A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jan 21, 2018

Gaming the Growth In Algorithmic Surveillance

Will awareness lead to action, however subtle and passive-aggressive, that may ultimately result in vast quantities of tainted data? JL

John Herrman reports in the New York Times:

Maybe knowing that we’re being monitored by judgmental algorithms could affect our behavior. Machine surveillance can be fooled in small ways and big ones: by the creation of blacked-out spaces, the introduction of strategically tainted data and the performance of a particular version of the self. Knowing that our maps were watching us produced individual acts of defiance that amounted to collective acts of resistance.

Why a $38 Billion Tax Payment Is a Good Deal For Apple

The company may have saved as much as $50 billion by waiting. JL

Klint Finley reports in Wired:

"The magnitude of the tax signifies the magnitude of Apple’s successful tax avoidance strategies over the last couple of decades."Had Apple decided to bring its overseas cash back to the US last year, it would have paid a tax rate of 35%, $88.3 billion. Apple also announced plans to invest $30 billion in the US over five years, to create 20,000 new jobs. But it's not clear (if that is)  an increase from Apple’s previous plans, or how much will be funded by repatriated cash.

Has San Francisco Become Too Expensive For Startups?

The answer is a firm maybe. Cost is definitely becoming an issue. JL

Elissa Maercklein reports in Price Economics:

There are far more startups in SF with less than $50 million in funding than there are those with more than $500 million in funding. While many startups aspire to be the next Uber or Airbnb, the distribution is heavily skewed towards those with lower funding. As funding increases, the percentage of companies that have office locations outside of San Francisco increases, while companies with only their San Francisco location) decreases.

The Reason Amazon Is Raising Monthly Prime Fees Almost 20%

It's future growth and the prospect of finally achieving consistent profitability depend on increasing the 65% of purchases currently attributable to Prime members, especially as customers' perception of free shipping has changed from a benefit to a right.

Annual memberships lock users in to the company's electronic ecosystem. JL

Jing Cao reports in Bloomberg:

Monthly subscribers to Amazon Prime now pay $12.99 each month, an 18% jump - $156 a year. The price increase makes the $99 annual membership -- whose price is unchanged -- a bargain. Amazon added the monthly Prime service to rope in holiday shoppers or those who couldn’t afford the $99 fee. Prime memberships now make 65% of all purchases. This means Amazon is eating the cost of free shipping for many more orders, which increases the company’s expenses.

Jan 20, 2018

How Come Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto Still Aren't Ubiquitous?

Because 5G, Alexa, Google Assistant and the future of voice activated tech are looming. JL

Jeremy Horwitz reports in Venture Beat:

CarPlay and Android Auto are still on shaky ground with automakers. Between Amazon’s Alexa, Tesla envy, financial considerations, and the imminent arrival of 5G, a multi-year battle is underway to control the center consoles of cars, and phones are caught in the crossfire.  Apple and Google , Samsung and Nvidia are well aware that 5G integration into vehicles could be a game-changer for customers: Your smartphone in the car could become irrelevant if the vehicle already has its own data services.

How Craft Beer Became the Strangest, Happiest Economic Story In America

As the internet promotes scale, humans increasingly promote local tastes, perhaps as a counterbalance. JL

Derek Thompson reports in The Atlantic:

Between 2008 and 2016, the number of brewery establishments expanded by a factor of six, and the number of brewery workers grew by 120 percent. Government data count  70,000 brewery employees, three times the figure just 10 years ago. Average beer prices have grown nearly 50%. “We’ve seen three main markers in the rise of craft beer—fuller flavor, greater variety, and more intense support for local businesses.” (Plus) regulations  recently made it easier for individuals to introduce their beer.

Finally, A Robot Smart Enough To Hand You the Wrench You Need

The more important question may be at what point people become smart enough to hand robots the wrenches they need. JL

Will Knight reports in MIT Technology Review:

Automation is moving into new areas of work, and improvements in sensing and machine learning could accelerate as robots become more capable of taking on work that can currently be done only by people. Robots are already taking on ever more complex tasks within factories and warehouses. Indeed, the U.K. government is exploring whether robots may help it cope with a Brexit-induced shortage of labor.