The United States government does not usually block or censor lawful websites, foreign or domestic, because it subscribes to the idea that the internet was designed to be open and connect everyone on earth. On its face, then, President Trump’s recent treatment of the Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat, which he threatened to ban from the United States unless they could find American buyers, looks close-minded and belligerent.
There is more to this situation, though, than meets the eye. Were almost any country other than China involved, Mr. Trump’s demands would be indefensible. But the threatened bans on TikTok and WeChat, whatever their motivations, can also be seen as an overdue response, a tit for tat, in a long battle for the soul of the internet.… Seguir leyendo »
Everyone at Davos this year really wants you to know that the corporate world is cleaning up its act. Yes, O.K., maybe they’ve said things like that before, but this year they mean it. Walking around, I thought, at times, that I had mistakenly wandered into a business-casual Bernie Sanders rally: unrestrained capitalism has gone too far; corporate greed has endangered the planet; the time has come for radical change. On the train into Davos, a representative of Philip Morris told me that the company is “dedicated to a smoke-free future.” I blinked; she said the company has “a duty” to millions of addicted smokers.… Seguir leyendo »
As China and the United States engage in high-level negotiations over a possible trade deal, it’s puzzling to see what’s been left off the table: the Chinese internet market. China blocks or hinders nearly every important foreign competitor online, including Google, Facebook, Wikipedia in Chinese, Pinterest, Line (the major Japanese messaging company), Reddit and The New York Times. Even Peppa Pig, a British cartoon character and internet video sensation, has been censored on and off; an editorial in the Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper once warned that she could “destroy children’s youth.”
China has long defended its censorship as a political matter, a legitimate attempt to protect citizens from what the government regards as “harmful information,” including material that “spreads unhealthy lifestyles and pop culture.”… Seguir leyendo »
Siempre quedo sorprendido por cuántas personas me dicen que no tienen ningún pasatiempo. Podría parecer algo insignificante, pero (aunque suene grandilocuente) para mí es una señal de una civilización en decadencia. Después de todo, la idea del ocio es un logro ganado a pulso, pues presupone que hemos rebasado las exigencias básicas de la supervivencia. Sin embargo, aquí en Estados Unidos, el país más rico en la historia, parece que nos hemos olvidado de la importancia de hacer las cosas por el simple hecho de que disfrutamos hacerlas.
Sí, lo sé: es que todos estamos tan ocupados. Entre el trabajo y la familia y las obligaciones sociales, ¿cómo esperan que tengamos tiempo?… Seguir leyendo »
Imagine that you’ve been struggling with a serious and fairly embarrassing personal problem. Putting aside a longstanding reluctance to address it, you finally consult a therapist. The therapist is friendly and welcoming and promises to protect your privacy. Gaining a sense of trust, you bare your soul, describing the issue you are struggling with in all of its painful detail.
Only later do you realize, to your horror, that your confessions were being recorded and retained by the therapist. It turns out that your therapist, to supplement his income, has gotten into the advertising business: He takes data gleaned from his patients and offers it to advertisers (or any other interested party) for a fee.… Seguir leyendo »
La practicidad es la fuerza más subestimada y menos comprendida del mundo actual. Como rectora de las decisiones humanas, podría no ofrecer la emoción ilícita de los deseos sexuales inconscientes de Freud ni la elegancia matemática de los incentivos económicos. La practicidad es aburrida. Pero aburrido no es lo mismo que trivial.
En los países desarrollados del siglo XXI, la practicidad (es decir, las formas más eficientes y sencillas de realizar las tareas personales) ha surgido como la fuerza más poderosa que moldea nuestra vida y economía a nivel personal. Esto es así sobre todo en Estados Unidos donde, a pesar de todos los himnos a la libertad y la individualidad, a veces nos preguntamos si el valor supremo no es más bien la practicidad.… Seguir leyendo »
Men’s ice hockey begins on Wednesday at the Winter Olympics — but without the world’s top players. For the first time since the 1994 games, National Hockey League players won’t be competing. It isn’t that they don’t want to play. The Canadian star Sidney Crosby, probably the best player in the world, put it this way: “I’d love to be there.” The Russian star Alex Ovechkin, who has participated in three Olympics, and Patrick Kane, one of the best American players, expressed a strong desire to compete, too.
