Dirk Knemeyer

Driverless Cars, Ethics & The Flawed Human Animal, September 30, 2016

Tesla with their autopilot feature, they’re explicit to drivers, “Keep your hands on the wheel, keep your foot on the brakes and stay alert the whole time,” right? That’s one of the reasons why when we talked about the technology before I was very critical of it. I was like, “Why bother? Just drive your fricking car,” at that point. This individual was given those warnings, and despite those warnings, presumably through inattention or not having the foot or not having the hands, something didn’t override and keep himself safe, keep himself alive. It’s sort of an over-trust in the technology, like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, those warnings, those are just … They’re being overly careful.” It’s like 10 and 2, we don’t really do 10 and 2, that’s overly careful. The guy’s dead because of it, and that’s really unfortunate.

I’d be interested to know what’s happening on the litigation side. If the traffic light malfunctions and someone dies in a car crash due to the malfunction, can you sue the … I don’t know how all that is set up, but can you sue the city, or can you sue the engineer, or can you sue the manufacturer? I ask those questions because I think the highways are a great place to talk about all this stuff, because we have this illusion of control. Right now we’re driving our car, we crash, it’s someone else’s fault or it’s our fault. However that’s figured out, humans are blamed. We’re heading towards a future of driverless cars. In that scenario, it’s very likely that cars will be far more safe and less people will die on the highways. A lot of people die on highways, I don’t know what the number is. It’s certainly tens of thousands a year in the United States, maybe in the hundreds.

I don’t know scale, but it’s a lot of people die on the highways right now. If those technologies cut that number in half, objectively safer, objectively better. The people who die in those accidents, now they’re dying because something went wrong with somebody’s technology, it was my car’s software, or your car’s software, or something else other than my agency of me as a driver, you as a driver, and we’re taking responsibility for what’s going on. Now it’s something totally different. I’m really curious on the litigation side how that’s going to pan out. I think there’s going to be a lot of people that hate the technology because they were the unlucky lottery winners of their loved ones being killed. Less people die overall, but my person’s dead. If they were allowed to hold their steering wheel, they wouldn’t be dead.

I think those are knotty legal and ethical things that are going to be great strawmen, great first to the fight in how we’re thinking about all the implications of turning various parts of the world over to artificial intelligence.

We’re going to be in danger, because humans are careless, we are. There was one time, I don’t know, it’s probably been a year or 2 even, so I think it’s worse now most likely. I drove down the road and just said, “How many people are texting or on their device?” I passed 12 people, every 12 of them, every one, 12 out of 12, were on this device. It’s certainly under 100%, but that sample size is a perfect example of it. I say we are careless, because look, I’m on my device sometimes too, unfortunately, on the road. It’s been communicated to us, we know, “Hey dumb dumb, you are much more likely to die whizzing at a high rate of speed in this big, heavy metal thing if you’re doing that,” but we still do it. We make this little calculation based on incomplete understanding, incomplete … really grocking what the danger is. We thrust ourselves into further danger, for what?

For nothing, for the difficulty of being bored, for the draw of the little serotonin rush, of the little thing. That way of behaving is going to continue to haunt us moving forward. It’s why we use easy passwords, it’s why we’re not secure with our online information, while many of us probably, unbeknownst to us, all of our goodies are out there already and people could be using those against us, and leveraging even today if they really wanted to. We’re careless. That carelessness is going to add risk to the future of AI.


Flying Passenger Drones, February 4, 2016

Here’s a prediction, by the time you and I retire from our professional careers, there will not be human carrying drones flying.

No freaking way. Look, there’s a physics issue, I mean energy issue, I mean it’s relatively low energy to put us in a car and roll it on the road. It is so high energy to pick us up, fight against the physics. I’m not a scientist so I can’t speak to it but a ventured guess, it’s an order of magnitude. More expensive, energy wise. Both from dollars and cents but also from global environmental impact to fly us as supposed to just roll us down the road. I don’t think we’re going to see it until there’s major innovation on the energy side. Even then, we might be so far down the ascent of global warming that even that more efficient thing is too expensive to enable us to do it.
We’ve got to get to the point where it’s energy neutral, basically, transporting people around. Energy neutral flight? I don’t know. Maybe there’s technology out there that I’m just not aware of, but I think that’s way the hell off.

Maybe our kids or somebody else will enjoy technology like that. We’re a long, long way away from that being more than just concept videos of crashing drones.


The Future of Food Choice, August 6, 2015

We’ll see about the 3D printing of food. Another macro issue, of course, is global warming and the environmental challenges from burning fossil fuels. A century from now, we will no longer have trucks driving from one state to the next, one destination to the next, planes flying with food. As long as those type of vehicles are burning fossil fuels to accomplish those trips, either there’s going to be a massive change in technology that enables transportation of goods that aren’t really required, that are really surplus and luxury for the most part, that enables them to be transferred, traveled around for our whim.

I like Shark brand sriracha from Southeast Asia. I like Arizona Gunslinger hot sauce from Arizona. I like Alaskan wild salmon. There’s going to have to be a massive change in how vehicles are powered for us to continue having those kind of foods. Will that be realized or not? I don’t know. I’m not enough of an expert in power. The fact that we don’t see anything certainly isn’t a good sign after a century of burning the hell out of oil and even longer than that if we’re thinking about the burning of coal which preceded it.

