Artificial intelligence

by Rhett

The Great A.I. Awakening
How Google used artificial intelligence to transform Google Translate, one of its more popular services — and how machine learning is poised to reinvent computing itself.

Discuss

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124 thoughts on “Artificial intelligence

  1. Kind of awesome kind of scary, like Westworld scary. I feel ok thinking that I will probably be dying just as all this starts to go wrong.

  2. I was stunned when I realized Google Translate now lets you take a picture of kanji/hiragana/katakana and it will translate it for you. I mean, wop your jaw stunned! And happy.

  3. My main thought is – what an amazing time to be alive! It reminds me a little of that Louie CK riff about “everything is awesome and all anyone does is complain”.

  4. I love that Louis CK riff. In our house we commonly say “yeah, Verizon sucks” whenever someone is complaining about some some amazing technology not working exactly as they want. It is stunning how quickly one takes these things for granted.

  5. It is stunning how quickly one takes these things for granted.

    Like when the wifi on the plane isn’t working.

  6. I thought it was an awesome article. I downloaded translate and have confirmed that it works.

  7. However, I still miss the extended arguments about sports statistics, obscure movie facts, often fueled by additional beverages, that now are cut short with a quick search or worse, an authoritative answer from Siri or Alexa. At least she doesn’t get a free beer.

  8. I am on an online NSF panel review, so I can’t type extensively, but maybe later I will regale y’all with the history of the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

  9. ” Ford has a PE of 6 and is paying a 5% dividend because the market is convinced that self driving cars are going to be a thing and that they will totally upend the motor vehicle market. ”

    Jesus, I should buy some Ford.

    If self-driving cars do come in to practical use, I would think people will be doing a ton MORE driving. You make something easier and more enjoyable, people tend to do more of it. I’d be far more likely to buy this:

    Which you could program on Friday afternoon to drive you to, I don’t know, Orlando, have a nice dinner on the road, go to sleep, and wake up at Disney World for the weekend. Get in the RV Sunday afternoon, go to sleep, and wake up ready to go in to work on Monday morning.

    They should be divesting of airline stocks.

  10. Milo – and with the slower travel, I suspect jet lag will be dealt with gradually… rather than having a jarring effect of landing in a different time zone (thinking of driving vs. flying from Seattle to Orlando, let’s say). That makes the return to your regularly-scheduled life seem a lot more pleasant.

    I’ve been reading a little of the article here and there at work. Utterly fascinating. Is IBM’s Watson still being updated, or is he obsolete (enter in a twilight zone ep here…).

  11. If self-driving cars do come in to practical use, I would think people will be doing a ton MORE driving…Jesus, I should buy some Ford.

    In 1997 Kodak was paying 6.7%. They market’s theory seems to be that it’s highly unusual for a company to survive such a dramatic change in its business.

  12. They should be divesting of airline stocks.

    I’d say VR is a bigger threat to airlines than self driving cars.

    Which brings up our next question. VR kills the airline industry putting millions out of work, self driving trucks put 3 million drivers out of work, Watson puts that nation’s doctors out of work*. How does the political system and economy deal with that kind of dislocation?

    * http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/ibm-watson-proper-diagnosis-doctors-stumped-article-1.2741857

  13. The unintended consequence of self-driving cars is going to be much more traffic. You’ll have more people on the road because:

    – why take public transit when you can have your own private vehicle, even if it takes longer, you can play on your phone, read, do work or whatever because you aren’t driving

    – people who currently don’t/can’t drive can have their own vehicles. This includes the elderly, disabled, and kids

    Yes, there will be fewer accidents and traffic will tend to move more smoothly. But even self-driving cars need minimal following distances and the roads have a finite capacity.

  14. ” They market’s theory seems to be that it’s highly unusual for a company to survive such a dramatic change in its business.”

    But people aren’t going to stop buying cars like they stopped buying film.

  15. “The unintended consequence of self-driving cars is going to be much more traffic. ”

    Maybe not. With advanced VR we’d spend most of our lives in our little pods living a wonderful virtual life. No need to travel or to form RL relationships.

  16. But people aren’t going to stop buying cars like they stopped buying film.

    The article mentioned transport as a service. Rather than pay to have a car that sits idle 98%* of the time people would just use an Uber like service. However, the difference between selling 13 million cars to consumers and 3 million to fleets every year and selling 11 million to fleets and 2 million to consumers is going to be so different traditional companies won’t be able to adapt.

    * But what about rush hour you might say. Well, the beltway, 405, 128 etc. have traffic at 7am and they have traffic at 10am. With self driving cars there will be a lot less traffic such that those 7am cars will be able to make 2-4 more trips in a given morning thus requiring some fraction of the current number of cars to transport everyone from home to work, errands, etc. and back.

