Archive for September 2nd, 2013|Daily archive page

Does Your iPhone Use As Much Electricity As A New Refrigerator? Not Even Close. | ThinkProgress

Does Your iPhone Use As Much Electricity As A New Refrigerator? Not Even Close. | ThinkProgress.


… And this is why I have advocated the widespread–global–use of handhelds to do more than complement but replace, whenever possible, desktops: They use less energy to make and run and their making uses far fewer resources. They also are likely to last longer.

What is needed to win arguments is empirical evidence knitted into a narrative that cannot be dismissed or exploited–a narrative that elucidates the ways that local markets can benefit by promoting this sort of platform. I don’t mean top-down industrial policy (IP) but the more effective sort described by Fred Block and others.

The Startup Europe Manifesto: A plan for a more entrepreneur-friendly EU – The Next Web

The Startup Europe Manifesto: A plan for a more entrepreneur-friendly EU – The Next Web.


This is interesting. What do people think of it?

Sarcasm Is Needed: As More Fukushima Leaks Are “Discovered”, Japan Vows “Quick Action” | Zero Hedge

As More Fukushima Leaks Are “Discovered”, Japan Vows “Quick Action” | Zero Hedge.

I don’t usually like Zero Hedge but…. I just wish that the sarcasm were actually effective. For neither shame nor ridicule nor worldwide disbelief in Tepco and its seeming buddy, the government, have proved effective in stanching this lethal hemorrhage. At least with Chernobyl, there was something done to contain the catastrophe–but that’s still going on and by no means was the response by the Soviet Union an example of transparency and accountability, let alone honesty. Received wisdom (a k a Wikipedia?) cites the government’s “coverup” to Chernobyl (think Monty Python‘s dead parrot sketch) as a ‘”catalyst”‘ for glasnost, which “paved the way for reforms leading to the Soviet collapse” [Associated Press, 24 April 2006, at; from Wikipedia, Chernobyl Disaster, retrieved 2013-09-02 23:11 -0500).


Interesting Law Journal: SCRIPTed

Current Issue | SCRIPTed.


The current issue focuses on open collaborative projects, a term I rather like and which resolves the blur community shakes. The journals is well regarded and the essays seem interesting–and very much to the point. Those of us constructing such collaborations must go over many of these points, if not at first, then when the project has reached that point of maturity when not doing the needed bureaucracy proves a disservice to all.

More on Mazzucato: Comments on Schumpeter: The entrepreneurial state | The Economist

Comments on Schumpeter: The entrepreneurial state | The Economist.

The Economist’s review was unsurprising but it did lead to a succinct summary from Mazzucato, which I quote:

MarianaMazzucato3 hours 36 mins ago

Thanks for the review, and the comments. Some clarifications.

First, my point is not that the state is always entrepreneurial. But that it CAN be, and that the constant depiction of it as a heavy-handed impediment to innovation and entrepreneurship is based on ideology not empirical evidence. There are of course plenty of states that waste money—and that are anything but entrepreneurial. My recent piece in the FT (21/8/13) made exactly that point the problems in Greece & Italy are that their high debt/GDP is a result of spending in the wrong places—areas that increase debt without growth. And as entitlements are important for redistributing wealth, if investments are not made in wealth creation, then there is nothing to redistribute and the system becomes unsustainable. Spain’s recent 40% drop in research spending since 2009 will not help it become a ‘surplus’ country like Germany.

Second, what we learn from looking at the public spending that helped create Silicon Valley is that the form of state institutions/agencies matter. Top down decisions from ‘ministries of innovation’ are less successful than when those investment decisions happen bottom up, via dynamic, de-centralized, and well-funded state agencies, coordinated by higher-level ministries but not overly directed by them (see work of Block & Keller). And to attract the kind of ‘expertise’ that DARPA and ARPA-E are able to attract, it is important to create dynamic ‘missions’ (going to the moon in the past, tackling climate change today), and to give the relevant agencies serious budgets. Indeed, the ability of DARPA to hire top minds, and to nurture an atmosphere where risk-taking is welcomed rather than feared was related to its ability to know when to halt investments that were going no where. Ironically, it is the type of states that have timid missions, and small budgets, that are not able to attract this kind of expertise in government, and that are thus more likely to make both wasteful investments, and failing ones that go on too long.

