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The last 1% - autonomous vehicles

A few articles I have read recently suggest that we are 99% of the way towards cars that drive themselves without drivers.  It appears though that that last 1% is the most troublesome to resolve!  This of course has been tackled by companies like Google, now known as Alphabet, who has Waymo as well as, obviously, Tesla. 

The problems that they have struggled with include pedestrians, bicycle riders and construction work and construction teams.  It appears the computers really struggle to pick these up – with potentially disastrous results.  It may well take a few more years before this can be resolved.

Ultimately of course we are going to hear of deaths caused by autopilot errors – but what will the death toll be compared to human drivers?  We demand much higher standards of the machines than humans currently exhibit on the roads!

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 15-Sep-21   |  Permalink   |  14 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Quackery and rationality

One of the problems of the more informed times we live in, where we can Google anything, has been the growth of “alternative facts”.  People these days never seem to agree on anything.  Indeed, before the vaccines for Covid 19 were even invented there were already all sorts of fake news stories about how they wouldn’t work.  They were being discredited before they were even invented! 

Some countries, for their own purposes, have whole organizations devoted to the spread of false information in Western society – to provoke chaos and division amongst people.  Think Russia for one. So not only do you have more fake news than ever, but some bad actors actively promoting fake news while creating disputes about real news so that experts cease to be “experts” and every person, no matter their qualifications, is entitled, in the name of freedom of speech to have “their own opinion”.  Of course, as the saying goes you are entitled to your opinion – but not to your own facts!

Fake news. Medical quackery. Conspiracy theories.  All the crazy stuff that once was marginalized is now driven to the centre and some perfectly intelligent people unfortunately  fall for it – perhaps by following a reading the wrong people and websites. 

Steven Pinker’s new book “Rationality” deals with this subject and how we as a species can be so clever that we manage to come up with a cure so quickly to a major new virus – yet have people shoot it down with crazy, irrational theories.  He argues that because of all the information we are surrounded by, we fail to take advantage of skills we have developed for centuries – logic, critical thinking and the probability of different things.

What’s really sad to read is the stories of families coming out now in the American media of people dying in ICU and begging Doctors to give them the vaccine and being told it is too late.  Of loved ones who have lost relatives because they were “anti-vaxxers”.  There are real consequences for those who fall for the quackery.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 08-Sep-21   |  Permalink   |  24 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Amazon challenges fake reviews

A lot of the sales on Amazon are for much smaller companies, including individuals, that sell a variety of products via Amazon.  These small sellers compete with each other and some instances Amazon itself with the products they sell.  In the past, a lot of these companies have gamed the system by giving free products or even recruiting shoppers on Facebook and then paying them via PayPal in order to unfairly get themselves good reviews.   They obviously don’t have the situation of doing Road Accident Fund work where the vast majority of attorneys tout and good reviews, which our firm has hundreds of, don’t really count that much because most clients are touted.  That is of course against the rules of the Legal Practice Council, but that is a topic for another blog. 

Amazon has now taken action against fake and paid reviews and the result is that apparently over 50,000, mainly Chinese retail accounts, are no longer in the same position that they were on Amazon before.  They are claiming discrimination against Chinese companies, but Amazon says that they are simply cracking down on fake reviews regardless of which country those companies tend to come from. 

Worse, and it has not been proven who does this, companies that found themselves successfully selling on Amazon often find, as their sales start succeeding and they rise in the Amazon rating system, they suddenly run into a whole bunch of false and negative reviews presumably from competitors.  That is something I am familiar with, because we’ve had that before, although limited amounts from Hello Peter and one or two Google reviews as well.  In some cases we’ve had them removed as obviously being planted by competitors.  I am also aware of at least one attorney firm where the Facebook reviews as to “how good they are” can be traced to staff who were employees of the firm at the time!

It is good to see that Amazon, who for many years seem to have ignored these fake reviews is finally cracking down on the fake reviews and those companies who have played that game will have to pay the price.  That price is quite a tough one because Amazon does not reinstate a seller’s account very easily. 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 02-Sep-21   |  Permalink   |  22 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Real Covid death toll

Research by the South African Medical Research Council, together with UCT’s actuarial unit, shows that there have been a lot more deaths in South Africa than normal this year and far exceeding the Covid death toll that we all hear about daily.  The official figures are that 75,000 people have now died from Covid, but the research points out that there have been 222,500 “excess deaths” since 3 May 2020 mot included in the Covid figures.  Now, it is not guaranteed that all of those deaths are because of Covid, but there have been a lot more deaths in the last year than normal and it is a reasonable assumption that it is precisely Covid that is largely behind that dramatic increase in deaths. 

