Category Archives: innovation

The Grid is coming

The fine folks at CERN- the European physics research center where the WWW was born- seem to have a sense of humor.  They are calling their new super-duper network the grid.  Seems right out of cyberpunk imagination.  At least its not called the matrix.

Coming soon: superfast internet – Times Online
That network, in effect a parallel internet, is now built, using fibre optic cables that run from Cern to 11 centres in the United States, Canada, the Far East, Europe and around the world.

This strikes me as a fine example  of all the associated and indirect benefits form basic research funding.  Something that private corporate research would never invest in.   According to one FAQ from a British university, the total cost is something like $6 billion.  Total.

Compare that to the $374 million/day for the Iraq war. That is about a billion every three days.  In less than a month in Iraq, we will have spent more than the Europeans are on their new basic research tool.  What madness and folly is this?

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Filed under innovation, Networks, technology

Bringing Second Life To Life: Researchers Create Character With Reasoning Abilities of a Child

Wow ! Welcome Hal 2000! Or the Oracle. Or agent Smith.

RPI: News & Events – Bringing <i>Second Life</i> To Life: Researchers Create Character With Reasoning Abilities of a Child

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Filed under innovation, Second Life, technology

Facing Default, Some Walk Out on New Homes

This NYT article caught my attention as a nice example of economic sociology.  The gist of it, captured in the quotation below, is about the shift in attitudes and practices around home buying and ownership in the US.   Traditionally home ownership is promoted by government policy and cultural norms because it is a means of encouraging personal savings, it boosts household credit ratings, and it improves neighborhoods by creating more local buy-in.  However, When those laudable goals merged with the world of financial innovation, deregulation, and a rise in a particular portfolio thinking world view, we end up with a new set of attitudes and behaviors about home ownership.  less than a Jimmy Stewart, feel-good, iron clad agreement between bank and homeowner, home ownership is a more fluid, transient financial deal that can be done or undone depending on the individual valuations of the players involved.  Home-ownership is one more liquid and negotiable financial arrangement, like owning stock, buying futures, or being paid in stock options.

Facing Default, Some Walk Out on New Homes – New York Times
You Walk Away is a small sign of broad changes in the way many Americans look at housing. In an era in which new types of loans allowed many home buyers to move in with little or no down payment, and to cash out any equity by refinancing, the meaning of   and foreclosure have changed, economists and housing experts say.

As the article points out, this change is made clearer by the foreclosure bulge (upswing?  crisis?  not sure which term is the most objective).  As Todd Sinai, a professor at Wharton, points out, the very loans that made the housing market balloon set the stage for people to walk away.  many marginal home buyers shifted from being renters to nominally owners.  What actually happened is that they started renting from the bank with the chance to won if the value of the home increased faster than their repayment obligations.  If it doesn’t, quite rationally, they walk away from a mortgage that costs more than the underlying value of the house.  For the purchaser, he says, its a Heads-I-win-tails-you-lose situation.

Of  course, banks could sue in some states, but what bank is going to sue someone who can’t afford the mortgage?  Seems like a bit of poetic justice to me.

The article also focuses on You Walk Away, a company that somehow (I don’t get the business model) makes a profit on people walking out.  There seems to be  another interesting tension over the knitting  together of economic and moral realities.  Traditional auxiliaries to the home buying process don’t want to encourage people to walk away due to the embedded assumption that home ownership is indisputable social good.  Jon Maddux, one of the owners of You Walk Away responds:

“It’s not a moral decision,” Mr. Maddux said of foreclosure. “The moral decision is, ‘I need to pay my kids’ health insurance or my car payment so I can get to work.’ They made a bad decision, but they shouldn’t make more bad ones just because they have this loan.”

Mr. Zulueta said he felt he had let down the lender, himself, and his family.

“But you got to move on,” he said. “I know in a few years my credit’s going to be fine. If I want to get another house, it’s going to be there. I’m not the only one who went through this. I know I’m working the system, but you got to do what you got to do. There’s always loopholes.”

Zulueta is one of the homeowners who Walks Away (is that trade-marked?  haha).

His line of reasoning seems good to me.  The financial and home buying industries ravaged the marginal home buyers and waved their magic wands of financial innovation to off load the debt to other financial players.  The unraveling of a social compact around home buying started among the banks and mortgage companies.  Seeing the writing on the wall, the home owners are following suit and treating a mortgage as one more financial arrangement and not a “marriage contract.”