  17. ” Rather than pay to have a car that sits idle 98%* of the time people would just use an Uber like service.”

    I’m not convinced at all. Just because cars drive themselves won’t make any substantial number of people less likely to want to own their personal one.

    “With self driving cars there will be a lot less traffic such that those 7am cars will be able to make 2-4 more trips in a given morning thus requiring some fraction of the current number of cars to transport everyone from home to work, errands, etc. and back.”

    Then assuming that there’s a net movement of people into one area (downtown) in the morning, and a net movement outward into the suburbs in the evening, using self-driving cars, even in your model, is going to entail far more cars on the road, since they’d be going in, turning around empty to go back and pick someone else up…

  18. This part is especially for WCE:

    The formal equations that explain these traffic patterns in terms of individual behavior are called car following models. They were first developed by researchers at General Motors in the 1950s. This is the simplest such formula:

  19. Just because cars drive themselves won’t make any substantial number of people less likely to want to own their personal one.

    Would you own your own car if Uber could put a car at your location in 2-4 min for 1/2 the cost of owning your own?

  20. is going to entail far more cars on the road, since they’d be going in, turning around empty to go back and pick someone else up…

    Right, far more cars on the road and far fewer cars parked at home and at work. Think of what this will do to parking norms. If a given office has a full lot now and eventually only a small number of people end up parking, developers are going to find a new use for that land.

  21. “Would you own your own car if Uber could put a car at your location in 2-4 min for 1/2 the cost of owning your own?”

    Probably. And it wouldn’t be half for anyone who regularly needs a car. There’s no example for that or any reason to believe it’s possible. It’s not like Mariott/VRBO/AirBNB/ApartmentGuide.com can ever get you a rental condo to live in for half the cost of owning your own.

  22. “With advanced VR we’d spend most of our lives in our little pods living a wonderful virtual life. No need to travel or to form RL relationships.”

    DD – it’s Ready Player One! Right on our doorstep.

  23. I agree with Rhett that self driving cars will encourage most people not to own their own cars. At least in those urban and quasi-urban places where the car would arrive in under 5 minutes. It’s such a hassle to park the car nowadays. True that some people would still want their own but I would bet that the net result would be less ownership. I think the romantic relationship with cars is almost over or will be in another generation.

  24. Rhett – then you’d have to have a go bag with all your stuff in it. Whereas my car has MY CDs, my gum, my chapstick, my kleenex, etc.

    People with kids would also need the self-driving car with the correct configuration of car seats, which I think is less likely.

  25. And to answer Rhett’s question – the world didn’t do so well when AI/VR put everyone out of business. Customer Service to keep the VR running and businesses inside the VR were the only modes of economy. IRL, people lived off gov’t subsidies and clustered as close to cities as possible because of the lack of resources in the suburban/rural areas.

  26. “People with kids would also need the self-driving car with the correct configuration of car seats”

    Eventually, we wouldn’t need car seats.

  27. Would you own your own car if Uber could put a car at your location in 2-4 min for 1/2 the cost of owning your own?

    Yes. It’s often much more convenient to be able to leave stuff in the car than to have to take everything out all the time. One example: I coach baseball and softball. During the seasons, the equipment stays in the car for months because there’s no point in taking it out and putting it back in 4 or 5 times a week. Lesser (and probably more common example), DW leaves her work laptop in the car all the time because she usually doesn’t need to use it.

  28. I would agree that for anyone who doesn’t have a driveway, or at least a dedicated parking space in a condo’s attached parking garage, Uber would be more attractive. But the country continues along the path of a higher proportion of the population in less-dense, detached housing, and self-driving cars, which will make commuting easier and faster, will only further that trend.

  29. It’s not like Mariott/VRBO/AirBNB/ApartmentGuide.com can ever get you a rental condo to live in for half the cost of owning your own.

    They could if you only needed a room for 2 hours a day.

  30. “Eventually, we wouldn’t need car seats.”

    Oh don’t tease me….

    Rhett – CDs… once known as compact discs, a way to transmit large amounts of information in a small space. Became popular to store and listen to music. Slowly replaced by other storage forms – either cloud-based, or thumb drives (see also USB drive).

  31. “They could if you only needed a room for 2 hours a day.”

    Your hypothetical Uber fleet is going to be driving 18 hours a day, which is a little over 300,000 miles per year at an average 50 miles per hour. Even if your predictions were to come true, Ford would still be building a lot of cars–more than they already are.

  32. RMS , in addition to sharing the trait of freakishly short legs, I am a fellow Dart drive. Mine was a ’71. Ahh, the good old days

  33. But the country continues along the path of a higher proportion of the population in less-dense, detached housing,

    For the poor? Yes, that is a trend. Not for the affluent.

