Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Arrrgh, I Was Going To Title This "Neener, Neener, The Really Big Item Izabella Kaminska Forgot In Her Autonomous Taxi Post"

And then I got to her "Additional notes and caveats:".
I might as well just go directly to plan B, cat videos.

Let me start over and attempt to sound somewhat rational
At the 2014 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting Warren Buffett said:
“That is a real threat to the auto insurance industry”. 
“If [self-driving cars] prove successful and reduce accidents dramatically, it will be very good for society and very bad for auto insurers.”
Which of course got me thinking about other effects that might not be readily apparent and which might be gamed to squeeze a buck or two from the passing parade.

Fast forward a year and some bright folks writing on the Brookings Institution's dime put together "Local government 2035: Strategic trends and implications of new technologies"

In a nutshell, because tickets and fines are a large source of revenue for many communities, the threat posed by accident-and even-infraction-free vehicles to the municipal business model was very serious.
This came out in May 2015 and, although we were aware of it within days of the report's release, we tucked it in the PDF server for that time Izabella wrote the almost definitive piece on autonomous taxis.
(okay the truth is it was to shake down some cities for consulting fees)

You'll find Ms. Kaminska's piece after this vid on mental illness:

Winner of the prestigious Kitty d'Or, Internet Cat Video Festival, 2014 
For the truly obsessed, ShoKo homepage.

From FT Alphaville:

Do the economics of self-driving taxis actually make sense?

Financial blogger Frances Coppola runs through how and why the “sharing economy” is grossly mis-representing itself to consumers by daring to suggest it’s anything but a traditional for-profit — or more pertinently rentier — enterprise.
From Coppola: 
Indeed the whole idea of the “sharing economy” seems to be based not on the idea of working together to produce something for mutual benefit (the cooperative principle) but on millions of people scraping a living by selling services and renting assets to each other. How does this add value to the economy over the longer term? There is no production. It is entirely consumption. Recycling is all very well – and we do need secondary markets – but we cannot build an economy solely on sweating existing assets. An economy that exists solely on consumption has no long-term future. 
Which of course fits perfectly into the bigger productivity puzzle striking economies everywhere. 
As we’ve argued before, one of the reasons you can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics is arguably because rather than incentivising real growth and the creation of new wealth — you know, the sort which helps more people get exclusive access to the sort of stuff the one per cent takes for granted — information technology may only be redistributing existing stuff “more efficiently”. 
Except that this sort of efficiency isn’t costless. The hidden costs include potential data serfdom, the need to forecast one’s behaviours ever earlier to the “information system” so it can pre-emptively account for you in the style of an HFT algorithm, and/or increased dependency on marketing and reactance techniques to ensure you simply won’t want the stuff that the system can’t afford to give you. 
But we digress. 
The most under appreciated cost may in fact be the disappearance of professionals and highly-skilled labourers from the economy, and their replacement with shabby generalists. 
As Coppola notes, such a loss inevitably leads to a “shabby economy”, where the frugal generalist “makes do and mends” and where no-one buys anything unless they absolutely have to and everyone is running down existing assets instead:
The sharing technology may be innovative, but the economic vision underlying it is stagnation, not prosperity. 
We argued back in July for example that the way Airbnb actually differentiates itself in the hospitality market is largely by throwing amateurs at the professional hospitality market. Which is fine, if you don’t care much for professional hospitality. But it’s not so great if you do, because the service certainly doesn’t augment the availability of professional hospitality services. 
That’s not to say that Airbnb doesn’t provide established hoteliers, short-term renters and B&B professionals with a competing advertising portal to market their services. That it certainly does. But that’s not the aspect of the business considered to be innovative or game changing — since online marketing hubs have existed for a long time and this, at best, is just another attempt to create a competing network effect. 
No, the supposedly game-changing element of Airbnb’s model is providing amateur hospitality hosts with the impression they too can make steady profits from renting rooms like professionals. Hosts, who by and large, want to have their cake and eat it: namely, rent rooms at premium short-term let rates without any of the hospitality burden or hassle. 
Except, as any professional holiday short-term lettings business will tell you, there’s more to short-term letting. than just handing over keys on changeover day. Profits don’t come easy. There are a lot of costs to be accounted for ranging from cleaning, laundry, maintenance, damage, supervision and insurance to personal touches like fresh flowers to the sharing of local knowledge....