Author: Chris Matyszczyk

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Ad suggests men do engineering things, women are in the garden

 Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.


kochi

Men doing manly engineering things.

Koch Industries/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

This weekend saw the return of the English Premier League.

Which means I was up early on Sunday, ready to watch soccer players from all over the world play much better than most English players.

During one of the NBC Sports ad breaks, however, I heard a boy’s voice.

“I wanna make cars fly,” he said.

I listened on. Ads interfere with sports, so I rarely look at the screen as I watch. 

The ad continued with another boy’s voice. “I love turning old stuff into something amazing.” 

I assumed this was an ad for some tech or engineering company. I should, therefore, have been fascinated. I still didn’t look up.

The next voice was a little girl’s: “I want to plant a garden for the whole world.” 

Wait, so little boys build things and make them fly, while little girls potter about the garden and make sure everyone’s fed? 

I finally looked up[1]. “We grow up, but we never stop dreaming,” says a female voiceover. Oh, it seems the sexes have very different dreams.

“Here at Koch,” continued the voiceover, “we challenge ourselves and the status quo to produce innovations like renewable fuel, more energy-efficient vehicles and food for all.”

Yet, looking at the ad, it’s the men who do everything but the food part. They smile as they perform brain-sapping engineering tasks. They wear hard hats as they go into vast factories. 

While the women are in the garden. 

Koch Industries didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. And this is not to besmirch the alleged political leanings of its owners. 

Instead, it’s to consider that as the controversy over a Google engineer’s memo about gender roles and diversity grinds on[2] — with Google seeming entirely unsure how to handle it — gender roles continue to be reinforced along traditionalist lines. 

This ad could at least have shown one woman engineer working with men. It could have presented a woman engineer being the boss of men. It could have shown men in the garden.

Instead, for every Verizon[3] and Girls Who Code[4] that tries to advance the notion that women have a place everywhere in tech, there still roams the opposite.

It may be that the makers of this ad behaved with complete unconsciousness in the writing and the casting. Which doesn’t, of course, make it any better. 

It merely shows that this isn’t going to disappear any time soon. Men are more interested in things and systems, claimed former Google employee James Damore. Women are, he said, more interested in people and feelings. 

How many women will look at this ad and have negative feelings toward the people and the system that made it? And how many will stop dreaming that creating flying cars is for them?

Koch itself entreats us to “challenge ourselves and the status quo.” 

Now that’s a very good idea. 

References

  1. ^ looked up (www.youtube.com)
  2. ^ grinds on (www.cnet.com)
  3. ^ Verizon (www.cnet.com)
  4. ^ Girls Who Code (www.cnet.com)
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Elon Musk says AI harbors ‘vastly more risk than North Korea’

 Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.


Tesla Debuts Its New Crossover SUV Model, Tesla X

He’s worried. Very worried.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The mention of several place-names currently invokes shudders.

Whether it be North Korea[1], Venezuela[2] or even Charlottesville, Virginia[3], it’s easy to get a shivering feeling that something existentially unpleasant might happen, with North Korea still topping many people’s lists.

For Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, however, there’s something far bigger that should be worrying us: artificial intelligence.

In a Friday afternoon tweet, he offered[4], “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”

He accompanied this with a poster of a worried woman and the words, “In the end, the machines will win.”

The machines always win, don’t they? Look how phones have turned us into neck-craning zombies. And, lo, here was Musk also tweeting on Friday[5] about a bot created by OpenAI — the nonprofit he backs — beating real humans at eSports[6].

Still, Musk thinks humanity can do something to fight the robots.

Indeed, he followed his North Korea message with a renewed call for AI regulation[7]: “Nobody likes being regulated, but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc) that’s a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too.”

Musk brought up this idea[8] last month at a meeting of the National Governors Association. On Friday, he explained in the Twitter comments that AI really does pose an immediate threat. 

“Biggest impediment to recognizing AI danger are those so convinced of their own intelligence they can’t imagine anyone doing what they can’t,” he tweeted[9].

You really can’t trust humans to do good, even supposedly intelligent humans. 

Especially in these times when few appear to agree what good even looks like. 

Biggest impediment to recognizing AI danger are those so convinced of their own intelligence they can’t imagine anyone doing what they can’t

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 12, 2017[10]

CNET Magazine[11]: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET’s newsstand edition.

iHate[12]: CNET looks at how intolerance is taking over the internet.

