Monday, September 3. 2012
Some of the responses to Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment are equally ridiculous. The opinion editor for the Berkeley Political Review, Alex Kravitz, suggests that members of the Senate should have to pass an intelligence test before assuming office. Charles Johnson, who operates the once respectable Little Green Footballs blog, is stunned that Akin “managed to reach adulthood with a completely non-functioning brain” and upon learning that Akin is a member of the House Science and Technology committee advised his readers to “weep for America.”
No one disputes that what Akin said was silly, wrong, and offensive.
However, the idea that certain elected officials should have to pass an intelligence test is also silly, wrong, and offensive. It seems to me that many of the people who would support such a test are the same people who complained in the past that intelligence tests are biased. Plus, isn't there a risk that it would lead to an intelligence test for voters? (In that case, why bother having elections?)
Nor does Todd Akin’s comment disqualify him from the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. The main purpose of the committee is not to determine the merit of scientific claims. It’s to discuss public policy and propose legislation.
Besides, even some of the greatest scientific minds in history embraced ideas that most people would consider irrational, stupid, or silly.
Isaac Newton, who discovered much of what is now considered the foundation of classical mechanics and who shares credit with Gottfried Leibniz for inventing calculus, was intensely interested in alchemy and biblical prophecy. Though admirers point out that such ideas were commonplace in Newton’s day, there’s no getting around the fact that Newton devoted considerable time and effort to what were clearly occult ideas.
Oliver Lodge, who was one of the first to prove the existence of electromagnetic waves, was President of the Society for Psychical Research and fervently believed in telepathic communication between the living and the dead.
Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the DNA double helix, suggested that the seeds of life were planted on Earth by an extraterrestrial civilization—a theory known as “directed panspermia.” Though Crick opposed creationism, his own theory evaded the question of how life originated, passing the buck to space aliens.
William Shockley, co-inventor of the transistor, warned that less intelligent people reproduce at a higher rate and that this was particularly a problem among blacks. Though Shockley shared the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics with colleagues John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, he seemed determined to offend people with his theory of race and intelligence.
Raymond Damadian, the principal inventor of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), is a young earth creationist. Here is a man who believes that the Earth is no more than 10,000 years old despite massive evidence to the contrary. Yet he not only understood the science underlying MRI, he built the first full-body magnetic resonance scanner. In my opinion, more in doubt is the intelligence of the committee that denied him a share in the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Some prefer to believe in a binary universe in which people are either consistently scientific or consistently unscientific. But that’s not how the world actually works. It’s not only possible to be scientific about some things and irrational about others—it’s rather common.
Thursday, August 23. 2012
My opinion piece at the Daily Caller:
Obamacare is an imminent threat to people with life-threatening medical conditions.Read the rest here.
Tuesday, August 14. 2012
My column at the Daily Caller:
It didn’t take long for libertarians to condemn Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate. Ryan may have required his staffers to read Ayn Rand’s novels, but he’s no John Galt. Over his nearly 14 years in Congress, Ryan has cast several votes unfit for an advocate of limited government. He voted for TARP, auto bailouts, and Medicare expansion. He also voted for No Child Left Behind, and twice voted for stimulus spending.
Read the entire op-ed here.
Monday, June 4. 2012
Saturday, May 19. 2012
Since the English version of this book was published in 2011, Google has been accused, investigated, and punished for one misdeed after another. The offences include violating users’ privacy, infringing others’ property rights, engaging in anti-competitive behavior, obstructing investigations, and breaking rules and laws. Google critic Scott Cleland’s book is the only book that makes sense out of what is clearly a pattern of misbehavior, showing that it is a natural consequence of Google’s strategy, ambitions, and tactics.
Google remains the dominant force in the digital information universe. Simply put, there is no escaping Google’s clout and reach. Though Google is not the top search engine in Korea, the company has tremendous power over Korea’s economy, and collects a huge volume of data about Korea and Koreans. Google is the information and e-commerce gatekeeper in most of the countries that Korean exporters do business. Troublingly, Google is both a partner and a competitor to Korean electronics giants Samsung and LG. And Google collects massive amounts of data about Korean businesses, homes, and individuals through Google Earth, Google Street View, Gmail, and hundreds of other products.
