Start Up: the Tesla Autopilot fault, 19 things about 2001, smartphones for cardiac diagnosis, and more


Yvon Chouinard took on tough walls. Now he’s taking on Donald Trump. Photo by Sam Beebe on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. TGIF (where I am). I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Tesla drivers show possible Autopilot limit after Model X accident • Business Insider

Mark Matousek:

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On Friday, Tesla revealed that the Model X driver who died in an accident in California had activated Autopilot before the crash. While Tesla said the driver received multiple warnings to put his hands on the wheel before the accident, two YouTube videos from other Tesla drivers shed light on what may have caused the Model X to drive into a highway barrier.

One video shows a Model S driving through the same segment of the highway where the crash occurred with Autopilot activated. As the road approaches the barrier, a new lane marking indicates that drivers need to veer right if they want to stay on the road.

But the new lane marking is more faded than the prior left-hand lane marker, which becomes the right-hand lane marker for a ramp that allows drivers to exit to a new road. In the video, the Model S, which has Autopilot engaged, does not recognize the new lane marker and continues to use the old lane marker, which would lead it into the barrier… While the software’s automatic-steering feature can keep a vehicle in its lane on the highway, it does so by reading the lane markings. If a lane marking has faded, it’s more difficult for the vehicle to recognize it, and if the faded lane marking is close to one that is more prominent, the vehicle may assume the more prominent marking is the one to follow.

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There’s something both chilling and heartening about the way that people are prepared to share their re-enactment of these incidents to show us what went wrong.
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How much will artists get paid from the major labels’ Spotify profits? • Music Business Worldwide

Tim Ingham notes that Sony sold 17.2% of its Spotify stake – about 0.98% of the whole company, or $250m – on Spotify’s debut:

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What’s even more interesting, however, is a little secret given away by Sony Corp in a note to shareholders yesterday. The Japanese giant revealed that it’s forecasting a 105bn yen ($980m-ish) profit from the entirety of its Spotify stake once it’s done trading. (Again, that’s based on Spotify’s final stock price on Tuesday.)

This is a bit of a leap, but a worthwhile one: from this small nugget of information, we can glean rather a lot about the windfall that artists can expect to receive from the major labels once they cash in their ownership holdings in Spotify.

Sneak preview: it’s not a small number. These calculations get a little hairy, but – trust us – they’re worth keeping up with.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s start with just Sony. Sony Corp forecasts a gain of nearly $1bn from Sony Music’s total 5.7% stake in Spotify as per Tuesday evening’s stock price ($149.01). In total, Sony’s stake in Spotify at that point was worth $1.51bn. In other words, Sony Corp is saying that it expects profits from its Sony stake to represent a return on investment of around 3X…

…You won’t hear a cavalcade of praise for the major labels come cash-in day at Spotify, but think about what this actually means: Sony is committing to sharing all profits with its artists, even those that are a result of it acting like a VC – buying additional equity in Spotify out of its own pocket.

That rather lays down the gauntlet to Warner and Universal, no?

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Suddenly there’s plenty of money sloshing around. And some of it might even go to artists – and equally, or at least less un-equally.
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Exclusive: Robert Mercer backed a secretive group that worked with Facebook, Google to target anti-Muslim ads at swing voters • Open Secrets

Robert Maguire:

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Most Americans have never heard of the far-right neoconservative nonprofit that ran the ads. It has no employees and no volunteers, and it’s run out of the offices of a Washington, D.C. law firm. More importantly, most voters never saw the ads.

And that was by design.

The group, a social welfare organization called Secure America Now, worked hand in hand with Facebook and Google to target their message at voters in swing states who were most likely to be receptive to them.

And new tax documents obtained by OpenSecrets show that the money fueling the group came mostly from just three donors, including the secretive multimillionaire donor Robert Mercer.

As a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, Secure America Now (SAN) is not required to disclose its donors to the public, but they are required to report them to the IRS. This information is usually redacted when provided for public inspection. However, when OpenSecrets called to request a 2016 return, an unredacted return was provided by the group’s accounting firm.

