“What’s Next” Part 4 of 4

Security and Insurance: Autonomous Cars’ Impact of Structures Around Vehicles

While fully self-driving cars are still a ways off, it is important that we as a society consider how this technology affects the industries that work with cars. Discussions concerning connections between vehicles and the cloud, as well as each other, will need to occur in the government. While we have not had any major security breaches that could influence the driving of an autonomous vehicle, it is not too alarmist to say that attacks like this are possible, and that we should take precautions against them. Imagine that a group of vehicles were simultaneously controlled by someone, and made to drive into a building—this obviously cannot happen. End-to-end encryption between vehicles and the cloud is a must, along with internal checks that ensure no malicious tampering is occurring.

Insurance, too, must see changes. Manufacturers could very easily see a burden of fault passed onto them, leading to the introduction of monthly subscriptions or higher prices for vehicles to offset the inevitable failures the software causes. While, ideally, the likelihood of machine-based accidents are low, people may still sue these companies for fault, even when it was user error (such as poor routine maintenance). Some could even resort a total lockdown of vehicles with failing parts, so as not to risk accidents that could be claimed is the manufacturer’s fault.

Conversely, companies such as Geico and Allstate could see a drastic reduction in coverage they can offer. If everyone has autonomous vehicles, than user-based collisions could drop so low they wouldn’t even warrant a monthly cost. Instead, we may see protection against wind, floods, and theft being the majority of the cost. However, there may arise a need for coverage against new issues. I can envision “Identity Theft via Prius” protection for a monthly fee, or “Hackers Taking over Your Vehicle” coverage.

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“What’s Next” Part 3 of 4

Self-Driving Cars Raise Questions About Who Carries Insurance

Yuki Noguchi

This NPR report takes the assumptions of the previous piece (Insurance Information Institute) and expands upon it, touching on how automotive manufacturers can protect themselves in the wake of autonomous vehicles, and how insurance companies can assess coverage costs.

When discussing the future of self-driving cars, one may claim that it is the fault of the manufacturer, rather than the “driver,” that is at fault—and, generally, that will be correct. However, this means that businesses such as these may have huge, long-term expenditures when building cars. Having systems in place to protect them is imperative, claims Noguchi.

Additionally, insurance companies will have an increasingly difficult time assessing the likelihood of crashes (and, therefore, the cost of coverage). This is due to lack of data—both in the technology itself, and the history of the driver. Instead, many of the assumptions could be attached to the model of car, and the software it uses.

 

Noguchi, Y. (2017, April 3). Self-Driving Cars Raise Questions About Who Carries Insurance. Retrieved from npr.org: 2017

 

“What’s Next” Part 2 of 4

Self-Driving Cars and Insurance

Insurance Information Institute

Aside from the logistics of actually making autonomous cars function, there arises the potential issues around the current structures we have surrounding vehicles today. In particular, the near-obsolescence of certain types of insurance is at stake, as well as the mere concept of liability. The likely drastic lowering of collisions between cars may cause a significant drop in coverage costs, as comprehensive elements (wind, floods, theft) will be the primary need for it.

The idea of “who is at fault” is also subject to change. With autonomous vehicles, many of the issues surrounding accidents may fall onto the manufacturers—an event that could possibly put smaller companies out of business. Liability claims that happen between producer and consumer could prove impossibly costly—after all, if many people can say “I was just sitting, not doing anything, when my car ran into another,” there aren’t many ways that a manufacturer can claim it wasn’t at fault—routine maintenance and software updates being a potential way to win against these lawsuits.

Speaking of maintenance, repair costs will likely see a rise in cost, but lowering in frequency. The Insurance Information Institute claims that this is due in part to the increasing complexity of car parts, but decreased likelihood of accidents.

 

Insurance Information Institute. (2017, May 7). Self-Driving Cars and Insurance. Retrieved from iii.org: http://www.iii.org/issue-update/self-driving-cars-and-insurance

 

“What’s Next” Part 1 of 4

Vehicular Internet: Security & Privacy Challenges and Opportunities

Kamran Zaidi  and Muttukrishnan Rajarajan

This piece addresses intelligent transportation systems, specifically the security of driverless cars and the “vehicular internet”. Both the government and private manufacturers have been developing applications that could be used by autonomous vehicles to navigate major highways, with the notable example of Google Car. The tech giant’s test vehicle uses sensors and “pseudo-learning” to avoid obstacles and apply rules to new situations.

