Monthly Archives: July 2013

Of Singularities and Updating Cars

This article from Automotive News – “Why a new phone Trumps GM’s $200 map” is an interesting article and certainly worth reading.  Summarized it is this:

  1. GM created some very poorly designed in-dash GPS units that people sometimes paid substantial amounts of money to add to their cars.
  2. GM charges $200 for a map update to these poorly designed in-dash GPS units.
  3. The author of an automotive press company would rather buy the next iPhone than pay $200 for the map update for his car.  In fact, the author doesn’t use this expensive in-dash unit and pulls out his cell phone to look up locations.

The author, Nick Bunkley also points out, “The auto industry is still struggling with how to keep up with the rapid advances in technology that can make parts of a 3-year-old car obsolete.”
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This was not the case 10 years ago.  It is evidence for the technological singularity.  One of The Pirate King of Cars (TPKoC’s) favorite science fiction authors, Vernor Vinge, introduced him to the concept of the singularity.  Conceptually humanity’s technological progress is progressing on a exponential rate.

Once in TPKoC’s science fiction reading history had the philosophy that if you read a science fiction book – and the advanced technology of a alien civilization wasn’t applied evenly, then the author had done something wrong.

Not so, apparently.  As humanity’s technology progress, er, progresses it does it in fits and starts.  Some industries advance by leaps and bounds and others lie dormant for decades.  Cell phones have gone from vocal communication devices to small, versatile and fully functional computers.

Three years from now will the auto industry be complaining that it cannot keep updating their cars to keep up with technological changes that come every three months?

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Over twenty years ago TPKoC owned a 1992 Honda Civic 4-door LX 5-spd manual.  No matter how poorly TPKoC drove, that car got 40 mpg.  Long drives to Florida and back to New Jersey would yield 45 mpg!

Sadly, eventually the car began to fail and it was replaced by another car after 10 years and 222,000 miles.  But is that the way it should be?

TPKoC likes to build his own computers.  An incredible thing happens when you build your own computers.  Has your computer aged?  Change out the motherboard, processor and memory and it becomes a new computer!  Keep the hard drive, disk drives, case, memory and display!

What if we could do that with cars?  What if, as my Civic aged, there was a higher performance (in mpg and hp) engine that was designed to fit the engine bay?  In fact all cars of a similar size had the same engine mount points?  You could have a Honda with a Ford engine (eh, not sure why you would do that, but let’s go with it…)  Instead of my Civic (and then my Accord) lasting for 10 years and then being replaced, they could last until the next advances involved getting a new chassis?

As car prices escalate like they are on a path to their own singularity how will the average mortal human get a new vehicle when their vehicle is no longer maintainable?  This could be the solution.

The automotive industry will also need to adopt processes similar to cell phones and software developers.  Got an update?  No problem, you can do it yourself for free.  In fact it is far more efficient for the automotive industry to make more and more changes do-able by the average car owner than maintain a vast network of dealerships.  Expose how the internal computer interfaces work and customized versions of these systems could be made.  It is possible that a few changes to how the injector system works in some later patch could gain the end user/car owner a few more mpg!

Adapting to change is often hardest in that first step.  Once the automotive industry starts to adapt to constant and accelerating change it will not be one of the industries where some technologies have lagged while the world of cell phones has past them by…

Universal Health Care, Paid Medical Leave and Cars

If TPKoC wasn’t incredibly lucky medical leave would have completely jeopardized his family’s financial outlook.  Presently, TPKoCs wife is recovering from a surgery that requires 2 months of recovery.  This lead TPKoC to ponder the questions of Universal Health Care, Paid Medical Leave and his favorite subject – cars.

Two months out of work.  There went the down payment for the car – almost immediately.

In fact a large number of bankruptcies are caused by a medical problems (62% According to this article).  It would be the same for TPKoC if it were not for a lucky set of circumstances.

Luck runs in TPKoCs history, but sadly this is not the case for everyone.

Sometimes a thought experiment makes things clear.

There are some premises that should be covered.

  1. People will work on average 4 or 5 decades.  + 2.5 decades for education means that people in the USA work until they 65 or 75 years old.
  2. There will be at least 2 points in time when a worker will be unable to work due to medical reasons each lasting two months or more.  Being involved in a car accident can never be predicted and the sudden onset of any number of medical problems cannot be predicted, either.
  3. Regardless of the wisdom of this practice the typical financial home does not have a buffer of two months of bills.  TPKoC knows that in the present era family there are so many expenses and so few incomes that not being able to maintain two months salary buffer in the bank is not necessarily practical.  Drops in wages due to employers inability to pay increases in wages on an annual basis also cause problems for the employed people of the USA.

Case 1 (The way things are at present):

Bob is married to Sue.  Both work.  They have two children.  Regardless of their salaries it always seems like there are just slightly less expenses than there is income coming in (and sometimes a lot more expenses than income) to the household.  Bob encounters a medical problem and is out of work for two months.  They normally share duties with the kids, but Bob is mostly incapacitated and one of their children is below school age and in day care.

Sue has to take leave from work to help attend to Bob and remove the high cost of day care from their expenses.  They don’t have a buffer of two months expenses.  While both are on leave or FMLA neither gets salary.  There is no unemployment either as both are still technically employed by their present employers.

Almost immediately, Sue begins to pick and choose what bills to pay.  While it appears to be a relatively brief period of time it impacts their finances for many years to come.  Their credit ratings have been reduced and their debt load becomes harder to carry.  In a last ditch effort to save their finances they file for bankruptcy to save the house months after Bob’s recovery from surgery.  They managed to save the house; however, their finances are such that their children have much less resources to go to college.  This in turn affects the incomes of the subsequent generation as well.  The purchasing power of the present family and the future families has been reduced.