Third, precisely because innovation is so uncertain (most will fail), it is fundamental to consider the risk-reward relationship in innovation. This is not about asking the public sector to act like the private sector, and to seek profits. Indeed, the state should be driven by big missions, and invest precisely in the areas that the private sector fears. This means thinking big and going beyond investing only in the ‘basics’, spending also, for example, on seed finance which private venture capital (VC) has proved too risk-averse to fund. Revolutionaries like Steve Jobs have surfed waves of state investments which today are under threat. VC often enters the game after the capital intensive and high-risk investments have been absorbed by the state. We saw this in biotech and are seeing this again today in clean-tech. Of course these private sector actors are important. And, are especially important when co-investing alongside the state in the big opportunities of the future, as was the case with the crucial investments made in Xerox Parc and Bell Labs—rather than the focus today by companies like Cisco on share-buybacks (be careful Apple). The problem is that ideology is preventing us from understanding the role that the state is playing in this co-investment process. Once we understand that it is much more than providing the ‘basics’ and is actually making things happen that otherwise would not, the question arises, ‘Where will the public funding come from in the future to fund such activity?’ If risks (in innovation) are being socialize, so should the rewards. Not to fill up the pockets of ‘government bureaucrats’ but to replenish the innovation funds that are so important in funding areas like Google’s algorithm (National Science Foundation), Compaq and Intel’s early stage funds (SBIR), the research behind the Internet (DARPA, CERN), and the funding that today goes to the discovery of the most radical new medicines (NIH spending $32bn/year), and the most revolutionary high clean-tech investments (ARPA-E). It does not matter whether in some of these cases the government is ‘only funding’ the research (e.g. NSF grant) or actually doing it (e.g. in NIH labs, or CERN). The issue is that the funds are coming from the taxpayer. Given that many of the companies that benefit from such funding pay back very little tax, and many of the jobs generated go global, thinking less naively about the risk-return nexus will make the innovation cycle more sustainable (regenerated in the future, rather than start/stop), but also more inclusive. Is it right that Silicon Valley public schools have not benefitted from the ‘wealth creation’ process in Silicon Valley that the public sector was fundamental to making happen? I don’t think so.
Mariana Mazzucato, author of The Entrepreneurial State: debunking public vs. private sector myths (Anthem 2013)

Entrepreneurs or the state: Innovation comes from public investment.

Entrepreneurs or the state: Innovation comes from public investment. – Slate Magazine.

I came across Mazzucato a while ago and what she and Fred Block (and other economists and even non-economists) argue fits what I and (many) others have long observed and noted: that government’s role in innovation investment has been deprecated and even obscured. Mazzucato’s new book, The Entrepreneurial State, expands on the subject. Mazzucato is a good writer and the book is interesting. It does the great service of unpacking (thoroughly undoing, actually) the persistent myth about innovation in tech: that it is all about individuals and sometimes, grudgingly, garage bands, working outside the destructive gravity of the government to come up with that something new. Of course there are brilliant individuals and of course many do new things on their own, in the isolation of their garage or apartment or cabin in the woods, that change the shape of the present and future. But that’s not the point of her or any rational examination. It is rather to examine the logistics of innovation so as to strengthen the likelihood of effective investment. And pretending that it’s all done in Libertarian isolation is not the way.

R H I Z O M A T I C A | Mobile Communications for All

R H I Z O M A T I C A | Mobile Communications for All.

News of Rhizomatica’s work in at least one small town in Mexico came via a front-page feature in Mexico’s La Jornada. Rhizomatica’s effort is not unique; there are others working around the world seeking to make the vast number of regular phones (as opposed to smartphones: not connected to the Internet) more useful and less simply vehicles for buying yet more powerful (and probably useless) smartphones. The problems that most of the world faces when it comes to mobile (or any) telephony starts with the initial device cost but immediately encounters everything having to do with using the thing, as well as keeping it charged. And then there’s the problem of accessing the Internet usefully. Individual approaches, and approaches that promote a proprietary individualism, I tend to find short sighted, and I think experience has shown me right. Rhizomatica’s approach is not like that, nor are many of the others now operating in, for instance, Africa. Rhizomatica explicitly seeks to act as a bridge using open source technologies so that the other half of the world can have mobile telephony and even, perhaps, the Web. But these efforts, however, modestly successful, escape much news because they are not marketed by well-known multinationals; they are often spearheaded by enterprising communities and groups outside of the common business narratives. As they put it on their About page:

Our mission is to increase access to mobile telecommunications to the over 2 billion people without affordable coverage and the 700 million with none at all.

Through efforts in Mexico and Nigeria, we use new information and communication technologies, especially mobile telephony, to facilitate development and community organization in the developing world. Our approach combines regulatory reform, decentralization, community involvement, and the application of new technologies to connect people and communities to services proven to increase access to information, development and, ultimately, quality of life.

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