A Blog by Jonathan Low


Oct 17, 2018

How the Pentagon Plans To Weaponize Soldiers' Capabilities To Combat Robots

Work on advanced prosthetics gave DARPA an idea: if you can make biomechanics and bio-electrical engineering enhance limbs, how about other parts of the body - like the mind?  JL

Michael Gross reports in The Atlantic:

The U.S. government has put limits on DARPA’s power to experiment with enhancing human capabilities. “They don’t want us to build a superperson.” This can’t be the announced goal, Congress seems to be saying, but if we get there by accident...DARPA’s work to repair damaged bodies was merely a marker on a road to somewhere else. "If I gave you a third eye, and the eye can see in the ultraviolet, you’re better than the person who can’t.” One aspiration: the ability to transfer knowledge and thoughts from one person’s mind to another’s."You can weaponize anything."

Google Maps Will Now Provide Electric Vehicle Charging Station Locations

Electric vehicle charging stations are crucial to the success of electric vehicle growth.

And since the charging stations still require some research, the importance of mobile search to consumer behavior means that Google has given the industry a huge boost. Which, given its investment in Waymo, is not entirely public spirited. JL

Sean O'Kane reports in The Verge:

Nearby chargers will show up in Google Maps when a user searches for terms like “EV charging.” Maps will include information about what types of ports are available, how powerful they are, pricing, as well as driver reviews and ratings. Missing in the initial Google Maps rollout is the ability to check if individual charging stalls are occupied: drivers won’t know if chargers are available when they arrive at the location. Other services, like PlugShare or Tesla’s interface for its Supercharging station, put this information front and center.

Amazon Didn't Kill Sears - A Succession Of Bad Executives Did

At its height, Sears was the Amazon and Walmart of its day combined: a radical innovator whose vast scale, thick catalog and delivery capabilities made its products available to anyone, almost anywhere.

But financialization sparked a series of owners who viewed it as a massive asset from which value could be plucked without reinvestment, let alone a competitive strategy. They sold off what they could, including the real estate, and let the rest to rot. Bankruptcy was the logical and - arguably the intended - end result of that strategy. JL

Steven Strahler reports in Crain's Chicago Business:

Sears (cut) thousands of locations and (sold) rights to brands like Allstate, Craftsman, Kenmore and DieHard. Profit came mainly from a Sears-branded MasterCard that let shoppers charge $20,000 anywhere, not just its own stores. Credit "was an important source of value creation, but also a source of loyalty that bound people to the stores. (Owner Lampert) believed he had the God-given talent to create a brand-new retail operating model, but he never articulated how his model was going to be any different. "He's going to preside over a slow liquidation of the company."

Why Big Organizations Squander Good Ideas

The cautionary tale of Xerox Parc and the first personal computer is oft told, but the reasons behind that company's failure to capitalize on its innovation are often misinterpreted.

The issue was not one of technological or managerial competence, but of organizational inability to support a product that would disrupt the company's then-current success.

As is often the case with new opportunities, institutions and the people in them worry about the threat they pose. Successful companies recognize this and work to align organization with strategy. JL

Tim Harford reports in the Financial Times:

“Disruption describes what happens when firms fail because they keep making the kinds of choices that made them successful.” An innovation might be radical but, if it fits the structure that existed, a firm has a good chance of carrying its lead. Dominant organisations are prone to stumble when the new technology requires a new organisational structure. An architectural innovation changes the relationship between the pieces of the problem. It demands that the organisation remake itself.

Oct 16, 2018

Microsoft Files Patent For Finger Gesture Tracking Ring

Biomechanics and bio-electrical engineering come to the fore as tech firms attempt to create the next generation of device command and control processes. JL 

Jeremy Horwitz reports in Venture Beat:

The ring could use an integrated antenna to harvest power from a nearby smartphone.
(It) would power a gesture-based OS and applications. Microsoft envisions the finger band detecting internal tendon pressure from finger squeezes, gestures, plus circular twists of the finger and hand. It could even detect handwriting. Additional sensors could  microphones to magnetometers, plus gyroscopes and accelerometers.  The patent is focused on its use as a sophisticated remote control for other devices.

99.7 Percent Of People Writing to SEC re Net Neutrality Opposed Repeal

'Astroturf' versus grass roots.

Most of the 'support' for net neutrality repeal came from corporate-sponsored bots or websites and committees set up for that specific purpose.

The overwhelming number of actual people who sent in comments were opposed to repeal. JL

Karl Bode reports in Tech Dirt:

A new report from Stanford University eliminated all automated or form-generated comments and found just 800,000 Americans willing to put their own, original thoughts on the net neutrality repeal into words. Of those 800,000 real people, 99.7% opposed what the FCC did. Millions of Americans (also) voiced their concerns via form letter campaigns. Previous analysis has indicated that even among form letters, the vast majority opposed (net neutrality repeal).Analysis suggested half of the 22 million comments submitted to the FCC were fake.

How Silicon Valley Hacked the Economy

The details of tax policy may be boring, but to those who pay attention, they can be extremely lucrative. JL

Zack Wasserman reports in The Nation:

Data-privacy, economic inequality, and the market power of  Facebook, Google, Apple, and Uber to say nothing of Russian espionage have cost Silicon Valley its most powerful political asset: the myth that what’s good for tech is good for everyone. Silicon Valley has grown rich because a tax regime favored capital gains over ordinary income. It is no small irony that framing entrepreneurship as an engine of inclusive growth helped concentrate more economic power in the hands of fewer people; that’s just how powerful the mythologies of Silicon Valley have been.