Zaidi and Rajarajan also discuss the various ways that cars could receive and send information about traffic, accidents, and blocked routes. Current cell phone technology, such as 4G/LTE is a possible route through which cars could connect to a cloud. In addition to every car having a direct line to a large-scale database, smaller sub-groups could be established in environments that have a lot of vehicles, with only minor lane changes—highways being the optimal use. This is brought about by cars connecting to others nearby, ensuring that equal distance is kept between them, as well as efficient lane changes that are known well in advance.

Diagram1

But while these types of connections would certainly help the flow of traffic, they also raise several security questions:

  • How much information should be given to surrounding cars?
  • How could this information be effectively encrypted?
  • How could inter-vehicular connections be manipulated maliciously?

Kamran Zaidi, M. R. (2015). Vehicular Internet: Security & Privacy Challenges and Opportunities. Future Internet. http://www.mdpi.com/1999-5903/7/3/257

Blog 18: Medicine and Direction (The Finale!)

Some of the questions raised around medical applications of tracking technology center around tracking what people do–steps walked being a notable example. However, it’s also possible to track what people currently are; that is, conditions inside of people’s bodies, like glucose in diabetes patients (as per Neff and Nafus’ example). Technology is advancing such that that metric (and others like it) can be more readily available for analysis by doctors, but it also raises concerns about insurance, and how the same information that helps them make informed decisions about themselves can also be used to deny coverage or raise rates. In particular, people who technically don’t have chronic illnesses, but are still prone to the wears and tears of everyday life, may be discriminated against by these large companies who focus on a particular metric and say, “because you exceed X points in this category, we are going to raise your insurance payments by $Y.”

Yet another moral quandary that self-tracking may place us in is pharmaceuticals, and making sure that the drugs are actually being taken. While some may praise this as a good thing (and to a certain extent, I do), in that it all but guarantees that people complete their course of antibiotics (which is a very important issue right now), as well as making sure that people don’t hold on to or sell their excess drugs, which could be abused later. By seeing what state their patients are in–like a doctor seeing if a patient with anxiety is calming down every night, and discovering that he/she is instead selling half of their xanax–we can certainly claim a moral victory, but at what cost? As averse as I am to drug abuse, it falls into the sort of agency-removal that I am not used to. Compelling someone to do something they don’t want to do (assuming not doing it is legal, so I’m excluding child support payments and the like), is inherently immoral, and unless we as a society decide that not finishing a round of antibiotics is tantamount to growing super-bacteria as a means of terrorism, I think it’s unlikely that we can implement these sorts of changes.

Discussion Questions (last ones!)

What is the most important thing you have learned in this class?

What is the most necessary technology you own?

Blog 17: Data and Industry

Far and away, one of the better/more useful things from this booklet thus far is the introduction of the five main “functions” of sensors and data.

Monitoring and evaluating:

As most people who have worn a fitbit can attest to, having a daily goal for a particular metric–steps walked, hours worked,etc–can be a very strong driving force to actually do that thing. I myself took pride in the amount of walking I would do in any given day when working outside, as well as completing a third hour-long sprint of homework that I set a timer for on my phone in a single day (not the most advanced strategy, but it worked). The problem, however, is that these numbers reset every day. And while that makes the most sense, logically–I can’t just sit on the couch most of the day and “make it up tomorrow,” it doesn’t feel good. And that, specifically, makes this section of the book one of my favorites so far. It acknowledges that humans want to feel accomplished, so when the QA tester made a chart with literal gold stars, it resonated with me. It would make me feel so much more involved with whatever project I was working on if I knew exactly how far I’ve come so far, not just how much I’ve done today (words typed this semester would be amazing to see, as I’m taking three writing courses, with another Journalism course taught by a former communications teacher).

Eliciting Sensations:

As mentioned above, feeling as if one is doing well can help to accomplish fitness or productivity goals–but what about things that aren’t objective-oriented? The authors reference medical uses, such as ovulation and sugar levels, but also point to things outside the body, such as position relative to the magnetic poles. These are interesting to me, because it creates a “pseudo sensation” that we can tap into, one that wouldn’t exist without the extensive tracking technology we have. Imagine other “senses” we could track, given the right device? (I suspect altitude, amount of UV radiation absorbed, and levels of nutrients aside from sugar could all be “trained” in their own way).

Aesthetic Projects:

Some what weaker section, though it does make some good points. Aside from the (mildly meaningless) statements on the artforms people are creating through tracking, questions are raised about what the companies behind tracking can do with this information, and how they can influence how people are “supposed to” interpret the results of these findings.

