Health care costs in the U.S. have been rising so steadily for so long that containment barely seems possible. Even optimists don’t dream of cutting the price tag. As its official name — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — suggests, Obamacare aims for affordability, not radical reduction.But at a time when we’re all […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.Is this a realistic vision of the future, […]
After a week of reckoning about the American oil and gas boom… I’ve got to get something off my chest.I can’t stand it when a coworker takes credit for something I did.Whether it’s a special report I wrote or just a little investing trick I found on my own — if someone takes it and […]
Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the term “forgotten man” in a 1932 speech to describe those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who, he felt, government should aid.But the originator of the phrase “forgotten man” had a whole different meaning in mind. He aimed to expose the seeming good intentions of government to reveal […]
I want to share some insight and give you a front-row seat to America’s next big shale play.Let’s get to it…Over the past 10 years, the U.S. has turned the ship around, quite literally.We’ve gone from a country that was expecting to import massive amounts of oil and gas — to a country that’s sitting […]
Whatever your views on the role of government, one thing is clear: There will be no way to pay for it if the economy doesn’t grow. And I’m not talking by a measly percentage point or two. If we can’t find our way back to 5% annual economic growth or above soon, America’s accumulated federal […]
What if I told you that the march of human progress could be traced in a direct line from the Epicureans of Ancient Greece… through the 18th Century’s cure for smallpox… to where Steve Jobs and Bill Gates found inspiration as scrappy teenagers… to the flying car of tomorrow?Stay with me and I’ll show you […]
Real progress happens through real people, ideas, and innovations. Not by legislation argued and debated in Congress. Right now, one of the most influential technologies is changing the way people do business. And reinventing the future in the process.
Innovation can change the world… if the world lets it. Unfortunately, society’s gatekeepers make it a point to constrain, regulate, and control these ideas. But their power is limited, and the power of innovation is too great. Unfortunately for regulators, there are some technologies they can’t control.
What’s the #1 reason a start-up fails?It runs out of money!And why would it run out of money?Because nobody wants the product it’s selling!For early-stage investors, this presents a bit of a conundrum:If a product doesn’t exist yet, how do you figure out if there’s demand for it?And how do you figure it out before […]
A cushy job in Hawaii that pays six figures. A beautiful girlfriend/boyfriend. Job security and professional experience that gives you plenty of future opportunities. Would you throw that all away to do what you think is right? Last year, one government contractor did just that. And now you see the world the government tried to hide from you.
Every time Bitcoin crashes, it winds up at a price greater than it’s previous high. Yet the experts still call it a currency fad that will fade away. But a little over a year since it really took up, the digital currency is still going strong, and is once again seeing its price rise. But is there another reason why people are buying Bitcoins.
According to some estimates, one man - whose name you're probably not familiar with - has saved over a billion lives. Who is he? And how has he influenced the current crop of innovators? Josh Grasmick explains...
Edward Snowden’s one year visa in Russia expires at the end of next month. With only a few weeks left before he finds himself without a safe country to live in, he sat down to give an exclusive interview. Here are the most important things he wants you to remember from his recent sacrifice.
Biotech breakthroughs and other transformative innovations are a few of the brightly shining spots in the U.S. economy. In fact, Paul Mampilly believes this is the golden age of biotech investing, and that you can earn massive returns while investing in companies with drugs that benefit all of humanity. Read on for his latest example...
Harold Hamm isn’t your typical entrepreneur. His life’s story shows you success in America doesn’t always depend on a fat checkbook
Obama recently claimed this was the “Decade of the Brain”. But it not the first time the government made that promise. The last time they did it, they wasted millions of your tax dollars. Now they’re back for round two. But this time, their failure could mean more than squandered money. It could mean making Alzheimer’s even worse for those who suffer from it.
Does owning a gun mean you’re guilty until proven innocent? Considering what happened to one man from Florida, that might be the case. But there’s more to this story than just a case of police overreach. Police departments across the nation could be implementing a new technology that puts the burden of innocence squarely on your shoulders.
