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Opinion | America’s Risky Approach to Artificial Intelligence
October 7, 2019 | The New York Times | By Tim Wu
Mr. Wu is the author of “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.”

The brilliant 2014 science fiction novel “The Three-Body Problem,” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, depicts the fate of civilizations as almost entirely dependent on winning grand races to scientific milestones. Someone in China’s leadership must have read that book, for Beijing has made winning the race to artificial intelligence a national obsession, devoting billions of dollars to the cause and setting 2030 as the target year for world dominance. Not to be outdone, President Vladimir Putin of Russia recently declared that whoever masters A.I. “will become the ruler of the world.”..... if there is even a slim chance that the race to build stronger A.I. will determine the future of the world — and that does appear to be at least a possibility — the United States and the rest of the West are taking a surprisingly lackadaisical and alarmingly risky approach to the technology........The plan seems to be for the American tech industry, which makes most of its money in advertising and selling personal gadgets, to serve as champions of the West. Those businesses, it is hoped, will research, develop and disseminate the most important basic technologies of the future. Companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft are formidable entities, with great talent and resources that approximate those of small countries. But they don’t have the resources of large countries, nor do they have incentives that fully align with the public interest (JCK: that is, "business interests" vs. "public interest"]..... The history of computing research is a story not just of big corporate laboratories but also of collaboration and competition among civilian government, the military, academia and private players both big (IBM, AT&T) and small (Apple, Sun)......Some advocates of more A.I. research have called for a “Manhattan project” for A.I. — but that’s not the right model. The atomic bomb and the moon rocket were giant but discrete projects. In contrast, A.I. is a broad and vague set of scientific technologies that encompass not just recent trends in machine learning but also anything else designed to replicate or augment human cognition.....the United States government should broadly fund basic research and insist on broad dissemination..... the United States needs to support immigration laws that attract the world’s top A.I. talent. The history of breakthroughs made by start-ups also suggests the need for policies, like the enforcement of antitrust laws and the defense of net neutrality, that give small players a chance.... the computer scientist and entrepreneur Kai-Fu Lee, in his book “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order,” describes a race between China and Silicon Valley, as if the latter were the sum total of Western science in this area. In the future, when we look back at this period, we may come to regret the loss of a healthy balance between privately and publicly funded A.I. research in the West, and the drift of too much scientific and engineering talent into the private sector.
antitrust  ARPA  artificial_intelligence  Beijing  Bell_Labs  Big_Tech  business_interests  China  China_Rising  FAANG  high-risk  immigration  industrial_policies  Kai-Fu_Lee  Manhattan_project  publicly_funded  R&D  risks  science_fiction  Silicon_Valley  talent  Tim_Wu  Vladimir_Putin  Xerox 
october 2019 by jerryking
Lina Khan: ‘This isn’t just about antitrust. It’s about values’
March 29, 2019 | Financial Times | by Rana Foroohar.

