Thursday, December 31, 2015

Artificial Intelligence: The Fears

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (album)
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A car moves faster than a human being, but that is not threat to humanity. Why is the same idea taken to artificial intelligence such a bad idea? Maybe some of our most confounding problems do need artificial intelligence help. That is Ray Kurzweil.

Whereas people like Elon Musk and Bill Gates are alarmist. They think artificial intelligence is more like a nuclear weapon. You don't want to go beyond a point. Stephen Hawking is also in this camp. You can split an atom, but do you want to?

These concerns go to other areas like gene editing.

Coming to the car itself, it has been a culprit that has us now facing what we call global warming. It is a real problem.

These are some existential debates.

Most human beings will be beat by a computer playing chess. What if that computer also had limbs? What if it could replicate? It could figure out all your moves before you made them. And then where are you?

There is obviously need for robust debate and global regulation, so do produce the nuclear energy, but keep the bombs at bay.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

FourSquare: What Has Become Of You

English: Dennis Crowley in Foursquare's New Yo...
English: Dennis Crowley in Foursquare's New York office, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 English: Naveen Selvadurai, co-founder of the ...
English: Naveen Selvadurai, co-founder of the social networking site Foursquare, delivering a briefing on "How Companies and Small Business are Using Social Media and Mobile Platforms to Bolster Business". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I just read about FourSquare yesterday after a long gap. It popped up somewhere because it seems to have had a major haircut. Dennis The Person was not exactly known for haircuts. It is having to raise money at a seriously lower valuation, and it is even seeking to sell itself. It did not have to be this way. At one point it refused to be sold at a billion. I believe Yahoo came knocking.

Location is almost as central to the mobile lifestyle as the search box was to the web when it emerged. At some point I guess FourSquare stopped growing. Granted location has become much more crowded. But there is something to be said of the first mover advantage.

Location is multi-dimensional. FourSquare has hardly gone into the more interesting dimensions. Hardly.

I never have doubted Dennis Crowley was by and large the dominant person behind the idea. He is more the guy who discovered the location space. Naveen was a sidekick. And I have actually spent more in person time with Dennis than Naveen (primarily one long dinner). I have spent more in person time with Crowley's now wife than Naveen. She and I both moved to NYC from the same state! Believe it or not. I guess the Indian thing can be stretched a little too much. One thing that struck me a few years after I moved to NYC was, I was not meeting swarms of Indians I expected to meet. I guess I was going to events strictly following my interests, as opposed to going to Indian evens, and so I was only meeting a few here and there.

Dennis is this charismatic, visionary guy. The cheerleader who gets the big picture. The glue who keeps the team together. The face that the media can hang onto. As in, he does not mind attention. He does not crave it, but he does not mind it. He has that down to earth thing down. Almost like a suave politician.

FourSquare was supposed to put New York City on the map. The tech map.

I am on record at this blog saying Naveen parting ways with FourSquare was a mistake. Not because he was equal to Dennis in contribution, I never thought that. But it's a DNA thing. Sometimes later round VCs can mess up a bit. You don't mess something up just because it's delicate. DNA is delicate. Don't put your fork to it.

You can argue it's the market, it's not Dennis, it's not FourSquare. But the market always swings. Always. We all know that.

FourSquare needs to add a layer to the location space. And rejuvenate itself. I don't know why, but I believe I could help. The new layer has to feel like a new dimension, a dimension that none of the copycats have gone into.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Some Strange Reactions To Zuck's Good Move

A lot of people seem to struggle with the fact that this really is Mark's money, and he may do as he pleases, and he is choosing to serve the needy. The fact that this LLC might invest and grow the money only means it will have more money to give away. Also, I hope he makes smart investments in some of the next big things. The companies getting the investments will also flourish. How is that bad news?

Also, if he is smart enough to create Facebook, he is perhaps smart enough to do good, maybe smarter than most. I read his manifesto, if it can be called that, and I found it mind blowing in its breadth and directness. Senators don't talk like that. And they seldom even talk about global problems.

1% of 50 billion is still a neat 500 million. It is not like Zuck will be starving.

I was never a big fan of Gates until he put forth his foundation. I am also really liking Zuck's move. I hope he starts giving at least 20% of his time to his foundation. There is much to do. Think of it this way. He created this 200 billion dollar company working full time. If he puts 20% of his time now into charity work, is that like him giving a few tens of billions just in time, not money? I think so. I mean, not literally. But his time is still worth billions. Time is money, as the adage goes. In this case it is worth billions.

