Top News Stories for the Week of
January 16-20, 2023
- Futuristic Transportation
Summary: We’re not in self-driving cars yet, and nowhere near Jetsons-level transportation, but here are some cool stories in the news this week on some more futuristic transportation.
Let’s start in the U.S., where GM is preparing to offer the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray, the fastest Corvette yet. Starting at only $104,000 (!!), this cool sports care is also a gas/electric hybrid! Its battery charges while you drive and powers the front wheels of the vehicle, while the “roaring V-8 engine” will still be there.
Meanwhile in South Korea, Hyundai is prepared to offer Level 4 autonomous IONIQ robo-taxies to Uber by 2024. A Level 4 vehicle “can drive itself under limited conditions.” Current versions of these robo-taxies are being used “for the 15-minute drive between Luxor Hotel and Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.”
Under the category of creative drug dealing, it turns out that dealers have been using drones to transport MDMA from Canada to New York – but they were caught by cops using drones for surveillance! Cool! But still folks, don’t use drones for nefarious purposes.
And we are getting one step closer to futuristic action-movie like transportation. Jetpack Aviation is introducing their “Speeder” – a “flying street bike that uses eight tiny-but-powerful jet engines to cruise 60 mph for about 30 minutes.” This flying motorcycle is still awaiting FAA permission to join the air. Up next, an unmanned version for the military that can fly 100 feet above ground at 400 mph.
My take: We are on our way to a super cool racing and flying future! My mind goes right to the crowded air of dystopian science fiction movies with a variety of vehicles driving or flying around chaotically. Hopefully we will find a more orderly way to manage the variety of futuristic transportation vehicles!
- Job Shortages
Summary: The challenge of finding and hiring lower-wage employees has been easing lately, but there are still some jobs that are hard to find now – or will be in the future. Here’s what stood out this week:
- Did you know that there is a national shortage of accountants? Even smaller accounting firms are being forced to look overseas to find accountants to serve the family businesses and other small companies they work with. Over 300,000 accountants and auditors have quit in the past two years, mainly because of the hours during tax season and the repetitive tasks that are not all that exciting. Employees in India and the Philippines are taking on the data entry and repetitive tasks – but perhaps at some point this will be more automated? tbd
- If you’ve ever had any home electrical issues then perhaps you have noticed a shortage in electricians. The demand has been increasing, as people work to install solar panels, support charging electric vehicles, switch to electric stoves over gas, and try to move everything to be “Smart” (smart thermostat, smart fridge, smart security, etc.). This expected “monumental increase in electricity use” will only grow and require more electricians. In California right now, there is only one certified electrician for every 478 housing units and it’s expected that there will be 80,000 job openings in this field each year in the next 10 years.
- Small tech startups are grateful that the Big Tech firms have been laying off, because they don’t then need to deal with a shortage of software developers. Those laid off developers are getting hired by the up-and-coming startups, which will hopefully lead to more innovation and small business growth!
- This may not be a ‘job’ per se, but apparently there is a shortage of friends. A startup called Groundfloor is offering a “friends-as-a-service”/co-working space option that will help you build friendships by helping people connect in their coffee shop/business lounge space for only $200/month. ! Will this take off outside of San Francisco? Stay tuned!
- Finally, this is a little ways away, but this year, China had more deaths than births for the first time since the 1960s. It is expected that this shift will push the country into a “demographic crisis that will have consequences not just for China and its economy but for the world.” At some point, there won’t be “enough people of working age to fuel its growth.”
My take: It pays to pay attention to shortages like these to determine ways that your business could be affected (can’t find an accountant?) or ways that you could find opportunity in this shortage (add electrical work to your current roster of services?). Longer term, if the U.S. remains dependent on a huge workforce in China to assist with manufacturing, we may run into some serious issues. Perhaps the time to pivot is now?
- AI – Good or Bad for Small Business?
Summary: I promise I am not obsessed with Chat GPT. But, there are a wealth of stories and opinions and examples relating to this new AI service, so I am going to share the highlights, along with a few non-ChatGPT but still AI news.
Chat GPT AI
- Tech news site CNET has been “quietly” publishing articles that were “generated entirely by artificial intelligence” which worked well until it didn’t. The bot-generated stories created some “very dumb errors” which the human journalists had to fix. We’re not quite ready for bots to replace reports.
- As I’ve mentioned before, University professors are on high alert for essays written by ChatGPT rather than students. Sadly, the best way to tell a bot wrote the essay is that the paper is “easily the best paper in the class.”
- It’s not just students. Apparently, some employees have been relying on ChatGPT to write reports that can sometimes be “more detailed, more persuasive, and more original” than the ones written by the actual employee. Is that okay? Or not?
- Perhaps your business should be taking advantage of ChatGPT while it’s still free? (as I’ve mentioned before!) How to do that? Plan out some marketing content and ask ChatGPT to take a stab at it. Save the content that the chatbot writes and then you can review and edit when you’re ready to share. Also consider looking into a new tool from Canva called “Magic Write” – very similar to ChatGPT, as well as many other options being offered or coming soon.
