Have you ever felt like, as a CEO, you’re being pulled in many directions at once? You’re simultaneously working on multiple projects – “multi-tasking” but the results aren’t up to par. Here’s an excellent article by Josh Kaufmann in his book The Personal MBA that could really help.
What Is ‘Monoidealism’?
Monoidealism is the state of focusing your energy and attention only on one thing. It’s often called a “flow” state: clear, focused attention on one subject for a long period of time.
Here’s how to induce a Monoideal state:
Eliminate potential distractions and interruptions.
Eliminate inner conflicts.
Kick-start the attention process by doing a “dash” of productive work to get into the flow quickly. You can stop after that dash, but chances are you’ll keep going.
If you eliminate distractions and conflicts before you start your dash, you’ll quickly transition into a Monideal state.
Josh Kaufman Explains ‘Monoidealism’
Much has been written in the past few years about the subject of productivity-how to get more done.
When we’re trying to “be productive,” what exactly are we shooting for? Ideally, you want to focus the full powers of your energy and attention on a single subject at a time.
Monoidealism is the state of focusing your energy and attention on only one thing, without conflicts.
Monoidealism is often called a “flow” state, a term coined by psychologist Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi. This is the state of human attention at its most productive: clear, focused attention and effort directed at one (and only one) subject for an extended period of time.
PJ Eby, a former computer programmer who specializes in helping people use their minds more productively, defines Monoidealism this way:
When somebody says ‘just do it,’ they are trying to communicate that you should not do anything else.
It might better be phrased as, ’Do it, without thinking about anything, not even about what you’re doing.
In fact, don’t even do it, just watch yourself doing it, but don’t actually try to do anything.
Properly, “monoidealism” is simply the state in which you have exactly one thing on your mind, with no Conflicts.
It’s a condition that results in one naturally taking action in relation to the thought, rather than a technique in and of itself. The usefulness of a particular productivity technique for a particular individual will largely depend on whether it addresses their particular stumbling blocks in achieving a monoideal state.
When you’re “just doing it,” you’re in “flow”-a Monoideal state. There are no distractions, no interruptions, no self-judgments or doubts. When your mind is in 100% “do” mode, you inevitably get a lot done.
So how exactly do you get yourself into a Monoideal state? First, eliminate potential distractions and interruptions. Depending on the level of cognitive activity required to complete your work, it’ll take ten to thirty minutes before your mind becomes absorbed in what you’re doing.
Phone calls, co-workers “dropping by to pick your brain,” and other unanticipated demands on your attention will break your Monoideal state, so priority #1 is ensuring you don’t get distracted.
I often use earplugs or play instrumental music to eliminate background noise, and disconnect the phone when I don’t want to be interrupted. Turning off my Internet connection (see Willpower Depletion) while I’m writing also makes it much easier for me to maintain a Monoideal state. Otherwise, I’m way too likely to browse the Web when the going gets tough. Using similar Guiding Structure techniques is a good way to prevent your attention from straying.
Second, eliminate inner conflicts. Sometimes it’s difficult to get started because you’re experiencing a Conflict between two control systems in your mind.
Eliminating these conflicts before you start working helps you achieve a Monoideal state much more quickly. If you feel resistance to getting started, it’s useful to spend some time and energy exploring that conflict more deeply before you keep working.
While writing this book, I experienced several periods of frustrating resistance.
Instead of trying to ignore the resistance or push through it (a surefire way to experience Willpower Depletion), exploring that resistance using Mental Simulation and Reinterpretation helped me uncover a hidden conflict: I wasn’t happy with how my work was turning out, and doing more of what wasn’t working would be a waste. Spending some time revising the structure of the book resolved that conflict, simultaneously making the book better and eliminating the source of the resistance.
Third, kick-start the attention process by doing a “dash.” Since it can take ten to thirty minutes to get into the zone, setting aside 10-30 minutes for a quick burst of focused work can make it much easier to get into the zone quickly. If you’re not productive by the time the dash is over, you have permission to stop and do something else.
That’s rarely the case: once you get started, it’s easy to keep going.
One technique I often use is called the Pomodoro Technique, named by its creator, Francesco Cirillo, after those funny little kitchen timers shaped like a tomato (“pomodoro” in Italian).