Google is being investigated by the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC). Google claims it is cooperating with this and other probes around the world. Reportedly, when KFTC investigators raided Google’s Korean office in September of 2011, employees deleted files from computers. Claiming they were telecommuting, employees stayed home the following day. The KFTC is considering fining Google for obstructing its investigation.
Unfortunately, this can’t be dismissed as just a misunderstanding or isolated incident. Google is under investigation in the US and elsewhere for eavesdropping on wireless networks with its Street View cars in what is widely known as the “WiSpy” scandal. When it was first disclosed that Google was recording data (including confidential passwords) sent over unencrypted wireless networks, Google claimed it was an accident—the actions of a lone engineer working without the company’s knowledge or permission. However, an investigation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) discovered that the engineer told two fellow engineers, one of them a senior manager, what he was doing and described the data collection scheme in a written report that Google says was “preapproved” (implying that no one was expected to read the report). Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the New York Times, “Google’s rogue engineer scenario collapses in light of the fact that others were aware of the project and did not object.” The FCC fined Google for obstructing its investigation, suggesting that we still don’t know the full story.
The KFTC is particularly concerned that Google is blocking competitors from the burgeoning mobile search market. Naver and Daum complain that Google makes its search engine the default search engine on Android smart phones, that Android phones can’t be ordered with other search engines preloaded, and that it’s very difficult for users to change to a competing search application.
Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility is problematic for Samsung and LG. As the supplier of the Android operating system, Google is a partner. As owner of Motorola Mobility, Google is a competitor, selling competing handsets and controlling a number of essential handset patents. It’s not uncommon for a large corporation to partner with a company in one area and compete with that same company in another. However, it only works when that large corporation acknowledges that there is a potential conflict of interest and takes steps to prevent conflicts and maintain trust. Unfortunately, Google is highly secretive and often says one thing while doing another.
It all makes sense when you realize that Google takes its mission “to organize the world’s information” quite literally. Google wants to control all of the world’s information and it is making tremendous progress toward that goal—digitizing the world’s books, gathering data from the sky and the streets, and monitoring people’s use of the Internet, mobile phones, and other devices.
And that’s why Korea—like other nations—must safeguard its interests.
UPDATE: The Korean version has been published by Acorn Publishing in Korea.
Thursday, May 10. 2012
The History & Future of Medical Technology is now available in ebook format at Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), and Apple (iTunes).
The History of Wireless: How Creative Minds Produced Technology for the Masses is also available in ebook format at Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), and Apple (iTunes).
Coming soon: New titles and foreign language editions.
Saturday, February 18. 2012
The author of SEARCH & DESTROY: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc., Scott Cleland, wasn’t surprised by the article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reporting that Google has been “bypassing the privacy settings of millions of people using Apple Inc.'s Web browser on their iPhones and computers.” Cleland has long argued that Google is a serial violator of privacy rights, property rights, and laws.
“Researchers found that Google Android tracks each user’s location thousands of times over the course of a day. Google Street View cars listened to and recorded data from wireless networks in users’ homes. And Google paid a $500 million fine for accepting illegal ads from Canadian pharmacies,” said Cleland. “These are just a few examples of how Google tracks, profiles, and manipulates users,” he added.
SEARCH & DESTROY is an investigative book containing over 700 references (including court documents) and more than 150 verbatim quotes from Google executives. The hardcover book is in stock and retails for $28.95. E-book versions are available for most popular e-book readers. For more information visit www.SearchandDestroyBook.com.
Wednesday, January 25. 2012
As Walter Isaacson recounts in his best-selling biography, Steve Jobs promised to “go to thermonuclear war” over Google’s Android smartphone. But it wasn’t merely because Jobs was a fierce competitor. One of the greatest entrepreneurs in U.S. history, Steve Jobs was painfully aware that Google does not respect others’ intellectual property rights, and he understood that Google’s practices are a threat to innovation.
Jobs’ attitude toward intellectual property rights could not have been more different from Google’s. Steve Jobs didn’t manufacture and sell products at low prices. And he certainly didn’t dump free products on the market as does Google. Steve Jobs used his natural good taste and high standards to imbue products with added value. Based on his innate sense of functionality, ease of use, and elegance he was able to command significantly higher prices than his competitors.
