3/30/17: “Alexa, You’re an Asshole”

Article 1 Link: http://adage.com/article/video/darker-side-data/308459/

As we become more and more dependent on government regulation to protect consumer privacy and data, we’re seeing quite the opposite from our representatives in Washington. De-regulation in favor of ISPs is clearly NOT in the best interest of consumers. This argument involves many different issues including the larger discussion of the right to lobby and provide campaign funding in the interest of corporations, net neutrality, and plain ol’ privacy.

The ongoing case of an Arkansas police department requesting that Amazon hand over a suspected murderer’s data from his Amazon Echo is one example where the technology of data collection is far out-pacing regulatory guidelines. But it’s not even a matter of fighting to catch up with technology in order to best protect us, but rather that the officials voted to represent our best interests aren’t even trying to protect us.

Let’s sift through all the political bullshit that is in the airwaves today, and try to think for ourselves vs. willingly subjecting ourselves to confirmation bias (we all do it, but can we at least try to absorb a balanced set of literature?). Regardless of political party or religion or whatever team you’re on, you’re a human being first. And as a human being, I do NOT want someone digging in my pockets or listening in on everything I say. Things are changing in society and nothing is more the case than with technology. And with these technological changes come cultural adaptation. That’s how we evolve and I get that. But the core of our right to privacy is being violated at the hands of people who represent us.

Yes, the case in Arkansas involves a murder. But the sensational nature of the case clouds the larger discussion of what information can and cannot be released to the government or anyone else for that matter. No, I don’t support murder. But I am suggesting that government and corporations need to reconcile the balance of privacy, commerce, and technology before I lose my shit. But hey, it’s cool. My shit is readily available on Amazon servers as I write this.

Before I’m discredited by someone who sees everything in a political lens, I have some right-leaning views, as well as some left-leaning views. See above my note about being a human being first.

My Echo is currently unplugged and is destined to be in the trash can.

1.29.17: H-1B Visas

Article 1 Link: http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2017/01/24/h-1b-visas-how-donald-trump-could-change-americas-skilled-worker-visa-rules/?mod=social_content_eng&mg=id-wsj

Nine days into office and more than a dozen executive orders later, Donald has been making a lot of waves. One initiative that hasn’t yet seen an executive order put against it, is an issue that has been consistently touted throughout his campaign – Hire American, Buy American.  One way to do that is by restricting the H-1B visa. This visa is a working visa in the U.S. that provides guidelines around what non-citizens to hire for various jobs, especially those in Tech. This is a huge impact on countries like India, who export highly-educated and highly-skilled workers to the states for a limited amount of time. It seems there are government officials from both parties supporting the re-introduction of more restrictive rules for the visa, prioritizing the hiring of American workers before considering those of foreign countries.

For the last few years, the number of applications have exceeded the annual quota for H-1Bs… in a matter of a few days. Clearly the desire of foreign workers to enter the U.S. is extremely high. Furthermore, the desire for American companies to hire H-1Bs is very high, namely due to the fact that foreign labor is cheaper even when you consider the high costs of hiring a worker via H-1B. The new proposed bill would increase the minimum salary payout of these workers to $100K a year. Additionally, the amount of time that foreign graduates are allowed to find employment (currently three years) would be reduced to one year.

I’m not here to propose policy, but I think the initiative is in the best interest of the American economy. It lessens the incentives for companies to hire non-American workers, along with being more practical in the election process by avoiding random selection of H-1Bs. However, the details matter. How did we land on $100K salary minimum? Is 85,000 the right quota for total accepted visas? And how can we incentivize foreign workers to contribute to the American economy outside of working at their given company? Like most political issues, these are difficult questions. It’ll be interesting to see how America votes, but it’s safe to say that there will be restrictions imposed early in Trump’s tenure given bi-partisan agreement.

I’m reminded of a video snippet of Dr. Michio Kaku where he speaks to the importance of the H-1B and how it serves as “America’s secret weapon.” America’s education system sucks, but his argument is that the program attracts highly-skilled, educated foreign workers that, in effect, advance the American economy. As a friend of others who have gone through the process of H-1B applications, I totally agree – they do much more good for American companies than harm. But mandating a process that further qualifies foreign workers in the best interest of America’s workforce is needed, especially if they’re applying in droves. There’s clearly room to be especially picky if they’re beating down American corporate doors.

Article 2 Link: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/everything-you-need-to-know-about-trumps-executive-actions-so-far/?ftag=CNM-00-10aac3a

1.22.17 – A.I. and Regulation

Article 1 Link: https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/22/ethics-the-next-frontier-for-artificial-intelligence/

In my technology class this weekend, one of the points that my professor made was that only government regulation can halt the continued expansion of strong, ubiquitous platforms like Facebook or Google. This is due to the network effect where the more people sign up and depend on a given platform for some type of communication, the more powerful that network becomes. Acquisition costs go down for the owner of the platform, and those same costs go up for competitors. Because of the nature of this compounding growth, laws and policies must be adjusted in order to prevent monopolization and other unfair advantages that exist within the platform’s ecosystem.

