars are trusted with people’s lives.  Sadly, even if they are 100% confident in their vehicles, there can still be accidents caused by these cars. 
Waymo’s statement and the accident in Arizona raise serious questions.  I think the most prevalent is: are self-driving cars safe?  This question does not have a clear answer.  When I first learned that self-driving cars were being developed, I thought the idea of a self-driving car was crazy.  I never thought that a car would be able to actually drive itself on active roads without a driver at the wheel.  The more I thought about it the more unsafe the cars sounded.  I think that there are way too many things that can malfunction in a car that is not automated.  If you take all of these potential issues and add to them that the car is completely driven through technology, the possibilities that something could go wrong are much higher.  Also, I think that there are some aspects of driving that only a human can react to and judge.  A self-driving car cannot communicate to other drivers on the road like a human can.  Likewise, given the choice between trusting my life with a computer’s ability to hit the break and my own I would pick my own.  I think a human reacting to a problem on the road is faster than waiting for the car to detect it and then brake.
The self-driving car industry is developing and expanding.  With this expansion I think it is important to step back and think about the potential risks that come with the benefits of these new vehicles.  I think that because of the unfortunate accident in Arizona, we will begin to see a lot more regulation on self-driving cars.  I think this would be a very good thing because I do not think that self-driving cars are regulated enough.  Waymo has stated that their vehicles have driven more than 5 million miles on public roadways.  I think that other drivers should be notified when self-driving cars are being used or tested in their area, so they are informed beforehand.  I would like to be notified if a self-driving car was driving near me so I could be more aware while I was on the road.