Member Post

 

Jim is back! Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America get a kick out of New Yorkers bluntly rejecting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2020 presidential bid but it does give Greg an idea of how to thin the 24-candidate field. They also applaud Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai for giving […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Member Post

 

I’m sorry, but this is a “get off my lawn” vent. I’m sick and tired of reading a one paragraph news story followed by a dozens of tweets implying “this is what people are thinking”. No, it’s not. There was already a news article out there about a poll that said how 80% of all […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Should We Tax Facebook and Google So They Change Their Business Models?

 

Paul Romer.
Is Big Tech today as dangerous as Big Money a decade ago? Economist and Nobel laureate Paul Romer seems to think there are disturbing similarities. In a New York Times op-ed, Romer advocates taxing revenue from the sales of targeted digital ads to check the size and power of “dominate digital platforms,” specifically Facebook and Google. “Our digital platforms may not be too big to fail,” he writes. “But they are too big to trust.” Romer’s policy goal is to nudge these companies away from the original sin of advertising-driven business models, and Romer sees a Pigovian tax as a more efficient way to reduce their size and influence than antitrust or regulation. He doesn’t like targeted ads, nor the financial power they generate.

Romer’s approach toward Big Tech might sound familiar to anyone who followed the post-Financial Crisis debate about Wall Street and “too big to fail.” Among the policy options for taming the megabanks and de-risking their business models were regulation, antitrust, or higher capital requirements. That last one, advocates argued, was the most efficient and market-friendly way of making failure less likely, potentially serving as a de facto tax on bigness, or even spurring a self-initiated breakup.

More

Member Post

 

One of the biggest debates ongoing within the right involves the regulation of Big Tech companies, namely Twitter, FaceBook, and Google. Briefly, the populists are on one side. They believe that American tech companies should follow free speech principles despite being private companies. Opposing them are the free marketeers, who also disagree with what these […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Home Automation, 1990s Style

 

It is a truism that the cobbler’s children have no shoes, the carpenter’s house has a leaky roof, and none of the plumber’s own toilets flush properly. I would add to that: An electrical engineer’s home wiring is a mysterious network none other should touch. My best friend is an engineer (mechanical, so his cars are always in need of repair), and has described all engineers as inherently lazy and misdirected. “You see” he likes to start, “Engineers hate doing any work, even simple work, and so they spend their life’s energies devoted to finding ways to avoid it, even if the quest for said ways takes far longer, and requires more blood, sweat, and tears than just doing the job in the first place.” When you turn loose such an engineer on a house and its wiring, you begin an adventure in electrical mystery, complete with enough random strobing lights, and lights that mysteriously turn on or off, to put the Winchester Mansion to shame. Electrical engineers can do far more than any mere eldritch forces.

Enter my father. Long before the current home automation push, with Nest Thermostats and WiFi lightbulbs and every tech company having a mic in every room to spy on you, and a speaker to flatter you about said spying, my father had the notion that a computer controlled and networked house was a sure-fire winner, and to demonstrate this he decided that our house would be the guinea pig. And why not? It was getting remodeled and expanded, and that made for the perfect opportunity to put in the network wire and junction boxes all over. It sounded good in theory, and moreover he already had the experience in creating the first smart and computerized electrical systems in vocational trucks (the term you hear today is “Multiplexed”), reducing the miles and miles of point-to-point wiring, mechanical switching, relay banks, stacks of relay logic, and all the days of labor associated with wiring up a truck. All of that was reduced to a single smart panel, entirely solid state, and that was in the late 1980s. By the early 90s, he was ready to apply those concepts to a house.

More

The FTC Unfriends Facebook

 

While Facebook thrives in the marketplace, the company is under siege by angry critics both inside and outside of government over privacy issues. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) claims that Facebook violated its 2011 privacy consent decree and may impose a fine on the company of up to $5 billion. The FTC alleges that Facebook did not do enough to protect user data from being improperly exploited by Cambridge Analytica, which used that data to supply strategy advice to the Trump campaign.

In one sense, the fine is the least of Facebook’s worries; other initiatives are in development to alter the way the company does business. With her usual lack of caution, Senator Elizabeth Warren has called for the breakup of Facebook, Amazon, and Google on the ground that their allegedly monopolistic practices tend to squash smaller upstarts, leading to what she laments as a rapid decline in competition and innovation across an industry that has been defined by fierce competition and high levels of innovation. Warren doubled down on her position by recently unveiling a new bill imposing criminal liability—including jail time—on corporate executives for simple negligence in carrying out their manifold duties.

More

Member Post

 

David French of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America have a strong difference of opinion about Tiger Woods, but both are impressed by the comeback Woods pulled off to recover from debilitating injuries and win a fifth Masters green jacket. They also enjoy watching House Speaker Nancy Pelosi try to downplay how socialists […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Quote of the Day – Dare to Fail Greatly

 

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. – Robert F. Kennedy

Yes, the man who said this is Bobby Kennedy, a man disliked by the right and who should be distrusted by the left. (Robert Kennedy worked for Joe McCarthy and at the time apparently liked the work.) But when someone is right about something, pay attention, perhaps especially if you dislike the person.

More

Member Post

 

The Evangelical Statement on Artificial Intelligence can be found here. When the Nashville statement came out I enthusiastically signed it. I have not regretted that decision. I now think that some of its detractors made better criticisms than I realized at the time. Preston Sprinkle is not numbered among them, his thoughts were well intentioned […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Twitter Ain’t America

 

An appropriately Twitteresque meme circulated recently on that platform: Write a sad story in just three words. This was an homage to Ernest Hemingway, who, challenged to write a sad story in only six words, grabbed the nearest blank paper and scrawled, “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” Or so the story goes. It’s too good to check. Responses to the three-word challenge ran the gamut from “People trust CNN,” to “Trump elected again.” I suggested, “Twitter represents America.”

