#140 The Truth About Self-Driving Cars

It's time to put the brakes on the hype about self-driving cars. Despite industry and media forecasts, it may be more than a decade before many fully autonomous vehicles are on the road. Lawsuits and patent disputes are among the many hurdles that face auto manufacturers and tech firms.

But this doesn't mean that technology is being thrown into reverse gear. Semi-autonomous cars with vehicle assist and other features are much safer than earlier generations of automobiles. Self-driving delivery trucks and vans are no longer a fantasy.

"Fix It" guest Eddie Alterman, Editor-in-Chief of Car and Driver magazine is deeply skeptical about the widely-touted changes proclaimed by major manufacturers. "It's a scary concept anyway you look at it," he tells us. "The autonomous car is a very inelegant, very complex and a very fraught solution to the problem of texting while driving... and of information coming into the car when people should be driving."

For Google, Apple, Microsoft and other big data companies, autonomous cars are a big opportunity. Instead of keeping their eyes on the road, motorists would use their driving time to consume more digital media. 

But Eddie says a mix of self-driving and traditional vehicles on the road would create danger. "People will deal with or accept flawed humans crashing into each other. I don't think people will accept supposedly fail-safe machines crashing into each other."

Solutions 

  • Understand the risks of mixing traditional cars with self-driving vehicles on the same roadway.
  • Promote the use of semi-autonomous background technology to make driving safer. Examples: cruise control, vehicle stability, lane departure warning systems.
  • Adopt autonomous vehicles in "closed" environments such as industrial sites.
  • Encourage car-sharing and other initiatives to reduce commute times.  
  • Resist the temptation to encourage drivers to surrender control of their time behind-the-wheel.

#136 Ending Sexual Harassment: Claire Cain Miller

The fight against sexual harassment was the hot topic in Hollywood at the Golden Globes Awards, with outspoken and inspiring remarks by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and others. But allegations of bullying or inappropriate behavior by powerful men are still being made almost every day.

 

Despite widespread outrage, little focus has been given to effective measures that can be taken by employers to reduce the number of cases and improve the workplace environment.

Our guest is journalist Claire Cain Miller, who writes about gender, families and the future of work for The Upshot, a New York Times site that covers policy and economics. She tells us what works and explains the challenges ahead in the fight for gender equality and respect. 

A recent survey found that nearly half of women said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment at work at least once in their careers. A 2015 study revealed that only one-quarter to a third of women who experience sexual harassment report it.

Solutions:
Empower bystanders to act, giving everyone the tools to help prevent harassment. Bystander training is still rare in corporate America, but it has been effectively used in the military and on college campuses.  In some cases, direct action may work. One example was Charles Sonder, in the Snackman case, who disrupted a fight on a New York subway train by standing between a couple and loudly eating chips. 

Other examples of how to disrupt harassment: Drop a book, ask the victim to come to a conference room or if they want to get coffee. Talk to the victim to make sure she is OK, You might say: “I noticed that happened. Are you alright with that?”

Encourage civility:  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission designed a program to create a culture of respect for everyone, such as spotlighting contributions by people who are marginalized. The program also offers helpful things to say in situations when you want to act but don’t know what to do.

Claire Cain Miller says frequent workplace training programs can help. Employees and managers should be encouraged to report harassment. Professor Ian Ayres of Yale Law School has written "information escrows"-- creative and safer ways to help harassment victims who may fear that reporting wrongdoing to harm their careers. 

Among other potential solutions: Gender equity with more women in senior executive positions; greater diversity in occupations now dominated by either men or women; generous workplace and family leave policies.

#135 What's Ahead in 2018: Richard and Jim's Forecast

2018 is certain to bring surprises. In this episode, Jim and Richard bravely venture out onto the high diving board of ideas and plunge into the pool of predictions. We also asked listeners and "How Do We Fix It?" guests for their forecasts of the year to come.

Well-known author and skeptic Michael Shermer says "2018 will be the best year in the history of humanity as measured by health, longevity, medicine, technology, science and culture."

Disruptive marketer and communications designer Geoff Colon tells us that "people are tired of how noisy the world has become. So I see more people deleting apps from their phones and spending less time in the Twitter-verse."

Jim and Richard give their predictions on the 2018 mid-term elections and the new tax code (they go out on a limb here). Both forecast troubled days ahead for Facebook, Google and other giant internet firms, as they run into a buzz saw of criticism over their business practices. 

On the international stage, Richard predicts the U.S. will continue its recent retreat from diplomacy and be weaker as a result.  China's strength will grow. Jim says U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley will be a shining star in the Republican party.  

What are your predictions? Go to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Tell us what you think, using the hashtag #FixItForecasts. Our Twitter i.d. is @fixitshow. Find us at "How Do We Fix It?" on Facebook and Instagram.

#132 The Truth About Robots: Peter Cappelli

Once again the alarm bells are ringing. A new study by the McKinsey Global Institutes estimates that within 12 years, up to 800 million of today's workers may be replaced by robots or some other form of automation.

Other recent research reports on the impact of technology are even more disturbing. A survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the professional services company, claims 38% of U.S. jobs are at high risk of being replaced by robots and artificial intelligence over the next 15 years.

But what if many experts are wrong? 

Peter Cappelli, Director for Human Resources at the Wharton School is our guest in this episode. His research is both contrarian and eye-opening. Peter has been named one of the most influential thinkers of the decade by HR Magazine, and is the author of "Why Good People Can't Get Jobs." 

In this episode, we discuss the paradox of the tax code, which gives incentives to companies to spend money on new technology INSTEAD of re-training workers. Peter also gives constructive insights into business culture and why it needs to change. 

#129 Fixes for Manufacturing: Krisztina "Z" Holly

This week we dismantle the myth that American manufacturing is in a death spiral. It’s not. Our guest is MIT-trained engineer and tech entrepreneur Krisztina “Z” Holly, host of the podcast, “The Art of Manufacturing."

Even as factory jobs have declined, manufacturing growth has surged during the past three decades. Manufacturing production grew 2.9% in October compared to 2016, according to the Federal Reserve. From construction equipment to food products and semiconductors, manufacturers are riding a tide of business optimism.

This episode looks at new innovations in manufacturing and how the future could be brighter.

In addition to her popular podcast, Z is Founder & Chief Instigator of LA Mayor Garcetti’s "Make it in in LA" manufacturing initiative.

#125 The Harvey Weinstein Sex Scandal: What Next? Anne Thompson

The public downfall of film boss, Harvey Weinstein raises deep questions about the culture of Hollywood and its longstanding tolerance of sexual misbehavior by powerful men.

Rumors about Weinstein's outrageous behavior had been an open secret in Hollywood for years. But Weinstein, a king of independent film, was able to cow the media, and had the power to break the careers of any women who dared go public with complaints.

All that changed recently when a New York Times investigation uncovered dozens of allegations that Weinstein had engaged in rampant sexual harassment. A deeply reported article in The New Yorker included additional accounts of coercive behavior and sexual assaults on the part of the studio chief.

Anne Thompson, Editor-at-Large for the movie-news site, Indiewire, is our guest. Anne is a veteran entertainment journalist who has worked for the Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and Entertainment Weekly. She's the author of the book, "The $11 Billion Year: From Sundance to The Oscars."

This episode looks at why so many women spoke out now and outlines ways that the entertainment business—and other industries—can become less tolerant of abuse. We look at the explosive growth of the #metoo movement on social media and examine tools victims can use to fight back. Thompson argues that it is possible to change Hollywood's abusive culture and that the Weinstein scandal provides an opportunity for change.