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Baby You Dropped a Bomb on Me 

OOH …Here’s One Thing

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OOH …Here’s One Thing



by Jim Johnsen,
Managing Director, Johnsen, Fretty & Company



Baby you dropped a bomb on me


Okay, before you jump to the conclusion I am about to write about Kym Frank, I’ll give it away…I’m not.  I’ll leave the scuttlebutt to those much better at it than me.  I will say that I think Kym did a phenomenal job bringing the “Traffic Audit Bureau” from the dark ages to modern times.  Kym thank you and good wishes for the next leg of your journey.


So if not Frank, why that song Johnsen?  I went skiing with a good friend in 2015 and after a few post ski libations we got into the Faith Popcorn game, aka what does the future look like. So in a moment of weakness I bet him a heli-skiing trip (CHM no less, not one of the shlock operators) that cars would be driving themselves within 10 years.  Given that he is the CEO of a large size tech company I thought that would knock him back on his heels a little.  Much to my surprise and chagrin, without the slightest hesitation he said “you’re on”.  As Ralph Kramden used to say, “ahubbadahubbada.”  Maybe I shouldn’t have opened my big mouth.  But was I crazy?  After all, Elon Musk was talking smack about the fact that self-driving cars would be here within two to three years.

Fast forward 6 years.  My “friend” was kind enough to send me this article from WSJ, no commentary necessary:


Want a summary of the article? “In 2021, some experts aren’t sure when, if ever, individuals will be able to purchase steering-wheel-free cars that drive themselves off the lot.”  Yes folks, that pretty much says it all.  How is it that Alphabet (Google), Apple, GM and a bunch of others have thrown billions of dollars, 10 years and the brightest engineers in the world at it and are nowhere (at least according to this article)?  Turns out the average run of the mill person is still much smarter than the computer when it comes to driving.    Here is a snippet from the article that I think frames up the dilemma pretty well:

“To gauge today’s machine-learning systems, she developed a four-level scale of AI sophistication. The simplest kind of thinking starts with skill-based “bottom-up” reasoning. Today’s AIs are quite good at things like teaching themselves to stay within lines on a highway. The next step up is rule-based learning and reasoning (i.e., what to do at a stop sign). After that, there’s knowledge-based reasoning. (Is it still a stop sign if half of it is covered by a tree branch?) And at the top is expert reasoning: the uniquely human skill of being dropped into a completely novel scenario and applying our knowledge, experience and skills to get out in one piece.

Problems with driverless cars really materialize at that third level. Today’s deep-learning algorithms, the elite of the machine-learning variety, aren’t able to achieve knowledge-based representation of the world, says Dr. Cummings. And human engineers’ attempts to make up for this shortcoming—such as creating ultra-detailed maps to fill in blanks in sensor data—tend not to be updated frequently enough to guide a vehicle in every possible situation, such as encountering an unmapped construction site.

Machine-learning systems, which are excellent at pattern-matching, are terrible at extrapolation—transferring what they have learned from one domain into another. For example, they can identify a snowman on the side of the road as a potential pedestrian, but can’t tell that it’s actually an inanimate object that’s highly unlikely to cross the road.”

So Johnsen, what gives? Are you with us or against us?  Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m doing this with you guys at this very second:  https://youtu.be/vCadcBR95oU

I think it’s fantastic news for the industry and probably why Lamar is now trading over $100 per share.  For the next smart P/E guy that shows up in my office and says he wants to invest in the industry but wants to go deep on the “existential risk” (those guys do come up with some great terms), I will just dust off a laminated version of this article and slide it in his direction.  All good as they say.

But as it pertains to that bet…looks like it’s time for me to take myself to the car wash.  https://youtu.be/eB0aROCl530




Securities transacted through StillPoint Capital Member firm FINRA/SiPC


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