2010

Adam Thierer reviews the year in technology policy

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Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in the Technology Policy Program, reviews the past year in technology policy and looks ahead to next year. Thierer first weighs in on net neutrality and upcoming FCC deliberations could that hatch a new regulatory regime for the internet. He then talks Google and antitrust, the proposed Comcast-NBC merger, and disputes between broadcasters and content providers. He also suggests that two issues — privacy and cyber security — will be at the forefront of tech policy debates in the coming year, pointing to support for do-not-track rules and to recent WikiLeaks and state secrets drama as momentum behind the respective issues.

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Milton Mueller on internet governance

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Milton Mueller, Professor and Director of the Telecommunications Network Management Program at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies, discusses his new book, Networks and States: The Global Politics of Internet Governance. Mueller begins by talking about Wikileaks’ recent leak of diplomatic cables, using the incident to elaborate on the meaning of internet governance. He notes the distinction between traditional centralized systems of authority and peer-produced, distributed governance that rules much of cyberspace. He also discusses global democracy, contradictions in cyber libertarian views, judicial checks and balances on the internet, and future issues in internet governance.

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Peter Thiel on the stagnation of technological innovation

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Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, early investor in Facebook, and president of Clarium Capital, discusses the stagnation of technological innovation. Thiel gives reasons why innovation has slowed recently — offering examples of stalled sectors such as space exploration, transportation, energy, and biotechnology — while pointing out that growth in internet-based technologies is a notable exception. He aslo comments on political undercurrents of Silicon Valley, government regulation, privacy and Facebook, and his new fellowship program that will pay potential entrepreneurs to “stop out” of school for two years.

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Tyler Cowen answers your questions

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Tyler Cowen, professor of economics at George Mason University, general director of the Mercatus Center, and founder of the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution, answers questions from Surprisingly Free listeners and Marginal Revolution readers. Cowen discusses why people will be appalled that we ever questioned intrusive searches by TSA, what should have been done to minimize unemployment and other harm from the financial crisis, how the “famous American formula” for good government is broken, what might force us to sit around opening cans of dog food with our teeth, and which global sites should be connected by Stargate portals to create the most value. He also asks, “Why read books?”, speculates about the value of his blog, addresses price discrimination of chicken McNuggets, talks about a modern day Athens in Asia with good food, suggests that internet comments are a relatively harmless form of stupidity, and opines about the best thing that government does.

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Duncan Hollis on cyber security

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Duncan Hollis, professor of law and associate dean at Temple University Beasely School of Law, discusses cyber security and his recommendation to counter cyber exploits — an electronic SOS. Hollis gives a brief history of online threats, notes the difference between cyber attack and cyber espionage, discusses the difficulty of deterring online exploits due to the anonymity of the internet, and talks about how governments and individuals have responded to cyber threats. He then outlines his proposal — a duty to assist others when they are under duress online — which was inspired by laws of the sea and an episode in which a U.S. Navy warship aided a North Korean vessel that was under attack by Somali pirates.

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Joseph Isenbergh on open versus closed systems

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Joseph Isenbergh, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, discusses his new essay about open versus closed operating systems, their respective marketing strategies, and their influence on the smartphone market. Isenbergh talks about early competition between Macintosh, with its closed operating system integrated with its PC hardware, and Microsoft, with its openly-licensed operating system that could be installed on any PC. He discusses the trade-off between open platforms that offer lots of consumer choice and the ostensible enhanced user experience created by bundling software with hardware. Isenbergh speculates about the future of the smartphone market, Apple’s iOS, and Google’s Android. He also comments on VHS versus Sony Betamax recording systems, tie-in strategies in wine-selling, and Blu-ray versus HD-DVD formats.

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Tim Wu on innovation, creative destruction, and government interference

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Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, the chair of media reform group Free Press, and a writer for Slate, discusses his new book, The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires. Wu’s book documents the history of media industries in the United States and speculates on what that history teaches us about the future. On the podcast, he discusses Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of innovation, cycles of open and closed competition within industries, the history of government-backed monopolies in telephone and radio, and his thoughts on the future of information empires, the internet, and regulation.

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William Powers on taking control of our technology

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William Powers, a writer who has been a columnist and media critic for such publications as The Washington Post, The New Republic, and National Journal, discusses his new book, Hamlet’s BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. In the book, Powers writes, “You can allow yourself to be led around by technology, or you can take control of your consciousness and thereby your life.” On the podcast, he discusses historical philosophers’ ideas that can offer shelter from our present deluge of connectedness, how to create gaps that allow for currently elusive depth and inward reflection, and strategies that help him and his family regain control over their technology.

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Kevin Kelly on technology evolving beyond us

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Kevin Kelly, a founding editor of Wired magazine, a former editor and publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, and one of the most compelling thinkers about technology today, talks about his new book, What Technology Wants. Make no mistake: the singularity is near. Kelly discusses the technium–a broad term that encompasses all of technology and culture–and its characteristics, including its autonomy and sense of bias, its interdependency, and how it evolves and self-replicates. He also talks about humans as the first domesticated animals; extropy and rising order; the inevitability of humans and complex technologies; the Amish as technology testers, selecters, and slow-adopters; the sentient technium; and technology as wilderness.

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Don Tapscott on mass collaboration

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Don Tapscott, writer, consultant, and speaker on business strategy and organizational transformation, and co-author of the bestseller Wikinomics, discusses his new book, Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World. In the book, Tapscott and his co-author, Anthony Williams, document how businesses, governments, nonprofits, and individuals are using mass collaboration to change how we work, live, learn, create, and govern. On the podcast, he discusses an Iraq veteran whose start-up car company is “staffed” by over 45,000 competing designers and supplied by microfactories around the country. He also talks about how companies are using competitions for R&D, and how mass collaboration can improve government regulation and universities.

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