The Sad History of Google Messaging; Musk Admits Tesla A.I. Needs Work

It’s the weekend! Before you sign off, let’s explore some of the big stories from the week you might have missed, including a fun dive into Google’s checkered history of messaging products, plus Elon Musk making a startling declaration about Tesla A.I. Let’s jump in!

Elon Musk Admits Tesla A.I. Needs Work

Tesla CEO Elon Musk just did the impossible: Admit that something rolled out by his company isn’t perfect.

In an August 24 Tweet, Musk suggested that the latest beta of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) tech “is actually not great imo.” If that wasn’t enough, he suggested that the platform “requires massive [neural network] retraining.”

Tesla’s self-driving system relies on optical cameras to sense the road, without the additional input from lidar and radar that rival platforms depend upon, and that puts far more pressure on the vehicles’ A.I. systems to accurately read the environment. Nonetheless, Musk usually predicts that Tesla’s autopilot will possess human-like driving abilities within the next few years, at most. 

In light of that, Musk’s admission that something isn’t 110 percent awesome is pretty astounding. It might also have something to do with the recent announcement that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating whether Tesla’s self-driving system is responsible for 11 crashes involving first-responder vehicles such as ambulances and fire trucks. Does Musk hope that a few statements about Tesla’s difficulties with A.I. will somehow appease the U.S. government?

Apple Employees Attempting to Organize 

Over the past few years, employees at some of the nation’s biggest tech companies have protested over everything from diversity to military contracts. Apple is no exception, and a small group of employees have recently launched a website and Twitter feed designed to highlight what they say is a culture of intimidation within certain parts of the company. 

“The truth is that for many Apple workers … the culture of secrecy creates an opaque, intimidating fortress,” reads that website. “When we press for accountability and redress to the persistent injustices we witness or experience in our workplace, we are faced with a pattern of isolation, degradation, and gaslighting. No more. We’ve exhausted all internal avenues. We’ve talked with our leadership. We’ve gone to the People team. We’ve escalated through Business Conduct. Nothing has changed. It’s time to Think Different.” (Hat tip to The Verge for the link.)

Right now, only 15 (current and former) employees seem to be part of this effort. However, it’s helpful to remember that small efforts at other companies (such as Google) eventually snowballed into much bigger movements. 

16 Years of Messaging Weirdness 

Speaking of Google, Ars Technica has a fun feature detailing all the search engine giant’s attempts at creating a cohesive messaging platform over the past decade and a half. From Google Buzz to Google Hangouts to Google Assistant Messages, it’s an epic tale of the ridiculous, the useful, and the unfairly killed (hey, some of us loved Google Buzz!). It’s an excellent lesson in what not to do when creating a product line to serve a particular need. 

That’s it, everyone! Have a great weekend!