The Heartbleed bug is a massive security flaw that could put you and your personal information at risk. And while there are things you can do to limit the damage and protect yourself, you haven’t yet seen the ramifications of this security disaster. The Internet in the post-Heartbleed world won’t look like anything you’ve seen before.
Politicians talk about the uninsured. Special interests argue on behalf of those with pre-existing conditions. But why is no one wondering how doctors are affected by the new law? They’re the ones on the frontlines dealing directly with new patients, as well as the red tape that makes bureaucracies go round.
Politicians proclaim the benefits of small business while on the campaign trail. But when they meet in the seedy halls of Congress, they have no problem doing whatever they can to stifle, regulate, and subdue their progress. Instead of siding with entrepreneurs, these politicians often side with political allies and cronies that helped put them into office.
Just because you’re retired doesn’t mean you have to stop working. Especially now that you have all the time in the world to do what you really want. Entrepreneurs don’t only come out of Silicon Valley. They come from all walks of life, from all different ages. If you’re retired and want to stay active while you relax, then find out the steps you need to take in order to start, manage, and grow your next small business.
Technology brought the world together. But has it gone too far? Decades ago, mail was delivered by hand. Now it’s delivered in seconds. How has that changed the way you live your life? How has it changed the way people act with each other? These are just some of the questions we need to ask.
The U.S. dollar has been the world's reserve currency for almost a century, and already there are signs it may be in decline. But that doesn't mean it's not still valuable. On the contrary... As Chris Mayer explains, there are many reasons the U.S. dollar will remain relevant on the world stage for years to come. Read on...
The best way to explain how to choose a good password is to explain how they're broken.
Can you imagine losing $119 billion in a single day? That might sound like an impossible amount of money to lose in any amount of time, but in the high-stakes world of startups, it really can happen in a day. And whenever there’s a “loser” in a zero-sum situation like this, there’s also a “winner.” The difference between the two? Vision.
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 […]
Google’s new Motorola unit had great ambitions to serve customers and keep dazzling us with ever more spectacular things that enhance our lives. After all, the smartphone is easily the greatest consumer innovation of our time, and maybe of all time. It accomplishes amazing feats in a tiny package and represents a greater achievement of the human mind than anything accomplished by government, ever.
The smartphone is really misnamed in so many ways. Depending on apps and extensions, it provides maps and global positioning, checks your blood pressure, becomes a musical instrument, allows you to buy and sell stocks from the middle of nowhere, to enjoy video chats with people from all over the world, to assemble friends and networks, and to keep up with and send messages to anyone.
It allows me to make my own movie on the fly and broadcast it out to billions in a matter of minutes. I can record a song. I can immediately make anything happening in front of me become a live stream to the whole world, and do this without paying any expensive fees. I can conduct an interview and archive it on my own channel, which I can create in a few seconds. Or of course, I can play one of thousands of games.
It’s a calculator, an email checker, a weather updater, a camera, a Web browser, a news reader, a complete stereo system, a book reader, a translator, a scanner, and a miniature everything all in a thing the size of a deck of cards that is half as thick. The innovations pour into this tiny miracle by the day, by the hour ,even. And it’s only begun: The app economy holds out the promise of astonishing innovation down the road.
I recall many times suggesting to people that they replace their old cell phone (which itself is a great gizmo, given that only the richest of the rich could afford such a thing in the 1980s) with a smartphone. They demure and refuse and finally give in, and only then do they realize what they’ve been missing. It’s a revelation, a childhood dream come true.
So what does Google plan to do with its new Motorola acquisition? Serve up some more wonderfulness to a public ready to be amazed again? Not yet. It’s first step was to file a massive lawsuit against iPhone. And why? You guessed it: patent infringement. Google claims that Apple has stolen some of Motorola’s technology.
Apple has systematically refused to enter into any reasonable licensing deals, which is exactly the same behavior that Samsung faced before. And Google is not stupid. The whole world was watching that lawsuit that Apple filed against Samsung, and saw how a tired, confused, and technologically dumbfounded jury, in a courtroom 10 miles from Apple’s headquarters, agreed to a $1 billion-plus judgement against Samsung.
