MEK Studios tag:www.mekstudios.com,2013-02-10:/notional/20130210055031443 Critical thinking to start your day.<br>A blog of ideas, thoughts, and concepts for consideration. Copyright (c) 2013 Michael E. Kirkpatrick 2018-09-17T10:35:22-07:00 Michael E. Kirkpatrick http://www.mekstudios.com michael@mekstudios.com Lasts Longer tag:mekstudios.com,2018-09-17:/2018/09/lasts-longer 2018-09-17T10:35:22-07:00 2018-09-17T10:35:22-07:00 Horace Dediu <p>I agree with Horace, this was a huge strategic announcement by Lisa Jackson at Apple’s recent keynote:</p> <blockquote> <p>[Lisa Jackson] laid out a goal for Apple to eliminate the need to mine new materials from the Earth.</p> <p>She said that to reach that goal Apple will have to do three things:</p> <ol><li>Sourcing recycled or renewable materials for all products.</li> <li>Ensure that Apple products last as long as possible.</li> <li>After a long life of use, ensure that they are recycled properly.</li> </ol><p>It’s this second point that I thought would bring the house down.</p> <p>To emphasize the second point she said Apple now strives to design and build durable products that last as long as possible. That means long-lasting hardware coupled with long-lasting software. She pointed out that iOS 12 runs even on iPhone 5S, now five years old. Because iPhones last longer, you can keep using them or pass them on to someone who will continue to use them after you upgrade.</p> <p>She said that “keeping iPhones in use” is the best thing for the planet.</p> <p>At this point in the presentation I wondered if everyone would rush out of the room and call their broker to sell Apple shares.</p> </blockquote> An Oral History Of Apple’s Infinite Loop tag:mekstudios.com,2018-09-16:/2018/09/an-oral-history-of-apples-infinite-loop 2018-09-16T10:08:11-07:00 2018-09-16T10:08:11-07:00 Steven Levy <p>A wonderful look inside Apple and the history of Infinite Loop from Steven Levy, a long time chronicler of Apple.</p> <blockquote> <p>For more than a year I’ve been interviewing Apple employees, past and present, about their recollections of Infinite Loop. In their own words, edited for clarity and concision, here is the story of a plot of land in Cupertino, California, that brought us the Mac revival, the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone, and the Steve Jobs legacy.</p> </blockquote> Enemy Bylines tag:mekstudios.com,2018-08-16:/2018/08/enemy-bylines 2018-08-16T13:34:41-07:00 2018-08-16T13:34:41-07:00 David Pell <p>Today, in a coordinated effort led by the Boston Globe, news organizations across the United States printed, posted, shared their perspective on this idea:</p> <blockquote> <p>A central pillar of President Trump’s politics is a sustained assault on the free press. Journalists are not classified as fellow Americans, but rather “the enemy of the people.” This relentless assault on the free press has dangerous consequences. We asked editorial boards from around the country – liberal and conservative, large and small – to join us today to address this fundamental threat in their own words. </p> </blockquote> <p>From David Pell’s perspective:</p> <blockquote> <p>For Nixon supporters, one of the key lessons of his era was that a corrupt president could be weakened and even destroyed by the combined investigative efforts of law enforcement and a free press. Trump has spent a good portion of his presidency attacking both — so that by the time he utters his version of “I am not a crook,” the institutions tasked with countering that statement will have been greatly weakened in the eyes of voters. While Brennan and the hundreds of media outlets are correct to make their stand, it’s worth noting that these battle lines have been drawn within a framework of Trump’s creation. Trump vs the media and Trump vs the so-called deep state are the battles he wants, and like those fought in the 60s and 70s, the outcome of this battle will define America for years to come.</p> </blockquote> The Strange David And Goliath Saga Of Radio Frequencies tag:mekstudios.com,2018-08-09:/2018/08/the-strange-david-and-goliath-saga-of-radio-frequencies 2018-08-09T13:33:56-07:00 2018-08-09T13:33:56-07:00 David Zweig <p>Hat tip to <a href="https://pxlnv.com">Nick Heer</a>.</p> <blockquote> <p>I know the headline of this link sounds esoteric and boring, but this is actually a fascinating story from David Zweig in Wired:</p> <blockquote> <p>Random Farms, and tens of thousands of other theater companies, schools, churches, broadcasters, and myriad other interests across the country, need to buy new wireless microphones. The majority of professional wireless audio gear in America is about to become obsolete, and illegal to operate. The story of how we got to this strange point involves politics, business, science, and, of course, money.