Debugging:

As a former chemical engineering student (thankfully, I’m no longer a masochist), I’m no stranger to figuring out what the hell went wrong with the thing I was trying to do. Whether it be equations, chemistry lab results, or computer code, something invariably goes horribly wrong, and it takes a special kind of thinking to fix it. In the case of tracking, being able to see the parts of life’s “equation” that may be messing with someone is an incredibly valuable feature of the technology. For example, I went to the doctor recently about my inability to eat certain foods, like beef and cheese. By simple process of elimination (and trying out other foods to verify, like fries and ice cream), it was discovered that I have a poorly functioning gall bladder, something no one has been able to figure out for the first 22 years of my life. Of course, now I won’t be able to enjoy a delicious cheeseburger without having intestinal pain, but such is life.

Cultivating Habits:

As someone who is routinely brought down by my own habits (like spending money on Thai food), it’s no surprise I look to change them, if possible. Neff and Nafus consider “habit hacking” as a form of overriding these existing gestures: for example, I’m usually hungry on my way home from work, therefore I want some delicious yellow curry. If I could stop that trigger from happening via eating a granola bar to ease my grumbling stomach until I get home, I could avoid having my room smell like a ball of spice.

 

Discussion Questions:

How has tracking affected the way you do things? (do more of X, less of Y)

What would you track, if you could?

Blog 16: Politics and Self-Tracking

Neff and Nafus bring up several points in the first chapter that I found interesting, but not thoroughly explained in this booklet: self-experimentation and biomedicalization.

Self-experimentation is a mixed bag, according to the duo authors. While it does help to further human knowledge, it also raises questions that might undermine what knowledge itself is: yes, someone may do an experiment, but considering they themselves are the subject as well as the interpreter of the results, bias can’t be removed well enough in most cases. In addition, while real-world experiments may be more realistic than a lab setting (in some instances), there is also the problem of how–culturally–they might be understood. Neff and Nafus bring up the example of 19th century women doctors noticing that placing bread in wounds (a precursor to penicillin) of patients helped them heal, the rest of society thought of them as witches for many years (p. 17).

Biomedicalization, or the idea that health and well-being can be tracked, is something that has been on the market for many years now–FitBits and baby monitors being the obvious examples. As more and more quantifiable pieces of data are quantified, we can get more and more of a glimpse into what exactly it takes to be healthy. How much someone runs, sleeps, eats (and what they eat), works (and what kind of work), plays, and so on are becoming things that we can compare ourselves to to better ourselves. Unfortunately for some, this means that excuses like “I didn’t know” and “I only had X calories” and “yeah, sure, I can run that many miles a day” are being removed one by one. It’s getting harder and harder to deny one’s unhealthy habits–and people are pissed. It’s one thing to be told that “you’re wrong,” but magnitudes worse to be told “you are not living correctly.” That’s not to say it’s not needed, but when self-tracking becomes a source of self-monitoring, it can get difficult to hold your head up.

I personally had a FitBit for a while when I had to work outside as part of my job, but now that I work indoors, in a much less movement-intensive position, it’s harder for me to look down at my watch to check how many steps I’ve taken (it’s always going to be lower than I hope).

Discussion Questions:

What are some tracking devices/apps that you use?

Are there things about yourself you would not like to track?

Blog 15: Emerging Networks

One thing that I don’t think has been adequately addressed in most of these “look what’s going to happen in the future” texts is how we as a society will react to them. Sure, there’s the notion that people will soon accept them and implement them, but how much we actually use them without being a novelty is something that is often overlooked. Hoverboards are a prime example of a technology that is cool exclusively because it is future-esque: it’s crazy, it flies, and no-one has seen it before (flying cars fall into this category as well). But it is only the technologies that would make people who have them go, “wait how do people do X without [tech that’s been around for a decade]” that will really impact how we use the Internet of Things.

Greengard brings up medical applications, citing how medication can be more accurately/ efficiently given, but I don’t think that is going to be something that is truly iconic of the future of technology–if nothing else, it’s just a single technological step away from doing something yourself, and as long as people are still manualy applying band-aids to the knees of playing 5-year-olds, I can’t see a significant improvement via technology other than “it’s a little easier to do it this way.” A focus on surgeries and the like, things that are less publicly available (I can’t recall ever performing an appendectomy on my little sister growing up) and more prone to error, would be more of a significant improvement through the internet of things.