  34. I forget which point I’m arguing. If they have to replace the Uber cars every year (after 300,000 miles), plus they’re going to need to pay people to do the regular cleaning every day from all those different asses farting into the seats, I don’t see how it’s going to be cheaper.

  35. Rhett – It’s true for the poor and middle classes, and the newly upper middle class, who combined represent a lot more people than the truly affluent.

  36. Your hypothetical Uber fleet is going to be driving 18 hours a day, which is a little over 300,000 miles per year at an average 50 miles per hour.

    You’re assuming Ford can manage the transition from building cars for consumers who want a car for 200k miles over 10 to 15 years and cost 35k to Uber which wants a car that can do 1 million miles in a little over three years and it can pay 120k. It’s entirely possible they won’t be able to do it. History says the number of companies that fail to manage the transition is far larger than the number that do manage it.

  37. and the newly upper middle class, who combined represent a lot more people than the truly affluent.

    They will be the only ones with jobs. Unless your theory of the nations truckers and cashiers transition into making artisinal hand made lollipops works out for everyone.

  38. Rhett – my phone doesn’t have enough space on it to store all my CDs. Especially for the Christmas ones! :)

  39. they’re going to need to pay people to do the regular cleaning every day

    Why would they have people do that? With the advent of cheap industrial robots and the fact that all the cars will be uniform, I’d assume they would automate that process.

  40. “Unless your theory of the nations truckers and cashiers transition into making artisinal hand made lollipops works out for everyone.”

    It has never NOT been accurate. Do you know how many women were employed as seamstresses before Singer invented the sewing machine? It was a significant portion of the population.

  41. Rhett – my phone doesn’t have enough space on it to store all my CDs. Especially for the Christmas ones! :)

    1. Buy a new phone
    2. Spotify

  42. It has never NOT been accurate.

    There’s a first time for everything. Personally, I haven’t see a plausible solution of what to do when robots and AI can do everything the bottom 4/5th of the population can do better and cheaper.

  43. “I haven’t see a plausible solution of what to do when robots and AI can do everything the bottom 4/5th of the population can do better and cheaper.”

    We’ve already seen that throughout the Industrial/Agricultural Revolution. The solution is to increase demand. The answer to putting all the seamstresses out of work is to raise our demand for textiles so that pants are $10 at Target, and we give T-shirts away for running in a race, and then you go home and throw out the T-shirt.

  44. The solution is to increase demand.

    But when every step of the process of making everything, from the growing of the cotton to the drone delivery are automated, where are the people going to fit in? That’s the first point. The second question is, even if you’re right, what do we do with those who can’t make it through the transition, your truck drivers, oncologists, etc?

  45. “The second question is, even if you’re right, what do we do with those who can’t make it through the transition”

    I don’t see any of this happening so drastically. And when unemployment is below 5%, as it is now, it’s just not worth worrying about.

  46. And when unemployment is below 5%, as it is now, it’s just not worth worrying about.

    Your boy said, “Don’t believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 and 5 percent unemployment. The number’s probably 28, 29, as high as 35. In fact, I even heard recently 42 percent.”

  47. I’m not so good with cleaning products, but exactly how do you clean the farts off of the seats? Also, why aren’t cabs doing it? An inservice cab is not putting 300k/year on the odometer, even if it is being driven 24 hours per day. I imagine they average 8-15mph, similar to what I do when running short errands in my car, so 50-100k per year.

  48. “Your boy said”

    Yeah, he says a lot of things.

    “Also, why aren’t cabs doing it?”

    Cabs are gross.

  49. I imagine they average 8-15mph,

    One would expect usage patterns to differ significantly between “transport as a service” vehicles vs. conventional cabs.

  50. I’m not worried about AI replacing doctors. AI is getting really good at giving diagnoses/determining treatment when fed all of the relevant information. Two problems: doctors do more than give diagnoses and treatment, and relevant information takes some skill to gather.

    First – This time of year, I can tell if someone has flu by what they look like as they walk past the nurses station. I can tell what treatment they need from their chart and vitals. (I cannot discharge them at that point, I still have to go see them.) The bulk of what my patients are paying for (whether they want it or not) is counseling on home therapies, explanation of the lack of antibiotic prescription and return precautions. Sure, some of that could be done by a less-skilled or less-expensive person, especially if the diagnosis was 99.9% correct as predicted by the computer. However, “the computer says it is flu and here is a recipe for chicken soup” is not going to fly well, at least with current patients and their expectations. For much more complicated things – new mass in liver – I don’t do any diagnosis or treatment, but I provide symptomatic care, appropriate referrals, arranging of ancillary testing. Watson may be able to diagnose leukemia by looking at the DNA, but it can’t tell when to stop chemotherapy because it no longer meets patient’s goals.

