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Mark has been involved in EDA recruiting for over 18 years. He is Founder and President of EDA Careers, but started his career in EDA as executive Vice President at EDA Jobs. Mark was also VP of Marketing and Business Development in the beginning of the Internet revolution and has been a … More »
Where Might Technology Be Taking Us, I Get A Little Crazy with Mentor’s CEO, Part 3 of My Amazing Must Read Wally Interview… How Was DVCON
April 13th, 2015 by Mark Gilbert
DVCON was, well, DVCON…nothing out of the ordinary; it was as always well-attended with good traffic, perhaps even more than I have seen previously. The one good thing I noticed, and this is technically very important: the food and drink is getting better and more plentiful each year.
Anyway, for the most part, my sources had similar comments; they picked up some nice leads and met some of the customers they were trying to meet. In reality, that is all a trade show can hope to accomplish for its vendors.
Similar to DAC, I don’t write about the seminars etc.–my meetings are done on the exhibitor floor. Two good things did happen for me: I did another video, which you can see on EDACafé with the other DVCON interviews at http://www10.edacafe.com/video/Video-Categories-2015-DVCon-Video-Interviews/10418/category.html, and I finally met Peggy, who like Oprah needs no last name mentioned. I was impressed as she was quite lovely.
One of my favorite small companies, TannerEDA, was acquired by Mentor and with it they get a bright guy in Greg Lebsack, even if his favorite sport is hockey. This is a good move for Tanner and an even better move for Mentor. I was very proud to have made that introduction and help in part to facilitate the process. Speaking of Mentor, it is time to wrap up my incredible interview with Wally…another icon that needs no accompanying last name.
This interview was quite long and I am sure you will agree, insightful in a way no other article about Wally ever was. (I hope you read parts 1@2…see links at the end of this article). This is the 3rd of my three-part write-up and where I ask questions no one else would…(maybe there is a good reason for this and I should, perhaps, ask myself why).
As we changed direction, I told Wally of something my mom has told me many a time…(as she is 93 she has a tendency to repeat)…She tells me about this book that she read when she was young. It was written in the late 1800s (not when she read it of course). She could not recall the name of the author but she remembers how he wrote about how one day you will touch a wall and a light will go on. Was he talking about a light switch before electricity was around? Perhaps, but the relevant question my mom asks is “How do people get that insight?”
Admittedly the question is somewhat rhetorical, but the reality is that inventions often come from visions we read about or see on screen. We’ll never know if the author was talking about what we today call a “light switch”, even though we all know that is exactly what we touch on a wall that makes a light come on. So I asked Wally to peer with me into the future of where all this technology might take us.
I asked him if he had any concerns that, as our electronic intelligence continues its rampant growth, if it might have as much of a negative impact as a positive one. I cited automotive as my first example and went basic; let’s use OnStar I said… If you lock your keys in the car, OnStar sends a signal down to your car and tells it to unlock the doors, something that could not have been imagined in the not so distant past. Continuing, I took us 20 years into the future (trying to stay immensely basic here), let’s just say that you have an unpaid violation or something even less egregious. And then the police send a beam to your plate and it shows your violation or even suspicion of…a quick signal to your car pulls you over, locks the car and they come and arrest you.
I said further, what if a very smart hacker (using a somewhat appropriate term) uses that same technology, cuts your external and internal communication, sends a signal to lock the doors, takes control of the on-board systems, and sends your car to a remote destination of his choosing. Come on, I said to Wally, this could be possible in the not so distant future!
Perhaps slightly more complex but equally plausible, you drive through a camera-equipped automated toll and it detects your plate because it’s programmed to find violators, and then it stops you till police arrive…I bet they are talking about that already. Granted, I am citing silly and somewhat simplistic examples, but I asked Wally to use his imagination and bet him he could come up with a million such examples…infringing scenarios with some quite questionable consequences.
Was I being too Orwellian; had he ever worried about the negative implications of what he was helping build and the impact it could have on the future of society or even the world as we know it? Wally was quick to reply and reaffirmed that the impact would not be very much because the market is what determines what they want. He went on to say that while it is always possible that people will elect officials who create laws that are unduly oppressive or don’t serve any societal good, that should not affect the outcome–the market will. I thought this was a major sidestep of the question so I persisted and said that few officials would let it happen overtly, it will happen because it is presented as something for the public good or far less conspicuous, and I argued further that the point is that things always start out for the public good–rare is it overt. (I could offer varying conspiracy theories here but that’s a road for another column). I told Wally of a conversation I had with Aart (another EDA name that needs no last) about a new technology that can go under your skin, detect if you are having a heart attack, and then dial 911–and even GPS your location with your vitals. This certainly sounds wonderful, even amazing, HOWEVER… since this is done wirelessly, someone could just as easily control that device in people (maybe extreme but certainly possible) and perhaps cause a heart attack or pose the threat so as to hold control over you. What if there’s an app that you can download, that comes from your doctor, (after all new apps are hitting the market in droves every day) that could perhaps send signals from your phone to your newly installed “Body Health Chip” that could in turn send signals to the synapses to your brain (I warned him this could get a little crazy)?
