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Archive for the ‘business’ category: Page 131

Oct 10, 2011

Avoiding Bubbles — The California Dream Act

Posted by in categories: business, economics, finance, open access

The California Dream Act.

The banking industry is likely California Dreaming about the day when more states get their act together. …For those of us who think that the US will see a bubble in the education industry caused by its efforts to distribute human kind’s knowledge communities outside of the affluent elite, they shouldn’t hold their breath.

The Cali Dream Act could seem like an altruistic attempt to empower our desperate relatives converging on US cities, but there are some fiscally desperate economics behind this proverbial triumph over “social evil”, as if such a thing ever existed…LOL

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Sep 27, 2011

Solution In Search Of A Problem — Nationalism, Environmentalism, and Space’s struggle for cultural relevance.

Posted by in categories: business, futurism, space, sustainability

Space is a hard sell these days. Aside from the persistent small community of die-hard space advocates and New Space entrepreneurs, the relevance of space to the society at large has generally declined since the grand achievements of the Space Race and even such great feats as the building of the ISS have garnered rather modest public attention. In recent years we have had more active astronauts than ever in history, yet few among the general public can name a single one. An appreciation of space science seems to have improved in recent years by virtue of the impressive visuals offered by orbital telescopes, space probes, and rovers. But the general public commitment to space development still dwindles in the face of mounting domestic issues. Most recently we have seen a drastic contraction of national space agencies in response to the current global economic turmoil. Programs are reduced, cut, or under looming threat. We hear pronouncements of deemphasis of costly manned space activity by the major national players in space development. The world leader in space, NASA, now drifts aimlessly, its premier launch system–controversial from the start, often dismissed as a boondoggle, and dragged along for far too long–finally succumbing to obsolescence without a replacement at-hand, leaving the agency dependent upon foreign nations and struggling for a semblance of direction and purpose. In this past few years, finding itself abandoned on both right and left sides of the political fence, it faced the very real possibility of being shut down altogether and now its partner DARPA talks of century-long space programs with no government involvement at all because the very idea of the US government having the coherence to accomplish anything that takes more than one electoral cycle to do has become implausible.

Overconfident to the extreme after recent very significant, yet still modest in the broad perspective, successes, the newest faction of the commercial space community, the New Space entrepreneurs, boast their readiness to pick up the slack, not quite cluing into the fact that the rope isn’t just dropped, it may be cut! Space industry has never been a very big industry despite the seemingly gigantic sticker prices of its hardware. The global space industry accounts for around 160 billion dollars annually. Soft drinks account for 350 billion. Coca Cola is bigger than NASA. Meanwhile, the lion’s share of commercial space service has always been for governments and the remaining largely telecommunications applications –after 50 years still the only proven way to make money in space- face slow decline as latency becomes increasingly critical to mainstream communications. The ‘grand convergence’ long anticipated in computing has now focused on the Internet which is steadily assimilating all forms of mainstream communication and media distribution. Despite a few service providers of last resort, satellites simply don’t work as a host for conventional Internet and physics precludes any solution to that. We owe recent surges in launch service demand more to war than anything else. Ultimately, we’re not looking at a privatization of national space systems. We’re looking at their outright obsolescence and an overall decline in the relevance of space activity of any sort short of science applications, which have no more need of astronauts than for manned submersibles and for the same reasons. The need for space services will not disappear but, as it stands now, has little likelihood of growth either–except on the back of war. Logically, what commercial space desperately needs is a program for the systematic cultivation of new applications the space agencies have never seriously pursued–new ways to make money there, particularly in an industrial context. And what do the mavericks of New Space have on offer in that context? Space tourism for the rich, during a time of global recession…

There is a great misconception today that the challenges of commercial space are merely technological problems waiting to be solved by that one new breakthrough propulsion technology that never materializes. But commercial air travel did not become ubiquitous by virtue of flight technology becoming miraculously cheap and powerful like microprocessors. It became ubiquitous by realizing markets of scale that supported aircraft of enormous size needing very large minimum operation economies of scale, where populations of millions in communities with well-heeled comfortable middle-classes are necessary to generate sufficient traffic to justify the existence of a single airport. A single A380 airliner costs almost as much as the development of a typical unmanned launch system. Air travel was never particularly successful in an industrial sense. Most stuff still moves around the world at the 20mph speed of ships. The New Deal and the remnant air support infrastructure of WWII were together probably more responsible for the modern airline industry than any engine or aircraft design–because they created the market. If it takes a population of millions to justify the existence of a single conventional airport for conventional airliners, what then a Pan-Am Orion?

