Home Tech Is Getting Smarter And Creepier

With every new Smart Home device installed, more information about you is being secretly collected, categorized, analyzed and sold. ‘Decentralized surveillance’ provides a pool of data that can be used to manipulate human behavior. ⁃ TN Editor

One day, finding an oven that just cooks food may be as tough as buying a TV that merely lets you change channels.

Internet-connected “smarts” are creeping into cars, refrigerators, thermostats, toys and just about everything else in your home. CES 2019, the gadget show opening Tuesday in Las Vegas, will showcase many of these products, including an oven that coordinates your recipes and a toilet that flushes with a voice command.

With every additional smart device in your home, companies are able to gather more details about your daily life. Some of that can be used to help advertisers target you — more precisely than they could with just the smartphone you carry.

“It’s decentralized surveillance,” said Jeff Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy, a Washington-based digital privacy advocate. “We’re living in a world where we’re tethered to some online service stealthily gathering our information.”

Yet consumers so far seem to be welcoming these devices. The research firm IDC projects that 1.3 billion smart devices will ship worldwide in 2022, twice as many as 2018.

Companies say they are building these products not for snooping but for convenience, although Amazon, Google and other partners enabling the intelligence can use the details they collect to customize their services and ads.

Whirlpool, for instance, is testing an oven whose window doubles as a display. You’ll still be able to see what’s roasting inside, but the glass can now display animation pointing to where to place the turkey for optimal cooking.

The oven can sync with your digital calendar and recommend recipes based on how much time you have. It can help coordinate multiple recipes, so that you’re not undercooking the side dishes in focusing too much on the entree. A camera inside lets you zoom in to see if the cheese on the lasagna has browned enough, without opening the oven door.

As for that smart toilet, Kohler’s Numi will respond to voice commands to raise or lower the lid — or to flush. You can do it from an app, too. The company says it’s all about offering hands-free options in a setting that’s very personal for people. The toilet is also heated and can play music and the news through its speakers.

Kohler also has a tub that adjusts water temperature to your liking and a kitchen faucet that dispenses just the right amount of water for a recipe.

For the most part, consumers aren’t asking for these specific features. After all, before cars were invented, people might have known only to ask for faster horses. “We try to be innovative in ways that customers don’t realize they need,” Samsung spokesman Louis Masses said.

Whirlpool said insights can come from something as simple as watching consumers open the oven door several times to check on the meal, losing heat in the process.

“They do not say to us, ‘Please tell me where to put (food) on the rack, or do algorithm-based cooking,’” said Doug Searles, general manager for Whirlpool’s research arm, WLabs. “They tell us the results that are most important to them.”

Samsung has several voice-enabled products, including a fridge that comes with an app that lets you check on its contents while you’re grocery shopping. New this year: Samsung’s washing machines can send alerts to its TVs — smart TVs, of course — so you know your laundry is ready while watching Netflix.

Other connected items at CES include:

— a fishing rod that tracks your location to build an online map of where you’ve made the most catches.

— a toothbrush that recommends where to brush more.

— a fragrance diffuser that lets you control how your home smells from a smartphone app.

These are poised to join internet-connected security cameras, door locks and thermostats that are already on the market. The latter can work with sensors to turn the heat down automatically when you leave home.

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IBM Launches First Quantum Computer-In-A-Box For Commercial Use

This is a watershed computer technology that will enable Technocracy on every level: Practical Quantum computing outside of the laboratory. “Q” will find its sweet spot in Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Everything. ⁃ TN Editor

IBM unveiled the world’s “first universal approximate quantum computing system installed outside of a research lab” at CES earlier this week — and with it, the next era of computing.

The 20-qubit IBM Q System One represents the first major leap for quantum computers of 2019, but before we get into the technical stuff let’s take a look at this thing.

The commitment to a fully-functional yet aesthetically pleasing design is intriguing. Especially considering that, just last year, pundits claimed quantum computing was a dead-end technology.

To make the first integrated quantum computer designed for commercial use outside of a lab both beautiful and functional, IBM enlisted the aid of Goppion, the company responsible for some of the world’s most famous museum-quality display cases, Universal Design Studio and Map Project Office. The result is not only (arguably) a scientific first, but a stunning machine to look at.

This isn’t just about looks. That box represents a giant leap in the field.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of bringing quantum computers outside of laboratories. Some of the biggest obstacles to universal quantum computing have been engineering-related. It isn’t easy to manipulate the fabric of the universe — or, at a minimum, observe it — and the machines that attempt it typically require massive infrastructure.