</p> <p>[…]</p> <p>The upheaval around wireless mics can be traced to the National Broadband Plan of 2010, where, on the direction of Congress, the FCC declared broadband “a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life.” Two years later, in a bill best known for cutting payroll taxes, Congress authorized the FCC to auction off additional spectrum for broadband communications. In 2014, the FCC determined it would use the 600 MHz band — where most wireless microphones operate — to accomplish that goal.</p> </blockquote> <p>According to Zweig, this is the second time in ten years that part of the RF spectrum used for wireless audio equipment has been reallocated; so, for many users, this is the second time in recent memory they’re having to spend thousands of dollars on new gear. And there appears to be no indication that the FCC will cordon off a specific spectrum for these kinds of devices to operate on, which is foolish.</p> </blockquote> An open-source, creative commons beer & brewery database with an API tag:mekstudios.com,2018-08-09:/2018/08/an-open-source-creative-commons-beer-and-brewery-database-with-an-api 2018-08-09T07:59:05-07:00 2018-08-09T07:59:05-07:00 Michael E. Kirkpatrick <p>Hey! I’m looking for some feedback and thoughts on a brewery and beer database I cooked up. I’ve got 6,601 brewers and 70,729 beers in the database at the moment. The idea is to provide the community with brewer information including a little about the brewery, their location(s), links, and information on the beer they brew (all the pertinent info: name, style, description, ABV, IBU).</p> <p>Any content added to the database is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0) and is accessible via a website and API. Unlike other beer and brewer databases online, you don’t need to get approved for API access, and you don’t have to pay to remove rate limitations. The database is open and accessible to anyone.</p> <p>I would love to see beer entrepreneurs leverage the database into new and exciting apps, provide beer enthusiasts with a catalog of information about the breweries they’re interested in, and researchers the opportunity to mine the vast world that is craft beer.</p> <p>What do you think? You can check it out at:</p> <p><a href="https://catalog.beer">https://catalog.beer</a></p> <p>Known issues and limitations:</p> <ul><li>You can’t currently edit beer or brewer information</li> <li>There’s an authenticity component where brewers can verify their information that needs additional development. See <a href="https://catalog.beer/brewer/d3d29639-f374-e473-bf7c-5b764b8cf67d">Triton Brewing</a> as an example of a verified brewer.</li> </ul><p>All feedback is welcome: <a href="https://catalog.beer/contact">email</a> / <a href="https://twitter.com/mekirkpatrick">Twitter @mekirkpatrick</a></p> Ways to think about machine learning tag:mekstudios.com,2018-06-24:/2018/06/ways-to-think-about-machine-learning 2018-06-24T21:46:46-07:00 2018-06-24T21:46:46-07:00 Benedict Evans <p>Great primer from Benedict Evans on how to think about Machine Learning.</p> Climate Change Can Be Stopped by Turning Air Into Gasoline tag:mekstudios.com,2018-06-07:/2018/06/climate-change-can-be-stopped-by-turning-air-into-gasoline 2018-06-07T15:10:51-07:00 2018-06-07T15:10:51-07:00 Robinson Meyer <p>In basic terms, a team of scientists from Harvard University and the company Carbon Engineering have developed and prototyped a process to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. That’s pretty cool. However it doesn’t necessarily address climate change because it’s not a carbon capture technology (the fuel that is made from the carbon capture process is designed to be burned/used).</p> <p>The lead author of the study that presented these findings, David Keith notes “it [is] important to still stop emitting carbon-dioxide pollution where feasible. ‘My view is we should stick to trying to cut emissions first. As a voter, my view is it’s cheaper not to emit a ton of [carbon dioxide] than it is to emit it and recapture it.’”</p> <p>That or we need to develop a market mechanism that encourages companies like Carbon Engineering to capture atmospheric carbon dioxide and prevent it from returning to the atmosphere (e.g. store it).</p> Lobe - Deep Learning Made Simple tag:mekstudios.com,2018-05-03:/2018/05/lobe-deep-learning-made-simple 2018-05-03T15:36:43-07:00 2018-05-03T15:36:43-07:00 Lobe <p>It’s amazing to me how accessible machine learning is becoming to everyday people. Lobe is another step in that direction.