Technology, the tail that wags the dog

Mostly due to my education, when I started these blogs, I had thought that technology was a force for good.  In fact, I did not even think that, I just looked to fit into the techno-world that for me was simply the world.

Meanwhile, personal experience and intuitions confirmed/reinforced by readings have turned me into a techno-skeptic.  For example, the idea of gain of function research ought to curb the enthusiasm of any techno-phile.  Technolgy is no longer a means for serving man's needs, but an end onto itself where the man serves as the means.  Surely, my stance  is not enough to save myself, not to say anything about the world.  

In my youth, André Malraux reportedly said about the future, “The twenty-first century will be religious or it will not be at all.”  Surely he did not mean spiritual, as religious is being translated, not only with regard to this quote.  Moreover, Malraux could not have had in mind a secularized form of religion, such as our worship for progress, technology or... green.  

I also think that if we are to be saved, religion has to be  reinstated.  Renewed or, if time permits, anew.


Head Buzz - Is Facebook like Crack?

Via Flickr:

The current issue of Tech Review arrived… and the plaintive plea of Buzz Aldrin is so arresting. Why have we invested in one and not the other?

To be it seems like a surreal disconnect. Innovation is in florid bloom out there, with compounding technologies that warp the very fabric of reality. Big, bold projects to change the world… and beyond. Transportation is becoming electric and fully autonomous. New constellations of low-cost satellites will provide free imagery of every part of the Earth every day. A new wave of industrial and agriculture biotech is upon us as we move beyond cut & paste and freely write the code of life like we program a computer… and the software creates its own hardware. From a few artificial microbes, we can now create billions of novel life forms per day, with all of their DNA spooling from a gene printer. Various breakthroughs in digital non-volatile memory will take us to the post-CMOS era in computing. Humanoid robots will flow into the workforce in 2013 with more powerful AI to follow. Femtosecond lasers can machine materials with zero heat. Quantum computers can now outperform a classical computer by orders of magnitude, and may soon outperform all computers every built for certain optimization calculations and machine learning tasks.

The future is quite bright if you talk to entrepreneurs. The pace of innovation is breathtaking if you talk to scientists, continualy forging the future along the frontiers of the unknown. I hope more investors can look beyond the arbitrage plays rippling throughout the information economy, so easily farmed for their short-term pops, and fleeting sense of bounty. The daily din of opportunism can create a head buzz that crowds out healthier fare.

The pattern of progress comes into focus with a longer-term perspective. We are investing in SpaceX’s trajectory to colonize Mars, to take us where no person has gone before, to venture forth to make humanity a multi-planetary species. And, as I flipped the pages, I was delighted to see that we are investing in almost every “big opportunity” highlighted in the magazine.

Steve Jurveston

Here's the ensuing conversation:

  • gsikich1 (3 weeks ago)
    Great subtitle on the cover. We have stopped solving big problems and that is because we are distracted by immediate gratification and the quick fix for things that are not fitted for a quick fix. Read Nassim Taleb's new book "Antifragile" and Shiff on the next bubble - no quick fix! Great shots.

  • TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ (3 weeks ago)
    Oh sure, in historical terms what's going on now with facebook, etc, in terms of years, or even decades, is like going to pee, or having a nap in the middle of an important activity.
    I think the statement as is (didn't read the whole article) shows not only lot of prejudice but mental myopia. And a quite frightening fundamentalism of thought, on how things should be.
    Things are as they are. Period.
    I would expect from someone who went to the moon to have a really broad and integrating, systemic view on life on Earth, not the other way around. But, that is actually another prejudice. The only difference between mine and Aldrin's is that I realize I am expecting something based on my preconceptions and worldview, whereas Mr. Aldrin seems to think he view is THE view.
    Didn't it happen to occur to Aldrin that Facebook - as the epitome of all this overload of connectivity and seemingly distraction- is necessary to the whole evolutionary progress of humans and science and technology?
    Elon uses the money he made with PayPal to invest in Tesla and Space X...