In order to decouple a quantum system from its laboratory lifeline, IBM had to figure out how to conduct super-cooling (necessary for quantum computation under the current paradigm) in a box. This was accomplished through painstakingly developed cryogenic engineering.

Those familiar with the company’s history might recall that, back in the 1940s, IBM‘s classical computers took up an entire room. Eventually, those systems started shrinking. Now they fit on your wrist and have more computational power than all the computers from the mainframe era put together.

It sure looks like history is repeating itself.

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AI Will Take 40 Percent Of White, Blue Collar Jobs In 15 Years

This prediction comes from a Chinese venture capitalist based in China who is intent on investing huge sums of capital to make it so. Technocrats have no restraint when it comes to disrupting society, and worse, they have no answers on how to lessen the blows. Lee is formerly head of Google’s China operations. ⁃ TN Editor

In as soon as 15 years, 40 percent of the world’s jobs could be done by machines, according to one of the world’s foremost experts on artificial intelligence. Kai Fu Lee, a pioneer in AI and venture capitalist based in China makes this prediction in a Scott Pelley report about AI on the next edition of 60 Minutes, Sunday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m., ET/PT on CBS.

“AI will increasingly replace repetitive jobs, not just for blue-collar work, but a lot of white-collar work,” says Lee. “Chauffeurs, truck drivers, anyone who does driving for a living– their jobs will be disrupted more in the 15-25 year time frame,” he tells Pelley. “Many jobs that seem a little bit complex, chef, waiter, a lot of things will become automated … stores … restaurants, and altogether in 15 years, that’s going to displace about 40 percent of the jobs in the world.” When pressed by Pelley about 40 percent of jobs being displaced, Lee says the jobs will be, “displaceable.”

“I believe [AI] is going to change the world more than anything in the history of mankind. More than electricity,” says Lee.

One of the biggest changes will be in education. Lee is financing companies that are installing AI systems in remote classrooms across China to improve learning for students far from the country’s growing cities. The AI-system is being designed to gauge student interest and intelligence by subject.

Could such artificial intelligence identify the geniuses of the world? “That’s possible in the future,” says Lee. “It can also create a student profile and know where the student got stuck so the teacher can personalize the areas in which the student needs help.”

Those students will be facing an uncertain future with 40 percent of the world’s current jobs displaceable. “What does that do to the fabric of society?” asks Pelley. “Well, in some sense, there is the human wisdom that always overcomes these technological revolutions,” Lee says.  “The invention of the steam engine, the sewing machine, electricity, have all displaced jobs. We’ve gotten over it. The challenge of AI is this 40 percent, whether it is 15 or 25 years, is coming faster than the previous revolutions.”

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Chinese Bike-Sharing Startup Ofo Facing Bankruptcy

Bike and scooter sharing startups around the world are dropping like flies as the public rejects the whole concept. It was a sly scheme to get people out of cars and into bike lanes. In San Francisco, scooters are set on fire and thrown in the ocean by fed up citizens. ⁃ TN Editor

Not so long ago, Chinese bike-sharing firm Ofo was flush with cash and hailed as a game-changing tech startup. Today, it’s struggling to stay afloat.

Backed by billions of dollars from high-profile investors like Alibaba (BABA), Ofo helped pioneer the dockless bike-sharing phenomenon that swept across Chinese cities in recent years. The bikes can be locked and unlocked anywhere via a smartphone app, which means users don’t have to return them to designated stations.

Ofo fended off dozens of copycat rivals, but it now risks becoming the latest casualty of a cut-throat industry. Hordes of angry customers gathered outside its headquarters in Beijing this week to demand refunds. The company and its founder have been put on a government black list for failing to pay debts.

“They snapped defeat from the jaws of victory,” said Jeffrey Towson, a private equity investor and professor at Peking University.

So what went wrong?

Struggling to keep up

Bike-sharing startups in China burned through cash as they rushed to launch services in cities throughout the country and overseas. The chaotic expansion resulted in a string of bankruptcies and huge piles of impounded bikes.

Ofo survived that shakeout, but has struggled to keep up with its rivals since.

Dockless bike sharing was a great standalone service when it launched in 2015, but it now makes more sense for companies like Ofo to team up with other transportation platforms, analysts say.