References

  1. ^ North Korea (www.cbsnews.com)
  2. ^ Venezuela (www.cbsnews.com)
  3. ^ Charlottesville, Virginia (www.cbsnews.com)
  4. ^ he offered (twitter.com)
  5. ^ also tweeting on Friday (twitter.com)
  6. ^ beating real humans at eSports (openai.com)
  7. ^ a renewed call for AI regulation (twitter.com)
  8. ^ brought up this idea (www.cnet.com)
  9. ^ tweeted (twitter.com)
  10. ^ August 12, 2017 (twitter.com)
  11. ^ CNET Magazine (www.cnet.com)
  12. ^ iHate (www.cnet.com)
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Banana brand a-peels to solar eclipse watchers

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.


Partial solar eclipse, January 2011

Get the picture?

DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY

Brands can never get enough publicity.

They crave it because they believe they will die without it.

So as we prepare for August 21 and the solar eclipse[1], we know — we fear, even — that brands will try to make it their own. Or, at least, to claim intimate participation.

Here, then, is an appetizer. Presented by banana brand Chiquita, this ad[2] claims that just before and just after the full eclipse, what is actually being created is “an enormous, fiery, yellow banana in the sky.”

This is the so-called — actually, never-before-called — banana sun.

Chiquita claims you’ll still need protective glasses to look at it. Unlike the eclipse, however, everyone in America will be able to see this banana sun. 

As Chiquita quaintly puts it on YouTube: “For a fleeting moment before and after the totally overrated total solar eclipse, the sun will appear to be an enormous fiery banana.”

You must decide whether you find this pleasantly playful, or whether you wish these brands would just stop already.

Chiquita is, I fear, aware of the potential downside. 

In its last third, the ad devolves into a parallel universe of absurdity, in order to leave you in no doubt that it’s just being very silly.

Brands do enjoy embracing scientific events. Earlier this year, KFC thought it a good idea to send a chicken sandwich into space[3].

Now that was just bananas.

Technically Incorrect[4]: Bringing you a fresh and irreverent take on tech.

Special Reports[5]: CNET’s in-depth features in one place.

References

  1. ^ August 21 and the solar eclipse (www.cnet.com)
  2. ^ this ad (www.youtube.com)
  3. ^ to send a chicken sandwich into space (www.cnet.com)
  4. ^ Technically Incorrect (www.cnet.com)
  5. ^ Special Reports (www.cnet.com)
Warehouse Discounts 0

How Microsoft may suffer after Consumer Reports criticism

 Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.


Actually unreliable? Or just reportedly unreliable?

Sarah Tew/CNET

I fancy there were several red faces at Microsoft[1] Thursday. 

Angry red, I mean.

It’s never a good day when a respected organization like Consumer Reports un-recommends[2] your Surface products and declares that they have an estimated 25 percent chance of breaking down within two years. 

As my colleague Dan Ackerman explained in his excellent analysis[3], there’s been no widespread evidence that Surfaces are poorly made. And this survey didn’t seem to cover any made in the last two years, the current Surface Pro[4] and Surface Laptop[5] models not released until June 2017.

Moreover, Consumer Reports’ conclusion was based on a survey of 90,741 tablets[6] and laptops[7] bought by its subscribers. How many of them actually owned Surfaces (not Apple or Dell products) isn’t clear.

“We never divulge the exact number. But we can say that the minimum number of responses needed for any brand to be included in our analyses is 300,” a Consumer Reports spokesman told me. 

Ah.

Still, Microsoft may have a problem. And not just because the Consumer Reports survey[8] had Surfaces enjoying 15 percent more issues than Apple[9]‘s.

Redmond’s[10] corporate vice president of devices, Panos Panay, vigorously — angrily, it felt — defended the Surface’s product quality in a blog post on Thursday[11].

“In the Surface team we track quality constantly, using metrics that include failure and return rates – both our predicted 1-2-year failure and actual return rates for Surface Pro 4[12] and Surface Book[13] are significantly lower than 25 percent,” he said. 

He didn’t specify how much lower, however. He did say that incidents per unit were now well below 1 percent. 

Both sides can present figures. But rationality only goes so far. The bigger angst for Microsoft is the impression left and the fear that it will last.

When Consumer Reports un-recommended Apple’s laptops[14] because of alleged battery issues at the end of last year, the bitterness was short and sweet. Within three weeks — including, one imagines, aggressive Apple lobbying — Consumer Reports was suddenly happy[15]. All it had taken, apparently, was a software update.

That’s what Microsoft must hope for too. It needs a very swift replay review and a call of “safe.” 

Otherwise, the negative whispers may spread and the brand will get tarnished with a touch of rust-bucketyness. Once that happens, a brand often ends up in a defensive posture.

Which would be painful for Microsoft, as it’s just become a confident aggressor.

After all, the Surface brand has become a genuine competitor, one that, with the Surface Studio[16] last year, made Apple’s laptops look as alluring as the Gap collection, circa winter 2010[17]

Microsoft may have a slightly harder task here, though, than Apple’s. 