  • seatonsnet (3 weeks ago)
    Facebook has caused dictators to fall and people to be free. What is there so wonderful about colonies on Mars? Social change is easily as important as technological change and probably at our stage of development, where our technology has far outstripped our talent for living with one another, probably social change and communication are more important right now.

  • vennettaj (3 weeks ago)
    i'm sometimes getting very it the bright future or it's always the bright past : )
    i read the other day the article..what you posted on fb..not sure if the same...about political reaons behind the distribution..the ways hunger comes about...the technological solutions being somewhat superficial on that.. and that "we often plain don't know what the problem is.. yeah..interesting
    somebody actually can see the whole picture? really?..
    Gi, agree..but that's the pioneer's spirit i think..the down side of it :-)

  • ukweli (3 weeks ago)
    I think the disconnect is excitement about "how" versus understanding about "why" basically. Does colonizing mars on any real scale satisfy any reasonable "why?"
    I really don't have a lot of respect for the opinions of an astronaut about general progress. These are the men and women who rode on the tip of hundreds of billions of non-competing dollars. Public will had nearly nothing to do with the moon landing, and I predict the same will be true with the Mars landing.
    Eh, Alieness said it better.

  • scleroplex (3 weeks ago)
    the whole point of facebook now is delivering individual tracking data.....
    marketing is the world's ultimate goal now.

  • BillS49 (3 weeks ago)
    Thank you for being willing to back dreams of where mankind can go.

    subarcticmike (3 weeks ago)
    today's robot-led exploration / prelude may be the calm before the next storming of the solar system

  • sion1231 (3 weeks ago)
    It is true, the present is incredibly exciting. Thanks to people like Elon Musk and others the possibilities of the present are starting to be realized. I don't know about Facebook but Google at any rate revolutionized the revolution that is the internet. Here I am inspired by people like Elon Musk and commenting on the photo stream of someone significant who I would never have even heard of if it weren't for the internet. I am just one of thousands if not millions who may be able to make a small difference influenced by truly exceptional role models. In aggregate the effect is very likely to be phenomenal. We can choose our Hero's now. Before they were chosen for us.

  • -fCh- (3 weeks ago)
    "Facebook has caused dictators to fall and people to be free."
    On Mars, perhaps.

  • RRNeal (3 weeks ago)
    "The daily din of opportunism can create a head buzz that crowds out healthier fare." Indeed. Well stated.

  • Jim Rees (3 weeks ago)
    Where's my jetpack? Flying car? Moving sidewalks? Pushbutton kitchen? Dog-walking robot? Those are the things I was promised.

  • TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ (3 weeks ago)
    Speaking of which... I was promised the Playmobile's Pirateship and never got it. I know it's not the same kind of promise, but still feels frustrating. And I am not in the cover of a magazine complaining.
    I came to terms with it.

  • andyi (3 weeks ago)
    Well, also a palm-sized device that can correctly navigate you from wherever you are to the doorstep of the nearest emergency room, wherever that is, showing you aerial color imagery of every meter of the route.
    I mean, it hasn't been a complete wash, Buzz. Also, have you played "Orbital"? It's cool beans, seriously.

  • jgury (3 days ago)
  • So I guess you are not swayed by more Mars colonies less crime arguments. If the film versions are correct we get more crime, dictators and social injustice along with more Mars colonies. But we do not have any historical basis for that as a social science observation unlike my discovery of the more Mosques less crime effect. That was in fact key to saving civilization from that difficult era of Mongol and barbarian lawlessness and social disruption. Of course they did not have the relatively low technology of firearms so any opposing militias were easily dealt with, one more thing which our founding fathers had the wisdom to make sure would not be an issue for us.

    -fCh- (3 days ago)

  • Palm-size this and that are the equivalent of pocket watches as consolation prize for not discovering/colonizing the Americas...

  • ________________________

    Encyclopaedia Britannica: Sad, yes. Nostalgic, yes. Inevitable, yes.

