Technology

You’d think Len Brown would have picked up on this during one of his many trips to Asia

He probably picked up something else, but he certainly has missed where the rest of the world is going on public transport…and it isn’t with trains.

Singapore unveiled its public transport future on Monday, and it was a vision of passengers commuting in driverless buses along roads and freeways populated by platoons of autonomous trucks following a single driver.

The city state’s plans to streamline its transport future have begun with two self-driving vehicles going through their paces in a Singapore estate that is home to research facilities and educational institutes.

The vehicles are the vanguard of two projects – one run by the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) with the National University of Singapore and one by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

Some U.S. states and countries including Germany also allow testing of driverless vehicles on public roads.   Read more »

Another of Steve Joyce’s chosen corporate bludgers goes under costing the taxpayer

Steve Joyce loves corporate welfare, thankfully one of his chosen recipients didn’t seem to like it that much, but still managed to burn $1.4 million of taxpayer cash.

After Mako collapsed, owing Spark $26 million and a total $30 million in debt, one minor shareholder asked NBR, “How do you lose $30 million?”

He wondered, darkly, what had become of a $4.3 million research and development grant from the Ministry of Science and Innovation (later absorbed into Callaghan Innovation) in 2011

The surprising answer: not much.

“Mako drew down only $1.4 million of the available funding,” Callaghan chief financial officer told NBR on Friday afternoon.    Read more »

Allergic to reality more like it

Some people like to live life on the large, inventing all sort of illnesses to claim compensation from.

It helps if you live in a socialist paradise like France, then you can claim you are allergic to wi-fi.

Marine Richard has managed to score £500 a month in disability allowance from French courts after claiming that she was ‘allergic to Wi-Fi’.

She claimed that she suffers from electromagnetic sensitivity and sufferers say that exposure to mobile phones, Wi-Fi and televisions cause extreme discomfort.

French courts have refused so far to pay disability benefits to people who suffer from electromagnetic sensitivity, so after winning the case, Mariane Richard said that her win was a ‘breakthrough’.

Her lawyer agreed and told The Times that her win set a legal precedent for “thousands of people”.    Read more »

Uh oh…there goes the Herald’s new revenue stream

The NZ Herald and Fairfax went all in on native advertising, hoodwinking readers into thinking that paid for articles were news.

But all that is about to come to a crashing halt. Software engineers have worked out how to block native advertising.

For publishers, ad blockers are the elephant in the room: Everybody sees them, no one talks about them. The common understanding is that the first to speak up will be dead—it will acknowledge that the volume of ads actually delivered can in fact be 30% to 50% smaller than claimed—and invoiced. Publishers fear retaliation from media buying agencies—even though the ad community is quick to forget that it dug its own grave by flooding the web with intolerable amounts of promotional formats.

A week ago, I was in Finland for the Google-sponsored conference Newsgeist. The gathering was setup by Richard Gingras and his Google News team, and by Google’s media team in London. Up there, in a  high-tech campus nested in a birch forest outside Helsinki, about 150 internet people from Europe and the United States were setting the  agenda for what is called an un-conference—as opposed to the usual PowerPoint-saturated format delivered in one-way mode. As expected, one session was devoted to the ad blocking issue. (I can’t quote anyone since discussions took place under the Chatham House Rule). Read more »

This is what happens when you artificially increase labour costs

Minimum wages are designed to protect low paid workers, and governments periodically recalibrate the minimum wage.

Even then there are advocates for the so-called “living wage” which is even higher than the legal minimum wage.

All of these efforts though are distorting the market price for labour. And if the minimum wage rises past point at which the job is no longer viable then it ceases to exist, especially as technology allows for a cheaper alternative.

Hamburgers are a multi-billion dollar business, and while fast food chains have got the process down to an efficient production line process, making them is still labor intensive with armies of burger flippers and sandwich assemblers. In a move that could put millions of teenagers around the world out of their first job, Momentum Machines is creating a hamburger-making machine that churns out made-to-order burgers at industrial speeds and aims to use it in its own chain of restaurants.

According to Momentum Machines, making burgers costs US$9 billion a year in wages in the United States alone. The company points out that a machine that could make burgers with minimum human intervention would not only provide huge savings in labor costs, but would also reduce preparation space with a burger kitchen replaced by a much smaller and cheaper stainless-steel box.

This self-contained, automatic device sees raw ingredients go in one end and the completed custom-made burgers come out the other at the rate of up to 400 per hour. The machine stamps out the patties, uses what the company says are “gourmet cooking techniques never before used in a fast food restaurant,” applies the toppings (which are cut only after ordering to ensure freshness), and even bags the burgers.

The company plans to open its first restaurant in the near future and to market the machines to third parties, arguing that one can pay for itself inside of a year. The company is targeting restaurants, convenience stores, food trucks and vending machine applications.