Here’s how the technique works: set a kitchen timer for twenty-five minutes. You job is to focus on a single task for the entire duration-if you get stuck, keep focusing until the timer goes off. After the twenty-five-minute work period is over, you can take a five-minute break, bringing the total duration half an hour-a block of time any of us can fit into our schedule here and there.
What I love about the Pomodoro Technique is that it accomplishes two goals at once: it makes it easy to get started, and it gives you permission to ignore distractions. Even if you’re not excited about what you need to do, saying to yourself “it’s only 25 minutes” is a great way to overcome the initial resistance of getting started.
The Pomodoro Technique is also a good excuse to ignore distractions: if the phone rings, reminding yourself that “a Pomodoro is indivisible” is an effective way to give yourself permission to ignore it, maintaining your monoideal state.
If you eliminate distractions and conflicts before you start your dash, you’ll naturally transition into a monoideal state a few minutes into the work period.
Meditation is a form of monoidealism “resistance training.” Simple meditations like focusing on your breathing, then consciously (and non-judgmentally) bringing your focus back to your breath if and when your attention strays is a way to consciously practice the skills used to maintain your attention in the face of distractions.
As little as 10 minutes of simple meditation every day can dramatically improve your ability to focus.
Questions About ‘Monoidealism’
How often do you find yourself working in a monoideal state?
Using the techniques above, can you restructure your work to make it easier to ‘just do it’?
Akrasia is the experience of knowing an action would be in your best interest… but you don’t do it. Akrasia is one of the most widespread and persistent barriers to getting things done.
Josh Kaufman Explains ‘Akrasia’
In one of his most famous standup comedy routines, Jerry Seinfeld describes his difficulties going to bed:
“I never get enough sleep. I stay up late at night, cause I’m Night Guy. Night Guy wants to stay up late. ‘What about getting up after five hours sleep?’ That’s Morning Guy’s problem. That’s not my problem, I’m Night Guy. I stay up as late as I want. So you get up in the morning, you’re exhausted, groggy… Night Guy always screws Morning Guy. There’s nothing Morning Guy can do. The only thing Morning Guy can do is try and oversleep often enough so that Day Guy loses his job and Night Guy has no money to go out anymore.”
The routine is funny because it’s so familiar. All of us have had the experience of knowing or feeling that we should do something, or that an action is would be in our best interest… but we don’t do it. The term for that experience is Akrasia (pronounced “ah-KRAH-see-ah”).
Akrasia and procrastination are related, but they’re not the same thing. Procrastination occurs when you’ve decided to complete a task, but you keep putting it off until later without consciously deciding to do it later. If you have “answer email” on your to-do list, but you browse the internet for hours without answering any email, that’s procrastination.
Akrasia is a deeper issue: it’s a general feeling that you “should” do something, without necessarily deciding to do it. The “should” feeling doesn’t lead to decision or action, even if the action seems to be in your best interest. Most people experience Akrasia when considering changing Habits they no longer want (“I should quit smoking,”) taking a new action (“I should donate to that nonprofit,”) or contemplating an uncomfortable topic (“I should look into life insurance and talk to a lawyer to write a will.”) The “should” feeling sticks around, but never leads to action, generating intense frustration.
Akrasia is a very old problem: discussions about the source of Akrasia go back to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The term comes from the Greek ἀκρασία, which means “lacking command (over oneself).” Socrates and Plato believed that Akrasia was a moral defect, while Aristotle argued that it stems from a mistaken opinion about what a person “should” do. Even though philosophers have been debating the topic for centuries, they haven’t discovered a cure.
Akrasia is one of the most widespread and persistent barriers to getting things done. In order to spend your time making progress vs. fighting both sides of a battle of will, it’s useful to have a strategy for recognizing and combatting Akrasia when your recognize it.
In my experience, Akrasia has four general parts: a task, a desire/want, a “should,” and an emotional experience of resistance. Within this framework, there can be many potential sources of resistance:
You can’t define what you want.
You feel the task will bring you closer to something you don’t want.
You can’t figure out how you’re going to get from where you are right now to where you want to be.
You idealize the desired End Result to the point your mind estimates a low probability of achievement, resulting in Loss Aversion.
A competing action in the current Environment promises immediate gratification, while the reward of the task in question will come much later. (Psychologists call this “hyperbolic discounting.”)
The benefits of the action are abstract and distant, while other possible actions will provide concrete and immediate benefits. (Psychologists call this “construal level theory” or “near/far” thinking.)
