This technology is not simply for modeling and prototyping, either. TV personality Jay Leno uses a 3-D printer to make custom and hard-to-find parts from scratch for his collection of classic cars. Entrepreneurs have been using these printers in a myriad of ways, and the trend is speeding up.
“It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future,” says a proverb often attributed to Yogi Berra. Imagine the world of freedom, or lack of it. Who could foresee the technologies that make our lives so rewarding and convenient? The same technologies have us all under the government’s giant microscope. Thankfully, the brave have turned the microscope around.
In the months since Edward Snowden revealed the nature and extent of the spying that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been perpetrating upon Americans and foreigners, some of the NSA's most troublesome behavior has not been a part of the public debate.
The problem for NSA apologist is that when guys like Snowden disclose that the government conducts comprehensive surveillance in ways that would have made 1984’s O’Brien drool, it puts the entire progressive agenda in jeopardy.
The east coast and parts of the southern U.S. were to varying degrees paralyzed by blizzards a few weeks ago. The snow as expected rendered the roads treacherous, and in anticipation of slick streets, shoppers flocked to the grocery stores in advance.The rush into grocery stores, and its aftermath, offers worthwhile lessons in economics.First up, […]
The financial world is plodding along like a drunken sailor avoiding debt collectors by keeping no cash in his wallet. It’s not the kind of calm that’s going to last or end well. But the storm will have to wait until after the Olympics.What a game! We’ve never watched ice hockey closely before. But watching […]
In times of war and national emergency, it’s sometimes necessary to sacrifice civil liberties to secure vital gains in public safety. In those cases, we may have to accept a loss of privacy or freedom rather than invite mass slaughter of Americans.The National Security Agency’s domestic phone records collection is not one of those.Never have […]
Last year was quite the year for Bitcoin. We’ve seen exponential growth in Bitcoin’s exchange rate and extensive coverage in the media. Another phenomenon we have witnessed is the proliferation of alternative cryptocurrencies, five of which we’ve provided below.What all of these cryptocurrencies have in common is that they rely on a decentralized network to […]
Image: ShutterstockBitInstant CEO Charlie Shrem, along with alleged co-conspirator Robert Faiella, was arrested by federal authorities last week for allegedly laundering more than $1 million worth of Bitcoins. This is a tiny amount compared to the largest drug-and-terrorism money laundering case ever. Yet when British bank HSBC was found guilty in 2012 of laundering billions, […]
The exercise had an awesome name, inspired by the movies: “Quantum Dawn 2.”On July 18, scads of U.S. banks, stock exchanges and government agencies took part in a digital fire drill — a practice run in the event all of Wall Street came under massive cyberattack.This isn’t the first time banks have come under an […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
The New York Times published an interminable article on health care recently. Plenty of facts — how scrupulous are these journalists! — but the article displayed absolutely no comprehension of the basics of cause and effect. I was left wondering about the whole point.The article details how the health care system rewards specialists to an […]
We’ve pointed out in the past that President Obama’s views on the surveillance state shifted completely from when he was Senator to when he was President. As Senator, he supported a bunch of reforms that are very much like the ones his panel have suggested — and which he’s about to ignore. The NY Times […]
Bitcoins are largely considered digital currency (or “crypto currency”) so you’d expect it to be treated like currency on a retail web site. But the Internal Revenue Service might not think so.
The great inventors/businessmen of the First Industrial Revolution, such as James Watt and Matthew Boulton of steam-engine fame, were not just smart but privileged. Most were either born into the ruling class or lucky enough to be apprenticed to one of the elite. For most of history since then, entrepreneurship has meant either setting up […]
Both research and production look poised for a revolution as 3-D printing applies its high-tech charms to the business of creating chemical compounds and turns the production of medicine into a DIY project.
“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”When Capt. Jean-Luc Picard wants a steaming beverage in his ready room aboard the starship Enterprise, he just utters those words. The ship’s “replicator” then assembles the necessary atoms — including those for the cup — and produces it, ready for the drinking. Picard thinks nothing of it — it’s hardly more […]
The market has selected different things as money throughout history. Some of these items have served as money in isolated places for specific periods of time — for instance, cigarettes in prisoner-of-war camps. Cigarettes continue to be a currency in prisons if allowed, but if not, according to Wikipedia, “postage stamps have become a more […]
[Ed. Note: This article originally published on Jan. 24, 2013]Stocks up. Gold down. Bitcoin… waaay up.The S&P 500 busted through the 1,500 mark this morning. Stocks haven’t been this expensive since 2007… right before they got a whole lot cheaper… for a whole lot longer. Gold, meanwhile, dipped a tad. This, despite central bankers of […]
Before the housing market collapsed and the government pumped billions into the economy to save it, there was a programmer named Satoshi Nakamoto. And without much fanfare, he created an idea that’s in the process of changing the world. His idea was Bitcoin.Some background information is in order before I go any further.Think back to […]
Americans are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the government’s domestic spying activities, including the recent revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and storing the email address books of ordinary Americans using online messaging services. Many users of such services are looking to tech executives for […]
The online Internet exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act are up and running.OK, they’re up. Uhh, OK, some of them are sort of up.It has been almost a week since last Tuesday’s initial launch, and there have been more than a few problems.Website crashes, excessive response times and other problems have plagued the exchanges. […]
A growing consensus of IT experts, outside and inside the government, have figured out a principal reason why the website for Obamacare’s federally sponsored insurance exchange is crashing. Healthcare.gov forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping.This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government […]
As much as I love technology, part of me hates being so dependent on a live wall plug wherever I go. You find yourself trapped in some setting without accessible wall plugs and your phone is dying. You charge from you laptop, but that is dying too. You take recourse to your tablet, but that […]
U.S. and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ […]
Today, like most days, I fired up my computer.I read freely available information on the latest developments in technology that would, in the not too distant past, have required a drive to a library to flip through journals too numerous for me to afford. I read the latest national and global news without having to […]
On a Sunday afternoon swim, a 6-year-old boy was bugging me in a sweet sort of way. He rode up and down the handrail on the stairs in the shallow end of the pool where I was trying to sit in peace. He was laughing and talking, but I couldn’t understand a word through the […]
What’s called the “music industry” — which really means the big players in recording and performance — just climbed over the mountain. Global sales rose last year for the first time since 1999. That’s 14 years of hell ending with just a glimmer of light on the horizon.
