J563 Demystifying Week 9 Post

3/15/18

Presentations

The presentations, for the most part, were interesting looks into worlds that I don’t necessarily dip my toes into. A nice, diverse group of choices for presentation topics as well—surfing, crypto, satire, AI and the powers that be.

Presentations ran long, as they usually will. I don’t have any suggestions to solve this issue other than to extend them out to three weeks, which wouldn’t really be possible. With 12 people in class and approximately 120 minutes for each class, maybe have a hard cap of 15 minutes per presentation. If students have further questions, direct them to presenters emails or provide some time at the end of class.

As to the entire class, I enjoyed the structure and really enjoy the diversity of speakers. Even though I don’t have time to enroll for next term, I plan on crashing a few of the open portion of presentations. I also learned quite a bit in my analysis of Ben Thompson’s Stratechery and Derek Thompson’s postings for The Atlantic.

I was always finishing these at the last minute, but I would love to continue my blog just to force myself to read each week. We will see. Onto more interesting issues…

Stratechery, Ben Thompson

QUALCOMM, NATIONAL SECURITY, AND PATENTS
Posted on Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ooo controversy! And a vote for Trump! What the…?

So, President Trump squashed Broadcom’s $117 bb bid for Qualcomm, despite the Singapore-based companies promise to move operations back to the United States, this looks like just another case of Trump being a shortsighted dickwad. But wait! Thompson agrees with the move. Why?

Qualcomm has two-pronged revenue generation—one resulting from chips and another resulting from patent licensing on chip technology. Licensing is the more profitable side of this revenue equation because hardware takes money to research, develop, market and sell whereas post upfront licensing costs, it becomes a rolling source of passive income.

Qualcomm exist in today’s arguably most competitive marketplace: evolving tech. As Thompson notes, they’ve been struggling to stay competitive because of cheaper options on one end and Apple’s encroachment into the chip market by using its own proprietary chips. With profit margins being increasingly squeezed, Broadcom’s most likely strategy with a hostile takeover would be to wring the last of these out over the next few years, pay off while stripping out all parts of the company in order to streamline operations and save money.

As the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’s (CFIUS’s) letter to Broadcom points out, an acquisition of Qualcomm by Broadcom would, despite a move to the United States, weaken the country’s position as dominant chip maker and risk falling behind Chinese-government backed development of 5G technology. Because the US already has national security concerns concerning Chinese chip maker Huawei, hobbling the nation’s own chip maker to allow Broadcom short-term gain while ignoring long-term reinvestment would not be a smart move.

What’s interesting, Thompson points out, is that Qualcomm’s chips are already proprietary units protected by patent law; it’s the government protecting a monopoly. Thompson asserts that in order to spur more innovation (and push our competitive edge over foreign producers), this country needs to remove or reduce the power of technology patents.

Thompson’s assertion is remarkably similar to Cory Doctorow’s eloquent argument regarding copyright:

“This is why it’s time to stop talking about copyright and creativity and start talking about the Internet. Because someone can be as smart and talented as Don Henley and still think that you can establish nationwide networked surveillance and censorship and all you’re going to touch on is ‘‘piracy.’’

For so long as we go on focusing this debate on artists, creativity, and audiences – instead of free speech, privacy, and fairness – we’ll keep making the future of society as a whole subservient to the present-day business woes of one industry.”

Copyright and patent rights are there to protect the rights of inventors. They are not there to cement the perpetual affluences of inventors, founders, creators and generations of families. For example, copyright helps to keep Disney and its brethren rich off of creative content that’s decades old. Disney fights to keep these creative vaults sealed, despite the public benefit of using this content. This deletoriously affects a myriad of creative industry (books, movies, television, music, education, etc.) because rich old men feel the need to hoard resources and weld the doors shut to everyone else.

Among the million and one issues challenging this country today, copyright and patent law are two of the most negatively pervasive and least well-known. I say we break the doors down.

Second, I understand why Chinese application of chips could be a national security issue because China could use this tech to spy, to spread malware, etc. But isn’t it a bit ironic, don’tcha’ think? A little too ironic that the United States already uses this tech to keep tabs on citizens.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” says the shadow government, “We’re the ones who’re allowed to spy on our citizens. Who would want some nasty Chinaman looking over your shoulder? Just trust in ole’ Uncle Sam. He’s got your best interests at heart…”

Umm…right on?

Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

I just got Derek Thompson’s Hitmakers and plan to at least crack it over break (I’ve got five additional books that are ahead of it in line, but I’ll get there…) The man is a guru and a legend with his John Henry-like content. This week, Thompson covered:

“Busting the Myth of ‘Welfare Makes People Lazy’”

I’m excited to read this because I worked in low-income schools for nine years. I’ve been privy to the million reasons why it’s hard to be living on the edge of comfort and destitution. I consider myself very lucky not to be in that position. And years working in a diversity of these communities makes it obvious to me that the wealth is not equitably distributed. Anyway…

This article was fascinating. Great claims and excellent facts backing them up. Thompson shines a light on what should be obvious and it’s become cliche: it’s not a handout, it’s a handup. Well, it can be a hand up when it’s not a method of social control. As Thompson’s reports indicate, welfare and government assistance programs are much more effective when used in an incentive-based capacity as opposed to a means of social control. (Who in their right mind thinks that people receive government funds should be required not to have a job?)

This conspiratorial line of reasoning harkens to what I believe Thompson’s most salient point in this post:

“Welfare isn’t just a moral imperative to raise the living standards of the poor. It’s also a critical investment in the health and future careers of low-income kids.”

Damn right. I have seen what happens to kids with no hope. In Detroit, in Fort Myers, in San Diego’s Barrio Logan and City Heights neighborhoods, in Chicago and in Milwaukee, the cycle is the same: powerlessness leads to rage, to gangs, to violence and to enrollment in the criminal justice system. I’ve seen it too many damn times and it’s so disgusting to see elites continue to reach for these easily digestible, humanity-degrading answers.

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