So I asked, is this really that much out of the realm of what could be happening in just a few short years, if not in concept already? After all, are there not are a lot of smart people out there looking to capitalize criminally on as many people as possible? I was pleased that he recognized the possibilities and even happier that he answered, “not as crazy as you might think”; obviously Wally had some concerns as well.
You see my friends, soon we will tie into the synapses of our brains and so many other parts of our bodies. We all know that work is going on as we speak. We are mapping the brain and figuring out how to help people walk or prevent sudden onset of disease etc., all with the wonderful intent of really helping people. But, think hacker and go out 50 years!
With that in mind I wanted Wally to see the bigger picture I was trying to paint, not that I think it’s fair to expect Wally to have any real answers, but we should all be asking what happens, if all this automation that we are building might be used to seriously control how we think, move, and act. Will it calm psychotic people, wake up the sleepy, allow us to stay awake longer, work harder, think faster, walk or act a certain way and so on…is it unthinkable that there’ll be ways for companies or designers to communicate with your mind or body functionality remotely? I really believe that this must be viewed exponentially as we’re doing this now with real life applications, even if it’s all with really good intentions.
Here is a bizarre crazy thought…could Planet Earth be a video type game (SIM-EARTH) for immensely advanced alien civilizations? (Ok, I will calm down).
Everything is happening so quickly, and with so many incubators in basements all across Silicon Valley and all over the world. We should be asking if those at the top are thinking beyond profit and making sure our society is safe from misusing all this technology in the future. There are no real controls, and no central place to approve what people are REALLY working on–after all isn’t that exactly how HACKING is taking place.
Now think hacking, but rather than money, think control–whether it is control of our resources or control of parts of us individually…the work we are doing today, without real safeguards, can be the real nightmares of tomorrow. The real conundrum here is that these applications are seriously benefiting so many today, and I’m sure many more in the future, but as the developers of today and going forward, do we not owe mankind some really deep secure safeguards against the possible science fiction mumbo jumbo we read about or watch in movies and on TV.
Use your imagination, I said to Wally, go out 10, 20, 30, 50 or a hundred years. I smiled, at Wally saying “I think I watch too much science fiction however I cannot help but think that the chips of tomorrow that we know will be smaller and immensely more powerful will control so much more of our lives than any of us care to believe or admit. What would stop me from developing a “Happy App” (this should only be the worst of the possibilities) that you download to your external implanted HEALTH monitoring device (after all, why keep all that information on your Doctor’s computer when you can carry it around with you for any Dr. or ER to see immediately). It then sends waves that automatically detect when you’re feeling down and simply sends this signal and all of a sudden you’re the happiest person around. Depression is a thing of the past! Can you imagine how many implications there are to this very simple mind altering concept that starts out as something practical, good, beautiful, and wonderful? And could the opposite occur if this concept was put in the wrong hands?
I took it up a few notches and asked about robotics; after all we have seen them in many a movie portrayed from helpful and friendly to detrimental and sinister. A writer’s characterization, yes, but within those wildly imaginative movies, there is some reality that actually comes to life. From Flash Gordon going to space 50-60 years ago, Hal in 2001 A Space Odyssey, to robots like Robocop, some parts of all these science fiction movies we watch influence our future development cycles and has the potential to become our new reality, especially as AI (Artificial Intelligence) progresses. I asked him if when he thinks about all this, does he ever wonder what kind of cautions we can build to stop these potentially negative possibilities from maybe developing into something that could seriously harm us one day? Surprisingly, finally, Wally said that he actually does think about these things all the time, but yet again felt strongly, that as long as we have free markets, those forces will drive us in a direction that will, as he puts it, move us forward. While he acknowledged that technology in the hands of evil people or governments can cause great harm and pointed out that just as they could perhaps one day invade your brain, similarly today they can come and shoot you, or they can put you in jail; you’re never free from the oppression of government or even from evil people. Perhaps my real fear is that these negative implications will rarely start out overtly but once wildly used (because of its widespread positive impact), the chances for subverting for negative use becomes such a real possibility. Being the ever so trusting sole, Wally still believes that most people aren’t evil, and I certainly agree, but we all know it only takes a few nuts to possess the right technology and a real problem for humanity could one day exist.
Wally does have a point when he says that at least for now, the free markets gives us a choice as to whether we want that HEALTH chip or not. He said some people may want it and some may not but I think the point that Wally was missing or that perhaps I was not making clear, (as I said it several times) is simply that technology is rarely inherently designed for bad purposes–it is the aforementioned few that find ways to use that good technology for not-so-good intent. He admits that companies today can for example implant DSPs (Digital Signal Processors) in Parkinson’s patients, and the DSP takes the corrupted signal in the brain and cleans it up, and then the person can hold a glass of water without shaking. But flip the switch and watch the water go all over the place. That to some extent is a simple example of how good technology can be used maliciously in the wrong hands.
