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Autonomous driving and the impending end of automotive vehicles

We expect autonomous vehicles to roam our roads in the not-so-distant future. As this type of high technology becomes more and more available to consumers, the overall effects are significant. Recent studies support that autonomous driving has generated substantial attention and further discussions due to its increasingly widespread adoption. However, the long-term effects are seldom touched and considered. Due to the possible impacts these autonomous vehicles may bring, it is necessary to focus on the indirect and direct, negative and positive results.

Autonomous Driving Levels

The Society of Automotive Engineers International, a recognized standard across the globe, classifies six different levels of autonomous driving ranging from Level 0 up to Level 5.  Common and regular cars without automated driving features are considered Level 0, and vehicles with fully automated driving system that performs the overall dynamic driving task (DDT) without any limitations are categorized as Level 5.

On the market, the available level of autonomous vehicles is either Level 1, with stand-alone features like automatic parking systems, or Level 2 – includes a combination of slightly advanced functions to perform several parts of DDT. These functions are just part of the driver assistance system which fall under the primary stage of driving automation. Nowadays, vehicle makers are rallying to create automobiles that can be categorized under Level 3 and Level 4 technologies.


Bob Lutz, a Swiss American automotive executive and the father of Chevrolet Volt, expresses his concern on the inevitable realization of Level 5 automated vehicles. According to the former Tesla admirer turned critic, there is an impending long-term negative effects once automated vehicles reach their logical conclusion. Drivers will be forced to reduce to become passengers in uniform, soulless autonomous self-driving vehicles. At the most, it will only take 25 years before people who like to drive, and vehicle makers that rely on brands, to come to this realization.

During Lutz’s speech at the recently concluded SAE International’s annual meeting in Detroit, he summarized his article for Automotive News, which was published November 2017.

End of Line for Automobiles

“Now we are approaching the end of the line for the automobile because travel will be in standardized modules. The end state will be the fully autonomous module with no capability for the driver to exercise command. You will call for it, it will arrive at your location, you’ll get in, input your destination and go to the freeway,” Lutz added.

“The OEM is the link in the chain that is the most vulnerable. Do you really care who made the subway car?” Lutz also stated.

The general public, on the other hand, not only sees autonomous driving as a threat to the legacies made by vehicle makers, but they are also looking at the safety concerns this technology implies. Latest surveys show that American citizens are far from being sold on the safety benefits of automated vehicles. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, more than 50% the total respondents in America would still be concerned riding in a self-driving car mainly because of the safety and lack of control. Based on another survey, only 15% of the respondents prefer driverless cars to Level 0 vehicles. While it is true that some people (educated and under 45 years of age) tend to be less concerned than others, these varying opinions are treated less significant compared to the general opinion of the public.

Humanity’s technology has been increasingly developing at a fast pace, and with this people would always consider underlying factors that can impede or contribute to their perceptions of the world they are living in. With the advent of ride-sharing and autonomous driving era, tides are really changing for traditional automobiles.

‘Will This Software Company That Knows You Well Scare You?’ Cartoon

a man jumping out of a computer and collecting data scared the office worker
Being seen from afar may scare you. But this innovative bold idea of data mining from Palantir is doing bold actions to make a better world!


What is the Impact of YouTube Reaching 1.8B Logged-In Viewers?

During this year’s YouTube Brandcast held at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced that the video sharing site had 1.8 billion logged in viewers monthly. The numbers would have been larger if it included viewers who were not logged in while viewing videos on the website.

The Big Numbers

YouTube is the third most viewed website after Google and Facebook. Like most other social media and other websites, the majority of YouTube views are from a mobile device and the average viewing session on the mobile device is 40 minutes daily.

The amount of time users spend on YouTube grew by 60% over the last two years. YouTube has an annual budget of $6.35 billion with revenues of $13 billion. The last quarter net earnings for the website was $4.34 billion. In terms of actual searches, YouTube is also the second largest search engine after Google.

Although the majority of consumers use their mobile device to watch YouTube, the biggest growth was from those who watched TV. More than 150 million hours of videos are watched daily on TVs and this is expected to be the next digital battle ground.

The year 2017 was a troubled year for social media, and YouTube was not spared from problems. The website did not have any security breaches of the same scale as Facebook or Twitter; however, it did encounter glitches with its ad-matching algorithm, and the shortage of content and comment policing was quite prominent.

Growing Up

The YouTube Brandcast is the big annual event for YouTube, where they break news about company developments. It was attended by 4,200 spectators which included partners, advertisers and sponsors together to talk shop and mingle. It also brought in YouTube’s brightest stars to show advertisers and guests how relevant their content and delivery is. Among the guest performers were Trevor Noah, Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello and others.


Wojcicki voiced the unspoken concerns of the advertisers stating, “It is critically important to me, and to everyone at YouTube, that we grow responsibly.” She further added, “There is not a playbook for how open platforms operate at our scale. But the way I think about it is, it’s critical that we are on the right side of history.” YouTube did not encounter the same problems that Facebook and Twitter did. The two companies found out that their platforms were used for propaganda and fake news during the 2016 elections.