These days, people want to use one app where “you can hail a scooter or a bike or a car,” said Tu Le, founder of consulting firm Sino Auto Insights. “That’s where the sweet spot’s going to be.”

Ofo’s rivals have already adapted to the shifting landscape.

Mobike was acquired in April by a bigger tech startup, Meituan Dianping, while Hellobike joined forces with digital payments giant Ant Financial. Both Meituan and Ant offer a wide range of services though their apps, which are used by hundreds of millions of people in China.

The partnerships gave Ofo’s rivals access to more users and also allowed them to offer their users a greater variety of services, such as ride-hailing and food delivery.

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Should A Self-Driving Car Kill The Baby Or The Grandma?

Different cultures give different answers, and the there is obviously no rigid commonality between nations. When AI programs are created, however, they must start with a moral judgement as to how their programs will behave. ⁃ TN Editor
 

The infamous “trolley problem” was put to millions of people in a global study, revealing how much ethics diverge across cultures.

In 2014 researchers at the MIT Media Lab designed an experiment called Moral Machine. The idea was to create a game-like platform that would crowdsource people’s decisions on how self-driving cars should prioritize lives in different variations of the “trolley problem.” In the process, the data generated would provide insight into the collective ethical priorities of different cultures.

The researchers never predicted the experiment’s viral reception. Four years after the platform went live, millions of people in 233 countries and territories have logged 40 million decisions, making it one of the largest studies ever done on global moral preferences.

new paper published in Nature presents the analysis of that data and reveals how much cross-cultural ethics diverge on the basis of culture, economics, and geographic location.

The classic trolley problem goes like this: You see a runaway trolley speeding down the tracks, about to hit and kill five people. You have access to a lever that could switch the trolley to a different track, where a different person would meet an untimely demise. Should you pull the lever and end one life to spare five?

The Moral Machine took that idea to test nine different comparisons shown to polarize people: should a self-driving car prioritize humans over pets, passengers over pedestrians, more lives over fewer, women over men, young over old, fit over sickly, higher social status over lower, law-abiders over law-benders? And finally, should the car swerve (take action) or stay on course (inaction)?

Rather than pose one-to-one comparisons, however, the experiment presented participants with various combinations, such as whether a self-driving car should continue straight ahead to kill three elderly pedestrians or swerve into a barricade to kill three youthful passengers. 

The researchers found that countries’ preferences differ widely, but they also correlate highly with culture and economics. For example, participants from collectivist cultures like China and Japan are less likely to spare the young over the old—perhaps, the researchers hypothesized, because of a greater emphasis on respecting the elderly.

Similarly, participants from poorer countries with weaker institutions are more tolerant of jaywalkers versus pedestrians who cross legally. And participants from countries with a high level of economic inequality show greater gaps between the treatment of individuals with high and low social status.

And, in what boils down to the essential question of the trolley problem, the researchers found that the sheer number of people in harm’s way wasn’t always the dominant factor in choosing which group should be spared. The results showed that participants from individualistic cultures, like the UK and US, placed a stronger emphasis on sparing more lives given all the other choices—perhaps, in the authors’ views, because of the greater emphasis on the value of each individual. 

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Who Should Autonomous Vehicles Kill In A Collision?

Here is an interesting opinion piece regarding a very serious moral dilemma facing autonomous vehicles: If their occupants are willing to trust their lives to AI driving, then they should be the first to risk their lives when a choice presents itself. Innocent bystanders should never be put at risk. ⁃ TN Editor
 

Autonomous vehicles are seemingly all the rage in many of today’s tech lines. Tech companies like Tesla and Google just won’t give up, will they?

For what it’s worth, the likelihood of so-called “self-driving” cars taking off is slim. Sure, tech moguls say it’s the next big thing, just like 5G, the Internet of Things, “smart meters”, and the multitude of other tech disasters that are sprouting up across the country, mostly financed using misappropriated public funds. But why should you believe them? Given that autonomous vehicles would most likely necessitate V2V, or “vehicle to vehicle” communications, using high-frequency millimeter waves, it’s safe to say that if too many of these ever get out on the road, it will be anything but safe.

The only real thing autonomous vehicles have going for them is the “safety” umbrella, which is really more an extension of our stupidity than it is a valid point on its own. If people paid attention to the road, traffic fatalities would be diminished incredibly. If alcohol and mobile phones stayed out of vehicles, the highways would be a much safer place!