For those who look to space as an insurance policy for life and the human civilization, this situation should be of much concern. Whether it be for averting the potential disasters of asteroid strikes or as a redoubt for some fraction of civilization in the event of any terrestrial disaster, a vast space-based infrastructure must be continually at-hand for such capability. Yet these kinds of threats do not themselves seem to have ever inspired sufficient concern in the general public or political leaders to demand such capability be established and maintained for its own sake. You cannot talk in public about such space contingencies and be taken remotely seriously. One could say we have been a bit too lucky as a civilization. There have been no small asteroid impacts in historic memory and few global existentially threatening events beyond those we human beings have created –and we’re very good at systematic denial of those. So this contingency capability relies on being incidental to other space development. That development has been inadequate for that to date, counting on future expansion that has never materialized. What then as we watch that development fizzle-out altogether? The essential cultural relevance of space development can be seen as crucial to the long-term survival of our species, and that’s in marked decline.

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Jul 30, 2011

Naveen Jain — Rethinking Sustainable Philanthropy

Posted by in categories: business, economics, education, ethics, philosophy, sustainability

There are as many ways to help another human being as there are people in need of help. For some, the urgent need is as basic as food and water. For others, it is an opportunity to develop a talent, realize an idea, and reach one’s full potential. Helping people get what they need most in life is at the heart of successful philanthropy.

However, you can’t simply give money away without thinking deeply about how and where the money will go and why you’re doing the giving. You need to approach philanthropy in a strategic and systematic way—just as an entrepreneur approaches a new venture. That’s the only way to make a self-sustaining difference in the world. That being said, here are five key ways to achieve sustainable success with your philanthropic efforts.

1. Open a Door
Helping people boost themselves out of poverty is the best way to make a lasting positive difference in a person’s life. A new skill, an introduction, an education—these gifts open doors that would otherwise remain closed. A promising beneficiary will walk through that door and create opportunities for others.

2. Define Your Passion
To have enduring impact, your philanthropic efforts should reflect the causes you are most passionate about. For me, one of those things is education: A good education is the most valuable thing you can give another person. My own philanthropic efforts have always included an educational element, whether it’s expanding opportunities to educate a promising mind or extending the brain’s ability to learn. If you follow your own passions, you’ll increase exponentially your chances of sustainable success.

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Mar 20, 2011

Dear Entrepreneur, Stop Dreaming and Just Launch That Business

Posted by in categories: business, economics, education, philosophy

Common wisdom is that great companies are built by business leaders who out-vision and out-innovate their competitors. However, the truth is that groundbreaking businesses tend to come from entrepreneurs who were smart enough to out-execute everyone else in their space – which means getting products out there and growing a loyal customer base, instead of engineering a product until it’s supposedly perfect.

Microsoft is a great example of company that has succeeded by execution. They’ve rarely been first to market with any of their products, but they’ve successfully brought them to market, figured out how to improve them, and introduce them again and again. This is the approach that puts you in the Fortune 500.

Why do entrepreneurs believe so fervently in the myth that they need to be first to market with a never-before-seen innovation? Because that’s what they’re told in business school. The problem with this piece of wisdom is that it encourages business leaders to wait until the mythical breakthrough business idea is fully formed.

This myth is fed by the public perception of groundbreaking companies as having come out of nowhere to rock the world. But companies like Facebook rarely, if ever, spring into being with no antecedents: MySpace and Friendster were in the market first, but Facebook did social networking better than anyone else had done before. Google wasn’t the first search engine ever; AltaVista probably deserves that title. But Google advanced the search experience to the point that we all believe they were the breakthrough innovator.

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Mar 15, 2011

Don’t be a Tiger Mom CEO — Celebrate Failure

Posted by in categories: business, economics, philosophy

How important is failure – yes, failure – to the health of a thriving, innovative business? So important that Ratan Tata, chairman of India’s largest corporation, gives an annual award to the employee who comes up with the best idea that failed. So important that Apple, the company gives us the world’s most beautifully designed music players, mobile phones, and tablets, wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t dared to fail. Remember the Apple Newton? Probably not, since it was a flop, but it was a precursor to today’s wildly successful iPad.

In a struggling economic climate, failure is what separates mediocre companies from businesses that break through and astound us with their creativity.

Yet failure has become a scenario to be avoided at all costs for most CEOs. Between fear of losing jobs to fear of rattling investors, business leaders are expected to deliver a perfect track record of product launches and expansion programs. They indirectly instill this attitude in their employees, who lack the confidence to spearhead any corporate initiative that isn’t guaranteed to work.

Call it the Tiger Mom effect: In the business world today, failure is apparently not an option.

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Feb 9, 2011

Mixed Messages: Tantrums of an Angry Sun

Posted by in categories: business, events, geopolitics, particle physics, policy, space

When examining the delicate balance that life on Earth hangs within, it is impossible not to consider the ongoing love/hate connection between our parent star, the sun, and our uniquely terraqueous home planet.