Akratic situations can take many forms: eating a cookie vs. “becoming healthier” by sticking to a diet. Browsing the web vs. exercising. Staying in a bad relationship vs. moving on. Dreaming about a new business idea vs. testing it. Whenever you “should” do something, but resist doing it, you’re experiencing Akrasia.
Akrasia is a slippery problem, and there’s no easy, universal solution. That said, there are many strategies and techniques that are useful in preventing and resolving akratic situations, which we discuss in Chapter 7: Working With Yourself.
In my opinion, high-performing CEOs are masters in 2 areas: Working with Self and Working with Others. There’s a set of skills and habits we can all learn and apply in our quest to achieve mastery in these areas.
This series will deep dive into these skill sets and include specific and implementable exercises so we can all achieve mastery of ourselves (frequently our biggest enemy 🙂 and in our interactions with others.
Working With Yourself
“To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet, dramatist, and polymath
Your body and mind are the tools you use to get things done. Learning how to work with yourself makes accomplishing what you set out to achieve easier and more enjoyable.
In today’s busy business environment, it’s easy to get stressed about everything that needs to be done. Learning how to work effectively and efficiently can be the difference between a fulfilling career and a draining one.
In this chapter, we’ll discuss how to decide what to do, set and achieve goals, track your daily tasks, overcome resistance, and consistently get more productive work done without burning out.
Who here is scrambling around in the aftermath of the recent breach at Equifax to figure out if you’ve been compromised? Who here is wondering what to do about it if you are? If you’re one of the 143 million Americans whose data was accessed by cybercriminals, then you probably raised your hand.
Even if you weren’t one of the 143 million, you might still want to take some precautions. You could instead be part of the millions of folks who’ve had their data stolen over the course of online history. Basically, if you have a social security number, have ever run a credit check, or have a pulse, you should listen up. Why? Two words: identity theft.
What could happen?
The Equifax breach gave criminals access to vital personal information, including names, social security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and in some cases, driver’s license IDs and credit card numbers. And here’s just a slice of what those jerks can do with that data:
Open financial accounts
Apply for credit cards, mortgages, and other financial services
The better question might be, who isn’t? Don’t worry about verifying if your data was stolen—assume it was stolen. This is a decent rule of thumb even before the Equifax breach, but even if that thought never crossed your mind, it’s pretty impossible to verify whether you’ve been impacted at the moment.
The Equifax verification site is currently not returning accurate information. And if you try calling the company now, you might be met with some long waiting times to receive frustratingly vague answers. So if you want to act quickly (and we recommend you do), just bypass the first four stages of grief and go directly to acceptance.
What we do know: Those affected by the breach are predominantly from the US, but there are people from Canada and the UK impacted as well. Some methods that work in one country may not work in others, so please keep in mind that this article is aimed at our US readers. International readers can find some additional information about what to do here.
Steps to protect yourself
Our recommendation is to freeze your credit immediately with all four of the major credit bureaus. By freezing your credit, you’ll prevent criminals from trying to open up new accounts in your name—all of your current credit cards will still work. You’ll only need to consider unfreezing your credit if you want to apply for a loan, open a new credit card, or make any type of purchase that requires a check on your credit.
Three things you’ll want to know before contacting the credit bureaus.
One: You’ll want to pull a credit report. You can get a free report here. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already frozen your accounts, you can still monitor using the free tool. We recommend you pull only one report now, another one in four months, and the third in another four months. It’s not foolproof, but it will allow you to see different reports throughout the year to track any potential changes.
Two: the cost is minimal. While reports have varied—Equifax is offering their credit freeze for free, but it’s pretty hard to get through to them—freezing credit usually only costs a one-time fee of $10 per bureau. That’s 20 or 30 bucks for a whole lot of peace of mind.
Three: You must set or receive PINs when freezing your credit. Save these in a secure location, whether that’s using a password manager or physically storing the printed PIN paper someplace safe and out of sight.
The use of additional monitoring services is entirely up to you. The biggest issue is that both legitimate companies trying to help and scammer companies trying to trick will over-hype the danger of identity theft in order to make a sale. Please make sure that you do your homework and research on these companies before signing up blindly out of fear.
When looking up information about how to protect yourself in situations like these, look to sites like the Federal Trade Commission or other technology publications such as Wired, The Verge, or Vice’s Motherboard, as they won’t be trying to upsell you to credit protection you may or may not need. The wrong company might actually hurt your ability to stave off ID theft.
