Lawyers replaced by *Legal* A.I.? Not yet.

Steve Lohr, writing for the New York Times,

"...recent research and even the people working on the software meant to automate legal work say the adoption of A.I. in law firms will be a slow, task-by-task process. In other words, like it or not, a robot is not about to replace your lawyer. At least, not anytime soon."

This makes sense to me. Automation isn't a one-shot when it comes to thought-intensive tasks: it's a process. The good news for automators of the AI world, is that for all of the complexity of our legal system, it's (mostly) logical. Getting around arguments is going to be exceedingly difficult for a machine to take on, but when it comes to the *happy path* of any particular legal process, just look at Legal Zoom. They're taking the boring stuff away from lawyers every day, so all they need to do is check the documents once the forms have been filled in.

New AI Can Write and Rewrite Its Own Code to Increase Its Intelligence

In brief:

  • A company has developed a type of technology that allows a machine to effectively learn from fewer examples and refine its knowledge as further examples are provided.
  • This technology could be applied to everything from teaching a smartphone to recognize a user's preferences to helping autonomous driving systems quickly identify obstacles.

You've heard it before-- This is the stuff of science fiction. But it's not. It's real and it's here and it's one of the surest signs that our civilization can take advantage of computing in new and powerful ways, including but not limited to robotics.

And Robotics is where this gets interesting. We've heard a lot of talk about advanced engineering-- robotics taking over jobs. With technology of the ilk described in this article, we could see robots being trained to build new machines that incrementally increase efficiency by increased automation. It's quite possibly the path to the end of work, which has been explored by both the Atlantic and the New York Times.

 

Box’s 65-Year-Old Android Engineer Gives Your Startup Some Unsentimental Advice

There are precious few people who have seen and comprehended enough of the rise of computing (and now mobile computing) to have some perspective on the industry’s mind-bending velocity. “The tools have just gotten so much better,” he says. “When I was working on the game for Electronic Arts, I did the entire development on the Atari 800 and it took me 45 minutes to do one compile off of a floppy disk which held a grand total of 380 kilobytes. Today I have a device in my pocket with can give me access to the world’s knowledge,” he says. “That is unbelievable–but I think we have lost the idea of the software artist. When the machines were much smaller, I did my game essentially as a one-man team. I did all the art. I did all the programming. I had one other engineer help me with some of the music. I have a friend working with EA today and he is probably working in a team of 120 engineers.”

Fantastic read.

Solar jobs growing 12x faster than US economy

A couple interesting points below based on the article, which you can find here.

  1. What it takes to pop solar on rooftops takes far more workers than the big industrial stuff that would replace coal fired power plants. The efficiency at scale is real.

    Rooftop installations drove much of the growth this year. Household projects accounted for 63 percent of the industry’s jobs, with 15 percent of the workforce tackling commercial projects and 22 percent building utility-scale installations. That points to an interesting disjoint in the way the industry operates: the type of solar installation that replaces the most greenhouse gas emissions represents a smaller share of the solar workforce. The report says this is because utility-scale projects are less labor-intensive.

  2. If this sort of growth continues, then Solar jobs will be the energy sector's most dominant type of work. That can seriously change the way Congress is lobbied. to be sure, Congressional representatives of places that still extract fossil fuels will be against it, but all that means is that companies need to look at the map and choose sunny places to hire people so that they can break those representatives constituencies and thus ensure long term growth with government support. Let's not forget-- government always picks winners and losers.

  3. Going back to point #1 above-- there's a huge win-win-win for the president if he can see past the sterotypical GOP dislike of renewable energy. Power plants are usually government monopolies, which means that they receive corporate welfare. If he gave incentives to solar companies and the 50 states to ramp up on rooftop solar, it would begin the obviation of traditional power companies while ramping up the need for these workers. The third win is that opposition party Dems would have to work with him or look like they're not genuine about energy and the environment. Whether the opposition party works with him or not, he'd look like he was putting "America First" with regard to jobs and any dependence the US has to foreign energy sources.
    You save a lot of oil if you don't have to transport coal by truck or diesel locomotive.
    You also require less natural gas and oil pipelines if most electricity is coming from people's rooftops. 
    And a bonus? The idea of each homeowner generating and managing their own electricity usage falls inline with the individual responsibility and self-reliance ideals and principles of US conservative politics. 

The environment, specifically, the carbon crisis, is probably the most important issue of our time. Let's use political and scientific realities to solve it.

 

The Drill Down 461: Explosions, Car Wrecks & The Presidency

On this week’s podcast, The Drill Down co-host emeritus Tom Cheredar joins us to discuss Donald Trump’s first week of Presidency as it affects the tech world, is this the end of Net Neutrality, the final word on the Samsung Note 7 and the Tesla crash, Sprint buys into TIDAL, and much, much more.

Check out the episode on Geeks of Doom.

CES 2017: Talk To Your TV: Dish Unveils Integration With Amazon Echo

Yours truly taking on CES for the The Geeks of Doom:

In case you needed another reason to go Alexa rather than Google, the media gods have got one for you. The avalanche of CES 2017 press conferences hadn’t even begun when the news came in from Dish Network. In addition to their Sling Box and their 2014 breakthrough, no-contract live-streaming cable service, SlingTV, Dish decided to take another leap forward in delivering television entertainment to their consumers — support for Amazon‘s Alexa Voice Services or AVS.