Autonomous vehicles raise more than just health concerns, though. There are serious ethical implications that people must confront if they are going to seriously even consider unleashing these vehicles of destruction onto the roads.

MIT’s Media Lab recently explored some of the moral dilemmas posed by artificial intelligence, which would play a large role in the realm of autonomous vehicle. After all, an autonomous vehicle must be able to make the call when it comes to the safety of its occupants and its surroundings. Many ethical questions are ambiguous. So, too, at least seemingly, is one of the questions that MIT researchers explored: who should die in a collision in which an autonomous vehicle is involved? We, as humans, have a moral compass that guides us in these types of dilemmas. Artificial intelligence, no matter how “intelligent”, comes down to 1s and 0s at the end of the day, and has no such moral compass. MIT researchers explored whether people felt an autonomous vehicle should hit a young or elderly person in order to save its occupants.

According to ZDNet“we agreed across the world that sparing the lives of humans over animals should take priority; many people should be saved rather than few, and the young should be preserved over the elderly.” Anyone else see a problem, here?

Patricia Burke sums it up perfectly in her article exploring this issue:

If the engineering behind self-driving cars can result in the possibility of a careening car’s intelligence deciding whether to hit the elderly lady in the crosswalk or the baby in the carriage on the sidewalk, we need to go back to drawing board. — The “Artificial” of Artificial Intelligence and MIT’s “Moral Machine”

I can see why most humans would agree sparing the lives of humans over other animals is paramount. It’s a moral decision with which most of us would agree. But what about blanket statements like “the young should be preserved over the elderly”?

Answers to these questions tended to be heavily culturally influenced. If youth is more valued as a culture than age, why not go with it? The problem is when decisions like these are programmed, no differentiation is made. Should an autonomous vehicle strike an elderly person, even if it’s the president of the United States? Even if it’s Paul McCartney? Even if it’s your grandma? Will autonomous vehicle manufacturers program in certain “exceptions” to the “no-kill” list, in effect saying “everyone else is fair game”? These are serious ethical issues with which we must grapple, if there is to be any conversation about the future of autonomous vehicles.

Here’s another question: should an autonomous vehicle, if forced to choose, decide to kill nearby pedestrians or kill its own occupants?

The American culture is highly individualized. We, as part of our culture, are more self-interested and self-motivated than are many other cultures, particularly in Europe and the East. So it would make sense that the autonomous vehicle act to save its owner; it would be only naturally, right?

Again, here we have a serious moral dilemma. Who are autonomous vehicle users to say that their lives are so important that they should be automatically spared, and that whoever is nearby must die because of their decision to use a self-driving car?

It’s selfish is what it is.

On a moral level, there’s no right answer to this question. But from a perspective of justice and “what’s right”, there is, at least to this question, a clear answer.

There are people who want self-driving cars and there are people who don’t. In general, generalizations are something we like to avoid, but as a general trend, younger people tend to be more comfortable with autonomous vehicles — after all, they already let technology run (and perhaps ruin) their lives, don’t they?

In other words, you’ll more likely find a college student roaming town in an autonomous vehicle than a senior citizen. Makes sense, right? Young people today are avoiding responsibility like the plague and have embraced all sorts of meaningless, purposeless technology and then gotten addicted to them. Autonomous vehicles are another such fad that are, in all practicality, no different. (Okay, enough bashing young people now.)

From a justice perspective, it makes little sense for autonomous vehicles to be programmed to target bystanders or pedestrians. After all, they’re completely innocent, disentangled from the whole situation. Why should they be punished? Wouldn’t it make more sense for a self-driving car to, if it has no alternative, kill its occupants instead?

It sounds extreme, outlandish, even. Of course, naturally. But put emotion aside and truly think about this analytically: if there are people who are willing to entrust their lives their lives to an autonomous vehicle tasked with making moral decisions it cannot, then they should be willing to pay the price if they have, indeed, misplaced their trust.

Why should innocent bystanders or pedestrians, who perhaps never advocated for or embraced this technology, be collateral damage when they have been warning others about it all along?

To be clear, we’re not advocating that anyone should die; that would be inhumane. But, the stark reality of the matter is that people die, and people die in traffic accidents. And, if a choice must be made, it’s only fair that the people who believed in and backed the technology and asked for it and bought it should pay the consequences if when it becomes necessary. There, I said it — if you are willing to trust an autonomous vehicle enough to use one, you should be willing to be the first victim when a potentially fatal decision must be made.

