Weekly Links: Cars, AI Doctors, and the Mac Pro's Future

April 6, 2017 • #

Cars and Second Order Consequences 🚙

The cascading effect of a world with no human drivers is my favorite “what if” to consider with the boom of electric, autonomous car development. Benedict Evans has a great analysis postulating several tangential effects:

However, it’s also useful, and perhaps more challenging, to think about the second and third order consequences of these two technology changes. Moving to electric means much more than replacing the gas tank with a battery, and moving to autonomy means much more than ending accidents. Quite what those consequences would be is much harder to predict: as the saying goes, it was easy to predict mass car ownership but hard to predict Walmart, and the broader consequences of the move to electric and autonomy will come in some very widely-spread industries, in complex interlocked ways.

A.I. versus M.D. 💊

Siddhartha Mukherjee looks at the potential for AI in medicine, specifically as a diagnostic tool. Combine processing and machine learning with sensors everywhere, and things get interesting:

Thrun blithely envisages a world in which we’re constantly under diagnostic surveillance. Our cell phones would analyze shifting speech patterns to diagnose Alzheimer’s. A steering wheel would pick up incipient Parkinson’s through small hesitations and tremors. A bathtub would perform sequential scans as you bathe, via harmless ultrasound or magnetic resonance, to determine whether there’s a new mass in an ovary that requires investigation. Big Data would watch, record, and evaluate you: we would shuttle from the grasp of one algorithm to the next. To enter Thrun’s world of bathtubs and steering wheels is to enter a hall of diagnostic mirrors, each urging more tests.

This piece is one of the best explanations of neural networks I’ve read.

The Mac Pro Lives

If you follow the Apple universe, you’ve surely heard the frustration of professional Mac users who’ve felt abandoned by Apple neglecting their pro hardware for 3 years. They’re resurrecting the lineup now with a redesigned Mac Pro. The craziest bit about this story is that Apple is coming out of the shell to talk about a new product months before launch, to a handful of select journalists.