    Encyclopaedia Britannica

    In another turn of digital fate, NYTimes reads the following about Encyclopaedia Britannica:
    After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print. In an acknowledgment of the realities of the digital age — and of competition from the Web site Wikipedia — Encyclopaedia Britannica will focus primarily on its online encyclopedias and educational curriculum for schools. The Britannica, the oldest continuously published encyclopedia in the English language, has become a luxury item with a $1,395 price tag. It is frequently bought by embassies, libraries and research institutions, and by well-educated, upscale consumers who felt an attachment to the set of bound volumes. Only 8,000 sets of the 2010 edition have been sold, and the remaining 4,000 have been stored in a warehouse until they are bought.
    The NYTimes readers say:

    Old Encyclopedias
    Steve FankuchenOakland, CA
    This article makes a truly dubious statement: "...Wikipedia, which in 11 years has helped replace the authority of experts with the wisdom of the crowds." In many instances it would be more accurate to reverse the uses of "authority" and "wisdom" saying, instead, "...Wikipedia, which in 11 years has helped replace the wisdom of experts with the authority of the crowds."

    While in some cases Wikipedia works quite nicely, in many others it is simply another expression of the increasingly common reality of confusing opinion with news.

    In any case, "voting"/crowd sourcing does not establish accuracy, especially if the subject is conceptual. It is democracy as religion, so to speak.

    The Britannica was like the three networks: though bland and middle-of-the road, they were at least accountable, vetted for a concept of accuracy, and provided a common reality/interpretation with which people could agree, disagree, and constructively argue about, thereby improving our collective level of understanding.

    Sorry, but I do not consider OpinionPedia to be a substitute for an authoritative encyclopedia. Too much junk on it, as well as gaming the system. Call me old-fashioned; I like *reference* books.

    Ralph P.New York
    My mother bought a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica just before I started high school. We didn't have a lot of money, and this was a huge sacrifice for the family. At the same time, she also got rid of the only television set we had in the house. With nothing else to do, I started reading the encyclopedia, letting a subject lead me into another, until I eventually got through most of the volumes. Soon, I was reading the classics and checking out books from the library. I developed an appetite for reading. I succeeded in high school and got into the university of my choice. I think Britannica had a lot to do with it.

    Ricky BarnacleSeaside
    I always wanted a set for myself as a kid but we couldn't afford it.

    My grandmother had a set from the 1940's and when Mom and Dad dropped off the kids for the Saturday babysitting routine, I'd pull out a random letter, curl up on a chair in Grandma's living room and stay up late reading, looking at the photos and basically dreaming about all the fantastic people, places and things on this planet.

    All of the other kids were in watching TV -- not me, I loved those books! And they taught me plenty. Sorry to see them go.

    Optics - Encyclopedia Britannica 1771 a

    Optics - Encyclopedia Britannica 1771 a

    Illustration of Optics theory.
    Copperplate engraving from the First Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, or Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences, founded in 1768 and printed in 1771. 3 Volumes, this is Volume 3.

    The largest encyclopedia of general knowledge published to date, with contributions by leaders in their fields.
    Printed for Bell and Macfarquhar, Edinburgh. Original half leather binding, 970 pages this volume. 26cm x 21cm.

    westiePhiladelphia, PA
    We also own a 1960 version... It is FAR superior to any current information on such things as Cleopatra, Hammurabi's code, Alfred Nobel, etc, etc..... anything that took place a long time ago has an exhaustive article that is unmatched!!!!!

    BeliavskyBoston, MA
    I used to browse the World Book encyclopedia as a kid. I think print versions of sets of encyclopedias that are a few years old are worth buying used for $100 or so. Kids and adults may browse them more than the online version.

    From a reproduction first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica for the utata reader weekend project 

    DanYHKimLas Cruces, NM
    I listened to a very interesting podcast of Simon Winchester talking about the history of the Oxford English Dictionary. In it, he described the way in which data was collected for the first edition of the dictionary: lay contributors from the entire English speaking world were asked to write any word they saw in print, along with a definition, pronunciation guide and a citation of the written work containing the word in context. These were to be mailed to England, to be sorted and compiled into the Dictionary.

