Putting Tesla’s EV Car Recall into Perspective

April 27, 2017 (Wishful-Thinking) - News coverage about electric car manufacturer Tesla’s recent recall of over 50,000 vehicles over potentially faulty parking brakes has followed a narrative summed up by articles like Ars Technica’s, titled, “Its Always Some Else’s Fault — Tesla recalls 53,000 vehicles built in 2016 over faulty parking brake.”


In it, Ars Technica claims:
Tesla is voluntarily recalling 53,000 Model S and Model X electric vehicles because of problems with the parking brake. As was the case for Tesla’s last recall, the company is blaming someone else for the issue. Specifically, the electric parking brakes installed on the EVs “may contain a small gear that could have been manufactured improperly by our third-party supplier.”
It also notes that:
Quality control issues have plagued the young carmaker. Both the Wall Street Journal and Consumer Reports lambasted the Model X, and many electric motors in early Model S sedans appeared unable to last more than 60,000 miles.
What Ars Technica and other publications have failed to do, however, is put the Tesla recall into context. According to a 2016 U.S. News article titled, “The Biggest Car Recalls in History,” such context is provided.

Not only have other car manufacturers faced recalls many times larger (with millions of cars recalled at a time), the largest recall in automotive manufacturing history involved faulty parts used by multiple auto companies supplied by a third-party company, not unlike Tesla’s current recall.

U.S. News would report:
More than two dozen automakers were forced to recall close to 70 million vehicles in the biggest auto recall in U.S. history after receiving reports of a defect in airbags from Japanese supplier Takata. Honda recalled the most vehicles – more than six million – but Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, Nissan, Mazda, and others sent letters to owners while grappling with a supply shortage.
However, as Ars Technica pointed out, Tesla is a “young automaker,” while other companies have been established for decades, facing multiple gargantuan recalls in their respective histories, and still facing them regularly despite what many analysts have claimed Tesla lacks, “experience” with quality control.

MakerBot: Trying (in vain) to Centralize Decentralization

March 30, 2017 (Wishful-Thinking) - MakerBot is an American-based 3D printer company that gained prominence among the maker community with its originally opensource, consumer-friendly machines. Makerspaces, schools, institutions, and individuals around the world enthusiastically adopted MakerBot’s hardware and joined its online 3D model library, Thingiverse.


While MakerBot and the 3D printing industry it was a part of represented a paradigm shift in localizing manufacturing and liberating the masses from consumerism, the popularity MakerBot gained tempted its founders into a more traditional course of action; selling their company out to profit-driven investors who sought to turn the company into the “Apple of 3D printing.”

In reality, there can be no “Apple of 3D printing.” There can be no centralized monopoly of 3D printing because 3D printing itself is a function of decentralization.

3D printers are machines that can make virtually anything out of a wide and ever-growing variety of materials. For now, virtually anything you may buy made of plastic can be fabricated with 3D printing. In the future, everything including ceramics, glass, and even metal will be 3D printed as well with large, expensive machines already doing so, used by automotive, aerospace, and other heavy industrial companies.

With a 3D printer, you have what is essentially a miniature factory on your tabletop. With 3D design software, you are able to create your own designs. With an internet connection, you have access to one of many online 3D model libraries, many of which offer models for downloading for free. With a 3D scanner, you can capture the physical characteristics of real world objects and print them.

3D printing, thus represents the decentralization of manufacturing. 3D printers themselves are subject to their own disruptive nature, with printers being used to turn out the next generation of components for future 3D printer designs.

In such an industry, the notion of monopolizing and dominating the market is irrational, and not just theoretically, but tangibly.

Design-Engineering.com in a February 2017 article titled, “Makerbot announces restructuring and layoffs,” would report:
Makerbot’s new CEO Nadav Goshen announced a significant restructuring of the company in order to meet with growing challenges in the desktop 3D printing market.

The Stratasys subsidiary will be cutting 30% of its workforce in an effort to reorganize the staff into small groups around specific product offerings.
The announcement is only the most recent in a series of setbacks for the company. It has suffered similar “restructurings” in years past.


Automation Threatens Jobs But Offers Financial Freedom

March 29, 2017 (Wishful-Thinking) - Despite sensational headlines and opportunistic politicking regarding the threat automation poses to socioeconomic stability, with a fully informed, properly educated population, more opportunities than threats lie ahead of us in the near future.

Automation has since the Industrial Revolution replaced human jobs with machines. As technology advances and automation evolves, the socioeconomic landscape of human civilization has evolved with it.

For instance, the initial Industrial Revolution disrupted centuries of multidisciplinary crafts and trades where cottage industry consisting of individuals or small groups of people carried out the entire process of production. As technology merges information with the physical world, processes like 3D design, personal manufacturing, business administration, marketing, and even logistics are beginning to merge again.

So are fears that automation will displace human labor and disrupt socioeconomic stability warranted? Yes and no.

In China, according to MIT Technology Review’s article, “China Is Building a Robot Army of Model Workers,” millions of workers face potential unemployment as factories replace thousands of jobs at a time as automation advances and robotics improve.


The article notes that:
Millions of low-skilled migrant workers found employment in gigantic factories, producing an unimaginable range of products, from socks to servers.
And in here lies the problem, a poorly educated, low-skilled workforce. For low-skilled workers, robots are indisputably a threat. Once they lose their job, finding employment elsewhere becomes a necessity. As these workers continue to move away from companies replacing human labor with automation, competition for remaining jobs suitable for low-skilled workers increases.

To solve this problem, social, economic, and political elites have attempted to float the idea of a “universal basic income.” The Guardian in its article, “Universal basic income trials being considered in Scotland,” would report:
The concept of a universal basic income revolves around the idea of offering every individual, regardless of existing welfare benefits or earned income, a non-conditional flat-rate payment, with any income earned above that taxed progressively. The intention is to provide a basic economic platform on which people can build their lives, whether they choose to earn, learn, care or set up a business.
However utopian or empathetic such a concept may seem, it essential seeks to place millions, if not billions of people under the control of highly centralized special interests, many of which will simultaneously monopolize all means of production. Such a scenario invites immense abuse with a population so hopelessly dependent on these centralized special interests, should abuse take place, little or nothing could keep it in check.

A Look at an Alternative Future

However, real solutions to expanding automation and the jobs it threatens do exist, offering an alternative future.

Using Organic Agriculture to Change Your Community (and the World)

March 28, 2017 (The Vin Armani Show) - Curtis Stone is a farmer, author, speaker and consultant. His area of expertise is in quick growing, high value annual vegetables for direct consumer market streams. His book, The Urban Farmer demonstrates organic intensive techniques with a focus on business and systems to streamline labour and production. He offers a new way to think about farming. One where quality of life and profitability coexist.


Read more about Curtis Stone at http://theurbanfarmer.co/.