But the National Hockey League says it now cannot “see what the benefit is” in Olympic participation, and insists that its players are contractually obliged to skip the games.… Seguir leyendo »
No se necesita ser un analista financiero brillante para percatarse de que Bitcoin está en una burbuja. Su valor ha aumentado de casi 39 centavos de dólar a más de 18.000 dólares en tan solo ocho años y hace poco tiempo atrajo la atención de una buena parte de los medios de comunicación al duplicar su valor en tan solo unos pocos días. La creencia popular había sido que las transacciones ilegales e ilícitas —comprar drogas o transferir dinero desde Argentina— eran la principal explicación del valor de Bitcoin. En la actualidad, se percibe en general como mera codicia y especulación.… Seguir leyendo »
You don’t need brilliant financial analysis skills to notice that Bitcoin is in a bubble. It has grown in value from about 39 cents to over $18,000 in just eight years and recently attracted broad media attention by doubling in just a few days. The conventional wisdom had been that illegal and illicit transactions — buying drugs or transferring money out of Argentina — accounted for much of Bitcoin’s value. Today the mainstream view sees mere greed and speculation.
Yet as Bitcoin continues to grow, there’s reason to think something deeper and more important is going on. Bitcoin’s rise may reflect, for better or worse, a monumental transfer of social trust: away from human institutions backed by government and to systems reliant on well-tested computer code.… Seguir leyendo »
When science fiction writers first imagined robot invasions, the idea was that bots would become smart and powerful enough to take over the world by force, whether on their own or as directed by some evildoer. In reality, something only slightly less scary is happening. Robots are getting better, every day, at impersonating humans. When directed by opportunists, malefactors and sometimes even nation-states, they pose a particular threat to democratic societies, which are premised on being open to the people.
Robots posing as people have become a menace. For popular Broadway shows (need we say “Hamilton”?), it is actually bots, not humans, who do much and maybe most of the ticket buying.… Seguir leyendo »
Nobody ever said that big cities make for easy living. The apps of the moment, Uber and Airbnb, try to mitigate matters by letting you book a car ride or rent someone’s apartment using your smartphone or computer. They are beloved by those contemplating scarce taxis or $500 hotel rooms. But they’re considerably less popular among city regulators, whose reactions recall Ned Ludd’s response to the automated loom.
Last month, Uber was effectively outlawed by Vancouver, British Columbia (by setting a minimum fare so high it discouraged users), and there are proposals to ban it in New York and other cities.… Seguir leyendo »
Do machines speak? If so, do they have a constitutional right to free speech?
This may sound like a fanciful question, a matter of philosophy or science fiction. But it’s become a real issue with important consequences.
In today’s world, we have delegated many of our daily decisions to computers. On the drive to work, a GPS device suggests the best route; at your desk, Microsoft Word guesses at your misspellings, and Facebook recommends new friends. In the past few years, the suggestion has been made that when computers make such choices they are “speaking,” and enjoy the protections of the First Amendment.… Seguir leyendo »
Americans today spend almost as much on bandwidth — the capacity to move information — as we do on energy. A family of four likely spends several hundred dollars a month on cellphones, cable television and Internet connections, which is about what we spend on gas and heating oil.
Just as the industrial revolution depended on oil and other energy sources, the information revolution is fueled by bandwidth. If we aren’t careful, we’re going to repeat the history of the oil industry by creating a bandwidth cartel.
Like energy, bandwidth is an essential economic input. You can’t run an engine without gas, or a cellphone without bandwidth.… Seguir leyendo »