Welcome to The Long View—where we peruse the news of the week and strip it to the essentials. Let’s work out what really matters.
This week: Herbert Diess is out at VW because software is hard (yo), fiber optic cable is hard to find, and the guy who said LaMDA was sentient is dumped by Google.
1. Diess Dumped due to Dev Débâcle
First up this week: Why did the Volkswagen board give its CEO the elbow last week? There were a bunch of reasons, but the last straw seems to have been the terrible performance of his software group.
Analysis: Software ist fehlerhaft und spät
It’s 2022 already: DevOps is now a core competency for any car maker. But owners of recent Volkswagen Group cars will often tell you how awful the software is—buggy, laggy and late. Continuous deployment would be nice, but they’d settle for mere over-the-air updates.
Stefan Nicola: Buggy Software Cost VW’s CEO His Job
“Failures at the carmaker’s software unit”
It says a lot about the state of the auto industry and where it’s going that software problems have cost the CEO of a carmaker his job. … Herbert Diess knew over-the-air updates were becoming as important as zero-to-60 times, but struggled to execute.
Buggy software postponed the debut of VW’s initial rollout of ID models, and customers are still having to drop off their cars at the dealer for updates. [And now] severe software-development delays [have] set back the scheduled launch of new Porsches, Audis and Bentleys.
Sure, Diess also didn’t do enough to make allies … but failures at the carmaker’s software unit, Cariad, ultimately eroded Diess’s support from the powerful Porsche and Piech family that calls the shots. … Modernizing the company for the digital age is going to take bringing in talent and building skillsets outside its traditional zones of expertise.
It’s a familiar story. Tablizer has seen it all before:
Software is increasingly … a competitive difference. … I cuss at my car’s crappy navigation system more than any other feature. More will be managed by software over time.
Hardware people just don’t know how to manage software. I’ve seen non-IT managers make the same mistakes as their non-IT predecessor over and over because they don’t understand how to manage the trade-offs involved in software, and are too easily duped by slick salespeople and internal charlatans. And their ego often prevents them from listening to those with experience. They are used to being a know-it-all and kicking that habit is not easy.
But will this change anything? Unlikely, thinks @SilentKoan:
You can tell that the uncomprehending dumb****s who run … VW think that software is easy. And can be spoken into existence.
2. Fiber Optic Cable Shortage, Because Raw Materials Scarce
It’s getting really tricky to buy fiber. That’s due to a shortage of chemicals needed to manufacture the stuff. And, at the same time, demand is increasing.
Analysis: Shine a light on cloud delays
This is inevitably going to delay cloud infrastructure projects. New data center locations and expansion of existing farms will be pushed back. So DevOps teams should check their assumptions.
Anna Gross spells like a Brit: Global shortage of fibre optic cable
“I’ve never seen anything like this”
A worldwide shortage … has driven up prices and lengthened lead times, endangering companies’ ambitious plans to roll out state of the art telecommunications infrastructure. [And] total cable consumption increased by 8.1 per cent in the first half of the year compared to … last year.
Underpinning the shortage are rising prices of some of the critical components: … There has been a shortage of helium … in part caused by plant outages in Russia and the US. … Meanwhile, prices of silicon tetrachloride … have increased by up to 50 per cent.
This has led to significant increases in lead times for some fibre products, stretching out from 20 weeks to almost a year. … “In my professional career I’ve never seen anything like this inflationary crunch,” said Wendell Weeks, chief executive of Corning.
Price is a good proxy for demand outstripping supply. aaarrrgggh screams:
[I] decided to randomly check current prices of custom MTP cables I got for my house last year. … They were 3x what I paid.
But this is news to bthylafh:
I’m working for a municipal fiber ISP now, and the real trouble we’re having is getting the electronics. Fiber’s easy—we can get plenty of it and so we’re burying lines all over the city, but we have the same issue getting the terminal equipment (ONUs/ONTs) that the big automakers have with their electronics.
Several neighborhoods … have had their estimated times of completion shifted back years since COVID hit.
3. LaMDA Guy’s Career Careers off Rails
Remember Blake Lemoine? He was the Google QA engineer who allegedly broke an NDA last month to warn the world his employer’s language model was sentient. Now he’s been fired.
Analysis: Whistleblowers gonna blow
Google’s drawer statement on the termination of Lemoine’s employment calls it “regrettable.” It sounds like the company wishes everyone would quietly forget the whole affair. But I’m not sure the ex-engineer is of a mind to comply.
Nitasha Tiku: Google fired engineer who said its AI was sentient
“Previously put on paid administrative leave”
Lemoine said he received a termination email from the company on Friday along with a request for a video conference. He asked to have a third party present at the meeting, but he said Google declined. Lemoine says he is speaking with lawyers about his options.
In a statement, Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel said … “It’s regrettable that despite lengthy engagement on this topic, Blake still chose to persistently violate clear employment and data security policies that include the need to safeguard product information. … If an employee shares concerns about our work, as Blake did, we review them extensively. … We found Blake’s claims that LaMDA is sentient to be wholly unfounded and worked to clarify that with him for many months.”
Lemoine was previously put on paid administrative leave in June for violating the company’s confidentiality policy. … Google previously pushed out heads of Ethical AI division, Margaret Mitchell and Timnit Gebru, after they warned about risks associated with this technology.
Here’s a slightly suspicious Sarty:
I’m not going to do a jig on the remnants of the guy’s career, but the situation seemed clearly untenable. I don’t think “engineer sends controversial email to hundreds of colleagues” has ever had a happy ending.
But most AI experts think Lemoine is flat-out wrong. Mark Mark Giles’ words:
Anyone who believes that a computer generated conversation can be so convincing that he allows himself to be convinced that it is “sentient” needs psychiatric treatment. Everyone should remember that phrases like “science fiction” contains the word “fiction” [and] “artificial intelligence” contains the word “artificial.”
Meanwhile, trust Doctor Syntax to diagnose the issue:
Is the AI missing him? It seems like a good test.