Steve Jobs, Magic and True Technological Innovation

Why Steve Jobs’ Magic Doesn’t Work In Medicine

The final paragraph was what triggered me to post this here:

I’ve idolized Jobs since I was a teenager. My first email account was on a NeXT, and I think he more than deserves his place in the firmament of business stars. But I’m haunted by a story I heard once about a biotech industry lobbyist who went to see a congressman and was told, “You guys don’t do innovation. The iPad. That’s innovative.” As a society, it seems to me, we say that a lot. We value the magic box built out of many more basic innovations much more than what came before – and as a result, we overlook the work that is actually foundational. And I worry that were this less true, medicine could have done even more for Steve Jobs.

I have never been a fan of Jobs, I have considered him one of the most successful total failures that have ever existed.  If he had a better understanding of business there would be no Microsoft and it is quite likely that IBM would no longer exist.  Instead, he trumpeted that Apple made more money each year while it wound up with a smaller market share.  He certainly knows how to make ordinary pedestrian products so amazing people will spend way more than it is worth to own one (iPod being the iconic product), but he never really made anything.  MacOS?  A Microsoft product.  Hardware?  Apple very early on gave up making hardware.  Even outside of Apple, the most successful thing Jobs did was Pixar and based on my reading it was largely in spite of Jobs than because of him (though Jobs being stubborn and having deep pockets was certain a major contributor to Pixar’s success).  Apple, unbelievably to me, was (perhaps still is) the company with the highest capitalization (which is nothing more than the price of the stock times the number of outstanding shares), despite WalMart, ExxonMobile (etc., etc., etc.) actually having valid reasons for being on top.

The possibility that had Jobs not been so, well, Jobs-like, he might still be alive seems to be the core of his successes, failures and ultimate demise.  Though I never liked him and almost never used his products (and certainly never paid for any of his products), the world is a somewhat dimmer place without him.  Some diamonds sparkle because of the perfection of the cut, others sparkle because of the inherent flaws.  Jobs sparkle was, in my opinion, the later, but now the world is a bit less sparkly and that is a sad thing.

We need a new killer app…

America’s ‘Oh Sh*T!’ Moment
Has the U.S. deleted the very things that made it great? Niall Ferguson on how America can avoid imminent collapse.

The author provides some paths to avoid the looming apocalypse, though I tend to be skeptical that anything will take root.  We would need a transformative leader (what Obama claimed to be), but clearly there is no one who appears to be that person on the horizon.  Given our current police state, I would be quite surprised if someone came along appearing to be such and was able to actually achieve office (meaning he/she would be arrested, assassinated, ridiculed by the media, etc.).  If changes can’t be made within the system, then what is left is revolution and very few revolutions are bloodless, particularly when the revolution is against the wealthy, powerful elite.  Lets posit a revolution against the elite, what keeps that from following the Chinese path and turn into a revolt against the educated and intellectual?  Our silly-assed country is already wildly anti-science and we have political leaders practically bragging about how clueless and ignorant they are, what chance a bloody (or even bloodless) revolution wouldn’t tar the intellectual and science community along with the financial elite?

I’m sorry, I just can’t develop any enthusiasm for a better future.  The best I can envision is a slow declining status quo that gives me just enough time to get the f*ck out without having to trash all my assets.  I am happy to be wrong, though!  I would love to be able to stay in the US, build a business empire and go on to conquer the world, but in today’s society, having been born to the ‘wrong’ parents, attending the ‘wrong’ schools and marrying the ‘wrong’ spouse, I few my chances of achieving the goals I have set for myself as so close to zero as to be indistinguishable from nada.

A New Declaration of Independence

A New Declaration of Independence
The weight of the 1 Percent has become intolerable. How can we take our country back? Here’s a fresh draft

I like Salon a lot and I like this document.  I doubt it will do any good (an eternal pessimist), but I hope it will trigger some changes.

Regarding debt relief, a ‘simple’ change to the bankruptcy code (which simply puts things back the way they were before special interests diddled around) would be to allow student loans to be eliminated and to allow judges to alter the conditions of mortgages (both now prohibited).  I also feel that there should be an overriding federal statute where states can be more generous, but not less generous.

Regarding the jobs program, it seems quite clear to me that if we don’t immediately start pumping trillions into our infrastructure we are just a few short years away from being unable to do so, ever (it takes a working infrastructure to rebuild an infrastructure).  The idea of government backed bonds (much like student loans and mortgage securities) makes a great deal of sense (though clearly a subject of potential abuse!) as it would have the potential to almost immediately pump the needed trillions into the system with the cost being paid via increased tax revenues as the infrastructure projects kick-start the economy (with the current interest rates actually being less than inflation, even if the economy does diddly (almost impossible, btw), we are still ahead of the game because we use cheaper future dollars to pay off the debt).  I have read that if by some magic the US government paid off all its debt it would cause gyrations in the global economy (at least until another source of super secure debt could be located) because so many entities (and other governments!) depend on the product being available.  Thus we could pay down the black-hole, bridge-to-nowhere, military-industry-complex budget hemorrhage and still have outstanding debt for the world to use as a shadow currency.

