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 […]

Predictions #8-10: Apple, IBM & Zuckerberg

It’s time to wrap up all these 2018 predictions, so here are my final three in which Apple finds a new groove, IBM prepares for a leadership change, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg gives up a dream.

Apple has long needed a new franchise. It’s been almost eight years since the iPad (Apple’s last new business) was introduced. Thanks to Donald Trump’s tax plan, Cupertino can probably stretch its stock market winning streak for another 2-3 years with cash repatriation, share buy-backs, dividend increases and cost reductions, but the company really needs another new $20+ billion business and it will take every one of those years to get a new one up to […]

Prediction #7 — 2018 will see the first Alexa virus

There’s a new Marvel superhero series on Fox called The Gifted that this week inspired my son Fallon, age 11, to predict the first Alexa virus, coming soon to an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Show cloud device near you. Or maybe it will be a Google Home virus. Fallon’s point is that such a contagion is coming and there probably isn’t much any of us — including both Amazon and Google — can do to stop it.

The Gifted has characters from Marvel’s X-Men universe. They are the usual mutants but the novel twist in this series is that some of these […]

Prediction #6 — AI comes of age, this time asking the questions, too

Paul Saffo says that communication technologies historically take 30 years or more to find their true purpose. Just look at how the Internet today is different than it was back in 1988. I am beginning to think this idea applies also to new computing technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). We’re reading a lot lately about AI and I think 2018 is the year when AI becomes recognized for its much deeper purpose of asking questions, not just finding answers.

Some older readers may remember the AI bubble of the mid-1980s. Sand Hill Road venture capitalists invested (and lost) about $1 billion in AI startups that were generally touted as […]