Autonomous vehicles are going to change the world in more ways than you know

3692201862_ea517d2565_bAutonomous vehicles will change society in more fundamental ways than most imagine. Yes, there are the obvious ways that everyone talks about: driverless Ubers, automated trucks, cities without private vehicle ownership.

But there is a large ecosystem of occupations that benefit from bad driving.

  • Police officers. Most people probably won’t shed any tears over this. But there are a lot of cops whose role is traffic enforcement. With self-driving cars, they will be programmed to obey the rules.
  • Paramedics, flight nurses, ER doctors. Fewer car crashes mean fewer trips to the emergency room. I have a friend who is a flight nurse. Her job is to get in the helicopter to rescue people by the side of the road. There will be less need for that. In 2010-2011, there were 3.9 million annual visits to the emergency room because of car crashes. 43% of those arrived by ambulance.
  • ER doctors, radiologists, trauma surgeons. Of the people arriving in emergency rooms because of a car accident, 70% had imaging done, including X-rays (59%) and CT scans (30%).
  • Insurance agents, insurance underwriters order, claims examiners, personal injury lawyers. There is an entire ecosystem of people who benefit from the financial aftermath of car crashes. Car insurance in the U.S. is a $100 billion business. There’s a reason you see that gecko everywhere; car insurance companies are perennially among the largest advertisers. That’s just personal insurance. Commercial is billions more.
  • Tow-truck drivers, body shops, mechanics. Someone needs to clean up cars after the crash. Fewer crashes will mean fewer repairs. Body shops alone are a $40 billion business. 180,000 people work at body shops. The median salary is $40,000. That’s a nice lower-middle class job.
  • Parking enforcement officers (meter maid), parking meter collectors, driver license examiners. More of life’s little annoyances. Vehicles will nearly always be in motion; no worries about finding a meter to park at. No meters mean no parking enforcement needed. That also means no coins. (Other aspects of technology will chip away at the collections jobs. More on that later.) In NYC alone, parking tickets generated $565 million in fines. Camera violations were another $100 million.

These are just the second-order effects. There will be plenty more. There a lot of other industries like roadside motels, truck stops, restaurants and more that will feel third-order effects.

It will be one of the biggest changes to the transportation infrastructure since the Eisenhower interstate highway system was built beginning in the late 1950s.

Despite the challenges, autonomous vehicles provide a net societal good. We should minimize human suffering. We should be thrilled that air will be cleaner because fewer accidents mean fewer traffic jams.

But that’s cold comfort to those who lose their middle-class jobs.

Posted in cars, society

My personal environmental footprint

35507298700_770ae7f92f_k

It’s a trend in corporations (at least those outside the extraction industries) to do a self analysis on your environmental effects. I wanted to think deeply about mine.

I recently mailed a mercury thermometer to a friend where she has a safe disposal facility; I don’t and I didn’t want to throw it in the trash given all of the toxic effects of mercury.

Good

  • Don’t eat much meat.
  • Use public transit primarily. Easy to do in Manhattan.
  • Walk a lot. Pretty much a requirement in Manhattan.
  • Live in a densely populated area.
  • Recycle a lot.
  • Try to use a reusable water bottle as much as possible.
  • Combine shopping trips (in rare cases I’m buying in store and have to drive).
  • Use Alexa to turn off lights and control temperatures in other rooms.
  • Limit printing. When possible, I use mobile boarding passes for flights or mobile tickets for events. When not possible, I print on the backside of something else.
  • Use a duplex printer.
  • Reuse backside of paper.
  • Don’t read newspapers in print. That’s a lot of paper that is 1) cut down from trees 2) heavily processed with chemicals 3) big rolls are transported cross country 4) completed product is printed and then transported across town 5) read (or unread) papers that are then transported for disposal.
  • Use Nespresso capsules.

Bad

  • Use the AC (mitigated by using Nest to reduce energy consumption).
  • Fly a lot. A lot of it is work related, but there are still plenty of personal trips.
  • Buy too many electronics. I’ve really cut back here for two reasons: there is so much electronics waste (much of it with heavy metals) and so much of what is made today is utter garbage.
  • Prefer triple ply.
  • Still get paper statements for everything. The banks and credit card companies all use different logins and have different processes and restrictions. It’s just a lot easier to go to the mailbox. If there were a way to get the statements sent to my Gmail and made it just as easy as going to my mailbox, I’d do it in a heartbeat. The security concerns that used to exist for this don’t exist anymore, but no one seems to be working on it.
  • Use a lot of napkins (Indian food is messy).
  • Drink too much canned soda.
  • Drink Mexican Coke. Real sugar in a glass bottle versus high-fructose corn syrup is SO much better.
  • Don’t unplug chargers, printers and other low power devices. These things consumer energy, but the amount is so tiny that it’s not worth it for me.

Of course not all of these things are equal. The heaviest consumers of energy are transportation, lighting and climate control. But the primary cause of climate change is cattle raised for beef.

