Five for Friday: Ripped from the Headlines: Robots, Renewables, and Ride-Sharing

Like a bad/addictive episode of Law & Order (which, after this week's likelihood that we're going to see some new probes and investigations, might be our next headline), this week we are taking our updates from actual hold-it-in-your-hands print. Impress your friends and loved ones when you dazzle them with news from actual printed periodicals (don't worry, we supplied links where we could).

science headlines
  1. From the StarTribune - With Uber reporting more than 100k in weekly trips made across the Twin Cities, local taxi drivers are seeing their businesses shrink rapidly. In fact, the two biggest cab companies together are doing half the business of Uber. This story, which was the front-page story of Sunday's Business section, focused specifically on the MSP airport, where this massive change in the chauffeured car industry is playing out quite visibly. Ultimately, a lot comes down to costs--an Uber/Lyft trip will run about $1/mile where a standard cab rate is $2.50/mile. Interestingly, it's a return to the basics of great customer service that is turning around results for some cab drivers--the biggest question is whether they can keep up.

  2. From Litigation News (oh yes, it's a thing) - If you ever worried about ethics in artificial intelligence, consider it being applied to the legal industry. I know this sounds like the setup to a terrible joke, but AI is coming quickly to the legal service arena. IBM's Watson (you know, that machine that won Jeopardy!) is the platform under which much of this technology is taking place, specifically to help with legal research, such as tedious due diligence work for mergers and acquisitions. I can think of a few lawyers I know that might be happy to see this type of work outsourced, but it will raise some concerns, too.

  3. From The Economist - Honestly, most of any weekly issue of The Economist could show up in this blog, but this week there were two interesting articles. The first was a cover question: "Should robots pay tax?" The article takes issue with Bill Gates' recent quotes in Quartz suggesting we slow some of the automation going on around us by taxing robots. To summarize:

  • Bill says: We know robots are taking human jobs, so governments should tax companies that use them in order to slow down the takeover as well as source income for job re-training, etc.

  • The Economist says: From an economist's point of view, a robot is a capital expenditure (like a desktop computer) and taxing them is taking a short-term stance on a long-term problem. Besides, how will we know if adding robots doesn't make things more productive overall if we artificially slow automation?

  1. Also from The Economist - The cover story this week is "Clean energy's dirty secret" and gets into the business of solar and wind energy. New technology working on old platforms is tricky, particularly since energy from renewables is intermittent (i.e. the sun shines at certain times, the wind flares up and dies down) and they're not always able to store energy during peak production times, which means fossil fuels remain in play. There's a lot happening in this article but I highly recommend the read, either online or in print, to learn more about the un-seen details that go into this transforming industry.

  2. Also from the StarTribune - We're coming full circle today, closing out with the STrib yet again and its highlight on this week's Robotics Alley event. Apparatus was on-site at #RA2017 and I can attest that the middle and high school robotics teams coming in was the definite highlight of the conference, aside from our Legislator Panel which included four MN reps from both the House and the Senate talking about the future of robotics and related industries in the state. We'll have recordings of our interviews and the panel to share with you soon!

Featured Posts
Recent Posts