Strategies for a discontinuous future.

Consulting & advisory, research notes, in the press, about bubblegen,
next wednesdays.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Random acts of browsing lead to interesting reads....

Started reading this blah blah on outsourcing at ACM Queue from slashdot, got pointed to this cool entry on Parable of the broken Window over at Wikipedia, which finally led to a couple of old favourites from Bastiat : That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen and Petition of the candlemakers. Did I mention that I think Bastiat is, like, one of the coolest economists ever?

-- Mahashunyam // 5:17 AM //


How to profit from Open-Sourcing software - nothing entirely new. Basically, how big is the project owner's ego? In other words, are they hiding some sort of implementation know-how they feel gives them an advantage over other kinds? And have they measured the difference between this "know-how advantage" and the edge they would get by quickly increasing their user base while also increasing switching costs? Hello first-mover advantage?

-- matt // 4:23 AM //

Friday, August 27, 2004

The successful integration of optical disc technology and holographic recording technology ...here

-- dhd // 9:59 PM //


Do you ever get the feeling that people who design and manufacture weapons like this one, were once (or still are) avid video game junkies. This thing looks like something straight out of Perfect Dark or Halo.

-- dhd // 9:54 PM //


Blogging has allowed nearly anybody to become an amateur publisher. Bored with being restricted to just text? ....vlogging has arrived.

-- dhd // 8:41 PM //


Strategy decay : HP enters Consumer Electronics. Note to Carly : copying every move that Dell makes will not make HP successful.

-- Mahashunyam // 8:15 PM //


Does anybody really want to learn to type again? If you ask me, the ergonomic keyboards were bad enough, but this one handed (PDF; via Gennum) keyboard puts a new spin on things. Really, I'd rather be able to talk to these things and get them to write it down. Better yet, I'd like to be able to think it, and get them to write it down.

-- dhd // 4:11 PM //


With the (slow) move towards hydrogen power, the water economy is coming. However, the relative disparity in the earth's stores of fresh water means that we either develop cheap efficient desalination solutions, or countries like Canada (with abundant fresh water supplies) will become the next middle east. Note: people point out that water, unlike oil, is available to anybody. This isn't quite true. Similar to the cost of drilling for oil, there will be a water processing cost involved to produce the hydrogen. Scarcity might still be an issue.

-- dhd // 3:58 PM //


Why revenge feels good. The results are probably not a shock to anybody, as the article points out. The problem I have with these type of studies is they don't take into account (or look at) higher thinking. So your dorsal striatum lights up when you start contemplating revenge just to remind you that it would be a highly enjoyable course of action. What I find more interesting is: what causes you to actually take out that revenge or decide not to? What parts of the brain are lighting up when you're contemplating the outcomes and making your decision. And, assuming this happens, is there a pattern in people who are essentially impulsive and do not go through this type of thought process.
In a somewhat related note, I think these petscans could be used to help us teach better. Studies of the reaction of the brain to being taught new things could allow us to better construct our teaching structure and patterns. This could apply to anything from learning to skate to how your brain interprets quantum physics. Not sure how feasible this is at the moment, but I'm going to copyright it as well ;). You owe me (a large) cut if you make any money off this...I'll be watching.

-- dhd // 3:28 PM //


I'm sorry, but this is just screwed up.

-- dhd // 3:27 PM //


I would agree with everything you said below IF I had agreed with your premise. I don't. First, 'owning' spectrum is a misnomer. You can't actually own spectrum. You can be given a license to transmit in a certain frequency, but you don't own. Anybody could interfere with your broadcasts if they wished, with only the fear of legal ramifications. Granted, you can broadcast in a certain frequency all the time continuously, thus hogging the spectrum (essentially UWB floods large portions of the spectrum, however it uses techniques such as OFDM to keep things working). You can't however broadcast in all spectrum all the time, unless you have a very fancy multi-in multi-out type transceiver. Besides, current battery technology wouldn't let you use this type of power. On top of this, the whole thing would be pointless because anybody can broadcast at that same frequency and at that same time resulting in the degradation of your signal. Spectrum is finite, simply because there is a range and power within which we can broadcast and not cause nasty side effects like cooking everything in the broadcast path. However, within this range, the spectrum is infinite (considering time). The point of cognitive radio technology is it actually negates anybody's ability to "squat" on or own a piece of spectrum. The smart devices will see this spectrum as not available, and find the next white hole, which invariably must exist. A more effective solution to the economics of spectrum is to have a system where by the smart devices themselves negotiate for spectrum, with automatic transactions. For example, if you want to send your powerpoint project in to work from your pda, the pda will negotiate with various providers (cell, Wi-fi, or whatever else exists), and then pick the cheapest and most efficient alternative based on what it has learned about your needs and habits.
My point here is the spectrum itself will become a commons. The real economy will be in helping you get the information off wireless and on to the wired backbone.