Lina Khan is the legal wunderkind reshaping the global debate over competition and corporate power......While still a student at Yale Law School, she wrote a paper, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox”, which was published in the school’s influential journal..... hit a nerve at a time when the overweening power of the Big Tech companies, from Facebook to Google to Amazon, is rising up the agenda......For roughly four decades, antitrust scholars — taking their lead from Robert Bork’s 1978 book The Antitrust Paradox — have pegged their definitions of monopoly power to short-term price effects; so if Amazon is making prices lower for consumers, the market must be working effectively.....Khan made the case that this interpretation of US antitrust law, meant to regulate competition and curb monopolistic practices, is utterly unsuited to the architecture of the modern economy.....Khan's counterargument: that it doesn’t matter if companies such as Amazon are making things cheaper in dollars if they are using predatory pricing strategies to dominate multiple industries and choke off competition and choice.....Speaking to hedge funds and banks during her research, Khan found that they were valuing Amazon and its growth potential in a way that signified monopoly power..." I’m interested in imbalances in market power and how they manifest. That’s something you can see not just in tech but across many industries,” says Khan, who has written sharp pieces on monopoly power in areas as diverse as airlines and agriculture. " Khan, like many in her cohort, believes otherwise. “If markets are leading us in directions that we, as a democratic society, decide are not compatible with our vision of liberty or democracy, it is incumbent upon government to do something.” Lina Khan has had a stint as a legal fellow at the Federal Trade Commission, consulted with EU officials, influenced competition policy in India, brainstormed ideas with presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren and — recently joined the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. The 2008 financial crisis she thinks “about markets, and the government’s response to them, and certain forms of intervention that they do take, and that they don’t take”.....Khan, Lynn and others including the Columbia academic Tim Wu have developed and popularised the “new Brandeis” school of antitrust regulation, hearkening back to the era in which Louis Brandeis, the “people’s lawyer”, took on oligarchs such as John D Rockefeller and JP Morgan.....Lina sees Amazon as not just a discount retailer but as a marketing platform, delivery and logistics network, a payment service, a credit lender, auction house, publisher and so on, and to understand just how ill-equipped current antitrust law was to deal with such a multi-faceted entity......a Columbia Law Review paper out in May 2019 will explores the case for separating the ownership of technology platforms from the commercial activity they host, so that Big Tech firms cannot both run a dominant marketplace and compete on it. via a host of old cases — from railroad antitrust suits to the separation of merchant banking and the ownership of commodities — to argue that “if you are a form of infrastructure, then you shouldn’t be able to compete with all the businesses dependent on your infrastructure”....“The new Brandeis movement isn’t just about antitrust,” .... Rather, it is about values. “Laws reflect values,” she says. “Antitrust laws used to reflect one set of values, and then there was a change in values that led us to a very different place.”

21st._century  Amazon  antitrust  Big_Tech  digital_economy  financial_crises  FTC  lawyers  Lina_Khan  monopolies  multifaceted  paradoxes  platforms  policymakers  predatory_practices  Rana_Foroohar  regulators  Robert_Bork  Tim_Wu  wunderkind  Yale  values  value_judgements 
march 2019 by jerryking
Regulatory showdown awaits for Big Tech — but who gets the job?
March 1, 2019 | Financial Times | Richard Waters.

Wanted: an antitrust enforcer to lead the charge against Big Tech. Must be able to invent novel applications of competition theory to digital markets.

There is a growing list of candidates for this job — but it isn’t at all clear who is best placed to jump into the hot seat.

The US Federal Trade Commission has just volunteered itself, setting up a task force to examine the dominant tech companies. Among the agency’s promises: it will consider new theories of harm that until now haven’t made it out of academia, and it won’t hesitate to push for the court-ordered unwinding of past mergers if it turns out they’re hurting competition.

One problem for competition regulators in the US is that they have taken too narrow a view of their roles, according to Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School. They are concerned almost exclusively with protecting consumers from higher prices — something that doesn’t apply to “free” (advertising-supported) internet services. In his latest book, The Curse of Bigness, Wu calls for a return to a much broader interpretation of the US antitrust statutes, treating market concentration itself as an evil needing be to rectified.
antitrust  Big_Tech  books  FTC  regulation  regulators  Richard_Waters  Tim_Wu 
march 2019 by jerryking
The Curse of Bigness by Timothy Wu — why size matters
NOVEMBER 15, 2018 | Financial Times | by Rana Foroohar
The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, by Timothy Wu, Columbia Global Reports, RRP$14.99, 170 pages.

The hero of the book is Louis Brandeis, the advocate, reformer and Supreme Court Justice who grew up around the mid-to-late 1800s in Louisville, a diverse and decentralised mid-sized American town that Brandeis praised as “idyllic” and free from the “curse of bigness”...... It was a place where small farmers, retailers, professionals and manufacturers all knew each other, worked together, and had the sort of shared moral framework that Adam Smith believed was a key to well-functioning markets.

But by the time Brandeis himself became a lawyer in Boston, oligarchs such as John D Rockefeller and JP Morgan were building empires more powerful than governments (indeed, they often had paid politicians in their pockets — President William McKinley actually acknowledged that Wall Street rather than Washington had control over the economy). Their growing ventures — like Morgan’s railroad monopoly or Rockefeller’s oil dynasty — were neither moral nor even efficient. But the tycoons ....had bought the legislatures, and there was no one powerful enough to reel them in. Brandeis took them on, via a case against Morgan’s New Haven Railway, and exposed the underside of monopoly power — cartel pricing, bribes to officials, accounting fraud and so on....Brandeis believed giant corporations tended to rob people of their humanity....This approach, which was brought into the mainstream by conflicted trust buster Teddy Roosevelt (who both loved and loathed power, but wanted to see corporations curbed by government) lasted through the 1960s. But with the rise of conservative Chicago School academics, in particular Robert Bork, the federal justice who turned the “consumer welfare” ideology of his mentor Aaron Director into a new antitrust philosophy with his book The Antitrust Paradox in 1978, the notion that too much corporate power alone was problematic was abandoned. Antitrust become technocratic and weak, pegged to the idea that as long as companies reduced prices for consumers, they could be as big as they wanted.