Logically, we believe this is a perfectly fair guideline. So take note of that autonomous vehicle manufacturers: if you’re so confident in your products, then program them to kill their owners, not innocent bystanders! That’s right, kill your customers! (Of course, that’ll never happen, because the people who make autonomous vehicles are as selfish as the people who use them!)

And while we’re not saying that young people are worth less than old ones, young people are more likely to support autonomous vehicles, so if one malfunctions, why not target a young person? The old people aren’t asking for this technology; why should they be punished when it has faults?

Don’t like this line of reasoning? Neither do we — it’s just another reason why autonomous vehicles will likely never (and should not) become reality.

Driving is, relative to other things we do on a daily basis, an incredibly dangerous activity. A person would think nothing of jumping the curb to avoid hitting a child who darts into the road unexpectedly, a self-driving car would. If you think that we can safely, humanely, and ethically entrust this demanding responsibility to an embedded computer (that, inevitably, will be wireless connected and prone to hacking), then think again. Computers are amazing and powerful tools, but there are just some things in life you just gotta do yourself.

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5G: Powering Smart Cities And The Fourth Industrial Revolution

While the 4th Industrial Revolution has mostly been rhetoric up to this point, experts are now saying “5G literally has the potential to start the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Indeed, it will be revolutionary and disruptive. ⁃ TN Editor

The arrival of 5G – the next generation of wireless networks – unleashes an opportunity for smart cities to take full advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where everything that can be connected will be and the full force of transformative technologies like artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles will permeate where we live, work and play.

What 5G delivers that 4G and earlier networks cannot are the blazing speeds and ultra-low latencies (data transfer delays) that allow massive amounts of data to be relayed between connected devices, systems, and infrastructure in near real time. In other words, 5G enables the super-fast response and data analysis that can allow driverless cars, cloud-connected traffic control, and other sensor-laden smart city applications to truly thrive.

Craig Silliman, executive vice president of public policy and general counsel, recently outlined why streamlining the evolution at the city level is critical.

Forward-looking city leaders are preparing now for the game-changing technology that is just starting to roll out in select U.S. markets. They realize 5G could impact most every aspect of city operations and service delivery: optimizing performance of power and water grids, trash collection, and transit; transforming public health and education; curbing pollution; and streamlining disaster management.

Those scenarios, of course, reflect what is known about 5G capabilities today – and we’re only in the first chapter.

What if trash trucks could do double-duty as pothole detectors as they cruise city streets? Or what about the opportunity for public schools to give students compelling new ways to explore the world and apply it to their lives?

Franklin-Hodge, currently a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, also believes 5G can trigger social benefits like digital inclusion, job creation, and economic development. He expects, for example, that 5G services will help historically under-connected communities attract new businesses.

Clearly, for smart cities and their citizens, the 5G stakes are high, and the first step is to get in the game.

Making cities smarter and safer

Sacramento will be one of the first U.S. cities to demonstrate the integration of 5G networks with smart infrastructure, data analytics, and the cloud. Through a creative partnership with Verizon, a number of neighborhoods in California’s capital city went live with the company’s 5G Home service – the first in the nation – in October 2018.

City officials see huge upsides in the new technology, from changing lives to changing history.

Chief information officer Maria MacGunigal expects 5G will change the technology landscape in Sacramento forever.  Mayor Darrell Steinberg takes it further. “When you look at this over the long term,” he said, “5G literally has the potential to start the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

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Dr. Tim Ball: Canada Faces Geo-Political Turmoil Of Existential Magnitude

Borders most often change with geo-political pressures in one direction or another, and Canada may not be immune to such changes. Current political trends are extremely disruptive and may force historic changes.  ⁃ TN Editor
 

There are always forces operating on anything that exists. You can divide these into two categories, centrifugal forces that cause it to disintegrate, and centripetal forces that hold it together. Ideally, those forces are in balance, but with change, the only constant, adjustments become inevitable. The forces existing when they created Canada are out of balance because it is geographically not the same country if nothing else. The basic principle I taught students of geopolitics is that geography is the stage on which history is played out. You can study history or geography separately, but they only work effectively when studied together ⁃ TN Editor [/su_note]  ⁃ TN Editor [/su_note] 

The map shows the natural north/south orientation of the continent depicted by the four finer arrows pointing south. From left to right they indicate the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, the Great Lakes Basin, and the Appalachian Mountains. The two arrows pointing north indicate the great drainage basins of the Mackenzie in the west and the Churchill- Nelson systems that flow north to the Arctic.

