Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Capitalism - on the ropes?

This blog is about "intellectual capitalism." But the economic notion of capitalism is certainly at the roots of much of my writing. So where does this word come from?

The term ‘Capitalism’ has a long history. Adam Smith, thought of as the ‘father of capitalism,’ was the first modern proponent of a comprehensive philosophy defending an entire package of basic principles related to individual liberty as an indispensable ingredient to a moral, prosperous, and free society.

Today the term ‘Capitalism’ is used imprecisely-- many suggest that the term ‘Capitalism’ and ‘Capitalist,’ was first derived in English from a translation of the pejorative term used by Karl Marx to describe the class of men he called the elite “bourgeois” society who owned and controlled “society’s capital resources.” With much in etymology, word origins can be multiple and imprecise. The Oxford English Dictionary credits William Thackeray for the first published use of the word ‘capitalism’ in his novel, The Newcomes, although the word seems to refer to finance capital, rather than a discrete system.

Even if Marx didn't invented the term "capitalist," he was hip to the need to label those who control the life blood of economies, oft referred to as "M1" in the broad macroeconomic sense. Right now, there is a massive transfer of capital from labor to management. According to the Congressional Budget Office, between 1979 and 2007 incomes of the top 1% of Americans grew by an average of 275%. In 2007 the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.6% of the country's total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%. Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country's wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%.

We have a hoarding of capital by banks. This impacts the opportunities for 'labor' (non-management) to enjoy prosperity. In fact, Banks actually create money when they lend it: Most of a bank's loans are made to its own customers and are deposited in their checking accounts. Because the loan becomes a new deposit, just like a when you deposit a check from any other source, the bank holds a small percentage of that new amount in reserve and again lends the remainder to someone else, repeating the money-creation process over and over.

Are these side-effects of the global economic crisis, or just an extension of what has been going on for 130 years?
We see governments funneling social spending away from big pension firms, organizations that might have realized institutionalization of the collective needs, if they had not been pillaged by the likes of Bain Capital.

Is private property is increasingly frustrating capitalism, by putting the brakes on spending/investment?
Wholesale buy-out of bad mortgages, while being a massive give-away, would end the arterial blockage in the flow of capital.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Now is not the time to give up on the Internet

The opposite of liberal is, well, IMHO, the desire to inflict on others a reduction in 'adaptive potential'. I would suggest this means the ability to choose between a range of attractive opportunities. Barriers to social mobility, relentless mega-corporation dominance, endless growth of government, restrictions on human sexuality and freedom of expression all qualify as narrowing.

I find the Internet has proven to be a means to facilitate growth in adaptive potential. Opening markets globally for large and small businesses. Amplifying peoples' voices. Reducing cost of public service delivery.

Supply chain and e-commerce improvements are contributing to overall economic growth. With the size of the global market getting bigger, the rewards for uncovering lucrative new ideas grow -- a multiplier effect. Moreover, as new ideas flow across national boundaries faster and more easily, humans all benefit.

Public officials, potential laws, and other public policy issues are scrutinized and influenced by Internet-organized movements.

Public spending should focus on broad-based, pro-growth, pro-poor services like primary education, primary health care and infrastructure investment.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

INFOrmation Wants to be FREE

This post brought to you by infofree. All opinions are 100% mine.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Eye in the sky, over your back garden...

Technology always seems to advance ino our lives -- for better or worse. In the case of aerial drones, the benefits of more "eyes in the sky" seem to favor law enforcement. But is additional surveillance really worth the further erosion of privacy?

With much riding on GPS, will more air traffic spur increased safety incidents? Iranians claim to have tricked a CIA-directed drone (RQ-170 Sentinel) into landing. GPS runs so much of our infrastructure (including autopilot functions for many aircraft), it could prove to be a weakening link.

What I want to know - will flight plans be filed? Who gets prosecuted when NOTAMs are ignored? What tail numbers can we reference when 500' cielings or other airspace violations occur?

Monday, February 20, 2012

New EU data protection rules coming... Are you prepared?

