Posts Tagged ‘Tesla’

The Economy? None of Your Business

Wednesday, February 28th, 2024

By Bob Gaydos

My “smart” TV

My “smart” TV. RJ Photography

   So the very smart TV made an unscheduled stop the other night on one of those “business” news shows with a bunch of well-dressed, middle-aged men and younger women talking to each other about money. I think. 

    They were talking about the day on Wall Street and they all sounded very smart, like the TV, but, I don’t know, maybe something got lost in the translation for me.

     What I can recall of their stream of consciousness conversation that day went something like this: “Nvidia … AI … Magnificent Seven … Tesla … Earnings … Inflation … Nvidia … Kathy Wood … Tesla … Fed … Rates … AI … Microsoft … Shorts … Inflation … Techs… Bubble… AI … Nvidia … Fed … Tesla … Apple … Trillion … Inflation … Fed … Nvidia … Over-Priced … Tesla … AI … China … Apple … Nvidia … Price Target… Shorts … Rates … Inflation … Amazon … Fed … Techs… Index… AI … Dow … Tesla … Kathy Wood … Nvidia … Google … Shorts … Inflation … Earnings… Recession … Fed … AI … META … Index … Fed … Nvidia.”

     That’s pretty accurate, I think. So it sounds like something to do with money, right? But not the economy because that word was never mentioned. Well, maybe someone said “consumer” one time in a passing remark on inflation.

     The thing is, they all seemed to understand each other and mostly agreed with each other, especially about Nvidia and Tesla and AI and Kathy Wood. But after listening, I wasn’t sure how the economy was doing or even what stock I should buy or sell, if I were in the market to do so and maybe couldn’t afford Nvidia. Or maybe I couldn’t afford not to afford Nvidia.

      Confused, I looked around and heard pretty much the same conversation on every TV business show, so I figured they got paid to talk to each other about Nvidia and inflation, but weren’t interested in telling me anything useful. Certainly not about business.

       Luckily, I finally found the “I-know-every-stock-out -there” savant, Jim Cramer, whose message, as usual, was clear: “Buy! Buy! Buy!” or “Sell! Sell! Sell!” But don’t trade Apple. Still. Oh, and the economy’s doing fine.

       There’s something quietly reassuring about being talked to directly, rather than eavesdropping on some private conversation. Especially about money.

      Smart TV take note.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

      

In Search of 21 Influential Thinkers

Monday, December 10th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison ... who are their 21st Century counterparts?

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison

A few weeks ago, in a burst of subtle synchronicity, Elon Musk was removed as board chairman of Tesla at the same time John Flannery was removed as chairman and CEO of General Electric. Since both companies were struggling in different ways, the firings, while surprising, were not shocking.

The surprise in Musk’s case was that he was forced out by actions taken by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which actually fined him and the company $20 million apiece for false statements Musk tweeted about financing to take the 21st century startup company private. Musk stayed on as CEO, but it’s nice to see the SEC is paying attention.

In Flannery’s case, he had only been on the job for a year, which seemed to many Wall Street analysts not nearly enough time to breathe life into the moribund, more-than-century-old company.

So, a reliable old company, with a household name, a onetime giant of household appliances and energy, but which has seen better days, and a new, hotshot company, with a sexy name, electric cars, solar panels, a colorful leader with an eye on dominating the next century of energy production, were both having trouble making their stockholders happy. That’s Wall Street, you say. How are the simultaneous takedowns of their bosses anything more than coincidence?

To many observers it won’t be. But to those who recall that Thomas Edison was one of the founders of General Electric and that Tesla Inc, is named after Nikola Tesla, Edison’s arch-rival for credit in discovering electricity as well as profiting from the discovery, well, perhaps it’s just another example of their names and future being linked by some invisible yet undeniable force. Like electricity.

Or synchronicity.

Were he still with us in more than name and spirit, I think Tesla would agree. Consider this statement from the visionary inventor: “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”

Of all the non-physical phenomena, perhaps the most common and least explored is “coincidence.” Carl Jung made some significant efforts, but more “traditional” science has for the most part ignored what it cannot easily explain.

Don’t worry, this is not going to be an effort to do so.

Tesla first entered my consciousness in more than a vague, yeah-I’ve-heard-of-him kind of way, eight years ago. I had recently retired and begun wading into the world of blogging. When you write daily editorials for 23 years, it’s difficult to go cold turkey. One day, a couple of friends who actually read my blog gave me a challenge: Come up with a list of the 20 most influential thinkers of the 20th Century.

Not a bad idea. Challenging and a good way to engage readers by asking for suggestions.

“Nikola Tesla,” my friend Ernie suggested when I put out the call for nominations. “He should be on the list. He invented electricity and radio; he just didn’t get credit because he was a terrible businessman and didn‘t know how to promote himself.”

As it turned out, the one who “got credit” and a good deal more, was Thomas Edison, who I had wisely put on my first, tentative list. Connection made. Eventually, Edison, who gave us the incandescent light bulb, and Tesla, who contributed alternating current, both made the list. Yes, Edison was the better businessman and Tesla the more visionary thinker.

But Edison’s heirs, if you will, eventually lost their way, venturing into health insurance and buying NBC-TV, among other non-power-related ventures. Meanwhile, the company that took Tesla’s name for inspiration, has been true to his visionary approach and, in hiring Musk, apparently, also true to the Tesla disregard for conventional wisdom and clumsiness with business affairs. Must be a coincidence.

What’s the point?

I’m looking for a new list of thinkers, this one for the 21st century. The question: Who are the Teslas and Edisons and Jungs who will shape the way we live in the rest of this still young century?

As with the 20th Century list, I need your help. This is a cooperative venture. It’s kind of what social media is best suited for. In fact, I will start the working list with names of thinkers who make this venture possible: Bill Gates (who made the 20th Century list), Mark Zuckerberg. Steve Jobs.

Others who are having profound influence on our lives: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and the aforementioned Elon Musk, who at least seems to aspire to Tesla’s legacy. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, is working on a new, privacy-focused web to rival the world of Google, Facebook and Amazon.

But there’s more to life than technology and shopping. As Jung explored coincidence and synchronicity, so now do Mooji, Eckhart Tolle, Rupert Spira and Deepak Chopra make us think about the nature of reality — the “non-physical phenomena” of which Nikola Tesla spoke. Author/essayist Rebecca Solnit has become the voice many people seek out for an explanation on a variety of complex subjects. Are there other authors, political leaders (77-year-old Bernie Sanders, 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?), scientists, philosophers, poets, artists, inventors, business leaders or anyone else you think will have profound influence on the course of this century? Please share and I will share and eventually come up with a list of 21 influential thinkers for the 21st Century.

As a possibly useful prod, I include the list we came up with eight years ago. Of course, looking back is much easier than looking ahead, but compiling a list of those we think will be influential in the 21st century actually makes us part of the process of shaping things to come.

The 20th Century thinkers list:
Albert Einstein
Gandhi
Henry Ford
The Wright Brothers (count as one)
Thomas Edison
Picasso
Nikola Tesla
Mark Twain
James D. Watson, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin (DNA trio count as one)
Winston Churchill
Philo Farnsworth
Rachel Carson
George Orwell
Sigmund Freud
Carl Jung
Bill Gates
Margaret Sanger
Bertrand Russell
Bob Dylan
T.S. Eliot

I know these are stressful times, but if we all contribute in a positive way to the Greater Consciousness, it just might relieve some stress. Email or comment. Don’t be bashful.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

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