And the journalists at Wall Street Journal have been leading on this story for some time now. Their latest piece, which is a good summary of what has been happening recently with the blood testing company is here: At Theranos, Many Strategies and Snags – WSJ.
Everything I see leads me to believe this will be a debacle. It’s hard to tell, since Theranos consistently defends themselves against the many charges against them. Perhaps they will come out successful in the end. I think we’ll find out soon enough.
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If you want to get started running, first see your doctor and make sure you can without any risk to your health. Assuming you are cleared, then check out these worthwhile links and get ready to hit the road:
A year or so ago, a parking lot I use had a human in a booth to take tickets and provide other services. That human booth was replaced by the thing in the photo above.
It’s not a robot and it’s not A.I., but it is replacing humans.
Stories about A.I. or robots taking over work makes them interesting. It’s also secondary to the real story. What is really taking people’s jobs is a willingness of others to use technology, and a willingness of companies to replace people with technology. People are not afraid to use technology. If anything, sometimes they prefer to deal with technology. This makes it easier for companies to go with technology as compared to using people, and if companies can save money or make money, so much the better.
It is happening in all sorts of industries, from food to sportswriting. The technology isn’t the driver of this: it’s the willingness of people to prefer technology that is the driver.
… (Amazon) is relying on more than 100,000 temp workers this holiday season to supplement its already massive warehouse workforce, the advantages of offloading more of that work onto machines are easy to see. Robots don’t slow. They don’t tire. They don’t get injured or distracted or sick. They don’t require paychecks or try to unionize.
Now check out this robot:
Once you get over the word “robot”, you can see it resembles alot of the other machines you see in workplaces. Machines like high speed printers, scanners and even vending machines. All of those things don’t slow, don’t tire and don’t unionize. They don’t get sick, but they break down alot, which is just the same. They don’t require a paycheck, but they do cost the organizations that use them. Sometimes they perform their function so poorly that people bypass them altogether. As well, robots need others to take care of them. An army of robots just doesn’t show up: there is an entire process of testing, deploying, fixing and replacing them that is costly and non-trivial. There is a process for deploying human resources, too, but to say that that is costly and the process of deploying robot resources is not costly is wrong.
Robots will take over some functionality in workplaces, be that function blue collar or white collar. But that is no different from alot of other machinery already in place. The difference with robots will be that they are mobile. That’s it. We should get over the notion of robot as some magical creature and just accept them as another machine.
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Posted onDecember 28, 2015|Comments Off on You got a new iPhone for Christmas. What you want to do next is….
What you want to do next is head over to Mashable.com and read this: The 100 best iPhone apps of all time. Apps make your iPhone much better. While you likely have heard of a certain percentage of them, but most you have not. Get them and make your phone better.
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Posted onDecember 27, 2015|Comments Off on This article about body cameras is asking the wrong questions, which is not surprising, since everyone is.
This article, Will Body Cameras Work? – The Atlantic, is asking the wrong questions. The wrong questions are occurring because the initial answer to the question of “how do we deal with bad policing?” was often, “body cameras”. The better question to repeatedly ask: “how can we make police more accountable?” because if “body cameras” is the first answer to that question, the next question should be concerning the information captured by those body camera. How are police accountable for that? Which should then lead to another question: how are police accountable for information they capture generally? Because with new technology, police will soon be able to capture alot more information about you than just images. It will soon be possible for police to look at you or your vehicle and have that information feed back to centralized computer systems, essentially collecting information about you without you even knowing it. How will police be accountable for that?
Police accountability will come, likely through the courts. In the meantime, we will likely struggle with the fallout of police forces capturing more information.
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It looks like the Fed in the US is going to raise rates. It is highly arguable whether it is a good idea. For a long time, it was a bad idea. Despite that, commercial banks recently have been arguing for the Fed to raise rates. Now whatever reasons they have been given, the true and underlying reason is mentioned here: Why Bankers Want Rate Hikes – The New York Times.
It is more difficult for banks to make money with lower rates. Higher rates make it easier for them to make money. Hence the push by some of them to raise the rates.
Banks aren’t stupid: they don’t want the economy to tank: they don’t make money that way either. But the sooner rates rise, the easier it is for them. Here’s hoping the US Fed continues to be smart enough to resist the pressure and do the right thing for the American economy.