In January, the European Commission outlined its proposal for a radical overhaul of data protection rules in the European Union. The proposed law will increase compliance obligations, including introducing possible fines of up to 2% of global turnover for breaches. With cloud computing, instead of having data stored locally on a user's own computer, it can all be stored on Internet servers, or "in the cloud," accessed as a service on the Internet. But where "in the cloud" matters.

The EU Data Protection Directive was implemented to standardize the requirements for the protection of personal information across all the countries within the EU. More recently, the European Union has enacted legislation that restricts the use of hidden identifiers to "trace the activities of the user" on electronic communication networks, such as cookies and similar tracking devices commonly used for online behavioral advertising.

The processing of data in an unexpected country might also generally trigger jurisdictional issues over a particular cloud customer. For example, having to disclose certain data that subject to a discovery request could run afoul of privacy laws in certain jurisdictions -- forcing the cloud customer to choose between violating the law and losing their lawsuit if they don't produce the evidence.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

It is the user interface that makes for the "experience"...

How we interact with technology increasingly comes down to the user interface… the idea of the touch screen carries this to the extreme. This is an excellent blog post capturing the degree to which Steve Jobs "got it"… [John Gruber]

The knobs on a radio might be the first modern attempt at a user interface that simplified and focused the end experience. Or maybe the steering wheel, pedals, etc., in a car? The controls for the technology, where the human factor "rubber" meets the tool (the road)…

It is clear that crappy user interface design is too common, not just with computer applications -- we see it every day with with website designs. With the wholesale rush to cloud computing applications, new mobile devices, and so-called hybrid apps on the desktop but connected to the cloud, the plethora of UI designs expands every day.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Relax, two-factor encryption is still secure…

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is used to authenticate every major web site on the internet. While the NYT wants you to panic , in all likelihood, your banking data remains secure. Considerable research and number crunching by folks at Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy, should set your mind at ease.

Websites and networked computers use public-key cryptography for authentication; the means by which a server validates to a client that it really is the server that the client intended to connect to. An attacker who knows the private key to one of these systems would be able to impersonate the real system to a client or in many cases decrypt encrypted traffic between the client and server.
The most widely used cryptographic system for this purpose is RSA, based on the difficulty of factoring large numbers. Here's how the system works in the real world…

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Technology helps shrink size of government, literally

With the lowest government employees-to-citizens ratio in a long time, it seems investment in labor-reducing technology is paying off in the federal sector.

The WaPo article explains that each worker today serves far more people than at any period since the 1950s: “Relative to the private sector, the Federal workforce is less than half the size it was back in the 1950s and 1960s. The picture that emerges is one of a Federal civilian workforce whose size has significantly shrunk compared to the size of the overall U.S. population, the private sector workforce and the size of Federal expenditures.”

The article reprints from the budget that “aggressive actions” have been used to reduce staff, “Some agencies have imposed hiring freezes, others are using replacement ratios to allow fewer hires than separations, and many are offering early retirement and separation incentives. Across the Government, agencies are embracing a variety of workforce reduction tools to bring their personnel levels down.”

Still, diverting federal funds from just plain old bureaucracy support to basic research yields benefits. How can the United States foster long-term economic growth? A 2010 report suggests that one of the best ways is through investment in the basic research that leads to innovation and job creation. "Sparking Economic Growth: How federally funded university research creates innovation, new companies and jobs" released today by The Science Coalition identifies 100 "success stories" – examples of companies that are the result of federal investments in basic research. Collectively, these 100 companies employ well over 100,000 people and have annual revenues approaching $100 billion. The companies also are helping to address critical issues in the area of medicine, technology, energy, environment and national security – leading the way toward a healthier, more sustainable and secure future.

"There is no question that the public benefit gained from funding basic research is exponentially greater than the initial investment," said Susan Desmond-Hellmann, Chancellor of University of California San Francisco. "The success stories highlighted in this report demonstrate that fact and are a reminder that the continued scientific and technological leadership of the United States – and our economic well-being – depends on consistent, strong funding for research."

Monday, February 13, 2012

Post-Weekend Update - Get Outside Already….

This weekend with my kids was 'get the gear ready' weekend, in anticipation of Spring. Is it too early to think about the great outdoors?