    Second – gathering of information. Patients (and nurses and sometime primary care physicians) are not good reporters of symptoms. I work in a system where we have health aides who report symptoms to doctors to determine if the patient can be treated in a rural clinic, commercially flown to definitive care or medivac’d out. We are wrong all the time, because of inaccurate reporting from health aides (who have a certification that takes several months to obtain). We over treat in this population because the data is so unreliable. In my urban job, I recently had a patient examined by a primary care provider and referred to me for “acute abdomen” – the patient had nothing of the sort. I assume that the provider had seen so few “acute abdomens” (this is a medical term with very specific meanings) that she had forgotten what it looked like. Someone has to be Watson’s eyes and ears, and that person might need a whole lot of training.

    I hope this doesn’t sound defensive. I’m all ready for my AI overlords to unemploy me, give me a Basic Income, and stream Netflix and donuts directly into my brain.

  51. Ada – I think it would probably just improve the productivity and effectiveness of doctors and mitigate the doctor shortage. There are still all kinds of gaps in the delivery of medical care that could probably be improved. Would be great if it helps doctor’s office with medical records and expediting sharing of information (we still fax stuff to our doctor). We intend to take an extended trip with the kids (like kids out of school for a year trip) and I am hopeful that a) nothing horrendous happens that requires immediate medical attention in a remote site and b) that we can work out a telemedicine arrangement with our doctors to treat the run of the mill stuff. A good chunk of this time will be out of the country but we will still have our insurance coverage here in the US.

    Sort of related to this topic, I read this book last year and I found it humorous.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2030_(novel)

  52. “They could if you only needed a room for 2 hours a day.”

    Isn’t that an existing business model? E.g., the No-Tell Motel.

  53. “I’m kind of wishing I had my ’69 Dodge Dart back.”

    225 slant six?

    I learned on a ’67. My uncle had a Dart with a 318; I think it was a ’69.

  54. “We are wrong all the time, because of inaccurate reporting from health aides (who have a certification that takes several months to obtain). ”

    Wrong all the time as in never right?

  55. How about we start small with AI – medical billing. This is something that drives the consumer (me) batty because I basically have to do everyone’s job.

    I get a bill for a service that doesn’t seem right (i.e. it was covered the last time I had it done). I have to call insurance and find out that the service was denied because of XYZ. Then I have to call the provider’s billing department (who are very rarely friendly, and do not return phone calls), to say “Uh can you reprocess my claim and include XYZ so my insurance can approve the claim or at least deny it with a good reason”. Then I have to hope they do that, and wait for service to bill me again and again. Eventually I start the process over again.

    This seems like a great place to start for AI. It’s a simple system with finite answers. All the info is complicated, but already coded into a computer system. AI has the ability to run the cross references needed, match the insurance with the claim and the service and figure out what’s needed, then send email to provider asking for additional information. Once that’s added to the file, then poof, decision.

  56. “why take public transit when you can have your own private vehicle, even if it takes longer, you can play on your phone, read, do work or whatever because you aren’t driving”

    That’s what I’ve been wondering about our train, which was supposed to cost around $4.6B but looks like it will end up costing more like $15B if it is ever finished.

    I’m thinking that by the time it is finished (assuming it is), self-driving transportation services may be a reality, making the rail economically obsolete.

  57. I think I’ve asked this before, but has anyone heard of commuters becoming drivers for companies like Uber or Lyft to make some money off their commutes?

  58. There are lots of problems with the delivery of health care that are not related to the availability of technology. Rhode’s problems would be better solved by computers than people. They are not that complicated (at least from an AI point of view).

    HIPAA governs how medical records are shared and (sorry Bill Clinton!) never did what it was promised – make electronic sharing easy. Again, this is not an AI problem – a relatively smart high school student could design a better system. However, the current information exists in a certain form, doctor’s offices have limited equipment (fax machines but not scanners). I will agree that these are huge problems, but moar technology is not the answer.

    Finn– “all the time” – I mean, “frequently” or “not a rare occurrence”. Probably 3-5 medivacs per week that could be avoided with better information.

  59. Mia – do you belong to an HMO? Can you shift your insurance to one?

    Most HMOs are at the forefront in providing phone or tele visits. Most doctors won’t provide real service over the phone/skype because they usually cannot bill for it. Since an HMO already has you money, they want to see you in the most cost effective way possible.

    If that is not an option, I would investigate telemedicine services near you, and perhaps try them out the next time you have a run of the mill medical complaint. They may not be covered by insurance, but they are typically very affordable.