    So, the use of contributions by ordinary people in an archetypal reference work has a long and honorable history. The OED is, in fact, the progenitor of today's Wikipedia!

    LJ EvansEasthampton, MA
    You clearly have no idea what peer review is about, or you would never say such a ridiculous thing. ANYONE can edit a Wikipedia article, whether they know diddly about a subject or not. Peer review is the submission of a proposed piece of scholarship to actual experts and fact checkers. They are not even vaguely similar.

    It's more than about accuracy. Wikipedia articles are often poorly written, and some are downright excruciating--newsy, promotional, way too many words or too few--despite the good work of an obviously insufficient band of roving editors. This matters, because comprehension depends on communication. Too often, the "crowds" can't write.

    Encyclopedia Britannica 1771 - Mechanics c

    Encyclopedia Britannica 1771 - Mechanics c

    Engraving of mechanical devices from the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, or Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences, founded in 1768 and printed in 1771. 3 Volumes, this is Volume 3.
    The largest encyclopedia of general knowledge published to date, with contributions by leaders in their fields.
    Printed for Bell and Macfarquhar, Edinburgh. Original half leather binding, 970 pages this volume. 26cm x 21cm.

    Ross WilliamsGrand Rapids, Minnesota
    Every source has its problems. There have been studies showing that Wikipedia actually has fewer errors than the print versions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Largely because errors in an online, crowd sourced encyclopedia get corrected.

    Crowd sourcing does not guarantee accuracy, but then neither does one expert opinion. You can certainly find obscure and/or controversial topics where the Wikipedia entry is suspect. But Encyclopedias only avoided that problem by avoiding the topics all together or focusing only on one narrow, non-controversial narrative. That may be reassuring for those looking for "authority", but it does not make for a very complete source of information.

    This decision is a disaster for the future. One of my treasures is a set of the 11th edition of the Britannica. Published in 1911, it has always had the reputation of being the best reference to go to for historical events and people up to that date. Long after many versions of web pages can no longer be read, my children's children will be able to sit down with that set and find out what made the world tick in the 19th century and in centuries before that.

    RalphSan Francisco
    Sad, yes. Nostalgic, yes. Inevitable, yes.

    Which of course would be trumped a millionfold by the errors found in Wikipedia. Every day millions of people world-wide are adding mistakes, fiction, rumor, and b.s. to Wikipedia. Much of this gets filtered out eventually (and more added!), but one can never be certain at any given time what is accurate and what not."In the long run" truth will out is the refrain of the Wikipedians, but as Keynes noted, in the long run we are all dead. In the meantime, it is unreliable.

    MikeAustin, Tx
    Wikipedia follows a process similar to the highest standard in publication: peer review. The EB may have survived if they invited more authorities to review their work and expand the number of articles.

    Just to rub their face in it, the Wikipedians compiled the following error list:ædia_Britannica_that_have_been_corrected_in_Wikipedia#Wikipedia

    The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.  --- Bill Gates

    The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow. --- Bill Gates

    "Peer review" in the academic profession assumes that the peers are experts. "Peer review" in Wikipedia involves the contributions of many people who know next to nothing about any given subject, often can't write, and rarely have any sense of what distinguishes reliable information from empty opinion.

    Wikipedia serves well as a means of doing a quick check on basic information (to be double-checked elsewhere) and a starting point for research (now that bibliographies are increasingly included). But the reliable information that appears in Wikipedia is almost completely parasitic on the work of real scholars bound by professional standards.

    In addition, the gatekeepers Wikipedia uses often are ignorant of the subjects they are supposed to be supervising and are not bound by the sorts of professional rules one finds in the university system. I discovered one of these gatekeepers insisting that references other Wikipedia entries were considered more reliable as a measure of any composer's professional standing than a references to real-world sources. I tried in vain to get this person to understand that performances of a composer's work by leading ensembles, or a prize granted a composer by one of the leading institutions in the world of music were real-world measures of professional standing. For him, all that counted was Wiki-world standing.