</p> <p>Via Daring Fireball</p> Divine Discontent: Disruption’s Antidote tag:mekstudios.com,2018-05-03:/2018/05/divine-discontent-disruptions-antidote 2018-05-03T15:10:55-07:00 2018-05-03T15:10:55-07:00 Ben Thompson <p>This section of Ben’s piece is worth quoting in its entirety. The key sentence is the last.</p> <blockquote> <p>Jeff Bezos has been writing an annual letter to shareholders since 1997, and he attaches that original letter to one he pens every year. It included this section entitled Obsess Over Customers:</p> <blockquote> <p>From the beginning, our focus has been on offering our customers compelling value. We realized that the Web was, and still is, the World Wide Wait. Therefore, we set out to offer customers something they simply could not get any other way, and began serving them with books. We brought them much more selection than was possible in a physical store (our store would now occupy 6 football fields), and presented it in a useful, easy-to-search, and easy-to-browse format in a store open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. We maintained a dogged focus on improving the shopping experience, and in 1997 substantially enhanced our store. We now offer customers gift certificates, 1-Click shopping, and vastly more reviews, content, browsing options, and recommendation features. We dramatically lowered prices, further increasing customer value. Word of mouth remains the most powerful customer acquisition tool we have, and we are grateful for the trust our customers have placed in us. Repeat purchases and word of mouth have combined to make Amazon.com the market leader in online bookselling.</p> </blockquote> <p>Over the last 20 years Amazon has dramatically changed, but Bezos’ annual focus on consumers has not. This year, after highlighting just how much customers love Amazon (answer: a lot), Bezos wrote:</p> <blockquote> <p>One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static — they go up. It’s human nature. We didn’t ascend from our hunter-gatherer days by being satisfied. People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ‘ordinary’. I see that cycle of improvement happening at a faster rate than ever before. It may be because customers have such easy access to more information than ever before — in only a few seconds and with a couple taps on their phones, customers can read reviews, compare prices from multiple retailers, see whether something’s in stock, find out how fast it will ship or be available for pick-up, and more. These examples are from retail, but I sense that the same customer empowerment phenomenon is happening broadly across everything we do at Amazon and most other industries as well. You cannot rest on your laurels in this world. Customers won’t have it.</p> </blockquote> <p>Critically, when it comes to Internet-based services, this customer focus does not come at the expense of a focus on infrastructure or distribution or suppliers: while those were the means to customers in the analog world, in the online world controlling the customer relationship gives a company power over its suppliers, the capital to build out infrastructure, and control over distribution. Bezos is not so much choosing to prioritize customers insomuch as he has unlocked the key to controlling value chains in an era of aggregation.</p> <p>Bezos’s letter, though, reveals another advantage of focusing on customers: it makes it impossible to overshoot.</p> </blockquote> Productivity tag:mekstudios.com,2018-04-11:/2018/04/productivity 2018-04-11T12:01:15-07:00 2018-04-11T12:01:15-07:00 Sam Altman <p>I think often about how I can best use my time — and get frustrated when I feel like I’m doing things that aren’t helping me get where I want to go. Sam Altman wrote up some of his thoughts on productivity (linked here). I don’t think there’s a single quote that’s worth pulling; the whole thing is worth a read. I don’t subscribe to some of his ideas but this post like most of.</p> <p>See also: <a href="/2014/01/the-builders-high">The Builder’s High</a></p> The Federal Deficit tag:mekstudios.com,2018-04-10:/2018/04/the-federal-deficit 2018-04-10T13:24:07-07:00 2018-04-10T13:24:07-07:00 Michael E. Kirkpatrick <p>I was recently talking to my grandmother about the federal budget and where money was being spent. We looked at the fact that nearly half of the federal budget (47.8% to be exact, totaling $1.9 trillion) is spent on Social Security ($939 billion), Medicare ($591 billion) and Medicaid ($375 billion) (<a href="https://www.cbo.gov/publication/53624">Source</a>).</p> <p>Today, the Congressional Budget Office that provides nonpartisan analysis for Congress released a report titled “<a href="https://www.cbo.gov/publication/53651">The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2018 to 2028</a>”; basically a 10-year look ahead for Congress on the budget based on current laws.