Steve Jobs saw Google’s Android as the result of intellectual property theft. And he probably understood how Google expected to get away with it. Google can make more money using others’ intellectual property to sell advertising than its owners can make using the intellectual property to develop and sell products. That’s why Google is confident that if push comes to shove it can always purchase a settlement. But as Steve Jobs told Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, “I’m not interested in settling. I don’t want your money.”
There are other examples of how Jobs’ attitude toward intellectual property rights was the opposite of Google’s. Jobs made a habit of keeping new products secret until they were ready for a big, splashy launch. Google routinely introduces beta versions of products. Steve Jobs was a perfectionist; he expected Apple products to work flawlessly from Day One. Google offers its products “as is” and tells users, in effect, “don’t bother calling our customer service department—we don’t have one.”
Steve Jobs created the iTunes store so that consumers could buy music rather than steal it, and so that music producers could receive fair compensation. Google, in contrast, has aided and abetted online pirates. Google scans books without the copyright holders’ permission. Google has even asked artists to supply it with artwork in exchange for exposure rather than pay—as if Google were the starving artist.
The independent-minded Jobs swam against the current of “open systems” and demonstrated convincingly that end-to-end proprietary systems offer significant benefits to consumers. Nor was Jobs intimidated by widespread attempts to disparage proprietary solutions by labeling them “closed.” Jobs proved that he could consistently deliver great products and services using proprietary systems, and he also proved that proprietary systems are not an obstacle to multi-vendor support.
Google’s advocacy of “open systems” is hypocritical. Google urges others to use open systems because open systems are less private. Meanwhile, Google zealously guards its search engine and ad auction secrets—resisting all calls to make these systems more transparent.
Steve Jobs dismissed Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” mantra because he understood that it was pure theater. He judged Google not by their slogans but by their actions. He saw Android as brazen theft and was determined to prevent Google from getting away with it.
Ira Brodsky is co-author with Scott Cleland of the new book Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc. Visit SearchAndDestroyBook.com.
Tuesday, January 24. 2012
An OpEd in today's Wall Street Journal by Stan Liebowitz on the recent SOPA/FIFA furor is spot on. Most of the opposition to SOPA/PIPA is misguided. The "free speech" argument originated with people who either oppose intellectual property rights or want to substantially weaken existing copyright law. If you really believe piracy (stealing) is wrong but that SOPA/PIPA are flawed, then suggest a better way to combat piracy.
Critics of these proposed laws claim that they are unnecessary and will lead to frivolous claims, reduce innovation and stifle free speech. Those are gross exaggerations. The same critics have been making these claims about every previous attempt to rein in piracy, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that was called a draconian antipiracy measure at the time of its passage in 1998. As we all know, the DMCA did not kill the Internet, or even do any noticeable damage to freedom—or to pirates.
The OpEd is here.
Similarly, people such as Declan McCullagh make the argument that privacy demands are just a cover for squelching free speech. But keep this in mind: people are making money tracking you, selling advertising keywords to pirates, and even running ads on sites featuring pirated content. It's disingenuous to describe such activity as innocent free speech.
P.S.: See Scott Cleland's column about how Google led the fight against SOPA/PIPA. Google is masterful at skirting copyright and other IP laws as described in our book Search & Destroy: Why You Can't Trust Google Inc.
Friday, December 2. 2011
There is a great OpEd in today's Wall Street Journal by Daniel B. Botkin: Absolute Certainty Is Not Scientific.
As a student of the history of science, I can say with confidence that Mr. Botkin is right and the Science Establishment and its defenders are wrong. Most great scientific theories evolve over time amid passionate but honest debate. Today, we are confronted by people who have appointed themselves the enforcers of true science. These people demonize anyone who dares to challenge current science orthodoxy. For example, they call people who dispute or even just question man-made global warming "deniers"--a term most often associated with Holocaust denial.
One of the changes among scientists in this century is the increasing number who believe that one can have complete and certain knowledge. For example, Michael J. Mumma, a NASA senior scientist who has led teams searching for evidence of life on Mars, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "Based on evidence, what we do have is, unequivocally, the conditions for the emergence of life were present on Mars—period, end of story."