    I don’t know if you have shared where you are traveling, but I am less worried that I used to be about finding decent care abroad. Usually there is an expat community that can point you in the right direction. If it is a mostly developed country the care should be adequate for things that wouldn’t put you on a plane back home. If it is mostly underdeveloped, good care is usually available for the right price.

  60. I will agree that these are huge problems, but moar technology is not the answer.

    I totally disagree. The key difference is that these new AI systems learn on their own. To use Rhode’s billing problem as an example. Let’s say the claim rejected due to invalid date of service. The visit was for 1/4/17 but the procedure was done 1/10/17. The clerk was supposed to create a new visit for the procedure but they didn’t so the tech he just attached the procedure to the 1/4/17 visit. Currently, someone works those rejections and sends an e-mail to admissions to create a visit for 1/10/17 to attach the procedure to it.

    To fix that currently you’d have to code for everything. If ENT visit date <= t=14 days and procedure Head_CT w/ diagnosis 702.11 for ENT visit and rejection reason = invalid date of service then… With AI, in theory, it would be able to watch those errors be resolved and figure out for itself that the problem was the tech forgot to create a new visit and to create one on its own and attach the procedure to that new visit.

  61. I haven’t been to Hawaii yet, so I don’t know anything about the density and traffic on your island. There are multiple reasons why rail and subway service is critical in large cities, and cost is just one factor in the equation. The subway is cost efficient, but the commuter rails are expensive unless you travel enough to get a monthly pass. I can usually get some where quickly by subway as long as there isn’t a sick passenger or something that creates a real delay. The same is true of the train. I know it will be 35 minutes, and it generally works.

    We often drive into Manhattan on a weekend because the traffic is lighter and we know how to find street parking for free. We rarely ever drive in (or take cabs, Uber etc) during the week due to the traffic. It can be a nightmare even with Waze because there is a lot of traffic and there always seem to be accidents. Tolls are high, so the ride can be become pricey for just one person in the car. The reverse is true on a weekend because the commuter rail fares are high, and it is cheaper to drive in if we can get free parking and minimal traffic.

    I know it doesn’t mean much to most of you, but I am still really excited about the Second Ave subway. I just wish this happened when I used to live on the upper east side of Manhattan. It would have been life changing, but it is still exciting for a city kid like me that grew up with the graffiti subway cars in the 70s.

  62. “It’s often much more convenient to be able to leave stuff in the car than to have to take everything out all the time.”

    That is an excellent point. How many cars do you see out and about that look like rental vehicles? Especially families with kids. I would not want to have to remember the tissues and water bottles and emergency snack rations and spare sunglasses for every trip.

  63. My friends with multiple kids live out of their minivans or SUVs on the weekends. They’re running from field to field, or party to party etc. The car is their base. Like a locker in school.

  64. I would not want to have to remember the tissues and water bottles and emergency snack rations and spare sunglasses for every trip.

    Uber already provides water and candy. It’s not a leap to suggest they’d provide kid approved choices if they had more child passengers.

    Do you mean sunglasses at your destination or sunglasses while driving?

  65. They’re running from field to field, or party to party etc.

    If the cars drove themselves and were perfectly safe with constant video monitoring etc. would they still sit in the car with the kids? Would the need for conspicuous caring overwhelm the desire for a bit of peace and quite?

  66. is the car going to take them to the bathroom during the party, or cheer them on from the sidelines? Most kids need a parent present at a bday party until 5 or 6 ish.

    I grew up in the city, and we had a car. It wasn’t used a lot, so I lived one life as a child and another as a parent in the burbs. i thinks hat we’re all trying to say is that there are reasons why people like to have their own cars, drive their own cars etc. I am a germ phone and I wipe down every hotel room. I do NOT want to do that every time I go in a shared car. I like my car, and I am someone that took cabs or public transportation for 35 years until I owned a car.

    My point is that some people want their own car. They don’t want to share. remember the twos in preschool? Everyone gets their own little tikes flintstone type mobile. Some people don’t like to share whether they’re 50 or 2. It is the same reason that some people hate to stay with friends or in rented houses.

    I think driverless cars are eventually coming, and will be popular for dense city dwellers, or people that can’t drive for a variety of reasons. For others…they may still want to own their cars – even if they are self driving cars.

  67. For others…they may still want to own their cars – even if they are self driving cars.

    Right, it would mostly come down to cost and how seemless the Disney Cruises/Uber of family transport can make things. If Disney/Uber can get you 95% of the convience for 25% of the cost then having a personal car would be more of a niche luxury item. Obviously, if the cost/convience equation changes then personal cars become more popular.