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Schooling Auckland Council on transport

Bryan Leyland gives Len brown and his train spotter friends a real good tickle up on public transport.

The railway tunnel will serve only a very small fraction of Auckland’s population and at a huge cost. Mayor Len Brown is determined to commit Auckland to building a hugely expensive railway tunnel even though no comprehensive independent and objective economic analysis has been made on the merits of the tunnel and whether or not letting the city spread and developing satellite centres would be better.

Auckland Council has neglected its obligation to investigate and evaluate all options. Given the enormous amount of expenditure involved, this amounts to a serious dereliction of duty.

Overseas research on 44 urban rail systems revealed that the average cost overrun was 45 per cent and the number of passengers was half the predicted number. Have the economics of the Auckland tunnel been tested against 45 per cent higher costs and half the passengers? If not, why not?

The railway tunnel will serve only a very small fraction of Auckland’s population and at a huge cost. Right now, ratepayers subsidise 80 per cent of the cost of every train fare. If the tunnel costs blow out by 50 per cent it will need to recover at least $450 million in fares every year for capital repayment and operating expenses. If, as hoped, there are 20 million rail trips every year, they will need to recover $22.50 per rail trip. Most of this will be imposed on the ratepayers.

No one living on the North Shore will benefit from the rail loop but they will paying for it.

No one living in East Auckland will benefit from the rail loop but they will be paying for it.   Read more »

Cellphones fry your brain…oh wait…no they don’t

tinfoilhat

The tinfoil hat brigade will tell you that cellphones give you cancer…and when you ask them for evidence they invariably have none but maintain they read it somewhere.

Well now you can read it here…cellphones do not give you cancer.

New research from the University of Auckland shows the risk of brain tumours cannot be linked with with increased mobile phone use.

Professor Mark Elwood, cancer epidemiologist at the University of Auckland, led research on the trends in primary brain incidence in New Zealand between 1995 and 2010. Results indicate there is no general increase in brain tumours as a consequence of using mobile phones.

Elwood’s team examined the frequency (yearly incidence) of brain cancers, both in total and in sub-types highlighted in some other studies, in New Zealand from 1995 to 2010 using data from the New Zealand national cancer registry.   Read more »

Photo Of The Day

WileyandPoisonSquad

The Poison Squad

Meet Harvey Washington Wiley, and some members of the Poison Squad sitting around the table eating dinner.

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Andrew Sullivan’s last blog post on media and blogging

Andrew Sullivan has quit blogging. He suddenly announced his retirement about 10 days ago and has quickly wound down to yesterday’s last day of blogging.

His last blog post is about one of his first and echoes my thoughts on the medium perfectly.

Thirteen years ago, as I was starting to experiment with this blogging thing, I wrote the following:

[T]he speed with which an idea in your head reaches thousands of other people’s eyes has another deflating effect, this time in reverse: It ensures that you will occasionally blurt out things that are offensive, dumb, brilliant, or in tune with the way people actually think and speak in private. That means bloggers put themselves out there in far more ballsy fashion than many officially sanctioned pundits do, and they make fools of themselves more often, too. The only way to correct your mistakes or foolishness is in public, on the blog, in front of your readers. You are far more naked than when clothed in the protective garments of a media entity.

But, somehow, you’re liberated as well as nude: blogging as a media form of streaking. I notice this when I write my blog, as opposed to when I write for the old media. I take less time, worry less about polish, and care less about the consequences on my blog. That makes for more honest writing. It may not be “serious” in the way, say, a 12-page review of 14th-century Bulgarian poetry in the New Republic is serious. But it’s serious inasmuch as it conveys real ideas and feelings in as unvarnished and honest a form as possible. I think journalism could do with more of that kind of seriousness. It’s democratic in the best sense of the word. It helps expose the wizard behind the media curtain.

I stand by all those words. There are times when people take this or that post or sentence out of a blog and make it seem as if it is the definitive, fully considered position of the blogger. Or they take two sentences from different moments in time and insist that they are a contradiction. That, it seems to me, misses the essential part of blogging as a genuinely new mode of writing: its provisionality, its conversational essence, its essential errors, its ephemeral core, its nature as the mode in which writing comes as close as it can to speaking extemporaneously.

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The ‘unassisted suicide’ of old media

Andrew Sullivan ceases blogging today, and one of his final posts is a discussion of modern media developments by old media companies.

CBC interviewed him about native advertising:

Sullivan’s case against native advertisement is powerful and succinct. “It is advertising that is portraying itself as journalism, simple as that,” he told me recently. “It is an act of deception of the readers and consumers of media who believe they’re reading the work of an independent journalist.”

Advertisers, he says, want to buy the integrity built up over decades by journalists and which, in the past, was kept at arm’s length. Now they will happily pay to imitate it: “The whole goal is you not being able to tell the difference.” Sullivan’s argument is so doctrinaire, so principled, that it makes bourgeois practitioners of the craft, like me, squirm.

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