Facebook, Uber and the end of the Great American Tech Delusion

Tech Bubble Part II has arrived in America but China will probably navigate around it thanks to a culture of innovation

By Spengler and cross-posted from Asia Times

We’ve been here before, in the crash of the dot-com bubble of 2000, when we believed that downloading pop music and porn would drive the economy of the future. We’ve done it again: We made another tech bubble on the premise that Americans would write the apps and Asians would make the hardware, and the miracle of connectivity would bring the world together in Mark Zuckerberg’s utopian vision. Internet community and Artificial Intelligence were the two blasts of hot air that inflated the bubble. Social media as a substitute for actual human interaction and computation as a substitute for human thought were going to waft us into the future.

Last week’s double crash of these delusions was the sort of irony that makes one intimate the hand of God in human history.

The crown jewel of Artificial Intelligence shattered when Uber’s autonomous SUV ran over Ms. Elaine Herzberg at the corner of Curry and Mill Street in Tempe, Arizona. And the concept of Internet community vaporized when news reports alleged that Cambridge Analytica improperly retained Facebook profiles of 50 million users. Facebook promptly lost 7% of its stock market value in yesterday’s trading, and other big tech names fell by 3% to 4%.

All the hype in the world can’t stand up to the ugly fact of a dead human body on the road. A few skeptics, including the distinguished physicist and venture capitalist Dr. Henry Kressel, have warned that AI in general and self-driving cars, in particular, are mainly hype. As Kressel wrote last year in Asia Times:

In a well-controlled environment (like driving on a track), the computer can be expected to respond to situations consistent with programmed information. The problematic situations are the accidental ones when something happens on the track that requires a quick response different from the programmed actions. This is where the awareness and quick response of a human driver come into play and where the response of a computer making the decisions is quite another matter. And this is the skill that differentiates race-car drivers from the rest of us – and computers from all of us.

A glance at the intersection where Uber’s vehicle killed Ms. Herzberg tells the whole story. It is one of those massive, amorphous, ill-designed and opaque suburban crossings that human drivers traverse in fear of their lives. One makes eye contact with other drivers and pedestrians, taps the breaks, and proceeds with extreme caution. To ask a computer to navigate through this sort of mess is foolish. We do not know the precise circumstances of Ms. Herzberg’s death; we only are surprised that it did not happen before. If that seems complex, try fighting the yellow cabs in Manhattan with a self-driving car

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3 thoughts on “Facebook, Uber and the end of the Great American Tech Delusion

  1. The woman was killed by greed. Drill baby drill. Get it horizontally poison the water, cut the trees down, destroy the farms go the greed. Bonus checksas obscene as porn. No driver in the car… no wages, no holidays, no days off, not worker compensation and no admin costs. No cash to count plastic fantastic the girl is dead.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Some of us don’t even want our cars to decide when to shift gears.

    The Subaru Forrester is the only compact SUV offering a 6-speed manual transmission. All the others offer “rubber band” CVTs only.


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