Google won’t just take this lying down. It decided to act first rather than risk that kind of aggressive attack. It is asking the International Trade Commission to start blocking all imports of iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch. Crazy, right? Does Google hate our guts that it would seek such a result? After all these years of desperately serving the Web-surfing world, giving us amazing tools for free and revolutionizing the world of advertising, has it now decided to spread misery to the American public?
Nope, it’s all about defending itself against aggressive attack. What the jury did in the case of Apple v. Samsung has set off a deadly arms race. An industry that became thrilling and gigantic, and has brought unprecedented progress, is now entering into a dangerous period in which dogs really do eat dogs, where one company’s win is another’s loss, and where the welfare of the consumer has to be put on hold for the battle of the titans.
The problem comes down to one word: patent. In the 1980s, patents were extended to cover software. This was the beginning of what would become a catastrophic regulatory thicket that would ensnare every producer and where the lawyers would make out like bandits no matter who won.
When patents first came along in history, they were monopoly privilege granted by the crown in exchange for political subservience. This was the age of mercantilism, and it gradually led to the age of capitalism, in which trade barriers, taxes, and regulations fell. The slogan was laissez faire, or, leave commerce alone to manage itself. Government can’t improve on the results of the market process.
The patent today is a holdover from the pre-capitalistic age. It was not very controversial before the digital age, because economic progress was relatively slow and patents expire and because the patents didn’t apply to most of the important consumer products we use every day. But the problem with them has always been the same: By granting a right of exclusive production to one firm, patents attack the competitive process as its very root.
The competitive process takes place over several phases, which constantly overlap. There is innovation (always an extension of what came before). Then with innovation can come a period of profitability. This profitability attracts other producers to the industry who innovate further and try to improve the good or service. The initial producer then has to scramble to maintain market share, and it does so through innovation and price cuts.
Note that the whole system is based on the ability to learn from others. Good companies emulate the successes of others, avoid their mistakes, and improve what exists at the margin. That’s the essence of economic progress. This is how competition results in the biggest conceivable boon for consumers.
As Steve Jobs said in 1994, “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” So it has been for every great painter, poet, and entrepreneur. They build on what came before. I take issue only with the use of his word “steal.” When you copy an idea, there is not a thief and a victim, but two ideas. This idea-copying process extends to infinity.
Who in the business world likes the idea of competition? The startups like it. The innovators like it. Young companies seeking to change the world like it. Competition gives them an opportunity to make a difference and build wonderful things. But older companies do not like it. Once they get on top, they would much rather rest on their laurels.
In a market, they cannot rest. But with patents, they can sue. They can use the tools of government to clobber their competition. If it works, they can receive what amounts to a bailout. To win a patent suit against the competition is no different from getting a tariff erected against imports, having your insurance company get a huge cash infusion from the Department of the Treasury, or for a labor union to block low-price workers from entering the market.
The real story of Apple’s attack on Sumsung is told in the numbers. Apple has been dramatically losing market share to the competition. That’s no surprise: The first to market experiences a period of profitability above the average rate of return. But then others emulate and improve at the margin. Prices fall, service improves, and great things happen for everyone except the former industry leader.
Patents are an occasion of sin. They tempt business to go to government to smash their competition, instead of turning to more-innovative strategies to attract consumers. This is why industries without patents are so vibrant. Patents don’t apply to fashion, recipes of all your favorite meals, to plays in sports, and to most things we use and love.
I can hold up my Wal-Mart navy blazer and one from Burberrys and, from a distance of three feet, you couldn’t tell much difference. But both manage to exist side by side in peace, and everyone wins. But the jury in the Apple v. Sumsung case looked at the two phones and said: oh this are really too similar, so one has to go!
Patents established government-protected monopolies. Ironically, other divisions of government claim to intervene in markets to bust up monopolies and divide up market share. Either way, the government is doing central planning by picking winners and losers in the marketplace rather than let the competitive process play itself out.
What happened to Apple really amounts to a government-sponsored bailout, no different from that won by AGI in 2008. But do we recognize it as such? Probably not, because the whole racket is couched in the language of a law that few people understand or question.