There’s been a flurry of press about stalling productivity growth in the West over the past few years. The usual explanations from economists tend to revolve around low levels of capital investment, poor measurement of certain new forms of innovation, or simply stalling levels of innovation.
I’d like to point out a few more possibilities that have received less coverage. The actuality is likely some combination of many of these factors. Continue reading →
I’m not sure if this is an original idea, but sharing just in case.
Many modern cars have push-button starters that do not require a key to start the ignition. Usually, the proximity of the owner’s fob is sufficient to start the car. The problem, of course, is that the code to open the car is the same, and (by design) it needs to work from a distance. This provides ample opportunity for hackers to intercept the code (and either open, or steal the car), even with various techniques that try to obscure the code.
It occurs to me that the process of opening and of starting the car do not need to be combined.
The fob could contain two transmitters, with different coding schemes. One of them would be used for remote entry, as in current designs. The other, which would be extremely low-powered, and only operate from a range of two or three feet, would be used to enable the ignition.
I was thinking about the old problem of how to warn people not to dig open a nuclear waste repository that may be unsafe for an extremely extended period of time. There’s an article on Slate from 2014 here. The problem has been discussed for years though. I remember reading about it when I was a kid.
In the past, governments have tried crowd-sourcing a solution for a warning sign that will still be understood thousands, or tens of thousands of years in the future.
The problem specifically is that a sign, whether it consists of iconography or text, may not be understandable even after a few generations.
I can’t think of a specific example right now, but I’ve encountered examples of iconography from less than a hundred years ago that I had to look up. That obviously wouldn’t do for a sign warning of imminent danger. There’s worse things than accidentally entering the wrong washroom, after all.
What if, instead of crowd-sourcing the solution, we instead extended the resolution out over time? Time-sourcing it, if you will. Continue reading →
In case you haven’t heard yet, Dick Costolo is out as CEO at Twitter. I’m an outsider, so I have no idea whether this is deserved or not, but when analysts question a CEO’s tenure publicly, it can easily undermine their stature to the point where it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In this case, it wasn’t unexpected.
Twitter isn’t profitable, and has lately shown signs of stalling growth. Whoever takes over the reins there (Jack Dorsey is stepping in as interim CEO) is going to be under pressure to “fix” whatever is ailing the company, and fast.
The problems may only have manifested since the IPO, but they aren’t really new though. Here’s something I wrote (I was talking about a spate of Twitter-imitators at the time) four years ago:
I always wonder about sites that are focused on Twitter-like feeds though. To my mind, that functionality basically forms the same purpose as RSS feeds. Its just crying out to be aggregated, and then where does that leave the feed sites, or the individual content creators?
In case you haven’t seen this posted, NASA has a NASA cosmic ray challenge (with $29,000 prize) posted on Innocentive for ways to reduce the impact of cosmic rays on astronauts on extended space missions outside of Low Earth Orbit. This is a serious health concern for Mars missions, and traditional methods of radiation shielding (i.e. lots of lead) are too heavy for current mission parameters.
I’m not a material scientist, so the precise details are beyond me, but here’s roughly what I think the solution will ultimately look like (don’t worry, I’ve submitted this already!). Continue reading →
I realized today that I’ve been writing this blog for more than five years. I’ve kept everything up here (even the stuff that now appears hopelessly naive or even downright embarrassing), because it provides a record for me of the lessons (some of them hard earned) that I’ve learned along the way.
Re-reading some of what I’ve written, I’ve decided to write a retrospective, to see how well things have stood up over time (and to review what I’ve learned along the way).
Here’s what I’m thinking:
The server keeps track of (and likely caches, in order to reduce the size of transactions) a blockchain
As the user interacts with the game, additional entries are made in the blockchain to record them
The user’s chain is periodically sent back to the server to check for cheating, and to keep all of the users in synch
There would need to be some sort of mechanism for interchange of blockchain transactions between users, to keep the system honest
As I previously mentioned, I haven’t thought this out in a great amount of detail. Assuming this approach works, it could move a lot more of the code into the client, and reduce client-server communication. That should speed things up significantly.
I’ve been watching the price of oil lately (what, don’t you do that also?). I just read this on Bloomberg this morning, which implies further declines in the price of crude through 2015. The question is why. Typically we only see this sort of sustained decline in the face of an economic downturn. There’s a lot of subtext that I’m missing here though, and I’m hoping some of my readers can fill in the gaps for me. Continue reading →