"economy" entries

Investigating the growth and influence of professional Makers

We're exploring the Maker movement's role in manufacturing, business and the economy.

The growth of the Maker movement has been nothing if not amazing. We’ve had more than 100,000 people at Maker Faire in San Francisco, and more than 50,000 at the New York event, with mini-Maker Faires in many other cities. Arduino is almost a household word, along with Raspberry Pi. Now that O’Reilly has spun out Maker Media as an independent company, we look forward to the continued success of these events; they’re signs of an important cultural shift, a rejection of a prefabricated, shrink-and bubble-wrap economy that hasn’t served us well. The Make movement has proven that there are many people who want the joy of creating, whether it’s a crystal radio, a custom head for a Pez dispenser, or glowing e coli.

But the Maker movement is not just about hobbyists. We’ve seen a lot in print about the re-shoring of American manufacturing, the return of the manufacturing jobs that had been exported to China and the Far East over the past few decades. One of the questions we’re asking at O’Reilly is what the Maker movement has to do with the return of manufacturing. If the return of manufacturing just means lots of low-level industrial jobs, paying barely more than minimum wage and under near-slavery conditions, that doesn’t sound desirable. That also doesn’t sound possible, at least to me: whatever else one might say about the cost of doing business in the U.S., North America just doesn’t have the sheer concentrations of people needed to make a Foxconn.

Of course, many of the writers who’ve noted the return of manufacturing have also noted that it’s returning in a highly automated way: instead of people running around a warehouse, you’ll have Kiva robots doing the running. Instead of skilled machinists operating milling machines, you’ll have highly automated computer controlled machines with a small number of humans to test the parts and make sure they’re operating properly. This vision is more plausible — even likely — but while it promises continued employment for the engineers who make the robots, it certainly doesn’t solve any problems in the labor market.

But just as small business has long been the cornerstone of the U.S. economy, one wonders whether or not small manufacturing, driven by “professional Makers,” could be the foundation for the resurgence of manufacturing in the U.S. Read more…

Comments: 5
Four short links: 8 October 2012

Four short links: 8 October 2012

Drone Conflict, 3D Scanning Booths, Bitcoin Consensus, and Moar Coders

  1. Beware the Drones (Washington Times) — the temptation to send difficult to detect, unmanned aircraft into foreign airspace with perceived impunity means policymakers will naturally incline towards aggressive use of drones and hyperactive interventionism, leading us to a future that is ultimately plagued by more, not less warfare and conflict. This. Also, what I haven’t seen commented on with the Israeli air force shooting down a (presumably Hezbollah) drone: low cost of drones vs high cost of maintaining an air force to intercept, means this is asymmetric unmanned warfare.
  2. Scanbooth (github) — a collection of software for running a 3D scanning booth. Greg Borenstein said to me, “we need tools to scan and modify before 3D printing can take off.” (via Jeremy Herrman)
  3. Bitcoin’s Value is Decentralization (Paul Bohm) — Bitcoin isn’t just a currency but an elegant universal solution to the Byzantine Generals’ Problem, one of the core problems of reaching consensus in Distributed Systems. Until recently it was thought to not be practically solvable at all, much less on a global scale. Irrespective of its currency aspects, many experts believe Bitcoin is brilliant in that it technically made possible what was previously thought impossible. (via Mike Loukides)
  4. Blue Collar Coder (Anil Dash) — I am proud of, and impressed by, Craigslist’s ability to serve hundreds of millions of users with a few dozen employees. But I want the next Craigslist to optimize for providing dozens of jobs in each of the towns it serves, and I want educators in those cities to prepare young people to step into those jobs. Time for a Massively Multiplayer Online Economy, as opposed to today’s fun economic games of Shave The Have-Nots and Race To The Oligarchy.
Comment
Four short links: 6 July 2012

Four short links: 6 July 2012

UK Copyright Modernisation, Lessons from Cisco's Evil, Automation, and Kinect Tool

  1. HM Government Consultation on Modernising Copyright (PDF) — from all appearances, the UK Govt is prepared to be progressive and tech-savvy in considering updates to copyright law. Proof of the pudding is in the eating (i.e., wait and see whether the process is coopted by maximalists) but an optimistic start.
  2. Cisco Provides a Lesson (Eric Raymond) — This is why anyone who makes excuses for closed source in network-facing software is not just a fool deluded by shiny marketing but a malignant idiot whose complicity with what those vendors do will injure his neighbors as well as himself. […] If you don’t own it, it will surely own you.
  3. Automate or Perish (Technology Review) — As the MIT economist David Autor has argued, the job market is being “hollowed out.” […] Any work that is repetitive or fairly well structured is open to full or partial automation. Being human confers less and less of an advantage these days.
  4. Kinectable Pipe (Github) — command-line tool that writes skeleton data (as reported by Kinect) to stdout as text. Because Kinect programming is a pain in the neck, and by trivializing the device’s output into a simple text format, it becomes infinitely easier to digest in the scripting language of your choice.
Comment: 1
The Great Reset: Why tomorrow may not be better than today

The Great Reset: Why tomorrow may not be better than today

Hard truths about our values, the economy and the outlook for the future.