-- dhd // 3:15 PM //


Wow - quite a link over at DeLong's. No kidding, go read (more politics - a long series of emails between an Arab student and an American prof from 2003-now).

-- umair // 12:50 AM //

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Dave (aka dhd), below, agrees with Shirky that spectrum should be deregulated, and points to a future of smart devices that will intelligently juggle spectrum.

I disagree - I think this is a technically possible future, but an economically improbable one.

First, let's start by noting that, in the real world, spectrum interference is currently an issue (as my panoply of interfering machines tell me). So spectrum is, as far as I can naively tell, scarce - perhaps not as scarce as the FCC says it is, but certainly, still scarce.

So, second, I can't imagine a scenario where firms incentives' are to build machines that juggle spectrum nicely with other machines - I can only imagine the opposite; the incentive to build machines that try and co-opt as much spectrum as possible. That's because in a Shirky world, you're always and everywhere better off owning more spectrum than not.

So simply deregulating spectrum would have all kinds of costly consequences - spectrum squatting, spectrum litigation, etc, etc. Basically, it would encourage a whole new range of spectrum rent-seeking strategies aimed at eating as much spectrum as possible as soon as possible. Think about the current patent thicket strategies that non-innovators like IBM are resorting to right now in order to stake their claims in idea space.

If we really want to think about this economically, we should seek to balance the costs of non-productive uses of spectrum against the benefits of productive uses of spectrum. That is, to make it expensive to simply hold spectrum. The most obvious solution is to trade spectrum credits which have some kind of time value attached to them, just like bandwidth is (was) traded.

So, here's an absolute monster of a business model - to be to spectrum trading what plays like Arbinet are to bandwidth trading. If you have the resources, the time, and the balls - it would be a hell of a fun ride.

I copyright this and if you, your heirs, or your friendly local ibank tries to put it into action, you owe me 175% of the $$.

-- umair // 11:36 PM //


The management thinking pendulum swings back to 'hardball' aka strategy as conflict, not strategy as competition. I wouldn't pay too much attention; ymmv.

-- umair // 11:26 PM //


Politics of the Day (3)

ImpeachBlair.org (Via Mefi). The Dems are so out of it they can't even get a similar effort together for Bush, which is fairly amazing (if expected).

We all know there will be some kind of October surprise - simple tactical thinking would tell the Dems to plan a counter-surprise, decoy, misdirection, intimidation, bluff, threat, blah, blah; they're incapable of that as well. We all know that the great civil rights movements of the 20th century are based on symbolic nonviolent resistance; the Dems can't get this together either. The best they can come up with is to challenge Bush to weekly debates.

Yeah, I know I'm kind of jumping to conclusions about what Dems may or may not want - I'd just like to make the point that, imho, their capacity for strategic thinking is probably less than my kid sister's. Actually, that's saying a lot, since she can kick my ass.

-- umair // 7:59 PM //


Slate asks 'Why is Florida's Voting System so Corrupt' and takes a very long time to answer the question. I think the answer's pretty simple: nobody really cares. If voters (or Dems) really wanted to - if it was worth their time, effort, and money - they'd do something (but they don't). The price hasn't been high enough - yet. Maybe after November it will be.

-- umair // 7:45 PM //


The First World is the New Third World

Hey, look, there's more and more poor and uninsured people around. I'm sure glad I'm related to Dick Cheney - oh, wait, I'm not. Sh#t.

On a more serious note, this is why I say democracy is worth more in the 3rd world than it is in the US - voters in the States seem to do a very nice job of ignoring reality, even when it consists of a boot stamping on their face - forever.

-- umair // 7:44 PM //


Anti-Value Drivers

'Dude, Where's My Resale Value?' - American cars are at the bottom end of the resale value spectrum. Obviously - the income elasticity of demand pretty much mandates that you'll want more for your money than a Detroit crapmobile can give you if you can only afford to spend $20k on a car.