Dish users with Hopper DRV devices of any generation will be able to control them using their voice through Amazon’s Echo or Echo Dot hardware...continue here

The Echo Dot is Amazon's Best Seller

Andria Cheng, writing for eMarketer in the wake of holiday sales: 

"Rising sales of digital assistants reflect changing user behaviors as more people become comfortable with the idea of spoken word commands and queries. In September 2016, Google said that fully one in five search queries on its mobile app were voice initiated. And in November, a Google/Ipsos survey found that more than half of the smartphone users had used a voice-activated app to answer a question or perform a task.

Amazon said Tuesday that popular requests made to Echo over the holidays included queries about mixing cocktails and requests to play holiday music."

the $50 pricepoint of the Dot 2 was an incredible move to get the device into the hands of myriad consumers, which, through their voice platform, makes the entire system stronger. The Skills piece is also a huge part of the device's success.

Accolades these may be; the app interface leaves a lot to be desired in terms of UI and performance. Echo will need all of these elements to be top knot here if it wants to survive the oncoming onslaught from Google and (eventually) Apple, who is no doubt developing hardware with similar functionality that ties in deeply with its existing tech toy ecosystem.

Let's Gut Net Neutrality

If Trump truly cares about business growth and innovation, he'll work to keep Net Neutrality in place rather than to allow the below nonsense to take place.

 "FCC Republicans Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly sent a letter to five lobby groups representing wireless carriers and small ISPs; while the letter is mostly about plans to extend an exemption for small providers from certain disclosure requirements, the commissioners also said they will tackle the entire net neutrality order shortly after President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration on January 20.

"[W]e will seek to revisit [the disclosure] requirements, and the Title II Net Neutrality proceeding more broadly, as soon as possible," they wrote, referring to the order that imposed net neutrality rules and reclassified ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. Pai and O'Rielly noted that they "dissented from the Commission's February 2015 Net Neutrality decision, including the Order's imposition of unnecessary and unjustified burdens on providers." "

Had a friend make fun of Blade Runner (1982) recently in light of the imminent sequel. The conversation reminded me of why I enjoy the film-- there's a lot to it but that scene, late in the film, with Roy Batty-- that scene means so much. 

Here's the quote: 

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

Howard, through the character of Roy is able to spark emotion and imagination not by pontificating, but by simply musing.

When he says "I've seen things that you people wouldn't believe," he opens a narrative gateway for the audience. The "place" of the film expands far beyond LA in 2016 and Roy shows you that there's a whole universe out there. That the off-world colonies aren't just some frontier but that there are attack ships out there as far as Orion's shoulder. That they may travel though space and time through magnificent gates with names like Tanhauser. And that finally, his six years have been full of deep and meaningful experiences that make LA, a huge city with a million people and things going on, little more than a provincial bit of all that is rather than the centre of all that is. Roy speaks in terms of nostalgia-- as a war veteran his is literally a longing, a return to the pain of war, which is preferable, presumably to the pain of death. What's remarkable is how that nostalgia is transplanted to the reader who certainly does not remembers these sights he's mentioned, but who wants to.

The entire stream of consciousness proves that contrary to popular belief of the Blade Runner universe, Roy is not some automaton-- that he's in fact alive. The audience is reminded that the deprivation of that life is morally and ethically questionable. This doesn't justify his actions but does make him tragic and sympathetic in the face of Deckard's actions because it's through the system that Deckard supports that Roy disappears to us almost as soon as we get to know him. Just as we begin get a handle on Roy's multi-faceted personality, do he slips away and is lost to time, as his tears are in the rain. It's beautiful.

A woman who called Michelle Obama an ape has her job back. This is part of a pattern.

 "Pamela Ramsey Taylor, the director of a Clay County, West Virginia, nonprofit who was removed from her post after she called Michelle Obama an “ape in heels” in a November Facebook post, will be back on the job December 23, the Charleston Gazette-Mailreported Monday.

That’s right, she wasn’t fired by the Clay County Development Corp. Though the initial headlines claimed she “lost her job,” she was just temporarily suspended. While Clay County Mayor Beverly Whaling stepped down permanently after commenting that Taylor’s racist Facebook post, “just made my day,” Taylor will return to work by Christmas." 

Dipayan Gupta's response:

The developing mainstream reaction to explicit racism: “That’s not very nice, but … shrug”

Designer of 'Star Wars' Death Star still calls Boulder home base

Mitchell Byars writing for my local paper, 'The Daily Camera:'

 "While the design for the deadly space station is in the hands of the Empire in the movie, in real life they came from the mind of Cantwell, who was one of the first people George Lucas hired to work on the movie, having been introduced to Lucas after his work on Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." "

Casinos are having Trouble Attracting Young People

Some notes on this story:

1) This is nothing to lament about. The death of places where people lose games of chance and risk addiction is a good thing.

This is what happens when people have slightly more sense than their forebears.

2) The gentleman explaining the game is an uncharismatic bore.

3) If this industry really wanted to get people inside their doors, they should take a lesson from Nog on Deep Space 9 and create Virtual Reality Suites.