A Blog by Jonathan Low


Oct 21, 2019

How Smartphones Became the Remote Control of Life

Has it really been only 12 years? That's not even a blip in time for what has become an epochal, life-changing technology. JL

Roger Cheng reports in Cnet:

Of various technologies over the past decade, none has changed our lives as dramatically as the smartphone. When the original iPhone launched, and the first Android phone followed in 2008, they were still the stuff of gadget enthusiasts with loads of disposable income."It's astonishing how quickly we've gone from being astonished to having an always-connected supercomputer in our pockets to somewhat resenting having a supercomputer in our pockets."

Is Blockchain Ethics A Contradiction In Terms?

Despite all of those who tout its security creds, blockchain was created to hide transactions from authorities who might want to regulate - or tax - the activities initiated under its protection - like that of cryptocurrencies.

As blockchain attempts to move mainstream and shed its unsavory beginnings, it is becoming even more imperative that transparent rules govern its behavior. JL 

Mike Orcutt reports in MIT Technology Review:

Like other “tech ethics” fields, blockchain ethics should examine what the technology is capable of doing, and ponder the potential consequences. Blockchains make it possible to create leaderless, “decentralized” organizations. Does that mean no one is responsible if something goes wrong? In public blockchains like Bitcoin, shared software rules automatically sort out what behavior is allowed. If a user exploits the protocol for profit without breaking rules, is that unethical? Digital currencies might change the nature of money. How might that change politics and power dynamics?

Will IoT And the End Of Moore's Law Contribute To Climate Change?

Unless new innovations in technology dramatically improve productivity and lower energy use, the answer to the question is yes. JL

Dean Takahashi reports in Venture Beat:

150 billion chips shipped, 50 billion coming in the next two years, a trillion IOT devices by 2035 eventually leads to a data explosion. But I’m concerned that Moore’s Law is slowing down at the same time this happens. Does that mean that we have to build a ton of new things, a ton of new datacenters, all kinds of new computers, without the efficiency gains of Moore’s Law? And if that’s true, what is the ultimate impact on climate change?

The 'Not-Com' Bubble Is Popping

Companies like WeWork, Uber et al that use tech but aren't really tech companies have grabbed most of the headlines - and generated most of the losses.

Real tech companies that focus on software services for business or companies that make products to sell to consumers, are doing fine. JL

Derek Thompson reports in The Atlantic:

When Netscape went public on August 9, 1995—the day many cite as the beginning of the dot-com bubble—its stock skyrocketed from $28 to $75 in hours, even though the company wasn’t profitable. Today, Unicorns with no positive earnings are getting slaughtered. WeWork fell 80% pre-IPO when investors balked at losses. Peloton, Lyft, and Uber have also struggled. The problematic firms are those that aren’t pure tech. Either they sell hardware plus software or they own a digital marketplace for humans to transact goods and services in the physical world. Consumer tech grabs most of the headlines. But enterprise tech grabs most of the profit. Tech IPOs have been strong “as long as you’re buying a real tech company."

The Reason Safety Experts Say Amazon Workers Should Unionize

Injury rates for Amazon warehouse workers are three times the national average. One day shipping is expected to make the situation worse because instead of hiring additional workers, the company wants current employees to work faster.

Safety experts recommend that its workers unionize as a means of forcing the company to pay more attention to dangerous working conditions. JL

Alexia Campbell reports in Re/code Lauren Gurley reports in Vice:

A “production-obsessed culture” at Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center found the injury rate is three times the national average. 66% of the workers surveyed said they experience physical pain while performing work duties and 42% said they continue experiencing pain when they aren’t working. Amazon is one of the most dangerous places to work in the US, based on its warehouse conditions: higher-than-average injury rates, unnecessary risks, and an unwillingness to address workers’ concerns. Amazon workers are trying to unionize. They’re afraid for their safety and expect conditions to get worse with one-day shipping becoming more widespread.

Amazon Is Causing FedEx CEO Founder To Reinvent It

Thanks to Amazon most of the delivery business has shifted from air to ground, which is more expensive because it requires more people and tangible assets like trucks.

FedEx has cut its ties to Amazon, betting on its competitors. That is not a bet that ever has paid off for anyone else. JL

Paul Ziobro reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Amazon has morphed from a customer into a competitor. It now delivers half its orders. Most of the growth in shipments is coming from e-commerce orders, which increasingly need to travel from a warehouse to a nearby home, not long distances overnight. Dropping one or two packages at a home is costlier than dropping off a large number of packages at a retailer or office. FedEx stopped delivering nearly all Amazon packages in the U.S., letting contracts worth some $900 million in annual revenue expire. FedEx wants to be known as the shipping company that is aligned with Walmart Inc., Target Corp. and others that compete with Amazon.

Why Customer Ratings May Miscalculate Consumer Behavior

Consumers have become more sophisticated about surveys, ratings and the purposes to which they are put. Their answers are frequently more nuanced than those interpreting the data - who may be projecting their own biases - might believe.

The most important caveat in assessing such data is that the complexity of human emotions - especially ambivalence - may be reflected in their responses to questions about what they like or dislike. To optimize the value of customer attitudes, it is prudent to assume there is little that is black and white. JL

Christina Stahlkopf reports in Harvard Business Review:

Only half the people who expressed an intention to recommend firms actually did so. 52% of  people who discouraged others from using a brand also recommended it. While enthusiasts extol the virtues of a brand, that doesn’t mean they like every product. According to their ratings, 50% of customers were promoters, but 69% of customers had recommended a brand. Detractors were seven times more likely to have either recommended a brand or said nothing other than disparage it. Actual behavioral patterns didn’t align with expectations created by the ratings.