Mark Sigal says we're entering a period where the promise of a better tomorrow is no longer a generational expectation and our sense of a (mostly) fair and balanced system is being drowned by an elite class.

Comments: 20

Big data: Global good or zero-sum arms race?

It remains to be seen if big data will catalyze exponential growth.

Will a big data revolution dramatically change lives, or will it instead yield a middle class feel-good machine that's irrelevant to the working poor?

Comments: 8
Four short links: 22 October 2009 Four short links: 22 October 2009

Four short links: 22 October 2009

Cognitive Surplus, Scaling, Chinese Blogs, CS Education for Growth

  1. Eight Billion Minutes Spent on Facebook Daily — you weren’t using that cognitive surplus, were you?
  2. How We Made Github Fast — high-level summary is that the new “fast, good, cheap–pick any two” is “fast, new, easy–pick any two”. (via Simon Willison)
  3. Isaac Mao, China, 40M Blogs and CountingToday, there are 40 million bloggers in China and around 200 million blogs, according to Mao. Some blogs survive only a few days before being shut down by authorities. More than 80% of people in China don’t know that the internet is censored in their country. When riots broke out in Xinjiang province this year, the authorities shut down internet access for the whole region. No one could get online.
  4. Congress Endorses CS Education as Driver of Economic Growth — compare to Economist’s Optimism that tech firms will help kick-start economic recovery is overdone.
Comments: 2

Ignite Show: Anthony Citrano on Money Remixed

Ignite Show Episode 26

This week's Ignite Show veers into the current financial situation of the US. The economy is going off a cliff and financial practices are being, ahem, re-evaluated. Anthony Citrano takes this thinking a step further and ponders what would happen if the US dollar disappeared. He suggests that corporations will end up issuing money (like Kong Bucks in Snow Crash).

Comment: 1
The US Online Job Market Improved Slightly in July

The US Online Job Market Improved Slightly in July

Measured in terms of online job postings, the U.S. job market† improved slightly in July. This blog entry shows two views of the number of job postings per day: note the slight uptick in July 2009 in both graphs. The worst year-over-year decline occurred in April, the online job market subsequently shed less postings in May and June. Given that July was an improvement over May/June, one would hope that the stage is set for a sustained upward trend.

Comments: 14
The US Online Job Market Was (still) Down Big In June 2009

The US Online Job Market Was (still) Down Big In June 2009

Updating my post from early June, the U.S. online job market still hasn’t shown signs of recovering from steady declines that began in September of last year. Compared to the same period last year, there were 50% less job postings in June 2009.

Comments: 5
Four short links: 26 Mar 2009

Four short links: 26 Mar 2009

Books, Money, Collective Despair, and a Dashboard of Doom:

  1. Will The Real iPod For Reading Please Stand Up — Sebastian Mary argues eloquently that we’re too focused on long-term writing because of the requirements and constraints imposed upon us by a mass-market paper book, whereas text online is basically an experiment in different lengths and sizes to find new balances for the new medium. a glance at the self-help or business shelves of your local bookshop will show you plenty more. And yet to make economic sense they have to be padded out for publication in ‘proper’ book size. But to conclude from this (as many unwittingly do) that long-form books are necessarily the best, rather than just the most familiar, way of communicating ideas is mistaken; and to assume that this practice will transplant to e-readers, imagined as a kind of iPod for these long-form essays, is just wrong.
  2. What I’ve Learned in Angel Investing — fascinating concrete lessons learned by an ex-Yahoo! angel. Be Wary of Entrepreneurs Who are Building for Businesses They Have No Experience In: I don’t like it when people are theorizing about how a certain market is or isn’t. They will most likely find problems that they have no experience tackling. It’s better to find a company who has a veteran of the industry they are tackling so that they have at least have some first hand knowledge of what goes on in that industry.
  3. Eco DataminingBy trawling scientific list-serves, Chinese fish market websites, and local news sources, ecologists think they can use human beings as sensors by mining their communications. Reminiscent of InSTEDD’s Golden Shadow project.
  4. Check In On the State of the Economy — a very appealing idea: a dashboard for the economy that is continuously refreshed as new data comes in. The difference between a one-off infographic and a live-updating dashboard is the difference between seeing the train and watching it race towards you. (via >Flowing Data)
Comments: 2