My interest  in this was piqued by some work Jerry Davis is doing on “The Portfolio Society.”  So keep an eye peeled for that.

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Filed under Banking, economic sociology, innovation, macroeconomics, Political Economy

Bucknell’s Next Green Steps

I did my presentation yesterday about innovation as it may relate to solutions to global warming.  I’ll get slide share slides up soon.    I annotated my slides in word with links and references.  I wonder how I can get that up and out on line.  Is there any file storage with wordpress?  A link through my own webpage?  Can slide share take a word file and post it?

Here is some news from our Prez, Brian Mitchell, about next steps.  I love the paths, the access to river, and the car and bike borrowing.  At Thursday night’s closing event, I was pleased to make the following announcements:

1.      On behalf of the University, I am signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. This commitment, which has been made by more than 475 college presidents across the country, represents the University’s pledge to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, enhance environmental stewardship efforts, and foster the concepts of sustainability and environmental ethics in our curriculum.

2.      To this end, the University is creating a Campus Greening Council that will bring together students, faculty, and staff from across the campus. The Council will evaluate the impact of University policies and practices on the natural environment and the ecology of the campus, including such matters as energy use, air and water emissions, and water resource and waste management. The Council will also conduct periodic environmental audits of the campus. The Bucknell University Environmental Center and its new sustainability coordinator have already completed the first phase of an emissions audit.

3.      Bucknell will take the following steps to protect the natural environment and reduce the University’s ecologic footprint:

·        Consider U.S. Green Building LEED certification for new campus construction costing more than $500,000, subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees and consistent with the University’s campus master plan.

·        Purchase Energy Star products that meet the strict efficiency guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

·        Purchase additional alternative fuel vehicles for the campus fleet.

·        Ask the Campus Greening Council to develop programs in which students, staff, and faculty can “borrow” cars and bicycles from the University to reduce the need for personal vehicles on campus.

·        The Campus Master Plan will include strategies for “greening” the campus, establishing hiking and biking trails that link the University with the larger community, and recapturing access to the Susquehanna River.

These initiatives reflect Bucknell’s historic commitment to protecting the natural environment, educating students about related issues, and using our campus as a place where we can not only learn about, but also implement sustainable environmental practices. The University has been proud for more than 35 years to be a leader in this area. These latest steps carry forward the outstanding example set by those who have come before us.

To learn more about these and other planned initiatives, please read the news release posted at http://www.bucknell.edu/x40046.xml.

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Filed under activism, climate change, higher education, Information and Communication Technology, innovation

Superbowl and Internet Advertising

A writer from the local paper, The Daily Item, emailed my department asking for background on something about superbowl advertisers doing more with the internet.

Here is what I gave her back. It will be fun to see what gets used (if anything.)

“The mingling of the new kid on the block- Internet advertising- with the old (and big) kid- Superbowl advertising, crystallizes important shifts in media use and consumption in America. First, the Internet is no fenced off. Second, the Internet is more and more the Everyone-Net.

The Internet is less and less a privileged or partitioned media for commerce and advertising. The fence is down. Some researchers estimate that 10% of all ad dollars will go to Internet advertising by 2010. Meanwhile, live TV viewership declined 10% in 2007. What is more striking is how much citizens trust the Internet given how wary of mass media and generally information-saturated they are. Recent research from the Annenberg School for Communication found that by 2007 80% of Internet users rated the Internet as an important source of information, much higher than TV (68%), radio (63%) or newspapers (63%). Consumers seeking information appreciate authenticity, and they find it more and more in cyberspace.

These effects are magnified by the increasing adoption of the Internet and especially broadband which has surged from 5% to 42% of households since 2000. We are watching the extension of the Internet to the Everyone-Net. Internet penetration is up to 75% of American households (the most of any country, however many other countries have more intense Internet use per wired household. Israel is first at 57 hours per month. The US is about 32). Ten years ago there were clear race and class divides in in Internet use. Those have narrowed considerably (but persist for broadband connectivity). Among college graduates, the difference in White, Black, and Hispanic internet use is almost zero. The digital divides are now along education and age lines and narrowing progressively.