I like Zuck. He is a good guy. His heart is in the right place. Maybe people should gripe about billionaires who DON'T give money! There are too many of those. Most we don't even hear about because, well, they don't show up in the news because they gave money to a good cause. Tell them it is a way to avoid taxes, and they might line up and down the street. That would be Mark's THIRD way of gifting!

I am personally appreciating 100% what Mark has done. Zuck is the talk. Zuck walks the walk. May his billions grow further so he can do even more. Has anyone ever given his newborn daughter a better gift? I doubt.

Zuck's Giveaway

How Mark Zuckerberg’s Altruism Helps Himself
Zuckerberg created an investment vehicle. ..... Zuckerberg and Ms. Chan did not set up a charitable foundation, which has nonprofit status. He created a limited liability company, one that has already reaped enormous benefits as public relations coup for himself. His P.R. return-on-investment dwarfs that of his Facebook stock. Mr. Zuckerberg was depicted in breathless, glowing terms for having,

in essence, moved money from one pocket to the other

. ........ The savvier move, Professor Fleischer explained, would be to have the L.L.C. donate the appreciated shares to charity, which would generate a deduction at fair market value of the stock without triggering any tax. ...... he amassed one of the greatest fortunes in the world — and is likely never to pay any taxes on it. ...... The superwealthy buy great public relations and adulation for donations that minimize their taxes. ..... What would $40 billion mean for job creation or infrastructure spending? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a budget of about $7 billion. ....... Of course, nobody thinks our government representatives do a good job of allocating resources. ..... They are tacit acknowledgments that no one could ever possibly spend $45 billion on himself or his family, and that the money isn’t really “his,” in a fundamental sense.
Mark Zuckerberg and the Rise of Philanthrocapitalism
Last year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which was founded in 2000, dispensed almost four billion dollars in grants. A big slug of this money went toward fighting diseases like H.I.V., malaria, polio, and tuberculosis, which kill millions of people in poor countries. Zuckerberg and Chan have also already donated hundreds of millions of dollars to various causes, including eradicating the Ebola virus. ....... Charitable giving on this scale makes modern capitalism, with all of its inequalities and injustices, seem somewhat more defensible. Having created hugely successful companies that have generated almost unimaginable wealth, Zuckerberg, Gates, and Buffett are sending a powerful message to Wall Street hedge-fund managers, Russian oligarchs, European industrialists, Arab oil sheiks, and anybody else who has accumulated a vast fortune: “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.” ....... In 2010, Gates and Buffett challenged fellow members of the ultra-rich club to give away at least half of their wealth. Since then, more than a hundred billionaires have signed the “Giving Pledge.” ...... all of this charitable giving comes at a cost to the taxpayer and, arguably, to the broader democratic process ...... If Zuckerberg and Chan were to cash in their Facebook stock, rather than setting it aside for charity, they would have to pay capital-gains tax on the proceeds, money that could be used to fund government programs. If they willed their wealth to their descendants, then sizable estate taxes would become due on their deaths. By making charitable donations in the form of stock, they, and their heirs, will escape both of these levies. ......

the richest 0.01 per cent of American households—there are only about sixteen thousand of them—owned 11.2 per cent of all the wealth in the country, which is the highest share since 1916

..... (The richest 0.1 per cent of households owned twenty-two per cent of the total, which is more than the bottom ninety per cent of households combined.) ..... By transferring almost all of their fortunes to philanthropic organizations, billionaires like Zuckerberg and Gates are placing some very large chunks of wealth permanently outside the reaches of the Internal Revenue Service. As tax-exempt entities, these charitable enterprises won’t face any liabilities when they eventually sell the stock they receive. That means the country’s tax base shrinks. ....... The Gates Foundation, for example, has been a big financial supporter of charter schools, standardized testing, and the Common Core. ...... The more money billionaires give to their charitable foundations, which in most cases remain under their personal control, the more influence they will accumulate. And relatively speaking, anyway, the less influence everybody else will have.
Facebook CEO's donation is a game-changer
Philanthropy surged by 5.4 percent in 2014 to a record $358 billion ..... eight-figure donations are now so routine, they barely generate publicity ...... leading private banks now offer philanthropy support along with investments. ..... The amount of the Zuckerberg-Chan pledge is truly spectacular, but the way they're planning to use the money is just as important. .... Just as the printing press made it possible for an enormous portion of society to get access to information without all the cost and time of hand-written manuscripts, online learning could bring billions of people into the information age without our needing to put up lots and lots of buildings. ......

