Remarks to the Commonwealth Club
Posted at 16:55h, 18 Aug 2015 in List Archive by Bonnie Halper No Comments 135 Likes Share

Good morning, All,

Apologies if your’e receiving this twice this week. Mailchimp seems to have had a glitch and we’ve heard from a number of you that you hadn’t received the newsletter today.

Said Michael Crichton back in September of 2005 in his remarks to the Commonwealth Club, “I have been asked to talk about what I consider the most important challenge facing mankind, and I have a fundamental answer. The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. Perceiving the truth has always been a challenge to mankind, but in the information age (or as I think of it, the disinformation age) it takes on a special urgency and importance.”

We came across this article last week, which seemed to perfectly encapsulate a lot of what irritates us about tech prognosticators: Driving Your Car Will Soon Be Illegal. The author predicts that by 2030, human-driven vehicles will be outlawed, and we’ll all be in self-driving cars. Given the number of automobile-related deaths, he makes a compelling argument, but on balance, the piece is patently absurd. While it’s true that there have only been a few accidents in the six years since they’ve been out in the wild – none fatal – there are also not enough of them out there to be a real target for hackers. Yet. Let’s not forget Wired’s little experiment, taking over control of a Jeep that was cruising down the highway at 70 MPH. It’s easy enough to take over your cell phone, lest we forget this:  Major Flaw In Android Phones Would Let Hackers In With Just A Text.

We have no doubt that SDCs are coming, but in our humble opinion, hybrids are much more likely, at least in the foreseeable future (Truckers Gain an Automated Assist).

It wasn’t that long ago that the tech press was reporting on how Millenials had completely different habits than the generations who had come before them: they were not buying cars, but rather utilizing the sharing/on demand economy for their transportation needs, and they were not buying homes, either, but rather, opting to live with their parents longer or opting for a cooler lifestyle and renting with friends in order to afford their mocha chai lattes. Well, like generations before them, Millenials started getting older and it turns out that people are people: they want to buys homes in which to raise their families, too.

Nor are Millenials and their viewing habits the cause of the recent drop in cable stocks. It’s just that cable operators learned nothing from the demise of the music industry. There was a time when these things called ‘records’ were released – both albums and singles. Singles were the hit songs, backed by what was called the ‘b’ side: a lesser/throwaway song that would not be a standalone hit. Nor was every track on the album outstanding, but you were pretty much forced to buy the entire album for the two or three songs you wanted to hear. Then came streaming and iTunes killed the video star. So it was with cable: why pay for 500+ channels when you only really watched a handful or so, and only certain programs? And so TV flickers as viewers find new screens. But they’re still watching and looking for content (CBS Says Millennials Love TV. It Just Couldn’t Find Them). It’s not game over: the game has simply been moved. Know your audience.

As for Google – as we know, the company changed its name to Alphabet (yes, Virginia, there’s still a Google, but it’s now one company under the Alphabet umbrella), so that the company can concentrate on moonshots – or so goes the official story. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, for those of you who missed the reference, changed his name in order to get out of a record contract. It worked: No Prince, contract null and void, and no lawsuit. And we all know that Google has had its share of legal problems. Globally. Moonshot/sleight of hand, tomato/tomahto.

While delivery mechanism may change, people don’t: old habits die hard. We still don’t have flying cars, and it’ll be more than a decade or so before a society with totally self-driven cars get off the ground. In the meantime, keep your eyes on what lies ahead, as we go onward and forward.