Thursday, December 27, 2007

Is Intellectual Capital More Important than Natural Resources?

It is interesting to contemplate - has intellectual capital become more important to GNP around the globe than the exploitation of natural resources? The claim is really a twofold one. First, that the intellectual capital required to efficiently exploit natural resources tends to be held predominantly by first world countries, and therefore represents a hidden 'tax' on third world countries who require this expertise to take advantage of their own natural resources. Second, that *all* methods of wealth generation will increasingly rely on intellectual property and capital moving forward.

It seems to me that both claims are pretty clear - the first is readily demonstrable now, especially as China has joined the rest of the first world countries who have been doing this since colonial times and begun to make huge strides in using its intellectual capital to exploit the resources of less advantaged countries, specifically in Africa.

The second is less clear - it is fairly apparent that at some point in the future intellectual property, capital, and expertise will take the lead in wealth generation against the commodity markets. I would guess that this has not happened yet, although a study comparing the different contributers to GDP around the world by type would be instructive and might assist in predicting when this crossover point will be reached.

The moral is clear: build and protect intellectual capital and provide a secure environment for this process to take place. This is true on an individual, corporate, and national scale.

Monday, November 26, 2007

MagLev Wind Turbines

The concept of the magnetic levitation based wind turbine is a simple one. Vertical vanes rotate in a plane parallel to the ground surface and use electromagnetic repulsion to isolate the vanes from the hub instead of ball bearings, as well as utilizing electromagnetic coupling to generate electricity when the vanes spun by the wind. Benefits include 500 year operational lifespan, reduced surface area requirements, they can make use of much lower *and* much higher average wind speeds for power generation, and significantly reduced maintenance costs and operating overhead.

Of course, I am always skeptical of technologies like this until one is actually constructed. But even if only one or two of the claims of competitive advantage are borne out, this concept could still contribute much to the hunt for worthy renewable energy sources.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Death and Technology

I ran across this article recently, which discusses how changes in medical technology have had a historical and continuing effect on our definition of death. First we died when we stopped breathing, then we died when our hearts stopped beating, then it was the cessation of brain activity that determined time of death, etc.

While i found the historical perspective interesting, the more compelling aspects of the continuing relationship between death and technology lie in projecting this relationship forward into the future. How far are we going to be able to push the boundaries between life and death as our technological tools continue to improve faster and faster?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nanoprinting Gets Better. Again.

Nanoprinting refers to the process of laying down very small (nanoscale) particles on a substrate with precision. This type of technology is an essential precursor to building a wide range of MEMs, micro machines and other nanotechnologies at anything approaching an industrial scale. IBM has been at the forefront of this effort after the first time researchers used a scanning tunneling electron microscope to draw the IBM logo with individual gold atoms.

This particular technology has a DPI (dots per inch) resolution of around 100,000 - or can print individual dots around 60 nanometers in size. This is quite good for a printing technology even if manual techniques currently allow the manipulation of single atoms in some environments.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

New Ultraclean Combustion Technology, the Low Swirl Injector

Large electrical generation plants are historically known for non-minimal emission of combustion byproducts. The Low-Swirl Injector (LSI) technology has been shown to significantly reduce nitrogen oxide and carbon oxide emissions during combustion of hydrogen, natural gas, and other feedstocks. Further research is ongoing.

Any efficiency enhancements to traditional power generation methods should be embraced even as we continue to explore alternative generation strategies via renewable resources. The great thing about technologies like this is that they are equally applicable to very conservative and very progressive power technologies.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Technology and the Legal System, a Recipe for Pain

Technology has had a significant historical effect on how we live our lives as well as the social and cultural matrix in which we operate. It should be no surprise that a legal system initially drafted in a time of horse drawn carriages, hand carried mail, manual printing presses, and clipper ships may not integrate well with some of the technologies we take for granted in our every day lives. In this spirit then, I applaud PC World for pointing out some of the more glaring issues.

The Worst Technology Laws

Friday, June 8, 2007

Digital Rights Management in the Networked Age

The issue of copyrights in the age of digital copies and networking technologies has been a thorny one. Copyright holders have developed literally hundreds of different mechanisms by which to prevent unauthorized copying and use of their property, and consumers and users have continued to find ways around these mechanisms both to protect their fair use rights and, in some cases, to abuse these rights. Accordingly, the technology associated with Digital Rights Management (DRM) is in a state of almost constant flux. Even more, because so many different attempts have been made to address this issue, very few DRM technologies can interoperate. An interesting problem, and one that must be addressed if copyright holders can ever hope to effectively protect their rights using DRM.

In the long run, it is not at all clear to me that there is *any* feasible way to use DRM to fully protect the rights of copyright holders in all cases. It may be that fundamental changes in trademark and copyright law are required to take into account the changes in technological infrastructure that have occurred.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

DeVenCI, DoD and the Venture Capital Community

The Defense Venture Capital Initiative is a collaboration between the Department of Defense and the venture capital community. This venture draws upon the expertise of VCs associated with Lehman Brothers Venture Partners, RockPort Capital Partners, Sequoia Capital, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, among others.

The goal of this effort is for the DoD to gain knowledge of and access to small companies conducting innovative work relevant to ongoing DoD projects who are currently outside the DoD supply pipeline. This sort of approach is not a new idea, as it has been pioneered by the folks associated with In-Q-Tel, a non-profit venture capital firm organized by the CIA.

If your company is working on topics potentially applicable to areas the DoD might be interested in and are not currently involved in any DoD processes, DeVenCI might be a good way to start.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Towards a More Perfect Capitalism?

The development of the internet has had some fairly interesting implications for knowledge workers in general, especially considering the wide and easy availability of the kinds of 'specialist' information previously available only through scientific publications and university libraries. The second and third order implications extend beyond knowledge workers, however. Wide availability of product information and pricing has really led to consumer empowerment, and has begun to have a significant impact on business development and procurement.

It may be that by providing resources that increase the information available to consumers and businesses, the internet is improving the fundamental efficiency associated with transactions in capitalist systems by making all potential purchasers 'informed' customers. Are we moving toward a perfect version of capitalism? Are these changes having an effect on corporate sales and purchasing decisions?

And are these changes good or bad? Clearly the internet has lowered barriers to entry across the board, and led to more informed consumers. True capitalists would agree this has to be a good thing, despite temporary disruptions as the market adjusts to these changes. And, all in all, I think I agree.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Hybrid Vehicle Technology Getting Industrial

Looks like changes in the supply markets for oil and related goods are having a trickle-down effect on industrial and commercial machinery manufacturers. Now, it seems readily apparent to me that diesel-electric hybrid motors just make sense, especially in industrial applications. You get high torque from the diesel engine when and if you need it, efficient minute to minute power from the batteries, can generate additional electricity efficiently using the diesel when the batteries are low, and modern diesels can even be easily converted to run on bio-diesel and other alternative fuels.

Interesting to see the degree of penetration hybrids are having commercially - trains, buses, heavy construction equipment, even boats.

It certainly makes one wonder where the consumer diesel-electric hybrids are in the development cycle, and if there are any reasons why consumer hybrids of this type are not being actively pursued.