Monthly Archives: November 2007

Jipi and the paranoid chip

I just stumbled across this wonderful little story by Neal Stephenson: Jipi and the paranoid chip. Just the thing to assign to my students for the discussion of whether computers can be smarter than human beings some day.

In typical Neal Stephenson fashion, it has some of the meandering storyline of a shaggy dog story, with witty details on technology and economics. But fun, especially with the little twist in the penultimate sentence…

A view from 2027

Cory Doctorow has a great short story called Other People’s Money in Forbes – a snapshot from a future where it pays to be small and do physical fabrication. I remain unconvinced that the market for artfully designed retro-statues created from discarded consumer electronics would scale as elegantly as the fabrication and design process would in this story. But the take on VCs and the term "Silly Valley" made me smile.

Better believe and be wrong than the opposite…

Stephen Fry (it looks like I will be pointing to every single one of his "blessays" analyzes global warming and basically says we should respond to the climate crisis even if we are not sure about whether it is true. This seems to me to be very much like the old saw about religion, that it is better to be mistakenly religious than mistakenly atheistic.

As for climate credentials, I am sorry to report that I drive an old car. But it is comfortable, and I think that what I pollute in terms of gas is made up for by the fact that I do not contribute to the deteriorating climate by driving up the demand for new cars, which are environmentally costly to produce.

So there.

Of course, there is the possibility that the debate itself is leading to global warming…. 

Profiling Astrology

Malcolm Gladwell exposes criminal profiling as astrology, seen as valuable because people remember the parts that were true and forget the parts that weren’t.

I have heard that Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter, used to say: "If you are going to predict, predict often." At some point, some of what you say will be right.

Falling dollar and Silicon Valley

Interesting discussion: What happens to Silicon Valley as the dollar exchange rate falls even further. According to Nat Torkington, there is enough money in SV already, so foreign capital influx will not change much. And given the cluster characteristics, outflow of talent will be slow. But the exit procedure – the IPO – might move from NYSE or NASDAQ to stock exchanges abroad.
I don’t know about the outflow – much of the innovation in SV has been due to a diaspora of talent from Asia and to a certain extent Europe. It is only natural that some of those people will want to move back home and bring a little bit of the left coast with them. The question is rather – what is the critical size of an innovation cluster like SV, and how important is the VC part of it? If the answer to both is “large”, the SV will maintain its dominance for a very long time.