Regarding the public health care option, to me that is a no-brainer.  Nothing will squeeze out the insane profits of the health-care-industrial-complex like a non-profit competitor, I see the lack of public option as one of the biggest lies of the Obama presidency.

Clearly, re-regulate Wall Street!

Clearly, cut defense (and the intelligence) budget!  AND stop hiding wars off the balance sheet!

The ‘Patriot’ act was nothing more than a naked grab at power that set us on the fast path to a police state (we are already there, see earlier posts!).  If we are going to be a nation of laws, laws that violate the Constitution should be immediately repealed and a Congress that keeps passing illegal laws should be summarily dismissed.

Regarding climate change, I remain a skeptic on the whole thing, but if you are going to engage in some sort of remedial system it MUST be in such a way that the common, ordinary guy (like me!) can profit from it, and not just the monied special interests.  If I can come up with a way to sequester carbon for, say, $100 a ton and the ‘market’ values that ton at, say, $110, I should be able to make $10 a ton for as many verifiable tons as I can possibly sequester.  What I have read about ‘cap and trade’ and the tax rebates makes me totally convinced this is nothing more than a transfer of tax payer dollars into rich company’s pockets and there is no way the little guy can play along.

I am totally against the so-called war on drugs.  Prohibition essentially took the mafia from dock-side thugs to monied powerhouses capable of nation-wide influence.  Why can’t people see the direct parallels with the war on drugs?  Yes, drugs have a negative influence on society, but my argument is that the overall negative impact of the war on drugs (the huge number of people incarcerated for essentially nothing and the huge profit margins driving the gangs and cartels in their violent battles) grossly outweighs the cost to society of the addicts who need treatment, drive while intoxicated, etc.

I am of the opinion that there should be no restrictions on marriage between consenting adults, so I am fully supportive of the idea of removing restrictions on activities that have no impact whatsoever on society (except for those prudes who get all weak kneed when they see two guys holding hands).

Our graduated tax system actually works fine (I am happy with the top-end rates, myself), it is the insane number of exemptions and loopholes that have poisoned the system.  On the surface the idea of the government using tax incentives to encourage society to behave in certain ways makes sense, but when such incentives are implemented for narrow stakeholders and don’t apply uniformly (or to the majority of the population) we have what we have now, when a billionaire pays less taxes (as a percentage of his income) than me.  Fairness to me means that anyone who earns more than me pays at least the same percentage as I do, not that those of lesser fortune pay more than (or even as much as) I do.  Personally, I think corporate income taxes are stupid, corporations simply up their prices and pass it along to the end consumer, and that will forever be the case and no amount of wishful thinking will change things.  I favor abolishing the corporate income tax (indeed, virtually all corporate taxes) in favor of consumption taxes.  Now people are unaware of the amount of taxes built-in to the cost of goods, a sales tax would make it plain for everyone to see.  As a side effect, it levels the playing field so my corporation pays the same taxes as GE does currently (i.e., nothing).

If you like this, please pass it along!

Sex ed

Solving America’s teen sex problem
The Dutch have dramatically reduced adolescent pregnancies, abortions and STDs. What do they know that we don’t?

A very interesting article to me, though I suspect to the average American it would find it uncomfortable.  It seems the Dutch are vastly more open to the idea of teenage sex, so much so that they actually take a hand in it to the point of providing a safe and secure location at home to engage.  Though the article points out that the approach is not without some drawbacks, it would seem to me that the benefits are astronomically outweighed by any negatives when compared to the uniquely dysfunctional approach here in the US.  I plan on being quite forthright with Don about sex once he reaches an age where girls are no longer yucky (I don’t ever remember thinking girls were yucky, but I might have made the age appropriate statements when I was young, so perhaps Don really doesn’t think so poorly of girls after all).  Other than all sorts of probably unwanted and unappreciated advice about how to treat girls, my main emphasis will boil down to basically “put a package on that pecker!”  I can foresee difficulties emulating the Dutch approach (e.g., allowing, even encouraging, sex to happen at home) and not just with Don’s girlfriend’s parents; my wife is unlikely to greet such openess with enthusiasm.  We will have to see how things progress (he only just turned 7 so we have a few years to go yet), but that is the direction I plan on going.

In my case, growing up, my parents seem to take the passive aggressive approach of simply providing reading material for me.  I remember a rather laughingly awkward attempt at a conversation (I think they were both there) where they were asking if I had any questions about the material they had left about.  Being interested in science from a very young age I pretty much knew all the mechanics and physical outcomes before being apprised of their educational material, so I think I tossed off a chortle, perhaps even a guffaw, and told them I knew about it already and didn’t have any questions.  Of course, I really didn’t know, since making love is way more than merely a physical process, but I did understand the consequences with regard to pregnancy, disease, etc.