    So, no, I do not consider Wikipedia "open-sourcing" to constitute anything remotely resembling peer review.

    day ten. this might make me weird but I read the Encyclopedia for fun.*

    "...this might make me weird but 

    I read the Encyclopedia for fun."

    There's nothing like randomly leafing through an encyclopedia and discovering an entire subject that was previously unknown - delving into this subject - then being led to related subjects and ultimately, other sources.

    It begins with knowledge for the sake of knowledge - stimulating a thirst for more, whether expanding on a subject or narrowing down the search for more detail. This truly opens one's mind and imagination.

    Who searches randomly through the internet? The adventure of leafing through print reference books just can't be replicated via the internet.

    My parents made the considerable financial sacrifice to purchase the EB when I was a child - NOT in an attempt to gain "status" (which would have been more easily attained by buying a new car) - but to open their children's minds and give us access to the whole world at our fingertips at any time. As a result, our apt. was a magnet for the entire neighborhood - & a place of lively discussion & debate.

    So sad that children won't have that experience anymore. Yes, I'm grateful that the online version of EB will continue - glad that it will still provide authoritative, accurate information - but it's just not the same.

    RobertBoston, MA
    When I was introduced to online researching back in 1983 (!) the librarian who helmed the class told us that the great sorrow of computerized searching would be the loss of serendipity -- the accidental discovery of new worlds on the way to the one you wanted. That is the great value in the physical EB volumes that will be missed. What greater joy than finding something completely new on the way to something that you already knew existed. WP, of course, tries to recreate the experience with its homepage "Featured article" and "Did you know..." bits. However, it's not the same as the joy of losing yourself in wonder within the entry _before_ the one you meant to find. Most of the young people whom I know in the Google generation have no clue about that type of immersive learning-for-the-joy-of-knowing. They certainly won't get it from WP or Google searches. Everyone in our household has a computer with a connection or a smart phone. We use them. However, to shore up the bulwarks of civilization, we still haul out our '72 EB to the dinner table when questions of history, etymology, or plant biology arise. Out of date? Sure. Worth the ride? Always.

    SteveJayNew York
    So fix the Wiki entries. That's what crowd-sourcing is all about.

    Steven McGeadyPortland, OR

    This story conflates two trends, one important and inevitable, and one less so.

    The death of the printed encyclopedia is long in coming. Shipping, storing, and using a 32-volume set of books that need to be regularly updated is not economically viable, nor is it the best way (or the only best way) to access reference information. The death of the printed encyclopedia is part and parcel of the dramatic changes wrenching the whole publishing industry.

    The view that Wikipedia is the worthy successor, however, is misbegotten. On any given topic and at any given moment, Wikipedia is likely to contain thousands of howlingly incorrect statements masquerading as facts, and thousands of biased, inaccurate, or incomplete articles masquerading as knowledge. Many of them are even properly sourced, to primary sources themselves boneheaded or bent.

    Wikipedia lacks expert voices. Britannica had 4000 authors? That is probably more than are truly active on Wikipedia, and each of Britannica's 4000 are experts. As someone said "Twenty teen-age idiots plus one expert are indistinguishable from twenty-one idiots."

    Wikipedia may be a useful tool for determining the cast list from "Gilligan's Island" or the attributes of a particular Pokemon, but as an encyclopedia it is meretricious, an attractive hazard to scholars young and old.

    Wikipedia is not dying
    Wikipedia's founder Jimbo Wales at the closing ceremony of Wikimania 2011 in Haifa, Israel. Since in the days before some newspapers wrote that Wikipedia was dying he felt he had to make clear that wasn't true 


    Jim Whittaker, a Microsoft employee, formerly with Google, shows how the nexus of money, technology, and do no evil is being transformed.  Apparently, the prosperity of facebook is breaking it, for Google, that is.

