Posts Tagged ‘Tesla’

Bobby B, Lebron, Elon and Tom Wolfe

Friday, August 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

What do Bobby Bonilla, Lebron James, Elon Musk and Tom Wolfe have in common? Aside from being well-accomplished in their chosen fields, that is. And being millionaires.

All right, it’s kind of a trick question. All four men’s names were on a list on my phone’s “Notes” section. The list was started on July 6 and it was titled “Non-Trump news.” Yeah, I was searching. I came across the list the other day and was reminded how quickly the daily news cycle gets overwhelmed by the White House Twitter storm, how other news — real news — gets lost and maybe never even noticed by a lot of people. I figured, if these names were on a list of newsmakers, I should at least tell people why. So, in case you missed it …:

  • Bobby Bonilla: He’s undoubtedly the least-known person on the list, except to Mets fans. Bonilla
    Bobby Bonilla

    Bobby Bonilla

    was a power-hitting outfielder who was first signed by the New York team in 1991 to a five-year contract for $29 million. After 3½ stormy and somewhat disappointing years, he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. But in 1998, chasing a pennant, the Mets reacquired Bonilla, who spent more time on the disabled list, arguing with his manager and playing cards in the clubhouse than hitting home runs. When they decided to let him go, the notoriously frugal Wilpon brothers (who still own the team) didn’t want to pay Bonilla the $5.9 million they owed him for the coming season. Instead, they agreed to a deferred payment deal with 8 percent interest, which would pay Bonilla $1,193,248.20 every July 1 for 25 years … starting in 2011. This is why he was on my Notes list. It was payday. The deal totals $29.8 million for Bonilla, but the Wilpons at the time figured they would make considerably more than that with the 10 percent annual return they were getting on their investments with Bernie Madoff. Yes, that Bernie Madoff, the one in prison for running a Ponzi scheme. The Wilpons got taken and Mets fans and financial hotshots still debate whether Bonilla made out better by deferring his payout. The facts are that, at age 58 and not having played baseball since 2001, the one-time all-star, is guaranteed a $1.1 million check every July 1 until 2035 from a team he once sat down on and for a season he wasn’t even on their roster.

  • Lebron James: The only-one-name-needed basketball superstar was originally on the list because he had decided to leave his beloved Cleveland (again) for Hollywood. Well, L.A. Lebron signed with
    Lebron James

    Lebron James

    the Lakers, where all only-one-name-needed stars wind up. Magic. Kobe. Shaq, Kareem. It was inevitable, even if it doesn’t guarantee a championship for his new team. But Lebron has made much more significant, if you will, news since then with the announcement that his foundation is providing millions of dollars to support a public school for 245 at-risk children in Akron, Ohio, his hometown. Lebron is paying for programs and services that tax dollars can’t cover at the “I Promise School” and he has guaranteed to pay for college tuition for all the graduates. Naturally, the Orange Dotard, who fears accomplished African-Americans, went on Twitter to call James dumb. As if the world needed to be reminded there’s a racist sitting in the White House. And no, Akron taxpayers won’t have to pay added dollars for the school. Everything was already being covered by tax dollars, as required by law. James is merely paying for added resources that tax dollars can’t cover to help these at-risk children deliver on the promise to graduate and go to college. That’s as opposed to operating a sham university.

  • Elon Musk. At this point, I almost forgot why Musk was on the list because he has had trouble for several months now just keeping quiet and trying to make money for his companies. But in July he
    Elon Musk

    Elon Musk

    was calling a   British cave diver who helped rescue a Thai youth soccer team from a flooded cave a pedophile, without citing any evidence. After being threatened with a lawsuit, Musk eventually apologized, but the incident only added to questions about his mental stability (at least in my mind). He sounded like a man with a huge ego whose feelings got hurt because a bunch of other men heroically saved 13 people without benefit of the genius of Musk and the individual submarine he had built for the job. The divers said it wouldn’t work. Their strategy did. Lately, he’s been talking about taking the publicly traded Tesla private, which got Wall Street worked up for a while because a lot of people aren’t sure he can do that either. Oh yeah, back in July he was also building electric cars in a tent because Tesla was behind on orders. Maybe he should focus on getting his car back from Mars.

  • Tom Wolfe: He died, May 14, at age 88, without, in my opinion, sufficient notice. I, among others, am guilty. Reading of his death was one of those “Oh no” moments for me. Not another one. I felt a
    Tom Wolfe

    Tom Wolfe

    synchronicity with Wolfe, who started as a reporter at The New York Herald Tribune (my favorite paper) in 1962 when I was starting to get serious about journalism. Then he went and changed journalism and it was terrific. The New Journalism he helped create told stories about real life that were as appealing to readers as they were informative. In essence, he made it OK to write “that way” and still be a journalist. He gave us the terms “Radical Chic” and the “Me Decade” as he punctured every ego he ran into. The biggest criticism of him was usually his all-white, summer-dandy wardrobe, including hat and walking stick with which he strutted around Manhattan. He reportedly called it ”neo-pretentious.” He was in on the joke. And he was a terrific teller of tales, true or true enough if you knew your current events. The best thing about good writers when they die is that their words live on. If you are among those who still read, or know someone young who reads, find a copy of “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby,” “The Right Stuff,” “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” “Bonfire of the Vanities,” “A Man in Full,” or “Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.” Enjoy.