Expanding Protection

YouTube will to continue with steps to protect its viewers. One of the steps is the employment of an additional 10,000 new employees by the end of 2018. The additional personnel will boost the website’s content review teams. Along with the manpower, is the continuous development of machine-learning systems aimed at taking down offending content.

Having 1.8 billion users logging in monthly, as well as 150 million hours of videos watched every day, it is easy to believe that it is a great tool for changes to society. During the past year, the company started removing inappropriate videos, as well as removing ads from others. This is a controversial balancing act for YouTube. It has to protect the website from terrorists, agitators and propagandists.  At the same time, it has to maintain the site’s freedom of expression.

Policing content is not that easy, due to the sheer number size of YouTube. There are 50 million users who have created content for sharing, and there are 300 hours of videos uploaded every minute. This is a gargantuan task which will only become harder as more videos are uploaded every minute, every day.

YouTube stats show a glimpse of its future. Specifically, Millennials would rather watch YouTube than traditional television. There are more male YouTube users at 62% against 38% for females. More than one-third or about 27% of those between the ages of 18-34 year olds binge watch. A bold impact of YouTube is that half of users 32 years and younger will not subscribe to a pay-TV service. In addition, about 60% of people prefer online video platforms to live TV.

Streaming services like YouTube will continue to drive the viewing habits of Americans. YouTube is doing a bold move by cleaning up its act, and acting judiciously to provide an atmosphere of freedom of expression and creativity for artists and creators. It is also creating ways to make sure that hate groups do not act as bullies in the platform, while making sure that users are safe from inappropriate content and ads.



DNA Methylation: An Important Breakthrough for Genetics

DNA Methylation is beginning to have profound impacts on society and is a breakthrough for genetics. Several published studies on the controversial scientific branch that looks into heritable changes in gene function have been shaking up our notion of individual uniqueness. As humans, we like to believe that we are way different from each other. Red hair, blond hair; blue eyes, brown eyes; freckled skin, dark skin—phenotypes are easy to understand, but there is something deeper that lies in our genetics that tells us how we’re all connected.

The bigger question now is, how similar are we? DNA is a complex thing to comprehend, but it provides us insight into something about ourselves beyond our family history. Yes, perhaps we’re unique on a physical level, but we’re still unquestionably linked by genetic ancestry. The further back we go, the more we will see how connected we are, according to science.

Scientists say that no matter where you’re from or who you identify as your ancestors, you are 99.9 percent genetically identical to all human beings on the planet. The human genome has more than 3 billion base pairs, and 2,999 billion of these are similar between you and another person. However, the tiny percentage that we’d normally think as negligible is enough to substantiate information about our geographic ancestry.

DNA Methylation Impact Chart
DNA Methylation Impact Chart

Understanding Methylation

Methylation is an epigenetic mechanism used by cells to control gene expression. This mechanism can change the activity of a DNA segment without changing the sequence. Physician-scientist Esteban Burchard from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), explains methylation as the fingerprint in our DNA that can be modified by either the environment and genetic ancestry.

Biomed research and clinical studies categorize populations into racial and ethnic groups with distinct cultures, traditions, histories and religions. However, the scientific community is debating the use of ethnicity and race alone in clinical researches. As a way to answer the debate, researchers now use genetic ancestry as an alternative category. In the case of the researchers from the UCSF, they analyzed differences in methylation patterns of Latino children and found that 75 percent of the methylation signatures could indeed be traced to their genetic ancestry. However, 25 percent stems from environmental and social factors. What this is telling us is that while we get our genes from our parents, these genes could also be altered by our environment.

Linking Back to Our Past is Not Only About Feeding the Curious Cat

Two hundred students from Cornell University lined up to participate in a DNA testing sample for the Cornell Genetic Ancestry Project. The question posed by the project was: How would the participants compare with the genetic diversity observed among people at the street fair at Queens, New York, arguably one of the most diverse cities in the world?

The randomly chosen Cornell undergraduate students volunteered to provide DNA cheek swab samples, which were later presented at the project’s reveal event two months later. The public lecture summarizing the analyses of the lineages and migration stories revealed in DNA of the volunteers showed surprising revelations about how the participants and their ancestry fit into the picture of humanity’s migration history.

The results demonstrated that the random samples representing all seven colleges at Cornell showed that they are as genetically diverse as the sample taken from the street fair in Queens with respect to deep ancestral lineages. Professor Chip Aquadero, Director of the Cornell Genetic Ancestry, emphasized that all humans need to understand genetics because “it’s going to become a fabric of our life”.

One of the goals of the scientists conducting researches and studies in genetic ancestry is to find ways to improve our quality of life. The more we understand our genetic makeup, the more we can become proactive in the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses.

Another essential question that the study of genetic ancestry answers is our origin. Did we really come from Africa? Scientists say they don’t quarrel over the idea because it’s what the study on genetic ancestry has taught us — this, and everything else that the interminable study of genetics will tell us in the future.

Just a point of curiosity, how much do you know about yourself?