    Google, Then and Now

    I should probably add that I have no facebook account, and I have Google+, yet things don't seem to fall into place.

    Fate of the US company: Cycle of renewal vs. Pile of patents

    Kodak Still Life

    Eastman Kodak, the 131-year-old film pioneer that has been struggling for years to adapt to an increasingly digital world, filed for bankruptcy protection early on Thursday.

    The American legend had tried a number of turnaround strategies and cost-cutting efforts in recent years, but the company — which since 2004 has reported only one full year of profit — ran short of cash.

    First came foreign competitors, notably Fujifilm of Japan, which undercut Kodak’s prices. Then the onset of digital photography eroded demand for traditional film, squeezing Kodak’s business so much that in 2003 the company said that it would halt investing in its longtime product.

    “Kodak is taking a significant step toward enabling our enterprise to complete its transformation,” Antonio M. Perez, the company’s chief executive, said in a news release. “At the same time as we have created our digital business, we have also already effectively exited certain traditional operations, closing 13 manufacturing plants and 130 processing labs, and reducing our workforce by 47,000 since 2003. Now we must complete the transformation by further addressing our cost structure and effectively monetizing non-core I.P. assets.”

    Under Mr. Perez, who joined Kodak from Hewlett-Packard in 2003, the company has bet on inkjet printers. That strategy has yet to bear fruit, however. (NYTimes)

    ToddA Michigan
    I grew up in Rochester in a Kodak family. We bled yellow. I worked two summers at Kodak, in the factory where they made the ill-considered instant print film that went away when they lost the patent suit with Polaroid.

    Kodak has been ill-managed for years, lacking leadership with a real passion for making great products and a stomach for taking the risks necessary to stay out in front. R&D was Kodak's life blood and has been gutted by the current crew, who have reduced this giant of innovation to hawking its old ideas for a few spare nickels with which to slow its demise. The great minds at the firm have been wasted, have left in disgust, or both.

    Why, oh why, has Kodak continued to ride this fool of a CEO, Perez? He took a sick company, changed its focus completely to a non-core business, lobotomized it, and then moved on to selling off the extremities and internal organs. Did the Board really think this was a winning strategy?!?

    I am appalled by what they have done to this brilliant company. Kodak needs a leader with the passion and determination of Steve Jobs to bring it back from the brink. The current Gil Amelio-esque bunch is utterly and completely incapable of completing the task ahead. They all need to go. Every darn last one of them.

    mancuroc Rochester, NY
    Kodak's recipe for decline parallels that of all too many companies too many MBAs and too many corporate lawyers running things, and not enough visionaries and technical people - this, no less, from the company that pioneered digital imaging.

    It's hard to see a silver lining in bankruptcy, but if there is one, it is that the company luckily failed find a buyer for the intellectual property it foolishly tried to sell to raise money. Once you sell it, it's gone for ever; if the company survives, it will be there to license as a source of income.

    If you live and breathe only by the bottom line, you die by the bottom line. There's a lesson here for American voters: beware of electing as President a bean counter whoy lacks imagination.

    C. Attucks New York
    Kodak could not bring to market fast enough the electronic image capture and display products they needed to produce in order to successfully compete with smaller electronic companies. Although they had the capital to dominate the digital evolution, management was reluctant to fully commit to the technology.

    Many consumers are not aware that Kodak was a very successful world-wide chemical company that made chemicals for other industries besides photography. They should have kept the Eastman Chemical Division in Kingsport, Tennessee (EMN stock price as of today is $46.48) as part of a balanced portfolio. But the executive boardroom kept making decisions that addressed short term stock price concerns (e.g., Johnson & Johnson poison pill acquisition) instead of focusing on core business growth. They created a world-class health, safety and environmental program after several highly publicized chemical contamination spills and could have remained a viable chemical company since the infrastructure is still in place.

    Steve Englewood Beach, FL
    Kodak invented the Digital Camera, then, sat on it for 20 years. Pathetic leadership, zero vision, I feel for the Employees, past & present.