-- umair // 7:36 PM //


The J neatly explains most of the drivers behind Korea's broadband explosion, and why we in the States (and Europe, and the rest of Asia, Africa, and Australia) got shafted. Yeah, you probably know this, but it's worth a quick review:

"...U.S. policies and outcomes are different. The 1996 Telecommunications Act set about to introduce local rivalry just as the Koreans were making their policy moves. But while the Act struck down state franchise phone monopolies, going to competition cold turkey was considered too harsh. Regulators attempted to ease the transition with ambitious network sharing mandates. These allowed entrants to use the existing phone network facilities at prices set by regulators. (The rules are typically referenced as "unbundling," as they allow new retail service competitors to use various pieces of an incumbent's network.) Determining these complicated terms and conditions has taken more than eight years. And in June, federal rules lapsed after being overturned by the courts, leaving the entire regulatory arrangement in limbo.

Korea avoided this path. KT's new rivals Hanaro and Thrunet (among others) were denied the opportunity to use KT's network to deliver signals the "last mile." They scrambled for efficient alternatives. By using fiber-optic capacity leased from a power company, cable TV lines, and new transmission facilities built from scratch, competing networks emerged and broadband services took off."

-- umair // 7:32 PM //


Here's a piece about online dating that's filled with some very interesting numbers. I'd forget the analysis and think about what online dating 2.0 will look like if I were you.

-- umair // 7:30 PM //


Hypercompetition to hit HDTV. Yeah, we know - it's the sad sad story of CE yet again, except it's even sadder, because now PC mfgrs are getting into the action, who, I think, will be disappointed by how fast their competitive advantage period disappears.

-- umair // 7:26 PM //


David Friedman's posted a cool new paper:

"...The central thesis of this article is that, for contracts in cyberspace in the future, public enforcement will work less well and private enforcement better than for contracts in realspace at present. A secondary thesis is that while the factors that make public enforcement less workable in cyberspace will not apply to contracts in realspace, the factors that make private enforcement more workable will. Hence we can expect some shift from public to private mechanisms for enforcing both realspace and cyberspace contracts, although the shift should be larger for the latter."

This is essentially what our network licenses are about - massively multilateral contracts that are private mechanisms to redistribute the gains from replication. (Via...my Dad).

-- umair // 7:18 PM //


'Consumer loyalty evades travel sites'. What a surprise! I would have expected massive price competition and yield management to create consumers who respect and love my business. (Uhhh...that's sarcasm).

-- umair // 7:17 PM //


Anomic Society

Andrew Greely says 'America's Disease is Greed'. I would say greed in the absence of the social, like (real) social capital (not the kind we bandy about on social networking sites), is a big part of the reason why the States is so collectively unhappy. When the social breaks down, something must replace the void of ritual, norm, and tradition that's left - unfortunately for us, capitalism is a system of production, not a framework of meaning and belief.

-- umair // 7:11 PM //


I find Vibrant Media's sponsored links irritating, mostly because they slow down the page I'm trying to read...a lot. Example.

-- umair // 6:26 PM //


Rushkoff asks 'Does Wall St Get Wireless'? - and cites the lack of love from analysts and investors wireless plays are getting. I think it's more a case of imminent hypercompetition and serious business model uncertainty that's causing the lack of love - it's nice for geeks, but not exactly fun for (risk-averse) beancounters.

-- umair // 6:23 PM //


What I Did While I Was Sick

1) Reread Stephen Baxter's 'Space'
2) Read Calomiris' 'Emerging Financial Markets'
3) Watched Schama's History of Britain

Also, got alerted to the fact that some folks are 'suspicious' that I registered Blogversations privately. Look, this is purely a spam blocking measure I use regularly.

Not to belabour the obvious, but since I launch all this stuff here, from my blog, which has my name in big letters at the top, in the title, and in the about section, it should be fairly obvious who's behind it ;)

-- umair // 6:18 PM //

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

So the fellows at google are also bringing money into blogging. This technique uses the adsense system, familiar to gmail users, where a machine scans the text and creates relevant ads based on matching. Not to bite the hand that feeds me, but I think the blogversations system is far better for protecting the interests of the blogger and the blogosphere. Before I comment on this, I'd like to see if there are any comments from our readers regarding the differences and their relation to the blogosphere. Comment away...

-- dhd // 9:21 PM //


I have a great deal of sympathy for the pains the IEEE is going through to set a standard for UWB. I can see how they want to ensure that the best technology is put forward with guaranteed subsequent compatibility, without allowing the dominant companies to dictate the direction of technological development.
Interestingly, the article brings up the VHS/beta events of the past. If the IEEE had gone through the same process for trying to establish a video cartridge standard, the whole thing would have been pointless. As it was, the market decided which was a better technology. Regardless of this, shortly after the demise of betamax, the development of CD and DVD technologies signaled the ensuing end of magnetic video devices as market dominators. I see the same risk for UWB. As this argument is drawn out (combined with the pace of innovation in wireless), UWB could be completely forgotten with billions in R&D thrown to waste. ...I'm sure megaultrafantasticwideband is already in development in some lab somewhere.
SO what's the solution? Develop both standards, and spend the time and money making the devices compatible with each other. I've pointed out before that if software was doing the radio signal processing here (ie modulation/demodulation) this wouldn't even be an issue.