That has, of course, allowed any number of industries, from airlines to media to pharmaceuticals, to reach unprecedented levels of concentration.
antitrust  books  book_reviews  Chicago_School  corporate_concentration  FAANG  Rana_Foroohar  Robert_Bork  Tim_Wu 
december 2018 by jerryking
Why Small Businesses Are Starting to Win Again - The New Yorker
JANUARY 24, 2015
Small Is Bountiful

Farmers who sell, say, organic or free-range foods, cannot hope to compete based on price. Instead, they try to create consumers who won’t eat chicken produced by big companies for moral, health, or aesthetic reasons...The true-differentiation strategy seems to work best when scale, despite its efficiencies, also introduces blind spots in areas such as customer service, flavor, curation, or other intangibles not entirely consistent with mass production and standardization. Where getting big begins to hurt the product, small can be bountiful.

it is a two-part problem. No. 1, the consumer and competitive marketplace is definitely shifting. For example, quality has evolved beyond just good ingredients, preparation and packaging. Basic quality is a given now; many consumers are looking for something extra: less mass-produced, natural, local.

No. 2, iconic food companies and their mature brands are not responding effectively. Large, established food companies and their brands are being managed as portfolios of revenue and profit streams with a short-term financial orientation, and not as companies that produce food products. Small companies, on the other hand, are being created and managed by people with a food orientation and passion.
small_business  size  scaling  Tim_Wu  Peter_Drucker  portfolio_management  Gulliver_strategies  differentiation  trends  breweries  beers  craftsmanship  artisan_hobbies_&_crafts  revenge_effects  blind_spots  personal_values  market_segmentation  mass_production  decreasing_returns_to_scale  aesthetics  eco-friendly  creating_demand  food  foodies  gourmet  large_companies 
january 2015 by jerryking
Book review: The Master Switch -
November 8, 2010 | WSJ | Jeremy Philips

The Power To Control
Is Internet freedom threatened more by dominant companies or by the government's efforts to hem them in?
Tim_Wu  book_reviews 
july 2012 by jerryking
For the Internet, No More Innovation for the Fun of It -
| March 4, 2012,
The Internet, with companies sniping at one another and blithely ignoring major privacy violations, is on the verge of the same fate as the true-blue American industries before it: losing its sense of fun....“There was a time when people building things on the Internet didn’t have a dream to be one of the biggest companies out there; their goal was not to be the next General Motors,” said Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School. “But that is all changing. Now you have a battle of cultures on the Web where fun is being chiseled away.”...
Silicon_Valley  innovation  Tim_Wu  Nick_Bilton 
march 2012 by jerryking
Meet the New Monopoly, Same as the Old One
November 19, 2010 | Technology Review | By Brian Bergstein.
A New book argues that concentration of power is an inevitable result
of new communications networks.
Tim_Wu  monopolies  Information_Rules  corporate_concentration  market_power 
november 2010 by jerryking
Currents: Tim Wu on Communication, Chaos, and Control
October 11, 2010 | : The New Yorker: | Jeffrey Toobin talks
with Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School and the author of “The
Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires,” about how
forms of communication, from the telephone to the Internet, are
eventually controlled by monopolies; the battle between Apple and
Google; and the future of information technology.
web_video  interviews  monopolies  future  Tim_Wu  Information_Rules  competitive_landscape 
november 2010 by jerryking
In the Grip of the Internet Monopolists -
NOVEMBER 13, 2010 | WSJ | By TIM WU. In the Grip of the New
Monopolists. Do away with Google? Break up Facebook? We can't imagine
life without them—and that's the problem.
Google  Facebook  monopolies  Tim_Wu  Information_Rules 
november 2010 by jerryking

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