It should come as no surprise that being outside helps you, physically and emotionally. Green space is linked to less stress, as this article reports. And, according to Karjalainen and associates at the Finnish Forest Research Institute, one of the most enjoyable activities around can reduce stress and depression, ease muscle tension, counter attention deficit disorder, even calm an erratic heart: a walk in the woods. Ms Karjalainen explains, "Many people feel relaxed and good when they are out in nature. But not many of us know there is also scientific evidence about the healing effects of nature."

So my kids and I are prepping for the first hike/camping trip of 2012, but, in the mean time, we're getting the dog outside to air her out, and our own brains. I encourage you to do the same!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Want to thank somebody for your morning Facebook fix, news update or Angry Birds? Thank a developer…

I started my tech career with HyperCard, FoxBASE, even the first version of Oracle. My interest in Pascal led to more programming, and, when S.J left to start NeXT, I followed merrily along, sharpening my Objective C skills. Of course, that led to WebObjects, which led to Java, which, well, the rest is not really ancient history.

So while the internet itself is a product of some really awesome network engineers, it is the software developer who makes the internet, well, interesting, to the average Joe (or Joey?).

And today, it's these Java (ok, and maybe dotNet or Rails or whatever) developers who are doing the most to connect people, globally. Quite literally, in the case of FaceBook or Twitter, but also in solving big problems, and finding new ways to do things.

I was looking for a means to transport something heavy to Ireland, and came across this: http://containerbid.com/shipping-container-auction …a portal to bid on shipping containers. You may or may not know a out Keith Tantlinger but as much as Tim Berners Lee helped revolutionize the internet, which connects global markets, Keith helped build the infrastructure so we *have* a global market. Read about him here

What is the connection between sea freight and the internet? The very fact that I can sit at my dining room table and order up transport for a car from one country across the Atlantic to another is proof enough that the internet rocks our world. But to do so at a reasonable price is, well, amazing. The auction model makes that possible -- the economic model of price transparency driving down total cost.

And when software developers build these revolutionary tools, make them available on the internet (or, heck, in the palm of your hand via the internet), we all benefit.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Web browser vs Android - analogous fragmentation?

Mobile developer Kyle Miller doesn’t see what all the fuss is about Android fragmentation, arguing that web browsers are much more fragmented than Android.

I disagree, in that web browsers indeed represent sometimes dispirit ways of rendering HTML (and not always successfully), but they utilize the same back end system (if a web app) or render the same codebase (be it HTML/CSS or JavaScript). Android apps have to be designed and compiled for differing versions of the OS, and even the devices may impose restrictions based on features implemented.

So developing for Android doesn't mean just supplying a few alternate CSS files or using some code tricks to make the app work on different handsets or mobile devices. You have to maintain separate code base sets (here's a good description of several approaches).

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhogs, snakes and half-way through winter

To wisdom I call out, wisdom I invoke
Wisdom I embrace, wisdom that once spoke
in every wheeling star,
in every sturdy oak.
Show you face, again, Bridgit
Remove your shadow cloak!

Happy Imbolc, people! It's time to see if the groundhog (or snake) decides to stay warm-and-cozy, or if spring will arrive early. Imbolc is an Irish holiday ("Oimelc" - ewe’s milk), the precursor to the end of winter when the ewes are nursing their newly born lambs. Spring and the planting season are right around the corner. To the Romans, Imbolc is halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox (Lupercalia). Thong-clad men ran through the city, whacking people with bits of hide -- those struck were fortunate indeed. This is one of the few Roman celebrations that is not associated with a particular temple or deity. Instead, it focuses on the founding of the city of Rome, by twins Romulus and Remus, who were suckled by a she-wolf.

It's my goal to get out and encourage people to fully embrace technology and to completely integrate it though-out every aspect of business: from marketing, to how you work with and interact with clients and other stakeholders, to how you manage your business.

Mobile platforms (specifically, iPhone/iPad) enable you to integrate and take advantage of all the benefits that today’s technologies have to offer:  virtual events and social media, data management with cloud computing and any other aspect of technology that will help increase efficiency, productivity, and profitability. 

At this, the mid-point of the winter of 2012, choose mobile technology because this will be a ‘game-changing’ year for how business is conducted -- mobile is having significant impact on the way we live and the way we interact.