Category Archives: Business

Steve Jurvetson

Wow, I hope the allegations aren’t true:

Steve Jurvetson, a partner at a major Silicon Valley venture capital firm that bears his name—Draper Fisher Jurvetson—has left the company amid accusations of sexual harassment. However, he is still listed as a “partner” on the DFJ website.

Jurvetson currently serves on the boards of Tesla and SpaceX, but he has taken a leave as a result of these allegations, according to CNBC.

Weird. I was just talking to him Thursday in Seattle.

Moon Versus Mars

Alan Boyle reports on the “debate” in Seattle on Thursday at the space event sponsored by The Economist (which was overall very interesting and worthwhile, other than this). As I noted at the time, it was a false choice based on a false premise.

It started out annoying, and got worse with time. Talmadge said something like (I’m paraphasing) “Before we start this, let’s see if we’ll be able to change some minds. How many think we should go to the moon first.” Hands go up, not mine. “How many think we should go to Mars first?” Other hands go up. “How many think we shouldn’t do either, and should take care of the earth?” Very few, if any hands went up, given the audience. My hand obviously didn’t go up at any of them.

And then they launched into a debate on those three topics, with Naveen Jain making the case for the moon, Chris Lewicki doing the same for asteroids, and poor John Logsdon having to defend the premise that we shouldn’t be doing things in space (something that he doesn’t believe).

So that was the false choice (that is, he didn’t ask the fourth question: “How many people think “we” don’t have to make such a choice, and that some will do one, some will do the other, some will do some other things not mentioned, and some will stay home?”).

The false premise, of course, is that this debate has some relevance to policy, and that unless “we” have a societal “consensus” on what the next step will be, it won’t happen. This is Apolloism.

I think that Chris made the best case, which was basically, we should go anywhere we find useful. And of course, John’s argument isn’t that we shouldn’t settle space, but that we probably won’t. But his example of Antarctica as a harsh environment that hasn’t been really settled (ignoring his arbitrary rule that a settlement requires more than a couple thousand people) fails to persuade because, as Jeff Greason pointed out in audience discussion. On Antarctica, people cannot own the land, they cannot dig the land, they cannot sell the output of their labor, they cannot pass on anything they do there to their descendants.

What he didn’t point out, which I would have, is that the reason for this is the Antarctic Treaty. And if we don’t settle space, a large part of the reason is that the Outer Space Treaty was modeled on it, and it was enforced.

My New Road Computer

Some may remember a couple months ago, when I was in Florida, I was trying an iPad with bluetooth keyboard and mouse, to see if it was acceptable. It turned out that Apple frowns on mice with iPads. Monday, I went out and bought an ASUS ZenPad 10, with Android 6.0, and it seems to be working, but there is a weird problem. The right button on the mouse doesn’t give a menu; it acts like a back button. Which makes it impossible (for example) to open a link in a new tab. Anyone have any idea what the deal is?

The Value Of Argument

Kids, would you please start fighting?

The Wright brothers weren’t alone. The Beatles fought over instruments and lyrics and melodies. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony clashed over the right way to win the right to vote. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak argued incessantly while designing the first Apple computer. None of these people succeeded in spite of the drama — they flourished because of it. Brainstorming groups generate 16 percent more ideas when the members are encouraged to criticize one another. The most creative ideas in Chinese technology companies and the best decisions in American hospitals come from teams that have real disagreements early on. Breakthrough labs in microbiology aren’t full of enthusiastic collaborators cheering one another on but of skeptical scientists challenging one another’s interpretations.

If no one ever argues, you’re not likely to give up on old ways of doing things, let alone try new ones. Disagreement is the antidote to groupthink. We’re at our most imaginative when we’re out of sync. There’s no better time than childhood to learn how to dish it out — and to take it.

Beyond the danger to free expression, this is a large part of the danger of political correctness and groupthink on campus.

Corporate Taxes

I’ve been saying this for years as well:

corporations don’t pay taxes — they collect them. Any taxes are actually paid by customers (higher prices), employees (lower wages), shareholders (smaller returns), etc. The ideal corporate tax rate is therefore zero, but politically that would never fly. Instead we have a tangled mess of corporate tax law, which benefits large corporations with their armies of lawyers and lobbyists. Small corporations which can’t afford all that are put at a competitive disadvantage, not to mention sole proprietorships which pay through the nose on everything.

But since we can’t get an ideal corporate tax rate, a flat and transparent corporate tax would be the next best thing. Our current system is the worst of all possible worlds: It diverts resources and manpower away from investment and innovation, and stifles entrepreneurs to the benefit of established interests.

On the other hand, our system creates endless possibilities for corruption and graft. So it has that going for it. Which is nice for Washington.

One other point: People are saying that most of the benefits of the tax bill go to the upper percentage. Ignoring the fact that you can’t cut taxes without cutting them on the people who pay the most taxes, cutting corporate taxes in fact effectively reduces indirect tax costs for all the people above, who are in all income brackets (particularly the employees and customers). As I wrote years ago, we can’t cut taxes, we can only cut (or increase) tax rates.