There could be these other macro things that are forcing us down a path of 3D printed food, that it needs to be something akin to astronaut ice cream as opposed to akin to the real solid foods that we have today. What does that look like? I don’t know. I think the main determining factor is going to be, are we able to transport luxury goods hither and thither as we do today? That’s going to be a question of power generation and who knows, who knows.


Hackers Hurting Our Physical Selves, July 30, 2015

It’s a great foreshadowing of how we’re moving into a period where our connected computing devices are integrated into our lives in a way where they can be used to hurt us physically. They can used to hurt us for real, so hacking, until now, the limits of it were basically identity theft, which is not great. If you really had your identity stolen, there could be some big inconveniences and, depending on how you react to it, potentially big problems, but there’s nothing that can physically harm you directly, as if a weapon is hitting you.

Here, we have this exploit where somebody could take your car and, with the little picture they showed with the article, drive it right into a ditch. You could be killed by a hacker who gets into your device and gives it instructions to take you off path and put you in the way of physical harm.

This is just the beginning. This is going to be a lot more in the future, not less, as the devices are either integrated into us physically. By into us, I’m not talking necessarily about from a cyborg prospective, but just from touching our bodies, or from controlling things in and around our bodies that, if taken in a certain direction, could cause us harm. To me, it’s just sort of a warning sign for something that those of us on the inside have known is coming. This, now, is really showing it to the mainstream and saying, “Look at the potential of what can happen,” and again, it’s just the beginning.


Apple and the Transportation Industry, February 19, 2015

It raises really interesting questions about what the biggest most powerful business conglomerates are going to look like in 20 or 30 years. If Google is correct, then the top tech companies, the Google, the Apple, Amazon, companies like that are going to be in the transportation business. I’m not sure yet if that will be the case. I think it’s very possible.

Apple, because they have so much cash, they need to, in trying to keep up with Google, be involved in that business. They need to be paying attention to it, they need to be making investments. They don’t have a choice, because if things fall in a certain way, and if they’re the ones on the outside looking in, it won’t be pretty for them. Now Apple has so much money, they’re in a position where in theory they could pass on it and things could move forward and they could be left behind and they could just go out and buy General Motors or some major automotive company and close the gap and get back in the game. They have that luxury.

The very fact that they’re the follower, the very fact that Google is the one kind of out there already. Apple’s not there, maybe they’re heading there. Maybe they’ll miss the boat and have to buy into it later is ominous, because Apple’s success over the last … I don’t know when the iPhone or the iPod rather was first released, but over the last 15 or 20 years it’s been about being ahead. It’s been about pioneering and opening and as we’ve talked about they’re falling behind. That brand is becoming less and less what Apple’s about.

The Apple of 2015 is more like Microsoft of 1995 in a lot of different ways. That’s not the Apple that we’ve come to know, and for many people love, from the 1970′s until the mid-2000′s. I don’t know what Apple’s going to do. I think that they probably should be dabbling at a minimum and thinking about the future. The future may be one where the top technology companies are also the primary transportation companies. There’s a lot of good reasons why that should be the case. I mean if I were Tim Cook, I would be investing intelligently in transportation.


Mainstreaming Self-Driving Cars, January 15, 2015

Yeah, you’re right in a lot of ways. First of all – and I’ll make this prediction today – in the 2020s, all cars will be self-guided, or the majority of cars traveling on the roads will be self-guided. That is happening. That’s not a “will it?” It’s a will. I think that’s the time frame.

It does change us from the mechanical horse model, which goes back to something that’s 19th Century and previous technology to what I’ll call a mobile room model, where suddenly we are behaving and acting and doing the same things we would do in our home, but, oh, yeah, now we’re getting from point A to point B at the same time.
That is a huge shift in context and much closer to the reality, not just of how we live and function in general today, but how we treat our cars today. It’s pretty insane. As I drive down the road – and I’m guilty of this as well – I look over and everybody’s on their God-damned devices. They’re not 2 hands, 10 and 2, and looking forward.
They have removed themselves from the physicality of trying to move this vehicle forward to take them where they’re going. They’re doing the minimum they possibly can to keep the vehicle in progress, and the rest of it they’re retreating into how they would operate normally around their technology.

It’s all been already asked-and-answered. The only issue now is to get the cars to take care of themselves so we’re not dangerously driving, half-paying attention down the road.


Imminence of Drone Delivery Services, December 28, 2014

One thing that I think we’re going to see [in 2015] is a prototype in a city, prototype in a city, town, village at some scale of a municipality, home delivery by flying drones. Depending on how inculcated our listeners are into technology, at a minimum you’ve read stories about flying drones on mainstream news websites. Some of you may be conversant in the technology and even own a drone yourself. It’s going to go from the fringes and from drones in warehouses, Google, or whomever trying to get municipalities to accept drones, trying to get the government to institute legislation that is friendly to widespread business use of drones.

We’re going to shift from those stories to a story of, hey, no, Podunk, Wisconsin … and I don’t predict it’s going to be in Wisconsin; I don’t know where the hell it will be … is the first prototype of Amazon home delivery or some Google project or some more obscure company. I think that we’ve reached a point that that’s going to be real and is going to go from this theoretical thing on the fringes to something that’s really being tried at scale that is the precursor to a wider adoption, which I think a wider adoption has some pretty big problems.