  68. Ada – we have a high deductible health plan that is a PPO but our outsourced benefits company also provides a telemedicine service. I just didn’t know whether it might be a better service to keep our existing relationship with our doctor and pay a separate additional fee for a phone/video conference. We have been banking HSA money for use on our travels, a well-stocked first aid kit, and will buy medical evacuation insurance for the worst case scenario.

  69. Lauren, we currently have no fixed infrastructure dedicated to mass transit other than shelters and benches at bus stops and a couple of transit centers for buses. I don’t think it’ll ever be practical here to develop the type of infrastructure you have in NYC.

    IMO, we don’t really need rail. Traffic is typically only bad when flagship U is in session, and I think for much less than even $1B, they could develop remote learning options to keep many of the students off the roads most of the time.

    Ridesharing/slugging of commuters could also reduce our traffic levels.

  70. “There’s ridesharing, and there’s slugging, which is symbiotic.”

    To my knowledge, slugging isn’t widespread here, like it is getting across the Bay Bridge. It would make sense, allowing otherwise solo drivers to use the HOV lanes.

    But I’m wondering rideshare services are facilitating a reduction of commute traffic.

  71. I really want to plan a visit to Hawaii. We don’t have the time or money for a visit this year.

    I should start looking into something with points for a trip in 2018. i just have to focus, or it won’t happen in the near future.

  72. This discussion reminds me of this:

    New Jersey Town Calls on Uber to Solve Commuter Parking Dilemma
    Instead of building a new garage at the train station, Summit, N.J., is paying for residents to take the car service

    I’m counting on Uber and driverless cars for enhanced mobility and independence during my senior years, which are coming up pretty fast.

    MiaMama, I’d love to hear more about your upcoming trip!

  73. I adored this article and shared it with my siblings and Mr WCE. It brought back memories of AI discussions with com sci geeks in the early ’90’s at Iowa State. I remember someone being excited about the AI work he could do with his new 486.

    I find the sociopolitical implications fascinating. It’s like reversing the diaspora from the Tower of Babel. The provided example of a 5x increase in German/Arabic translations is great.

    I also resonated with the example of identifying a cat and how a toddler learns, because I’ve been noting that with Baby WCE. She started talking at ~15 months and one of her first words was Abby, our dog’s name. All four legged pets for a few months were “Abby”. At church small group, both their dog and their cat were “Abby”. And then the light dawned. At age ~19 months, the dog at small group was still Abby, but she pointed to the cat and said, “Cat”.

    My boys weren’t verbal till later, so I didn’t get to observe the process of general classification (all pet-type animals are Abby) transition to more specific classification. She doesn’t yet realize that Abby is a specific example of type “Dog”. At the grocery store, she now points to people and all women are mommies and all men are daddies. She calls herself “Baby” rather than by her name, though she calls the other kids at childcare by their names.

    Regarding shared/self driving cars: I don’t know to what extent shared cars will become popular in non-urban areas. The idea of getting a family vehicle when needed and an efficient vehicle when needed appeals to me, but it seems like at certain times (Thanksgiving, Christmas), the demand for family vehicles will exceed the supply, or the price will be very high, tilting the decision back toward owning your own minivan.

    I suspect that with materials work similar to the focus on fuel efficency, automobiles could regularly go a million miles. People don’t necessarily want their automobiles to go a million miles now, because the technology would be so outdated by that time.

  74. Cordielia,

    GPS systems have a long way to go before they are really functional for driverless cars

    From the article:

    He said signs have been posted on Dog Valley Road near the California border in Verdi, but motorists confident with the GPS systems and online maps are ignoring the warnings.

    Google’s self driving car can read signs.
    The whole point of self driving cars is that they don’t ignore the warnings like humans do.

    Google can even read those hand signals that bicyclists are supposed to use. Certainly something no human driver in America remembers how to do.

  75. I recently saw an article that self driving cars were so much safer that we would have an alarming drop in organ donors because so many fewer people would die in car accidents.

  76. I love the idea of self driving cars (especially on a day like today when I drove 100 miles getting the kids to and from school and sports), and despise the idea of sharing. I can’t imagine not always having my own car, even if it’s doing all the work of getting me from place to place.

    And the STUFF! Where would I put the sunglasses (2 different ones, depending on the glare, and these are separate from the pair in my purse), change of clothes for everyone, general first aid kit, reusable tote bags (of course), plus sports equipment and musical instruments that go back and forth everyday and aren’t worth the trouble of getting in and out of the car in the evenings, plus the germs, plus where would the dogs go, because they love to drive carpool with us and have their own seat…

    Sharing sucks. No thanks.