On one hand, Earth is situated so perfectly, so ideally, inside the sun’s habitable zone, that it is impossible not to esteem our parent star with a sense of ongoing gratitude. It is, after all, the onslaught of spectral rain, the sun’s seemingly limitless output of charged particles, which provide the initial spark to all terrestrial life.

Yet on another hand, during those brief moments of solar upheaval, when highly energetic Earth-directed ejecta threaten with destruction our precipitously perched technological infrastructure, one cannot help but eye with caution the potentially calamitous distance of only 93 million miles that our entire human population resides from this unpredictable stellar inferno.

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Jan 13, 2011

8D Problem Solving for Transhumanists

Posted by in categories: business, complex systems, engineering, futurism

Transhumanists are into improvements, and many talk about specific problems, for instance Nick Bostrom. However, Bostrom’s problem statements have been criticized for not necessarily being problems, and I think largely this is why one must consider the problem definition (see step #2 below).

Sometimes people talk about their “solutions” for problems, for instance this one in H+ Magazine. But in many cases they are actually talking about their ideas of how to solve a problem, or making science-fictional predictions. So if you surf the web, you will find a lot of good ideas about possibly important problems—but a lot of what you find will be undefined (or not very well defined) problem ideas and solutions.

These proposed solutions often do not attempt to find root causes or assume the wrong root cause. And finding a realistic complete plan for solving a problem is rare.

8D (Eight Disciplines) is a process used in various industries for problem solving and process improvement. The 8D steps described below could be very useful for transhumanists, not just for talking about problems but for actually implementing solutions in real life.

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Dec 7, 2010

Top 10 lessons for becoming a successful entrepreneur — Naveen Jain

Posted by in categories: business, education, ethics

I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my adult life. Recently, on a long business flight, I began thinking about what it takes to become successful as an entrepreneur — and how I would even define the meaning “success” itself. The two ideas became more intertwined in my thinking: success as an entrepreneur, entrepreneurial success. I’ve given a lot of talks over the years on the subject of entrepreneurship. The first thing I find I have to do is to dispel the persistent myth that entrepreneurial success is all about innovative thinking and breakthrough ideas. I’ve found that entrepreneurial success usually comes through great execution, simply by doing a superior job of doing the blocking and tackling.

But what else does it take to succeed as an entrepreneur — and how should an entrepreneur define success?

Bored with the long flight, sinking deeper into my own thoughts, I wrote down my own answers.

Here’s what I came up with, a “Top Ten List” if you will:

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Oct 25, 2010

Open Letter to Ray Kurzweil

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, business, economics, engineering, futurism, human trajectories, information science, open source, robotics/AI

Dear Ray;

I’ve written a book about the future of software. While writing it, I came to the conclusion that your dates are way off. I talk mostly about free software and Linux, but it has implications for things like how we can have driverless cars and other amazing things faster. I believe that we could have had all the benefits of the singularity years ago if we had done things like started Wikipedia in 1991 instead of 2001. There is no technology in 2001 that we didn’t have in 1991, it was simply a matter of starting an effort that allowed people to work together.

Proprietary software and a lack of cooperation among our software scientists has been terrible for the computer industry and the world, and its greater use has implications for every aspect of science. Free software is better for the free market than proprietary software, and there are many opportunities for programmers to make money using and writing free software. I often use the analogy that law libraries are filled with millions of freely available documents, and no one claims this has decreased the motivation to become a lawyer. In fact, lawyers would say that it would be impossible to do their job without all of these resources.

My book is a full description of the issues but I’ve also written some posts on this blog, and this is probably the one most relevant for you to read: https://russian.lifeboat.com/blog/2010/06/h-conference-and-faster-singularity

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Sep 19, 2010

American Institute of Physics reveals more cost-efficient selenium photovoltaic cells

Posted by in categories: business, sustainability

Did you know that many researchers would like to discover light-catching components in order to convert more of the sun’s power into carbon-free electric power?

A new study reported in the journal Applied Physics Letters in August this year (published by the American Institute of Physics), explains how solar energy could potentially be collected by using oxide materials that have the element selenium. A team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, embedded selenium in zinc oxide, a relatively affordable material that could make more efficient use of the sun’s power.

The team noticed that even a relatively small amount of selenium, just 9 percent of the mostly zinc-oxide base, significantly enhanced the material’s efficiency in absorbing light.

The main author of this study, Marie Mayer (a fourth-year University of California, Berkeley doctoral student) affirms that photo-electrochemical water splitting, that means using energy from the sun to cleave water into hydrogen and oxygen gases, could potentially be the most fascinating future application for her labor. Managing this reaction is key to the eventual production of zero-emission hydrogen powered motors, which hypothetically will run only on water and sunlight.

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