2020-21 is the asterisk academic year

A few weeks ago I wrote a column about helping our children cope with distance learning as we hide from COVID-19. Since then I’ve watched the progress of my own children — Cole (16) and Fallon (14) are still at home — and I’ve spoken to friends and teachers all over the world. It isn’t going well. In fact, the whole distance learning experience has been a disaster that will ultimately result in this academic year being forever assigned an asterisk to separate it from every other academic year, before or after.

I hope your experience is better, but I doubt that is the case. And the fact that people […]

Tesla won the self-driving car war, they just aren’t telling us

There was a time when I could figure something out, just plain figure it out of raw data, then blurt my conclusions out to the world through this rag just to see what would happen. And what would inevitably happen was a thousand experts would pipe up just to tell me to pipe down, saying that I was too frigging stupid to read, much less write. Except occasionally I got it right (pure luck) so, damn it, they had to keep reading my work. Well I’m back to try again and here it comes: When the history of autonomous cars is written, the winner will be Tesla. Heck, I think they’ve already won.

Autonomous […]

The Incentive Game

My friend Bob Litan, who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, is worried about COVID-19 herd immunity. Specifically, Bob worries that the only way our population can reach the 60-70 percent immunity rate required to protect us all from the novel coronavirus is if some people are paid to take the shot. And Bob may be correct: a Gallup poll last month concluded that 35 percent of Americans would refuse to be vaccinated.

Uh-oh.

Bob thinks the way around this problem is to pay people, giving them an economic incentive to do the right thing. This got me thinking about the whole concept of […]

President Trump thinks he can shut down WeChat: It won’t work

Forty-five days from now, we’re told, President Trump will shut down TikTok and WeChat.

TikTok, maybe, but WeChat? Impossible.

Everything Donald Trump understands about the Internet could fit in a thimble. He’s a reckless leader who isn’t bothered by things like, well, facts, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he expects to command WeChat into oblivion. But what will happen to his already limited Internet authority when that doesn’t work?

What Internet authority?

Trump has a chance of taking down TikTok, the short form video sharing site, because that service is dependent on advertising. He can force the app out of U.S. […]

Mark Zuckerberg’s Pact with the Devil

This is a column about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, but it starts with an old story about Intel and Monsanto from my book Accidental Empires. Stick with me here and you’ll soon understand why…

There was a time in the early 1980s when Intel suffered terrible quality problems. It was building microprocessors and other parts by the millions and by the millions these parts tested bad. The problem was caused by dust, the major enemy of computer chip makers.

Semiconductor companies fight dust by building their components in expensive clean rooms. Intel had plenty of clean rooms, but it still had a big dust problem, so the engineers cleverly decided […]