General best practices
We wish we could say that the above advice is going to save you from all the dangers associated with this breach. For credit theft, you are covered, but for all the other threats associated with scammers or fraudsters looking to capitalize on this situation, here are some additional guides on how to avoid their traps.
Be on the alert for credit scams or any related terms. You’ll see these in emails, ads on social sites or games, and even physical mail to your home. These attacks are part of what we refer to as social engineering, and they will run rampant for many months and years to come. Always be skeptical, and if you’re not sure about something, ask a professional.
Phone or text scams
Since your data was most likely taken, that means your numbers will be shared even more than they already are today. Calls and texts from unknown numbers, numbers with similar area codes, or numbers very similar to yours should be treated as potential scams.
You might think that the National Do Not Call Registry would protect you from this. Sadly, it does not. It offers protection from legitimate companies trying to solicit your business. It does not offer protection against scammers. (Because why would criminals follow the law, anyway?)
my Social Security account
The my Social Security account allows you to keep track of the social security funds you’ll be collecting in the future. Although it was not affected by the Equifax breach, it’s good practice to get this account set up in your name, as someone else could easily grab it and you’d be locked out of your future payments. One caveat: If you want to set up this account, you’ll need to do it before you freeze your credit. (Otherwise they can’t confirm your identity through the account.)
Passwords and two-factor authentication
Ensure you’re using smart password strategy (complex, do not repeat them, do not use the same one across multiple sites/services, etc.) and if available, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on every account possible. You can check the 2FA availability on your sites and services here.
Enable alerts on your accounts
While your current accounts shouldn’t be impacted by this breach, it’s never a bad idea to keep an eye on your bank accounts and credit cards for larger purchases. For accounts rarely used, you could set alerts to $1 so you’re notified the second any transaction happens. For regular accounts, set the alerts to a dollar amount that would seem out of place for that card, whether it’s $20 or $500.
New phone accounts
A common attack vector with credit/personal data breaches is to purchase new phone accounts through your provider, with your account! Once criminals have your info, they’ll call up the phone company and say they want to add a new line but don’t have a PIN number. If you haven’t set up a PIN number with your phone company already, they have no way to verify your account. So guess what? BAM! There’s a new phone on your bill. In order to protect yourself from this type of attack, go ahead and set up a PIN with your provider.
File these as soon as possible next year! For multiple years we’ve heard about victims of tax return fraud, wherein a scammer using your personal information files YOUR return before you can. So don’t wait on this one.
If you’re affected by the Equifax breach, you have a heightened risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. But at this juncture, the point is moot. Since it’s difficult to discover a definitive answer, it’s best to assume you are and deal with the fallout.
We’ve given you some direction on what to do to avoid identity theft and credit fraud, and we hope you take a deep breath, crack your neck, and get to work nailing your personal info down. One new credit card created by an attacker in your name is going to cause a massive headache. Better to stay ahead of it than spend the next month trying to convince a bank that you didn’t open an account. Good luck, be vigilant and stay safe.
Increasing productivity in a small business or SME is not about having engineers or design consultants flood into a business with expensive, hard to implement ideas and changes. Increasing productivity in a small business or SME is taking a simple, methodical approach in making changes to everyday systems affecting a business. Multiple small improvements have a synergistic effect that can greatly improve productivity and, ultimately, net profit.When the word “productivity” is used, many associate the word strictly with automated processes. While this can certainly be the case, productivity involves more than automated processes of people and machinery.
Try these techniques to increase productivity:
Streamline meetings – All businesses have meetings. They are a necessity to communicate, gain consensus, generate new ideas, etc. Meetings, however, can waste time and be counter-productive if not conducted properly. To make a least favorite work routine (at times) into a more productive and efficient use of everyone’s time, do the following:
• Plan ahead and stay on schedule
• Keep meetings as short as possible
• Make notes for future research and follow-up
• Thoroughly cover scheduled topics
• Be clear and concise
• Assign responsibilities for future tasks
• Ask questions
Invest in hardware and software – Although the cost of new computers, scanners, printers, and software might seem expensive at the time of purchase, determine the useful life, mentally amortize the annual cost, and then make an analysis of the cost versus the benefit. Since most small businesses and SMEs have a limited number of employees already utilized at full capacity, benefits derived from current technology can have enormous gains. Review all the various tasks in your business to determine what can benefit from technology.