Botkin twice calls on one of my heroes, Richard Feynman, to rebut this harmful attitude:
Reading Mr. Mumma's statement, I thought immediately of physicist Niels Bohr, a Nobel laureate, who said, "Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it." To which Richard Feynman, another famous physicist and Nobel laureate, quipped, "Nobody understands quantum mechanics."
...How about a little agnosticism in our scientific assertions—and even, as with Richard Feynman, a little sense of humor so that we can laugh at our errors and move on? We should all remember that Feynman also said, "If you think that science is certain—well that's just an error on your part."
Tuesday, September 13. 2011
My OpEd at the Daily Caller:
Google recently agreed to forfeit $500 million to avoid prosecution for knowingly accepting illegal advertisements from online Canadian pharmacies. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Google knew as early as 2003 that the pharmacies were promoting illegal importation of drugs, yet it continued to accept the ads and provide customer support to the advertisers through 2009.
Monday, August 29. 2011
My recent OpEd at American Thinker:
One of the few bright spots in the current economy is sales of smartphones, tablet computers, and e-readers. Led by three U.S. companies -- Apple, Google (Android), and Amazon -- the worldwide market for these gadgets is expected to reach $190 billion this year. Driving much of the growth is a rapidly expanding universe of "apps" that offer exciting new capabilities such as helping patients manage their diabetes and letting physicians pull up CT scans from any location.
Friday, July 29. 2011
The White House and the Media continue to misrepresent the deficit controversy. They say that we must raise the debt ceiling or very bad things will occur. But they have it backwards. Raising the debt ceiling at a time when we are spending way more than we can afford is irresponsible. It can only lead to even worse consequences down the road.
A family budget analogy is useful here. Imagine a family with a modest income goes on a spending spree using credit cards. The cards have all reached their spending limits. The family is able to pay the monthly interest on the cards and other living expenses. But the family wants to continue its spending spree. So it demands that the credit card companies increase the cards' spending limits. And not to worry, the family promises it will get its spending under control later.
There are two key questions here. The first is whether a family budget is a reasonable analogy to a government budget. The second is whether it is reasonable to trade an immediate increase in the debt limit for a promise of future spending reductions.
Some economists insist that a large federal budget deficit is not necessarily bad. In fact, my Economics 101 professor, the late Robert Eisner, was among the most vocal proponents of large federal budget deficits (though with some caveats). According to his theory, the analogy doesn't work because unlike an individual family the federal government can stimulate the nation's economy through targeted spending.
That certainly hasn't worked lately. (Has it ever?) While a federal government has more potential sources of future income than a family, it has fewer options for obtaining assistance should things go wrong. No family or government can continue to spend more than it can afford without eventually suffering the consequences. (Arguably, we already are suffering the consequences in the form of high unemployment and a complete absence of private sector growth.)
Raising the debt ceiling is like allowing an alcoholic just one more drink. Anyone can promise to change their ways mañana.
If we truly understand the dangers of a massive and growing federal deficit then we can only reach one conclusion. We must resist calls to raise the debt ceiling and start reducing our spending immediately.
Saturday, July 23. 2011
An article in Today's Wall Street Journal describes how Google has been using customer reviews from other sites to beef up its Google Places service:
Google Inc. has made changes to the way its search engine displays information about local businesses, a move that follows the disclosure of a U.S. antitrust investigation of its business practices.
I don't know how to describe this as anything other than stealing. Note also the allegation that Google manipulates search results to favor Google Places. (That Google doctors what it claims to be "unbiased" search results was publicly admitted by a top Google executive quite some time ago.) You can read the rest here.
Friday, July 22. 2011
This is the third in a series of posts about Search & Destroy: Why You Can’t Trust Google Inc.
Steve Jobs said that "Don't Be Evil" is BS. But he either couldn't or wouldn't say why. Hope my Op-Ed at the American Thinker helps:
Google is once again demonstrating that it treats others in ways that it does not want to be treated. Google is requiring users of its latest social networking service, Google+, to have public profiles. Meanwhile, top Google executives are taking advantage of a hidden Google+ feature to enjoy greater privacy.
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