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 […]
It began as a skirmish. Then it was a battle. It became a war. Now it is a bloody conflict that is global in scope. Both sides have passed the point of no return. There is no question who is winning and going to win totally in the end, despite massive carnage along the way.
The field of battle in this case are the digital networks that swirl around the world in arrangements so thick and wide — seemingly infinite points of light that represent human contact backed by technological genius– that they surpass the capacity of the human mind to conceptualize them.
The two sides: everybody vs. everybody’s governments.
The death of Aaron Swartz, the 26-year-old digital genius, seems to have been some sort of turning point. The government hounded him, threatened him, planned to jailed him and bankrupt him for life. The ostensible reason for the persecution was that he downloaded research papers with the intent to distribute them. The real reason was that he was using his skills to pioneer new methods of subverting government’s attempts to thwart Internet freedom.
His tormentors broke his gentle spirit. He killed himself before they could get their way.
But since his death two weeks ago, there have been thousands of tributes written about his life. His interviews and writings have gone viral online. The organizations he founded have seen new life. His causes have gained new adherents. Hundreds and thousands have been showing up to events to give tribute to his work and ideas.
I’m thinking here of the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr., and how it became a symbol of the urgent and non-negotiable desire for racial justice and peace. After he died, there was no turning back. The arguments and struggles largely ended. There would be no more legal barriers to the freedom of people to associate.
One wonders if the death of Aaron Swartz will take on a similar significance in the demand for the digital freedom to associate. After all, the war against the mass migration from physical to digital cannot be won by the state. The cloud is humanity’s new home — a world without borders, coercion, or barriers. Aaron was a prophet of this dramatic change in the social order that took place from 1995 onward. He understood it like few others.
But is the winner in this war really decided? Think of this. The war on online sharing (“piracy”) has been ongoing for ten years. It has involved ever more spying, ever more warnings plastered everywhere, ramped up intimidation in every sphere of life.
The penalties are more intense. Civil infractions have been converted to criminal acts. Kids have been fined, humbled, jailed. Enforcement has involved military raids and body bags. Every voice of government authority the world over has weighed in to denounce the pirates, the infringers, the copiers, the stealers, and looters.
We’ve been told that viewing unauthorized material, sharing things without permission, saying stuff without checking with the authorities, is tantamount to robbing grocery stores and stealing cars. The penalties are higher than for kidnapping and manslaughter.
And yet look at the results. Right now, this instant, “pirated” material has never been more available online. You can stream practically anything that has ever been filmed or recorded, instantly. The waves of information, licit or illicit, are rising and crashing ever harder in every minute that goes by.
It is impossible to police, impossible to stop, impossible to control, and ever more brazen by the day. The more governments try to stop it, the more there is to stop. And yet the politicians and bureaucrats still swear that they will fight to the bitter end, unconditional surrender as the only terms. It’s the ultimate unwinnable war, even more absurd than the war on drugs or the war on demon rum.
It’s not criminals who are thwarting the efforts of governments. It is human beings who are seeking out ways to connect and share information. They are acting as people do, using the tools they have been given to find and share value. They are seeking ways to push progress in the world of ideas.
They are using the magical capacity of the Internet to copy — that’s its real power and real function — in order to universalize whatever is wanted by others. The driving force is the burning desire on the part of people to link up to their mutual betterment. And this is taking place outside the artificial borders of the nation state and creating new forms of human engagement and innovation on a scale that no one imagined possible.
But are the “pirates” wrecking enterprise and profits? That’s what we are told. But look at it. The Wall Street Journal reports that the slide in revenue for Hollywood over the last ten years has been stopped as “online revenue grew enough to offset a continued drop in DVD sales and rentals.” Subscriptions to streaming sites rose 45%, and digital download sales are up 35%. Digital distribution accounts for 30% of spending on of home entertainment.
Meanwhile, people are still going to the movies. Last year was a banner year. Same with music. We are living in a new renaissance of all forms of art, creativity, media, books, research, ideas — and there are plenty of profits to be made by the smart, creative, savvy, and talented. More than ever before!
As always, the key to profitability is to deliver value to consumers in ways that match their most intense desires. It matters not at all that nearly everything on iTunes can be pirated in some other way, that most everything on Netflix can be streamed through another venue, that most proprietary software can be snagged somewhere for nothing, that smart phones can be hacked to get things that otherwise cost money, that services from phone calls to online conferencing are available in a gigantic range of pricing from six figures down to zero.
The governments that have battled against digital networks have worked tightly with reactionary interest groups in industry. Their dominant assumption has always been that if the Internet wins, the rest of us lose. That is obviously false. There is no zero sum game here. Those who have made money in this digital world have done so the old-fashioned way: selling valuable stuff to people at prices that people are willing to pay.
We’ve lost Aaron and it is a terrible loss. But look who we have: people like Kim Dot Com, the file storage pioneer who was coming up with new ways to take power from the industry/government establishment and put it into the hands of users.
The government tried to ruin him. Read my piece on his case from this time last year: “The Death of File Sharing.” He and his service seemed to be doomed.
He fought back. His servers were destroyed but he has started a new company with new servers: Mega.co.nz. This new service is even more amazing, super encrypted with enough filed storage and sharing capacity for a good part of humanity to use. It is also the product of learning. This machine will not be destroyed.
The new systems live in the digital cloud where governments have little to no access. Encryption ensures privacy. These combinations of technologies give all users an opportunity to “secede” from government. If you are looking for a large-scale, anonymous, and affordable file-storage system run by a company that is a proven survivor, you could probably benefit from Mega: http://kim.com/mega.
Mega is only one of many new systems that challenge the governments of the world. There will be many more. They will get even better. The revolution can’t be stopped.
This is the way of the future. The watchwords are voluntarism, commerce, and laissez faire, the French expression meaning that if you just leave us alone, society can manage just fine. We don’t need their wars, their authority, their impositions, their legislation, their threats, their fines, their jails.
Aaron is gone, but his spirit not only lives; it pervades the future in every way. Be not afraid: join the side of the winners.