A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jun 27, 2017

Is the Problem With Tech Companies That They're Companies?

The desire to empower the world, to 'not be evil,' and to inform, keep safe, engage and be inclusive may, at one point or another, be in direct conflict with customers demands for exemplary service and investors demands for return on investment. JL

Rebecca Rosen reports in The Atlantic:

What news do people see? What do they believe to be true about the world around them? What do they do with that information as citizens—as voters? Facebook, Google, and other giant technology companies have significant control over the answers. Their decisions shape how billions see the world. That’s a hefty responsibility. The company’s shareholders are focused on increasing revenue, which comes from user engagement.“It’s not the case that responsible engagement will always coincide with maximizing engagement.”

How Robots Will Win Humans' Trust

The key may not be appearance so much as mannerisms, voice tone and other behavioral characteristics that humans have genetically adopted to establish trust. JL

Kayla Matthews reports in Singularity Hub:

It’s hard to trust something inhuman with important tasks. How can we trust robots more, and does their perceived humanity play any part? Robots should have human mannerisms. During conversation, a robot should blink and hold eye contact. The average human blinks at a higher rate during conversation, and moves their head and eyes to indicate thought processes and emotions.(And) when (robots)speak, they should use the right tone of voice for their message.

Is Tech's Unpredictability the Reason Businesses Aren't Investing In the US?

This has almost nothing to do with politics and everything to do with technology.

If the chances are that the return on new investment will be erased by new algorithms or devices, decision-makers may be reasoning it is better to wait till the future becomes clearer. As if...JL

Noah Smith reports in Bloomberg:

American businesses are only investing about 2% of the country’s GDP. There’s unused capital and unused labor sitting around.This is caused by a shift from capital-intensive to labor-intensive goods, from manufacturing to services. (And) the direction of technological progress is becoming less predictable. If companies don’t know whether their capital investments will be rendered obsolete by the next cool new app or machine-learning algorithm, they will be unlikely to invest, even if the technological future looks bright.

Why Battling Brands Online Has Gained Urgency and Impact

It's easier to generate opposition than support. And social media gives whoever is so motivated the opportunity to strike first, then force the brand affected - whether commercial, political, social or personal - to figure out how to change the perception already created. There is no ready answer, but eternal vigilance is the only preventative tactic. JL

Farhad Manjoo reports in the New York Times:

Online campaigns against brands have become one of the most powerful forces in business, giving customers a huge megaphone with which to shape corporate ethics and practices, and imperiling some of the most towering figures of media and industry. Social media is the new TV. When television shaped mainstream consumer sentiment, companies enjoyed enormous power to alter their image. The internet didn’t kill advertising, but did dilute its power. Brands now have little say over how their messages get chewed up through our social feeds.

When the Bitcoin Bubble Bursts

The future of business and finance? Or Tulipmania? In a way, it doesn't matter. The more useful elements of the innovation will survive and no doubt prosper.

But reversion to the mean rules markets, which means limits will emerge as the law of economic cycles asserts itself. JL

The Economist reports:

Is bitcoin like a tulip, gold or the dollar? The best comparison may be with the internet and the dotcom boom it created. Like the internet, cryptocurrencies embody innovation and give rise to more of it. Risks seem limited. It is hard to argue that those buying cryptocurrencies are unaware of them. (But) ascents this steep are rarely sustainable.

Ten Years Later: Apple's iPhone Has Transformed Business - and Life

It's only been ten years? Who can even remember life before smartphones... JL

Betsy Morris reports and Geoffrey Fowler comments in the Wall Street Journal:

'It's funny we even call it a phone.' The iPhone destroyed the phone call. (But) as mobile audiences grew, so did the time individuals spent on their phones. Average usage had risen to 73.8 hours a month by June of last year. The iPhone spawned new industries and business models. Google and Facebook  now get the bulk of their revenue from mobile-ads. Together with Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, they are the five most valuable companies on the stock market. Ten years ago, only one of the top five was a tech company.

Jun 26, 2017

Plotting a Moore's Law For Flexible Electronics

Just when you thought technology couldnt get any more powerful. JL

Rachel Courtland reports in IEEE Spectrum:

There is a path for the mass production of denser and denser flexible circuits—in other words, a Moore’s Law for bendable ICs. A square centimeter of fast, flexible circuitry could be built at a cost of 1 U.S. cent. While the density of the circuits increases, the group will boost the transistor frequency and drive down power consumption to prevent overheating. The overall goal is to“ make flexible circuits—that it is not science fiction but that it is going to market.”