This could be the Ice Bucket Challenge of 2015 — and it could unleash not millions but billions.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Zuck's Giveaway

A letter to our daughter
While headlines often focus on what's wrong, in many ways the world is getting better. Health is improving. Poverty is shrinking. Knowledge is growing. People are connecting. Technological progress in every field means your life should be dramatically better than ours today. ..... Medicine has only been a real science for less than 100 years, and we've already seen complete cures for some diseases and good progress for others. As technology accelerates, we have a real shot at preventing, curing or managing all or most of the rest in the next 100 years. .... Today, most people die from five things -- heart disease, cancer, stroke, neurodegenerative and infectious diseases -- and we can make faster progress on these and other problems...... Once we recognize that your generation and your children's generation may not have to suffer from disease, we collectively have a responsibility to tilt our investments a bit more towards the future to make this reality. ...... one day, you or your children will see what we can only imagine: a world without suffering from disease....... Can we connect the world so you have access to every idea, person and opportunity? ..... We must build technology to make change. Many institutions invest money in these challenges, but

most progress comes from productivity gains through innovation

. ...... Our generation grew up in classrooms where we all learned the same things at the same pace regardless of our interests or needs. ..... Your generation will set goals for what you want to become -- like an engineer, health worker, writer or community leader. You'll have technology that understands how you learn best and where you need to focus. You'll advance quickly in subjects that interest you most, and get as much help as you need in your most challenging areas. You'll explore topics that aren't even offered in schools today. Your teachers will also have better tools and data to help you achieve your goals. .......

students around the world will be able to use personalized learning tools over the internet, even if they don't live near good schools.

..... personalized learning will not only help students in good schools, it will help provide more equal opportunity to anyone with an internet connection. ...... Many of the greatest opportunities for your generation will come from giving everyone access to the internet. ...... for the majority of people in the world, the internet can be a lifeline...... personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities ..... We will give 99% of our Facebook shares -- currently about $45 billion -- during our lives to advance this mission.

How to look at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
American tax code so aggressively encourages the formation of these kinds of foundations by the ultra-rich, but some such foundations have been effective. ..... the default dispensation of the money will be to waste it. For example, Zuckerberg donated $100 million to Newark schools to almost no effect, in a gift that was revealed to have been explicitly managed by Sheryl Sandberg to be timed to offset the negative publicity surrounding the release of the movie The Social Network. ...... the greatest threat to those intentions: The culture of Silicon Valley. Many of the loudest, most prominent voices within the tech industry, people who have Zuckerberg’s ear, are already thoughtlessly describing smart critique of the Initiative as “hating”, absurdly dismissing legitimate concerns as jealousy. ...... No matter how good their intentions, the net result of most such efforts has typically been neutral at best, and can sometimes be deeply destructive. The most valuable path may well be to simply invest this enormous pool of resources in the people and institutions that are already doing this work (including, yes, public institutions funded by tax dollars) and trust that they know their domains better than someone who’s already got a pretty demanding day job.
People are inexplicably upset about Mark Zuckerberg's decision to give away 99% of his fortune
setting up the organization as an LLC allows it to spend money on lobbying, earn money to reinvest in the organization, do joint ventures with fewer restrictions, and lets them give away money at a pace they determine rather than the mandatory 5% per year for non-profits. ...... billionaires in the U.S. who give their money away are implicitly saying that they know better how to help society than government does ..... What legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow? ....... the white savior industrial complex has never been more pervasive in global culture.

