Archive for the ‘commentary’ Category
My hypothesis is that our biggest ability to create impact is going to come from finding the “next big thing” business models, the ones that solve problems that haven’t been solved yet – whether in energy distribution, sanitation, water, education, healthcare, etc. And it feels to me that it’s unlikely that, in most cases, betting on new, untested business models – meaning creating new markets with huge amounts of friction (bad roads, poor ports, unreliable distribution, corruption) serving customers who are, by and large, new consumers of whatever you’re selling (so high acquisition costs, etc.) – is going to fully financially compensate investors and entrepreneurs for the risks they’re taking.
[To be totally clear, I’m differentiating between “good” and “astronomical” returns here, and arguing that if we’re clear-eyed about the risks you have to take to solve problems that have never been solved before, then “good” financial returns aren’t good enough, if your yardstick is a simple financial risk/return analysis.]
[I hope so.]
Source: Sasha Dichter’s Blog
“I thought of the last six months in Mississippi and my last week hitching rides with the burned out, beat up, fed up, but always kind and generous sector of society I’d never gotten to know until now. It was strange, I thought, how it was always the poor who picked us up. Our drivers weren’t the type who had happy families and middle-class upbringings like Sami and I had. The shiny SUVs or giant, bus-sized RVs would ride on past, but the worse the rattletrap, the more likely it was to pull over for us. Maybe it wasn’t strange at all. They lived lives with two feet planted in reality. Perhaps they didn’t hesitate to pick us up because they knew what it was like to be cold and hungry and away from home. They dwelled beneath poverty lines and were undereducated, but they were— in the ways that mattered most— far more civilized than the finely bred and carefully raised, for there is no demographic that has a sharper instinct for empathy than the downtrodden.”
But with each technological breakthrough comes a break-in to realms previously thought private. “It’s really valuable for law enforcement, but we have to update the wiretap laws,” Landau said.
It was exactly these concerns that motivated the mathematician William Binney, a former N.S.A. official who spoke to me for the Drake story, to retire rather than keep working for an agency he suspected had begun to violate Americans’ fundamental privacy rights. After 9/11, Binney told me, as I reported in the piece, General Michael Hayden, who was then director of the N.S.A., “reassured everyone that the N.S.A. didn’t put out dragnets, and that was true. It had no need—it was getting every fish in the sea.”
Binney, who considered himself a conservative, feared that the N.S.A.’s data-mining program was so extensive that it could help “create an Orwellian state.”
As he told me at the time, wiretap surveillance requires trained human operators, but data mining is an automated process, which means that the entire country can be watched. Conceivably, the government could “monitor the Tea Party, or reporters, whatever group or organization you want to target,” he said. “It’s exactly what the Founding Fathers never wanted.”
[And hasn't the attitude in Washington about this been entirely clear? I always worry when someone tells me something is "for my own good."]
If you hate Lance because he “ruined the sport,” maybe it’s time YOU moved on. The pro sport is rotten. If you follow it and still bury your head in the jocks of its stars, there’s a problem all right, and the problem is with you. If you can watch Nibali repeatedly hit the gas in the snow at the end of the most grueling stage of the most grueling stage race while his competition is rolling over and dying on the slopes, you’re the one who needs to analyze my modification of this old saw: “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me over and over and over, and I’m a f***ing moron who enjoys being fooled.”
THE OPPOSITE OF this creeping nostalgia is the way Jordan has always collected slights, inventing them — nurturing them. He can be a breathtaking asshole: self-centered, bullying and cruel. That’s the ugly side of greatness. He’s a killer, in the Darwinian sense of the word, immediately sensing and attacking someone’s weakest spot.
[Same thing about Jobs. Same things about Lance. There are certain types of greatness that make it easy to, maybe nearly demand this behavior. I don't think it's required. I think it's a flaw. But possibly one that keeps them human in the face of the searing burn they demanded of themselves.]
Every minute a new impossible thing is uploaded to the internet and that improbable event becomes just one of hundreds of extraordinary events that we’ll see or hear about today. The internet is like a lens which focuses the extraordinary into a beam, and that beam has become our illumination. It compresses the unlikely into a small viewable band of everyday-ness. As long as we are online – which is almost all day many days — we are illuminated by this compressed extraordinariness. It is the new normal.
That light of super-ness changes us. We no longer want mere presentations, we want the best, greatest, the most extraordinary presenters alive, as in TED. We don’t want to watch people playing games, we want to watch the highlights of the highlights, the most amazing moves, catches, runs, shots, and kicks, each one more remarkable and improbable than the other.
[Worrisome on some level. But maybe it's the start of a new growth spurt?]
Source: The Technium
Written by Daniel
January 8, 2013 at 8:39 am
Jobs, like the titans of industry before him, realized that when we think about how the world works, we are actually thinking about the way people have made it to work. And that means that if you don’t like the way the world works, you are free to change it. Which is exactly what he did.
[Forgetting that in combination with Alice Walker's "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." explains why so little is done about so much.]
What are the minimum, indispensable functions of government? What functions are present in all human societies? Is it possible to name anything which obtains in one society which is not differently just the reverse in another? Or not done at all? Has there ever been a truly anarchistic society? The Eskimos, perhaps? We have an anarchist running a newspaper in this town, who is opposed to public roads, public schools, public anything—he maintains that it is not ethical for a majority to do anything collectively which each individual did not already have the right to do as an individual. This is an explosive notion; a corollary is that all taxation is wrong, all zoning laws are wrong, all compulsory education is wrong, all punishment by courts is wrong. In the mean time he lives in a well-policed society, his own considerable wealth protected by all these things he deplores. But one thing is sure: many of the things we take for granted are not necessary to a stable society, but we take them for granted. You could get a Campbell-style story out of doubting the most sacred of sacred cows—except big business, of course; John does not tolerate outright heresy.
[Genius. I was 13 when I read my first Heinlein book. And I read all I could get my hands on since. First? Obvious. Stranger in a Strange Land. Hardcover. Looked like the above. Introduced me to Rodin as well. ]
Source: Letters of Note
Do you know what it is to succumb under an insurmountable day-mare,—”a whoreson lethargy,” Falstaff calls it,—an indisposition to do anything, or to be anything,—a total deadness and distaste,—a suspension of vitality,—an indifference to locality,—a numb, soporifical, good-for-nothingness,—an ossification all over,—an oyster-like insensibility to the passing events,—a mind-stupor,—a brawny defiance to the needles of a thrusting-in conscience. Did you ever have a very bad cold, with a total irresolution to submit to water-gruel processes?
[To good to ignore.]
Source: Letters of Note
Written by Daniel
October 5, 2012 at 10:48 am
I have too much stuff. Most people in America do. In fact, the poorer people are, the more stuff they seem to have. Hardly anyone is so poor that they can’t afford a front yard full of old cars.
[Brilliant opening, and sadly too true for most of us. I may work on this forever unless some calamity helps me.]
Written by Daniel
August 28, 2012 at 4:08 pm