Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Death Of Corporate Research Labs

In American innovation through the ages, Jamie Powell wrote:
who hasn’t finished a non-fiction book and thought “Gee, that could have been half the length and just as informative. If that.”

Yet every now and then you read something that provokes the exact opposite feeling. Where all you can do after reading a tweet, or an article, is type the subject into Google and hope there’s more material out there waiting to be read.

So it was with Alphaville this Tuesday afternoon reading a research paper from last year entitled The changing structure of American innovation: Some cautionary remarks for economic growth by Arora, Belenzon, Patacconi and Suh (h/t to KPMG’s Ben Southwood, who highlighted it on Twitter).

The exhaustive work of the Duke University and UEA academics traces the roots of American academia through the golden age of corporate-driven research, which roughly encompasses the postwar period up to Ronald Reagan’s presidency, before its steady decline up to the present day.
Arora et al argue that a cause of the decline in productivity is that:
The past three decades have been marked by a growing division of labor between universities focusing on research and large corporations focusing on development. Knowledge produced by universities is not often in a form that can be readily digested and turned into new goods and services. Small firms and university technology transfer offices cannot fully substitute for corporate research, which had integrated multiple disciplines at the scale required to solve significant technical problems.
As someone with many friends who worked at the legendary corporate research labs of the past, including Bell Labs and Xerox PARC, and who myself worked at Sun Microsystems' research lab, this is personal. Below the fold I add my 2c-worth to Arora et al's extraordinarily interesting article.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Economics Of Decentralized Storage

Almost two years ago, in The Four Most Expensive Words in the English Language , I wrote skeptically about the economics of decentralized storage networks. I followed up two months later with The Triumph Of Greed Over Arithmetic. Now, Got a few spare terabytes of storage sitting around unused? Tardigrade can turn that into crypto-bucks is Thomas Claiburn's report on initial experience with Tardigrade, the "decentralized" storage network from Storj Labs. Below the fold, some more skepticism.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Carl Malamud Wins (Mostly)

In Supreme Court rules Georgia can’t put the law behind a paywall Timothy B. Lee writes:
A narrowly divided US Supreme Court on Monday upheld the right to freely share the official law code of Georgia. The state claimed to own the copyright for the Official Code of Georgia Annotated and sued a nonprofit called Public.Resource.Org for publishing it online. Monday's ruling is not only a victory for the open-government group, it's an important precedent that will help secure the right to publish other legally significant public documents.

"Officials empowered to speak with the force of law cannot be the authors of—and therefore cannot copyright—the works they create in the course of their official duties," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in an opinion that was joined by four other justices on the nine-member court.
Below the fold, commentary on various reports of the decision, and more.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Rarely Is The Question Asked

Four years ago the first major Smart Contract was launched. Then this happened:
"Smart contracts" are programs, and programs have bugs. Some of the bugs are exploitable vulnerabilities. Research has shown that the rate at which vulnerabilities in programs are discovered increases with the age of the program. The problems caused by making vulnerable software immutable were revealed by the first major "smart contract". The Decentralized Autonomous Organization (The DAO) was released on 30th April 2016, but on 27th May 2016 Dino Mark, Vlad Zamfir, and Emin Gün Sirer posted A Call for a Temporary Moratorium on The DAO, pointing out some of its vulnerabilities; it was ignored. Three weeks later, when The DAO contained about 10% of all the Ether in circulation, a combination of these vulnerabilities was used to steal its contents.
$25M goes Poof!
Now, David Gerard reports the latest Smart Contract fiascos in The dForce and Hegic DeFi exploits, and why Smart Contracts are bad. One caused the $25M loss shown in the chart, the other caused this reassuring message to users:
!! ALERT A typo has been found in the code. Because of that, liquidity in expired options contracts can’t be unlocked for new options. !! Please EXERCISE ALL OF YOUR ACTIVE OPTIONS CONTRACTS NOW.
Below the fold, some details.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Funder Publishing Platforms

After posting Never Let A Crisis Go To Waste earlier this month, I can't resist a shout-out to Elizabeth Gadd's The purpose of publications in a pandemic and beyond:
The virus is reminding us that the purpose of scholarly communication is not to allocate credit for career advancement, and neither is it to keep publishers afloat. Scholarly communication is about, well, scholars communicating with each other, to share insights for the benefit of humanity. And whilst we’ve heard all this before, in a time of crisis we realise afresh that this isn’t just rhetoric, this is reality.
Below the fold, a few comments.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Outsourcing Reduces Productivity

Source
Salim Furth provides yet more evidence of falling productivity in What’s Behind Falling Productivity: The Census May Hold the Answer:
Records kept since 1940 tell a contrasting story: even as the census has introduced labor-saving technologies, it has required more, not fewer, workers. The efficiency of census-taking appears to have declined over time as it has for most of the economy.
Below the fold, some commentary.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Yay, Library of Congress!

LoC Web Archive team
The web archiving team at the Library of Congress got some high-visibility, well-deserved publicity in the New York Times with Steven Kurutz's Meet Your Meme Lords:
For the past 20 years, a small team of archivists at the Library of Congress has been collecting the web, quietly and dutifully in its way. The initiative was born out of a desire to collect and preserve open-access materials from the web, especially U.S. government content around elections, which makes this the team’s busy season.

But the project has turned into a sweeping catalog of internet culture, defunct blogs, digital chat rooms, web comics, tweets and most other aspects of online life.
Kurutz did a good job; the article is well worth reading.