American ingenuity. It’s the stuff of lore and legend, and it’s what drives the global economy. We literally bank on the next disruptive entrepreneur — and innovative new technology — to completely redefine or create new industries. It’s what America does really well, our goose that continues to lay golden eggs.And yet, maybe not.The truth […]
When Michael Lewis’ new book Flash Boys came out, the author caused a stir while making the media rounds to promote it. “The stock market is rigged,” he told 60 Minutes flatly. His comments set off a firestorm of debate as to whether sharp techies and their fast computers are screwing small investors.As titillating as […]
Last November, when the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) proposed moderating years of escalating mandates by reducing the amount of ethanol that must be mixed into gasoline, a top ethanol lobbyist seemed perplexed. “We’re all just sort of scratching our heads here today and wondering why this administration is telling us to burn less of a […]
Why Is U.S. Health Care So Much More Expensive?After years of research and many conversations with health policy experts, I see three key culprits of expensive health care in the U.S.In no particular order, they are the third-party payer system (i.e., employer-provided health care), malpractice suits, and administrative support costs/paperwork.The unintended consequence of institutionalized employer-provided […]
At the recently concluded Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russian security officials used state of the art facial recognition software to identify potential terrorists. Today, Byron King takes a closer look at this sophisticated new technology and what it means for the future of national security. Read on...
Back in the 1980s, John Nestor became infamous for single-handedly causing massive traffic jams on the Capital Beltway. But in his professional life, he created a completely different kind of traffic jam... one that may have contributed to the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Juan Enriquez has the full story. Read on...
Entrepreneurs innovate. Bureaucrats regulate. It’s the eternal struggle that exists in our modern economy/government. The people in power try to make the playing field as even and fair as possible. While innovators buck the rules and push the world toward a better tomorrow.
Technological progress moves the world forward. It finds ways to do things better, for less money, while using fewer resources. And if you ask any politician, they’ll tell you that’s the way to grow the economy and get America back on track. But if that progress threatens one of the government’s sacred programs, then that’s a different story. One that results in a crackdown on progress, and protection of the status quo.
The government seems determined to turn out the lights on the digital age. And this is with or without SOPA or the other bills that were only this week shouted down by the global digital community on Blackout Wednesday. The very next day, after support for that legislation collapsed after an impressive mass protest, the FBI and the Justice Department demonstrated that they don’t have to pay any attention to all this silly clamor. Congress, legislation, polling, debates, politicians, the will of the people — it’s all a sideshow to these people.
The FBI and Justice Department, on their own initiative, shut down megaupload.com, the biggest of thousands of file-sharing sites online, and arrested four of its top officials. The FBI is hunting down three others who seem to be on the lam. They all face extradition and 20 years in prison. As part of the sweep, the feds issued 20 search warrants and arrived at individual houses in helicopters. They cut their way into houses, threatened with guns, confiscated $50 million in assets and outright stole 18 domain names and many servers.
And what is the grave crime? The site is accused of abetting copyright infringement, that is permitting the creating of copies of ideas expressed in media. No violence, no fraud, no force, no victims (but plenty of corporate moguls who claim, without proof, that their profits are lower as a result of file sharing).
Megaupload had millions of happy users. It was the 71st-most-popular website in the world. Only 2% of its traffic came from search engines, which means that its customer base was loyal and collected through the hard work and entrepreneurship of site owners. For its users, it was a wholly legitimate service. For the owners, their profits were hard earned through advertising.
But the government saw it differently. And contrary to what many people believe, the already-existing law permits the government to do pretty much whatever it wants, as this case shows. The government relied on a 2008 law to make criminal, instead of civil, charges. A newly created IP task force is the one that worked with the foreign governments to seal the deal.
In the end, it was a presentation of exactly the nightmare scenario that anti-SOPA protesters said would happen if SOPA had passed. It turns out, as the deeper realms of the state already knew, that all of this was possible with no congressional action at all. Congress doesn’t need to do anything. We can watch the debates, go to the polls, elect people to represent us and perform all the rest of the rituals of the civic religion, but none of it matters. Power is here, active, oppressive, in charge and permanent, regardless of what you might believe.