AI and Copyright
- A group of artists have filed a class action lawsuit against Stability AI and other companies that have been creating AI-art by remixing “the copyrighted works of millions of artists whose work was used as training data.” Should be interesting to see how this all pans out. Is it fair to use original content as the baseline for asking AI to create content that really just is a mash-up of all that original content? My head is spinning.
- Getty Images is also suing Stability AI and its Stable Diffusion art tool for unlawfully scraping “millions of images from its site”
In this excellent post by AI researcher, author, and entrepreneur Gary Marcus, the ethical considerations of AI are addressed. I liked his apt comparison of AI to Jurassic Park the movie, where the scientist played by Jeff Goldblum says, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Great point.
My take: With great power comes great responsibility.
- EV and Batteries
Summary: The whole world is apparently buying EVs these days, but we still have a lot to work out with making and charging batteries. Several news stories on that issue this week:
- In an interesting move, gas and oil company Shell USA has purchased Volta, a firm that has an “existing public EV charging network of over 3,000 charge points at destination sites across 31 states and territories” with plans to more than double that moving forward.
- Speaking of charging stations, there has been a huge growth in at-home chargers, “which are expected to make up more than 80% of all EV charging installations by 2040.” Many firms were displaying their offerings at the recent CES.
- But we still can’t get from home to anywhere without EV charging stations. Fortunately, the U.S. Department of Energy has created an interactive tool, the Geospatial Energy Mapper, or GEM. This tool can show where charging stations are located and pinpoint where new ones should be placed. It can do the same for solar panels and wind turbines.
- Former Tesla CTO is now busy growing his battery recycling facility after raising over $1 billion in venture funding. He feels this is a necessary component of moving to EVs.
- Hopefully more of those batteries will start being built in the U.S., but for now, Chinese manufacturers hold a 77% market share, while U.S. is at 6%. The forecast for 2027 expects that to change so that China is ‘merely’ at 69% and the U.S. is at 10%.
- Finally, a recent study shows that “more than 90% of vehicle-owning households in the United States would see a reduction in the percentage of income they spend on transportation energy if they switched to electric vehicles.” It would also reduce greenhouse gas generation.
My take: This is a rapidly growing market with lot of opportunity for small businesses who can find ways to offer products or services that address the goals of the EV world. Are you one of these businesses? Could you be?
- Food in the News
Summary: Food in the news this week, and much of it is not good. For example, it turns out that “fish caught in the fresh waters of the nation’s streams and rivers and the Great Lakes contain dangerously high levels of PFOS”, a “known synthetic toxin phased out by the federal government. The level of PFOS found in one freshwater fish is equivalent to drinking a month of contaminated water. Nearly every fish across the country was contaminated, according to this study. Yikes!
So perhaps you want to switch to shrimp that has been farmed commercially to be safer to eat? Too bad for you, these shrimp farms are destroying mangrove forests which absorb carbon dioxide and protect coastal land from natural disasters. And that’s before we even get onto the topic of slave labor that is used to farm, peel and package the shrimp. And I won’t even go into how we have been altering the shrimp to produce more rapidly. Perhaps it’s time for some plant-based shrimp tasting alternatives?
Okay, let’s move on to vegetables. Did you know that there is a huge onion shortage in the Philippines? This is due to typhoons that destroyed crops in the region. Right now onions are almost three times more expensive than chicken there. This has led to onion smuggling, a phrase I had never conceived of before now.
On a partially related note, if you want to eat your contaminated fish, fake shrimp, or smuggled onions as takeout, let’s hope you’re not in England. The British government is “posed to ban certain single-use plastic products” including plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, cups, and food containers. These items do not decompose for hundreds of years, and the country wants to cut down on plastic pollution. More opportunities for creative entrepreneurs to offer convenience but also sustainability in your take-out utensils!
Finally, many downtown city areas have been struggling since so many people moved to remote work. One area being hard hit is my former stomping grounds – Newark, NJ. Without employees coming into the office area every day, the local restaurants are really struggling. So a Newark-based company Audible is offering “an app that redirects some of its corporate cafeteria budget to credits that workers can spend at a rotating selection of local eateries” on the days they do come into work. The goal is to expand this to more restaurants and more Newark-based businesses. Great way to support eating local!
My take: Lots of disruption and lots of opportunity in the world of food. I love to see innovation like that last story. And I am now wary of my beloved whitefish taco in Bayfield, with fresh fish from Lake Superior. Is it full of microplastics? Ack.
Two quick bonus stories since I can’t ever help myself:
#1: Talk about bad optics: The night before Microsoft laid off 10,000 people, the company’s top executives enjoyed a private concert with Sting in Davos.
#2: Brrr! Apparently, the latest trend, “the new power lunch” is a group ice bath? That doesn’t make any sense to me in so many ways! Who wants to have a meeting with their boss in a freezing cold bathtub? Proponents say it is refreshing and productive – and aid in mental clarity. That’s all well and good, but for goodness sake, this should not be a group event for business teams!
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