Posted onDecember 16, 2015|Comments Off on There is one key thing to know about Uber. This is it.
Uber is a global logistics company based on sophisticated computer technology. It takes a modern software approach to delivering services. That’s the key thing to know about Uber.
Uber is not:
an app. The app is just your entry into the services that Uber provides. Behind that is the sophisticated computer technology that really makes it work.
a taxi service. Uber is a logistics company. “Logistics is the management of the flow of things between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet requirements of customers or corporations” (Wikipedia). That’s what Uber is. If there is something that needs to get from A to B, Uber will do that. It could be people, it could be food, or it could be goods. Regardless, Uber is capable of doing that. If that is what your business does too, you will be competing with Uber.
local. Uber is not interested in just your city. Uber will disrupt your city, but it is not focused just on where you live. It is a global company looking to provide services globally, one city and territory at a time.
Finally, Uber is delivering logistic services, but it is delivering them the way other companies deliver software. That means it is going to take VC money and rapidly deploy service after service, upgrade after upgrade, to do what it needs to do to be successful. It doesn’t need to be profitable. It does need market share. If market share comes at the expense of your logistic services, so be it.
Lots of people talk about Uber. If they are not thinking this way, they are missing the bigger picture.
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Apple could align with and compete in the BMW market: BMW sold 1.8M cars in CY14.
If Apple priced them at $75K, 1.8M cars is $135B in revenue
Apple could start small: sell 30K in first year (similar to Tesla’s 35K in CY14)
In a market of 88M cars in CY15, 1.8M cars is nothing
The approach laid out in those points is a similar game plan that Apple followed in the smart phone market.
The more I thought about it, the more I am leaning towards Apple getting into the car business, at least in a limited way. The bulk of the market would not be Apple and there likely would still be lots of car manufacturers after Apple jumps in, just like there are many smartphone makers. But Apple would take over the most profitable part of the car manufacturing marketplace.
Read the analyst report: you will get great insight into where Apple is heading.
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Mr. Zuckerberg’s pledge is incredibly generous. But it is also likely to involve some very savvy tax planning.
It’s true, the donation is incredibly generous. You can use all the superlatives you want, and it still amounts to something out of the ordinary. Is the donation financial savvy? Of course, but why shouldn’t it be? Either way, will it be spent well? Possibly, possibly not. For that, we will have to wait and see.
As I read people arguing against the donation, I thought about what the alternatives could be. One alternative is no donation at all. Plenty of very rich people donate only a small fraction of their money to good causes. Young billionaires aspiring to be large benefactors is something that should be encouraged, not discouraged. Another alternative is donations to political causes I disagree with. Quite a few billionaires do that. I prefer to see the billions directed otherwise.
As for people arguing for the donation, I wondered if they considered the alternative of the donation going to taxes or charities. Perhaps Zuckerberg will be very good with directing the money, better than the state or NGOs. I’d like to see a good portion go to them, though. Too little of the wealth of the 1% (or .01%) go to paying taxes that pay for a lot of things like social services and health care and the military and infrastructure. More money to pay for those things would be better. Likewise, well run charities are already up and running and could spend the money in efficient ways that a new organization cannot.
This donation is a positive thing, but you should still be able to think critically of it. Mark Zuckerberg is a smart guy and he’s maturing. Let’s hope he uses his good fortune to do good in the world.
Facebook is a company. It’s not Mark Zuckerberg. It’s not an app you use on your phone. It’s a collection of services that is growing rapidly and it may be poised to grow at even crazier rates than it has now, if you believe what is in this piece, Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s Bold Plan For The Future Of Facebook. Key point it raises:
The Facebook of today—and tomorrow—is far more expansive than it was just a few years ago. It’s easy to forget that when the company filed to go public on February 1, 2012, it was just a single website and an app that the experts weren’t sure could ever be profitable. Now, “a billion and a half people use the main, core Facebook service, and that’s growing. But 900 million people use WhatsApp, and that’s an important part of the whole ecosystem now,” Zuckerberg says. “Four hundred million people use Instagram, 700 million people use Messenger, and 700 million people use Groups. Increasingly, we’re just going to go more and more in this direction.”