Might it be that some of the users’ shared content on Megaupload was copyright protected? Absolutely. It is nearly impossible not to violate the law, as shown by SOPA sponsor Lamar Smith’s own campaign website, which used an unattributed background image in technical violation of the law. The leading opponent of piracy might himself be a pirate!
But the trendline with Megaupload was clearly toward using the space to launch new artists with new content — not piracy, but creativity. As Wired.co.uk wrote, this crackdown:
“came shortly after Megaupload announced music producer Swizz Beatz — married to Alicia Keys — as their CEO. They had rallied a whole host of musicians, including Will.i.am, P. Diddy, Kanye West and Jamie Foxx to endorse the cloud locker service. Megaupload was building a legitimate system for artists to make money and fans to get content.”
What‘s this all about? It is some powerful corporate lobbyists trying to prevent the emergence of an alternative system of art and music delivery, one powered by people, rather than merely the well connected.
The Internet’s great glory is its seemingly magical capacity for distributing information of all sorts universally unto infinity. The idea of the state’s regulations on information — instituted by legislators in the 19th century — is that this trait is deeply dangerous and must be stopped. So it is inevitable that the powers that be will try to shut it down; copyright enforcement is only the most-convenient Taser of choice.
This is the battle for whether the digital age is permitted to exist in an atmosphere of free speech, free association, free enterprise and real property rights or whether it will be controlled by government in conjunction with aging media moguls from monopolistic corporate oligarchies. The lines are clearly drawn, and the battle is taking place in real-time.
Example: Within minutes after the officials of Megaupload were arrested, a global hacker group called Anonymous shut down the Justice Department’s website and the sites of the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Universal music and BMI — the major lobbying forces in Washington for restriction and reaction against the Internet.
In another stage of the great battle over information freedom, the Supreme Court, on the very day of the SOPA protests, handed down a decision that could have a devastating effect in the months and years ahead. It permitted the re-copyrighting of works that are already in the public domain so that the domestic law accords with the international law. If that sounds like no big deal, consider that many local orchestras have already changed their season lineups to remove some major works from their repertoire because they can no longer handle the licensing fees.
It’s hard to know what to call this but cultural masochism.
Regardless of how the legal struggles turn out, a culture of rational and irrational fear has gripped the Web. I’ve noticed this growing over the last months, but just this week, it has become worse, to the point of paranoia, and even mania. The successful protests against SOPA ended up only causing the censors to redouble their efforts, and the message is getting out: Almost everything you want to do online could be illegal.
A small sample of what I mean… Just this morning, I received the following email: “BBC Four recently broadcast a stunningly beautiful documentary called God’s Composer (Tomás Luis de Victoria), hosted by Simon Russell Beale. A friend in Rome sent me a link to it, but I’m not sure I’m free to share it. Have you seen this documentary? It is stunning both visually and musically.”
Not free to share a link? What? To be sure, I don’t know whether he intended to send me to the BBC or some other site that is hosting an additional copy of it. Regardless, this is what it has come down to: a belief that every email is traced, every site is monitored, every act of individual volition on the Web could be a crime, every website is vulnerable to an overnight takedown, every domain owner could be subject to arrest and jail.
The battle between power and freedom dates to the beginning of recorded history, and we are seeing it play out right before our eyes in the digital age. It’s as if at the beginning of the Bronze Age, the leading tribal chieftain made smelting ore illegal; or if at the transition from iron to steel, the ruling elite put a cap on the temperature of refining ovens; or if at the beginning of flight, some despot declared the whole enterprise to be too risky and economically damaging to the industry that depended on land travel.
In the current version, the issue of “intellectual property” is at the forefront of this battle. The first most people heard of this was on Blackout Wednesday, when Wikipedia went black. This is a foretaste of the future in a world in which power achieves victory after victory, while the rest of the world cowers with fear in darkening times.