The Canada/US boundary cuts right across these natural regions. Ideally, if a political boundary is going to survive, it must coincide with a physical boundary.

For example, there are only four boundaries in Europe in existence for over 100 years. These are

  • France and Spain, the natural physical divide of the Pyrenees.
  • Switzerland, the Alps.
  • The Netherlands, they created it out of the Sea and invaders are easily flooded out.
  • Spain/Portugal. You have to see this border to understand its effectiveness as a physical barrier. Spain is the second country after Switzerland in terms of average elevation.

The international boundary between Canada and the US generally follows a water divide. This is a height of land that separates drainage basins of water flowing into different oceans. It is obvious in the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River but less obvious on the flat prairies. Just east of Winnipeg is the divide separating water flowing east to the Atlantic Ocean from water flowing north to the Arctic Ocean. Just south of Winnipeg is the divide that separates water flowing south to the Gulf of Mexico.

This separation of Canada from the US by water boundaries is no accident. In the east people who didn’t want to be part of the new Republic formed in the US and moved across the St Lawrence River to create the fledgling country of Canada. Because they were in favor of monarchy and the British Empire, they were called United Empire Loyalists. In the west, they established the boundary in 1670 when Charles II granted all the land flowing into Hudson Bay to the Hudson’s Bay Company. (This is one of the quirks of history – For some reason. Hudson Bay was named after Henry Hudson but without the proper possessive name ‘Hudson’s’. The Company registered legally as the Hudson’s Bay Company). I attended a Fur trade Conference in Calgary years ago when an academic made that comment. A First Nation person shouted out “Who gave him permission to do that?” The answer was just as big a surprise. European colonial powers believed if a group of people could not read or write they lacked the skills and tools necessary to form a civilization.

Canada formed in the eastern half of the current nation, and the same situation existed in the US. The degree to which this dominates the thinking is in the terminology we use.  Canadians refer to Central Canada, which is actually the center of Canada before they added the west. Americans refer to Chicago as a Midwest city when it is actually middle of the east. It got that name when the Appalachian Mountains were the boundary between eastern and western America.

Both countries expanded west with a variety of additions including purchased territory, land won after a conflict, and simple squatting. Each new region had different geography and history, and much of it had an indigenous population. They ignored these when boundaries, including the Canada/US, were superimposed. The compromise, which created more problems as time went by, said the border did not exist for them because there was an existing agreement made with Queen Victoria.

There are two methods for establishing boundaries. They follow natural physical features like rivers, lakes, mountains or an ocean coastline, or, they are geometric, usually straight and mostly of latitude and longitude. The internal boundaries in the US and Canada are almost all geometric straight lines that ignore natural variations.

One of the few natural boundaries in Canada is the southern half of the Alberta/BC border. All the others are a geometric straight line that follow latitude or longitude. Only one of these was based on a natural reality, and that is the northern boundary of the Prairie Provinces at 60° latitude. The government of the day still had some common sense and ruled that a political region can only sustain itself if there is an agricultural base. Thomas Jefferson explained,

“Agriculture… is the first in utility, and ought to be the first in respect.”

“The pursuits of agriculture [are] the surest road to affluence and best preservative of morals.”

They ruled that agriculture was not possible north of 60° because of the lack of soil. Permafrost, permanently frozen ground, precluded agriculture in what little soil existed around Hay River. They called all the regions north of 60° Territories and kept them under the control of the federal government.

This situation continued until one of those indigenous groups, the Inuit, decide to determine their survival. It is ironic that they were recognized because it was the federal government that created them, an action many of them opposed. Opposition was based on the fact that they are not a single cultural group. Of course, they were talked about as a single group when Europeans referred to them as Eskimos. If you are interested in the history of the circumpolar indigenous people and their contacts with Europeans in Canada, I recommend Rene Fossett’s book “In Order to Live Untroubled.” They achieved some autonomy in 1999 when The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act created Nunavut.

