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 […]
Google bought YouTube in 2006 at the height of the infringement hysteria. The new owners got busy trying to get the platform up to legal standards and avoid billions in pending lawsuits. It seems that users had been posting a vast amount of copyrighted material, and Google was going to be held liable.
Over the next three years, the takedowns happened furiously. Users were having content deleted. Short films that used copyrighted background music found that their videos were silenced. Tributes to popular artists that used their songs went dark. Even videos of people dancing to a tune on their radio were torn down.
This was not fun for anyone. The artists didn’t like it. They are mostly flattered by tributes and happy to get their music out there. The copyright owners didn’t really benefit from it either. They get no new revenue through takedowns.
Google didn’t like it because of all the expense of creating bots to crawl the site. It was also embarrassing when the bots would take down a video of child’s party because the kids were singing “Happy Birthday.” For consumers and users, to have your video removed is an unforgivable insult.
No one really benefited from this system. And it was becoming more difficult to manage every day as uploads grew and grew (48 hours of new video appear every minute). But it continued, nonetheless. The presumption that copyrighted music cannot be posted on YouTube was built into the system.
No one really liked the way the system was working itself out. But it was hard to figure out another way. This is the system the law built. Surely, the law must prevail regardless of how absurd the results are. It was like the scenes in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible: No one in Salem really believed in the practice of killing witches, but people went along with the slaughter because that’s how the system worked.
Clearly, the law had set up an untenable situation. It created a system too costly for everyone. It was unsustainable. But what would change it and how? This is where the creative forces of the market economy came to the rescue.
Google worked out a new system of placing ads before videos and at the bottom of videos. Many of these ads are incredibly interesting, by the way, and not annoying to users, as they might be. (The whole institution of YouTube ads deserves an article of its own.)
Further, Google worked out a deal with users and copyright owners. If a given video infringed, the owner would be notified and would then get a choice to either order a takedown or have an ad put up on the video from which the owner would derive the revenue. Most everyone took the revenue solution, simply because it is more advantageous to the owner to gain than to slap the uploader around using the law.
What the owners have learned in the process is something that has been obvious to many of us for a long time but, for some crazy reason, was often lost on the enforcers. They learned that what looks like a violation of the law and infringement on property rights can be re-rendered as a form of peaceful advertising. Business enterprises have no greater enemy than obscurity and no greater friend than attentive people who might turn into customers.
Today, YouTube hosts vast quantities of material that, two years ago, was considered to be pirated and illegal. It is all there serving hundreds of millions of users who don’t pay a dime to get to it. It is doing what Napster did at the turn of the century, before it was destroyed by the government. But this free access is funded through peaceful forms of advertising. What the law had turned into a war of all against all the market converted to a system of peace and plenty for everyone.
This is an absolutely brilliant solution and a fantastic example of how the market is capable of providing peaceful solutions to problems that the law would otherwise handle with coercive brutality. The market solution here is “breaking bad” in the sense that it is an open rejection of everything the state is trying to stop. But because the costs of the coercive approach grew too high, the market found another way. War is expensive.
Prosperity requires peace. The state wanted war but the market said no. It would be far better if the regulations and monopoly protections were repealed and the market itself charged with the task of hammering out commercial models of distribution in absence of intervention. But rather than waiting for the law to change, the private sector found a way around the law.
This solution is changing the ethos of music distribution. When the South Korean singer/rapper PSY came out with his “Gangnam Style” video and song this fall, it went viral beyond anyone’s expectations. It is poised to become the first YouTube video to receive 1 billion views, and it has happened in a very short period of time.
PSY (Park Jae-sang) is an artist who had previously languished in obscurity for a decade. He knew the value of exposure. When his song began to be pirated, when restaurants opened with the name Gangnam Style, when T-shirts and products began to appear all over, he absolutely refused to enforce his intellectual property. He very cleverly saw that sharing can only be good for him. And sure enough, he is estimated to be raking in $8.1 million this year from iTunes downloads, concert tickets, and advertising alone. Thanks to his refusal to participate in the state’s system, he has become of the world’s most famous musicians, and he will soon be one of the richest too.
Let’s reflect on the lessons here. In our time, the state’s regulatory apparatus, not just in intellectual property, but in every area of life, has set up an untenable situation for nearly everyone. Even those who imagined that they would benefit from it are not doing so to the extent they believed. That is because the march of history does not stop in the face of even the largest attempts at enforcement. The market will prevail — which is just another way of saying that human action will prevail over the coercive machinery of the government — in the long run.
We are seeing this is every area of life. The state’s drug laws are under serious pressure from public revolt against horrible waves of imprisonment for actions that most people don’t consider serious crimes (like smoking pot). The war on terror has everyone exhausted and drifting toward noncompliance. The public school monopoly is slowing eroding due to the forces of home schooling, online learning, and creative market alternatives.
Even banking is undergoing an upheaval, despite the Fed’s and the Treasury’s attempts to monopolize the system. The new currency Bitcoin is growing and flourishing, despite every attempt to call it a fake and a fraud. New payment systems are popping up every day in the form of gift cards and instant charge cards that you can fill with cash. Digital applications are enabling new ways of lending and borrowing that completely bypass the official state system.
Folks, if you want to see how the state collapses in the future, this is the direction to look. It won’t happen through politics. It won’t happen by top-down reform. It won’t happen even through seminars. It will happen through the trial and error of entrepreneurship, because the market will not sit still. Faced with the ghastly costs of the anachronistic nation-state, it will continue to find creative and surprising ways around the coercive apparatus, effectively inventing new realms of freedom that permit progress to occur.
Every act of entrepreneurship is revolutionary and rooted in the anarchist spirit. It strikes at the heart of the status quo. It dares to be dissatisfied with what is. It imagines something new and better. It brings about unexpected, unapproved, and progressive change by adding a new dimension of experience to how we understand ourselves and how we interact with others.
Without entrepreneurship, history would lack forward motion, our understanding of the uniqueness of our time in this world would be forever undefined, and society itself would atrophy and finally die. With it, every attempt to control and freeze the world faces opposition and long-run failure.
History teaches that those who dare stand in the way of human progress will eventually be run over. Yes, there is plenty of friction and too many victims as we get from here to there. But we will get there, one creative act of disobedience at a time.