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Cringely Pans Self-Driving Car Hype, Says They’re Years Away

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In what may be his final year of technology predictions, columnist Robert X. Cringely argues “I can’t say that we’re going to see anything beyond more beta tests of self-driving cars in 2019… We simply aren’t ready and probably won’t be for years to come….”

“The problem isn’t with the self-driving cars, it’s with the cars that aren’t self-driving, cars that are driven by idiots like me.”
It will eventually happen. Once half the fleet has been replaced with cars that could be self-drivers if we allowed them to be, then there will be a huge financial incentive to get the other half off the street. This will be especially the case if climate change is still accelerating. I’m guessing that most cars from 2020-on could be self-driving with only a software upgrade, which is why Elon Musk is predicting Tesla will have full autonomy by the end of 2019. But notice that Elon isn’t predicting Tesla will be allowed to have its cars drive themselves everywhere…

So why is the world talking so much about self-driving cars and full autonomy? Some of it is Tesla hype, some of it is marketing as the car companies try to get us to buy cars that will eventually be self-driving, but probably not until their second owners. And the other reason why we’re talking so much about self-driving cars is because Uber is planning to go public later this year…an IPO that will go smoother if the driving public thinks autonomous cars are something that we’ll be seeing soon. Uber has a labor problem. If it can spin a story that surly and expensive human drivers are soon to be replaced with electrons, that will be very reassuring to Wall Street. But as I explained, it also isn’t true.

The world isn’t yet ready — something Uber and Tesla and all the others will suddenly admit in about a year (post-IPO).
Cringely also argues that the problem isn’t just the “millions of drivers who are still controlling their vehicles the old fashion way, which is often in a barely competent fashion…”

“We keep our cars longer because they don’t rust and we can’t afford to replace them so often. The result is that while we could expect a complete turnover in car technology every decade, now it takes closer to two decades.”

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Ramaphosa enters the fray in fight between Gordhan and Mkhwebane | News | National

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has entered the fray in the battle between Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. 

On Monday, he filed urgent court papers against the public protector, asking the court to declare that he had complied with the remedial action she directed in her recent report about the pension pay out of former deputy South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Ivan Pillay.

Ramaphosa’s application comes after correspondence between the two became increasingly tense with Mkhwebane saying Ramaphosa was on the verge of precipitating a “constitutional crisis” and accusing him of conduct that was “ostensibly contemptuous” of her office.

In his court papers, Ramaphosa admonished her for trying to dictate to him and badgering him.

The report at issue concerned the approval by Gordhan, when he was finance minister, of an early pension payout for Pillay, which she had found to be irregular.

In her report, Mkhwebane directed Ramaphosa to take note of her findings and take appropriate disciplinary action against Gordhan.
However, Gordhan has taken the case to court on review, prompting the president to await its outcome before taking disciplinary steps.

In his affidavit, Ramaphosa said it was “unfortunate” that he had to bring the case to court — “in circumstances where I believe it is wholly unnecessary” and that the case was brought as a “measure of last resort”.

However, it was necessary to obtain legal certainty on what his obligations are — as the president believed he had complied with Mkhwebane’s report, but she believed he had not.

In the context of “the political climate” the case “will unfortunately feed into the unfounded narrative that the State (and its institutions) is at war with itself,” Ramaphosa said.

“It is a constitutionally unpalatable state of affairs to have the Public Protector, the Minister (and now, the President) being embroiled in litigation against each other.” However this case was “not a political matter, but solely a legal one,” he explained.

Ramaphosa said he believed he had complied with Mkhwebanes’s order because he had indeed taken note of the findings in this report — as directed. And, since the nature and the timing of the disciplinary action was left to his discretion, the appropriate course was to await the outcome of the court case brought by Gordhan. He informed her of all of this in the implementation plan — as she had directed him to provide, he said.

“I accept the binding nature of the Public Protector’s reports and remedial actions. I accept that the Report is under review but that this does not stay the implementation of the remedial action, in the absence of a court order,” he said.

In her correspondence, Mkhwebane said she deduced from his letter that he had decided not to implement her remedial action, that this was a “foregone conclusion as [wa]s merely based on [the Minister’s] assertions”.

In a later letter, the public protector said that Ramaphosa was willfully not complying with her remedial action, had acted in a way that was “ostensibly contemptuous” of her office and was breaching his constitutional duties.

Mkhwebane implored the president to take “better legal advice” to avert a constitutional crisis and “take the country many steps backward (i.e. to the pre-Nkandla judgment days)”. If he did not comply it would set a bad precedent, she added.

She demanded implementation “as a matter of urgency and preferably by no later than Friday 12 July 2019”.

In his affidavit, Ramaposa said this time limit was “contrary to the express terms of the remedial action. This constitutes an impermissible attempt to revise the report”.

He then instructed to the state attorney to send her a letter.