Similarly, this techchrunch article argues that government intervention is necessary for A.I. to function in the best interest of people. A technology that is as powerful and experiencing growth as quickly as A.I. needs restrictions and guidance that would prevent automation from extinguishing much needed jobs, which is the biggest concern about A.I. I have a tendency to feel that the growth in technological tools and machines shouldn’t be hampered by regulation, but with such powerful technologies like A.I. I’d make an exception. So far, Trump hasn’t announced anything regarding government policy on A.I. technologies and their impact on jobs. I’d imagine that the field will grow very quickly, much like the internet did in the ’90s. During Trump’s presidency, the discussion of A.I. will become increasingly relevant. I just hope he and his cabinet have enough of an understanding of the technology’s implications that they take action early in his term.

I’ll continue to keep tabs on any industry or government updates on A.I. throughout the year. Fascinating stuff.

Article 2  Link: https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/18/tyrant-in-the-code/?ncid=rss

 

1.14.17: Cannabiz

Article 1 Link: http://www.cannabisbusinesstimes.com/article/010917-california-cottage-cannabis-farmers-law/

I’ve never done any research on the marijuana business, but thought it would be appropriate given the recent passage of recreational use in the state of California through proposition 64. Its passage happened right before I arrived in California late last year for my friends Nick and Cindy’s wedding.

There’s a lot of concern surrounding the eradication of micro-farms (mom and pop cultivators that have similar operations and marketing as micro-breweries) due to large, conglomerate “big weed” corporations’ monopolizing the industry. This concern is shared by the governing authorities that hand out licenses for marijuana production and sales. With the enactment of the Cottage Cannabis Farmers Bill and provisions under Prop 64, the state government has only a limited number of licenses for large corporations to apply for in the first five years of enactment (beginning in 2018). The idea is for micro-farms to establish their businesses in the mean time in order to prevent from being out-muscled by the likes of Philip Morris or any other corporation looking to cash in on the new industry.

Whether you’re a supporter of legalized marijuana or not, the California government’s foresight into facilitating success for small businesses looking to establish themselves is commendable.

Article 2 Link: https://www.yahoo.com/news/goodbye-american-apparel-140000510.html

Article 3 Link:

1.12.16: Digital Advertising Trend

Article 1 Link: http://www.marketingcharts.com/online/us-online-ad-spending-maintained-its-rapid-growth-rate-in-q3-2016-73365/

This has really fallen off the rails. It’s been several days since I wrote a blog post and I was starting to feel guilty. Gawd there’s been a lot going on this week as I prep for the fiscal quarter from hell, so that’s my excuse.

During my Marketing Strategy class this past weekend, the professor brought up that online advertising doesn’t work and advertisers are spending less and less money on it due to its lack of effectiveness. My ears perked up because that is total horse shit! I raised my hand to comment, really in protest, on how online advertising has seen significant growth over the past decade on a consistent basis year-over-year, but even before I finished my point he cut me off saying that… what was it? Oh yeah… “Your assumption is incorrect.” I decided to let it go cause it was a losing battle, but not without immediately finding the latest article on advertising trends in the digital space. I posted it on our MBA Facebook page for all the students to see that this guy just didn’t know what he was talking about.

Clearly, online advertising has seen incredible growth in the past few years. The article reads, “Online ad spending has now achieved double-digit growth in 26 consecutive quarters going back to Q1 2010 (9% growth).” A huge chunk of the growth is from Google and Facebook as they’ve continued to optimize their advertising services. Digital advertising in general is cheaper and more effective at targeting specific consumers based on information they’ve opted to provide. And it’s measurable in ways that TV or other media just cannot rival. The professor was trying to argue that online advertising is cheap because it’s just not working, and so ad spend has just dropped as advertisers have “come to their senses.” Hog-wash.

I look forward to hearing more from this guy. I’m sure he’ll be the subject of a few of my blog posts during the semester.

Article 2 Link: http://www.investopedia.com/articles/forex/09/factors-drive-american-dollar.asp?lgl=bt1tn-no-textnote

1.5.17: Kodak and Digitization

Article has been removed due to DCMA Notice.

Two things: One, I gotta catch up on the blog as I didn’t post yesterday. Two, I was thinking earlier today, “How the hell am I gonna have the time to keep up with work, school assignments (last semester!), life, AND this blog?!” And so I thought a good solution would be to write about case readings from school on days that I have reading to do. That way I can save some time and absorb the content for school more effectively while I’m at it. BOOM.

My first case reading is for my Strategies for a Networked Economy course. It’s basically designed to explore an increasingly digitized and connected world and how it applies to business. Very relevant to my line of work and life in general.