Sheryl Sandberg

No, Mark Zuckerberg is not donating 99% of his Facebook stock to charity
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which has a mission of "advancing human potential and promoting equality," will indeed be able to donate to nonprofit organizations. But it will also be able to make investments in private companies. ....... profits it makes from any investments it makes "will be used to fund additional work to advance the mission."
'Dear Daddy...' Max Zuckerberg’s Letter back to her Father
there’s also 1.6 billion people on the planet who don’t have access to electricity, while 2.8 billion people rely on smelly and noxious biomass for cooking and fuel. How about we get them modern electricity grids and cheap reliable energy first?
Why a German billionaire says that pledges like Mark Zuckerberg’s are really bad
In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they would commit 95 percent of their wealth to charitable work. Together with Warren Buffett, they also created the Giving Pledge, which asks the richest people in the world to devote half or more of their fortunes to philanthropy. ...... Taking a page from the Gates family, they will use the money to pump up their nonprofit ...... The private foundation is an especially American style of charitable giving. Nonprofit groups in the United States play a disproportionately large role in public life, in part because American tax laws make it attractive for the rich to donate. Much of their wealth could otherwise be captured by capital gains and estate taxes. ...... Private spending on social welfare in the United States is four times the average in advanced economies ...... German shipping magnate Peter Krämer is one of the most vocal detractors of the pledge, and the American tradition of government-sponsored charity. ...... I find the US initiative highly problematic. You can write donations off in your taxes to a large degree in the USA. So the rich make a choice: Would I rather donate or pay taxes? The donors are taking the place of the state. That's unacceptable. ...... It is all just a bad transfer of power from the state to billionaires. So it's not the state that determines what is good for the people, but rather the rich want to decide. That's a development that I find really bad. What legitimacy do these people have to decide where massive sums of money will flow? ....... On average in well-off countries, private social spending accounts for 2.6 percent of the gross domestic product. In the United States, private social spending is 11 percent. ..... Americans are some of the most charitable people in the world in part because there is a centuries-old tradition of private nonprofit groups helping people in lieu of the government. ........ Even Alexis de Tocqueville observed the trend in the 1830s, writing: “In every case, at the head of any new undertaking where in France you would find the government, or in England some great lord, in the United States you are sure to find an association." ...... He wrote that when the government taxes and gives to the poor, people feel slighted. When people voluntarily give to the poor, they feel better about themselves. ...... "One of the most significant consequences of this tax treatment of charitable giving is to give to the wealthiest taxpayers a disproportionate role in allocating public resources and influencing the direction that institutions will take." ....... In his book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," economist Thomas Piketty proposed a wealth tax as one way to address rising inequality — and transfer wealth from individuals to the state. In the United States, estate and gift taxes achieve some of that function by prodding people to donate their wealth instead of bequeathing it to their children. (Economists like Piketty tend to regard those measures as too modest.)
Mark Zuckerberg Will Donate Massive Fortune to Own Blinkered Worldview
It sounds angelic, but it will probably end up being, mostly, a big waste. ..... In other words, this multi-billion dollar estate will go to Zuck’s own organization, rather than, say, OxFam International or something. .... What does advancing human potential mean? What does promoting equality mean, exactly? Your guess is as good as mine, because Zuckerberg doesn’t really say, despite providing many bullet points ..... Some of this is just patently hellish—does anyone really want to experience “100 times more than we do today,” whatever that entails? Do you want to be “connected” to literally every “idea” and “person” in the world? This is a technocrat’s dream and an actual normal human being’s nightmare. But what do you expect from the man who made his fortune creating humankind’s greatest repository for racist memes and life-commodification? ...... Bill Gates, at least, has devoted his post-Microsoft life to the more tangible goal of eradicating Malaria. But Mark Zuckerberg, who struggles to grasp the basics of humanity and has become unfathomably rich by commodifying his deeply weird theories of social interaction, has a different idea of charity. ..... “Micro-schools”? Putting Facebook software in public schools? Software, software, more software. If you have a headache, take a software. Jimmy can’t read? Give him software. The conceit that code can solve all social ills and free the species from the chains of aging, illness, and flatulence is the height of Silicon Valley bullshit, and Zuckerberg’s massive giveaway will clearly be predicated on that conceit. ...... And perhaps we should also wonder whether instead of letting the mega-rich put their estates into “charities” of their own design, and thanking them profusely for it, we wouldn’t be better served by just taking it from their corpses...... With a 99% estate tax, would our public schools need saving from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg? ...... Update: BuzzFeed’s Alex Kantrowitz confirmed with Facebook PR that The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is not even an actual charitable organization, but rather structured as an LLC. Unlike a charitable trust, which is compelled to spend its money on charity, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, LLC will be able to spend its money on whatever it wants, including private, profit-generating investment.