The space race is over and SpaceX won

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently gave SpaceX permission to build Starlink — Elon Musk’s version of satellite-based broadband Internet. The FCC specifically approved launching the first 4,425 of what will eventually total 11,925 satellites in orbit. To keep this license SpaceX has to launch at least 2,213 satellites within six years. The implications of this project are mind-boggling with the most important probably being that it will likely result in SpaceX crushing its space launch competitors, companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s United Launch Alliance (ULA) partnership as well as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. 

Starlink is a hugely ambitious project. It isn’t the first […]

The real problem with self-driving cars

Whatever happened to baby steps?

Last week a 49 year-old Arizona woman was hit and killed by an Uber self-driving car as she tried to walk her bicycle across a road. This first-ever fatal accident involving a self-driving vehicle has caused both rethinking and finger-pointing in the emerging industry, with Uber temporarily halting tests while they figure out what went wrong and Google’s Waymo division claiming that its self-driving technology would have handled the same incident without injury. Maybe, but I think the more important question is whether these companies are even striving for the correct goal with their cars? I fear that they are over-reaching […]

Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and our personal data

Facebook shares are taking it on the chin today as the Cambridge Analytica story unfolds and we learn just how insecure our Facebook data has been. The mainstream press has — as usual — understood only parts of what’s happening here. It’s actually worse than the press is saying. So I am going to take a hack at it here. Understand this isn’t an area where I am an expert, either, but having spent 40+ years writing about Silicon Valley, I’ve picked up some tidbits along the way that will probably give better perspective than what you’ve been reading elsewhere.

Much of this is old news. There are hundreds — possibly thousands […]

Stephen Hawking and me

I only met Stephen Hawking twice, both times in the same day. Hawking, who died a few hours ago, was one of the great physicists of any era. He wrote books, was the subject of a major movie about his early life, and of course survived longer than any other amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) sufferer, passing away at 76 while Lou Gehrig didn’t even make it to 40. We’re about to be awash in Hawking tributes, so I want to share with you my short experience of the man and maybe give more depth to his character than we might take away from the evening news.

Several years ago I was booked […]

We win, you lose: How shareholder value screwed the middle class

The American Dream changed somehow in the 1970s when real wages for most of us began to stagnate when corrected for inflation and worker age. My best financial year ever was 2000 — 18 years ago — when was yours? This wasn’t a matter of productivity, either: workers were more productive every year, we just stopped being rewarded for it. There are many explanations of how this sad fact came to be and I am sure it’s a problem with several causes. But this column concerns one factor that generally isn’t touched-on by labor economists — Wall Street greed.

Lawyers arguing in court present legal theories—their ideas of how the world and the law intersect, and […]