Tag: Technology

QoTD: Push Polls and the Wrong Answers


Hi Thomas, I’m Mercedes w/ For our Future WI. We’re conducting a survey and want to hear from you. Our first question is simple. With everything that’s going on right now, what’s the biggest issue facing you & your family right now?

Spammers texting me without even getting my name right. Or were you thinking less immediately than “right now?” Well, the intersection between what’s possible with digital technology and what kind of human interactions are fundamentally destructive (mass push polls for example) ranks reasonably high on my list of worries. Is that one of the options? Somehow I think you’ll have to tick the “other” box on your form.

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On Monday night, my iPhone turned off and wouldn’t turn back on. That’s just a minor personal inconvenience with a straightforward, if not pricy, solution—right? So the next morning, I scheduled an appointment at a repair shop for that afternoon and tried to log in for work. And that’s where the “minor personal inconvenience” snowballed. […]

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Lots of political oddities today as the presidential race shifts to Nevada, so settle in for your Thursday Three Martini Lunch. Join Jim and Greg as they get a big kick out of the large culinary workers union turning on the supposed candidate of the workers because they want to keep their health plan and Bernie Sanders wouldn’t let them do it under his plan.   They also enjoy listening to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews fret that the Democrats could nominate Sanders or Michael Bloomberg when neither of them are actually Democrats. And they cringe as reports from Nevada emerge suggesting Democrats there are technologically unprepared for next week’s caucuses. Will it be a repeat of Iowa?

Mark Mills joins Brian Anderson to discuss the enormous energy demands of the world’s modern information infrastructure—“the Cloud”—the subject of his new book, Digital Cathedrals.

“Tech companies confront an inconvenient fact,” writes Mills. “The global cloud uses more energy than is produced by all the planet’s wind and solar farms combined.” In fact, digital traffic has become the fastest-growing source of energy use. While nearly every tech company has pledged to transition to renewable energy sources, most data centers are physically connected to the conventional power grid, fueled by hydrocarbons. The modern economy won’t be exclusively powered by renewables any time soon.

In a Century


An old country girl now in her 80s reflected the other day on how much life has changed since she was a kid. It wasn’t the usual story of colorless television and walking to school with a lunch pail. There was no TV in her small town.

Baths were on Saturdays. They filled “the number 3 bathtub” with water heated on a fire stove.  They stitched their own clothes together from feed sacks. “Burlap?” I asked. No, the sacks were softer cotton then. So many Americans made their own clothes from feed sacks that feed makers produced the sacks in a variety of colors and patterns. Attractive patterns improved sales.

Her family had two horses and two mules. When they visited the nearest significant market 18 miles away, her dad hauled the kids in a wagon behind the horses. The mules he used to plow.

Young people and commentary about them tend to focus a lot on the present. But what will the future that Millennials and younger generations inherit actually look like? Jack enlists R Street Institute Technology and Innovation Resident Fellow Caleb Watney to return to the podcast for some big-picture thinking about what the future might hold.

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What novels, memoirs, and films with a business setting do you like? Most fiction seems to be about people who are lawyers, policemen, criminals, soldiers, spies, students, politicians, and noble but struggling writers. But there are indeed some works of fiction, and some vivid personal memoirs, in which business plays a central role without being […]

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Delayed Innovation


Sometimes the best thing that can happen to an inventor is for him to be ignored.

Take for example German archery enthusiast Jörg Sprave. He pitched his bow designs to manufacturers for years. None purchased his plans. But Sprave did not idly wait for broader success. He continued to iterate until building something he wished he had thought of years ago. 

Stian Westlake joins City Journal editor Brian Anderson to discuss the future of productivity and how institutions and policymakers can adapt to the new “intangible” economy.

Throughout history, as documented in the book Capitalism Without Capital by Westlake and coauthor Jonathan Haskel, firms have invested in physical goods like machines and computers. As society has grown richer, companies have invested increasingly in “intangible” assets: research and development, branding, organizational development, and software. Today’s challenge is to build the institutions and enact the policies that will maximize the new economy’s potential.

Eating Cheetos with Chopsticks


Chopsticks are, in a general manner, inferior to the fork. Forks are more effective over a wider range of food, and they’re easier to master as well. Really in this day and age, the major reason to learn chopsticks is to look sophisticated. You don’t want to look like a dolt in front of your friends. So I’m using chopsticks to eat Cheetos.*

Cheetos are pretty much on the opposite end of the sophistication spectrum from sushi.** If you learn chopsticks to look suave in one of those swanky Japanese restaurants that’s one thing. You simply can’t look debonair eating bright orange cheese puffs. So why bother with the chopsticks? Aren’t they a finger food? They are if you don’t mind leaving blaze orange fingerprints everywhere.

Once you’ve determined you need to avoid orange gunk on your digits you’ve got to settle on an implement. Forks are inferior to chopsticks in this circumstance; neither the scooping action or the stabbing motion do you much good. Chopsticks, on the other hand, can pick up puffs one by one, with great accuracy. You’re rate-limited by the speed you chew in either case.