Bob and Sue have much lower buying power for an extended period of time.  This reduces the chances of them buying cars and other large goods that help keep the economy growing at a steady rate.  Due to the way their health insurance worked (underinsured) hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical costs were unfortunately not covered.

End Case 1.

Case 2 (Universal Healthcare and Paid Medical Leave):

(First paragraph same as Case 1 – context for the situation)

Bob is married to Sue.  Both work.  They have two children.  Regardless of their salaries it always seems like there are just slightly less expenses than there is income coming in to the household.  Bob encounters a medical problem and is out of work for two months.  They normally share duties with the kids, but Bob is mostly incapacitated and one of their children is below school age and in day care.

Sue has to take leave from work to help attend to Bob and remove the high cost of day care from their expenses.  They don’t have a buffer of two months expenses.  While both are on leave or  FMLA neither gets salary.  There is no unemployment either as both are still technically employed by their present employers.

All of Bob’s medical costs are covered under universal health care.  While he may be temporarily disabled he will return to the work force with his full faculties in place.

At the beginning of Bob’s medical leave he applies to the government with the appropriate documentation (or Sue does if he is mentally incapacitated).  Sue also applies separately in order to care for their children and for Bob.  Based on their present salary levels they are fully reimbursed for their lost wages in a timely manner.

After Bob recovers there has been no damage to his family’s finances.  There is no change to the financing of Bob and Sue’s children’s college education.

 

Conclusion:  The effects of medical problems have profound repercussions.  A certain percentage of our population is in circumstances similar to the above.  This creates a situation where the reduced incomes of all these families has the effect of reducing overall consumer spending.  If you are worried about food or losing your house then you certainly are not buying new cars.  The potential reduction of the next generations economic potential means that it is not something that can be recovered from easily.  The medical costs that were not covered added financial burden to the family.

Recommendation: A loss of income from both wage earners happens to many families.  In fact, if there are children and one working adult is removed from the work force, often the other has to take care of their spouse and the children making present day work at a regular job untenable.  The covering of their costs while they are incapacitated plus any uncovered medical costs would mean that once the family is back to its wage earning normal they can continue buying new cars, saving for college educations and have a reasonable disposable income.  On an individual family level (leaving sympathy behind) it doesn’t have an effect on the macro scale of the USA economy.  However, medical problems strike us all at some point.  That means there is a good chance that those medical problems are affecting a significant portion of our population at any given period of time.  The effect of all of these people losing their income earning potential definitely impacts our economy.

If implemented there would definitely be a difference in our GDP between a year with Universal Health Care and Paid Medical Leave vs a year like now, without them.

There are lots of different situations that could be run through this kind of mental experiment and perhaps in the future TPKoC will go through some of them.  One could only imagine being a temporarily medically disabled person that is a single parent of 1 or more children!

Still there are limits in terms of what Universal Medical Coverage should cover.  Once people are in an end-of-life situation or other situation where there will not be a recovery this changes the equation in terms of the economy of the United States of America.

 

A Cure for Cancer

It is a common concept that pharmaceutical companies will not research and find a cure for cancer. This common concept is also extended by indicating that the pharmaceutical companies have large control over the rest of the medical establishment and that there is a conspiracy to not find a cure for cancer.

This is all completely false or if true is an entire industry acting on incorrect premises.

Businesses operate to make money.  However, typically businesses don’t make all their money at once.  Businesses look for stability and growth.

Pharmaceutical companies make money by selling medicine and they make a lot of money on cancer drugs.  While surviving cancer statistics are improving the type of money being made by selling cancer drugs tends to be parasitic and eventually the host dies and there is no more money to be made.

However, if there is a cure (or cures) for cancer then the host/patient lives – for unknown DECADES of life.  What does this host/patient need during those years?  You got it, drugs.

Who knows what other maladies might exist that we’ll need medicines that will keep the pharmaceutical companies going and making lots of profit.  Don’t forget the huge market for appearance, aches, pains and age reversing drugs.  More profit than these companies will ever get from short term sales of cancer drugs.

The longer people live the more they will purchase vehicles.  The person that bought 5 new cars over 5 or 6 decades will buy 20 cars in 10 to 20 decades.  In the end all businesses have a vested interest in people living longer or indefinitely if possible.  Malthus was wrong when he wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population and he continues to be wrong.  In later essays TPKoC will prove it.

Governmental Ignorance

The people that govern the citizens of the USA are ignorant as shown by this law.  It is a law that basically outlaws any device that can be networked and play gambling software.  Therefore every computer, every smartphone and some cars are illegal (And TPKoC’s TV which has internet access).

Good thing TPKoC doesn’t live in Florida.  The TV and my computer are not going anywhere.

Every day brings change to our world.  Somehow, people expect the governmental structures created over 200 years ago based on governmental structures going far in to the past to be sustainable in the present and the future.

There are no real requirements for education level of elected members of our government.  There is no general or scientific test for our elected members of government before they can take the oath of office or even become a candidate for office.  Science literacy is generally poor in the United States of America; therefore, science knowledge on the governing members of our society is poor.

Democrat or Republican it makes no difference, mates.  These poor slobs are slaves due to their ignorance.  Corporations can easily manipulate these people as they have no idea what the companies are talking about.  Hoping for public opinion they choose to go after online gambling.  It seems so safe.  Get the bad guys and be proud of the one or two things you actually voted for this year.

These poor ignorant fools have made all computers and networks illegal in Florida.  There was no technical review by a group of technical oriented people.  There is little to no technical knowledge in the elected governmental officials.  It is a recipe for problems.