Notice the boundary is part latitude and part physical off the coast. I was briefly involved in the establishment of the land boundary because they wanted to use the tree line, which is approximately along the line they chose. It was an historic division between the Eskimos and the Denai people, the collective names given to those on each side. They are historical enemies with conflict occurring when the Eskimos came inland, and the Denai people move out of the boreal forest to hunt the Barren Ground Caribou. The problem with the tree line as a physical boundary is that it moves with climate change over time. For example, it moved at least 200 km between 1772 when Samuel Hearne put it on his map and 1972 when a modern researcher identified it. They could not agree on that portion of the border, so it took a Federal government imposition.

Nanavut

They broke the rules when they established Nunavut. There is no soil anywhere in this vast area, which at 1,750,000 square kilometers makes it the 18th largest country in the world. It is approximately the same size as Sudan, the largest country in Africa.

Incidentally, Hearne’s map is valuable because of aboriginal land claims. The concept of private ownership of land by every citizen did not exist until the creation of America. Lawyers and academics argue that Magna Carta was about private ownership of land. It was nothing of the sort. It was a group of powerful feudal landowners unhappy with the way the King was treating them. They didn’t give a hoot for the peasants living on their land without any rights at all. It continues today. Five people own almost half of Britain, and two of them are the Queen and her son Charles. Another is the Duke of Westminster who owns a large portion of the City of London.

Hearne’s Map of his trip from Churchill (lower right) along the tree line to Lake Arathapascow (now Lake Athabasca) on up to Coppermine. Notice the aboriginal regions: Northern Indians, Arathapascow Indians, Beaver Indians, Copper Indians, and Dog Rib’d Indians.

There were many proposals over the years to redraw Canada’s internal boundaries. For example, a BC senator proposed eliminating the 60° parallel of latitude boundary and extending the southern provinces to the Arctic coast. Notice that the Province that benefits most from this is BC because it would then combine with the Yukon Territory. That is the only portion of Canada north of 60° with forest and grassland right to the Arctic Ocean. This change is no longer possible with the development of Nunavut. 

Other boundaries that are problematic regarding geography and demographic transitions include the Maritime provinces. These do not include Newfoundland and Labrador. They are called the Atlantic Provinces when both groups are combined. I am not in favour of making bigger countries or bigger administrative units, but approximately equal representation is required. The Founding Fathers in the US tackled this head-on by making Congress proportionally representative and the Senate with equal representation with two Senators per State. They also created a two-tier election system, with the popular vote and the Electoral College. The latter was created to prevent the most populace States dominating and dictating to the smaller States. In Canada, we don’t have a sensible representative system because our Senate is by appointment and effectively has no power. We don’t get to vote for the Prime Minister and some Provinces, such as Prince Edward Island (PEI), are illogical as representative political units. With a population of 142,907 (2016), it is smaller than 33 cities in Canada, yet it has four members of Parliament and four Senators. By comparison, PEI is 5,660 km2 while Vancouver Island is 32,134 km2 with 775,347 people in 2016. But it isn’t just the population numbers, because PEI has three levels of government to support, which probably means that well over 50% of the population work for one of the levels.

As the country expanded west, political leaders saw the potential for a large hinterland providing food and raw materials to the east. One of the best ways to tie these regions together and exploit the resources was with a railway. It became the small steel reinforcing rod of an expanding Canada. However, roads and railways go in both directions, and gradually more and more people moved west or came directly from Europe to the west. Many of these people were of a different mindset with a more American frontier view of risk-taking and a desire for individual freedom and less government. A new western view developed that peaked first with a movement to western separatism under Pierre Trudeau’s growing Federal government power. Between the elder and the younger Trudeau, the dynamics changed completely. The railway was no longer important for passengers or freight. The original bottleneck at the Lakehead referred to by fur traders as the height of land became a boundary between east and west. Almost all the grain and produce shipped from west to east was now going west or south. In effect both halves of the country turned their backs on each other, so the forces are now as in the new map.

The term used for the idea around which they create a country is raison d’etre. For America, it is the supremacy of the individual. What is it for Canadians? Originally, it was a group of people who did not want to be Americans. Is a negative raison d’etre an adequate reason? The answer to that question came under increasing focus as the country changed its geography and demography and natural forces continued their influence and asserted realities. The question won’t go away and will require some real soul-searching as change inevitably continues.




Waymo Self-Driving Vans Regular Targets Of Road Rage

#StopTechnocracyThe fact is, growing numbers of people are rebelling against technology being shoved down their throat by Technocrats who could care less what people actually want. Stories like this a buried six feet down in mainstream media because of the bad PR value.  ⁃ TN Editor [/su_note]

Police have responded to dozens of calls regarding people threatening and harassing Waymo vans.