The filing shows the largest individual contribution, $2m, came from Robert Mercer, the reclusive hedge fund investor who spent millions in 2016 helping Donald Trump capture the White House.

Mercer has become a household name not only for his political spending in recent years or his peculiar interests — such as part-timing as a New Mexico police officer or funding stockpiles of urine in the Oregon mountains — but also for bankrolling the alt-right and the data firm Cambridge Analytica, both of which helped Trump clinch victory in 2016.

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Hidden extremist ads. Oh, the joys of Facebook and social media.
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‘2001: A Space Odyssey’: 19 things you probably don’t know about Kubrick’s landmark film • The Washington Post

Michael Cavna:

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Fifty years ago this week, Stanley Kubrick’s epic “2001: A Space Odyssey” opened, first in Washington and then New York. The influential film, which won an Oscar for its pioneering special effects, has been called Kubrick’s “crowning, confounding achievement” and a “quantum leap” in technological achievement by film critic James Verniere, who notes that Steven Spielberg called “2001” the Big Bang of his filmmaking generation.

Timed to the anniversary, author Michael Benson’s latest work, “Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arther C. Clarke and the Making of a Masterpiece” (Simon & Schuster), debuts today, and within Benson’s devotional telling is a wealth of intriguing facts and anecdotes.

Here are 19 things you probably don’t know about “2001,” according to Benson and other sources.

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Not 20? Or 01? Maybe 19 is 20 minus 01? Anyhow, I didn’t know these. The 19th – about how badly it was initially received – seems a bit relevant to Apple criticism.
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Patagonia vs. Donald Trump • GQ

Rosecrans Baldwin:

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In Ventura, weeks after the Thomas fire, the air still smelled of smoke. [Outdoor clothing company] Patagonia’s headquarters had been used to house evacuees until the fires got too near. Later, the Ventura store gave away long underwear to firefighters working nights in the mountains and fishing waders to crews trying to find people in the mud. I felt a little awkward, then, considering the context, when I told [Patagonia founder and legendary climber Yvon] Chouinard that Patagonia’s activism seemed pretty convenient when it did so well for the bottom line. What’s “Zen” to his mind might sound to others like “good marketing.” He conceded the point, somewhat, but strongly disagreed: “What we say we’re doing, we’re actually doing. A lot of companies are just greenwashing, and young people can see right through it. Kids are smart, so we don’t talk down to them. Our marketing philosophy is just: Tell people who we are. Which is, tell people what we do, and don’t try to be anything more than that.”

I asked Chouinard about the lawsuit and his personal feelings about Trump. He thought for a moment, perhaps to contain himself. “What pisses me off about this administration is that they’re all these ‘climate deniers’—well, that’s bullshit. They know what’s happening. What they’re doing is purposely not doing anything about climate for the sake of making more money.” He paused, bowed his head, and scraped his fingernails on the table. He sat up again. “That is truly evil. That’s why I call this administration evil. They know what they’re doing, and they’re doing it to make more money.”

Gradually, the conversation went even darker. About Trump, Chouinard added, “It’s like a kid who’s so frustrated he wants to break everything. That’s what we’ve got.” I asked sarcastically if any part of him was an optimist. Marcario, sitting next to him, laughed loudly. “Did you just ask Yvon if he’s an optimist?” Chouinard smiled and cocked his head. “I’m totally a pessimist. But you know, I’m a happy person. Because the cure for depression is action.”

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Chouinard is a remarkable person and businessman; you read the article and find so many examples of what he’s done that sounds mad but works both for business and environment.
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Smartphone app performs better than traditional exam in RCT cardiac assessment• ScienceDaily

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A smartphone application using the phone’s camera function performed better than traditional physical examination to assess blood flow in a wrist artery for patients undergoing coronary angiography, according to a randomized trial published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

These findings highlight the potential of smartphone applications to help physicians make decisions at the bedside. “Because of the widespread availability of smartphones, they are being used increasingly as point-of-care diagnostics in clinical settings with minimal or no cost,” says Dr. Benjamin Hibbert of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, Ottawa, Ontario. “For example, built-in cameras with dedicated software or photodiode sensors using infrared light-emitting diodes have the potential to render smartphones into functional plethysmographs [instruments that measure changes in blood flow].”

