Monday, August 08, 2005

"Top 10 Tech We Miss" from C|Net

Top 10 tech we miss.

I couldn't help but think as I read this list that it might be a little shorter if not for the wonders of our incredibly screwed up copyright and patent systems.

But on further examination of the actual list, I realized that a lot of it was simply great innovations being squashed because of MONEY on the very bottom line. Take #5 for example. This isn't a simple matter of them phasing out a vehicle... this is a matter of them quite fervently stomping out a truly revolutionary advance in automobiles. And this isn't the first time this type of thing has happened. While I was working at GM, I started paying a little more attention to the auto industry, which I normally don't, and noticed other cases of this happening where people who had leased other electric vehicles and loved them, were forced to return the vehicles so that they could be destroyed rather than allowing the interested parties to buy them. However, I think that in the story I read, at least 1 gentleman did get to keep his truck... and possibly a few other commercial fleets, but when they die, they're dead.

Now I can't speak for the exact reasons why this happened, but whenever I hear about something like this... where a truly pollution free vehicle is not only quietly taken off the market, but where the vehicles are forcibly recalled and destroyed with no other option given, and not for safety reasons, as to the best of my knowledge the only real safety issue has been high voltage lines in the cars causing a danger to rescue workers who might need to cut through the frame in case of a crash. This issue is present in modern hybrid vehicles, which also require gasoline to run and in real world use offer a barely marginal improvement in fuel economy. Points such as this lead me to question pressure from political or business groups with considerable investments in fossil fuels taking precedence over environmental concerns or the possible market available for "zero" emission vehicles.

I feel like I'm getting a little close to "conspiracy theory" territory, so enough on that point. ;-)

The rest I think I've generally touched on in the past.. the only one I feel the need to revisit momentarily here is the Manned Space Flight issue. I've felt for awhile now that because of the media attention on space flight, and the way the death of a single person is considered an earth shattering catastrophy to be avoided at all costs, how manned space flight has truly been relegated to a pathetic series of short hops into space and back. The historic advances in manned space flight made in the 60's and 70's was due to a concerted effort by dedicated men (and women) willing to put their lives on the line for the advancement of humanity. These people knew the risks and chose to take them. This is just a little more fresh in my mind due to my post a few days ago; "A few links on manned space flight."

Other than that... I'm not sure why the Concorde flights were shut down. It's been several years since I read on that topic... and now, with a review of, I see why I didn't have a concrete memory of why they were taken out of service. :-)

As for Napster, it was great, but unfortunately, illegal. I mean, it's hard to argue that it had any other purpose than the sharing of mp3's, the vast majority of which are illegal (and essentially just about all of them were at that time).

Now, I'm all for telling the RIAA and it's ilk to go suck on mufflers, but I don't agree that blatant copyright violation (which is not theft for the record) is necessarily the route to take. However by the same token, I don't agree that artificially maintaining an outdated commercial system through threats and quetsionable lawsuits (suing for thousands in damages for songs that cost less than a single $1 to purcahse or are free etc), or more specifically, trying to sue for lost sales on sales that would have likely never occurred anyway. Something about as logical as 2 stores on the same street suing each other because a person bought a can of pop (or soda) at the other store, thereby depriving the first store of the sale.

Not to mention that you're not even dealing with a phsyical commodity. You are dealing with bits of data on a computer which are infinitely reproduceable with no loss of quality (beyond initial encoding with a lossy codec like mp3).

Hence copyright infringement. It's like photocopying a book. Just because you photocopied the book, doesn't mean you were going to buy the book in the first place. You're just making a copy without permission... which in and of itself is a bit questionable. À la Richard Stallman's "The Right to Read".

blah. Before I have to get into some deep discussion on Free Markets, I'm just going to move onto something else. This is all giving me a headache. Although I really do need to sit down and study this... as it ties into a lot of what I deal with. I need to really do some serious studying here and get a better understanding of where I stand on the issue.

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