  77. Lark,

    If you had a self driving car you’d still sit with them as the car drove you all to music lessons and sports practice rather rather than just sending them on their own in the car? Maybe at 5 but certainly not at 15?

  78. I would like my self driving car to have folding seats that convert to a bed like in a airplanes. Other things like a mini fridge and food heating options would be nice. Maybe I am thinking of a driveless RV for everyday use :-).

  79. “Other things like a mini fridge and food heating options would be nice. ”

    A while back, a friend started up a company that sourced and sold stuff targeted at people who spent a lot of time in their cars. One product I remember was a small microwave oven that could be plugged into a cigarette lighter.

    She eventually sold her company and retired, IIRC in her 40s.

  80. Rhett,
    Maybe your kids are still little, but IME there was no better way of finding our what was going on with adolescents than serving as chauffeur. I didn’t enjoy all of the driving, for sure, but it’s a wonderful opportunity for unexpected interesting conversations about life, love, and What Not To Do when driving.

  81. “I would like my self driving car to have folding seats that convert to a bed like in a airplanes.”

    One friend in the swimming community used to drive her kids to 4:30 am practice at a rec center, then crawl into the back of the van with a sleeping bag until practice was over at 6.

  82. Scarlett,

    I agree. I just wonder how society will change. If they can just go to 6 am swim practice on their own will parents sit in the car with them for the ride or will society look on that as kind of strange. I have no idea – it could be strange it, could be conpicious caring.

    My pet theory is kids will travel mostly alone as schools will differentiate a lot more and with vouchers etc kids will travel much further to find schools that are the best fit.

  83. mostly alone

    Well, not alone. The system would pool all the kids going to Totebag STEM Academy into one vehicle and all the kids going to Sales Douche Country Day into another.

  84. “One friend in the swimming community used to drive her kids to 4:30 am practice at a rec center, then crawl into the back of the van with a sleeping bag until practice was over at 6.”

    Just enough time for one sleep cycle.

    At my kids’ school in the afternoons, parents napping in their cars is a common sight.

  85. Rhett,

    I think that MOST parents will continue to send their kids to the school down the street, without regard to “fit.” Totebaggy parents will still want to spend time with their kids, and will not want to send them off in driverless cars even if it means that they can bill an extra hour every day. From what I can tell, there is no such thing as “conspicuous caring” in the Totebag world.

  86. DW and I met with the principal and assistant principal today to discuss the language arts issues. They are open to the homeschooling idea but the logistics would be hard to work out because there would be no place for DD to go during the class. It’s a small school and just going to the library to read would not work. They implied that we would need to pick her up during the class and then bring her back. Obviously that wouldn’t work.

    We agreed on a next step of DW and I observing a class to see what is going on. So we’ll see how that goes.

  87. “Sales Douche Country Day” — I’m picturing that their marketing materials would look exactly like the Vineyard Vines catalog.

  88. “It’s a small school and just going to the library to read would not work. ”

    Did your propose a specific homeschooling plan? Why couldn’t she go to the library and work on literacy or other course work? Would she need a computer? It’s nice that they’re being flexible (this would not be an option in NYS the last time I checked.), but I don’t understand why the logistics cannot be worked out.

    Tying this into the OP, it makes me dizzy to imagine all the changes AI can bring to education. At some point I expect brain chip implants.

  89. Forget AI, we’re failing miserably in how we teach literacy now.

    Mark Seidenberg, a cognitive scientist, has a book out denouncing the methods used by our public schools to teach reading.

    ‘Language at the Speed of Sight’ Fights to Reopen Our Closed Book on Literacy

    I like this quote:   some modern pedagogical theories are “zombies that cannot be stopped by conventional weapons such as empirical disconfirmation.”

    He argues that poverty is no excuse for poor literacy skills.

    The Ignored Science That Could Help Close the Achievement Gap
    There’s a body of research on cognitive reading processes, so why isn’t it being utilized?

  90. CoC, the issue is physically where she could go. The problem with the library is that there are classes going on there all day. And the way the middle school works is that they have a rotating schedule, so each class is at a different time every day, so that makes it more difficult. It’s not finding a place for her from 930 to 1045 every day, it’s 930 to 1045 on Mondays, 1045 to 1200 on Tuesdays, etc or whatever the actual times are. It’s physically a small building, so there isn’t much extra space.

  91. DD – perhaps a different spot each day. I am thinking some administration office, the counselors office, cafeteria, gym etc. on a rotating schedule.

  92. Interesting to hear you all discuss driverless cars. As far as I know, I’m the only person here who actively dislikes driving, and considers a car a necessary evil to get us from one place to another. Ours is filled with all kinds of crap all the time, which makes it as comfy as a trashed, cluttered living room. Sunglasses, Kleenex, lip balm, etc are for the destination as much as the drive. Makes more sense to me (even though it doesn’t go along with my natural inertia) to have them neatly stored in a go bag, ready to take on the bike, public transit, etc than to have multiple iterations in the car. Bulky things like sports equipment are an exception, of course.