Reading this, you get the sense of a company that is going to bigger in a few years than it is now, which seems incredible to me. Note this article: it will be worth revisiting in a few years.
That said, there are a few points I’d like to add:
I actually think that Facebook the app/website is declining in active usage. It is very clever showing you things people like, even if people you know aren’t posting things. You get a sense of activity on Facebook the app/website whenever you log in. You never get the sense that it is not being used by people, even if many of the people you follow aren’t actively contributing at all. I suspect if you dropped your Facebook friends down to next to none it would still show you the same amount of information. If Facebook the company is going to remain successful, it needs to diversify from it’s main service.
It is interesting that people continue to compare Twitter to Facebook. To me, there is little to compare. Facebook seems to have a better growth plan and even have a better app. If Facebook the service declines, the diversification into places like WhatsApp and Instagram is strong in a way that is unlikely to be matched by services like Vine or Periscope. While there is some commonality between the two companies, I think the story of their divergence will become a bigger one over time. Contributing to that big difference is Facebook remains a stable company with a stable leadership while Twitter’s leadership remains chaotic and unstable.
The narrative in that story is very optimistic. If the numbers for any of those organizations start to slip, I could see the narrative changing, just like it has for so many IT companies. Right now the narrative is: Facebook is a very successful company and it is going to become more successful with all these promising ideas. The narrative can easily become: Facebook is a very troubled company and it is going to become more troubled with all these ideas doomed to fail. (See Yahoo! for an example of such a narrative.)
My long work experience is that the Challenge Directly part takes little effort and energy, but the Care Personally part takes a lot of effort and energy. The result is a drift towards a demoralizing and toxic work environment with lots of criticism and little encouragement.
There is a rare exception where I have seen radical candor work: an elite athlete with an elite coach. Elite athletes sign up for and encourage radical candor because it is the best way to be the best. If you consider your work role similar to an elite athlete and you consider your boss an elite coach, then radical candor could work for you. Likewise if you are in the role of manager. Otherwise, I would recommend you pass on this approach and look for a better way to work.
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Posted onDecember 1, 2015|Comments Off on A good review of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle. And a good critique of what works based on the Philip K. Dick get wrong.
That review,here, is worth reading for anyone watching or interesting in watching the Amazon Prime series.
Anyone interested in works based on the novels of Dick should focus on this key quote (I added the emphasis):
Pop culture has exalted many of Dick’s wilder stories and novels. Since the release of Blade Runner (1982, based on the short novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and Total Recall (1990, based on the story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”), his pet motifs of false realities and artificial identities have captivated filmmakers. …Along the way to becoming popcorn entertainments, Dick’s motifs have shed a lot of their existential baggage. Today, the revelation that capsizes everything a movie character once believed about himself and his world is just another mind-blowing plot twist. No sooner have we gasped Whoa! than the film has moved on to the next chase scene, martial-arts display, or explosion. Nobody sits around questioning their own reality or humanity the way Dick’s protagonists do. Those questions, however, were the whole point of Dick’s fiction
That’s a great critique of even the better works based on Dick, like Blade Runner. Whenever you see or plan to see a film or TV series based on one of his works, it’s better if you can read the novel first. Doing so will add much more complexity and richness to whatever you are about to see.
Comments Off on A good review of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle. And a good critique of what works based on the Philip K. Dick get wrong.
…it makes no business sense. A key take away from the article linked to below:
Ford’s revenue and operating income: $134 billion, 3.9%. Apple’s corresponding numbers: $234 billion, 40%! Or consider the world’s two largest car companies, Toyota and Volkswagen, both of which hover around $200 billion in revenue. Toyota just reported a higher than usual 10% net profit versus Apple’s 22.8%. The Financial Times recently pegged the VW brand’s operating margin at about 2%. (We’ll see how the German auto giant, which was ever so close to taking the industry’s Ichiban ranking from Toyota, extracts itself from its current engine management software troubles.) Yes, the car industry is large (around $2 trillion—that’s two thousand billions), but it grows slowly. In 2015 it saw 2% annual growth—and that was considered a good year.
There are so many other lines of business that could bring more revenue and profit to Apple. Unless the car business changes dramatically — and that is possible — then I can’t see how it makes any business sense for them to become car makers.