I have written more than a few times about the fact that it is likely to be the case that we will only know accurate numbers years later.  This just shows you how incorrect the official Covid death pstatistics are now and how serious the impact from Covid actually is.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 18-Aug-21   |  Permalink   |  26 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Riots in South Africa

That headline is how the continued violence and destruction is once again being covered overseas.  We are fortunate that the videos we all share over WhatsApp aren’t that widely publicized.  Once again, we are in turmoil and again it relates to Jacob Zuma.  I can’t imagine most of his so-called supporters could explain why their “support” for him involves breaking into shops and stealing all the goods.

I was surprised that the Minister of Police praised the Police for their efforts.  I hardly think what we have seen represents law and order – but he may know things that I don’t.  Those things would have to be pretty scary to be praising what appears to be a police force overwhelmed and simply standing by in many cases.

I appreciate that there is a fear of another Marikana, but I can’t help but feel the Police should have used more of everything – from tear gas and rubber bullets to potentially live ammunition.  We simply cannot have violence and carnage and lives at risk like we have seen this week.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 14-Jul-21   |  Permalink   |  42 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
RAF's finances improve

The Road Accident Fund held a press conference recently at its Centurion head offices to celebrate some of the recent improvement in their finances.  There was much emphasis on a surplus, but the greater effect of the surplus was simply to reduce the deficit. 

In other words, the deficit of the Road Accident Fund had been R17 billion and now that is down to R14 billion.  That of course is still very good news and it is a nice improvement, but it is still a deficit.  One has to wait and see what sort of cost savings will come as a result of the Road Accident Fund no longer using attorneys and there can be no doubt that many matters, which should never go to court in the first place, can be settled more cost-effectively by the claims handlers.  At the current time clients still face lengthy waits before they are paid, because the deficit continues and it is only once the deficit is eliminated entirely that the waiting period of the last few years will no longer exist. 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Thursday 10-Jun-21   |  Permalink   |  36 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Drug Use for Grown-ups

Drug Use for Grown-ups” is the title of a book by Dr Carl Hart.  The sub-title for the book is “Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear”.  He is a Professor at Columbia University and one of the world’s best known experts on the effects of recreational drugs on our minds and bodies.  Despite that, and perhaps because of that, he openly admits that he takes heroin and while he was initially against drugs, his research found less harm in their use.  That does not mean he supports drug use, but what he does say though is that we turn a blind eye to some drugs like alcohol and imprison people for the use of other drugs that in some cases do less damage. 

He also points out, and this is true in South Africa and in America, that the vast majority of people that are arrested for drug use or drug dealing are almost always black people, even though the research shows that white people deal drugs and use drugs in pretty much the same numbers as non-white people.  He says many of the arguments against drugs and in favour of bans and tough prison sentences, are bankrupt arguments.  People die because they have to get hold of drugs illegally and those drugs are often contaminated with poisons and impurities.  He says, in a land like America where people have individual liberties, the decision as to whether he takes drugs or not should be each person’s decision and not the Government’s decision.  He writes, “Further, my responsible drug use should not be subjected to punishment by authorities.  These ideas are central to our notions of liberty and personal freedom.  The current punitive approach to dealing with recreational drug users is wholly un-American.” 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 08-Jun-21   |  Permalink   |  43 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Boom Supersonic

Boom Supersonic is a unicorn in the United States.  A unicorn is defined as a company that has a value, while not yet listed on a Stock Exchange, of $1 billion or more.  They are busy designing an aeroplane seating 65 people that will fly at twice the speed of current aeroplanes and be in operation as soon as 2024.  Their investors include Japan Airlines and Richard Branson’s company, Virgin Galactic.

I think news like this is always exciting, but it is particularly exciting for a country like South Africa which has so much to offer to tourists and where one of the biggest problems is how far away from the rest of the world we are.  I don’t think the average person thinks about how much effort it takes to visit South Africa compared for example for somebody living in New York to fly over to London or to Paris.  There is no doubt, as planes get faster in the years ahead, that South Africa will be one of the big winners in terms of tourism, offering as we do, not only our Game Reserves and resorts like Sun City, but the wine farms of the Cape and Cape Town itself.  These planes are carrying a smaller number of passengers cutting the time to travel to SA by more than half, will certainly help with encouraging more high-end tourists to SA.  At the moment, for example somebody flying from Atlanta in America would have to fly for 17 hours before landing in Johannesburg and then there is another 2 hour flight to Cape Town – not to mention the flight getting to Atlanta in the first place.  Cutting that in half would make a dramatic difference.  Some countries like the UK are obviously closer to us and that is probably why we see a lot more tourists from the UK and France.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Tuesday 01-Jun-21   |  Permalink   |  36 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Amazon grows

Last year, during Covid-19, Amazon hired more than any other company around the world – 500,000 workers.  According to his annual shareholder letter, Jeff Bezos, said that there are now 200 million members of Amazon Prime around the world.  That is up 50 million just over one year and Amazon Prime costs $119 a year. 