    Rhett, why do you continue to bash accompanying kids to their activities as “conspicuous caring” when people who have actually been involved over the long term in day to day child-rearing explain to you the various functions served?

    Lauren, I know subway cars used to have much more graffiti on them than now, but did that affect the riders’ experience? How will the new line be different?

    Ada, if a person is medivacced unnecessarily, does insurance cover the cost of the trip? How common is it for a family member to follow the patient to distant city, with all the expenses of travel, missing work, renting hotel, etc?

    Meme, if you like the haggling over sports stats and historical trivia, do you also enjoy the discussions that ensue when a group of people decide to go out for a meal or drinks together? At conferences, I was always sorely tempted to walk off when the group I was with started that process. Just name a place and go, people! I also can’t stand the back and forth over the minutiae, far prefer analyzing what the point is.

    “He says a lot of stuff” so there is no point in believing anything he says? Is there any way to ascertain his intent?

  93. Oh, I see that it is complicated. It’s good that you’re making this effort, but I think in the worst case scenario you all can supplement what’s being done in class.

  94. DD, the class is t at the same time every day? Are other classes in the school? If they all rotate, then it’s only five days a week that a location must be found during that period. Is she required to have supervision?

  95. Rhett, why do you continue to bash accompanying kids to their activities

    It didn’t used to be the norm. Now it is. Something has changed.

  96. Rhett – what I think has changed is that household chores used to take a lot of time and effort, so parents were not inclined to accompany their kids. Also, there was more socializing among adults which didn’t include bringing kids along.
    Now in addition to the household gadgets we have online shopping so you don’t have to spend time physically going to stores. All this frees up more time. With less socializing among adults parents spend more time with their kids.

  97. Rhett, you didn’t know kids whose parents drove them to practice? I knew very few whose parents didn’t–they lived enough to walk or were old enough to drive

  98. With less socializing among adults parents spend more time with their kids.

    Also, a lot of parents use the time at these activities for their adult socializing.

    S&M, all the classes rotate every day. The logic is that they won’t have the same class at the end of the day every day when they are tired. Yes, she would need to be supervised.

    Louise, again it’s a very small building so there just isn’t space, especially having to find a place at a different time every day. The gym and cafeteria are the same room, and it’s not very big. It’s not like there are bleachers to sit in or anything.

  99. DD, so it’s really just finding a spot for that period, five times a week. BITD, the coat closet and hallway were where I was sent to work independently, with no real supervision. If she isn’t terribly easily distracted, she couldn’t she put earbuds in and work in the corner of a room that is otherwise in use, e.g. the library or gym, at least a couple days a week?

  100. @ Rhett – If I had a self driving car, I would definitely let it take my middle schooler alone. He’s old enough and mature enough for sure. But I would still want my OWN. Sharing is not my superpower.

  101. As far as I know, I’m the only person here who actively dislikes driving

    Oh no, I loathe driving. That’s why I got the electric bike for California — to minimize my driving.

  102. ” If I had a self driving car, I would definitely let it take my middle schooler alone. He’s old enough and mature enough for sure. But I would still want my OWN. Sharing is not my superpower.”

    I agree – I am a frequent user of public transit and cabs/Uber, but I would still want my own personal car for all the reasons others have states. But I would let my MS/HS kid ride in a self-driving Uber alone, just as I would allow him to take public transit to school on his own like hundreds of thousands of other city kids.

  103. If I could look office ready and didn’t have to get to meetings during the day, I would totally ride my bike and rely on uber. I am full business dress in the office and am a little too far away to bike here effortlessly and still look appropriate. Our kids don’t do that many activities and I still can barely keep up. I wish my kids enjoyed sports more but am secretly grateful we aren’t shuttling back and forth on weekend or multiple practices each week.

  104. S&M, that’s not the only hang up, they still haven’t agreed to it. We are going to observe the class on Friday and then meet again on Tuesday to discuss it further.

    The gym is not an option – it’s a small gym and they have classes in it all day, except during lunch when it’s the cafeteria. The library is very small and there isn’t any place to sit while a class is in there. Finding a place for her to go is a challenge.

  105. Thanks to those of you who responded so quickly about my sleep issue. What I’m wondering is if it is common for frackers to overstate the amount of non-sleep time a person is spending in bed. My son is also supposed to have a sleep study; I plan to schedule them both in the same night, at a time that they won’t interfere with school. That probably means over spring break.

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