Ask and listen – Rather than guessing what customers might want (wasting time and being ineffective), simply ask customers what they want. Vendors can also be a valuable source of information. Assumptions can then be replaced with factual information derived straight from the source. Listening to customer concerns and desires allows a small business to provide products and services wanted by the ultimate purchaser. Asking questions (and listening) with an open mind can provide ideas on how to better serve customers, thus hitting the target market. Hitting the target market, of course, increases productivity.
Develop energetic employees – Some employees are automatically energetic and motivated just by their very nature. Others, however, need dynamic leaders for motivation. When an entire workforce is motivated and thriving, increased productivity is a natural byproduct. As a small business owner or manager:
• Lead by example
• Set realistic goals
• Communicate with employees
• Hire and mentor employees who can accept greater responsibilities
• Stay focused on the business mission
Processes and procedures – It almost goes without saying that periodically all processes and procedures within a business should be reviewed with one goal in mind…increase accuracy and productivity. Without reviews, however, a small business owner or manager has no idea what might be changed that could lead to improved performance. Just one small change today or next week is better than no change at all.
Constant awareness – One key to increased productivity is simple awareness and necessary action. Constant probing and questioning of why something is done one way rather than another way can have a positive impact on a small business or SME with little cost involved but only effort. When the status quo remains the status quo, there is little forward movement.
Can you state your business’ value proposition in a few short sentences?
If not, how are you marketing effectively and discussing your company’s products or services with potential customers?
Every business needs a value proposition. This is the promise a business makes to customers on what it can deliver. Customers purchase benefits and solutions to problems. If you cannot get this message across to potential customers, why should they purchase products or services from you? Absent an on-target value proposition, potential customers probably will not purchase from you, and your competition will have just gained a new customer…one that could have been yours if the right message was delivered.
Allow Product or Service Differentiation to Determine the right Value Proposition
With a multitude of products and services on the market that are essentially the same, differentiation can be the deciding factor whether a sale is made or not. Normally, the first thing a prospective customer sees whether online, in print, or hears in person is a product or service value proposition and uniqueness compared to similar items on the market. If you can’t think of something unique about your product or business or what distinguishes your business from the competition, then now is the time to create a uniqueness. Stand out from the crowd rather than being a part of the crowd.
Clear, Concise, and True Message – hallmark of the right Value Proposition
While it is great to know all the industry jargon and technical aspects of what your business is selling, customers are not really interested in that. They want to know, “How will your product or service benefit me?” With this in mind, a company’s value proposition must be clear and concise that normal, every day customers will understand. Considering that most customers spend very little time reviewing online content, printed media, or are distracted while listening, a short straight-to-the-point explanation is the most effective means to communicate a value proposition. Equally important is the truthfulness of statements made. A value proposition should never be boastful or misleading, which is a great way to create dissatisfied customers.
Don’t Think Like the Owner when crafting a Value Proposition
Think like a customer and not like an owner. Mentally trade places with a customer of your business and start asking questions.
• What exactly is the product or service this business is trying to sell me?
• How do I benefit from purchasing this product or service?
• What is unique about this company’s product, service, or business?
• Why should I buy from this business versus buying from a competitor?
• Does this company’s product or service target me as a purchaser?
Make sure that your value proposition answers these questions. If not, it needs work.
When All Things Are Equal
When all things are equal between you and your competition, what do you do? Make things unequal! Make your value proposition better in some way…even a small way…than your rival. Maybe, it’s free shipping, extended warranty, follow-up support, liberal refund policy, or discount on first purchase. This is an area for your imagination. Check out unique value propositions in larger businesses than yours, leaders in your field, or even other industries all with the purpose to search for ideas that you might implement in a similar fashion in your own business.
Ask Your Customers
Don’t waste a valuable source of information…your customers. They know your product and service, so ask key customers what they think about your company’s value proposition. Does it get the point across that you’re trying to make? Perhaps, you see things a bit different than how your customers see your product or service. When you find there’s a consensus (good or bad), then you’ll know if your value proposition is on target or needs adjustment. Never underestimate the “value” of a good value proposition!
Value-Based Selling is the process of understanding and reinforcing the reasons why your offer is valuable to the purchaser.
Though Value-Based Selling, you increase the likelihood of a transaction as well as the price the purchaser is willing to pay.
