Aug 10, 2022 • 21M

🗞️ California Slams The Breaks On Tesla, A.I.'s Moment In Court, & India's Online Market

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This Week: California slams the breaks on Tesla's marketing language, does AI get the patent office's OK?, and India democratizes e-commerce. Plus, Alex Jones pays for his lies, the LSAT may be on its way out, and embryos are now tax write-offs.

🛑 California's DMV Says Stop

Another story about Elon Musk? Yes. But this one isn't about Twitter, rather it centers on Tesla and what California's Department of Motor Vehicles claims is misleading and false advertising. See, when Tesla promotes its cars' self-driving/autopilot technology, it uses language like “All you will need to do is get in and tell your car where to go,” and, “Your Tesla will figure out the optimal route, navigating urban streets, complex intersections and freeways.” Of course, not only is this false, it may have even led to several crashes (yet specific figures remain elusive).

  • The DMV has asked Tesla to change this advertising and threatens to revoke the company's license to make and sell cars in California if it does not. 

  • Tesla has yet to make any public response to the DMV, notes the Los Angeles Times.

  • State Senator Lena Gonzalez, who chairs the Transportation Committee, said the DMV's case aims to make sure that autonomous “technology’s limitations are presented in the most intelligible way to best protect public safety on our roads across California.”

Hazards Flashing

As California's DMV goes after Tesla's “misleading” advertising, the company is facing separate claims of discrimination at its factories. As we reported last week, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleges that Tesla is guilty of systemic race discrimination, pay inequity, and a hostile work environment, with reports that white workers were referring to the factory as a “slave ship” for how Black employees were treated.

The Verdict

This might be the end of the road for Tesla's wild claims about self-driving cars. Yes, the technology is gaining speed, but it's far from being fully autonomous. As such — and especially if it's causing deaths and accidents — Tesla should be forced to change its marketing language around the technology.

🎧 What We’re Listening To

This week, we’re listening to a teaser for the next episode of our podcast. In the second installment of Not Billable, Matt speaks with two very special guests about a topic we’ve never touched on before. Your only hint? Lots of grace will be given.

Listen in here

T-minus 9 days until release.

🤖 Do Androids Dream of US Patents?

Do androids dream of electric sheep? Do they invent products? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit says no. That ruling was handed down on August 5 clarifying that only humans can get patents, reports the ABA Journal. The bid was brought forth by computer scientist Stephen Thaler, who claimed his DABUS system invented a food container and a light beacon and should receive a patent for each. However, Circuit Judge Leonard Stark, writing the unanimous decision for the 3-person panel, stated that “there is no ambiguity: the Patent Act requires that inventors must be natural persons; that is, human beings,” says Reuters.

  • The Act uses the pronouns “himself” and “herself,” Stark continued, yet “it does not also use 'itself,' which it would have done if Congress intended to permit non-human inventors.”

  • For his part, Thaler argued that DABUS is “natural and sentient,” while his lawyers added that the Circuit Court's ruling “ignores the purpose of the Patent Act” and has “real negative social consequences.” They plan to appeal. 

Is the Singularity Nigh?

The question of AI sentience has been a hot topic recently. In June, Google fired engineer Blake Lemoine after he claimed that the Large Language Modeling AI had achieved sentience, reports CNN. But many experts disagree. “The dialogue generated by large language models does not provide evidence of the kind of sentience that even very primitive animals likely possess,” Colin Allen, a professor of cognitive skills at the University of Pittsburgh, told The New York Times. Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley agreed: “The computational capacities of current A.I. like the large language models … don’t make it any more likely that they are sentient than that rocks or other machines are.”

The Verdict

We already have AI that can paint, write poetry, and make music — but is it sentient? And is sentience the sole metric we should use for authorship? It's clear that as artificial intelligence evolves and becomes more ubiquitous, these questions will grow increasingly urgent if not more muddled. 

⚡️ Let’s Talk Litigation

Inflation isn’t the only thing draining your budget this year. If the cost of litigation is blowing through your legal spend, you’ll want to be there for our next event. On Thursday, September 8th, at 3 pm ET we’ll be joined by Andowah Newton, Greg McLoughlin, and Zac Henderson as they teach us how to effectively mitigate the cost of outside litigation.

RSVP here


India wants to change the way its citizens shop online. Currently, the country's e-commerce is a duopoly, with Amazon and Flipkart (which is owned by Walmart) controlling some 60% of the country's market, notes Reuters. This month, the Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), a government-backed initiative, will roll out to 100 cities and give smaller businesses in the e-commerce sector broader access to India's growing market.

  • India's official estimate is that the nation's e-commerce value for 2021 was $55 billion in gross merchandise. That number is expected to grow to $350 billion by the end of this decade. 

  • According to The Hustle, Infosys founder Nandan Nilekani told Fortune he hopes the ONDC will “provide a glimpse for the whole world of how open commerce can drive positive non-zero-sum outcomes for business and society.”

A Shifting Market

The global e-commerce market is changing in other ways too. As 2PM notes, Google and Facebook/Instagram ad revenue have taken a hit thanks in large part to Apple's new privacy settings. This means that some online retailers are using Apple Ads now more heavily than traditional Google and Facebook ads. In fact, this could spell a bigger shift in online retail, a report by Fast Company details, adding “The rise of retail media ad networks is now intersecting with a softening of the digital ad market, brought on by a combination of macro-economic factors, and more secular shifts in the online-ad business resulting from Apple tightening the ability to track user behavior across the Web.”

The Verdict

It's fascinating that while the US and EU are attempting to break the oligopoly of Big Tech through laws and regulations, India is taking another route: creating public platforms that democratize and directly challenge Silicon Valley's dominance. Will the strategy work, though?

📤 What Else We're Forwarding

Conspiracy Compensation: How much is Alex Jones's comeuppance for claiming the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax? $45.2 million, reports Law360. The InfoWars host was ordered to pay that amount in punitive damages to the parents of a Sandy Hook victim after the jury awarded an additional $4 million in damages to be paid to the parents for compensatory damages.

Testing Public Support: The ABA is gaining support for making the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) optional, removing a major hurdle for applicants, writes Bloomberg Law. Proponents for this measure argue that the LSAT has long stifled diversity among law school students and thus the industry at large.

Exemption Inclusion: Embryos may be claimed as dependents on tax returns for residents of Georgia, according to CBS News. The Georgia Department of Revenue said that, as of July 20, “any unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat” is eligible for the tax exemption.

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✌🏽 Raad