As a by the by, as somewhat apropos, I, along with a good friend, penned a document discussing men, women and their married relationship.  If you find my writing interesting perhaps you will enjoy it as well:

One Trillion People!

This is an article of my own.  I have been studying aquaponics for quite a while (likely close to a decade) and am in the midst of building a 2K sqft greenhouse to put some techniques to test in the hopes of being able to commercialize the effort (my spreadsheet numbers, if I am able to tie them to reality, indicate that billions of bucks are possible in a decade or less!).  Anyway, I came across a website where they used hydroponics to grow a rather astonishing 10,000 lbs of harvestable, edible produce every month in a greenhouse only 1,800 sqft in size.  Taking the information from that page, I endeavored to calculate how many calories that greenhouse produced, thus how many people it could sustain, and then estimated how many people our planet could handle if we were to feed everyone from the food produced thus.  Rather incredibly I calculated that on only 10% of the land surface we could have a population of over 1 trillion people!  Check out my paper and let me know what you think:

Sailing stones of Death Valley


I was watching a Nature program a little while ago and the show’s focus was Death Valley and the adaptations necessary to exist there.  As an aside they mentioned the mysterious sailing stones that appear to drift around leaving tracks in this mostly bone dry wasteland.  I had seen something about the topic earlier and now that I have a blog I thought I would throw my idea out…

It seems clear from the research I have read that the movement only happens when there is water in the area and while many people question that idea that air movement has enough energy to move the rocks (some over 80 lbs, though the winds can get over 90 mph), I was thinking that perhaps what is occurring is water being blown against the stone is the motive force, and not the wind directly.  Water is much denser than air, thus has the ability to exert a great deal more force per unit area than wind, thus lower speed winds could result in the movement.

However, after reading the Wiki page, the idea of the ice float helping to lift the stone as well as providing more area for the wind to blow against (though if the ice is flat it wouldn’t do so much) is also intriguing.  Since it seems no one has caught them in the act (challenging if it only happens with 90 mph winds!) and it might not happen for a couple of years at a time, it might remain a mystery for quite some time.

Perhaps Ron Paul isn’t all crazy…

Fighting greedy bankers, an American tradition
Long before OWS, celebrated patriots from Jefferson to Lincoln battled powerful, corrupting financiers

Despite its clear progressive slant, I like Salon a lot, the vast majority of the articles appear to be well researched and relatively objective and when I have researched the articles I have come up with similar conclusions.

As the article mentions, I was also under the impression that the Fed was a government institution and thought that their dogged reluctance to open their books was some quirk of politics, not some legal issue because they are a private institution.   When Paul talks about doing away with the Fed he always sounds like he wants to do away with the mechanism all together (he also seems to want to go back to the gold standard, which, according to my research, would amplify any economic swings even worse than they already are).  I think the Fed has a valuable purpose, but I would make it a public institution and any profits would be returned to the treasury (something I presumed was already happening).  Presuming the tenants of the article are true (because my past efforts at researching Salon articles have met my expectations I am less likely to do such research and trust them) the iron grip of Wall Street is a lot easier to understand.

Death to all bankers!

A new PED

Just Cool It
Athletes, and patients, know that overheating hurts a body’s performance. Biologists H. Craig Heller and Dennis Grahn—using a vacuum and the palm—have learned how to chill out efficiently.

Thanks to Erik for pointing this out!

Because this appears to provide such a substantial increase in performance (or rather, recovery, which allows for better training) it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the anti doping agencies try to ban the practice.  I know they were interested in baning the use of hybobaric chambers (they simulate being at high altitude, something that is quite valuable to endurance athletes).

It would be challenging to do a double blind study to attempt to winkle out the placebo effects (it is my opinion that in most cases the alleged performance enhancement that comes from a lot of the presumed PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs) is from the placebo effect, perhaps coupled with extra training to justify the risk).  Since it is clear that the athletes being tested are using a gizmo that is supposed to help them the data they have collected so far would seem a bit dubious from an analysis point of view.

Space laser pointing up?

Space Junk Crisis: Time to Bring in the Lasers

I agree that politically this is a tough sell as it really is nothing more than a civilian application of Reagan’s famous Star Wars technology.   However, this is a very real problem that needs some sort of real solution and this appears to be a quite viable one, though not trivial.

And now for something completely different…

I found some emails in my outbox that I guess didn’t generate any responses, but I still think they are interesting so will post them here…

I thought you might like this change of pace from the usual stuff I send…

Plants draw bats by harnessing sound,0,4459906.story

Can Physics Explain Mysteries of Crop Circles?