Always sell based on the value your offer provides, not the cost.
Josh Kaufman Explains ‘Value-Based Selling’
Imagine that you provide an ongoing service to a Fortune 500 corporation that increases their annual revenues by $100 million dollars. Is your service worth $10 million a year? Sure – after all, what company would give up $90 million dollars in ongoing revenue?
Does it matter if providing this valuable service doesn’t cost you much money? Absolutely not-even if it only costs you a hundred dollars a year to provide the service, you’re providing a huge amount of value, which supports the comparatively high price.
Does it matter if most business-to-business services cost $10,000 or less? Absolutely not-you’re providing much more value than other services in the market, which completely justifies a higher price.
Value-Based Selling is the process of understanding and reinforcing the reasons why your offer is valuable to the purchaser.
In the 4 Pricing Methods, we discussed how the Value Comparison method is often the best way to support a high price on your offer. Value-Based Selling is how you support that price. By understanding and reinforcing the Reason Why a transaction will be valuable to the customer, you simultaneously increase the likelihood of a transaction as well as the price the buyer will be willing to pay.
Value-Based Selling is not about talking-it’s about listening. When most people think of sales, they imagine a pushy, smooth-talking shyster whose sole priority is to “close the deal.”
Emulating shady used car dealers is the fastest way to destroy trust and give your potential customers the impression that you care more about your bottom line than about what they want.
In reality, the best salespeople are the ones who can listen intently for the things the customer really wants.
Asking good questions is the best way to identify what your offer is worth to your prospect. In the classic sales book SPIN Selling, Neil Rackham describes the four phases of successful selling:
Understanding the situation;
Defining the problem;
Clarifying the short-term and long-term implications of that problem;
Quantifying the “need-payoff,“” or the financial and emotional benefits the customer would experience after the resolution of their problem.
Instead of barging in with a premature, boilerplate hard-sell, successful salespeople focus on asking specific questions to get to the root of what the prospect actually wants.
By encouraging your prospects to tell you more about what they need, you reap two major benefits.
First, it increases the prospect’s confidence in your understanding of the situation, increasing their Trust in your ability to deliver a solution.
Second, you’ll discover information that will help you emphasize just how valuable your offer is in relation to what they’re doing, which helps in Framing the price of your offer versus the value it will provide.
If you discover why, how, and how much your offer will benefit the customer, you’ll be able to explain that value in terms they’ll understand and appreciate. Understanding the value you can provide your customers is the golden path to a profitable sale.
Questions About ‘Value-Based Selling’
Why is this purchase in the customer’s best interest?
If your prospective customer purchasers your offer, how will they benefit?
How can you frame your offer’s price as a small fraction of the value they’ll receive?
China is looking to fully ban gasoline cars down the road.
The surprising announcement was made at an automotive industry forum over the weekend. Xin Guobin, deputy minister of industry and IT, said the ministry has started planning out a timeline for the end of petrol and diesel cars, and light commercial vehicles.
China, the world’s biggest car market, sold 28 million cars last year. That’s a third of the 88 million cars and vans sold around the world.
The decision to eventually ban gasoline vehicles comes as China employs aggressive tactics to suppress its perennial air pollution. Some of this involves cars only being allowed on the roads on alternate days, and heavy vehicles ordered to stop driving during seasons with higher smog levels.
China’s laying out 800,000 charging points within this year.
China’s plans to go all-electric have already begun. Thanks to generous government subsidies, the country sold a massive 507,000 plug-in vehicles in 2016, a number that includes about 350,000 cars. The rest are electric buses and trucks — not including other low emissions vehicles like hybrids.
The country, which is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, had already laid out 150,000 charging points in 2016. This has allowed drivers in the big cities of Beijing and Shanghai to get to a charging zone within a radius of 5 km (3.1 miles) of wherever they are, the national papers claim.
China joins other countries like the UK and France, which have said they will ban new diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040.
These moves, however, stand in contrast to what the U.S. is doing. In March, U.S. President Donald Trump started the process of relaxing previously set carbon pollution standards for vehicles.
The efficiency standards were put in place by the Obama administration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and Trump’s actions appear to be paving the way for a weaker standard to be set. His review of the standards was met with applause from the automotive industry.
Kyle Vogt, CEO and founder of Cruise Automation, revealed very big news for his company and its owner GM, which acquired the startup last year. The news is that they’re ready to mass produce a vehicle ready for self-driving, with everything on board they need to become fully autonomous vehicles once the software and regulatory environment is ready to make that happen.