Amazon says that approximately 60% of its sales are via small and mid-size businesses that sell products on Amazon and those companies earn between $25 and $39 billion selling products off Amazon last year. 

Bezos explained that Amazon has grown because it saves people time – customers complete 28% of purchases on Amazon in 3 minutes or less and they estimate that the typical trip to a store to go there physically takes about an hour and so Amazon estimates that it saves people about 75 hours a year of travelling back and forth to stores.  Obviously, this is relevant to any online shopping that you do – regardless of whether its Amazon or another site.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 26-May-21   |  Permalink   |  34 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Slow vaccine roll-out

I am really disappointed at the slow vaccine roll-out that we have in South Africa.  I know that the major pharmaceutical drug companies will obviously favour the countries in which they are based, namely the USA and Europe, but I would think we could still have received more vaccines by now than we do.  I say this particularly because, as they always used to remind us in the Game of Thrones, winter is coming. 

Winter is indeed coming and with it we will see an increase in Covid-19 infections, because every other country experienced an increase during their winter.  In America their peak month of infections so far was exactly the middle of winter, being December, and if we project that onto SA we are probably looking at our worst month, for infections and deaths, being July this year.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 14-May-21   |  Permalink   |  41 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
RAF gets 180 days

The recent judgment in the case of the Road Accident Fund v The Legal Practice Council has given the Road Accident Fund some relief.  It allows the Road Accident Fund until September 2021 in any event to pay matters in order and without some attorneys jumping the queue and issuing writs.  You can now only issue a writ after 180 days have elapsed, again until September 2021, and the Road Accident Fund is undertaking to pay the majority of matters on 180 days going forward.  Our firm supported the RAF in this effort to stop some attorneys jumping the queue and we are favourably mentioned in the judgment by the Judges as having supported the RAF in this regard to prevent the implosion of the RAF. 

How long this new situation will last is another question.  Logically, if they did not have enough money to pay everything in the first place, just running out the time to 180 days is not really going to improve the situation much and one would expect that that 180 day timeframe eventually gets longer and longer and people will have to wait maybe 9 to 10 months for payment.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Wednesday 12-May-21   |  Permalink   |  38 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It
Ending a relationship well

I was listening to a podcast the other day by Scott Galloway whose book, “The Four” I previously referred to in this blog.  He made a very important point and that is the way you are generally remembered is how you end a relationship.  It does not matter if everything went fantastically for 20 years if in the last 2 weeks it ends acrimoniously and in a nasty way. 

This applies not just to one’s intimate relationships and relationships with family, but he was actually talking about it in the context of a company.  He said it is so important to make sure, in those last few days at a company, that one can build a fantastic reputation or brand name and damage it in a week or two simply by ending a relationship badly.  It is as important as the efforts you put into the beginning of a relationship to put the same effort into the end of the relationship. 

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Friday 07-May-21   |  Permalink   |  45 Comments Comments Share on Facebook   Tweet It

Johannesburg based attorney specializing in personal injury matters including Road Accident Fund claims and medical negligence matters. My interests include golf, reading and the internet and the way it is constantly developing. I have a passion for life and a desire for less stress!
Have you been injured in a motor accident?
Recent Settlements
Lumbar spine compression fractures R2 500 000.00
Severe hip fracture requiring total hip replacements R3 305 000.00
Head injury with disfiguring facial scaring of a young female R4 000 000.00
Whiplash and compression fracture of the spine R4 000 000.00
Broken Femora R1 914 416.00
Broken Femur and Patella R770 881.15
Loss of Support for two minor children R2 649 968.00
Fracture of the right Humerus, fracture of the pubi rami, abdominal injuries, head injury R4 613 352.95
Fracture of the right femur, Fracture of the right tibia-fibula R1 200 000.00
Broken Jaw, Right Shoulder Injury, Mild head injury R1 100 000.00
Degloving injuries to the hips, legs and ankle R877 773.00
Head injury R 2 734 295.12
Fractured pelvis R1 355 881.53
Damaged tendons in left arm R679 688.03
Fractured left hand R692 164.48
Amputated right lower leg with loss of income R3 921 000.00
Fractured left foot R600 000.00
Head injury and multiple facial fractures R5 000 000.00
Head injury, compound fracture right femur, right tib and fib fracture, and injury to the spleen R4 529 672.06
Head injury, multiple facial fractures, collapsed lung and a fracture to the right frontal bone R2 890 592.77
Loss of support R5 144 000.00

 


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