-- dhd // 8:00 PM //


Standards war continues to hinder the progress of Ultrawideband. Note to UWB folks : world is moving on to WiFi while you continue to waste time.

-- Mahashunyam // 6:25 PM //


World's first Linux keyboard is here. Open the floodgates for more complementors, may the platform entrench deeper. Is this the (one of the many) first leap(s) across the Chasm towards a true mass market in Linux?

-- Mahashunyam // 5:25 AM //

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Today's pick for the luckiest person alive.

-- dhd // 10:13 PM //


If I were the world's chosen dictator, part 2.

I'd make everyone read and understand the ideas of Ernest Becker. If we don't know what drives us then we'll never understand how we could tame it.

Thanks to my wonderful friend Tertium Quid (who is also responsible for creating my screen name - it's a private joke) who introduced me to Becker, I recently finished reading Becker's Escape from Evil. I found it to be a phenomenal piece of work in Social Anthropology. It is probably one of the most influential books I've read in my life. An absolutely essential read for anyone who cares to understand the world we are living in.

-- Mahashunyam // 9:42 PM //


I never understood the tamagotchi pet craze. Isn't the point of technology to simply and enrich our lives? Granted this is a bit of an ideal, but when I have to start giving my electronic appliance undue attention just to get it to stop nagging me, I think it's time to pull the batteries.
This seems even more ludicrous. A virtual girlfriend upon "whom" you spend money and time, and what do you get in return? A computerized thank you, or a cold shoulder. Are these people trying to profit from some sort of strange masochistic subculture? The scary thing here is...it might just work.

-- dhd // 9:18 PM //


Linksys, Vonage connect on VoIP. Interesting strategy : investing in complementors. Does it create any new barriers to entry? Nope. At best, buys them some time.

-- Mahashunyam // 7:35 PM //


MPAA continues its lunacy and sues chip-makers. Would you really miss Hollywood if it just disappeared?

-- Mahashunyam // 7:24 PM //


A strong argument from Clay Shirky illustrating why the current system of EM spectrum licensing is stifling innovation and hurting the pocket book of the consumer.
Adding to his thoughts, with the realization of a spectrum management mechanism based on a smart cognitive radio (as opposed to the current dumb radio system), the need for licenses will be completely subverted as the devices themselves will determine, communicate about and ultimately share spectrum resources.

-- dhd // 6:39 PM //

Monday, August 23, 2004

These two "projects" remind me of the great projects you had to build in the Civilization video games. 1) the ILC 2) the ITER . The difference being, of course, that in reality such insanely expansive undertakings could only be achieved by a consortium of countries (or possibly the Americans when they're not bleeding money fighting wars).

-- dhd // 5:05 PM //


Why can't I be this guy? Oh yeah, I didn't invent a brand new way of sequencing a genome.

-- dhd // 3:55 PM //


It's about time that video games went from my screen to my real world. Granted I could go play laser tag or paintball in a facility somewhere, but this is a lot cooler. I mean goggles that show when you've locked on to a target... portable head sets for team communication... what's coming next, the prox mine?

-- dhd // 3:38 PM //


All work and no play gave Umair a big fat cold. More when I'm better...!

Until then, you can see what I read for fun today: Analysing the risk of global warming and applying it to carbon trading risk management (PDF). And Shaula sent this nice link about the history of piracy and it's parallels with info 'piracy'. It's pretty cool.

-- umair // 2:00 AM //

Sunday, August 22, 2004

The Economic Impact of Abrupt Climate Change. Absolutely essential (if a bit dated) reading. Gives eco-entrepreneurs a bit of insight into the ceiling for the size of their market (aka the estimated worst-case capital stock destroyed by climate change).

-- umair // 9:31 PM //


Politics of the Day (Carn't Sleep Edition)

A lynching in Alabama? I am far too burnt out to read this accurately, but you political bloggers probably should.

That's the biggie; here's some yawn-inducing run-of-the-mill First World is the New Third World Stepford Cheneys stuff: some poor lucky bastard got fired from his job for heckling Bush.

-- umair // 1:41 AM //


I am kinda burnt out and bleary-eyed from Blogversations launch, so apologies if blogging below is less than coherent. Now I am gonna go crash :) !!

-- umair // 12:14 AM //



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