What am I missing?

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Posted in environment, personal, Uncategorized

FAANG + Microsoft market matrix

Here’s my quick take on the current state of the technology market and assessments of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Netflix.

What did I miss? What do you disagree on?

 

Marketmatrix

Posted in Uncategorized

Thoughts on this week’s suicides and how you can help

Help is just a call awaySuicide and mental health get the public’s attention when you have notable deaths like those this week. But there are thousands that go unnoticed every week.

One of the dirty little secrets of Silicon Valley is the high percentage of entrepreneurs who have mental health issues, which is 3-4x the U.S. average. Constantly hearing about people with exits in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars doesn’t help; even people who are millionaires can feel like failures in the bubble that is Silicon Valley.

Here are some things that you can do if you feel someone you know* at risk.

  • CALL or SKYPE or do something other than posting a status message or email.
  • Don’t worry about whether you’re “close enough.” It doesn’t matter how close you are.
  • Don’t assume someone else is doing something. (Unless you are talking with them and coordinating.)
  • If you say you are going to be there, be there. This is NOT the time for hollow promises. 
  • If you aren’t local, find a mutual friend who is local and express your concern to them. If you don’t have a mutual friend, look through their friend list and find someone who is. If things look urgent, call the local police and ask for a “welfare check.”
  • Your friend might need professional help, including medication. Help them find it. Sometimes talking isn’t enough. If you don’t know where to turn, contact me.
  • Don’t publicly comment on the topic, especially with names or pictures. No blog posts, no tweets, etc. Google is forever. Unfortunately, most people aren’t enlightened on the topic and it can have negative consequences down the road.
  • Don’t go away after you think something has subsided. Keep in touch.

* I specifically did not say “if a friend is at risk.” If you know someone is at risk, you should take action.

Posted in Uncategorized

Autonomous vehicles are going to affect a lot of jobs

3692201862_ea517d2565_bAutonomous vehicles will change society in more fundamental ways than most imagine. Yes, there are the obvious ways that everyone talks about: driverless Ubers, automated trucks, cities without private vehicle ownership.

But there is a large ecosystem of occupations that benefit from bad driving.

  • Police officers. Most people probably won’t shed any tears over this. But there are a lot of cops whose role is traffic enforcement. With self-driving cars, they will be programmed to obey the rules.
  • Paramedics, flight nurses, ER doctors. Fewer car crashes mean fewer trips to the emergency room. I have a friend who is a flight nurse. Her job is to get in the helicopter to rescue people by the side of the road. There will be less need for that. In 2010-2011, there were 3.9 million annual visits to the emergency room because of car crashes. 43% of those arrived by ambulance.
  • ER doctors, radiologists, trauma surgeons. Of the people arriving in emergency rooms because of a car accident, 70% had imaging done, including X-rays (59%) and CT scans (30%).
  • Insurance agents, insurance underwriters order, claims examiners, personal injury lawyers. There is an entire ecosystem of people who benefit from the financial aftermath of car crashes. Car insurance in the U.S. is a $100 billion business. There’s a reason you see that gecko everywhere; car insurance companies are perennially among the largest advertisers. That’s just personal insurance. Commercial is billions more.
  • Tow-truck drivers, body shops, mechanics. Someone needs to clean up cars after the crash. Fewer crashes will mean fewer repairs. Body shops alone are a $40 billion business. 180,000 people work at body shops. The median salary is $40,000. That’s a nice lower-middle class job.
  • Parking enforcement officers (meter maid), parking meter collectors, driver license examiners. More of life’s little annoyances. Vehicles will nearly always be in motion; no worries about finding a meter to park at. No meters mean no parking enforcement needed. That also means no coins. (Other aspects of technology will chip away at the collections jobs. More on that later.) In NYC alone, parking tickets generated $565 million in fines. Camera violations were another $100 million.

These are just the second-order effects. There will be plenty more. There a lot of other industries like roadside motels, truck stops, restaurants and more that will feel third-order effects.

It will be one of the biggest changes to the transportation infrastructure since the Eisenhower interstate highway system was built beginning in the late 1950s.

Despite the challenges, autonomous vehicles provide a net societal good. We should minimize human suffering. We should be thrilled that air will be cleaner because fewer accidents mean fewer traffic jams.

But that’s cold comfort to those who lose their middle-class jobs.

Posted in cars, society

How technology chips away at jobs

Subway token booth

We may still call them token booths, but none of them have tokens anymore.

Many in the technology world are dismissive of notions that technology costs jobs; part of that may be because jobs don’t disappear overnight. We hear on the news about mass layoffs; we rarely hear about steady declines caused by adoption of new technologies.

Just look at the fare technology of the New York subway system.

New York had subway tokens since 1953. (Before that, the turnstiles used coins.) About 50 million tokens were in circulation. Tokens required a lot of manpower. People had to create the tokens; people had to sell the tokens; people collected the tokens; people put them back in to circulation. The last subway token was sold in 2003, at 50 years old.

