5 questions with Don McLean

David Martindale:

1 When you look back over four decades in the music business, what do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

The main thing I would like to say is that I have become the person I wanted to be. As opposed to reaching goals but being an alcoholic, or reaching goals but having four failed marriages, or reaching goals but having kids in rehab. A lot of people reach their goals, but at a terrific price.

Your Body Double Could Be This Robot Some Call ‘FaceTime On Wheels’

Lora Kolodny:

Though the first one hasn’t even come off the production line yet, the makers of a new “telepresence” robot called the “Double” attracted more than $1 million worth of preorders within three weeks.

“It’s a Segway for your iPad,” quipped David Cann, founder and chief executive of Miami-based Double Robotics, at Y Combinator’s Demo Day in August, where he showed off the robot’s capabilities to investors.

Connecting an iPad to the Double turns it into a roving telepresence device. The first edition Double features an aluminum base, urethane and plastic wheels, custom control systems and iOS software that lets a user remotely drive the robot, video chat with those who it encounters, and peer into the spaces where it roams.

Black Swan Farming

Paul Graham:

I’ve done several types of work over the years but I don’t know another as counterintuitive as startup investing.

The two most important things to understand about startup investing, as a business, are (1) that effectively all the returns are concentrated in a few big winners, and (2) that the best ideas look initially like bad ideas.

The first rule I knew intellectually, but didn’t really grasp till it happened to us. The total value of the companies we’ve funded is around 10 billion, give or take a few. But just two companies, Dropbox and Airbnb, account for about three quarters of it.

In startups, the big winners are big to a degree that violates our expectations about variation. I don’t know whether these expectations are innate or learned, but whatever the cause, we are just not prepared for the 1000x variation in outcomes that one finds in startup investing.

Lunch with Tim Berners-Lee

Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson:

He continues: “I think a lot of great software has been written by people who are scratching a short-term itch, something which has been niggling them for ages, but in the back of their mind they’ve got a wonderful long-term plan.”

But is there enough big academic innovation going on, I ask, or do Silicon Valley wannabes now just dream of an Instagram-style fast $1bn from creating applications that make digital snaps look like their parents’ Polaroids and selling them to Facebook?

“I’m biased to think that there hasn’t been enough. I would have liked to have seen more development around open data,” he replies. Berners-Lee, who has spent years working on the “semantic web” of machine-processable data, is a director of the UK government’s new Open Data Institute, which aims to make more official data available and to train people how to use it to commercial and other ends.

The politics of telling the truth


Why has the mainstream US media failed to get past the rhetoric of political ads during this presidential campaign?

Political ads rarely tell the truth and in this year’s election campaign, facts have tended to matter less. This is where mainstream media should step up.

But so far, the US media have not shown the appetite or the stomach to get past the rhetoric and get to the truth. In this week’s News Divide, we look at the politics of telling the truth in a heated election campaign.

Google: The Case for Hawkish Regulation

Richard Epstein:

Google reminds me of Adam, the cute, 100-foot-tall toddler in the 1992 Rick Moranis film, Honey I Blew Up the Kid. In case you missed it, Adam keeps stumbling over buildings, mistakes real cars for toys, and ultimately threatens the existence of Las Vegas. Adam is also the name of the errant father of the human race. And Google is the company named after an astronomically large number (1 with a hundred zeros after it) that controls access to most of the information on earth and that finds innovative new ways to get in trouble several times a year.
In 2010, Google’s Street View teams – the mobile crews that are systematically filming every street and building in the world, including your home – were accused of deliberately capturing people’s names, telephone numbers, emails, text messages, passwords, search histories, and even online dating information as they drove from neighbourhood to neighbourhood in the US and more than 30 other countries between 2006 and 2010. Google snatched the data from Wi-Fi networks. This is akin to what those nasty adults in the white van were doing when they drove around the neighborhood trying to find ET, but on a spectacular scale.

Clash of the Archetypes

Walter Kirn:

AS POLITICS has become more scripted over the decades, journalists have begun to sound like critics, discussing campaigns in terms of “memes” and “narratives.” Contests are analyzed on aesthetic grounds almost as though they are movies or Broadway shows. This summer, with Obama versus Romney still in previews, a consensus emerged among the critics that remains largely unchallenged: The show is a flop, a stupefying spectacle of triviality and negativity that may as well be titled Numb and Number. Under the headline, “Dullest Campaign Ever,” The New York Times’ David Brooks blamed “tit-for-tat” Web feuds, “ossified” ideologies, and ads directed at the “uninformed.” Peggy Noonan, in another pan, pinned the race’s alleged “lack of passion” on candidates wanting in “political genius.”

The problem with treating politics as stagecraft, particularly this year, is that it mistakes the production for the play and confuses theater with drama. Theater is shallow, drama deep. And it’s at the dramatic level that this campaign is singularly engrossing. Down in the catacombs of the group unconscious where elections really occur, where the spotlights don’t reach, and where the polls can barely penetrate, a mythological struggle is unfolding between two profoundly different archetypal figures: a lost boy who knew his father largely in dreams and grew up bedeviled by questions of identity, and a favorite son whose father’s support freed him from having to question much of anything. Barack Obama, a lonely meritocratic floater whose searcher parents met while on the drift and then wafted off in separate directions, fashioned a self from thin air; while Mitt Romney, from a family of pioneers who’d safely reached the promised land, hit the ground already in position.

Vinod Khosla says technology will replace 80 percent of doctors — sparks indignation

Matt Marshall:

Accomplished Silicon Valley investor Vinod Khosla likens modern healthcare to witchcraft, and says technology will replace 80 percent of doctors.

His views, offered up in a talk last week in San Francisco, sparked outrage from doctors.

Khosla is a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, and made his mark as one of the most successful investors during the Internet boom of the late 1990s with his backing of networking equipment companies.

He made the healthcare comments during the Health Innovation Summit, hosted by Rock Health, a seed accelerator company focused on health care. Khosla’s keynote talk is nicely summarized by Davis Liu, a doctor who attended the event.

In his comments, Khosla said that medical tradition has mired doctors in voodoo-like practices.

Khosla said that machines, driven by large data sets and computations power, not only would be cheaper, more accurate and objective, but better than the average doctor. To get there, the level of machine expertise would need to be in the 80th percentile of doctors’ expertise, he said.

And then Khosla slipped in some hyperbole: “Eventually, we won’t need the doctor,” he said, according to another report of the talk.

The audience reportedly went silent when Khosla challenged anyone to disagree with him. However, after the talk, critics reading about his talk took to comments at the bottom of Liu’s piece, and elsewhere, including Twitter. Columbia University-trained doctor Bijan Salehizadeh said he was “nauseated” by Khosla’s remarks.

Khosla also upset some doctors by saying that disruption in healthcare is likely to be driven by entrepreneurs outside of the industry, rather than by specialists within.