November 2010

Peter Thiel on the stagnation of technological innovation

Thumbnail image for Peter Thiel on the stagnation of technological innovation

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.

Listen to and discuss this episode →

Tyler Cowen answers your questions

Thumbnail image for Tyler Cowen answers your questions

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.

Listen to and discuss this episode →

Duncan Hollis on cyber security

Thumbnail image for Duncan Hollis on cyber security

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.

Listen to and discuss this episode →

Joseph Isenbergh on open versus closed systems

Thumbnail image for Joseph Isenbergh on open versus closed systems

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.

Listen to and discuss this episode →

Tim Wu on innovation, creative destruction, and government interference

Thumbnail image for Tim Wu on innovation, creative destruction, and government interference

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.

Listen to and discuss this episode →