A Waymo self-driving van cruised through a Chandler neighborhood Aug. 1 when test driver Michael Palos saw something startling as he sat behind the wheel — a bearded man in shorts aiming a handgun at him as he passed the man’s driveway.

The incident is one of at least 21 interactions documented by Chandler police during the past two years where people have harassed the autonomous vehicles and their human test drivers.

People have thrown rocks at Waymos. The tire on one was slashed while it was stopped in traffic. The vehicles have been yelled at, chased and one Jeep was responsible for forcing the vans off roads six times.

Many of the people harassing the van drivers appear to hold a grudge against the company, a division of Mountain View, California-based Alphabet Inc., which has tested self-driving technology in the Chandler area since 2016.

“(The suspect) stated that he was the person holding up the gun as the Waymo vehicle passed by and that his intentions were to scare the driver,” said a report from Detective Cameron Jacobs, after police arrested 69-year-old Roy Leonard Haselton on Aug. 8.

The self-driving vans use radar, lidar and cameras to navigate, so they capture footage of all interactions that usually is clear enough to identify people and read license plates.

According to police reports, Waymo test drivers rarely pursue charges and arrests are rare. Haselton was charged with aggravated assault and disorderly conduct, and police confiscated his .22-caliber Harrington and Richardson Sportsman revolver.

“Haselton said that his wife usually keeps the gun locked up in fear that he might shoot somebody,” Jacobs wrote in the report. “Haselton stated that he despises and hates those cars (Waymo) and said how Uber had killed someone.”

Haselton’s wife told officers he was diagnosed with dementia, according to a police report.

Palos declined to discuss the incident. The Haseltons could not be reached for comment, and Roy Haselton’s trial is scheduled for February.

Waymo test drivers usually call their own company dispatcher when they are threatened or harassed, using the in-car, push-button communications system, which allows them to talk without holding a phone.

They often do this instead of calling police directly, according to the reports.

Company officials said that the drivers are trained to handle threats.

“Safety is at the core of everything we do, which means that keeping our drivers, our riders and the public safe is our top priority,” the company said in a statement.

“Over the past two years, we’ve found Arizonans to be welcoming and excited by the potential of this technology to make our roads safer. We believe a key element of local engagement has been our ongoing work with the communities in which we drive, including Arizona law enforcement and first responders.”

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Walmart Welcomes Autonomous Robot Floor Scrubbers

Janitors can write off floor care as part of their duties, which means layoffs for some jobs. Robot automation is disproportionately replacing lower-skilled and low-paid jobs that are essential for unskilled employees. ⁃ TN Editor

Robots are coming to a Walmart Inc. near you, and not just as a gimmick.

The world’s largest retailer is rolling out 360 autonomous floor-scrubbing robots in some of its stores in the U.S. by the end of the January, it said in a joint statement with Brain Corp., which makes the machines. The autonomous janitors can clean floors on their own even when customers are around, according to the San Diego-based startup.

Walmart has already been experimenting with automating the scanning of shelves for out-of-stock items and hauling products from storage for online orders. Advances in computer vision are also making it possible to use retail floor data to better understand consumer behavior, improve inventory tracking and even do away with checkout counters, as Amazon.com Inc. is trying to do with its cashierless stores. Brain’s robots are equipped with an array of sensors that let them to gather and upload data.

“We can take anything that has wheels and turn it into a fully autonomous robot, provided that it can go slow and stopping is never a safety concern,” said Brain Chief Executive Office Eugene Izhikevich. “And it’s more than just navigation. It is to robots what Android operating system is to smartphones.”

Brain doesn’t make its own hardware, focusing instead on developing software — BrainOS — that endows machines with autonomy in closed environments. At first, the machines were need to be operated by humans, who “teach” the layout of the space that needs cleaning. After that the robots can perform the task autonomously.

The robots, which look like a cross between a miniature Zamboni and a motorized wheel chair, already scrub floors at airports in Seattle, San Diego, Boston and Miami, Izhikevich said. Brain last month unveiled a smaller version of the machine developed jointly with SoftBank Group Corp.’s robotics arm and aimed at the Japanese market. At that time, Izhikevich said he’s looking to deploy the robots for security patrol and deliveries inside big-box stores.

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