I went on to tell Wally that while I’m not one of these wild prognosticators of doom, obviously I have real concerns. Certainly, when they developed the internet, they didn’t develop it for guys to go out hacking and stealing your financial information or documents. Wally countered with the question that always wins out and overrides all…”would you rather do without the internet because of the hacking that occurs”? We know the answer when framed so illustriously in black and white is of course we wouldn’t, especially once it is part of our everyday lives. But I don’t think that answer necessarily addresses the future implications of serious criminal activity or mal-intent.
Internet, wireless etc. are technologies that have changed the way we live and virtually everything about our lives; from how we do business, to how we learn, to even how we interact with each other and dare I say almost everything else we do. But for all the good, these same things are also opening the door for a new age of possible harmful retributions. In as much as we have benefited from them, the possibility of equal or greater negative implications could reverse so much of the good. I just hope that others out there have similar concerns and are building in safeguards that can be implemented to protect us as things continue to progress at virtually the speed of light.
I got the feeling that Wally felt my concerns (or maybe he was just thinking I am nuts) and gave me probably one of the better examples. He imagined a future where every car starts talking to every other car, and driverless cars become a reality (he cited the Google car that is often seen on the streets around San Jose), and pointed to the newly coined safety apps, labeled ADAS, or Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.. These are things that are within the realm of existing technology, it just has to be implemented, from things as simple as lane changing and close approaches warnings to other things, car breaking, and so on. (My note, we talked about how fast” things” happen. Since this interview, Delphi Automotive sent out their driverless AUDI on a 3000+ mile cross country test, implementing these THINGS, which shows how fast technology incubators become reality). Wally said that with all of them, there are questions, “Do I really want the car to be able to completely stop or do I want it to warn me I need to stop?” The fact is that the new technologies end up being adopted first where the benefit is greatest and people are most willing to pay for it, and the criminal use of things tends to be much later when people are not generating enough income out of productive means, and so others try to corrupt things. BINGO, I blasted to Wally, that is exactly what I have been trying to say but even with this, the defense line did not change, he calmly said the free market then comes in again and says, “You know, I’m going to protect you.” In fact, with great pride, he said that one of the things Mentor does very well with embedded Linux for automotive applications with their Hypervisor is they gave it the capability to have a very strong firewall between infotainment and the rest of the function in the car. Wally to his credit realized that this feature, safeguard was really important and continued, if you’re going to be attached to the internet, or taking downloads, you want to be sure that others only get in to the places that you want them to. This was at least a modicum of reassurance to me as I know that every smart strategy includes a strong firewall to protect their legacy systems.
I felt like we had a fantastic and very amiable discussion and decided to close by going back to startups. I heard a wonderful panel that day that made the claim that the automotive industry could be the next frontier for EDA startups. I asked him if he saw that and if so, how do we cultivate a startup culture in an environment similar to what EDA was maybe 20 years ago?
Wally said it was possible, but it would more likely come through the subsystems and through the suppliers to the automotive companies, rather than direct to the automotive OEMs. He said the reality is that the automotive industry has been around a long time and therefore has built up a whole legacy of procedures, legal requirements, safety requirements, pollution requirements, and other things that create a fair amount of bureaucracy and so, it takes time to adopt these new technologies. We both agreed that it was inevitable that it would be adopted and he reminded me that (I felt a quick Wally history lesson was coming as veterans often like to do) Mentor’s first automated wire harness generation product was introduced in 1992. It’s really only been since about the year 2000 that this stuff has really taken off. Today, Mentor has about 200 OEMs that use their automated wiring tools and wiring analysis and things like that, but he told me it has been a very slow process.
I asked him if all this regulation and bureaucracy that is indigenous to the slow moving automobile industry would make doing business more difficult for smaller companies. He pointed out the sad reality, Startups typically need to get impact in a relatively short period of time, because they just don’t have the funding to wait around for customers to try out the product and debate about it or worse, deal with regulation. Wally felt that much of this would happen through existing automotive suppliers, who are introducing new products and are looking to create new innovative things to bring to the industry. Mentor has a substantial business within vehicle software, and he said that business model draws upon third parties. He cleverly said that Automotive differs greatly from newer frontiers like, for example, cellphones because established infrastructure, is much harder than creating a new one where everybody is moving ahead at dynamite speed and is willing to consider any innovation, if it gets them a step ahead.
Well for an impromptu interview we covered a lot of ground and I dare say, had some fun, doing it. To my surprise and dare say joy, Wally offered to do it again and even said to call him if we want to continue or clarify…that is the mark of a true gentlemen and in part, the reason he is such an integral part of the world we know of as EDA and I would add,, we are dam lucky to have him.
DAC is around the corner, my thoughts next column.
Part I and 2 of my interviews with Mentor’s CEO Wally Rhines
Start Looking Now For Jobs Next Year… Mentor’s Wally Rhines…Why Is Mentor So Different, First Of My 3-Part Interview..
2014 WAS A STRONG YEAR, EDA CONTINUES STRONG…MENTOR’S WALLY RHINES PART 2, THE MYTHS, THE LEGEND, THE HISTORY…