Along this vein, it appears to me that alternative ways of doing things that are mildly improved by computers and sensors are not really what the IoT is about: it’s about aggregating knowledge and applying it in ways that individuals would not otherwise be able to do. An AI-driven Reddit-and-Echo-like application that compiles relevant news, plans my future weeks in advance,  and is extremely integrated into my daily life is one of the more “please create this in my lifetime” devices that I wish for. Imagine if any stray thought one had was not only possible to be answered (like with typing it into Google), but actively answered.

I decide I want to make Thai curry like the restaurant down the street, but have little experience with cooking. The simple act of wondering how something could be made could spur this device to tell me how it is done, and give me step-by-step instructions on how to make my favorite ganang dish from scratch, supermarket trip and all.

Discussion Questions:

What daily process, if automated, would make the biggest impact in your life?

Are there things you wouldn’t want to automate, mundane things that are satisfying to do?

Blog 13: Industries and Consumers

Greengard begins this chapter talking about how the usage of sensors has brought about a fourth Industrial Revolution, the first three being mechanization, automation, and the introduction of computers and electronics. I feel that this may be giving too much credit to “smart” technology, to be totally honest. While I understand the shift in mindset (now our manufacturing machines can track  themselves), there isn’t much of a difference in function. Where before people had to monitor these devices, we now see the devices saying when they should be taken care of, which we can interpret to optimize them further. That’s it. I may be nitpicking slightly, but until industrial technology is improving itself, there isn’t a large enough “jump” to consider it an entirely different age of industry.

That’s not to say this new form of manufacturing is worthless, however–optimization doesn’t usually set things back. In fact, the widespread use of sensors has created many new forms of technology in an of itself. The new autonomous vehicles is one such futuristic breakthrough that wouldn’t be possible without devices using things like cameras and lidar technology telling it what it needs to know. Again, it’s not truly self-driving–it just reacts to stimuli programmed into it–but it’s a solid step towards the future I was promised as a kid. I’m sure once the costs and safely issues are reduced, we’ll have actual hoverboards, not those standing-segway pieces of shit.

On a macro-scale, such as a city, sensors places in a web/matrix/array/whatever can yield interesting advantages. Greengard presents traffic as something that can be potentially solved by a network of cameras, giving a high-resolution scope of how cars move inside of dense areas. This data can then be used to optimize the way traffic flows, making everyone get to where they need fastest, as well as what potential projects could be used to impact commute on a structural level–how could a bridge, tunnel, or light affect the time it takes to cross from one side of the city to the next? Sensors and cameras may be a key here.

Discussion Questions:

What’s one piece of “future technology” you want to have? (Jetpacks, flying cars, holograms)

How far away do you think that technology is? What might come before it as a predecessor?

Blog 11: The Modern World of Rhetoric

One thing that I thought Toye glossed over in the beginning of the chapter was the “multiple audiences” that present problems, as it related to different forms of the same speech. He specifically mentions Lincoln’s inaugural speech, and how people that were unable to hear it in person would be able to read in in newspapers the over the next few days, but I feel that having separate mediums to experience speech, be it radio, television, print, or face-to-face, have extremely different effects on people. Excelling in physical presentation might make a speech seem fantastic for those who are able to look as well as listen to the speech, but does nothing for print or radio. Likewise, the most well-written speech would still look like garbage if, for example, middle-school-me had to read it. I’m very surprised there wasn’t more attention drawn to this (perhaps he felt the topic covered when discussing the scaffolding of rhetoric earlier?)

 

Toye does cover the international aspects of speech, however, and to his credit I think he does a great job. In particular, the mentioning how not only the reaction of their own people, but those of allies and enemies were significant during addresses. This is, of course, much more relevant for heads of state than your average college student, but acknowledging the internationality and intercultural nuances may be different from one group to the next. In fact, in classes like WRIT 4562, International Business Communication, subjects like these are addressed directly: the level of individualism versus collectivism in society is one major factor that goes into talking to businesses (and people in general) in a country or culture different than one’s own.

 

But back to Toye, we see that there is a large emphasis in how the different types of appeals play into the overall structuring of, in his example, a presidency campaign. In particular, there are certain styles that affect how people perceive a candidate during an election cycle. The obvious comparison to today is Trump, with a heavy incorporation of pathos appeal, driving forward the emotional compulsion that brings people to want to protect their families and jobs from a nameless force. Mr. Orange also downplays the ethos aspect of his campaign—which is smart on his part as, aside from foreign businessmen, he has little experience in the affairs of other countries—because he is a newcomer. In a sense, he has used his lack of ethos as ethos, bringing it back around to the emotional ties of “career politician = bad.”

 

Discussion Questions:

 

Think of your future career. How would you market yourself internationally?

 

Have you made any progress with your upcoming project?