THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- FEBRUARY 29, 2020
Some news items are just straightforward information, so you can consider them and then go merrily on your way. Other news items, however, may have a subtle twist that leads to further rumination. These pesky “news thoughts” can reside in the back of your mind and tap you on the shoulder when you least expect it.
For example, would you drink liquid death? Apparently, a lot of people have thought about this and decided they would do just that. Liquid Death is a company that sells canned Australian mountain water. “Liquid Death sells water in a tallboy aluminum can that it plans to start shipping in March. A 12-pack currently costs $18.99 on the Liquid Death website. Liquid Death has won over investors with its promise to murder your thirst. The startup has raised $9 million.” (https://liquiddeath.com/ and https://techcrunch.com/2020/02/20/liquid-death-series-a/)
While thoughts of Australian water offers a bit of whimsy, things are much more serious in East Africa. Locusts are stripping the region of its food supply. “Hundreds of millions of the voracious insects have swept across Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya in what the U.N. has called the worst outbreak in a quarter of a century, with Uganda, Eritrea and Djibouti also affected.”
This situation gets more frightening by the minute. To put this in perspective, a 247-acre swarm can eat the same amount of food in a day as 35,000 people (the same as the population of Wexford County). Swarms can travel 95 miles in a day and they breed 20 times in a three-month period.
What to do? “The United Nations is to test drones equipped with mapping sensors and atomizers to spray pesticides. But even this new technology has its limitations. “We have not used drones before. Existing drone models are restricted in terms of the volumes they can carry and the distances they can cover due to their size and limited battery life.” This situation bears watching as it could become a huge humanitarian crisis. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-locusts-tech/smart-drones-to-be-tested-in-battle-against-east-africa-locust-swarms-idUSKBN2041XZ)
Drone usage is also a hot topic close to home, specifically creating “drone highways” in the Metro Detroit area. “A consortium looking to create a new highway in the skies for drones in Metro Detroit thinks it’s a perfect fit in the evolution of technology and logistics. The highway would be among the first in the country, supporters say. It marks the dawn of a new era in technology as drones — operated by commercial and recreational pilots — are proliferating in skies across America.”
This sounds amazing, but a lot of thought needs to take place. For instance, how would it be regulated? “It’s the wild, wild west right now. We’re building highways in the sky or toll roads for commercial and recreational drones." I leave it to you to imagine the scenarios where this concept could go sideways. (https://www.freep.com/story/money/2020/02/15/carol-cain-drone-highway-michigan/4765401002/)
Now, visualize drones flying overhead along drone highways. With that in mind, consider this news item about autonomous vehicles (on the ground). “Researchers were able to trick an (automated) vehicle into speeding by putting a strip of electrical tape over a speed limit sign. Technicians at McAfee Inc. placed the piece of tape horizontally across the middle of the '3' on a 35 mile-per-hour speed limit sign. The change caused the vehicle to read the limit as 85 miles per hour, and its cruise control system automatically accelerated. There are a lot of blind spots in this industry.” Obviously, technology in the air or on the ground can be wonderful, except when it isn't. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-02-19/electrical-tape-on-sign-tricked-a-tesla-into-speeding-in-a-test)
Still thinking about technology usage, you have to factor in the reality that some people are constantly trying to illegally manipulate the system. “Internet-enabled crimes and scams show no signs of letting up, according to data released by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. The last calendar year saw both the highest number of complaints and the highest dollar losses reported since the center was established. IC3 received 467,361 complaints in 2019—an average of nearly 1,300 every day—and recorded more than $3.5 billion in losses to individual and business victims.” (https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2019-internet-crime-report-released-021120)
All of this is cause for serious thought, but sometimes news items appear that makes us laugh. One such use of artificial intelligence is the “These Lyrics Do Not Exist” website. “This website generates completely original lyrics for various topics and uses state of the art AI to generate an original chorus and original verses. You can choose the AI songwriter lyrics topic, lyrics genre and lyric mood.” In short, you can write the lyrics for your own original song with a mouse click. It's hilarious and addictive. (https://theselyricsdonotexist.com/)
Finally, with the ski season in Michigan ending in a month or so, local skiers will be packing away their gear for the summer. That's not the case in Norway because a new indoor ski facility has just opened nine miles outside of Oslo. “Norway’s Sno resort opened its doors just one month ago.” (https://time.com/5785362/norway-indoor-skiing-climate-change/)
The Sno resort can host up to 350,000 skiers a year and it features a 500 meter slope for downhill and a 1.5 kilometer cross country track. Lift tickets are $38 per day – year round.