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Podcaster Joe Rogan recently sat down for a long conversation with id Software and Armadillo Aerospace founder John Carmack. The legendary programmer and engineer no longer designs video games or rockets. He now leads Oculus (purchased by Facebook) in improvement of virtual reality (VR) hardware and software.  Preview Open

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In the latest episode, the Young Americans get super nerdy, with the help of real-life tech policy researcher Caleb Watney of the R Street Institute. He and Jack discuss the virtues of free markets vs. Millennial skepticism thereof, question the emerging conventional wisdom on tech addiction and Silicon Valley, rebut the Unabomber (!), and go full nerd with semi-related digressions about Blade RunnerThe Matrix, and, of course, Dune.

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A Wall Street reporter made some 120 tests of the new 5G technology offered by her new phone. She found that it is super fast – when it works. However, it doesn’t seem to like to work that much in the summer when it is hot… Of course, when it doesn’t work, you can always […]

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Quote of the Day: Historia Calamitatum


The title of this post may look like rather esoteric, bluestocking, or even erotic clickbait, but there’s nothing to that theory. It’s not a feminist take on the story of poor Peter Abelard, and no guy ends up minus an essential piece of equipment at the end of it. No. It’s just a rumination on one of the dumbest things I ever did in my life (that I’m willing to cop to, at least), and how I got past it, beyond it, and how it all turned out for the best. (It’s also, perhaps, an object lesson in heeding the warning signs, something else I’m not always very good at.)

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It was the best of games. It was the worst of games. This week E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) — the video game industry’s biggest annual gathering and press event — is spinning out a flurry of announcements in Los Angeles, like it always does. New platforms and services have been scheduled for release next […]

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As a Man Thinketh in His Heart . . .


After numerous startling Facebook suggestions echoing sentiments I’d expressed aloud less than twenty-four hours before, I’ve quit fighting the idea that some apps on our devices are picking up on our conversations to suggest products and articles that suit our needs. Too far-fetched? How about this? I feel old and tired, I remark to my sister as we ride together in the car. The next day, an article with helpful tips appears in my feed. The title: “Feeling Old and Tired?” I took a screenshot of this stunning example of eavesdropping devices.

Then there was the time someone said to me, Not everyone appreciates me being frank and honest. The next day, there in my newsfeed, in case I needed to read up on the topic, was the article, “The Virtues of Frankness and Honesty.” Coincidence? Probably I had more chance of winning the lotto than encountering a coincidence like that.

American Inventors


Edwin Armstrong on the beach with his wife and his portable superheterodyne radio 1923

Yesterday, @richardeaston wrote a post Affirmative Action in Inventions in which he noted that in recent years a black female, Dr. Gladys West, has been given credit for inventions associated with GPS for which the credit belongs to others. I was going to comment on Richard’s post; but, my comment got too long and I think this post can stand on its own.

Animatronic Zoos


There’s a great scene in the comedy film Fierce Creatures involving a panda.

Vince McCain, the billionaire playboy put in charge of increasing profits at his father’s latest acquisition, a zoo, reveals its latest addition. Zookeepers are initially ecstatic at the unveiling of a panda exhibit. Then they notice something that raises their hackles.

The Future Is Now


I was promised flying cars. A robot butler. Vacations on the moon. Living in the 21st century, I do have access to all kinds of technology I never would have dreamed of as a kid. Still, one of my most common interactions with robots is waving my hands back and forth hoping that the machine will grant me access to a piece of paper towel so I can dry my hands. And it could get worse…

Why I Don’t Have a Smart Phone: Five True Stories


1. I was carpooling with some people on a six-hour trip (to Urbana), but before we could start, we had to get on the highway. Our GPS navigator took us right past the highway on-ramp we all knew, down some other road, then on a crazy four- or five-mile detour through other neighborhoods and odd side streets, finally coming full circle, back to the same on-ramp where we had started, which, this time, we took.

2.  For the next six hours, an extroverted older guy (maybe in his sixties) sat next to a younger guy (early twenties) and tried to make polite conversation. Even though they didn’t know each other previously, the older guy was friendly and full of energy, and it was clear that he really valued human interaction. The younger guy sometimes engaged, but his talking and even his listening eventually trailed off, as he lost interest in the conversation and paid more and more attention to reading whatever was on his phone. Perhaps unintentionally, the younger guy’s visible boredom sent the message loud and clear that he wasn’t interested in talking to the older guy. I ended up feeling bad for the older guy, and spending a lot of the trip engaging with him, even though we were sitting in different rows and had to crane some to make it work.

3.  A friend of mine, a psychologist, notices a trend: She has always had toys available in her waiting room, for any children who come. At the beginning of her career, it was a pretty reliable rule that children loved toys; now, some decades later, children seem less and less interested in the toys, or anything that requires manual dexterity to manipulate or use; the children may pick up a toy briefly, but they become frustrated or lose interest much more quickly, and revert to the one thing that still can hold their interest: a screen.