It would be a sad story if it were true, but there are many reasons to doubt that Twitter represents anything other than a cacophony of curmudgeons.

More

Quote of the Day: Computers

 

“On two occasions, I have been asked [by members of Parliament], ‘Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’…I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.”
Charles Babbage, Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (1864), p. 67

Computers. When designed properly, they do precisely what they are told. They do not interpret, they need to be explicitly instructed on what exactly to do. However, when you get them going, they give you incredible capabilities. During WW2, people would have sacrificed armies to obtain the computing power in your cell phone. Even a simple flip phone has more power than all the computers in existence at the time. Charles Babbage could have revolutionized history, had manufacturing been up to the task — William Gibson’s novel The Difference Engine posits just such a future. (It was the beginning of the Steampunk genre)

More

Member Post

 

Welcome to the Harvard Lunch Club political podcast for April 3, 2019, episode number 218 (!!!) it is the Tactile Politics edition of the show with your touchy-feely hosts radio guy Todd Feinburg and AI guy Mike Stopa. This week, we return to an earlier era where we used to bring you *three* topics. Yes! […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

How to Get the AI-powered Economy We Want

 

The American economy accelerated nicely in the middle of last year. A Two Percent Economy no more! Well, at least for a bit. Economic growth now seems to be reverting to the humdrum pace seen over most of the post-Financial Crisis recovery. (The Trump White House, it should be noted, sees things more optimistically.) The combo of slower labor force growth and productivity growth means the economy’s growth potential isn’t what it once was.

But maybe artificial intelligence can accelerate economic growth on a sustained basis by boosting productivity growth. In their 2018 paper, “AI and the Economy,” economists Jason Furman and Robert Seamans point out that many experts think “AI and other forms of advanced automation, including robots and sensors, can be thought of as a general purpose technology that enable lots of follow-on innovation that ultimately leads to productivity growth.”

More

Can Washington Solve Facebook’s Problems?

 

If Mark Zuckerberg’s call for more government regulation of the tech sector had been published today rather than over weekend, some might have thought it an April Fools Day prank. After all, what company or industry wants more Washington meddling?

But there’s good reason for the Facebook boss to make just such an ask. Politicians on the left and the right have been pushing for new rules or even the break-up of the social media giant. And a slew of controversies has damaged its reputation — election meddling, data privacy, and what the company calls “controversial, harmful, and hateful” content — giving a further boost to anti-Facebook activists and pols.

More

Does the US Really Risk Treating Its Tech Titans as National Champions?

 

If one fears the supposed malign impact of Big Tech on modern life — destroying competition, innovation, privacy, democracy, and our bainstems — then the prospect of Washington making them its special “national champions” must be horrifying. Government should counterweight big business power, these critics contend, not further enable its expansion and influence.

This is not unreasonable analysis. Companies should succeed globally by competitive excellence, not from the protection and subsidy of politicians at home. As Financial Times columnist Rana Foroohar argues in a new piece, “National growth strategies are welcome. National champions are not.”

More

Member Post

 

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America blast House Majority Whip James Clyburn after the congressman likens President Trump to Adolf Hitler and says the Trump family is the greatest threat to democracy in his lifetime. They’re also aghast as CNN receives a Cronkite award for their disastrous Parkland Town Hall […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Member Post

 

Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are glad to see New Yorkers souring on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez despite her glowing media coverage and roll their eyes at her explanation for her dip in popularity. They also question the journalistic integrity at Reuters after reporter Joseph Menn held on to a story […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Don’t Let Terrorists Ruin the Internet

 

As of late Friday, it was still incredibly easy to access video of the New Zealand terror attack. Only a bit of searching found it still available on Facebook, where the massacre was first live-streamed before going viral on other social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube. The gunman wanted amplification, and he got it. It was even easier to find the shooter’s rant, infused with white supremacy and deep familiarity with the online world and associated subcultures.

Not that tech companies aren’t trying to counter it. Indeed, they have every incentive to — both in the name of human decency and as companies already under tremendous pressure for inadequate content moderation. But a fast as the videos are pulled down, they are reuploaded. The platforms, despite cutting-edge AI and thousands of human moderators, are again proving “no match for the speed of their users; new artificial-intelligence tools created to scrub such platforms of terrorist content could not defeat human cunning and impulse to gawk,” writes Charlie Warzel in The New York Times.

More

Member Post

 

As Facebook celebrates its 15th anniversary, it is coming into controversies on all sides: political, psychological, social, and more. Thus, Jack assembles a panel of youth to discuss their own experiences with Facebook and how it has affected them. They also reveal their thoughts about the site’s effect on themselves, their peers, and society as […]

Join Ricochet!

This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

The Microsoft Myth: We Shouldn’t Assume More Antitrust Will Give Us More Tech Innovation

 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that if Washington breaks up Big Tech — and more aggressively reviews acquisitions going forward — the result will be more competition and thus more innovation than would occur otherwise. Just look at history. As the Democratic presidential candidate explains in a blog post:

The government’s antitrust case against Microsoft helped clear a path for Internet companies like Google and Facebook to emerge. The story demonstrates why promoting competition is so important: it allows new, groundbreaking companies to grow and thrive — which pushes everyone in the marketplace to offer better products and services.

More