It’s not as if it can ask all of the Consumer Reports subscribers to think again about whether they really had issues with their Surfaces or whether they were partaking of an ill-advised carafe of Touriga Nacional[18] at survey-time. 

One temptation may be to suddenly release ads that trumpet the Surface’s reliability. This might be a mistake. When you protest even a little, it may already be too much.

Redmond will, no doubt, spend the next weeks and months tracking its data and poring over its focus group research. (Oh, you know there’ll be focus group research after this.)

It will hope that this August news will disappear like a mere after-dinner belch.

Next best would be reports of markedly increased Surface sales. 

Luckily, we’re heading into the NFL season, where the Surface plays center. 

The coaches hold it, the players look into it and now even the referees are staring at replay reviews on it[19].

It would surely lift Redmond’s spirits if New England Patriots’ coach — and notorious Surface-loather[20] — Bill Belichick suddenly declared that the product was 10 times better than a MacBook[21] or an iPad Pro[22].

And at least five times better than the paper which he preferred for much of last season[23].

Tech Culture[24]: From film and television to social media and games, here’s your place for the lighter side of tech.

Batteries Not Included[25]: The CNET team shares experiences that remind us why tech stuff is cool. 

References

  1. ^ Microsoft (www.cnet.com)
  2. ^ un-recommends (www.consumerreports.org)
  3. ^ explained in his excellent analysis (www.cnet.com)
  4. ^ Surface Pro (www.cnet.com)
  5. ^ Surface Laptop (www.cnet.com)
  6. ^ tablets (www.cnet.com)
  7. ^ laptops (www.cnet.com)
  8. ^ the Consumer Reports survey (www.consumerreports.org)
  9. ^ Apple (www.cnet.com)
  10. ^ Redmond’s (www.cnet.com)
  11. ^ in a blog post on Thursday (blogs.windows.com)
  12. ^ Surface Pro 4 (www.cnet.com)
  13. ^ Surface Book (www.cnet.com)
  14. ^ un-recommended Apple’s laptops (www.consumerreports.org)
  15. ^ was suddenly happy (www.cnet.com)
  16. ^ Surface Studio (www.cnet.com)
  17. ^ made Apple’s laptops look as alluring as the Gap collection, circa winter 2010 (www.cnet.com)
  18. ^ Touriga Nacional (en.wikipedia.org)
  19. ^ are staring at replay reviews on it (www.cnet.com)
  20. ^ Surface-loather (www.cnet.com)
  21. ^ MacBook (www.cnet.com)
  22. ^ iPad Pro (www.cnet.com)
  23. ^ the paper which he preferred for much of last season (www.cnet.com)
  24. ^ Tech Culture (www.cnet.com)
  25. ^ Batteries Not Included (www.cnet.com)
Warehouse Discounts 0

Police tweet photo of driver holding two phones going 60 mph

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.


Try telling people not to do it.

No matter how many times well-intentioned authorities and even phone providers like AT&T plead[1] with people not to use their phones[2] while driving, people still do it. 

You see it every day. What you see slightly less often are people holding a phone in each hand while driving at 60 mph. Yes, with no hands on the wheel. Yet here is an image of just that posted Wednesday to Twitter by the UK’s Surrey Police[3]

This being the UK, the police permitted themselves a chuckle by adding these words: “Whatever this driver had going on must have been super important — phone in each hand!” 

The Surrey Police Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. However, in the Twitter[4] replies, they confirmed that the man was going 60 mph and was a non-UK resident (steering wheel on the “wrong” side is a clue).

They say the driver was fined 200 pounds (around $260) and given six points on his license. 

Some might wonder what would have happened if the car had been a Tesla on autopilot. Indeed, the police were asked on Twitter whether that had ever happened.

“Yes. As an owner it’s quiet [sic] easy to explain to them, then they get a ticket. No excuse,” said the police.

As phones have become permanent appendages, human behavior has become more carelessly brazen. The phone takes importance. Safe driving takes a back seat.

Who can forget the Scottish driver who was captured using a phone and a laptop, while wearing headphones[5]?

It isn’t going to stop. We’re only going to notice when someone does something egregious. Or when the behavior causes injury or death.

And then we just shake our heads. 

Technically Incorrect[6]: Bringing you a fresh and irreverent take on tech.

Special Reports[7]CNET’s in-depth features in one place.

References

  1. ^ plead (www.cnet.com)
  2. ^ phones (www.cnet.com)
  3. ^ posted Wednesday to Twitter by the UK’s Surrey Police (twitter.com)
  4. ^ Twitter (www.cnet.com)
  5. ^ using a phone and a laptop, while wearing headphones (www.cnet.com)
  6. ^ Technically Incorrect (www.cnet.com)
  7. ^ Special Reports (www.cnet.com)