Still, everyone is celebrating the change. And the source is rather obvious. It’s the download services. It’s the aggregator services like Pandora and Spotify. It’s the new reach and new technology. It’s advertising. It’s… free enterprise.
Whaddya know, when an industry stops fighting change, denouncing and attempting to jail its customers, and instead embraces technology, things start looking up. It appears that music won’t die after all. The delivery systems just change. That’s nothing new. It was the same with every new medium in the last 100 years: panic, anger, fear, acceptance, and then finally enterprise.
The big players managed a growth rate of 0.3 percent for a total of $16.5 billion. That might sound pathetic compared to the $38 billion that they made 10 years ago. But some growth is better than the industry’s recent history. And by the way, all of this happened despite the incredible rise of pirate sites — thousands of them — that flourish despite the thumb screws and waterboarding tortures that government has used to shut them down.
So, how did this happen? Well, the industry has figured out that in order to make a profit, the best approach is to sell stuff that people want at prices they can afford and deliver that stuff to them in an appealing and convenient way. iTunes was first out of the gate, but many of these other services have joined in, and many more are coming.
This is how to compete with so-called piracy (it’s the wrong word for people who have never stolen a single thing!). You have to stop fighting and start adapting. Why is this so difficult to understand? It wouldn’t seem to be but apparently it is because it took a decade and a half for the biggest players to figure it out.
What’s much more impressive to me is the rise of new music creators that are not wholly counted among the big players. Here is where the growth is happening. Through digital networks, the exploitation of niches, innovative techniques, and a close connection between artists and fans, we are witnessing the creation of a new generation of rising stars who are also building new industries in the process.
Consider the case of Lindsey Stirling, the implausibly successful rock violinist whose concerts are sold out months in advance. It was only two years ago that this would have seemed completely impossible. She was a classically trained violinist — she is only 27 years old — who was faced with a terrible market for violinists.
She is technically outstanding with a great tone but who can make it in the classical world with its budget collapse and dwindling audiences? Instead she studied therapeutic recreation in college and came to live in Utah.
She had been experimenting for some years with the idea of making the violin the voice for popular music, combining that with a unique dance step and vigorous movement. It is not an unprecedented approach but Lindsey took the idea further than anyone before.
In 2010, she appeared on “America’s Got Talent,” and while the judges liked her, they weren’t into the whole idea of a solo violinist doing “dubstep” pop. It was all a bit too new and too unlikely, even for a show that specializes in finding new talent. The record labels too had no interest. There were no contracts anywhere in site. She just didn’t fit into their formulas for success.
So what did she do? She started focussing on her youtube channel. That was not even two years ago. Today her channel has 1,658,897 subscribers. That’s some serious reach and advertising revenue too. The views are there too: about a quarter billion in a relatively short time. Therefore she went further and started another channel that focuses entirely on her private time and life. It already has 146,069 subscribers!
When she put together her current tour, she focussed mostly on small venues, and charged $15 for seats (bands lowball these figures, exchanging upside potential for predictable revenue streams). The secondary ticket market swept in like good futures traders and purchased what they could (speculators get the bulk of the profit because they accept the bulk of the risk). These are now selling for $75 and as much as $150. Fans wait for hours before the shows to get VIP seating, and snatch up tee shirts, posters, and Lindsey bracelets.
Her fame is moving up so fast that each venue is more stuffed than the last. And she did it all with just her friends and youtube channel. The result is a form of new art that is suddenly hugely popular — a classic case of entrepreneurship (discovery what people want even if they had never known it to exist before). In this sense, her activity is not unlike most every advance in the history of art from Palestrina to Picaso.
I’m virtually a snob when it comes to music and my true devotion is classical and Renaissance. But I attended a Lindsey concert and absolutely loved it. There is just something spectacular about a big crowd of rockers and hipsters singing loudly along with a violin — a violin — as it takes the microphone in a concert hall over with a vibrating bass and drums. Stunning really. You want to save serious musicianship? Lindsey has discovered a path within the current cultural milieu.
None of this would have been possible without digital technology, the human network it forms, and the creativity it inspires. This is what technology is truly about: not grinding gears and 1s and 0s filling pages; it’s about the flourishing of human communities of interest and the unleashing of human happiness. This is the end result.
That music thrives under these conditions is the perfect illustration that the end state of every great technology is the uplifting of the human heart.
There are hundreds of others like Lindsey — known as youtube stars in a market that is open to absolutely everyone — now and in the future. Her famed is not counted in these big industry statistics either — only her iTunes downloads. It is in these niche areas where the action and the growth is, and it is to the credit of the magic of digits that they have enabled such talent to thrive.
Now if we could just get the governments of the world to stop trying to force people to do things their way and start letting people manage their own art and their own lives. Governments may never come around. But large corporations might. They only need to follow the money.