“Today, we’re announcing the first production design of a self-driving car that can be built at massive scale,” Vogt said. “And more importantly, these vehicles can operate without a driver.”
That means they have all the components in place, that “when the software’s ready,” Vogt added, they can remove the drivers and operate safely on roads.
Doug Parks, GM’s VP of Autonomous Technology and Vehicle Execution, explained that he has been involved in the design of Volt, and Bolt EV. Throughout, they knew this could be a platform that eventually led toward autonomous capabilities. All were “on the way to enabling what Kyle just announced, the first mass-produced, autonomous high-volume car.”
“It’s making the changes to the design so that we can build that on the line at Orion’s assembly center,” Parks explained, talking about how this includes working with suppliers to get parts ready and that was what was accomplished with its generation-two test cars.
This latest vehicle is a production-ready design, Parks said. What that means is that it has “full redundancy” throughout the autonomous system, so that it’s ready mechanically and from a sensor and software perspective to “fail operationally and be safe.”
The vehicle will be based on a third-generation Cruise self-driving platform, using the Chevrolet Bolt, and will be produced at the automaker’s Orion, Michigan facility, which is where they previously announced they would be producing their Bolt test cars.
This isn’t an announcement that means self-driving cars will be available on roads to consumers tomorrow; Park said there’s still “a lot of work to be done” before that can happen.
Vogt talked about how their goal throughout has been to increase safety with autonomous tech, and pointed out that there’s no way that can happen without scale: Launching a few hundred cars on the roads isn’t going to accomplish that larger benefit.
“The key challenge, and what’s hard especially for tech companies, is building the cars,” he said. “And building lots of them.”
Retrofit vehicles are hard to build, he said, and they “keep breaking,” so it’s hard to continually fix them up and get them back on the roads. This announcement means that the cars will be able to roll off the line in quantities of hundreds of thousands per year. And while they look very much like the current shipping Bolt EV, under the hood, Vogt said that 40 percent of the parts are new, and most of those are focused on redundancy of parts and systems.
Fifty vehicles have been built by GM, and production is expected to ramp up from here. Vogt says there isn’t yet a timeline for deploying the software that enables full self-driving, but he added that these are destined for deployment in fleets, rather than as individually owned consumer vehicles.
Vogt pointed out that this is the third generation of Cruise’s autonomous vehicle in just 14 months, which is indeed a remarkable timeline for development of a fully functional self-driving platform, even for testing purposes. He also took the opportunity to highlight the difference between what GM and Cruise have announced, and the kind of one-off demonstration vehicles other automakers and tech companies have brought to events like CES.
Googles Digital News Initiative has committed 622,000 ($805,000) to fund an automated news writing initiative for UK-based news agency, The Press Association. The money will help pay for the creation of Radar (Reporters And Data And Robots), snappily named software designed to generate upwards 30,000 local news stories a month.
The Press Association has enlisted UK-based news startup Urbs Mediafor the task of creating a piece of software that turns news data into palatable content. Once up and running, the team is hoping the software will be able to fill in some of the gaps that are currently being under-serviced as the universal financial strain being experienced by newsrooms around the world deepens.
In a news release heralding the financial commitment, Press Association Editor-in-Chief Peter Clifton called the move a genuine game-changer, stressing that the partnership will focus on stories that might not otherwise be written up as local newspapers continue to die off in this massive fourth-estate extinction. Of course, he was also quick to add that the move wont do away with the human touch entirely.
Skilled human journalists will still be vital in the process, he explained, but Radar allows us to harness artificial intelligence to scale up to a volume of local stories that would be impossible to provide manually. People will be involved in the curation and editing of the stories and, hopefully, help limit the possibility of accidentally publishing incorrect information in an era when fake news is an equally barbed insult on all sides of the political spectrum.
Will robotic writers replace or simply support the work of their human counterparts? A little bit of both, probably. Human news writers regularly point out that AIs tend to lack nuance and a flare for language in the stories they churn out. Thats probably a fare criticism, but its easy to see how the rise of robotic news could be a justification if not a direct cause for further job loss in the industry. If writers are going to be let go anyway, surely having some software to fill in the gap will help cushion the the blow.
This story was not generated by an AI, but to be fair, I havent had my coffee yet.