    Josh Hill Connecticut
    Sad. I can't think of a better example of a company that squandered its lead in new technology because of dinosaur management that was wedded to the old, dying business. Well, maybe one -- Western Union famously turned away Alexander Graham Bell.

    I know a former Eastman employee who speaks with despair of management's failure to recognize what they had in the first megapixel CCD. And I don't have the impression that current management is any better -- ink jet printers, indeed.

    LucS Manhattan
    Kodak was not only a pioneer Film company, Kodak was also the pioneer in all forms of Digital Imaging, including the first commercial digital cameras. The birth of Digital Photography was a quandary for Kodak, as the company's cash cow were the consumables (film and paper and chemistry). I was fortunate to be on the launch team of the very first digital camera when Kodak was still one the greatest American if not International companies/corporations. They were even among the Major sponsors of all Olympic events.

    The reason I left Kodak in the mid 1990's is the same reason Kodak is filing for Bankruptcy today. Even though it had been an innovative technology company, its outlook was provincial, and its reach slowed down by a stodgy corporate culture with its roots in the 19th Century.

    Despite the excitement of many of us back then at the arrival of Digital, we were also apprehensive of its effect on revenues from silver halide products and would even joke about which one of us would turn the lights off. The days of mass manufacturing of film are numbered. It simply does not make business sense to keep huge factories running to sell only small batches. Film is the darling of young photography enthusiasts because it is different. We would even joke back then that if Digital was first, people would be Wow'ed by the invention of film. And even if film manufacturing was still feasible, the Lab infrastructure is no longer there to support it.

    The End Indeed.

    dr MA
    Clearly, OLEDs are the next big imaging technology, and Kodak should be pushing their position there. But unfortunately, they sold the technology to LG a few years ago.


    Economic future & Patent law

    Patent Law
    America Invents Act is latest bill in the US patent law system, aimed more at defending entrenched economic interests rather than anything else. The bill changes the method for determining the priority of patent applications to a “first to file” system from the long-standing “first to invent” method.

    According to the NYTimes, the major two views about this bill are:

    • “This bill is unequivocally a job killer,” said Valerie S. Gaydos, a Baltimore-based investor in early-stage companies. “It will create a rush to the patent office, with innovators seeking to file anything and everything. The applications will be less complete, less well written and it will create more of a backlog.”
    • David S. Kappos, the patent office director and under secretary of commerce for intellectual property, disagreed, saying that the first-to-invent system was flawed because it essentially granted an inventor the right to legally defend his contention that he came up with an idea first. By changing to a first-to-file system, which is used in nearly every other country around the world, priority is clearly established, he said.
      Many large corporations — like General Electric, Caterpillar and I.B.M. — supported the bill, which opponents suggested was evidence that the bill favors behemoths at the expense of the little guy. They point out that Mr. Kappos worked at I.B.M. for 27 years before taking the patent office job. 
    Here are some public views  on the matter:


    The Framers - at the urging of the Paris-based Thomas Jefferson - gave Congress the power "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" (Art I Sec. 8). The idea was clearly to encourage individual innovators to commercialize their ideas, reap the rewards of their ingenuity, and teach others their inventions so they might be improved upon. But most of all, the hope was to bring the benefits of invention to the public, to agriculture and to industry. The cotton gin, the McCormack reaper, the telegraph, the electric lightbulb, and countless other inventions benefited both their inventors and the public in this way.

    The patent system has degenerated into a big money corporate game. Most utility patents are trivial improvements on existing technologies, and rarely encompass the whole of the value of the product: a smartphone may incorporate hundreds of patented ideas. Patents are often issued on ideas that are already in the public domain, and it is extremely difficult to overturn an issued patent. Despite the high cost of prosecuting a patent, companies like Motorola, Apple and Microsoft file thousands of them each year, almost indiscriminately. The inventors get a modest award for each filing and a second if the patent is granted. And rather than being an incentive to innovation, they are trading cards in litigation.