The researchers compared the use of a heart-rate monitoring application (the Instant Heart Rate application version 4.5.0 on an iPhone 4S) with the modified Allen test, which measures blood flow in the radial and ulnar arteries of the wrist, one of which is used to access the heart for coronary angiography. A total of 438 participants were split into two groups; one group was assessed using the app and the other was assessed using a gold-standard traditional physical examination (known as the Allen test). The smartphone app had a diagnostic accuracy of 94% compared with 84% using the traditional method.

“The current report highlights that a smartphone application can outperform the current standard of care and provide incremental diagnostic yield in clinical practice,” writes Dr. Hibbert, with colleagues.

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AI reporter rewrites news for your political leaning • Digital Trends

Luke Dormehl:

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Today, all of us live in filter bubbles online, in which the news we read is increasingly tailormade for our personal tastes. This is a problem for media companies and readers alike — and it’s one that an intriguing new online news aggregator hopes to help solve.

Called Knowhere, the newly launched website is the work of a media-savvy entrepreneur and some Stanford-trained artificial intelligence experts. It uses machine learning tools to cover the day’s biggest stories by offering left, impartial, and right-leaning versions of each. The components of these stories are aggregated from various online news outlets and then rewritten by an AI. Each story can reportedly be written in as little as 60 seconds to 15 minutes, depending on the complexity of the piece. Once that process is completed, a human editor then reviews the story, which further trains the news-writing algorithms. The result? Not only a whip-fast news aggregation site, but one which could help break the filter-bubble problem.

“I was inspired by my father who was an investigative journalist and correspondent for the BBC throughout my childhood,” co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief Nathaniel Barling told Digital Trends. “Each night he would bring home three papers, The Guardian, The Times, and The Telegraph. He’d ask me to read all three of them so that I could gain a balanced perspective on the day’s news.”

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The idea is that it shows articles which are written in all three ways – “left”, “right”, “impartial”. To be honest, I don’t see that people are going to read all three. Most people barely read one. Why not just go with the “impartial”?
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Obamacare enrollment 2018: the law is actually doing fine under Trump • Vox

Dylan Scott:

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Don’t be mistaken: The Trump administration didn’t help matters. Working overtime to repeal the law, telling the American people that the ACA is dead and gone, slashing advertising by 90% and enrollment support by 40%, ending key payments to insurers while Congress refused to appropriate them and take the issue off the table — the Republican Party and Trump did everything they could throughout 2017 to undermine Obamacare.

But we learned that the ACA is pretty resilient. The Trump administration released a report on Tuesday saying that 11.8 million Americans enrolled in health coverage for 2018 through the law’s insurance marketplaces, down just a tick from the 12.2 million sign-ups in 2017.

Sure, Obamacare’s marketplaces are not exactly, on the whole, a robust and competitive market. For millions of people, insurance is still unaffordable. But for millions of others, the law is providing them with meaningful financial protections against medical bankruptcy.

“At this point, the marketplaces are really functioning more broadly in their role as an extension of the public safety net than in their role as a competitive market,” John Graves, a health policy professor at Vanderbilt University, told me.

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America is still stumbling towards the point where it’s a sensible civic society. Obamacare, aka the ACA, is one of the things that suggests it’s getting there.

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Apple’s 2019 Mac Pro will be shaped by workflows • TechCrunch

Matthew Panzarino was invited to an interview at Apple’s campus:

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In that discussion a year ago, Apple SVP Phil Schiller acknowledged that pro customers, including developers, were hungry for evidence that Apple was paying attention to their needs.

“We recognize that they want to hear more from us. And so we want to communicate better with them. We want them to understand the importance they have for us, we want them to understand that we’re investing in new Macs — not only new MacBook Pros and iMacs but Mac Pros for them, we want them to know we are going to work on a display for a modular system,” Schiller said.

