There’s quite a bit that’s reported on in a week, and when one misses a week because of a stomach bug, well, it leads to an even longer list for all of you. I do hope to shift to more evergreen material in the future as time allows, but that said, here’s the round up for the last few weeks:
First, Elon Musk is at it again, this time with travel to Mars. For the low-low price of $200k (later to be reduced to $100k), you can travel to the Red Planet. Musk hopes to have the space program up and running in the next ten years “if things go super-well.” Key to the success of this program? Reusable rockets. Ars technical notes that this is either a moment of audacity, madness, or brilliance, or perhaps all three for Musk. CNET looks at the ethical questions around building a city on Mars – and they do make a reference to Space Jam in the process.
If you recently updated your phone OS, you likely had thirty-six pages of terms of service to read through, and it’s likely you didn’t bother. Heck, I didn’t either. There are some funny stories out there of companies and developers hiding jokes into their terms of service to highlight that no one ever reads them, but Quartz this week digs into how terms of service are actually changing ownership rights in a way that many of us don’t realize. A good example of that is how John Deere owners can’t legally fix their own equipment, they are required to take it to a John Deere certified mechanic (at quite the price difference over a local shop).
Ever wondered how equity compensation works at a startup? Fortune covers that here.
The Federal Reserve has failed, despite its best efforts over the past twenty year and three administrations, to stabilize inflation at the targeted 2%. In the past four years it has stayed well below that, which those of you who studied economics at some point will realize speaks to a major issue in our economy: wage stagnation. Don’t take my word for it, though, check out what Time said on the issue in 2015 and how New Constructs thinks the root of it is the Internet Economy.
As we’re on the topic of the internet, it seems that the police are raiding houses based on IP addresses … but the only issue is that sometimes those addresses can be spoofed or point to the wrong place. Fusion had a piece a while back on a farm in Kansas that has the unfortunate fate of being the default address for MaxMind, an IP address tracker, for any IP address they couldn’t map. MaxMind says its IP geolocation is inaccurate in the United States 12% of the time. That’s a bit more than a standard deviation, but there are extra steps the police can take, like seeking out additional information about who actually owns an IP address from an Internet Service Provider.
As a tag along to that, Venture Beat has a great article this week on how machine learning can help the security industry. ML has been used successfully for implicit authentication, and if it lives up to the hype, it should be an excellent tool for addressing authentication-based hacks in the future.
Did you know that women launch more than half of all internet companies in China? I certainly didn’t, and this article from Bloomberg explores the how.
Brexit hasn’t been as much of a headline of late, but The Guardian had a great article on the orchestrator of the movement and the long road he slogged.
Well, it seems the whole E-Waste recycling thing may be a sham (I don’t think this is really a shock to anyone), and Motherboard does a great job of digging deep into how the current system works and what the actual net value of many of those recyclable parts is. That said, some good news to follow on: a UC Irvine Doctoral student accidentally invented a battery that lasts 400 years. Seriously. Four hundred years.
One of my oldest friends works for Illumina and so I’ve been hearing about their tech for a long while. Fast Company has a good long read about the company this week – if you’ve ever looked at finding out who your ancestors were via genetic testing, they’re the ones who sell the machines that do the analysis.
Speaking of machine learning, one of the issues we face is the implicit gender bias that is created by our language and society and then can impact the results of even a simple search. A group of researchers trained a machine learning system using Google news stories and then asked the question “Man is to Computer Programmer as Woman is to X.” The answer the system came back with was homemaker. This study revealed the bias that can be programmed into a newly created machine learning system based on the inputted data. The team of researchers ended up having to (and were successful at) explicitly remove gender stereotypes from the embedding the machine learning algorithm was using. This also speaks to why the AI that Microsoft unleashed on the world months ago went so hilariously awry.
Microsoft had a couple of interesting articles come out about it this week, including one about how Nadella thinks AI will transform Microsoft and another about computer chips that can reprogram themselves on the fly. There’s a lot of hype around AI this year, so the latter article is more interesting to me for a few reasons: for one, it captures some of the culture that existed in Ballmer’s day at the reigns of the company and highlights the stark contrast under Nadella’s leadership. Another is that the chips in question, FPGAs, let engineers build chips that are faster and less energy-hungry than an assembly-line, general-purpose CPUs, but customizable so they handle the new problems of ever-shifting technologies and business models. Oh, and Microsoft also just announced yesterday that they are merging the Research, Bing, and Cortana divisions to create a 5000 person strong AI division.
Five thirty eight has a good piece this week on AI and bots, and it’s worth looking at just for the opening paragraph … you’ll see why.
Did you know that over 50 million people under the age of 21 are on the app musical.ly and the app has over 11 million uploads a day with a user base of 120 million worldwide? The New York Times had a good piece on the app recently, but Vice has a better one out this week, explaining both the popularity of the app and its potential impacts in the 13 – 24 demographic.
Remember Google Glass? It’s likely that they were simply ahead of their time as I think we’ll see the how we use computers change drastically over the next ten years (especially with VR), but they failed nonetheless. Now Snapchat is getting into the eyewear business, and there are varying opinions on whether they’ll see success. Techcrunch spoke to the hopes and headaches of Snap, Inc.’s new frames, and Stratechery had a good piece this week on the future of wearables as a while.
Speaking of Google, they who shall “do no evil” have a plan to try and take down Amazon’s Echo that will be unveiled next week called Google Home. It’ll be interesting to see if they can catch up where Amazon is so clearly in the lead.
HBR has a good overview of the platforms that are effectively disrupting businesses today. Many of them won’t be a surprise to any of us, but what’s interesting is that the authors posit that it’s not traditional business being disrupted by platforms, but businesses which already play on a platform (albeit antiquated in some cases). This leads to the conclusion that even platforms that are seeing success today can be disrupted and changed even further.
There’s a trio of articles to do with bandwidth and data speeds this week worth a read: Who Cares About 5G Wireless? You Will, Why is America’s Internet So Slow?, and Teleportation across Calgary marks ‘major step’ toward creation of ‘quantum internet’. That’s right … teleportation. What’s most interesting is that in order for us to realize the full potential of the Internet of Things and Virtual Reality, how devices connect online we’re going to need a completely different way for those devices to do so, and with how the world is still going more and more mobile (even with odd claims that the mobile phone is dead out this week), that change is likely going to have to be on the order of the creation of the internet at Darpa or the iPhone by Apple for us to realize that potential.
Moving on to culture and values, there’s a great piece from GeekWire about how Zillow created a culture around six core values that empower employees and then another on how Warby Parker is getting better results by reducing managers’ control over their workers. It seems that WP is taking some advice from GitHub. Oh, and another one about Tower Paddle Boats, where the CEO made a commitment to five hour work days for his employees, and his employees have made up for that change by a marked increase in productivity.
There was also a bit of news in the past few weeks after the Federal Government released its thoughts on autonomous cars, leading to The Atlantic to remark that we’re entering a new era for the automobile, strategy+business to comment on the auto industry’s real challenge, the New York Times to state that in backing autonomous cars, the Fed has told automakers to figure it out, and last from O’Reilly their thoughts on how AI is propelling autonomous cars and what that means for the future of transport.
Bloomberg has a phenomenal, in-depth article into how Goldman Sachs lost $1.2 Billion of Libya’s money, but it’s interesting not just for the details of the deals that went awry, but also for how the article sets the stage and presents the history leading up to the deals as well. All in all, well worth the long read.
No Ted talk this week, instead take seven minutes and watch Musk’s presentation on how we build out a space exploration program that will take us to Mars.