But those are only the tip of a big iceberg. Consumers are far more savvy about information sources and products. Cyberspace is becoming a destination for entertainment, community, and commerce. The logic of the Internet is not one-to-many, like print or broadcast media, but many-to-many. This is a fundamental difference whose significance can not be overlooked. As advertisers shift, they will have to learn how to navigate the mixture of entertainment, community, and commerce online. They don’t own the stage like they have with big production Superbowl ads. They will have to learn that the audience mingling amongst themselves is the only show in town.” anything).

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Filed under Business, Information and Communication Technology, innovation, Media

Virgin unveils spaceship designs

Elijah’s Godfather and my good friend Vishant sent me this little gem (hat tip to V).

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Virgin unveils spaceship designs
“I think its very important that we make a genuine commercial success of this project,” he told a news conference in New York.

“If we do, I believe well unlock a wall of private sector money into both space launch systems and space technology.

“This could rival the scale of investment in the mobile phone and internet technologies after they were unlocked from their military origins and thrown open to the private sector.”

here is a picture:

SpaceShipTwo (Original Name)

Well, as I said to V, all that incredible wealth generated for the top 1% since the Reagan revolution has gotta get spent on something. You can only bu so many handbags and islands, don’t you know. He seemed ticked. Like I was supposed to be thrilled that maybe my son (his godson) would get filthy rich enough to afford this little bauble. Course I am being pissy. Every little boy (an girl?) dreams of being an astronaut. Just seems like you should do it for scientific or nationalist reasons, not self-amusement.

Where is my jetpack? I thought I would have one by now. (See this book. and this song by Jill Sobule Jetpack (track 2). )

Who is going to regulate this new industry, or will it transcend the earthly bounds of economics and society as well as gravity? Unlikely, I think. There is flight paths, insurance, consumer protection, and, of course, security. Can Osama Bin Laden buy one of these?

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Filed under economic sociology, humor, innovation, Research

Plaxo Is Said to Be for Sale

Social Net Site Is Said to Be for Sale – New York Times

They were getting beat out by Facebook and LinkedIn.  What has happened with Orkut, Friendster, Tribe.net, and other SNS (social networking sites)? Will they adapt, consolidate, or disappear?   Seems like a good case study of an emerging field of competitors.  Do new rules apply, or the same old industrial organization and strategic evolution? Or, like the persistent synthetic worlds Castronova described (like Ultima Online), will they persist due to the stickiness of social ties?

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Filed under economic evolution, economic sociology, innovation, management, Social Network Sites

Youth Voting in an Interent Caucus

Just in case any of my students read this blog! :<)

I am officially too old!

Tonight in Iowa, Democrats and Republicans will start picking their nominees for President. But this election affects us all—we shouldn’t let Iowans have all the fun.

That’s why we’re helping the League of Young Voters launch their online youth primary today on Facebook. Nationwide, anyone under 35 can log on, vote for their favorite candidate, and see how others at their school or in their city are voting.

You can vote here:

http://www.moveon.org/r?r=3307&id=11855-1451712-L78b3f&t=4

Young people are more engaged in this election than ever before, but the media and the pundits still pay little attention to this critical emerging block of voters. By drawing attention to the voting power of younger people, we can help change all that.

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Filed under activism, Information and Communication Technology, innovation, Politics, Power, Activism

Apple 2.0 Dell vs. Apple: 10 Years Later «

FORTUNE: Apple 2.0 Dell vs. Apple: 10 Years Later «

Michael Dell famoulsy siad about ten years ago  that appls should shut down and liquidate.  Ahhh, such hubris.  Fortune has the scoop on the intervening ten years.

Seems a resounding endorsement of a value-oriented, innovative company.  Of course, Michael Dell is personally wealthier than Steve Jobs.  So how do you measure success?  Which company is doing more for the overall prosperity of the country?  You could argue that Dell does a lot by making PCs so cheap.  Point taken, but that would have happened anyway.  It woudl be good to know wthe relative numbers of employees as well.

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Filed under Great Companies, innovation, Political Economy

US launches ‘MySpace for spies’

US government realizes it can use living web technology to do collaborative work.  Does this make them early adopters or laggards?

Part of answer is point of reference.  They are early adopters for federal government but laggard compared to your average 15 year old.

FT.com / World – US launches ‘MySpace for spies’

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Filed under Information and Communication Technology, innovation, national security, Social Network Sites