This particular case is about the dominance that Kodak had in the film industry through the early 1980s, its experimentation in other, loosely related industries, and its gradual decline with the coming of the digital age. As most business cases go, it’s pretty dense with detail so I’ll spare myself the business school-level write up as I know I’ll be diving deeper into it later.

The one point that’s most interesting is regarding Kodak’s culture. At the end of the day, the culture was the ultimate reason for it’s decline. Domination in the film industry prevented Kodak’s employees from adopting change with the coming of the digital age. That isn’t to say that leadership didn’t experiment other avenues, but some of it was completely left-field. They felt that entry into the pharmaceutical industry would be profitable as Kodak was thought to be a “chemical” business at its core. Absurd in hind-sight.

For a long time, the strategy was to maintain the status quo and avoid risk. “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” was its mantra. There were innovations that were made like digital cameras and disposables, but they felt that this went against their “razor blade” model, i.e. the profit is in consumers’ repurchasing of film rolls (razor blades) vs. the camera itself (the razor).

There was a lot of leadership changes throughout the years with some more successful than others. Kodak entered the digital camera space and after little success, leadership decided to draw back from hardware and focus on the output and service side in the late ’90s. Eventually, Kodak started to decline in the film industry as well, losing to Fuji by the 2000s.

As with all industries, the environment and trends change over time. My first blog post was on Amazon and I spoke to the level of innovation and forward-thinking culture that the company exhibits on a consistent basis. This is what’s allowed it to grow into the beast that it is today, let alone survive an ever-changing tech market (let’s not forget it started in the hardcover book industry!). Some companies can adapt, but Kodak just wasn’t one of them. A lot can be said about leadership, vision, and culture and how they are EVERYTHING when it comes to continued success in a changing market.

Article 2 Link: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/the-moment-it-all-went-wrong-for-kodak-6292212.html

1.3.17:Trump’s Economic Impact

Article 1 Link: http://www.ibtimes.com/us-economy-2017-trumps-policies-oil-prices-interest-rates-dollars-value-other-trends-2467898

First, this is not a political blog, but politics clearly have an impact on the overall economy. Regardless of all the controversy surrounding Trump’s election, there is a lot to say about the anticipation of what’s to come next year for business. This International Business Times article recaps the current trends and where we expect to be in 2017.

  1. The Fed Plans to Increase Interest Rates
    1. There are a bunch of effects that could stem from an interest rake hike. Generally, the Federal Reserve bumps up interest rates to curb inflation. Since the financial crisis, rates have been extremely low in order to stimulate the economy. It basically makes it cheaper for consumers, corporations, and banks to borrow money and, in effect, allows for more money to be in circulation. After a strong economic year in 2016, coupled with the optimistic prospects for business under a Trump presidency, the Fed has announced a gradual increase in interest rates next year to prevent the economy from ‘overheating’.
  2. Trump’s Policies Could Prove to be Good or Bad
    1. If Trump’s proposed infrastructure stimulus package that’s quoted to be worth $1 Trillion is implemented, it could produce thousands of jobs. Good.
    2. If his proposed trade barriers against other countries are implemented, namely against China, it will dramatically limit business with a highly trade-dependent country (although China is increasingly becoming a domestic consumer economy). This could mean higher prices for goods that are typically imported from China. And there are a LOT of those as we know. Bad.
    3. Of course, this is all dependent on whether there is any follow-through from his campaign promises.
  3. A Stronger U.S. Dollar
    1. Again, good or bad. A stronger dollar means good for U.S. consumers purchasing abroad, but bad as this would mean dollars leave while purchased goods remain in the U.S. This means an increase in the trade deficit.
  4. Mortgages Will Get Pricy
    1. Naturally, if the Fed bumps up rates, then home loan rates are soon to follow. This is an anticipated effect on borrowing money across the board. The idea is that if it’s more expensive to borrow from the Fed, the market will dictate that banks and other institutions will want to maximize returns on money that they lend to others. Hence, the followed increase in their rates as well. Mortgages are no different.
  5. Increase in Credit Card Delinquency
    1. Again, higher interest rates, means it’ll be tougher to pay off your credit card debt.
  6. Higher Oil Prices
    1. As far as I understand it, this has less to do with Trump’s presidency, but rather a direct impact of a decrease in oil production by OPEC. The laws of supply and demand dictate an increase in prices in this scenario. It’s interesting to note that there have been times in history where OPEC-affiliated countries have secretly gone against agreements to decrease production in order to take advantage of price increases.

With Trump’s vows to improve infrastructure, put burdens on companies that ship jobs out of the country, and place trade barriers on key countries, many corporate execs are optimistic about the next few years for business in the U.S. Again, this all depends on whether he follows through on his promises, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Personally, I think what’s most interesting and controversial is whether he follows through on his non-economic initiatives…

 

Article 2 Link: http://money.cnn.com/2017/01/03/news/economy/ford-700-jobs-trump/index.html

Article 3 Link: http://money.cnn.com/2016/12/06/news/economy/donald-trump-ceos/index.html?iid=EL