Category Archives: Technology and Society

The Google Lunar X-Prize

There’s a lot of talk today about their having “extended” the deadline to March 31 of next year. I have a clarification in email from Katherine Schelbert:

To clarify, this is not an extension. In this case, this is more of a re-focus. The most recent Dec 31, 2017 date was established as the date by which teams needed to initiate a launch, and was used as a means to down select to the current 5 finalists. Now, what is more important to teams, who all have different mission profiles (and paths to the moon, length of time in orbit) is the deadline by which they need to complete the mission, which is now the only date that matters. This competition is designed to not just inspire teams to launch, but to complete the mission, which is also why we are further incentivizing teams with the in-space Milestone Prizes, which are important achievements that will occur post-launch, on the way to fulfilling the competition requirements.

FWIW.

New Leadership At NASA

Apparently it’s going to be Jim Bridenstine as administrator, and former Chief of Staff John Schumacher as his Deputy. This is much better news than if Lightfoot had been given the job. Bridenstine told me in February that he had read my book. He will continue to pay lip service to SLS as long as seems politically necessary, but I think he knows what a programmatic disaster it is.

Next Launch

The Cape has been quiet for a few weeks while undergoing needed modernization. But things are about to pick up, with today’s SpaceX CRS launch less than an hour away. If they don’t get it off today, they’ll have to wait another five days, due to EVA scheduling issues and other things. You can watch here.

[Post-launch update]

Another successful launch, and perfect landing. Mission won’t be complete until Dragon delivers its cargo to ISS, then returns to earth, but it’s off to another good start.

Google’s CEO

A question:

Given that the full text of the memo is public, that it is the subject of a national debate on an important subject, that many educated people disagree with one another about what claims it made, and that clarity can only help Google employees adhere to the company’s rules going forward, would you be willing to highlight the memo using green to indicate the “much” that you identified as “fair to debate” and red to flag the “portions” that you deemed Code-of-Conduct violations?

He can’t do that, because a) he doesn’t know himself and b) maintaining uncertainty is a key element of totalitarian thought control.

[Update a couple minutes later]

The Google Archipelago: A nice round up of links from Ed Driscoll.

[Updatea a while later]

This whole thing is so rife with irony. Google may regret being a California company:

Dan Eaton, an employment lawyer, in San Diego wrote on CNBC: “Federal labour law bars even non-union employers like Google from punishing an employee for communicating with fellow employees about improving working conditions … California law prohibits employers from threatening to fire employees to get them to adopt or refrain from adopting a particular political course of action.”

He also said” “It is unlawful for an employer to discipline an employee for challenging conduct that the employee reasonably believed to be discriminatory, even when a court later determines the conduct was not actually prohibited by the discrimination laws.”

Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

[Monday-morning update]

Cathy Young has an interview with Damore, in which he provides his influencers. I’m probably going to write up something on this myself at some point. There are so many issues to unpack.

[Update early afternoon]

Yes, Pichai should go, but that’s not enough:

When you use Facebook or Google (or Twitter, or Amazon, or Netflix) you’re sharing a lot of data with a company that you have to trust won’t abuse that. It’s much harder to trust a company that has decided to aggressively pursue thoughtcrime. And it doesn’t matter where you are on the political spectrum – Damore describes himself as a centrist. But it only takes one politically incorrect utterance, as so many in academia have learned, to achieve Enemy Of The People status. And then, apparently, you’re fair game.

Can you trust a self-driving car from Google, if some new company policy might reprogram it to avoid events Google doesn’t approve? Can you trust Google to prevent its (apparently many) “social-justice warrior” employees from trawling through your personal data looking for dirt, and then leaking it?

As Robert Tracinski writes, this is the big danger for Google: “The most dangerous part is that they are now beginning to be seen by the public (or revealed, depending on how you look at it) as politicized entities. Politicized entities to whom we are giving enormous amounts of data on our lives, thoughts and interests.”

There should, at a minimum, be Congressional hearings.