    Worse still, patents get abused by non-practicing patent holders (who often buy them cheaply) for barefaced extortion schemes that create no economic value and only serve to raise the price of technology products to consumers or keep valuable products off the market. The patent portfolio of the failed Nortel Networks had more value in bankruptcy than all the other assets of the company combined, in a cynical bidding war.

    Jefferson must be spinning in his grave.

    Law Books
    Court of Customs and Patent Appeals Reports (Patent Cases) in a large DC law library.


    Be careful, folks, anything that tends to bigness also arrives at awfullness in America. It is an ineluctable destination in an America gone crazy over Bigness is Beautiful.

    What market bigness does is this: It creates oligopolies where too many customers go chasing too few suppliers. This is already happening to the Interconnect Industry, which is why DSL-interconnect is so much more expensive than elsewhere.

    Which means what? My take: It means that our right to interconnect is not universal but based upon companies cherrypicking markets according to the number of cherries the market will produce.

    Which means inevitably that some people will have to go without, sooner or later. It is one of the reasons why rural Internet Interconnect is lagging in the US. I live a very tiny village in the boonies of France, and yet my interconnect cost is only $20 a month.

    Why? Because the government decided that citizens had the right to be informed (by TV, Telecom, Telephony) and that right should come at the lowest possible cost. Beyond that, whatever content they wanted could be priced at whatever the market will bear.

    This notion is lost in America, which takes pride in Large Numbers bounced around the media, reported in the NYT, that makes mouths water.

    What a bunch of children. Money can't buy you happiness, but it should be able to buy you a decently priced interconnect ISP.

    Patent reform bills with little reform


    It's really boils down to control and domination. The realm of patent abuse has gone off the charts. Patents are being used by too big corps to dominate and control large marketplaces and LIMIT choices and increase costs to consumers thereby increasing their profits. Frenzied patent activity is occurring in every market; genetically modified food (and seeds), bio-med, etc. It's just another method to noose consumers with technology.

    Farmers can't get a pineapple seed without buying a patented one from a giant Japanese firm because they GMOed it so now they own all the pineapple seeds.

    Most of these corps don't create anything new. They just suck up other entrepreneurs' and inventors' ideas or products and/or steal them. A smaller entity or an individual has no chance to fight them in court. What are these patent vampires really producing that is truly beneficial to society at large? Drone jobs? Disposable technology to contaminate the planet further? Too rich executives? Contributing to an elite economic class and destroying the middle class? What is their true value to western civilization beyond Wall Street money changing and fostering a trend towards corporate state fascism?

    Recently, congress was attempting to 'reform' the patent office filing from who had the idea first to who files first. Mammoth corporations employ mammoth law firms to do all that legwork. Tesla died poverty stricken. JP MORGAN bought or stole his ideas.


    Patent Law

    So, the present seems to favor a future characterized by economic monstrosities, also known, gingerly,  as too big to fail.

    The mind as lens into the future

    Vannevar Bush
    Originally uploaded by UltimateLibrarian
    Vannevar Bush, dean of engineering at M.I.T., in The Atlantic, July 1945:

    Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, "memex" will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory. It consists of a desk, and while it can presumably be operated from a distance, it is primarily the piece of furniture at which he works. On the top are slanting translucent screens, on which material can be projected for convenient reading. There is a keyboard, and sets of buttons and levers. Otherwise it looks like an ordinary desk.

    In one end is the stored material. The matter of bulk is well taken care of by improved microfilm. Only a small part of the interior of the memex is devoted to storage, the rest to mechanism. Yet if the user inserted 5000 pages of material a day it would take him hundreds of years to fill the repository, so he can be profligate and enter material freely.

    Lead time to another harvest...

    I've been arguing on different forums that people got addicted to the late '90s returns on hi-tech innovation, without understanding that they were harvesting the fruits whose seeds were planted for ~45 years (read, investments in fundamental science and such). In a recent exchange on LinkedIn, the following link came up.

    Right now, we can see that innovation still goes on in the Military and bio-sciences. Indeed, it's due to the big money spent on these.