Ramaphosa said his disciplinary action, which could take any number of forms, had to be rational — and what was appropriate would depend on what the review court found.

“With complete deference to the Public Protector …. The president ought not to be dictated to or badgered, on matters that lie within the exclusive heart and preserve of executive power”.

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Gartner, IDC Agree that PC Sales Are Up — But They Don’t Agree What a PC Is

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We’ve been hearing for quite some time that the traditional PC is dying, but it’s not quite dead yet. Business analyst firms Gartner and IDC tackle the numbers differently, but both agree that sales of traditional PCs were up — in some regions, way up — in Q2 2019. From a report: While both firms reported market growth in year-on-year PC sales, their actual figures differed. IDC reported a 4.7% growth in Q2 sales, where Gartner only reported 1.5%. The two firms’ numbers for US regional sales differed even more sharply, with Gartner claiming a 0.4% loss and IDC claiming a “high single digit gain.” We spoke to IDC’s Jitesh Ubrani about the difference, and it turns out the two companies don’t quite agree on what is or is not a traditional PC. IDC counts Chromebooks as traditional PCs but doesn’t count Microsoft Surface tablets; Gartner does count Surface but doesn’t count Chromebooks. The higher numbers from IDC indicate a stronger market for Chromebooks than Surface, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone with children in North American schools, where the inexpensive and easily locked-down Chromebooks are ubiquitous.

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Sifiso Skenjana: Here’s how corporates can help beat poverty in SA

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Government has done a lot of work in
trying to reduce the incidence of poverty in the country, but structures that
remain continue to create a barrier for its effective reduction.

In fact, poverty and inequality have
worsened materially, with South Africa being ranked as the most unequal country
in the world according to the 2018 World Bank report, Overcoming Poverty and
Inequality in South Africa.
An Oxfam inequality report in January this
anchored these findings, reporting that the percentage of people living in
poverty had increased by 11% between 2011 and 2015.

This has necessitated the growing urgency to
viewing poverty in a multidimensional way, to ensure that we have a more
comprehensive understanding of both the drivers as well as the remedy
opportunities for poverty incidence and inequality.

Poverty has for many years been defined primarily
by the money metric – how much money people survive on (or not) per month.
Recent multidimensional poverty studies have found other factors, like health,
education and access, physical and social isolation, lack of asset possession
and access to services and feelings of vulnerability, powerlessness and
helplessness as all contributing factors to the incidence of poverty. (Woolard
and Leibbrandt, 1999:3; World Bank, 2000:18; Philip and Rayhan, 2004:1)

Therefore, the opportunity here is not only for
companies to start paying their staff fair wages, but to also lead the work in
supporting their staff with a view to mitigate the multidimensional poverty
factors. I have often lamented that private sector ought to lead policy
development, and government acts as an agent whose duty is to create the
legislative and institutional framework for a sustainable implementation of
that policy.

Wages and healthcare

Large corporates should by now have nurses that
provide both preventative and remedial healthcare services at their work
premises. In addition, the extent of wage inequality by race and gender as well
as the concept of working poor have been broadly researched and remain
parasitically prevalent in South Africa. One in four workers currently earning
at the minimum wage of R3 500 are accounted for in the low-wage poverty rate.

Research from the Living Wage Foundation found
that worker absenteeism dropped by as much as 25% when employees were paid a
living wage. Occupational Care South Africa (OCSA) estimates that the country
loses up to R16bn per year due to absenteeism, while the Human Capital Review,
estimates this number slightly higher at R19bn annually.

Presenteeism (when workers come to work when
they are sick but should be home trying to get well) is reported to cost the
country more than four times what absenteeism costs, which means this number
can go up to the region of R80bn annually.

Education, nutrition and food security

Hunger has a negative impact on employee
productivity and health. Everybody loves freebies, but most actually love them
because they need them. A study by the International Labour Office (ILO) found
that poor diet on the job results in as much as a 20% drop in productivity.

Corporates must also undertake to prioritise
education, skills development and capacity building in their staff who are
currently working poor. We know that skills are particularly scarce in South
Africa, and a skills investment in favour of your most vulnerable workers will
go a long way in both reducing inequality and poverty incidence.

Organisations ought to do their own poverty
assessment for their employees and ensure that those who are the poorest are
supported out of poverty, taking a multidimensional view of the factors driving
poverty in the first place.

Imagine (yes, Mr President, I am also a
dreamer) the scale of the impact this kind of corporate citizenry would have on
their own productivity and profitability as well as the lives of those working
poor. Corporates do indeed set the tone for the policies that ultimately get
developed, and this is a challenge for them to take the lead and close the
development gaps born out of poverty in South Africa.

Sifiso Skenjana is founder and financial economist at AFRA Consultants. He specialises in economic policy research, investment strategy and advisory services. He is currently pursuing his PhD. Views expressed are his own.

Follow him on Twitter: @sifiso_skenjana

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