Warning: this post is entirely opinion about American politics.
Bret Stephens had an interesting op-ed in the NY Times recently. On first reading, it was great. Then I went through the comments, and realized it was quite one-sided. (He is a conservative, over from the WS Journal.) So I wrote the following letter to the editor.
In his column of Sept. 24 Mr Stephens sharp eye noticed, and sharp tongue castigated, only the left’s fundamental error in today’s discussions: judging arguments based on the speaker’s identity. But even more destructive is the fundamental error found primarily on the right: judging arguments based on the desire to believe them. That Congressman R believes something, no matter how strongly, does not make it true, nor a valid basis for setting policy.
I am at a university that emphasizes science and engineering, and teaches little about Mr. Stephens’ Great Books. But we teach our students that objective reality exists, and that it matters. We base our arguments on empirical evidence. And if evidence is insufficient, we look for more.
Here are a few examples of facts that are somehow viewed as controversial: making contraception and information more available to teenagers reduces unwanted pregnancies, and abortions. (See Colorado for a large-scale proof.) Vaccinations reduce disease. Cutting income taxes of the rich will do little to stimulate the economy when the economy is near full employment. Pumping gases into the atmosphere creates a “greenhouse effect.” There is room to disagree about what actions to take as a result of these facts, but not about the facts themselves.
I have elsewhere argued that America (and other parts of the world) are retreating from Reason back to Faith, reversing the Enlightenment of the 1600s. If this continues, the consequences for our country will be dire. But that is a longer discussion.
TL;DR In Southern California should put PV on houses and buildings that are far from the coast, because coastal areas are cloudy much of the summer. But the actual pattern is the opposite. I estimate a 30% magnitude of loss. Even my employer, UCSD, has engaged in this foolishness in order to appear trendy.
The bumpiness of this graph shows the effects of coastal weather in August.
SC overturns Lexmark’s patent win on used printer cartridges. Since the 17th century, restricting resale has been “against Trade and Traffique.”
Source: Supreme Court overturns Lexmark’s patent win on used printer cartridges | Ars Technica
Summary: once a product is sold, the original patent holder can’t control how it is subsequently used.
Not the only seller.
Today’s ruling is a win for many tech companies, with companies like Vizio, Dell, Intel, LG Electronics, HTC, and Western Digital all taking the side of Impression Products. [the winner] …The companies on Lexmark’s side, no surprise, were heavy licensers of patents, including tech giants like Qualcomm, IBM, Nokia, and Dolby. Biotechnology and pharmaceutical groups also supported Lexmark. Those lineups largely mirror industry divisions over Congressional debates around reforming patent laws, with the pro-Impression companies favoring user-friendly changes to patent laws, and the pro-Lexmark companies wanting more changes that favor patent owners.
I often gripe about the Supreme Court’s seeming “go with the big $” jurisprudence. But in this case, there was plenty of corporate power on both sides. And the 7-1 verdict means it was not a close call.
I just taught the Theranos case in my course on “Innovation and Industry Development,” co-taught with Prof. Elizabeth Lyons. The first half is about positioning a startup: powerful new technology, established incumbents, how should we enter to disrupt the industry and make the world a better place? Any moderate set of numbers makes Theranos’ reputed $9,000,000,000 valuation look reasonable.
The “case” presently consists of four articles. I put together a set of overhead slides to generate and lead the discussion. The first half ends with some general lessons about disruptive innovation and whether to follow an open or closed IP strategy. The second half starts in December 2015 and discusses the crash. I also compare Theranos with the Google contact lens (another technically impossible pseudo-invention).
“That’s a type of Silicon Valley arrogance,” he said. “That isn’t how science works.” (re Google, not Theranos)
There are lots of technology-policy-related stories this weekend. The first three concern about excess market power in tech markets, and its effects. The remaining three are miscellaneous subjects at the intersection of technology, policy, and politics.
Suggestion: If a newspaper is refusing to let you read an article, you can often get it by searching for it (on Google – irony alert, see one of the stories below), and visiting from the search result.
And a humble brag: Only the last of these stories directly concerns He Who Must Not Be Named. Nor did I mention Juicero, whose idiocy I tweeted about when it first came to market.
Is It Time to Break Up Google?
In just 10 years, the world’s five largest companies by market capitalization have all changed, save for one: Microsoft. Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Citigroup and Shell Oil are out and Apple, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Amazon and Facebook have taken their place.
They’re all tech companies, and each dominates its corner of the industry: Google has an 88 percent market share in search advertising, Facebook (and its subsidiaries Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger) owns 77 percent of mobile social traffic and Amazon has a 74 percent share in the e-book market. In classic economic terms, all three are monopolies.
AI, machine learning, etc only appear to be objective. In reality, they reflect the world view and prejudices of their developers.
Algorithms have been empowered to make decisions and take actions for the sake of efficiency and speed…. the aura of objectivity and infallibility cultures tend to ascribe to them. . the shortcomings of algorithmic decisionmaking, identifies key themes around the problem of algorithmic errors and bias, and examines some approaches for combating these problems. This report highlights the added risks and complexities inherent in the use of algorithmic … decisionmaking in public policy. The report ends with a survey of approaches for combating these problems.
Source: An Intelligence in Our Image: The Risks of Bias and Errors in Artificial Intelligence | RAND
Why did it take so long to invent the wheelbarrow? Have we hit peak innovation? What our list reveals about imagination, optimism, and the nature of progress.
Source: The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since the Wheel – The Atlantic
A few years old, but still interesting. For example:
By expanding the pool of potentially literate people, the adoption of corrective lenses may have amounted to the largest onetime IQ boost in history.