Andrew Sullivan on the toll of blogging

Andrew Sullivan has written a TL;DR explanation of what it was that drove him from blogging.

There is much in his article that resonates with me.

I was sitting in a large meditation hall in a converted novitiate in central Massachusetts when I reached into my pocket for my iPhone. A woman in the front of the room gamely held a basket in front of her, beaming beneficently, like a priest with a collection plate. I duly surrendered my little device, only to feel a sudden pang of panic on my way back to my seat. If it hadn’t been for everyone staring at me, I might have turned around immediately and asked for it back. But I didn’t. I knew why I’d come here.

A year before, like many addicts, I had sensed a personal crash coming. For a decade and a half, I’d been a web obsessive, publishing blog posts multiple times a day, seven days a week, and ultimately corralling a team that curated the web every 20 minutes during peak hours. Each morning began with a full immersion in the stream of internet consciousness and news, jumping from site to site, tweet to tweet, breaking news story to hottest take, scanning countless images and videos, catching up with multiple memes. Throughout the day, I’d cough up an insight or an argument or a joke about what had just occurred or what was happening right now. And at times, as events took over, I’d spend weeks manically grabbing every tiny scrap of a developing story in order to fuse them into a narrative in real time. I was in an unending dialogue with readers who were caviling, praising, booing, correcting. My brain had never been so occupied so insistently by so many different subjects and in so public a way for so long.   Read more »

An interesting view of the impact of driverless technology on society

Dr Robert Goldman has posted, on Facebook, as part of a long assessment of what the future might look like a summary of his views on driverless technology and the impact it will have on society.

Autonomous Cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our kids will never get a driver’s license and will never own a car. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars for that. We can transform former parking space into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 100,000 km, with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 10 million km. That will save a million lives each year.

Most car companies may become bankrupt. Traditional car companies try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels. I spoke to a lot of engineers from Volkswagen and Audi; they are completely terrified of Tesla.   Read more »

It’s because they are poos

I used to have a Fitbit…actually I used to have two of them.

I don’t have one anymore and won’t be buying another one, nor will I buy any other “Wearable”. I’ll tell you why at the end of this post.

Meanwhile it seems that though they are popular there are some who are very vocal about not using them:

Wearables are rapidly increasing in popularity, but not everyone is won over – especially when it comes to price.

This is according to a Colloquy survey, in which 63% of people said wearable devices are too expensive. Just over one out of every two people (52%) say they don’t know enough about wearables and don’t understand them.

On the other hand, 35% of people said wearable technology is nerdy, but ‘cool nerdy’. In a stat that retailers will likely embrace, one in four people (27%) said they ‘used to hate shopping but with my wearable I love it’, and just 8% said wearable devices are uncomfortable, Colloquy says.

Colloquy defines wearables as clothing or accessories that integrate technology into people’s everyday lives in fun and practical ways. This comes in the form as fitness trackers, eyewear, smart jewellery, a dress that posts to social networks or shorts that upload workout stats.

According to the survey, when it comes to wearables people are still highly focused on price and aesthetic.   Read more »


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.

Read more »

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


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 »