That’s it for now. I’m going to start on a new list.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Musk, Killer Robots, Trump, the Eclipse

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump looking at the solar eclipse.

Donald Trump looking at the solar eclipse.

Elon Musk and Donald Trump made significant scientific statements this week. Digest that sentence for a second. …

OK, it’s not as strange as it sounds because each man was true to himself. That is, neither message was surprising, considering the source, but each was important, also considering the source.

Monday, Musk and 115 other prominent scientists in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence attending a conference in Melbourne, Australia, delivered a letter to the United Nations urging a ban on development and use of killer robots. This is not science fiction.

Responding to previous urging by members of the group of AI and robotics specialists, the UN had recently voted to hold formal discussions on so-called autonomous weapons. With their open letter, Musk and the others, coming from 26 countries, wanted the UN to be clear about their position — these are uniquely dangerous weapons and not so far off in the future.

Also on Monday, on the other side of the planet, as millions of Americans, equipped with special glasses or cardboard box viewers,  marveled at the rare site of a solar eclipse, Trump, accompanied by his wife, Melania, and their son, Barron, walked out onto a balcony at the White House and stared directly at the sun. No glasses. No cardboard box. No problem. I’m Trump. Watch me give the middle finger to science.

Of course, the only reason Trump shows up in the same sentence as Musk in a scientific discussion is that the man with the orange hair holds the title of president of the United States and, as such, has the power to decide what kind of weapons this nation employs and when to use them. Also, the president — any president — has the power, through words and actions, to exert profound influence on the beliefs, attitudes and opinions of people used to looking to the holder of the office to set an example. Hey, if it’s good enough for the president, it’s good enough for me. This is science fiction.

Please, fellow Americans, don’t stare at the sun during the next eclipse.

Trump’s disdain for science (for knowledge of any kind, really) and his apparently pathological need to do the opposite of what more knowledgeable people recommend, regardless of the topic, are a dangerous combination. When you’re talking about killer robots, it’s a potentially deadly one.

The U.S.Army Crusher robotic weapon.

The U.S.Army Crusher robotic weapon.

How deadly? Here’s a quote from the letter the AI specialists wrote: “Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.

“We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close.”

In fact, it’s already opened. On the Korean peninsula — brimming with diplomatic tension, the rattling of nuclear weapons by the North Koreans and the corresponding threats of “fire and fury” from Trump — a fixed-place sentry gun, reportedly capable of firing autonomously, is in place along the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone.

Developed by Samsung for South Korea, the gun reportedly has an autonomous system capable of surveillance up to two miles, voice-recognition, tracking and firing with mounted machine gun or grenade launcher. There is disagreement over whether the weapon is actually deployed to operate on its own, but it can. Currently, the gun and other autonomous weapons being developed by the U.S., Russia, Germany, China, the United Kingdom and others require a human to approve their actions, but usually in a split-second decision. There is little time to weigh the consequences and the human will likely assume the robot is correct rather than risk the consequences of an incorrect second-guess.

But it is precisely the removal of the human element from warfare that Musk and the other AI developers are worried about. Removing the calculation of deaths on “our side” makes deciding to use a killer robot against humans on the other side much easier. Too easy perhaps. And robots that can actually make that decision remove the human factor entirely. A machine will not agonize over causing the deaths of thousands of “enemies.”

And make no mistake, the robots will be used to kill humans as well as destroy enemy machines. Imagine a commander-in-chief who talks cavalierly about using nuclear weapons against a nation also being able to deploy robots that will think for themselves about who and what to attack. No second-guessing generals.

Musk, a pioneer in the AI field, has also been consistent with regard to his respect for the potential danger posed to humans by machines that think for themselves or by intelligences — artificial or otherwise — that are infinitely superior to ours. The Tesla CEO has regularly spoken out, for example, against earthlings sending messages into space to try to contact other societies, lest they deploy their technology to destroy us. One may take issue with him on solar energy, space exploration, driverless cars, but one dismisses his warnings on killer robots at one’s own risk. He knows whereof he speaks.

Trump is another matter. His showboating stunt of a brief look at the sun, sans glasses, will probably not harm his eyes. But the image lingers and the warnings, including one from his own daughter, Ivanka, were explicit: Staring directly at the sun during the eclipse can damage your retina and damage your vision. Considering the blind faith some of his followers display in his words and actions, it was yet another incredibly irresponsible display of ego and another insult to science.

Artificial intelligence is not going away. It has the potential for enormous benefit. If you want an example of its effect on daily life just look at the impact autonomous computer programs have on the financial markets. Having weapons that can think for themselves may also sound like a good idea, especially when a commander-in-chief displays erratic judgment, but their own creators — and several human rights groups — urge the U.N. to ban their use as weapons, in the same way chemical weapons and land mines are banned.

It may be one of the few remaining autonomous decisions humans can make in this area, and the most important one. We dare not wait until the next eclipse to make it.

rjgaydos@gmail.com