</p> <p>After reading that report, I wrote her this email:</p> <p>Good morning Grandma!</p> <p>Following up our conversation about the federal debt, I found it interesting to see a new chart that projects forward the amount of national debt for the next ten years based on congressional budgets. The scary part to me is that at some point the debt must be paid (e.g., a 10-year treasury note). The projection is that debt will reach 96% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product - the value of the goods produced in the United States in one year) equivalent to $29 trillion. In other words, if the debt gets to that level, as a country we would have to take 96% of the income we derived from sales that year to pay off our debt. Hard to imagine. Today the debt is $16 trillion. The last time we had debt near 100% of GDP we were at war (1945).</p> <p><img src="/images/notional/cbo-federal-debt-held-by-the-public-1940-2028.png" alt="Federal Debt Held by the Public" class="img-fluid" /></p> <p>A few notes from the report that I found interesting:</p> <blockquote> <p>As deficits accumulate in CBO’s projections, debt held by the public rises from 78 percent of GDP (or $16 trillion) at the end of 2018 to 96 percent of GDP (or $29 trillion) by 2028. That percentage would be the largest since 1946 and well more than twice the average over the past five decades (see Summary Figure 2).</p> <p>Such high and rising debt would have serious negative consequences for the budget and the nation:</p> <p>Federal spending on interest payments on that debt would increase substantially, especially because interest rates are projected to rise over the next few years.</p> </blockquote> <p>Remember that our current budget spends nearly 50% on things like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. If we have to increase our spending as a nation to pay back the debt, we necessarily have to cut from somewhere else (e.g., one of those programs)</p> <blockquote> <p>Because federal borrowing reduces total saving in the economy over time, the nation’s capital stock would ultimately be smaller, and productivity and total wages would be lower.</p> <p>Lawmakers would have less flexibility to use tax and spending policies to respond to unexpected challenges.</p> <p>The likelihood of a fiscal crisis in the United States would increase. There would be a greater risk that investors would become unwilling to finance the government’s borrowing unless they were compensated with very high-interest rates; if that happened, interest rates on federal debt would rise suddenly and sharply.</p> </blockquote> <p>And this last point is interesting because it’s true. The more debt we have (the more debt you and I might have) the riskier it is as an investor to loan us more money. More risk requires a higher potential payout (e.g., I’m not sure if you’re going to pay me back, so I want a high level of return to get back whatever I can). Higher interest rates for people with poor credit is true for car loans today and may be true for our government if our country gets into a situation where we are overloaded with debt (at 96% of GDP). Because ultimately, it’s our tax dollars that fund the government, and it’s the government that has gone into such massive debt.</p> <p>Oh boy.</p> <p>-Michael</p> Why Zuckerberg’s 14-year Apology Tour Hasn’t Fixed Facebook tag:mekstudios.com,2018-04-08:/2018/04/why-zuckerbergs-14-year-apology-tour-hasnt-fixed-facebook 2018-04-08T11:11:58-07:00 2018-04-08T11:11:58-07:00 Zeynep Tufekci <blockquote> <p>In 2003, one year before Facebook was founded, a website called Facemash began nonconsensually scraping pictures of students at Harvard from the school’s intranet and asking users to rate their hotness. Obviously, it caused an outcry. The website’s developer quickly proffered an apology. “I hope you understand, this is not how I meant for things to go, and I apologize for any harm done as a result of my neglect to consider how quickly the site would spread and its consequences thereafter,” wrote a young Mark Zuckerberg. “I definitely see how my intentions could be seen in the wrong light.”</p> <p>…By 2008, Zuckerberg had written only four posts on Facebook’s blog: Every single one of them was an apology or an attempt to explain a decision that had upset users.</p> <p>…By now, it ought to be plain to [Facebook employees], and to everyone, that Facebook’s 2 billion-plus users are surveilled and profiled, that their attention is then sold to advertisers and, it seems, practically anyone else who will pay Facebook—including unsavory dictators like the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte. That is Facebook’s business model. That is why the company has an almost half-a-trillion-dollar market capitalization, along with billions in spare cash to buy competitors.