In an obituary for the subway token, the New York Times wrote:

Handling all those tokens — emptying them from turnstiles, delivering bags of them to token booths, counting them out to riders — is cumbersome and expensive, and transit officials have long looked forward to the day when most of their business with riders would involve exchanges of electrons, not metal and paper.

The token’s demise (and that of many of its handlers) was the result of technology. The MetroCard was introduced in 1994. It allows subway riders to load money on to reusable plastic cards. You can go up to a machine, insert your money and get a card with $40 on it. Instead of carrying a bunch of tokens in your pocket, it’s something small you can put in your pocket. There’s nothing nostalgic about it (at least for now), but it is simple and efficient.

It still requires people to maintain the giant fare machines. People are needed to take out the cash and put in more blank MetroCards. But as credit card usage increases, the machines need to be emptied less often.

Even the MetroCard is already slowly being replaced (with a bigger shift coming). With my EasyPayXpress, my MetroCard renews itself whenever my balance runs low. I no longer need to stop by a machine. Less wear and tear on the machines.

EasyPayXpress

The MetroCard that fills itself.

MetroCards themselves are an endangered species. Increasingly, magnetic stripe cards are becoming a rarity for transit systems around the world. The mag stripe is giving way to contactless payments. Most systems use a proprietary card; some, like Chicago’s, can use any credit card (or phone) that has NFC capabilities.

With contactless payments and mobile phones, the people who print and distribute the blank cards will be in danger.

None of these changes will happen overnight; it took 10 years to phase out the subway token. It’ll be at least 5 more before the MetroCard is phased out. (The MetroCard is expected to die at the age of 30; the token lasted until 50.)

Every step has increased the convenience for most riders. Less time waiting. Fewer things in your pocket.

But your convenience is someone else’s paycheck

Posted in society

How to turn on the innovation light bulb

Innovation

Expect 80-90% of innovation to fail

This is the goal that VCs target. Building new things is inherently risky. Expecting every idea to succeed is a recipe for failure. The key is to fail fast.

You need a team that has a range of resources

This includes at least 1 product, 1 UX and 1 developer. It’s easy to get tunnel vision. Many developers have a bias toward perfection, which is the enemy of success. It’s also common for developers to focus on current feasibility. Product and UX folks often don’t know what features will make things unimplementable or really really hard to implement. The team should be a three-legged stool. The best teams will have people with overlapping areas of expertise.

Your resources need to be dedicated

They need to be free of all other responsibilities so they can work together on innovation. A dotted-line relationship or having a matrixed organization will fail. Having to borrow resources from UX or product organization will mean that you will likely not have any resources. These people should report to the head of R&D.

Innovation often needs biz dev

Much successful innovation includes reaching out to partners, including hardware vendors, software vendors, content providers, etc. An innovation team has to be able to have those conversations (without setting an expectation that it will lead to something).

This person needs to be empowered to have these conversations without seeking approval from head of bizdev and a 6-month cycle to negotiate a contract. At this stage, you should be able to get by with an NDA.

Understand human behavior

Successful products are as much (if not more) about understanding human psychology than the details of technology, CX, agile, etc. UX and product especially should understand things like behavioral economics. They should also understand that competition is not narrowly defined. E.g. for a social network, the competition is not just Twitter or Facebook. The competition is every possible thing that people could do with their time, whether it is listening to music, watching TV or going to a movie.

Not everyone can innovate – nor wants to

A lot of innovative people (and their managers) believe that an “innovation team” is unfair because everyone wants to innovate. That’s unrealistic. There are plenty of people who are happy changing conversion from 77% to 77.1%. They want predefined tools that they can use on a consistent basis. They are happy to check out at 5, with no work to think about. You need people with a start-up mentality.

Intellectual curiosity is a must

To truly innovate, you need people who have a wide range of interests. These interests can expose them to a lot of different people, a lot of different ideas and how other things work. That combination can spark inspiration.

Don’t spend too much time on focus groups and user surveys

Most people cannot easily understand new concepts. If you’re Proctor & Gamble and want to test Tide w/rose scent, by all means. It’s very easy for people to understand what they are getting. People don’t understand complex products like Facebook until they actually use them and see the dynamics.

Try ethnographic research

A great way to understand use problems is to spend time with them and watch their behaviors. People often have a hard time expressing their needs; good innovators can discover these unexpressed needs by watching.

Failure can have successful byproducts

Success is not binary. Often when you’re trying to innovate you can discover new things. This can be new use cases that you hadn’t thought of. The Post It note was developed by someone failing to build a strong adhesive at 3M. See more examples here https://www.inc.com/tim-donnelly/brilliant-failures/9-inventions-made-by-mistake.html

More recently, Slack (a multibillion dollar company) was originally designed to be a gaming company.

Noticing these “failures” and figuring out how to pivot from them is an uncommon skill. Only the very best product people can do this.

Posted in product management, ui, Uncategorized