Now, it’s a year later and Apple has created a team inside the building that houses its pro products group. It’s called the Pro Workflow Team, and they haven’t talked about it publicly before today…

…Apple decided to go a step further and just begin hiring these creatives directly into Apple. Some of them on a contract basis but many full-time, as well. These are award-winning artists and technicians that are brought in to shoot real projects (I saw a bunch of them walking by in Apple Park toting kit for an on-premise outdoor shoot). They then put the hardware and software through their paces and point out sticking points that could cause frustration and friction among pro users.

[VP of Hardware Engineering, John] Ternus says… Ternus says that they wanted to start focused, then grow the team and disciplines over time.

“We’ve been focusing on visual effects and video editing and 3D animation and music production, as well,” says Ternus. “And we’ve brought in some pretty incredible talent, really masters of their craft. And so they’re now sitting and building out workflows internally with real content and really looking for what are the bottlenecks. What are the pain points. How can we improve things…”

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It’s hard not to feel that one very significant way Apple could improve things is not to have six years between updates of its top-end model. Two feels like it would be acceptable.
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AirPods and the Three Stages of Apple Criticism • Medium

Jonathan Kim:

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I’d like to applaud [The Verge’s Vlad] Savov for writing his review, entitled “Apple Airpods: the Audiophile Review”. Instead of explaining why his take on the AirPods has gone through such a drastic evolution as he did, Savov could have simply remained quiet with the expectation that his previous excoriation of the AirPods in 2016 would be lost down the memory hole. An important sign of maturity is understanding that admitting you were wrong is a sign of strength, not weakness — a lesson our current president should heed. Coming from someone who had previously ridiculed the AirPods, Savov’s change of heart is a valuable perspective for those who had written off AirPods based on their first impressions.

Still, it’s worth wondering how Savov, a professional reviewer from a respected tech publication, could have gotten AirPods so wrong. But when looking at Savov’s three AirPods articles — “Apple Killed the Headphone Jack So It Could Resurrect the Bluetooth Headset” (September 2016), “Apple’s AirPods Are Winning With the Critics That Matter” (May 2017), and “Apple Airpods: the Audiophile Review” (March 2018) — I see an excellent illustration of a pattern I’ve seen often from tech reviewers, people on Twitter, and especially those who criticize Apple in the comments sections of posts about Apple.

Let’s call it the Three Stages of Apple Criticism.

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Kim sets out the way in which people tend to criticise (negatively) Apple stuff very neatly, and encapsulates how people shift their positions – but rarely get as far as the third stage. If you’d like to see various people in all those stages, see the comments on Savov’s article linked in the extract. As you’d expect, it’s a morass.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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3 thoughts on “Start Up: the Tesla Autopilot fault, 19 things about 2001, smartphones for cardiac diagnosis, and more

  1. One thing about the AI journalism startup: even 30 years ago, when Barling’s father was bringing home “The Guardian, The Times, and The Telegraph” those three papers would be in pretty broad agreement about the facts of any given case. It’s not like he was being offered the Mail or the Sun. All of them appealed to roughly the same audience: people who thought they ought to be running the country or that they actually did. I think that even if you took coverage of the miners’ strike there would be an agreement about what was going on, rather than what it meant.

    The diversity of “news” today is far greater. The Telegraph, in particular, is an unrecognisable paper to what it was thirty years ago. The Mail is far more important than it was. The real dividing line is not left/right but between news as entertainment and news as potentially actionable.

  2. Further, isn’t having an AI “bubbler” just begging to be used to implement bubble-making in even more places? That is, if it’s commodification of bias, why wouldn’t one expect to get even more slanting and biasing, since now creating it is even cheaper? (of course, humans come pretty cheap here already, often at no direct cost). Touting an effect of “Now you can automatically generate the equivalent of three daily papers for you to read!” seems pathetic when as noted above, very few people are going to want read three different papers. Whereas “Now you can scale outrage-mongering for even less expense!” seems like something which is going to be very attractive to the social-media business models.

  3. “America is still stumbling towards the point where it’s a sensible civic society. Obamacare, aka the ACA, is one of the things that suggests it’s getting there.” Here’s hoping, but, there’s a significant minority trying to destroy it and if they succeed it’s possible it’ll never come back.

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