</p> <p>These are such readily apparent facts that any denial of them is quite astounding.</p> <p>And yet, it appears that nobody around Facebook’s sovereign and singular ruler has managed to convince their leader that these are blindingly obvious truths whose acceptance may well provide us with some hints of a healthier way forward. That the repeated word of the use “community” to refer Facebook’s users is not appropriate and is, in fact, misleading. That the constant repetition of “sorry” and “we meant well” and “we will fix it this time!” to refer to what is basically the same betrayal over 14 years should no longer be accepted as a promise to do better, but should instead be seen as but one symptom of a profound crisis of accountability. When a large chorus of people outside the company raises alarms on a regular basis, it’s not a sufficient explanation to say, “Oh we were blindsided (again).”</p> </blockquote> <p>Privacy is important to me. I don’t use Facebook, or its products, because I don’t like the amount of data they collect or how information (e.g. photos and updates) that I add to their platform gets shared.</p> <p>It’s tough because while I provide value to Facebook, it’s not monetary. And those who do pay Facebook — advertisers — are the real customers.</p> Google now knows when its users go to the store and buy stuff tag:mekstudios.com,2017-05-27:/2017/05/google-now-knows-when-its-users-go-to-the-store-and-buy-stuff 2017-05-27T09:31:50-07:00 2017-05-27T09:31:50-07:00 Elizabeth Dwoskin; Craig Timberg <blockquote> <p>Google has begun using billions of credit-card transaction records to prove that its online ads are prompting people to make purchases — even when they happen offline in brick-and-mortar stores, the company said Tuesday.</p> <p>The advance allows Google to determine how many sales have been generated by digital ad campaigns, a goal that industry insiders have long described as “the holy grail” of online advertising. But the announcement also renewed long-standing privacy complaints about how the company uses personal information.</p> </blockquote> Torching the Modern-Day Library of Alexandria tag:mekstudios.com,2017-05-14:/2017/05/torching-the-modern-day-library-of-alexandria 2017-05-14T08:31:02-07:00 2017-05-14T08:31:02-07:00 Jame Somers <blockquote> <p>You were going to get one-click access to the full text of nearly every book that’s ever been published. Books still in print you’d have to pay for, but everything else–a collection slated to grow larger than the holdings at the Library of Congress, Harvard, the University of Michigan, at any of the great national libraries of Europe–would have been available for free at terminals that were going to be placed in every local library that wanted one.</p> <p>At the terminal you were going to be able to search tens of millions of books and read every page of any book you found. You’d be able to highlight passages and make annotations and share them; for the first time, you’d be able to pinpoint an idea somewhere inside the vastness of the printed record, and send somebody straight to it with a link. Books would become as instantly available, searchable, copy-pasteable–as alive in the digital world–as web pages.</p> <p>It was to be the realization of a long-held dream. “The universal library has been talked about for millennia,” Richard Ovenden, the head of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries, has said. “It was possible to think in the Renaissance that you might be able to amass the whole of published knowledge in a single room or a single institution.” In the spring of 2011, it seemed we’d amassed it in a terminal small enough to fit on a desk.</p> <p>“This is a watershed event and can serve as a catalyst for the reinvention of education, research, and intellectual life,” one eager observer wrote at the time.</p> <p>On March 22 of that year, however, the legal agreement that would have unlocked a century’s worth of books and peppered the country with access terminals to a universal library was rejected under Rule 23(e)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.</p> <p>When the library at Alexandria burned it was said to be an “international catastrophe.” When the most significant humanities project of our time was dismantled in court, the scholars, archivists, and librarians who’d had a hand in its undoing breathed a sigh of relief, for they believed, at the time, that they had narrowly averted disaster.</p> </blockquote>